(2014-06-13) Puddle of Heroism in the Shadows
Puddle of Heroism in the Shadows
Summary: Karen Starr and Cessily Kincaid attend a day-long seminar on traumatic injury recovery and healing. The Calculator has sent goons to steal an invention. A mess follows.
Date: 2014-06-13
Related: Various
NPCs: Maggie Sawyer
Scene Runner: Power Woman
Social/Plot: Plot

One thing about Metropolis is that it really does strive to live up to its reputation as the City of Tomorrow, always thinking of and striving towards the future for everyone. Even the citizens, the people of Metropolis embody this viewpoint, and it shapes almost everything they do in one way or another, both in what they do and in the ways that they do it. One such example is today's rather large seminar being held at Metropolis University, sponsored by their Medical Center, but also including such widely varied sponsors today as the Wounded Warrior Project, STAR Labs, and StarrWare, Inc. The focus of today's seminar is on Physical Therapy, and means to assist those recovering from surgery and traumatic injury.

Amongst those in attendance today is Karen Starr. She isn't the CEO Of StarrWare, Inc., but she did found the company, and she is the internationally-known face of her company, its biggest name and often considered its biggest brain. The tall blonde is in attendance, dressed down as usual, looking more like a Metropolis University student - which she is - than a CEO or a businesswoman. She's sitting out amongst the audience, just like a lot of other students from universities across the world and up and down the east coast of the United States, taking notes and making recordings with her StarkPad and her StarrGaze smartglasses, her StarrTel smart watch and more. And she's waiting, watching and listening, looking to learn as much as she can, before it's her turn to make a presentation up there on the stage.

Cessily arrived with others from Gotham University. She is wearing the college's jacket, and is, coincidentally enough, not too far from where Karen is, although the metallic girl does not notice that, as she is more focused on the presentations at the stage than the rest of the attendees themselves. She has a notepad on her lap, and a pen in her hand, as she makes notes of important bits of the presentations, and any internet address the ones doing the presentation happen to give. All in all, she seems quite absorbed in the presentations.

There's quite a lot to be absorbed in for today's seminar. The current presenter is discussing physical therapy for those with prosthetics. An earlier presenter was actually discussing and demonstrating recent advances in prosthetics of various sorts. "And remember, folks: physical therapy of this sort is never easy. No matter how well fitted, an artificial attachment against bare flesh, working and functioning as if part of that body, is going to create stressors against muscles and nerves. You have to be prepared to help your patients work through this. Constant minute adjustments will be necessary, to your routine and to the prosthesis, as the body adapts to this alien hardware doing the job for which its missing bits were intended."

Karen continues taking notes, and highlights several of the points of the current speaker. Constant minute adjustments seems like something she might be able to help with, if she can work out how to interface and scan properly, for the right conditions. She might need a few volunteers, as well as the doctors and therapists already on staff for this project.

Cessily hmms softly, while still taking notes. She expected more talk about the human body rather than prosthetic limbs, but she'll take what she can get. The college did pay for the trip, so it's not like it was taken from her very empty pocket. So, she doesn't really have anything to complain about. After another few notes, the exoskeleton suit is announced to be shown next, and that catches her attention, causing her to blink, "Oh?" this should be interesting, she thinks, as she leans forward to get a better look.

Lots of content today about the human body. Indeed, it has all been about the human body. It's just that they have been talking a lot about tech, and how tech and forward thinking can help the human body. Karen's own presentation earlier was on technology that integrates with everyday items - glasses, watches, wristbands, belts and such - and interfaces with control systems like apps on smartphones to monitor health and well-being, and help the user to be better aware of medical situations. One of these included a galvanic skin response patch that can actually do accurate blood sugar level readings on the fly.

Once the physical therapy group finishes up the last of their presentation and answers a few questions, they pack up and head off stage, as another crew comes in, wheeling a large upright frame on wheels, draped with a dark fabric tarp for covering.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the next presentation today will be by the team of Doctors Miles Hawkins, John Stonebrake and Amy Ellis, presenting their LexCorp-sponsored project."

The three figures - a tall African-American man, an average-height brunette caucasian male, and a tallish curly-haired African-American woman - in lab coats work to set up a few computers and some other items on stage, while a video presentation begins on the giant screen at the back of the stage, introducing the three doctors and their advanced works in biophysics and medicine.

Off-stage, a group of seven are getting themselves prepared as well. "Remember: We want the suit thing, and the computers. Worse case, we need the hard drives, /intact/. So watch it with the hardware. It's a bunch of geeks and doctors, anyway. There shouldn't be any trouble."

Cessily feels like chewing on the butt of her pen. After jotting down several notes on her notepad. Was curious about the exo-suit, already. She couldn't help but think back to those futuristic, sci-fi games she used to play before going to college, and chuckles a little bit. Then the next presentation is announced, and Cessily straightens a bit on her seat. Lexcorp, so it's gotta be the exo-suit now. She couldn't exactly see herself wearing, or needing to wear, such a thing, but she is curious. Especially in her chosen career.

The presentation on the screen goes through the backgrounds of the three scientists, revealing their eduction and backgrounds, and how they met. But it stops short of the actual point of their presentation: their project. That is when Doctor Hawkins steps up, the body mic in place on his lab coat, carrying his voice to everyone in the room as his basso voice rumbles out. "Good afternoon, everyone. Now that our video has introduced us all today, it is time to introduce someone else. It is time to introduce the product of over two years of research and development and advancements, and the generous funding of LexCorp. Aaron, if you would be so kind?"

With the microphones on stage, it's not hard to make out the soft whine of actuators beneath the tarp. Then the tarp lifts, and a leg steps out. It is a human leg, with dull metallic frame pieces around foot and ankle and up along calf: a literal exoskeleton. The whirring continues, and an entire body departs the cover of the frame and its large tarp, revealing a young African American man, perhaps in his latest teens or earliest twenties, standing erect on stage, moving with the kind of grace one would expect from a normal man. But the visually astute - especially those with medical backgrounds - would immediately spot that his lower frame - his legs and hips - show serious deficiencies. There's no way he could be moving like that. Except … for the exoskeleton he is wearing.

"This is the product of —"

And it is at that point that seven men charge into the auditorium. Four of them charge out onto the stage, while three more charge right off the stage, leaping out into the aisles of the seating, waving some impressive-looking, glowing weapons attached to backpacks. "Everybody just stay calm! No one does anything stupid, no one has to get hurt. We're just here to make a little acquisition. Let's go!"

Cessily grins now. It's finally time to unveil the 'piece of resistance' as the French say. And then the man steps confidently on the stage coming form the backstage, and first thing she notices, of course, the guy walks. Second, he should not be walking, for she notices the deformities on his legs, and she can't help but wince softly in sympathy. As she was about to take more notes… armed men invade. Not her day. Not… her… day. But she'll have time comply later. Those ghostbuster-knock-off weapons don't look like perfume sprinklers, and so as the room erupts in momentary panic, the girl promptly brings her head down between her legs, and quickly melts away, flowing under the seat! Without thinking, she starts traveling toward the back of the stage to try to get the goons standing back, using the seats and people as cover as she flows, weaving and splitting to avoid touching someone's foot and alerting the thieves of her presence.

As the room erupts in panic, the gunmen keep everyone firmly in their seats, those weapons sweeping the room periodically, making sure everyone knows getting uppity - or getting up at all - would be bad. Lots of people duck or crouch, so Cessily's disappearing act is not going to immediately draw attention.

Up on stage, the loud talker of the group is sweeping the room with his weapon, but also keeping it over the scientists and the kid in the exoskeleton, while his compatriots are making their way towards the computers and the exoskeleton itself. It's rather clear almost immediately what they're here for, and at this rate, it would look like they're going to get away with it.

Stuck in her seat, Karen can't just disappear. Power Woman will not be putting in an appearance here, not with Karen herself covered by more than a few cameras and the attention of entirely too many people. She'd be noticed if she tried to zip out and reappear in costume. So for the moment, she is stuck in place in her civilian identity. But that doesn't make her helpless. Already, she has captured video, audio and high-definition scans of most of these men's faces, and she's sending it all through a special router, straight to the Metropolis SCU. As long as these jackasses don't actually try to hurt anyone, she's going to play it cool. But that doesn't mean she's going to let them get away.

Cessily mentally curses as the ones on the back are too far spread apart for her to knock down at the same time, so she goes to the closest one first: the one heading for the rear 'isle'. She flows as fast as she can, and then, she quickly extends a metallic tendril up, behind the goon's back, aiming for the back of his neck. Right before hitting the back of his head, it splits in two and quickly circles around his head, rejoining in front of his mouth and covers it to keep him from screaming, while at the same time pulling him back down, to make him fall on his back hard enough that the knock on his head knocks him unconscious. One down… many to. Already Cessily is flowing quickly back under the seats for cover, flowing as fast as she can to try to intercept the next closest goon.

SCU acknowledges Karen's upload of data, and then she manages to redirect to them copies of the video feeds of the auditorium, ghosting the feeds so that if someone is watching the MetroTech hubs on their behalf, they'll be much less likely to spot anything that would cause them to make a call and get someone here hurt. Stuck in her seat, however, there's not a great deal she can do beyond this. She wants to do a lot. But she is trapped here in public. How inconvenient.

Then super-hearing picks up the sound of someone straining, struggling to cry out while muffled. A check of the feeds shows that the guy who was headed to the back is missing. She purposefully zooms in a feed, taking control of its camera as she checks on … there he is. Sleeping it off. Hmm. So there's someone in here really, really stealthy. She's not sure where yet, but she'll keep her senses peeled. Maybe she can help out surreptitiously, like she did for Canary.

Up on stage, the two who went after the computers are disconnecting them and closing them up, getting ready to shove them into their backpacks and take them along. The third who approached the exoskeleton is there, but he is just aiming at the young man within, as he is not surrendering at all. "Screw you, Man. This thing is my chance at a new life. You can't have it, you filthy merc jackass!"

Just as that third gunner is about to shoot or butt-slam the guy, Doctor Hawkins calls out and steps over. "Wait! Please. Please, don't kill Aaron. You have to understand, he has given two years of his life to this project, the same as the rest of us. But for him, he has done all of that on the hope of this day: the chance to walk. Run. Jump. To play. To be the young man he was meant to be, before his car accident."

"Listen, Doc. I don't give a shit. The kid gets out of it, or I blast his ass and kick his smoking corpse out. The thing is going with us, and he's not."

All of this excitement on stage, however, has brought three of the four up on stage all close together, clustered around Doctor Hawkins and Aaron.

Cessily quickly switches directions once she sees the three of them all close together. Screw the hardware, she needs to save lives first. Weaving and flowing through seats and people's legs, she reaches stealthily behind the three guys. Thankfully, there's a big booth behind. She sneaks behind it, and after waiting until the three are looking forward, she springs into action again. Her metallic, formless puddle form shoots three tendrils with almost blindingly fast speeds, repeating what she did on the first goon, wrapping around their mouths and pulling them back hard on the ground to knock them out, letting them fall behind the booth, away from sight. She hopes she didn't draw too much attention as she flows under the booth, as her next target will be the goon threatening the guy with the exo-suit.

Cessily sees three of them close together. She could get them, but it'd cost her stealth. She needs to save lives, but she's just one against a group of six. She needs to stay in the shadows, and act FAST. She rushes to the closest goon, and as soon as he walks by her, she once again shoots that metallic tendril, wrapping around his mouth and quickly pulling him down to knock him down before he can react. Staying only long enough to make sure the guy is out for the count, she is already moving to the next one. Time is of the essence. And she also idly wonders why the alarms haven't sounded yet.

Oh, Hell. Those people are in real trouble. These jackasses are heavily armed, and now they're getting mad, and they're gathered together, ready to gang up on these innocent folks. There's only so much of this sort of thing Karen can take, before she just has to take action. Thankfully, she can do so with incredible speed.

Commands typed out rapid-fire on her StarkPad - thanks only to her StarrTel watch's projected holographic keyboard, because the StarkPad itself could never keep up with the speed of her tapping fingers - issue into the support systems for the auditorium. Three. Two. One.

The lights - every single light, including, somehow, the emergency lights that should never shut off - suddenly lose power and go dark. Even the battery-powered emergency lights go dark. However, some might notice the smell of burnt plastic, and a few small showers of sparks at various points around the ceiling in short order.

With the whole auditorium gone dark, the gunmen around the doctor and the suit shout in surprise and start turning this way and that, sweeping everywhere with their anxious eyes, struggling to peer into the darkness.

Cessily would blink if she had eyes as suddenly the whole room goes dark. Like, pitch-black dark. She can't see anything! … other than the glowing weapons from the goons. Bingo. Whoever turned off the lights had a great idea, there. There is still one around the public. That is her target. She doesn't want the bystanders being hurt, so she quickly slithers her formless form through the ground. Bumping into something is not a concern to her as she just flows around the objects, letting them pass through her. When she gets to the goon, her tendril almost misses his head, but she does it different by wrapping around his whole head just to make sure, before bringing him down hard on the ground, like the others. Without waiting, she already flows fast, like a formless, metallic snake-like 'thing', toward the stage to deal with the remaining four.

There are people in direct danger, and Karen can't wait any longer. She had perhaps hoped that whomever is out there working their way through the gunmen would use the cover she'd given as their chance to get to the stage and save the doctor and his people. That didn't work out, and she's not even sure she can blame whomever it is. But she can't let it go on. She has to do something.

"What the F*CK?! Who turned out the lights? Damnit, call the Calc, man! Call the Calc! We need them lights!" the shout rings out from the stage.

Another voice - that heavy, authoritative voice from earlier - responds, "Shut up! Damnit, shut up! Whoever took out the lights, you better turn 'em back on, or the Doc here, and his prize guinea pig, get faces full of blaster. Do it now!"

Trapped, without any more time to play it coy, Karen lowers her StarrGaze glasses again, and lets loose with another blast of heat vision. This time, she spreads it broad, and hits the sprinkler systems, which deploy their spray. Then she inhales, and exhales rapidly, blowing a wind of super-cold air toward the stage, pelting everyone on stage with icy 'bullets'. They'l sting like the dickens, but they shouldn't really injure anyone. And it makes people duck. It's enough to create another opening.

Cessily is happy she isn't vulnerable to water, and— yikes! That was COLD!! Reflexively shuddering, now that the people on the seats are safe (relatively speaking), now that the goon is down, she quickly flows, in a straight line toward the stage. The glow of the weapons, plus having spoken earlier, the goons now have their positions locked in Cessily's mind. So, in her formless form, she flows onto the stage. The way the weapons are quite low, close to the ground, and the faint glow from the weapons tells her the goons are crouched down. So, pulling back and knocked down won't work. Luckily, the same glow also tells her they're close together, so she goes for a different approach: she suddenly throws her whole mass at the goon in the middle, wrapping herself around his head, and then quickly extending herself to the other two goons at her sides, also grabbing their heads, and then doing a hard YANK! to get the three of them to hit their heads together, and hopefully knock them down.

Cessily's efforts manage to yield some serious cracking of heads, which puts down two of the gunmen on the stage, and then finally a third - he takes an extra bonk before he finally gives it up.

This close, the liquid-metal girl will be able to hear the sounds of the actuators in the exoskeleton, as Aaaron punches up their power to maximum, and he grabs Doctor Hawkins, leaping up and away. He remembers where things were laid out on the stage, and he leaps as far into off-stage as he can manage. Exit, stage left!

Unable to let this go on any longer, and spotting the last gunman turn towards the sounds of the armor and its' leap, seeing him ready to fire on what would be the liquid-metal heroine's direction, now that she has taken out the three threats she had grabbed. Karen rips off a button from her jeans, and FLICKS it, with the might of her Kryptonian muscles, launching it like a bullet, right into the powerpack on the gunman's back. It tears through the cable connecting the gun to the pack, and when he pulls the trigger … nothing happens.

Disabling the last goon's gun has the unwanted side effect of making it stop glowing now that its power source has been disconnected, but at least Mercury knew where the guy was last, and so she lunges herself onto the guy, as one big blunt arching cylindrical shape onto the guy, splashing on his chest and face and pushing him down, making him hit his head hard on the floor as well, hopefully knocking him down as well. She has no idea if the professors are still there or not, but she knows she should make herself scarce. She mentally curses that she in no way will be able to find her notes in this dark room.

Well, salvation for the lovely puddle of metal will come when, within a minute, the lights crack back on throughout the auditorium. About a minute later, the doors open and police offers pour inside, making their way to the disabled goons, taking them and their gear into custody.

Cessily is happy that the police arrived, but mentally rolls her eyes at the police arriving AFTER the danger has passed. Typical. But the girl quickly slides through the auditorium entrance doors, quickly finding a vent grate and flowing through it. After several minutes of searching, she finds a way out. Her form leaks through the vent grate outside, flowing down the wall quickly and then hiding behind bushes. Then, slowly reforms into a clothes-less Cessily, before her clothes form on her body again. Sighing, she sits down and leans against the wall. She had training back at the X-School, but she didn't think she'd put them to test so soon.
Metropolis University — Metropolis Village
Bordering between the tree-lined avenues of Metropolis Village and the gleaming towers of the Financial District lies Metropolis University, the seat of higher learning in the City of Tomorrow. As with many things in Metropolis, the University is arranged in a way that is rather unique to Metropolis. Instead of being spread out and covering a dozen or more city blocks, Met U is an arrangement of four gleaming towers surrounding a city block-sized central space. The towers soar into the heavens by a hundred fifty stories, a little over two thousand feet high. The central plaza is dominated by a huge domed stadium, home to the University's many athletic competitions. The four towers are connected at many levels by various skyways, most notably those at the midpoint of the towers' height, where interconnecting skyways join with a platform that houses a huge open-air park suspended a thousand feet in the air, home to the 'quandrangle' of the school and many social functions.

Each of the towers has dormitory space that dominates the first twenty floors. Their uppermost floors are dedicated to the sciences. North tower's top is home to a huge hypermodern stellar observatory. East and West towers' roofs are landing and takeoff pads for the flying cars that dominate Metropolis, with access to automated garage facilities that whisk away vehicles surrendered to their robotic efforts, storing them in chambers inside the building. South tower's roof includes both a large enclosed greenhouse, and a sizable open-air garden, all used and maintained by the students in their classes. Parking for land vehicles is all handled underground, with more automated garage facilities. The University is in many ways its own city within a city, with its own fire department, police force, maintenance droids, broadcast media stations and more.
*Obvious Exits:
* [01] - Dorms - Metropolis U — Metrop
* [O] - Metropolis Village and Financi

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