Feudal America - A super-power RP in modern day America (Game Thread)

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Okay, more bullets in the extremities. This wasn't a fun day. On top of that, Miriam did not even have the kind courtesy to let Fromanzio torture her! He sighed and looked at the ceiling for a moment, hand over his wound. People were talking but he couldn't hear them. He was distracted beyond all measure and just kind of done for the day. The bullet missed the bone and it was a flesh wound overall. It would heal pretty quickly. Fromanzio quickly stopped the bleeding. He looked at the body of Miriam and was full of contempt before laughing maniacally. He kept this going for a few seconds before pulling his guns out and shooting her head until it was nothing but paste. It cost a lot of bullets but he was beyond caring at this point. He jumped on her now essentially headless corpse and screamed at the top of his lungs. "This is what you get! Never mess with Fromanzio or threaten us! Are you happy now? Are you happy now!?"

The room became quiet. Nobody said anything but Fromanzio remembered something about leaving. "You have a place sparky? That might be best. She has some trap lined up. She has to."

She does?

Not now.

No, you have brought us here, why is it that she has to have a trap laid out?

I don't know, she is the kind of person who would blow up the whole mansion to spite those who kill her.

"To let all of you know, we can fly. That is Fromanzio's power. He also has a stash of guns. We might need them. Fromanzio recommends we get those and then go to a safe place to hide."

Ottis's comment about hospitals slightly bothered Gavin, perhaps due to the fact he felt like he needed twenty of them. But in retrospect, after a day like this, every hospital and clinic in the city probably overflowing with patients and horror stories. He could barely imagine what the occupants were dealing with. It was probably better to take care of any injuries themselves than waiting in a crowded emergency room and adding to already overloaded workload. After Fromanzio gave his ever-so-sweet final words to Miriam, he turned back to the group.

"To let all of you know, we can fly. That is Fromanzio's power. He also has a stash of guns. We might need them. Fromanzio recommends we get those and then go to a safe place to hide."

Gavin tilted his head a bit. Flight? That was oddly...simple. It kinda made sense and backed up Fromanzio's Cirque-du-Soliel persona, but it still seemed oddly simple and basic for a colorful character such as Fromanzio. All Gavin could do was shrug. Probably one of the most "normal" abilities he'd heard in awhile, straight from the A-list. The weapon stash on the other hand fit him like a glove. Gavin sniffled a bit, smoke beginning to rise from the 1st floor.

"Alright, follow me. There should be a hole from where I rode Dan McNeil through the roof." Gavin said, adjusting his hood slightly. "We'll get out, pick up the main Diesel, and rest at Blitzkrieg's place while checking in on the McNeil's we helped escape." Gavin finished, moving towards the room he'd first landed in. "We'll have to hold off on getting to your weapon stash for a bit, perhaps send a few of Diesel brothers to help you pick them up." He stood under the hole, looking up.

"After that...pray things don't descend into an even deeper level of hell."

"The other soldier is dealt with, it seems. That eliminates any immediate danger. Don't thank me yet, you're still bleeding... Ahm. Matthew."

Matthew's grin was comically sinister; the blood covering the huge, brutal looking teeth practically gleamed in the light. And just above them were those shining golden reptilian eyes set in the deep green of the thick lizard-like scales. John grinned in return, and at the absurdity of the situation.

The predator's mind had practically scoffed at the idea of saving the others at the clinic, evidently he was not a motivated by good intentions as John; and perhaps not unreasonably; look where good intentions had got John.

"Did the two bullets pass right through you? I'm aware you got shot twice. I'll have to remove any bullets which might be stuck in you before we go any further."

"Ok, go ahead. I can't tell you whether or not it went through, but it sure hurts like hell..."

Shots rang out from the clinic.

"Shit, better hurry up, if you can."

Just as John spoke he felt something ominous from the clinic. Around the mind of the female soldier the mist was rising; slowly encircling the hurricane of her psyche. And then like a gunshot the mist erupted from the sea and completely engulfed her mind, shutting it off totally from the world. But it would be impossible to hide changes of that magnitude from John; he could feel the winds of her mind changing dramatically as the mist thickened and began to strangle the young woman's currents of thought; warping and redirecting them. And it was like this that John watched aghast as the old mind was literally reshaped into a new one.

The new satisfaction and glee that replaced the fear gave her away instantly; this was Miriam!

And with such power she could not be allowed to escape. If she had her old powers she would have to be subdued before she killed and manipulated everyone. And how to impart the urgency of catching Sarah without exposing his own powers? But one thing at a time; Matthew had begun to extract the bullets with his sharp, long claws and it was absolutely agonising.

But John grit his teeth and tried to speak, although it came out as a whisper; "Maybe it might be best to go to the clinic, and if you're carrying an injured man it'll certainly make everyone slightly more amenable towards your..." reflexively he yelled in pain as Matthew pulled out a bullet. Surely anyone else would have blacked out by this point, but the detachment between John's mind and body spared him most of the mental trauma.

"...appearance. Although if the soldiers are there, leave me against a wall or something and don't expose yourself... But I'm not sure how you intend to kill that null-soldier?"

He sensed that Sarah (now Miriam) had already begun to move away from the scene, her mind whirling with glee and scheming. "Can you use a gun with those claws?" If not for the pain he would have laughed; "How about sneaking up on him with a large rock?"

Actually that wasn't a bad idea...

Both Rico and Sarah charged at the soldier, they were both quickly defeated however. It happened too fast for Martin to be able to do anything, the damned soldier has been watching him the whole time just waiting for an excuse to shoot him. Martin hadn't grabbed his gun yet, but even if he did, the changes of him being able to kill an soldier with it were very small. Nonetheless it was his only change, the soldier didn't know he had an gun. And if he could catch him of guard he would be able to kill him. "You... I shot you, and you're not bleeding. What is this shit... We can into the city to free you and save the people, and what do we get? A fucking tree ent, a predator and you! We never heard of you... Never!" Martin made a note of what the man said, he would be curious to meet these other supers. "Ever since the collapse... this has all gone to shit! Stop lying to me - And tell me, now - before I kill you, what is this?" the soldier aimed his pistol at Sarah. Martin wanted to shout at him to stop, but before he could do that the soldier seemed to change his mind. "No... not you. Him"

The soldier moved his gun to the right and aimed it at Martin. Martin got angry and the adrenaline pumping inside his body made him furious. Martin didn't often lost his cool but when he did he got very dangerous. "You want to know the truth!? I will give it to you! You see those dead children and people lying on the ground over there? Well your little friend there killed them! He grabbed his gun and just started shooting at them all, he killed them all without even stopping, even when he started to hit the children he didn't even flinch! He just kept firing killing more and more unarmed people! If I hadn't been here to patch up the survivors the amount of bodies would have been twice as high. That is what really happened! Your friend massacred all of these people!"

Martin slipped one of his hands under his coat, and quickly pulled out his pistol when the soldier wasn't looking. Martin aimed and fired his gun, not giving the soldier enough time to react. Martin kept firing his gun and he didn't stop until his magazine was empty. The soldier dropped his gun and fell to his knees, he had 5 bullet holes in his chest 2 bullets seemed to have pierced his lungs. The soldier fell forward, still having the same surprised expression on his face. Martin was very relieved as he put his gun away. He walked over to his 2 friends lying on the ground. "Either of you need any medical attention?" Martin asked looking and sounding relieved.

Aiken bandaged the wound in time and helped John stand straight. The bandages were of course, still his two ripped sleeves, but they had to do. He was aware of his claws and tried not to scratch the idealist up anymore than he already was.

"I prefer not to. But you on the other hand, can probably wield a weapon just fine and you're human. That... man. His power is nothing on you. I have an idea, wait here."

And with that, Matthew dashed off towards the torn up body of Mark, he pillaged the shotgun from his corpse, along with some shells from the man, loading the weapon up a bit clumsily. Truth to be told, he knew very little about weapons. But all John would have to do is aim it at Mitchel and fire. The shotgun would tear the man a new one. Aiken would just have to distract the soldiers long enough for him to pull it off and get close enough. He moved towards John, shotgun in hand.

"Before you say anything. Yes. We will kill that man. You might not feel comfortable with it, but this is the point we've reached. Either you wield the shotgun or I will. Eitherway, he dies."

Matthew did not have the energy to avoid being so direct. It got the point across and that was enough. The predator had retreated, leaving his mostly human mind to calculate how this situation would wrap up. So many soldiers were already dead and he didn't even know about the situation at the Mcneils palace. These soldiers were their enemies and they had to die in order to guarantee his and possibly John's survival. He held the shotgun out to him.

"This isn't a time for wishful thinking anymore. If you ask me, this is too damn merciful for that bastard."

Aiken did not grin again, preparing himself mentally for the next encounter, whatever that might be.

"This isn't a time for wishful thinking anymore. If you ask me, this is too damn merciful for that bastard."

John knew that Matthew could not be dissuaded, and having pulled himself to his feet he took the shotgun. He'd fight when necessary; after all he had put a bullet through Ben's head, but those who lived by the sword died by it, or so went the saying.

He began to limp towards the clinic as Matthew darted off to stalk the clinic from the buildings.

As John approached the corner round which the corner lay, shots rang out and the mind of the soldier was snuffed out. And it was a doctor; his mind screaming concern for his patients and the civilians; who had killed him; a welcome development. Matthew had spotted it too and was leaping down from the roof towards John.

"The doctor killed the man, and the woman has run off. Let's get you to the clinic."

Miriam's escape worried him, but there more urgent matters. Pressing the safety on the shotgun and emptying the chamber John replied; "Fantastic, although can you help me walk? If they see you alone they might have misgivings, but helping an injured man walk?"

The doctor had killed to protect the injured; surely he would see the predator helping a fairly grievously wounded man and see more than a little good.

Matthew nodded, and with John propped up on his shoulders and using the shotgun as a walking stick they arrived at the clinic.

END OF ARC ONE

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The tornado had hit Palm Bay, but the residents endured the mighty thrust of wind with the help of a group of supers who mysteriously arose from seemingly nowhere. This was only the beginning of the second collapse, and the new supers of the city had no idea what was in store for them.

All across the land, heads arose in rebellion against their former masters. Once oppressed, the plain that were gifted with powers depicted well in their nightmares rose up against the men who terrorized them for so many months. Serfs rose up against their masters and kings were toppled, while anarchy reigned supreme. It was to be the second collapse, the failure of what little had organized in almost six months. Clans destroyed and monarchies established, men of faith raised the dead and sociopaths led their peers into battle. It was the age of a new era - the end of the old dawn.

After the McNeil clan fell, order had to be restored. The group of supers had to declare themselves rulers - though none knew who would rule over the city and protect it. The few citizens that remained were fearful - would the new rulers of the city be worse than the McNeil? What will be their new demands and their new laws? They had to establish a working law and governance - and a penalty system. With the old one gone, men were no longer afraid of the death sentence that awaited them at the end of each transgression, but now chaos reigned supreme.

The fate of the McNeil clan members who survived remained unclear. Having some of the supers defended them, they thought that the new rulers of the city would show them mercy - but only time would tell if the city accepts them back. Will they be judged in a twisted court of supposed law, or will justice be delivered by a swift blow to the dead?

The issue of Miriam's deal still stands - where are the weapons and supplies she talked about? It seems like Vance was the last of the family heads that survived the Tornado with this knowledge, though he refused to reveal it until the safety of his family is secured. Some form of persuasion is required to make the canary sing, but the supers can also grant him his request.

The streets were a mess, with bodies and rabble littering it. Someone had to clean up the place if the city was to ever retain its previous veneer of normality. Along with the rubble were bodies in need of proper burial. With the local Christian cemetery already overrun, the fate of the rotting corpses had to be decided before they bring diseases into the city, and not even the hand of god could grant a miracle to save them of that.

The once great city hall of the city, home to the elected mayor of the apparent democracies of old which had turned into a place of oppression when the McNeil took over stands abandoned at the center of the city. Will it be restored to its ancient greater glory, or will the symbol of oppression be burnt to the ground? Where will the supers call a place home?

The hospital, filled to the brim with injured, sick, dead and undead is one of the city's most valuable gems, though with the addition of a super who could bypass all laws of biology and cure men of their illness, the requirement for such an establishment dwindles. How will the supers re-establish the prominence of the hospital? Will it be free for all or will it cost men their souls? Many other hospitals stand abandoned, lacking the power and crew to operate it. The bothersome problem of the zombies in the basement also haunts one particular member of the group of supers, though one can assume he will have a solution in mind.

The city lays exposed, with the puny gate at the mouth of the entrance to the city and half a dozen blocked off entry points littered with broken cars and rubble providing little protection from the outside world. The supers must decide what should be done to secure the city from outside invaders and regulate who can enter and leave through the city's gates.

They alone must protect the city and its inhabitants, but the stockpile of weapons at their disposal can provide a different opportunity. If they lay their hands on the weapon and supply stashes hidden across the city, the supers can decide to arm some of the city's population and grant them the status of a militia, or if they dare - an organized military force. Training would be something those under their command will require, and the age old issue of trust will be brought up - How can they determine which person can be entrusted to a rifle and the authority to preserve their law?

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News of the apocalypse travel fast.

Word of the fall of the McNeil clan reach the furthest reaches of Florida, alerting those who had business with the established family. Beads of sweat fall to the hot summer sun as news of more fallen autocracies reach the ears of worried rulers. The end is nigh, and the bearers of the apocalypse are those new supers.

The prophecy was true. A second collapse will come, and after it the third.

And then the world will end.

Those under the protection of the McNeil feared for their lives the moment word got to their ears. The farmlands surrounding Palm Bay, all under the heel of the McNeil shivered in fear for the past week. Local news of supers emerging from the woodworks had lead the farmers to create a union underneath the protection of powerful supers of their own blood. This farmers union covers more than what the McNeil had claimed so far, and now under new management the new supers of the city must decide what they should do with them.

Leading the union are four supers, all of which can fly through the air. The new rulers of Palm Bay can decide to ally themselves with these four puny supers or force them into submission - but of course, a return to the old ways is always possible. With the supers dead, the farmers are helpless and would prove to be a great asset in the upcoming expansion of the city.

Rummaging through the alleys of the city, multiple gangs run through the streets of the city and torment those unfortunate enough to venture to the ends of the city. Where no McNeil had been to before, those desolate places are home to some of the city's toughest gangs. Some are now lead by a super or two; they pose a threat to the city's security and integrity. Will these gangs be dealt with swiftly and disposed of, allowed to join the party or tried in a court of law? Only the rulers of Palm Bay can decide.

Miles away, the sky was a filthy brown, toned with hues of red, hanging heavily over a city. Rubble littered the streets, remnants of token acts of defiance. Bombed out husks of buildings gave minimal refuge to darting shadows, refugees who were too smart to remain in the intact buildings. Those still had power. That attracted others. They'd be found. They'd be taken.

Taken by their new god.

Motion in the rubble. A boy, not yet a man by any reckoning, huddled deep within an old diner. Still alive, it would have been celebrating its 60th birthday by now. Now it is a husk, providing shelter to one who wishes nothing more than to be left alone.

But he is not alone. He is huddled behind the sodajerk's bar, but on the other side is motion. A deceptively nonthreatening voice, with an affected German accent, called out to him.

"Vhere are you, child?" it asked. "Our Lord high asks only for a moment of your time..."

The boy glanced towards the door. Right there. Just one dash, and he could find a new hiding place. He counted down... Three, two, on--

A hand reached across the counter, grabbing the boy by his hair and dragging him over the countertop. He met the gaze of a strange man, gruff, bearded and bald with a smile missing teeth.

"Come on. You're late for your appointment..."

On the northern side of town, one building remained untouched. A beautiful cathedral, modeled after the Gothic styles of Europe, spires grasping in vain towards the heaven just beyond the choking clouds above. An orange glow emanated from within, and the sound of gentle, ethereal music played. In the main hall, all the pews were gone, the religious symbols torn down and scraped away. This was not the Lord's home. Speakers unseen blasted ominous, booming music for all to hear and enhance the glory of the new god. Where a lectern for the priest once stood, there was now a throne. Smelted of steel, and basking in its-self produced orange light, massive cables coming from its back and jammed into the wall. On it slumped a man. He was white, and not particularly tall, with a youthful appearance like a punk rocker. His wavy hair swept backwards, it and the soul patch on his lower lip strawberry blond in color. A pair of bright silver rings pierced his left eyebrow. His eyes were a pale violet in color, and shimmered with a strange tenacity.

He was digging deeply into a fried chicken thigh at the moment, hungrily gnawing at his meal. The noises he made were numerous and unrefined; he had no cares for human insecurities and manners.

His dress was strange. He wore a suit of paneled armor, contoured to the athletic shape of his body, with a collar halfway up his neck. It was primarily a silver color, with a red lightning bolt slipping from behind, over his left shoulder and down across the middle of his chest, before branching off and wrapping around his waist. A similar bolt pattern went up his back. The palms of his gloves, and the soles of his boots, made of the same iron-sheen armor were also red, with two strips running up the sides of his legs, again in the pattern of lightning, to connect with his waist. And every bit of red on his body glowed brightly.

As he dug into his meal, the doors to his hall swung open, the burly bearded man dragging in the boy and throwing him down on his hands and knees, at the feet of the sitting man. He then bowed himself, in reverence.

"Lord Mercury."

"Really?" asked the man in the glowing suit, barely bothering to swallow his food first. "In the middle of my meal? What do you want?"

"I have... brought you another straggler, mein Lord."

Mercury grunted in admiration, leaning over to examine the boy. He scratched his chin, now vaguely interested. "That so? Found another one... What's yer name, kid?"

The boy was silent, attempting to restrain his sobs. Mercury stood, slowly walking over. He cooed, and in a parental tone said, "Hey, hey, whatsamatter, kid? You scared of the mean ol' god?"

The boy, hesitating, gave a slow nod. Mercury chuckled a bit, smiling warmly as he delivered a swift, brutal kick to the boy's left side. Ribs cracked as he flipped over onto his back, and in the blink of an eye Mercury was straddling him, looking him dead in the eye from less than a foot away.

"Smart thinking. Now tell me your fucking name!"

"J...Joshua!" the boy whimpered, tears openly flowing down the sides of his face, in agony. This seemed to please Mercury, as his harsh expression softened.

"Well, tell me, Joshie..." Mercury whispered, dragging his index finger across the boy's cheek. "Do you prefer shooting, or shoveling?"

Joshua made a small yelp from the uncomfortable situation he was in. "S-sh-shooting?"

A light, almost jovial laugh escaped Mercury's lips as he stood. "Ah-hahaha, that's great! Just great!" he said with a sincerity that was nothing less than disturbing. He returned to his chair, slumping down before pointing at the still bowing servant that had brought Joshua in.

"Herr Doktor! We've got ourselves a new recruit for the militia. Take him to begin 'boot camp', will you?"

The man gave a vicious smile as he roughly made the boy stand, ignoring his cries of pain. "Vith pleasure, Lord Mercury." And with that, he left, dragging away a boy desperately crying for any job but militia. His pleas went unheard, and the door shut behind him.

Mercury, alone once more, set his sights on the chicken he'd left unfinished. He was just picking it up when a shadow shifted to his left. He groaned in agitation, pinching his brow, waiting for the inevitable voice to speak up and say--

"Mercury."

The man on the throne turned to face the other, irritated. "What?"

Two emotionless, glowing white circles for eyes stared back at him from the shadows. "The McNeils are dead."

Mercury's right hand released his chicken and slammed it onto his armrest. "God-DAMN it!" he yelled, with an unfitting grin. He stood, faster than a human likely should, and approached the other man at a slow pace, equivalent to a brisk walk.

"I liked the McNeils. Lots of spunk, ambition!"

"You're confusing ambition and food." the man in the shadows replied. Mercury pondered this for a moment, and snapped his fingers with a light laugh.

"Ha-ha! Hey, you're right. FUCK those guys!" he said with newly dismissive tone. But then he looked back, more serious. "So who did the deed?"

"Upstarts. Nobodies."

"HEY!" Mercury interjected, jabbing a finger straight into the white lens that composed the "eye" of the other man. "Don't forget, Tommy, even gods start out as upstarts and nobodies."

Underneath his cowl, "Tommy's" mouth tugged into a slight frown. It was impossible to see how his eyes corresponded with this. "Of course," he responded sullenly. "how could I ever forget?"

"Exactly." Mercury growled, leaning in. He suddenly shifted to a light coo, caressing the man's face with a gentle sweep of his hand. "So don't underestimate these punks, got it? Send Jonesy and... and Wilbur, how 'bout Wilbur? See if they'll subscribe to the old trade deals."

"And if they don't?" Tom asked as Mercury began waltzing back to his throne.

The god in silver and red gave a light laugh, falling back into his seat and crossing his legs, resting his face on a fist. His grin was almost catlike as he said, "Then we'll kill 'em! And I'll put the corpses in the rec room!"

The emotionless sentinel made no motions to acknowledge this. All he said was, "As you wish." And in a shifting of the shadows, he was gone. Mercury returned to his meal, taking a hungry bite. And with a mouth still full, he began to laugh at the top of his lungs, while the music around him reached its crescendo.

"God, I LOVE this part!"

Dead. All of his enemies were dead. Fromanzio had expelled the voices in his heads for the time being and was free from the tyranny of the Mcneils. Now, all that existed was fun. Endless, boundless fun. The euphoria rushing through Fromanzio's veins was that of mindless slaughter. Because while they may have not gained much information as to where the gun vault laid, it hardly mattered. The pathetic unions and gangs had plenty of guns for Fromanzio to liberate. He had left the other three back at Ottis's apartment and after he ensured they were all going to be safe, he disappeared. That was the second night after the McNeils fell and by then Fromanzio could hardly feel his wounds. Word had gotten to him that he now had influence and that he would be expected to lead in some way. The idea of running the place crossed his mind, but too much effort for too little destruction. For now.

A new problem had arisen however, gangs and farmers were now rampant and well, someone had to pacify them right? On day three, Fromanzio started. A few people were looting the streets but had several automatic weapons and their screams were music in Fromanzio's ears. The clown imposed himself over the last few gang members, weapons liberated and bleeding, they had little else to do but yell for help.

"Oh god, no no no! Get away! What are you, a demon?"

Fromanzio smiled. "Worse." He found a loose rock on the ground and bashed the head of the gangster in before moving on to the remainders.

"So, what would your last words be? Fromanzio expects them to be something like ahhh! Don't! Noooooo! Gargle gargle gargle."

"Puta." Fromanzio could not see the man's face. It was covered in blood, mostly from the now dead friend that laid beside him.

Fromanzio broke out cackling. "Oh? That is it?" His tone changed entirely however in his last sentence to a morbid, monotone droll. "So be it."

Blood was painted on the sides of the buildings, all from one man and their guns now belonged to Fromanzio. He had begun a new stash, far outside the city where none would disturb it. He intended to leave for a time. A small band of the farmers had begun mobilizing. He had seen them from the skies but nobody had reported yet. This meant fun times would be had.
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So now began day five. Good lord day five. Fromanzio had used the rest of his day gathering his favorite chemical. Bleach. See, for such a common compound, it really was so versitile in torture. His favorite form being to hang people from a rope over a pool of bleach until they piss themselves and die of poison from the amonia and bleach. This was not his plan though, seeing as how access to bathrooms was limited, no actually he planned to use it for other purposes that day. Fromanzio had scouted out the camp the previous day and saw that they all used the toilet at a hole in the middle of the camp. Seeing as how transportation was limited, the hole was quite large and filled with excrement. The farmers had tried their best to build away from it, but Fromanzio's plans were enough to ruin everyone's day. See, the other thing he had gotten, was a gas mask. Not hard to find, the police stations were empty and SWAT teams used them all the time. Finding one laying around was no challenge and boy was he gonna need it.

The time was eleven thirty PM. All was asleep in the makeshift military town about a hundred miles away from the city hidden in a forest. Women had been brought along to fight and they had one super with them. He had adopted the name of Archon, ironic seeing as what was to happen. His powers were that of fire and boy did he make a show of it. His powers had been awakened fairly recently, in fact only but a few days ago and he was abusing them to every extent. Constantly flaming if he can, he dazzled that of the farmers and soon became the town's leader. For about two days anyway.

Fromanzio had carried with him, an entire bathtub full of Bleach and hovered above his target. He had been using his flight to lift the tub instead of his arms, a trick that served him well. He let the tub fall, glinting in the moonlight and crashing into the hole. People gathered around and were confused, some said something about a meteor but their wonders soon turned to horrors as they all began choking on the fumes. Some tried to run but it was too late. The gas traveled faster than they could run and soon all but Archon found themselves drowning on their own fluids.

Archon's house was on the outskirts and by the time he had reached his people, the gas had begun to fade to non lethal levels, but all were dead. He screamed towards the sky "Whoever has done this shall pay with their lives!"

"That may be a harder task than you think unwise one." The voice was distorted somewhat, a gas mask had muffled his speech. Fromanzio had been behind him, stalking and waiting. He was getting excited now. A fight with a super was never boring.

"You! You did this! Die!" Archon shot a huge wall of flames at Fromanzio in a rage. The fire burned white hot but Fromanzio leaped above it and revealed a pistol with which he shot Archon in the kneecaps with. "Fromanzio hoped you would have spoken more, always sad to end it so soon-" Fromanzio had been cut short by a punch rocketing foward from Archon. He had made a small explosion and punched Fromanzio square in the gut, sending them both flying in the direction towards the center of town.

Fromanzio quickly recovered and backed away. He looked at Archon, who was bleeding in the legs and now almost certain to die of either infection or exhaustion. Those two attacks burned all of his energy and Archon looked at the ground defeated. "I-I don't get it...why? We never attacked you. Why?"

Fromanzio's laugh pierced the night. "You don't get it do you? There is no sense to any of it! Nothing has sense to it now and Fromanzio likes it that way! He killed you and your family because he wanted to!" That was about all there was to it to the clown. He flew away, instead of finishing archon. Archon fired one last shot at the clown as he flew away, but the flame ignited the remainder of the gas and the remainder of Archon's body was tossed a mile north. Burned to a crisp.

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Fromanzio returned to the apartment for the last two days of his week off, reflecting and gathering more guns for his collection. Duties would call soon and he had his jollies and more. All that remained was ashes. Soon more ashes would compound ashes and make a great ash pile! That was what excited Fromanzio. That was what kept him going.

Gavin finally landed and looked around. There'd been some gang activity in this area within the last few weeks, but once again it was moving to some other rundown part of town. Gavin scoffed to his own thoughts, the whole city was practically a rundown part of town. Most civil services just barely ran and the apparently being under minor military rule wasn't helping much. ending up in a hospital was pretty much a death sentence. Gavin pulled his hoodie back for a bit, revealing a number of bandages and homemade stitches, courtesy of Ottis. The superhero schick had become a bad joke in these parts. No one could look at a comic without groaning, either in pain or annoyance. But Gavin still wanted to believe. He took off his flight goggles and rubbed his eyes, the sun irritating him a bit. He looked towards a few streets and noticed even more greenary taking hold. Gavin thought it was strangely beautiful, yet the truth shook him.

"Where are you, you walking overgrowth?" Gavin muttered, remembering what he'd managed to hear about the "Tree-Ent" that tore through the military and at least three supers. Who was he or she? Why were they doing this? Gavin really hoped it wasn't a Poison Ivy "stop hurting my babies" kinda thing. Gavin pulled his hood back on and slapped on his flight goggles.

He tensed his legs and jumped upwards, flying off into the sky. He could make out a few people looking up from boarded windows and watching him as he left the ground, slightly amazed and scared of the flying man. He wasn't really flying, just jumping really high and then falling with style. From up there, Gavin could see most of the city. Among the dead gray and silver buildings was a whole lot of green. Everyday there was a new problem. Everyday that problem was a someone. And somedays, Gavin was the problem.



2 days ago.

Gavin found himself in the last place he'd expected. An execution chair. Or at least it felt like one. The room was dark only the light from a computer monitor shining through. That and the flashlights of five soldiers pointing guns at him. He'd only wanted a few files. That was it. He knew he wasn't apart of the military anymore and didn't want anything to do with it at that point, but they had something he wanted. Information. He'd known for awhile that they were collecting information on superhumans but Gavin wanted to get to those superhumans before anyone else did. Why? He didn't know, a lousy attempt at trying to find more people who didn't want to destroy the world perhaps? Gavin's train of thought was halted as he watched them take aim from behind the computer.

"Uh, identification code 131, Alias: The Condor?" Gavin squeaked, hoping his bluff would work. At some point, those words had meant something but not so much after going awol. Hopefully someone would still think they meant something. "Stand down, men."

Gavin sighed with relief as the soldiers parted and a man strode. He chuckled a bit and stretched his hand to shake Gavin's. Gavin gladly accepted it.

"You floating son of a bitch." The general joked. "Here we are, ready to bring in the whole cavalry when it's only bird returning to the nest!" General Ray, one of the few reasons he hadn't immediately dropped out of the air force and military altogether as soon as his grandfathers was murdered and his powers began to develop. He'd actually helped Gavin get a hang on them even though he didn't understand them entirely and hadn't treated him like a weapon or a poster boy. He treated him like a good soldier and a great friend.

"Nice to see you again Mr. Raymond, er, I mean sir!" Though Gavin respected him, he really didn't have time for this. Eventually someone would see through his bluff, remembering that Gavin hadn't reported for weeks and had been at the McNeil Palace "assisting the McNeil's." "Excuse me for being a saint and not wanting to kill children..." Gavin was pulled back as he noticed the general smiling at the computer monitor.

"Have you been naughty little birdy?" The general had always been a little heavy with the bird puns but something felt off. "You know we can't have that, right?"

"No sir, I understand completely and am ready to suffer the consequences of-"

"No, no, no, it's alright." Gavin was confused. "You're not apart of the military anymore, we don't need to reprimand you or any of that. Hell, technically we're not even 'the military' anymore" The General took off his gloves.

"Um, so...no punishment?" Gavin weakly asked. Something was very, very wrong.

"No legal punishment. Nowadays we just sorta...as the kids say, cut that shit off at the source." The General's eyes and hands began to glow, heat coming off his entire body.

"Consider yourself court marshaled!" He yelled, as Gavin jumped to the roof and General Ray fired off a large laser beam, tearing through part of the facility. Gavin could barely believe it. He was a super? Since when? Gavin was nearly singed as he dropped down to retrieve a few papers. He jumped through the hole the General had created and jumped into the night, a laser light show trailing behind him.

"Good luck, bird boy! You're gonna have a lot of shit to deal with, Condor" He cackled. Gavin turned around in mid air and replied the only way he could possibly could.

"It's Grav now!"


Gavin could make out Ottis's home and readied himself for a landing. He need to spend some time with an ally in a villainous world. He spotted some more vines and plants creeping around his home too. Something needed to be done. As Gavin watched the plants, he began to wonder. Perhaps it wasn't the plants but something else. There was the supposed witch doctors holding up a hospital. As much as Gavin wanted to deal with that, he needed information and a few more show stoppers.

As he landed on Otti's front porch, he pulled out a ragged pile of printer papers. On them were a list of names with short descriptions and information, slightly damaged and torn but still information. One name caught his attention. Gavin was supposedly the 2nd man capable to saying he went toe-to-toe with Dan McNeil. The first was a man by the name of Rico Jarvis. He'd heard of him and had actually worked with him before, but rarely interacted with him, let alone a number of other supers who weren't Darryl or Ottis. He probably would have to change that habit.

It wasn't ever going to be like before.

Rico had all but abandoned his studies in an effort to rescue the injured. He combed through the streets for a whole day, looking for people injured in the riots. He took punches, bullets, and hammers to the head, flinching less as time went on. And he took the injured back to Doc Martin.

There was news that the hospital had a miracle doctor there as well. Rico was sure it was the witchdoctor, and he wouldn't dare go back there. He took everyone to Doc Martin, the man who saved his life after the fight with the anti-super. He knew him and Sarah decently well now.

But now Sarah told him to take a break. There was no end of injured, and frankly, Rico was run down and needed a good rest.

So now, Rico was laying in bed, listening to the thrumming coming from his record player. And the synthetic grumbling. And the ambient laughs. And the dance-worthy beats. Songs that called for low, stomping celebrations of life, songs that called for cowled grief and tears, songs that called for rest and stillness, songs that simply called for one to come and listen.

Songs that no one made nowadays.

Rico heard a clicking at his front door, followed by a quiet swinging. Lockpick. Either his university buddy with the stealth complex had come to see where the hell Rico had been, or he was being robbed.

In case it was the second one, Rico slid the needle to the half-way point of the record. Unnerving patterns rose from it, a warped laugh of a child permeated the flat. Such a delightfully twisted little tune. Rico knew the patterns inside and out by now, knew when the warped laughter started and stopped, knew when the twisted monologue rose from the background to unsettle any who heard it.

He rose and slid to the front hall to see who was in. Two latino guys and a white guy that Rico didn't recognize. Definitely thieves.

They stepped in quietly, then stopped when they realized there was music playing. And a... child laughing? They looked at each other nervously, but nodded and kept going. One of the Latinos' hands sprouted metal.

Not a bad power, all things considered.

Rico slipped through the adjoining bedroom and bathroom, getting behind the pensive thieves, arriving at the front door. This oughtta teach them something.

The laughter stopped, pausing the thieves again. They listened in confusion.

"O-o-okay!"

Rico slammed the door, scaring the crap out of them.

"Don't step outside! I got some-than..." [skreek]

The thieves didn't approve of this choreography, and immediately rushed Rico. Metal and fists flashed, raking over Rico's skin.

"While I can appreciate a massage, this really isn't the time."

The thieves didn't expect that. As they recoiled at their ineffectiveness, Rico attacked tossed one into the bathroom, landing him in the tub. Football training was paying off. The other two dashed backwards, searching for a way past the broad wall-man that blocked them in. Rico faked at the other normal thief, then grabbed the super and ran him into the window, knocking him through. Rico watched with satisfaction as the super shot metal of himself, raking at walls and hooking on windows, trying to slow his six-story descent. The remaining thief dashed back to the flat's door, looking desperately into the bathroom, then back at Rico.

"If you wanna see your friend again alive, get your stupid little friends to bribe me. I'm really not a fan of opportunistic thieves."

The punk dashed.

The song ended.

------------------------------

At the end of day two, Rico's hostage was released with great humiliation to the petty super-gang. Using a bit of diplomatic manipulation, frightening threats and damned lies, Rico had also convinced the gang to put the entire apartment block under their protection, because if anything was missing or damaged, there would be hell to pay for the whole gang.

It helped that they were have convinced that Rico also had super-strength. Hence the damned lies.

But he was back on the streets, finding the injured and shipping them back to Doc Martin. He had heard rumors of supers vying for the empty throne, and had even heard that he was a suspect of such vying. Everyone had heard of the storming of the palace, the alleyway massacre, the rescue clinic and the happenings at the hospital, and all supers involved were implicated into the rumors.

Plus another one.

Mercury?

Who's Mercury?

Speaking of pseudonyms, Rico had heard himself referred to as "Rock".

Rock?

Is that the best people could come up with?

To be fair, Rico couldn't do much better.

Rico had seen a house that was increasingly wrapped with weeds and vines, and suspected the living tree was involved. He was gathering up the courage to knock on the door and see who was there.

It took a while for Warren to remember what had transpired after the sun slipped behind the horizon. He had fallen, broken and battered, but triumphant. His petals raised to the fading sun, his eyes closed.

He had awoken on an impromptu throne, raised by the bone garden behind him and set to keep him facing the sun. But it was gone now, darkness had fallen and fires crept through the city, claiming lives just as the people scuttled like rats, devouring all resources in this second coming of the new world.

Half-aware of his surroundings and aching across his entire body and more, Warren marched. It was instinct, more than conscious decision. He must walk, he must root, he must seek and grow and devour and consume and reach the sun.

He was totally out of it by the time he stopped marching and lay his crested head down on the earth of his old garden. The bone garden had abandoned him some way back, crawling forward with all tenacity of anything that moved by rolling its mass forward, grasping with whatever pseudopods it could manage to create out of the bones and flesh still embedded in its girth and pulling onwards.

Time passed. The night, that which was not his ally, reared its head, and slid across the sky like quicksilver, flowing and ghostly. The place in which he rested did not slumber however. The green mind, the collective of instincts and half-formed ambition moulded his surroundings, taking what was one a man's home and making it nature's once more.

Lit by the ice of the night hundred and thousands of tendrils wormed their way into the city, twisting and working their way into as much space as they could. Like lizards or vermin they travelled, hidden, unbidden by human concepts such as property and ownership. As far as the flowers were concerned, everything belonged to the world. And the world was theirs for the taking.

The bodies they encounter, cold and dead, with mouths wide and limbs akimbo, became a delicacy. The taste of flesh was a fine one and every opportunity to satiate the cravings of the growing Undergrowth was relished with wild abandon. The bodies were dragged into the sewers, which were quickly becoming unrecognisable, teeming with flora of strange and confusing design. Backwards rolling ferns that glittered like snow, flowers with petals so clear that they might as well not even exist, and sunflowers, thousands upon thousands of sunflowers that followed not the sun, but the movements of those who stepped over head, gazing at them from beneath the earth with a phantom malevolence and hunger in each of their amber eyes.

These sentries popped up overnight, coal black centres and golden-yellow petals following and watching all who passed by. Across the town they made their presence known, taking root on statues and buildings, the strength of their grip crushing marble and brick, making wood burst into flower and stretch and crush and break apart, exploding into bloom and life.

It was a revolution of colour unto the bleak city.

Those who were awake and fought back against this invasion, using fire and axes and weed killers that burned him like ice and the grip of poison, were dealt with, slowly, painfully and expertly. There were places the new garden couldn't reach though. Its territory was only so large, energy had to be put towards the regeneration of the centre and the creation of the Lair that he would call his new home. Unless he could fully plant himself into the city's organic infrastructure, there would always be holes in his knowledge.


He woke slowly; half-seated, half-supported by a network of creepers, ferns and saplings that made a cocoon of undulating, pulsating plant-flesh and human skeletons that shined with an eerie whiteness that he couldn't properly discern through his filtered gaze. The sun shone through a roof that had looked like it had seen better days; a long gash spread from east to west, the apex of which sat directly above the pod in which Warren was sequestered.

Vines snaked along the floor like power cables. Their flesh was translucent, luminous with a deep red inside that flowed like blood, smelt like blood, and tasted like blood. Warren felt in on his lips and licked them.

His carnivorous pseudopod tongue snapped at his flesh briefly, hissing with pleasure as it scored a few petals and returned to devour them.

Warren wasn't worried. They'd grow back soon enough.

The room was mostly dark, but Warren could make out pictures hung on faded wallpaper, and the places where walls used to stand, now occupied by trees that had sprung up and coiled around the outer walls, supporting them with their intertwining branches and heavy trunks. It was his old home. His new home. His garden of bones and flesh and light that was his guide.

The petals of his face opened wide, accepting the sun that beamed down from above, and a slow smile wandered across his face. It turned up at the corners, angled and wolf like, a muzzle that was contained within a golden crown. His nose was little more than a soft lump of flesh at the middle of his face and his eyes traced its contours and that of the forest hall before him, moving in wildly different direction that disoriented and confused whatever conscious mind he had.

The day was young, and his arm and leg were back to full working order. It was time to discover what treasures this new world held for him and his own. His wife must be found... Marie. The sunflowers would find her, the vines would find her, the trees and grasses would bend to his whim. He would demand nature's compliance in his effort to find her.

John watched in awe as Martin (names had been exchanged) healed his wounds; such a man would be essential if the town was to survive. These thoughts lead to others and he quickly realised that he stood at a turning point for the town. He had to move quickly to fill the power vacuum with something... anything, before it descended into anarchy. And he had ideas...

The first step however, was aquring the guns mentioned by Miriam. While all her other words were nonsense, there was no doubt that the McNeils had a stash of weapons and the only people who would know were the McNeils themselves. But where to start? Surely any that were still alive would have immediately gone into hiding. John eventually concluded that this doctor was as good as any; the clinic's position relative to the fighting meant that he must have heard something.

So once his wounds were healed he spoke; "Thank you Martin. Your power is remarkable... the people you could help. But could you help me with one more thing? I'm looking for a McNeil, not to violent ends but for help; This town is surely about to undergo a violent transition and any information a McNeil had would be essential."

Martin's mind betrayed him. And for a second, so did his face with a flash of recognition. He knew, but instead he said; "No, I'm sorr-"

John, sitting up and cutting him off; "I know you are lying. Please it is essential for the people of the town!"

"This is about the weapons isn't it? Why on earth would I give you that information? What reason do I have to believe you won't use them to kill and maim?"

John; who had been riding Martin's mind for a while now; had long established that realised that his primary concern was helping the civilians of the town. But now other thoughts and emotions were surging to the surface, and the one that was of most concern to John was the mistrust. Martin had no reason to trust John with anything, he barely knew him.

Martin was backing off now and had his hand in his coat, the universal sign for 'I'm armed' and John backed down somewhat.

"Look, let me explain. I am trying to help the people of this town... of which I am one! This town is being sucked into the vacuum of power and will slowly destroy itself unless we do something. I have an idea; I know how we can fill this void for long enough to stem the anarchy, and create an army to defend the city from external forces that will surely destroy us otherwise...

"So what I'm hearing is you and your friends intend to take over and create an army to enforce your rule, however brutally." Damn, it had sounded and awful lot like that. "No, I won't let you do that. I will use the weapons to create an army that I know will be better than the McNeils. I have no idea who you are, or your true intentions."

"Look, how are you going to create this army? You may be able to get the guns, but I can get the people."

"I'll make it out of ex-army and police officer types. I will offer you this; if you give me people, you can have some guns. But I also want control of the hospital."

This man drove a hard bargain. "So let me get this straight, in exchange for some number of guns, you'll get soldiers and a hospital." "Yes." "Now why would I give you all that when my friends could storm this place, and extract Vance by force?" A bluff, at least for now.
Martin tensed. "I'm also offering you medical treatment for your men. My soldiers would only be to guard the hospital." John could tell the would also be Martin's insurance; if he thought John was becoming a tyrant he'd be able to depose him.
"Look, two armies is wasteful. Arm the men I gather and you can chose the man to lead them. And seeing as you are a doctor, I can't think of anyone better to take charge of the hospital. You and I want the same thing."
Martin nodded; "I have a man in mind; the head of the clinic's security team, and ex-soldier going by 'Smith'. He is a good man."

Considering what had been agreed, this had been a fast, unemotional negotiation; evidently this was a man of remarkable intellect and with his powers he would be indispensable in building a recovery for this town.
"Good men are in short supply during times of crisis. At least that is the common wisdom; I happen to think differently. I hope this will be the start of a remarkable relationship."

For the second time today he held out his (now healed) hand. This time a human hand took it.

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John and Martin emerged from the room in which they had been talking and discussed their plans with the others; Sarah, Rico, James and Matthew. Word of what was happening at the palace had already reached the clinic, and so the first stage had become to go to there, gather up support and establish (and destroy, if necessary) what remained of the McNeils before they went to the hospital.

Rico, who had recovered and was headstrong as ever, seized the possibility that there were people in danger that he could save and quickly agreed.

Sarah was initially reluctant to leave the clinic and the injured who remained. However the time John had spent in the clinic had given him ample time to probe her mind; "Sarah, do not hide away here. Think of what you could do with your power; this is the opportunity to do it... This is the opportunity to prove yourself."

These words struck Sarah, and with some assurances from Martin that he would look after those who remained at the clinic she relented and agreed.

Like the others, James saw an opportunity here. The opportunity to shape the history that he had dedicated his past life teaching. At least the history of this particular corner of the world. These thoughts and more flashed through James' mind in an instant. But it was seeing the others agree and fearing that history may instead leave him behind that pushed him over, and James shook that hand that John had offered him.

Matthew did not share the idealist's; John's; grand ambitions. But he did hate the McNeils. He was also a believer in survival of the fittest, and while no history teacher, he knew that if it showed anything it was that the times when humans co-operated were when they were most powerful, be it for war or peace. And in front of him were superhumans co-operating for a cause.

And besides, without him John would probably get himself killed.

Before they left, John asked Martin if he could try and help the Ent-man, whose mind he felt getting faint. "Please, his name is Warren and he is a good man. He's saved us all at some point, but is currently dying. Please."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The group made their way to the palace.

As usual John's mind had been scouting ahead when it came across something unusual. It was a mind obsessed with the infliction of pain and murder but not totally unhinged. And most worryingly a mind that seemed to register John's presence before shouting at him;
"What the hell are you doing?"

This took John completely by surprise - this wasn't meant to happen, and it took a moment for his mind to collect itself "Err... just having a look around?" was the best he could come up with.

"Well fuck off! We had one bitch try to meddle with our head already. God she was a nightmare..."
Contempt flowed from this mind, "Miriam?! Do you know where she is? We are looking to... have a quick chat with her." The sadist picked up on the sub-text as fast as John had expected, "And believe me I couldn't meddle even if I wanted to."
"Hah! You want to torture her? Well join the line! So did Fromanzio!"
"Did?"
"Shut up for a second!"
"What?"
"Sorry, was talking to Fromanzio. Yeah we'd just broken into her room and then she offed herself. Frustrating." This mind was truly disappointed at missing this opportunity. "She even managed to put a bullet in Fromanzio's leg! The nerve."
"Shit. Oh well, at least she's dead. Look, can you help us?"
"Who is 'us'? Got someone else in there? Like me?"
"Er, no. Talking about some friends of mine." Now for the gamble; John reckoned he knew enough to offer him something; "So we are looking to establish a bit of law and order. Maybe even a government, who knows."
The voice laughed; "And why should we help you? Law and order has always been a bit of an obstruction."
"I thought you'd say that, so let me offer you something. If we succeed, we will help you conduct your... affairs in any way we can. We will heal you completely, give you new toys, and so on. And think of this; what causes more suffering, one man on a killing spree or state sanctioned violence? Or even worse; or better depending on perspective; a state engaged in total war with another?"
"Hmm, new toys you say? Total war you say? Err, not that I'm particularly partial to that... but Fromanzio would certainly appreciate it."
"Oh yes, there will be plenty of both. Possibly more of the second." John detected some other minds walking with the body that must be Fromanzio. "When we meet in person, can you help persuade them?"
"Ok, but I don't know if they are as keen on mindless violence as I... Fromanzio is."
"Perhaps don't mention that, or that we had this conversation? If you do it'll make it a lot harder conduct state sanctioned violence."
"Hmm... alright."

The entire interaction had taken a matter of seconds. And once it was over John withdrew, although getting the hell out would better describe it. The words 'Stare into the abyss long enough and the abyss stares back" had never seemed more applicable.

Shortly the two groups ran into each other, and John laid out his plans. Darryl and Grav quickly jumped on board; John could see they were genuinely good people who were trying to save others. Ottis was slightly more reluctant, but the sheer shock hearing the mad clown come down on the side of law and order pushed him into agreement.

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It was a formidable squadron that walked down the street towards the hospital. Surely even Tornado team would have be swept aside before it.

Rico and Sarah were up front, carrying themselves with a confidence that only the invulnerable and insane could match, and occasionally Sarah would even bat aside a car with an almost impossibly dense arm. Behind them came Darryl's clones, each of them towering, armed, and vigilant. They all advanced strategically through the street; moving as one and covering all possible angles with their scavenged assault rifles. In the middle of the street was a man armed with a shotgun; James; who would often accelerate to great speeds before realising that when he accelerated his mind he was also accelerating his body. He'd then return to his conversation, a conversation with an unarmed man, John. The original Darryl walked behind with a heavily tattooed punk rocker, Ottis; arcs of electricity leaping from him and scorching the ruined cars as he walked by, in an impressive and consistent display of his power.

Ahead of them Matthew leapt and ran across the roof tops; a lethal predator scouting the area for worthy prey. And somehow keeping up with him was Grav, who made gigantic leaps across the wide street and with the aid of his grappling hook flew at great speeds in impressive aerial displays. Last but by no means least a manic figure dressed in a battered and bloodied clown costume flew above them all. Occasionally he would stop performing aerial loops and rolls and dissapear for a few minutes and each time he would return with his costume a tiny bit bloodier.

And like this, the group arrived at the hospital. Word of this group of supers had travelled considerable faster than their measured walking pace, and from its doors a man in a red suit emerged, escorted by a handful of armed men.

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A man was screaming loudily, dangling up side down from a lamp post. His leg was jumbled in barbed wire, which in turn made him flail helplessly only to have it rip further into his flesh, as the barbed wire was tied to the post. Aiken was sitting on the side of a knee high stone wall, separating the sidewalk from the street. The man, also known as Surge was flayed up pretty badily. Aiken had an amused expression on his face, watching the man slowly bleed out.

"WHY?! WHAT HAVE I DONE TO D--" The man sobbed, unable to scream any longer. He was going to be dead in an hour or more and he fully deserved it. His fellow gang members had ran out on him. Seeing Aiken take their super enhanced leader down was more than they could bear. They knew they either left the city or they died gruesomely. Matthew had been making similar messages all over the city, tirelessly helping John and his plans in his own way, even if it wasn't for the right reasons.

Over the past week, he had adapted to the predator as best he could. He no longer felt issues suppressing it. It was a part of him now, human and beast. Yeah, he was something else entirely. The mutations had spread a bit, often Aiken had to regenerate after a tireless day of hunting down prey and his constant relying on his regeneration was showing it's signs. The green scales had spread up his neck in due time, covering his cheeks and chin, like a sickness which slowly spread to envelop him. He no longer hid under clothing. A t shirt and slacks was all he wore along with some running shoes, as he hadn't sprouted any claws there yet. Today though, his clothing was drenched in sewer water.

Surge, as he called himself, had the ability to manipulate water. He had tried to drown Aiken in sewage water just earlier, having been eager and cocky about killing him. Matthew had easily outmatched the meager super, proving again his place as the apex predator. Now Surge was bleeding out and Matthew was watching with glee.

"Do you know why I do this, Surge?"

Surge whimpered, blood pooling slowly underneath his slowly swinging form. He had stopped struggling. "P-please.. I'll le.. lea--" He sobbed again. He was terrified of dying.

"I'm leaving you as a warning. This is my display of power. Last time, I handled that fireweaver on the other side of town. You remember that? That was me. I left his half chewed corpse on the side walk."

The man whimpered, wriggling again, trying to desperately escape. It was quite futile. As groups of bandits had formed in the city, Aiken had relished the prospect of hunting down various leaders, which were all incidentally supers from the second collapse. In only a week, he had killed three of them and left their corpses in various parts of the city on macabre display. Leaderless, the human bandits had ran out of town, far away from the dreaded Hydra. That was what they called him. He had even accumulated a name for himself, not that he cared, still, it was appropriate. Three heads had struck the city, three leaders had fallen and not a scratch on the man who killed them all.

Matthew laughed. Causing the dying man to shudder in revulsion and fear. The only battle scars Aiken had to prove his conquests were fading burn marks from the fireweaver. Those were a bitch to heal and they still fully hadn't faded, after 2 days. He realized he was vulnerable to fire, but he shrugged, standing up.

"I'm leaving now. Enjoy your last moments, Surge."

"YO..YOU CAN'T DO THIS! DO..Don't lea.." The man coughed harshly. Aiken was already walking away, before settling for a sprint, he felt uncomfortable merely walking. He ran right at a wall and began to scale it, grabbing onto any jutting obstacles and heaving his way up. His body was adapting to his constant activity, given more time, Matthew realized with relish that he would be in amazing physical shape. Which would make the hunting so much easier, as he often had to rest for periods of time in between hunts. He sprinted across the city rooftops, like he always did. His leaps and steps taking him towards the center of town.

Slight boredom edged at him and he thought about going to hunt some more gang members, but shot the idea down for now. He shouldn't get too caught up in the hunting, it felt so much more thrilling when he indulged himself on occasion rather than constantly, then it just became dull and predictable, besides, his favorite prey were supers and not humans. And those weren't infinite. Eventually, Matthew settled on the side of a rooftop overlooking the palace. A man was smoking a cigarette on a balcony beneath, and he looked up at Aiken, only to drop the cigarette and walk back inside, closing the balcony door. Matthew scoffed, feeling insulted that the man didn't figure he could just break open the window, rip the man apart and then leave. He allowed himself to smirk though, amused that he still inspired such dread in people.

Of course, he still felt bitter at times, but the past was the past and he figured he might as well try to bury it and move on. Maybe in time, he would truly forget about it.

Gavin had met up with Ottis to do their usual rounds trying to get his worries about the "tree-ent" out of his head, before meeting up with Darryl at what remained at the palace. Fromanzio landed a few minutes later. They typically dropped by to look through the rubble. Ottis and Darryl typically picking out things for family or other reason, Fromanzio wondering what Miriam had up her sleeve, and Gavin simply walking around. He was beginning to understand why the McNeil's did the things they did. They were simply covering their asses, protecting their friends an family. Even the city. The collapse had sent things spiraling into hell and the city had been falling apart. Suddenly things started falling slower. Miriam had said she'd been the McNeil's accountant or something along those lines. They were holding everything together. Problem with all Dynasties is that there is never enough power and some members wanted more of it than they needed. In reality, it wasn't that insane. In reality, it was only human.

Then John had shown up. He'd stared at Fromanzio for a few seconds, before detailing his plan. Gavin was ecstatic. Finally a chance to do some good with people actually backing him up. Darryl had agreed nearly as eagerly as Gavin. Ottis was a bit heistant, but when he saw Fromanzio gladly agree to it, he was on board. John had spoken of other supers such as Rico, one Gavin recognized, the others were new to him and didn't show up on the list he'd nabbed. Must be fresh out of the superpowered barrel, whatever causes them.

So this is how Gavin found himself leaping over streets and rooftops, changing direction with grappling hook and trying to hide his glee. It was happening! He hadn't gotten to know all of them yet, but figured they couldn't be too bad. Below him was Mathew, a superhuman who'd undergone a peculiar mutation. Apparently he'd developed scales, poison, and minor regeneration. He reminded him of something Gavin remembered learning back in high school literature? A gorgon? No, something else. Fromanzio was in the air with Gavin, but kept veering off and returning with blood on his suit. Gavin wondered how many "bad people" Fromanzio was running into each time he veered off. And how fast Fromanzio could move in the air. Darryl and Ottis stood near each other, his copies well dressed and armed. Ottis on the other hand was beginning to get better control of his power, lighting arching through the street with a song blaring in his ears. Things were looking up. It wasn't long before they reached the hospital.

Gavin landed gently, as if he'd simply taken a step. Gravity reduction at it's finest.

"Alright, I'm ready to do this." He muttered, eager to do something.

Ottis stayed near Darryl, as they wondered down the street with like minded supers. The air around Ottis even feels tingly and smells of ozone. Every few minutes releasing a show of power to those who might think of picking off the old guys in the back. He felt different; he felt reborn; he felt like his younger self... Angry.

After the week he had no one could blame him. At the joyous return to his family (His wife, sons even the girls were there and after some stitching up amongst friends)he found out his former band members were burnt corpses at his destroyed pub. He son's pawn shop was wrecked and looted by some scumbag super who could manipulate water. His wife and sons weren't to thrilled when he kept going out on "outings" with his "super friends". The rumors of them being the next Lords of the city pushed his family to the breaking point.

After a long day of scouting for the rumored secret McNeil stash. Ottis and Darryl returned to a darkened empty house. A simple note written on the back of his favorite photo from his wedding was left for him. He calmly lit it on fire and walked to his sound proof recording room locking it behind him. He stayed there for two days blasting music at the highest decibels he could with out blowing a fuse. An average persons ears would of bled, Ottis didn't know his wouldn't. In fact Ottis didn't know what would happen in this meditative state. But, he felt it... a change from within. Not sure if it was spiritual or physically at his core. It took Gavin's return and 20 Darryls to convince him to get out of the room.

Snapping back to the present situation Ottis wished he could forget 28 years of his life. He looked over to Darryl "Prime" and finally for the first time in days smiled

"We should of made a bucket list"

The time between the fall of the McNiels and now had given the Children of Samedi time to get truely organized. They had managed to convert a little over a dozen people willingly, and the rest of the hospitals occupants were tearfully grateful to Saturday, and eager to help him. A few fortification had been made, and weapons scavenged. It had truly become a defensible HQ. But it wouldn't stop the group currently heading for the front door.

Saturday stood tall with his hands behind his back. His expression was one of caution determination.

"Dat's fah enough!" he called out un-agressivly to the convoy of supers approaching the hospital.

The witch doctor saw Rico, the annoying boy with steel skin speak in a hushed voice to an older man in a pressed suit. The group stopped on the sidewalk that met the steps to the entrance.

"Hello, I'm John. We have heard of you Brother Saturday. We decided to work together after briging down the McNiels, and we have come to see the hospital." The man replied in a friendly tone.

"I tink you 'ave come to do more dan 'look'." Saturday said.

"We want to ask you and the other 'Children of Samedi' to join us. We need the hospital to keep the city in order."

"Well den, let's work somethen out." Saturday said with a grin.

He took off his hat and walked down the steps to meet the group. Two armed Haitians followed him.

"You want to use de 'ospital, but I dunnknow ef I can trust you."

"We cant trust you either!" Rico said, remembering the fire on the roof.

Saturday shook his head pityingly.

"Yes, Rico told us what happened on the roof, and something about 'Loa'. Would you care to explain?"

Saturday suddenly became irritated. "I'll explain out of good faitah, but I don't owe you aneh ansuhs ya undahstand? Dis is my place, you don't own aneh-ting yet. I stahted dat fire to get George McNiel to de hospital so I could take care of 'im. I knew 'e was gona come to put it out, and den I would strike. So we ah on de same side."

A few of the supers were visably relived with this answer, including John, several black men that looked positively identical, a white guy who obviously didn't feel comfortable holding a shotgun.

"What about this 'Loa' guy?" said a man covered in tattoos with little jolts of static electricity arcing over him.

"Dey Loa are de spirits who reside ovah dis world. they ah de gods of de voodoo faith. My faith." Saturday said in a reverent, and serious tone.

"Ooo! A real live witch doctor! How unexpected!" chimed a blood covered clown hovering a few feet off the ground.

"I knew it! You have some kind of evil cult plot don't you!" Rico exclaimed.

One of the Haitians behind Saturday began yelling curses in Haitian, but Saturday put his hand up and the man stopped. The look on his face was grave.

"Doncha yah dare insult my religion ou ti kras chi."

One of the identical black men spoke up. "Hey, he's right Rico. That's screwed up, calling him out like that just cause of his religion."

"I agree Darryl. Don't attack the man because of his faith, word on the street says he has been helping defenseless people since the revolution started." John said.

"Dats right bruddah. Dat 'ospital is filled wit people who had nowhere lese to go. Sick people, hurt people. I am de one who is protecting dem, and I don't need any of you." Saturday said.

"you couldn't stop all of us." The scaly, mutated, man-thing said threateningly.

"Oh yes yes yes, FUN! Lets-" the clown started again.

"We don't want to fight you!" John interrupted, silencing the group. "Let's make a deal. We need to use the hospital. Like I said, it is important if we want to re-build and run this place. We don't want to fight, but we will if we have too."

Saturday smiled again. He knew where this was heading now.

"Well, since you haven't attacked alreadeh, I tink you are try'in to run tings like good-guys. You wah nevah gwan to attack in de first place. If you attacked a 'ospital filled wit innocent people, you would be just as bad as dah McNiels. So, yes, let us make a deal. If I join dis gang you 'ave going, I'll let you into de hospital. You can borrow aneh mstaff you need, and you can have some of my people to help build. Me and my soldiahs will help sweep de streets as well."

"That sounds good." John said. "What do you want in return?"

"You will recognize de 'ospital as my turf. You can have your people der, but you can nevah have dem out-numbah my people. Aneh decisions about de 'ospital will have to go trew me first, and none of you can give ordahs to my bruddahs and sistahs. De Children of Samedi will be your allies, no your cronies. Do we 'ave a deal?"

----------------------------------------------------

In the cold, black early hours of the next morning John went to Warren's house. It seemed to have been consumed by the trees that now grew around it, forming a wall thicker and stronger than the bricks had ever been.
The ent-man's roots and plants had begun to grip the city. Where they had spread, run down boroughs had been transformed into overgrown garden paradises; all manners of colours and plants coving the streets and climbing there way up the walls. This seemed to have a calming effect on many; walking through a beautiful forest scene was certainly better for the soul than a decrepit derelict street. Some of these plants even provided a bounty of fruit which; after those first brave pioneers sampled them; became a wonderful source of food for many areas. But where this embodiment of nature gave, it had also taken away. The roots could crush stone and the structural damage in places was beginning to show, and any who tried too hard to fight nature's inexorable advance often disappeared; rumours had it that they were dragged kicking and screaming into the sewers by sentient and malevolent vines.
It worried John that this may become a problem. But not right now.

Right now, he needed Warren's help. John tread softly as he entered the house; the trees had grown round the door leaving it still usable; evidently the influence of Warren's human mind.

The scene inside was surreal to say the least. There were plants propping up lamps, and paintings hanging from vines where the cord had snapped; where the wallpaper had torn flowers grew in an odd attempt to repair the damage in the only way they knew how. As far as he could tell, this was nature in it's purest form trying to preserve an image of domestic bliss...
Unfortunately John did not have time to gander, and made his way up the stairs and found his way into Warren's room. There he was, the huge man suspended above the ground by a bed of vines. This room's walls had been entirely replaced by the trees, on which paintings hung nonetheless and it was eerily quiet.
"Warren... please I need your help. In exchange we'll do everything we can to spread your plants, and find Marie."

With those words, Warren's mane of yellow petals opened and his eyes turned to gaze upon John.

----------------------------------------------------

"So I ask you; in the name of justice for this new city; are these mercenaries... the soldiers of the McNeils... guilty or not guilty?"

The crowd roared it's response; "GUILTY!!!"

----------------------------------------------------

Over the last day the mercenaries had been rounded up. Many had died in their futile efforts to fight off the relentless and merciless assault of the supers; killed or subdued by blunt trauma, bullets, electricity and vines. Now; bloodied and bruised; the few survivors had been dragged onto a simple raised platform that had been constructed on the grass in front of the town hall.

John stood in front of them, and was addressing a huge crowd through a rudimentary sound system that Ottis had put together.

Word of the mercenary's trial had spread quickly, and soon the crowd had gathered at the old town hall which would form the centre of government in the city. It must have numbered in the low tens of thousands; such had been the hatred for the McNeils that almost half the city had turned out to see their thugs trialled.

Now they barged and pushed to get a closer view, but were careful to keep a safe distance from the armed men (including some that looked eerily similar...) that watched the area. Ottis was also on hand, using the noise of the crowd to singe any that got too close. The other supers were scattered around; some discreetly hidden in buildings or among the crowds, others show boating in the sky above. John felt the fear in the minds of the crowd; supers had long been associated with oppression, but the days to come would change that somewhat, and it would begin with the mercenaries; whose crimes had been presented. They had been allowed to speak in their defence, but it had long been a forgone conclusion.

"GUIL-TY! GUIL-TY! GUIL-TY!" The crowd had begun to chant the judgement, which while not the most elegant certainly conveyed the message. John acknowledged them with a slow nod, and signalled for silence to which the crowd reluctantly obliged.

John addressed the mercenaries, and over the sound system his words boomed; "Having been found guilty by a jury, it is now up to me to sentence you. Considering the extensive list of crimes which include, but are not limited to, arson, rape and multiple homicide against the citizens of this town it has been recommended that the sentence granted is death."

"Despite this, it is noted that you were following the orders and wishes of a woman and a family who unfortunately can no longer stand here and be tried for their crimes."

A pause... John sensed a rising disappointment in the crowd, which would quickly escalate into anger if the mercenaries escaped the crowd's idea of justice. But John had no intentions of allowing them to do so.

"However, the excessive nature of the crimes and the incredible brutality with which they were carried out, and the weakness of "only following orders" as a defence suggests it is not enough to mitigate the sentence." John tried to remember some old words he'd heard...

"Therefore it is the sentence of this Court that you shall be hanged by the neck until dead. God have mercy on your soul."

He'd had to practically shout the last few words as the ecstatic noise from the crowd grew deafening; almost drowning out the speakers. With those words he exited the platform and signalled to Warren, who had been watching concealed from the sidelines.

The ground under the platform started to rumble. The crowd grew quieter as the sound grew louder and the rumbling stronger; the grass underneath the platform was growing much faster now, and the vines around had begun to bloom with flowers.

And then suddenly huge trunks burst from the ground behind the mercenaries, smashing planks into splints and throwing the mercenaries hard onto the remaining platform. As the trunks grew, branches and leaves begun to sprout until there were four huge fully grown trees standing in front the town hall.

The mercenaries had not yet gotten to their feet when the vines whipped out from the trees and wrapped themselves around their necks. Once the vines had all secured their grip on the soft flesh they tightened and retracted in perfect synchrony leaving the mercenaries to writhe for air as they hung.

The crowd; which had been stunned into silence by the display of power; now bellowed its euphoric response.

John was almost floored as the tsunamis of emotion crashed into his mind, but he stood against it. There was a concern at the gleeful response to such savagery, but it was to be expected at the event which marked the end of such a brutal time for the people of Palm Bay.

The noise from the crowd continued long after the mercenaries had stopped moving. When it eventually subsided, John once again mounted the platform (the little that remained) and began to address the crowd, the bodies of the mercenaries hanging lifeless behind him as he spoke.

----------------------------------------------------

"People of Palm Bay, this is a new beginning for the city. The tyranny of the McNeils is over and I swear to you they will not be replaced by another tyrant. No, in it's place will come a new society based on the freedoms of the America that existed before the collapse brought anarchy into the lives of everyone here..."

John was about to make big promises, which were perhaps unnecessary for the immediate circumstances; the people would be happy to just know that the McNeils were gone and those who took their place would not be even a degree as brutal. But in this world there would be empires forming, and if Palm Bay did not push it self and come together it would once again succumb and the all it's people, super or otherwise, would be put through further suffering. So he would endeavour to give them common goals... and common enemies.

"...And from here they will spread."

"But actions speak louder than words and so with your help, over the next few days and weeks courts will be established; so that death will no longer be delivered against those who commit even the slightest deviation in thought, speech or action. More hospitals will be opened, and while treatment will still be restricted to the friends and family of those in power, each citizen of this town can count themselves among that number. And the old and unused schools will soon be reopened; some of you in the crowd may recognise me as a teacher in one of the few schools in the town and I can tell you from first hand experience; although I feel I shouldn't have to; how important the children of this town will be in the years to come."

John was an excellent public speaker; it had been a large part of his success in his prior life, but he had never done anything like this or addressed a crowd of nearly this scale. But by channelling the efforts and emotions of the previous days, and the strength and knowledge that his power gave him he continued.

"All these things, and more, that were disregarded by the McNeils will become the cornerstones of this new republic."

"And make no mistake; this will become a new republic, and the first step is the creation of an army and militia to defend it, made up of the men and women who have a stake in the growth of this fledgling nation; the men and women standing in front of me today. The second step will be the establishment of elected councils in each of the districts of this city, and once these are in place, finally a parliament will be created through which all the voices of the citizens are heard."

"So remember this day, and the times to come. Eventually we will create a nation that will be a beacon in this new world of tyrants and kings and oppression. But it will be a slow and painful process, and those oppressors will fight us with everything they have. But we will prove that the collapses of the past were just minor hiccups in history's inexorable advance towards freedom and democracy! So remember this day as the day that history dug it's foot into the dirt, drew a line in the sand and said; 'You will push me no further'!"

The crowd was in a frenzy, roaring and cheering. John let it continue and then signalled for a measure of silence.

"And the supers you see here are different; they are not your oppressors. Against the McNeils they were the foot in the dirt, the line in the sand and they were the ones who fought to give you the opportunity that we now have. And they are citizens of this city as well and are as invested in it's success as we all are, and they will fight to defend it against those who would and will come here with fire and try to burn us out."
The crowd was now cheering for the supers; previously there had been rumours of supers fighting the McNeils but now it was confirmed; these were the men and women who had delivered them from the yoke of the family. There was still that fear of supers, the fear that permeated every non-super human; it would take more than a few words to undo the mental programming of the last year but the process had begun.

"But in times to come they may not be enough. We are all history pushing back in this struggle, and we will stand side by side with any, super or otherwise, that would join our cause. The fight against chaos and anarchy begins here, now, and with all of us!"

John stood there as the roared and cheered it's approval. This time he embraced the waves of emotion was over his mind; there was optimism there and a fervour there that could be used to create a new city in a rose-tinted image of the old America. For now it would be John and whoever would help him, that would try to wield these powers, but eventually that would pass to the people of the city itself.

With the bulk of speech concluded, he turned to more practical words and rhetoric; calling up those with military or police experience, the lawyers, the engineers, the teachers and the doctors; any with skills that had been underused over the last year.

There was much to be done.

Gavin watched from the sky, far up enough to he was nothing but a dot behind a few clouds, listening to the speech from his radio. So far, he hadn't seen anything out. This gave him a chance to think about...a lot of things. They'd made arrangements with a voodoo priests, had gotten the overgrowth known as Warren to side with them, and were now publicly leading the charge in returning some form of order to the city. Overall, things were going better than expected...perhaps a bit too good to be true. History repeats itself and all that.

"Nah, nah, John's a good guy. He's responsible for all of this." Gavin said, pushing away his paranoia. "I doubt he of all people would go rogue on us." Reassured, Gavin let himself fall out of the sky before slowing himself. He landed a few feet from Ottis. He seemed to be dealing with his wife and in turn, family leaving him well...on the surface at least. He was at least in his 50's and had probably been married for over two decades. To simply have his family walk out on him... Gavin was so enthralled with how Ottis was doing, he almost didn't notice people cheering for him. Gavin shrugged, smiled, and took point. Warren's vines started removing the bodies of the Mercenaries. It was a bit brutal but it was justice. They'd done terrible, horrible things. If they'd done their heinous acts in a world without supers...they'd have gotten far worse. Gavin heard John's voice in his head.

"We'll be moving on soon. There is much work to be done." John said to each of the supers. Gavin and Ottis started walking away from the stage. A few Darryl's dupes were hidden among the crowd, checking for any signs of roughness. Nothing so far. they started making their way out of crowd. Mathew was watching afar from a rooftops and James had just checked a number of buildings. No assassins, snipers, or hidden armies around here. Sarah and Rico stood by John's side, in case someone managed to get close to him. Warren was behind stage with the main Darryl, who was enjoying a good nap, and Charles another super they'd met. Martin and Louie were at their hospitals, watching on televisions and listening on radios. Fromanzio was doing a final fly over of the area. Nothing here. Everything had gone off without a hitch, no one needed to be dealt with, no angry outbursts. A perfect day.

Rico stood by during John's speech. He didn't like how bloodthirsty he felt the crowd had become, but he shoved it out of his mind. The men were criminals, plain and simple. They deserved what they were about to get.

He and Sarah scanned the crowd, looking for threats. There weren't any, as expected. Even Doc Martin had opted to stay at his clinic, knowing that there was virtually no way there'd be an incident at the hanging. The goodwill towards supers was at an all-time high.

-----------------------------------

"We'll be moving on soon. There is much work to be done."

Rico refused to think about the faces of the hanged men, gasping like fish, as they died. He exited the stage quickly and with purpose as the crowds dispersed. What purpose? Rico didn't know. To escape the death masks. Yeah. That. Getting away from the bodies.

He nearly knocked Gavin and Ottis clean over before realizing that he wasn't paying attention. He quickly tried to play his bumping into them as an intentional attention grabber rather than a clumsy accident. "So... what did you think of the ceremony? Any idea on what's next?"

"So... what did you think of the ceremony? Any idea on what's next?" Rico said, slightly agitated. Must not be use to being a bodyguard. Gavin didn't blame him, he'd rather be floating above the crowd than in front of it anyday.

"Everything went better than expected." Gavin said. "And as for what's next...I don't know. I haven't seen my family in weeks now, but they probably know what's going on. Oh, and there's a minor rumor that you're going to be in charge, or at least a major factor, of the police force." Gavin whistled a bit.

"If anyone asks, you didn't hear that from me." Gavin looked around, noticing a few of the vines left. He was really eager to meet this Warren guy. The "Tree-Ent" as people called him. Truth be told, Gavin wasn't a big fan of the name, didn't sound right. Gavin figured he'd stay on a first name basis before figuring out an alias for the walking overgrowth.

Fromanzio quietly watched the whole affair, he would have just shot the bastards if he knew they were going to hang them anyway, but to each their own. Fromanzio had plans anyway, outcroppings and gangs, so much fun to be had in his own little world. He calmly floated down and approached John.

"Ah yes, so what exactly did you want from Fromanzio? He is simply curious because all you said was that we would be killing things. While Fromanzio is in no way objecting to such things...he has to wonder what the purpose is to all of this? Are we to simply become the McNeils 2.0 and be killed in a similar fashion when the next batch arises? Also, there is the issue of surrounding cities, the McNeils were not alone you know. Perhaps liberal use of explosives could alleviate some of our problems. That, or we could start a band! Call it the Exploding Narwhals and tour! Everyone would love us and Fromanzio would play the drums and...what were we talking about? Oh yes! Anyway, what is the idea behind all of this?"

Matthew's perch on a rooftop gave him a good view of the whole affair. Executions. What a waste of potential thrill. For a moment, Aiken thought about how they could've sent them out and hunted them down like animals. That at least would've been fun. Besides, he did not feel this was sufficient punishment. But the human crowd seemed to be enjoying it at least. He took a leap down, grasping jutting objects on the side of the building with practiced ease as he walked through towards John and the crowd. Needless to say, any human he bumped into quickly staggered away from him. Eventually, people got the point. Matthew was hardily hiding his form. He was wearing slacks as usual, with a pair of running shoes and a loose shirt. His claws were comfortably exposed.

His steps took him up to the front, noticing several of the other supers. Without really thinking about it, he pondered on the various ways he could kill them. It wasn't an intentional thought, of course. It came to him naturally. As he realized what he was doing, he shot the nasty thoughts away. Not everything was meant to be prey. John had still managed to organize so many people and he was beginning to suspect he wasn't an ordinary human. This wasn't an age where a human would take so much initiative and expect to get away with it easily. He stepped into sight, which wasn't precisely hard, considering many in the human crowd had stepped far away from him. In a visceral display of sharp teeth, he grinned.

"So, John. What's your power? The power of extreme persuasion?"

Aiken casually flexed his claws and sat down on the side of the green stand, staring at the human crowd with no hidden amusement. At least this time around, no poison was forthcoming from his mouth, but then again, in so much time. He probably had acquired a degree of self control over it. The constant roaring made him a little uncomfortable. Being exposed did the same thing, but he forced the feelings down as best he could.

"Ah yes, so what exactly did you want from Fromanzio? He is simply curious because all you said was that we would be killing things. While Fromanzio is in no way objecting to such things...he has to wonder what the purpose is to all of this? Are we to simply become the McNeils 2.0 and be killed in a similar fashion when the next batch arises?

John had to pick his jaw up from the floor.

Also, there is the issue of surrounding cities, the McNeils were not alone you know. Perhaps liberal use of explosives could alleviate some of our problems. That, or we could start a band! Call it the Exploding Narwhals and tour! Everyone would love us and Fromanzio would play the drums and...what were we talking about? Oh yes! Anyway, what is the idea behind all of this?"

Oh wait, that's better.

"Not becoming the McNeils 2.0 is the entire point of what I'm, we're doing. As soon as we've got the basic infrastructure up and running, we'll be establishing an institution that can welcome supers; new and old; with open arms. But that would be for nothing if everyone hates us. Thankfully there is a way you can do all the killing you want, with all the explosives you can handle and still avoid that."

"For now we will fortify our position, and if the cities around begin to make moves against us, we will offer them the hand of friendship. I wish this to be as peaceful as possible, but being the tyrants they are, most will probably refuse, and that's when you and your skill set, and the army will come in."

Fromanzio laughed his now infamous laugh at John. The clown stared into John's eyes and he stopped abruptly and smiled. "Remember, absolute power corrupts absolutely." He continued laughing even has he flew away.

Now Matthew approached him; "So, John. What's your power? The power of extreme persuasion?"

John genuinely laughed. "Maybe! That'd be useful; although evidently it's a bit haphazard." He patted his chest, and the bullet wounds that were the most obvious example of his failure to persuade.

But with his face grim he took Matthew to the side and whispered in hushed tones; "Although Saturday said he could see my 'unnatural juju'. Apparently it means I have a power, but he couldn't tell me what it was..."
John was silent for a moment, seemingly lost in thought, before he broke into laughter; "It's probably something shit like water breathing! Or maybe every time I sneeze a mountain in China explodes... either way, hopefully it'll come in useful, but I'm not holding my breath... thanks to the water breathing!"
John signed heavily; both at his joke and the situation; "Oh god, anyway it goes without saying, please keep this to yourself."

Matthew nodded slowly.
----------------------------

Richard had been in the army before the collapse, but had been surviving in Palm Bay by working in a small store near the city hall. He'd attended the 'trial' with his brother, and both of them had screamed 'guilty', cheered when the mercenaries had been executed and; swept up by the euphoria of the crowd; practically tripped over himself to volunteer for the new Palm Bay army.

There must have been four thousand people volunteering, which forced the men controlling the crowd to call only for people with police or military experience; they said there was only enough food to feed half the number there. Richard's brother had been a manual worker before the collapse, and had no such experience but lied to get the chance for fight for this city and the freedoms he had been promised, and no doubt many others were doing the same.

So over the next few days the two thousand were put through their paces by the trainers and officers. The top two-hundred-and-fifty were to be armed to the best of Palm bay's capabilities, and were to form the army. The next thousand were to become a militia that would serve as a police force, keepers of the peace, and would be the first to enter the army when more weapons and supplies became available to equip them. The remaining were told that there was not enough food to keep them as part of the militia but that they would be the first to be asked when the situation changed.

Richard was one of the top fifty, however it quickly became evident to the trainers that his brother had lied about his experience and he wasn't making the grade, so with heavy hearts they had asked him to leave. However Richard had told them he would leave if they asked his brother to do so, and the trainers, who were sympathetic with his brother and his desire to do something for this new city, relented and made him part of the militia.

And so Richard's brother would be given the police equipment that remained, and his training would mainly revolve around his new role as a peace keeper. Richard however, would form part of the army and was to be equipped to the best of Palm Bay's ability, and after their new general; a man who went by 'Smith'; had addressed them they were given their equipment.

So with assault rifle in hand and weighed down by a kevlar vest, ammunition and other U.S. army gear he was drilled as the first line between the new city and the chaos and evil beyond the walls.

---------------------------

Jennifer had been an engineer before the collapse, but had been surviving in Palm Bay by working as a cleaner for the McNeils' residences. When engineers were called by John she leapt at the chance to put her languishing skills to use.

And she certainly had. Over the last few days she'd overseen the scavenging of machinery from the old semi-conductor plants and unrecoverable hospitals in the Palm bay area in order the to put other hospitals on line. The medical personnel had come from what was previously the only functioning hospital, which was now open to all and governed by a Hatian doctor. But now those with medical training who had previously kept quiet and chosen to serve their communities as opposed to the tyrannical McNeils had now also spoke up and offered their skills to this new city, and made up the majority of the medical personnel in these hospitals.

Another hospital had already been brought online and was under the charge of a man with remarkable powers of healing. After a piece of heavy machinery had fallen on Jennifer, breaking her leg, she had watched mouth agape as he had healed the damage. The only evidence was of this serious injury was a steadily improving limp.

Now Jennifer stood by a generator in the basement of the third hospital that had been chosen to be brought on line; and a good part of the hospital had been wired up and was ready to go. She flicked a switch.

The generator hummed into life and lights that had not been used in a year flickered on all over the hospital.

------------------------------

Charlie was 14, and hadn't been to school in a year. He had missed it desperately; instead of seeing his friends every day and having something to do he had been thrown back and forth between arduous labour in one of the small weapons workshops in the town and mind numbing boredom that had led to petty crime. And so instead of playing with those friends in the playground he had seen them pulverised by Dan for stealing food from the McNeils.

It was quite possibly the happiest day of his life when his dad told him that there was a new school opening and he had class on Monday. While the year had made Charlie a quieter boy, but he had been so overwhelmed by the news that his fell uncharacteristically silent. Somehow his dad had mistaken it for reluctance, and began telling him all about the new things he'd eventually be learning; engineering, medicine, and so on; he only shut up when Charlie ran forward and embraced him. Finally understanding, he returned the embrace and holding him close began whispering, "Everything is going to be alright..."

When the school bell rang for the first time that day he could no longer hold it in, and he broke down and wept silently. When the teacher asked if he wanted to go home he shook his head and; tears still streaming down his face; opened his book and picked up his pen.

With Charlie's quiet sobbing soaking the pages of his book, class began.

------------------------------

Lamar had been a gardener before the collapse, and had survived in Palm Bay by applying his trade on the farms near enough the city to be easily protected by the McNeils. And now he was one of the people that had made all the new and dramatic changes possible. He'd always had green fingers (hence his chosen profession), and now the plants were more responsive they had ever been; vegetables and fruit grew everywhere. Probably something to do with the ent-man he reasoned. This made it possible for Lamar to start a small business; in exchange for a good share of those fruit and vegetables and money he used people's gardens (and any free space he could find) to cultivate and grow the new fruit and vegetables.

After each few days of cultivating this farm within a city he would take it to a local market that had been set up by some other enterprising individuals where he would trade, buy and sell produce with citizens and others who had had the same idea as him.

The idiot McNeil that had been running the farms they had controlled directly had been convinced he knew best and hadn't really bothered to try and salvage the farm equipment. But now the people in charge of the farms knew what they were doing, and word was they were getting help from the ent-man. But he preferred this work; it was under the shade of the trees and the blooming flowers were beautiful and on top of everything it let him chat with his neighbours. Speaking of which, everyone seemed friendlier over the last few days; Lamar noted that a common spirit had gripped the people of Palm Bay and it didn't just come from the transformed streets.

There was optimism, and he shared it... the future didn't look so gloomy any more.

------------------------------

Chloe had been a judge before the collapse, and had survived in Palm bay as a minor administrator for the McNeils. But that was quickly swept under the carpet by the people who now ran the city; if anyone with the slightest and most harmless association with the McNeils was punished, the labour camps would be overflowing and the street would be running red with blood. Of course there had been some violence, but that quickly stopped when the perpetrators were arrested or; if the lizard man found them first; killed.

And this was part of a problem for Chloe; there was a danger that there was one set of laws for the supers developing, and one set for everyone else. In particular, the psychopathic clown... Fromanzio, and the aforementioned lizar-Matthew; it was not that they did not obey the law, it was the way in which they enforced it. Gangs had quickly emerged once Miriam had vanished, and the first point of order had been to suppress them. Now If you were in a gang and the militia caught you, you were given a fair trial (as far as Chloe could help it) and sentenced for whatever crimes you may have committed. If one of the supers caught you, you might make it to trial, but it you certainly wouldn't be in one piece. And if you were a super powered gang member, the militia gave you a wide berth and the 'government' supers hunted you and your gang for sport. None of those gangs ever made it to court.

In public, John spoke of the 'debt the city owes them' but in private with the judges he spoke in terms of practicalities. And despite the ethical concerns, he had a point; rumours of what happened to those gang members meant there had been a flood of people turning themselves in; courts where you were treated fairly were preferable to death.

Either way Chloe took pride in her new duty. There had been no real law in the Palm Bay of the McNeils, but John had spent many hours recruiting and interviewing the prospective judges and lawyers to defend, prosecute and judge the accused criminals, and he seemed to hold them in the highest possible regard. And the judges chosen were of the highest calibre; and they had to be, such were the pressures put on them. They worked day and night while more judges were trained and recruited; the process was quicker than it had been prior to the collapse, but there were considerably less of them.

But despite this, they worked tirelessly and quickly became a symbol of hope for the people of Palm Bay.

------------------------------

John had been a banker before the collapse, and now he was becoming a politician.

Day 7:
There was still the issue of the boy who knew the placement of Henry's arms. Fromanzio had already been...elected to handle the situation as he had denied everyone else. Even John who read his mind couldn't find anything, the kid was prepared for everything, which did serve to impress Fromanzio, though his shiny new crowbar might not share his feelings.

As Fromanzio flew towards his destination; the police station where they had kept the kid. He was surprised to see the kid at the top of the building. It quickly became apparent to Fromanzio what he was doing when the human figure began leaning towards the concrete side of the threshold.

No no no! He has our guns!

You do mean no no no! He is a child and should probably live past this...right? Of course not, always the guns.

Fromanzio accelerated himself to maximum speed to get near the boy, before slowing down to ten, catching the kid in midair.

"W-What? Oh...no not you! I know what you did! Y-You killed George and...and Miriam! Please don't hurt me please don't hurt me..."

Fromanzio was ignoring the kid at this point and placed him on the sidewalk. "Now now, Fromanzio can't have-"

He was interupted by the one thing he had never thought would happen, not a bullet in the extremities again, but actual applause. Someone had seen it and apparently a small crowd was gathering and...they appreciated what Fromanzio had done.

"Hey...Fromanzio was only saving him to...ah what the hell."

Fromanzio brought the child back to the station, hanging the crowbar up and perhaps taking a different approach, rather than inciting an angry mob and besides...maybe do something other than murder for once?

I can't believe I am asking this, but what should I say to him?

Wait...you plan to listen to me? Who knew all we needed was a crowd of people for this? Alright, ask him if he is okay.

"Um...so are you alright?"

"I'm fine. I saw the crowbar, are you going to-"

"No. It was for uhh...protection on the way."

"Sure. Okay well I know you want the whole vault thing but my family is coming first. Some people are going to try to kill them and-"

"Listen, I know you don't know how this is going, but let Fromanzio tell you. The McNeils did horrible horrible things, and people don't often appreciate things such as that. Thus, they revolted and we are but a symbol of what had been building. You can't change who will live and who will die and neither can we, but you can improve your odds if you let us have weapons to defend ourselves with."

The kid fell silent for a while. He looked down and back up and said. "I will tell you where the guns are, but you have to promise to protect them like you did me. Will you?"

Fromanzio looked up and responded. "Ehhhh. Fine. Fromanzio can do that he supposes..."

Fromanzio flew off with the boy in arms and said "Just show Fromanzio where his guns are and he will protect you."

Such a strange feeling, being an actual good guy sort of kind of.

"There's a bunch of them over here!" Gavin yelled to Sarah, as she finished moving a few more cars.

They'd been stacking cars around the walls to strengthen them for a few hours now. It was tedious and repetitive, but someone had to do it. Plus, Gavin was slightly relieved, a bit tired of fighting this super, that gang, etc. Now he was reducing the gravity around him, causing a number of the cars he'd found in a ditch to float above it. He grappled onto them with a couple of lines, and then pulled them back towards where they were working. It looked like he was carrying parade balloons. He gradually set them down and the two of them got back to work.

Gavin hadn't said much to Sarah and vice-versa. They typically just relayed directions to one another before getting back to work. Sarah's powers interested Gavin. She seemed to density manipulation, one from the gold list. Even if she could manipulate herself, it was still an extremely valuable power. She also interested him for...other reasons. But Gavin decided he'd try to put things like that off for awhile. Right now, he was trying to form an alias for her, but nothing came up. Though, he had caught her working on something with a big yellow S on it, so he was sure she'd figure out one on her own. After a few minutes of working, he decided she'd figure it out on her own. After a few minutes of working, he decided to break the silence.

"So, Sarah. What exactly is your story?"

It was a fine day. The birds sang, the sun shined, crowds filled the streets, cheering and whooping and screaming.

A fine day to kill some men. Warren thought silently to himself. He stood far and away from the crowd, hidden from sight and preparing for his part. It wouldn't do to scare the townsfolk out of their skins too quickly now, would it?

Now, this wasn't like Warren. The man prided himself on his willingness to forgive, on his ability to sit down with an antagonist and talk things out with them, diplomatically negotiate to create an arrangement that was beneficial to both of them.

But today he was in no mood for negotiations. The furore of the crowd swept him up and carried him along, riding on the ululations of their combined rage and joy. The manipulators on his fingers twitched eagerly, ready to begin. Ready to serve justice.

Ready to find Marie.

John, the man he'd saved the day before by distracting one McNeil and killing another (he had to be told this, he had very few memories of the previous day) had come to him, and asked for his aid in a show of power.

Warren had been sceptical at first; what use would another set of superpowered beings be to this city? It would only cause more havoc and increase the divide between them and the normal citizenry. But the John had mentioned his wife, and Warren felt tears fall down his face and to the floor, only to be absorbed by the loamy earth.

And now here he was, fully prepared and consciously decided to kill a number of men who had committed atrocities in the name of... whatever it was. He still didn't remember much, and after the brief description from John, he sincerely hoped he didn't.

Soon enough his cue came and Warren delved deep. He had already ingrained himself into the local flora. There was plenty of natural life around to sustain the growth of the trees necessary, it was just a matter of making it happen faster. Far, far faster.

His hissing, muttering, susurrus of roots dug deep, and moved, warping, twisting and becoming what was needed. His hands went next, tearing open the earth to get to the soil, to move it, to feel it's ebb and flow. He caught hold of the multitude of life that now flourished in the sewer system and strangled it, taking the life that his 'bone garden' had so eagerly taken and using it to fuel yet more death.

Then he let it all loose.

With a great cracking of earth and concrete, sustained over a period of seconds that hushed the crowd to near total silence, four great trees seemed to throw themselves out of the ground. Bark and leaves and branches spread and twirled and twisted their way up into the sky, arcing together and twining up at the canopy to create an impressive awning of nature.

The beauty didn't deviate as he lashed out, whipping around and claiming the bodies of the condemned men. They struggled, fruitlessly, and were strung up, hoisted above the crowd like so many piņata's before children, jerking and fidgeting in their bonds until the constriction cut their lives short.

Warren fell back with a huge whumph, sinking lightly into the soil beneath him. Its coolness refreshed him, filling him with hope, and eclipsing any negative feelings he might have had about the murders he'd just committed.

'Now to find Marie,' He thought, eyes open to the sun far above, yet unseeing.


The aftermath of the hangings was a quiet one for Warren. He felt no need to party or sing or dance at the end of this new rule. All he wanted to do was go and rest, regain his strength, and prepare for the coming days. He'd been approached by John and Rico shortly after, and had the basis of his part in the coming days explained to him. Warren had assured them that as long as he had the ability he'd help them with whatever enterprise they needed him for.

As it was, his first job was to fix up the things that he'd apparently created last night. He'd already begun working on the sewer system, choking the life out of many of the plants that flourished down there and using them to fuel the creation of the gallows. But there was always more work to do. He traversed the area beneath the city, taking the life from the wonderful and beautiful plants that adorned its cold, moisture slicked walls. With each death he felt a horrible pang of sadness and regret, but he did his best to swallow it down. It would do no good to the people here, no matter how much it improved upon the city aesthetically.

That job took up the rest of his day, and as night fell he returned to his home and to his cocoon of vines. From there, before he closed his eyes and turned his petals inwards and head down, he focused on what he wanted his roots to do in his downtime.

They answered his call readily, eager to be of use, gently caressing his face and limbs, forgiving him for the fratricide he'd committed all day. He smiled gently at them, exposing blackened teeth that looked little more than seed pods embedded into off-colour gums.

"My... friends...." Their attention taken, he gave them their instructions. He knew the responded to his mind as well, but he felt that there was a limit to how much he wanted to explore and how fast he wanted to find it.

So as he reclined in his ocean of dreams of the sun and the sky and the earth, he still worked.

The body collection carried on as if it had never stopped. It would be a long process, and he didn't need all of that energy at once, especially not while he was sleeping. So when the bodies were rounded up they were put away somewhere safe, hidden deep underground and away from the eyes of the civilians. A connection to these stockpiles was only a minute away from anywhere in the city, as long as Warren had access to some soil. If he could ingrain, then he could work nigh indefinitely, or at least until his supplies ran out.

As the sun rose on Palm Bay, the populace awoke to see cleaner streets lined with fresh trees and flowers. The bodies and rubble that had been littering some of the side streets were being cleared by retreating vines, returning to their master to begin the day's work.

And what work they had. From his position in his cocoon Warren orchestrated the creation of a wall. The rudimentary boundaries of the city had been laid out and he set a single vine along its length, thorny and red, bursting with the strength he'd granted it. He'd taken one of his roots, its toothy maw glistening and eager to please, but still sorry to go, and detached it from the cocoon and himself, leaving only the barest mental connection. From there he imbued with whatever sentience he could, taking power from the stockpiles that he had been notified were around the city and using it to fuel this new growth's future.

It was fat and lush; red with life and looking dangerous enough, but a wall was just a wall and could not differentiate between friend and foe. He had given them a warden. A part of him that would defend this city until it was burned to a crisp and its ashes were scattered to the wind. The sunflowers that watched the streets were beginning to log in their own minimal sentience as many of the people of Palm Bay as possible, preparing to let them in and out of the fortress that it would become.

But that was a long way off. It would take time without Warren's guidance and tender care. But he had to focus his energies on making the city a safe place first. Once more he delved into the sewers and cleaned up the mess he'd made in his post-battle stupor. It would take time, but it would be worth it for all. The night proceeded as the last one had, albeit slower, and with less vigour than before. Warren was hurting from the death of so many beautiful plants beneath the ground that his roots were feeling the strain.

The next day he was alerted to the wall being tampered with, but when he checked through the eyes of his sunflowers, he saw that it was that one levitating fellow with the goggles and that girl who worked in the clinic, manoeuvring cars and other pieces of rubble into a position to fortify the burgeoning defences. Quickly he stood down the tendril that had begun reaching for them and mentally checked them off the list of people not to kill.

The rest of his days passed in a similar fashion until the morning of the fifth, upon which he met with Martin, the doctor who used to run the clinic and who now seemed to be the man behind one of the hospitals. (The other being governed by the Hatian). Martin expressed his wish to deal with the Farmers Union, a rather large group of men and women outside of the city who had once been under the yoke of the McNeils and who were now grasping for power beyond what they might be able to handle.

Interested by this turn of events, Warren gave his support to enact Martin's plan of opening up some negotiations with the Union, in an effort to maintain the spread of prosperity that the city itself had been feeling.

With outside knowledge and support the city could flourish alongside with the communities that help it, and Warren was specifically interested from a purely selfish point of view. While his plants had been providing fruits and vegetables throughout parts of the city, it was not enough to actively sustain the populace. With the Farmers Union as an ally, there would be less pressure on him to provide, and more chance to search for Marie.

He'd provide support for Martin when he left to open negotiations, sending creepers and an aspect of his bone garden as an escort, along with whatever else the doctor deigned to bring along with him. The convincing of the men was up to Martin, but Warren figured he could do it.

The past few days had been a blur, James had witnessed so much action, particularly from John who always seemed to be rushing around meeting people and sorting things out. James couldn't help but feel like he was part of a great change, though with change comes uncertainty. James had to speak to John and make his point clear. After hearing Johns speech to the crowds, James sought him out.

"Nice speech, practical too. It's easy to get carried away and promise the world, then the euphoria wears off and they turn on you. We have to show the people how we do things, we have to make things better than they were under the McNeil family.

Now onto my issue, while I wholeheartedly support the people choosing who rules them, their governors, their councillors, their leaders. I am thinking it might be prudent for some of us to have a hand in deciding who occupies these positions."

John looked questioningly at him.

"We didn't remove the McNeils only to let something else take their place that we can't control. Everyone knows who we are, but if we want to properly shape this place into something better, we need to have a strong hand guiding it. Someone, or a group of people at the top of the tree who is a constant presence. Rather like a high council, something that, in times of crisis, can act decisively and in times of peace, simply watch over this place."

James tensed and waited for John to reply.

They hadn't been at the ceremony. Rico expected that. His parents weren't vengeful folk.

He tentatively knocked at the door of his old house, hoping the worst hadn't happened. There had been riots very nearby, but his house seemed undamaged.

"Shove off!"

Rico breathed a sigh of relief. He knocked again.

"I said shove off!"

Knock, knock.

"DO YOU WANT SOMETHING STRONGER THAN THAT? FINE, PISS OFF."

Oh, father. Your cussing is spectacular. Knock knock.

"GAH-"

The door flung open, and his father trained his gun on Rico. His jaw fell open, and his firing arm went limp.

As Rico was bustled in for tea and conversation, he felt content for a minute. This crazy, crazy world would never be the same as it was, and Rico had to get used to it. But at least some things didn't change.

------------------------------------------------

Rico pointed at the door. The six men he brought with him nodded. Rico silently turned the door-handle. Locked. Who wouldn't lock their alley-facing doors around here? Rico thought about picking it, but decided to just break it down. It was faster.

Rico quickly scanned the door, remembering that guide to breaking down doors he had read. It was a hollow metal door, with reinforced frame... if Rico remembered correctly, you could break it down if you didn't mind hurting your foot.

Rico didn't have that problem.

He placed his foot over the bolt, leaned forward, backward, then stomped.

CRACK. The door popped, and slowly swung open.

Rico stepped in the entrance. "OK, HANDS UP-

Four gang members turned and fired. The force of dozens of submachine gun rounds plowed into Rico. He went down like a rock.

He stood up. "OK, that wasn't necessary-"

RATATATATATATATATAT down.

Up. "Look, I'm getting sick-"

RATATATATATATATATAT Rico almost went down, but just maintained his balance.

"For the love of all that's-"

The gang members panicked. "IT'S THE ROCK!" "IT'S STONESKIN!" "HOLY SHIT, GET AWAY!"

They dropped their weapons, and prepared to brawl their way past. That was their mistake. "OKAY, POLICE! WE'RE CLEAR!"

The militia behind Rico zipped through the door, grabbing hold of the gang members before they could re-arm themselves.

Rico and the two policemen who weren't carting the gang off started looking around for drugs, more weapons, and the like. One of them looked over at Rico after a minute. "Stoneskin? Since when were you called Stoneskin?"

"Since today, apparently. It has a better ring to it than 'Rock', I must say."


Martin was worried about the city. With the McNeils gone a power vacuum would appear and without someone to keep people in check chaos and anarchy would reign. The people would suffer even worse than when under the McNeils. Martin couldn't let this happen. His only choice was to work with a man named John. John seemed like a good leader and after their negotiation, Martin felt like he had done the right thing. Martin would get the hospital and he could choose who would lead the army. He had already decided that Smith would lead the army. He was sure that Smith had the same interest as Martin. He would build an army not to oppress the people but to support them.

Still, much had to be done. First he had to get his hands on the McNeils' guns. After that he had to make sure he would get the hospital. A lot of people were injured and there wasn't much time. Martin first went to Smith telling him what had happened. Smith was ordered to collect all of the guns and gather friends of his who could train people. Smith agreed with Martin and he immediately started gathering his old buddies who would train the recruits John had promised. Martin had a good feeling about John. Still, he would feel more secure if he knew he could act if John became a tyrant.

When Martin walked down stairs he saw John trying to convince Sarah and Rico to join him in taking over the hospital. Martin joined in the conversation, promising that he could handle the patients alone and insisting that Sarah could really help them. After they had left, Martin begun gathering all of the supplies from the clinic. The people who hadn't left with Smith and were still in the clinic joined him. The place was stripped of anything of value and after a few hours Martin and the rest of the people left. It had served them well but it was time to move on now. The future held great promise and if Martin played his cards right, he knew he could make the people happy again. He wouldn't rest until all of them were fed and well protected. That was the role of leaders to make sure the people were taken care off.

Martin then met up with John, after a short talk Martin was told that he couldn't move into the hospital. He could have another one though. Martin agreed to this and chose a very large and easily defendable hospital. He spent the next 2 days helping patients while the rest of the people were busying fixing up the place. Word of the wonder doctor spread fast and a lot of sick people went to him for help. Martin worked day and night and he managed to heal a lot of people. Rico helped spread the news of the new hospital. Martin was very thankful for Rico's help and talked to him a few times in between patients. He considered Rico a friend even if they had only known each other for a short while. Sarah was still out helping to clear the city. Martin wondered when she would come back while he continued treating all of his patients.

Smith meanwhile had worked together with John who had delivered all of the surviving McNeils to them. After Vance had gotten the survivors of the McNeils, he told Smith where all the weapons were. The survivors were almost all women and children. Martin had promised them a safe place to live. Vance and the rest of the McNeils were brought to a secure location- an empty home in which they would be kept for their own safety and also to keep an eye on them. Smith and his friends had gathered all of the weapons and brought them to a secure warehouse and started building a training camp next to it. The next 2 days they were busy setting up tents, a shooting range and small clinic. They had calculated that they could have 250 armed soldiers and support about 1000 militia who would be peace keepers without guns. They just didn't have enough firearms for them.

A few days had passed and both Martin and Smith attended the execution. It turned out to be more of a rally though. Martin was smiling brightly at their leader. He was becoming happier with his decision by the minute. John had proven himself trustworthy as he had kept his word, and now it turned out he was a born speaker too. Martin quickly whispered to Smith and they both agreed on John being the right man for the job.
Afterwards it was recruiting time. There were lots of people who wanted to join but not all of them could. Smith picked the best for the jobs. Some of the recruiters were lying but the liars would be found out quickly enough. The recruits that made it to the top 1250 were all brought to the training camp. They were all tested and ranked according to skill. The best 250 would be part of the army. They would get a Kevlar vest, helmet, uniform, a pistol and an assault rifle along with ammo and a melee weapon. They were trained to fight like an army and to protect high value targets. The other 1000 had a lot less. They were given recognizable t-shirts along with strong melee weapons like sledgehammers or fire axes and a non lethal melee weapon like an baton. They were trained to keep the peace and help clear the streets. They were tasked with keeping order and peace and would ask for help from the army if things got out of hand. The training was though but the men quickly began to improve under the watchful eye of Smith and his colleagues. The weapons were well guarded. Some of the troops were already needed so they switched between one day of training and one day of work.

Martin meanwhile was asked to help with a situation regarding the farmer union that had supplied the city with food in the past. They needed to talk with them and offer them protection in exchange for food. Martin had a talk with John about the situation. He didn't like the outcome but it was the only way. It would ensure they had food and that was more important than their image right now. Martin was very disappointed in himself though. He had made the army not to oppress people but to help them but after only a couple of days it had started to oppress people again.

Still the primary concern for Martin was repairing the last of the damage to the hospital. The militia had already started to build a barricade around it. The hospital was one of the building that would be guarded 24/7 by the military. 15 soldiers were near the hospital at all times to prevent another massacre like the one at the clinic. Martin was also very pleased with Smith. He was, to put it in one word, effective. Smith was busy cleaning up the streets the rest of the weeks. They gathered some more weapons from a few small gangs and the city cleaning process seemed to be working quite well.

In that one faithful day, the storm had come and went. The oppression that the people of Palm Bay had felt for months was snuffed out. The McNeils were defeated, and a new group of supers rose to take charge of the city.

The main man in charge when all was said and done looked to be a fellow named John. And Charles Porter took it upon himself to make sure the transition went smoothly for him. The first order of business, gather up every crook that worked for the McNeils and send the to meet Justice. They would likely be the prime dissenter's in this new area of peace.

For the next few days Charles headed efforts of tracking down names and locations for every man that abandoned the McNeils when the hurricane hit. Man after man was brought down with Chucky's ever developing powers. Soon enough, The city's grand leader turned the administration of justice into a public spectacle. The guilty met their end by the noose. Charles never did enjoy the sight of straight up murder. I believed it made them no better than the one's they had over thrown. But both he and the people were safe now. This was the way things had to be.

Chucky walked the streets alone after the rally. Thoughts of what he would do next were fresh in his mind.

Perhaps I should see what my old friend Saturday is up too. He was a barrel of laughs when I last say him

Saturday had been overseeing the fortification of the main hospital and it was going nicely. With the extra manpower around, none of the gangs had been stupid enough to try a raid.

"<< Emile, how are the converts doing? >>" He asked as he looked at a patient's medical records.

"<<They are learning faster than we expected. One or two of the Catholics have complained, but they won't really do anything. The girl, Lucy, she seems more dedicated than the rest.>>"

Saturday put down the clipboard and put on his top hat at it's regular jaunty angle, then headed out the door and down the hallway. Emile followed him and they talked as they walked.

"<<Has she asked to preform a sacrifice?>>" Saturday said, sidestepping a woman pushing a gurney.

"<<Yes, but she sometimes mutters to herself about false angels and things. she may not be entirely trustworthy.>>" Emile replied.

"<<Let her practice on one of the bodies in the morgue, then we will see how ready she truly is.>>" Saturday said as he got in the leevator. Just as he was about to push the button for the lobby, he heard someone call.

"Doctor Labeaux!"

He stopped and looked at the nurse hurrying towards them.

"<<Go and tell her, I'll check with you later.>>" Saturday whispered as he exited the elevator.

The doors slid shut as Emile pressed the 2nd floor button and The Nurse stopped in front of the Witch Doctor.

"A patient came in after having a cigarette induced respiratory failure, but his powers are making it hard to treat him."

"Powahs?" Saturday said inquisitively.

She led him to the man's room and the problem was obvious. The man's torso was on the bed, but his limbs were stretched all the way to the ground. He had an elastic body.

"I'll 'andal dis. You go see to dey uddah patients." Saturday said.

The Nurse obeyed and Saturday entered the room.

"'Ello sah. I'll be taking care of you today." He said as he locked the door and closed the blinds.

The ground beneath rumbled and shuddered as a convoy dragged itself through the streets of Palm Bay. There were three vehicles, two pick-up trucks and one semi with a large trailer dragged behind it. The backs of the pickups were covered with tarps, and the windows were tinted, concealing those within save the one man in the passenger seat of the lead pickup. The glossy red truck was carrying an Arab man, likely in his mid-30s by the creases on his forehead. He wore aviator shades concealing his eyes, and his face was clean-shaven and quite severe. Only a simple, peppered buzzcut covered the top of his head. He was observing the damage to the city with a minimum of interest.

Of course, he was not there for the majority of Palm Bay. This convoy had a destination.

The convoy turned down a street, and made a beeline for City Hall. Eyes hidden within the rubble watched with curiosity. Who were these men? Where had they come from? How had they gotten through the gate?

Then they began to recognize him. The face, stoic as he passed. His messenger.

The McNeils were dead, but what had really changed? They still had him to deal with.

In a semi-circle formation, the trucks lined up outside of the capitol building of the city, and the red truck opened one door. The Arab man stepped out, dressed in a simple, pale blue polo shirt and khaki shorts. He clutched a megaphone in his hands, which he brought to his lips as he took a few steps forward.

"HEY!" he bellowed, his unnaturally loud voice carrying a good mile in every direction. "WHOEVER KILLED THE McNEILS, GET OUT HERE! YOU'VE GOT IMPORTANT GUESTS!"

As he shouted, the men in the other trucks stepped out. Dressed in full padding for combat, clutching pistols and submachine guns in their hands. A motley assortment of pads and plates made their "armor", and the closest to a uniform section of their dress was the orange armbands they all wore. There were four in total, arranged behind the dark-skinned man, with guns holstered but none too far from their itchy fingers.

Sarah gave Gavin a quick run down. She didn't have much to say. She was a nurse, her powers showed up, she wanted to help, and here she was stacking cars. Her arm hardened and she slammed it through the trunk of a car, attaching the rear to the rest of the wall. Gavin couldn't help but marvel at it. Gavin's power sometimes helped add an extra umpf to his own strength, but he could never pierce metal. Kinda made him wished he'd gotten the other side of the coin in terms of gravity manipulation. But hopefully he wouldn't need it-

"HEY!" The two stopped working and looked off. Did someone just- "WHOEVER KILLED THE McNEILS, GET OUT HERE! YOU'VE GOT IMPORTANT GUESTS!" The voice boomed, a few miles out. Gavin didn't know what the hell was happening and wasn't sure he wanted to know, but he knew he had to check it out. He hadn't necessarily killed any of the McNeil's but he knew he played a roll in it.

"Well, looks like we're done working on the wall for awhile. Here." Gavin said, handing her his radio. "They're not too far out. Call it in, Darryl or Ottis should pick up. They'll get everyone else." He instructed. Gavin stretched a bit and started running.

"I'll scout ahead." He yelled, preparing for his jump. This was gonna be a long one. He pushed off the ground and was sent flying into the air. He rose above buildings and was gliding across the city. It wouldn't long before he was right above whoever was calling them out, but as long as he was high enough, he'd be nothing but a dot looking down on them. He got a quick look at the armed men and instantly realized who they were. They worked for this brutal Mercury fellow and were nothing to fuck with. Gavin quickly made his way back to Sarah, not wanting to push his luck or confront the men yet.

"Well, I have seen the enemy and you're not going like them. It's gonna be a long day..." He told Sarah as he waited for orders on the radio.

The convoy had been spotted long before it came into the city. Ever vigilant sun flowers had spread up the roads in all directions, and slowly turned as the convoy passed. Scouts and look-outs had also spotted the trucks; radios buzzed into life and in a matter of minutes the men and women in city hall were drawing up plans.

Consultations were rapid and the identity of the approaching men was quickly established; they belonged to Mercury.

Stories of his atrocities were well known. The they had come many times before, and had proved themselves even worse than McNeils by brutalising the locals every time they came to trade their fuel for food.

This time they would not be allowed to do the same. This new city would trade, but this was the first test of the new Republic - the actions here would set the tone for weeks to come.

As the trucks came closer to the town, preparations were made. It was anticipated they would go straight for the city hall as they had all the times before; instructions were given to the men stationed at the newly built and reinforced wall to let them pass; if there was to be a fight, it was to be an ambush.

The preparations began with Ottis, who practically sprinted to a room especially constructed to get him to full power as quickly as possible; a room completely filled with huge speakers, blaring out such sound that Ottis was practically swimming on the sound waves. The soundproofing was powerless against the sheer onslaught of music that almost made the building shake.

And so to the blaring of Blizkrieg Bop, the city prepared.

Around the space in front of city hall, soldiers took up positions hiding in the buildings around. Side roads were sealed up with vines and cars.

The plan was that at a signal Sarah would seal the only way in and out from the killzone in front of the city hall by with a couple of cars, before approaching the convoy. At the same time the snipers and assault rifles set up in most windows around would reveal themselves and lay down a withering storm of fire.
Rico would burst from the city hall, in his glorious red outfit with his shotgun blazing; the sole purpose being to attracted whatever attention; in the formed of supersonic lead; he could. And then rugby tackle the head honcho, who would inevitably have a power of some sort; ideally he'd use his tazer to take the man alive, but plans didn't tend to survive contact with the enemy.

Harnesses had been prepared for Grav and Fromanzio that enabled them to carry rudimentary explosives. As Fromanzio was being strapped into it, he fiddled with the homemade bombs around, much to the dismay of the men helping him but they kept quiet.

Aluminium cables taken from the now-unused overhead powerlines that had been stored to assist with rebuilding were now criss-crossed on the ground in front of the city hall. Air was a terrible conductor, and Ottis would was much energy if he tried to fire lightning from a safe position. Aluminium on the other hand...

Warren rooted himself nearby to improve his affinity and influence over the plants around. He had been worked himself the bone over the last few days, but the super human effort had been sustained by a steady supply of corpses; natural deaths on top of the all those who had perished in the riots.

Hospital beds had been cleared in anticipation of the fighting and their ambulances stood on call nearby; ready to spring into action, and one of them had Martin in it. The city could ill-afford to lose any soldiers.

The streets were cleared and civilians were evacuated; the only people who remained were militia masquerading as civilians radioing every detail of the convoy they could as it passed.

James stood with John and Darryl, who were observing everything from a building in sight but well out of harms way. This was the command centre. What cameras could be found had been rigged up to observe the square in front of city hall. Darryl's clones were strategically posted around to relay similar information. Look-outs had also been posted on the walls around the city, to keep a careful eye out for any reinforcements.

John turned to one of the soldiers as the convoy ground to a halt outside city hall; "Is everyone in position?"

"Yes, with the exception of Sarah and Grav who are reinforcing walls in the south."

"HEY! WHOEVER KILLED THE McNEILS, GET OUT HERE! YOU'VE GOT IMPORTANT GUESTS!" an unnaturally loud voice boomed.

"Fuck! Hurry up and call them in! Tell Grav to carry Sarah if he can!"

John turned back to Darryl and James. They were tense with anticipation. Orders had been given to hold fire until the signal was given. They were also told not to shoot at the trailer being pulled by the semi; these were people who traded fuel, and while it didn't make the most sense to carry the produce into potentially hostile territory, in this world it was better to be prudent.

John could sense the impatience in the mind of the leader. If conflict was to be avoided, they would have to tread carefully. At a signal a Darryl clone emerged from the city hall and approached the leader.

Through Darryl, John spoke; "Welcome to the new Republic of Palm Bay. How can I be of assistance to our guests?"

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