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Hidden 6 yrs ago Post by DocTachyon
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”The Ranchero of Miracle Mesa” - Strings: Part Four

“The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.”

-Anonymous




Warpath, Texas




Vigilante could feel needles of bone piercing his shoulder, tearing more and more muscle as he reloaded his guns. The pain shot down his arm and up through his collarbone in white hot spikes. He just had to grit his teeth and take it. Wasn’t becoming of a cowboy to sit there, bitching and moaning while his enemies came up on the horizon, no sir. Vig set his jaw and rolled his shoulder, grunting as agony leaped through his nerves.

“Something wicked this way comes.” The voices in Vigilante’s head joined in unison. Vig shook his head, trying to rid himself of the noise and focus. Time to face center. Couldn’t do with Mephisto’s curse distracting him from the fight.

The dust cloud swelled in size, towering from its point of origin like the Groom Cross. It fanned out in a wide cone from an advancing black speck rumbling across the desert. Slowly, it resolved into a vehicle. It was a long, black plated limo. The desert sands it kicked up slid off of the paint job like water off a duck’s back. Vig couldn’t get a read on anything inside through the tinted windows. He’d have to wait for the fight to come to him.

Vigilante limped back to the wall as the billowing smoke encroached. With no way over, he started shoving aside the bodies of Fatboys with his feet and dug in amongst the copses for cover. He rested the butt of his weapons on the bodies. All that was left was to lie in wait. Any manner of things could be in that limo, most likely entities of Greed. Homunculi, Midans, Speed-Demons…

The limo stopped thirty yards out from the barrier. Vig tightened his grip on his pistols. His fingers found their way inside the trigger guard. The driver’s side window rolled down, and a pair of human hands shot out.

“Don’t shoot! Jesus gawd!” A voice shouted from inside. The hands were shaking. Vigilante could see cufflinks on the intruder’s wrists.

”Come on out now. Real slow like. Keep them hands where I can see ‘em.”

The man’s hands jerked to the door handle from the outside, awkwardly opening it and stumbling out of the vehicle. He was a tall, lanky man, stuffed into a poorly fitting suit. His hair was slicked back with cheap gel. The feller’s skin was sallow, but not in the usual way. Where Vig might have expected a pale over his skin, there was a sickly brown. He looked twenty, twenty-five. His hands were too knobby for his age. Most curious of all were raised spiral scars on both of his cheeks, like someone had gone in with a knife to try and make ‘em stand out. He held his hands over his head and dropped to his knees.

“Please man! My boss an’ I are just here to talk!” The man pleaded. Vig could make out the outline of a handgun against his waistband.

“Drop yer handcannon n’ we’ll see about that, boy.”

He nodded a dozen times more than he needed to and quivering hand went down to his waistband. His movements were jerky, uncertain. He pulled the glock from his pants, lifting the end of the handle with his thumb and pointer finger. He threw it away from him out into the sands.

“See? Unarmed! We just wanna talk!”

“Yer “Boss” wanna come outta that there car? Without no guns, neither?”

”I thought you might take more kindly to my associate there first.” The rear door of the limo opened. Vig adjusted his aim, keeping one squarely on the goon’s stomach, and the other on the door.

Vigilante could scarcely make out the figure’s head as he stepped out of the car. The man instantly dropped below the window as he stepped out; he was so short that Vig could only see the top of his bowler hat as he passed behind the car door.



The man that emerged was victim to what seemed a cruel kind of dwarfism. He was scarcely as tall as the car door, but had lanky, ill-fitting limbs that hung loosely at his sides. The worst was his face. He seemed carved out of wood by a drunken craftsman, his cheeks and jaw were out of proportion with a face that struggled to contain two bulging brown eyes. His pallor seemed like that of his lackey, but worse. His features were hard and almost wooden, there seemed to be horizontal lines running up and down his exposed skin.

”My name is Daniel Matthews.” He spoke in a subtle New Yorker accent, unlike his compadre’s brazen one. Matthews had an old school tommy gun slung over his shoulder. He made a show of undoing the strap with gloved hands. The gun clattered to the ground.

”Certain… Unwise former associates had taken to calling me ‘The Dummy’. I advise you to not make the same mistake.” He stepped a few paces forward. Vig raised his pistol. Matthews stopped, showing open palms. ”My associate and I merely wish to parley with the vigilante known as... Well, Vigilante.”

“You got ‘im, pardner.” Vigilante stepped out of cover, mounting the pile of Fatboys. He kept his weapons trained on the newcomers. “What I’m innarested in knowing is what a city slicker packin’ all sortsa popguns wants with a little town like mine. ‘Specially someone who ain’t bothered by a pile of corpses.”

Matthews shrugged. ”I’ve seen worse, in my line of work. My employer wishes to provide aid given the… Situation here in Warpath. We can provide weapons, ammo, men. All we ask for in exchange is one little artifact we believe to be in your possession.”

“Look, mister. By the look of ya, you ain’t with SHIELD, and I’m eck-stra confused about how the de-tails of our little predicament found their way into your ears.” Vig stepped down of the corpse pile. “But… You ain’t tried to kill me yet, and that’s a damn sight better that mosta the folks I’ve met over the past few years.”

“Kill him! Kill him good kill him dead kill him good kill him dead kill him kill him kill him kill kill kill...” The voices in his head hissed. The closer Vig got to Matthews the more ferociously it burned. It felt like the taint of Mephisto in his mind, trying to drag him back to Hell again, screaming to keep him away from this man -- or put a bullet in his head. He thought that was a good sign. Anybody Mephisto didn’t like was a pal to Vigilante.

”Glad you see it my way.” Matthews extended a hand. ”Do you have a real name, or just Vigilante?”

“Vig for short’s fine.” Vigilante reached out to shake his hand. As he neared, every nerve in his body erupted into fire, the voices trying to hijack his system, screaming for him not to broker with this man. They pushed on his brain, his muscles trying to drive him back.

Vig put his hand into Matthews’ and a sick smile crossed the Dummy’s face. It went from ear to ear, a perversion of human anatomy. ”You cowfucking idiots are even easier to trick than I thought.” Instantaneously a shiver shot up Vigilante’s arm, squeezing his muscles and locking his joints, flushing away any of the burning from moments ago. Vig went for his guns but he found his joints locked. He looked down. Fine wood was spreading across his body, turning complex ball and joint sockets and ligaments into carpentry and screws.

“Motherfu-” Vigilante’s legs gave out and he slammed into the sand, cracking his head on the ground. At the edge of his swimming vision he could see The Dummy’s lackey, reduced to a similar state. He had crumbled to the ground, like a lifeless doll. His skin was all the more wooden now, as if all the life had been sucked from him in an instant.

The wood crept across his chest and Vigilante could feel his organs seizing mid operating in the cage of his chest, heart stopping mid-pump, unable to deliver blood to a body that no longer needed it. The dummification spread up to his neck and stopped just short on consuming his head.

“I’m gonna tie you to a horse and drag you across the goddamn-” The Dummy’s elbow smashed into Vigilante’s face. His nose shattered on impact.

”Not fun, is it? I don’t like being made of fucking wood either.” The Dummy clasped a hand over Vigilante’s mouth. ”So you and everyone in your shithole town are going to help me get out of my… Illness. Unfortunately for you, there are two ways out, and both of them end with you dead.” The Dummy’s free hand fished in his coat pocket, and produced a bloodstained polaroid. It was a picture of a picture, but through the levels of abstraction Vig could make out what appeared to be some kind of trident. ”You give me this trident right now, then I kill you and I’m on my way. Or...” The Dummy got up, walking over to his tommy gun. He hefted the weapon in both hands. ”I kill everyone in your shitty little town, one by one, until you tell me.”

Vigilante spat out a mouthful of blood. “I don’t have no Trident! If you touch a hair on anyone’s head...”

The Dummy made a tut-tut-tut noise with his tongue. ”You’re not in any position to make threats. Tell you what, I’ll give you some time to think about it.” The Dummy put his tommy gun over his shoulder, and pressed his hand into Vigilante’s dummified chest. The power started spreading up his neck and over his ears.

”I’ll wake you in a few hours. That’s when the real fun starts.”
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Hidden 6 yrs ago Post by Master Bruce
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Master Bruce Winged Freak

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Gotham City, Dini Plaza
The Loeb Building
12:05 AM


"He's late again."

Roman Sionis looked over in silent contempt as the newly returned Salvatore Maroni, leader of Capo Italiana and the most recent victim of an assault by The Batman, voiced his clear disgust at the lack of his direct opposition's presence. Since enacting a very fragile truce with the other major crime families in Gotham in the early 1990's, Carmine "The Roman" Falcone had enjoyed the spoils of everything from territorial disputes to all-out gang wars that had threatened to rip the city apart. And out of fear of retaliation from Falcone's many loyalists, from highly respected mafia dons of the old guard to the newest and more ruthless grunts looking to cut their teeth in the circles that not-so-secretly ran the city from the ground up, most had remained silent in the face of Falcone's growing contempt for the other heads of what eventually became The Five Families. As long as the old man had The Syndicate, he made no secret that he considered the rest of the other organizations little more than expendable.

"Just pointin' out the obvious, Sionis. No need to give me the side-eye over it."

And this fact had drawn it's share of detractors to Falcone's place as head of the serpent, as it were. None moreso than Sal Maroni, who'd started off working with a younger Carmine pulling small-time jobs as a teenager. That was nearly forty years ago, now, and Maroni had long since stabbed The Roman in the back for a cut of his own piece of the pie. Capo Italiana now ran a considerable portion of Gotham on it's own, rivaling The Syndicate in every conceivable fashion. What really put Maroni in a position of power, however, was his leverage on the GCPD. This fact was made all the more clear by the highly loyal members of Maroni's organization sitting to both sides of him. Commissioner Gillian Loeb to the left, Captain Arnold Flass to the right.

"I'd advise you to keep your shirt on, Sally. You never know when another masked lunatic might come in and shoot you in your other kneecap."

Several members of the table chuckled to themselves at Mayor Thorne's jab, particularly those under The Syndicate's allegiance. While Maroni did stake a claim on practically all of the police force in it's entirely, the Mayor's office was firmly in Falcone's grasp, still giving The Roman majority control over what transpired throughout Gotham. And this fact was backed up by the presence of those who remained seated next to the Mayor. Not only did Sionis take second chair only to the big boss himself, after years of hard work and powerful deals had secured him a seat in Falcone's inner-circle, but there were also those to contend with in the event that something ever happened to the old man.

This included Alberto and Mario, his sons and rightful heirs to the metaphorical throne. Sofia Gigante, his daughter by marriage and the overseeing eye of his operations. Johnny Vitti, his nephew and professional hitman. And his many on-call agents with their own specialities, including the sleazy-but-cunning family lawyer Warren White, aswell as the relatively silent book-keeper Julian Day, who had earned the nickname of The Calendar Man for his photographic memory. And perhaps most fearsomely of all, the leering Arnold Wesker. For decades, Falcone had enlisted Wesker to ensure that potential trouble sources ended up disappearing without so much as a trace or a word. Vanished into the night. Some even claimed that Wesker could be heard talking to himself in another voice whenever he was on assignment, adding fuel to the idea that he was a perennial boogeyman under Falcone's payroll.

"Oh piss off, Rupert. Like you and your's haven't been feelin' the heat that the Bat's brought down on every single one of us. Frankly, I got away relatively unscathed compared to the losses that the old man has suffered in sheer productivity thanks to that fuckin' freak."

Sionis leaned forward, his usually cool demeanor giving way to a venomous tone.

"And yet none of us had to limp into this room on crutches, did they?"

Maroni furrowed his brow as Sionis sat back up straight in his chair, adjusting his Armani suit accordingly.

"The boss gets here when he gets here. You and every damn member of this table knew that from day one. The real question at hand is where certain other parties are, given this wasn't exactly an optional gathering. We're one organization down."

"What, the Siberian?", Commissioner Loeb inquired. "Frankly, I'd prefer if 'The Penguin' sat this and any future gatherings out. I know that he's technically bought his way into the fold, but that doesn't change the fact that my department has had to pull alot of strings just to cover for his shitshow acting out of turn over the last few months. They've all but gone rogue, and I think it's high time that we cut our losses."

Thomas Blake, known on the streets as 'El Gato' and the current figurehead of the Moxon Family, placed his hands together in a contemplative gesture.

"Not that I disagree with that assessment, Commissioner, but I don't think the rest of us are willing to incite an open war against Cobblepot anytime soon. And with good reason. If the rumors are to be believed, The Penguin is busy amassing an army of his own. And not just the usual run-of-the-mill thugs that the rest of us have come to rely on, we're talking about true blue freaks of nature. Metahuman types. My sources even indicate that one of them can change his face at will, just by thinking it."

Maroni laughed at that assertion, heartily.

"Oh, Tommy. You've always been as gullible as a ten-dollar whore working Park Row. There's no way that the Commie freak has amassed someone of that kinda power, because if he had, why the hell wouldn't he have used it against us by now? Against all of us, for that matter?"

Mayor Thorne cleared his throat.

"The point being, Maroni, that we don't entirely know what Mr. Cobblepot's operations truly are any more. He was supposed to be a simple weapons smuggler. That was the deal whenever he staked out Grissom's old stomping grounds. But I don't seem to recall any of us, including your organization, receiving so much as a crate within the last two weeks. Even you can't deny that the buzzard's up to something."

"Sure, sure. But I'm not gonna sit here and pretend as if I'm pissin' myself over what a Russian piece of shit has in store for a town that he barely even knows. Have you seen his fuckin' nightclub? The place is a dumpster fire of cheap booze and idiot accountants that he's hopin' to help line his pockets. All that's telling me is that he's desperate, not dangerous. I say we keep the little bastard onboard. He amuses me, unlike the rest of you stiffs."

Sionis sneered.

"Frankly, Cobblepot's not the one we should start considering for excommunication..."

Maroni stood up, slamming his palms against the table.

"You got something to say to me, kid? Say it to my fucking face instead of hiding behind an old man who passed his prime a long time ago. We all know that you'd sooner lick Carmine's boot to get ahead than lay down your own blood, sweat, and tears to get the job done."

Sionis stood aswell, directing an accusatory finger.

"Is that so? Because I'm looking at someone else a little past his prime. And I don't think Thorne's earlier comment went unnoticed. You've gotten soft, Maroni. Real fucking soft. And if some idiot in a goddamn costume can take out your men and put a bullet in you himself, we've got a real problem on our hands. The Bat may be hitting us all pretty hard, but you're the only one he's actually gotten to. Did that even begin to cross your mind whenever you decided to grow the balls to come here?"

Maroni smirked.

"Listen to this. Me, gettin' a lecture on how to handle my business from a two-bit makeup peddler turned lapdog for the biggest fraud that Gotham's ever seen. You want to talk about startin' another Roman Holiday, kid? Is that what you want to say? Because if we're all bein' honest, I think Carmine lost any of the gumption that his daddy had a long time ago. He holds the idea of another massacre over us like it's some kinda threat to keep us all in line, but we've all gotten wise to that shit. There ain't no way The Roman has got the stones to carry out somethin' of that magnitude now."

The rest of the table fell silent. Though Maroni's skepticism was clearly noted, even those within his own camp nervously looked away at the mention of the fateful massacre that Falcone's father, in the thralls of the ganglords that ran Gotham back in 1939, set off in the form of a series of brutal assassinations that ended with only him and those who had sworn allegiance left standing. That was how the Falcone family had earned their spot at the top, through rivers of blood that had never truly washed out of the cracks of the city's streets.

Eventually, it was Commisioner Loeb that broke the silence by placing a hand on Maroni's shoulder.

"I think it'd be wise to keep your thoughts on such matters to yourself, Sal."

Maroni angrily looked back at his friend, ripping his arm away.

"Who's fuckin' side are you on with this, Gill?"

"The side that doesn't want to see another war break out just because you lost your temper. I'm sure that Mr. Sionis didn't mean to offend by his insinuation."

Grabbing Loeb by the jacket, Maroni barked directly into his trusted associate's face.

"Didn't mean to offend?! He just used the word 'excommunication'! The kid wants us out of the take, all of us! And that includes your little squad of mall cops, or did you forget?!"

Sionis raised his hand in protest.

"Maroni, lower your tone. This is meant to be a civil discussion. I admit that I may have spoken out of turn, but that's no excuse for..."

"Oh, fuck you! You and your decrepit handler, you little shit! If he wants to defend himself, he should be in this room right now! But where the hell is he?! Taking his sweet ass time, like usual! It's blatant disrespect, and I'm getting tired of it!"

CRACK!

To the shock of everyone, Maroni was suddenly struck hard across the face, effectively silencing his tirade. Not by a fist, to the surprise of those in the room, but by the slice of a thick leather bullwhip from across the room. Salvatore reached up to his face in pained agony, drawing blood from where he'd been stricken. Immediately turning to face his attacker, he found the glass ashtray holding his cigar smashed into pieces by the same whip that had cut him off. Maroni, along with half the room, produced some loaded piece on their person in the direction of where it had come from - but were immediately forced to sheathe them, with most of the room turning white as a sheet upon seeing who they had pointed their weapons at.

"Respect, as I've come to learn in this business, is something that is generally earned, Salvatore."

Holding the whip in his hands was none other than Gotham's top mobster himself. Carmine 'The Roman' Falcone, standing at the entrance to the room with every bit of confidence that one would associate with the man who ruled the city with an iron fist. Sionis, White, Wesker, Day and the Falcone children all stood, in respect to their leader. Falcone nodded to them, indicating that they could sit back down as he slowly approached the head chair of the table.

"And lately, I've been disappointed to learn that respect is also something that one can easily lose. You'd do well to remember that, Salvatore, if you want to remain apart of this arrangement."

Taking his seat, Falcone glared at Maroni, who himself felt a chill run down his spine as he held his hand to the open wound on his face. Despite all of his tough talk, Maroni never would have spoken in that tone directly to the man's face. And now that he was here, Salvatore was willing to remain more reserved.

"Now sit down. You're embarrassing yourself."



Looking ahead at the room of assembled mobsters, Falcone looked upon them with a sense of judgement. It was clear that he hadn't been pleased with the more recent events in Gotham, but no one knew who exactly he was blaming for the Five Families' slew of new problems.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's become apparent as of late that we all share a mutual problem. Admittedly, a problem that I once assumed would go away with a certain amount of time. These types of individuals have risen and fallen many times in the past, when opposing us, and I figured this one would be no different."

Signaling to his Alberto, Falcone watched as his meek son walked over to him and silently handed him a copy of the latest issue of The Gotham Globe. Taking it, Carmine immediately tossed it onto the center of the table. The headline? Mysterious Batman Under Investigation For Role In Dent Attack. Every member of the table looked uncomfortably away from it, sheepishly trying in vain to ignore the massive elephant in the room.

"Now, I am no friend to the District Attorney. Dent's an idealistic young fool who refuses to co-operate with us, any of us, and thinks that he actually stands a chance of gaining leverage against our respective organizations. But if this 'Batman' is truly beginning to target civil servants, perhaps it would be best to re-assess just how we all approach any further encounters with such an individual. Namely, how we can kill him."

Blake was the first to lean forward.

"With all due respect, Roman, it isn't as if our men haven't been trying. The vigilante possesses a degree of skill that none of us simply could have ever accounted for. He's not just taking down run-of-the-mill pushers and petty thieves, at least not anymore. He's attacked entire squadrons of some of our best men. Some of your's aswell, if my intel is correct. And he's survived. That isn't the capability of a simple nuisance. We're talking about a legitimate threat to all of us, yourself included."

Sionis was quick to interject at that.

"Your intel is a little off, Blake. We haven't suffered nearly as badly as someone like Maroni would have you believe. A few shipments here and there, but..."

Falcone slammed a close fist against the table, glaring at Roman.

"When did I say that you were to speak for me?"

Sionis opened his mouth, but no words came out. He knew better than to defy his employer.

"My apologies, Carmine."

Falcone nodded. Even if he was strict with the young mobster, there was still a soft-spot for Sionis in The Roman's heart. He had practically raised him as a second son, after Roman's late father and the owner of Janus Cosmetics showed his cowardice by committing suicide following a series of threats made by The Syndicate when Roman was just a boy.

Rather than leave him to his fate, however, Falcone took Sionis in whenever the child took a switchblade to his own mother's throat to keep her from going to the police. He'd never held any love for his biological parents, but Sionis had shown loyalty to a man who clearly held all the cards needed to get ahead in a city like Gotham.

"Now, to address your concerns, Thomas. I began with a full admission that Batman has become a problem for us all. No one in this room is denying that. However, what I'm looking for are solutions to the problem, not statements of the obvious. Nor do I wish to hear excuses as to why not a single one of your men have managed to put a bullet between the freak's eye in six months. I know why my men haven't, and it's because I've been having to loan them out to the rest of you to cover the slack. With such distraction, they've been rendered ineffectual. And that doesn't sit well with me."

Despite whether or not any of what Falcone claimed was true, none challenged the assertion. Rather, there were a few that began to whisper among themselves, trying desperately to appease the man that could easily have them removed from their position with a simple word.

"I think I speak for everyone else in the room when I say that the answer is obvious."

All eyes turned towards the entrance of the room, as a young woman entered, dressed in black and sporting a fierce haircut that almost commanded immediate respect by itself. Despite the number of powerful men sitting in the room, she remained unphased. And particularly unintimidated, even in the midst of her own father.

"Pool your resources together. Concentrate all of your efforts."



"If The Bat really is attacking your territories, man up and put aside your differences just long enough to ensure that he's removed from the equation. Then whenever he's dealt with, you boys can go back to hating eachother, as usual."


Falcone smiled.

"My daughter. Always the forward thinker. And what resources would you have your father spare in a time like this? It isn't as though we can afford to leave ourselves vulnerable to our enemies."

Selina raised an eyebrow.

"What enemies? The out-of-towners, or Cobblepot? Or did you mean a certain someone in present company..."

All eyes fell on Maroni, who nervously looked back.

"What? I ain't arguing with the broad. If you want me to lend you some of my guys, Carmine, consider them yours. It'll be worth it to get the fuckin' Bat out of our hair once and for all."

Selina smirked as she walked past the wounded mobster.

"Way to immediately tuck in your tail, Sally."

Maroni shot her an immediate glare, but didn't hold it long enough for Falcone to notice. Loeb was quick to speak up, having remained silent on the issue for far too long.

"Gentlemen, if I may make a suggestion. All of this effort may be a bit frivolous, considering that I just signed the authorization papers this morning for our esteemed colleague, Agent Nashton, to assemble his proposed task force in bringing down The Batman. With the full force of the Gotham City Police Department on his trail, it won't be long before we have that masked idiot in our crosshairs."

Falcone place his hand to his chin, mulling it over.

"Perhaps so, Commissioner, but I'd rather not take any chances. If this man believes himself to be a savior to the city, I suggest we turn the city against him on every front, not just the front governed by the police. My daughter is right. It's time that we all put aside old grievances in the effort to make an example of this man. He's been allowed to breathe air for far too long."

Holding up his hand for an expected kiss, Sionis was immediately rebuffed as Selina took her place at her father's side. For a long time, now, Roman had sought the affections of Ms. Kyle in a bid to claim legitimacy among the family beyond simply acting as their loyal agent. He didn't actually care for the woman herself, but the idea of getting into The Roman's good graces through his daughter wasn't exactly an unappealing prospect.

"While I think we're in unanimous agreement on this, The Bat is far from our only concern, Mr. Falcone. If Cobblepot truly isn't living up to his end of the deal, we're about to be in short supply of munitions. And my business associates won't be terribly happy with that."

Falcone smirked, placing his hands together.

"That, Thomas, is a problem we can remedy with a bit more expedience. You see, I never fully cashed all of my chips in with the Siberian, no matter what kind of company he's beginning to keep. So I've been making arrangements for the past few months to gain the majority shareholdings in a company that will be more than well equipped to service our needs."

Sionis smiled, looking to the rest of the room.

"How does Waynetech military ordinance sound to everyone here?"

The reaction spoke for itself. Most were intrigued, though some were still skeptical.

"Roman, here, has been nominated for the position of CEO, given that the obliviously moronic young man who currently acts as the sole representative of the Wayne family decided that it was in his best interest to skip town for a couple of years rather than take full control of one of the biggest military suppliers in the country. His loss is to be our gain. And the best part is, my daughter has ensured that he remains entirely clueless to any and all movements we've been making on his family's legacy."

Selina crossed her arms, giving off an expression of self-pride.

"The idiot all but telegraphed to me that he doesn't suspect a thing. He'd rather fawn over his friend in the D.A.'s office taking a bad spill than take a legitimate interest in that company."

Thorne smiled around the freshly lit cigar that rested between his lips.

"Thus assuring that not only are we never going to see any interference in the distribution of the product, but that the weapons themselves will be of a considerably higher quality than anything that The Penguin would've been willing to offer us."

Blake seemed satisfied with that answer, as did the rest of those in attendance.

"Precisely."

Pouring a glass of his own personal stock of bourbon, Falcone raised his glass to the rest of the table. Everyone, including Maroni, raised theirs in response.

"To new and exciting opportunities, my friends. And to dead rodents."

Gotham City, Gotham General Hospital
Emergency Exit
12:20 AM

"Where would you like to be driven, counselor?"


"The airport, officer. A couple of days out of town might do me a world of good, right about now."

Harvey Dent held his coat to the side of his face as the door to the waiting police cruiser was opened for him. Feeling the the draft coming in from the East Harbor as he stepped inside, Dent only took it as a sense of relief in feeling the air on his skin again. The last three days had treated him to nothing but an infuriatingly monotonous series of nurses and doctors seeing to his head-wound, the stench of a hospital room pilferating his senses, and a heavy security prescence that had been sent on his behalf. Feeling at the large bandage covering his left temple, Dent sighed to himself, knowing that the bullet would likely leave a considerable scar. His head surgeon had suggested plastic surgery to fix this, but Harvey remained adamant that he be allowed to keep whatever trace of the attack in full view of the public. The voters loved a good war story, after all.

On the plus side, he'd recieved word in the morning hours that Mayor Thorne had fully authorized the task force to capture the man responsible for the attempt on his life. And in Dent's mind, there was no doubt in the validity of that copy of the police report left waiting in his room whenever he awoke from surgery - it had come straight from Precinct 27, the only honest group of cops left in Gotham. Despite his seemingly noble intent, The Batman had gone rogue, and wanted silence any dissention that would threaten to oppose his campaign of vigilantism. Half of Dent's mind was put at ease that the cowled maniac had shown his true colors, while the other half couldn't help but be disappointed. Under another set of circumstances, the two could've been allies.

But that was the truth of Gotham, in itself. It was rarely ever what it appeared to be on the surface. A certain darkness had always been lurking underneath, and Dent had felt it ever since he was a boy. To think that there were some out there who still considered this 'Dark Knight' a hero only bolstered the sentiment that there truly wasn't any hope left for the city. Of course, he wasn't willing to give up on her just yet. He just needed a day or two to get his head clear and work the painkillers out of his system so that he could get back to work.

VRRR. VRRR.

Pulling his vibrating phone out of his pocket, Dent looked at the caller ID and immediately chose to answer as the cruiser left the hospital parking lot, heading on the road that led directly to the South Central Airport. Harvey smirked as he leaned back in the seat, picking up a pad and pen that held the empty police report that he was supposed to file with the GCPD.

"I thought I told you to get a good night's sleep. You need your beauty rest."

"And I thought I told you to call before you even thought about skipping town.", the female voice on the other end sternly replied. "Before you ask, Janice told me you were leaving."

Dent raised an eyebrow.

"Did she, now? Well, I guess I'll just have to fire her for a breach of confidentiality."

"Be serious, Harvey. I'm worried about you. Three days isn't enough time to get over being shot in the head. And you've never wanted to run from these sorts of attacks before. What's changed your mind about this one?"

Harvey placed the pad on his lap.

"Maybe I'm just wisening up in my old age. As much as I'd love to get a crack at the freak that did this to me and sock him in the head, it's not as simple as it used to be. I'm not used to having attachments to be put in the crossfire, as it were, just on the off chance that I felt like pulling a publicity stunt."

There was a pause.

"So you really are doing this because of me."

Harvey smiled.

"That's a bit presumptuous, Ms. Walters. I do have other people that I care about, you know. Just none that are nearly as lovely as you."

Jennifer Walters tried her best to hide the small laugh that brought out of her, in spite of the situation. This was more serious than Harvey was letting on, and yet he was stonewalling her. As a fellow student of law, she knew that Dent would eventually realize that it was hardly going to work. And he knew it, too.

"Look, as flattered as I am by the gesture, you're delegating alot of responsibility onto Janice's shoulders by taking this little unplanned excursion to... wherever you plan to go. The press is already lining the block with questions, the police want to speak with you, and if I hear the word 'Batman' one more time in the span of another hour, I'm going to hurl your office television out the window."

Dent looked at his watch. He wondered just feasible it was to get a flight out of the city as soon as possible.

"Speaking of which, do you have any suggestions for travel destinations? I know you have a cousin that works out of New Mexico. Or did, anyway. Think I could crash at his place? Might be a good chance to work on my tan."

"He's out of the country at the moment, so I don't think that's in your best interest. Better to steer clear of him, anyway. He can be a bit... disagreeable.", she warned. "And besides. I'm in the midst of trying to talk you out of going, so it seems counterintuitive to help you on your way out."

Dent playfully laughed.

"Well, you could look at it that way. Or you could always just drop everything and come with me. I don't think we've ever properly spent a weekend alone since this started between us."

"Harvey. Either you stay or I cover for you. That's how this works. You're not in Brentwood studying up on your degree, anymore. You're the D.A. This isn't the type of job where you can call in sick. Unless you planned to get shot just to get some time off, in which case..."

"That is giving me far too much credit, Jen. And besides, I think Gotham will still be left standing if I go ahead and finish my recuperation elsewhere, especially with a target on my head that's still left to be resolv---"

BLAM!

"JESUS!"

Dent immediately jumped back in his seat as the passenger side window shattered under the force of the blast. His phone had been destroyed with a precision shot, immediately ending the call before he could so much as catch his breath. The sound was the same as the same sniper rifle that Harvey had heard the night of the rally, just before everything went dark. Scanning the rooftops outside the window for a possible sign of his assailant, Dent flew back as the car's driver immediately sped up, turning on the siren and illuminating the area in a vivid red and blue.

"ALL UNITS! ALL UNITS! THIS IS CAR NINETEEN! CODE THREE-SIX-ZERO! APOLLO IS UNDER ATTACK! I REPEAT, DENT IS UNDER ATTACK! WE NEED BACK-UP IMMEDIATELY!"

Gotham City, The Rooftops
East End
12:25 AM


"That's right. Keep on driving, officer..."

Deadshot reloaded the rifle as he saw the police cruiser peel onto 45th street at top speed. The truth is, he'd fired a warning shot in order to get Dent out into the clearing. Had he wanted to put the District Attorney down at that particular moment, he would've had to settle for a vantage point that could've compromised a clean kill. And after having Ivy in his head for the last few days, Lawton wasn't about to mess this up twice. He was going to prove that in control of his own actions, he was still an unbeatable shot. The fact that his daughter's life was threatened just made this task all the more imperative to finish, before the plant witch got impatient. If she knew that he had a daughter to begin with, it wasn't a stretch that Poison Ivy knew where Zoe and her mother lived.

Which meant that Dent was a dead man by dawn. Lining up his shot once again, focusing on the back of the panicking District Attorney's head as the car accelerated, Floyd smiled under his mask as the crosshairs locked onto it's intended target with no room for error.

"Heh. Easiest job I've ever pulled. Say goodnight."

"Goodnight."

Deadshot's eyes widened as the sniper rifle was immediately struck from his hands by a blunt, bat-shaped projectile. Rolling to the right, he immediately turned back and aimed both arms to the opposite end of the rooftop, readying his gauntlets to pump his attacker full of holes. He knew the voice of who had just spoken to him, and he wasn't about to let a second interference by the cape and cowled nuisance cost him the life of his daughter.

But to Floyd's surprise, there was no-one there. His eyes scanning the shadows carefully for even a trace of Batman, Deadshot turned back to the now distant figure of the police cruiser. If he didn't take the shot now, Dent would probably make it to the airport in less than five minutes. He had to get this done quick.

"Come on, you goth fucker! You wanna do this? Let's get it done right here, right now!", Deadshot angrily retorted. "You weren't facing me on my best day the last time we tangled, and I still got away! What the hell makes you think you stand a chance this time?!"

"Because I already told you once, Lawton..."

Deadshot felt a hard boot collide with the back of his head, sending him crashing onto the gravel of the roof beneath his feet. By the time that Floyd turned around to retaliate, his enemy was right on him, staring him down with the clear intent to ensure that he'd never be able to hold a weapon again, much less kill Harvey Dent in the allotted time.



"This is my city."
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Hidden 6 yrs ago 6 yrs ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 Create-A-Hero RPG GM, Blue Bringer of BWAHAHA!

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Branches and shrubbery swung behind him like saloon doors with dew covered foliage catching the moonlight. He ran. There were deep scratches upon his ankle, and thick fur matted from where the bothersome device used to be.

He hurdled a low fence and kept running, sometimes on four legs, sometimes on two. But he ran beyond a sprinter’s pace north through Jackson Park.

So far he’d only come upon three people, even though he’d been running for well over fifteen minutes. The reputation for crime in Chicago’s south side, especially by night, kept most of the people away.

There were still no living witnesses now anyway…

The warmth of fresh meat and viscera in his belly seemed to redouble his strength.

By day’s break, furry haunches turned to a man’s bare legs and started to slow. He found cover in an abandoned building near Douglas. He fashioned himself a makeshift toga from a sheet as he was too exhausted to do anything else about his nudity. He passed out leaning into a stack of empty cardboard boxes.

One day down and he was now free. If he could cross the border to Canada—if he could just make it through the next few days, maybe he could even keep that freedom.

🌕 🌕 🌕


A jew, a blonde and a frenchman are trying to buy a plane ticket out of the desert.

This is not how a joke starts, although it could very well be…

Marlene and Marc are looking up at the departure board and trying to figure out which is the best flight to connect back to the U.S of A.

“So we’ve got Cairo, Cairo, Kuwait, Cairo, Jeddah, Cairo, Brussels for some reason… Hurghada or Cairo.”

“I think they want us to go to Cairo…”

“Seems that way…”

Marc picked his bag up, gingerly trying to make sure not to pop his stitches as he slung it over his shoulder, and started to make his way to the line to buy tickets.

“Wait! My friends, wait!” DuChamp came running over.

“I have found us one better. A charter via Charles De Gaulle!”

“Of course you did…” Marc sardonically replied.

“Well, a charter probably sounds better than via Cairo wiiith… what do you know about EgyptAir?”

“I know that they’re a four star airline… and that the flight you’re looking at is an Airbus 321-200… and that those aircraft have not had the best of luck in the Sinai region where we are.”

“Not the best of luck how?”

“I know over 220 people died when a Russian Metrojet Airbus A321-231 broke apart leaving Sharm el-Sheikh International…”

“Marc, I think we should get the charter.”

Marc looked at Jean-Paul in irritation. “Why did you tell her that? You’re going to give her a complex about flying. And a charter’s going to cost a fortune.”

“Ms Alraune, flying is still the safest form of travel. Especially, when at the hands of a well trained professional,” with this he did a little bow with a flourish, “but some airlines and planes are indeed less safe than others.”

“Isn’t it true that commercial airliners are FAR safer that private and corporate chartered jets.” Marc said with a smirk. “I know I lost my memory, but I’m pretty sure that’s still true.”

DuChamp scowled at Spector, and then admitted defeat.

“This—is true. I would however like to see Paree again, even if it is only a flyover, because I don’t know when I shall see her next.”

Laying it on a bit thick.

“If you are both okay with it, I will pay for the whole charter. I can comfortably afford it, I do not spend my money very often. You’ll just have to both come over and fill in your details in the manifest…”

🌓 🌓 🌓


RIIIIIIING! RIIIIIIING!


A hand with the bright glint of cufflinks pressed a button on the phone to activate the speaker.

“Speak.” The bullish voice of Carruthers barked plainly into the mouthpiece.

The voice on the other end came in crisp and precise, the voice of a woman very much accustomed to being in control.

“I thought you’d want to know. Spector is on the move. It appears he’s going to be returning stateside. He’s been pinged booking a flight out of Luxor International.”

“Waller.” Carruthers growled. “I’m pretty sure the reason this part of your responsibilities were privatized was so that taxpayers wouldn’t have to waste any more money dealing with your failed matters.”

The reply came venomous, but with no change in tone, “Carruthers, I fail to see how it’s in taxpayers interests to wait and watch as you once again send stable, controllable situations FUBAR and then throw ridiculous amounts of money at my division to put out your fires.”

“He’s on the move again. Free tip. Do with it what you will.”

The cufflinked wrist moved forward and tapped the disconnect button.

“So… Spector’s on the move supposedly, can we verify?”

At that moment a hurried younger woman rushed into the board meeting.

“Let me guess… Spector is on the move?”

“Spector? No this is about the thing in Cell C.”

“You have an update on Russell’s whereabouts?”

“No. Not presently. He shrugged off the GPS anklet. And the explosive chip in his head didn’t survive the metamorphosis. But we know he’s on foot and that for the next three nights he’ll be forced to take his less thoughtful lycanthropic wolf form. His presence should be easier to track over those days since it’s markedly less subtle.”

“Miss Guilfoyle?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why have you just parroted back to me, exactly, word-for-word what I told some other nutless, nameless drone 4 hours ago when Jack Russell first escaped, and attempted to pass it off as a current status report?”

“I—I—I—I…”

“I… I… I… am wasting your fucking time, Mr Carruthers, sir. Can you people believe this?”

Carruthers opened it up to the floor. The round board table was surrounded by a dozen figures in equally well-tailored suits.

“You…” Mrs Conway started.

“Yes, Mrs Conway?” the young Ms Guilfoyle asked earnestly, still eager to please.

“No. That’s your name now. As in, ‘Hey you, where’s my fucking coffee.’ Or ‘Hey you, get the fuck out of the board room, you’ve wasted enough of our time already.’”

“Yes, Mrs Conway.”

“There wasn’t any extra to that. And the hint was in the examples. You. Get the fuck out.”

“Right away!” She scarpered out of the board room.

“Talking’s not required either! Every time you open your mouth, more fucking stupid seems to come out!” Conway yelled after her.

Bruno DelRayne rocked back in his chair. Deep in thought. “So we find out if Spector is on the move. And where he’s going if he is. As for Russell, he’s on foot in the Greater Chicago region since he escaped that facility. We can’t blow his brains out by remote because Waller’s kill-chip doesn’t work…”

“Agreed. We need to start to spin this on Task Force X’s failure to provide a functional control device. Spin liability for this off on Waller.” Said Blundell, looking at the issue from an accountability perspective.

“Not my point, but yes.” Continued Bruno. “We’re going to need an on-site team, and adequately debriefed.”

“That’s right. Send for The Profile. And if Spector really is on the playing field have him look into both files.”

Carruthers still burned from something Waller said, “And soon. This has the potential to turn very bad, very fast…”

🌑 🌑 🌑


Flint sat in the precinct for Central Detectives and tapped rhythmically on the keys, playing around with the dispatcher looking at different callouts. He checked the clock for what had apparently been the 4th time within 10 minutes, but it seemed to be toying with him.

“Flint! Check out Oh-Four-Eight-Niner!”

Willson called out to him, seeing he was just killing time. Flint tapped the dispatch job number in.

“You’re kidding me!”

He was looking at a homicide/possible animal bite in Jackson Park. Officer on scene suggested maybe a bear.

“A bear got as far into the city as Jackson Park?”

“It’s not unheard of…”

“True. But walked all the way into the city? Into Jackson Park, and then started slaughtering people. There’s two other deaths connected to this.”

“Well… Let them fuck around with their pet down South. So long as he stays down there he’s their pet, their problem.“

Smells like Team Spirit in the Chicago PD… Flint sighed to himself. It’d been going downhill ever since Gordon got himself transferred and promoted to take that Gotham gig.

🌗 🌗 🌗
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Hidden 6 yrs ago 6 yrs ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Guardian of the Universe

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"KAL-EL."

The Surfer reached up once more, energy pulsating from his hand. The Superman felt an invisible grip come over his throat.

"PASSING JUDGEMENT UPON YOU IS... FUTILE. YOU ARE NOT OF THIS WORLD, OR ANY WORLD THAT CURRENTLY STILL EXISTS. YOU ARE NOT MEANT TO BE APART OF THE TEST."



"FOR THESE REASONS, I SHOULD REMOVE YOU FROM THIS PLANET. FROM EXISTENCE ITSELF."




"You--...can try, pal," I say, a heat that can slice through titanium building up my eyes as I struggle the choking force. "But--*hgk!*--you're gonna find that harder than you might--"

Kal-El.

That's the word he said. A name, maybe? It's a word I've never heard before, but seems immediately....familiar. What the hell does it mean?

Unbidden, I see images, both completely alien and achingly familiar.

Pastel clouds whirling under the light of a red sun.

Spires of gold and diamond stretching into the sky, even floating in the air.

Screams. Blood.

Hordes of monsters, howling in agony and rage, shards of bone piercing through their ash-gray skin.

I'm being carried up a staircase, away from the monsters, from the screaming.

I hear the word 'Kal-El' again and again. And other words....other names, I think.....

Jor-El........

Lara.......or is it Kara?......

....and a word that seems to freeze everyone in their tracks when spoken.....

.....Zod......


The choking force around my neck tightens, bringing me back to reality, and I hear another unbidden voice. It takes me a second, but I quickly realize this voice isn't in my head, but being broadcast on a frequency only I can hear.

“Superman, we don’t have much time, so I need you to listen to me. My name is Reed Richards. Like you, I come from another world. On my world, we encountered the Silver Surfer and his master Galactus and we stopped them – not with force, but with knowledge.”

“The Surfer’s name – his true name – is Norrin Radd,” Reed added anxiously. “To save his homeworld, Zenn-La, he agreed to become the herald of Galactus. But the destroyer of worlds betrayed him, Superman, and if Norrin is here, he betrayed him on this world too.”

“You have to tell him the truth. Tell the Surfer that Galactus blinked Zenn-La – and the woman he loves – out of existence like specks of dust.”


I let the build-up of Heat-Vision dissipate. Regardless of whether what this Reed Richards guy says is true, I doubt the Surfer is going to listen while I'm trying to melt his face off.

"Surfer...*ngh!*....listen...." I struggle as the choking force grows tighter still. "Your master.....Ga--*hgk!*--...he's a liar!"

I feel the choking grip begin to slack, enough to let me talk. That's one step in the right direction, at least.

"I never knew my home planet," I say, meeting his glare, "But you knew yours, didn't you, Norrin? You made a deal with Galactus to spare Zenn-La, and he lied to you. He destroyed your world, your people...."

For a second, I'm not sure if I should pull the trigger on the next bit. But there's too much at stake to consider sensitivity.

"....your wife. Galactus took all that from you. What's the point of this if your Master's word means nothing? Why serve someone that you can't trust?"

I bite my tongue, waiting for a response.

I really hope this works. Because I'm not sure how much longer I can keep fighting this guy.
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Hidden 6 yrs ago Post by Nib
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Nib

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The winds held her in their grasp high above the ocean. All around the winds swirled and churned, pulling the ocean with them. Lightning struck and illuminated the massive funnel as it swirled onward toward the coast of Florida. All the while, the young woman floated in the center of it all, curled up in a ball as if sleeping peacefully, her pure white hair whipping about her. But, how did she get here? She was sleeping in her safehouse, hidden and safe, or at least she had thought she was. It was fuzzy, but she thought she remembered a woman with blue skin… The tempest surged through her very core, and she lost herself to the storm as it raged. She was the storm, the girl no longer mattered. The very winds were hers to command, the weather was at her beck and call.

On the coast, police officers and the National Guard directed the people as quickly and best as they could. The evacuation wasn’t happening quickly enough, but how could it when this storm just appeared? The traffik moved slowly, backed up clear down several streets. There was barely enough room for the squad cars to make it by. Rain pelted windows, and the winds pulled up loose debris and blew it about. In the midst of the chaos, a group of costumed individuals appeared out of nowhere. A brick fell to the ground between them all.

”Hey! Watch it! Yeesh! Teleport you all here, and this is the thanks I get, a piece a’ me just dropped on the ground like some normal brick from some normal street."

”Sorry, buddy. I got ya.”

Beast Boy bent and picked up the fallen, dusting it off carefully. He tucked it into a handy pouch on the belt of his black and white costume. The silver-haired, broad-shouldered form of Max Eisenhardt stepped forward, dressed in his own costume of red and purple with armored patches and a matching helmet. The wind caught hold of his cape and pulled it along behind him.

”We need to find who’s causing this storm and subdue them.”

”Shouldn’t we focus on helping the people… father,” Quicksilver glowered at his father as he spoke.

”We would never get this many people evacuated quickly enough. The best way to help them is to stop whoever’s controlling this storm.”

”Yes, but if this escalates we need to be certain those people are at least somewhere safer than on the street!”

The others present looked on at the bickering father and son awkwardly. Beast Boy shifted uncomfortably, scratching the back of his head. Magneto opened his mouth to protest but seemed to think better of it and closed it again for a moment.

”You’re… right. We’ll split up. Quicksilver, take Beast Boy and Miss Marvel. Cyclops, Jubilee, and Terra, you go together. Scout the area and start ushering people to the nearest safe locations.”

He was still ordering the team and Pietro around! He was supposed to be the leader of the Field Team, yet here his father was. He recognized the need for caution, but he also saw the impossibility for him to grow so long as he remained under his father’s shadow.

”And, what will you be doing?”

”I’ll be above and try to figure out who summoned this storm.”

”I can help with that!”

Beast Boy shifted form into a green-feathered royal albatross and flapped his wings.

”No, Gar - uh, Beast Boy. The winds are too strong for you to remain stable in the air. My powers will allow me to anchor myself with nearby metal and remain stable.”

The bird shifted back into Beast Boy, who nodded. With a nod of his own, Magneto floated above them into the storm winds. He reached out with the fine tuned sense he spent years training and felt the metal all around him. He pushed on the source beneath while simultaneously reaching out all around him and stabilizing himself against the harsh wind. Repeating this pattern was second nature to him at this point as he flew through the air toward the hurricane. As his form shrank into the distance and was swallowed by the heavy rain, Quicksilver scoffed as he secured his goggles and turned to the rest of the team.

”Well, you heard him… Let’s go.”

In a blur, he sped off up the alley and down the street, followed by Beast Boy in the form of a dog, and Miss Marvel levitating herself just barely off the ground. Cyclops, Jubilee, and Terra sped off in the opposite direction.
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Hidden 6 yrs ago Post by GreenGrenade
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GreenGrenade

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Tommy asked him for an explanation. “What the hell was that back there?”

Oliver sighed, and ran a hand through his hair – the hand not covered in the men’s blood. “Something… something I’ve tried to leave behind. Something I need to leave behind.” His eyes met Tommy’s. They looked back at him with confusion and concern. “I wasn’t alone on the Island, Tommy. Things… things happened there.”

Horrible things.

And he didn’t want to talk about them.
Previously…


The hot Star City day, Californian sun beating down on a scorching concrete jungle, reminded him of Dinah.

They’d go to South Shore together, in weather like this. The pier overrun with people, the smell of candy floss wafting through the sea-salt air, kids milling about on the sand and in the water, building castles and playing catch, their laughter mixing with the gentle roar of waves and choking call of seagulls. Wedged between Marquette and the Stockyards, this little slice of paradise had been Ollie and Dinah’s refuge from the city. They came here to escape the heat, escape the bustle, escape the confines of glass and steel and asphalt; it would just be them and the beach, enjoying the cold water and each other.

But good things never last, of course. Dinah ended things, and Oliver – well, he spent the next five years fighting for air to breathe and food to eat. Their sandy refuge died with their relationship and the Gambit.

Oliver sat in his father’s study, the A/C on blast. It was stuff like this that made him realise how spoiled he’d been – cold air on command, and he’d taken it for granted. If only there had been air conditioners on the Island. It still would’ve been a living hell, but at least it would have been a comfortable one.

Tommy hadn’t taken his explanation too well. It probably didn’t help that Oliver had refused to elaborate – what did he mean, he wasn’t alone on that island? What “things” happened there? What did they have to be, so that he could come home and take out three men like... like...

“... like friggin’ John Wick, Ollie?!”

Who John Wick was, Oliver didn’t know, but he didn’t much care then, either. The only thing he’d cared about was shutting this conversation down. “Bad things, Tommy. You’re better off not knowing.”

“Oh, yeah, great,” Tommy said, “Thanks, pal. That just – that really puts my mind at ease.” His eyes lingered on the unconscious, brutalised men. “Should we… should we call the police?”

As if the S.C.P.D. would come to the Glades. “Yeah. I’ll do it.”

“Oliver,” said Tommy, as Ollie started to dial 911. Pleaded. “At least… at least tell me how many times you had to do this. How many times did you have to…”

Fight? Brutalise? Torture? Kill?

Gee, Tommy, you’re gonna have to be more specific.

“Not a whole lot,” lied Oliver. “Only when the others hogged the fire. And that one time Robinson Crusoe stole my coconut.”

Tommy hadn’t found it funny. As they parted ways that night, Oliver felt a pang of something, a twist in his gut – lingering regret at the way he handled things with him. Alienating his best friend was the last thing he wanted to do, but the moment he even started to think about coming clean about the Island… about telling Tommy, telling anyone what he had to do over there… his gut twisted even harder, tied itself up in a messy knot, and the pit of his stomach fell and fell and fell and it felt empty, empty but for the daggers bouncing off its walls. So Oliver went home that night, feeling guilty for Tommy as well as the Island, and he spent hours lying in the expansive Queen Mansion yard, falling asleep beneath the stars.

Now, in the study, his phone rang. He looked at the caller ID – Walter.

“Walter, hey.”

“Oliver,” said Walter, “I tried to reach you last night.”

“Really?” asked Oliver. “Sorry, I must’ve had my phone on silent.”

Or he’d ignored him, lost in his thoughts and the sky.

“I talked with the board, Oliver.”

“And?”

“They roadblocked me. Hit me with the ‘sinking ship’ line, just like I did with you.”

God damn it.

“I’m sorry. I tried, Oliver, I really did.”

“I know, Walter, it’s okay,” said Ollie. “Thank you. It was worth a shot.”

“Indeed it was.” He paused. “Lunch tomorrow, you and Thea? Sorrentino’s, at one o’clock?”

Despite himself, Oliver smiled, although Walter couldn’t see it. “Sure, yeah. I’ll let Thea know. See you then, Walter.”

“Goodbye, Oliver.”

Ollie hung up.

Anger churned deep within him. His own father’s company wouldn’t help him, wouldn’t help thousands of people, displaced and dying, in the Glades. They’d sooner turn over a profit than – oh, the horrorhelp people.

Three cheers for corporate greed.

It made Oliver feel sick. What was he going to do now?

How was he going to help the Glades?

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Hidden 6 yrs ago 6 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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For a second, I'm not sure if I should pull the trigger on the next bit. But there's too much at stake to consider sensitivity.

"....your wife. Galactus took all that from you. What's the point of this if your Master's word means nothing? Why serve someone that you can't trust?"

I bite my tongue, waiting for a response.

I really hope this works. Because I'm not sure how much longer I can keep fighting this guy.


The Surfer motioned with his hand and pulled Superman towards him until his physical hands were around the Man of Steel's throat. The Surfer surveyed Superman with his fiery eyes. He felt a pang somewhere deep down in his chest. It was the spot where his heart had been. This Superman was indeed worthy. Too worthy for this world.

"WHAT IS GALACTUS?" asked the Surfer. "THAT WORD HOLDS NO MEANING FOR ME."

With his free hand, the Sufer stretched out his palm and held it to Superman's face. Energy crackled from the orb and singed the edges of his face.
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Hidden 6 yrs ago Post by Sep
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Sep Migs Mayfield - Core

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T H E F L A S H

Revalations Part Two:
NOT FAST ENOUGH

Music





Iris went for the Surfers board, she could faintly hear the Surfer deem her not worthy or something, she was sure she had seen that in a movie somewhere before. She grabbed the board just as he had mentioned something about exile.

Then she tripped over something as she was hit by a wall of dry, scorching heat. She stumbled and came to a halt as a drop of snow fell down on her exposed nose. Rubbing her eyes, blinking, they finally adjusted to her new reality. "I don't believe it." She looked up, and stretching out above her was one of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. That wasn't even the craziest part, it had started to snow. She shook her head as she started to look around, talking to herself. "Head in the game, West."

Iris saw the board drifting lazily over to some very confused tourists, some of whom were taking snaps of what was going on or had decided to start backing away slowly. She took a step towards the board and it suddenly levelled out and started spinning around like a needle of a compass trying to find North after it had been messed with by a magnet. Suddenly it locked onto something and before she could get any closer it started speeding off in that direction. Iris could only imagine it was one thing – the Surfer. The board was trying to make its way back to him. With her and Superman they had almost taken him down, without her there she was worried about what the Surfer would do. She had never ran further than Coast City from home, and that was just for pizza.

Now the fate of Superman, Central City and possibly the world was at stake. She had to go faster than she had ever gone before, her father had always told her to focus on what she was going toward and the rest would work itself out. Lightning coursed through her veins as she pushed on after the board. The sand and the heat pushing against her body, a cloud of sand created in her wake. The board crashed through sand dunes in an explosion of sand, making her glad that her mask had lenses to protect her eyes. The first dune was the most difficult, as she pushed up it she caught air as it had a more sudden drop than she had expected.

Frustration washed through her, whenever Iris was in the air her speed started to drop. Pushing herself harder she barely heard the boom behind her as she pushed through the soundbarrier.

All she could do was push on as the board became smaller and smaller, inhaling deep she let the power behind the lightning fully consume her. Her limbs crackled with electricity, energy and the power of the lightning. As Jay had told her to, become absorbed by it. Recognise its power, use it. It wasn't about her running, it was about the lightning flowing through her and pushing her onward.

The board became more than a dot in the distance as she passed onto the ocean. She didn’t slow, she couldn’t. If the Surfer got his board back, the fight would go on for even longer. They needed to end this. Pushing herself even harder as she moved away from anywhere she could potentially hurt anyone, two waves created in her wake like a speedboat she powered over the water. Her feet barely sinking less than a millimeter before she lifted them to take another step. In the back of her mind there was a note of joy, on some level she felt the rush of the speed. Using the adrenaline to fuel her she pushed herself even harder as she came level to the board as she zipped through, what was probably Spain, and onto the Atlantic Ocean.

She’d really need to brush up on her geography if this was going to become a recurring thing.

Reaching out to grab it her hand passed straight through it and she swore, stumbling slightly as she had overplayed her hand. Quite literally she fell behind as she levelled herself out. Coming round at the board from the other side she attempted again to grab it, to have her hand pass straight through it a second time. Iris had to question if this was a side effect of the speed she was achieving, or some kind of defense mechanism the board had in it. Swiping her hand through it again and again, more out of hopelessness rather than the misguided belief that eventually it would work, she had to think of something else. Fast.

Earlier, she had barely got a punch in edgeways, however… Something clicked in Iris’ head. When she had punched him after forming the vortex, at high speeds. Momentarily he had lost his chromed look, her energy messed with his power cosmic. Maybe when she had built enough of it up in her system from running at speed, she could disrupt that within his body. She ignored the board.

Running side by side with it in the strangest race she had ever ran. If the board got to the Surfer first it could be game over for everyone, but if she got there first then there was the chance she could end it before it went any further. Maybe they would finally get some answers as to what was going on. As soon as they hit the coast she dug into the last of her reserves, ignoring the faint pain in her muscles and her lungs screaming for more oxygen. Breathing as fast as she could, she pushed on. Pulling ahead of the board as she knew where she was.

Screaming at the top of her voice somewhere in New Hampshire she hoped that Superman’s hearing was as good as people claimed it was. Screaming as slow as she could, so he could get the words.

“LOOKOUTSUPERMANI’MCOMINGRIGHTATYOU!”

Bursting through streets and over cars, the lightning coming from her, and the power of the board caused shorts and power outages through every town and city they passed through. She winced slightly at the damage caused, but couldn’t let that distract her. Emergency services, even other heroes could pick up the damage caused. Crossing through, finally, into the Badlands she screamed as she pushed herself off of her feet into a jump, twisting her entire torso.

Lightning coursed through her limbs, she could see it sparking on her fist as she extended it past her head, almost as if it was threatening to shoot out of her fist. Passing Superman, her first slammed right into the side of the Surfers face.

Three things happened.

A shockwave erupted in the area, pushing everyone away from each other and even sending the Surfers board into the ground.

There was a deafening explosion.

She felt a stabbing pain through her entire body. Iris just knew that something was broken, and once again thankful for rapid healing. She couldn’t think about it for long though, as she fell backwards her head hit the ground and the world went black.
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Hidden 6 yrs ago 6 yrs ago Post by Morden Man
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Badlands, Central City

Blood. There was dried blood in his mouth. The Silver Surfer tried to drag himself to his feet slowly but felt his feet give out beneath him. How long had he been unconscious? It was impossible to tell. The ringing in his ears was so loud he could barely hear himself think. What had happened to him? The last thing he remembered was having the Kryptonian in his grasp. Then what? The Surfer gritted his teeth, trying to piece together his memories, but found the scattershot images, incomplete and blurry, little to no help. Whatever had hit him, the Surfer couldn't remember ever being struck that hard before.

He couldn't remember very much.

In the distance, the Surfer spotted his board. It had cracks all along it. From the ground, he extended a hand towards it and tried to beckoned it to him. It inched along the ground slightly but for all of the Surfer's efforts seemed incapable of much more. The Surfer let out a groan and let his face slide to the ground in frustration.

Above the ringing, the sound of a rotors approaching broke the Surfer from his despondency. A SHIELD helicarrier was creeping its way across Central City towards the herald. It was still several minutes out from the look it. There was still time for the Surfer to make his escape. But escape to where? Why was he on Earth? What had brought him there? The Surfer wasn't sure anymore. He had come there for a purpose, that much was clear, but the force of the blow had made him forget it.

He had forgotten himself.

Out of the corner of his eye the Surfer spotted Superman sprawled out over some debris. What was it that the Kryptonian had called him? "Norrin Radd," he remembered, as he searched his jumbled memories for some meaning in the name. Was that who he was? Had he been something before he'd entered his master's service? It was all too much. He dug his elbows into the ground and force himself to his feet.

As the Surfer stood he noticed that one of his hands had lost its silver coating. Beneath it a pinkish, fleshy hand was exposed. He noticed two distinct scars across the hand that resembled claw marks. For a half second a memory flashed through the Surfer's mind of a far-flung planet. It was unlike Earth. A paradise, of sorts, where knowledge was sovereign. He saw the world consumed by flames and heard screams that rattled through him like nails on a chalkboard.

What was happening to him?

He staggered forwards a few paces. The helicarrier drew closer by the second. He needed to move. His master would be displeased with him if he failed to report back to him. Galactus? No, that wasn't right. Nothing about this situation was right. The Surfer glanced down at his forearms again and this time noticed the Silver had crept all the way back to his biceps. He let out a gasp and kept limping forwards.

At his feet was Iris West. She was unconscious – or so the Surfer hoped. He found himself kneeling before her and placing his fingers against her neck. He wasn't sure why. He felt a faint pulse against his fingers and with it a sense of relief rushed over him for the first time. Compassion? The feeling took him aback. He shook his head, rejecting the notion, and climbed to his feet weakly again.

With each step towards his board he felt the strength leaving his limbs. He needed only make it there. Once he was aboard it, he would be free of this world, his master's will could be done. One memory after another flashed before his eyes as he struggled towards the board. Screaming, then serenity, followed by more screaming. His world in ruins and the Surfer unable to defend them.

Zenn-La?

The name sounded foreign to him. This was all foreign to him. The helicarrier was within a minute from him now and his board was still out of reach. He had to escape. He always escaped. With one last push of his beaten, broken body, the Surfer extended towards his board.

He fell to the ground in a heap still metres short of it.

His breathing laboured, the Surfer stretched out a desperate hand towards what he thought was his board, but proved instead to be a piece of shrapnel that must have been knocked loose by the impact of whatever had hit him. He dragged it towards him as he heard the sound of the SHIELD helicarrier touching down. There were agents disembarking it in the distance as his weary arms brought the shrapnel to eye level.

The silver coating that had once adorned the Surfer's face had crept away to reveal his true face. It had been so long since he had seen it that he'd almost forgotten what he looked like. As his tortured, tired eyes rested on his features, his memories came flooding back to him.


As soon as the revelation had entered into his mind, he felt his master's hold over him tighten. Even from a distance, he could feel the tendrils sliding across his brain, rending his memories away once more, as the silver coating began to creep over his arms and legs again. He fought against it – tried to break free from his master's control – but couldn't muster the strength.

Instead the Surfer crumpled, the sound of SHIELD agents making their way across the Badlands in the air as he drifted out of consciousness.
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Hidden 6 yrs ago Post by HenryJonesJr
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HenryJonesJr

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I shift uneasily while I walk next to Doctor Kafka and two of her colleagues through the halls of Stryker's Island Prison, the mirror opposite of Ravencroft Institute. The dark grey stone of the prison looms around me like a living shadow, trying to suffocate the light from the world. Vertical and horizontal bars break up the sold rock, giving me a window into what it's really like in prison. I don't feel pitty for the people I know deserve to be here, but I know at least a portion of the eyes staring at us as we traverse the cell blocks should not be here. It's one of the few injustices I'm probably not able to solve, and that tugs at me.

"You can see how terrible this environment is for rehabilitation," Dr. Kafka waves her hand dismissively at the surroundings. "Punitive, barbaric containment is no trail to teaching the criminal there is a better way. It ingrains their desire to lash out. Creates career criminals or men and women too bitter to restart their lives after they're released."

I consider her words before responding, "But some people can't be rehabilitated, right? Someone like Max Dillon, or career criminals aren't going to change their mind if they're treated nicely?"

"No, of course not," she agrees. "Some men just want to watch the world burn. But that is such an insignificant sector of the prison population. The fact that we thrown so many into places like this is a failure of our society. One I hope to one day eliminate."

"More power to you, Doc," I respond with a smile. Yea, I am definitely gonna like working for this woman. What would be an obnoxious screed to most makes my little, counter culture heart flutter. "What's your read on Firefly?"

"Please, Gwen, his name is Garfield Lynns," she becomes visibly upset at the use of the super villain's name. "I will allow no mention of that other moniker when dealing with him. Aliases contribute to delusions of grandeur. It ensures the patient will continue to see themselves as a conqueror instead of a human. When they elevate themselves above the general populace, they cannot see how their actions affect them."

It makes sense, sure. If Lynns seems himself as "The Firefly, Bringer of Cleansing Fire", he's not really going to consider himself human.

We're escorted to an area with a Plexiglas cell in the center. Inside, sits Garfield Lynns. The man is small, almost frail-looking outside of the contraption he used to fly and without the flamethrower he was brandishing the other day. His rail-thin form is lost in the orange prison jumpsuit he's adorned in. The burns on his face are highlighted by the harsh color, and wisps of remaining, blond hair sit on his head like they were dropped there. His eyes, cold and barely lifeless stare out in front of him.

"Gwen," Doctor Kafka looks down to me, "please stay here. I will speak with Mister Lynns. I want you to observe. Take notes. See what you can tell from him. We can compare notes later."

I merely nod as she heads over and enters the cell. The man is shackled to the table, something she clearly does not approve of as her face puckers at the sight of them.

"Mister Lynns," she announces her presence to the arsonist, who seems to be pulled out of a trance by the words. His eyes snap up to the doctor, still with a thousand yard stare. "My name is Doctor Ashley Kafka. I'm here to talk to you."

"You hear to tell me I'm crazy, doc?" Lynns smiles at her, the grafted skin on his face stretching like wax dripping off a candle. "Because I can save you some time. US Marine Corps. Two tours. Where I got my good looks. None of that PTSD bullshit. Maybe some disillusionment, but nothing compared to when I got back and saw that the country had lost its damn mind. Worshipping freaks in capes like they're gods."

"So the advent of superhumans made you angry?"

A snort of derisive laughter escapes, "I don't give a crap about them. What I care about is the people of this country treating them like they're some divine saviors. They're not. They're causing us to lose our way. And I want to make sure the people see them for what they really are."

"And what's that?"

"People. Mortals. If you make God bleed, and all that."

"So you want to show people there is no reason to put the so-called superheroes on a pedestal?"

"Exactly. Show them that there is only one god," he sneers. "And he doesn't wear a cape."

**********


In a dimly lit, backalley bar, the leaders of the Yakuza and China Triad meet in a rare show of truce. While the Kingpin tends to keep the peace in the city, the Triad and Yakuza work under him reluctantly. They prefer to rip each others' heads off in the streets to let the stronger of the two stand victorious and exhaulted. Instead they have an uneasy partnership in the the streets of New York. If pressed, both leaders will admit the agreement is beneficial, but the men on the streets still thirst for a confrontation.

Three members of each gang are the only patrons. Behind the bar, a fat barkeep stands, his shirt barely holding against his gut like a dam against a flood.

"Well," Shigeru, the leader of the Yakuza leans back, sipping on a beer, "why have we been called to this little meeting?"

The air around the assembled groups is thick with dust and the stench of stale beer. Their Italian shoes stick slightly to the dirty floor, but none of them would ever think to wear anything else.

"Why were you called?" Tzu, the head of the Triad, scoffs back. "You were the ones who contacted us."

"Impossible," the Yakuza leader shakes his head. "And if neither of us nor the Kingpin called the meeting, then who did?"

"I did," a voice announces from behind the bar. Each leader's bodyguards spring in front of their charges, ready to take on its owner. From the back room steps a large man, dressed in black from head to toe, with a high white collar and a black mask with a white spider emblazoned on it. "I am the Black Tarantula. Perhaps you have heard of me."



"The one who has been fighting the Maggia," Tzu nods. "You have been a thorn in our organization's side for some time now. Give me a reason why I shouldn't have my men remove your head from your body."

"You are more than welcome to let them try," he presents himself to the men.

With a motion from both the Asian mob bosses, their guards rush at Black Tarantula while the pudgy barman runs from the scene.

The first man to reach the Tarantula is grabbed by the throat and slammed down into the bar by the South American crimelord with such force that the solid wood exploded into splinters. The second man throws a kick, which is ducked at astonishing speed, before he is punched with such force he is thrown through the air, crashing through the table the bosses are sitting at. The third makes the mistake of getting too close, receiving a devastating elbow to the side of his head, caving it in and sending him to the ground in a heap. The fourth, rather than tempt fate, retreats, leaving one of the Triad guards alive.

"Smart," the Tarantula laughs softly.

"What are you," the Shigeru recoils at the display.

"I have become more," he responds, crossing his arms. "And I come with an offer. Join me. Overthrow the Kingpin. Become the kings of the city. You are treated as second class in his organization because, like us, you are outsiders in this land. He fears what you are able to do. While I treasure your skills. All me to help you achieve your deserved place in the sun."

"We accept," Tzu replies quickly. "For too long we have not gotten our dues. It is time that changed."

"Have you no honor?" Shigeru shoots back.

"There is no honor among thieves, my friend," Tzu smiles.

"Good," Black Tarantula turns to leave. "Kill him, and we shall get started."

**********


"He wasn't working alone," I shake my head as Dad and I sit down to dinner. "That's for sure. He's a marine grunt. Doesn't have the means to get tech like that."

"That's cop thinking," he points out.

"That's exactly what Dr. Kafka said."

He scoops a helping of mac and cheese onto my plate, "And what was her diagnosis?"

"Basically? That he had a tenuous grasp on reality, and the emergence of superheroes pushed him to where he thought his actions were necessary. It makes sense, but it's ignoring his enablers."

"You may be right," he shrugs. "But that's not your job as a doctor. You need to see what's wrong with him, and try your best to fix it."

I nod and push my food around my plate, "I know. But I guess I'm gonna have to try and forget about all that cop stuff someone pounded into my head."

"Hey, guilty as charged."

Our relationship is starting to mend after our fight about his new position. I think he took it as a sign, and isn't spending every night at the precinct every night. I also haven't run into him on patrol since the night with the Enforcers, which helps. I think he was really embarrassed by the web grenades, and it set him off for a while.

But I think I'm going to need some help tracking down the Firefly's tech supplier.

And that means talking to DeWolff.
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Hidden 6 yrs ago 6 yrs ago Post by Master Bruce
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Master Bruce Winged Freak

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Gotham City, The Rooftops
East End
12:45 AM


BA-BLAM! BA-BLAM!

"Come on, come on! I don't have all goddamn night!"



Lawton hurriedly reloads his wrist-mounted weapon as he leaps his way over to the next roof, only barely losing a step as he sprints ahead. I make my presence known when nessescary, to throw him off whenever he gets too comfortable. Not entirely the approach I would've preferred, given I wanted to cripple him before he could take his next shot at Dent, but it works effectively enough under the circumstances. He made for an escape as soon as he realized that I was trying to prevent him from reaching his target. As it stands, we've been engaged in a tense chase for the last twenty minutes. To him, I'm appearing and disappearing at will, leaping out of shadows just long enough for him to miss his shot, before I'm gone and the cycle repeats all over again. It's an old trick I picked up in Tibet, roughly translated to "wrath of the coming ghost". In reality, a bit of well-placed timing and distraction at work, but the method renders me looking as though I'm only a patch of darkness that he can't hope to shoot. And judging by the live readings that ACE is feeding me of Lawton's pulse rate and adrenaline levels, it's starting to get to him more than he's letting on.

BA-BLAM!

"You think this voodoo shit is gonna work forever?! You're an idiot! In case you haven't noticed, we've only been getting closer to your precious D.A. since I made a go of it!", he taunts back at me, firing another round. "How much do you wanna bet on your chances of stopping me when we reach him, Bats?! Because if this were Vegas, I'd be putting my chips on Dent reaching the morgue by sunrise!"

In response, a batarang comes hurtling out of the shadows. He only narrowly manages to dodge it, and proceeds to shoot it out of the sky with a laugh. Dammit. Looks as if he's getting harder to hit, himself. As much as I keep thinking that I still have the upper hand in this, Lawton's right about at least one thing, unfortunately. I haven't been able to draw him away from a path to the airport. Something about this approach needs to change, fast. Or he'll get his chance to take Harvey down regardless of whatever distraction I try and implement. Keeping pace as I weave through the darkest corners of Gotham's cityscape to avoid being spotted, I tap the side of my cowl to re-establish voice commands on ACE.

"Scan the area ahead. Isolate empty floors of each individual building over a five block radius."

As you wish, Mr. Wayne.

The read-out through my cowl's lenses are overtaken with a vivid yellow grid that aligns with the buildings that I can directly see, aswell as a few that I can't. It'll take a few seconds for it to produce any results, but ACE is running off of Waynetech's most advance satellite imaging technology. It had the schematics for every building in Gotham pre-rendered before I even asked, I just needed a live status of each floor. Makes the job alot easier for me to carry out. I'll have to congratulate Todd on his work on the 'demo' version of the program. The months ahead will be full of fine-tuning and integrating with my current arsenal, but based on it's performance tonight, I already consider this technology a success.

You have seven available options ahead of your current trajectory.

Before I can respond, Deadshot spots me for the first time on his own and fires, forcing me to roll to the left. Rookie mistake, on my part. I was getting too distracted and allowed my enemy to take the given advantage. That won't happen again, is what I have to tell myself. Dent's life depends on it.

"We're running out of time. Give me the closest."

The building on 81st and W. Barr Street is currently closed for business. No patrons or staff were identified on the top floor penthouse.

I smirk to myself, unsheathing The Utility Gun from the holster attached to the armor plating beneath my cape. Shifting through it's settings as I make a run for Lawton, I press the button to activate the tri-grapple. Gives me three targeted shots that are triangulated into the suit's active sensors. 81st and W. Barr Street is just to the right of us. My task is simple from here. Re-direct Lawton's path and ensure that we land in an area that he can't easily escape. Which should make the location ideal, given that it's the site of a top floor restraunt that Bruce Wayne has frequented over the last few months.

"Lawton!"

Firing the tri-grapple, I leap into the air and allow the first line to fire out as a dummy hook, causing him to fire his next shot in the opposite direction. With the momentary distraction, he doesn't notice as I kick him directly in the chest and fire out the second line, attaching itself to a nearby railing. Working off of the proper momentum built by the attack, I attach a twin pair of sonic emitters to both of his wrist-guns before he can line up another shot, ignoring the pain as he manages to elbow me in the jaw. I slam my forehead directly into his, pulling back on the line and propelling us into the air. Lawton begins to fall, but I grab him by the throat and continue on with the swing, targeting the glass roof of the restraunt.

"About my chances. You might want to rethink your odds."

Laying a hard right hook across his face, making sure to strike the broken nose I gave him just a few nights ago, I let go of the line and tackle him mid-air, preparing us both for the considerable descent. He tries to fight me off, but we're already airborne. There's nothing for him to do now but realize what's happening and brace himself. Silently, he relents and allows it to transpire, just seconds before we hit the glass. This isn't going to be pleasant for either of us, but it has to be done.



The force of Deadshot's spine compromises the integrity of the glass, and our combined weight is what shatters it. If neither of us were wearing kevlar or some type of protective armor, this would've meant either of our deaths. But instead, we're both very much alive, unable to control the fall as we tumble down onto the hard marble floor of the empty establishment. He yells out in pain as he lands shoulder-first, and I twist myself to the best of my ability, allowing me to take advantage of this otherwise disasterous scenario. Landing on the sharpened spikes of my gauntlets, I use them to propel myself upwards and into somersault, giving into a roll across the floor.

By the time that Lawton painfully forces himself up, he can't see so much as a glimpse of me amongst the darkness. Reaching up with both wrist-guns intent on a kill, he attempts to fire them both multiple times - only to realize that neither one are working. The sonic emitters did their job.

"You... absolute... son of a bitch..."

He wheezes, stumbling against a dining table as he removes the weapons from his wrists. By now, he's realized that I used the emitters to jam the firing pin that's hidden away in both of the gauntlets. I crouch behind the counter to the kitchen, just a few feet away from him. Watching to see what he'll do next, as it informs my next course of action.

"I'll kill you for this. I really, truly will. You have no idea what the fuck you just did by costing me this job. You don't get it, Batman. Stopping me never would've made a difference. Either way, someone was gonna die tonight. Either Dent or somebody else, just incase I failed. I never had a choice in the matter, and you just made sure of that!"

I narrow my eyes, wondering if he's telling the truth. I already know he is, but I just don't want to consider it's possibility. ACE is feeding me enough information about him on the cowl's feed to give me a rough form of a polygraph. Whoever hired him must've gained some form of collateral, because Lawton seemed alot more desperate tonight from the moment I tagged him. It could be something that I could use to my advantage, but that hardly matters compared the impending danger to someone else in Gotham. I need to force a confession out of him.

Manually adjusting the voice-scrambler inside of the throat plate attached to my cowl, I ensure that the pitch makes it seem as though I'm speaking from the other side of the room before speaking. Don't want to give my position away just yet.

"No one's going to die tonight, Lawton. Tell me who hired you. Do it now, and I'll still be able to save whoever else is in danger."

Pausing, perhaps to momentarily consider the offer, he nevertheless reaches into his boot to produce a customized .47 semi-automatic. Unclipping a latch attached to the hilt, he pulls the weapon apart, revealing that the one gun is actually two, and both are equipped with laser sighting and a flashlight. I silently advance from the kitchen into the dining area as he starts to make a sweep for me.

"Oh, we're way past the point of negotiation, you goddamn freak. If someone's gonna put a bullet into somebody that I love tonight, you're gonna have the decency to join them in death when I put one right between your eyes. That's the least I can do to try and make this right."

Producing another batarang, I toss it low and aim for a chair just behind Lawton. He hears it and immediately fires off in the direction that he believes I'm hiding in.

BLAM! BLAM!

"You're not listening."

His heart rate increases, as if to tell me what he's thinking. Or more accurately, what he's feeling. And that's pure, unbridled fear. Certainly not of me, but likely of what'll happen to whomever this third party is if he isn't able to carry out his hit on Dent. He's already given up on the job, but I refuse to let the person who hired him commit another murder.

"I can get to the person who's responsible for this faster than you. Just stop and think about it, Floyd. This person wanted Dent dead. They let you carry out the hit, but allowed me to be blamed for it."

Deadshot laughs, scanning the room with the loaded pistols.

"Oh, forgive me if I don't weep for your professional image."

Ducking beneath a table just before his spotlight can give me away, I remain entirely still as he passes by.

"That's not the point and you know it. You're letting them use you. And if they already knew how to get you to cooperate, killing Dent was never going to make a difference. You know that."

He stops in his tracks.

"You don't know a damn thing about this, asshole. I could've made it work if I did the job well enough. I could've saved her! You're the one that stopped me from doing the job! You're the reason this went sideways! If it weren't for you, Zoe wouldn't have to die!"

Zoe.

I looked into Lawton's file shortly before I left The Cave. Alfred procured it for me whenever he told me the true identity of Deadshot that he was able to garner from his contact inside of SHIELD. Floyd's right to be scared. Zoe Lawton is his daughter. His young, innocent daughter who never should've been put in the crosshairs of the person pulling Deadshot's string. I can either blame him for that and risk the girl's life, or I can appeal to his sensibilities and reason with him long enough to get a name.

"Your daughter will remain safe if you give me a name, Lawton. Stop letting your pride dictate how this goes down. No one in Gotham is untouchable."

Bullets bounce off of the nearby tables, as he starts flipping them over to see if I'm under one of them. He's getting more frantic. Even more disoriented than before because of the grief that's consuming him. Lawton clearly loves his daughter more than he would ever admit, but it's blinding him to the opportunity that he has to save her life. There's no reasoning with grief, especially coupled with loss. I know a great deal about that myself. There's only cold hard facts. And right now, Deadshot isn't going to want to hear any of those, either.

"I don't know how the hell you know so much about me, but it doesn't matter! This is only gonna end one way, Bats! Come out and face me like a man! I'll do it quick or I'll do it slow, however you want it! But you're gonna die for this! You think you're some big damn hero, but you don't even know the half of what you're up against! The shit I've seen would make your hair stand on end! There's no arresting this freak of nature! No jail that can even hold the bitch! So you're wasting your breath in even trying to get me to talk!"

My mind races to try and discern whom he's referring to. A female, obviously, which leaves me with considerably few known figureheads or connections to one of the Five Families. The way he speaks of the woman, she must be metahuman, mutant, or otherwise especially gifted. Selina Kyle made mention of the fact that The Penguin is assembling a group of colorful hitmen. One of his, perhaps? Or maybe a new player altogether.

"Final warning, Lawton."

"Fuck off! Just fuck off!"

This isn't a road I can go down. There isn't enough time. I'm thinking about this too logically. Letting what I know of the criminal underworld shift my theories into opposing directions. Deadshot's the only one that can give me an answer, and if I have to force it out of him, it looks like now is just as good a time as ever if there's still a prayer of saving his daughter.

"Fine. Then we're doing this the hard way."

Removing another set of sonic emitters from my belt, I toss them across the floor and allow them to roll under the remaining tables that Deadshot hasn't upended. These are especially potent, but I'm not looking to jam his firearms, this time. The emitters that I just laid out were built with a specific purpose in mind, and it wasn't to affect the environment. It was project sound. Specifically, the sonar frequency of a certain animal that I've come to know well. Reaching down to the buckle of my belt, I slowly twist a dial that controls their pulse.

"ARRRGH!"

Holding his hands over his ears, Lawton drops to his knees and - more importantly - drops both weapons in his hands as the hunting cry of twenty thousand brown bats threatens to just barely avoid splitting open his skull. Taking the opportunity while he's distracted, aswell as ensuring that I don't deafen myself as I approach by lowering the pulse to a more managable level, I throw the table that I'm positioned under off of me and make a mad dash for Lawton. He tries to recover, still in excruciating pain and likely to have a burst eardrum, but I jump into the air and force my knee into the back of his neck.

He hits the floor hard, allowing me to stomp on his spine hard enough to prevent any notion that he had of getting to his feet. His fingers twitch, as though he's about to reach for some previously unseen weapon on his person, but I lean down and immediately grab his left hand. Using my knee to keep him down, I place the hand against my heel.

"Who hired you to kill Dent? Who's threatening your daughter?!"

"I'LL KILL YOU! I SWEAR TO GOD, I'LL---AAAAAAAAAH!"

His threats turn into a loud scream as I break his hand under the weight of my boot. Each individual finger suffers, but the bones are going to need to be set throughout the entire wrist down. A job for Elliot Memorial Hospital, not me. Forcing him onto his back as he grasps at his broken hand in agony, I look at one of the pistols he dropped. Torture is something that this man has been trained to withstand. He's ex-military, worth at least a dozen decorated marksmanship medals. He's been through this before. But what he isn't prepared for is a wildcard.

I pick up the gun, turn off the safety, and aim directly in his face.

"WHO IS IT, LAWTON?! TELL ME WHO IT IS!"



"TELL ME WHILE YOU STILL HAVE THE CHANCE!"

He stares back at the gun. But something about his blood pressure changes. Instead of spiking, it... normalizes. Doing something that I wouldn't have expected, he raises himself ever so slightly and places his forehead against the barrel. My eyes widen as he reaches up to grab my hand and force me to pull the trigger.

"A life without Zoe isn't a life worth living. And this life has always been shit to me, anyway."

He... wants me to kill him.

He wants me to end his suffering now.

Gritting my teeth, I push his hand back and smash him across the face with the barrel of the gun. Then immediately empty the cartridge and toss the weapon over my shoulder, far from either of our grasp. I won't give into what he wants. This isn't about his livelihood, it's about the life that he still has the chance to save. But I refuse to take a life - any life - for as long as I live. It's not the way I ever intend to do things, and I'm sure as hell not going to start now just because an assassin-for-hire has a deathwish.

"What? No! No, damn you, I wanted you to do it!"

I jab him directly in the face, irritating the injury sustained to his nose.

"I know you did, psychopath. But you're not getting out of this that easily."

Grabbing him by the front of his outfit, I lift him to me and stare him directly in the eyes.

"You're going to tell me what I want to know, or I'm going to do something worse than kill you. I'm going to wait right here, and allow your employer to realize that you failed. I'm going to watch you realize that you're killing your own flesh and blood by denying me the answer."

Lawton looks back at me, horrified.

"Jesus Christ..."

"What's it going to be, Deadshot?", I ask him, enraged. "Life or death?"

He tries to fight me off even further, but between his broken hand, his injured face, and his completely tarnished spirit, he eventually stops and falls limp. Still conscious, but ready to face whatever fate awaits him. If he had the chance, he'd probably take out one of the guns still on his person and put it to his own temple. But he doesn't have the will anymore. He doesn't have what it takes to murder his own daughter by inaction.

"Ivy."

My fist stops short of laying into him again, surprised.

"She... calls herself Poison Ivy. And she has the power to control what other people do for her, with no say in it for them. She controls everything that's about to happen to Zoe. You couldn't even begin to stop her if you fucking tried."

Poison Ivy. The rumored drugrunner that was giving the Five Families a bit of trouble a few weeks ago. Moving product that was far more potent than anything currently circulating the streets of Gotham, and doing it in a way that no one could track. If she's a meta, I just discovered how that's possible. But what's worse is that if she can do what Lawton says she can, it's too high of a risk for me to seek her out on my own.

There's only one alternative.

"One last thing, Floyd."

Grabbing him hard by the throat again, I lift him off of the floor and stand, letting him start to choke. He doesn't know it, but I just became the best chance that Deadshot has of saving the life of the only person he may still have left in this world to care for.

"Your ex-wife's current address."
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Hidden 6 yrs ago Post by Retired
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Retired "Hayao Miyazaki"

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B L U E D E V I L


6:00 p.m. PST | July 13th | Los Angeles, California

It had amazed Daniel how incredibly boring a police scanner could be. Calls ranging from drunk and disorderlies, domestic disputes, and vandalism to fender benders, overdoses, and difficulty breathing. He had had no idea the sheer amount of people that apparently fell down and couldn't get up in this city. It was hours of impatiently lying in bed before he finally had heard a report worth responding to.

Now, he stood outside a back alley in a commercial district of West L.A.. The alley was flanked by a dive bar on one end and an ethnic grocery store on the other. Through the narrow passageway itself, he could see the overflowing dumpsters and wet, discarded bits of newspaper and other pieces of litter scattered across the ground. The various signs of tagging across the conflicting grey concrete and red brick walls demonstrated how little this section of the city was cared for. At the far end where the entrance to both businesses opened onto the main street, Daniel could see the flashing, multi-colored lights of Los Angeles' finest. Their police vehicles cordoned off the front and several officers positioned themselves behind the metal barriers, their various firearms pointed towards the entrance of the dive bar.

Daniel knew from the radio chatter he had heard on the way over that inside the bar were several armed individuals. Gunfire had been exchanged prior to the police arrival and now there was a tense stand-off as officers attempted to negotiate those inside to surrender peacefully.

He glanced around him, making sure the police reinforcements hadn't yet arrived to block off the back entrance. Thankfully, Dan thought, the LAPD were spread thin these days otherwise there wouldn't have been a chance of him getting this close.

Several pops rang out from the street and officers ducked behind their cars for cover. Daniel, too, pulled his head away from the alley and flattened his back against the wall. He closed his eyes to steel himself and took a deep, long breath. Living in L.A., Dan was familiar with the sounds of gunfire, but he had never been this close to any sort of violence in his life.

"C'mon, Dan. You can do this." He said out loud, psyching himself up. "You have the powers of a freaking demon, just go in there and get shit done. You have the element of surprise. You can end this before anyone gets hurt. Go. Go. Go."

His legs twitched and feet tapped furiously at the ground as his anxiousness grew. The staccato of exchanged gunfire increased, almost seeming to match pace to his tapping. Then, a louder bang resounded in the alley followed by hurried footsteps.

Dan peaked back around the corner just in time to see two individuals knock the emergency exit door open, slamming it against the concrete. The continued peppering of gunfire from their colleagues inside masking the sound of their escape. The black steel gripped by each of the men drew Daniel's attention, and he felt his heart tighten in a brief moment of fear.

"Now is the time, Daniel Cassidy." Astaroth's voice showed no sign of sympathy. "Move."

The demon's words spurred the teenager forward as the now familiar dull glow enveloped his mortal form and from it emerged the powerful, intimidating visage of the hybrid. Daniel quickly rounded the corner, intent to move fast, utilizing the techniques Astaroth had instructed him on to knock out the criminals before they had time to react. He barely had taken a step into the alley, however, when he came face-to-face with the barrel of a gun.

One of the gunmen, a short Hispanic man in a tank-top, his entire torso covered in tattoos that crawled up his neck, let out a startled swear at the sight of the hulking blue figure. Unfortunately for Dan, the man wasn't surprised enough to lower the handgun still aimed at the center of his chest.

The thug's partner, a slightly taller but much wider man holding a tire iron in one hand and another pistol in the other, called out: "what the fuck is that?"

Daniel froze, pupilless eyes comedically wide. The sight of the deadly weapons pointed directly at him momentarily shutting down all thoughts other than fear and regret.

"Yo, freak, Hollywood Boulevard is that way. Take you and your ugly ass costume out of here and forget you saw anything." Said the first man.

Daniel didn't react. He thought he heard Astaroth's voice somewhere in his mind urging him to strike, but the furious beating of his heart was deafening.

"Are you fucking stupid?" The tattooed one waved his handgun to stress his words. "Move outta our way, now!"

The exchanged gunfire from the front of the building lessened in intensity, and several of the officers could be heard giving orders to move in.

"We don't have time for this, cops will be on us any minute. We need to go." The second thug chimed in, glancing back at the flashing lights before turning back to Daniel and raising his own pistol. "Just waste him!"

Daniel flung his arms up in front of his face in what he knew to be a pointless gesture of protection. He clenched his eyes shut firmly, and for the briefest of moments, he saw the faces of his family. The distinct sound of the guns firing into his body resounded throughout the alley. He felt nothing, but as the faces of his family faded from his mind he could hear voices calling his name. Beckoning to him, urging him to the afterlife, he was sure.

Daniel Cassidy...

Daniel Cassidy.

Daniel Cassidy!

"Daniel Cassidy," the familiar voice echoed in his mind.

Dan's mind began to clear of the fog of fear that had overtaken him. Astaroth's words calling through to him like a beacon.

"What are you doing, Daniel Cassidy?" The demon said. "Open your eyes and fight before your enemies flee."

The young man snapped his eyes open and lowered his bulky arms back to his side. Not sure if he should be more surprised or relieved, Dan glanced down at his chest. Small bullet holes had torn through the fabric of his shirt, but there was no blood. He couldn't even feel any pain. Dan's eyes caught the glint of metal on the pavement below him, the small slugs lay there, compressed from impacting his skin.

The shorter of the gunmen swore again. "The fuck..."

Daniel looked back up towards the two criminals who stood unbelieving at what they just witnessed. The bulkier of the two still pulling the trigger of his now spent firearm, too stunned to fully register what had just occurred.

A muscular blue arm shot forward as Daniel finally acted, his confidence and mental faculties now returned to himself at the discovery of his apparent invulnerability. His open palm caught the first of the would-be-murderers in the left shoulder, the force of the strike launching him off his feet and colliding with the dumpster halfway down the alley where he slumped unconscious. Daniel winced at the audible crack of what he hoped to be just a dislocated or broken shoulder.

At this point, the second of the men dropped his weapons and turned to run the opposite way, back towards the cops who were now storming the front of the dive bar.

Daniel pushed forward, moving with considerable speed for his large size, and reached out to grab the back of the thug's collar. The shirt tore slightly in his grasp as Dan yanked the stocky man backward. This time, however, with less strength as he now realized how dangerous he himself could be to regular humans. The criminal fell onto his back, and Dan was sure he now caught a stronger sense of piss in the alley than before. A slowly darkening spot across the front of the man's ill-fitting pants only served to confirm this. But Daniel gave it little thought as he heard the LAPD hastily secure the inside of the bar. With the sounds of gunfire in the alley less than a minute before, he knew they'd be moving to check out here soon enough.

Reaching down he snagged the discarded tire iron, the flat edged tip stained in blood from God-knows-what activities. Moving quickly, Daniel took the piece of metal and brought it towards the thug's legs. With little pressure, Dan contorted the bar into a loop around the ankles, forming a makeshift but effective cuff to prevent the man from running off.

The nearing sound of footsteps urged Daniel forward as he took off down the back of the alley, rounding the corner just as several officers converged into it.

A soft glow later, and the now human form of Daniel Cassidy booked it back towards his car parked several blocks away. Two thoughts repeating in his mind over and over:

That was insane!
And how do I explain the holes in my shirt to mom?
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Hidden 6 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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Morden
1998


“C’mon, Jer, don’t be a pussy!”

Jerry Lambeth cursed to himself before he started down the tunnel. His two mates were already halfway down the corridor and were rapidly fading into the dark. Jerry hurried after them, worried his white trainers would be stained by whatever the hell that was covering the floor. The three boys had found the little passage a week earlier on one of their many adventures through Morden. Today, after school, they had finally worked up the nerve to go through the door and see where it led.

“I heard a story about a bloke who went down here,” said Rob. “Supposed to be a bank robber or something, innit? They said he got eaten by rats. He could have gotten away, but he refused to drop the money he was carrying.”

“What a load of shite,” said Brian. “It’s just an urban legend, mate. Like the West Ham van.”

“What’s that?” Jerry asked, huffing and puffing as he tried to keep up.

“You never heard that story?” Brian asked with a snort. “It’s as old as the cobweb’s in your mum’s fanny!”

“Fuck off,” snapped Jerry. “Least the boys ‘round the way don’t have to take a number to shag my mum like they do with you!”

Jerry and Brian started pushing each other, daring the other one to take the first swing like young boys always do. Neither one of them bold enough to actually make the first move.

“The story is this,” Rob said as he stepped between them. “Supposedly football hooligans drive around in a shitty van and ask people if they support West Ham. If you answer no, they chase you down and slice your face open with a knife.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Jerry.

“It’s true,” replied Rob. “My brother’s best mate’s sister’s cousin said it happened to a schoolmate of theirs.”

“Well, there you go,” Jerry said with a harsh laugh. “Concrete proof, innit?”

“Fuck you,” Rob said with a hiss. He pushed Jerry, knocking him to the ground.

Jerry felt the back of his head connect solidly with the concrete floor. His vision blacked as he lost consciousness. Jerry's body seemed to be floating on air. He felt his consciousness sinking down to somewhere below. Through the dark he could hear the sounds of laughter, high-pitched and shrill. The laughter faded. It was replaced by off-key singing. It was loud and close by.

“I'm forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air/They fly so high, nearly reach the sky, and like my dreams they fade and die./Fortune's always hiding, I've looked everywhere/I'm forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air!”

When Jerry snapped his eyes open, he was standing on a deserted street somewhere in Morden. It looked to be day, but he wasn’t sure. The sky above was a sickly pale green. In front of him was a van, its grey paint rusting and in the process of flaking off. The driver revved the van’s engine while a man with a skinned head leaned outside the passenger side. He wore a sleeveless shirt, letting Jerry see the large tattoo on his forearm. It showed a castle with two criss-crossing hammers He flashed a grin at Jerry, showing off two rows of cracked and broken teeth.

“Oi!” he shouted. “You support West Ham?!”

Jerry screamed in terror and ran as fast as he could. He heard the hooligan cackle and start singing the West Ham fight song again. The van’s engine roared as it barreled down the street towards him.

---

The Tate Club
Now


The tuxedo and evening dress crowd of the Tate Club were gathering in the club’s cleared out ballroom. Clarice and Albert were busy instructing them on their part of tonight’s ritual. Among them were Jack Hawksmoor and Map, making themselves ready to play their part. Off to the side, John and Chas watched.

“So what is it, exactly?” asked Chas. “This Underland nonsense you’re all prattling on about.”

“It’s a realm,” John said, expelling smoke as he spoke. “It’s where London’s urban legends and myths live. You ever heard the story about the rock star who had a gallon of semen pumped from his stomach at a London hospital?”

“Who hasn’t?”

“Well, he’s down in the Underland with a belly full of baby batter. Every half-remembered story or whispered tale you heard from a friend of a friend’s uncle. It all gets filtered down there. Not just today’s stories, but every story for over two thousand years.”

“Fucking hell,” said Chas. “Sounds like a nightmare.”

“You said it,” nodded John. “But it’s a double-edge sword. All that myths and residual psychic energy that comes from belief, it’s the stuff that powers the magic of London. That's why guys like Map and Jack can't go down. It'd be like a fucking feedback loop for them. So... that's why I god own. Someone or something is down there, throwing a spanner into the works.”

“Should I start heading to the dispatch then?”

“Yeah,” said John. “If it goes to hell, then they'll give you a ring so you can play your part. But for now you’re just on stand-by.”

“Got it.”

Chas started to leave. John reached out and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Wait,” he said. "I meant what I said earlier, Chas. We’ll go for a pint once all this gets settled.”

“Right,” Chas said with a nod. “You know my pub, right?”

“Sticks and Stones,” said John. “You’re as predictable as the weather, mate.”

Chas smirked and winked before he left the ballroom behind. John turned and saw Map looking at him.

“We’re ready for you,” he said. “The question is, are you ready for us?”

John laughed and flicked the stub of his cigarette away. The elderly members of the Tate Club sat in a circle on the ballroom floor, their hands interlocked. John stepped over them and walked into the circle. Map and Jack were inside the circle, standing and facing each other with their arms out.

“Tonight, we invoke the spirits of London herself,” John said as he drew a pentagram on the floor in chalk. Chalk made specifically from the London soil. “We seek to call forth a bridge to that mystical and sacred land underneath the city itself. The place of myth that has existed since the time of Londinium.”

The members of the Tate Club began to chant in Latin and started to call forth the bridge and invoking the old city just as John had. Map and Jack shut their eyes and brought their hands together, both men drawing from the power of London to give Constantine strength. Suddenly, John could feel something tug at his chest. It was hard and sharp and it took his breath away. He let out a gasp and his body collapsed to the floor.

---

???

John’s eyes opened. He was standing in the middle of a deserted London street. He looked up in the sky and saw it was an emerald green hue. He was in the Underland. John walked over to a shop and looked at his reflection in the shop window. His face was smooth, his blonde hair a shade darker than it was today and the bangs done up in spikes. His rumbled shirt and tie was replaced by an immaculate pinstriped three-piece suit and a pair of snazzy white gloves.

“I’m back,” he said with a grin. “The big, bad magic boogieman of London.”

The sound of a roaring engine drew his attention away from the glass. He spotted a gray van racing down the street towards him. A terrified boy of about eleven ran ahead of it. A football hooligan hung out the van window, chanting some fight song and waving a knife. John reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a brand new pack of cigarettes and a fresh lighter. When he had the first drag off his smoke, he looked up and saw the kid and van were almost to him.

“Bloody hell,” John sighed as he stepped forward. ”No rest for the wicked, then.”
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Hidden 6 yrs ago 6 yrs ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Guardian of the Universe

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"--acting on their own is one thing, but if they start getting together--"

"--unidentified attacker shot down a passenger plane over--"


"--only knows how many people woulda died if Superman wasn't--"

"--pursued the metahuman knows as 'The Flash' out into--"


"--worried? One can bench-press the whole damn continent, the other can outrun--"

"--issued a statement saying that operatives of SHIELD are taking the assailant into--"


"--very seriously consider the implication of the impact a metahuman faction would have on the international--"

"--wanna act together to keep the world safe, I say more power to 'em! The world could use more--"


"--jumping to conclusions; there's nothing to indicate this was anything more than an isolated--"





"Nnnngh....." I let out a pained grunt as the world starts to come back into focus. For a while, everything was a cold, dark blur. Now everything's a warm, bright blur. I guess that's an improvement. Pain still shoots up and down my body, which actually gives me some confidence. It means I'm still alive.

The last thing I remember, the Surfer was trying to blast a hole through my head. Whatever that stuff was about 'Zenn-La' and 'Galactus' that Reed Richards was banking on, it didn't seem to affect the Surfer at all. I'm going to have to have a word with him about the veracity of his information-- I don't know if I was actually about to die there, but I'd rather not take another gamble like that.

I sit up and rub my eyes, blink a few times....and see a man pointing a gun in my face.

"Superman! Stand down!" he demands. He'd decked out in military gear, holding a rifle that looks years ahead of what the average Army grunt carries. The eagle logo on his tactical vest gives away his affiliation to SHIELD-- but I suppose the giant flying battleship touched down about a hundred yards away would do the trick as well. "This area is now under SHIELD jurisdiction!"

Looking around, I see a dozen operatives forming a circle around me, rifles at the ready. Another ring of soldiers isn't far off, surrounding the Flash, and a third surrounding.....someone. By all appearances an average adult caucasian male, but then again, I usually pass off for 'average' too. It must be who the Surfer is underneath all that chrome.

I stand up, and as I do, I hear a chorus of clicks and clacks as the soldiers train their rifles on me.

"I....I said stand down!" the SHIELD agent shouts as I stretch and rub my sore muscles, trying to get some feeling back into them. "Y-...you are under investigation for unauthorized metahuman activity, and will be brought in for questioning! Now.....now stand down, or......or--"

I don't say "or what?," but the look I give him sure as hell does. Turning my back to him, I walk towards the Flash, the soldiers parting for me. I'd like to think I wouldn't have shoved them aside if they didn't, but nearly having your head taken off and then waking up to someone else making threats would make anyone annoyed.

I focus my vision, seeing past the next row of soldiers and giving the Flash's prone form a cursory scan. I try not to abuse my abilities when I can avoid it, chief among them my 'X-ray vision'-- it can easily lead to breaches of people's privacy, to put it lightly--so I avoid looking at her face or, well, anywhere else I shouldn't be looking as my vision sifts past the material of her costume and I start to check for injuries. Nothing major, no internal injuries as far as I can tell. Some broken bones, which already seem to be knitting themselves back together. From what I can tell, she'll be fine in no time, as long as the SHIELD agents don't do anything stupid.

"How about instead of pointing your guns at her," I call out to them as I approach, "You give her a round of applause instead? Considering she just saved the world and all."

As the ring of soldiers nervously part, I kneel down to the Flash and see if she's regaining consciousness.

"You going to be all right?"
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Hidden 6 yrs ago Post by Lord Wraith
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Lord Wraith Actually Three Otters in a Trenchcoat

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The lindwyrm bellowed triumphantly before spinning around to face its felled foe. As it approached Tyr, the beast extended its long, narrow jaws, snapping them together with each nearing step. An outstretched hand struggled to regain his fallen weapon, as Tyr laid with his arm outstretched, crawling along the ground. Urgency swept across Tyr’s body as he felt the beast’s sickly warm breath at the nape of his neck, the snapping teeth biting at his heels before tearing away part of his cloak. Relief washed over Tyr as his fingers touched the hilt of his sword, nearly wrapping around the pommel stone before a roar of angst was tore from his throat. Long, sharp teeth pierced his ankle as Tyr was suddenly was dragged backwards, out of reach of his weapon.

Hoisted into the air, the lindwyrm had Tyr had its mercy. Dragged through the cavern in every which direction, Tyr found himself the beast’s play thing before he was suddenly tossed back to the ground. A low rumble came from the creature’s throat as Tyr defiantly stared back at the rows upon rows of curved, sharp teeth. Salvia dripped from the creature’s open maw as it came steadily closer to Tyr only for the lindwyrm to let out a loud yelp as it was raised into the air before Tyr’s eyes.

The creature’s long, thin talons scrambled to regain contact with the ground as they scratched and clawed the empty air before its head violently collided with the rocky ceiling. A hiss escaped its mouth as the creature fell to the ground, digging its claws into the rocks and soil as Tyr moved back. The lindwyrm let out a terrible scream as it lunged forward, its powerful arms launching the snapping jaws towards Tyr once again only to stop short of the Asgardian before the beast was dragged away at the last possible second. Dust and ash clouded the air as the lindwyrm was dragged through the tunnel, its skull colliding with either side before it fell to the ground.

The sound of palm against palm echoed through the tunnel as the dust settled to show Thor standing triumphantly with a foot placed firmly on the beast’s tail. For the first time, Tyr finally saw the man the boy was quickly maturing into as he continued to dust his hands.

Smoke expelled itself from the lindwyrm’s nostrils as an eye reluctantly opened, the orb rolling around in its socket hazily before focusing on Tyr. Realizing he had let his guard down, Tyr rolled out of the way as a gout of fire exploded from the creature’s maw. Regaining his sword, Tyr turned to face the beast only to be driven back by another blast of the beast’s fiery breath.

“Thor!” Tyr roared as the young man moved into action. “Catch!” He called, releasing his hand as his blade whirled through the air. Watching as his uncle threw the sword towards him, Thor sprung into action as he raced down the spine of the creature. Launching himself off the lindwyrm’s shoulders, the force of his jump drove the creature towards the ground as Thor wrapped his outstretched hand around the hilt of Tyr’s blade. Raising the sword above his head, Thor spun the weapon around as he wrapped his other hand around its grip.

Runes at the base of the blade glowed like fire in the dimly lit cavern as Thor plunged the blade downwards. Bone splintered as skin gave way to sprays of blood as the Son of Odin thrust his uncle’s sword deep into the creature’s skull, ending the beast’s life.

A roar of laughter filled the still cavern as Thor wiped the lindwyrm’s blood from his brow before dismounting its head.

“Now that’s how you become a man!” Tyr roared victoriously. “You’ve honored your ancestors today, boy! There’s never been a louder chorus of cheering in Valhalla than there was today!”

A sheepish smile crossed Thor’s face as he cleaned the blade before presenting his uncle’s sword to its rightful owner.

“The day would not have been won without you, Uncle.”

“Aye, but it would have been surely lost without you.” Tyr retorted as he slapped Thor on the back, squeezing his nephew’s shoulder. “Now come, the dwarves owe us pavement and I had something special requested.”

Looking at his uncle in confusion, Thor watched as Tyr raised the blade once again, cleaving the beast’s head from its torso before binding its jaws it with ropes. Once finished, Tyr handing the loose ends to Thor as he spoke.

“Pull this for an old man, Nephew.” He ordered with a smile as Thor could only comply as he tied the ropes around his own torso and dragged the trophy behind the pair.

“Asgardians!” A voice called out as the pair reached the center of the mines. “You have been triumphant!”

“Not too shabby for an old warrior and a prince barely off his mother’s teat,” Tyr replied as the foreman looked towards the ground. “I assume you have what I requested.”

“I do.” The foreman replied as he motioned to two others behind him who came forth carrying an object between them hidden beneath a tarp. Turning to his right, the foreman pulled the tarp off the object as the dwarves held the weapon towards Tyr for inspection.

“Come here, boy.” Tyr ordered as Thor released the lindwyrm’s skill and moved to his uncle’s side.

“Does this tribute meet your expectations, Son of Odin?” Tyr asked as Thor looked at the double-headed axe before him. Two crescent blades adorned a curved shaft as Thor examined the weapon. Intricate craftsmanship adorned the weapon as a bear’s roaring maw adorned the base of either blade, silver knotwork tying the two blades together and repeating on the pommel at the base of the hilt.

“May I?” Thor asked, nodding towards the weapon as Tyr smiled and motioned towards it approvingly while the dwarves nodded. Taking a hold of the hilt, Thor gave the weapon a swing, it felt balanced and natural in his hand before he spun it around feeling the weight and momentum.

“What is its name?” He asked as the foreman answered.

“Jarnbjorn, m’Lord.”

“It is to be yours, Thor.” Tyr stated. “A gift to welcome you to manhood.” Tyr watched as Thor continued to test the blade. “Well, what do you think?”

M A R V I L L E, O K L A H O M A:

S A T U R D A Y, J U L Y 2 8T H, 2 0 1 8 - 1 0 : 2 4 a m | M C N A L L Y ‘ N S O N S F A R M

“What do you think?” Lamb repeated as Blake shook his head.

“Sorry, Sheriff?” Blake asked as he moved his sunglass onto his forehead, his thumb and index finger rubbing the bridge of his nose.

“I asked, what do you think?” He stated as he extended a hand towards the slaughtered animals. “Did an animal do this?”

“Not one from around here,” Blake replied, the image of the lindwyrm still haunting his mind’s eye. He could feel Thor smiling, he had been silent since the events with Creel but even still Blake could feel the alleged God of Thunder’s growing restlessness. There had been several times in the past couple of weeks that Blake had woken up to discover that Thor had decided to ‘protect the nine realms’ while Blake lay sleeping.

It hadn’t taken Blake long after Thor’s second nocturnal heist to realize that his body no longer truly required sleep. But it wasn’t restlessness that Thor was emitting now, it was a desire, a longing. The big guy wanted a fight, something to test his ever-climbing limits as Blake’s body became accustomed to the power it now possessed.

“You reckon it was some kind of illegal pet then?” Sheriff asked, “Some kind of erotic snake?”

“Exotic.”

“Sorry?” Lamb asked as he looked at Blake in confusion.

“An exotic snake,” Blake corrected. “The only erotic snake is hopefully between you and your wife.” He added as the Sheriff smirked.

“Missus ain’t played with my trouser weasel since afore my Jenny was born, Doctor.” Lamb chuckled. “But there’s a really nice lady over that the chiropractor's office that’ll do an after-hours appointment. Next time you go, ask for-”

Suddenly the ground shook as Blake’s eyes went wide. A familiar roar echoed as Sheriff Lamb looked down at his feet in horror. Realizing what was about to happen, Blake closed his eyes, surrendering to the God of Thunder as Thor opened his eyes, a smile crossing his face. Jumping forward, Thor tackled Lamb to the ground seconds before the lindwyrm exploded from where the Sheriff had previously stood.

A crack caught Thor’s attention as the pair landed, Lamb’s skull bouncing off a stone protruding from the ground. Ensuring the Sheriff was still breathing, Thor left the unconscious man out of harm’s way as lighting shot through the air, striking the Son of Odin, his armor replacing Blake’s attire as he stepped forward, cracking his knuckles while looking up at the beast before him.

“You are big.” He smirked. “But I have fought bigger.”

M A R V I L L E, O K L A H O M A:

S A T U R D A Y, J U L Y 2 8T H, 2 0 1 8 - 1 0 : 3 1 a m | D O W N T O W N

In a small town, word travelled fast.

Even before the days of the internet, word travelled across a small time at the speed of light. A father knew the minute his son skipped school, a mother knew the minute her daughter bought her first pregnancy test, everyone knew everyone and talked about them as soon as they weren’t around.

The minute the lindwyrm emerged from Jed McNally’s farm, his eldest son, Tommy, had it on all of his synched social media accounts. The downtown of Marville froze in a seemingly shared moment of fright as the pale draconian snake graced the screen of every phone, tablet, and monitor in town.

It was the distraction of this event that allowed Amora to appear out of thin air without a single person noticing as she paced down the main street without a second thought given to the traffic around her. Horns blared as cars came to screeching stops or swerved at the last minute as the woman in the green cape brazenly defied the laws of Midgard.

“You there!” The Enchantress suddenly yelled as a lone man looked up from his phone as the strangely dressed woman approached him. “Where is the Odinson?”

“You mean Thor?” The man asked as the woman smiled in response. “Oh, apparently he’s over at Jed’s fighting some sort of monster.” He answered tilting the screen of the phone to show Amora.

“That’s a lindwyrm, you dolt.” She scolded, rolling her eyes as she continued. “A common pest, hardly worth the time of the protector of the Nine Realms, surely the Warrior’s Three could be entrusted to dispatch it.”

“The nine what now and the warrior who what?” The man asked confused as Amora raised her hand, closing her fingers together as the man’s mouth was suddenly sealed. Panic lit up his eyes as he felt to ensure his mouth was still present as his jaw made futile efforts to open.

“Which way to the ‘Jed’s’?” Amora asked as the man ignored her, still trying to open his mouth. Sighing in exasperation, Amora waved her hand as the man gasped. Looking at the woman in fear, he pointed before running away as Amora shook her head.

“Why are the men of this realm so pathetic?”

° ° ° °

Fists balled in the energy of the storm pummeled against the hide of the beast as Thor fought the lindwyrm. The lightning did little to slow the creature however, as it completely surfaced, roaring triumphantly as its arms suddenly spread to reveal wings that carried into the sky above the field.

“And that’s why you don’t fight in a field. Well played, Uncle.” Thor muttered as he watched the creature soar above him, razing the ground with a stream of a fire before suddenly a bolt of green energy collided with the beast. Crying out in pain, its wings ceased to move as the lindwyrm plummeted to the ground, dragging across the ground as it fell at Thor’s feet lifeless.

Looking to the sky above him, Thor saw a woman cloaked in green descending towards him, a smile plastered across her face.

“Hold, sorceress,” Thor commanded holding a hand up. “I am-”

“Thor,” The Sorceress replied as she slowly descended towards the ground. “No need to rhyme off your compensating list of titles, I know who you are.” She smiled as her feet touched the ground.

“Quite frankly, I’m a little disappointed.” She cooed approaching him further. “More handsome than the maids of Asgard let on, but far duller than the beast I’ve just slain.” Pacing in front of Thor, Amora raised an eyebrow as she turned to look at him. “Do you not recognize me?”

“It would seem you have me at a disadvantage,” Thor replied as Amora smiled before raising her hands towards him as a blast of emerald energy exploded from the tips of her fingers. Thor felt the wind leave his chest as he was lifted into the air and sent colliding with the side of the McNallys’ barn.

“Oh, darling,” Amora smirked. “You have no idea.”
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Hidden 6 yrs ago 6 yrs ago Post by DocTachyon
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DocTachyon Teenage Neenage Neetle Teetles

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”The Ranchero of Miracle Mesa” - Strings: Part Five; Finale

“The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.”

-Anonymous




Warpath, Texas




Greg Saunders felt at the edge of his own consciousness. It was a struggle to piece his thoughts together, words drifted away from his grasp and ideas seemed to disappear in puffs of smoke. It was just about all he could do to snatch what he could and hope everything wound its way back to normal.

It wasn’t so much like being a passenger in his own head, and it wasn't an out of body experience, either. It was more like watching a bad picture show, with a black screen held for an uncomfortable amount of time. Except the theater was an arena of hellfire, with demons and lost souls cheering from the sidelines.

Greg would've been baffled by the enormity of the place if he could think straight. It was like the one time his Pap had taken him to the Superbowl; the seats seemed to stretch out and beyond into infinity. Each row of chairs had seas of people up and down them; there wasn’t an empty seat for miles. Occasionally the sea of deadened faces was broken up by the visage of a demon, a deep red face screwed up into a perverse smile. Usually they had their claws wrapped around the headrest of the seat in front of them, squeezing and cracking the brimstone when the black color on the screen before them seemed to shift. But the people around them were hollow. Black and white phantoms, representing what they might have been, once.

The woman sat next to him was a young thing, but her cheeks festered a green color out of the monochrome. She rubbed the bump in her tummy and stared half lidded at the screen. Something seemed wrong with her. Something wrong with all the people here. The woman turned to face Greg and her head lolled at an unnatural angle. There was a groove on the opposite side of her face, where a bullet had blown out her eye and ear.

“You have to kill that man for us, Mr. Saunders.” Her voice crawled from her throat like a slug, the words seemed to slop out in a puddle of mucus.

Greg pushed himself backwards into the fabric of his seat and averted his gaze. His eyes locked on the screen. Something was changing -- the blackness was beginning to crack…



The body of Greg Saunders trembled. The doll began to steam in the Texas heat, wisps of smoke pushing through minute cracks in the wood facade. The tremble grew into a shudder, kicking up millions of sand particles. As soon as they settled onto Greg’s body they flash-burned into glass, tinkling off the side of his chest. Boiling red spiderweb cracks leaped across the surface of the laquer, up and down every inch of his form.

“DUUUUMMMMYYYYYY!” Greg Saunder’s body detonated like a homemade grenda, wood shrapnel speeding away at a thousand miles an hour from the only thing that remained; the Spirit of Vengeance.

Fire spilled from every hole and seam in what was left of Vigilante’s clothing, up to the inferno that surrounded a stark white skull. The creature pulled itself to his knees, not so much standing up as being levitated to its feet. It was a skeleton in what was left of Greg’s body. Motes of flesh still floated away and disintegrated into ash as a bony hand ripped Vigilante’s lariat from it’s hip.

The lariat cracked in the monster’s hand and curled around the top car of the barrier. The monster jerked its shoulder and the junker sailed into the depths of the desert, landing with a sickening crunch.

The Spirit jumped into the air in a plume of smoke and ash, easily vaulting what was left of the wall and coming down like a nuclear bomb. A corona of fire swept out from its point of impact, licking building facades and boiling away paintjobs.

The Dummy stood at the far end of the road, surrounding by statues of townsfolk. Their limbs were splayed out at unnatural angles, controlled by invisible marionette strings. The man himself sat astride Billy Gunn’s truck, his hand covering his eyes from the glow.

”We-ull hoe-lee shee-it! They did-uh nawt te-ull me tha-ut yew war a gosh-dang met-uh-hoo-man!” The Dummy said. He hacked out a cough. “That accent is fucking murder on the throat, by the way.”

“Your soul...” The Spirit took slow steps towards the crowd, a path of glass being burned in its wake.

“Is stained with the blood of innocents...” Its voice was powerful, booming with the power of thousands of anguished souls joined as one. It began to make slow circles with the lariat as it walked.

“Feel their pain.” The whip cracked and shot through the air for Dummy’s neck. Before it could make contact, a hand shout out of the crowd. The burning lariat wrapped itself up and down Billy Gunn’s arm in a vice grip. The Dummy cackled.

”Oh, I’m quaking in my fucking boots. Lose the Halloween costume and the melodrama and maybe I’d take you seriously.” The Dummy levelled his tommy gun.
”You want to tell me where the trident is? Or are you interested in seeing these fine folks filled with holes?” The collective mass of dummies turned to face The Spirit, their heads hanging and awkward angles from their bodies.

The Spirit snarled and the lariat untangled itself and snaked back to him.

“I will show you where.” It croaked. It’s hand moved slow and open-palmed down its leg, moving past the holster and down to a side pocket. Skeletal fingers wrestled with the button of the pocket. The Dummy looked on, eyes locked on the Spirit’s hands. It was a regular stand-off. Two gunmen locked on one another. Waiting to see who’d shoot first. The Dummy’s finger sat inside of his trigger guard. The Spirit’s opposite hand lay on the oaken handle of his pistol, slowly boiling away in the lollicking flames.

The Spirit’s hand closed around a folded sheet of paper. The Dummy looked on down his nose. The thing pulled out the paper gingerly, thumb and forefinger pressed against it. The flames seemed to recede from the paper, avoiding it at all costs. A dry wooden tongue tried to lick The Dummy’s parted lips.

The Spirit brought the paper to waist level. He flicked it out to full size. The Dummy kept his eyes on the blank side of the parchment. A skeletal finger crept around to the marked side of the paper, gingerly turning it around.

It was an Ad for Red Buffalo Dog Foods. The last remnant of the newspaper Vig had on him when he was dragged to hell. The Dummy’s finger started to press against the trigger, it was too late. A bullet fired through the paper, wreated in hellfire, blasting through the Dummy’s shooting hand.

”Sonofabitch!” The tommy gun dropped from the stump of The Dummy’s hand and he dropped to his knees, cradling the wound as a cascade of splinters still dropped from it. ”Kill him!”




Greg Saunders still wasn’t quite sure what he was looking at. There seemed to be an ocean of wooden bodies throwing themselves at the screen, being battered and thrown away by the pair of skeletal hands that dominated the POV shot.

He defeated them mercilessly, but nonlethally. After Hell, Greg could tell when someone was fighting to kill, and the creature wasn’t. He just pushed his way through the throng of bodies, sweeping some aside with the forms of another, the oak of their bodies suffering nary a crack.

Greg found himself transfixed by it. There was a kind of rhythm to the violence, a beating heart and a drive to it. It was like he could feel the creature’s drive in his soul. Kill The Dummy. It was like it flowed through the theater, every set of eyes, demon and human alike, paid rapt attention to the screen. Watching, waiting for The Dummy to appear out of the random chaos. Or to start shooting.

But something felt wrong to Greg. His stomach turned and grumbled, and he felt a little pressure behind his eyes. As if someone very small and very helpless was inside of Greg and trying to make themselves known. A tiny voice was whispering in the back of his head: “No.”

Should he feel bad…? The thoughts were running from him faster than he could collect them. He was dimly aware of rage of the edge of his mind. That someone would come and take what he had, but a mortal man. Not one of Mephisto’s forces. There was regret, too, sadness. To kill a man. But that all seemed ephemeral now. The creature was all there was, and all that ever would be. Vengeance must be done.




The Spirit grabbed a dummy's neck and hurled it back into the depths of the crowd. There were so many of them. For every puppet he dropped another rose and took its place, unconcerned with its injuries. It would be wrong to kill them, if they could die in that state. This was all about Him.

Dull images flashed in The Spirit’s mind. A frail boy bathing in the blood of bully, bowie knife clenched in hand. A disfigured young man, kicking open a door and unleashing a clip on women. Children. The same small man pouring gasoline over a Chinatown eatery. There was glee on his face.

Through the crowd of attackers, The Spirit could just make out The Dummy. The little man tried and failed to heft his weapon with the hand he had left, the wooden stump of the other was pressed tight against his chest. The Spirit set its jaw and hissed. There was a force behind its eyes, fueling the fires that broiled in its skull. The anguish and fear and pain of hundreds, balled up and pressurized into a cascade of hellfire, swelling up and down its body, driving its skeletal limbs towards their prize.

The creature snatched another from the crowd and battered away two others with it. It pushed now, making long strides through the crowd, bowling them over and clearing a path. The Spirit discarded the battering ram and sprinted for The Dummy, who looked around in fear, for perhaps the first time in his life.

The Spirit reached Gunn’s truck and battered it aside with an open palm. A burst of hellfire smashed into the car and flung it to its side, leaving nothing but open dust between The Spirit and its target. The Spirit’s jaw unhinged and free infero began spilling from it, accentuating its trail as it took its strides towards The Dummy.

The mobster pushed himself back with both his feet, trying desperately to bring the gun to bear. The Spirit’s lariat snapped out and pitched the weapon through a shattered storefront. The Dummy lay back on his haunches. Oil dripped down The Dummy’s face in place of tears.

”Do it.” The Dummy whispered. Any confidence in his voice was gone. He resigned himself to his death. He leaned forward, keeping his head down. Oil slicked the sands.

”Just take me out of this fucking hell.” He begged.

The Spirit placed a hand under The Dummy’s chin, and the flames licked his ligneous skin. He hefted him into the air.

”Do it!” The Dummy spat. Oil spittle burned on contact with The Spirit’s face. Two hands gripped either side of The Dummy’s head. A black blaze started in The Spirit’s eye sockets, boring into The Dummy’s soul.

“Look into my eyes. This is but a glimmer of the torment that awaits you.” The inferno made slow, careful circles through the air, covering and wrapping around The Dummy’s eyes, boring their way into his very being.

He was a little boy. Smaller than the other children. Weaker. The world itself seemed unkind. Skyscrapers reached into the sky all around him, monoliths that crushed him into his place with beneath their might. Mom and Dad looked at him funny. Took him to lots of Doctors, the ones they could afford. They told them stuff ie big words he couldn’t understand. Stuff about his face being all wrong. His arms and legs didn’t fit right on his body. He’d never get to be very tall.

The kids at school didn’t let him forget it. Every day, Bobby Fuentes would come around at the same time. Calling him the “Dummy Boy”. You could set your watch by it. Eventually, enough was enough. Bobby’s blood felt good on his hands. All warm and slick. It was so nice. But something felt wrong, now. A dim awareness washed over him. This was a memory. Pain started throbbing behind his eyeballs. No. Stop.

He felt it again. Twisting the knife in the bully’s guts. He felt it in his own stomach, the knife churning the food in his stomach from lunch that day, slicing through muscle and sinew and snipping his intestines. Vomit rose in his throat. Please. Let me die.

Now he was in Mr. Chow’s Food/Deli Emporium. He almost couldn’t focus on the smell of the gasoline over the agony in his abdomen. The fire rose up around him, licking off his skin and boiling the liquid of his eyeballs. NO! NO! NO!

He felt a hand on his face, that searing, unforgivable hand. The Man With The Tattooed Hand gripped his face. The wood swept over his body, suffocating every feeling besides the pain. The pain was all that was left. Sealed from the outside world of feeling, left to stew in the fire, searing his skin off over and over again, the fragments of steel in his stomach from the knife wedging itself deeper and deeper, hundreds of gunshot wounds. Anguish over lost children he’d never had. Dead fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters. Please, God. Tears.


Warpath had fallen silent. The dummies lay in a pile on the ground, unmoving without command from their master. The Dummy’s eyes were rolled back into his head. Living through the pain of every sin he’d ever committed. Over, and over, and over again. It was too good for him, but it wouldn’t be for very long. The Spirit took its time tightening the lariat around The Dummy’s neck. Dragging him to the old Saloon, gingerly stepping between the forms of the townsfolk. Dragging him way high up into the sky…

Release.
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Hidden 6 yrs ago Post by Supermaxx
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Supermaxx dumbass

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Brenda and Paco star in...The Runaway: Issue #7
Previous Issue





Washington, D.C

Three Days Later


"♫I see your red door and I want it painted black...♫"

The parking lot for Tito's Pawn Shop was barren, save for a single white van pulled up in front of the store. Paint it Black blared through the rolled down windows at maximum volume, the voice of Mick Jagger rolling across the street and beyond. A bulky figure with broad shoulders and a chest like a barrel sat in the passengers seat, his meaty fingers stabbing away at the laptop resting against the dashboard.

"Dreeessed in their summer cloothes-" He half mumbled, half sung under his breath, his head swaying to the beat of the song.

Paco Tejas slipped a hand away from the keyboard just long enough to pluck up the partially cold coffee cup from beside him. There was an obnoxious pressure in the back of his head as he finished gulping down the liquid fuel and tossed the cup to the floor. He had to be on his fourth shot of caffeine by now; it made for a poor substitute for sleep, but neither he nor Brenda had gotten the chance ever since Jaime was abducted.

Paco had been an emotional wreck since he learned Reyes hadn't escaped. While the casualty list hadn't included his name, it wasn't like him to not at least try to let Paco know that he was alright. If Jaime wasn't picking up his phone- and he wasn't, Paco had called him a hundred times- then something had truly gone wrong. Three days of radio silence was bad, but just how wrong it had gone wasn't fully revealed until Paco stumbled across grainy security camera footage on vigilante.net in his search for more information on the incident.

It was almost too much for Paco to wrap his head around. Some kinda...monster...had stolen his best friend's skin and used him to murder a bunch of people. He wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it with his own two eyes.

Brenda wasn't nearly as phased when he showed it to her. It was her idea to try and find Jaime themselves, rather than relying on the cops- she'd never been one to trust them. Paco had reluctantly agreed to go with her once he realized how serious she was about it. They'd sneaked away from the rest of their school group, rented a van from some guy Brenda swore her aunt knew, and started off on their rescue mission.

Or they would have, if they had any idea where Jaime was.

Thankfully it seemed like Paco was finally making some headway in his investigation as he clicked away. A number of people had claimed to have seen a creature matching the appearance of the museum monster. Some of them had to be false- like the one about it being in Metropolis- but another looked to have some promise. A portrait video shot on a smartphone showed Jaime's body snatcher holding a terrified man by the neck beside beside a small crater. Though no location was given, it didn't take Paco more than two minutes to find the account's IP address.

"Baltimore?" That was maybe a little over an hour from D.C. It wasn't much to go off of, he had to admit, but it wouldn't stop him. Paco pulled up google street view and started combing through some of the areas that matched the backdrop of the phone footage.

It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack, except Paco wasn't quite sure what the needle looked like, the haystack was actually massive city, and if he didn't find the needle soon then the needle would be dead. How was he going to explain that to the needle's parents when they got back to El Paso?

Still, he had to try. "Come on, Jaime, where are you?" He sighed, leaning back into his chair. It'd be a thousand times easier to find out where Jaime and his kidnapper had gone if he wasn't on the clock. He had about as much time to find out where they needed to go as it took Brenda to finish buying whatever it was she needed from the pawn shop, plus the hour long drive to actually get to Baltimore. He had to pray it was enough.

Thankfully for him, Brenda didn't appear to be in a rush. Paco brought his hands up to his face, rubbing the sleepfulness from his eyes. A field of patchy stubble stabbed into his palms from his full, rounded cheeks, reminding him once more that he'd forgotten to take a razor when he packed for their trip.

Almost as if on cue, the doors to Tito's Pawn Shop flew open, smashing up against the wall with an incredible bang that made him jump. A teenager with fiery hair stepped out, her face contorted in anger and a large case slung over her shoulder. The voice of a man screaming in Spanish coming from behind her managed to rise above the pounding of the music, his words filled with an intense vitriol that was easily recognized even if Paco couldn't understand a bit of it.

Brenda Del Vecchio spun around, her crimson locks flinging over her shoulder as she delivered an equally ferocious string of words that made Paco wince. A girl of that size shouldn't have lungs that big nor a voice that terrifying.

He slunk back into his seat, trying to pretend he hadn't just witnessed the tail end of whatever that was even as Brenda marched back to the van with a look of utter scorn etched onto her freckled features. The driver's side door was thrown open with even more force than the pawn shop's had suffered under. Climbing into her seat, Brenda unslung the case from over her shoulder and shoved it into Paco's lap.

Right when it looked like she was going to tone it down, Brenda suddenly stood, leaning partially out of the door. "Go to hell you limp-dicked bastard!" She screeched, her fist shaking at the man even as the doors of his store glided shut. Finally the girl fell back into her seat, stewing in her anger and frustration in a palpiable silence.

After waiting a safe three minutes, Paco reached forward to turn down the music before he cleared his throat and turned his tentative gaze over to his other best friend. "So, uh...what was that all about?" He hazarded to ask, half expecting to get an ear-full.

A violent glare was shot in his direction, though thankfully it gave way with a tired, exasperated sigh. "Sorry, Pac." Brenda apologized quietly. "I didn't mean to take that long, but that..." She bit down on her tongue, swallowing the choice words she wanted to spit out. "...Guy..was giving me shit. Boatloads of shit." She reached over, plucking up the weighted case with surprising strength, moving it back into the next row of seats.

"Ah." Paco pretended that was somehow a viable explanation of everything that had gone down, but he wisely chose not to pry. Instead, he focused his attention on whatever it was she'd spent so long trying to acquire from 'Tito.' "So what's in the case?" He asked, pointing his eyes back toward the object.

She shrugged. "Insurance." Vague and cryptic, two words that fit Brenda like a snug jacket. "Now, please tell me that you know where we're going?"

His cheeks flashed red as Paco went to rub the back of his neck. "Well, uh..."

"Pac..."

"No, no! I know where to go!" He brought his hands up in front of his chest defensively. "Sort of. I got an IP address that leads back to Baltimore, but I gotta find the exact neighborhood manually."

She sighed, reaching up to grasp the bridge of her nose. "You're telling me nobody's talking about the alien they saw land in their backyard?"

It was his turn to shrug. "With the guy on the surfboard beating up superheroes in Central City, it's not exactly a slow news day. Who's gonna bother talking to one of the millions of people that totally, definitely saw a monster."

Brenda rolled her eyes. She didn't like it, but she had to concede that he had a point. "Well, at least we've got a direction." The van sputtered and groaned as she turned the key, only roaring to life after the third try. "Just...find me an address, Pac, okay? Jaime's been missing for way too long." Brenda cast her eyes toward her lap, her voice losing it's strength and tapering off as the full weight of it came down on her shoulders.

Paco reached over and placed a soft hand on her arm. "We'll find him." He stated confidently. "Jaime's tough. He'll make it through this. Once this is all over, we can go back home and get those burgers he really hates. It'll be just like old times." The two shared a small chuckle, the tension of the moment stolen away by memories of a world before everything was turned on it's head.

As they started out of the lot, Paco reached forward to turn the music back up. The fury of Rage Against the Machine played on full volume, blaring out of the rolled down windows even as they got out onto the road.

"♫Killin' in the name of!♫"

The parking lot for Tito's Pawn Shop was barren, save for a single figure draped in black that stood in front of the store.
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Hidden 6 yrs ago 6 yrs ago Post by Sep
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Sep Migs Mayfield - Core

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T H E F L A S H

Revelations:
NOT FAST ENOUGH






Iris groaned as the world came into a blinding focus. She heard shouting, voices and something like an airplane nearby. Last thing she remembered she had been running. Had she been chasing Zoom? She had been racing against something. Something that was almost as fast, if not faster than she was. She remembered digging deep, the feeling of the energy flowing through her limbs propelling her onwards. The world came into focus as a group of soldiers appears to be surrounding her, she just groaned.

Iris knew she could outrun them, disarm them in less time than it took her to think it... or she would if her whole body didn't ache in protest just as she attempted to look around. She saw the S.H.I.E.L.D agents drag some figure away that was faintly recognisable. She wasn't quite sure where she knew him from, but she had definitely seen him somewhere before. She pushed herself up slightly as, the crowd of soldiers moved as a figure came through the newly formed gap. He was well toned, muscular and wore a red S on his chest with a red cape. It all came back to her now, the test in the city, the running away and the journey through the mountain.

Supermans appearance, the turn around in the fight and the fac thta tshe had to run across half the world to get back here before a surfboard. Her life had just become absolutely insane after she had been hit by lightning, today she had fought an alien in some kind of test for his master. Alongside her had been a superhuman that as far as anyone else could tell, and all the accounts she had looked into he was the most powerful individual on the planet. Together they had taken him down, and that was something to really think about. If the Surfer had been powerful enough to take two of them to take down, what was his master going to be like?

He knelt down observing her, and she felt a warmth flush through her cheeks. She was getting embarassed, now?

"You going to be all right?"


When she initially went to speak all that came out was a squeek, she had taken a harder fall than she thought she had apparently and broke her ability to speak. Clearing her throat she tried again. "I will be, especially if uh-" She moved her arms slowly, pain stabbing through the right she had used to punch the surfer. Probably broken, so moving it was probably a bad idea right now. "-If you could pretend my voice didn't just break the sound barrier."

Another one of the Sci-Fi looking jets came down from the helicarrier, landing on the floor of the badlands. Two very different people disembarked from the jet. A middle-aged balding white man wearing a pristine suit, and a large black woman who had an air about her that even by looking at her you instantly knew not to mess with her.

"Thanks for the help Superman. Though, I think we're about to get told off by teacher." She took a deep breath, feeling pain stab through her ribs which lead to her to then wincing. "I'm not really in the mood for it right now, would you mind helping me get out of here?" When she said that there was a series of clicking as guns cocked.

"Oh come off it guys, he's bulletproof and I just ran half way across the world and punched the Silver Surfer so hard it knocked his Silver right off." The soldiers turned to the two walking towards them, the womans pace didn't change but the man visibly sped up. Obviously intent on speaking to them before either of them could leave.
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Hidden 6 yrs ago 6 yrs ago Post by Morden Man
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coGM

Morden Man

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Baxter Building, New York

Once the dust had settled in Central City and they were sure that the Silver Surfer had been taken in, Reed Richards and Harrison Wells had left for New York. It had been a long ride. Reed had spent much of it arguing with Maria Hill about locking his family away in their hour of need. She was unrepentant, as Richards had expected her to be, but he made clear to the deputy director that he would not tolerate her interfering with the Baxter Building like that again. He’d jerry-rigged his way into the building’s security and locked SHIELD out before their flight had taken to the air.

Wells had proved for slightly more intellectually engaging company on the way back from Central City than Guy Gardner had proved from the way there. There was something about him that reminded Reed of Victor von Doom – and not the kind, softly-spoken Victor of this world. He was daring, unafraid of cutting corners where need be, and most importantly of all, he was ambitious. It boded well for the task ahead of them.

They touched down in New York in the early hours of the morning. When they finally arrived at the Baxter Building, Harrison Wells took a few moments to marvel at it from the outside.

Wells let out a wistful sigh as the two super scientists approached the building’s entrance. “The world famous Baxter Building.”

“Oh, I presumed you’d have been before,” Reed said with a smile.

Harrison tittered as they entered. Reed held the door open for Guy as the SHIELD agent lugged some of the personal effects that Wells had brought with him. Gardner muttered profanities under his breath as he passed the two of them, red-faced with sweat, and set down the cases with a pointed thud.

Guy’s displeasure went unnoticed and he shook his head and snuck off towards his quarters. Wells stood in the foyer looking around. There was a slightly overawed look on his face that he was quick to lose upon realising Reed was watching him.

“Getting an invitation to study at the Baxter Building under Franklin Storm was every child’s dream. Well, every would-be scientist’s dream. The three PhDs I earned before the age of fourteen weren’t enough to warrant an invitation – but I met Franklin once or twice in later life.”

Through time and space, Reed felt the shadow of Franklin Storm over him. In his world, the Storms had passed away when Sue and Johnny were children. He’d known them only in their absence – through morsels of information that Sue had let slip over the years. To know that in this world Franklin Storm had not only been alive, but had mentored him, was weirdly comforting.

It was almost enough to make even a man as rational as Reed believe there was some higher power at work – some cosmic design that tied all Reeds together across time and space.

Richards ran a hand across the stubble that was forming on his face and encouraged Wells on. “What was he like?”

“Honestly? He was an incredible man,” Harrison said with an appreciative smile. “It is rare to meet people who are as kind as they are intelligent – but in Franklin’s case it was true.”

How could the man that brought Sue and Johnny Storm be anything but kind? His children had dedicated their lives to scientific exploration – making the world, the universe even, a better place. That kind of kindness was more than learned.

“You’re back,” came a voice from the set of stairs in the corner of the foyer.

Johnny Storm was stood on the stairs with one hand clasping the rail. His eyes were red and bleary from lack of sleep. It wasn’t because of worry – that much was obvious. He’d barely slept since the four of them had arrived in this world. Reed had hoped that moving to the Baxter Building might have helped Johnny settle a little but he seemed as restless, as desperate, and as angry as he had been since they had left.

“Johnny, I didn’t see you there,” Reed said with a sympathetic smile as the younger Storm made his way down the stairs.

“This is Professor Harrison Wells,” Reed said with a gesture towards Harrison. “He’s the founder of STAR Labs. We met him once or twice back on our world. You might remember him?”

Harrison extended a strong hand in Johnny’s direction. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Johnny eyed it for a few moments, let out a dismissive sigh, and then looked towards Reed.

“What happened with the Surfer?”

“Superman and the Flash were able to put him down,” Reed said reassuringly. “He’s in SHIELD custody for the time being.”

Johnny shook his head, his bloodshot eyes refusing any and all attempt from Reed to placate him. “If he’s here, it means that Galactus is coming.”

Reed offered his soon-to-be brother-in-law a solemn nod by way of response. “We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”

It was clear from the look Johnny gave Reed that ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’ wasn’t sufficient. It seemed like Johnny was spoiling for a fight – like he wanted Galactus to come to Earth so he could finally throw his rage at something that could withstand it. And who could blame him? They had all been through so much.

Their world had been conquered, their friends enslaved or murdered, and now the world they had sought refuge in was in the path of the devourer of worlds. It felt like they had spent the best part of years fighting for their lives – their survival – and here they were potentially on the cusp of another world-ending battle.

“This is not our world,” Johnny muttered under his breath.

The words had almost been too quiet to hear – perhaps by design. They were laced with shame, with doubt, as they left his throat. He prepared to speak again and this time his shame slid away and was replaced by rage, a righteous fury that burned hotter than anything than Human Torch could have summoned up.

For the first time he made eye contact with Harrison Wells.

“If you’re here, Harrison, it’s because Reed thinks you can get us home – and I hope to God that you can. But Galactus is not our problem. If the four of us have to choose between staying and fighting for this world or getting back to our own, I’m not going to hesitate for a second.”

The pronouncement hung in the air between the three men for a few moments. Johnny waited for either Harrison or Reed to say something but neither man saw fit to do so. Satisfied that he had made his feelings known, he turned away and returned upstairs without so much as a goodbye.

“I’m sorry about that,” Reed said with an apologetic look towards Wells. “He doesn’t mean it. Johnny’s had a rough couple of m-”

“You don’t have to apologise,” Harrison smiled understandingly. “In his position, I would probably be saying the same thing. Who wouldn’t?”

I wouldn’t, Reed wanted to say, as he thought once more about the message this world’s had left him imploring him to save his world.

But what did that mean in practice? Condemning his old world, all of the friends and family they had left behind, to an eternity of suffering under Darkseid? Would they even be able to undo the damage Darkseid had done to their world once they had made it back? Each question lead to another question. Before he knew it, Reed’s brain was spinning.

He was tired. No, he was more than tired, he was exhausted. There was no way that he would be able to untie the Gordian knot in his mind on so little sleep.

Reed gestured towards the stairway that Johnny had climbed a few minutes ago with a weary smile. “We should get some sleep.

“Nonsense,” Harrison Wells said with a shake of his head. “We didn’t travel halfway across the country to sleep, Reed. Show me to this laboratory of yours. I want to get to work.”
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An Outsider A Glorious Failure

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Star City, Gardner’s Grove High, Mid-Morning



The address that Ted gave her for his contact was for Gardner’s Grove high, a school located in the Glade’s that had survived the earthquakes and riots that rocked the area virtually – miraculously really – unscathed, and so had been converted into a refugee centre for those left destitute and homeless by the chaos.

She walked in the front gates and made her way towards the largest building on the complex, which she figured for the gymnasium. She wasn’t exactly sure where she was going to find Ted’s friend, a retired doctor by the name of Charles McNider, but according to Ted he was the de facto head of the centre, so the smart money said he’d be somewhere near the hub of the action, where he could best keep an eye on those under his care.

Children were playing outside in the school’s yard, chasing a battered soccer ball with the kind of wild abandon that only the young can achieve. Contrary to the energy that fueled their play, their laughter was quiet, subdued like they were afraid if they got too loud somebody would take the ball away. Their clothes were dirty, their faces pinched and cheeks hollow. Her eyes stung just looking at them. How could the rest of the city just turn its back on these kids? They ignored them, hoping the problem would go away on its own. Most of the city had already written the Glades and its people off, an attitude fostered by Star’s very own mayor, Malcolm Merlyn. Dinah picked up her pace and entered the school.

The gym was stuffed to bursting with bodies. And yes, bodies did seem the right term for the drawn out, lifeless, worn out creatures currently inhabiting the school. The men and women in the room couldn't seem more withdrawn from the children outside if they had tried. Whether they slumped upon the fold out cots that lined every inch of the court floors, or shambled aimlessly from one corner of the room to another, the people here all shared one thing in common; they’d given up. Too much had been taken from them, and too quickly, until without quite realising it they had nothing left. Sure, they had their lives, and their families, but people take those kinds of things for granted all the time. Why would crisis make that any different?

The only people acting with any kind of certainty was the medical staff and aid workers, and they seemed hopelessly outnumbered by those they were trying to help. Most of them were young, college aged kids – she thought of them as kids because of their fresh faces and earnest expressions, though they must have been around her age – though there were a few older faces sprinkled in too. One such woman, a thirty something dusky skinned brunette, seemed to be in charge. Dinah made her way over and grabbed her attention.

“Excuse me, I’m looking for doctor McNider. A friend of his sent me here.” The woman looked her up and down quickly before turning her attention to a clipboard that a teenaged boy showed her.

“If you’re here to help,” She answered without looking in Dinah’s direction, “I’ve got plenty of jobs you could do, all without bothering the doctor.”

“Just tell me where the doctor is lady.” She tried to keep the heat out of her reply, and very nearly succeeded. The woman studied her once more, far more critically this time.

“You’re not going to leave until you get what you want, are you?” She asked, obviously annoyed, but maybe a little amusement mingled in the mix there too.

“I don’t usually.” Dinah replied. The other woman shook her head, but then turned on her heel and gestured for Dinah to follow. She led her out of the gymnasium, down some twisting corridors, to the headmasters office door. A light tap upon the frame earned a faint call to enter. The older woman opened the door, stepping aside to allow Dinah entry.

“A visitor for you doctor McNider.”

“Thank you, nurse Temple. Please, don’t let us keep you.”

The old man within pushed himself up from behind his desk, sprightly for his age and made all the more impressive by the pair of blacked out spectacles he wore. Dinah cursed softly. Ted hadn’t mentioned his friend was blind. His thick, curly hair was considerably more grey than blonde, his face careworn and tired, but there was a definite spark to the old man, an essence of youth that his years hadn’t managed to blow out yet.

“It’s good to meet you doctor McNider. Ted’s told me a lot about you.” He hadn’t, but she wasn’t sure what else to say. The doctor’s sightless eyes swung in her direction.

“Charles will be fine.” His voice was incredibly deep, and warm like fresh summer honey. “And you must be Dinah. Don’t look so surprised young lady, Ted’s told me a lot about you. I’ve been expecting your arrival all day.” There was a playful lilt to his voice, giving Dinah the distinct impression that he knew more than she was comfortable with him knowing. The old man held his hand out towards her. She was surprised by how firm his handshake was.

“Not everything, I hope.” She replied, an edge to her voice. The retired doctor smiled ruefully and shook his head.

“Just everything prudent to your being here, young lady.” Dinah blanched, taking an involuntary step back, her knuckles clenched tight. Ted, that bastard. He had no right telling her secrets. She had no idea who this doctor was, or whether he could be trusted or not. For all she knew he could have blabbed in the wrong ears already. He certainly seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice. Her eyes flickered towards the exit. She had to get out of here. She was just about to make for the door when McNider, somehow sensing her distress, held up a placating hand.

“Please understand, I am very passionate in the defence of this building, and of its residents. The people out there have suffered much. I would not willingly heap any more horrors upon them, nor court the prospect of disturbing what little stability this facility supplies, not without tremendous good cause.” As he spoke he shuffled slowly, awkwardly almost, to the chair behind his desk. After settling himself into its plush yet worn depths he released an almost contented sigh and waved her towards one of the chairs opposite. She refused it, still not sure if she would need to make a quick exit from here or not.

“Now Ted Grant, as good a man as he is, is not in the habit of sending me volunteers. Not because he isn’t a charitable man – for he is and has proved that fact time and time again throughout his long life, giving of himself to others – but because the type of young men and women he fraternises with are invariable fighters training under his purview. As I am sure you are aware he has long held the position that a fighter’s warrior edge should dull if said warrior is to be confronted by the kind of hapless human degradation and misery on show within these doors. After all, it can be difficult to maintain the desire to physically assault your fellow man when you have witnessed the depths to which he can fall. Only a true monster would wish to inflict pain on others after witnessing suffering at its purest, basest level.”

Without quite making the decision herself, Dinah sat. There was something about the doctor’s rich baritone that was putting her at ease despite her reservations. She was still ready to book it if she had to, but she was at least willing to hear the old man out first.

“So, you must understand that when I received the call from Ted saying that he knew a young woman who wished to volunteer with my staff, who wanted to ease the Glade’s suffering, well I knew it was out of the norm somewhat and expressed my reservations. After some spirited debate I convinced Ted to trust me with your true purposes here. He told me about your mother and your father, about your upbringing and time away from our fair city, and finally he got to what you consider ‘your purpose’, and how you have been spending your nights of late.”

A sharp intake of breath whistled between Dinah’s teeth. That punch-drunk old idiot had actually done it. He’d actually told this bizarre, blind doctor her secret. Who knew who else knew because she had been stupid enough to trust bigmouthed Ted Grant. She rose to leave, but McNider kept on speaking as if she hadn’t moved. Sure, now he was acting like a blind man.

“I owe Ted Grant my life. Ten times over, in fact. I would never willingly do anything to endanger the trust he has placed in me. Be safe in the knowledge that because of the faith he has placed in me I now consider your secrets as sacrosanct as my own.” He leant backwards in his chair, long fingers steepled across his lap, blind eyes watching her with all the intensity of a hunting owl.

Through gritted teeth she managed to force a response. “A long-winded way, doctor, of telling me to trust you because I have to.” McNider’s caterpillar like eyebrows jumped up his forehead. Silence reigned supreme in the small office space. Dinah was on the verge of leaving once more when the blind man began to laugh. Rich, sonorous, peals of laughter that reverberated around the room, and bounced from Dinah’s stony visage. For a moment she seriously considered throat punching a blind retired-doctor. His laughter petered out soon after, but his mirth lived on in the craggy lines of his grinning face.

“Forgive me, my dear,” he chortled, “It’s just that for a moment there it was like looking into the past and seeing a younger Ted. He was always something of a ‘straight-shooter’ himself.”

“But better looking, I hope.” She replied before realising who she was speaking to. Ask a blind man if he thinks you’re pretty. Your banter is off the hook, Lance. To his credit McNider breezed past the comment with an easy smile and nod. Off-guard once more, though slightly less on edge after the laughter, she thought to regain some control, and maybe learn about more about Ted’s guarded past.

“So how does a retired doctor and a former heavyweight champ know each other? Did you stitch him up or something?”

“Yes, I suppose I did, but that wasn’t how I met the Wildcat.” He put a definitive emphasis on Ted’s old ring name, like it had some hidden meaning to him. “We belonged to an exclusive club, Ted and I. A Society of sorts, you would have called it.”

“A society –” She began to question, but the doctor cut her off. He seemed as fond of his secrets as Ted did his. A shame they both seemed so set on sharing hers, then.

“Now I don’t expect you to trust me simply because Ted does. Instead all I ask is the opportunity to earn said trust.”

Dinah spread her palms across the edge of the doctor’s desk and leaned forwards. “And how are you proposing to do that?”

“By supplying you with information and aid.” He replied. Dinah’s brows narrowed. What information could a blind doctor possibly give her that would be relevant to her situation? Thankfully the old man didn’t miss the chance to flap his gums some more and provide an answer.

“This facility has been beset upon at all sides by the kind of unscrupulous men and women who you have chosen to … make your prey,” She wasn’t sure she liked the way he worded that, but she didn’t interrupt. “The people here are already pushed to the edge of human endurance without those devils leading them astray, or taking advantage of their misfortunes. The vertigo peddlers are a particular and consistent nuisance. That filthy drug promises a bliss that it delivers with frightful alacrity, only to demand a terrible price in return. Its dealers are similar in that regard.”

“We, that is the staff here and I, have tried to chase them away, but to no avail. It seems pointless to speak it aloud, but the rapscallions just aren’t afraid of the repercussions that defying an old blind man, a young nurse, and several medical students can bring.” The old man smiled again, but this one seemed forced and tired, an edge of bitterness at the spiderweb lines around his eyes. For a moment it seemed like he had checked out of the conversation, as if he had found something more interesting in his memories to capture his attention. Dinah decided to fill in the blanks herself.

“So, this is where I come in, right? Give the pushers the push off? Something like that?”

He started gently, as if just now realising where he was. “Yes, exactly like that.”

“Good.” She replied simply. Savagely. This, she could work with.

“Tell me where I can find them, and they won’t bother you, or your people again.”
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