Game: Unknown Gifts
Tragic Johnson watched the smoke billow into the
winter sky in the distance. His apartment in Kingís Row gave him a
view across the city to the old Kingís Garment Works, which had recently
become active again. The steel fire escape that ran up the side of
the building gave quick access to the roof, where he often kept watch
for roving bands of Skulls that continued to harass citizens even
through the growing recovery working through Paragon City.
man with painted face hidden within a shroud stood behind him, dressed
in white with red stripes, the cresting wave of the Onami Strike Force
emblazoned across his chest. Looking out the window, across to the
next roof, the pair could see the glowing box glittering in the sunlight.
"Should we go get it?" Brain Fried asked.
Johnson shook his head.
"The phone call was from Nightbringer. He said thereís been some trouble
associated with the things, including something with the kids out
at Sussex Academy. Some people have been attacked by the Winter Lords
when the touch the boxes. I donít know if itís a good idea to even
pick the things up."
"We canít just let them sit out there," Thundering
Takai, a slender blond woman, said from the couch in the living room.
"Itís not really a problem up on that roof, except maybe to the Circle
mages who occasionally show up there. And it wonít bug me in the least
if they get a little frost bite messing with them."
"Ok, so letís
leave that one alone," Brain Fried said. "We can report it to City
Hall, have a recovery team pick it up. But I want to get out there
and see what else is going on. Thatís not the only box on the streets."
The Onami Strike Force had members in several sections of Paragon,
keeping watch on the citizens and the packages the Gamester had been
mysteriously spreading around. The group had tried to hold itself
together after PhoenixHawkís death months ago, but it was always a
difficult task for those who had become close to the groupís founder.
Thauma Guard worked to organize missions, but there was always a cloud
hanging over the members when they got together in large numbers.
Subsequently they tended to work in smaller groups of two or three,
or go solo throughout the city. Two of the members, Khazm and Lady
Emily, had for personal reasons, joined with the Onamiís sister group,
the Archangels of the Apocalypse.
The Onami members on the streets
were keeping in contact, sharing information, calling on other heroes
to try to unravel the mystery around the Gamesterís Ďpresentsí that
would simply mysteriously appear out of thin air. In Talos Island,
Kwang Ghe and Shadow Pain reported groups of Tsoo and Warriors, normally
bitter enemies, working together to collect the Ďpresents.í
Johnson, Brain Fried, and Thundering Takai moved out into the streets
of Kingís Row and were almost instantly aware of the odd groups running
amok. The Skulls and Lost were roving in bands together, gathering
the boxes and hording them into the sewers where the Lost gathered.
Something odd flickered in the faces of the villains, a weird smile
they all shared.
"The look like they just go exactly what they wanted
for Christmas," Thunder said.
"Maybe the did," Tragic Johnson replied.
"What the hell is in those boxes?" Brain Fried asked again.
blocks from Johnsonís apartment the Heroes came across a Vazhilok
Reaper and Circle of Thorns thorn wielder carrying one of the Ďpresentsí
out along with the cash register.
Brain Fried threw out his left hand,
a bright flash momentarily blinding the Circle mage. The Reaper, carrying
the Ďpresentí opened the box and threw it at the Heroes.
A blast of
frigid air whirled up from the open box, snow and ice forming a tornado,
blew the Heroes back. The snow coalesced into several large forms,
snowmen with clublike arms, menacing black eyes trained on the Onami
* * *
Chained Uranium, as he had become known since the Ďaccidentí,
sat at the bar, sipping from a tumbler of scotch, trying to drown
his annoyance. Around him were all manner of abnormal people, people
who could do extraordinary things. Several Capes stood in groups,
eyeing the minions of Arachnos who watched them with cautious eyes
The strange bar, run by a DJ known as Pocket D, had simply
appeared in Paragon City one day. Nobody could say exactly where the
bar itself existed, but if you went into a building in any of several
zones you would end up in the bar. Maybe Pocket D had some form of
portal tech available to him.
That could be useful, Chained Uranium
thought. All Iíd have to do is find out who to bribe to get it, or
how to steal it.
Pocket D was a safe haven for everyone. Fighting
between anyone, over anything, was strictly forbidden. Something strange
about Pocket D made everyone realize that crossing that line would
have dire consequences. Maybe it was just an illusion, or maybe the
DJ actually was a mystery to be feared like that Can Man in Skyway
They should fear me, too.
He would work on that, but at the
moment he was entirely to angry to formulate any viable plans. Only
an hour ago he had pulled off a beautiful jewelry heist, slipping
into the story through a damaged back door, subduing everyone inside
with the sickening radiation emanating from his body, and slipping
off with several hundred-thousand dollars worth of diamonds.
he hit the streets, quick and determined, making an easy getaway,
only pass one of the Gamesterís damned presents. The aura from the
thing grabbed his mind like a magnet. He had been instantly overcome
with the desire to hold, cherish, unwrap and savor the gift. He set
the small bag full of diamonds next to the box, running his hand over
its glittering surface. Like the presents, one instant nothing, then
appearing out of thin air, his diamonds disappeared in front of his
Anger had snapped him out of the spell of the glittering
box, which he hurled, only to have a cloud of snow coalesce into five
of those damned snowmen. He had put down the Winter Lords, but his
jewels were gone, now somewhere in the coffers of the damned Gamester.
He would get them back. Too much planning, too much value, had been
lost for a simple moments slip of the mind. He would do whatever it
took to find the Gamester.
In his anger, his grip on the glass had
tightened, a green aura surrounding it, quickly closing in on shattering
the glass, when a hand came to rest on his wrist. The bartender stared
at him silently, and shook his head. Chained Uranium got the hint,
and let go of the glass before it broke.
Drinking was of no use since
the Ďaccidentí that had deformed and warped him. Alcohol simply did
not have the punch to penetrate the toxic cloud that had penetrated
him to his core.
Working in a lab on recovered Rikti tech, a power
supply had been opened, its energy exploding out, sending him crashing
back into the chain-link fence surrounding the holding area where
he worked. Untold doses of unknown radiation saturated him. His left
eye melted away, the links in the fence bent and twisted, embedding
themselves in the thick muscles of his tattooed shoulders.
team arrived at the scene of the accident, but his mind had been addled,
overcome, and he had run before they could try to help him.
want anyoneís help, anyway. They were all weak. Even the capes in
this room, do gooders out to save the world. To Hell with the world,
let it rot. Then there were the suck-ups, hoping to gain Lord Recluseís
favor. Weak, unable to stand on their own. They could rot too. Not
that he would cross the Spider. Recluse was far too powerful to be
crossed outright, but that didnít mean he had to try to bury himself
under the Villainís web.
He couldnít take it anymore, so he got up
and walked out one of the exits, finding himself in Kings Row. The
Skulls held sway here, but something strange seemed to be in the air.
A crowd had begun to gather a block over. Three Heroes were entangled
with five Winter Lords. A towering black man with obviously enormous
strength and agility stood in the middle of the group of snowmen,
taunting them, while a small man and thin blond woman attacked the
The small man, whose face was hidden under a hood, waved
his hands, phantoms appearing around him, ghost images of himself
and his companions, turning the attention of the snowmen from the
The womanís body seemed to resonate physically. Shock
waves of sound rippled out from her lithe form, sending bits of snowmen
flying away in a cloud.
The largest of the Winter Lords raised its
hands, and a whirlwind of icy air and snow whipped up, blinding the
The small manís hands worked frantically, controlling the
wind and snow as it came towards them, redirecting it away from his
The tall man in the middle turned his whole body into a vicious
uppercut to the middle of the one of the snowmen, shattering the creature
in a blizzard.
A glittering box lay on the ground not far from the
small manís feet.
Chained Uranium stepped into the fray, throwing
out a glowing green blast that seemed to sink into the nearest Winter
Lord. The snowmanís body turned a sick green as it staggered back,
trying to keep its balance. Its movements became jerky, stiff, as
the radiation poisoning ran through it. The legs of the beast began
to slowly melt away.
The added person turned the tide, ending the
battle much quicker than would have been without him.
"Thanks of the
assist," Thundering Takai said.
Chained Uranium sneered. "I donít
want your thanks. I just want the Gamester."
"Donít we all," Brain
"Not like I do."
"Maybe we could help each other," Thunder
said. "If we put our heads together maybe we can find out where he
"I want your help less than I want your thanks," Chained Uranium
"Hey, nice attitude," the tall man said. "I think you owe
her an apology, and I think maybe you should keep your mouth shut."
Chained Uranium looked up at the man staring down at him, not giving
an inch. "Back off, Cape."
"Forget it, T.J.," Thunder said. "He doesnít
want to help, thatís fine. He can find the Gamester on his own."
before we do," Brain Fried said.
Chained Uranium considered the possibility
of working with the Heroes. They would have better resources to track
down Villains throughout the city, which he might be able to use.
If he could, he might be able to slip in and take care of the Gamester
before the Capes found him and confiscated his diamonds.
spoke too soon."
"Maybe you spoke like a jerk," Tragic Johnson said.
"Apologize and maybe weíll let you in on it when we find the Gamester."
Chained Uranium stared blankly at the Hero.
"Forget it," Thunder said.
"Canít expect everything to happen all at once. If we can cooperate
on this itíll be a baby step in the right direction for him."
ok," Johnson said. "Iíll let it go, and just dream of the day we get
to toss him in the Zig."
"The first order is to find out what is in
the boxes, or what exactly is going on with them," Brain Fried said.
"They have some sort of compelling spell on them," Chained Uranium
said. "They make you want them, like a kid at Christmas seeing the
big box under the tree. Then when you take them, it fills your head,
and can allow the Gamester to take whatever you put in, on, or near
"Got something of yours, did he?" Thunder asked.
I want it back. When we find him, nothing you can do will stop me
from taking it."
"Maybe if we can figure out how the portal thing
works with the boxes, we can trace it," Brain Fried said. "Why donít
we check with some of the other groups, see if they can help with
"Youíre the expert on teleportation," Tragic Johnson said.
"This is way more subtle than anything Iíve ever done. Letís call
Thauma Guard, see if she can coordinate with some others. Someone
in this city will be able to see through the Gamesterís spells."