BY INVITATION ONLY The Guardians of Floor Fifteen

Elle Joyner

Moop.
Original poster
FOLKLORE MEMBER
Posting Speed
  1. Multiple posts per day
Online Availability
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Writing Levels
  1. Prestige
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Primarily Prefer Female
Genres
Political intrigue, fantasy, futuristic, sci fi lite, superheroes, historical fiction, alternate universes. Smittings of romance, but only as side plot.


Guardians of Floor Fifteen
a superhero storyline
 
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“I'm really sorry, Mr. Davis. Unless you call the number we gave you, there's really nothing we can do about your card. We just don't have the capacity to print cards here in the bank…”

Nancy Fallen, only fifteen minutes into her eight hour shift, sat sheltered behind two pictures on her desk: one, a young, blonde girl in a dance uniform, the other a handsome man with dark, moony eyes and salt streaked hair. As she stared at the latter, she fiddled idly with the metal band on her finger.

“I don't understand…” The exasperating man before her whined, his lips curling into a convincingly toddler-like pout, even as he popped another one of her ‘complementary' butterscotch candies into his mouth, “It's a bank card. How can the bank not have them?”

“This bank branch doesn't have the machines… Only corporate does, and even if we did, as I explained already, you have to report your card missing before you can be issued another.”

“Pal… You really don't listen, do you?”

Looking up, Nancy smiled wearily at the stranger's interjection.

“The lady clearly explained things to you. Some of us have real business to attend to… So why don't you pick up your phone, like she said, and call corporate, so we can move this line along. Yeah?”

Blotchy red pooled into the cheeks of the man seated before her, like massive freckles, and he turned to address the man behind him. His mouth, however, snapped shut and swiftly, he rose from the seat, nearly skittering past the man and the long line stretched behind him.

Looking up, Nancy opened her mouth to thank the man and found herself staring down the barrel of a handgun.

“Sorry about this, sweetheart. Truly. You seem like a lovely lady…” With his free hand, he turned the first photo frame, smiling as though he were sitting across from her at Starbucks, sharing lattes and scones, “And a mother, too? Well, goodness. This should be quite easy for you, then. I need you to open the vault downstairs for my friends and me, then… and here's the easy bit, I need you to walk away. If you can manage that, well… you get to live. And so does everyone else in the charming little bank.”

Fixing her with a cool stare, he leveled the gun, “Do we have a deal?”

Meeting his gaze, Nancy shifted, gingerly, “You don't have to hurt anyone…” She whispered, her fingertip glancing over the small silver button on the side of the desk. Breath held, she pressed it down.

“Oh, Nancy. My dear. I was really hoping you wouldn't do that.”

With a clicking of his tongue, the gunman fired.

***​

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Valentina rolled from the blankets with a sudden start, the buzzing of her phone a blaring claxxon, frightening away the ghost of dreams like the trumpet horns of Gideon's troops. Silently, she cursed whatever monster had set her alarm for such a God forsaken hour, before remembering she was the perpetrator. Juniper was a painfully early riser, and somewhere in the near-drunken haze of too little sleep and far too many essay questions, Val had found herself agreeing to run with Juniper in prep for a marathon later that month.

With a groan, she canceled the alarm and let her feet hit the floor with a disgruntled stomp. One of these days she'd learn to say no to someone…

Dragging her fingers through a wild jungle of tangled brown curls, she racked her brain for an excuse not to go, but could only draw up flashes of Junipers's heart-gutting pout and with a sigh, forced herself to her feet, instead. What was a six mile run between friends?

Thanking God she'd decided to sleep in her jogging pants and tank, she slid into sneakers and raked a toothbrush around her mouth, then sourced out a fresh mug for coffee. Somewhere between putting the k-cup into the Keurig and sugar into the mug, her phone began to chirp.

“Yeah, yeah. I'm almost ready…” She answered, fully anticipating Juniper's child-like gleeful reminder. Instead, her father's voice filled the line, dire and stoic as the man himself.

“Good, though I expect we're working on two different wavelengths. Get your gear… There's been an incident at Hanover Bank on Walnut Street. We've been asked to see what we can do to de-escalate the situation. I'll send the details to the jeep. Bay six. You'll meet your team in the lobby. I expect I don't need to remind you this is your opportunity to prove you can lead, Valentina. Make me proud.”

The line clicked off and Valentina swore softly, abandoning the mug and making instead for the small jewelry box on her nightstand. With a click of the lock, she pushed it open and slid back the divider, locating the pair of pearl earrings within. Slipping an earring into each ear, she stepped back, breath held.

The lights shimmered briefly, a flickering, supernatural shift she'd yet to grow accustomed to. The warmth came next, from head to heel, as her form took on a swift, strange nuance. A charcoal-grey jumpsuit took the place of her sweats and tank top, riddled here and there with straps and patches of leather or canvas with a certain militaristic flair. Boots replaced her sneakers, and gloves ran the half length of her fingers, cut off at the tips. Braced across the bridge of her nose, a leather mask covered the top half of her face, a hood pulled over her hair. Beneath her bed, she produced a locked metal case, and inside, a curved bow and quiver filled with arrows with varying feathered ends.

Fully outfitted, she slipped out of the apartment and crossed the hall to the elevators. With a press of a center button between the two arrows, the doors slid open and Val stepped inside.

Welcome to GFI Transport Hub. Please state your designation and destination.” The tinny voice filled the metal box, as the doors slid shut.

“Fortress. Ground floor.”

The elevator gave a lurch and began its downward climb. Color and light whizzed past, as the many floors of the apartment complex disappeared beyond her vision, the lift eventually coming to a stop. The doors opened and Val stepped out into the dome shaped lobby of Guardian Force Initiative’s hidden headquarters, turning to wait for the rest of her team.
 
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Sobriety sucked ass when his job required action at a moment's notice. Darren DeLuca sat out on the balcony of his shared apartment, leg bouncing as he sucked through his third cigarette. GFI was unpredictable and he risked losing his bed if he fucked up. The little baggie in his front jacket pocket was begging for him to unwind. After all, it'd been days since his last call to action.

He blew a stream of smoke as he looked over to the sliding doors leading into the apartment, fingers pushing back his long, dark hair. His roommate wasn't much of a talker and possibly more of a loner than him. Not like they tried to get to know each other beyond what was necessary to function as roommates.

Darren put out his cigarette and slipped his fingers into his pocket just as his phone vibrated next to the ash tray. He groaned as he read the message and felt the weight of anticipation pulling his head downward. Around his neck was a chain whose soul purpose was to hold a copper ring for safe keeping. It rested against his chest and mocked his change in plans.

He convinced himself he could have his fun after they handled the incident. Situations that called for the likes of them were never a back-to-back affair. There was a bottle of tequila next to the refrigerator calling his name. A little buzz wouldn't harm the operation. It'd likely clear out of his system by the time they made it to wherever they were headed, anyway. It'd also help with the initial punch of his powers.

The interior of the apartment was tidy and a bit minimalist. Darren didn't collect much to contribute to the ambiance apart from the booze and the smell of cigarettes. He closed the distance towards the tequila and took a generous sip. Regardless of how smooth these drinks were, straight tequila was awful, and he couldn't help but grimace and await the buzz. Was it even enough?

Unclasping the chain, he removed the ring and hovered it out before his middle finger. The copper band was simple, the metal containing hammered dents that bent its form. This is a choice, he reminded himself as he looked beyond the granite tops of his kitchen bar and back out towards the balcony. Is this worth it?

The ring slipped onto his finger, and in an instant he was flooded with hundreds of individual thoughts colliding and echoing inside his mind. His two day old attire was replaced with a comfortably fitted with a grey jumpsuit padded with black kevlar and soft soled boots for quiet excursions. His cowl fully covered his head complete with an angular visor to hide his eyes.

Within the cacophony of thoughts he could hear a few songs on repeat. As he entered his bedroom and kicked away his dirty laundry he overheard someone studying a level of math he did not understand. He retrieved his knife and pistol and secured them in their holsters as he heard thoughts of loneliness, anger, sexual desires, the answer to a Wheel of Fortune phrase. There was the faintest tingle rising in his brain as the tequila flowed through his veins, but everyone was still so damn loud.

Darren flexed his fingers within his gloves and tested his range of movement as he headed for the hallway. Testing, testing, Darren thought with purpose, intending to reach his team to test his link. If you can hear this, confirm with your favorite food.
If all works as it should, their thoughts directed towards him would be stronger than the rest of the mess around him. He stepped into the elevator and it sounded like he was in a convention hall with everyone talking at once. He couldn't hear the voice in the elevator through it all, but he knew what to say.

"Marauder. Ground floor."

The elevator dropped smoothly downward. A shot of tequila was not enough, and he sighed at his own hesitancy. Headquarters was a nice break from the noise, at least. The doors opened and his mind was a bit quieter. He nodded over to his cohort and stepped to her side to wait for the others.

"Wish I had an open face like that," he admitted, and pointed to his mask that completely covered his face. It was as if his powers knew he'd be a mess if allowed to imbibe.
 
“Alright!” Magni said excitedly as he closed the door to his room. A soft click announced that it was now locked. There’d be no surprises. No distractions. Though his roommates were usually respectful of his space, he just couldn’t risk it. Not today. Privacy was of the utmost importance!

Quickly, he made his way to the nightstand next to his desk and tore open the drawer. Inside was a small squirt bottle that he snatched up and grabbed the tissue box that rested on the dresser on his way to his computer desk. He practically slid into his computer chair before booting up the computer. A smile crept across his lips as he typed in the password and quickly navigated the web browser where he then typed in the web address and hit enter. While the page loaded, Magni opened the drawer to the desk.

“I’ve been waiting all day for this. I couldn’t think about anything else!” he said to himself.

The page loaded just as Magni pulled the limited edition Captain Conundrum action figure from the drawer. He quickly placed it on the desk and grabbed a couple tissues before spritzing some of the cleaning solution onto them. With care, he began to clean the action figure making sure to get into the nooks and crannies to clean out all the dust he could.

Mhm,” he hummed in satisfaction as he placed the action figure on the desk, “Lookin’ good!” he complimented the hero.

Next, he turned his attention to the screen where the limited edition Miss Fortune showed accompanied by a timer counting down from nine minutes. Below the timer was the grayed out button to bid.

“Nine minutes,” he said as he absentmindedly spun the iron ring on his desk then looked at Captain Conundrum, “Don’t you worry, sir. Pretty soon you’ll be reunited with Miss Fortune once again!”

Six minutes went by when suddenly his phone rang, “No, no, no, no, no,” he panicked as he looked down and recognized the number immediately, “Really? Now?” He let it ring two more times while watching the timer click closer to the two minute and thirty second mark. With a disgruntled sigh, he picked up the phone, “Magni,” he simply stated, a hint of annoyance in his voice.

He nodded in resignation as he listened and then growled as he moved the mouse cursor over the red “x” and clicked out of the window.
“Sorry, Captain Conundrum. Maybe next time,” he said as he quickly returned the action figure to its home before snatching up the ring and sliding it on his finger.

As much as he wanted that Miss Fortune, he had an even greater responsibility to tend to. Magni made his way to his closet and separated his hanging clothes. In the back of the closet hung a special black and green suit. He slipped into it before securing it tightly. His green half-mask set across his eyes before he pulled the hood up and over his head. The last pieces of his suit waited patiently for him to pick them up: a pair of gloves with quarter inch padding. After slipping them on, he quickly exited the apartment and found his way to the elevator.

“Entropy. Ground floor,” he said.

When the elevator opened once again, he was on the ground floor.

He addressed the two already waiting with a nod, “Waiting for one more?” he asked.
 
Thaniel rose well before the sun. Routine. That would be the source of comfort, well before the warm drip of coffee met his lips, well before his calloused fingers skimmed the creases of an old, well loved book that he couldn’t seem to move past from. Settle in by ten o’clock. Wake before a ribbon of sunlight could slide past the blinders. Make the bed, trudge to the bathroom, shave the five o’clock shadow that had magically accumulated overnight. Trudge into the kitchen, start a pot (well enough for all three men in the apartment, if they so wished.) Grab the carton of water and leave it beside Darren’s door, just in case the hangover haunted him. Thaniel knew it would. He couldn’t command bad habits to be put to an end. He could not call ceasefire. But he could offer little trinkets, little tools if someone wished to pick it up and take the hint.

Next he’d eat, sip his coffee slow, savor every drop that made his chest ignite with warmth. How was it possible that something so simple could be compared to love? As if he were being embraced by a divine force he could not see, could not even begin to comprehend, and yet he felt their presence billow from his chest, all the way down to his fingers. The caffeine soothed him, oddly enough, he had seen the spark it was supposed to cause in other’s eyes. But for him, it grounded him. Reminded him of the time. Reminded him he had another full day ahead of him, and that he couldn’t wait for the same warmth the following day.

Fussing around and doing chores was next, usually the dishes if there was a pile up in the sink. He never minded. The scolding water on his hands was a sensory heaven to him. The endorphin kicks he’d get from seeing the sink gradually becoming empty was pleasant, too. Then, he’d have the option to read, or craft and fidget with spare parts in the room, springs, wire, old pieces of card board that missed the recycling bin he had placed gingerly in the corner of the kitchen (along with the recycling bag for the beer bottles), whatever he could get his hands on.

Whatever came after that truly depended. It had been six or so months since he took the mantel, and he was still adjusting to the weight of his uniform once it sit snug around his body. Missions weren’t routine. They came as needed. They came with little rhyme or reason. Not enough to break, the comfort, necessarily, but it did make him wince.

She should be here. Not me.

Thaniel would make it through only a small portion of his routine. With toast stuffed half way into his mouth, and eyes glued to the newspaper sprawled out in front of him, he found himself in what appeared to be an unbreakable bliss.

Bzz…

Bzz…

With a muffled sigh, Thaniel swallowed the buttered toast and took one last swig of the coffee.

Lucky me. At least I had a chance to make a pot, or they’d have gone off without me. Although, I’m not sure whatever it is they want can wait. Hopefully it can. Hopefully no one’s hurt- Then again, not like they’d call us to get a cat out of a tree. Waste of someone’s taxpayer money I’m sure of it-

Thaniel patiently slipped his phone into his back pocket and made his way to his room. Unlike the rest of the apartment space that he had spent so much time meticulously attempting to keep cheery and clean, it was…a mess. Organized mess, perhaps. He knew where everything was, even if there was a pile of laundry neglected to be folded. Or the pile of books he’d claim to try, had his childhood favorite not grabbed his attention so harshly. But he could still see what he came for, a little pan flute on top of the cabinet. Gingerly he took it into his hands, the leather chord soon to find its purchase around his neck. Running his teeth along his bottom lip, he let out a breath, and began to play a tune.

~

“Piper, ground floor.” He hummed as he stepped into the elevator. His voice seemed strange to him, still. As if someone else was puppeting him, as if he merely opened his mouth and acted as a conduit for another being desperate to claw its way into the world.

The distinguished power of poetry will not keep you from getting your ass kicked, Nathaniel.

And yet, somehow, playing a lute will?

Only if you play it will, I suppose.

Stepping into the lobby, he was greeted with familiar masked faces. He raised his hand lazily, giving the others a wordless greeting.
 
One by one, they filtered out of the elevator, a pinnacle reminder of her father's methodical nature. No doubt, the man had a clock beside him, ticking down seconds before he sent each team member an alert. It was a large part of why GFI was so successful… and why nothing else in his life ever was.

The first was Marauder… a bit of a wild card, usually as well behaved on missions as one could hope, but there had been a time or two when she was pretty sure the man was sauced, or at the very least, wanted to be. Sober or otherwise, she’d learned all too early on to be extremely careful what intrusive thoughts she focused on while he was around. The fact that he was privy to how far she’d gotten in the 50 Shades of Gray movie, or how long it had been since she’d actually been on a date, or that she still found it impossible to talk to her dad about anything but work made it awfully tricky to look him in the eye when the masks weren’t on.

With a sidelong glance, she shrugged at his commentary on their wardrobes, “Maybe your first host had an acne problem?” Mine was probably a stripper–Damn it!

The door to the elevator opened again and cheeks turning pink, she turned to watch Entropy walk through, “Three more, actually. Six-count, today. The Shrink wants four in the field and two on backup, in case we have another Casanova incident.” It hadn’t been anyone’s fault in particular, that mission, but when three out of the four Guardians sent on that mission got whammied by a man in skyblue spandex, it was easy to feel a little outgunned. Still, she was fairly sure bank heists weren’t Casanova’s MO… The man had a thing for wealthy widows, particularly the leggy blonde kind.

Another ding chimed and she watched a familiar tangle of blonde curls nearly tumble out, dressed in what looked like a candy-striper uniform, if that candy-striper were also being cast in a remake of Sucker Punch. The pink striped ensemble, complete with frilly skirt and knee-high tights might’ve seemed incongruous with the job, were it not for the magenta bo staff strapped to her back. A black mask covered Juniper’s… or Punch Bug’s eyes, pink fingerless gloved hands reaching up to straighten it as she grinned, “Oh, this is gonna be so fun, y’all… Innit?”

Following behind her, with a look one could only wear after spending an elevator ride with the Glitter Fairy herself, Phaser pinched the bridge of his nose with a long, deep exhale. In all white, hood pulled up, there was something almost spectral about the man, though at the moment he looked less like a ghost and more like he’d seen one, “She really never stops, does she?”

“Not for a minute.” With a smirk, Val shook her head, “Just one more then…”

Not a moment later, the elevator returned and the last of their team stepped into view.

“Oh! Hi Piper!” Juniper wiggled her fingers at the late comer, with a smile reserved for orphans and widows, and Val fought the urge to roll her eyes, Subtle as always, June…

“Right. That’s it then. We’re in Bay six. Mission briefing’ll have to be on the way.” Crossing to the western most exit, Val keyed in a code and the door swung inward, revealing a massive hanger behind it. Within, several vehicles waited, varying in make and model, but each one labeled with the logo of the Guardian Force Initiative. Grabbing keys from a peg board beside the entryway, Val tossed them to Phaser, then led the team towards where an elongated jeep waited.

Once inside, settling into the passenger seat, Val pressed a blinking red button on the dash, “Designation: Fortress.”

Coded reply required: Singing in the dead of night…”

“Blackbirds.”

Designation accepted. Be advised. The following message will be erased upon completion: Greetings, Team Charlie. Your task is simple. Twenty minutes ago, the silent alarm was activated over at Hanover Bank. Police responded and were alerted to a hostage situation, with at least one declared wounded. Initially, the situation was thought best handled by officer presence, but it has been officially ruled out of their containment. There is suspected superhuman activity. You are to proceed with caution, exercising extreme diligence to both rescue the hostages and secure as many of the perpetrators as possible. Do not underestimate what you are up against. This would not be the first time we’ve encountered a team like this. Fortress, you are to take lead, with Entropy acting as your second, should you fall unfit. How you structure your infiltration and carry out the operation is at your discretion. Tethering cuffs have been stored amongst your equipment, which will temporarily nullify the token of any suspect you apprehend. Under no circumstances are you to compromise your identities. Should you fail to maintain all safeguards, or if you are captured, GFI may not possess the capability to ensure your return. That is all. Good luck.”

With a fizzling sound, the recording ended and Val twisted in her seat to glance back at the others in the back of the jeep, “No sense harping on that last bit. Masks stay on, codenames stick and all that. Marauder, I’m gonna need you towards the front with Phaser on recon… Piper, right behind them, keeping as many inside as you can distracted. Entropy, Punch Bug… you’re with me on offense. Any questions?”

Piper leaned over to give Juniper’s shoulder a bump with his fist and she made a sound like a bunny being stepped on, but after a moment Val had everyone’s acknowledgement and she gave Phase the go ahead to drive. It wasn’t far to Walnut Street from the apartment HQ, and the jeep made good time with most of the early morning traffic already tucked into parking garages. Pulling up a short distance from the bank, the jeep came to a halt, but Val hesitated, eyeing the mass of figures gathered on the street outside. Cop cars, ambulances, media and S.W.A.T. vans dotted the curbs, and all manner of figures, uniformed and otherwise meandered about like bees to a hive. A barricade had blocked off the news crews and civilians, blocking the bank from anyone beyond Philly’s finest.

“Looks like we’re gonna need to find another way inside… Thoughts?”
 
Thoughts were everything Darren had. He could hear the commotion well before the jeep turned down the same road as the bank. First it was people wondering where all the police were headed, or why there was a media chopper circling the block. The noise surged as they came to a halt on Walnut Street, but he was at least able to hear the entirety of Val’s commands.

Darren wasn’t much of an idea guy, at least to his estimations. He had ideas, sure, but whether they were good was a determination only he would make. It was Entropy’s job to give thoughtful suggestions, anyway, and he was just as content as Piper to stay quiet and follow orders.

All buildings were required to have a certain number of exits in the event of an emergency. Hanover Bank was a small enough where there would be less points of entry, even including windows. Darren scoped out the perimeter for his own curiosity’s sake, and then he took to his primary job.

He sifted through the myriad of thoughts that molded and muffled and collided in his attempts to focus. Fear was expected in such a setting, especially behind the policemen’s calm facades.

Did everyone make it out?—oh, god, she’s gone—wife is going to kill me if I’m hold up again. Wait, is that morbid to—the blood—man I want that club sandwich from Dot’s with the crisp lettuce and that crispy bacon—of La Maschere—

He’d heard that name a few times before and focused in on that particular mind. Their thoughts slipped away so easily, lost in the sea of noise and undulating in and out of his purview. It was likely coming from inside the building with the way it carried.

Where’s Arlecchino?—masked individuals—something in the mayonnaise I swear—

“We might be dealing with La Maschere,” Darren advised. “There’s some chatter about them and Arlecchino.”
 
Piper was grateful for the slim mask that was pulled over his face. It hid the panic fairly well, even with the thin slits that hovered over his eyes. It wasn’t an outward, audible horror. He was not panting, nor was sweat drenching his brow and coating his hands. It was an internal festering that nipped at the back of his head, that made his eyes fuzzy, made every thought in his head bounce from ear to ear, like angry wasps trying to leave the hive. His lips were glued closed, for good reason. Any suggestion that fumbled from his mouth had every potential to ignite the keg, to cause the lives in the bank to be reduced to shambles. He should just consider the orders given to him. Stay behind. Distract. Play the song of confusion that always got his tongue twisted and lungs aching. Let Entropy take the hits, let Punch Bug be the offense. Stay behind and do his job-

And if I can’t do just that, what then? If I fumble, just how much will that- No. No. These four are well equipped to deal with a screw up. You’re not going to screw up, don’t over think it. Don’t- God damn it, now I’m thinking about it-

Piper absentmindedly tugged at the leather chord looped around his neck, where the panflute dangled. He always did think it was humorous, that his instrument was the pan flute, where his mask completely covered his face, and yet he could still easily hum the tune so long as he pressed the instrument up against the smooth, wooden surface. He was tempted to soothe his nerves with the chorus of his healing song, but the awkwardness of bursting out into song locked his muscles into place. He was patient. He had set through the agony of uncertainty for a lot longer than this before. Besides, it would be cathartic, the chaos. He just wanted it over with. Wanted the satisfaction of seeing the criminals crumpled up on the ground, with the victims safely lined in the back, being reassured and bandaged up, hearing their little laughs of fear and relief.

Readjusting the collar of his long, emerald green jacket, he gave Punch Bug one more tap to the shoulder. He may have been blatantly ignorant of most people’s desires and advances, and while that was absolutely true in this case as well, he could tell that she liked the little bumps of affection. Her little, awkward noises made the nerves in his chest settle.

His eyes hovered between Fortress and Marauder. He did have an idea, based off the visuals of the bank that he had viewed prior. It wasn’t concrete, but it was a possibility, it was something that could work. But had they went through it, and something had gone wrong, the guilt would wrap around his throat like a noose- But the longer they waited, the longer those people were in there with, if Darren was correct-

Piper gingerly tapped Marauder’s shoulder, then tapped his own temple. It was something he had gotten used to when they were in the mask, if there was ever something he wanted to get across, because his mouth refused to open, because his voice refused to come to fruition.

Two entrances I can think of. Break room. Fire escape. Offense on break, rest of us up the fire escape. Offense can hammer in, rest of us can work our magic from above.

His fingers clenched into fists in his lap, and once again, he was grateful for his costume, grateful for the leather gloves that encased his hands, that hid the ghastly white tone of his skin, that hid the veins bulging against the surface.