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Kale Hearthward STATE OF THE UNION SPEECHES IN MOST PARTS OF THE MULTIVERSE: Either stuffy affairs, or self-aggrandizing ones, or both. Whoever holds the various political positions that get to speak often uses the opportunity and the audience as yet another weapon in the war to outmaneuver their rivals.

STATE OF THE UNION SPEECHES IN THE BEAT GALAXY: Honestly sort of the same, but with music and dancing.

The transportation secretary has finished a slam poetry session on the budgetary constraints, and up next is the opposition party with an interpretative ribbon dance as a rebuttal. There's hundreds of thousands of people packing the stadium seating to watch, and millions more tuning in remotely. It's the event of the year, and anyone who happens to be anywhere near this part of space is encouraged to not miss it, especially since the headliner - President Peace - is coming up next.

In the upper part of the stadium, nestled in a convenient gap between two concession stands, is a spaceship. It stands out for clearly being a spaceship, parked illegally inside of a stadium, and someone should probably investigate it, or do something about it... though that someone should be somebody else. Anyone who really considers the issue with the spaceship being there comes to the conclusion that it's somebody else's problem, and subsequently puts it out of their minds.

... It's mostly there to give the Paladins a convenient spot to watch the goings-on, while Agent Chieftain's debriefing is ongoing.

"We'd beat him. We'd beaten Purge. Had him in cuffs and everything, and we were securing his hideout. Making sure there weren't any threats left," says the wide-shouldered man. "We'd split up, Spin and J had gone further in while I stayed behind to keep an eye on Purge..."

"... The last thing I'd remembered was J saying on the radio that he'd found something, and then a few minutes after that... nothing."

"When I came to, I was under Purge's control, and... things are hazy during that. We were looking for something, some weaponized music..."

Outside, for those who are not Paladins, the SOTU event is amping up. President Peace is about to take the stage, and the anticipation is electric...!
Karlan Nobles It's been a while since Pramanix really had a day to herself. No more work, brother's occupied with some other stuff, not a soul in sight that might recognize her. Naturally, that means it's time to tourist it up in some place she's never heard of! She's even dressed like a fancy-pants tourist, complete with a floofy hat and a fuzzy black and blue coat that would be much better suited to a colder environment than a stadium filled with who knows how many people.

And machines, apparently, as she stares at that spaceship with a blank expression on her face. She's only seen a few spacecraft before, but she's pretty sure there's not supposed to be something like this parked between food vendors. She stares at it for quite a while, stroking her chin as she tries to figure out what it's for from sight alone before...

"... Ah, must be a souvenir store. Before I leave." She comments to herself with a determined little nod, then buys a questionable hot dog and big ass soda before searching for a good spot to watch the SOTU.
Ioanna Langstrom      Ioanna sits in the spaceship, listening to Agent Chieftan describe the situation dispassionately. Her outfit's gone back to the tie-dye tanktop, the short-shorts, the gogo boots and shiny gloves, the sunglasses and a big orbiting *thing* around her hairband. Still, the woman's a consummate professional, paying careful attention to the debriefing.

     "Weaponized music," Ioanna says, pursing her lips. "And you don't know if you found it? That's also very troublesome. It's possible that...."

     She looks out from the spaceship, watching the President's address preparing and trails off. "No, speculation will just get in the way, won't it? The more certain we are the less likely we are to keep our eyes on an answer. For the moment...let's just keep our eyes and ears open."
Kale Hearthward "Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands, psuedopods, or equivalent manipulation devices together for... PRESIDENT PEACE!"

The floor of the stadium opens up, and the man himself - in his trademark shiny suit - rises up on a floating platform. An aide throws him a microphone - he catches it without looking at it, creating the requisite Clippable Moment for the 24-hour news cycle.

And so the State of the Union commences.

"Probably wise that we do not assume too much," agrees Chieftain. "Still, if you have theories, I'd like to hear them out."

The political concert is ramping up - in the front row of the seats, the opposition party is taking notes for their rebuttal broadcast later - and everything seems fine...

... Pramanix can see it first, from where she's sitting or standing. A... flying saucer, with arms and a face?

There's a few more of them, coming into visual range - approaching fast.

At the moment, President Peace is unaware... but as the saucers approach, more of the crowd stirs, realizing something's wrong.

In the Paladins' ship/restaurant, Chieftain notices as well, looking out through the window, eyes narrowing. "... The Gravillians. We're under attack."
Ioanna Langstrom      "Yes," Ioanna says as she stands up, "That would be my idea. Compromising this event would give them access to a lot of media coverage, which would then allow them to deploy either mind-altering or weaponized sonic assault with ease."

     "Please excuse me."

     Ioanna claps her hands together as she leaps out of the spaceship. It's a simple clap but an important one - cut the feeds before anything compromises them. The only feed they need is the one in the ship, which is presumably shielded after the last attack.

     Ioanna lands in a superhero pose somewhere near Pramanix. She looks over at the woman, then up at the saucers.

     "Ma'am, evacuation is in progress. Get to the nearest shelter point. Incoming enemies may have mental influence or other weaponized sonic assault abilities."
Karlan Nobles Pramanix is set to enjoy the show, learning what a more lively leader might look like compared to those in more dreary regions, all while devouring a shady food item and drinking overpriced sugar water! Before she can really dig in, however, she looks up as the weird ships start to appear.

"More spaceship? This place really likes their space gimmick..." She comments to herself again, taking it all in good cheer with a light-hearted chuckle. It's not until the crowd starts getting noisier and weirder that she wraps up her hot dog for safe storage inside her purse, although the drink is harder to handle in a similar way.

She takes a sip, and then she nearly spits it out when Ioanna just appears out of nowhere nearby. She does jump aside a good few feet, though, and her tail puffs out behind her as she regards the woman in the strangely colorful tank top.

"So this... Isn't part of the show, is it?" Pramanix looks from Ioanna to the weird spaceships, but slips her bell out of her bag instead of leaving as requested. "I can help, then. Just let me know who is and isn't part of the show besides the..."

She really isn't sure who's on what side yet, and she just points at the spaceships. "Those?"
Ioanna Langstrom      "Those," Ioanna confirms, "If you're willing to assist then be aware - the means of fighting in this place is..."

Karlan Nobles "Different? Uh.. Good different or bad different?" Pramanix asks, keeping her head facing the spaceships while glancing at Ioanna every now and then.
Kale Hearthward Finally, the local authorities get their act together. The music cuts out - and it's replaced by an evacuation notice. People start heading for the exits. Media feeds are cut - causing some confusion, but at least that's not a potential attack vector if there is something infectuous coming. But other than that, the evacuation proceeds like clockwork - and local forces are mustering to provide defensive measures.

The problem, though, is President Peace. He's up on that floating platform, and it's lowering itself towards the ground so that he can escape as well - but the platform seems to only have one speed ('cinematically slow') and it's taking a while.

One of the presidential aides has the idea to outfit some bodyguards with jetpacks, and send them out on a rescue mission, and it looks like that'll work - right up until there's a loud, piercing trumpet blast.

A blast, in the literal sense - a moment after the trumpet sounds, explosions knock the bodyguards out of the sky.

"Ah ah ah! Mojo King B says - hands off the prez!"

Flying downward, on stubby wings that can't possibly hold his weight, is a middle aged man wearing a shoddy bee costume over the top of disco blazer and bell bottoms, and gaudy diamond-and-gold jewelry as accents. It's almost purposefully ridiculous looking. It's entirely unthreatening. If outfits are supposed to speak to you, this one's in tongues.

If anything, though, the crowd starts screaming and trying to evacuate faster, when he makes his apperance, hovering down to grab and start carrying off the helpless president!
Ioanna Langstrom      "Just..."

     Ioanna glances at Pramanix. "...different."

     The bodyguards go up - and then the trumpet goes out, and explosions knock them down. Ioanna bolts forward, leaving a trail of dust behind her as she slides in to catch them one by one. She puts them down gently, ensuring that none of the bodyguards just cracked their heads or something, then whirls to face Mojo King B.

     Ioanna's come equipped this time, though.

     She taps her sunglasses. "Mojo King B. That outfit..."

     "'s certainly..."


     "...unique," she decides finally.

     She taps the sunglasses again. There's a burst of music. She's come prepared this time. She steps to the side and spins, pointing up at the Mojo King. "Come down here and let's do this."

     Is she about to dance fight him?

     ...yeah, she's about to dance fight him.

     So that's what she meant by 'different.'
Karlan Nobles "Ah. That's a..." Pramanix doesn't finish that thought. She's too busy just staring at Mojo King B, pursing her lips and nodding slowly in response to Ioanna. "That's... I think I'm starting to get it." She takes a sip of her soda as listens to that music from Ioanna, watching her getting into position, then looking at Mojo King B once more.

"Perfect sense. In that case...!" Pramanix sets her stuff aside somewhere the soda (probably) won't get kicked over and spill sugar all over her bag, snaps her fingers, then rings her bell once while getting into position opposite Ioanna.

"Lead the way. I'll be your backup dancer for this... This!" Her mouth isn't quite as fast as her hands as, in one swift movement, Pramanix throws off her coat to reveal that she's wearing a far more maneuverable white sleeveless vest over a black crop top with matching black thigh-highs on.

The bell rings again, and a light snow starts to fall.
Kale Hearthward The bee-man (man wearing a bee costume) looks over. "Hmm? What's this? The king is getting challenged?"

He flutters down and drops Peace down on the ground roughly, stancing up and grabbing his trumpet. "The king has time to deal with a little rhythmer and her pet cat," he says, spinning his trumpet around in his hands. "You think you have the moves to take on the King? You think you got the shoes to out-step a Gitaroo?"

The music starts - a swingy, jazzy theme, coming forth from his trumpet, mixing in with Ioanna's music selection and Pramanix's snowbells.

There's also explosive blasts and lightning coming forth from the end of his trumpet, in a 4/4 melody of destruction.
Ioanna Langstrom      "Understood," Ioanna says to Pramanix as the other woman offers to backup dance. "Thank you. Just try and stay ahead of him."

     Ioanna stretches out and puts both hands on the ground, then puts her hands on her hips. The King shit-talks, trash-talks, and all that good noise. Ioanna's response is a very simple, very succinct, very clear,


     And then the swing starts. That's not what she was expecting from that...outfit. She was expecting some disco. Probably off-key, since everything else about the man appears to be *wildly* off-key. But as the jazz mixe in with her music and forms a 4/4 melody Ioanna gets into the groove almost immediately. She spins backwards like a ballet dancer, her ponytail swirling around her as a blast comes perilously close to her side. She springs backwards in a backflip to evade a blast of lightning. She swirls to the side again, hands outstretched, moving back behind Pramanix. "Can you jump?"

     No time to actually ask. She hooks both hands around Pramanix's waist and moves to *fling* her up into the air.

     And then she whips her foot around while Pramanix is flying and sends a blast of music shooting for the Mojo King.
Karlan Nobles Pramanix looks rather surprised when the bee-man actually puts President Peace down, and then she takes offense when he addresses herself and Ioanna. "P.. Pet cat?! My name is Pramanix, Saint of Karlan, and I don't let anyone-" She stops herself from finishing that sentence. Even she knows the dangers she might unleash if she does. Instead, she focuses in on the other thing Mojo King B says: "Also, what is a Gitaroo?"

Someone's gotta ask.

When the music starts, Pramanix follows the beat rather easily with rhythmic dings of her bell. Although it's normally used for her snow-summoning rituals, she's also using it today to keep the snow flowing! It's coming down gently at first as she dances along with the beat, but nearly getting hit by lightning in mid-step and getting thrown back by an explosion puts her in a somewhat fouler mood than before.

"How dangerous... So these battles are equal parts dance and combat, are they?" Twirling once to get back into position opposite Ioanna, she starts following along with the (seemingly) veteran dance-battler here and only lagging about half a step behind. She needs a moment to learn what those steps actually are, but it sinks in rather quickly even if she isn't quite mimicking all the spins. Her timing is impeccable, too, as though she's used to timing things to a tenth of a second with her life on the line.

"Of course! But landing-" And then Pramanix is already up in the air with Ioanna's toss. She yelps at the surprise, but still has enough bodily control to flip herself over in midair to keep that bell ringing even when she lands with only a slight stumble (but no faceplanting, thankfully).

As she does that, the snow takes a curious turn: Instead of just falling gently, it starts to pool around the King Bee, leaving dangerously slippery ice under his feet and dripping ice-cold flakes onto his wings and the spaceships above. It's relatively subtle compared to the explosions and lightning and music blasts, but it's definitely not natural!
Kale Hearthward And, somehow, it works.

Not Mojo King B's ensemble, to be clear, that doesn't work no matter how much 'somehow' you put behind it.

The dancing. The music. Somehow, yes, when Ioanna 'kicks' the music at the gravillian, it works and he staggers back, temporarily dropping the tempo, and then falling back onto his bee-hind when he stumbles right into one of Pramanix's ice patches.

"... Yeah, so you can dance battle. Big whoop, you sure ain't a King Bee," he says as he gets back up onto his feet (Magical trumpet and bee outfit aside, he doesn't seem all that athletic). "And you definitely ain't stackup up against a gitaroo."

<"That's his trumpet,"> chimes in Chieftain over the radio. <"It's a legendary instrument that'll work outside the Beat Galaxy - in here it's just extra potent.">

"And your harmony can't match my solo," he says, taking off and starting to blast away at the stadium floor - which, as revealed earlier, is hollow to provide for various stage machinery, so as he starts blasting it apart with his trumpet gitaroo, there start being less and less places for Ioanna and Pramanix to find firm footing - much less firm footing that they can reliably dance upon!
Ioanna Langstrom      "That's right, ma'am" Ioanna confirms to Pramanix, "One part dance and one part combat. Keep up with the rhythm or you get blasted."

     Speaking of getting blasted, the footing starts to get blasted away, like it's just getting removed. Chieftain's warning is just in the nick of time - Ioanna has to springboard herself backwards, and she still slips, falls, and gets blasted with a bolt of lightning. Oof. One strike.

     She recovers quickly but the footing's still disappearing. That's going to limit what kind of moves she can do. What can you do with Jazz that's fast, evasive, and in a small area...

     Well, there's some stuff that-

     No, there it is.

     Ioanna runs through her mind until she finds what she's looking for, and then she starts...

     ...well, she starts doing the Jitterbug.

     It's fast enough for her to avoid, fast enough for her to keep attention, and fast enough for her to let Pramanix take the assault lead so she can distract and irritate King B.
Karlan Nobles "I'm already a cat. Whoever heard of a cat bee?" Pramanix banters with the King, leaping sideways with her arms going up and to the outside with dramatic flourishes of the long sleeves she doesn't actually have with this outfit or on her fancy coat.

She's still too used to her rituals.

<<"Eh? Who..? Anyway. Thank you!">> She replies to the Chieftain without having to resort to repeating herself about a gitaroo, then hops back to her original spot when the floor starts getting blasted away. Her foot nearly goes right through one of the gaps and she has to compensate by just slamming down with her free hand, and that's enough to throw her timing off that an explosion rocks the area around her rather violently.

"Tricky...! Ah, this really brings me back." Pramanix doesn't sound all that pleased as she pulls herself back up, recovering quickly enough to circle around Mojo King B while Ioanna does some kind of dnace move she doesn't quite recognize! There's actually a lot of dances that she doesn't, but Pramanix is fast enough on the uptake to play along as she adjusts to the shrinking space (relatively) easily. Seeing as how this might be a problem, though, Pramanix keeps ringing that bell, and the snow starts to become more concentrated as it forms pillars around the dance battlefield.

More specifically, the icy pillars are flared at the base and become drastically thinner at waist level, conveniently large enough to cover up those holes in the floor and providing slippery handholds for her and Ioanna's continued maneuvers. She flings herself from pillar to pillar while transferring through each one, even holding a hand out to try and get Ioanna in on the impromptu ice skating performance!

The movement is all intentional, of course, as the pillars that Pramanix (and Ioanna, should she join in) passes start dropping at Mojo King B, making his footing considerably less stable as well!
Kale Hearthward Ioanna starts jitterbugging.

"... What... what is that? That's irritating!"

The pillars start forming, and the floating bee-man (man wearing a bee costume) is more focused on trying to divine Ioanna's moves - getting ready to dodge whatever attack that dance move resolves into... and several pillars fall on him in quick succession, slamming him down into the wrecked floor of the stadium.

"... Okay, so you all got the moves," says a much-battered Mojo King Bee as he flies back out of the wreckage, coughing. "You got the style. Game recognizes game, even if it's king bee game recognizing worker drone game."

"But - I don't gotta fight you to win. I just gotta take your king off the board."

What he means by that is made clear - instead of launching another attack, he flies across and grabs the unconscious President Peace, flying off towards the stadium seating!
Ioanna Langstrom      He's right. This isn't a fight that King B needs to fight. He's got the upper hand here - his objective is the President and their objective is beating him. The President is the easier objective to complete by far.

     Ioanna tsks.

     She purses her lips and takes off at a run, arms pumping alongside her. Her feet move a lot faster than they should be able to in platform heels, racing up behind King B as he grabs the President. She goes running up the stands in big bounds, but she can't fly and she has no way to keep up with him.


     When she hits the end of the road, she holds out her hand for Pramanix.

     She obviously intends to throw the cat-lady at King B to get him to drop the President.
Karlan Nobles "Really? I thought it looked kind of fun." Pramanix makes a mental note to try that thing Ioanna did, but after handling this situation with the bee man. A small part of her feels bad about just pummeling the crap out of him with those pillars, but it's a very small part considering what he's come here to do in the first place.

"The king...? Oh! The President What's-his-name!" Realizing her mistake in focusing on Mojo King B for so long, she joins Ioanna in chasing after him while keeping her bell ringing all the while to make sure that snow keeps falling. She's still wearing sneakers with those tile-ruining ice grips instead of heels or anything fancy like that, so it's not too hard to actually run after him, but even her winds might not be enough to stop the abductor from escaping.

And then Ioanna holds her hand out. Despite her confusion, Pramanix takes her hand, and she gets yeeted. She yelps in a mildly panicked state as she just goes flying, instinctively grabbing at the first thing or person within arm's reach in her haste to slow her own fall, whether that's Mojo King B's legs, arms, wings, or even President Peace himself.

She's already used up all her luck just landing on her feet the first time Ioanna threw her. She's not confident she can manage that kind of landing again.
Kale Hearthward "Mojo mojo mojo King B gone outta here," says the bee man (man wearing a bee costume) as he starts flying up the stadium steps-

- and gets slammed into by a flying cat woman (woman with cat ears and tail).

"Hey - this ain't jazz!" he complains, losing his momentum - and his grip, dropping President Peace-

- right into the confused arms of a reporter, who staggers a bit but manages to arrest the fall of the large man. "Um... this is... Space Channel 5, Ulala reporting, I've arrived on the scene of the Gravillian attack, and I appear to have rescued President Peace?"

"Gah - I don't care, then! Mojo King B is gonna just blast you all!" He starts dooting wildly, spinning in the air - Pramanix is still attached, throwing off both his aim and his attempts to fly straight, but he's trying to make up for quality (of aiming) with quantity (of musical firepower).
Ioanna Langstrom      The President falls-

     -and is caught by a civilian. Ioanna exhales, audibly. She wasn't yet in position. That makes life a lot easier.

     What *doesn't* make life a lot easier is Mojo B just going completely musically insane. Every blast is harder to predict than the last. Every shot requires Ioanna to move to the beat, no longer jazz, but a wild, aharmonic, asynchronous beat. She cartwheels along seating, taking cover with splits, dodging with backflips as chairs are torn apart around her. She can feel the MCM pushing its tolerance at this point. It wasn't meant for...well, it was meant for this, but King B is a lot of power in a very little package. As goofy as he is he's still strong enough to give her a run for her money - unlike the first minion.

     She handstands on a seat and flips herself forward. She runs up against the side of the arena's overhang. Then she dives, moving to grab Ulala and the President and bring them both down to the ground (safely) so she can cover them with her own body and let Pramanix finish off King B.
Karlan Nobles "If you're that worried, then get us down already!" Pramanix shrieks at Mojo King B as she clambers all over him, apparently rather desperate to not just plummet and rely on her own sense of landing to not get injured in the fall. The fact that the President gets dropped into someone else's waiting arms is a secondary thing in comparison, but it might almost look like she's trying to grapple him down instead of just latching on for dear life.

Thankfully, she still has her bell, and she just barely manages to clip it onto her belt so she has both hands free to cling onto the bee man. The bursts of musical death coming from him are certainly something to be concerned about, but while she's up here...

She really wants down holy crap why isn't he going down yet. "Less blasting, more falling!" She all but demands as she grabs for his wings, abandoning all sense of decorum to just hold on tight and try to force him to the ground while Ioanna handles the rescuing side of things.
Kale Hearthward "Whoa - whoa, hello," says Ulala, who appreciates the cover, just was not expecting it.

Mojo King B spins around wildly, trying and failing to aim as he doots in a panic - and then Pramanix gets hold of his wings, sending both crashing down to earth!

Or, into the hard plastic stadium seating, where they land B-first. The impact causes him to lose his grip on the trumpet, which goes tumbling down the stadium steps and well out of his reach.

And with that, the saucers in the sky above clear out - the president-snatching plan is beyond recovery, and the local counterattack forces are mustering.

"... So!" says Ulala. "Do... you mind giving me a hand with the president? And an interview?"
Karlan Nobles Despite the success in bringing down Mojo King B, Pramanix doesn't seem particularly thrilled as she lays right on top of him to catch her breath. It takes a while before she finally rolls off, rather content to just stay lying down on that seating just to avoid having to stand up for a little bit a longer.

She does have to force herself up eventually, though, even if she does get a little lost trying to figure out exactly where in the stadium she's in anymore. Spotting Ioanna and Ulala (and possibly President Peace), she waves at them in her approach while continuing to glance around quickly.

"That could have gone worse! Or better, but definitely worse... Ah. Did either of you see where my things went?" Needless to say, Pramanix is already kind of lost.
Ioanna Langstrom      Ioanna stands up, dusts herself off, and then helps Ulala up. There's a moment's pause as Pramanix walks over, and Ioanna shakes her head. No, she sort of lost track of all the baggage in the moment.

     Ulala requests a hand. Ioanna just slings the president over her shoulder. "You'll have to speak with someone about scheduling an interview. I need to get the President back into safe hands and debrief."

     "Thank you for the assistance, civilian."
Kale Hearthward "Not even a quick interview? A quick statement about the attack?"

Ulala's brandishing the microphone with intent. Chieftain's waving both Ioanna and Pramanix up, trying to get them inside the safety of the restaurant spaceship.
Ioanna Langstrom      "I'm afraid not at the moment, ma'am. Someone will be in contact with you to schedule."

     Then she heads up the rafters at a rapid pace and slides into the spaceship with the President in tow.
Karlan Nobles "An interview? Ah... Later, perhaps? Just not this moment." Pramanix replies to Ulala, catching the Chieftain's waving from the corner of her eye as she looks around once more to try and find her missing stuff. She's actually looking a little anxious about that, but with no other leads just yet, she'll have to try and find it later.

Besides, there's some more weird stuff to look into with the Chieftain and this Ioanna lady! Ulala gets an apologetic bow, and then Pramanix heads off in the opposite direction to take a roundabout path towards the weird spaceship that she's pretty sure is a souvenir shop so as to not make it too obvious.
Kale Hearthward Ulala pursues with camera drone in tow - but looks confused and heads somewhere else once they're in the restaurant spaceship.

"... Good work out there, Langstrom," says Chieftain. "And - I'm not sure I caught your name, but for the moment you can consider yourself deputized in this matter," he tells Pramanix. "Sit. Have some breadsticks."

"We're out of breadsticks," says a waiter robot, while simultaneously a different waiter robot brings out a fresh basket of breadsticks and sets them at another table.

"That out there - was the Gravilian Empire. They're one of the biggest threats in this sector - but we'd hoped they'd stay dormant for a while longer. That they're bold enough to send a Gitaroo wielder out is... troubling."
Karlan Nobles And so, Pramanix is finally inside the souvenir shop! Except it's actually a restaurant. "Oh? My apologies. My name is Pramanix. I'm a... Visitor. It's a pleasure to meet you, friends." She introduces herself with a light bow, taking a seat afterwards to look utterly baffled about the stated lack of breadsticks followed by the very much existing breadsticks somewhere else.

"... Um. R-right. Anyway. Is this sort of attack from the Gravilian Empire something that happens here often?" She asks, pauses, then continues. "Do they have something against the President here? Or..."

She turns to Ioanna next as though asking her would be just as natural as asking the Chieftain. "What about those spaceships from before? Are they part of that empire, too? Or were they actually part of the show?"
Kale Hearthward TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR:

Spaaaaaaaace Channel 5!