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CoH Fic: Ashes and Smolders

Title: Ashes and Smolders
Word count: 2,955
Rating: PGish (violence, some swearing)
Fandom: City of Heroes/Sunday 9s
Characters: Bunches! But primarily Zoom and Ray/Heat.

Timeline: Happens after Communications and Sometimes the Truth Hurts. Mid to late January, Paragon City.

If you've read the previous fics, you know who these people are and what's going on. If you haven't, you might want to go read them first, 'cause this will make lots more sense after you read the other ones. Check the Memories section under CoH in my LJ info.

As always, feedback, comments and critique are prized beyond rubies. ;) So talk to me. ^_~


Characters in the Sunday 9s include Dr. Rayvn, The Lifeguard (aka Kaylie), Epsilon Omega, and so on. Frankly, anyone who's got a hero name in this fic is in the Sunday 9s. Since most of the above are minor roles and cameos, they're not given a lot of writeup at this point.
Micro, Oak, Lapis, Flames, etc., you should know these by now. ;)
Push: Push was born into the Freakshow gang, and they began his cybernetic implants early. He's more machine than man, and when his parents' gang was busted, he went into child care of Paragon City. Somehow he retained his youthful innocence despite his ominous beginnings and uses his energy force powers to defend his teammates from harm.


Ashes and Smolders
Zoom stood in the shower, trying to let the water wash away his embarrassment. Heat, Oak and Micro had gone, after he'd traced the strange phone call to Dark Astoria. Realizing that he'd lost control in front of the Jeffries kid had been bad enough, but the awkward moment when everyone in the room knew what was happening, with the kid steadfastly looking anywhere but at Zoom himself. After that, Zoom couldn't wait for them to leave.

So perhaps Oak did resemble Deacon in some respects; still –

The doorbell rang. Zoom ignored it. It's probably for Flames anyway. I never have anyone over...
After a few minutes, the doorbell rang again. Zoom sighed in annoyance, grabbed his towel and headed for the door, leaving the shower running. The towel was big enough on Zoom's shorter frame that it trailed on the floor.

The door had a peephole, but Zoom wasn't tall enough to reach it, so he just opened the door. "Hello?"

Heat stood outside the door, looking as though he wanted to make sure nobody saw him, or maybe he was looking for someone. He was alone.

Oh, great. "Um, I was in the shower," he said, as though holding a towel around himself and dripping water on the carpet didn't make that clear. "Everything okay, Ray?"

Heat nodded, pulled a taser from his pocket, and fired it at Zoom. The twin probes struck just below Zoom's collarbone, and tens of thousands of volts surged through the wires.

"RAY!!!" Zoom tried to speak through the seizure. "What are you doing?!"

Fire erupted from the blaster's hands, engulfing Zoom and setting fire to the apartment.

The pain was unbelievable. Zoom, screaming, was barely aware of Heat stepping into the apartment, or the thoom, thoom sounds of high-impact fireballs. Then somehow he knew Heat was gone, and the shrill sound of fire alarms pierced the air, and suddenly he could move again. Maybe it was a result of the experimentation he'd performed on himself in earlier times, but the taser-induced seizure had stopped. He got to his feet, glad the experiments had granted him some measure of superspeed, and ran into the condo, ignoring the burning of his own flesh.

The flames engulfed the condo – the sprinklers had kicked in, but Heat had thoroughly firebombed the place. Zoom reached the bedroom, grabbed his wedding picture and rings – still undamaged – and his uniform and comm, then ran for the exit. He wasn't alone on the emergency stairs, though he was the fastest.

Outside, Zoom could hear the sirens of emergency vehicles, and crowds of people had gathered to watch the flames visible from that floor of the building. He sat down heavily on the ground and clenched his fist around the two rings. Then he activated the comm: "HELP!!!"

Oak was the first to respond. "Zoom? What happened?"

"Heat... Heat just attacked me. Tased me and burned me and my place down. Hurt so bad...."

"Heat? Are you - " Oak said, as Micro swore and said "On our way. Just hold on."

"Find Heat. Stop him. Ambulances coming."

Other members of the 9s chimed in on the comm, those who were available and within Atlas Park. Heroes began to show up, too. Zoom could see a female lifeguard – wasn't that one of the 9s? Kaylie something or other? – casting healing glows on those who staggered out of the building.

Epsilon Omega, Micro and Oak arrived just before the ambulances did. The little humanoid robot healed Zoom up first, while Oak and Ep and other heroes made their way into the building to look for stragglers and injured.

"He said he had to go pick something up," Micro said quietly. "That he wanted to go alone."

Zoom pulled on his uniform once the burns were gone. Looking up, he could see the flames receding from the collective efforts of the fire department and ice-based heroes, but it looked like his entire floor was well and truly torched. "I don't understand this. Why would he do this?"

News team vans pulled up at the scene.

"Still searching for Heat," Vixen called in on the comm. "Is everyone okay? And what's wrong with Heat?"

"We're fine here," Micro responded. "Unless Heat's gone rogue like Bone did."

"It can't be for what we know," Oak said, dropping down to the earth beside his teammates. "We were there too."

"But why?" Zoom shut off his comm. "Bone I can understand, he was new and a Skull. But Heat? He helped found the damn team!"

"He's got to be around somewhere, he can't have gone far. Did he say anything?" Ep asked. The other 9s on the scene joined the group as the news teams tried to get information and/or human interest stories from the milling crowd.

"No, he just kept ringing the doorbell and attacked me when I answered the door."

"Well, let's hunt for him, then. Vixen, we know you're looking. Who else is in Atlas right now?"

"What's going on?" Lapis' voice crackled over the comms.

~ ~ ~

"We're trying to find Heat, it's an emergency. Last seen in Atlas near Zoom's place," Kaylie explained. Zoom remembered her now, she normally did the dumb-blonde-lifeguard routine for the public. Looked like she'd dropped it for the emergency.

"Shit!" Emerald Flames leapt from the tram station. He and Lapis had hoped to meet up with the others and find out if anyone else had any better information on what became of Boneshatter. "Bone must've gotten him again!"

"Micro, what's going on? He's not supposed to be alone!" Lapis yelled into the communicator.

"We went to see Zoom, Heat got some weird phone calls, and afterwards he said he needed to pick something up. Insisted on going alone, said he'd be okay. Oak and I go to help some newbies cross the street without stubbing their toes and suddenly Zoom's screaming that Heat attacked him."

Zoom's voice cut in: "He tried to kill me, Lapis. I answered the door and he fried and baked me alive!"

"Oh, shit," Lapis growled.

"You okay, roomie?" Flames asked. They were already on the way to the condo.

"I've been better, but the place is destroyed."

"SHIT!!!" Flames howled. "My CD's!!! All of them!!!"

"Yes, along with all the memories of my life and my love and all my equipment," Zoom said quietly.

After a pause, Flames said, equally quietly: "Dude, you win."

~ ~ ~

Zoom muttered under his breath and picked up the framed photograph. Now covered in soot, but otherwise intact, it was all he had left; that and the rings and his costume. Oak put a hand on his shoulder, and Zoom flinched. "Um, we better... we better find him..."

"Checking in Argosy," Dr. Rayvn called in. Argosy Industrial Park had plenty of warehouses and places to hide, plus the 9s' warehouse headquarters was near the edge of the district. "Haven't seen him yet."

"Not back at the warehouse either," Wildkard reported.

Zoom carefully tucked the photograph and rings into his costume, then siphoned some of the kinetic energy from a Hellion who'd come to investigate the commotion. The Hellion now moved as though mired in syrup, whereas Zoom was that much faster. The collected 9s broke up to search, and perhaps not coincidentally to avoid the converging news teams.

~ ~ ~

"I see him," Vixen said. "He's exiting the Costco up near Promenade."

She hung back. Heat might have a reputation for a glass jaw, but if he was in a killing mood, fire was still fire. And with the large number of civilians around, she didn't want to start a fight that could involve innocent bystanders.

"On it!" Zoom and Flames said nearly simultaneously, and the rest of the 9s chimed in.

~ ~ ~

Ray stopped to adjust his load. He couldn't remember the last time he'd needed to fly while holding a garment bag, and the box of Powerbars wasn't so much heavy as bulky. Now he wished he'd brought a backpack or something. Well, he could probably walk home, if it came to that...

Suddenly Ray felt himself lifted sharply off the ground, and at the same time his limbs felt leaden to the point of immobility. "Hold it right there."

Is that Zoom's voice? "The hell?" Ray said automatically. He tried to turn his head and failed.

Flames came around to face him. "Why'd you burn all my stuff, man?"

"Why did you attack me, Heat?" Zoom said in a dangerously even voice.

"What? What are you talking about?" Oh, this doesn't look good... "Set me down!" He tried to power up. He could feel the fire, ready to go, but with his hands in their current placement he'd probably set first his purchases and then himself on fire if he tried anything.

"Flames, keep giving me stamina until Lapis and the others get here," Zoom ordered. He re-cast the gravity hold on Ray, just to be safe.

"Sure thing." Flames' hands glowed green. Vixen called on the comm: "We've got him, but he's struggling. We might need backup."

Within the space of two minutes, a good contingent of Sunday 9s had shown up: Lapis, Oak, Micro, Epsilon, Kaylie the Lifeguard, Doc Rayvn, and even a couple more who hadn't been involved in the earlier search. They made quite a crowd on the sidewalk; civilians had to edge around them to avoid walking in the road.

"This is about me going off by myself, isn't it?" Ray asked. Because of the gravity hold, he sounded like he was speaking with a mouthful of novocaine.

"So, Heat," Zoom said conversationally, "why don't you tell us why you left the warehouse alone and tried to kill me."

"I didn't leave the warehouse alone. I took Micro and Oak with me. You know that. And I didn't try to kill you!"

"Listen, boy, don't make this worse."

"Listen, boy?" Actually, it just got worse, Ray thought, narrowing his eyes. When this gets straightened out...

"The building wasn't completely destroyed," Zoom continued, "so your picture will be on the security camera zapping me and then burning the place down around me. Just tell us the truth it will go easier."

This was news to some of the Sunday 9s, especially those who had just shown up, and Ray could hear the murmurings. Talk about a PR nightmare. Gotta squelch this fast – "I'm telling you the truth! We came to your place, then afterward I wanted to - pick something up. Micro and Oak, um, I wanted to handle it myself, it just seemed like things were OK at the moment, so I badgered 'em into leaving me alone for a while. I swear it's the truth!"

"Then either one of us is lying or insane," Zoom said.

"Or.... or someone else is playing us against the other." The crowd of 9s all turned to look at Flames, who for once appeared to be something other than the party-hearty guy they all knew him as.

"I'm not crazy," Ray told Zoom. "Look? See? I've been doing stuff this whole time." He tried, and failed, to gesture at his packages.

Zoom considered Flames' words. "That is possible... Let's go see what Hero Corp found on the security tapes." He pulled kinetic energy from Ray, who now felt both wearily slow and heavy. "Someone carry him along with us? I'm going to keep him slowed so he can't run away again."

"I didn't run away," Ray mumbled as Lapis picked him up. "There's nothing to run away from."

"So, killa, what'd you buy?" Flames asked him, easily keeping up.

"Powerbars. I'm out of them." Ray was getting queasy. Lapis' preferred means of transportation involved making very long, very high jumps across town. It was like being on a bone-jarring wooden roller coaster.

"What?" Flames looked incredulous. "Any of us could've gotten those for you!"

"Those were a side thing. I had to go up to Steel Canyon for – some new clothes." Ray clutched a little tighter at the garment bag. And what a bad idea this all turned out to be.

"Icon, huh?" Flames leaped alongside. "Got a new costume? A cape, finally?"

"Yeah. It was going to be, y'know, a surprise." Ray had always emphatically said he wasn't the kind of hero who wore capes, which made the situation that much more embarrassing.

~ ~ ~

Back at the condo, the police investigation was under way. Since they'd pinpointed the starting location of the fire – Zoom's condo – they wanted to talk to him anyway, so the group moved inside. Human nature being what it was, most of the 9s wanted to be part of whatever was going on, even if they'd come in late to the proceedings.

Zoom talked to the police and the Hero Corps rep and got permission to view the security video. At least they quieted down for that, Ray thought, looking over his teammates. They couldn't really think he'd done this, could they? He was a J-Star, for – well, he hadn't told them that yet, but –

Several videos were required, because of various cameras throughout the building. Putting the sequences in order, they showed Micro, Oak and Ray leaving the building after talking to Zoom, then a short time later Ray, jacket zippered up tight (like it was right now) re-entering the building, this time alone. He wasn't challenged by the desk staff, probably because they'd just seen him and allowed him in previously.

"So, you didn't come back, huh?" Zoom crossed his arms over his chest.

"That's... it's not me," Ray argued. Okay, if it wasn't on tape, I'd say it was a mentalist doing illusions or something, but cameras don't lie, right? So that means –

The next segment was from a camera covering Zoom's hallway. On the tape, Ray rang the doorbell, waited, rocked on his heels a bit, rang the bell again, looked around, and then the door opened. He nodded at Zoom, pulled the taser out of his pocket, and then the fiery destruction began.

Oh, crapcrapcrap! Ray could feel the blood drain from his face. "That didn't happen," he said weakly. "I'm – "

"Caught red handed on video?"

"Wait. Mr. Zoom, sir?"

Everyone turned to look. The speaker, Push, was normally quiet and in the background. "Mr. Heat has electric powers. He doesn't need a taser weapon."

"Thank you," Ray said. Should've thought of that myself, though.

Zoom pondered. "That's.... I should have remembered that... Can we get a clear close-up on that video?"

"Just 'cause we never see him use 'em..." Dr. Rayvn muttered.

"I've been working with him a lot lately and he uses them now," Push said. "It keeps bad guys away from me when I'm healing him with my medical tricorder."

"My electricals weren't stable for a long time," Ray explained, after waiting for Push to finish. "I used to wear the bands on my arms, remember? It was to keep from zapping anything nearby. They're under more control now. I'm just not used to using them. That's all."

~ ~ ~

Zoom ignored everyone and concentrated on the video. Zooming in for more detail increased the graininess, but it didn't change the fact that it sure looked like Heat Lightning. The hair was hard to ignore, of course.

"It's not me," Heat insisted again. "It's got to be an imposter."

Zoom looked at the clothing. The video was standard security black and white, so a black zippered-up jacket and khakis didn't stand out especially. Maybe if he'd worn his uniform it would've been different. The shoes might have been different, but in the earlier tapes, Heat was walking with Oak and Micro and there wasn't a good shot to use as a comparison.

Checking the time stamp on the tape, Zoom turned to the investigator from the Paragon City P.D. "Can we get a copy of the Icon surveillance videos for this time as well as the trace history on the transponder? Something doesn't look right here, and we need to be certain before we have Heat formally arrested..."

"I've got a receipt," Heat volunteered.

Emerald Flames took the garment bag and rummaged through it. "Dude... black? Really?" He found the receipt pinned to the fabric, removed it, and handed it to Zoom. The receipt's timestamp was half an hour previously, which – unfortunately for Heat – was still within the right time, if the mutant had been quick about it.

"Get the other receipt," Zoom ordered.

Lapis found that one in the Costco bag. Heat had bought the Powerbars just before Zoom and EF found him.

Zoom shook his head. "No good. We'll need better proof to clear him at this point. Can we get access to that info, officer?"

"Working on it," came the reply.

"Zoom," Heat said, "What possible motive would I have for doing something like this? There isn't any!"

"I don't know, boy. I don't know..."

Heat gritted his teeth and snarled, "II was just here asking for your help. We've known each other from way back. There's no reason for me to attack you like that!"

Zoom shrugged. "Either way, Heat, we need proof to clear your name. The video implicates you pretty clearly."

"Got it," the officer said, speaking up so the rest could hear him. "At the timestamp on the tape, Heat Lightning's transponder was in the Steel Canyon Yellow Line station."

"That's good enough for me," Zoom said. "So now we just have to figure out what's actually happening. Let's all reconvene at the warehouse."

"All of us," Lapis said. "That way we can all compare notes. We found out some things, and it looks like some of you did, too."

~ ~ ~

Notes to readers:

1. It's presumed that, yes, everyone gets back to the warehouse and all the information shared in the various 9s fics (but, obviously, not the Bone fics) is shared out, so we don't have to RP all that.

2. If your characters have any questions, comments or statements, please make them here. While I'd love to do a big in-game chat thing, they can be hard to arrange a convenient time for everyone – as I'm sure we all know from recent task forces! And with the sheer number of alts and characters involved here, trying to get everyone in and saying dialog might be challenging in an RP Chat. So if your character has something to say, say it here, whether it's in-character ("Well, someone's hurt over there, we should investigate it whether it's Bone or not") or out of character ("Bazooka Girl wants to load up with ammo and head out right away").
If anything is specifically addressed to me and/or Ray, I'll answer those, too.

3. The day/night thing got pretty screwed up during the fics, but at this point, some of the 9s may need a rest (or a meal). If they want to soldier on, that's cool. Just thought I'd point that out. (It's possible they've been doing this for most of a day and/or part of a night. I apologize for the bad timing.)

4. Courses of action will be decided based on everyone's responses. I'll allow a day or two for people to comment, but certainly by Sunday night/Monday I'll be moving on to the next stage in the fics.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
redwolf
Mar. 13th, 2005 05:09 am (UTC)
I figured the taser pointed to imposter, but didn't realise Heat had actaully been using one. Which makes this look more like the imposter is working from outdated info, but has been playing the game all along.

Curious as to why he wants Bone and Heat on the outer.
laridian
Mar. 13th, 2005 12:41 pm (UTC)
I wish I could comment on this without giving something away. ^_~ Heat never actually used a taser before, but his public electrical displays are generally so rare that it would be an honest mistake to make. (He's all about the fire, even when I play him. ;) I honestly forget to use his lightning powers, so about 6 months ago I just made it an RP thing that they were hard for him to control and that's why he never used them.)
anthoras
Mar. 13th, 2005 05:44 am (UTC)
(Yay cameo! I even got a line, thanks! :) Good fic :)

Ep would basically listen to what had been going on, piece together what he'd heard (rumours and the like)....

He'd basically offer to help any way he can. Assuming that there was some other fire-based blaster impostor out there, would offer to keep him at bay with his cold-based powers. Other than that, he'd go with the flow and do what he can...
laridian
Mar. 13th, 2005 12:42 pm (UTC)
Yes, you got a line :) I did say there were several little cameos and one-line appearances in this one... quite a crowded fic, really.

Now we just have to wait for the others to pitch in. :)
stellarstorm
Mar. 13th, 2005 05:26 pm (UTC)
*tosses her hair and bounces a little for emphasis*

HEHE! I LOVE Lifeguard. She is SO much fun to play with. Its cool you used her :) Also, since shes currently still stuck at level 7, probably the only 9 who was actually "working" in Atlas at the time of the fire. Since shes relatively new and hasnt had much interaction with the rest of the group, she doesnt have much to say about the situation, but puts her trust in the members who have known Heat longer than she has.

laridian
Mar. 14th, 2005 11:58 am (UTC)
Heh! I just thought she'd be appropriate to an emergency situation (healing and all). :) Glad you liked her cameo!
the_gaunt_man
Mar. 13th, 2005 05:45 pm (UTC)
Didn't Bone use a tazer in the first fic?

At anyrate, Lapis would make the comment that it's looking like maybe Bone wasn't himself either....or he's hooked up with some powerful people.
Once he heard about the phone calls from DA we whould gather a group of the "heavy hitters" to go to DA and find out what's going on...right then and now...no time to waste! He'd make sure the Heat was with them as he can't be let out of his sight obveously because he gets in trouble when he does. :)

Interesting events happening.

I have to say that I'm not a big fan of the way the stories are presented....litttle piece here and a little piece there...I rather have one full story all together, but I'm getting used to it.
laridian
Mar. 14th, 2005 12:05 pm (UTC)
Didn't Bone use a tazer in the first fic?
Which "first fic"?

I have to say that I'm not a big fan of the way the stories are presented....litttle piece here and a little piece there...I rather have one full story all together, but I'm getting used to it.

I'm not sure I understand exactly what you mean here. Do you mean that the stories are in rather short fics (a few thousand words apiece)? Or that the information was doled out in separate fics? For me, I would rather get the fics out so people would have something to read, even if it means 2-3 fics over the course of a week, rather than one very long fic every week to ten days.

Plus, the way the information was distributed among the 9s, it just seemed more appropriate to give each person/pair their own short fic to handle it.

Having said that, well, that's probably how the fics are going to continue in future, I'm afraid. ^_^;

Meanwhile, of course I figured Lapis is going to be gung-ho on heading to DA! :) And love the comment on Heat getting into trouble. :D
ladyday
Mar. 13th, 2005 06:12 pm (UTC)
Nice work. Whirly would want to know EVERYTHING. She'd attend any and all meetings and she'd personally bug Heat, drew, Lapis, Micro, Oak, Epsilon and Push (people she's interacted with enough to consider good friends) to be allowed to do more, to know what they found out, and to help in any way. She wants to believe that Bone is not all evil, and she'd for sure want to go along for any trips to DA. She might also finally make that phone call to mom, if someone else hadn't already. If she has heard from Eric, she might be helpful, and if she hasn't and is used to hearing from him, she might be very worried and need some support from his friends/teammates. Whirly's that kind of person. She'd take food or something with her, too. Cookies, probably.

I didn't ask to be in this fic when you asked for volunteers because I feel like if you need me in there, you'll put me in. :-) I feel silly jumping up and down and saying "Me! Me!" But don't confuse that w/ a disinterest in your writing. :-)
ladyday
Mar. 13th, 2005 06:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, and Emerald Flames.
Another person she'd bug for info. I miss him!
laridian
Mar. 14th, 2005 12:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh, and Emerald Flames.
I miss him too! Drew says he's held EF back because of the fics, waiting to see how they turn out. So maybe we'll see him again soon. ;)
ladyday
Mar. 14th, 2005 03:31 pm (UTC)
Push is a sweet boy, but I miss EF's attitude. :-)

laridian
Mar. 14th, 2005 12:18 pm (UTC)
I love Whirly's upbeat personality. :) I'll try to put something together for "Whirly calls Eric's mom", okay? ^_^

No problem at all on the volunteer thing. :) I just thought it would be a nice way to get more people included, seeing as how this had a cast of, well, maybe teens. ;)

She'd take food or something with her, too. Cookies, probably.
I find this hilarious and a great thing to read first thing in the morning. XD
smtfhw
Mar. 22nd, 2005 08:16 am (UTC)
The plot's still developing very nicely on this.

There are a few minor glitches, at least for me:

Here, this doesn't make sense. If he was fastest, surely he'd be there first, which would mean he would be alone:
He wasn't alone on the emergency stairs, though he was the fastest.

I don't think the last bit is necessary:
Outside, Zoom could hear the sirens of emergency vehicles, and crowds of people had gathered to watch the flames visible from that floor of the building.

You could use a couple more commas in here:
The collected 9s broke up to search, and, perhaps not coincidentally, to avoid the converging news teams.

This needs some punctuation:
Just tell us the truth it will go easier."

I'd move either in this sentence:
"Then either one of us is either lying or insane," Zoom said.

This doesn't make a huge amount of sense in terms of what is said before:
"I've been working with him a lot lately and he uses them now," Push said. "It keeps bad guys away from me when I'm healing him with my medical tricorder."

There are too many Is in here:
"II was just here asking for your help.
porkwithbones
Jul. 11th, 2012 11:22 am (UTC)
Commenting to mark my place. (I'm now on my third page of urls + titles + one-line descriptions, and that's just for the CoH fic I can see!)
laridian
Jul. 13th, 2012 01:56 am (UTC)
Yeah, there's a lot of fics! :) At the time I had a lot more time to write and also to play games. I do miss writing.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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