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Camera Drone HA1-3X1
1st December 1999
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“The London boroughs of Harrow and Wembley are in shambles. The city hasn’t seen devastation on such a level in close to half a century. Heroes are supposed to protect human life and minimise collateral damage, but something's not right here. I’m Oracle, your super-reporter. The league doesn’t want me recording this, but you, the people, deserve to see everything that’s going on.”

The woman on the screen wore a suit of black, grey, and midnight blue. It hugged her slender frame and had carbon fibre armour covering the vitals. Such suits were a standard for most League supers without defence or healing. It was the helmet and gauntlet that set her apart from other heroes. The former had a tadpole-like shape: domed around the face, curved over the head and hung in a long tangle of chords over her back.

The hero records claimed she was blind but used her technopathic abilities to look through cameras. Her gauntlets didn’t just fire bullets but close-range blasts that made her formidable at melee range too. She had entered the scene not long after the Fabricator-category became an official term, and not many since her had risen to a C threat-level. However, she reiterated several times throughout her career that her priorities were rescue operations and reporting. The weapon systems were a necessity of the trade.

The camera turned around, panning over Harrow-on-the-Hill station. “There is rubble on the tracks, disrupting all Underground traffic beyond this point towards Amersham, Chesham, Uxbridge and Watford. Not that it matters, the violence and loss of life have forced the city to stop Metropolitan Line service past Baker’s Street. The station ordered an evacuation before the fighting got here, but I’m still doing a last sweep for anyone trapped under the collapses.”

When the camera sighted a twitching arm under the rubble, the screen overlay highlighted it in red. Oracle rushed into view, racing towards the location. Her boots whirred as she moved at inhuman speeds. The drone hummed, zooming after her and pausing just over her left shoulder. She bent her knees and plunged her fingers under the wall. The bracing running down her spine glowed neon blue as she heaved. When her devices’ power appeared insufficient, the thick cords hanging from the back of her helmet plugged into her spinal brace, and their glow intensified. Oracle lifted the concrete block slowly, her helmet’s cameras zipping around, looking for further collapses.

“Can you move?” She asked when a scared youthful face looked up at her.

The teenage boy nodded. He scrambled out before standing upright. Dust and blood covered his clothes, and his right arm hung limp at his side. Oracle gave him a quick once over.

“No life-threatening injuries,” she said. “Good. Do you know where the entrance to St. Ann’s mall is?”

The boy nodded.

“Make your way over there. Overhealer has set up a triage centre. She’ll fix you up before the next evacuation transport arrives.”

The boy hesitated, looking between the ruined remains of the station and her.

“It’ll be alright,” Oracle said. “I need to continue looking for survivors. The fighting has moved towards South Harrow. You’ll be fine.”

The boy nodded, accepting her help to get back on the platform. The station’s usual exit lay in ruins, but the fencing separating it from the road had collapsed. He didn’t have to go a long way to exit the station and headed towards the wall. Oracle and her drone watched him nonetheless, making sure he didn’t trip on the rubble.

A distant boom made the boy freeze. The following shock wave knocked him to his hands and knees before forcing the camera drone into an uncontrolled spiral. It stabilised in a couple of minutes, focusing on the boy again. Oracle had fallen into a crouch, and the boy was struggling to get back up. A soft gasp escaped her mouth as a hulking figure landed a couple of metres from him. A shock wave of white energy burst from the impact point. When it reached the boy, he was sent flying. The teenager crashed into a neighbouring wall and collapsed in a heap on the floor.

“Rakshasa is on the scene,” Oracle whispered. “I repeat. Rakshasa is on the scene. He just killed a civilian. Intentionally or not, I can’t tell.”

The drone failed to record the reply over the ambient sounds, but a written transcript appeared at the bottom of the screen.

A team of A-Rankers led by Vish is on the way. Evacuate the area, Oracle. Things are going to take a turn for the worse, and you’re not cleared to leave Overhealer’s side.

“I understand. Clearing the area now.”

For the record, Oracle, the League hasn’t cleared you to report on this event. If you do not let us review your recordings before releasing them, I’ve received the permission to expel you from the League. Is that understood?

“That’s not a part of the deal, Tower!” Oracle hissed. The drone continued to record her and Rakshasa beyond. He had busied himself, digging shrapnel out of his flesh. Silvery light glowed around the wounds as they knit themselves closed. “I joined you so I can provide unbiased reports of your actions to the people you’ve sworn to protect.”

That might be true, but we still decide what active sites you have access to and which you do not. This is an active site you’re not permitted to explore. Your rescue efforts are limited to Overhealer’s immediate vicinity. You may record nothing besides her healing heroes and civilians.

“Fine,” Oracle whispered, before sliding a panel on the side of her helmet. “Transcribe conversation. Overlay in time with feed.” She visibly shivered when Rakshasa roared in the background. He had just pulled a large spike out of his shoulder. It healed over within seconds. “As you can see, the League would rather you stay in the dark about their outings. It’s not just that monster responsible for all of this death and destruction, but heroes, too. They’ve abandoned all attempts of reducing collateral damage.”

A scream sounded through the debris. The camera panned to the left, focusing on a small group of civilians.

“Damn!” Oracle swore. “They must’ve been hiding in the tunnels. I’m sorry for what you’re about to see. As a C-ranker, I have no hopes of standing up to an uncategorised threat like Rakshasa, but this is reality when the League doesn’t do its job. Vish and his team have failed to capture him time and time again. Instead, they’ve—”

“This way!” Rakshasa exclaimed, waving at them. The people backed away from him, their eyes wide and arms trembling. The villain’s giant blood-covered body and ripped black mask was enough to instil fear in everyone that encountered it. “C’mon, now. They’ll be here soon, and things will get a lot more violent. Make your way through the mall. You’ll find rescue forces on the other side.”

The group watched him hesitantly, still backing away. Then a brave young woman broke off from them and ran past Rakshasa towards where he pointed. When he didn’t attack her, the others followed. A couple of them spoke to him as they passed. The drone was too far away to record what they said.

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J Pal

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