The Battle of Capitol City Central Bank

Skylar found herself ducking in and out of alleyways and across streets as she made her way to the Capitol City Central Bank, which was reportedly being held up by a super villain. Dressed in her golden super suit, Skylar found herself on the receiving end of many an incredulous look. She loved her super-suit, she really did, it was so flashy and elegant, but at the same time, it made stealth utterly impossible. She stood out like an Arabian princess in Appalachia.

As she approached the bank, feelings of curiosity and panic bombarded her. A cordon had been set up around the entrances and exits, and a crowd of onlookers had built up around it. Unfortunately, Skylar had to make her way through this crowd and past the cordon if she wanted to effectively support Dynamite Man, and there was no way she was going to be able to do this stealthily. She sighed. If she couldn't do this stealthily, she'd have to have to act in broad daylight and hope nothing unexpected happened.

Before pushing past a cordon and stumbling into a potential firefight, Skylar decided to try to take stock of the situation inside the bank before she charged in. Her empathic abilities were handy for this, but unfortunately they only had a limited range. To make this work, she was going to have to join the crowd. Skylar gulped. Here goes nothing.

She first made her way toward a streetlamp that sat toward the outskirts of the crowd and clutched it tightly. Skylar had learned the hard way that the out-of-body experience that she underwent when she seriously focused on her powers had a tendency to mess up her balance, and the last thing she wanted to have happen was for her to fall over and get trampled. Once in position, she mentally reached out toward the inside of the bank...

A lot of people were unconscious. Among the few that weren't was a woman who was fighting the villain, a disheveled man, Dynamite Man, and of course the villain himself. Then the woman went down just as Dynamite Man engaged the villain, who suddenly went from feeling frustrated to feeling vengeful glee. Was this a trap?

Meanwhile, the disheveled man seemed to be waffling between wanting to protect the fallen people and wanting to pound the bad guy. Skylar decided to help him come to a decision. Among the many things she and Tom had done over the past few days to train her to be a superhero(ine) was to explore her powers, and one of the fun things they had discovered was that she could use her hallucinogenic powers to communicate with people long distance, if only within her empathic range, and unfortunately the communication was only one-way. Hopefully in this case, that would be sufficient.

Get the fallen people out, she whispered into the disheveled man's mind (as an auditory hallucination). Backup is on the way.

As the man began to get to work moving the incapacitated people out of harm's way, Skylar mentally backed away and returned to her own body. It was time to make good on her promise...

When she regained self awareness, Skylar found herself hanging off of the streetlamp drunkenly; a woman was standing in front of her, waving a hand in front of her face.

"... llo, are you there? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Skylar replied, straightening up. She was glad that her mask concealed her eyes. If the woman had seen how distant her stare was (apparently Tom found it freaky) she might have thought that Skylar was stoned out of her gourd.

"Are you a superhero?" the woman asked straightforwardly. That was when Skylar noticed that the woman was holding a microphone and that there was a cameraman behind her.

"Um, ah, I'm a fangirl," Skylar stammered. "Sorry, got to go."

Before the lady could interrogate her further, Skylar dove into the crowd and made her way toward the cordon. Two police officers were standing in front of the entrance to the bank. Thinking quickly, she created two illusionary people and had them emerge from the crowd and assail the officers, pleading to see their family members inside the bank. As the policemen were distracted trying to turn back the illusionary people, Skylar sprinted past them. Although the policemen spotted her, they didn't try to stop her, especially once the illusionary people vanished, much to their astonishment.

Inside the bank, Skylar came upon the disheveled man, carrying a person over each of his shoulders. Through the hazy eyes of others, Skylar hadn't appreciated just how ripped the guy was until now.

"Are you the backup?" the guy grunted as he set the people down surprisingly gently.

She blushed. "Um, yeah..."

"Was that you who was telling me to get these people out of there?" he asked.

"How did you know? I thought I was emulating your conscience."

He smirked, "The voice I heard was effeminate, and not one that I recognized. It sounded more like you then me."

Skylar grimaced sheepishly. "Oop, I've still got some kinks to work out with that technique."

The guy nodded. "Fair enough. Do you have a plan for defeating the metal dude? I think your friend is going to need help."

Skylar could feel Dynamite Man struggling. The disheveled man was right. Scanning the area as she struggled to come up with a plan, she spotted a strangely dressed woman laid out among the fallen people. "Is that woman a super?" Skylar inquired.

"I don't know if she's a super or not," the guy replied, "but she did give the villain a good whack before he gassed her."

"He gassed her?..." Skylar took a deep breath. This was going to be her first battle with an honest to god super villain, and she didn't have to look far to see all of the carnage he had wrought. Struggling to fight down her rising anxiety, Skylar stepped toward the woman. "I guess she'll be good enough..."

"Good enough?"

"I'm going to try to revive her," Skylar explained. "Is she still alive?"

"She should be," the disheveled man answered. "The metal guy didn't consider her, or me for that matter, to be supers worth killing. He really did seem to have a chip on his shoulder for superheroes."

"Lovely," Skylar grunted as she knelt next to the strangely dressed woman. Reaching out toward the woman with her empathic powers. Unsurprisingly, there wasn't a lot of sensory stimulus getting registered by her mind at the moment, but Skylar could feel traces of the poisonous gas that was inflicting this state. Now if only she could convince the woman's brain to expunge the stuff...

After a little bit of finagling, the woman suddenly jolted awake and released a torrent of vomit that Skylar barely managed to roll out of the way of.

"Uhhh, that's the second time this week a supervillain's made me throw up," the woman moaned.

Deciding not to highlight her own involvement in the woman's misfortune, Skylar joked, "That's what supervillains do, isn't it? Make people throw up?"

"Only the ones that are buttholes," the woman replied, scooting away from her expanding puddle of vomit.

"Isn't that part of the supervillain job description?" Skylar shot back, getting to her feet.

The woman shrugged. "I dated a supervillain once, he wasn't so bad... that’s a lie he was horrible… my doctors told me I shouldn’t lie..."

"Case in point," the disheveled man interjected, helping the oddly dressed woman to her feet. "I don't mean to rush you, but I rather think time is of the essence in this crisis, so..."

"Yeah, you're not wrong." Skylar ran her hand through her hair as she tried to think. "Lady, do you think you can fight?"

"I generally go by Holly rather than 'Lady', but yeah, I think I can fight. Are you wanting me to get back in the ring with the Iron Jerkface?"

Skylar nodded. "If you don't mind…"

"Do you have a plan for preventing him from gassing me again?"

Skylar pursed her lips. "Ummm, don't breathe in the gas?"

Holly rolled her eyes. "Of course, why didn't I think of that in the first place… oh wait, I did. Problem is, combat is pretty cardio intensive, and it turns out that you can't hold your breath and catch it at the same time."

"Good point," Skylar mumbled meekly. "Okay, how about this: I will use my powers to overload his senses, which should distract him enough to give you and Dynamite Man time to take him out."

Holly raised an eyebrow. "That sounds like a fun power. I guess this plan will have to do. Now, umm…"

The disheveled man tossed a fallen police baton to Holly, who then twirled it experimentally. "Good enough," she grunted. "Just let me know once you're doing your fancy power stuff, and I'll run in and give him a piece of my mind… or maybe just a piece of this stick."

Skylar nodded grimly. "Let's do this."

"What would you like me to do?" the disheveled man interjected.

Skylar bit her lip. "Umm, stay back and get ready to jump in if something unexpected happens."

He nodded. "Affirmative."

==================================

Meanwhile, inside the vault…

Richard Zach, decked out in the suit of the Iron Crow, was delighted by how well things had fallen into place. Dynamite Man had come, and now he was about to die…

Richard had come prepared for this confrontation. By studying footage taken by TV networks and amateur footage put up on the internet of Dynamite Man's antics, he had been able to analyze his style and predict the tricks the old 'hero' would throw at him. The fight had still been a close thing; Dynamite Man's famous durability and strength had been a struggle to overcome and the Iron Crow had sustained some damage. Nonetheless, the Iron Crow would be right as rain by next week, while the same could not be said for Capitol City's infamous vigilante. Between copious amounts of poisonous gas, thrown rubble, corrosive sprays, and toxin-laced cuts, the 'great hero' had been reduced to a wheezing wreck, no longer able to stand and fight back. As the Iron Crow funneled enough acid into his claws to cut through tank armor, he decided to take advantage of the lull to inject some theatrics into this magnificent moment. "Any last words, Dynamite Man? If I'm feeling generous, I might pass them onto the press so that they can feature them in your obituary."

"Why are you doing this?!" the damaged hero gasped, scooting away as Richard advanced toward him.

"It's not for the money, if that is what you think. No, I merely attacked this place to get you to come. Truly, you heroes are nothing if not predictable," Richard gloated.

"Why?"

"Why?" Richard grinned maniacally. "Because you and people like you are a plague to this world! Everyone pretends that you are protecting them, but I know what you're really about. What you're really doing is letting us know who's in charge by opportunistically showing off your power on any so-called villain who comes along, getting people to adore you and worship you…" Images of his girlfriend smiling, not at him but at the blighter in the supersuit who seduced her away from him flashed through Richard's mind. "...Worse yet, others have taken up the idea, and now anybody can just put on a suit and do whatever the hell they want!"

"I *cough* I'm not sure you appreciate th-the irony of what you just said," Dynamite Man wheezed, continuing to crawl away from him.

"Oh I know what I'm doing. Truly, this will be a day long remembered. It has seen the advent of the Iron Crow, and soon it will see the end of the 'great' Dynamite Man."

Richard suddenly found a piece of rubble hurtling toward him, which he barely managed to evade. It took him a moment to realize that Dynamite Man hadn't been futilely crawling away from him but had rather been moving toward the rubble. "You sly dog! You got me monologuing! Very well, if you want your last act to be to go down fighting, I will be happy to oblige!" His claws now completely charged with acid, he fully expected his next blow to take off Dynamite Man's head, but even if it didn't, he would still be inserting enough dangerous chemicals into vital neck arteries that the legendary vigilante would perish either way.

However, as Richard closed in for the final blow, a strange sensation overtook him, no, many strange and unpleasant sensations all at once. His vision became blurry and colors became more vibrant, while at the same time, his ears began ringing, the smell of excrement assaulted his nose, the taste of bile filled his mouth, and an awful feeling almost like ants crawling under his skin came over him. "What is this power?!" he screeched, although the affliction was causing the words to sound distorted.

"That, fiend, is the power of friendship," Dynamite Man gasped.

Upon processing the vigilante's words, the Iron Crow whirled around just in time to see what vaguely appeared to be the woman he had put down earlier barreling toward him. Before he could react, the woman (whom he recalled announcing herself as Holly Wood) thrust a weapon she was holding into his abdomen through a chink in his armor that had been caused by a blow he had taken from Dynamite Man. The strike nearly took the wind out of Richard and caused him to stagger backward.

"Aww, did that hurt?" Holly gloated. "Here, maybe this will help." She struck Richard again, sending another spasm of pain through him "No, that only seemed to make things worse."

The Iron Crow lashed out with his venomous claws in the general direction of the blurry figure that was assaulting him, only for her to nimbly evade it. "Hoho, now I don't seem like such a waste of your time now, do I?" she remarked.

"I see my dosage wasn't high enough," Richard growled, raising his hand. "I won't make that mistake again…"

Before he released his intended puff of sleeping gas, Holly bashed his hand with her weapon, throwing off his aim and causing the Iron Crow to release an uncontrolled stream. The infuriating woman quickly retreated but inflicted a Parthian blow to his head as she did so, causing him to topple into the cloud of gas he had just unleashed.

While Richard managed to retain consciousness, even with his built up immunity and the (possibly damaged) air filtration mechanisms of his suit, the density and potency of the gas was such that he started to feel woozy. It was amazing how quickly the fortunes of battle had changed for him. From standing at near complete victory, Richard was now barely hanging in, nearly subdued by a deranged floozy and a strange power that was relentlessly assaulting all of his senses. "Zues, help me," he groaned.

Suddenly, his rocket thrusters activated, and Richard realized that his AI was advising retreat. Indeed, it was obvious that the day had been lost. Rising out of the gas cloud, the Iron Crow roared, "Enjoy your Pyrrhic victory, 'heroes'. You felons taught me a valuable lesson today. Clearly, wannabee devils are just as bad as the devil himself. I will be back, and when I do… next time you will all die!"

With that, he used his charged claws to tear holes in the ceiling, casting chunks of it down toward the heroes below and sending them scurrying for safety. Flying through the hole he had created, the Iron Crow soon noticed that the vile force that had discomforted him so was gone. For a moment, he considered returning to the fight, but he decided not to subject himself again to whatever terrible power had been afflicting him there. His decision made, he busted a hole in the wall and flew out into the day. He would return to his lair, evaluate what had gone wrong, what his options were, and then he would plan the next engagement. The first shots had been fired, but this war was far from over…

==================================

Skylar's concentration had been broken when the disheveled man pulled her out of the way of incoming rubble thrown by the villain. "Thanks," she smiled weakly, exhausted from the extensive use of her abilities. The man nodded. She braced herself for the villain's reappearance, but he did not come. Reaching out with her powers, she discovered that he was, in fact, gone. Skylar sighed in relief, only to break into a coughing fit. The air was thick with gasses and vapors the villain had unleashed throughout the battle, and probably not the healthy kind. Her gut was telling her to get out of this place as fast as possible, but she couldn't just leave Tom. Instead of fleeing, she rushed to his side.

"You made it," Tom rasped.

"Of course," Skylar whispered. "I'm sorry I took so long. Are you okay?"

"I *cough* I don't know…"

She gulped. "Let's get you out of here…"

But even as she said that, she felt a new presence entered her empathic field, and soon she could hear many heavy footsteps coming their way. Skylar struggled to get Tom up, and soon Holly, now uncharacteristically silent, came up and supported Tom's other side. Together, they were able to get him up, with the disheveled man standing nearby ready to help, when the people Skylar had sensed stormed the room. Equipped with assault rifles, gas masks, and body armor, it was obvious that the intruders were SWAT troopers. The disheveled man quickly threw up his arms as automatic weapons were pointed at him, but Skylar and Holly were not really in a position to do so as they were holding up Tom.

Then two more men entered the vault, each with rebreather masks, and to her horror, Skylar recognized one of them as the Federal Agent that had waved a gun at her that fateful night four days ago. She could sense his excitement upon seeing her and Tom in such a wretched state, and with a sinking feeling, she realized that today was about to be a really bad day...

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