Vesper was out on one of his nightly patrols. He was hoping for plain, normal criminals. After a few supernatural run-ins with the Defenders, he was hoping for normalcy. Though demonic infestations of mystical doodads was apparently good at making the lesser evils hide out. The city air felt vibrant but wrong as Vesper banked alongside a building. He was scanning the neighborhoods for some sort of heroics to do.

He was just about ready to turn toward home when he caught a faint voice on the edge of his hearing.

"-do you got it? I got the money."

Vesper slowly wheeled toward the sound. It was late enough at night for whatever was being purchased to be of an illicit nature. Something he could stop on his own. Something he could control. After the last six months, he desperatly needed that.

It took a little night-sky circling, but he found the alleyway where the dealing was happening. He silently landed on a rooftop and peered over the edge. Looked like a dealer and two addicts. When he briefly dropped his silence field, sounded like it, too. Vesper put his silence field back up before he carefully scaled down a fire escape. A few quick checks as he went and it looked like the drugs were getting paid for.

Vesper launched himself off the last platform to the pavement below. He hit the ground on the other side of a dumpster and rolled. He came up smoothly and flexed his fingers. Time to go to work. He stepped out into the alley more as he dropped the silence field. Vesper opened his mouth to call out and paused.

In unison, all three people looked at him. It wasn't being noticed that made a cold chill run down his spine. It was because all three sets of eyes reflected light back at him. He was positive he didn't just walk into dogs and cats dealing drugs.

The human shapes of the three bodies down the alley grew blurry. The druggie on the left moved forward a step, the human guise disappearing. A wave of uncertainty washed over him as the demon clacked his teeth together. Vesper was about to take a step back when the druggie on the right, moved closer. The human guise dropped to reveal another demon. Its appearance hit him in the gut with how much he reviled it. He grit his teeth and clenched his fists. Vesper raised his arm to fire from one of his bracers as the dealer moved toward him as well. Its appearance changed as six appendages grew out of the demon's back. With every twitch of the legs on the back of his torso, Vesper grew more confident he could take these demons. He was one of the Defenders; they did this all the time lately.

He wasn't immediately overwhelmed when all three demons attacked him at once. He fired with both bracers. The sonic attack reverberated between the close buildings. Though three attackers at once started to slip through his defenses. One of the spindly, spidery legs darted across one of the pouches on his thigh. It ripped right through the pouch and sent the contents spilling out across the concrete. Thankfully, the armor under the pouch was stronger, but the disposable cell in the pouch clattered against the ground.

Two of the demons redoubled their attacks on Vesper while the Pride Demon bent over to pick the phone off the pavement. It tilted its head left and right. It hit the one number programmed into the phone.
A Lifetime Ago

Sebastian Shaw was dead. It was over. It was... it was finally over.

It was time.

The dust hadn't even had time to settle before Alistaire invoked his authority as the Black King and called the Inner Circle to order. Once everyone was assembled and the usual formalities were out of the way, the Black King snapped his fingers and a Pawn brought an item draped in cloth to the center of the floor, before being dismissed.

"Lady Selene, esteemed others.. this is the end." He drew back the cloth, revealing a stark black filing box and a steel drum. "My time as the Black King, as any member of this organization is complete. I am departing peacefully, and taking nothing from your ranks or your resources for myself." He laid a hand across the lid of the box. "This was my previous way out. My... means of mutually assured destruction. Meticulous files, really. Compiled by the very best."

Another glance around the room, with eye contact in all the right places, before he let out a breath. He produced one of his favorite blades with a flick of the wrist, and smoothly cut open the box. He upended the contents into the drum, giving the exterior of the box a firm tap against the rim, before dropping it in as well. He reached into his pocket and swapped the blade for a lighter. He ignited it, then dropped it into the drum. He watched as it took a moment for the contents to ignite. The smell of burning paper, tinged with a hint of metal and plastic from clips and discs and thumb drives, wafted through the room.

Alistaire let the white noise of the fire and the furtive murmurs of the Inner Circle hang in the air for a long moment. "But I think I like this better." He signaled for the Pawn again, and the drum, still burning, was wheeled out. No sense leaving any scraps to be investigated. There were instructions to add accelerant and repeat as many times as necessary. Resurrection was too common a theme in his family to allow the information the same opportunity. "I can't honestly say I wish you all the best, but I can leave one piece of gentle advice. Something I read somewhere or other...

"'There will always be fools who believe that if a man dislikes violence and goes to great lengths to avoid it, it is a sign of weakness and vulnerability.'


Six weeks and three days ago

The courtship had been particularly public, and suitably extravagant. The wedding had everyone who mattered invited, and everyone who could be found on such 'short' notice showed up.

At the end of the day, there was a Mrs Reiko Shaw.

Six weeks ago

"I just need to cut out a few last cancers... I'm changing things going forward." He kissed his wife on the forehead. "Let me do this, and keep you out of it. I'll be back as soon as I can. If anything happens, go to my aunt."

Five weeks and one day ago

"Breaking News: Efforts were mobilized by the US Coast Guard in cooperation with neighboring national authorities today, in a search for wealthy socialite Alistaire Shaw. Shaw's ship is believed to have been destroyed in an unexpected storm while at sea. Although trace wreckage has been found so far, there has been no indication of the crew or any passengers' fate--"


"Hello, Mrs Shaw? Your husband has been found. We were instructed to contact you, along with his aunt, to inform you that he's left against medical advice, and being transported directly back to Manhattan by private security. He should be arriving at your primary residence with an armed security and medical escort within the next few hours."
"You'll forgive me, but I'm rather surprised to hear from you, Mr. Rosenthal." Stephanie replied after picking up the phone, expecting the call to have something to do with some unfinished bureaucratic process, or perhaps some regulator asking questions about why she'd been dismissed from the board. It was surprising when the next thing he insisted was for her to call him 'Ben'. What she'd heard next absolutely floored her.

"... you what?" She paused for a moment and spoke into the phone. "Ben. I'm flattered, and you know that I do want it, but Sebastian will kill you if he finds out you've been in touch with me like this, let alone to offer me a seat back. You have kids and a grandchild." But she didn't hang up, she couldn't even if she wanted to. She remembered Ben Rosenthal as a fairly mild-mannered man, but she heard a righteous anger in his voice when he spoke. He didn't know what exactly Sebastian had done to them, but he'd clearly influenced their minds. She imagined that such a thing would be especially offensive to a man who had loyally backed her father through thick and thin.

"You'll forgive me, Stephanie, but I've also taken the liberty of getting in contact with your husband, through quiet channels. Allow me to be very clear about this. We want Sebastian Shaw out of our lives, and out of the company that we spent our lives building- that he is <i>destroying</i> with his personal grudges. Something that he would never have done in the past. The news hasn't come out publicly yet, but the last quarter was ... pretty dire for us. Sebastian's lost a lot of his old political influence and the loss of the Veridian accounts hurt us more than we thought it would. We're virtually shut out of Latin America entirely now, and the Europeans are too broke for us." 

Rosenthal paused for a moment. "Maybe we've been King's Men too long. If you or your husband or any of your allies can give us reasonable assurance that Sebastian won't be able to personally target us, we will give you the company. Maybe we would do better with a Queen. It seems the Hellfire Club has been thinking similarly." 

After the conversation ended, Stephanie set down the phone and texted Marcelo immediately.

"Have you heard from a Mr Rosenthal?" 

Since Aiden had been forced out from/quit his previous band and the requisite depressed waffling until his mother got him some session jobs as a drummer, his next band bore the brunt of his concentration and will to succeed. Not that they minded. All of them had been cast offs from other bands. Not bad, but not gelling well with the others. Since New Brunswick had a large live music scene, it was only a matter of time until Dire Rainbow pulled together.

They had practiced relentlessly. Sometimes Aiden barely got sleep between practices, New Mutants activities, time with Angel, teaching Zip, and working as a bartender. Thankfully, he needed less sleep than normal human-like people. But it was all about to be worth it, to his mind. They had entered a local contest and made the cut to perform.

They had a half-hour set-list to pull together. Aiden put in some cover songs along with a few songs he had written himself. (He hadn't told his parents about this facet yet. If the songs came out like crap and couldn't get the audience into it, he wouldn't have to claim them in front of a certified popstar and entertainment king.) Aiden had invited his teammates and anyone else he could think of to be at the show. He wanted some support, and possibly somebody to teleport if there were thrown beer bottles.

And they crammed as much rock into that thirty minutes as they possibly could. Thankfully, the lead singer did not wail like Banshee, so everyone still had their eardrums when she went after it. Aiden attacked his drums like he had everything to prove. Mostly because he did. His former band was in the contest as well.
Alistaire Shaw was the Black King of New York. That much had been put in place by the highest authority of the Hellfire Club, his grandfather; and he had fulfilled the duties of his office appropriately. Alistaire knew the game well enough to know that wouldn't be nearly enough, however. A King needs to do more than simply maintain his kingdom. He conquers. He pillages. He assures his subjects that not only does he do right by them, but also reminds them that none of them have the power to dethrone him.

The problem was that Alistaire was still on his 'being good' project. His relationship with Reiko, for example, was moving along nicely. Alisa's recent freedom had given him back an enforcer he could trust the fealty of. The old him would have had no trouble making some suitably ruthless financial gain, or manipulating events to kill a rival, but now he had to choose his targets more carefully, so as not to destroy the 'progress' he'd made. Still, even with the conflict with his grandfather on the approaching horizon, he had to keep things moving in the here and now.

Normal channels of communication were too risky, so he'd arranged for a special intermediary. A minor functionary in one of his real estate companies, given a particular dose of MGH, to give them temporary telepathy. After a careful 'test' to make sure he wasn't interrupting any marital time with her husband, he opened a psychic channel to Stephanie.

Life had really been much simpler when he'd arranged things so he just had to sign papers, drink, and occupy Selene's bed.

Top scientists at MIT had been researching new technologies, including the development of software which could handle pan-dimensional level calculations.  The projected applications had been hailed as revolutionary by the likes of Tony Stark and Reed Richards...

Which made it the perfect target for the continuing crimes of the Lethal Legion.   Sabertooth, the Owl, the Radioactive Man, and Mentallo had been sent to retrieve it.

The attack quickly made the news.

Fortunately, the local super-heroes, the New Mutants, were not far away in New Jersey...

 There had been a time, back when she was in high school and her early days of college, when Brooke would come to Central Park, armed with a bag filled with a mix of cracked corn, barley, oats, and peas, and feed the ducks while losing herself in thought. It was something that she hadn't done in a very long while but found herself wanting to do that day.She was seated on her bench, legs crossed demurely, floral skirt spread out just so, painting what she was sure was quite the pretty picture. There was a warmth emanating from her, a contentment, that gently affected all who passed her. Even Sharona, Brooke's maid, who was sometimes exasperated by the demands Brooke made of her, was perfectly content to stand behind the empath, holding up a parasol so as to block Brooke from the sun.

On the bench next to her sat two fresh cups of coffee and a little sack filled with chocolate croissants from her favourite coffee shop. She'd invited Stephanie to meet her out here this morning, since they had a lot of catching up to do, including some news to share with her best friend. News that was best told in person and not uncovered over an announcement in the society pages. It wouldn't be proper. Besides, this wasn't the sort of news one could break over the phone. Not to their best friend. 

Brooke reached into the bag and drew out a handful of the feed, spreading it out in front of her. Watching the ducks feed, she smiled in contentment. 

Mrs. Brooke Aaron, she thought to herself. I love the sound of that!
Her favorite wine, her favorite cheese, a 40 year old bottle of cachaça for Marcelo, and a packet of fine tea to go with one of his wedding gifts. They were as well-chosen bribes as he could gather without seeming suspect. Alistaire announced he would be stopping by to see his favorite aunt a few hours in advance, already knowing her schedule. He really didn't mean to spy on her, but it just seemed like common sense, for the barely half a dozen people he knew that he'd find their deaths regrettable.

The best skeleton keys his money could buy and his own mutant gift let him bypass security (again, he really doesn't mean to be rude, he just doesn't have the patience for doormen, security, intercoms...), and he knocked at Stephanie and Marcelo's door in the husband's building.
It took a bit of scouting to find a rooftop with the right vantage point for the job he was employed for. One Marcelo Alencar da Silva had a big price on his head. Bullseye meant to collect on it. He had been contacted by Assassin Nation after one of the regular stable of killers failed.

The man dressed mostly in red wasn't the first one to have this moniker, but he planned on doing better than his predecessor. He set up his rifle on a rooftop a half mile away from the mark's penthouse apartment. Bullseye sniffed at the hot New York City air as he sighted the killzone. There were very soft metallic clinks beneath his flowing red overcoat.

He had strict instructions to leave the mark's wife unharmed. As she was a mutant, Bullseye figured distance would be the best buffer he could use when he blew da Silva's brains out. It gave him a chance to prepare at worst or the time to disappear at best.

He chambered his specially designed cartridge. Bullseye looked down his telescopic sight and waited. The happy newlywed should show up soon. The assassin had seen the mark's wife pass by the killzone not too long ago.
The American Museum of Natural History was set ablaze with lights and the mingling scents of exotic flowers perfumed the cool evening air. Brooke Wyngarde had put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into arranging for this soirée, and she was going to be damned if anyone was going to ruin it for her. After all, this was to welcome Stephanie Shaw da Silva and Marcelo Alencar da Silva back to Manhattan and, most importantly, receive them as a newly wedded couple.

Thus, Brooke had pulled out all the stops. Everyone who was anyone who knew the Shaws or the da Silvas had been invited (though Brooke had also dutifully chopped some of the more unsavory names off of her list). The food was a delightful blend of American-Brazilian-Spanish fusion. The cocktails were some of the most popular ones from Brazil, and only the finest Spanish wines were served. The music was live, big band-style stuff, because this was not some hideous high school Kiss on the Lips party. 

Brooke herself, being the hostess of the event, may have gone just a tad bit overglam when it came to her look for the night, but then she was certain that she was going to be gracing many a society page the next morning.

She needed to look great, and she certainly did as she stood next to the entrance of the Arthur Ross Terrace, receiving guests for the cocktail hour which would precede that night's dinner, directing them towards the guest sign-in book, the gift table, and everything else. 

She hoped, she prayed, that everything that night went off without a hitch.

After all, the supervillains only crash the weddings of the A-List superheroes, right? 
Things post-wedding had been going well. Husband and wife had no left the mansion for a few days after the wedding. By the time they were willing to visit around São Paulo, Marcelo kept their days busy. But not so busy their nights at home weren't busy either.

After sending off information to Brooke about the Symkarian group to hire as security for the New York reception, Marcelo went looking for his casual, not extremely well-tailored clothing. He needed to take Stephanie to visit his aunt. While she had been briefly at the Brazilian wedding reception to congratulate the couple, he knew she expected a visit.

The chauffeur would arrive soon to drive them to outside of the favela his aunt lived in. They would have to walk in to the slum. A standard precaution Marcelo had taken.

Now, he just needed to find his pants...
It had been a very long yet oddly quick week since Stephanie finally came home. They got the paperwork squared away, Sancho to the vet, and a few last patrols done. Well, he did the patrolling to keep his nerves steady. Marcelo's father sent a private jet to pick up his son, his soon-to-be daughter-in-law, their growing kitten and Brooke to bring them to São Paulo.

Marcelo had packed his wedding attire and a few toiletries for the most part. Also, a few things for the wedding night. Other than those, he still had belongings in Brazil he could still use. And whatever else he needed, he could buy. Thus, the cargo in the jet was left to the ladies.

He had not mentioned it was winter in Brazil until they landed. Once they all deplaned, it was a nice 65 F outside. There was a couple days to settle in. Brooke was set up in a five star hotel while Marcelo and Stephanie had the family's northern mansion to settle into. The back of the mansion's grounds nestled up to a national park with a lush bit of rain forest.

The day of the wedding, Marcelo couldn't stop pacing. Even with his father assuring him everything would be fine. The rooftop of the Hotel Unique was rented out for privacy so the vows could be said looking out over Ibirapuera Park. The civil servant was on time. Marcelo was decked out in his HUGO 'Amaoro Hill' Trim Fit Chintz Wool Suit, David Donahue Blue Dress Shirt, tie, belt, mercury dime cuff links, purple polka dot pocket square, and To Boot New York 'Winston' Oxfords.

Marcelo swallowed and tugged a bit on his Robert Talbot Lilac Woven Silk Tie. Per tradition for good luck, he hadn't seen Stephanie this morning. He wasn't completely sure she would show up. Mostly sure, but then her father might kidnap her or she changed her mind or karma would come back and bite him for leaving Helena before they married.

His father, as steady as ever and filling in as best man, readjusted his son's tie back properly and told him it would be fine. Also, Marcelinho needed to get ready. Stephanie would be there shortly.
The assassin knew up front this was not supposed to be an easy job. The mark had to know another attempt on his life was coming; two previous ones had failed. The bounty on the man's head was pretty sizable. Caution and paranoia or not, this kill was within Man-O-War's ability to do. The stocky man with buzzcut hair stepped out of the stairwell. He wore a slightly loose green, button-down shirt, blue jeans, scuffed combat boots, and a baseball hat slung low. If he had been in a monochromatic uniform, the gun on his hip might have been taken for a security guard's weapon.

Man-O-War's eyes narrowed at the front door being partially open. The assassin's booted feet tread lightly as he crept up to the door. One hand reached to slip fingertips into the opening while his other hand went to the holstered Glock. When nothing happened when his fingertips slipped inside the doorway, he quietly pressed the door open just enough to slip in. His gun stayed in his holster as he got inside the entry hall of the penthouse.

A quick glance around told him the entry hall was clear of his target and of any waiting booby traps. No shotguns aimed at the door. No tripwires across the tile floor. Nor a landmine shoved under the rug. Man-O-War let out a slow breath as his ichthyic eyes searched the entry way over one more time. When he was sure it was safe, he quietly closed the door behind him.

The door open had been a warning. He knew that much, but the rest of the 3,000 square foot apartment seemed quiet and calm. Man-O-War had studied the blueprints for it. He needed a lay of the killing grounds in mind. The mark needed to be killed as painfully as possible and then the grisly bits cleaned up so it looked like the Brazilian billionaire just disappeared.

There was a van parked two blocks away marked with a maid service logo. The assassin would bring the van closer once the job was done and haul up the cleaning supplies.

Man-O-War stealthily moved farther into the penthouse. As he emerged from the entry hall, he glanced down the short hallway to his right. It lead to a bathroom, the kitchen, and a gym. He decided to check the bathroom and gym later if he didn't find the mark hiding somewhere in the rest of the colossal place. He stepped up to the doorway to a large dining room the opened directly to a slightly larger living room.

The second thing he noticed was most of the furniture in the rooms had been moved to clutter along the walls. The first thing he'd noticed before that was Marcelo Alencar da Silva sitting in a chair by a small table right between the dining and living room. Let the body hit the floor )
After he had presumably killed two mutants in the middle of Mutant Town and caused some more deaths just by trying to save his own skin, Marcelo called his lawyers to get ready for anything to come up. After assurances they would handle everything if the matter arose, he texted Stephanie to see if he could stay the night with her. His hands were shaky as he punched the letters. His spelling wasn't great to begin with, but he assumed the message got through.

He contacted Xavier's when he managed to calm himself. He got clearance for him to arrive via helicopter. The five minute jaunt to the school was necessary if he was going to ply Stephanie with La Navarra food. It would still be fresh by the time he got to the school. While he put in the order, he gathered things for the night and some presents for Sancho.

The Brazilian let his fiancé know he would be there in five minutes. He had a small duffel and a selection of Stephanie's favorites from her favorite restaurant. Marcelo just wanted to spend the night with the one person he felt safe around. Though he wasn't sure he would be allowed to stay after he told her what happened. If she didn't already know.
To say that Stephanie had been eagerly awaiting seeing Marcelo again was an understatement. She'd been more active than at any previous point, making sure everything was as perfect as could be for his arrival. Most of the restrictions against her had been loosened. Which was a good thing, because she desperately needed to shave her legs. They were still watching, of course, but her telepathic sessions had been progressing well enough. They'd probably be doing better yet soon, as the worst of the psionic traps began to be clared out of her head.

Stephanie wasn't really thinking about all that right now. She missed Marcelo. She missed just about everything about him- his silly jokes, his unfailing support (though she knew she always had that) ... among many other things, sweatly and lewdly physical ones. There was little doubt that he'd be staying the night at the very least, and indeed, she'd made sure that was no problem with the Mansion staff. Thankfully the soundproofing on the rooms was excellent.

The waiting, however, was utterly dreadful. She wanted him to hurry up and get there. Nevermind that he wasn't late or anything.

She was, of course, aware that they probably had some things to talk about too, but it wasn't near the front of her mind at the moment.

Right now, she just wanted her damn man.

WHEN: One week after the Hellfire Club soiree
WHAT: Stephanie is a complete mess, guys.
WHO: Could be a variety of folks, honestly. This is just laying the fields of awful.
WHERE: The Mansion.

Cut for angst! )
Marcelo had finally been released from the hospital after a week in their care. He was under orders not to do anything strenuous. He also still needed the bandages on his front and back changed until the wounds stopped seeping. After a week of being by his bedside and making sure he didn't leave the hospital prematurely, Stephanie had finally gone back to work. That left Marcelo alone in the penthouse with little to do.

He wasn't sure if he was supposed to or not, but he left for the day. There were things he could do that were not sitting on the couch feeling miserable. He didn't know how long this small window of determined activity would last. He made sure he had his phone with him, but Marcelo was determined not to use it. He could spend a day out in New York and not need to call in back-up.

Though he itched to put on his Vesper gear and go patrolling, even in broad daylight, he knew that would get him in a whole lot of trouble. So, a day on the town it was. He had a list of places to get and the hopes some of the street vendors had some decent enough food. He hoped he got home before Stephanie, but with his list of places to visit, he wasn't sure.


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The Next Generation of Marvel Heroes

Current Game Date

June, 2013


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