The month of October had been a busy one. League War Trick or treat with the Star Force Junior League. The special mission assigned by Director Nova when he asked me to find the Spirit of Halloween. The ensuing battle with the Spirit of Halloween. Trick-or-treating. Time-traveling back to the BADGE Space Station for the birthday celebration. Planting myself as a tree for several months and waiting for my encounter with Slayer B.A.S. to happen again. At least my Halloween costume looked good for it all. And I can't forget, the whole ordeal with the Muttergrund and the cultists. That was still so very weird. Who were those strange kids dressed up as Muggles?
Nobody ever said life as a cape was going to happen when it was convenient or that it would make sense. I chalked it all up to the spirit of the season, which probably made the Spirit of Halloween happy. At least it had earned credit for something.
For the first few weeks of November, I'd been working hard to catch up on my classwork from the Sagan Academy. Going there as a student was really cool, but it was also a lot of hard work. My art class turned out to be one of the more difficult ones for me, but fortunately Quan, the assistant to the instructor, was also a member of my league. He was able to give me some private tutoring sessions while we practiced at the Star Force Observatory and Training facilities.
I saw Astra occasionally at school, but she was fairly busy with her own projects, as was Miss Fae. I hoped that with the holidays drawing closer, I might be able to steal some of their time and invite them to dinner at my parent's house.
The truth was that after spending three months as a tree, strangely I somehow felt my powers were really starting to develop. Shifting was getting easier and assuming new forms I'd never seen or imagined resulted in better results. I couldn't wait to show off some of my newly found degree of control.
Then he showed up...
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
"What's going on?" a boy asked as I stood and blankly stared at the television screen mounted on a wall in the main hallway. Normally, the device played student body programing about our sports teams, musical concerts by the arts council, club notices, and non-profit organization updates for charity drives. Today, a man wearing a plain white mask with the tragedy face painted on it sat at a desk with his hands folded one on top of another.
As everyone is already aware of, the world is no better today than it was yesterday. In fact, it is worse. Here is footage captured by a drone of a animal horder's property, where the corpses of over fifty-seven dogs were discovered." The screen filled with a horrifying scene of staked dogs in a muddy back-yard that were in varied states of decay. My blood boiled at the cruelty displayed. "You won't find these images shown over the network broadcast sites, as they are afraid to show the world just how sad and disgusting the world has become. Most news sources are simply patsies of big pharma, big business, and other self-important corporations that seek to control your lives-"
The screen went black. I looked around and searched the faces of the crowd that had grown while observing the program. I saw much of the same emotion on the faces around me: horror, dread, anger.
Mr. Smith came around a corner, waving his arms. "Don't pay that any mind, children. Someone hacked into our communication system, but we've cut their feed. Put those horrible images out of your minds, kids, and get back to your usual activities. Nothing like that is going on here on campus. This is a safe place."
It was obvious that Mr. Smith was trying to be as calming and disarming as he could, but those images weren't easy to forget. With a dampened enthusiasm, the crowd broke and shuffled off to their next classes.
I had to wonder to myself for a moment about who put out the message. Who was the man behind that mask and why was he broadcasting those images?
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
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Around New Amsterdam and the world, Heroes and citizens alike felt a melancholy, as many do this time of year.
Lykos sat in his room, staring at a digital photo of his best friend, gone for the first time this season. Wulfrik MacGregor stood on a hill in Scotland, staring at what had once been his ancestral home, the house his family had lived in when he was taken. A woman sat in her living room angry, knowing every facet of society was clearly corrupt, especially all those so-called "Heroes". A young man screamed into his pillow, grieving the loss of the world he had once known, thrown into this reality against his will.
All of them shared one common denominator. In the background, on TV, or MeTube, Podcasts, or communication devices... all of them had the man in the tragic mask telling them how bad life was. All of them had heard his words and realized just how bad the world had gotten.
What was the point? Why have powers or heroes when bad things were still happening?
Lykos sat back in his chair, in the dark, staring at the photo for hours.
I stayed after school for a meeting of the Sagan Academy's Science Olympiad team. I planned on competing in the zoology competition, because as a shapeshifter, knowing different animal shapes was kind of my jam. Nobody could recognize the difference between different birds like I could. I could pick out the difference between and European or African swallow with ease, but identifying a particular bird by its egg was a bit more challenging, so extra study time would enhance my competitive edge.
"Where is Brian?" one of the other students asked his companions at the table behind me.
"I hear he up and quit," another girl said. "Something about not wanting to waste his time."
"That sucks. He was are strongest member for rocks and minerals," someone else commented.
"Five kids quit today, for pretty much the same reason. They just lost interest all of the sudden," another student replied. "It's going to make it harder on the rest of us."
I searched the tables around the classroom and did see several empty seats. I had to admit that ever since that video played with the dead animals on it, I found it hard to focus my thoughts on my studies and wondered if it was worth spending my afternoon at the school. I could just as easily gone home and crawled under the covers of my warm bedspread and let the world keep getting worse without me watching. I shook those thoughts away easily, mostly because I knew as a hero I could change the world for the better.
Hearing the other kids talking about similar thoughts made me wonder if more was going on. It had been a hard year for many people, with the attacks of Giant Robots, Mercenaries, and Arx. Even though the heroes triumphed of those and the Augments that attacked Washington D.C., public opinion of heroes had been less then positive. Heroes only seemed to be holding back the darkness, not driving it away. We needed a big win.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
I rode home with Eggie, listening to NPR radio station and talking about the saddening news stories that filled the air.
An unknown individual has been hacking into various news feeds and online platforms and broadcasting stories of unusually disheartening content. While the information being shared had not shown to be false or manipulated content, the topics have been found to be having a very negative effect on what should be a holiday season...
"Very troubling news, dearie," Eggie said as she shook her head slowly from side to side. "Holiday's are meant to be times of joy and promise. It is very sad this person has been providing a wet blanket to smother what should be a time of hope."
"Does BADGE have any idea why they're doing this?" I asked. "You should have seen the kids watching the video shown in the hallway at school. They looked like balloons that were being drained of everything that kept them floating."
"Sadness will do that dearie. You should always try to remember that? A heavy heart is something the strongest person may struggle to carry along with them. Smiles can hide a great deal, but the right combination of challenges can reveal unexpected vulnerabilities and struggles." Eggie looked unusually crestfallen as she spoke.
"Well, I have a plan. Director Nova is calling the heroes to help bring struggling citizens in to be taken care of until things improve. I'm going to find a way to help these people smile again." I stuck my tongue out at Eggie, then made the silliest face I could. Being a shapeshifter, making my forehead exaggeratedly large along with my lips was child's play.
Eggie guffawed with relish. "Oh, you wicked, wicked child. Put your face back before it freezes like that. Oh, dearie, dearie me..."
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
Keri (Astra) was sitting at a table for lunch as she noticed students staring at her in disapproval. There were fewer and fewer students these days. She didn't need to pry into their thoughts. She knew why the stares and disapproval were due to recent events where World Corps blamed BADGE for damage and terror.
She had been helping Director Nova and EB set up shelter and food for those who have been displaced. She and her adoptive mother had been helping those in hospitals lately. She wasn't someone who caused a lot of damage, her powers didn't lean that direction. Still she would help out as best she could.
She recently started studying martial arts to improve her physical fighting techniques. Some people thought this was to cause more damage and hurt people. It was actually to protect other and herself if her psionic powers were neutralized. She could take down stronger opponents using their own momentum and strength against them. She didn't want to hurt others. She only wanted to help and protect.
It was a somber mood in the school. There was something else going on. Even in Colorado where she did most of her solo work, opinions had mainly stayed positive towards her, but negative towards BADGE. Something needed to change. World Corps was doing something and Futurina had been trying to obtain proof in order to clear BADGE. She wouldn't tell Keri what she was doing but she had meetings with Wyldfyre and Starmaster nightly.
When I got home, my parents were seated beside one another as they watched the local news. My dad looked over the back of the couch as I came through the front door and gave me a meek smile. "Hey, Kitt'n. How was your day?"
"It wasn't a good one," he said as his attention returned to the television screen. "I think we may have made a mistake moving to this part of New Amsterdam. I saw at least eight houses going up for sale as I came home. Not a good sign."
I was so focused on thinking about ways to make an impact as a hero I didn't notice the signs at all. "Anyone we know?"
"Mr. and Mrs. Walters down the street," Mom said.
An older couple with grandkids who were a few years older than me, I knew them mostly because of their pet husky who kept jumping their fence to come play ball with me. "Oh, no. Not Barney's owners."
"Afraid so, sweetheart," Dad said. "Their leaving in quite a hurry too. I bet they won't get nearly what their house is worth. The way the news is talking, property values are tanking all over the city."
"Do you know why their moving?" I asked.
"They don't feel safe here anymore. Marge told me that they finally decided to go when they heard about the closing of the local police branch due to the age of their building. It will cost too much to replace, so the city decided to relocate and merge with other divisions," Dad said. "There have been recent break-ins in the neighborhood, and with the police spread so thin, their worried about what might happen."
Well, Mr. and Mrs. Walters didn't know they had their own hero in the neighborhood. Maybe I could do something about these thieves and make people a bit less worried.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
Krystal had been feeling restless. Due to her impending maternity, she was on a medical sabbatical from B.A.D.G.E., and had been placed on leave by the Sentinel as well... her advisory role and teaching position at the academy was mentally stimulating, but not very physically active.
When she noticed her class size beginning to dwindle, she investigated and found that many students had stopped attending classes, and those who were still attending were lackadaisical and preoccupied. Through questioning, she determined that the broadcasts, especially the news, played a major factor in the responses.
She watched the broadcast, and due to her acute senses, she noticed what many had not... she needed to contact B.A.D.G.E.
"Hello, Krystal...", said Gar, "... how is everything?"
"Hello, Gar... I'm afraid I've made a disturbing discovery...", Krystal replied.
"Oh? Nothing about the baby, I hope...", said Gar.
"No, it's about the news broadcasts... I think I need to confer with Dr Henderson... If what I think is happening really is, then we'll need to inform the Director..."
"See... if you slow the frame rate of the video... there... see the image?", pointed out Krystal.
"I've also confirmed that the audio contains both hypersonic and subsonic messages, of a very disturbing nature, as well...", she added.
Henderson looked quite concerned. "I must concur... these have been added deliberately... the messages and images are designed to produce extreme anxiety and depression... we have to take this to the Director.", she concluded.
"I'm going to go for a walk around the neighborhood," I announced after we finished dinner and I washed the dishes. "After all day inside, I really need some fresh air."
"It's getting awful dark outside, dear," Mom said, glancing at the darkening sky.
"That's what streetlights are for, Mom," I replied. There are plenty of shapes I could take on that would give me excellent night vision if needed. "I won't go far."
"Go ahead, dear." Dad said as he got up from the table. "We know you can take care of yourself. These news stories just have us a bit out of sorts."
I nodded and gave them both a hug before departing. I wanted to see what neighbors had signs up about selling their houses. The cool evening air was refreshing as I made tiny billowing poofs of my breath lift into the air. Turning into a train was beyond my skill level at the moment, but I could still enjoy pretending.
The neighborhood was quiet. Very little traffic on the streets as I wandered around, which made it all the easier to spot the dark van that crept along from house to house. I'd never seen it before and it kept an unusually slow pace as someone in the passenger seat took photos of the houses they passed. Or I assumed it was photos, based on the bright flashes of light from within the cab. Why would anyone take pictures in the evening of people's homes? That seemed like something that should be done during the day.
I let the van pass alongside me. My peripheral vision gave me a decent glance at the driver as another flash of light illuminated them. Whoever was driving was wearing a mask similar to the one I saw on the television earlier. Not the same, but close enough to raise a red flag in my mind.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
Since I was just out walking, I wasn't in a position to leap into caped action. This was where my parents and I lived, and I needed to keep them safe. I walked further up the street until I reached a hedge I could hide behind and change into a black cat. My eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness.
I don't know if many shapeshifters feel this way, but nearly every animal has a sensation for me. The attitude of the creature melds with my own and more than any other, becoming a cat is one of the most empowering. Whether it is becoming a housebroken tabby or a mighty lion, any feline owns its power. It is hard not to feel like a god when in the form of a cat. Their awareness and dexterity is unmatched, and their sense of importance is next to none.
And there is no hurrying a cat. Even time is a cat's servant. While I knew it was important for me to quickly follow after the van, I couldn't help but check my coat first and lap at a few hairs that were out of place. Appearances are everything, you know.
Not that anything was going to see me. I was the night. I was CAT.
Slipping through the hedge, I crept along the sides of houses as I watched the van continue further into the neighborhood. The vehicle finally stopped out front of a streetlight and the panel door on the passenger side opened. A figure stepped out and moved to the pole and climbed to the top of it. I sat and stared intently at their actions. It seemed as if he were installing some type of device at the highest point. After a few minutes, they lowered back down and reentered the vehicle.
For the next half-an-hour, I paralleled the van and observed them doing the same thing to most poles in the neighborhood. The van had no markings identifying it as a work crew, so it was fairly obvious they were up to no good. Eventually, they departed the neighborhood and moved off onto the highway. I made note of the license plate number as I watched them leave.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
Still in the form of a black cat, Maine Coon to be exact, I climbed up the pole after they left. My sharp claws dug into the wooden pole easily and I made my way to the peak in no time at all. My hair tingled as I could smell the sharp scent of ozone in the air from the attached transformer.
Strangely, while I searched, I couldn't see anything newly added, but I smelled something of the man, by the Axe body spray he left behind, in the air. I batted the flat of the top of the pole and felt something I couldn't see. Whatever he put up here was somehow cloaking itself from being seen.
In the nothingness, a pulse of light flared like a camera flash. My eyes went bonkers, overwhelmed with the sudden discharge of bright light. I dug my claws in deeper to the wood to keep myself from falling, then my body relaxed and grew heavy. Why was I doing this? Why bother doing anything? It isn't like anything makes a difference, no matter what we do.
All I wanted was my bed and the TV. I'd curl up and never leave the warm nest I'd created. My claws retracted, loosing their grip on the pole. Climbing down the pole was too much effort. Falling would get me there just as quickly. Either I'd live or die when I hit the ground. Whichever didn't really matter, now did it?
Cat instincts kicked in, and my body twisted and I braced myself to strike the ground as I slid down the pole. Just as I neared the base, I released and flipped myself in the air to land on my four paws without and harm. Landing did snap some sense back into my head. Why did I do that? I had felt like absolutely nothing mattered and completely useless. I'd never felt that type of nothingness before.
Something on the pole must have effected my mind. I wasn't a tech genius of familiar with magic, but others I knew were. I think it is time I called in for some help.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
"Very interesting," Catalyst, aka Alan Marcus said as he studied the information uploaded from his drone sent to study the invisible device above the pole in a neighborhood of New Amsterdam. "How did you find this, Madam Marvelous?"
Not wanting to admit the secret of being a schoolgirl whose parents lived in the neighborhood, she lied slightly to cover up a few details about her discovery. "I spotted a van at night working in the area with no identifying markings. It seemed strange, so when I looked to see what they were installing, I didn't see anything but felt strange when I approached the top of the pole. My mind when to a very dark place."
"Not surprising. The item is broadcasting on a very narrow frequency, creating a barely noticeable amplitude that resonates with neural tissue. Very specific neural tissues in the hippocampus," Catalyst said. "This needs to be shut down."
"What does it do?" Madam Marvelous said.
"There is research that suggests the hippocampus is part of the brain that releases hormones that regulate stress and affect a person's mood." Catalyst said. "It could trigger major depressive episodes if sustained for long periods of time."
Catalyst Heroes Rising
"Why would anyone want to make people depressed?" I asked. It seemed like a horrible thing to do to anyone.
"I don't know," Catalyst replied from the Star Force shuttlecraft we were inside of. He tapped a few buttons on his tablet and brought up a display of the New Amsterdam city map. Tiny red lights sprang to life and radiated pulsing circles around each, overlapping most of the territory. "I've matched the frequency. The signal is all over populated parts all over town."
"We need to do something." I said. In my time as a hero, I'd fought many super-villains, but that was direct face-to-face combat. I'd never seen an underhanded scheme like this in action. "Whoever is doing this is trying to do it to everyone."
A chirp came from the BADGE communication device on Catalyst's wrist. He pressed a button and Miss Fae's image appeared. "Good morning, Catalyst. I need your help with something."
"I was just about to ask the same," Catalyst said. "There are devices all across neighborhoods in New Amsterdam creating harmful frequencies, designed to make people prone to depressed episodes. Madam Marvelous spotted the van driving around and installing some last night. They are cloaked to normal light spectrum identification."
I blushed, hoping Miss Fae wouldn't be upset I found the devices outside of my normal duty schedule. Being a probationary member came with certain limitations, and I didn't mention I was patrolling, so Eggie wasn't with me as she normally would be. I kept silent, not wanting to poke the proverbial bear.
"I've found something similarly interesting. The recent news broadcasts also carry subliminal and telepathic signals that heighten the viewers sense of helplessness and dread to the presented data. I think we have a new threat to the city we need to... excise." Miss Fae's image disappeared as she teleported into the Star Force shuttlecraft. "I hope you don't mind me letting myself in your lovely craft?"
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
This post was updated on .
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*Yes everything is synchronizing in accordance with the plans the mysterious "Major Depression" and his human allies have begun to orchestrate across Earth. All over, overwhelming feelings of survivor's guilt, remorse, apathy, and similar feelings are attacking heroes, villains and civilians alike through technology and psychic sublime emotional brainwashing.
Only a few heroes even seem to realize what is happening but they are not enough yet at this time to stop this massive threat of negative thoughts and emotions.
Only certain individuals know more then this much because they have been planning behind the scenes for months now. With his death, Krampus has unwittingly opened up a vacuum of evil holiday power for supercriminals to fight over to become the new Evil Christmas Overlord, and some have waited until now to start putting their plans into action. One in particular has waited longer not just for the right time, but also for there to be no interference from those who would be of most annoyance in ruining her sinister plans again. Lolth the Dread Spider Goddess of the Drow (Dark Elf) race is making another power play for world domination and helping "Major Depression" by sucking away the positivity and enthusiasm of the holidays and replacing with remorse guilt apathy and depression.
Without Krampus and most of the Mythics around anymore, anyone else discovering by accident would have to be a very sensitive empath in terms of sensing emotions....or a goddess type superhero and certain allies of hers.
"Headmistress Bobby StarRunner, please report to Sephrenia Darklighter and Aphrael theFaeChildGoddessofInnocenceversion3.0 in her office right away." Bobby StarRunner scowled slowly at the mental summons. "Sometimes I wish Corrine and Jenna were fully recovered and Collette was back from the Trip to the Fae Realm she went on with Acidburn," she said to no one in particular as she left her own office. "Teachers here are not supposed to go on missions, only Aphrael and students she assigns missions from Director Nova of B.A.D.G.E."
Making her way up there, Bobby was surprised to hear some students crying. As she turned the corner, she was shocked to see her children were standing there with tears in their eyes. "Mom why is the world so cruel these days as well as still hating those who have special gifts not just magic anymore but Morphon ones too?"
"Kyle, Jade, sometimes this world is very hard to understand. It is something our school has always stood against."*
ID: 11292 *"Ice Ray Academy:Magical Institute"* story coming soon to these forums.
"It is becoming obvious that 'someone' intends to influence the populace to become fearful, anxious, or at the least apathetic toward one or more events they plan to execute... probably sooner rather than later."
"I would estimate that with the devices they've recently positioned...", Krys said as she studied the map, " that they must be planning to act fairly soon.", she continued.
Castalyst nodded. "Yes, believe you right... must inform Director Nova.", he said.
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