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G'day folks!
This is the story fragment that prompted the commission picture I got done up recently. Read and enjoy - and comment, of course. [Image: happy.gif]
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Well, I'm hardly an expert," Psyche turned the small circuit card over in her fingers for a moment, examining it. "I've seen some Rikti technology, yes, but if you want to know if this really is some of their tech, you'd be better off asking Positron for his opinion. He's the technology wizard." She handed it back to the red and silver armoured hero, cocking an eyebrow curiously.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp " I had thought of that," MechaDeuce nodded hesitantly, and Psyche caught a fragment of a related thought.
[Should I mention it to her or not? I don't want to alarm her. ]
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Mention what to me?" Psyche cocked her head at him, hiding a smile at the way he started. "Come on," she prodded, "I'm psychic, remember? You had to have some other reason for bringing this to me specifically."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Smart as well as beautiful," MechaDeuce's tone of voice was hard to pin down because of the electronic modulation from his suit, but Psyche was willing to bet he was grinning. "All right, I brought it to you because everything they've stolen in the last week has been some kind of technology that is very specifically targeted at affecting psychic powers, and a lot of that has been reclaimed Rikti tech. When I found this, I found some records they'd tried to destroy and the records were all about you."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Why don't you just come out and say that you think they're going to try and kill me?" Psyche's voice was dry, and she gave him a small smile. "Thanks for the concern, but I think I can handle a few Freaks."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Oh?" MechaDeuce's helmet tilted in a manner suggesting a sidelong glance at her. "I take it you can hear their thoughts before they get close enough to do anything?"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Something like that," Psyche nodded. "They aren't exactly subtle it might have something to do with being covered in old car parts, but I could be wrong."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "I see," MechaDeuce was silent for a moment. "What if they've found a way to get around that?"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Not likely," Psyche snorted delicately. "That would take somebody with intelligence and discipline the intelligence to see why they'd need to do, and the discipline to actually follow-through on some kind of a plan. Those are both attributes I've never heard any of the Freaks be accused of."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "What about Clamor?" MechaDeuce asked mildly. "She certainly had both." Psyche shot him a narrow glance.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "All right, but Clamor was an exception," she allowed. "Most of the Freakshow are nothing more than angry punks running around with power tools."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "True," his helmet nodded in agreement. "But there might be somebody new on the scene, somebody able to move beyond that limitation."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "I guess anything's possible," she shrugged. "Don't you think you're overreacting a little? I mean, I appreciate the concern, but..."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "I take it that you can read my mind right now?" The question caught Psyche flatfooted, and she blinked at the sudden shift the conversation had taken.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "What does that have to do anything?" She frowned at him. "I can sense everyone's thoughts to some degree, but I don't run around reading people's minds, thank you very much. That's an invasion of privacy, not to mention unethical." She didn't bother to mention that she didn't really like actively reading minds she got enough 'noise' from everyone around her that she certainly didn't need to probe directly to know what they were thinking.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "I know that," MechaDeuce nodded again. "With your permission, I'd like to try something." When she nodded curiously, MechaDeuce opened a panel in the chestplate of his armour and inserted the circuit card as Psyche watched. He closed the compartment, and the blue glow from the lens in the center of his chest armour brightened. At the same time, the background hum from his armour suit began to rise in pitch.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "All right can you sense anything now?" the resonant electronic voice asked. Psyche opened her mouth to reply... ..and then he disappeared.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp It was like suddenly going deaf, or having your eardrums pop from a sudden change in air pressure. The shift was so abrupt that it bordered on being physically painful. Psyche could still see the armoured figure in front of her he hadn't moved since slotting in the circuit card but every trace of his mind was gone as if removed by a giant chalkboard eraser. In fact...
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Shut it off," Psyche's hands flew to the sides of her head, her eyes widening as she suddenly realized she couldn't "hear" anybody's thoughts anymore. Deafening silence seemed to be crushing down on her suddenly, and panic fluttered like a caged bird in her chest. "Stop it!! Shut it OFF!!!!"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Sorry." The blue glow faded a bit, and MechaDeuce pulled out the circuit card.
[I was right, damn it...] The thought echoed ominously.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Yes, you were right," Psyche's mouth was dry as she tried to get her pulse back under control. In the back of her mind, the familiar babble of a myriad of different minds had re-established itself. She took a deep breath and tried to force herself to relax. "So you're telling me the Freakshow has a psychic cloaking device?"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Something like that," he nodded, then handed her the circuit card. "You'd better get Positron to look that over and see if he can find a way to either jam or circumvent it." The red-and-silver battle suit stepped back from her and bowed formally. "Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me; I really appreciate it."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Wait a second, what...where the hell are you going?"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Hunting," MechaDeuce's voice was flat. Dust swirled around him on the pavement as he began to lift into the air, the glow from his helmet visor and chest lens brightening to a steady blue-white burn. "I now know who, how, and why, but I don't know where or when. Yet." The hum from the red-and-silver armour rose to a high-pitched howl, and he shot off into the distance, banking sharply and angling out over the harbour.

&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "...And then he just blasts off across the harbour!" Psyche fumed, pacing back and forth. "Who the hell does he think he is?!" Her eyes flashed as she turned, her bright red hair framing her irate expression. On the other side of the room, Positron glanced up from his workbench, but withheld any comments he might have had. In front of him, wires snaked from improvised connections on the mysterious circuit card to a nearby computer bank.
Readouts flickered and scrolled on a nearby screen, and the armoured scientist examined the data carefully, occasionally glancing at another screen and tapping a key. Positron became aware that it had become quiet suddenly, and glanced up - Psyche was standing watching him with her arms crossed, one eyebrow raised, and tapping her foot, evidently expecting a reply of some kind.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Uh," Positron scrambled to come up with something that wouldn't sound lame. "Was that a rhetorical question, or did you really want me to comment on somebody I haven't met?"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Forget it," Psyche sighed and resumed pacing. "Any luck with that thing?"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Some," Positron replied absently, his gaze again fixed on the monitor readouts. He snagged a spooling printout from a third console and read through the results. "It's a knock-off of Rikti technology, all right, but it was manufactured locally. The analysis shows typical elements and composition consistent with North American fabrication facilities."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "I thought it was illegal to duplicate Rikti tech?" Psyche's eyebrow quirked upwards.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Plasma weapon technology only," Positron replied, hitting a couple more keys and watching the screen. "If you get the proper licenses and permits, research on the more mundane stuff is allowed."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "What's mundane about psi-blocking?" Psyche glanced darkly at the wired-up circuit board. "Anybody working on that kind of stuff is either hiding something, or wants to control psychics."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "It's possible," Positron admitted, cocking his helmet at her. "Or they could be looking for a defence against Rikti psychic powers."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "You're an optimist, Posi," Psyche shook her head, giving him a small smile. "So what's our next step?"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Finding the rest of the device would be a good start," Positron turned away from the workbench. "This board is only part of a larger device, after all. Based on what you've said, it generates a field that blocks psychic-type abilities, but we'd need to conduct some more tests before I can say what the range is or if it's only supposed to block mind-reading."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "I'll pass on the tests, thanks," Psyche eyed the circuit card inimically, her lips pressed in a thin line. "Feeling that thing in operation once was enough."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Well then, it looks like you'll need to call up your friend in the armour suit," Positron glanced at her. "From what you've said, it sounds like he's actively pursuing it."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp

&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp A rippling blast of energy slammed into the motley group, exploding in a coronal discharge of blue force that scattered them like bowling pins. Curses and surprised shouts filled the air as two more bursts of blue energy struck one of the Freaks - the one with the large transformer coils jutting from his shoulders. The Freak stiffened and toppled over in a limp heap as a glowing red-and-white suit of armour landed neatly in the middle of the Freaks as they scrambled to their feet.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp A crimson aura burst from MechaDeuce's right gauntlet as he slammed it into the chest of the nearest Freak, sending him arcing through the air to crash into a pile of crates. Wood chunks flew everywhere as they splintered noisily, but MechaDeuce had already turned away to deliver a point-blank volley of pulsing energy bolts to the next Freak in line - the one trying to line up a shotgun on him. The gun bellowed, spraying buckshot in a hailstorm of whining ricochets as it glanced harmlessly off his armour. The first bolt shattered the shotgun; the remainder of the volley stretched the Freak out unconscious on the pavement.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp From off to MechaDeuce's right, a submachine gun chattered noisily, but the hail of lead missed him. MechaDeuce barely even glanced in the direction of the gunner as he flattened him with another crackling energy bolt. His helmet turned, the glowing blue visor lens seeming to focus on another man groggily climbing back to his feet. Like most of the Freakshow, the man was covered in tattoos and pieces of implanted metal; unlike the others he had replaced both of his arms with massive robotic arms, ending in razor-edged claws.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp MechaDeuce's gauntlet flared again, and the metal-armed Freak skidded along the cracked asphalt in a tumbling roll. As the dazed Freak sat up drunkenly, the towering armour suit reached down and grabbed the front of his ratty leather jacket, hauling him upright to stand eyeball-to-visor.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "I want some information, Slicer," MechaDeuce's electronically modulated voice was hard-edged, his tone leaving no room for argument. "Where's the weapon, and when are you punks going to try using it?"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "I don't know what you're talking about, cape," Slicer sneered, spitting blood onto the chestplate of his questioner.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Do I look like I'm wearing a cape?" MechaDeuce's gauntleted fist clenched tighter. "Let me refresh your memory: large long-range focused plasma weapon with psi-shielding, smuggled in pieces into the city. Dossier on Sister Psyche. Ringing any bells in that vacuum you call a brain?"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "I don't know nothin'," Slicer's gaze was bright with hatred. "An' even if I did, I ain't telling some nosy do-gooder in a tin suit. Why don't you mind your own business before you get hurt?"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "By you?" MechaDeuce snorted derisively. "That'll be the...."
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Something crashed into the side of his helmet with bruising force, sending waves of blackness shot through with red sparks across his vision. The world spun crazily as warning lights flashed in his helmet viewscreen. As he fought to reorient himself, MechaDeuce felt himself slam into something hard and unyielding with a loud, gritty crunch concrete, he reasoned foggily.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Shaking his head to clear the last of the flashing lights from his vision, he rolled to his feet in a combat crouch. A scant twenty feet away, a very large and bulky Freak covered in heavy metal armour, rusty spikes, and with two massive mallets for arms was stomping towards him.
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp "Not by me," Slicer's voice oozed malicious satisfaction. "By him."

Bert Van Vliet
As I said on the global chan...
This is cool.
No, really. It seems pretty on-target for feel and atmosphere. Sister Psyche and Positron come off pretty well...
...and our erstwhile hero, of course. So neat. =)
-- Acyl
That's looking real good, Bert -- can't wait to see more!
-- Bob
...The President is on the line
As ninety-nine crab rangoons go by...
Interesting little storyline Bert. and now for my obligitory IC moment,
Shizuru: Yes, please break Psi-Neuralizer. Now I'm off to ask Positron if he can make a personal one, I feel I'll need it at Min and Wide's wedding.When engaging, nothing beats a full frontal.
In the epic rage of furious thunder
legends create their tales
when the twilight calls and the dark lord falls
our glory will prevail

[Image: strikersetcfinal9_th.jpg]
Well done,
I like the dynamic on the fight scene. It flows well.