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When You Wish Upon a Star


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Bankruptcy Proceedings, Third District Commercial Court, Sharkhead Special Economic Zone, Etoile Islands. 

Final administrative hearing regarding liquidation, forfeiture and disposition of assets of The Electrogizer Battery Company, Ltd., November 30th, 2012.


"Arachnos claims ownership of the technical patents. This is matter of state security and will not be questioned." With that, the sole Arbiter, the representative of the government of the Etoiles left the room. The chill in the air eased a bit, and the lawyers took over speaking.


"After Lord Recluse has His share, we've settled the payouts of civilian debtors at eleven point two cents on the dollar. Cage Consortium will receive 67%, Covelli Industries and Investments at 17%, and the Exchange Bank of Grandville for 16%. Are there any final proposal for further recovery of funds?" Pushing stacks of papers out to the others, the solicitor looked around the handful of faces gathered at the table.


"Why can't we sell the daughter into debt bondage? Surely she would be worth a fair amount.", the board representative from CI&I asked. She was a serious woman, very old, but with a metahuman youthfulness, and well known for taking a merciless hard line on such things in private, even if her public persona was a generous bastion of society.


"She's not seventeen until December 31st; even here in the isles there's limits. No one under the age of maturity can be seized via eminent domain and sold", the solicitor noted. 


"We have a garnishment on any future wages she may earn, but that's only 50%. And honestly, the girl's a waste," another lawyer replied, "it won't amount to another percentage point to anyone."


The Cage representative spoke up. "We've put up a bond against that, but as said, it doesn't amount to much. You'll get your quarter ounce of flesh, Hazel. Let it go, or she'll just show up at the door of your homeless charity asking for soup, too." He grinned. It wasn't often one could count coup on Mrs. Merrick.


The woman crossed her arms, nodded, signed the top page of the stack, and sat back. "CI&I will accept its seventeen percent."

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All three companies had lost big investing in Electrogizer. The nuclear electric battery company, famous for its dancing electric bunny commercials, had had a good ten year run, until the accounting scandal had surfaced. It had been the invention of Robert Henders, Senior -- a battery which used isotopic decay of a superheavy waste product from the Terra Volta reactor to produce electricity at surprisingly high power and voltage levels. Concerns from the public about radiation had been allayed by expensive and highly effective radiation shields on the units, even those as small as AA and AAA replacements. 


High end batteries with virtually unlimited lifetimes were a premium product -- consumers and businesses would happily pay high prices for them. And with wide adoption, production costs would come down and the product lines would expand. Larger units were very suitable for electronics, appliances, even cars and boats. It looked like an age free of fossil fuels was on the cusp, and Electrogizer would be the vanguard into it.  Huge profits stood to be gained.


But after widespread shipments of the consumer scale batteries had commenced, there's been problems. People were getting sick. A few even died. And in discovery in the inevitable lawsuits, it was found that the elder Robert Henders, and his son, Robert Junior, had been diverting funds for the addition of the safety shielding to offshore accounts to fund lavish lifestyles for themselves and their family. Sales collapsed.


Business in the Isles is cut-throat. Such frauds were common, even expected. But truly savvy businessmen paid off the right people, shared the grift around the influential, and would survive. But the Henders' had not done so. In fact, they'd robbed investors who could have protected them and who would not so easily take a loss instead.


Robert Junior had leapt to his death out a window.


Robert Senior was already in prison. An eighty year old man in an Arachnos jail doing hard labor; he would not live out the week there.


Melanie Henders, Robert's wife, was more cunning. She's disappeared the day before the scandal was discovered. Rumors hinted she'd been the original whistleblower, and fled overseas as part of a deal. Perhaps so. But if so, that deal had not included their sixteen year old daughter, Robin, who'd been summarily tossed of their luxurious home with no more than the clothes she was wearing and a few hastily gathered mementos out onto the streets.

Edited by Andreah
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Grandville Gutter, recent days


Robin was despondent. She'd just lost her job waiting tables at a seedy gentleman's establishment. One that, in massive irony, had her wearing a skimpy rabbit-themed outfit. A patron had recognized her from the old commercials she did, back when she was much younger, and demanded she do "The Bunny Dance" for him right there. She'd refused. He'd insisted. She refused again. He called the manager. The manager took his side. She'd refused again. She'd been fired. And that was that. 


Life had been very difficult for the selfish, spoiled daughter of a wealthy family of industrialists. She been tossed out with nothing after the bankruptcy. She'd cried a lot at first. But the streets offered little mercy for criers, and hunger demanded action promptly. She'd wandered quite a lot, but could not get off Grandville without papers, and papers cost money she did not have. But she was young, and pretty, and once one's spirit broke down enough, there were ways to earn money. Enough to not starve. 


The job at the club had been the best she'd had so far, and she blew it. The pay, after they took the corpos' half, had at least been enough for food and a tent. That damned dance. The videos were still up on the streaming services; she'd tried to get them taken down, but without lawyers to write the right words, nothing was done. They still earned a pittance of revenue to pay off the millions the Electrogizer company had lost, and no one cared about the feelings of an idiot girl against any amount of money. If she'd just done the damned dance.


She plopped her rear down on a heap of trash, set her hands on her knees, her chin on her hands, looked up at the sky, and tried not to sob.


In the distance, past the dreary miasma than hung over the walls, was a tiny twinkling star. "Oh how I wish there was something I could do. Anything."


She wiped back tears, looked around, and then huddled with her bag to sleep, and to dream.

Edited by Andreah
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You can do something. Wake up; a voice whispered to her. One eyelid fluttered, in that aware but yet not awake state between worlds. A lucid dream, a rabbit scampered past her, stirring trash; a shell of a battery, with a half-corroded Electrogizer bolt on the side. You still have the belt. Wake up!, the voice whispered again. Her eyelid cracked open, and the murk of dawn intruded. WAKE UP! She bolted up, as if she'd touched a live wire. She hadn't -- in the pile of trash, she'd touched a discarded battery. And Electrogizer battery.  And it had shocked her awake. The scent of ozone wafted. She flushed with anger, grabbed the battery and cocked her arm back to throw it. NO! The Belt! Put it in the belt!, the voice in her head almost screamed at her, and she stopped. The belt.


From the age of six and until she was twelve, she'd worn a costume and acted as the brand representative for her parent's company. She wore a rabbit costume, pink and fuzzy, tall ears and a fluffy tail, with a electrically charged belt that threw off an aura of blue sparks about her. Wearing this she would do a cute little bunny dance, play with toys that sprung to life, touch appliances that would spark to action, all to a catchy tune and a marketing slogan "They just keep going! And going! And going!" She had kept that belt as a memento. It ran off one Electrogizer AAA cell, like the one that had just shocked her. It was rated for one watt and one and a half volts. But it would last virtually forever. They hadn't let her keep any batteries, and no non-nuclear battery would power the belt for more than an hour or so. And even then, it was just a parlor trick.


Put the battery in the belt, and put the belt on, the voice insisted. She pulled the old belt out of her sack; the only other things in it were a change of dirty clothes and her work outfit. She'd had to pay for that herself, and had kept it. She did't know why she had, other than spite so they wouldn't sell it to another girl after her. It wasn't modest; it was, in fact, demeaning. Perhaps she'd thought to just burn it. 


What the heck, she thought, fumbled the belt's battery cap open, and slid the old battery into it. The belt flickered, and lit up. It was a feeble light, barely visible now that the day was dawning. Put the belt on, the voice told her. "No way, it's too small, it fit me when I was twelve." PUT IT ON! the voice in her mind demanded. 


She remembered happier times, when she was young and carefree, playing to the cameras and delighting in the attention. Before the harsh world had intruded into her life and made it a day to day grind at best, and a desperate hell at worst. Times when her father protected her and her mother loved her, when her grandfather was a gentle voice that comforted and indulged her. When the world had endless possibilities that would keep her happy forever. Some day, she would run the company. Why not; nostalgia was itself a drug, for a few moments she might feel happy again. She could burn it all afterwards. She wrapped the belt around her waist, and drew in her breath. With effort, she could get the clasp to touch, and maybe it would throw some sparks and scare away the staring gutterzens already taking note of her odd behavior and mumbling.


The sky opened up with a tremendous blast of lightning and crash of thunder. Robin stood there, suddenly in her work clothes with the belt around her waist, blazing blue-white with charge.


*Now you are one of ours* the voice whispered.

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  • 2 weeks later

With her new found powers, Robin quickly learned she could take what she needed, when she needed, or when she merely wanted.  A small-scale crime spree resulted; muggings, storefront and residence robberies.


Robin also met and developed acquaintances with other small-time criminals, and even some that called themselves "destined ones" -- apparently Arachnos had lists of certain promising new criminals and offered them perks. Why wasn't she on those lists?! It felt like an insult -- she was getting good at using her powers. She knew she could get to the big time, and with enough money, she could live the way she had before her family imploded. She just needed the right job to prove it.


That opportunity came. She and three associates, Elder Willow, Brazen Bear, and Jimmy Hopper got an offer to work a heist together from a fixer they had all been accepting jobs from -- Drea the Hook. Robin was especially happy to do this since Jimmy was himself an actual rabbit-form humanoid -- not a guy wearing rabbit ears. He didn't seem quite so taken with working alongside a girl in a rabbit costume, but she was almost giddy with excitement. Jimmy apparently was in deep with the Family and ran labor rackets down by the Port Oakes docks for them. Brazen Bear was a huge man with really thick hair and a voice like gravel. Quite the bruiser! And Elder Willow was an older woman with a kind demeanor and power over plants and vines. Her team was awesome, and they were going to rob Atlas Park Bank right under the noses of the heroes!


The trip over to the City was quick and uneventful; Drea had arranged a tugboat to take them to the coast, and a van to get them close to the bank itself. All they had to do was get into the bank, subdue the security guards, find the vault and smash it open, take all the valuables they could carry, and get away before the PPD and Longbow (!!) showed up in force. For the last mile's ride in the van Brazen Bear constantly loaded and unloaded his weapons. And god did he smell awful. Elder Willow was absolutely and uncharacteristically silent, but her vines were tanging and untangling constantly, like she was practicing. Jimmy nervously thumped his big left rabbit-foot over and over, and just stared at her. She tried to talk about the weather, but he just glared more. 


The driver yelled, and the back doors swung open. All four of them leapt into action -- the way to the front doors was clear except for a stunned civilian. No problem, she thought, they'll scatter for cover. That's when Brazen shot him, and blew a hole through his chest. She stopped, shocked, only to be shoved, hard, by Jimmy. "Go, Dammit!" They rushed through the doors, and alarms immediately started wailing. Everyone in the lobby started panicking, and Brazen started shooting more of them. The blasts of the gun were loud. That's when security started returning fire. Robin was quick, and leapt over to them, ready to shock them unconscious. Willow's vines got to them first. She was relieved -- surely Brazen wouldn't shoot guards who were caught up in the tangle, and to her relief, he didn't. All four speedily moved further into the bank, down a long hall, and to the vault. Jimmy set a package on the lock, and yelled for them to get back. It exploded, and the vault burst open. "Get the Loot!", he called out, and Robin swept inside, and started stuffing her duffel with stacks of twenties, fifties, and hundreds. "Quickly now-" Willow quipped, "Don't get greedy. Take what you can carry easily. No more. They'll be coming." 


"Who'll be coming?" she asked, as they ran out of the vault. "Longbow. And a hero, maybe several, for sure", Willow replied. As they group got back to the lobby, the outer doors burst open again as a Longbow tactical squad entered. Brazen started blasting. Willow erupted more vines from the floor, trapping some. Jimmy bounded in and started pummeling them rapid-fire, his fists moving almost too quick to see. Robin just wanted to be in that van worse than ever. *Wham!* the bank doors blew open one more time. "Give up now!" A confident voice called out. "Polar Shift!" Jimmy yelled, and leapt at her, bowling her over, and knocking her unconscious. The longbow team picked up their assault. Robin heard a nearly deafening "Plonk!!" and she couldn't move. Her boots and legs were caught in a huge mess of expanding glue. Willow closed her eyes and spoke some weird words ... and her vines grew and grappled the entire longbow team, holding them in place. "Let's go! Go! Go!" "I'm stuck!" Robin cried out. Jimmy came over, grabbed her hand and pulled, to no avail. "Sorry Buns, you're not going anywhere now." Jimmy looked at Brazen and nodded. Brazen grinned. "I'll take care o' her", and he leveled his gun at her shocked face. But he only grinned again, swept the weapon aside, and started finishing off the subdued guards and Longbow. "Leave them, leave her. Take her duffel. Let's get out." Willow demanded. 


And they left. 


Then Polar Shift got up.


((The villain names in this story were free on Everlasting as of this writing))

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She hated orange. They'd confiscated her belt, her outfit. Her handful of personal items. She'd expected the judge to be harsher, but it turned out the security cameras in the bank had kept going, and while she was accessory to it, none of the murders were by her own hands. Still, a twenty year sentence sounded like forever to a twenty-something.


Zigursky prison life was not fun. The cells were in poor condition and overcrowded. Her cell-mates were violent, horrid people, much worse than the handful of petty criminals she's associated with before. These ones had powers; supposedly under suppression. Robin had nothing. Sirens would often sound, the cells would lock down, red lights flash. Heavily armed PPD officers would rush past. Gunfire. Flames and smoke. Over and over. The prison was dangerous, so Robin played meek. You could get messed up in a bad way if you angered the wrong prisoner, or even the wrong guard. The prison wasn't secure, either. Contraband got in; drugs, superdyne, weapons, and worse. Rumors often went through the prisoner population, "Lonesome Johnson has been collecting spark-dust, he's going to blow out a hole to the sewers!" or "For the right prices, guards will sneak you out in the laundry bins", and even "I hear Sullen Sully is next. Spiders are breaking him out. And any other three who can get to the flyer first." None of these schemes ever included one Robin Henders. But even so, even as criminals rioted, escaped, or were broken out, the prison stayed full.


"Robin Henders, come with me," a guard spoke. She complied; what else could she do. She was taken to a conference room with three officers, and sat down in front of them.


"Robin Henders, you are no longer classified as a priority inmate, and have an opportunity to shorten your sentence...."


((The villain names in this story were free on Everlasting as of this writing))

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Detective Jack McLord. She had no idea who he was, but apparently many of the PPD did.


"Robin, I'll be your parole officer for the next few months. After I determine your performance in this project has been satisfactory, I'll pass you along to a permanent parole officer. As you should already know, you will be in this program for the remaining years of your sentence. Or, if you don't take this seriously and try anything funny, you could end up-state in a non-meta maximum facility, or if you piss me off, even back in Zigursky. Understand?"


"Yes, sir, I think I do."


"We have a tracking chip in you, and any attempt to tamper with it, block it, or remove it will immediately result in your re-incarceration. Understood?"


"Yes sir."


"We have a very large backlog of cases here in Paragon which need supers, like you, to assist PPD with. If you complete them satisfactorily, conditions of your parole will improve. A little more freedom. A little more privacy. Maybe you can even feel like a normal person again, now and then. if they don't...", he let that hang there.


She nodded. 


"I will routinely pass you assignments around the city, and you will do your best to complete them. We'll allow you use of your equipment, and you will have a comm-unit and mediport access. You can work with other metas, and we'll provide you with a FBSA parolee provisional license." He handed her a bag, her old outfit and belt.

Her eyes lit up, "I'll do my best!"


"Now, some clown calling himself Archon Roget is holed up wth a Council gang in Warehouse 217 by the South Pier with a Rikti-bomb. He's threatening to blow the place up. I want him in cuffs in an hour, and no explosions and no deaths.


"Yes sir!" She took the bag, and started on her way.


"One more thing. Robin. My daughter still loves those old commercials. If you get on the news and make her cry, they'll never find your body. Understand?"

She hurried.

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