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Bound No More, Part 1
By Sean McDonald

    John O’Donnell wasn’t usually one to read tabloids, but in the case of the Paragon Tattler, he’d make an exception.  He sipped his coffee as he found the story he was looking for, right under the one about the Carnival of Shadows’ latest wild party.  “Onami Strike Force welcomes new member,” the headline read.  Right under it was a photo of colorful group of heroes, with John right in the middle.  Of course, when he was in his armor, they called him Spectreblade.  Soon, he’d once again appear in the paper, but this time, as a civilian.

    The bells on the coffee shop door jingled to announce the entry of man in a brown suit and a fedora.  John looked up from his paper and waved.  “Hey, Brian.”
“Hi, John.  How’s it going?”
Brian Sutter took a seat at the table John was sitting at.  “This is some article you wrote here,” John said.
“Well, it was some battle.  Without your help, we would never have brought Dominatrix to justice,” the reporter known to the Onami Strike Force as News Flash replied.
“Careful, Brian.  We shouldn’t talk about our adventures out of costume.  I don’t want any paparazzi or stalkers after me.”
“Sorry.  Well, let’s start this interview,” Brian said as they left.

    Soon they were across the street, at the Paragon City History Museum.  The two walked among a fine assortment of relics of the past; the Pompeii exhibit featuring a plaster cast of one of the eruption’s victims, the O’Donnell Medieval Arms and Armor collection that John inherited, starting his association with the museum, and finally, they arrived at a roped-off area where the finishing touches were being put on a new exhibit.  They stepped over as Brian prepared his camera.  “Here it is.  The Siren’s Call shipwreck exhibition,” John announced.

Here stood all manner of artifacts from the ships sunk by the pirate Randall the Cunning and his strategically misplaced lighthouse which gave the neighborhood its name.  As Brian took pictures of the objects, a young brunette woman came up to John.  “Hi, John,” she called.
“Hello, Emily,” he answered.  “Any luck getting that last chest open?”
“Nope.  The thing’s rusted shut.  I hope I can get it open before opening day.”
“I was looking forward to seeing what was in there.  I guess we won’t be finding out anytime soon.  Don’t worry too much about it.”
Brian asked the woman, “Where is it?  I’d like to get a shot of that for the paper.”
“It’s down in the basement right now.  I’ll take you to it if you want me to.”
“Thanks, Emily,” John said.  The group soon found themselves in the museum’s basement, in front of the chest they were talking about.  “So, this is the chest that won’t open, huh?” Brian said.
“Yeah,” John answered.  “I’m starting to wonder if it’s sealed by magic or something.”
“If it is, there’s probably something valuable in there,” Emily said.  “It’s a miracle our workers got it past all those villains in Siren’s Call.”
“They did a good job keeping all those artifacts out of their hands,” John told her.  “Well, I have to go check on the rest of the exhibit.  Take your time figuring out how to get that open.  It’s not the end of the world if it isn’t ready in time.”
“Ok.  Bye, John.  See you tomorrow.”

    That night Emily came back to the museum with a small bag in her hand.  As she walked past the security desk, the guard asked her about it.  “I stopped over at Pandora’s Box.  I got something that should open that chest,” she told him.  Then she took a hand-sewn doll out of the bag and showed it to him. “And I got this for my daughter, too.”
“That’s cute.  She’ll love it,” the guard said.  “Well, be careful.  If you need anything, just call.”

    Emily went to the basement, past shelves full of items the exhibits didn’t have room for, through a hallway, still wet from being repainted, and made her way to the box.  The chest was like something a treasure hunter would dig up on a beach somewhere, except for the lock that was held in place by rust and, if Emily’s guess was right, magic.  She put down her bag and pulled out a marble-sized charm.  She held it in front of the chest, and, slowly, it began to open.  Once it was open, she looked inside for gold, jewels, or whatever other valuables could be inside, but it looked empty.  “Come on, there has to be something in here,” she thought.  Emily reached in, hoping she’d find a secret compartment.  She felt some kind of force push her hand to the side of the chest.  She looked in and still saw nothing.  Then a crushing blow hit the side of her head.  The girl was dazed, but she knew she had just unleashed something.  Something terrible.  There was only one thing for her to do.  She staggered toward the alarm on the far wall.  It wasn’t far, but she was still reeling from the hit, and had to hold herself up against the shelves as she made her way over.  Another blow found its mark, this time a fist glowing with power struck her right in the stomach.  She doubled over in pain and fell to her knees.  Emily now had to make her way to the alarm on all fours.  She was almost within reach when a large metal foot came down on her back, pinning her to the floor.  She squirmed to get out from under her attacker.  Emily let out a scream, then fell silent as the final blow fell.

    The Onami Strike Force was meeting in the offices of the Paragon Tattler when they heard what happened.  Their leader, the energy blaster PhoenixHawk, answered the phone.  “Hello? …What is it? … Oh, my…I’ll send someone over right away.”
He hung up the phone and turned to Spectreblade.  “There’s been a murder at the history museum.  It sounds like it’s the work of a villain, so take News Flash with you.  He might be able to use his mental powers to find something.”
“I’m on it,” The black-and-blue knight answered, brandishing his sword.  He was not about to let something like that happening at his place of work stand.

    Spectreblade and News Flash arrived at the museum entrance, now blocked with crime scene tape.  They showed their hero IDs to the officers as they crossed it.  “So, what’s the story here?”
“One of the employees here was murdered.  We think it’s the work whatever was in that open chest in the basement.  Judging from the wounds, it looks like an energy melee user, definitely magic, but we don’t know much else.  We also found a newspaper with an article torn out of it.  Do you know what it was about?”
“Let me take a look at it.” News Flash said to him.  It was a copy of the Paragon Tattler, and the missing article was the one about Spectreblade joining the Onami Strike Force.  “Well that’s creepy,” News Flash said.
They went down to the scene of the crime.  News Flash sensed something as they reached the room where the chest was.  The two heroes saw two circles adorned with strange symbols next to each other in front of it.  In one was the body of the attacker’s victim.  In the other lay a doll.  News Flash said, “Hold on.  I can still sense her.  She’s still alive.”
“How is that possible?” Spectreblade replied.  “Look at those injuries.”
“I don’t know how, but I can still sense her.  She’s calling for help.”  The mentalist soon found out how it was possible.  The mental screams were coming from the doll.


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