Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Descartes
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Descartes Give her the D

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October 28th
Queens, NY, United States of America

@DragonofTheWest


Luthor smirked. Although he had never met this man, he already didn't like him. He had a pompous attitude and came off as having a superiority complex.

"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." he answered to John with a sarcastic tone. Luthor took a deep breathe then stepped outside almost as if he were a vampire that hadn't been properly invited inside, though reall he just didn't want to seem too rude, as if he hadn't already left a bad impression. "Well gentlemen," he said in a half-joking tone before closing the door, "I don't think you'll be needing me for much, but if you do, I'll be outside." He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms, waiting for the authorities to come.

In the mean time, Luthor pondered what his new allies were doing. He had the general location of a "Skull Island". It was a little out of the way- something he might need to take his private jet to once he got along to visiting. Until then, he had his own plans.
Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Blackstripe
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Blackstripe Siobhan's crew of lonely misfits

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October 31st, 6:58 PM
Lake Dover, Outskirts of Hub City


As the last of around six criminals hit the shoreline of Lake Dover unconscious, Bruce Phoenix nursed his bruised and aching fists. He was outside Hub City again, here to check up on both his protege The Question and seek out a particular hero on the advice of the Boddhisattva Rama Kushna regarding a massive upheaval in...well, mystic arts were never Bruce’s forte, but he remembered something about a particular proto-afterlife of sorts being in crisis. But on his way, he had seen these fairly suspicious people headed out towards the lake, and naturally they had gone there to dump some poor unconscious fool who had crossed them in one way or another. Well, what was a former hero to do but teach them a lesson and free the unfortunate prisoner?

The dead might be rising in the West, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t time for some old fashioned heroism on his way to clarify the problem.

Unfortunately just as he was about to try and wake the sod these mobsters had so rudely stuffed into a sack and tied weights to, a pretty noticeable roiling and bubbling started at the center of the lake. Bruce had enjoyed the old Hammer Horror and Universal films back in the day, but with all the crazy things he’d seen in his time he never expected Frankenstein to rise up like the Creature From The Black Lagoon right in front of him. Still, that was exactly what it looked like, a BIG zombie rising up out of the lake in front of him.

“You know, I thought my fists were sore after taking down those guys, but you my friend, are definitely going to call for some ice packs.”

Bruce stepped out in front of the unconscious former victim so he was blocking the big zombie as the massive, pale corpse shambled out of the water. The creature took one look at Bruce’s fighting stance and roared, charging and sending an arm like a tree trunk sweeping down at the kung fu fighter. Bruce caught the wild swing, though he had to bolster himself with chi to do it even as he redirected most of the force and momentum of the attack into a throw that sent the undead goliath hurtling through the air. It was unfortunate that whatever was powering the zombie hardly took a second to get back up again, but Bruce was already there trying to strike at the eyes, the nose and every sensitive point he could with chi empowered strikes as the creature rose.

Unfortunately, none of his attacks had any effect, and the nine-foot-tall undead simply backhanded the martial artist before he could realize his attacks were being shrugged off. The force of the blow was enough to not only send Bruce flying through the air, but literally hurl him miles away to Hub City proper as the chi reinforcing his body at that moment kept him barely alive before he crashed into some poor business owner’s unsuspecting storefront.




7:04 PM
Silver Leaf Academy Event Hall


“Here you go,” Karen forced a smiled to another student, doing her best to keep her words from coming out in the form of a sigh. Gratefully accepting the punch she had been offered, the brunette returned her smile.

“Thanks! It’s nice to see that hard working immigrants like you can make it into Silver Leaf too!” She replied, waving her off as she returned to the party.

“But I’m not a…” Karen started, her shoulders slumping in a long sigh.

The sooner this party ended, the better. Pulling out her Galaxy X - courtesy of Zoey - and glancing at the time, she mumbled a swear under her breath at the fact that the event would last at least another hour, probably more. All the other kids here were having quite a fun time. A lot of them were discussing their high scores in Polo. Wasn’t that what crippled FDR?

At least she could enjoy watching Maroon Five play on stage. She had to wonder just how much money the school had to shovel out to get them to perform at this thing? These people must be nearly as loaded as Zoey was.

Glancing down at the glass plate that had been wordlessly shoved in front of her, she began to fill it with quiches and other hor d’oeuvres, before filling a cup with punch. The man snatched both away from her without ever saying a word, with the next in line shuffling forward.

“Having fun, creampuff?” Clarissa grinned to her, shoving her punch cup forward.

Karen’s brow instantly quirked at the platinum blonde girl in front of her. She, like herself, was wearing the uniform of a Hogwarts student, but...it was certainly not a conventional one. “Clare, what the hell are you wearing?!”

“What? I’m just getting into the holiday spirit!” Clarissa insisted, shaking her empty cup. “You could’ve been doing the same, if you had the balls to turn people down.”

Frowning slightly as she filled the other teen’s cup with more punch, she couldn’t help but feel a little jealous over how much more accepting the students had been towards Clarissa in comparison to herself, despite them both coming from The Wedge. And despite Clare...well, being Clare. Nobody had even tried to shove something like this onto the deviant artist.

“I hope they’re not going to have something like this for every holiday,” Karen muttered.

“Yeah,” Clarissa agreed, not even waiting a second to take a long drink of the punch. “You’d probably get pressured into serving drinks at those too.”

Karen exhaled, a low grumble rumbling from her throat as her only friend here departed. Oh, what she wouldn’t give for an emergency right now.

Karen got her wish sooner than she might’ve expected, in the form of a grey, nine-foot-tall zombie in tattered, lake-soaked clothes bursting through the wall nearby like it was made of paper. He didn’t roar or screech or ask for brains, in fact now he seemed disoriented by his surroundings, holding his head with one massive hand and looking around as if trying to get his bearings. As if on instinct he had headed toward the city, but he had more or less walked in just a straight line, smashing through or stepping on whatever was in his way up until now. But the decorations and screaming children seemed to give him pause, as if he knew that something was off with his surroundings now, like one odd detail sticking out to give away the fact that what someone is experiencing is a dream.

Diving under the table reflexively when the thunderous crack of the wall breaking sent children screaming for the exit, Karen crawled her way out the opposite side before she was able to really get a solid look at the creature.

It looked a lot like one of those zombies she had been dealing with for nearly two weeks, but it was…big. Both in height and in bulk, like he had been juicing hardcore down in the underworld. But it obviously wasn’t just his appearance that differed: that strength was for real. It was like the wall was made of tissue paper or something!

Noting that doors were pretty packed with kids and teachers alike desperately trying to force their way out, she began chewing her lip nervously. Too many witnesses to transform right now. All the obvious exits were packed with people. That left only the non-obvious ones...namely the one that this mountain of undead muscle had just made.

Swallowing the sizeable lump in her throat, Karen charged to the far end of the event hall and pressed herself up against the wall. As the super zombie moved forward, she quickly slipped out of the hole in the wall. There were still plenty of witnesses outside, though, so this wouldn’t do either!

“Oh shit, I don’t like where my mind’s going,” Karen muttered to herself, drawing in power from the surrounding laylines. Hub City was a rich epicenter of magic, so at least it was always easy here. Forming a little purple ball of light in her hand, she reared back and hurled straight at the back of the oversized corpse’s head. Her spell, naturally, shattered on impact. Hopefully he at least felt it. “...Hey you!”

Karen bent over and smacked her ass through her Hogwarts robes. “Catch me if you can, ugly!”

Dashing as fast as her very human legs would carry her, Karen ran across the campus and into the main part of school. She needed to get to a classroom or something where she could transform without anybody seeing it!

The massive zombie roared and charged after Karen, moving with the graceless speed and inevitability of an undead rhino, or maybe a freight train made of reanimated meat. He slammed through any obstacles between himself and the main school area without bothering to try and maneuver, only knowing that he was now angry at the small thing that taunted him.

Rushing down the main hall at speeds that exceeded anything she’d ever managed to accomplish at the school track & field, she screamed when the monster came smashing through the wall behind her, sending lockers flying across the hall, their sacredly private contents spilling out for whatever poor soul had to clean this all up to find. Arriving at the high school biology class, Karen quickly twisted the nob and dashed inside.

She didn’t need a second longer to consider what her next action would be.

“SHAZAM!”

A blinding flash of light followed by an echo of thunder heralded her transformation, and not a moment too soon. Just one glancing blow from that freak would’ve splattered her across the city.

Drawing a deep breath, Lady Arcana readied herself.

The colossal zombie shouldered his way through the doorway of the biology lab, exploding it along with a good portion of the wall as easily as an angry child kicking over a sandcastle. Unconcerned with the shower of debris he’d created. He lunged forward with all the technique of a rabid animal, trying to simply grab Arcana in two massive mitts and pulp her like an overripe fruit.

“Woah!” Lady Arcana yelped when he came smashing through the wall, rising above his muddy murder mittens in the nick of time before twisting in the air to issue a kick to the side of his head. Since he was - like all the others - a mindless zombie, she didn’t have to worry about taking it easy on him, so she put a considerable amount of force behind it.

She should’ve probably been more concerned about all the school property they were breaking...but hey, they were ridiculously rich.

The zombie took the kick to the head surprisingly well, digging in hard with his feet to prevent himself from being knocked back and uttering only a low ‘Ungh!’ of sorts as his head was briefly snapped sideways by the strike, apparently even more durable than his smaller kin. Strangely enough the kick seemed to rattle something loose in his brain, as instead of simply trying to grab at her again, he reached out with each hand to grab a biology lab table in each, swinging them at her with unexpected speed for his size in a bid to improve his odds of hitting her with the improvised bludgeons.

Lady Arcana had most certainly not expected him to remain on his feet after that hit. In fact, she had figured it would either send him flying, or knock his block clean off. Not only that, but he was startlingly quick to retaliate against her with a pair of lab tables that he wielded like they were ogi fans. Feeling them shatter against her with enough force to send splinters flying in every direction - to the point where some embedded themselves in the wall, she was sent flying back by the unexpected force.

Smashing through the blackboard at the far end of the room, she emerged in History 1103. Plowing through several rows of desks before she managed to stop herself, Lady Arcana frowned at the towering menace through the hole she had left.

“Alright, I get it. You’re big league,” she muttered, lifting off the ground again.

In a sudden blur of motion she charged forward, drawing back her fist and slamming it towards the side of his left jaw with a slight “hyah”! This time she did something she’d never really done before: she put effort into her attack. Even against Asad she’d tried to be careful not to hurt him...but this guy was already dead, and was mindless to boot!

The super-zombie didn’t have time to react to Arcana’s attack, except for perhaps the briefest flicker of shock across his face before his lower jaw snapped painfully sideways and he was sent flying backward instead this time around, slamming back almost through the holes in the wall he’d created, though his outstretched arms did more damage to the school hallway’s stability as he went past.

It would be tempting enough for Karen to think that he’d been defeated. After all, no opponent so far had taken a serious punch from her and kept fighting and the mammoth zombie had ended up knocked into a pile of rubble with a good portion of his face rearranged. Unfortunately the zombie rose from the detritus as easily as he’d risen from the grave, his jaw and portions of his skull visibly snapping back into place and knitting back together. He picked up the two biggest chunks of leftover building at hand and pitched them at Karen one after the other like baseballs, his movements seeming to become increasingly human as the fight wore on.

”Eh? He’s still in one piec-” Lady Arcana started in disbelief, only to have her words cut short as a piece of her new school came hurting towards her. Swiftly moving to catch it in order to keep it from potentially slamming into somebody, this unfortunately blinded her to the second one as it crashed down upon her. Driven to the ground by this, the wizardess left a series of small impact craters as she bounced along into the playground area.

Shaking her head slightly in disbelief, she placed her hands onto the ground and pushed herself up. That was something she didn’t even believe was possible. She really was trying to destroy him that last time. What was he made out of that he could still be coming at her? Worse, the damage he did take had just healed almost instantly!

Pursing her lips and knitting her eyebrows, Lady Arcana stared down the massive creature. That was finally when she noticed it.

That chill running up her spine. Her ability to sense magic’s calling card. And it was a sharper sting than she had ever experienced before. This thing was far beyond what Asad’s armor had been capable of, and worse, there was...something else about it...a maelstrom of screams that made her head throb. She could feel them now, like a hurricane of tortured souls swirling about this creature, with it as the gruesome eye. How many? Millions? Tens of millions?

”What are you?” Lady Arcana couldn’t stop herself from asking.

The creature actually paused at the question as if taken by surprise and needing to ponder the answer for a moment, briefly hesitating. An answer bubbled up from the roiling, mixing swamp of souls that animated him, a half-remembered name he wasn’t sure was his own.

“Me….Solomon...Grundy.”
With that, whatever personal crisis the mega-zombie seemed to be having ended, and he once again charged Arcana like an undead rhinoceros, tearing up chunks of flooring and earth as he raced across the building and the playground area to try and collide with her again.

Solomon Grundy? Where had she heard that before?

The Intellect of Mnemosyne quickly helped her recall the old Nursery Rhyme her mother once sang to her when she was small. Right, it was an old English poem. Somehow, though, she didn’t think the nine foot tall mass of pain and hatred that was thundering towards her right now was what the poet behind it had in mind when he wrote the thing.

Still, even more surprising was that it had talked just now. No mudo had ever done that before. Still, it didn’t change the fact that he was ludicrously powerful, and still eager to throw down with her. She needed to end this, or the damage to not just the school, but Hub City itself was going to be outrageous!

Lifting off the ground just shortly before she was within “Solomon Grundy’s” immense grasp, Lady Arcana darted to the side in a blur of motion and wrapped her arms around one of his tree-like limbs. Spinning her entire body along with her passenger in an instant, a cyclone of wind immediately blasted the area and made the nearby trees sway violently, with the various slides and jungle gyms the younger children played on creaking in protest.

Finally she allowed her grip to go lax, launching the behemoth of undead flesh not only into the sky, but clean out of the Earth’s orbit. He was like a blazing fireball, in fact, as friction took its hold over him in a vain attempt to slow his ascent. Actually, she was starting to feel like maybe she had gotten a little carried away when a visible mushroom cloud of fire erupted on the moon, causing her to wince.

“Uh...sorry, Mr. Moon,” Lady Arcana muttered.

Lady Arcana then felt a gentle vibration inside of her, recognizing the feeling of her cell phone vibrating from a new text message. Reaching a hand up to the metaphysical conduit in thunderbolt form on her chest, a thunderbolt immediately shot into her hand, the brief light fading to reveal the device.

Holding it up, she saw it was a text from Zoey.

>Was that you or is World War 3 starting?

Karen felt a blush slowly working over her face as she exhaled. Everyone in half the world had just witnessed that, hadn’t they?

>Yes. It was me. I’m sorry, there was...a REALLY big mudo.

Unfortunately, Karen’s embarrassment seemed just slightly premature as before long what looked like a shooting star, or more accurately a small meteorite, was hurtling through the atmosphere. The brilliant streak of light grew larger and larger until it rapidly became obvious that, however impossible it seemed, the mudo known as Solomon Grundy was making a return trip, right ontop of Lady Arcana’s position.

Lady Arcana felt her jaw drop at the sight of the burning meteor that was rapidly heading back towards her. It...couldn’t be, right?

”No fucking way…” She muttered, lifting off the ground.

There was no time to be surprised. If he impacted Hub City at that speed...well, she didn’t even want to consider the damage it was going to do! Without another moment’s hesitation, she rocketed straight towards the glowing ball of hate, slamming into it while it was still in the upper stratosphere.

The resulting crack would be heard across much of the United States, and perhaps even beyond that, a sonic boom of unprecedented proportions. Her arms wrapped firmly around the burning hot corpse as she fell back to the Earth with him at a far less dangerous pace, crashing down into the fields on the outskirts of Hub City with a series of cratering bounces before finally settling off the shore of Lake Dover.

”Nnn…” Lady Arcana grunted, stumbling back away from the towering man before he could potentially rise again…as ludicrous as that thought felt.

This time though, the smoking, smoldering nine-foot-slab of a corpse didn’t rise. He twitched weakly, but didn’t seem to be regenerating like he had previously and had a good portion of his anatomy reduced to ash from the intense heat of rapidly exiting and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere already besides. It was a testament to his freakish durability that there was anything left of him given what he’d been through, but Solomon Grundy seemed as good as dead once more.

Lady Arcana didn’t approach at first, especially as he twitched. It was only after several minutes of staring at his charred, smoking corpse that she cautiously edged closer. Reaching a leg out, she nudged him with her foot. Nothing. Releasing a heavy sigh, she ran her fingers through her hair and let her head sag slightly.

”Man, what was with that thing?” She muttered, lifting off the ground once more. She continued to stare down at it until the sound of distant sirens caught in her ear.

Shaking her head slightly, she raised her hood and flew her way back to the school. The least she could try and do was fix what damage she could there. Maybe, like...awkwardly prop up all those lockers or something…

Halloween was now probably her least favorite season.

Hopefully nothing would happen to ruin Christmas for her, next.
Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Afro Samurai
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Afro Samurai Like a Raisin in the Sun

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Caged No More


New York State Penitentiary
December 1st, 2020
3:30 a.m.

Whispers about who was behind the death of Don Carmine “The Snake” Persico, boss of the Colombo Crime Family, spread rapid. Whispers turned to audible words: it was The Tiger--or so everyone thought--Marvin never killed anyone, and never would. He had been framed by that hunter. A Cheytach M200, .405 caliber, perhaps the most powerful sniper rifle known to man. This was no discovery of Marvin’s, rather one of forensics officer Martinez--a man who Marvin had grown closer to given Marvin’s recent decline in available resources. Only the finest hunters used such a rifle, and typically only for hunting big game: the M2 00 line of Cheytach rifles had less bullet drop, virtually little drift. That explained why it tore through the M5 Aramid mesh plating like butter.

Marvin was so close to death, and he would never have seen it coming. Whoever shot him was sparing him, there was no reason for an enemy of his to refuse killing the man who had been a thorn in the underworld’s side for what seemed an eternity. To a degree, Marvin respected the mysterious hunter’s poise--it took a skilled man to watch the watcher. What Marvin didn’t respect was being toyed with, it was one of the few things which angered him; Marvin never played with his victims, he respected their skill, and he respected his own mortality. He was always aware that he could be bested--whoever was hunting Marvin clearly thought themselves invincible. Marvin would show him otherwise.

It was a cold December night, Marvin was waiting to be let out on bail; he had recently been arraigned and was being held until bail could be posted. What was left of his fortune was tied up in litigations and lawyer fees. When and if bail was posted before his trial, he was unsure whether he would even have a place to lay his head, let alone continue his training and his tenure as The Tiger. His musings were interrupted by the flash of a guard’s light, it was bed time. Marvin’s cellmate, a fellow African American was already sleep, he was around Marvin’s height and twenty pounds heavier. Marvin would sleep light; if the Colombo’s thought he was behind the murder of their boss, their greenbacks would know no color.

Marvin slept light intentionally. As expected, in the depth of night he heard his cell door open. Marvin awoke solemn: one hispanic man, 5'7, 210--a Southsider foot soldier named “Joker.”, a Nazi Lowrider footsoldier, “Bear” 6’2, 210; and one of their own, an Italian, “Pittsburgh” Pete, 6’1, 230. At least this time they had sent some guys who were in good athletic condition. On top of not getting much sleep, and the compounding stress from all these worrisome foes, Marvin would certainly let some steam off on these three. Oh, yes, and there was the other African American who happened to be his cellmate. Marvin stared at the bunk above him and watched as it creaked; he calmly removed his hands from behind his head. Marvin asked them only once after he stood up,

“Who wants to leave?”

Marvin got his answer when Pittsburgh Pete charged him with a crudely designed shank; Marvin secured Pete’s weapon arm and twisted it sideways, forcing him to drop the shank, then Marvin swung Pittsburgh Pete’s face into the concrete wall immediately beside. Pete’s skull bashed against the wall before Pete himself slumped to the cold concrete floor.

Next, the Nazi Lowrider, Bear, nearly as big and well built as Marvin, this one would take some time. Luckily for Marvin, the cell was 6x8, small enough to funnel one man at a time. Something told Marvin these men were too clumsy to know how to maneuver such a small space--he wasn’t. Bear charged forward, his gargantuan arms managed to get hold of Marvin! Bear landed two hard hooks, one to Marvin’s ribs, another to his jaw. Marvin stumbled back, dazed by the onslaught; that muscle memory he had to use against the Kinderfresser kicked in again, as Bear went to throw another punch, Marvin evaded. Marvin contorted his body between the narrow space of the bunkbed and the toppling body of Bear as the large, tattooed man with a well combed beard stumbled forward from the poorly executed attempt at a punch. A well aimed sidekick to the kidneys aided by Marvin’s superhuman strength propelled Bear’s body into northern wall with a hard thud.

As Marvin turned to deal with the last of the readied attackers, he had all but forgotten about the his equal-sized African American cellmate who referred to himself as ‘Boobie’. Boobie had pulled a homemade shank of his own from his slides and was merely waiting for the right time to strike. Meanwhile, Marvin was dealing with the Southsider, who was considerably smaller than the other men but much quicker. With his shank, he had managed to catch Marvin once in the arm and another time in the side, blood leaked down Marvin’s arm and his side, staining his orange jumpsuit trackpants. The shock of being stabbed and the realization of the pain were not far apart, Marvin let out a howl! What was just another encounter had just become a fight for his life--and it only made him fight harder!

When Joker went to stab Marvin again, Marvin latched a hand around his wrist and pulled Joker forward into Marvin himself before at the last second he let go and hammered a bone-shattering fist directly into Joker’solar plexus which sent Joker off his feet and flying backward toward the rails of the second tier railing where Joker almost toppled over but was saved by a quick lapse in momentum. Joker’s entire chest had been shattered, but cleanly. It was here that the night shift guards had realized their mistake, when they heard the clash of flesh against steel and realized it was not Marvin, whose death they were paid to look the other way for.

Just as Boobie was about to attack Marvin, the guards intervened. Marvin was taken to the infirmary for his injuries but the wounds healed within fourty eight hours. It was as though he had never been stabbed at all, there was no chance for infection, no sign of rupture at all. No matter how fast he healed, it didn’t cease the incessant desire to amass the rest of his resources and take down the Mob for good. His desire was, of course, not practical--and he had bigger things to worry about.

December 10th, 2020
Calogero’s resturaunt
Brooklyn, New York
6:00 p.m.

Bail had been posted, though he was still awaiting trial. The problem? He was virtually broke. The small portion of money he did have was relocated into the stock market, namely a major television corporation and some virtual currency. Tonight, he was dining by himself, intentionally, at the local Italian restaurant. The gesture was a subtle reminder that the mob had failed to kill him again. He could feel the pernicious eyes fixed on him by the wiseguy restaurant owners. The only reason they didn't throw him out was because he was a paying customer and the restaurant was packed tonight.

It was when he got outside that he got the greeting he was seeking. A trademark black limousine was trailing him as he walked. Marvin knew they were following him, and Marvin knew that the henchmen knew that Marvin knew he was following them. Marvin moved down an alleyway, he could hear the tires cease and the then the silence. The newest revolution of gunmen the dysfunctional Colombo’s had sent were second guessing the onis of their mission. The two gunmen, Michael “Mikey” Provenzano and Jimmy “Fish” Palmese, knew the fate they would suffer if they failed like the other eight people who had failed to kill Marvin Hayes.

They couldn’t get the image of Alessandro’s--the man who attempted to kill Marvin in the hospital--severed head out of their mind. No one ever knew what happened to the first two gunmen who were sent to kill Marvin in October, either. In turn, Michael and Jimmy knew what would happen if they failed their mission as well. Then again, the Colombo family, already the most disorganized of the Five Families thanks to their infighting and constant changes in leadership--not to mention the death of their boss presumably at the hands of Hayes--had become the laughing stock of the New York mafia.

The Colombo name no longer struck fear in the hearts of New York’s denizens after it had failed to kill one man, what power did they really have over Brooklyn as a whole? Word was that Gambino was moving in on their turf already and that Colombo’s seat on the New York Commission was in doubt as well. Colombo was reduced from being the most influential family in Brooklyn, and the third most influential in New York to a tattered family with about as much influence as the present day Detroit or Milwaukee mobs. It didn’t pay to be a made man of the Family of the “The Snake” Persico.

But they still had power, and they still had the backing of the Commission--at least until the next sit down--and so these two foot soldiers were obliged to do their job. They exited the car, Marvin kept moving down the alleyway until he was swallowed by the darkness. Shiny black shoes clapped against cobblestone as they chased him down the alley; a shred of light illumined the grey of his hoodie as Michael and Jimmy raised their desert eagles and fired three shots a piece; there was a splash of blood: Marvin caught a bullet through the shoulder, one through the tricep, one through the left glute, one through the hand, and another through the ankle. The gunfire ceased momentarily; perched birds flew from their resting places and took to the skies.

Blood streamed down the alleyway toward the two gunmen and stained their shined shoes. They, like the first set of assassins, aimed to finish the job. As they neared the spot where they last saw the grey hoodie, they fired at the ground--presuming Marvin was gunned down--and it was only when the respective flame from their weapons shone on a… slab of concrete.

“Woah, woah, woah, Jimmy wait!” Michael said, “where the fuck is he?! Didn’t you hit the damn moolie, Mike?”

“I don’t fuckin’ know, Jimmy! I thought you had ‘im!”

“Well if I ain’t hit the fuck and you’s ain’t hit the fuck--where the fuck is. . .”

And lit through the gleam of a small hanging light attached to brick apartment backdoors there were a set of deep brown eyes offering color against the obscured dark of the alley.

“Oh shit. . .” Jimmy “Fish” Palmese and Mikey Provenzano muttered in unison, their bodies frozen with full and realized dread. Then there were screams.

Some hours later, police found the bloodied and half naked bodies of Jimmy Palmese and Mikey Provenzano strung upside down to a streetlight. They were barely alive. There were three claw marks--whose wounds were still opened and bleeding--sprawled from the chest to the lower torso of both men. It was the mark of the Tiger: Marvin was sending any would-be hunters, amateur or professional, a message--there would be no more mercy.


Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Simple Unicycle
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Simple Unicycle Playing It Bogart

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3:53 PM, October 30th
Kasimir Castle; Gotham City, New Jersey


"Mom, I'm ho-" David's usual greeting was cut off as he noticed dozens of children in his home. "What the fuck?" His backpack falling out of his hands, the young man stood in awe at the crowd of children. They barely paid him any mind, instead choosing to play or talk or eat from a large tray of snacks that was set out. '... Okay, seriously, what is going on?' Surely there was a logical explanation for there being upwards of a hundred kids in his house, right? Right?

"I think Malcolm might've made mom want a lot of kids..." He muttered to himself, before hearing a loud CRASH! to his right. He broke into a sprint, heading towards the source of the sound and finding himself in one of the Castle's various studies. There, some kids were looking at the shattered remains of a bust, a panicked expression on their faces. "Hey! Get outta here, scram!" He shouted, and with that the children bolted out of the room as quickly as they could.

David sighed, "... Shit."

"David..." Came a strained voice from above "Hey... Dave! Up here!"

Directly above the young teenager and completely flush with the ceiling, having wedged himself between a support beam and the wall about twenty feet up, and going red in the face from the effort to stay up there... was Malcolm.

"...Little help?"

One Hour and Forty-Five Minutes Earlier...


For the first time in a long time, Malcolm was... relaxed; sitting cross-legged in an old, comfy chair in a warm, quiet room with an old book in front of him, and of course, no one trying to murder him at that exact second in time. Last night was the first decent night's sleep he'd had in nearly a year, thanks to Zoey's quick thinking, sewing skills and being the kind of person that just had some lead plates lying around, and today the first day he'd simply just... sat, having been nose-deep in the writings of Mark Twain since he woke up; The combination of his youthful imagination and his powerful metahuman brain having made reading an actual book a particularly engrossing experience as his mind's eye played the whole story out to him in incredible detail.

...Which goes some way towards explaining why the boy who could see for miles, through anything not made of lead, was caught off guard by a tiny fucking corgi that came barrelling into the room at mach-speed.

"What the Sam-Fuck!?" The small Bludhaven-boy cried out as he was unceremoniously yanked back into reality by the feeling of something small and fuzzy zooming past his legs, causing him to leap out of his chair like it was on fire.

"I think he went this way!"

'Whowhat?'

Malcolm froze, staring straight ahead, out the window. That sounded almost like... a kid. A whole... lot of kids, in fact, judging by the rippling soundwaves bouncing across his vision from behind.

Slowly turning around, body steadily filling more and more with dread, he finally cast his metahuman eyes across the Castle's interior.

'Oh...'

Kids. Hundreds of them. Everywhere. Where they came from, none could say, but they were everywhere.

...Including the hallway leading to this room. On a warpath, looking for a puppy.

Idly, Malcolm's hand went to his neck, only to find his trademark welding goggles absent for the first time in months.

'Oh that's not good...'

One Hour and Forty-Three Minutes Earlier...


'Okay Mally, don't freak out. Once they find the dog, it'll bolt again, they'll chase it, and you can come right back down and sneak out...'

A sound plan. A good plan. One that would surely have worked... had the corgi puppy in question not immediately flipped over on it's back and whined for belly rubs the second the invading children found it on the floor directly beneath where Malcolm was hiding.

'Oh, fer...'

One Hour Earlier...

"Hey, guys! Come play with the dog!"

"Aww, he likes you!"

'Ker, could you stop being a slut for FIVE. FUCKING. MINUTES?'

Thirty Minutes Earlier...


"He's so cute when he's sleepy..."

'AAAAHHHHHH!'

Now...


"Dude... seriously... gonna need'ja ta catch me..." Malcolm groaned, his body shaking in protest and beads of sweat coming off his head.

David was still stunned at the fact that there were so many kids in the house. Now he was even more stunned that his new brother was currently hanging onto a pillar for dear life. "How the hell did... Nevermind, just jump and I'll catch you."

"Thank... fuck..." Was all Malcolm could grunt as he abruptly let go and plummeted straight down towards his foster-brother of one day, wincing, and eyes shut as he mentally braced for the possibility of making a red stain on Zoey's nice carpeted floor.

David braced himself, catching Malcolm and nearly falling over, his knees buckling from the added weight. "Hurk! Man, you are heavier than I thought you'd be..." David muttered, before setting Malcolm down. "So why were you up there? It's not like... Oh, right." David stopped himself, upon remembering his foster brother's glowing orange eyes.

"... Why don't we head out for a bit, until this whole... Thing, gets sorted out?

Making a pained sound as he flapped his arms to get the feeling back in 'em, Malcolm took a minute to answer, after a long series of muttered curses that were directed towards something that sounded awfully like 'fuzzy little slut'.

"...What'd ya have in mind?"

Just a few minutes later, and the boys were driving out of the castle's driveway in David's new Camaro. "Wanna go get something to eat or something?" David asked Malcolm.

Malcolm, this being only the second time in a car in his entire goddamn life, almost didn't heard David's question from his current position on cloud fucking nine.

"Wait, what?" He started for a second, before his brain caught back up to reality "Oh. Food. Hell yeah, I'm down to eat anything that isn't made of rat!"

"Sweet! We can head to Big Belly Burger, I heard they came out with some wings recently." With that, all went silent for a short while. "... Let's listen to some tunes." David began to fiddle with the radio, going past several different stations.

"-WOOP WOOP! THAT'S THE SOUND OF THE POL-"

"-I'm Slim Shady, yes I'm the real Sha-"

"Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?"

David paused, not changing the station any further, then grinned as he began to sing along to the song.

Malcolm's head perked up at that, casting a raised brow towards his foster-brother as he began to sing...

The sight of the other boy was kinda ridiculous in his mind, but after a second or two, a small smile began to break out onto his face; his unique way of comprehending the world, the tiny explosions in the engine, the soundwaves dancing from the stereo and even the neurons firing in Dave's brain painted a picture that... he didn't dislike, as he began to hum along to the tune and strum his hands along the dash to the beat.

A hell of a thing, considering the kid comprehended the world as if it were constantly on fire.

"What is this, anyway?" The younger boy asked after a while.

Malcolm's question caused Dave's singing (and almost his driving) to come to a grinding halt. "Dude? Have you never heard Bohemian Rhapsody? Queen?"

A quirked brow met Dave's question.

"Bowman Whatnow? Malcolm asked, head tilting slightly
"Never owned a radio, Dave. No idea what'cher talking about."

"... Mal, this is a once in a lifetime experience. Your first time listening to Bohemian Rhapsody should send you to another planet, nay, another galaxy, nay, another universe. Let's quiet down now." With that, David shushed up, allowing his foster brother to just listen to the song.

"Ooookay?" Malcolm started at that particular statement, but kept quiet as Dave requested, closing his eyes to just listen to the beat... of course, closing his eyes made no difference, considering his eyelids weren't made of lead, but it did help him relax.

...After a few seconds, his fingers began rapping on the dashboard again.

His head began to bob side to side as the sounds thundered across his vision like art, his shoulders began to follow the motion of his melon and then, inexplicably, by something that could only be attributed to the perfect alignments of stars, planets and the will of a few gods, he began to sing along. The ridiculous reaction-time of his brain synching to the lyrics as they poured from the speakers.

"I see a little silhouetto of a man..."

David grinned, deciding to continue singing along as well. "Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?"

"Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright'ning me!" Malcolm continued, with more fire now as his enhanced senses began to pump a healthy dose of endorphins into his brain at this newfound stimulus.

"Galileo!"

"Galileo!"

"Galileo!"

"Galileo!"

"Galileo Figaro Magnifico-oh-ohhh!"

"I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me..."

"He's just a poor boy from a poor family, spare him his life from this monstrosity!"

There were a few seconds as both brothers played fake piano on the dash.

"Easy come, easy go, will you let me go-hooo?"

"Bismillah! No, we will not let you go!"

"Let him go! Bismillah! We will not let you go!"

"Let him go! Bismillah! We will not let you go!"

"Let me go! "Will not let you go!"

"Let me go! "Never let you go!"

"Let me go-oh-ooooooh!"

"No! no! no! no! no! no! NO!"

Ferociously, Malcolm's fist rose to the heavens as if in scorn for the Gods themselves.

"OH MAMMA-MIA, MAMMA-MIA! MAMMA-MIA LET ME GO!"

"Beelzebub has the devil put aside for me, fooor meeeee, fooor meeeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeeeee!" David sang, his voice cracking. It was just a few moments before that David had accidentally pocket-dialed Zoey.




Steel-blue eyes cut away from the FBI Agent as a familiar buzz lit up against Zoey's hip, slender fingers retrieving the expensive black phone. A glance at the caller ID had a frown crossing her face before she held up a hand.

"Excuse me a moment, Agent Ramsey. My son is calling - no doubt wondering about... this," For a moment she gestured to one of the small office's walls, out towards where the myriad of children were no doubt decimating some very expensive things. The billionaire slid her thumb across the screen and lifted it to her ear. "Hello Da-"

"-fooor meeeee, fooor meeeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeeeee!"

Zoey quickly brought the phone away from her ear, the singing coming from it easily heard in the small space. For a moment she could only stare incredulously at the speaker, just for the edges of her lips to twitch up as David's voice cracked. A soft chuckle built up in her throat hearing the music drifting in, the muffled voices of David and Malcolm singing along. Neither of her boys would be winning American Idol anytime soon. For a moment the vigilante could only stare fondly at her phone before finally hitting the end call button, having figured out quickly it was merely a "butt dial" as the kids say.

At least her strays were getting along.

"... I'm sorry Agent Ramsey, you were saying?"




David pulled into the drive-thru of Big Belly Burger, he and his brother wildly headbanging. "Big Belly Burger, how may I help you?"

"Huh? Oh, right, uhhh, two orders of the Big Belly Buffalo Wings, and a large Coke. Uh, wait." David turned to Malcolm, "What do you want to drink, bud?"

"Uhh..." Malcolm deadpanned a minute, brows knit in confusion at what he'd heard and what he'd been asked "...Did you just order cocaine?"

"What? No! It's Coca-Cola, it's a soft drink." David sighed, remembering that his new brother probably wasn't used to ordering food from fast food places. "... How about a Sprite or something?"

"I... guess?" Malcolm shrugged, clearly not knowing the correct answer either way. "So long as it's not dirty water, I'm good."

"It's far from dirty water, my friend." David turned back to the intercom, "And a large Sprite."

"Okay, that'll be $11.89. Please proceed to the next window." With that, David went to the next window, receiving and paying for the pair's food and drinks. He pulled into a nearby alley, pulling their food out of the bag and handing Malcolm his drink. The younger lad examining the cup with a comically perplexed look on his face.

"It's... fizzy." He finally said after a moment of staring and downright constipated-looking expressions... and then took in a gulp.

There was another bit of silence from the boy as his head craned to the side and his lips smacked a few times.

"Holy fucking shit."

"Holy fucking shit is right." David said around a mouthful of buffalo wing. He looked up, and spotted something peculiar in the rearview mirror. He saw the silhouettes of a group of men, all beating on another man on the ground. He nudged Malcolm, pointing at the mirror. "... I see a little silhoutto of a man."

Very calmly taking a long sip of his drink and giving a satisfied sigh, the younger brother in question raised his brow at his elder for a second before carefully placing his food and drink down where it wouldn't fall over and make a mess.

"Scaramouche, Scaramouche..." He sang, popping his knuckles as an aggressively hooliganish sneer danced it's way onto his features. "Will ya do the Fandango?"
Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Afro Samurai
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Afro Samurai Like a Raisin in the Sun

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Urban Rumble


December 15th, 9:13 PM
Brooklyn


A hunt based only on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal of a hunt should be. It is a simple end game. A memory preserved in a captivating form. For a true hunter, the real prize is in the communion he shares with nature and with his prey. To pit yourself against a worthy opponent - a fellow hunter - in his native environment, where he reigns as king.

This was something Maxim Zarov understood well. He hunted the Tiger, yet the Tiger also hunted him. This was the source of their connection, a bond that embodied the spirit of the hunt itself. Many thought of that spirit as a mere metaphor, but he had learned otherwise as Nimrod the Hunter. By pushing himself to his absolute limit, by stalking through the frigid winds of Siberia with only his barest skin for protection. By facing the world’s most dangerous predators with only his wits and instincts to guide him…

By constantly - willingly - enduring these hardships, forcing them upon himself, he awakened something inside him. He understood now what that was. It was something man had lost long ago when it became “civilized”.

It was a hunter’s instinct, a power that let him transcend his limits as one of these domesticated drones and recapture the essence of the apex predators his ancestors once were.

It was upon understanding this that Maxim Zarov was transformed into Nimrod the Hunter. And that path had brought him here, to his greatest prey yet. A prey that at long last had returned to prowl these streets at the top of his game. His blood practically burned with excitement in this moment.

It was time for the hunt to begin.

Standing atop the roof of one of many of the delipidated projects that dotted the landscape of this urban jungle, Nimrod pointed his flare gun to the sky. With a squeeze of the trigger, a bright red signal ascended.

---

From the colluding point of the warehouse’s top floor, Marvin sat. There were minimal lights, only the whistle of a kettlepot of tea. The sofa in which he sat had its dark blue drowned out by the navy blue glow cast through the window; on the TV in front, on the television was a sitcom. Marvin was, for the first time since he donned that accursed suit, relaxing. He only saw the red flare through his peripheral vision, at which his head turned and trailed its ascent to the heavens. Marvin grabbed the remote control and shut off the television. He sat alone in the dark, an ignition of annoyance, anger, and wear, and excitement lit his spirit.

Someone had gotten his message.

Lifting himself from the comfort of the sofa, be moved through the darkness of the warehouse’s top floor. Marvin took the industrial sized elevator all the way to the basement level where he was combing through which one he would wear for this challenger: the red one? No, too bright. Not enough impact resistance. The blue one? That one was for underwater. The newest white one was still unfinished, the magitech one he had been working on since March proved ineffectual still, though physically complete. Then he opted for none.

He had fought numerous enemies in that suit, and in some sense it restrained him; he had an image to uphold when he bore the mask. The Tiger was the hero, the symbol of hope for the small community he vowed to protect; Marvin was none of that. Marvin was a cowardly kid from Detroit who had begun to relish the predatory nature of his name for the power it gave him over others. That red flare meant that the one who Tiger had been hunting--and the one who spared his life--had decided to come collect Tiger’s head and place it on his mantle.

But tonight, he was getting Marvin, and Marvin was an entirely different animal. It didn’t take long for Marvin to ascend up the industrial elevator and step through the front doors of the warehouse; in the silence of Brooklyn’s streets, the creak of the large warehouse doors was audible to one such as Nimrod. Marvin walked into the full visage of the one who was hunting him. It was time to end this.

--

Nimrod’s eyes widened from his hidden vantage point even as his heart sank into the pit of his stomach.

What was this? Why did he not come garbed in the pelt of the Tiger? Was that not the true form of this hunter? Why would he come for him as a mere man? Was he looking down upon him? Did he think him such an easy opponent that he did not need his weaponry?

No. Something told him that they were perhaps more alike than he ever suspected. Nimrod had often abandoned his weaponry - despite having a virtual army’s wroth of ordinance at his disposal - to confront the deadliest of his prey with no advantages. This was what he was doing now. He didn’t simply seek victory...no, he wanted to prove that he was stronger, that his prowess was greater. That he was the true top predator here.

How could Nimrod not oblige this?

He had made plans to confront The Tiger. Had laid traps, had prepared for him to attack from multiple avenues. Had brought weapons that would overcome his extraordinary ability to heal. So much work had gone into tonight...and yet he would throw it all aside to meet him in unarmed combat, in their most primal and savage state.

Leaping to the ground only a short distance from Marvin Hayes with an impact that he surely heard, Nimrod had little desire to mask his presence at this point. In full view of the other hunter, he discarded the rifle on his back, letting it clammer to the pavement. It was soon followed by several sets of pistols and even his hunting knife and hat.

Finally, Nimrod placed his hands over his mask and discarded it as well. Staring down Marvin Hayes - a man of comparable size and build to himself - with an intensity only another predator could appreciate, he widened his stance and spread his arms apart.

--

As Nimrod descended and landed only a few feet from Marvin’s gaze, Marvin looked him up and down. Marvin’s countenance was deflated, he had imagined a man skilled as Nimrod would be… grander! Then again, Marvin was sure Nimrod himself thought the same. Marvin scanned his eyes up and down Nimrod’s thick frame--his muscle was all built from natural hunting, Marvin gleaned: tigers, bears, alligators, panthers. Nimrod’s muscle was more raw, more natural, unlike Marvin’s whose build was sculpted by a mixture of weightlifting and the cardio which came with his line of work. Marvin admired physical manifest ferocity when he saw it.

Marvin assumed no stance, he never did. Stances were rigid, they telegraphed movements and springloaded muscles when they need not be. If Marvin was right, Nimrod was beyond a normal human, much like himself; actually, it was apparent given that he hadn’t completely destroyed his legs upon descending from the building. Marvin smiled before he spoke,

“The fuck is you?” the intentional elegance of the Tiger was lost on Hayes, this was a subtle mental stratagem. It was easier to disarm one who expected the mysticism of a figure to engulf the man behind the shroud.

--

“I am hungry, as I hope you are,” Nimrod replied.

It would be the only words he spoke before he closed the distance between them in what was virtually a single bound. He did not move as a man would in this instant, but rather like a wild beast. Fingers acted as claws, and his teeth glinted beneath the moonlight as he leaped towards the other predator.

Despite being in mid air - which should mean a lack of mobility, Nimrod quickly twisted his body in much the same way a cat would, ironically. Sailing clean over Hayes in the process, he lashed out with his bare fingers to slash them across the former champion’s back. Although he lacked claws and his nails were trimmed short, the Spirit of the Hunt granted him claws every bit as effective as his opponent’s namesake, a shimmering light seeming to emanate from his his fingertips.

Landing on his feet, Nimrod crouched and assumed a primal stance, a highly fluid and mobile posture that would allow him to counter anyone that attempted to battle him as a mere man.

Nimrod was brutal, primal, and animalistic. Marvin had stylistic counters for such a wild form of fighting, but he would not utilize them yet. It would give Nimrod a chance to counter, and if Marvin was to win this bout, he would have to control the hand he played. When Nimrod leapt and bounded up and behind him, Marvin rather expected what was next, when the claws sliced his back, Marvin instinctively stumbled forward; the open wounds in his back--the claw marks (his own insignia) carved in. It was the flash of pain and his own flesh tearing that Marvin twisted after he had regained his footing. Blood seeped down his chocolate back, priming it a crimson red.

Marvin’s next movements were light as a ballerina’s, and so strange a way of closing space that it created somewhat of an optical illusion: a grande jete, Marvin elevated himself up and forward on a slight angle to nearly indiscreetly close the distance between himself and Nimrod, then with the left leg planted, the other swung upward, thrown from the hip and around to the side of Nimrod’s corresponding arm. To block it, one would have to reach across his body or risk having his bicep bludgeoned. And if Nimrod moved, well, that was all the better. Marvin had something for that, too.

Marvin Hayes’ movements were as swift as he had hoped they would be. He had observed him on the hunt before, but one could never truly know the power and speed of their prey until they were standing right before them. His own body had already began moving as these thoughts raced through his mind, for he could not afford to contemplate his actions. No, instinct would be his guide here, and it had resulted in him nearly falling flat onto his back...only to twist and contort himself once again at the last moment and land on his hands, his lower body twisting at the waist as his own leg swung upwards in an arc to attempt to slash the extended limb of his opponent.

He could feel his heart pounding in this moment. He was excited. He did not know what move his prey would make next. Unlike so many animals he had grown accustomed to hunting, unlike any other human, this man had something Nimrod had been craving for such a long time: unpredictability.

The heat of his blood rushing through his veins was his reward for this exchange, and he wondered if he would be victorious again, or be the one whose pelt would adorn a wall.

The well known idiosyncrasy about ballet is that each movement if used as a template for movement and mixing those movements to execute strikes, whether they are just being started or in motion, is that its movements are only to serve as a chaining method: one strike into another, make the opponent believe you have fully committed to one motion when you have an entirely different one planned. When Nimrod had twisted his body and went to throw his leg up to cut at the extended limb, Marvin twisted his hips through the kick--the first only a means of deflection, it was the second leg which held the true power behind the turning strike.

Nimrod’s claws had only served to follow the path of Marvin’s leg, like when a boxer rolls his body along the momentum of a punch to lessen the impact, the motion of Marvin’s first leg turned what would have been a deep gash if Marvin had loaded himself down and thrown real might behind the decoy leg into a small scratch. Marvin’s second leg winded around as his body gave fully to the full spin of the split roundhouse and went to devastate the outside of Nimrod’s committed outstretched leg, namely the upper thigh.

A whirlpool of blood whipped about as Marvin spun, the back of his grey hoodie in tatters; the blood had begun to congeal slowly.

Nimrod grunted in pain when the hard impact of Marvin’s follow up kick impacted his thigh, but he nevertheless allowed the force of the strike to carry his limb back to the ground. Ignoring the searing jolt that worked its way through his leg, the hunter rose to his feet while slashing out at the other man - a single, fluid motion. They gave Hayes something other than attacking to worry about as he reoriented himself, a second to once more locate an avenue of attack. He could smell the blood in the air now, almost taste it. He felt more alive now than at any other point in his life!

But patience was also a valued trait in any apex predator, and he did not strike again after he regained his feet. Instead he merely crouched low and fixed his eyes to the body of his prey. It was a body built by machines in a gym, but it was an effective and awe inspiring example of such a thing. It was, however, a common form for athletic young men...and that allowed Nimrod to know the meaning behind every ripple his abs, every twinge of his sinew. High or low, a punch, kick or tackle? Perhaps a headbutt, even.

This time, it would be Hayes that would need to make the first move.

No sooner than Nimrod idled, Marvin knew what he was doing. It was the same thing Tiger did when he hunted less skilled victims. The problem with a passive position was quite the same problem one faced in chess: no matter how careful you were, not every move was an intricate weaving toward winning--some came with aggressive usurping. This in mind, Marvin zagged himself toward Nimrod, his own body only slightly off kilter of a straightforward charge, Marvin was only desiring one thing.

Marvin used his gathered forward momentum and quickly thinned his body so that he was in somewhat of an orthodox boxing stance and he threw a zipping hook for Nimrod’s side. In his blaze of speed and the seamless transition into the Western boxing orthodox stance, Marvin was making his next move aggressive and subtle all the same. He wanted to get Nimrod to think about doing precisely what was on his own mind. If he bit, Marvin would execute the next step.

Nimrod saw the hook coming, gently easing back to allow it to sweep past his stomach. The tension in his muscles told him that Hayes was not going all in on this attack, and he had proven himself fond of feints. Lowering himself into a crouched position without ceasing the momentum he generated with his dodge, the hunter began to slide around behind the boxer. Lashing out with a vicious leg sweep that was withdrawn just as quickly, he almost simultaneously slashed at Marvin with his hands in order to dissuade him from either attempting to strike him or try for a grapple.

Instinctual aggression would not win this day for either of them, it did need to be tempered by the caution of nature’s ultimate predator: man. Domesticated though they were, they were nevertheless merely victims of their species own success.

Nimrod had done what Marvin wanted, the crouch, the attempt to train himself to Marvin’s back, precisely why Marvin had positioned himself slightly to the side of Nimrod when Nimrod was standing, and thus Marvin could place his dominant leg where it would allow him to mirror Nimrod’s turn. When Nimrod moved to execute the legsweep, Marvin utilized that unnatural contortion provided to him by his indefatigable balance and landed himself on one hand soon as the sweep came. Atop the one hand he spun: capoeira was not a useless fighting style as many had thought.

With a brief and compact twist, Marvin dropped his second hand down to support the weight of his first, and using his legs as his primary guard, twisted himself into Nimrod’s guard diagonally, just out of reach of yet another claw swipe. Unloading the force that travelled up his legs and hips, he performed an au batido, both of Marvin’s heels went to drive into Nimrod’s frame as it maneuvered. The duality of capoeira, its fine defense against low and crouching attacks, as well as its ability to transition in and out of vertical and ground positions and onto one’s feet was remarkable.

Nimrod had seen this fighting form before in South America. He had never thought particularly much of its overly flashy techniques. It apparently had once been Brazil’s premier martial art, but the emergence of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu had toppled it from that throne. Still, any fighting technique in the hands of this man would undoubtedly be effective, and so underestimating it was not an option. His previous approach had been unsuccessful, which warranted a new strategy.

He had never been one to eschew taking hits. He did not fear pain, not from animal and not from any man. Charging forward in an inhuman burst of speed, Nimrod felt the impact of Marvin’s hard kicks, receiving them with nary a wince despite their obvious power. Wounds were common for predators of all shapes and sizes, and had been a common facet of his life as well.

His acceptance of Hayes’ attacks had allowed him to close on him, however, and with his hands as they were, the soft underbelly of his prey was now exposed. Slamming a foot down upon one of those hands as his first action, he neck launched himself towards his midsection. If the martial artist tried to fall back or right himself, he would be ready...otherwise, he would sink both claw and tooth into his flesh and rend him.

The transition from the graceful capoeira dance following having one of his hands stepped on was not a smooth one, as his weight had suddenly been forced onto one arm. To twist backwards would mean being gutted, to twist sideways would require an unnecessary amount of force and a movement too awkward to be executed safely. The only way was the opposite direction, let Nimrod’s momentum lead him forward.

Marvin pushed himself up, a showcase of his own superhuman strength and did not lift himself up over Nimrod entirely before one of Nimrod’s claws cut across the bicep of Marvin’s supporting arm. A spray of blood shot out even as Marvin landed with his back facing Nimrod some feet away. Blood drained down his right arm and the one portion of the bloodied grey hoodie was now sleeveless. Nimrod matched Marvin’s each step--it was clear to Marvin now that Nimrod had been studying him for some time.

A man with this much experience and prowess, and with those ‘claws’ proved himself to be the deadliest threat Marvin had yet faced. Was he a metahuman? No, if he were only a metahuman, his fingernails would not cause gouges this deep! Unless… how was it taking Marvin this long to figure it out? Wherever this Nimrod got his abilities from, they were either another machination of magic or… something else…

Marvin squinted.

He turned himself to face Nimrod fully. Marvin slid both legs apart and crouched, an ambiguous ready stance which belonged to no particular school of martial art. He couldn’t shake the thought; even a metahuman would have been knocked backward by a au batido; Nimrod had bulldozed right through it, as though ignoring the damage. Something Marvin only saw out of movies. Marvin had landed two good hits, neither of which phased Nimrod in the slightest! Wait…

“Hell fuckin’ naw!” Marvin said, he did not follow up.

Nimrod genuinely looked puzzled at the other man’s exclamation, his head tilting ever so slightly to the side.

“ ‘Hell fucking ‘naaah’?” He echoed, his accent struggling with the expression. Very curious. He preferred not to speak once the battle had begun, but this was the first time he had actually bothered to stop and listen to the curious lingo used by those who lived in this area.

But this didn’t matter. He couldn’t allow his adrenalin become diluted by his puzzlement. Raising his fingers - coated in Hayes’ blood - to his lips, he tasted his prey. In that moment, his pupils seemed to become dilated as he once more assumed a primal stance. His entire body seemed to ripped slightly, as did the air immediately surrounding it, as if some strange force was at work.

Nimrod knew well, of course, that this was the Spirit of the Hunt reacting to the taste of blood, the ultimate mark of success for any predator. Exhaling a measured breath, he began to growl. A subtle, almost inhuman noise that rumbled up from the depths of his throat. For the very briefest of moments, the fighter before him would not see a man but a lion, towering and savage.

With a speed no normal human could hope to possess, Nimrod leaped forward with a roar. His “claws” swiped down at Marvin with a great weight behind them, and even more so his body descended with a certainty behind it that would make altering his course considerably difficult.

Lest Marvin be unseamed, he had to swallow his awe of the mighty lion he had just seen for but a brief moment in time and roll his ass the hell out of the way. He made due within but a fraction of time, and only because Nimrod had decided to leap to the heavens instead of outright attacking. That lion, Nimrod’s capabilities, a simple deduction. He had seen it again and again, and each time it was the same,

”It all has a tether.” Marvin had briefly studied the mystical martial arts following his trip to Elysium when he was but a wee vigilante. There were many variations, though; body, elemental, spirit. Which one was this? Marvin strained to put it together while deftly--and at this point instinctually--dodging, maximizing almost every fiber in his metahuman body to avoid being cornered and slaughtered. Adrenaline’s heat blazed through his veins inasmuch as it did Nimrod’s, though Marvin got no special powers from his. Lucky bastard.

Marvin kept trying to gather his thoughts and shuffle through all he had studied of the mystical arts. Elemental? No, so far as Marvin could tell, Nimrod hadn’t yet levitated a boulder with his mind or ignited Marvin on fire with his mind. That wasn’t it, then; body? Nimrod wasn’t a metahuman, so that made sense--it was almost the most logical conclusion. Other than this there was both spirit and chi. Both were inextricably tied to the mystical body martial arts.

”Explains the sudden burst in speed and strength. Explains the ‘claws’ too. Can’t see them, but I feel them like a motherfucker. Marvin thought to himself. Now the matter concerned how to disarm it. If it really was brought about like Marvin assumed--by hunting--physical strain, then its manner of channeling had to be something similar. Try for the chakra points? It was a wager, Marvin didn’t know if it would pay off.

What he could at least partially deduce is a lack of maneuverability while this ‘empowered’ form of Nimrod was active given his inability to change directions in midair as he did earlier. Marvin could use it to work for him somehow, but he couldn’t wait, either. He would get overwhelmed, and Nimrod had studied the surrounding area well, but how well? That would be plan B. Plan A was to allow whatever spirit was within Nimrod to work its own counterintuitive magic.

Nimrod’s gaze remained locked - almost unblinkingly - on the former boxer at this point, not even a slither of humanity present in him at that moment. That low growl continued to hang in his throat as the hunter slowly circled the other man, his posture no longer resembling something a human should normally be capable of. He now walked on his top knuckles, his body distended into a feline-like posture. His heavy breaths were clearly visible on the air, puffs not of exhaustion, but of excitement.

In another burst of speed - this time without even so much as a roar to herald it - he was upon Marvin again, but this time choosing to come from below rather than with a leap. Furthermore, it wasn’t just those powerful “claws” that attempted to close in around the ex-champion, now his jaws had joined the hunt!

Stretching open his mouth, Nimrod’s human teeth could ever so briefly be seen as the terrible maw of that lion that had been glimpsed before as it attempted to close down on the side of Marvin’s neck - just adjacent to the shoulder - to pin him down on the ground alongside the claws. If he was successful, the hunter would attempt to reposition his biting grasp to rip his throat out.

The average reaction time for a human to commit an error was .0025 seconds, in these few seconds, the mind and body are disjointed. Men like Marvin and Nimrod were different. All that was necessary was a millisecond of an opening for Marvin, and it was imperative he strike while Nimrod was semi-feral. When Nimrod burst forth again, Marvin made a rough calculation; Nimrod was certainly faster than himself, in the few feet of distance between himself and Nimrod, Nimrod had closed the distance in but a few seconds.

”45 is fast as I go, a lion is 50. He’s faster than that. Stronger, likely, too. Two steps before, then.” By the time Marvin finished his thought, he had attempted a roll, but was swept back by his the hood of his torn sweatshirt, it was the only reason he hadn’t had his actual neck clamped in Nimrod’s jaws. If this was going to work, it had to work now; he had to keep at least one arm free.

Nimrod had missed his target - the neck - but found another: the lower shoulder of the same side he had initially lunged for. Biting down on it with every ounce of chi-fueled might that existed within his body, he also attempted to sink one set of claws into that same unfortunate limb as the remaining set tried to slash open Hayes’ stomach. This resulted in him completely ignoring one side of the boxer, but in his state of primal savagery, this had yet to register with the brutal hunter.

His weight was now pressing down on the other man who, although they were the same size, seemed much smaller than him now. Attempting to rip his arm clean off from the shoulder, the frenzied predator released a muffled growl. His sense of reason had been completely consumed by the Spirit of the Hunt that now ran through him, making him one with the combined essence of his past kills.

He was determined to add the spirit of Marvin Hayes to that power of his next.

From the chest flowed the source of chi energy and its connection: it was the heart, the center, and in some manuscripts, the root of its power. To stop the flow of chi from its center was to cease its flow entirely. At least, that is what Marvin understood. The spirit lion’s teeth clung deep into his flesh, and though his body was already attempting to mend the wound, it didn’t stimy the anguish! This moment was life or death, and Marvin struggled just as much as Nimrod did, fighting tooth and nail to protect himself from being disemboweled.

He had kept the one arm free as he had desired; and his only light of hope from dying here and now was that single opening. .0025 seconds was all it took for a normal human to miss his one opportunity, for his body and his mind to become disjointed and he make a costly mistake. For Marvin, this margin was smaller; thus, he clenched his free hand into a fist and in a violent turn which tore muscles in his lion-clamped arm from the shoulder all the way down, he used his free hand and exploited his one opening.

With a single, controlled, deliberate blow, Marvin lunged his free arm directly into Nimrod’s exposed chest as he writhed! The sound was gruesome, Marvin’s fleshly fist colliding with the steeled-like skin of Nimrod’s solar plexus--the center of where his chakra was--in aim to shut off his connection to the very spirit of the hunt which flowed through him and turn him into but the mere man he once was.

Nimrod was consumed by a heightened state of bloodlust in this state, unable to contemplate or even remotely consider the vulnerability in his defenses he had left exposed in this moment. So delighted at the taste of his prey’s blood was he that he was caught completely off guard by the hard impact to his chest. In an instant the lion’s jaws vanished as did its claws, and the man known as Maxim Zarov could only blink in confusing as he - ironically - instinctively recoiled and balked at the taste of blood and raw flesh in his mouth.

Carried off the vigilante by the combined force of the strike to his chest and the reflexive retreat he had made, Zarov reached a bloodied hand up to grasp at his own pained chest. Staring down at Marvin for a moment as he attempted to regain his barings, reality required only a moment to at last snap him back.

He was in the middle of the hunt.

But rather than mastering it and proving himself the superior hunter, he had allowed it to consume him. Turn him into a mad, unthinking beast. That was the danger of entering that state. He had thought that with all his experience he could control it, but it would seem he still had room yet for improvement.

Exhaling slightly, Zarov slowly coiled his bloody fingers into fists and raised them in a surprisingly orthodox posture, one Hayes had undoubtedly seen in his career as a boxer.

Marvin’s breathing grew heavy--it was a mixture of adrenaline, pain, and fatigue. Once more was he pushed to the height of his abilities; though the open wounds were gruesome and blood poured from his mangled arm at an alarming rate, Marvin rose to his feet using the one good arm he had. His healing was not so advanced that he could yet heal major injuries to muscles, tendons, or bones. The ribbons of his hoodie fell off him, revealing his dark skin and sculpted upper body.

Marvin would not give up this fight, no matter if he had one good arm or two; and when Nimrod assumed that orthodox boxing stance he had seen time and again, a sinister smile fell across Marvin’s face. Without his chi, Nimrod was a normal man, one who--Marvin assumed--had never fought a true champion of the ring at his own style. And if he had, Marvin would show him why he was the champion and Nimrod was the challenger. Marvin called up the fist belonging to his one good arm and assumed a southpaw stance.

Marvin spit out thick globs of blood which coated his lips. His mostly unkept bushy buzzcut and untrimmed beard nested the morsels of hemoglobin in their blanket. Marvin ushered Nimrod forward.

“Come on then, mothafucka!”

Zarov knew well of Marvin’s healing abilities. While he didn’t believe he could recover from wounds so severe as the ones he had inflicted upon him in his state of frenzy, he didn’t wish to take any chances. He had to take the initiative while he was losing blood, while he was weakened. Even the most rudimentary boxing enthusiast knew that when your opponent had suffered an injury, you should attack them in that location. Obviously, this would be the first place they would think to defend, but that did not make it any less of an effective strategy.

Moving in at peak human speeds, Zarov weaved to Hayes’ injured side and attempted to deal a rapid series of straights to his injured shoulder and arm, wishing to aggravate the wound. His form was tight, his punches short so as not to expose his limbs, and he had turned to the side to minimize himself as a target. While he may not have ever been a champion, he practiced no martial art that he had not mastered thoroughly.

He had injured Hayes as a predator, and now he would finish him as a man!

Even with a bad arm, Hayes mobility was what saved him from the latter half of Nimrod’s attempt at an onslaught. Boxing was not all about the arms you had at your disposal, but the rest of your body just as well--it was head movement and in this case, footwork. Nimrod rushed in, a fool’s tactic, Marvin danced around him, limp arm dangling like putty as the blood began to slow. He had assumed a southpaw stance for this very reason, as natural protection against the ‘wear down the injured body part’ strategy--one he had employed during his career several times.

Nimrod had clearly practiced the fundamentals, however, Marvin recognized that right away. His overzealousness at trying to slip Marvin’s guard and attack Marvin’s weakened back side only let Marvin weave himself away from Nimrod, where Marvin would occasionally slap Nimrod’s lead hand down--to toy with him. To taunt him, and remind him that it did not matter how much he trained, he was no professional--Nimrod had not faced the greatest in the world. The disadvantages to having only one arm and attempting to box were, of course, that one had to be extremely selective with when, where, and how hard he punched.

Marvin had to wait him out, just as he had Christopher Ives. Nimrod had just shown himself to be bullish, but Marvin did not yet know what would incite Nimrod the man. He was sure, however, that he would find out. For now, he would keep his head slipping and rolling and his feet bouncing.

“I’m BAD, man! Too fast! You know you can’t touch me, mothafucka!” Marvin taunted, it was beginning to feel like old times again.

Maxim’s brows knitted at his opponent’s elusiveness. He had been so certain going in that he would be able to bring down an injured Marvin Hayes. He was bleeding all over the ground! He had only one arm! It wasn’t as if he was poorly trained, he had sparred with many amateur boxers throughout his life and bested them all with little difficulty.

But then...boxing was never his passion. It was never his career. Maybe it was arrogant of him to assume he could best this man at his own game. He had agreed to hunt him specifically because he was extraordinary, after all.

Right, of course.

In his daze after being shocked out of his predatory state, he had made the absolute worst mistake a hunter ever could: he had disrespected his opponent by underestimating them. Disgusting. It sickened him that he fell prey to such an amateurish pitfall, delirium or no.

But that would end here. He could not beat this man in a contest of boxing, that much was apparent...but that was merely one of many martial arts he had learned of his lifetime. The way Marvin moved his head to dodge any potential strikes was without flaw, but he had allowed arrogance to slip into his form as he occasionally batted aside his strikes. This offered no inherent advantage beyond potentially insensing ones foe...on the contrary, it was here where Zarov saw his opportunity.

Continuing as he had, throwing straights at Marvin’s injured side, Zarov feigned frustration and anger. His brows knitted slightly, his lips pulled back from his still blood-coated teeth, and his face contorted in rage with each taunt he received. He would continue this for a time, secretly waiting for Hayes to extend his arm just a sliver - an inch, even - too far.

That would be when he would fall back on his Judo training and seize the distended limb, throwing Hayes to the hard pavement below before taking their fight to the ground. He was certain Marvin had trained in how to “ground and pound”, but he doubted he had his years of grappling experience with both man and beast. While the boxing ring was Hayes’ home, grappling was his.

When one is taunted, there is tangible change. Change less ethereal than knitted brow and pouted lip. Hayes continued his taunting, he enjoyed it personally, but it stuck him odd when Nimrod had not expelled his apparent rising anger on the obviously wounded Hayes. The ring taught him more than how to throw a jab or a hook, it taught Marvin how to read people and decipher their emotions. Marvin couldn’t figure what Nimrod was thinking, but Marvin felt something wrong about his demeanor.

Aware of his condition, and once the blood itself had congealed, Marvin was keen on keeping this fight on its feet. Marvin knew he had only one good arm--Nimrod knew it, too. If this fight was to rapidly shift, Marvin would have to do whatever possible to maintain the integrity of his lone fighting arm. He had some training in grappling, sure, but it certainly was not his strongsuit; it was in the more traditional grounded martial arts: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and BJJ transitions, in which he shined on the ground.

How would Marvin keep the fight standing? Could he goat Nimrod into shooting for a takedown? Marvin knew if Nimrod got close, he could still half-utilize kickboxing to keep Nimrod at range, and if the fight did go to the ground, his mixing of styles would help him so long as he was not stuck in a grapple. Marvin ceased slapping Nimrod’s punches away, he could sense the viper in the opposing hunter--he was waiting for one small overextension. What Marvin didn’t do, though, is stop his dancing. He weaved in and out--intentionally.

Something was wrong.

Marvin was no longer slapping aside his straights. Had he figured out his game? If so, he would have to admit to being impressed by his ability to read him so expertly. It was apparent now that his previous strategy wasn’t going to work. This meant he had to improvise. Outsmart him, a task that was clearly easier said than done. He could feel the cool night’s air against his chest, however, a sign that his shirt had been partially unfastened.

This had likely occurred during his earlier state of bloodlust...and it afforded him an opportunity that he wouldn’t get a second shot at.

With one last straight for good measure, Zarov suddenly threw his shirt open and back over his arms in a single motion. In the time it would have taken him to throw another straight at the wounded boxer, the hunter instead swung his shirt towards the champ. His bobbing and weaving was - again - exceptional, and it was unlikely he could have ever hit him with something as small as a human fist. A shirt, on the other hand, offered a far larger “net”, with a pair of holes just perfect for snaring that well-shaven head.

Pulling downwards as the shirt swept over him in an effort to throw off his balance for just the briefest of moments, Zarov immediately moved to scoop the other man’s legs out from under him with his arms - a standard but highly effective grappling technique. Should he succeed, he would immediately descend upon Hayes and give his wounded side hell under he either bled to death or blacked out.

And here was perhaps Zarov’s most critical error of their entire bout. Not only would a shirt--with holes in it--be enough to unbalance Hayes, but he had just given Hayes an extra weapon. The problem with grappling, and wrestling indeed, was that while one man was scrambling to grasp the limbs of a target, the man who was standing was the man with the leverage, and as Marvin’s Jiu Jitsu skills were not anything he had practiced in public, it would be among the harder of Marvin’s styles to have studied in action.

The descent was soft enough where Marvin’s wounded shoulder and arm had a pain string up it, but it was not hard enough to rock Marvin or disorient him. All it did do was kick Marvin’s mind into overdrive--he knew he was potentially in trouble now, no sooner than Zarov had slithered himself into Marvin’s guard did Marvin immediately put his fresh legs to work. Marvin bridged his hips, and denied Zarov leverage on such a slope, it was a matter of muscle memory that Marvin moved to trap Zarov’s dominant arm and moved to enclose the wrist tight in the clasp of his good arm, and using the leverage to aim to pull Zarov’s arm across Marvin’s own body, Marvin moved to slip his nearest leg against Zarov’s hip and his other leg aimed to slither just above Zarov’s opposite armpit. Marvin’s first aim was to deny Zarov his leverage from guard so that he could not pull his head up: Marvin’s second was to execute a world-class armbar.

Zarov had believed his strategy would work, but Hayes had displayed skill in an art that he was not aware he was familiar with: Jiu Jitsu. He had never witnessed him using it on the street, and so had assumed he had practiced less intensive regimens to compensate for his preference in the striking arts. He had, after all, only been active for less than a year! How could he have attained a sufficient level of skill to perform a perfect armbar at such a high speed? There were professional MMA fighters that were much slower and less precise!

His arm was now locked into the technique, but...no. No, it wasn’t perfect for but one reason: he only had one usable arm!

Reaching up with his still free hand, he cupped it over the other man’s grasping palm. Hayes was stronger than him, but he wasn’t so strong that just one arm could overpower both of his. Gritting his teeth, Zarov pulled back and began to overpower the armbar. His lips turning up into a smirk, he knew that once he had broken the hold, he would have Hayes right where he wanted him: on the ground, in his world.

And that was what Marvin wanted. He wanted Zarov focused on breaking the armbar, using up his energy while Marvin controlled the ground: because then he wouldn’t be focused on what Marvin had coming next. There was a certain shift, which happened with the speed of a hummingbird’s beak, where Zarov had found himself face down as Marvin had quickly used the leverage he gained for himself and slipped the unsuspecting Zarov into a BJJ transition which required no strength of one’s upper limbs, but rather Marvin’s legs: armbar-to-oma plota.

Slipping both of his not yet locked in legs downward and into the armpit of Zarov’s dominant arm after sweeping out, Marvin used his superior strength and balance to ensnare Zarov’s arm wrenched backward between both of Marvin’s legs, while Zarov himself would have sat in face-down-behind-up position. Marvin clenched his powerful thighs against the helpless shoulder and pulled back, wrenching the entire arm and shoulder well beyond its limits and nearing complete shear. From this position, with Marvin elevating himself upward to maintain leverage on both Zarov’s body and evening his own weight out, he maintained the dominant submission and would have no qualm about breaking Zarov’s arm entirely.
Marvin knew he had to keep leverage at all times and keep himself set in dominant positions when he had them and to keep himself moving when he didn’t.

...This was it. He had been outmaneuvered, plain and simple. He had been foolish to try and take this man on without the spirit of the hunt flowing through him, even if he was wounded. He knew that he possessed powers beyond a normal man, but he thought he could win nevertheless. Perhaps he deserved this loss for discarding his weapons to begin with, but how could his honor as a hunter allow him to do otherwise?

Maybe Marvin Haayes had read him better than he ever had the other man. It was possible that he understood he could not win in a contest of weaponry, where he could employ lethal explosives, sniper rifles from more than a mile away, decoys and traps, and so he challenged him in an arena where he could.

Zarov react instantly, raising his free hand and slapping it against the pavement repeatedly. “Tap! I am tapping!”

Marvin was a predator, he was a warrior, he hunted those who thought themselves hunters and he brought them all down--but he was not a man without mercy. Marvin released the hold after Nimrod’s concede. Using his one good arm, Marvin struggled to his feet; it was apparent he was exhausted. Caked blood spots decorated his dark face and body. He stood over Nimrod, cold hazel eyes piercing the defeated fellow predator.

And all Marvin felt for him was respect.

He reached his one good arm out to Nimrod; beads of sweat rushed down his entire body, Marvin shined like black oil.

Zarov grasped the hand and used it to pull himself to his feet. Standing tall once more, he took a step back, but bowed his head slightly. “I concede defeat this day. You read my character flawlessly to draw me into your ‘ring’ here, on the street.”

Rolling the shoulder of the arm that had been subject to a quick round of abuse just moments earlier, his eyes darted over his shoulder. He should probably tell him about the explosives, before someone in the rundown project accidentally detonated them. Still, first thing was first.

“I was hired by a man named Alessandro to hunt you, but as my employer was killed due to my unwillingness to hunt a wounded prey, I decided to pursue you for my own reasons,” he explained, sliding his shirt back over his chest before fastening it. Placing his helmet back over his head, his hat was soon to follow. His voice from that point on had a metallic bent to it.

Raising his hand, Nimrod the Hunter pointed to a building in the distance. “I had intended to lure you there. You may want to disable the explosive charges I placed at key points of that buildings structural foundation. You may keep the decoy on the roof as a trophy - a reminder of your victory here.”

A bomb! Marvin sighed, weary eyes glanced at the building that Nimrod pointed toward,

“I should’a broke ya damn arm anyway. How long I got?”

A metallic chuckle resonated from the mask at this question, Nimrod strapping his rifle and pistols back in their proper places. His head turned, the crimson visor glinting in the night. “You can at least enjoy the holiday season in peace, that much I promise. But do stay sharp, Marvin Hayes...Tiger. A true hunter can strike without warning.”

With a sudden kneel, Nimrod launched himself ten feet in the air to seize the steel staircase of the adjacent project. With the grace of a monkey, he scaled the building until he was able to vanish over the rooftop.

Marvin watched him go, the hand of his lone good arm supporting the torn arm against his side. Above, in the highrises of the projects, Marvin could hear the windows of the hundred or more residents opening at once, and some began flooding the street after exiting the bottom of the main complex. Tiger stood in the circular entrance of the projects with its denizens watching their unmasked protector admire whatever it was that they themselves could not see. It was only when Marvin heard the pattern of small footsteps colliding against concrete that Marvin was torn back to reality and turned toward the source of the sound.

There stood two young children: one Hispanic, one African American--neither appeared older than five. In their hands they held popsicles; one orange, one red, and offered them to Marvin as he towered over them, open wounds and all,

“Here! Feel better!” Pedro Gomez smiled as he offered the frozen treat to Marvin; his mother, Juanita, ushered him inside soon as Marvin received the child’s gift. The African American boy and his mother remained, he didn’t speak at all--he only delivered to Marvin a poorly drawn crayola creation which depicted the Tiger mask--more in the form of a dog than a cat. Marvin appreciated it still.

There was a silence which prevailed over the Brooklyn air. Finally, it was safe. For once, the people of the Marcy projects could enjoy the Christmas season in peace. Marvin smiled, for the first time since he donned the mask, he felt true joy.
Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Zero Hex
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Zero Hex

Member Seen 7 days ago

October 26th, 9 a.m.
Hong Kong, China


Hmmm, no, this will not do, Sir Desmond Dorrance thought to himself as he stood on his front porch and "beheld" the living dead walking the earth anew over a cup of morning tea. Trying to walk through his property no less, mindlessly endeavoring to overcome the barriers between them and the gated mansion. He could not see them but he could feel them. He could hear their every moan with grating clarity, the wafting stench of the grave assaulted his nostrils and he could taste the putrefaction in the already unclean air. "This simply will not do at all, Singh", he spoke to his gurkha majordomo, who was already well aware of his master's mood.

Correctly interpreting Sir Desmond's desires, Singh went to fetch an especially prepared weapon and momentarily left the baronet to his thoughts. This had rapidly become a most bothersome infestation indeed. His Society of the Snakes in Shadows had quite a lot of work on its hands now, ensuring the situation did not become a setback for King Snake's businesses or those of his associates. It wasn't merely a matter of money, the situation might rouse the wulin of their stupor borne of inactivity and their activities might draw true scrutiny for perhaps the first time since the Boxer Rebellion. And that was an order he meant upset in due time.

For the moment squadrons of his underlings had taken to protecting key properties and activities, dressed up as hired security and toting body armor and riot shields where under public scrutiny and as their regular outlaw selves when not. He did not need their help at his home, of course, but it was a welcome reprieve from having to dirty his hands with such poor sport. As though he had willed it, his thoughts were punctuated by a trio of gunshots in the morning quiet and three of the undead pack that were starting to climb over the rest fell back out of sight once more. From the mansion emerged Singh, carrying a still smoking shotgun.

"Excellent aim as usual, Singh, good work". The gurkha was not superhumanly powerful as the massive fighter Snakepit nor skilled in the arts as the cunning gangster Coral, but his accuracy, discipline and ability to command in his stead made him an appreciated aide. As for the undead, they lay on the ground, writhing and scratching at nothing but for the moment relatively incapacitated. Shells loaded with shot, but also purified salt and the ashes of especially crafted and ritually burned taoist amulets. Worth a try, and they had worked quite well. "Take them to the basement for examination, before the Security Bureau arrives to confiscate them".

______________________

October 26th, 12 p.m.
Hong Kong, China


In accordance with the State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5, the Measures on the Management of Reincarnation, passed by the State Administration for Religious Affairs in mainland China and adopted by Hong Kong, a Reincarnation Application must be filed to recognize individuals as having returned from the dead. This was the most it had ever been enforced, of course, and military and police forces across the country mobilized to detain the living dead in order to determine their identity, means of resurrection and in this case means of dealing with said resurrection. King Snake had to admit he was impressed by the scale of their planning.

The authorities, by this point, had come and gone and he had supervised their work. They knew they were not to bother him, the scion of the Dorrance family was very fond of his privacy, and so they carried out their thankless task with a mixture of detached professionalism and some slight resentment towards the wealthy foreigner, safely out of the reach of the undead in his manor. Oh if only they knew. Instructions had been relayed and the so-called Ghost Dragons were hard at work, quietly collecting walking corpses to experiment on. An army of jiangshi, built in record time, was certainly an enticing idea for King Snake.

But that would come later. For the moment, Sir Desmond Dorrance sat to enjoy his lunch. Or he would, had a pest not managed to sneak its way into his abode. I must have a stern talk with Singh about security, he thought to himself, but he knew he was simply annoyed at the interruption. Light of foot, precise and agile movements, controlled breathing and heartbeat as he strangled and replaced the kitchen assistant bringing him his meal, this man was a professional and trained well in the old ways. His regular subordinates could not possibly have detected this intruder, only his lieutenants themselves and they were otherwise occupied.

King Snake remained seated, his back to the only door, and smiled to himself. The assassin was good, but he was better. He knew every inch of his home, every breath, every step that occurred within. It was his realm and no invader would find an advantage within it. As the assassin confidently approached from behind him, the baronet could tell the fool only knew that the lord of the manor was blind and expected an easy target. He knew nothing of the mind's eye awakened in that pitch dark that let the King Snake see all, see him for what he was, see his approach, the reaching towards the hidden dagger at exactly five steps of distance between them.

"DEATH SENDS HIS REGARDS!" was the battlecry as the blade launched through the air, seeking a body that was already well out of its path, moving faster than even that expert attack. Ah yes, of course it is his doing. A game, a test of my mettle after a long absence, a message...cruelly amusing as always, Lord Death Man thought King Snake, and in the time it took him to consider this the would-be hitman lay at his feet. Shattered kneecap, snapped clavicle, a concussion as he was swept off his feet and dumped in a heap on the back of his head against the cold, hard floor. He could've killed the man already, but the invasion of his home had incensed him.

"Rest assured, I will end your life in but a moment for this intrusion. But before that, there is something you must know: Your Lord Death Man sent you here to die", Desmond Dorrance mused as stood over his fallen, glassy-eyed foe, a foot carefully and cruelly pressed against the broken collarbone as he let the man digest this information. "He wished to gain my attention and you were the tool. If I had to guess, the blade you were given is marked with a message in braille. Whatever he promised you, the truth is you displeased him and this is your punishment". The assassin had time for but a tortured whimper, realization barely settling in.

A swift motion of the foot, the sickening crack and gasp of a snapping neck and once again Sir Desmond Dorrance stood alone. Alone and intrigued. Had his japanese rival truly sought to kill him a greater effort would have been made. What might the skull-faced immortal have planned? The winds of change were turning into a full blown storm and perhaps it was time to throw caution to the winds, then. With a smile, he walked towards and plucked the dagger from the wall it had embedded itself in, running his fingers across the handle and blade. There was indeed a message in braille for him: "Not here, try again Snake. Regards, LDM".

With an amused sigh, King Snake had to admit to himself he was now glad he hadn't torn the man to ribbons. Searching the body like that would have been rather inconvenient.
Hidden 10 mos ago Post by DragonofTheWest
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DragonofTheWest

Member Seen 1 mo ago

October 28th
Queens New York


John's eyes never left Luthor as he left the gym and even then the Kryptonian kept track of him, his eyes peering through the brick walls as if they didn't exist at all. Perhaps it was just a random passing feeling but something did seem off about that visitor and the nagging feeling of uncertainty was starting to gnaw at him. John almost let himself get too consumed in his thoughts until Julian called out from behind him "Hey John! you alright? who was that guy?" John took one last good look at Luthor before once again looking past the walls knowing the authorities were getting closer so surely they had the situation under control.

"Nobody. Just some tourist" John replied trying to make their guest sound as irrelevant as possible to avoid any possible lengthy conversation about him. John walked over towards the office to see what kept Julian so occupied with that damn television and of course it was more and more of the same... Continued acts of violence, children disappearing, John shook his head letting Julian do all the complaining about how crazy things were. "Crazy man. New York..." Julian concluded, the only words that John bothered to really take note off. Yeah he was right however because just right outside apparently people were getting assaulted in front of their gym. Having enough John left the office too go back to his almost meaningless workout regime to once again occupy his mind when at the corner of his eye he noticed he never closed his locker fully which resulted in his foreign alien suit being slightly exposed. Walking over John took care to shove the suit deeper into his locker only for his eyes to focus on the symbol on the chest area and once more his head began to be filled with ideas.
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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by clanjos
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clanjos SKELETON WARRIAHS

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October 30th, 2:30 PM Local Time
Skull Island, In the North Pacific

The passenger pigeons and carolina parakeets flitted about over the shores of Skull Island. A Dodo bird chased a plump looking grub, and a dolphin flitted about in the waters near the dock. On this dock, Lord Death man sat, once again, awaiting one of his guests- this time a fellow long-lived crimelord. Sure, he and King Snake had spent most of the 60's trying to kill each other, but it was an unstoppable force versus an unkillable object...

or however that phrase goes. Lord Death Man thought, petting a panting canine creature. I really hope Snake didn't rip this one to shreds. It'd be awkward sending another guy.

King Snake had, in fact, torn apart the body, but only as a means of disposal after he had found what he was looking for. The invitation had been, rather creatively he had to admit, etched onto the would-be assassin's flesh by way of his irezumi tattoo. Or rather via specific points, new additions and mistakes by any other metric, where the needle had scarred the skin and left minuscule bumps for his superior sense of touch to find. On a full suit of ink.

Finding it all spread across the man's body had taken more time and more feeling up a cadaver than he cared to admit, and it read:

King Snake, I apologize, but this was a little long to fit on a knife. Our rivalry has lasted longer than most criminal careers. I remember the first time we had a duel on top of a bridge in Beijing, when I refused to pay tribute for the use of the city's ports- you didn't want to abide by the previous boss's agreements with me. Anyway, after I tossed you to the ground, you managed to take me by surprise and throw me overboard into the smokestack of a passing ship. Damn, you really should have seen your face when I confronted you a week later. You were eating at a fine restaurant, and out of the kitchen I come, roundhouse kicking your date because you switched seats. God that was awkward. Anyway, I believe we are adults, and after our understanding in the 80's, I believe we can do business. I am working on a glorious undertaking that will redefine crime as we know it. I need all the old hands I can get. I even managed to get Wolf Carson on board, and it turns out that ludicrous rumor about the brain transplant was accurate. I, and the others I've brought on for this, will be at the following coordinates. I don't know how to do numbers, just translate this part into braille seventeen degrees fifty four minutes fifty two seconds north one hundred and thirty six degrees eleven minutes fifty five seconds east

This is Skull Island, and it was my base in Polynesia during the second World War. There are several rare and exotic creatures, and I advise your henchmen not to harm them, or else I will have their skin. Accomodations are prepared for all one hundred and eight guests, and the announcement will be made on Halloween to allow ample time for my guests to arrive. I trust I can count on your cooperation.

Death Man Out.


Desmond Dorrance had to, at the very least, respect the dead man's dedication. That was a lot of painful needlework to go through. Everywhere on his anatomy. But that had been four days ago and the dead man did not matter. What mattered was that King Snake's interest had definitely been piqued, and so he had arranged instructions for his Society of Snakes in Shadows to continue carrying out their work while he attended the meeting. The walking dead were to be harvested in utmost secrecy, kept subdued where they might feed on negative energies. In bloody murder sites across the world, places steeped in terror and anger and hate, King Snake's army would grow.

But for the moment Sir Desmond was accompanied by a lone man, only his majordomo Singh was privy to such important machinations and so he was the one piloting the high speed cabin cruiser towards the given coordinates. Not the Snake Cruiser or the King's Cruiser or somesuch, that was the sort of the name he would reserve for his luxury yacht were he the type to name his vessels in such a manner. But he wasn't. Besides, the Dorrance yacht was reserved for leisure only, this powerful one-man crew machine was all business and made for rapid, uneventful transit.

Lord Death Man, with his typical whimsical demeanor, sat in his colorful lawnchair as the speedboat came into port, stroking a tasmanian tiger. He gave a nonchalant wave to the blind Englishman and his manservant.

"Ah, King Snake! Now, this is just a formality but, I'm going to be honest, I figured you died. The braille in the Irezumi is a good indicator you're not, but I need to be absolutely sure that you're the real deal."

The skeleton-clad Yakuza stood up suddenly, opening his arms wide. "Somewhere on or near this jetty, there is an assassin! Tell me, where are they, what are they armed with, and what fighting style does their stance suggest?"

"The rumors of my death were greatly exagerated, as I am sure you learned from Chien Na Wei's flight. But given my absence, doubts are entirely reasonable", came the reply, as Desmond stood still on his craft's deck, his trusty cane in hand. By this point, Singh knew better than to get in the way and simply found a place to wait out the proceedings, a pair of revolvers and his old kukri handy just in case.

King Snake tapped his cane down. Once, twice. He listened. He felt his surroundings, he intensified his focus. In some bushes to the left, there was a small native boy with a spear- a fishing spear. No, couldn't be him. Too simple, too direct, and the skull disliked children coming to harm. No one would send an assassin against Desmond Dorrance knowing of his true identity expecting them to survive. There was a man in one of the skeleton-themed outfits Death Man assigned to his henchmen to maintain their anonymity. Again, too plain and obvious. Where, then, would a test for him hide?

Ah, of course. Where to hide from someone with his senses, someone who could perceive every sound, every scent, every vibration from the air? With a wordless smile, Snake approached the side of his boat and calmly dipped his cane beneath the waves, holding an end to his ear. He remembered when the water signified a return complete darkness, a weak spot he could not allow himself. Focusing, he felt the currents, the flow, the vibrations, using his cane he fished for faint sounds he could otherwise not feel above water. And he felt it. The tell-tale twitch of a thrill killer. The fast-paced maddened thoughts only the mind that spawned them could comprehend. The cold, waterproofed steel of the trench knife. And the bubbles escaping from the blowhole as it slowly approached the boat.

"Oh for the love of..." was all Snake could mouth off before the assassin made his move. Its move. This really needs to stop, he managed to think to himself before steeling body and mind for battle. The surface of the ocean burst. The spray hit Snake as he took a step back and out of his crouch, turning to the side of the boat with cane at the ready and held out in front of him much like a sword. He could see the rainbow in his mind as the assailant cut through the air in a clear trajectory over his craft but low enough to strike at him, knife held between clenched teeth on a bottle-like snout. It was a goddamn dolphin.

The dolphin took a swipe with the knife as he leapt over the boat, going straight for the top of Snake's head with a maniacal series of clicks and whistles. Of course, such an attack loses much of its surprise value when you know that a dolphin is after you. Of course, the very sight of a dolphin leaping for a flying slash would be enough to trip up most men, but King Snake was not most men. His reputation for cold blooded ruthlessness and absolute readiness for murder was well deserved. Besides, given his track record it would have been more surprising if Lord Death Man had used the skeleton-costumed henchman instead.

With a minimum of graceful motion King Snake defended himself. Cane already in place, with strong footing and the advantage in reach, it took but a simple flick of the wrist to knock the dolphin's blade off its intended path and he doubted the marine creature could switch "grips". Still tracking his attacker with the very end of his weapon, Dorrance took the slightest pivot and sidestepped away from the trajectory of the leap wholesale. Letting it return to the water would not do, however, and Snake pressed the advantage, flicking his cane back only to disdainfully snap it down against the animal's skull. The dolphin squeaked and whistled as Death Man sat, unperturbed.

Fuck, the henchman was supposed to try and kneecap him. The fuck is Bakurai doing?

The dolphin's thoughts, of course, were simple. STAB THE LIMEY! GUT THE BRIT! BLOODBLOODBLOODBLOODDIEEEEEEEEEE AND MOMMY WILL LOVE MEEEEE!

Simple, but not those of a sane cetacean.

For its part, the dolphin continued putting up an amiable fight, flopping around the deck and tossing his trench knife at King Snake before reaching to a bandolier of more knives and taking one in his teeth. Back on the shore, the henchman had finally drawn the sleek pistol that Death Man had secreted in a soundproof pocket of his trousers in an effort to disguise it from King Snake until it was drawn. He fumbled a few times with it, obviously confused by the events unfolding on the boat, and accidentally fired a round skyward, causing birds across the island to dive for the trees as the dolphin continued its assault on Dorrance's ankles.

The gunshot was met with several in kind, with Singh taking the bullet as a sign that things were not going as planned. A six shooter emptied in the direction of the sound and the other towards the observing crime lord, the surprise making the gurkha's usually quite lethal aim wide and turning it into suppressing fire, but Dorrance knew he could trust his aide should the situation degenerate further. For the moment he was busy after parrying the thrown blade, feet darting and shuffling to and fro, more concerned with protecting his bespoke outfit than with any sort of risk to his well being. "That is quite ENOUGH".

Punctuating the sentence was a graceful flip over the thrashing creature, a means of avoiding one final slash, gaining an advantageous position and showcasing his capacity for effortlessly spectacular agility. A single thrust of the cane as he was airborne and quite literally looking down on his target and Bakurai's blowhole was most mercilessly intruded upon by the wooden shaft, with the briton subsequently landing next to its now harmless form putting his weight down on it. The psychotic dolphin made an attempt to gasp. However, with its blowhole plugged, it was left to choke.

Meanwhile, one of Singh's bullets went straight into the head of the yakuza, the force causing him to slump over and the chair to flip back as a red dot expanded from the singed bullet-hole in his skull mask- and the clear path to the other side of his head. At about a forty five degree angle, however, life returned to his eyes and he quickly pushed off the ground into a flip, landing on his feet and cracking his neck.

"I agree, King Snake. Bakurai turned this into a bit of a farce, but I'd appreciate it if you'd let him go. It's hard to teach dolphins knife-fighting. And you, Saburo," Lord Death Man said as he turned to the henchman, his head already closing the wound, "Learn some goddamn trigger discipline."

With that, he took his own cane in hand and walked towards the boat, already chuckling over the dolphin's faux pas. "I suppose that is enough proof indeed. Welcome to Skull Island, one of my international safehouses. It's a temporary measure for this endeavor, because we'll be building to something much bigger in the near future. Bakurai, go back to chasing seals into old naval mines."

King Snake was not at all one to let attacks on his person go unpunished, but he was a guest here and killing house pets would be in very poor form. With a grunt, though waiting perhaps a moment too long, he removed his weapon from his fallen foe and pushed the cetacean overboard with his foot. The slightest of hand gestures made Singh holster his already reloaded guns down and the majordomo sat back down on the pilot's seat, wordlessly checking the blade on his razor sharp knife. Just in case.

"Perhaps you might be better served improving your men's training, rather than putting all this effort on beasts. But I see you stand strong as ever in your ways after my absence". Smiling confidently himself, Sir Desmond Dorrance stepped out of his craft and into Skull Island, offering his oftentime rival a firm handshake, which the Yakuza accepted. "It is good to see some things unchanged by time. And I must admit you have my interest. What do you have in mind that needs all of this, all of us?".

"I've told you. I intend to redefine crime, and the first step is a concerted effort to perform the greatest heist in history."

"Desmond, we're stealing Atlantis."
Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Bluetommy
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Bluetommy Happiness in Inanity

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December 1st
Hub City


Wilhelm groaned in agony as he slowly lowered himself into the chair, his wounds took longer and longer to heal the longer he lived, escaping from prison a second time was harder than anything he could have imagined, the pain he had felt from the vicious assault Lady Arcana had dealt him was enough to make it hard to move, nevermind fight the German army.

He had done it somehow, and now he was on enough painkillers to poison a small horse, the delirium from the pain combined with the initial effects of the drugs had left him beginning to hallucinate slightly.

Suddenly he heard the sound of a drill. The pounding pain in his face transferred up his head into his skull, and he grasped at his head in agony, grunting as the pain washed over him in waves, until finally he wasn't in Hub City anymore.

1940
Stettin, Pommern, Germany.


Wilhelm Silber smelled the fresh German air. He was home once more, though he was soon set to leave once again. He would have to enjoy the city while he was home, the scent of the air and the warm orange color of the fireplace radiating around his quaint estate on the outskirts of the city, purchased by his ancestors back when they held dominion over all of middle Europe. Things were different now, he had to take a new name to avoid the negative consequences of his nobility, but he was still so excited to go to war against the sub-human Slavs and the foolish French who thought themselves greater than the mighty Germany.

But the thing he was most excited for, more than anything.

Well, she stood right in front of him, a shocked expression plastered on her face.

"Wilhelm?!"

"Yes my love!"

She covered her mouth with a hand before running over and leaping into his arms. He spun with her a time, enjoying the scent of her hair and the warmth of her body against his own. He kissed her and then buried his face into her shoulder, finally prompting her to push away.

"Weren't you going to fight in France?"

"No Anna my dear, I proved exceptional! I am allowed to come home for a week before I have to report back for..." Wilhelm caught himself as he almost disclosed too much. "...Further training."

Anna giggled with glee as she took Wilhelm's hand in her own.

"I'm so glad! And you look simply stunning in that uniform!"

Wilhelm smiled smugly and offered her a heroic pose before breaking down into giggles alongside his beloved.

He pushed his way into the door and walked through the manor. Just like he had remembered, everything was in its place, including...

"How's my lovely little soldier?" he cooed as he rubbed his infant daughter's face with a finger.

"She's doing very well, Wilhelm, she's a fighter, just like her father."

Wilhelm was so happy. A man not yet twenty-one and he had a family so lovely as this. One thing, however, he did notice about his daughter, was that she was pale, and near-silent, only making soft noises that he equated to a man choking. Anna attributed it to her young age, and Wilhelm was assuaged.

He was about to enter his study when his wife cried out and pulled him away.

"My present for you is in there."

"You have a present for me?"

"I was saving it for when you got home, I suppose I'll show it to you tomorrow."

"Seems early to get a coming-home present."

"I like to plan ahead love, you know that."

Wilhelm nodded in response, but he felt suspicious, a thought in the back of his mind telling him that his wife was lying to him.

He ignored those feelings and went to bed happy and glad to be at home.

He woke up the next morning to discover that his daughter had died in the night.

What had taken her he did not know, but she was gone.

He had never cried so loudly. He screamed to the heavens, begging for an explanation as to why they had done this to him, taken his happiness and turned it into sorrow-fueled agony, but he got none.

They had the funeral fast to ensure that he was home to speak on his daughter's behalf, but the rushed mess only compounded Wilhelm's internal stress, and in the middle of his speech he broke, and screamed out in fury at the world for doing this to him, and in fury at his wife for not realizing his only child's illness. It eventually devolved into both parties screaming and crying, unable to deal with the horrid reality of their broken life.

He had gone home and Anna had slammed the door to their room, not allowing him to enter as to hide her tears. Wilhelm sat in his chair near the fire, rocking back and forth in his best suit, watching the flames burn high, and then die down, then once again burn high, then once again die. He watched the flames for what felt like hours. The heights, and then the lows, one after the other. An ember flew from the flame, floating through the air before dying against the door to the study.

Well, he supposed there was no reason not to go in, Anna would never know. He snuck in the room and looked around.

Nothing, absolutely nothing. The room had nothing in it. Where was this gift she had told him about?

He noticed an unsealed letter on the desk, so he walked over and opened it.

Dear Anna

I know I wasn't supposed to send letters to you but I wanted you to know about this as it
happened. The Weinbergs across the street got taken away by soldiers, we were all so afraid,
your cousins and I were barely able to hold back the tears, we were going to be next, I knew.
So we hid, we're still hiding, in the attic, I sent this letter by pigeon because I didn't want the
Nazis to know about it, and I especially didn't want them to connect it to you, at least
you have your husband and your new name to protect you, I love you Anna, please write back.

Yours, Claus Goldstein.


She was Jewish.

The whole time she was Jewish and he didn't even know. She had lied to his face over and over again about who she was and he had no clue the depths of her deception.

The right thing to do was to turn her over to the SS, but he knew very well what happened to Jews who got turned over to them. He couldn't bear to see that happen to Anna.

He would handle it himself, even if it killed him.

Wilhelm woke up the next morning shaking. He didn't want to have to do this, but he knew there was no choice.

He walked to the kitchen to see Anna slowly making herself breakfast.

"Anna."

"Wilhelm," she responded coldly.

Wilhelm walked towards her and stopped a few feet away to collect his thoughts

"I know... I..."

Wilhelm suddenly felt Anna crash into his chest, burying herself deep in it.

"I'm sorry, I..."

"There's nothing that could have been done Anna, I'm still here for you."

"Thank you Wilhelm."

"I love you Anna, I always will."

"And you as well."

She turned away and gave a sad smile before continuing to make her meal.

Wilhelm pulled the gun from his belt.

He shook as he hoisted it upwards and pointed it directly at the back of her head.

He shivered and agonized internally over it.

She was so beautiful.

She was innocent.

She didn't deserve this.

The bang rang out like a song, and echoed through his ears over, and over, and over, and over.




Wilhelm watched as the flames consumed his home. He had burned his hands setting the flame, but he barely felt the stinging pain.

All he felt was the stinging in his eyes as he screamed out in sorrow and pain.

And the cold.

The bitter, bitter cold.
Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Blazion
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November 7th, 5:31PM
Gotham City, New Jersey


Anarkee settled into her usual spot on an abandoned fire escape looking down on the open alley below. Ostensibly, the place was supposed to have been a small car park for the nearby residents, but the lack of security, the long dark alley, and the general vibe of the area kept commuters away. Though it did help to attract a certain crowd; those lost souls of this godless pit. The small and downtrodden, those looking for any spark of hope. Anarkee looked at the building opposite her, her eyes narrowing as she took in the sight of those cretins creation. Gotham’s Watchful Hound. Grim’s mural. Street urchins and impoversed passerbys would often duck through this alley, stealing glances at this symbol of hope and even adding to it. Paint, chalk, pencil lines, all manner of graffiti adorned the wall around the wolf’s head symbol with messages to Grim, thanks and requests and praise for this lawless protector. Disgusting.

Anarkee sighed as she set the pizza box she carried down on the steel grate of the fire escape. This had become routine for her. Pizza from Roy’s, the old blind chef not caring or seeing who he sold to; then slink to the mural and watch. Think. Plan. Nothing she was doing was working yet. Nothing got Grim’s attention. Anarkee refused to start in earnest until she knew Grim would see. This wasn’t just about the corrupt blowhards in the seats of power, or about the rampant destruction in the streets. This was about Grim too. All of it, like a big puzzle, all cogs in a machine. And Anarkee herself, the wrench in the works. The people were looking over their shoulders for her. The businessmen feared where she’d hit next. All she wanted was Grim to spare a glance. But for now… She’d wait. She’d watch. And when the time came, nobody would bother to rebuild their little shrine. All in due time.




The Grim Mural. The least kept secret about Gotham City’s not so urban legend. A symbol of hope, a sign that there was a bit of light in the darkness that hung over the city, and the best way to catch a glimpse of Grim - aside from being in mortal danger, of course.

And to top it off, the place where people of different stations could cross paths without much fanfare - aside from being in the neighborhood in general. Grim wasn’t above helping the rich when they were in danger, just for their station after all. Well, except maybe the city’s current Mayor, but only she was aware of that. It’s for this reason Zoey Kasimir got little more than a glance as Gotham’s resident billionaire drove through the streets, and most of those being for the vibrant yellow McLaren she was driving than anything. The expensive car pulled into the nearly abandoned carpark with little more than a quiet purr, the vehicle parking right in the center - even between the lines, despite no other cars being present.

When the redhead emerged her steel-blue eyes scanned along the car park, muscles coiled and tensed as she checked the surroundings. Zoey had no fear of who she might meet here, but caution was rewarded. However as her gaze landed on the white paint of the canine’s head, splashed across the brickface, she paused and took it in.

The paint was flaking a tiny bit in places, a testament to how long it had been up this time. When it first went up the mural was painted over within a month - surprisingly swift for Gotham. However it was repainted quickly, then again, and after the third time the messages started appearing. Zoey wasn’t aware of what came first, since by the time she visited there was a half dozen already there. It only grew.

Occasionally the mural was still painted over, but it seemed they had given up the fight for a bit. The artists who put it up were staunch in keeping it, even if the messages were wiped out from time to time.

A symbol of hope…

And for Zoey Kasimir, a symbol of duty.

Exhaling heavily the redhead shut the door of her McLaren before continuing her scan of the area, mentally berating herself for letting her gaze stop. She was confident in her abilities, but there was rarely an occasion to drop your guard so fully.

Even the rooftops were scanned, which is what brought Zoey to a grinding halt. There, on the fire escape of one of the buildings surrounding the mural, was a very familiar figure. For a moment the billionaire could only remain stock still, staring up at her.

Not afraid. Cautious. There was a reason that Zoey had come here without her uniform - reports had been coming in of Anarkee occasionally being there. Yet now, head tilted back to gaze up at the figure who had caused so much chaos, so much death, having sought her out without weapons… The redhead’s tongue felt heavy with regret, words dying on the tip of her tongue.

Even more so, in person, it was reinforced to Zoey just who this was. An old friend.

And now a menace.

Because of her.




Anarkee raised an eyebrow as a very familiar car pulled into the alley. That was the last person she’d expected to see here. Finishing off a piece of pizza, Anarkee tossed the crust onto the asphalt below before crossing her arms. Had Grim run into Zoey Kasimir, left enough of an impression on the billionaire that she’d come here to pay respects? Anarkee’s eyes narrowed as Kasimir turned, recognizing the tense body language. She’d never seen it before, but now… It was plain as day. The stress on the billionaire, the way her gaze darted to the alley, the rooftops, and finally… To herself. Something was off about Zoey Kasimir.

Anarkee slowly stood up from her sitting position, resting her hands on the rusted iron railing and chuckling coldly to herself as she looked down at her former friend. ”Well. Well. Well. Look what the cat dragged in. Or, it would seem in this case, the dog. What on earth could bring Gotham City’s Darling to this backalley shithole? Oh don’t look at me like that; like you’re ready for me to pounce at any moment. And you are ready, aren’t you? I know fear, and has no home in your eyes, Miss Kasimir. You’re waiting. Well, you’ll be waiting awhile, I’m afraid.” Anarkee said, relaxing slightly and flashing a toothy grin. ”I’m in no mood to hurt someone right now. Least of all you, strangely. Like you, I’m waiting as well. Biding my time. Staring into the abyss, waiting to see who. Blinks. First.”

Anarkee stared at Zoey Kasimir, unmoving.

”... Darling?” Was Anarkee’s response after a long minute, as Zoey just kept gazing up at the other woman in turn. She was so different. There was just enough to pick out who she was, but it was like some horrible, graffiti’d shell of the person she used to be. Finally however she shook her head, offering a strangely empty smile in return to the anarchist. It didn’t even reach her eyes.

”I like looking at this mural sometimes,” The billionaire finally responded, tilting her head slightly to look to it out of the corner of her eye. Mostly her steel gaze remained on Anarkee, yet she showed no fear. Caution, perhaps, but not fear. ”It’s fascinating, what it represents, despite Grim’s many, many flaws.” Something in Zoey’s expression turned ugly, a grimace tugging her red painted lips downward. The redhead leaned against her car, a deep exhale emerging from her lips. Strangely enough, despite her tense muscles she didn’t feel… in danger, as she should.

Well, no more than the usual paranoia, anyway.

”Then again, from the news reports, I suppose I’m just preaching to the choir, aren’t I, Miss Anarkee?”

Anarkee chuckled and spread her arms, shrugging as she called out. ”So you’ve heard of me! Though I shouldn’t be surprised, you probably had money in the bank I burned down!” Anarkee said with a wink. ”Nothing personal you understand, just… Well, completely personal actually, just not directed at you specifically. Your ‘type’, as it were. The fat, bloated predators that feed on the little people and don’t give a damn about anything but padding their own pockets. But I’m getting off topic.”

“You and I seem to share the same interests, Miss Kasimir. Examining Grim’s spark of hope in the community and pondering his place. You know, were the situations different I wouldn’t hate Grim so much. But we have a history, the two of us. Even if he doesn’t know it. And even aside from that, I could look past that history if it weren’t for the damn high horse. Grim goes around, acting outside the law, disrespecting due process and tearing up the tent-pegs of society… Only to nail them back down. There is so much more that Grim could do! To rebuild humanity as it was meant to be! This city shows it all Miss Kasimir. We are animals. We’re not so evolved as to be removed from our ancestors. Our base instincts guide us, and yet we deny them. To be a ‘good person’, to have compassion and empathy. And yet, those most successful in this city? The corrupt. The vultures. The animals. All I want, all I work towards, and all Grim is working against by using the same tactics is to show these people that they can achieve greatness as well if only they take it! Embrace the animal, and its instincts will guide you to victory. Keep up the charade of justice and honor and be trampled by the animal. Grim knows that. And yet he struggles and fights to keep the weak where they were, instead of making them strong. And that is why I come here. To learn. To see. To understand. And to make Grim see me… Or trample him.”


Zoey remained quiet throughout the whole - well, okay, it was a monologue. To be quite frank she didn’t mind however, just keeping her gaze steadfast on the woman who had caused so much grief to the city, taking in her words quietly. The billionaire wanted to understand her, to figure out what led her down this path. To be honest, at first she thought it was some weird, twisted way of vengeance against Grim.

Maybe it was, and even Anarkee didn’t realize it.

Another exhale, heavier this time as pale fingers rose to run through crimson strands. To be honest, it was a little … frightening how close Anarkee’s thoughts were to her own. Almost like parallels, one path twisted and corrupt. Like all it would’ve taken was one different decision and they could’ve ended up on the same side, or mirrors of each other once more.

And all Zoey wanted to know was what happened in those years Emma disappeared. To wonder if it would’ve been different if she could’ve found her, after Jason’s death. She’d never know, now. Was there even some part of her left? Would it be suicide for a regular person to ask?

Luckily Zoey Kasimir was no regular person.

”... I know of your history with him, Anarkee.” The tall woman finally ventured, voice soft in the air. ”At least part of it, from all those years ago.”

Anarkee’s eyes narrowed at Zoey’s admission, tilting her head to the side to consider this new information. Suspicion rose in the pale woman’s head, theories and ideas shooting off like sparks. That statement could mean so many different things… Were this any other day and any other person, Anarkee would have pounced then and there. Taken the other woman and pried the information from her by any means necessary. Fortunately for the redheaded billionaire, the stars had aligned just right that Anarkee decided on a different route.

”You do, don’t you…” The anarchist mused, letting go of the railing and tilting her head to the other side, cracking the joints in her neck with a loud pop. At the same time she flicked her left wrist, priming her gas glove to start accepting commands.

”Out of every person in this city, I’d thought that only me and Grim would know about that…” Anarkee let a hint of sadness seep into her voice now, the smallest crack of weakness. She needed to know what Zoey knew, to get close enough to confirm her suspicions.

”My messages were in the paper, I thought only Grim would know… But of course you’d be able to figure it out too.” Anarkee sat back down on the fire escape, letting out a mournful sigh. She intended to appear pathetic, to trigger Zoey’s mothering instincts for her old friend.

”That’s when it all started, all those years ago… He never would have been out there if it wasn’t for Grim, Zo’.” Emma Graves admitted with a sniffle, heavy tears starting to fall from her eyes. Emma reached up and wiped them away, smearing the red and white face paint and revealing a streak of her pale skin underneath as she looked at Zoey with her sparkling blue eyes. ”He did that to Jason. Grim created me, Zo’. It’s not my fault…” The woman cried with a carefully planned crack in her voice.

Zoey’s head tilted to the side as she watched Anarkee - watched Emma, her friend from so many years ago. Her sharp eyes took in every detail, every minute motion like she had done for years. Well-honed instincts screamed in the back of her mind. Even without that, a rational person would know very well to steer clear of getting close to the city’s most famed - currently - murderer.

The billionaire wasn’t always a rational person.

”Of course I know. Jason was my friend,” Zoey began in a soft voice, stepping closer to the fire escape. Her eyes slid along the metal railings, noting that the ladder at the bottom wasn’t down. Grim could make the jump. ”It was just… something in the back of my mind, from those messages. Then when I got the hint, well, looking at your pictures in the paper… you know that I used to study the details of your face quite enthusiastically.” A slight quirk of the lips, a little joke before the tall woman took a few steps and attempted to grab onto the ladder with a leap.

Her slender fingers scrambled against the wall as Zoey missed, quite intentionally, her feet landing back on the ground with a muffled curse. ”I’m too old for this,” She muttered under her breath, letting the words carry up to the other woman. She took a few more steps back to be able to look up at Emma, running her pale fingers through red strands. Despite everything, part of her ached seeing someone she once considered a friend like that. Cracking voice, smeared makeup, tears. It was the picture of a broken woman.

”Why don’t you come down here? We can get you help, Emma. I’ll stay with you through it.”

Anarkee watched through the metal grate as Zoey approached, her eyes stinging with hot crocodile tears. It seemed as though her old friend was truly concerned, trying to calm her down. Anarkee very nearly gave up on her suspicions when Zoey missed the ladder, but something about the jump seemed… Off. Zoey had always been meticulous about her workouts, and the two women were close enough in age that Anarkee was confident she had an idea of what Zoey could still do. Reaching out a hand and making sure it has enough of an emotional shake to it, the anarchist rested her gloved fingers on top of the collapsible ladder, toying with the release switch.

Anarkee couldn’t let Zoey any closer without confirming at least some of her suspicions. Cursing herself internally, the anarchist closed her eyes as she continued pretending to cry. Using a skill of hers she tried hard not to rely on, but one that would come in very handy right about now…

In the black space behind her eyelids, Anarkee could see a blossom of emotions. Her own suspicion and yes, slight guilt about this whole situation, though her own emotions were tied up and suppressed. And from below, a swirling, surprisingly well-bundled mix of emotions from the redheaded billionaire. Concern, suspicion, reluctance, relief, hope… And a surprising amount of guilt. Guilt undercutting and defining every other emotion, and running deep into Zoey’s core. Pulling her senses back and opening her eyes, Anarkee nearly smiled to herself. That certainly helped support her suspicion.

Tapping her fingers on the ladder latch, Anarkee wiped her eyes with her other hand, sniffling as she looked down at Zoey. For a brief moment, she actually considered the other woman’s offer. But even assuming she weren’t tossed in prison for life… What then? She wouldn’t stay with Zoey, that was for sure. Not after these questions had been raised. No no, best to stay the course. Of course, right now that meant getting close… Anarkee let out a pitiful sigh as she twitched her fingers, hoping that her trembling would help hide the commands she was issuing to prime a Blank Burst.

”Just… Just sit with me for a few minutes, Zo’... Just let me feel… Let me feel goddamn normal for a few minutes…” Anarkee lied, flicking the latch and listening to the clanking sounds of the ladder unfolding.

In moments like this, a hand on the ladder that would potentially lead to one of her biggest mistakes, it was all risk versus reward. There was so many reasons for Zoey to stay firmly on the ground, to retreat immediately, hell, even to call Lady Arcana to have her just grab this nutcase.

But once upon a time this was her nutcase. Zoey owed nothing and everything to the girl above her, because despite how broken her mind had become Emma was right about one thing. Jason would have never died the way he had if Grim had never existed.

So it was that against her better judgement the billionaire took a deep breath, her fingers ghosting over her pocket and silently calling the Grim Jet to hover a few blocks away, and placed her hands on the rungs of the ladder. The weight of blades up her sleeve was reassuring, but not enough to ignore how bad of an idea this was. Grim had studied the reports for days, had inside information from the police, Zoey knew above all others that this was a colossally stupid thing she was doing, especially without her gas mask. The reports on the bank robbery especially mentioned Anarkee’s toxin filled bombs.

Yet here Zoey was, climbing up the ladder finally.

”Hey, Emma,” Zoey whispered softly to the woman she once called a friend once she got up beside her. The billionaire’s entire body was tense, but it often was considering her paranoia - still screaming in her ear. The redhead carefully sat down beside her, bending a knee to rest her foot against the edge of the fire escape while letting the other hang off. The position would allow her to spring up in an instant, but could also pass as casual.

Taking a deep breath steel-blue eyes lifted to the deep blue’s of the woman opposite her, seeing the hint of who she once was beneath smeared makeup and tears.

Anarkee wiped her eyes clear as Zoey climbed the ladder, confident that her glove was primed and ready to go. This was her moment. The pale anarchist shot a small half-smile at her old friend, waiting until she had settled down before speaking.

”Hi Zoey. Sorry.” Anarkee said, lunging towards the redhead and flicking her wrist. The gas exploded from the vents in her gloves, spraying a concentrated dose of Apathy at Zoey’s face. A whiff would temporarily reduce just about anyone to a blank, mindless state. Not good for much other than answering questions, but that was all Anarkee would need. And with the two of them sitting on the fire escape, there weren’t many places for Zoey to escape to…

Tense and ready to spring, the only surprise was how similar Anarkee’s glove device was to Grim’s. Zoey used her foot resting against the metal beneath it to immediately spring away, pale hands finding the railing as she leapt back, ending up crouched on the same railing as far away from Anarkee as possible. There was a glint of metal near the billionaire’s wrist, ready to throw a blade in an instant if she kept approaching.

But despite her reflexes and quick footwork, Zoey wasn’t quick enough. There was a strange scent in her nose, a burn in her mind that made her constantly tense muscles uncoil and even her pounding heart slow. She cursed in her mind, wishing she had her mask. What a fool she was for thinking insanity could be helped!

Steel-blue orbs glinted in the bits of flickering light over the Grim mural as Zoey cursed lowly, and bit her bottom lip. Her muscles fought, wanting to relax and just smile dopily to the other woman. Of course, that train of thought was ended quickly as her pain receptors lit up, blood blooming against the white of her button up shirt as it spilled down from her mouth to stain against her front. Immediately her heart once again began pounding against her chest, adrenaline rushing her veins like a shot. Her relaxed posture became rigid as the redhead glowered to Emma - no, Anarkee.

Maybe Emma Graves really had died, even if not in body.

”Is that how you treat old friends?” Zoey finally rumbled, lips slick with blood.

Anarkee had reacted quickly as well, throwing herself in the opposite direction as Zoey had begun to move. Leaping on top of the railing around the fire escape, she had kicked at the air briefly, the spring-loaded knives in her boots extending before she leapt towards the opposite wall. Kicking at the old brick and moarter as she hit, the lithe woman slammed her hands against the wall as well, the knives and razors digging into the wall. At the very least she’d bought herself some space. She turned her head to look at Zoey, noting the blood dripping from her mouth and the knives in hand.

Anarkee laughed, the screeching sound ripping itself from her lungs as she grinned at the other woman. ”If those friends got my brother, the last surviving member of my family killed, then yes; GRIM!” Anarkee cried triumphantly, her suspicions confirmed. ”But you know, you did show me one kindness: You murdered the sons of bitches that killed my brother! So I’ll cut you a deal! You get in your stupid car and you leave right now. We don’t have to fight today. You know me, and I know you. And we both know this isn’t our last encounter. So why not be ready next time? We both walk away, and come back to this better and smarter! And we’re even now. Clean slate. Whadaya say?”

”I’d say whatever part of Emma Graves I thought survived in you died long ago!” Zoey spit back in return, quite literally as flecks of blood blew through the air with her words. ”You’re absolutely insane, there’s no way I could be Grim - I hate Grim just as much as you do for what happened to Jason!”

The billionaire’s teeth grit together, knowing it was likely useless to protest now that it was in Anarkee’s head. Still, she had to try - not for herself, but for her two sons at home. Her fingers slid along the throwing blade in her hand, wondering if she could be quick enough to disable the other woman. She was fully decked out, while Zoey was not. It’s not like she’d be able to fight with pure willpower against it when the area was filled with gas…

But she had to try. The Grim Jet was nearby.

Decision made in a split second Zoey threw her hand forward, two gleaming blades leaving her grasp. Unlike the hitman from less than a month before these weren’t aimed to kill; one went for Anarkee’s thigh, the other her arm. As soon as they left she leapt up, grabbing onto the level above in the fire escape to start climbing up it on swift limbs.

Anarkee pushed off from the wall as Zoey flung the knives at her, inhaling sharply as one of the blades grazed her arm before she fell to the ground. She glared up at the other woman as Zoey began scaling the fire escape, laughing harshly as she sprinted for the ladder

”I’m sure you do, Zoey! Filled with hatred and self-loathing, that guilt must drive you crazy! That’s the difference between you and I you know, you deny the darkness inside and let it drive you mad, but I accept it and it’s made everything clear!” Anarkee cried, swinging up the ladder and staring up at her fleeing foe.

”You think I’m crazy, that I’ve lost my mind! But my mind is the only thing I haven’t lost, Grim! You know I’m right, deep down!” Anarkee squinted as she looked up through the grates, cackling up at Zoey’s silhouette. ”Everything I said, the rampant corruption and the bondage of man, the beast inside, you know it’s true! You can’t deny it forever, and when you come to term with it I’ll be right here Zo’!”

”You’ll be in a heavily padded cell by the time I’m through with you,” Zoey hissed in return, but her voice was lower now. Flinging herself over the roof of the building her phone was in hand, issuing commands to the nearby Grim Jet to swap to non-lethal ammunition. Another quick input and the billionaire pocketed the phone once more, a flick of her wrist having another knife at the ready with the other she already held.

Rolling her shoulders and taking a deep, steadying breath Zoey once more jolted onto the edge of the building, this time on the corner of it to have a better visual. With a speed that spoke of how often she did it one knife left her hand to once more head towards Anarkee, hesitating only a moment before the second was let loose as well - corrected with the path of the first.

”Oh, I have so missed our banter, Zoey!” Anarkee said with a laugh as she ducked out of the way of the first knife. The second nearly caught her off guard though, and she swatted at it to deflect as it flew through the air. The sharp blade caught the side of Anarkee’s glove and ruptured one of the gas valves, which began to hiss and spray smoky gas around Anarkee.

”Oh now look what you’ve done!” Anarkee cried, ducking low into the cloud of smoke to try and hide her movements. Reaching inside her jacket with her other hand, Anarkee produced a fear bomb and threw it up towards Grim. It should explode on impact and spread her fear toxin in a wide radius, hopefully causing her old friend to flee.

Zoey was fast, incredibly fast. But braced to throw another knife into the cloud of gas, sharp eyes looking for the slightest human movement in the rolling fog, the bomb came up far quicker. The billionaire struck out with a kick to knock it away, which managed to get a large portion of the gas to instead spread and settle over the car park - and her car for that matter - but the roof of the building wasn’t unscathed either.

Despite her efforts to back track from the cloud of smoke it clung to her clothes, her hair, stuck to her tongue like sap combined with the coppery taste of blood. Zoey gagged but without her gas mask and already having fought the effects of the apathy bomb a cold feeling began to grip at her chest.

She whimpered.

Back tracking, almost tripping over her own feet to collapse, trembling, on the other side of the roof, Zoey wasn’t looking as from the sky came the rev of two very, very large guns. The Grim Jet steadied itself as it took in the moving targets before settling on the one it wasn’t keyed into, and abruptly let loose a barrage of non-lethal bullets towards Anarkee and the fire escape.

Anarkee looked up to the sky with wide eyes as the Grim Jet soared into view. If she wasn’t sure about Zoey’s identity before, she sure as hell was now. The whir of the twin guns on the jet snapped the anarchist into action, and she threw herself off the fire escape again, landing heavily on the ground and rolling to her feet even as a hail of rubber bullets sprayed the alley, a few of them pelting her painfully.

Crying out in frustration and pain, Anarkee sprinted underneath the fire escape for a moment of protection before running full tilt towards the open street at the end of the alley. Knowing Grim, those guns would probably stop shooting once civilians got involved, and this job just got too big for Anarkee to attempt it without a plan. Of course, that would mean leaving her pizza behind, but some sacrifices were necessary for further survival. She could feel the bullets pelting her back, though her stash of toxin bombs in her jacket offered her just enough protection that she could keep running.

Anarkee broke through onto the public street, dodging a speeding car and knocking over a businessman on his phone. Sneering down at him as he cursed at her, Anarkee paused for just a moment to drop a fear and anger bomb in the middle of the street, likely enough to incite a confused riot. Using the spreading smoke as cover, Anarkee sprinted towards the nearest storm drain and dropped down, covering her head to protect herself from the hail of gunfire as she slipped her slender frame down into the sewers below the city. For now she’d lick her wounds and tend to the massive bruising from the Grim Jet. But Anarkee was just getting started.

That night, every pizza delivery man in Gotham found themselves converging on Kasimir Castle, each of them delivering a very special pizza, the toppings all placed in the shape of Anarkee’s ‘A’...
Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Blackstripe
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Blackstripe Siobhan's crew of lonely misfits

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November 2nd, 2020
Tartarus, Realm of the Dead


“It would seem the revolt has been quashed, husband,” Eris smirked, lounging back in the obsidian throne of Hades. Idly running her equally dark nails across the surface of the golden apple that once sparked a bloody war amongst mortals, she smiled. “Maybe now you can at last find the Spark. I would certainly hate to think what father would do to you if you couldn’t!”

A low rumble of distaste issued forth from Ares’ throat, the God of War diligently observing the scores of mortal souls that were now at work digging their way deeper into the bowels of the underworld. “Once I have obtained the Spark, even father will not be able to oppose my power…”

“I certainly hope not!” Eris exclaimed, releasing a cackle that rebounded off the walls of the great palace that surrounded them. “The sight of your repeated emasculation at Zeus’s hands has almost lost its charm!”

Tightening his scarred hands, Ares' eyes flared in indignation at the mention of his previous failures. “Be silent woman! You only sit on that throne now because I toppled Hades from it!”

“T-throuh...treachery…” A strained protest called out to him, the War God turning to look upon the sight of the former Lord of the Dead. Metallic lances had been impaled through each of his limbs at the wrists and ankles respectively, with a final one emerging from his torso. One could not truly kill a child of Cronus so easily, but there were ways of disabling them.

Ares scoffed at the defeated God’s protest, folding his arms as he returned to gaze upon the countless million souls who were carrying out his excavation. “Your attachment to that pathetic woman was your undoing. Blame Persephone, not I.”

Releasing another laugh that echoed through the palace halls, Eris slid from the throne and floated towards Hades, placing a finger beneath his chin. “You were just so worried when she fell ill with that mysterious illness. Would you have trusted me to cure her so readily in a better state of mind, I wonder?”

Ares grunted again at this. Hades had been so focused on the state of his wife that he had failed to take notice of him drawing his blade. Without even the subtlest notion of betrayal, he was laid low by his attack and impaled against the wall before he could recover. His wife had come up with that part of the plan, as she delighted in incessantly reminding him. Nevertheless, had it not been for him sowing the seeds of conflict throughout the world, he would never have possessed enough power to strike such a grievous blow, even by surprise.

“You...think Zeus will...forgive you for this…?” Hades rasped out, futilely struggling against the lances running through him, only agitating his wounds more. “You will fail, like all the other times…”

“When I’m through with this wretched place, it will not be I who begs for forgiveness!” Ares snapped at the broken God, towering form turning to meet him once against. Clenching a gauntleted fist in his direction, a smirk played across his face. “You never even knew it was here, did you? The source of all of our powers...a spark of the God Wave.”

Hades raised his head slightly, confusion evident even when commingled with pain. “God...wave…?”

“It predates even our birth by eons,” Ares explained, spreading his hands to emphasize the immense span of time. “Every God from every world, every sorcerer and creature possessed of extraordinary power...they all can trace the origins of their powers to this primordial force. It is as old as our universe itself!”

The God of the Underworld narrowed his weary eyes at Ares, his lips settled into a frown. “How...would one such as you...learn of this power?”

“The Oracle,” The God of War’s smirk parted to revealing his gleaming teeth.

Hades’ eyes widened at the name, his body shuddering. “She...has…”

“Returned, yes,” Ares chuckled. “With the restoration of magic, the one who carries the soul of Delphi has awakened once again. She isn’t even aware of what she is, and the Gods...they no longer give Earth the attention it is due. But I-”

“-Have a wife that is far more observant than any of them,” Eris interjected with a laugh, running a finger across the cheek of Ares in an almost taunting manner, a low growl his only response. Turning to Hades once more, she leaned against his former throne. “I visited her in her dreams, a place of raw depravity the likes of which few mortals could appreciate. From there I was rewarded with a prophecy: whoever shall retrieve the spark of the God Wave from the bowels of Tartarus shall topple Olympus and unleash unparalleled destruction upon the Earth!”

Upon hearing this, Hades made yet another attempt to tear himself free from his restraints, the ancient deity seemingly using every last ounce of his remaining strength in the ultimately futile attempt, his defeated form finally slumping forward. “M-madness…”

“No, the first step in building paradise,” Ares corrected him. “By seizing total power from the apathetic Gods of Olympus and cleansing the Earth of the human vermin that infest it, I shall usher in a new Golden Age full of perfect beings who want for nothing!”

Slowly turning back to his endless horde of slaves as they continued to carve out the bowels of the underworld, his lips settled into a smile. “The age of Ares.”
Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Blazion
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December 24th, 10:44 PM
Kasimir Castle, Gotham City


”Actually, finding the lead paper was easier than settling on gifts for them. Of course then I had to wrap the gifts myself since I couldn’t exactly explain to Dan why I needed him to double wrap Malcolm’s gifts, and then David’s just to be sure…” Zoey trailed off, staring at the pile of presents stacked almost as high as she was tall, set around the brightly illuminated Christmas tree. The pine tree was gigantic, just short of brushing the ceiling of the large living room and decked out in … somewhat lopsided decorations.

But that didn’t even bother Zoey. No, what was irritating her, and her explanation to the young blonde beside her, was the presents. A section of them were wrapped in utter perfection, not a line out of place - a couple even had neat little bows. The ones she wrapped were obvious. Slightly askew, mostly covered in tape around the edges to make up for neatness, and one smelled a little like beer since she spilled her drink.

Never again.

”... Anyway, the important part is, I tried and I can’t be faulted for that.” The billionaire huffed the words, crossing her arms, only to have to uncross them to lean forward and scoop up the energetic little border collie puppy that once more was trying to bite at the edge of one of the presents. ”No, Buttons.”

Karen briefly entertained a smile while glancing at the ever enthusiastic puppy, but it didn’t last long. They were talking about Malcolm, after all, the kid who she was pretty certain could star as the villain of a slasher film. His see-through-walls eyes helping him hunt down promiscuous teens with a knife as he giggled innocently.

She really shouldn’t think of him in those terms. He was younger than her...like ten or something. But he had killed those people two months ago without a second thought, and who knows how many before then. He should probably be institutionalize where he could receive proper treatment.

Still, Zoey was at least trying.

”How’s his therapy going?” The teen asked curiously, kneeling down to poke at the whiskey stains on the present. She had seen worse jobs in the The Wedge. At least there were no razor blades sticking out.

Zoey’s eyebrow twitched.

”It’s… a bit slow so far, he still hasn’t agreed to go, even with me. I can understand the aversion,” The last part was muttered under the redhead’s breath before she cleared her throat. ”In the meantime I’ve been showing him how to take down criminals non-lethally. That’s obviously just a patch job, but it’s making the best with what I can do right now.” She shrugged one shoulder, a smile curling at the corners of her lips as Buttons licked at her before she set the little puppy down.

Karen’s eyes shifted to the side at this, though she didn’t rise from her kneeling position. ”So you’re training the ten year old to beat up bad guys? Can I maybe ask why?”

Seriously, it wasn’t like she wanted this situation she was now in. Maybe she had at first, but not after what had happened with Timothy. She understood now that it wasn’t a game, even though games are probably what she should be worrying about...instead of whether or not an even younger kid was going to become a psychopathic child soldier because nobody ever got him help.

”See, it sounds bad when you put it that way.” Zoey grumbled lowly. It dissolved into a sigh before she raised her gaze, trailing it along the entrances to the room. The walls mattered little when it came to Malcolm, but David would need to peek in to see what was going on. Hopefully they had at least listened to her on actually going to bed so she could chat to Karen - though when she invited her over, worried over the young girl being alone on Christmas for the first time, this wasn’t exactly the conversation she was planning.

”Considering what the kid was doing for months before I arrived, I’m pretty sure he’s not going to sit back on his laurels while Grim and Blackstar wander the streets. Trust me, if he decides during therapy he doesn’t want to, then that’s brilliant - you know how I feel about others doing this - but in the meantime I’m doing what I can, Karen.” Another sigh before the older woman backtracked, flopping onto the comfy white couch. A click of her tongue had Buttons following - though when he jumped to try and get up the puppy couldn’t quite make it, which had the billionaire snickering before helping him up.

”But he has that drive in him. I somehow doubt he’s going to stop no matter what I or anyone else say - I’m just trying to make sure he’s prepared.”

Karen pursed her lips, an expression that often meant she was either deep in thought...or irritated. In this case it was a bit of both. She really didn’t like the idea of Malcolm doing this. She - again - didn’t even like the idea of herself doing this, but at least she was the invulnerable Wizard. This was a little boy with some funky eyes. He had no super strength or speed, no enhanced durability. He had the power of a wiry kid whose punches and kicks wouldn’t even register on full grown thugs.

”I know you’re doing your best, Zoey...but I’ve been, well…” She drew a heavy breath, wincing her eyes shut for a brief moment. ”I’ve been reading a lot lately. I’ve been trying to learn about the world and its problems, and I know how horribly messed up kids who have been forced to kill can be. I haven’t even done that yet, and I feel...really messed up.”

She didn’t even really know what she was trying to say, other than that this all felt really, really wrong to her.

Zoey could only lift a pale hand to rub at the bridge of her nose, pressing the slender digits down hard to relieve the growing headache. ”I know, Karen. I know. The first step is getting him to therapy, but when he doesn’t want to go what do you expect me to do? Forcing him won’t do anything good, so I’m doing the best I can to keep him safe and save him anymore trauma!”

A deep, shuddering exhale couldn’t help but escape the billionaire, and her hand drifted down to land on Buttons’ head - who was resting it on her leg. Steel-blue eyes narrowed slightly on the girl before her, after a moment adding on in a low rumble. ”... And for the record, I don’t think you’re messed up. Therapy must be working for you at least.”




Pulsing orange and red, spattered with bits of luminescent blue against walls that were both there and not in a world populated by see-through, human-shaped apparitions he couldn’t avoid the sight of for miles around that was also constantly wreathed in a raging inferno. This was the world as Malcolm comprehended it… curled up under a fire-escape in a back-alley that smelt less like shit than most others he’d found.

Sleep had been a pleasant memory to the boy, lost a week ago with so much else, when his eyelids ceased to perform half of their purpose. Not that he’d know the difference between dreams and reality at this point anyway, with how his brain constantly replayed everything he’d seen then and since on loop with such crystal-clear clarity it was as though it was still happening in front of him.

And to be frank, there wasn’t a whole lot the small boy didn’t see anymore.

Up the road in another alleyway, an older man in tattered old army ODs keeled over, his stomach rent open by the knives of three men clad in leather, his blood spilling as a bright purple across the ground.

Malcolm saw it. And knew he’d never forget it.

On a penthouse in a part of town with brighter lights and shinier buildings than the slum he called home, a man with a chainsaw got to work separating the remains of a woman who’d clearly had an abrupt, unforseen end to her her evening. Shining jewellery and bobbles adorned what was left of her neck, cut apart as the saw came down upon it without ceremony.

She was pregnant.

Malcolm’s hands came over his eyes, trying to block out the sight. He failed, and knew he’d never forget.

“No more…”

In a warehouse by the docks, a man was covered in gasoline as another in an expensive suit grinned from ear-to-ear.

Malcolm could see his screams. And he knew he’d never forget.

“No... More...” The words came out, louder this time and hissed through clenched teeth as the incessant shaking of his body… changed in frequency.

Something like molten, hot iron flowed through his tiny frame as a young girl shrieked and cried, dragged through the next alley over by the ankle by a man who wore a police uniform and whipped a bottle at her head to shut her up.

Absolutely shaking with this alien force that pumped through his veins, the boy stood. The haze the past week had placed over his psyche fading away as he somehow found the strength to be on his feet, fists clenched so hard that his nails bit into his palms.

”NO. MORE.”





Shooting upright, Malcolm found… nothing. Literally, nothing but black.

And he was goddamned glad about that, as he lay on the floor surrounded by blankets. Opting, in fact, to lay back down with his head on his pillow and enjoy being blind for a few more minutes, before peeling off the special lead-filled sleeping mask Zoey had made him when he came to the conclusion that he was, in fact, probably not going back to bed after that one.

”Ahhh, fer fuck…” The kid grumbled, sounding like an old man who’d been kicked in the nads by the mixture of his pre-pubescent voice and colourful vocabulary as he placed a hand on the bed he’d used exactly once his entire stay in this castle to steady himself onto his feet. Joints popping the whole way up.

Smacking his lips in a comical, sleepy fashion as he cast a glance around the room (or, rather, the whole damned castle) Malcolm to one shining conclusion at that moment.

He was thirsty.

And only his newfound favourite thing, chocolate milk, was going to satiate that thirst.

So, managing not to move like a herd of drunken elephants in his half-asleep state solely by the grace of his immense control over his own body, Malcolm began the ridiculously long trek to the kitchen.

Seriously, whoever thought living in a big fucking castle was a grand old idea probably hadn’t taken into account the fact that late-night cravings were a thing that united mankind as a species. Hell, it took the boy the better part of ten minutes to get where he wanted to be even taking the most direct route and jumping down a flight of stairs. And it was literally impossible for him to get lost.

Finally reaching his destination, acquiring his justly-deserved booty and pulling up a chair so he could reach the cupboard with all the glasses in it, Malcolm took a big gulp and finally began to actually pay attention to the world around him.

That’s about when he actually noticed Zoey and… Karen sitting in the… uhh… room with the tree in it. Talking about… something that was clearly bothering them, judging by how how fast their hearts were beating.

Head tilting slowly from side to side, weighing his options, Malcolm pondered walking over and listening in... Even as curiosity had already propelled his feet forward and made that choice for him.

Truth be told, he was just slightly taken aback when he arrived at the doorway and found that the thing they were so heatedly discussing was him, but not really that surprised; Though Karen had never expressly spoken of it in the few times they’d met, Malcolm was more than a little aware that his presence made the (sometimes) literal Goddess feel just a bit uncomfortable.

...Which didn’t at all stop him from voicing his protest about being talked about by loudly and nonchalantly slurping his chocolate milk from the doorway.

No siree.

Karen’s head jolted up from the floor where it had remained pointed at the sound, the blonde slowly standing as she turned to face Malcolm. She didn’t even hear him until just then, showing his ability to move unseen and unheard.

Yup, definitely a slasher movie villain.

Only frowning at him from her position by the tree, she quietly folded her arms and shot a glance to Zoey. She could deal with this.

The billionaire’s headache, meanwhile, only got worse when her head jerked up to see her newest stray looking at them. Once more her hand crept up, rubbing at her temple. Why couldn’t things ever be simple? For once in her life? Zoey let out a shuddering sigh before finally looking to Malcolm and affixing a smile to her face, small though it was.

”Morning won’t come any quicker if you’re up, my little puglet,” The redhead murmured, only to gesture to the couch beside her. ”Nightmares?” She added on, voice quieter. Gentler. She suffered from them too, after all, often staying up for nights on end. Similar to Malcolm.

”Something like that.” Malcolm replied with a shrug, to his credit, only slightly wincing at his nickname as he casually made his way over and plunked himself down on the offered real-estate on the couch. Glowing eyes travelling between the pained look on Zoey’s face to the look Karen was burning into his skull at that moment, the boy cocked a brow but stayed silent.

...For a few seconds.

”Ya know, if me being around is going to be an issue… I could just, y’know, leave. He finally stated after a moment, tongue running across his lips in thought ”...I mean, I’m grateful for you putting a roof over my head and grub in my gut, Zo, but... I don’t wanna be a problem to ya.”

”No,” The response was immediate, sharp. Zoey’s eyes focused on Malcolm and she lifted a hand to gently rest against his arm, at her side Buttons already wiggling over to nudge against the young boy as well. You are always welcome here, Malcolm, in any place I call home. Karen and I were just discussing therapy options.”

A slight quirk of her lips, a hint of amusement. ”After all, I dislike it as much as you.”

”I… see…”

Malcolm leaned away just slightly at that, even as Buttons seemingly assimilated himself into his lap, as if attempting to bar his escape. This was a discussion he’d been making every effort humanly possible to avoid since arriving here, for a great number of reasons.

Many of which came back to the fact that, even if he’d wanted to talk to… anyone, especially a shrink about the entire past year (which he emphatically did not), there was the whole matter of how insane it would sound describing it to literally anyone.

’Yeah, so everyone I ever cared about was roasted alive by a psychopath with a flamethrower and now all I can see or ever dream about is fire. Also, I’m now incapable of forgetting anything for some reason so I relive that exact scene over and over again every second of every day in my head in perfect clarity as if it’s still happening and I’m not old enough to shave yet. But man, that weather, eh?’

Realizing he was now trapped in this conversation, whether he wanted it or not brought a look of plain discomfort to his face, as he spoke.

”I… don’t think I’m on board with that...”

Karen had listened quietly in order to allow Zoey to speak with Malcolm uninterrupted. She figured he would trust her a lot more than herself, given that she just poked her head in this place every so often now that she had her own apartment. It still was often enough that he knew her well enough, but he doubtlessly didn’t consider her family.

He, unfortunately, did not seem receptive to therapy...but then again they hadn’t pushed him towards it very hard yet. From what she had read, troubled people often were very reluctant to get help for their problems at first.

While they didn’t know one another as well as they both knew Zoey, maybe hearing another kid’s perspective would help? She had only tried talking to him as Lady Arcana...when maybe who he needed to talk to was Karen Hernandez?

”Hey Malcolm,” Karen took a step towards the boy before glancing back over her shoulder at the tree. ”What were you hoping to get for Christmas? I’ve really been excited about the PS5, especially with the new Tomb Raider having just come out!”

”Eh?” Came Malcolm’s oh-so-articulate response not entirely sure where this new line of questions came from… or what a PS5 or a Tomb Raider was, for that matter.

Still, finding his tongue, he at least tried to give a good answer.

”I, uhh… haven’t really thought about it to be honest.” He began, a pondering, slightly (comically) confused expression on his face ”A guitar, I guess? My Dad used to play a lot... Cash mostly, a bit of Metallica and the Stones.”

He scratched his head and looked off to the side for a second, somewhat aware that until recently, he’d never even listened to a radio and only knew what those things were through his Dad.

”...What’s a Tomb Raider?”

Karen giggled at this for a moment, quickly whipping out her phone. She got it. He grew up on the street, like her. He didn’t get to play games like that...and probably didn’t torture himself by watching Let’s Plays of them, either, unlike her. Speaking of which…

”It’s a game! I guess you never got to play them much either, huh?” She muttered, having started to enjoy her new life thanks to Zoey. Despite having been here a couple of months, it didn’t appear like Malcolm had adapted very much to his new situation. ”I mean, I like it cause it has a badass chica kicking butt, but there’s others with guy heroes!”

Holding the phone steady so he could watch the Let’s Play with her, Karen offered him a gentle smile. ”I mean, they’re not for everyone...but I wouldn’t knock them before you try em’!”

Tilting his head to the side, Malcolm squinted a bit as the glow of his eyes flickered slightly, subconsciously adjusting to focus on the screen on Karen’s phone and not all the electrical gubbins going on behind it. Or Behind Karen. Or Behind Kerberos who was on the other side of the castle weeing on one of David’s shoes.

For a second, he just sat in silence, not exactly sure what to make of what he was looking at; the image of a… gifted young woman in a tank-top doing a lot of flips and shooting things in the face.

...And, well, some guy talking over that in the background, but that wasn’t important.

Leaning forward slightly, the silence continued… until a small smile began to break across his face.

”That’s… actually kinda cool.” He stated, eyes still glued to the screen. ”And there’s more like this?”

Karen quickly nodded her head in response, happy to see that he was showing interest into something that a boy his age should be into, as opposed to stabbing actual real people with a knife. Plus...it was kind of nice to be able to talk about this stuff with someone that was, well, not quite her own age, but close enough. Clarissa wasn’t really into gaming stuff, being more artsy.

”Oh yeah, tons more! You should come over sometime and play with me! Or even get one here, so we could play online!” She eagerly explained to him. ”Some games you play with others, sometimes hundreds or thousands of others!”

”Um, yeah. I’d be good with that.” Malcolm replied, an uncharacteristically goofy smile just ever so slightly starting to make itself known on his face ”-I mean, if you’re fine with it and Zo’s fine with it.”

”Sure. Maybe Santa brought you one,” Zoey offered in response, having been quite content to sit back and watch the two … bond? Maybe not, but it was the start of something at least. Having a friend his own age, for the most part, had to be good for him. She could keep him sheltered, fed, and teach him many things, but she was very much more of a parental figure. Maybe Karen could have more success getting him in therapy than her - the Wizardeth managed to get Grim into it, after all.

Fuck she hated therapy.

”After all, you have quite a few in there,” The billionaire added on, jabbing a thumb towards the tree and the stack of presents surrounding it.

Karen honestly hadn’t expected it to go this well...but now she understood where she had gone wrong. She had been looking at Malcolm as some sort of patient to be cured, when maybe...maybe she should’ve tried just being his friend instead. Maybe that’s what he needed right now more than anything.

”Sauce!” She exclaimed happily, opening her mouth to suggest some of the titles they could try first. Unfortunately, she was cut off by a slurred mutter of her name, the blonde’s eyes darting to the black cat lounging on the carpet.

Releasing a yawn, the heavily lidded eyes of Samantha stared up at teen. The whiskey that she’d wanted poured in her drinking bowl had apparently not quite worked its way through her system yet. “Karen...wassat…?”

”What’s...what? Sam, you’re drunk,” Karen muttered with a sigh.

The cat slowly lurched to her feet her quadrupedal form wobbling slightly in the process. Opening her mouth to speak, she was abruptly interrupted by Buttons charging over to her and lapping at her face. “Auuhh...no...thish ish important…!”

Shaking her head, Karen stepped up to gently pluck Buttons off the ground so her drunken feline friend could at last speak.

“Theresh...uh...magic…” Samantha slurred, glancing towards the door. “Uhmmm….that waysh…I can feel it...”

Karen blinked at this, turning to where Sam was gesturing. Setting the puppy down again, she stretched out her senses and began searching for distortions in the laylines. Sure enough, there was something...or somethings approaching them right now, and at least a few of them gave her a chilling sense of familiarity.

”...Um, I think she’s right. There’s several fairly strong magical signatures approaching us,” She explained. ”Guess I’d better transform…”

Backing up a short distance from Malcolm in order to not blast his poor eyes with the full light of her thunderbolt, she inhaled. ”SHAZAM!”



Karen blinked, slowly looking down at herself. At her very human, very teenage self. ”...SHAZAM!”

Again, nothing.

”...Well, that’s not good.”

”... Karen?”

“OH NOSH, the Wizardsh fallen, we musht hurry and--oh, oh,” Samantha began to tremble slightly, before vomiting up the contents of her last meal all over one of Zoey’s presents.

”Er, I don’t mean to interrupt but-” The christmas tree was about to chime in before being interrupted himself.

”Did that fucking tree just talk...? Malcolm interjected to no one in particular, impressively deadpan for the new and sudden twist his night had just taken.

“I...I don’t undershtand,” Samantha shook her head. “Thish shouldn’t be…”

The unmistakable sound of shattering glass cut the staggering feline short, a chorus of broken glass pulling all eyes back to the front of the castle. Raising her eyes to stare at the trio of winged figures as they clutched a fourth, far larger one in their talons, Karen only had time to utter one brief sentence. ”Get to the Grotto!”

Waving the others away, she began gathering everything the laylines would permit her into her palm. Leveling it towards the ground, orchid energy began to swirl around her hand into solidify into a ball that burned with arcane light. In this brief time, her eyes never left the winged creatures.

Harpies.

She remembered them well enough from the whole incident at the warehouse and brothel, but the larger creature...that one she had only ever seen in movies and books. It was a minotaur, and it was now crashing down upon them. Having been released from the talons that carried it, the towering beast slammed down into the soft carpet only to release a monstrous roar.

Reacting quickly, Karen through her ball of arcane energy at the creature...watching as it detonated with a sound reminiscent of a firecracker. Although it shook its head briefly in irritation, it had apparently done little beyond angering it.

Now it’s attention was focused on her, as it charged the blonde with its gleaming battleaxe drawn back for a cleaving strike.

”Oh fuck that. Came Malcolm’s aggressively civilized response as he, without hesitation, whipped his glass of chocolate milk right at the Mino’s face, abruptly grabbing Karen around the waist to give her a firm yank hard enough to pull both of them off their feet and forward, onto the floor between the beast’s legs and just missing it’s charging gait.

”Zo! Ideas!? Malcolm shouted, a year of fighting crime in Blud leaving him astonishingly composed for an eleven-year-old who nearly got murdered by a giant Man-Bull-Thing. ”Because this is a new one for me!”

Zoey Kasimir was known by many to be … a little paranoid. Just a tiny bit. A smidge above normal.

So when a fucking quad-squad of mythical creatures showed up in her god damned living room, after breaking her window, and proceeded to charge her house guest with a fucking axe, Zoey was prepared! Well, not for mythical creatures specifically, but intruders in general.

The side of Zoey’s fist slammed into the wall, in motion with her foot stomping against the floor directly beneath the same area with force. There was a small click, unheard over the ruckus, before a section of wall high above their heads opened, and from it dropped one of the numerous, numerous weapons hidden around Kasimir Castle.

Catching the assault rifle with both hands it took only a second to switch the safety off before a burst of gunfire sounded through the room, but rather than being directed at the minotaur the flash of the muzzle was pointed towards the three flying whores in Zoey’s living room, managing to clip the wings of one and draw blood on the other.

”Idea - idea?! Yes there’s a fucking idea, grab the animals and get to the Grotto!” Abruptly the redhead grabbed onto the back of Sam’s neck, tossing her through the air like a furry football to Karen. Jumping the couch the billionaire caught Buttons by his collar and repeated it by tossing him to Malcolm. ”GO.”

Another burst of bullets, but despite taking advantage of the minotaur’s back being to them as Zoey backed up to the door, the bite of the projectiles barely broke the skin in the back of one of his knees. Zoey needed her weaponry.

Goddammit all, I just wanted to tell them that something weird was going on, now I’m possessing a christmas tree and facing down a bunch of mythical creatures.

Harris would have sighed had the tree a mouth or lungs. The one day he needs to go get some help it turns out that they’re occupied. Well, no use sitting there and being a gaudy decoration, he had to do something.

So he did, sending out a group of vines that entangled themselves around the limbs of the massive half-bull creature. The thing was incredibly strong, he could feel the flesh of the plant ripping as the massive beast pulled against him.

How had he ended up in this position anyway? Why couldn’t he have just went through the day knowing that someone else would handle it? Why did he need to get involved?

”Hey, um, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s me, Harris, most of you probably don’t know who that is but um… it’s me. So uh, I’ll just hold him back while you… get a missile launcher or something, no big rush,” he said, desperately trying to not let the effort that he was putting into keeping the beast contained seep into his voice. ”We can save the pleasantries for later I guess, I dunno, I’m just a tree.”

He remembered back when he had a normal life. When he wasn’t a tree. Those were good times.

Karen wasn’t in much of a position to argue through any of this. She had already given that thing her best shot, and had been narrowly dragged to safety by Malcolm. When Zoey tossed Samantha to her and ordered her to run, the blonde eagerly nodded. Holding fast to the drunken feline, she glanced over her shoulder as she ran for the Grotto alongside Zoey’s second adopted son.

Was that Harris talking through the Christmas tree? Why?!

Well, he...he seemed to be handling himself better than they were at least, though Zoey had managed to stun a couple of the Harpies. The third one, however, was already swooping down towards them. She could already see it opening its mouth to unleash a scream capable of shattering a human skull through concussive force alone.

Reaching down to her wrist, Karen seized the diamond bracelet Zoey had given her and ripped it free. With her main - left - hand, she hurled it in her best pitch into the Harpy’s mouth, causing it to choke on the expensive gift. ”I’m sorry, Zoey!”

”I’ll buy you another one,” Said woman growled in response, followed by another flurry of bullets to stop the second harpy. As soon as they cleared the thresh hold of the living room however Zoey stopped, drawing her phone out of her pocket. ”Nice seeing you again by the way, Harris!” She called out, before a button on her phone had Lockdown Mode initiated.

Throughout the castle giant steel plates slammed over openings - doors, windows, passages - including the hallways they were in. Hefting the strap of the gun over her shoulder to let it rest against her side Zoey finally turned to Karen and Malcolm, plus the inebriated feline and whimpering puppy, not looking to them as her fingers danced over her phone. The metal plate in front of them slid open, as soon as they crossed it the sound of it slamming down behind them echoed out, repeating as they moved towards the Grim Grotto.

Under her breath, Zoey was muttering.

Harris barely managed to get out a “Hi” before he was left completely isolated from everyone else. Alone. With three Harpies and a minotaur.

Welp, he hoped Zoey didn’t care about the tree that much.

The tree exploded into a mass of wood and vine, covering the entire room in plant matter and pinning each of the creatures to the walls and ceiling. That should work well enough. But how the hell was he supposed to talk to them now? The tree was ruined and he was quickly being brought back to his regular body.

Oh well, he’d figure something out.

”Can’t transform… mythological creatures … Assassination? No, but-” An alert on the phone and Zoey glanced down as it switched to an outside camera. ”... And more to come, it seems.”

”Yuuuuup. Plenty more.” Malcolm added, having only to just look up to confirm what Zoey was seeing on her phone, a slight twinge of humour somehow finding it’s way into his voice despite all the insanity going on above ”...Brightsides, though, looks like Dave’s safely asleep in his room for the lockdown and Ker’s locked in a closet munching on your fancy shoes.”

”I’ll kill Buttloaf later.”

Turning his gaze back towards Zoey, Karen and the shitfaced cat, Malcolm finally spoke the question on everyone’s mind.

”So... what the hell was that about?”

Samantha groaned within Karen’s arms, slumping forward in the teen’s grasp as she glanced at the other two girls and three boys. “Sh-shomehow...Karen’sh connection with the Rock of Eternity ish being blocked. That...shouldn’t be posshible, though…”

”Seriously?! That’s why I can’t transform? T-then…” Karen trailed off, wondering what she was supposed to do. ”B-but, that still doesn’t answer the question of why this is happening!”

Sam drunkenly shrugged her shoulders in response.

”Great,” Mother and son deadpanned at the same time.
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Blackstripe Siobhan's crew of lonely misfits

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December 24th, 10:59 PM
Grim Grotto, Gotham City


A low rumble - akin to thunder - echoed throughout the Grim Grotto. They could hear the sound of the scores of mythological creatures outside attempting breach the barriers put in place upon the activation of “Lockdown Mode”. How long they could hold was anyone’s guess, however, given that they were designed with humans in mind.

The monitors of the Grim Computer now displayed a sky swarming with harpies outside, as minotaurs, centaurs and even a few mighty cyclops all converged on the Kasimir residence. The four that had attacked them earlier had apparently gotten ahead of the main body, and that was perhaps fortunate for all of them.

Lowering herself down onto a nearby crate, Karen placed her head into her palms. Her powers were gone. That meant she was useless. What was she supposed to do now? How were they supposed to fight such a ludicrous number of superhumanly powerful creatures without Lady Arcana?

“Blegh…” Samantha shook the frigid droplets of water free from her fur after having dunked her head in an ice cold bucket. “This...is unprecedented, as far as I’m aware. It shouldn’t be possible to break her connection to the Rock of Eternity: she’s the Wizard, the avatar of its power!”

”Well, clearly it is, because here we sit at the mouth of Shit Creek without a paddle.” Malcolm added with an exaggerated shrug, either remarkably calm given the situation or remarkably good at hiding how much he was freaking the hell out.

Language,” Zoey muttered, almost unheard as she was more or less unfocused from the conversation going on behind her. Spread before the billionaire on the monitors she instead kept track of the fight outside, the siege on her castle.

And Jaina thought buying a castle was stupid. This’ll show her.

Outside the defenses on the castle were activated and lit up, many of them admittedly non-lethal - from the sticky tar-like substance that shot out like cannonballs, dragging down harpies and centaurs, to the painful riot pellets that just seemed to bounce off a cyclops. Even the more lethal options were having difficulty getting a grasp on anything - though the armor piercing rounds from a few of them were making headway, just not nearly fast enough!

On the bright side, the front door’s flamethrower was as sufficiently cool as Zoey thought it’d be when she drunkenly installed it one night.

”Is there anyway to the Rock aside from Karen?” The billionaire finally demanded as she tore her gaze away from the monitors, only to stalk passed them. For a moment she reached out to the equipment locker containing her usual supplies, only to grimace and turn instead to the suit of armor positioned stationary in the metal framework holding it in position. The arms of it were open, showing the inner workings, but Zoey was quick to close them up and move to start opening the back.

This was not a good time to be testing a piece of prototype equipment, but what choice did Zoey have? Grim’s usual outfit would do little against that.

“None,” Samantha gently shook her head in response to Zoey’s question. “That is normally a good thing, as it means nobody but the Wizard can access the myriad artifacts of power stored there, or tap into the limitless pool of raw arcane power the burns within it.”

Karen slowly looked up from her hands at this, glancing towards Sam. ”How exactly am I connected to the Rock, anyhow?”

“By a ‘tether’, of a sort,” Samantha replied. “It is imperceivable to all but the most magically attuned, its frequency unique. It is the line that the divine thunderbolt you call down travels through.”

The blonde tilted her head slightly at this explanation, her arms partially folding as she cupped her chin in one hand. Something about her explanation was gnawing at the back of her mind now. Wait…

”If I’m connected by this tether, couldn’t someone maybe sever it?” Karen proposed.

The black Bombay cat quickly shook her head in reply. “Not without killing you. Besides, if that was somehow the case, then it would send a catastrophic ripple throughout the magical world...the Rock of Eternity cannot exist without the Wizard to embody its power.”

Karen pursed her lips for only a moment before amending her suggestion. ”Then...maybe just block it, somehow? So that I’m not really separated, but I can’t transform either?”

“...I wouldn’t have thought so,” Samantha noted. “To even attempt to do something like this, you would need the exact frequency, and it is a short list of beings that have the means to obtain it.”

”So we need to find a way to unblock it, while dealing with a myriad of … mythical creatures…” Zoey trailed off, her voice drifting from behind the high-tech suit. After a moment she stepped out from behind it, eyes narrowed. Her hand gripped the metal framework so tightly her knuckles were white, and her eyebrow had begun twitching once more. Greek mythological creatures. Blocking the power of someone powered by six Greek gods. So tell me, Sam, would a God have the power to block the Wizard’s tether?”

Samantha’s head perked up at this, her eyes falling onto the the redhead. “...Not just any God, but if it were the one through which the Rock chose to facilitate Karen’s transformation through, then...perhaps.”

”So Zeus?” Karen pushed off the crate, glancing to her cat. ”You said his power was copied onto me, right?”

“To be exact, your six patron deities’ combined power acted as a ‘mold’ through which to contain the Rock of Eternity’s infinite magics,” Samantha elaborated. “Anything less than this would be unable to withstand the tremendous forces constantly at work within the body of Lady Arcana.”

Karen’s face seemed to light up at this, the teen immediately turning to Zoey. ”Quick, Zo! Do you have like...any potted plants or anything down here? Some kind of living plant!”

”Why would I have a plant down here?! Do I look like a plant person? Me? Metal and tech and sometimes I forget to eat, let alone feed a plant?!” Zoey’s eyes darted left and right before she almost snarled, abruptly going to her equipment locker and grabbing another rifle, leaving it on her work table beside the first she had retrieved.

”I’ll get one. Stay here. Malcolm, which closet is Buttloaf in?”

”Third floor, sun-room down the hall from Dave’s room.” Said walking affront to privacy stated with a with a raised brow, staring upwards through all the stone, steel and concrete over their heads at the mayhem going on above ”...One thing sticks out, the bigger ones don’t seem to be able to fit through some of the windier, narrower stairways we have. So that’s probably your safest bet.”

A thoughtful hum was Malcolm’s response, before Zoey just gave a short nod. Finally the billionaire moved to the armor once more. The joints and panels along the back gave a leaking hiss as they opened up, and it was a bit awkward wiggling in, but it fit comfortably - of course it did, she built it herself to her own specifications. The hum of machinery came to life as the various magitech parts came to life, the back closing up and metallic arms twisting to come loose from where they hung in the framework. When Zoey spoke once more her voice rumbled, deep and low with the built-in voice modulator.

”I’ll grab the plant and Buttloaf. Use the computer to reach me if needed - if you need to run get in the Grim Jet, tell it to activate autopilot. Make sure David is with you - the emergency systems should already be moving his bed to the hangar. Remind me to finish installing the one in your room after this, Malcolm,” Absently she patted his head with a thickly encased hand before picking up the rifle, moving toward the entrance of the Grim Grotto.

”Be safe, you two.”




Karen quietly paced about the Grim Grotto, her eyes closed in concentration as she felt the laylines that ran through the castle, the city. They were really agitated right now, due to the presence of so many mythological beings. She could feel the little hairs on the back of her neck practically standing up straight from what was happening in the sky. It felt like it had literally been ripped open.

“You feel it, right?” Samantha kept pace with her. “The barrier between their plane and ours has been ripped open, allowing them to freely spill out.”

Karen pursed her lips so tightly that they grew pale, the strange sensation beginning to develop into a stabbing pain in the back of her skull. ”Why would Zeus want to do something like this, if he’s the one who helped make the ‘mold’ or whatever?”

“We don’t know if it is Zeus, Karen,” Samantha reminded her. “And even if it is, the mold for Shazam’s successor was forged thousands of years ago. He may have had a change of heart in that time, especially given that you are a child.”

Karen’s eyes shot open at this, giving the cat an irritated look. ”You have no idea how fucking rude it is to keep using that against me, when your crazy band of Gods and Monsters forced this on me!”

“You accepted it willingly!” Samantha fired back.

”I had just been scared shitless by ghosts, shot, and then abducted by some scrawny old Space Wizard! I wasn’t exactly in a good state of mind, okay?!” Karen jabbed a finger in the Bombay’s face, which she didn’t hesitate to bite down on.

Releasing a pained screech, Karen furiously rolled on the ground trying to pry the irate feline off her with a string of curses.

Malcolm, for his part had been paying little heed to Karen’s pacing for the past half hour, having been staring up, stone-faced and in muted silence through the ceiling since Zoey had left, seemingly not at all distressed by what was happening… well, outwardly anyway. The fact that as soon as she’d left, Malcolm immediately found an empty box-mag to deftly toss between his hands that soon was joined by a wrench, a hammer and a bean-bag bouncing from knee-to-knee as he watched his foster-mother’s progress spoke more about the boy’s worry than his voice ever would.

Of course, if there was anything to snap him out of his reverie, it would be Karen screeching and rolling on the ground as Sam, the fuzzy and powerful decided to take a chunk out of her fingers, causing him to lose concentration and sending everything he was juggling clattering to the ground.

”Oh, fer…” Malcolm started, but reined himself in as he took a deep breath and turned to the dynamic duo across the Grotto, and their very literal catfight. Exhaling to calm himself and wiping his face in a gesture of irritation as he strolled over and calmly grabbed hold of Karen’s wrist just as he gently pinched the back of Sam’s neck, pulling the two apart.

”Guys? Not helping. The boy growled as he placed Sam down on a workbench and gave her a scratch behind the ear before offering his hand to the blond to help her up ”We kinda got bigger things to worry about than whatever the hell this is.”

Finally deciding not to give Karen a choice in the matter and just yanking her to her feet, Malcolm finished.

”So if you could both just save it for when we’re not dealing with harpies, minotaurs and giant one-eyed-monsters, that’d be great.

A whining started up from Buttons, him having been alternating between pressing up against Karen or Malcolm’s ankles, in this case with all the commotion having squished himself underneath the work table. However now he edged out, his whining becoming more prominent - just to bolt up when the Grim Grotto’s door once more opened.

Grim stepped inside once more, the voice modulator rumbling with every heavy breath that escaped. One of the metallic arms of the suit was around a potted plant, the end of her hand clutching onto the scruff of Ker the Corgi, her other hand free - even of the weapon she had carried out with her. However, a healthy smattering of blood ran up her metal-encased fingers, scrapes of teeth along the paint of one shoulder, and there may have been a few feathers in one of the blades of the flight pack on her back.

Without a word Zoey dropped Ker none too gently, the little buttloaf not seeming to mind as it bounded over to Buttons, and then proceeded to stare at the other occupants of the room. It looked like Karen had been rolling around on the floor from how mussed up she was, and Malcolm was wound tighter than a guitar string. Finally she just shook her head and dropped the potted plant in front of Karen with a grunt.

”Hey guys it’s me again,” Harris said, attempting to be joyful despite the worry and tiredness that was clearly in his voice, he was finally able to talk to them without fighting a giant beast created through bestiality. He couldn’t say he was exactly pleased to have to discuss this however, especially if what The Green was saying was true. Speaking of…

“So, you all clearly know a bit of what’s going on, so I’m not exactly going to... want to... waste your time,” he said haltingly, seemingly unsure of his word choice. ”I do have a friend who knows far better than me what is going on, so I’ll just let him talk.”

Harris went silent for a moment, and when he next spoke his voice was replaced with a booming voice that seemed to come from multiple mouths, it spoke English with an unidentifiable accent, unlike anything on Earth’s surface, both lyrical and harsh in diction.

”Humans,” The Green stated as a greeting. ”Wizard,” The Green said again, directed this time at Karen.

”I have lived for many millennia, and I have only once seen such an event as this. I am connected to many entities, including the Greek gods that you, Karen Hernandez, claim as the source of your power. You mortals amuse me with such grandiosity but that is not an important topic. As a result of my connection to many entities, when they are disabled I am made aware, and I am to believe that one has been disabled. Considering the presence of Greek figures and the dead walking my Earth, I am given to believe that Persephone has somehow been neutralized. I aim to bring Harris Herzog’s consciousness into Hades itself in order to reassert order. If you have any questions I may prove able to answer them.”

”How many fucking gods are there?” Grim muttered under her breath, so low the words distorted in being deepened.

Karen didn’t hesitate to rush over to the potted plant after it began to speak, only offering a quick nod of gratitude to Malcolm for - rather harshly - jerking her to her feet. Smiling up at Zoey for - clearly - going through quite a bit of trouble to get it for her, she placed both hands on either side of the pot and stared down into it so she could listen to the message of first Harris, and then the Green. It was...quite informative, to say the least. Things were starting to make a bit more sense now.

”Neutralized...could that have happened with the Gods on Olympus, too? Even Zeus?” Karen’s head swivelled towards Samantha, who had quickly ran over to join her and the Green in their conversation.

“Zeus somehow neutralized?” Samantha seemed unsettled by the prospect. “Well, in an infinite universe, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but even if that were the case, your base powers are duplications of theirs and not dependent on their continued existence. If, however, someone has subdued Zeus…”

Karen leaned in towards the cat slightly, tipping both herself and the plant forward towards her as if to pressure her to continue. “Not really the time for dramatic pauses, Sam.”

“Whenever you speak the previous Wizard’s name,” she continued, a small hint of irritation lacing her words, “the Rock of Eternity releases an intense concentration of its power in the form of Zeus’s divine thunderbolt. This travels down the aforementioned interdimensional ‘tether’ directly to you...though you can redirect it, with a refined enough understanding of the Rock’s power. If Zeus has been subdued, however, then it is possible that someone is using his divine thunderbolt to somehow ‘block’ the one you call down.”

Karen’s eyebrows knitted slightly, trying to comprehend the cat’s rather wordy explanation, feeling she could have simplified that quite a bit. But there was something she said that piqued her interest. ”Wait, so if I can control it...then could I just have it, like, take a different route than the tether to me? One they couldn’t think to block?”

“Yes,” Samantha replied, causing Karen’s eyes to momentarily brighten, “If you had sufficient control over the Rock’s power. You very much do not at your current level of experience. You would far more likely send it off into space and into some unfortunate planet.”

The light once again fading from those brown orbs, the teen sunk slightly at this. ”Oh. Right…”

”Don’t worry,” Grim had moved to the work table at this point, wiping off the blood, guts, and occasionally feathers that adorned her armor from the solo excursion through her home. ”We’ll think of another way to… open the tether. Or reroute it.”

The potted plant sat unmoving as The Green overheard their conversation.

The Wizard’s abilities have been blocked somehow, they’re discussing alternate methods to enable her to transform.

You can transfer my consciousness through yourself, correct? Is it possible for you to move her lightning bolt through yourself?

It’s not something we’ve thought of trying, and she has no ability to connect with me.

Here’s a funny thought, ask her.

The Green grunted and a number of its other voices began to complain, but the majority seemed to be in agreement, it’s not something that they’d think of doing, but Harris Herzog had a way of forcing strange actions into acceptably successful plans, his input would be considered.

”Harris Herzog has come up with a possible solution. We are not a physical object, The Green, we are a small realm unto ourself, able to hold consciousnesses and transfer them across planets and realms. Perhaps it could be possible to transfer the lightning bolt through ourself, we are unsure as to how you could access us, but we are sure a method could be constructed.”

Karen blinked at the idea, before looking towards Samantha as if to ask if she had any input on the matter. The cat stared up at the plant for a moment, seemingly considering their options in silence for the next minute.

“You could bring the thunderbolt to her through this method,” Samantha concluded, causing Karen to once more brighten in hope. “But that’s only half the problem. The lightning represents her connection to the Rock. It is a stream running down the tether. The Green will need to host this cosmic stream of raw arcane power, and its native realm may suffer damage through the effort. If the Green suffers damage, than so does every form of plant life on Earth, am I correct in this belief?”

”You are correct in this belief. However, we are a conglomeration of every single plant on the planet, representing trillions of life-forms, we have yet to be damaged in any way other than external, and unless this raw arcane power is strong enough to completely destroy the entirety of Earth, we should suffer only superficial damage, and even if this power is enough to cause us damage, we will not be damaged for long.”

The Green presented itself as knowing everything, however, this was not one of its areas of expertise, they were unsure themselves if this would work.

“Well, if you’re certain of this then it is certainly worth making the attempt,” Samantha replied. “But then the problem evolves: how do we connect Karen to you?”

Karen raised her chin at this question, remembering Harris’ appearance. ”W-wait, will doing this transform me into a bug-woman or something?”

”I’m never putting another plant in my bedroom again…”

The Green felt a slight amount of amusement at the young wizard’s question.

What are they saying?

Karen Hernandez has expressed distaste towards being forced into taking your appearance.

Kinda rude but okay.

The Green would have rolled their eyes had they any.

”That is not a worry, Karen Hernandez,” the green reassured in a way that was not at all reassuring. ”We never stated we were certain, feline, but in the long time that we have existed, we have learned to take a few risks,” The Green lied, it hadn’t taken risks for the majority of its existence, it was only thanks to the success of Harris Herzog as their Avatar that they had begun to attempt more risky behaviors.

”Thankfully, entering your conscience into The Green should be easy.”

The potted plant extended a web-like tendril that approached Karen slowly, seemingly aiming for the back of her head.

”Fuck off for a second, Green,” Zoey snapped harshly, before turning the glowing white gaze of her helmet to the teenager. ”Karen, you don’t have to do this if you’re not okay with it. We can find another way.”

Pursing her lips slightly at the approaching tendril, it was impossible not to feel a small twinge of fear work its way up her back. ”N-no...it’s fine. I’m okay with this…”

Karen was so not okay with this...but she also knew what was potentially at stake here. In the time that Grim had been gone, the Grim Computer had began displaying reports from around the world of streams of mythological creatures pouring from the sky. What was happening here at Kasimir Castle was some overblown attack on her, but the prelude to a full scale invasion by some hostile outside force.

Her duty as the Wizard was to safeguard this world from outside threats, like Samantha had so often told her...and she had chosen to live as a heroine, even if she complained about it far too much. No matter how she turned it around in her head, it had been her choice. She couldn’t back down now.

”...Let’s do it,” Karen smirked, stepping forward into the web of tendrils.

The connection was made, and Karen’s consciousness entered The Green.




To an outsider, it must have looked something like a Jackson Pollack painting, a mass of unconstructed blobs floating in empty green space. The largest of these blobs turned towards her, agonizingly slowly.

”Oh hi Karen, didn’t expect to see you here.”

”Karen Hernandez, welcome to The Green, if you wish to take your time to prepare first, we shall wait, time in The Green passes far slower than that outside,” The Green’s deep voice boomed through the emptiness, taking time to enunciate every syllable of every word.

To an outsider it must have been maddening.

”Harris?” Karen’s…’eyes’?...darted about the impossibly alien world, her mind struggling to comprehend everything she was seeing. If she had believed the Rock of Eternity to be a strange place, it honestly didn’t have anything on this. It felt like she was no longer...alone in her mind?

Or rather, it felt like she was a small piece of a greater whole, one tiny section of a single finger on a person’s hand, if even that. A mere joint in the greater biological machine of the Green’s enormous body.

”Holy sauceballs...this is what you see all the time, Harris?”

”Only when I close my eyes… or sleep… or daydream. It’s not all that bad when you’re used to it, the biggest worry is the time dilation, but I’ve found it helpful when I’m trying to think up a plan.”




“Unnghh…” Karen stood on wobbly feet, a zombie-like state. Slowly, a glob of drool slid down her face. Samantha could only stare up at her owner/ward/apprentice in concern, wondering what she could be seeing in that moment.

”Karen?” Concern managed to filter through even the synthetic roughness of Grim’s voice modulator, the older woman stepping in front of Karen. The low glow coming from the helmet’s eyes swapped to an odd, light-pink color as Zoey looked over her, metal-encased hands resting on her arms. Finally a low growl sounded from her and with a flick of her wrist a hook shot out from the suit’s arm, grasping onto the nearby chair with force just to be yanked over. Guiding Karen’s near comatose body to sit the billionaire continued to nearly growl, the sound reverberating in the modulator as she grabbed a somewhat oil-stained cloth off her worktable, using a clean edge to wipe away the drool. ”This isn’t exactly a good sign in humans, Green.”

”She will be fine, as long as her consciousness exists within ourselves, that part of her is functionally invulnerable. Her physical body is in a safe place as well, unless we’ve been lied to,” The Green again reassured, this time to Samantha. The strange thing was the fact that the more times it tried to reassure, the less reassuring it became.




”So...does this mean that no matter where I am, we can communicate?” Karen questioned, trying to scratch her face but somehow uncertain if she had any hand at the moment to do so with.

”So long as the connection exists, you will be able to speak to Harris Herzog and ourselves,” The Green confirmed with a monumental slowness. ”It may be difficult to maneuver while still maintaining the connection however, it would either take immense concentration or complete body replacement, as in the case of Harris Herzog, in order to be conscious in both planes at once.”

Karen chuckled in response to this, an almost self-deprecating sound. ”Well, I’ve been in over my head for over a year now. What’s one more extraordinarily impossible thing to deal with?”

Focusing her mind in much the same way she did when she melded the arcane energy of the laylines into the various shapes she desired, Karen immediately felt the strain of essentially trying to be in two places at the same time. It felt like her eyes were trying to stare off into opposite directions, like the respective sides of her body wanted to turn away from one another. It…hurt, in truth.

”Nngh…” An audible grunt from the teenager resonated throughout the Green, but she didn’t stop. Even as the pain mounted, she kept on pushing. It was like she could see her own skin tearing as her mind and body tried to function independently yet simultaneously.




”Gggnn,” A flash of consciousness returned to Karen’s eyes, her body now seated, which made things considerably easier in that moment. She could feel her entire body start to tremble from the strain of being in two places at once, her fingers balling so tightly that her knuckles went pale.

Hunching forward slightly, the blonde’s eyes flickered up at Zoey and Malcolm, and then down at Samantha and the plant in her hand. The lattermost wasn’t even necessary anymore, since she could communicate with The Green even without it. Still...she felt some strange affection for it now. Standing slowly on wobbling legs, she carried it over to the nearest table and gently sat it down.

”You shouldn’t be standing so soon,” Zoey rumbled, following at Karen’s heels as though afraid that she’d collapse at any minute. Considering how she woke it didn’t seem unfounded. Her fingers flexed at her side, ready to move at a moment’s notice.

The longer Karen did this, the more used to it she got. At first she couldn’t really speak clearly enough to carry on a conversation, but as minutes passed, the pain subsided into a mere pressure. It still felt really unnatural, however, being in two places at once...but she felt it was needed for what she had to do.

The Green let out what could almost be considered a chuckle. The noise left Harris awestruck, he had never, ever seen The Green in any mood resembling whimsy.

”Unexpected, but quite impressive,” they conceded, returning to their neutral voice as usual.

Taking another minute to cement her concentration in this state, Karen’s eyes slowly ascended to the ceiling as small grains of dust began to sprinkle down onto the table she was leaning over. The Grim Grotto was being shaken, which meant the castle above wasn’t faring too well even with all of Zoey’s advanced defensive measures in place.

”Zoey, open the hangar,” Karen glanced to the redhead as she pushed off the table and began to walk towards the entrance. ”Okay, Green, are you ready for me to say it?”

”We are prepared, Karen Hernandez,” The Green responded quickly and yet slowly at the same time, speaking to both portions of Karen’s split conscience. ”Show us the Wizard’s power.”

”Wait hold on what is she going to do? I didn’t hear the conversation, what about the Wizard’s power? Say what? I’m so confused.”

”Hold on,” Zoey reached out, grasping onto Karen’s shoulder to stop her stride towards the hangar. ”Take a few minutes, at least! I haven’t even had a chance to look you over properly, your reactions aren’t exactly indicative of a healthy state right now.”

Karen reached up to squeeze Zoey’s hand reassuringly, offering the redhead a smile. ”I’m fine, Zo. You know I need to do this.”

”Destiny and magic, yes, I get it, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to go out to fight monsters right away after merging your consciousness with all plant-life on Earth! Fuck, let me go handle them for now!”

Another rumble acted as Zoey’s response to this, a large stone crashing down onto the metal floor below. ”I don’t think the Grim Grotto is going to survive that long...besides, you saw how many are out there right now! Only Lady Arcana can do this.”

”We promise you, it will work, we refuse to allow this planet fail, our lives depend on it,” The Green responded, again attempting, and failing, to reassure.

”No, you’re not the only one who can do this! Mythical creatures or not, I’ll disable them in the Grim Jet while you - you’re not going to listen to me, are you?”

Karen smirked at this, spreading her arms as she stared up at the ceiling once again. Focusing this time on her newfound connection to The Green, she shouted with everything she had. ”SHAZAM!”

In that instant the potted plant that had been sitting on the table exploded, showering the area with shards of clay as the blinding light of the divine thunderbolt cleared the distance to Karen in an instant. Vanishing in that moment, the thirteen year old was replaced by a familiar adult woman...but changed.

Instead of the familiar purple uniform, it was now a deep emerald. Vines snaked their way up her arms and legs, all of them ultimately converging around the thunderbolt that still shimmered at the center of her chest. It felt so different, but there was something else…

There was pain.

”Unnnk,” Lady Arcana raised her hand to her head, her connection to the Green being far more clear now even conscious thanks to the Intellect of Mnemosyne. She could see the stream of arcane power flowing through it, just like Samantha said, flowing into her even if it was no longer visible to normal eyes.

”Idiot,” Grim grumbled lowly, not hesitating to step closer to Lady Arcana. It was obvious that she was looking her over, checking the veritable God for any obvious injuries as well as taking in the morphed look. ”I wish you’d listen to me - are you in pain? Just disorientated?”

Lady Arcana glanced over at Zoey and couldn’t help but chuckle as she answered. ”Ngh...yes. But I’ll manage long enough to take care of those creatures outside.”

Brave idiot.”

The arcane power flowing through her - them was certainly enough to destroy the Earth...but mere destruction wasn’t what was happening. It was...changing things. The exposure to raw arcane power was twisting and mutating the natural life that existed within that realm. Something like this...it couldn’t remain as it was for long. But she needed it, for just this short while.

”I...nnn...I know, it hurts,” Lady Arcana spoke to The Green, ”B-but please keep lending me your power, until I’ve cleared the castle.”

”Hmm…” The Green mumbled, its voice morphed and distorted. ”This is a strange sensation, I’ve never felt this ‘pain’ before.”

”So uh, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but my arm just grew to the size of a beach ball, is that normal? I don’t think that’s normal.”

”We will try, Karen Hernandez, it may be difficult, but we will not fail this planet.”

Lady Arcana smiled at this, nodding. ”Thanks...I’m not going to either.”

With that, the now jade-colored superheroine lifted off the ground and rocked out of the now open hangar. Ascending high into the skies above Gotham, the sight she beheld was both horrifying and breathtaking. The skies had been blackened by the wings of harpies, and the castle looked to be a mere shadow of itself, the defenses overwhelmed by the surge of mythological beasts storming through it, the front walls having collapsed.

Gotham City itself was under siege by the creatures, chaos and panic clear in the street as people fled from the army that had seemingly attacked out of nowhere. It was all too much. She hadn’t dealt with numbers like these since Arabia, and at least then they weren’t intermixed with civilians.

She wanted to help the people, but at the same time, the creatures would soon break through to the Grim Grotto. The Green couldn’t keep this up forever, and if she was to have any hope of saving the world from this, she needed her friends.

As she willed herself towards the army that was tearing apart her home-away-from-home, Lady Arcana flexed her fingers. Her powers simultaneously felt familiar and different. She still had all her normal abilities, but there was something else there now. An additional connect...to the grass on the front lawn, to the trees that grew there. That’s right, she’d seen Harris do much the same before.

Now that the energy that fueled her was running through The Green, she felt a far greater connection than she had as Karen. Slamming down onto the asphalt that made up the pathway from the castle, Lady Arcana pressed her hand to the surface just as several dozen minotaurs, centaurs and cyclops turned towards her. Before they could so much as wiggle a toe, a small forest of branches erupted from the Earth, ensnaring the frightened and flailing creatures within their electrified grasps. Lightning crackled through the newly formed trees, instantly paralyzing and incapacitating them.

”...Holy Sauceballs, I definitely couldn’t do that before! Karen remarked in astonishment.

”But that’s my thing! Dammit Karen,” Harris said disappointedly, before realizing with a small gasp. ”Did you just run electricity through wood? The Green is gonna kill yo-”

”Did you know tomatoes are fruits? I always did but no-one ever listened to me, except me, and me, and me, and the other me, and the other one who is a tomato.”

”Nevermind I think he’s occupied.”

Lady Arcana’s eyes shifted slowly to the side upon hearing the conversation The Green was having with itself, knowing that she had better hurry up and take care of things here. While the electricity didn’t seem to harm the branches, that in itself showed just how much she was messing with things that probably shouldn’t be messed with right now.

”Let’s hurry and run them off then. There’s plenty of plants out here, so help me!” She replied to Harris, ascending high into the sky towards the flock of harpies. They had given her trouble in much smaller numbers back in March, but she had a far better handle on her speed and flight now. Attacks that traveled at the speed of sound weren’t going to hit her.

Dodging and weaving around the sonic screams of the innumerable bird-women, Lady Arcana began to draw upon the laylines and form a sizable orb of arcane energy between her palms.

Harris was taken aback by the request for aid, but he supposed there was nothing stopping him. In an instant a number of plant tendrils shot from below, grabbing onto a number of harpies before they could react, pulling them into the ground below and burying them under a mass of plant-matter. Even if they weren’t human, it still felt weird to kill them, they were just human enough for him to not want to kill them.

”Woah, I think I have plant-cancer, my fingers look more like… apples.”

”I am full of apples! They speak to me!”

”I’ll help as much as I can, I just hope that I don’t start acting like our friend Green over there.”

”KILL ALL THE APPLES! THEY HAVE TINY MEN IN THEM!”

Karen felt a cold bead of sweat slide down the side of her face at The Green’s increasingly...eccentric commentary. Glancing down at the beach ball-size sphere of energy between her hands, she willed it to take on the properties of electricity. Raising it high above her head, she hurled it into the mass of harpies. With a crack of thunder unlike any that could be produced by nature, it exploded into a wicked web of lightning that forked between each individual within the massive flock.

Like a something out of an apocalyptic film the bird-women began to fall to the ground, unconscious. She had been careful with the amount she had used...having faced them before as she had, Lady Arcana at least had a good idea of just how much juice these things could take. By combining the Intellect of Mnemosyne with the Speed of Hermes, she was able to quickly count their numbers and calculate how much wattage she would need to light them all up like Christmas trees.

At this point, only some of the T-Rex sized cyclops remained, with most of the centaurs and minotaurs at the castle having literally been wrapped up. Slamming down into one with a hard left hook, Lady Arcana couldn’t deny how satisfying it felt to bring down something that big, to hear it’s body thud to the ground.

Harris watched as Arcana basically defeated every single threat. After asking him to help. Despite not at all needing his help. He watched as the colossus crashed into the ground. In order to feel useful he grew vines around the creature’s arms and legs.

Yeah, now I’m useful.

”You were!” Lady Arcana reassured him. ”You kept the guys on the ground occupied for me. Gnn…”

The pain in her skull was starting to become unbearable, even for Lady Arcana. She’d managed to focus on the battle and ignore it for the most part, but it was simply escalating to a ridiculous extent. ”I need to get back to the hangar…

”Yeah that’s probably a good idea, The Green’s trying to make me purchase an avocado.”

”I told you, no browsing! Either purchase or I’ll eat your kidney and spank your monkey!”

”Oh god it’s getting worse. Oh hey, my eye just turned into a basketball, that’s fun, hey Josh! Look at this!”

Lady Arcana weakly nodded, pushing herself off the ground as she drifted through the air unevenly towards the hangar. Drifting inside the open cave mouth, she came to a tumbling crash-landing inside, ultimately ending up sprawled across the metal floor on her back.

“...S-Shazam…” Lady Arcana croaked out, the formerly potted plant - which had mutated into something more resembling an oversized venus flytrap by now - once again releasing the thunderbolt in her direction. In a flash, the overgrown heroine vanished, being replaced by the thirteen year old Karen Hernandez again.

From the plant, once again came the un-distorted voices of The Green, which gasped and growled, many of the voices complaining, and many more being emotional for perhaps the first time ever.

”That was quite strange… to say the least,” The Green understated. ”It was intriguing, however.”

The portion of the plant that remained attached to Karen de-attached and pulled back to the plant, removing her from the hivemind and allowing her to relax.

”We’d rather not have to do that again, if we are to be honest, but it may prove a necessity, perhaps next time we should channel it through the physical form of our Avatar in order to ensure a smoother transfer…”

”Uh, hell no? I saw what that did to you both, I’m good thanks,” Harris responded indignantly. ”On another note, what now? I believe I was supposed to go to Hades, but clearly Karen needs our help in order to transform, unless one of our other friends believes that they can fight a god if it turns out that one of them is a bit of… a dick? I mean they already were but… more than usual?”

The pain had subsided the instant she had returned to the form of Karen Hernandez. Being disconnected from The Green shortly after had certainly helped as well. Pushing herself up slightly, the blonde shook the dizziness from her head. Eyes shifting over to the potted plant, she couldn’t help but note that Zoey and Malcolm were now gone. Where they had gotten off to?

”Where’s…” She started, only to see Samantha bobbing up to her, the two puppies desperately seeking to knock her over with their enthusiastic affections. She didn’t seem particularly happy about this.

“They went to ensure that the castle - or whatever is left of it - is secure,” the cat explained.

Karen released a small exhale of relief, though a part of her still worried. Why was Malcolm going there? Any one of those could rip him limb from limb with utter ease. Still, she needed to focus on the task at hand.

”Um, Harris makes a good point. The whole world is being invaded right now. We need to find a way to resolve this.”

Samantha nodded once at this, her paw moving to shove away the face of Buttons as he eagerly tried to lap his wet little tongue against her face. “I’ve actually been giving that some thought while you were gone. I think you may need to travel to Olympus.”

”O-Olympus?!” Karen’s eyes widened. ”Like Mount Olympus?”

“The very one,” Sam confirmed. “Whatever is behind this invasion and the blocking of your ability to transform is likely there.”

”Hmmph, perhaps the right idea… it does beg the question of how you will defend yourself.”

”Maybe you should have thought about that when you had the Intellect of Mnym-myna-myno… intellect of the really smart guy. Also I’m just kidding don’t hate me.”

The Green seemed frustrated with this.

”We are able to transfer consciousnesses, and as we have just learned, magic, through ourself, but we are unable to transmit physical forms, and considering the gods’ domain is usually outside mortal purview, it also begs the question of how you may get there, especially without your Wizard abilities.”

Samantha - as much as a cat was able to, at least - smiled in response to The Green’s question. “I have somebody I can contact whom I believe may be able to help with that.”
Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Simple Unicycle
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December 24th, 11:03 PM
Kasimir Castle; Gotham City, New Jersey



The road from Gotham City to Kasimir Castle was empty that night, as it usually was; the mansion was rather secluded, and only rarely did people visit it. All was quiet, save for the soft chirping of crickets on the lonesome country road, prepared for yet another uneventful night... That is, until a yellow Camaro came zooming down the road, a song cranked to max volume emanating from the open windows.

"WAY DOOOOOWN, BELOW THE OCEAN! WHEEEEERE I WANNA BE, SHE MAY BE!" David sang along loudly, his already mediocre singing voice made all the worse by the slurring of his words, a side effect of his drunkenness. He chuckled to himself, keeping one hand on the steering wheel as he used the other to adjust the collar of his shirt in order to hide a little... Present, he had received on his neck after playing 7 Minutes in Heaven at the party with Ellen Walker from Chemistry.

"Where's the fuckin'... Oh, there." He grabbed his flask, given to him by his pal and the party's host Tommy, and filled with Jack Daniels from said party. After unscrewing it deftly with one hand, David began to chug it down like it was water. Suddenly, he moved his flask away from his mouth and spit out what he had drank, remembering the fact that he would have to sneak back into his room and hide his hickey from Zoey until it was gone. And that's not to mention the horrible hangover he was going to have in the morning.

Shrugging, he took another swig from his flask, deciding that he'll cross that bridge when he comes to it.

Like mother, like son.

Not a few minutes later, David was pulling into the driveway of the mansion, only to stop upon seeing a group of mythological creatures, all entangled by vines, in his path. David looked at his flask, looked back at the creatures, then back at his flask. "Either Tommy drugged me, or there are things right outta the fucking Odyssey in my front yard." David muttered to himself. He blinked, still there. He rubbed his eyes once, twice, still there. "... Shit. Can't go a damn day without something fucking everything up."

Sighing, the boy exited his car, only tripping over his feet a few times as he made his way to the hidden entrance into the Grim Grotto. He tried to force himself to sober up, and managed to focus a bit, or at least focus more than he was a few minutes ago. 'Here's hoping mom and Malcolm are down there trying to figure out a way to fix this FUBAR mess.' With that in mind, he entered the Grotto.
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December 24th, 11:53 PM
Grim Grotto, Gotham City


”So, uhh…” Malcom finally piped up, after having been standing beside Zoey in stunned silence for the past fifteen minutes in his Green lantern pyjamas and holding a puppy under each arm as Karen was half-eaten by a potted daisy, zombified, turned into the Captain Planet version of herself before going flying off. ”Should we… be doing something right now?”

A low, almost inhuman snarl was Malcolm’s response at first, before a heavy exhale rumbled through the modulator. She tracked Lady Arcana - was that still her name when she was green and covered in vines? - before finally Zoey turned the glowing white eyes of the prototype armor to her son, then flicked passed him to the giant monitor taking up the wall. Something she spotted on one of the camera feeds seemed to catch her attention, as the hero gave a short nod.

”Get your gear, some of them have almost breached the emergency bunker with the night staff. Let’s go.”

For a moment, Malcolm just stared at his foster-mother with a blank expression… before a wide, cheeky grin slowly made its way across his face.

”Hell yeah.” Came his only response as he placed the puppers down and ran off to grab his kit.

---


Twisted and scarred metal littered the path of Grim and Watchdog as they ventured from the Grotto deeper into the castle they called home. The great, thick walls of metal that had been slammed into place on the initiation of Zoey’s Lockdown Mode had been torn through, sometimes literally, as a myriad of mythical creatures rampaged through the halls.

With the late hour, and the surprise of the attack, not everyone had made it.

Kneeling down, the metal digits of the Iron Fang prototype armor slid the eyelids closed on the man before Grim. He was slumped against the wall, or at least part of him - he had been torn right in half at the waist. Her night shift doorman and frontline security rolled into one. This hadn’t exactly been listed on the job resume.

Standing behind Zoey in his uniform, a paramilitary-esque mish-mash of kevlar and layered polymer and metal, Malcolm remained mostly silent, simply placing his armoured hand on her shoulder. He’d known the man, Dan, better than he knew most of Zoey’s staff (barring Henry, obviously, who’d made it his mission in life to introduce the boy to decent food), the guy having taken a liking to his… hooliganish personality immediately and taking him out back to shoot at popcans once in a while on the weekends.

Whatever consoling thing Malcolm could’ve said at that point was drowned out as a flicker of sound rippled it’s way across his vision.

”Company.” Came the one word in their place as he turned, pulled on his helmet and snapped down the visor a small hiss resonating from it and a pair of comms antennae styled after a dog’s ears rising as he did so.

”I’ll make sure they’re taken care of,” Zoey muttered lowly to the corpse, before rising up seamlessly in the metal of the armor. Sparing Dan one last look she finally turned, and there was a hum of energy as a metal blade extended from the top of the left wrist on the suit, the edge of it almost glowing with a reddish energy, magic rolling off it in waves.

Experimentally extending and retracting the claws on his gauntlet a few times, Malcolm’s head slowly turned to his armour-clad guardian, the glowing orange of his eyes the only thing visible under the blacked out, military-grade glass of his visor.

”Six harpies and our big, horned friend. Coming fast from the kitchen.” He stated, almost sounding… professional, unlike his usual sarcasm-soaked self. ”...Ready, Boss?”

A small hum was Malcolm’s only response, the sound distorted into a near growl from the helmet’s modulator. Grim stepped to the side, grabbing onto a limply hanging gun against the wall - one of the defenses that had popped out, now disabled. However on ripping it off the wall it took only a moment to get it to mostly working order once more, considering the damage was mostly superficial.

With the rifle hefted up and the vigilante ready the instant a feathered being swept into view the unloading began. Aimed to disable rather than kill the rounds pierced the right wing, sending the harpy plummeting. The second, with the warning, already looked ready to screech - mouth open wide, chest puffed up with breath.

More crimson stained the wall behind them as a well placed series of bullets lodged into its chest, the thing seeming to stagger in the air. It likely wouldn’t survive its lung being punctured.

The rifle clicked as it loosed the rest of its ammo, barely clipping the third’s wings and the head of the giant minotaur. The thing looked to be made of fury and scorn, letting out a bellow of rage just from the slight graze. Grim tossed the now empty gun to the side carelessly, bracing into position as the minotaur bared down on them.

Thinking quickly, and eyeballing the stone archway the raging minotaur passed under, Malcolm abruptly raised his left arm and fired his grapple, the tug of the device immediately ripping the boy off the ground and passed it’s horned head, where the boy used the climbing claw on his right to lash out at it’s eye (the only thing on it not covered by an impossibly sturdy hide), before reeling back to grab the very surprised fourth harpy that poked it’s head around the corner at that moment and found itself in the ballistic child’s path by the jaw and use his momentum to slam it’s head into the stone and knock it out.

Sparing a fraction of a second to exhale and reposition himself as the Minotaur started to rage and thrash about, at the loss of it’s eye, Malcolm kicked off the archway towards the fifth harpy, too busy dodging the flailing bovine’s arms to notice the (in retrospect kinda slasher flicky) child before it was on her back and dug it’s steel claws into a cluster of tendons under her wing with an audible snarl before letting off another grapple downward and riding her straight down into her sister and into the floor at enough speed to break her hollow bones.

That done, the now upgraded version of the Watchdog of Bludhaven’s head snapped up towards the still screaming minotaur.

”HEY, FATASS.” He shouted defiantly, distorted by one of Zoey’s patented voice modulators. ”OVER HERE!”

And the second the creature furiously whirled around to catch sight of the boy with his one good eye... a throwing knife was plunked into it. Eliciting more screaming, more thrashing and more showing the heavily armed and armoured woman it had all-but-forgotten about it’s back.

The flare of thrusters sounded up behind the minotaur, but any response it might’ve had to them was far too late as the magi-tech powered wings and leg-jets propelled Grim forward. The glowing blade coming from her wrists pierced through the back of his knees, tearing tendons and making the things collapse as its sturdy flesh no longer protected it. Dancing away from the flailing arms attached to the collapsing mountain of muscle for a moment, Grim then bolted forward, using the back of the agonized creature as a springboard.

The jets once more thrust to life as Grim hit the back wall of the hall in a crouch, eyes focused on the remaining two harpies. One remained looking at Watchdog, focused as it was, while the other - the one who’s wings she had clipped earlier - had zoomed in on the new threat. Almost as one, they inhaled.

The red of the thrusters burned white hot as Grim shot forward, the metallic wings on the back stretched out. With precision-perfect accuracy the right wing slammed into one harpy’s throat, the vigilante’s armored fist breaking the nose of the one focused on her son. She landed with them as the wing twitched, but rather than focus on it she turned to the one on the ground, gasping as it scrambled up and clutched its bruised throat. Rather than give it time to regroup Zoey’s hand shot out, grabbing onto its throat as well, the armor humming with power as she lifted it into the air. For a moment, she considered just crushing its neck...but finally slammed it into the wall instead, letting the unconscious dead weight drop to the floor.

The first harpy, its wings shot, had looked up to them with defiance. Despite the decimation of its little assault squad it seemed ready to fight once more, raising up on taloned legs.

”...Really?” Malcolm inquired to no one in particular as the last harpy began to rise to it’s feet, seemingly ignoring the events of the past forty-five seconds in a show of defiance…. Before he abruptly walked up and dummied it right in the face with his armoured fist, breaking it’s nose and dropping it like a sack of potatoes.

Shaking his head in irritation and dusting a few feathers off his uniform, the boy turned back to face his Foster-Mom.

”So… shall we?”
Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Pleek
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Pleek

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Año 2020, 20 de Diciembre; Mazatlán, Sinaloa

("What the Hell were you thinking!?") angrily shouted a man who was following another who was standing near the coast of a beach, which a particular house of interest overlooked. This man continued to follow down the coast leaving down a trailprint of steps that were hidden by the night and would disappear once the soft waves crashed upon them. The target of his yelling was a man who was dressed in red suit, wearing a bright, orange mask.

Betwixt the masked man's teeth was a cigarette lit aglow. This masked individual did not respond to the inquiries but instead focused on the calming motions of the ocean and the cigarette he took another drag on. While the ashes fell to the sands below, the other man finally caught up and grabbed a hold of this masked man's left shoulder and forcefully spun the man to face him.

("ANSWER ME!")

Casually brushing off the grip the masked man began to speak, ("Doing this is in the best interests of the Familia Valdez. I'm not just thinking of myself here! It is going to help the entire Sinaloa Cartel!")


It was at this point that the reveal of the identity of this man, alongside his questioner, would be answered. The reason of the inquiries would also be answered shortly, but to understand that one must understand background circumstances.

This masked man was Angel Valdez, the Capo of the Valdez Family. The Valdez Family is one of the prominent families in the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the many stronger Drug Cartels, in Mexico. Their purpose in the Cartel is that of protection, protecting drug routes and businesses. Over the past months they had many altercations with members of the Tijuana Cartel that resulted in lost business, so to say. These incidents cost lives of Cartel members alongside quite a bit of drug money lost. Knowing this it is easy to see why the Valdez Family lost a bit of prestige, and why they made the deal.

The deal in question being with the Masked Man, who allegedly, hired out some members of the Tijuana Cartel to hunt him down in order to kidnap them easier in order place them in Mesoamerican 'Ball Games'. Angel didn't give these rumors much attention at first, after all it seemed absurd to him. But Angel Valdez learned that these kidnappings did in fact take place, and more importantly he had the attention of the man who was behind it all.

Bane.

The Masktaker and the Tag-team Partner of Senketsu Joe the Fifth, among some other monikers, had entered Sinaloa territory in order to capture that Sicario of Tijuana once again to make him participate in yet another Mesoamerican Ball Game. It was fortunate that Angel Valdez had him, and was able to convince Bane of a deal, one that both sides found satisfactory.

Instead of merely getting just one sicario, what if Bane was able to catch multiple? What if he had many, many enforcer gangs to play around with. That did appeal to the desires that Bane had in mind yes.

But it was a Faustian Bargain for Valdez, and the Sinaloa's as a whole...

Bane was willing to engage in this gang warfare; but it was to come at a price. Bane was not going to disappoint Lord Death Man, in time the Sinaloa Cartel -alongside the other Cartels who would fall to Bane- would serve in a larger criminal enterprise. But that time was not now; but of course that did not mean that the Sinaloa Cartel wouldn't have pay a price. No, they paid their due.

In exchange for the services of Bane, the families would adopt his methodology. The Sinaloa Cartel, its families, and the gangs they contracted, would no longer use guns as the main source of their battling. They would use lucha libre, and make their bodies the weapons they were meant to be. They would also donate a fair amount of their drug chemists to activities away from the cocaine game. And the violence they did engage in was to be ramped up, even if it meant attracting a bit extra attention from the federales that were either on the straight or narrow, or more likely bribed by another criminal organization.

Of course not all the families thought this was sensible...

...But those that witnessed the rampage soon came to the realization that it was better to obey the crazed demands of a massive luchaman who was last seen in the public eye escaping with the famed Phantom Thief.

And so, with that bit explained, we return to our scheduled programming.


(Look Rosales, we've been losing the war against Juarez. This, this is our ticket to get back on top, move our product even further north. Possibly to Gotham or Metropolis.) Angel calmly explained as he dropped the cigarette and smashed the remnants with his heel. Lieutenant Rosales shook his head as he glanced back up towards the beach house.

("I have my doubts. But, I guess it can't be any worse.") With a sigh, Angel smirked and patted Rosales on the back.

(Just wait. Christmas Eve will be a night to remember, while Kid Texano celebrates with a couple of enforcers about their work in El Paso; Bane and our men, with another truck just in case, will burn Juarez to the ground...)



Año 2020, 24 de Diciembre; Camino hacia Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua

A single, white, hatchback van drove up towards Juarez up a dirt road. Another pair of black hatchbacks were making their way north towards Juarez as well, but they were not following the same trajectory as the white hatchback.

Inside this hatchback was a group of five. The wheelman was a man known as Rafael. With a pair of aviators gracing his darker than usual skin, clad in a biker jacket he kept his attention firmly on the road with a couple of aside glances to the front passenger. The man up front was known as Hummingbird, this man kept a firm-yet-shakey grip on a radio as he fiddled around with a switchblade, spinning it around, in the opposite hand. Behind Rafael was a lighter man, they called him Doc, who was wearing a pair of bottle glasses who kept both of his hands upon a bottle with a rag sticking out of it. Next to Doc was Miguel who stuck his head out of the window, catching the night breeze flow past his long black locks.

Completing this group was Bane who was situated in the trunk, dressed in a simple spandex pair of underwear and some green wrestling boots. His hands were clasped firmly upon the back seats.

For a good while these men were driving in silence, until it was finally broken.

("We are not far.") Bane stated matter of factly as the other members of this mission, well apart from Rafael, turned their attention to him. ("Soon we shall conquer their lands and spill their blood. I've been told that Kid Texano will be shacking up with members of the affiliate gang, Nueva Linea, to inform them of what routes particular members need to go to protect, alongside of course, his own safety...")

("It will be a glorious conquest to crush them. Hummingbird...") Hummingbird shook his head a couple of times as he began to speak up.

("Yepyepyep?") He chattered his teeth a bit as his flipblade spinning increased in speed.
("Ask if the others are on their way to blocking that armory off.")

Pressing on his radio, Hummingbird spoke. ("Have the geese landed?")

There was nothing.

("GEESE? LANDED!?") Hummingbird shouted as he began slamming his switchblade into the dashboard. Rafael swung his head towards Hummingbird and growled, ("You aren't marking up my back-up ride hombre.") As Hummingbird was about to ask the question again, the radio sparked up with a bit of static.

("Come again?")

The radio sparked up again, but this time the message was clear as day. There was much unintelligible screaming, as bird-like shrieks were heard overpowering the screams.

Rafael perked up an eyebrow and began to speak to Hummingbird, ("Hey can you ge-")

WHAM!

At the outer limits of the city, the van crashed into something. The front of the car mashed inwards as Hummingbird and Rafael were rocked with the most impact. Doc and Miguel were lost in confusion, but Bane was not. With a swift arm thrust, Bane pummeled his way out from the truck as he charged towards the front.

It was there Bane saw the creature begin to stumble up from the scene of the altercation. Standing slightly below Bane, with a distinctive black mane, with a thick and hearty frame Bane knew what he was dealing with. The creature let out the roar of a bull as it charged headforward towards Bane.

("MAAAAAAAAAAANTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUR!") Bane howled towards the heaven as he sprawled into battle, while the rest of the Sinaloas were making their way out of the car Bane had put the creature into a headlock. With a quick transition Bane hooked the minotaur's legs together and performed a Fisherman's Suplex. The creature, still stunned from the earlier impact, flailed about in a vain attempt to remove Bane from him. However this gesture was for naught as Bane transitioned the minotaur into knee-bar.

Pressure was applied slowly, both to taunt the creature and also for sheer amusement, to the leg. Sounds of a slight snap were starting as the creature whined in pain. The Sinaloan 'criminal quartet' watched in awe at both the fact there was a man who was part bull, and the fact that this drug-addled luchador was applying enough pressure to snap the bone. With a sickening crack the minotaur yelped out in a high pitch as Bane rolled off from the creature and began applying curbstomps.

When the minotaur was defeated, Bane flung his arms up to the heavens and screamed, ("I HAVE BESTED MANTAUR!") Doc coughed as Bane glared at him, ("You dare interrupt this victory with your sickness?")

Doc shook his head and slowly pointed towards Juarez City which, was already ablaze with carnage. Monsters were present in the distance and in the horizon.

("U-uh, do you think-") Doc started to say as Bane began laughing hysterically.

("EXCELLENTE! We have amusement as we slaughter our way to the mission.") Bane gestured forwards as he glanced back towards the rest of the crew, ("Keep close. While this carnage is fun, and if you die here you will die a worthy and honorable death, the mission is still our priority. We are to find and capture El Texano and kill as many of his men as possible.")

And so Bane slowly began the march inside towards the city, as the men followed. However, this speed picked up as in the distance Bane saw another familiar sight...

("MANTAUR!? DO YOU PULL THE SORCERERY OF THE SCORPION!? I SHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALL CRUUUUUUUUUUUSH YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUU!") howled out the luchador as he charged once again into the thick of battle, all the while the four men desperately tried to keep as close to possible towards their protector.
Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Blackstripe
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Blackstripe Siobhan's crew of lonely misfits

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December 25th, 12:04 AM
Grim Grotto, Gotham City


“468-323-9078,” Samantha called off the number to Karen, who somewhat awkwardly typed it into her phone while giving her black Bombay cat an occasional aside glance. “And stop looking at me like that. It’s 2020, and he’s been living as a human for years.”

Karen shook her head at this, still a little disappointed that she wasn’t getting to see some kind of cool magic ritual. Oh well, at this point she was happy to take whatever worked. Pressing the call button, she sat the phone down on the table she was seated at, with Samantha leaping up onto it shortly after.

The phone rang… and rang… and rang… and just before it seemed it would logically cut to voicemail, there was the typical jumbling sounds of plastic that typically came with a landline phone and a tired, distinctly unamused voice that followed soon after.

”...So help me, if you’re calling this late to sell me goddamn windows…

”Is that a landline phone? How old is that dude?” Karen blurted out, causing Samantha to lightly hiss.

“Quiet!” She snapped, clearing her throat in the process. “Heya, Ted. It’s Samantha! Remember? I...uh, take it you’re aware of what’s going on outside?”

”Oh. Hey, Sam.” Ted responded, the annoyance in his tone rapidly ratcheting down to a friendly, but still somewhat tired tone ”And yeah, between the dead rising, the noisy goddamn bird ladies in the sky and the unconscious minotaur in my backyard, I figured something was up.”

There was a bit more shuffling and creaking, from his end of the line which sounded almost like someone sitting up on an old couch… and the distinct rattling of a beer-can or two hitting the floor.

”So, what happened?”

Samantha exhaled, wondering where to start. Probably should just get to the point. “Well, you remember the new Wizard, yes? Well, she has apparently lost her ability to transform, and it appears to be because someone has found a way to block the tether that allows the Rock imbue her with its power.”

A long sigh resounded from the other end of the line followed by a brief silence as Ted very quickly put two and two together.

”It’d have to be Zeus wouldn’t it…” He finally spoke, more to himself than to the feline, before his tone shifted and that hint of annoyance came back as he addressed Sam once more. ”Where are you now?”

Samantha nodded in response, even though he couldn’t see it. “Either he himself, or - more likely - someone has done something to him. Given that something has apparently happened to Persephone, and the dead rising months earlier, I dare say Hades is also in trouble.”

Karen listened to the conversation between her cat and the mysterious individual on the other side in silence, unsure of what she could add to the conversation.

“You know where Castle Kasimir is, right? In Gotham? Famous billionaire Zoey Kasimir’s place?” Samantha continued. “Well...we’re in a cave somewhere beneath that. It’s kind of been smashed.”

”I can find it easy enough, mind casting a little spell or something so I can pick you out from everything else?” Came the voice from the other end, accompanied by yet more shuffling noises that sounded an awful lot like someone trying to get dressed as quickly as possible. ”Gotham’s always had shitty reception.”

Sam chuckled in response to this. “It’s because there’s so much going on here all the time. But yes, I’ll do this for you.”

Turning to face away from the phone, Samantha’s eyes began to glow with a low orchid light as she drew upon the arcane energy pumping through the laylines of Gotham City. Karen watched with no small amount of interest as it slowly coalesced into a short cylinder-like shape on the ground. Transmuting from energy to a seemingly physical object, the glow of the arcane ultimately faded from it to reveal an open can of gourmet cat food.

Samantha promptly leaped down and dived into it.

”...Uh, she did it,” Karen muttered in the phone, pinching the bridge of her nose.

”Lemme guess, cat food?” Came Karen’s reply… not from the phone, however, but echoing off all the cave walls around her.

Before she could have time to ponder that, however, a massive gout of roaring suddenly erupted a few metres in front of them, lingering for only a few seconds before it abruptly subsided, leaving a… actually kinda short and relatively plain-looking olive-skinned man before them garbed in simple, jeans, work-boots, an old wife-beater and a flannel jacket, a ballcap emblazoned with the logo of some Canadian hockey team resting above his heavily scarred face.

”Yup. You are a creature of habit, aren’t you Sammy?” Said man found it in him to quip with a little smirk before he turned towards the blonde teenager and extended one of his hands. ”I’m Ted. Nice to meet you.”

Karen knew something like this was going to happen, that he would probably just appear out of nowhere like that. Magic tended to be that way, just letting people pop in on you unannounced. Still, she hadn’t been quite ready for someone so...diminutive. He was honestly pretty unimpressive looking if she was honest, though his face was covered in some pretty nasty-looking scars.

”Um, nice to meet you,” she replied in kind, extending her much smaller hand to shake his, watching as it basically swallowed hers whole.

Samantha, for her part, had simply released a low grunt at the man’s comment before continuing to eat the food she had just summoned. Apparently, she felt her work was done for now.

The massive Venus fly-trap-looking plant slowly maneuvered its way around the room, seemingly examining the new arrival despite its clear lack of eyes. Seemingly satisfied, it settled back into a neutral position.

”We remember you, Titan, we always have.”

The Green seemed almost angry at the man, like it had held a grudge against the Titan.

”Oh, look! It’s the part of my grandma that talks too much, what are the odds?” Ted quipped right back without missing a beat. ”Still cheerful as always I see.”

Samantha, by this point, had finished with her impromptu meal. Giving her mouth a few satisfied licks, she turned to stare up at the man. “So, I imagine you know why I’ve called you here: we need help getting to Mount Olympus in order to uncover what is happening and hopefully put an end to it.”

”I figured as much. But, well… taking you there is easy enough.” The now-outted Titan replied, releasing Karen’s hand and lifting it to enunciate his point in an (almost stereotypically) Mediterranean fashion ”But you do realize the minute I take you there, things will get very exciting, very quickly. Even disregarding Zeus, whoever else is up there right now will be more than a little unhappy to find a Titan knocking on the door.”

The cat offered him a light shrug. “You’re strong, and I’m certain you have some pretty strong allies on your side as well. Make some calls.”

Karen was thankful to know that she wasn’t the only one that Samantha could be rude and bossy towards, at the very least. She was surprised that attitude hadn’t gotten her feline friend in more trouble over the course of her long life. Then again, she was apparently a Rakshasa Princess. Go figure.

”Erm...what do you think will happen, exactly?” The teenager couldn’t help but ask. ”Do you have any clue what’s going on up there?”

Ted had just been staring down at the fuzzy princess for a few seconds after her remark, face screwed up in an expression that screamed ’Oh, you cannot be serious., and almost missed Karen’s question.

Thinking on it a moment, he took in a deep breath and clicked his tongue as he came across some way to articulate his thoughts on the matter.

”I’m pretty sure we can rule out this being Zeus’ doing. For all his faults, he’s always been pretty adamant about keeping the world safe as a whole, and if he was pissed enough to try and end it, you could be damned sure he’d make everybody know it was him.” He began, stroking his chin thoughtfully. ”That leaves… well, just about everyone else on that fucking mountain; if there’s one thing Olympus is, it’s a place full of immortal, vain, insanely powerful assholes. That’s why none of the nice Gods live there.”

Furrowing his brow as something occurred to him, Ted continued.

”...In fact, most Gods would make a big show of putting their name all over this, now that I think about it. It’s actually… strange that they haven’t done so yet. For as loud and obnoxious as they’re being throwing monsters every which way, they’re being very subtle about their intentions. Olympians don’t usually do subtle.”

Karen listened quietly to the short old man before her. Seriously, why were all the men in her life so small?

He didn’t seem to be able to pin the blame for this on any one individual, but was able to rule out the “usual suspects”, so to speak. Not that Karen, even after all the reading she’d done over the past year, was an expert on Greek Mythology...so she didn’t feel confident on making any guesses herself. Besides, this person was apparently one of the Titans, who would know better than him?

”Well, then how are we supposed to do this? I’m...kind of useless right now, if you haven’t noticed,” Karen muttered, scratching at the side of her face awkwardly.

”We get you inside, we save Zeus, you get your Magic Mojo back and if you’re feeling generous, you can stop him from violently murdering me the second we’re done saving the world.” The scarred man replied with a slight shrug and a hint of a smirk. ”Sound like a plan?”

Karen pursed her lips at his suggestion, glancing off to one side. He...seemed surprisingly confident in her ability to pull this off. Samantha did tell him that she had lost her powers, right? He’d heard that part, hadn’t he? ”How exactly am I supposed to save Zeus? I don’t think the little bit of magic I can manage right now is going to be too useful against literal Gods!

”Wouldn’t worry too much about that, we’ll be doing most of the fighting.” Ted Explained with yet another relaxed shrug ”...Also, I can do this.

‘This’ apparently meaning casually poking the blonde in the forehead with two fingers… which caused her to be immediately engulfed in a bright, crimson flame, which may have given her a bit of a start, but didn’t actually burn her or harm her in any way; instead, condensing around her frame and seemingly hardening into a red, scaled down version of her Arcana costume… with the addition of bronze-coloured armoured plating, and the mark of a flame in place of her usual thunderbolt.

”You’re familiar with the template responsible for your your transformation, right? Well, this armour’s basically a scaled back version of that.” Ted explained simply ”’Only difference is, instead of channelling the power of six gods through your body, you’re basically just wearing some of mine. Should help even the odds a bit.”

Karen yelped only slightly when she was engulfed in the strange fire, having experienced something similar in the past...albeit with electricity rather than flame. Unlike when she spoke the Word, however, she wasn’t transformed. She didn’t feel power flowing through her, or anything of the sort. Rather, it was surrounding her, like a literal suit of armor. She would imagine it was a bit like how Zoey felt in her Iron Fang armor.

”...You guys are bad about giving people the heads up before you do stuff like this,” Karen noted with a sigh. ”Still, thanks. Erm, what does this let me do?”

A grin made it’s way onto Ted’s face and he crossed his arms, very clearly holding back a laugh at the girl’s weariness about old men that hand out magic powers. After all, it wasn’t that they were bad at it, per se, it was that watching people’s faces when it happened never got old.

She’d find that one out herself at some point, anyway.

”Well, ya won’t be able to fly in that, but you will probably be able to ‘Leap tall buildings in a single bound’, as the comics say, and can definitely bench-press that armoured jalopy of a car over there.” He began, once again enunciating with his hand ”And, well… ya know that thing I know you do because everyone who ever was the Wizard does the exact same thing where they hold lightning in their hand whenever they want to look intimidating or they’re just bored? Try that now.”

Karen knew what he was talking about, he wanted her to channel magic into her hand. Why didn’t he just say that? Was this how she sounded to Raymond back in Arabia? Still, she had an idea where he was going with this: if it enhanced her strength and durability, then maybe it also enhanced her magic power in some way.

Holding out one of her hands, she curled her fingers into a claw and drew upon the laylines...only to watch as fire was almost-instinctively conjured instead of the simple arcane energy she would normally receive as Karen, or the lightning she would get as Lady Arcana.

”...Fire! That’s actually pretty cool!” Karen couldn’t help but smile at this. There was just something awesome about being able to control fire. Balling her hands into fists and pumping them in excitement, she grinned to Ted. ”Man, now I feel a lot better about going to Olympus! Let’s do it!!”

”Now, now… before we get ahead of ourselves, I’m gonna need to borrow your phone for a second.” Ted stopped the teen with a hand on her shoulder before she could start bouncing around the room, the slight grin he’d formed at the sight of her enthusiasm fading slightly as he thought what dreaded thing he had to do next, eyes turning back to Sam to show his pure disdain for the idea. ”...I gotta make a call.”




The entrance to the Grim Grotto from outside the manor opened, more than likely drawing the attention of the four inside. Stumbling through it was a ragged looking David O'Rinn, dressed in a shuffled suit and reeking of alcohol. His eyes fell upon Samantha the cat, some old guy having a conversation with Karen, and a giant potted plant that looked straight out of the Little Shop of Horrors.

"... Wait, Goddammit, Tommy did drug me!" the boy exclaimed upon seeing the plant.

”Who is this? I don’t think we’ve met,” the giant plant asked in the soft and nasally voice of Harris Herzog, leaning towards him and examining thoughtfully despite not having eyes. ”Hi, I’m Harris Herzog, I’m a friend of a friend of your… mom’s? I dunno, Grim just has a bunch of kids in her house and I don’t know, it’s weird right Josh?...”

A moment of silence passed.

”Josh says it’s weird, he also says he accidentally sneezed and now my face is burning. Fun times all around.”

”... What the hell?” Was all David could muster as the plant went off on a mini tangent. He paused, remembering his mom had mentioned a Harris a few times, and snapped his fingers. ”Wait, are you that bug plant dude with the tail my mom talks about? Or is that a different Harris?”

”Same one, I’m just using this plant as a vessel so that I can talk to you guys about the minotaurs and stuff, you know how it is,” Harris said, finishing with a sigh. ”I remember when I was surprised by a talking cat, that was a simpler time.”

Another strange moment of silence passed, the creature slowly moving through the air as if breathing. Well, it was breathing, but as if it were breathing with human lungs.

”Josh says hi, you haven’t met but he’s like my protege or something, I dunno, he came out of the sewers butt-naked and… oh, wait, I wasn’t supposed to say that.”

David blinked. ’... Man, this guy is frigging weird with a capital W.’ He began to move towards his suit, continuing to talk to Harris. ”Well Harris, my name is David, I’m Grim’s protege slash foster son. I go by Blackstar in costume.” He paused, finishing slipping into the suit and holding his helmet under his arm. ”... Where are Zoey and Malcolm? Do you know?”

The plant’s “head” nodded down thoughtfully as Harris tried to remember.

”Hmm, last I recall they left to go see about clearing the castle, It’s mostly been me… well, me and-”

”Us.”

”Yeah them, and Karen, she punched a minotaur. I helped.”

”Huh. A minotaur. I saw a few outside, I think.” David says, sliding on his helmet. He turned to Karen and the old man, his voice being run through a modulator, giving his tone a deep, almost robotic quality. ”Oh, and hey Karen. Why aren’t you in your hot fo- I mean Shazam form? And who’s the other guy?”

Karen raised a hand to wave to David, her cheeks reddening at his near slip. Normally she wouldn’t be embarrassed by this, given all the gross comments she often got from guys as Lady Arcana...but David felt like some odd kind of family, so it was a little strange. ”Simply put, I can’t transform right now. This thing I’m wearing is...well, it was given to me by this guy.”

She thumbed to the rather short man beside her. ”His name’s Ted. He’s a Titan.”

Blackstar paused, processing what Karen had said. ”... Titan? Like, the Titans? From Greek mythology?” He asked, mulling it over in his head. ’Well… It would explain the minotaurs and harpies and all that.’

”Yuuuup.” Ted replied flatly, nodding towards the boy ”...Might as well get that one outta the way now; things are only gonna get weirder from here on in, anyway.”

”We hope they do, Titan, so that you are the first to be slain!” The Green’s many voices roared at Ted, fury echoing in the roar of every single voice.

Green you… you okay there buddy?

”We have demanded your death ever since your foolish error, and you only continue to live because you are required to save our world, we will grow over your burning corpse, interloper!”

For a brief moment, the skin on the interloper in question’s hand cracked open, revealing flesh that glowed like molten steel as his eyes locked onto the potted plant with an angry red glow and steam began to rise slightly off every inch of exposed flesh on his body. For one single instance, the incomprehensible wrath only a Titan was capable of bubbled to the surface and the ground began shaking slightly to the tune of his heartbeat…

”Getting just a little tired of the comments from the peanut gallery…”

”Interloper is right,” A rumbling, modulated, and deep voice broke through the conversation from the door to the wine cellar. The armored visage of Grim stood there, glowing white eyes settled intently on Ted. ”Grim. You are?” The hero stated in a cold voice, heard even through the synthetic rumble.

Zoey didn’t like unexpected visitors. They tended to break her windows.

...And then it was gone, with a calming exhale as the olive-skinned man turned his head towards the new arrivals.

”Name’s Ted. I’m here to help.” He stated with a slight shrug ”...That is, if your petunias don’t try and kill me first.”

”Charmed,” Grim replied dully, staring at the man for a long moment more. Finally her gaze swept across the other occupants, from the giant plant, to Karen in yet another suit - she’d have the full rainbow soon - and finally to her eldest son. ”I see you’re ready to go as well, David.”

The teenager was massaging his temples, only for his head to snap up when he heard his mother’s voice. ”Wha? Oh, yeah, all ready, I uh… Woke up when I heard all the noise.” He went back to massaging his temples, muttering ”God I need an aspirin” under his breath.

Malcolm, for his part, just stayed as quiet as possible, the fact that the glowing eyes behind his visor stayed glued and locked onto David’s every move the only evidence that he was screaming on the inside.

’Don’t puke, don’t puke, don’t puke, don’t puke... The younger foster-brother chanted within the confines of his own brain, knowing there’d be hell to pay if Zoey found out he’d been covering for him this entire time while he went out boozing. ’For the love of God, man, we don’t need that shitstorm right now...’

Karen raised her hand to wave at Zoey and Malcolm as they entered, noting the tension in Zoey’s voice regarding their newest ally. She didn’t quite have the heart to tell her that there would be even more joining them soon. ”Hey guys. Did you get everything taken care of up there? I hope so, because I still can’t fly like this.”

”... Yes, we made sure to clear out the halls and brought more medical supplies to the bunkers. Patched up someone. I see you got a new suit - no more help from the Green?” Even as she spoke Zoey brushed passed the others, the armored suit hiding how the woman tensed as her back was put to ‘Ted’. However she was now examining David, her thoughtful hum distorting.

”Did debris from the shaking strike you?” She asked in concern, raising a hand to grasp onto her son’s helmet to pull up and check on him.

”Just a bit, nothing too major though. Add to that the fact that I just woke up like half an hour ago, and I don’t feel in the best of shape right now.” David replied, smoothly saving himself from the wrath of a thousand fiery deaths.

Karen smirked slightly, leaning against the nearby table for support. Too bad she couldn’t do the air-lean right now. ”I’m sure he’s fine. He just wandered in from the outside, after all.”

”... Excuse me?”

David’s eyes widened slightly, but he chuckled slightly. ”It’s a funny story. That’s because one of those damn things got into my room, I had to escape through the window and climb down to the ground. I came in through the hidden entrance outside, remember, the one hidden as a boulder?”

”...Excuse me?

David’s smirk fell. ”... Wait…” He paused, realizing his mistake. ”Oh, fuuuck.

Malcolm’s head and shoulders visibly slumped at that and a pained sigh escaped him.

’Oh balls…’’ He echoed internally. ’...So close.’

”Fascinating, we detect faint signs of wheat in the child’s stomach, mayhaps some hops. Another disgusting meatbag profiting off of the suffering of plant-kind, like everyone else.”

”Excuse me?!”

Karen’s eyes shifted slightly to the side, wondering if she should feel at least a little bad for starting that whole snitchalanch that just fell on David. The raised brow Ted gave her at that moment, however, informed her that yes, yes she probably should. ”...Sorry.

”Boys will be boys…” He whispered to her in more of an amused, uncle-ish kind of way ”...Buuuut that one’s probably gonna have a sore ass for a while, thanks to you. And judging by the guilty look of the other one? Him too.”

Without another word Zoey had yanked David’s helmet off and let it clatter to the ground. Her metal-encased hand grabbed onto his jaw as she examined him, noting his eyes and complexion. ”You have been drink- is that a hicky?! The guttural noise that was distorted by Grim’s voice modulator couldn’t quite be identified, though the way her free hand clenched it probably wasn’t anything good.

”You snuck out on Christmas Eve and - and you! The suit whirled around, Grim focused on Malcolm. ”You said he was in his bed while in the middle of a crisis?! What if he was hurt out there?! David this is an incredibly bad example - and you’re both grounded - I can’t believe - and in front of guests!

”... In my defense, I didn’t start drinking until after Seven Minutes In Heaven. And that was thirty minutes before I left, so it’s not like I was drinking all night.”

”Oh, goddammit Dave. We’ve already hit rock-bottom.” Malcolm groaned out at that last comment, not knowing what ‘Seven Minutes in Heaven’ was supposed to be, but seeing what those words did to his foster-mother’s blood-pressure all the same ”...Stop digging, already.”

Grim had gone silent, which was never a good sign. Silence either meant she was concentrating, on high alert, or so angry that she was biting her tongue to stop herself from saying something she’d regret. The armored visage of the Iron Fang armor just looked slowly between the two boys, fists slowly clenching and unclenching. Finally a deep, shuddering breath echoed from the helmet before she abruptly turned, focusing instead on Karen.

”Can I assume this,” She gestured to the red armor. ”Is due to not being able to transform still? What’s the plan?” The modulated voice ground out, anger simmering beneath the tones. There were more important things right now, Grim could recognize that despite how distinctly unhappy she obviously was.

Karen quickly nodded, all too happy now to accept the change of subject. ”Yup! This will grant me super not-dying abilities in the face of whatever horrible things await me!”

She could tell she was obviously much stronger than she was as a human, but at the same time much weaker than she would’ve been as Lady Arcana. She wouldn’t hold her breath about doing much more than surviving against the likes of a God...though she felt like she could probably manage their servants. I mean, Malcolm did survive with Zoey looking after him, so surely she could with a Titan at her back?

”I see. That’s good, in the face of not being able to transform.” Grim ran her eyes over the outfit, even reaching out to tap her metal knuckles against the chest plate and giving an approving nod. ”When do we leave for Olympus?”

”We can leave anytime you guys are ready, and hopefully my… brother... will meet us there.” Ted explained plainly, spitting out that last bit and casting a rueful stare towards Samantha. ”And from there, it’ll just be a long slog up some shiny stairs until we get to the gate. There’s wards on that thing stopping us, even me, from just porting into the summit, but we can get damned close.”

The massive plant-beast let out a throaty growl in response to the Titan’s words, baring a group of wooden teeth that suddenly shot into place from within the beast’s head.

”Whatever the case may be, we refuse to work alongside you, interloper, Harris Herzog will travel to Hades to reawaken Persephone, if any smart beings wish to avoid being brutally murdered under the Titan’s incompetent guidance, feel free to join us,” The Green growled in a cacophony of rage and distaste for the Titan.

”Ya know if you had a mouth, I’d tell you to kiss my ass, Old Growth.” Ted fired right back, another glint of red flashing across his eyes before he caught himself ”...But the Green is right, helping Persephone and perhaps more importantly, reviving the Lord of the Dead can only help us, so maybe we should split up.”

Karen lifted up her phone for a moment, tapping something into the screen. A second later, Zoey’s phone would vibrate to signal that she had just received a new text message. ”Zoey, I just texted you the details on how to contact King Orin. The…thingie he gave me is back at my apartment.”

”With me on Olympus, and Harris in Tartarus, there won’t really be anyone left to deal with this invasion,” Karen noted, taking a step towards the heavily armored billionaire. ”You should probably try and gather all our superhero friends and like...I don’t know, kick ass Impossibles-style!”

That probably wasn’t the best way to put that. This was important, after all. People were surely dying out there as they loitered around here. ”...And by that I mean, we should all be working together to beat this in our own ways! Us magic freaks can deal with the other world stuff, but I’d like to know we’ll have somewhere to come back to once we’re done.”

”You’re kidding, right?” Was the absolutely flat response Karen received from Grim, who gazed down at the shorter young woman. She swept a metal encased fist forward, gesturing to the red armor. ”Karen, you can’t even transform right now. Even with your own back up you can’t honestly expect me to just let you waltz off to fight literal Gods without me, can you?”

Grim shook her head, and something flashed across the white glowing eyes of the Iron Fang armor as a minuet motion had her bringing up her contacts. ”I’ll call Tank. I’m sure he’ll be happy to lead that particular battle for us.”

”What, the naked guy who jumped across the ocean?” Karen blurted out, folding her arms. She should’ve known Zoey was going to be stubborn about this. It was actually kind of foolish of her to expect the redhead to go along with it just like that. ”Look, next to me Tank is probably the strongest guy ever...but he never came across as the leader-type. What they need is someone to coordinate and organize them, Zoey...and who can do that better than you?”

”The Sea King, then. He’s a literal King, I’m sure he’ll be adequate at coordinating the defenses on land as he is at sea.” Grim responded calmly, crossing her arms. The metal scraped lightly against each other, the blood providing little protection. ”There are others that can do a decent job leading the forces here.”

Karen was starting to get irritated now. Resting a hand on her hip, she jabbed a finger right at the warsuited superheroine. ”Um, hello? The the whole fucking world is under attack by monsters! Nothing’s ever happened like this in...well, longer than any of us have been around! ‘Decent’ isn’t going to cut it right now. They need you, Zoey...the first person with the guts to be an Actor Activist again after so long. A human, to show everyone that even normal people can take a stand and make a difference in the darkest times.”

”I’ve already got every advantage on my side that I’m going to get. If having two literal fucking Gods beside me isn’t enough to help me survive this, then I don’t think you’ll be a deciding factor,” Karen added, glancing over to the monitors that were now displaying the devastation taking place all across the globe. Towering beings whom Ted would very much recognize now walked among burning buildings as harpies swarmed about them.

Karen returned her focus to Zoey. ”You don’t know shit about Olympus, but you do know how to inspire people. This isn’t about me, it’s about saving humanity.”

”... I could be a deciding factor,” Grim muttered under her breath, so low that it was mostly distorted in the modulator. Slowly her gaze roamed to the monitors as well, having followed Karen’s gaze. Though the helmet hid any expression on her face, beneath it her jaw tensed as her teeth grit together. Finally, she huffed lowly. ”... Just try to be safe, Karen.”

Grim reached out, putting a hand on the shorter woman’s shoulder and squeezing at the red armor. With a final great sigh she turned and walked to her computer, inputting the number from Karen’s latest text.

”Call Tank, Aquaman, and Jimmy Chong.”

As this conversation occurred, from the large plant came an odd sound, a clearing of the throat, but one that was clearly meant to bring attention. In fact it was painfully clear that this was the purpose, as the plant didn’t have a throat to clear.

”Er… Ted? I’m Harris. I’m not The Green, I’m his Avatar or whatever. He… they, want me to go to Hades to help there, but I kinda wanna bring…”

Harris seemed to struggle with coming up with the word to use, he hemmed and hawed, long stretches of silence going by as he argued with himself as to what was the right word.

Finally he sighed and spoke once more.

”I want to bring my…”

This last bit seemed to be the hardest.

”...My son.”

It took some effort, but he finally resolved to say it, it wasn’t as if Josh could hear him.

”Not… my real son, but close enough, he idolizes me, and it’d break his heart for me to leave him behind. I can go to Hades just fine by myself, but I need someone else to take him along, something about The Green being unable to transport physical objects.”

”Oh…?” Ted began, who’d been simply staring back coldly the entire time as the same plant who’d been shrieking death and hatred at him for the past hour suddenly… started doing that less so. Becoming more warm and… human.

Despite the circumstances the scarred Titan allowed a small, yet noticeable upward turn of his lip to occur on his face, almost as if he were actually smiling... perhaps even meaning it, too.

”I have a few ideas about that could be done, yes…” Ted stated flatly, not giving away anything quite yet ”But tell me, why the hell would you want to bring your son to Hades... pun intended.”

”My son is an eight foot tall blue demon with acidic body fluids and an ability to heal any wounds that he takes. He’ll fit right in,” Harris joked sarcastically, though he seemed reluctant to use sarcasm, almost as if the use of it made him worried. ”I don’t mean to brag myself but, I am the Avatar of the collective consciousness of all plant life on Earth. I do agree that he can be a bit of a… jerk sometimes, but I’ve taken hits from the Wizard for God’s… I mean, Zeus’ sake… nah that’s still not cool, I still believe in god and stuff even if all of this is proven to be real and wow I ramble when I’m nervous. But yeah, I survived getting hit by the Wizard, I broke to pieces but that’s not really an issue for me...”

Harris’ rambling continued on for some time afterwards, but nothing that he said post this point had any importance to the topic at hand.

Ted’s brow continued to rise as the Avatar talked… and talked… and talked some more. It was actually almost refreshing, after all the doom and gloom of the past hour or so to hear Harris awkwardly ramble on about his son as well as literally everything and anything he could think about to cover up his own nervousness… but, the Titan still needed him to get to the point at… well, some point.

”Harris.” He finally cut him off, a bit more gently than most in the room would think he would, after hearing his gruff, sarcastic tone for the past hour. ”...Is there a town by where you and your son call home? A river perhaps?”

Harris sputtered for a moment, slightly flustered at being cut off, he worried to himself about whether he had done something wrong, he thought to apologize, but that wouldn’t exactly help the situation when there was something clearly asked of him, why would he deviate from that?

”Er… yeah! Hope Springs, West Virginia, a few miles away there’s a forest with a few giant trees that are completely out of place, that’s where we live.”

”Alright then…” Ted began, looking down at Karen’s phone, still in his hand from having called his brother, as he began to use his google-fu to find ‘Hope Springs’. At the same time, he pulled a golden amulet, emblazoned with a silver and bronze skull from his pocket ”You see this? This is a beacon of Charon.”

Holding out for a solid minute for Harris to get a look at, the Titan calmly took a step back, vanishing into another fireball and returning mere moments later.

”I left it hanging from the weathervane on top of City Hall. Take it, dip it into the river and for the love of all that is holy... The scarred man explained, voice suddenly growing eerily serious, as if discussing a matter of life and death. ”Do not stiff the Ferryman.”

The plant nodded frantically.

”Got it, I really appreciate it,” he earnestly thanked the Titan. ”Well, I suppose I’ll have to meet you all around, I hope… that sounded wrong… oh well, Green says see ya… That’s a lie, he’s still pissed, but eh what are ya gonna do?... I should go.”

”Best of luck, Harris.” Ted stated with a small grin ”...And seriously, pay the Ferryman, you don’t wanna get on his bad side.”

The plant raised a leaf in a poor parody of a salute, it was kinda cute in a way.

A moment later the massive plant’s head went still and drooped under its own massive weight once more, like physics had finally noticed its existence, it began to brown due to dehydration, and one last leaf fell from the stem, resting on the ground.

As the plant fell limp the ground, the scarred, flannel-clad Titan cast his eyes back towards the Wizard and Grim, brow raised as they said their parting words.

”Well, Kiddo…” He stated, raising a hand and materializing another portal into existence with a snap of his fingers. ”...Ya ready to go?”

Yes! Karen replied, stomping towards him impatiently. She had been ready for what felt like ten, no, fifteen minutes now!

Karen was so very thankful that Ted’s long conversation with Harris was finally over. Seriously, she knew that the plantman needed to get to Tartarus and that it was important, but did they really have time for them to ramble on like that? The world was kind of in the middle of being invaded!

”Let’s do this, old man!”

”That’s the spirit, Kid…” Ted chuckled a bit as he rapped her on the shoulder and led her through the fiery hole in reality ”Just, uhh… little warning about my brother though, he’s a bit…”

”WEHEEEEEL! IF IT AIN’T MY LEEEEEETLE BROTHER AND SHAZAM’S TIIIYEEENY LEETLE GIRL-WIZHAIRD…” Came the thunderously loud, though oddly strained voice of a massive man in a ten-gallon hat, improbable sunglasses covered in rhinestone and a garishly shiny jacket with tassles hanging off the entire length of his sleeves.

”...Odd.”
Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by pyroman
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pyroman spooky sanwich

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12:14 AM, Dakota State, December 25, 2020

"Come on, come on."

Preston worked out the numbers on his phone in a hurry. He didn't have the time to redial every single stray number that called his phone, so he needed to guess which one sounded right. He should have put it in his phone.

"Where's that wizard girl when you need her. Or that techie in the suit and vehicles. That speed guy, really any of them." His trip back to Oa really left him disoriented on earth, and now he was regretting not having any way to contact other heroes. It wasn't like he needed them. His power ring was repaired. He was no longer slowly loosing juice. Full strength and top of the line training meant that he could stop nearly every force on earth if he so chose.

But he didn't think that monsters and magic fit into 'forces of earth'.

The ring was slipped on and Preston took flight. His ring gave him the alert of powerful forces within his relative location, meaning earth. More than petty thieves or guys with freeze rays. The real heavy hitters. As long as they weren't wearing Yellow, he was fine.

Monsters were invading a small town in the state of Dakota. North Springs was the name that showed up on the map. Preston wasn't quite sure how they got there or where they were from, but he was going to send them right back.

He zoomed high into the air, bursting at top speeds to reach his location in minutes. As he neared the city, he slowed down and closed in on the smoke rising into the sky.

As he got closer, Preston began to pick up a theme on the monsters that were down there. Minotaurs, Chimera, giants, even a cyclops or two stomping around the city. Not to mention all of the smaller flying creatures akin to birds that were just pecking at people and harassing them.

He created a sword and shield. He'd play along with this theme. The challenge of being a green lantern fighting foes of lesser force was to not wipe them away with a single blow. You needed to make it seem like they were being challenged so that the next monster up to bat wasn't as strong as a power ring at full capacity.

He hoped this was only something that was happening right here. Preston didn't know a lot about greek myths, but if they were dealing with greek monsters, some god had to be behind all of this, and Preston wasn't going to fight a god alone.
Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Bluetommy
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Bluetommy Happiness in Inanity

Member Seen 14 hrs ago

December 25th, 12:30 AM
Forest Outside Hope Springs, West Virginia.


Harris hadn’t been inhabiting his physical body for hours now, it remained seated simply in the lotus position, staring into the sky with blank eyes that every once and a while rolled in his skull, almost as if he had returned his consciousness to them, but soon they returned to their original position, staring off into the moon-light and watching the stars as if they held the secrets to immortality, to life itself.

In reality it was simply a human-shaped shell that slowly dried and browned as Harris spent more time across the very country from it. It was that simple really, though it took in the reflected sunlight from the moon’s surface, a human form is rather poor at actually sustaining a plant-based life-form, it took the power of The Green to keep it moving, even if sunlight proved an aid in that.

Harris’ return to the body was heralded by a slight cracking deep within the human form, the twitching of fingers, and the rolling of the eyes. The noises got louder as the echoed within the frame, the body twitching more violently with every passing millisecond, the eyes darting around the clearing, examining the place that had become quite alien when compared to every other forest in the area.

It took perhaps ten seconds for Harris’ body to turn to a healthy green and for the creaking and cracking to halt. The rolling of his eyes halted, and they focused on the great white orb dangling in the sky in front of them.

”That was an adventure,” Harris said plainly, placing his hands into his lap and leaning forwards as if exhausted. ”Well, ‘was’ is the wrong word, it still is.

He looked around himself thoughtfully.

”Josh, we need to go to Hell.”

Josh, the giant eight foot demonic looking teenager, could only stare at his mentor. In his hands was a happy bright blue watering can, yellow petals adorning the spout. Which likely explained the wet spots on and around Harris.

”...Uhm,” The teen began slowly, hem’ing and haw’ing as he tried to figure out how to phrase his next words. Finally he cleared his throat and began slowly, ”Er, Mr. Harris… when someone tells you to go to … to H-Hell it’s just a phrase…” He trailed off, raising a great burly hand to scratch at his onyx hair nestled against his horns.

Harris sighed and rested a hand across his forehead.

”No, like, The Green, he wants me to go to hell in order to rescue the Greek Queen of the dead and stop the dead from walking the Earth.”

Harris looked off to the side for a second as if coming to a realization before turning back with a slightly confused look on his face.

”Josh, is it just me or did the world become a heavy metal song all of a sudden?”

”My parents never let me listen to metal,” Was the immediate, slightly puzzled response. Finally Josh set his little watering can down, raising up to scratch at his cheek. ”Uhm, I don’t really understand, Mr. Harris, but wherever you go I’ll go! Even… Even Hell…” He trailed off, his dark navy skin seeming to pale just the slightest bit before he shook his head quickly. Squaring his shoulders he looked down at Harris.

”We - we have to save the world, after all!”

Harris shot to his feet and balled his fists out of excitement, smiling a hideous bug-like smile.

”Yeah! That’s the spirit save the world!” he yelled out gleefully. It was a false glee, he was honestly terrified like usual, but he had to put on a brave face for Josh, he was the superhero after all. Suddenly his smile shifted back to a serious look, brow furrowed, his beady green eyes peeking through his just-as-green eyelids. ”Of course, we need to be careful, this is the realm of the dead we’re going into, and I’m sure the guys in charge won’t appreciate me bringing life where there was once death,” he said poetically, the seriousness of the situation clear in his voice. Then he shrugged and the tension dissipated almost immediately when he returned to his awkward flat-footed lurching stance.

He scratched the back of his head as he tried to remember something. Realization came over his face, and then a moment later a sapling perkily sprouted from the ground, an amulet hanging precariously on the tip. He grabbed it in his hand and motioned for Josh to follow him as he began to walk.

”Apparently this is an amulet that, when placed in a… river I think it was, will open a portal to Hades. Or Hell if you wanna skip the semantics. I think it’s different from Christian Hell which totally exists and those flying Greek birds aren’t convincing me otherwise, so we’ll just go with Hades from now on. Apparently we’re going to summon a ferryman or something, and the guy who gave this to me made it really, really clear not to stiff him, so empty your pockets.”

Josh just nodded along, getting a bit lost in the conversation honestly - his mentor had a habit of rambling sometimes, but he didn’t mind! He was at least enthusiastic in his nodding however. Mr. Harris was smart and had already found a way to get into Hell - er, Hades - while he was gone!

Which was really worrying since his body started getting all brown while he was off, which is why Josh kept watering him. He didn’t think it really worked.

”...Eh?” Was the intelligent response to Harris’ demand, but at least the demon boy was obedient. He quickly emptied his pockets, including the torn apart wallet - it didn’t survive the sewers that well. ”Uhm, I have a dollar and seventy-three cents, a token to an amusement park in Hub City, and a - a condom.” Josh’s face burned, almost literally considering his blood was acidic - luckily it just made his navy skin darken.

”Th-that was from a friend back in school…”

Harris tilted his head at this last object, staring at the… birth control, for a moment before raising a finger and speaking as calmly as he could manage.

”I appreciate the obedience, but you should probably keep that one… wait, that probably won’t work if you ever… nevermind. I don’t know about that being enough to afford a ferry-trip, I’ll check the storage tree, be back in a sec.”

Harris disappeared into a nearby tree, encouraging Josh to keep walking as he did. He returned a minute later, popping out of the closest tree with a wallet in his hand.

”It’s not thievery if they drop it while running away from you,” he explained defensively. ”Right, I have a debit card and fifty dollars, that should be good.”

Josh visibly deflated a bit at the reminder of how weird he was, but once Harris returned he quickly stuffed the objects back into his soft cotton pants. Though he did brighten at the money, even if part of him churned nervously at the thought of using someone else’s wallet. Well, if they were a bad dude he guessed it was okay… And, really…

”Uh… so if there’s any change can I get a soda on the way back…?” The teen asked in a small voice, nervously tapping the tips of his black fingernails together. ”I-I mean if there’s time. It’s, uhm, it’s not that important in the face of - you know what, nevermind Mr. Harris.”

Harris chuckled slightly.

”We’ll see,” he said, stopping at the mouth of a small babbling brook. It was maybe ten feet across, carving a small hill on the far side and depositing a mass of sticks down the bend. Harris lifted up the amulet and held it up to what light was available, mostly a slight amount of moonlight bouncing off of the waters. He sighed and held it up over the water. ”You ready Josh?”

Taking a deep breath and shaking himself loose Josh finally stood straight backed, tall and proud as he gave a serious nod.

”R-Ready!” … Then he stuttered. Good job, Josh.

With one last deep breath, Harris released the amulet and watched it sink into the depths.

A minute passed.

Two minutes passed.

”Do we need deeper water or…”

In that moment the light drained from the world. The forest was gone, the animals within it silenced. The river where they had dropped the amulet, however, remained. If anything, it had grown substantially larger, the waters dark and churning with the bodies of thousands...perhaps hundreds of thousands of newly deceased souls. Hands, bloody, wounded, old and young alike reached up to grasp at the pair in vain.

It was a truly massive river that seemed to stretch into eternity, the wails of the waters’ occupants having now fully replaced the sounds of nature. Nothing beyond this morbid sight could be observed, for they were now in a world of shadows. A world of abyss.

Tartarus.

Harris stared into the widening depths, covering his mouth with a hand as he began to hear the screams of the dead, their roars of agony and wails of torment. This was death, the end of existence.

And Harris had never been more terrified.

”...Holy shit.

Josh’s head jerked up the instant the wails started, his pointed navy ears seeming to twitch upwards. Glowing white eyes widened, his breathing becoming shallow as the teenager appeared to stare off into nothing despite the dark scenery that had appeared before them.

Yet when Harris spoke the giant of a man shook his head, looking bewildered for a moment before reaching out to grab onto one of the bug man’s green arms. Casting a glance around nervously Josh then slouched his shoulders and stepped closer, whispering in a low voice.

”I don’t like this place.”

Harris barely noticed Josh grasping onto him, he froze in place, his hand clasped tightly around his mouth as his breathing grew faster and harder. He looked down into the depths, and didn’t see his own reflection, but the reflection of a family, a mother, a father, a son, all lost to death, not even a year ago. When they faded he forgot their faces, and no matter how hard he tried, he could not remember.

When he was told he was to go to Hades, this was not what he had expected. Perhaps it was naive to expect the land of the dead to be all sunshine and rainbows, but the echoing screeches and horrifically mutilated faces that drifted by on the river like driftwood going out to sea. They were all forgotten within moments, no-one would know their names, their families, their hopes and dreams.

This was a place of evil. Horrible, terrible evil.

But Harris knew that couldn’t be the whole truth. He felt something deep within himself saying that this was a necessity, nothing more, nothing less. This did little to cheer him up.

He had to find that ferryman, as soon as possible. He couldn’t take much more of this.

The wailing of the souls as they were washed down the river continued, but a far more subtle sound had joined them. That of a row forcing its way through the dark waters. A boat, large enough to ferry perhaps eight people at a time was pushing past the legion of desperate hands that reached from the depths to scratch at it in futile desperation, the lantern lights hanging from either side illuminating its approach.

And it was on a direct course for the pair who stood at the shore, its form becoming ever clearer as it drew close. It...was not a construct of wood, but rather of bone. Like a great collection of ribs tightly packed against one another, curving to end in the form of the Ferryman. His torso emerged from the bow of the ship, his spinal column merging into the keel and presumably stretching its way down across the bottom to act as the main support structure for the macabre vessel.

Drifting to a slow stop before the pair, the skeletal being turned the azure embers that burned within its eye sockets upon them. With the audible creak of bones grinding against themselves, it wordlessly extended a hand towards Harris.

Harris stared in awe as this… this… he didn’t even know what to call it, his jaw fell open and shook as he wordlessly watched the ferry approach. He took it back, it was better when the ferry wasn’t here.

He shivered silently as the ferryman closed, his eyes wide and breathing fast and shallow. He felt his body attempting to push him backwards when the rower held out a hand towards him, but he managed to force himself to remain. He reached for the money with shaking hands and gripped it tightly even as his fists shook in the deathly cold.

He held a hand out, the entirety of the wallet’s contents held within it, even the debit card. He gulped as he found himself compelled to speak.

”Ride for two? Please?” Harris asked, still shaking, the last word coming out as a shaky whisper.

The figure stared at the offering for but a moment before enclosing its fingers around it, the bones cracking as it withdrew. “I accept.”

Its mouth was unmoving when it spoke those words with a voice that echoed with the screams of a million lost souls, rasped and empty. “Board.”

Harris nodded silently in gratitude and took a single step towards the boat.

He did not want to do this, but it was necessary, right? Harris stood at the edge of the water, staring at the boat for quite some time before finally propping a leg in.

With a deep breath, he lifted the other, and stepped into the ferry.’

Josh couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Heck, he couldn’t believe what he was doing. He had mostly remained quiet, afraid of saying the wrong thing to this … this…

abomination.

He whispered it in his mind, almost afraid that this thing could hear his thoughts. Though he had added the contents of his wallet to what was offered to the ferryman, the entrancing hum and moan of noise that had caught some feral part of Josh when he first arrived no longer seemed to welcoming. He hurried to follow after Mr. Harris when his mentor finally entered the boat, and almost shoved himself close to his side with a shiver running down his spine.

More than ever, Josh regretted that people called him a demon, if this was even part of what they envisioned when they did.

Without another word, the ferryman dipped his oar back into the abyss and they began to move. Hands - desperate, grasping hands - continued to reach over the side to claw at the two passengers and try to climb aboard, though none succeeded in the latter goal. As they drifted down the eternal river, they could see bodies that had been strung up on the shores, existing in various states of torment. Many pointlessly reached for them as they passed, their eyes pleading for salvation or aid of any kind.

“Long has it been since the Styx was so choked with the cries of the dead,” the Ferryman mused, its legion of anguished voices seeming to travel for miles into the distance. “So many new faces in these waters…”

Harris sat timidly in the large boat, watching over the edge nauseously as the souls of the long dead and the bodies of the recently dead clawed at the boat endlessly. The amount of care that the ferryman showed was almost nonexistent, and his calm demeanor, despite his horrific appearance, made Harris a little calmer. Not a large amount of course, but it was still calming to hear him try to make small-talk like he was a simple taxi-driver.

That fact gave Harris a thought, perhaps this man knew what was happening down here, it would be helpful to know, and he seemed friendly enough. Harris shifted in his seat, moving his way up to the man slowly. He was still terrifying to look at, but he meant them no harm, clearly… hopefully.

”Yeah, it’s a mess up there, people dying in the streets, chaos reigning, I dunno if it’s any better down here, but it’d be pretty hard not to be,” he chatted as calmly as he could be, fishing for information about the status of the underworld, and wondering about the whereabouts of Persephone and whoever else was down here in danger.

The Ferryman’s eyes seemed to flicker more brightly for just the briefest of moment at Harris’ words, before settling back into their more subdued simmer. “The realm of the dead is without direction and order. Hades no longer maintains the balance of life and death, and so the souls of the wicked and righteous alike are doomed to linger here without judgement.”

A hand drifted down towards the darkness below, to where the form of a wailing infant squirmed about in the remorseless waters.

Harris watched the ferryman in fear and awe, as the skeletal being spoke of the chaotic state of the underworld. This explained so much and yet the ferryman didn’t even know. Harris watched the man tenderly and yet forcefully pushed through the water, continuing to speak at the same time, like he had done this for years. Well, considering his skeletal appearance, he probably had.

”It’s that bad huh? Hades is out too? I heard Persephone was disabled for the moment, but Hades? Wow, I wonder who could have done that…” Harris wondered, continuing to fish for information from the skeletal paddler. He shook just a bit now, it was getting far easier to sit without feeling afraid, but he still had to remember that he was staring at a giant skeleton whose rib cage he was currently tickling.

A low growl rose from the depths of the Ferryman, the blue embers within his skull erupting into a mighty inferno that engulfed his skull. Seeming to echo out across time itself in rage, its hatred was encapsulated in but one singular word, ”Ares!”

Harris wasn’t exactly a scholar on Greek myth. Hell, he had no clue who he was talking to, but like most everyone else, he knew the big guys, and Ares was one of the biggest of the biggest, the God of War.

He really wished he had let Karen and Ted handle this themselves now.

”Ares? As in, capital A Ares? God of War? Holy crap…” he stated in exhaustion. Well, he supposed now was the best time to explain what he was here to do, maybe it would calm the giant skull man down. ”Well… you know Gaia? I think that’s her name, I’m kinda an aspect of her… him… they, and I’ve come here to free Persephone because she’s kinda important to plant life, so I’ve got to fight the big guy and free Hades now too,” Harris stated with a sigh.

”Unless Ares isn’t here, please tell me he isn’t.”

At this the Ferryman paused, the fire quickly subsiding back into his eye sockets. For a long moment he merely stared at the strange creature that had boarded him this day, clearly having never ferried one such as he before. “...Ares has departed, a would-be king made into a mere pawn. In his place remains his son, Enyalius. He now guards, but he does not rule. Perhaps this state of misery and chaos is his desire.”

The ferryman once more cast his gaze out to the countless souls desperately reaching for them within the river. Their sorrow had never quietened for even a moment, a perpetual ambiance for the darkness of the underworld.

Harris did feel encouraged upon knowing that he had left, and that he was the pawn of someone else, considering the God of War was probably the world’s best fighter, it was good that there was someone with a leash, but hearing that his son was in his place did not make him feel better, sure he was an independent person but this was the gods, blood relation was important, it gave them their strength.

He began to dread the fact that the ship was moving, that he was currently being ferried to fight this literal god, and he began to hate The Green for ever thinking this was a good idea.

He sat in silence for quite some time, listening to the cries of the dead, and the light pattering of them beating against the boat. It was a horrible sight, the land of the dead, but he wouldn’t be here long if all went well.

Things “going well” did involve him punching out a god so, it felt less like an inevitability and more like a pipe dream.

”...So this Enyalius, he’s the one keeping Hades and Persephone from ruling, and leaving this place an awful mess? For what reason could he be doing that?”

The Ferryman released yet another low growl that carried far past the little boat they drifted down the river of souls on. “There is no reason in the hearts of her spawn. They only seek to perpetuate suffering and discord. To see all the realms be engulfed by flames and drowned in blood. It is their nature.”

The scenery had began to change. A bridge could be seen in the distance now, and it appeared that they were heading towards it. Furthermore, in the far distance, past dark and grey crags and mountains, sat an immense palace. Lining the path to it were the bodies of countless dead, each condemned to an existence of suffering for unknown crimes.

Harris understood now, this wasn’t some evil, horrible place, this was a peaceful place where people paid their dues and went free, this whole realm was tainted by Ares and… “her”, whoever this “her” was, she sounded like a piece of work. This realm was ruined by their presence, and this was what would become of the Earth too if they got their way.

He didn’t like it one bit, but he knew that he had to stop this, now. He was more determined than ever, despite the macabre sight of strewn bodies, many carrying horrible wounds, some of torture, some fatal and lain by the blade, and some others being the uniform and small wounds that characterized a shooting.

He breathed deeply through his nose and scowled at the approaching land. He would handle this himself, it was too dangerous for Josh to come. Noting that Josh had failed to use his money, Harris discreetly grew a vine from the nearby shore, which came out crooked and warped, crow-like and starved of moisture. He stole the boy’s money without him noticing, and placed it in his own hand. Closing further with the skeletal boatman, he held the money out, hiding it with his own body positioning.

”I know this isn’t very much, but could you boat the kid around a little so that he doesn’t get involved? I’d rather he not get hurt.”

If the Ferryman was surprised by his intention to confront Enyalius, then he neither expressed it verbally or physically. Shifting his head towards the blue creature, the torso nodded once. “Very well. We arrive at your destination now, Harris Herzog.”

The boat slowly drifted to the edge of the Styx, some distance away from the bridge. It would appear that Harris would need to make the remainder of the journey on foot from here. Anything that awaited him on this path he would face alone, since he was leaving Demon behind.

Harris nodded at the ferryman and hopped out of the boat. He took two steps away from the river before realizing a scary truth, he never told the man his name. He turned back to look at the boat, but only managed to watch the man row away into the dark.

”H-Hey, wait!” The boat suddenly lurched as the eight foot tall demon moved to the side of the boat closer to the shore. For most of the drifting ride he had been distracted, staring down at the faces and souls going by them with unease. It was only as they pushed off once more that he moved, almost looking to jump into the river. At least he realized quickly that was a stupid idea and remained, quivering, in the boat. ”Mr. Haaaarriiiiis!”

”Thank you, ferryman,” Harris whispered to himself as he watched the ferry float away, carrying Josh away to the surprising safety of the river of the dead. It was ironic in a way, sorta, he thought death was the exact opposite of safety, so that was irony… right?

He sighed as he turned and looked back towards the bridge. A sudden gout of dusty-smelling wind blew across his face, leaving him with the taste of dead skin in his mouth, and the aftertaste of old blood. It was horrible, but it was kinda refreshing, especially after the constant screaming of the dead. It felt quieter the further he stepped from the Styx, but the air still echoed with their screams of torment.

He took his first steps onto the dusty cobblestone of the bridge, and the wind really began to pick up, he’d find it annoying if he weren’t so horribly nervous. He took another deep breath, and walked across the bridge, the massive citadel closing on the horizon.

He closed sooner than he felt than he should have, the citadel within tens of feet of him. The wind howled in his ears. He closed with the massive doors, “decorated” with bones and screaming faces, alongside pleased and peaceful masks of porcelain. The citadel walls rose hundreds of feet into the air, definitely the largest structure in the underworld.

The doors were obviously locked. So he did what everyone else would do. Lifting his foot, with a growl and a sudden squall of air, smelling of blood, he slammed it into the gate.

Harris easily accomplished the impressive feat of breaking his foot with his heroic kick. Judging by the handles on the exterior, it was a pull door. To his credit, his fearsome blow caused a truly mighty clang that rang out through the entire realm of Tartarus. Everyone felt he was extremely powerful after this.

It only took a brief moment for the doors to begin rumbling, however, as something from the other side began to push them outwards. From within the palace came an inhuman chittering, as many sets of oversized eyes glowed red at the embodiment of nature standing before them. Insectoid in appearance, but bipedal in structure...they were, in a word, Ant-Men.

The hum of energy was next heard as what appeared to be some sort of rifles clutched within their claws surged to life with an orchid gleam. Aiming them at the stranger without hesitation, they opened fire. Streams of pure arcane energy flowed from their weapons towards Harris in that moment.

Reacting as fast as possible, Harris raised his left arm, a shield of hard bark growing from it and managing to hold off one or two of the arcane streams for a moment or two before shattering, allowing one of the arcane blasts to shatter the armor on his chest. Growling in pain, he punched the ground, and a number of black vines grew from the ground, grabbing as many ant-men as they could and embedding them into the ground with a series of powerful tosses.

Harris hissed as the arcane burn on his chest refused to heal. Forming a dagger on his fist, he dug into his own chest to remove the burned flesh and toss it to the ground, his chest regenerating as normal afterwards.

As several fell, more seemed to come charging down the hall to replace them. It seemed that Ares had not left his son without soldiers to command. A new set of streams came flying down the hall at Harris from these newly arrived warriors, their aim and precision impressive - possibly even superhuman.

However many of these creatures were at Enyalius’ disposal was unclear, but there seemed to be at least several dozen of them standing between the avatar of the Green and his objective right now.

Harris growled as another beam struck him in the shoulder, his armor again proving rather ineffective. He held it tight with a hand as he ducked behind a section of the ground, pushed up by a rather quickly growing root-system.

Again digging the burn out of his flesh, Harris decided that he was done screwing around here. Thickening his armor as much as he could, it became rather hard to move, but that was a price he was more than willing to pay. Clamoring up the newly created cover, he slowly walked towards the ant-creatures, taking blast after blast without flinching. One or two did manage to shatter his armor, but it recovered far too quickly for the fire to pose any threat.

Finally closing with them, Harris produced a tentacle from his upper back and spun in a circle, slamming it into the faces of every ant-creature around him. Most of them should have stayed down, but he didn’t care if they didn’t. Harris continued forwards, slowly closing with his objective.

”ENOUGH!” A voice rang out through the halls of the palace, the ant-men immediately ceasing their attack. Without offering Harris so much as a second glance, they began withdrawing from his sight. The path forward appeared to be clear at this point, though given the scope of the fortress that didn’t mean that he was close to his goal.

The hallway towered more than a hundred feet into the sky, and continued on for what would easily feel like ten minutes or more. Even with nothing to oppose him, the fact that he was going to confront one who helped to conquer such a formidable castle alone spoke to the severity of the opponent who awaited.

Harris gulped as the restrictive armor flaked off of his body. This was gonna suck, that was just a fact of life. He was going to fight a god singlehandedly. Even if he was lucky enough to survive this, he had like no chance of winning.

Harris sighed and resolved to try anyway, even a one percent chance is still a chance.

”Harris Herzog, prepare yourself,” The Green added unhelpfully. ”This is a threat the kind you have never faced, this is one of the most important events in our world’s history, are you certain you’re ready?”

Harris closed his eyes and nodded.

”For you, and for everyone else on the planet, I have to do this.”

”Even now you continue to speak of humanity, how have you not forsaken it? We do not understand!”

”I have been ostracized, treated like a monster, thrown into the mud. It’s hard sometimes to keep moving... but... then I remember all of those who care about me, who treat me like a person, and it’s all okay, I think about Shawn, about Karen, about Josh, about all of them. They are what matters to me. I’m willing to lose everything if it means that they get a fighting chance.”

”How?! How are you so certain?!”

”You’ll never understand, and I don’t expect you to.”

Harris reached the end of the hallway slowly, watching as a window swung on its hinges and a torn flag billowed in the breeze. The last door stood in front of him, the only thing keeping him from what was probably his death.

With a sigh, he decided that life was overrated anyway, and pushed his way into the throne room.

Like the rest of the palace, the surface of the throne room was made of the same black marble. Great pillars lined the four walls, with ornate drapery falling between them, and covering the center of the great chamber was an ornate carpet that stretched across its length until it met its end at the steps of the throne itself. This short flight of stairs was draped in soft fabrics, worthy to host the seat of the Lord of Death...for it was unto chairs as Gods were unto men.

There was great power that radiated from it, a dim glow emitted from it that would send shivers of fright through mortal men who approached it. But perhaps more striking than the seat of death itself was the one who occupied it. Adorned in golden armor, he sat slouched on the throne, face rested against his knuckles. At the right arm rested a helmet.

To either side of him was a cage containing a beast of truly immense size. While its features were hidden by the low lighting of the room, it was clear that this was a formidable creature indeed. To its opposite on a far pillar was a pale man with a mane of long and dark hair, silver lances driven through each of his limbs, with a final one emerging from his chest. His head was slumped, face hidden by his flowing locks.

“Nnn, there you are,” the man on the throne muttered, leaning forward slightly upon sighting Harris. “Hera’s leaking tit, you look even more unimpressive in person.”

Harris tilted his head at the impressive looking man, it was an intimidating look to be sure, but he was past being intimidated at this point, he felt more numb than anything. The man’s words only served to make him less intimidating, the kind of childish banter that he’d imagine a child wouldn’t find clever.

”I’m sure you know a lot about your grandma’s tits,” he japed as he scanned the room. He noticed the massive beast, best to avoid that, and the impaled man in the corner. That was probably Hades, judging by the fact that he was still breathing despite being impaled repeatedly. Probably not the best idea to just walk over to him, he needed to keep watch on the brat in the fancy armor.

”That’s also no way to address your great-great-grandfather, what would dad think?... Don’t answer that actually, I realized it as I said it, kind of a stupid thing to say,” he admitted while scratching the back of his neck and offering a bored look to the man in the throne. ”That’s a big dog!... I think it’s a dog at least, I don’t think it’s yours though.”

Enyalius didn’t seem to care to respond to most of Harris’ return banter, only seeming to acknowledge his comment about the beast in the cage at the end. Smiling subtly, his eyes shifted over to the animal as a light chuckle rumbled up from his throat. “Oh, Cerberus? I’ve been starving him for over two months now. I bet he’s hungry…”

His eyes shifted back to the avatar in that moment, but he just as quickly scoffed. Pushing himself up from the throne, he placed his helmet onto his head. “But as entertaining as it would be to watch him tear you to pieces, I would rather end this swiftly so I could return indulging myself with Persephone. A pity she’s so…unresponsive these days, eh Hades?”

The Lord of the Underworld stirred slightly at this, his body weakly struggling against the lances that held him tightly in place.

“You struggled with my little Myrmidon toys, so I suspect this will be over with but one blow. Feel free to surprise me, however,” Enyalius remarked, before dashing forward in an impossible burst of speed. Slamming his fist into the torso of the plant man, he was confident that it would be sufficient to reduce him to green paste.

The blow hurt.

It hurt a lot

In fact it was probably the most painful thing he’d ever felt. Harris didn’t even have to look down to realize that a massive hole had just appeared in his lower abdomen. If he was anyone else, he’d have been dead right then.

So why not pretend he was.

Harris let out a gurgle, then collapsed forwards, his head ending up resting on the man’s shoulder as the rest of his body sat limply on the floor.

A flash in his green eyes was all the warning he gave as he took his opportunity and lodged a suddenly grown set of massive teeth directly into the god’s neck.

“Well, that was certainly anti-climactic, wasn’t it-nnn,” Enyalius flinched in surprise when the teeth bit down into his neck. They failed to pierce his godly flesh, but they certainly did surprise him. Chuckling at this display of trickery, he drew back a fist and swung at the creature’s bug-like skull. “Very clever!”

Harris’ ruined body was sent cartwheeling through the air by the godly strike, his lower jaw flying off in an arc as a large amount of plant matter began to fly through the air in a similar fashion.

This was going just as expected, and that was not very good.

Harris crashed into the wall in a heap, his lower body nursing itself back together in an instant, just before he grew a new jaw altogether. He was tiring already, regeneration at that scale took a lot of energy, and he wasn’t exactly in direct sunlight at the moment.

Well, armor wasn’t going to help, so it was time to go for speed. Harris shed all of the armored plates on his body, turning from decidedly buglike to what appeared to be a creature from an early 30s monster movie.

Another poor idea would be direct attacks. So instead, Harris placed a fist on the ground, a large bladed-plant appearing not far in front of him, swinging a massive appendage, ordained with a series of razor sharp blades. With every frenzied swing, it fired more smaller needles at the god, before drawing back and entering into one final massive swing. At the same time, Harris made a dash for Hades, maybe freeing him could even the odds.

Enyalius allowed the blades to break against his armor, none of the attacks coming even close to harming him. Raising a hand to cover a yawn that forced its way from his mouth, he nearly missed the plant man making a mad dash for the Lord of the Underworld. His eyes narrowing in that moment, he flashed to his location in a burst of speed before kicking him with enough force to once more disintegrate him through sheer kinetic power.

“You know, I wouldn’t mind a bit of a challenge,” the young God admitted. “But you’re more than annoying type of enemy that’s weak, but just won’t die.”

Exhaling slightly a bored sigh, Enyalius raised a hand and offered the remains of Harris a smile. “Would you like to know something interesting? The ability to control the weather and wield lightning is something that skips a generation in my family.”

“Old Uranus had it, but great-grandfather Cronus didn’t. Grandpa Zeus did, but father didn’t…” Enyalius raised his hand, and in that moment electricity sparked between his fingers. A dark grin slithered across his face as his eyes began to shimmer with that same light. “I’m sure you’ve figured out where this pattern leads us.”

With a flick of his his wrist, he sent a powerful blast of lightning arcing into the battered avatar of the Green. “It means you are dust!”

Harris was left a head, a few sinews, and what remained of his right arm, which he used to pull himself into a sitting position as he managed to regrow his torso before collapsing out of pain and exhaustion, he could only watch as the god boasted, and prepared to fire an attack that would end him forever.

Silently, Harris closed his eyes, entering The Green. Out there, it would be an instant, in here, it’d be an hour.

”Well… that’s it. It’s been a good run, I hope Karen did well enough.”

The Green’s dimension warped and bent as each voice let out a roar of rage.

But it wasn’t rage at Harris, for once.

”You… you gave it all up, your life, your body, your hopes your dreams! And for what!?”

”I told you before, you’d never understand.”

The Green was silent for a long time.

Harris looked off into the void, recalling the eventful past year or so, he would know not to go into the Everglades in the next life, that was a plus.

”Harris Herzog…” each voice of The Green said, one after another, some mournful, some furious, some uncaring. Then they all spoke as one once more. ”We give our lives every day, so that our children may grow to live lives just as eventful as ours, we breathe, we die, we protect. That is all we ever wanted from an Avatar, and you did that acceptably.”

Harris chuckled but found himself interrupted before he could speak again.

”We were the oldest, the longest-lived, and the most widespread life-form on the planet. We never thought we’d ever require the help of any of our lessers. What we didn’t see then was the power you possess over us. Time and time again we believed you humans were out for us, that we were on the precipice of extinction, but you, you proved us wrong at every turn. You saved our lives, yet you protected the lives of your own kind as well. We thought your duality a weakness, but we understand now what strength you bring us.”

The Green’s voice was thoughtful and solemn as it spoke of how Harris had changed them, but Harris felt it more a eulogy than anything else.

”Right, save the speeches for my funeral, I just want to say goodbye to you, not with formal language or as some ancient defender, I just want to see you as a friend, one last time.”

”Harris… we won’t allow that.”

”Well, time’s almost up.”

”No, Harris, we need you, they need you, this world needs you.”

Harris was taken aback.

”What?”

”We fight as friends, Harris, now, and forever.”




In the real world, Harris’ body was instantly vaporized by the blast, leaving nothing but a smear, but little did the god know just how powerful a foe he had made.

Enyalius dusted his hands lightly, releasing a gentle breath. Wandering back over to his throne, he slouched down and removed his helmet. “They never learn, do they, Hades? By the time morning reaches the city of Washington D.C., the Earth with be a smouldering wreck...and billions of souls will belong to me, courtesy of mother.”

Hades didn’t make a sound this time, simply continuing to hang there in defeat.

“Ah, that’s right. I was going to give Persephone a visit. I should get on with that,” Enyalius noted, taking his helmet in hand and rising once more.

A single vine slithered from a crack in the floor, suddenly shooting forth and wrapping itself around the god’s leg. Unlike all other constructions, this one was more than capable of holding the god still.

The building began to shake, letting out a rumbling noise that got louder with every passing second, rocks began to fall from the ceiling, smashing against the ground like glass. A grumbling roar echoed through the citadel.

”You’re gonna have to try a bit harder than that!”

The floor smashed into thousands of pieces as Harris shot up from underneath, his upper body dwarfing Cerberus in his cage, his legs still remaining under the rock, and his mouth letting out a savage roar.

From the cracks within the newly ruined floor, a human-sized clone of Harris pushed its way out, and then another, and then another.

This continued until the entire room was surrounded by a perimeter of Harris clones. A number even stood atop the original’s shoulders, and a not-insignificant number hung from the ceiling, staring down at the helpless god.

”Welcome to the last five minutes of your life.”

The original, massive beast of a plant, smashed the ground with two fists, driving the god into the shattered stone beneath.

Enyalius had barely had any time to don his helmet for the second time that day before he was unceremoniously smashed into the floor of his now thoroughly trashed throne room. For several moments he lay there, only to finally push himself up with a snarl of his own. Blood fell from his nostrils, and his eyes had gone bloodshot.

“Insolent creature!” He extended his hand, and in a flight of lightning a forked spear appeared within his grasp. Using it to slash the vine grasping his leg, he began to increase the size of his form to match that of Harris. “Do you think you frighten me?! I am the son of Eris! I am chaos and strife personified!”

Driving his - similarly enlarged - spear at the creature’s chest, he augmented it further with his lightning.

As the god grew to a comparable size, Harris simply directed his clones mentally. A tide of little green men grabbed onto the war god, covering him in vines, and holding his arm back before the spear could reach his chest.

Harris tapped his chin with a finger as he watched the god’s assault slow to a grinding halt. He smirked and watched as a pair of his clones removed the spears from the body of Hades, gently catching him as he fell, no longer supported.

Harris looked back up at the spoiled brat of a god.

”Do you know what you are?! You are nothing!” Harris roared, punctuating each word with a pound on the ground around him. ”Nature always wins, it’s time you learned that!”

Freeing his legs from the rubble of the ruined floor, Harris pulled back his fist, and smashed it, with all of his might, directly into the “god’s” chin.

Let’s see how godly he is after this.

When the plant’s massive fist collided with Enyalius’ chin, the God’s head snapped back in an instant as his helmet departed him. Slamming into the roof of the immense palace, the son of Ares and Eris smashed his way through the hardened material against his will. Bursting from the top, his momentum remained unbroken as he impacted one of the dark, grey mountains in the distance.

An avalanche of ashen stone echoed the impact, and for what seemed like a solid minute, nothing else was heard. It was only after this that that the young God came wearily stumbling from the collapsed mountain. Blood streamed from his broken nose and busted lip, his movements uneven and confused.

“You...can’t...I’m…” He muttered, stumbling forward for several more steps. Collapsing onto his knees, he stared at the partially wrecked palace in disbelief at what had just happened.

Harris approached at a brisk walk, he massaged his chin as he looked over the near-unconscious god.

”You’re really tough, you know that?... I’m also being told that you’re unkillable, which makes it so much harder to not want to just keep hitting you until I get bored, but I think I have the perfect punishment.”

The Harris clones all coalesced in two positions, at the right and left of Harris’ position. They locked together slowly, the pile growing to the size of the original until finally there were three equally sized Harrises standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

With a boot to the head, the Harrises watched as the god fell spread-eagle

Each one drew a strangely ornate sword from their forearms, two moving to the god’s shoulders, and the original standing over his abdomen.

”Welcome to the next eternity.”

Each lifted their blades, then drove them down, impaling the god to the ground. Each giant then locked in place, completely unmoving.

Harris grew from the ground not far from this spectacle, looking over his fine work.

He looked over at Hades, still recovering from his wounds, and smiled, pointing at the now completely-immobilized god.

”Karma, she’s a bitch right?” Harris chuckled, tapping the god of the dead on his shoulder as he walked by. ”Let’s go find Persephone.”

Harris strutted away, whistling a cheery tune, as the three statues stood watch over the fallen god.
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Blazion

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December 25th, 1:20 AM (Atlantic Time)
Atlantean War Room, Poseidonis, Atlantis


Orin glared daggers at the map of the sunken continent of Atlantis, the spotlight in his war room illuminating it with a harsh light. Surrounded by aides and generals, the military minds of the lost civilization had been running themselves ragged for the past month. First the dead came back from their rest, abandoning the coral tombs and attempting to reenter the city, and now, just as the bodies were being cleaned up ancient monsters had begun to attack! Sirens had been seen skulking outside the city wall, and had already lured half a dozen Atlanteans outside. Fortunately, most of them were relatively unharmed due to their inability to drown, but two had been attacked and whisked away somewhere. Even more disturbing though, were the reports coming in from his scouts of old sleeping beasts, no longer asleep. Krakens. Most of them seeming content to terrorize the ocean at large, but there were at least two on the way to the city. Fortunately, this was not the first time Atlantis had dealt with the Greek myths.

A dozen aides burst into the war room carrying boxes, crates, and some loose scrolls. Opening the lids and laying out the contents, Orin quickly glanced over the haul. Books, scrolls, tablets, even some painted pottery. Written in Greek and Old Atlantean, Orin could pick out a few key words. ‘Katea’, the word for Kraken. Everything in the Domed Library on Krakens, and how to fight them. ”Good, good. Get all of this transferred and translated, we need it as soon as possible. I’m not worried about them breaching the wall; if an asteroid couldn’t do it then we should be safe inside. But I don’t want us to end up under siege, and we still have to defend the rest of the seas. Meanwhile,” Orin said, turning back to the map. ”We need to prepare for the possibility of ending up under siege anyway. Harvest everything, bring what we can into the city. After that--”

The room went quiet at the sound of a comm shell vibrating. Who in Hades had brought a comm-- Oh, it was Orin’s. The special one. ”... Excuse me. I have to take this.” Orin said, pulling the shell off his belt and flicking it open. It wasn’t Lady Arcana though, but it looked like… Grim? From the Arab Federation incident and the radioactive man?. ”This is King Orin of Atlantis. A pleasure speaking with you Grim; though I don’t remember giving you a shell? What’s going on?”




December 25, 12:23am (Eastern Time)
Amnesty Bay, Maine.


Girard smiled as he watched cartoons with his daughters, they had gotten into an old collection of cds and tapes he hadn’t had time to sell off or throw out, but on the brightside it meant he got to see them enjoying the stuff he used to watch once he got the VHS player working again. It was nice to have some time to relax lately after the whole undead invasion happened and go figure it calmed some of the locals down leaving him with less vigilante work around home. He did have the nagging feeling that pleasant as it was the whole situation was a bit too quite for his liking to the point he had started jumping states looking to make his presence felt by anyone looking to make trouble. After the first couple of times it seemed like more people were beginning to recognise him which he thought was maybe a good thing, made him seem more reliable than just some random guy in a helmet who kicked around criminals or made an occasional big show like with the war in the Middle East or dealing with a lot of zombies quickly. He had to get word around somehow and honestly he wasn’t big on interviews or stuff like that so this was the next good bet.

The big guy laughed a bit when Haylee and Leila started mimicking the characters on screen for a little bit since the current episode was getting to the end. He had done it too when he was that age and his parents could attest to it making it all the funnier to him. It didn’t take long for it to finish from there and it was about time to check out the news to see if anything caught his interest, his two little goofballs were due for a break so it was as good a time as any plus they could play with some of the new toys they opened up not a minute after twelve o'clock. Nothing unusual showed up at first which was a kindness because of all days in the year he really wanted to stay home it was definitely Christmas. They still had plenty of celebrating to do with a nice dinner to top it all off by the evening so it was kind of a big deal.

Of course that was before the alert came up about fucking minotaurs and cyclops among other things rampaging around Gotham’s outskirts which after a few moments of watching he got a pretty good idea of just where they were.

“You have got to be kidding me…” Girard mumbled with displeasure recognising Kasimir Castle very easily and wondering why walking myths were trying to tear up the place.

He was quick to turn the channel so his daughters wouldn’t have to see it figuring that was the last thing they needed.

“Uh girls go ahead and pop in another cartoon if you want, I’m gonna go talk to your mom.” He said giving them a quick smile before quickly shooting over to the kitchen where his wife had been getting them all some drink and snacks.

True to form his expression gave away the seriousness of the issue immediately and Abigail was prepared to take care of the day while he was gone which she had to stress to him. Girard went to the guest room where he had been keeping some of his new equipment so to speak including the spare emergency phone with line back to Zoey if anything came up, it was ringing out as he opened up the compartment underneath the bed and he answered quickly.

“Hello, just saw the news report and go figure this phone is lighting up.” Tank said starting to get his new and improved costume on for what looked like a big old fight to come. “Could use some filling in on the details while I get ready.”




December 25th, 12:24AM
Kasimir Castle, Gotham City


As the Grim Grotto finally emptied of all but the three who lived in the castle above, Grim remained at her computer station, glowing white eyes fixated on the ringing. Finally King Orin came online, shortly followed by Tank before she could get past more than a greeting and explanation that Arcana had given her the means to contact Orin.

”Glad to see you two are alright. We have a bit of a situation on our hands, as I’m sure you’re both aware.” The billionaire’s fingers tapped against the desk, metal on metal as she gathered her thoughts. ”What you may not be aware of, is that there’s more than just an influx of mythical creatures.”

A pause. Inhale. A shuddering exhale.

”This is a full scale invasion of earth by Gods. Lady Arcana has already gone to Olympus, the Bush Whacker to Tartarus.” Glowing white eyes didn’t move, though Grim’s gaze flicked passed the call to take in the various live feeds broadcast along her wall. ”Hundred foot Titans walk the lands now. Monsters. Gods. It’s more than any one of us can handle. I’m looking for those who can help.”

Orin paused, taking a long look at the gathered generals in the room. Excusing himself quickly, he stepped out into a hallway, taking care to make sure he was alone. ”The Gods are against us? Titans have been released? Grim, this is… This is serious. We’ve simply been dealing with Sirens and preparing for Kraken assaults, but… How do you expect me to leave my people now? If Titans are on their way, I don’t know that Atlantis can stand against that without me…”

It took a few moments for the whole of the situation to hit home in Girard’s mind, they were against gods and titans so he figured it.wasn’t horrible to just absorb it as much as he could now rather than in the middle of a slugging match with something that much higher on the pay grade. Not only that but a full on invasion of monsters to go along with them made for pretty much utter chaos if they couldn’t make a dent in them before large numbers hit population centers. The odds weren’t all that great either but what choice did they have? No way could any of them just stand down from this because if they did there might not be anything to stand on afterwards. Everything was at stake so in all reality they would have to give as good as they were about to be getting.

“Wow…that is really bad.” Was all the big man could get out at first shuffling on his jacket but he did have plenty to say,.“Sounds like we’ve already got our magic people on the one side and us here to hold in the meantime. If Aquaman needs time to help Atlantis out I understand so just point me in the right direction and I’ll fight tooth and nail to beat the crap out of any threats even if they are plenty big or powerful. They picked the wrong day to invade, I am not missing Christmas with my family because of these assholes.”

Despite the situation a grim chuckle escaped the Gotham hero’s armored mouth at her friend’s words, nodding her agreement. However, unseen beneath it, a frown still marred her lips as she considered the situation.

”I understand your reluctance,” She began slowly, directing her words to the underwater King. ”I’m not exactly fond of the idea of leaving Gotham, either. The fact of the matter is though, no one will be able to stand against the Titans if we don’t come together.” Her eyes trailed to one of the feeds on her screen, displaying a great being towering over the city crushing beneath his feet, hundreds of feet tall and absolutely exuding power. Buildings, people, an entire society was vanishing along his path, and he wasn’t the only one even displayed on her monitor!

”... We’re needed. More than a single person, or a single city. The world needs us. If you need to stay, I understand. You do what you need to do. Tank, we’re headed to Washington.”

King Orin stared at the screen in silence, feeling torn about his options. He had his city, his people to care for. But Titans, gods, a unified attack against humanity? That needed a defense, something he could help with. Listening to Tank’s determination, even in the face of leaving his family spoke to Orin. His eyes drifted away from the screen as he saw the door to the war room open, the bright red hair of Mera, his betrothed peeking out and making eye contact with him. She was a fighter, a warrior among Atlantis’s best. Regal, nobel, brilliant. Everything one could want in a queen. A leader, for when the king was unavailable…

”Grim.” Orin said, loudly enough for Mera to hear him. ”Tell me I can help. Convince me that I will be of more use to you there than I will be to my people here. Tell me you have a plan to end this. Then… Maybe.”

”I do,” Was the grim response, the Gotham Hero bringing her hands together behind her back. Gazing upon the monitors rather than the call she let out an exhale, heavy and rumbling through the mask. ”I know you two are powerful. I saw your work in the middle east. There are others as well - Green Squire and Celebrity to name two. Vine Talker and Lady Arcana will join us as soon as they can as well. Whoever is behind this has been probing and pushing at our defenses for almost a year - I don’t think this is another test.”

“This is their plan. Their come one, come all. It’s time to bring the fight to them. To do that, we’re going to have to cause a ruckus against their plan. Personally, slaying a titan would draw my attention.”


“Makes sense, the bigger the noise we make the less pressure the others have to deal with. Better we get all of the attention focused in as few areas as possible so we can mop up the weaker monsters.” Tank said before donning his helmet and heading for the backdoor in a hurry.

Orin’s eyes narrowed at the list of names he was pretty sure were wrong; but that thought was eclipsed by the idea presented by Grim. Killing a Titan… Could such a thing really be done? By mortals, no less? Well… Mostly mortal anyway. Orin looked up at Mera down the hall, expecting to see anger or betrayal in her eyes. Instead, she was marching towards him, excitement flashing in her green eyes.

Titans, Orin?!” She hissed, her shoulders shaking with barely-contained excitement. “You would be the greatest king we’ve ever had, the greatest the world has ever seen!”

”What.”

“I’m serious! You’ve already outlined the plan for us here, I can lead the armies if it comes to that. But if there’s a chance you can fell a Titan and cut this off at the source, you cannot in good conscience ignore that!” Mera exclaimed.

Good to know the Queen was on the same page as Orin in this matter, at least.

Orin nodded, sighing softly. ”You know the plan then, Mera. Listen to the generals if anything goes wrong. If we fall under siege don’t be afraid to start rationing supplies, but remember that a ration applies to every person in the city, palace included. I’m getting my trident.” He said before turning and striding down the hall, already trying to remember what he knew of the Greek myths. ”Grim,” He said into the comm shell, ”I’m coming to help. I can be in Gotham harbor inside an hour.”

”I’ll meet you both with the jet.” The line was cut before Grim turned to her two sons, a deep sigh heaving through her chest. Getting them to stay was going to be a fight of titanic proportions all itself.
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