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Chapter Two – Expect the Unexpected

Johanna strolled into City Hall, and paused to glance around at the enormous entry hall. Directly before her was a registration counter with another smaller desk in front of it, and hallways extending to either side. In niches every few yards stood tall statues of various superheroes who had dedicated their service to Paragon City over the years. Even in here, superheroes were milling around, talking to representatives, or dashing up and down the rightside hallway.

She rummaged in her pockets for a few moments, then pulled out a crumpled piece of paper.

“Meet contact Azuria of M.A.G.I. in Paragon City Hall,” she read aloud, then she checked the directory. M.A.G.I. was located downstairs, so she headed off that way, nodding to various people as she passed them. The five main branches of Hero Registration could all be found here, she soon learned, but she was only interested in one.

Sticking her head through the open doorway, she looked around. “Hello?” She saw bookshelves lining all the walls, and here and there a few pedestals with unidentifiable objects on them. Even with her limited psychic talents, Johanna could practically feel the things resonating with power, so she decided to stay where she was, and the hell away from them.

A dark-haired woman turned around to study Johanna through vaguely unfocused eyes. The nun’s first thought was that the woman was on drugs of some kind, but then she spoke.

“It is my belief that you are destined for greatness.”

“I could have told you that,” Johanna said flippantly, but Azuria continued on as if she hadn’t spoken.

“Myself and others here at the Modern Arcane Guild of Investigation have sensed a disturbing trend…” She went on to describe some of the problems plaguing Paragon City at the moment, and Johanna spent another few moments rummaging around in her pockets trying to find something to write on and write with.

“Okay… so… I just need to go find some of these Hellions and stomp on them, right?” she asked finally, after making sure she had her mission straight. “What, is this some kind of test or something?”

Azuria had already turned away, however, and was vacantly staring into nothingness again, and the nun rubbed her eyes and sighed.

“Great. I get to kick the crap out of some street thugs. I work my ass off for AX training for this. Why couldn’t her Eminence have just sent Father Tres for this?”

She wandered out again, and taking care this time not to get plowed into by random superheroes, managed to get outside and out of the way of the doors without getting knocked over. Once again, she marvelled at the large statue of Atlas and confirmed that yes, there were in fact people up on top of the statue… This time it looked like they were practicing skydiving off of it, and without parachutes. Then she belatedly realized that some of them could actually fly, and were using the statue for practice. Every now and again, though, one would screw up and crash face first into the pavement, only to pick him, her, or itself up and try again.

Then she looked around the park, wondering where she was supposed to find the base of the Twilight Vanguard, the supergroup she’d been sent here to liaise with.

“Excuse me?” she asked politely of a passing superhero. “Where can I find the base for the Twilight Vanguard supergroup?”

“Behind City Hall,” the hero replied, pointing in the right direction. “You can’t miss it.”

“Thanks.” Johanna straightened her robes and circled behind City Hall, then stopped.

There were no other buildings there… but her eyes were fixed on what looked like a glowing circle in the middle of a flagstone patio.

“You must be joking.”

She headed over and clambered up onto the patio, taking care not to get too close to the whatever-it-was. She waved a hand through it and felt a tingling energy, so she snatched her hand back.

“What the HELL?!”

Then she let out a yelp of shock when two other heroes came soaring in toward the glowing circle, as though about to fly through it… and vanished.

“Great… it’s a fairy mushroom circle gone high-tech,” she muttered. “Well, if I’m going to look like a fool, I may as well go all out.” She started walking through the circle, murmuring, “Like this is really-”

All in the space of a split second, she felt an energy wave race through her body, as though assessing her very cellular structure, then there was blackness…

… then she was suddenly inside a large stone room with elegantly tiled floors and ceilings.

“-going to… work.” Johanna stopped in her tracks and stared around her. A glance behind her showed an identical glowing circle like the one that had been outside. “Oh, wow… that is just UNBEARABLY cool!”

“It is a portal system, based on your hero identification information,” came a calm, almost toneless voice behind her. “Walking through the portal teleports you to your supergroup base.”

She turned around again and let out a screech when she came face to face with a… well, she HOPED it was a superhero.

Dressed in red and black leather and wearing a trenchcoat, with a skull-like face and spiky hair, it was certainly humanoid. But Johanna’s first semi-coherent thought was that he was either wearing one hell of a mask, or Paragon City was a lot stranger than she’d first believed.

Her mouth opened a few times before she finally remembered how to speak. “I… I… I’m Sister Johanna Sinclair. I’ve been assigned here by the AX to assist you.”

“Cantus Mortuus,” he replied in that same toneless voice, and Johanna’s mind automatically translated the name… Latin for “song of death.” She briefly wondered what exactly his powers were to merit a name like that, but he went on talking. “It should be… interesting to see how well you do here.” He turned and walked further into the base, leaving Johanna to follow him as she chose. She quickly moved after him, and found herself in another, more decorated room. There were several shelves with all sorts of weird stuff on them, a lab table or two, a large piece of mechanical equipment that looked like an oscilloscope’s delusion of grandeur, and two large banners on the wall with the symbols and colors of the Twilight Vanguard.

Cantus Mortuus walked over to one of the lab tables and went back to whatever he’d been doing before her arrival. She looked closer and saw that he was working with various materials. Some she recognized, others she couldn’t even begin to guess at.

“I take it back,” she murmured to herself. “I don’t think any AX training in the world could prepare me for this.”

To be continued…

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