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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 yrs ago Post by Morden Man
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Morden Man

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Triskelion, Washington D.C.

Raised voices rang through the corridors of the Triskelion. Its point of origin was deputy director Maria Hill’s corner office. Loitering outside were a handful of SHIELD administrative staff that were pretending to be working. Inside Guy Gardner was making his last stand. Hill had removed Gardner from command of the Pegasus the second it had touched down at the Triskelion – and Guy was determined to get it back. Even if it cost him his badge.

“My service record has been exemplary since that mess in Atlantis. Ask any of my cre-”

Hill shook her head with an exasperated sigh.

“You don’t have a crew, Guy, the Pegasus is Vostok’s command. You were put in charge on an interim basis while Valentina was on maternity leave because we thought maybe you’d learned your lesson. Clearly were wrong.”

A thick vein on Gardner’s head throbbed. He was seething. He wanted to break something. He had spent three years toiling away in obscurity, stuck in dusty rooms filling out paperwork or guarding useless artefacts, as penance for the incident in Atlantis. Now through no fault of his own it was being used to drag him back down again.

If Dugan was still around, he would never have hung Gardner out to dry like this.

But Dugan wasn’t around anymore. His successor Maria Hill was the anti-Dugan. She’d had it in for Gardner from the moment she’d met him. She was a stickler for rules, structure and hierarchy who had made the decision early to make rank rather than cut her teeth in the field.

He wanted to bawl her out for it but even in his angered state knew it would be counterproductive. He’d be playing right into her hands. Instead he took a deep, calming breath, closed his eyes, and tried to get his temper under control.

When he opened them his voice was significantly quieter than before. “This is bullshit, Maria, and you know it.”

“You’re done, Gardner.”

Guy shook his head angrily at the suggestion. “Let’s see what Fury has to say about that.”

A cold smile crossed the deputy director’s lips. For the first time Hill confirmed Guy’s suspicions and let on that she was enjoying taking him down a peg.

“You think Fury is going to tell you something different? Fury doesn’t give a damn about you. Face it, Gardner, Dugan’s not around to save your behind this time. You’re done.”

The two locked eyes across Hill’s desk. Their contempt for one another was almost suffocating.

“I don’t have to listen to this horseshit.”

Guy leapt out of his seat and stormed towards the exit. He pressed a panel on the door to Hill’s office and it slid open. He stood fuming in the doorway for a few seconds. Beside the door was a waste paper basket. Guy looked over his shoulder at Hill, who was watching on with a bemused smile, before booting the basket across the room. With that done he stamped his way out.

The waiting admin staff scattered as the fuming Gardner approached.

“Don’t you pen-pushers have some photocopying to do?” Guy shouted at them. “Fucking cockroaches.”

In the distance Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben appeared. They stepped out of the elevator to the twenty-eighth floor escorted by a junior SHIELD agent for their meeting with Hill. Ben Grimm spotted Gardner walking towards them and shot the SHIELD agent a mischievous smile. When it wasn’t returned he realised that something was wrong.

“What’s a matter, Carrot Top?” Ben called out jovially. “Someone pee in your cereal this morning?”

Gardner pushed past them without so much as look in their direction.

“Must be having a bad day or something,” Grimm muttered to Johnny.

Johnny nodded in agreement and pointed discreetly to his sister and Reed. “He’s not the only one.”

Reed and Sue had barely spoken since Sue had accepted Namor’s proposal on the roof of the Pegasus. To say that it made things awkward was an understatement. Usually Reed and Sue were inseparable, but they had been anything but the past twelve hours or so. It was impossible not to notice. Ben and Johnny had been walking on eggshells around them ever since.

A young SHIELD agent scuttled out Hill’s with a dented waste paper basket under their arm as they made their approach.

“I hope we’ve not caught you at a bad time,” Reed Richards said with a polite smile. “We can come back another time.”

“Nothing I can’t handle,” Hill said as she stood up from behind her desk and gestured to the four of them to step inside. “Please take a seat. The five of us have a lot to discuss.”

Hill dismissed their escort with a nod and the Fantastic Four shuffled in to Maria’s office. She sauntered towards the large meeting table in the corner of her room and took a seat at the head of it. Reed took the seat to her right hand and Sue awkwardly slid around him to sit at Maria’s left. Ben and Johnny exchanged an awkward smile as they decided where to sit. Ben slid into the seat beside Reed and Johnny next to Sue.

“I understand that Agent Gardner informed you of the fate of your counterparts in this world,” Maria began by way of introduction.

Ben bristled beside Reed. Sensing his disapproval, Sue responded to Hill as matter-of-factly as possible. “That’s correct.”

“I’d like to apologise for that,” Hill said curtly. “That wasn’t Agent Gardner’s information to disclose.”

This time there was no stopping Ben. His fist clunked against the table so loudly that Johnny jumped in his seat.

“Are you kidding me? You’re apologising for Gardner telling us the truth, not for covering up our deaths? You’ve got some front, lady.”

Hill grimaced.

“What would you have us do, Mr. Grimm? Tell the world that the most expensive space expedition in living memory ended in the incineration of the world’s smartest man? Reed Richards was on the cover of TIME magazine at twelve years of age. The people of this world thought his research was going to put an end to climate change. How do you think they'd respond if we told them that he was burnt alive on our watch?”

“You can try and dress it up however you want,” Ben said with a disapproving mumble. “It don’t make it right.”

Hill pinched the bridge of her nose. “Right and wrong is a luxury I cannot always afford in this job, I’m afraid.”

Reed watched on in silence. He knew very little about this world’s Reed Richards but the more he learned about him, the more sorry he felt for him. From the sound of things, their Reed had been forced into the spotlight much earlier than he had been. When Reed had been twelve years old, he’d been building his first teleportation device in his father’s garage. He couldn’t imagine how isolating all that pressure must have been.

“What’s done is done,” Sue said with a conciliatory look towards Ben. “What we we need to know now is whether you’re willing to help us get home? If you’ve seen our interviews then you understand why we left – and why it’s so important that we get back.”

Hill nodded. “Yes, you have unfinished business with this Darkseid character.”

“Unfinished business?” Johnny said with a frown. “Darkseid conquered our entire world, Hill. Imagine everyone you know, everyone you’ve ever known, dead at one man’s feet. The people you've fought alongside for years enslaved – turned into instruments of death. I don’t know if 'unfinished business' quite does that justice.”

Ben approvingly banged his fist against the table. “You tell her, Matchstick.”

Hill sighed and pressed a button on the desk. In front of them, at the centre of the desk, a holographic image of Darkseid appeared.

“Don’t let me language fool you, Mr. Storm, I am aware of the threat that Darkseid poses. Our world has yet to encounter these Apokoliptians the four of you spoke of in your interviews with Gardner – but we’ve already begun to prepare for them. The best strategists that SHIELD have to offer have been working around the clock wargaming for a potential Apokoliptian invasion.”

The hologram of Darkseid’s face was replaced by images of Earth’s newfound protectors lining up to defend their world against an invasion force. Projections of possible successful defensive strategies played out before them. The four watched on, unimpressed by the display, having lived the battles themselves and found SHIELD’s efforts to be lacking.

“This is all well and good,” Reed said with a dismissive glance at the holograms. “But how exactly does that help us, Maria? With all due respect, we’re not here to be reassured that your world is well-defended, we’re here because we need your help to return to ours.”

Maria swallowed hard as she considered his question. “You’ll have all the help that SHIELD can offer you, but I can’t promise that our scientists will be able to get you home.”

“You leave that part to me,” Richards responded resolutely.

“Given that the whole world thinks that the four of you are still travelling through space I’m afraid you’ll have to be confined to the Triskelion while you do your research,” Hill said dispassionately. “But rest assured that your every need will be seen to while you’re here.”

Reed’s nose wrinkled with displeasure. “I don’t think that’s going to work. I’m going to need to enlist the help of some of my – well, Reed’s – contemporaries if we’re going to have a shot at getting home. I can’t do that from here.”

“I’m with Stretch on this one,” Ben said as he placed his rocky hands behind his head. “There’s no way I’m being cooped up in this place like some kind of common criminal. And before you consider suggesting that we don’t have a choice in the matter, I’d like to point out that all the boy scouts in the world couldn’t stop us from walking out of here if we wanted to.”

Maria Hill lent back in her seat as she mulled over the ramifications of letting the four of them roam around America without supervision. How long would it be before someone got a picture of Reed? Grimm wasn’t inconspicuous and if this Johnny Storm was anything like theirs he wouldn’t be out of the headlines for long.

Suddenly a small smile crept onto Hill’s lips as a potential resolution was revealed to her.

“You make a convincing case, Mr. Grimm.”

She stood up from her seat abruptly as if to announce that their meeting had come to an end. Ben looked to Sue, slightly confused, and she gestured to him to stand up with the rest of them. Hill took a glance down at her watch to check the time and then shook Reed’s hand firmly.

“Give us twenty-four hours to finish going over your tests results and we’ll have you relocated somewhere I think you’ll find slightly more comfortable.”

With that Hill called to the junior SHIELD agent outside to collect them. Reed and Ben departed first with Sue and Johnny following shortly after them. As Johnny reached the doorway to Hill’s office he lingered for a moment and then turned back to face Hill.

“By the way, your hologram thingy is wrong,” Johnny said as his mind reached into the past. “Darkseid's eyes aren’t black. They’re red.”
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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 yrs ago Post by Sep
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Sep Migs Mayfield - Core

Member Seen 17 hrs ago



Iris placed her money on the counter before picking up her coffee and taking a sip. The caffeine no longer did anything for her, other than a momentary rush. Her metabolism burnt through it far too fast for it to have any lasting effect. She couldn’t argue with the taste, especially as going for coffee was a central part of life in Central City. While people in Star or New York tended to head out to bars or clubs Central City revolved around it’s coffee places. There was something about the rush that the denizens of the city loved.

Iris sat down across from Barry, she sat down right in his line of sight but he seemed to be staring through him. “Barry.”

She reached over and snapped her fingers. “Earth to Barry, you in there Barry?” She chuckled slightly as he seemed to regain focus. “You okay there?”

He shook his head. “Yeah… yeah I’m okay. Just thinking about City Hall.” She reached over and put her hand on top of his, squeezing it slightly.

“It can’t have been easy, is everyone okay?”

“Yeah, Pattys still in the hospital but they say she’ll make a full recovery. She took on a lot of water but they’ve managed to drain it out of her lungs. She’ll still be in pain for a while though.” A look crossed his face and just then she noticed how much Patty being injured had wounded him, and how distraught he was. She felt a slight pang in her chest, was she jealous? What was she jealous about if Barry was dating Patty he would have told her by now, not that it mattered if they were dating. She didn’t care… did she? He must have noticed the look on her face, as he raised an eyebrow as he looked at her. “What’re you thinking about?”

She shrugged as she pulled her hand back to take a sip of coffee, wanting to break the contact as really she had no idea what was going on with her feelings right now. “Just thinking about this Hydro-man guy. I know I’ve faced a couple of super criminals, but none of them have had… abilities like me. I can’t just disarm him like I could Weather Wizard and Heatwave, or punch him in the face like I did Trickster. This is a different kind of threat, you saw him. Whenever I hit him he just turned back to water. I couldn’t make any ground.” She sighed.

“It’s not been a good week for me.”

Barry gave her a look and she could have practically melted right then and there. “You’ll get there Iris, I mean you have to remember we’re learning this as it goes. It’s not like the lightning bolt came with an instruction manual for you, I mean look at all you’ve learned already. You can run up the side of buildings, create vortexes and run on water. There’s no telling what’s next, we’ll figure it out. You’ll get faster, stronger and these threats-” He snapped his fingers “-will be over before they even begin. Because you, Iris West are the most amazing person that I know.” She smiled a meek smile back at him.

“We still need to figure out what this guy wants, and how to stop him.”

He arched an eyebrow. “Off the record?” She took her pen out of her pocket and slid it over to him.

“On my word as a Superhero, none of this will be quoted for the news.” Iris smirked as Barry let out a short chuckle. Sometimes she forgot what her normal life had been like a couple of months ago, where Barry was the one that solved crime and all she did was dig up the story to tell people about it. Now, she did both. It took some serious getting used too.

“So we were investigating the murder-”

“Of Alex Raymond.” She nodded.

“-Do you want my help or do you want to keep interrupting me?” She mouthed her apology. “Okay, so last night Alex Raymond was killed. When we checked out his body on the scene it appeared to be blunt force trauma, there was water all over his office and yet the sprinkler system hadn’t been triggered. At the time we wondered where it came from, though I guess we know that now. We tried to get the mayor to use some other offices for today but he refused. Me and Patty were in the midst of talking to him about the fact that Raymonds laptop was missing when Hydro burst into the room and took us hostage. The strange thing is, after you saved us I went back into Alex Raymonds office and all the water was gone. It’s as if Hydros body had been scattered across the room, and he had reconstructed himself.” She nodded along to his story.

“Maybe he found a way to damage Hydro.” It was just a theory, but it still left massive holes to be filled. Barry merely shook his head.

“There was nothing in that office that could have possibly done that to him. If it was someone else, why would they go to all the effort of breaking Hydro apart and then just leaving the pieces of him there?”

“Maybe it was a vigilante like that Punisher guy in New York-” A look of confusion crossed Barry's face. “-Guess you haven’t had time to catch up with the news, huh? Cop gone rogue, murders entire rooms of gangsters. Very Rambo.”

“That doesn’t make sense either, to do that he would have had to known that Hydro was going to be there, if he had known that why try and kill Hydro after Raymond was already killed?” Barry ran his hands over his face, he was tired. Exhausted, and Iris could easily tell that he hadn’t slept. “None of this makes any sense.”

That’s when something clicked for Iris, like puzzle pieces connecting. “Wait a second, you said that Raymond was killed by extreme blunt force trauma?”

“Yeah?” The confusion on his face was obvious, god he needed sleep. Usually he either pieced these things together first, or at best at the same time as she did.

“What if it wasn’t a hero, or a vigilante? What if it was a competitor?Barry scratched his chin slightly, Iris could see the hairs starting to peak out to form a shadow.

“That’s possible, Raymonds clothes were decidedly dry. After your fight with Hydro there was water everywhere.”

“I know, I had to go dry off before I could change out of the suit.”

“You do realise the problem with this though? If you're right, you’re not hunting one metahuman but-”

“I’m hunting two.” Just brilliant Iris, double your workload why not. It was bad enough that you had one to catch, that you couldn’t stop now you have a second and you don’t even know who it is.

Barry stood up. “I better get going to the lab, if we need to find out who this other guy is, I need to do my research. You on the other hand-” He looked like the next words were going to cause him physical pain “-should go see Doctor Wells at S.T.A.R labs. I can’t think of any ideas on how to deal with Hydro right now I just…” He sighed. “I need to get back to my lab, where I know what I’m doing. It’ll help me focus.” She stood up and before he knew it, or she had really thought about it, Iris embraced him in a hug.

Realising she held it for maybe a little too long, as he had already removed his arms she pulled back awkwardly. “Everything's going to be okay Barry. We’ll get these guys, and then we’ll get Zoom.”

“I’m not worried about Zoom.” The lie was obvious, his voice quaked and his eyes stayed cold. Barry Allens eyes were never cold, they always had such warmth in them.

“Barry-” He just raised his hand to her.

“Not now Iris, I need to go.”

She hung her head, not looking at him. Her voice low, and weak. “Okay then.” A weak smile crossed her face as she saw him walk away. Iris wouldn’t admit it, but she was worried for him. First Zoom appeared, and now whatever was going on with Patty. Maybe it was time to visit the Allen household, it had been a while since she had checked in with Henry. He’d know if there was something bothering Barry, turning to go towards the suburbs where their house was she sighed as a police car went passed sirens blaring.

Her chat with Henry would have to wait, the Flash had a job to do.

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Hidden 5 yrs ago Post by Tackytaff
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Trenton, New Jersey

Bobbi had regrets. Five big fat ones she couldn't shake off; she didn't want too. They had names, haunted her thoughts in the quiet moments, and were the reason she couldn't add her abuse of Fortune to the tally. Even after over twelve hours of guilt-tripping from Twitch. Not that she'd ever be able to explain that to him. Bobbi picked at the scab that had formed on her knuckles as Twitch finished his latest panicked tangent.

"I don't see what your problem is," She grumbled when he took a moment to breathe "He hardly seemed so bothered." It was Bangs who cut him off before he could start again.

"Really, I just want to hear how the wings worked." She was trying to keep the peace, but Bobbi wasn't in a peaceful mood. The scab came loose, she put her fist to her mouth as the blood began to flow and scowled at her laptop.

"I just want to find Fortune."

"And Delanden?" Was he accusing her? The kid had finally grown a spine, and she wanted nothing more than to tear it out.

"Have you found him in the past twenty minutes and just forgot to tell me?" That was met with the first beat of silence she'd had in nearly eighteen hours. "Then Fortune it is."

She looked at her screen more closely, flipping between security cameras, hospital logs, and a very recent police report. Nothing, and with every passing second the less likely it was there would be anything to find. Still, it wasn't like he could walk down the street in broad daylight with a gunshot wound and whatever other injuries he got from his fall. Even in Jersey. Bobbi moved her hand away from her mouth and began rapping her blunted nails on the motel desk. There were times, she thought, it would nice to tire a bit more easily.

"What about vet clinics?" The idea was too terrible to get a response. That, or Twitch was too angry to speak with her. She found she didn't care much which. The icy silence dragged on longer the second time before Bangs tried again.

"Fortune is a bad guy right? Hardly seems worth it to fly off the handle." Bobbi groaned.

"How much of that time did it take you to come up with that?"

"I have no idea what you mean. I'm always winging it." She paused for only a moment,
"Not going to chirp in Twitch?"

"You've ruffled his feathers."

"Or he's hatching a plan"

"Can't do much from his nest"

"I don't know about that, he's quite talon-ted." It was terrible enough to cause physical pain, but Bobbi caught herself grinning anyways. She took solace that Bangs would never have the satisfactiong of seeing it. Even Twitch spoke up.

"If you two are done I'm going to catch some sleep. I'll keep the computers scanning Mock, but don't hold your breath."

Bangs left the call shortly after him. There wasn't any reason for her to stick around, and she had other work to tend to. Bobbi's levity left with them, and she was alone with her regrets; always close to the surface of her toughts. The return of Fortune in her life only made it worse. She closed the laptop and stood, looking across the room to the window, the cheap curtains failing to block out the midday sun. A run would her good. She was reaching for the Mockingbird suit before deciding to. Fresh air would keep her from getting too worked up. Anxious. And if she just so happened to find herself southside again, well, a pair of eyes could look places cameras couldn't.
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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 yrs ago Post by Sep
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Sep Migs Mayfield - Core

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Iris chased after the police car, rushing past it as she tapped on her comms. Tapping into the police radio. “Disturbance on Wheeler-Nicholson bridge, evacuate the area some form of meta-human appears to be attacking.” With that she disengaged comms, the air rushing past her. She could feel it with every breath, she could feel the lightning coursing through her body and pushing her forward. By running, she was set free and set adrift from everyone else. How could this not be her destiny? She couldn’t imagine not having this power.

This was what she was meant to do. She knew it, deep down. Iris would beat him one day, make him eat his words… or was this all a trick? To get under her skin. She shook her head, she couldn't’worry about this now. She had to stop the latest threat to Central City. Well, this time to Central City and Keystone. Considering that the bridge was the main conduit of traffic between the two sister cities.

She turned the corner to the view of carnage. Police cruisers overturned and in flames, people cowering in fear and cracked pavement. Before the bridge stood a man in a red costume, his fists glowing with energy as he ran at a police officer…

Time froze as Iris noticed who the police officer was. Her Father. She took to running again, kicking up dust behind her as the electricity coursed through her veins. Time seemed to slow for her, she was a blur to everything and everyone around her. She ran shoulder first into the man in red, and while he did get knocked back Iris definitely felt like she took a lot more of the blow than he did. Pain shooting through her shoulder as she rolled away to get a better look at the man.

The get up screamed technology, rather than being an actual meta-human. The backpack was the biggest giveaway, what he was after she couldn’t quite say though it seemed like a hell of a coincidence that this guy was punching stuff up while there was a killer on the loose who had proven himself to be extremely strong.

Just then she heard a faint clicking noise in her suit. For a second she struggled to think what it could be, then she realised. It was the geiger counter, whatever this guy could do he was radioactive. This meant that she probably didn’t want to prolong this fight, while her cells could probably heal the damage before it was done there were still innocent people nearby and she had no idea what kind of output this man could have.

“Now, who are you?” His voice was gravelly. Old. Despite his quick movements and his strength this wasn’t someone young she was fighting, there were years behind that voice.

He stood braced facing her, ready for another attack. She was busy scanning the surrounding area, making sure no-one was in the conflict zone. She could hear the helicopters and police cars in the distance approaching, at this point they usually left the fighting up to her but they’d be useful in setting up a cordone to prevent anyone from walking into trouble. “Haven’t you heard? I’m the Flash.”

She was expecting a name drop, or perhaps even a clever quip. She was expecting a thousand and one possible things, the one thing she wasn’t expecting however was that he laughed. Genuinely broke into laughter, and that gave her pause. Standing up straight, she couldn’t quite believe what was going on. “Really, you’re the Flash? No. Come on, where is he. Where’s the Flash?”

Again, he. What was with all this about a male Flash? She ran at him, ducking under his right hook and planting a blow to his lower abdomen. As she punched him her fist made contact with some form of armour, though she didn’t let it phase her. Ducking below his wild left swing she punched the centre of his back. “Why? Am I not good enough for you?” She moved around again, planning to aim for his face but he stuck a leg out causing her to tumble. On her back the man stood above her, his fist starting to emit more of a glow.

As it came down she rolled away at the last second, jumping up and then running around till she was clear. Standing up straight he scanned the area for her. “It’s nothing like that Flash-” He said it with such disdain “-you just aren’t the one I was looking for. What are you? His daughter?” She ran at him again, at speed. As the distance closed she noticed his stance begin to change, jumping over to the left she moved to grab his right arm.


He turned and with surprising speed clocked her in the side of her head with his left fist. Thrown off balance she went tumbling into a nearby car. The world became a blur, trying to look up the street she saw something coming up behind her foe.

“Thats….” She grunted, trying to get a better focus. “That’s not possible.”

Then the whole world went black.

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Hidden 5 yrs ago Post by HenryJonesJr
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Stacy Residence
The Next Day

"One, two, three, four," I whisper to myself before letting loose on the drums. On either side of me, Glory and Betty get to work as well, playing the guitar and bass respectively. Once the three of us are in a groove, Mary Jane launches into a "Cherry Bomb" by the Runaways. It's the first song the four of us played together and actually liked. It vibes with us. Punk and rock? Give it to me on a plate. Plus MJ gets to really let loose with her voice, which she likes doing more than anything else in the world. I love the girl, she's one of my best friends, but when she's not the star of the show she tends to be less than enthused.

Once the song finishes, the four of us nod to one another. It's always good to get a session off to a good start, and this is one of the most important sessions we've ever had considering MJ decided to sign us up for a gig. Glory and Betty are all for it. Well, Glory is. Betty doesn't really get "excited" in the way that normal humans do elsewhere. She's certainly in a league of their own.

"So," Glory leans over, "you and Pete, huh?"

Glory and MJ are peas in a pod when it comes to gossip. I think you could replace their blood with rumors and they would be stronger than I am.

I playfully glare at Mary Jane, "You told everyone, didn't you?"

She squeals with delight, "How could I not!? We've all been waiting for it to happen. Harry wants a double date ASAP, bee tee dubs."

"Yea, I wish you many years of bliss," Betty adds, looking over her glasses with a deadpan look.

I smile and laugh with the rest of the band, "You guys are too much."

Having the band, and everyone else, backing up Peter and I feels good, I can't deny it. When friends date, more often than not people are wary. So much can go wrong. Hell, so much can still go wrong. There's still the voice in the back of my head telling me I need to tell Peter about Uncle Ben. But the euphoria swimming around my head has done a really good job drowning that out so far. Plus everyone celebrating the fact helps a lot.

"So...should we try 'Face It Tiger'?" MJ asks with hopeful eyes.

Face It Tiger is the one original song we've been working on for more than a year. The lyrics are pretty good, but we're still no where close to nailing the music down. MJ loves it, and we try it every single time we play together, but Glory and especially Betty are not so keen on continuing to try it out.

"Oh yea," Betty rolls her eyes, "it is about time we waste 20 minutes of practice time."

"No, it's gonna work this time, because Gwen found the beat."

I realize she's talking about my freestyle from the other day, and I smile at her, "Yea. Let's try it. I think it'll work."

After counting us down, I dip into my memory and pull out that riff I ripped of the other day. Before long, Glory and Betty pick up what I'm putting down, and finally Mary Jane launches into the lyrics. Personally, I don't think there's anything more beautiful than great music, and it's clear a few seconds into this new version of our song that we have something. The energy flowing between the four of us is palpable, and outside my garage a few pedestrians stop and begin to watch, some of them bobbing along to the beat. When we finish, everyone claps.

"YES!" MJ starts running around the garage, planting hugs and kisses on the rest of the band. "That kicked so much ass! Ladies you rule!"

"I do have to admit, that was pretty great," Betty gives what is the most enthusiasm I've ever seen from her.

"Careful, Bett," I look over at her. "Don't get too excited. We don't want you passing out."

"Ladies," Glory smirks, "I think we're ready for a show."


One Week Later

"I know you're mad," Dad says, trying the break the prolonged silence that we've shared since he took his new job. It's not that we haven't talked. It's that both of us know what the other is going to say, so we've avoided the conversation.

Meanwhile, I push some peas around my plate, not looking up at him. All I want is for him to be safe, and he goes and volunteers to lead the team now directly responsible for taking down not only the most dangerous man in the city, but me as well. This is literally the last thing I want George Stacy doing, yet here we are.

"I'm not mad," our gazes finally meet. "I'm scared, Dad. The Punisher isn't like anything you've dealt with before. He's been doing his thing for less than a month and he's almost got a triple digit body count. And Spider-Woman? She's a freaking superhero! What happens when supervillains start showing up and you get caught in the crossfire?"

"Well the idea is to stop her before those show up," he gives me a sympathetic look. "Plus, I put away Max Dillon, sweetheart. I've dealt with men like Frank Castle before."

Max Dillon. Dad's claim to fame. The arrest that shot him up through the ranks of the NYPD. Dillon was a serial killer in the city when I was a kid. The man was, well is, a sociopath. He did it all for fun. Currently he's locked up in Ravenscroft Asylum, the very place I'll be working in a few weeks.

"Dad, Dillon was a thug," I shake my head. "Dangerous? Hell yea. But the Punisher is surgical. Look at what he did to those cops the other night. Dillon would have never been able to pull that off."

He pounds his hand down on the table. Dad doesn't often get mad, but the entire situation surrounding him clearly is beginning to take a toll, "I'm just trying to do what I think is right, Gwen. I'm not going to sit around and watch this town turn into a circus. I have a duty to protect this city and its people, and a duty to make sure it's safe for my daughter to live in."

I get up from the table and head for the door, "You have a duty to stay alive for me too."

"Where are you going?"

"I have a show," I grab my bag containing my costume and head out the door. "Don't worry, I'll be fine. I'll be with Pete, MJ, and the girls."


"Spider-Woman and the Punisher...your days are numbered," J Jonah Jameson seethes through my speakers as I swing around the city trying to clear my head. I have "The NYPD are on you now, and the boys in blue won't stop until you're rotting on Stryker's Island! Now, I do have to take issue with the police saying these two aren't in league with one another. I find it to be incredibly coincidental that Spider-Woman just happened to show up after Punisher kills two of New York's finest. And then they 'fight', knocking down a building in the process and allowing both of them to escape? Please. Spider-Woman is just as guilty as Frank Castle is!"

I switch over to music and continue to traverse the streets of New York. I've been keeping up with Jameson's rants ever since the Punisher incident, and they've become even more unglued. I know it's probably not the healthiest for my psyche, but I need to keep up with what the press is saying about me. Especially since Triple J seems to be gaining even more of a following. How the insane ramblings of a middle aged white guy can be must-listen content for so many people is beyond me, but this is the world we live in now.

But he's not been above saying the citizens of the city should take precautions against vigilantes, and that worries me. All it takes is some nutjob to take a shot at me while on patrol to end up with an innocent bystander killed. I may not be the most skilled or trained fighter out there, but I have the ability to make sure the innocent people around me are safe. Some loon with a gun isn't going to be able to do the same.

From blow, the front of a building explodes, sending debris flying into the air. I let go of the webline I'm on and dive headfirst down towards the scene in a freefall. Wen I'm within range, I web up the larger, dangerous pieces of concrete and plaster in order to keep them from striking someone below. I land hard and catch the final, boulder-sized piece before it falls on a car. I drop it on the street beside me, and wave to the kid in the backseat of the sedan, "Hey kid. Eat your vegetables!"

From the blown out building, which I now see is a bank, comes a hail of gunfire. The cars on the street speed off in an attempt to escape, and I don't blame them. I swing though the dust of the explosion, and on the other side I find another team of six Silk Cartel commandos covering the front of the building.

Coming in low, I drive my feet into the first, delivering a devastating swinging kick. I land further into the bank and take cover behind a large, marble column in the bank. Bullets from the rifles chip into the hard stone, but it should hold long enough to give me an opening.

When the firing stops to all them to reload, I spring into action. I fire a webline to the closest man, and pull down, smashing his face into the hard tile floor. With my other hand I web his gun and flick it into the face of the man next to him.

Three down.

I flip behind the next pillar as the firing resumes, and as I take cover my phone rings.


"Gwen where are...is that gunfire?" Pete's voice asks.

"Yea, the Cartel is attacking a bank!" I respond as I come out from behind the pillar and spring into the closest commando, tossing him into his two comrades, and webbing him to the floor. "I should be good now. Be there in a few."

"Don't be so sure, Spider!" a growling Russian voice says. I turn to find Aleksei Sytsevich, the big guy who threw me in the river the other night, approaching with what looks to be a shoulder mounted RPG. That means the Enforcers are here. The Silk Cartel's elite squad of saboteurs and fixers. When the Black Tarantula has a problem, these are the guys that get called in. If the big dumb one is here, that means others are as well.

"You take care of her, big guy," the one who wears the duster says as he heads back to the vault. "We'll get the money."

Mac Gargan, a former special ops soldier turned mercenary. The guy has a penchant for maximum destruction, but is smart as the whip he uses. Came from out west somewhere before becoming an Army Ranger.

Sytsevich turns back to me and snarls, "Looks like you are in our web now."

"Whoa there, big guy," I put my hands up and start backing up. "If you use that in here we're both gonna be a lot flatter."

The Russian merely chuckles with a deep, guttural rumble, "Who sayz this is for you? We know Spider's weakness. People."

With that, he points the RPG out of the gaping hole in the side of the bank and fires it into the building across the street. The resulting explosion seems to play out in slow motion to me, as I have absolutely no way of stopping it, "No...what did you do!?"

"Get in our vay again, and this will heppen again," Aleksi snarls and heads back towards the vault.

I take in the warning and head for the damaged building. Luckily, the structure seems to be strong. Still, it's clear the third floor is on fire, and anyone inside is more than likely injured, at the very least.

Looking at the two pillars I hid behind, an idea strikes me. I attach webbing to each about two thirds of the way up, and back up until the lines are straining under the load. As I let go of the pressure, I'm slingshotted into the burning building.

Smoke chokes my lungs and stings my eyes as I call out for survivors. The sprinklers of the building try in vain to extinguish the blaze, turning the soot and smoke into a slurry below my feet. I can hear the muffled groans of at least three people. The first I find under their desk, a shard of glass embedded in their thigh.

Looking down at the wound before looking up at the woman, I find a girl not much older than I am. Probably right out of college, scared out of her wits. He blond hair is filled with soot, and her mascara is running from her tears. I put my hand on her shoulder, "I'm gonna get you out of here, but you need to tell me how many people were in the office when the explosion happened."

"T-three," she stammers out. "Only three. Me, my boss, and Jerome. Jerome was the closest. Oh god what if he-"

"Don't think about that now," I say as I grab the shard of glass. "Sorry."

I yank it out and she yelps in pain. Acting quickly, I fire my webbing into the wound, sealing it. I throw her over my shoulder and head for the gaping hole in the building, hoping I can find one of the other trapped people. Unfortunately, as I get to the edge of the flames, I do. There, with his legs pinned under a flipped desk, is Jerome.

"Hey, do you trust me?" I ask the girl I'm carrying, and get nothing but a confused look from her. "Good!"

I fire a webline at a streetlight below, before tying it around her waste and tossing her out the gash in the building. She screams bloody murder, but when she gets to the end of the line she bounces harmlessly above the street. Quickly, I flip the desk off her coworker and do the same for him.

"Two down, one to go."

I head back into the smoke filled office, looking for the girl's boss. I find him barricaded behind his office door, his expensive Wall Street banker suit stained with what I'm going to pretend is spilled coffee. He has a fire extinguisher in hand, as if that is actually going to help him.

"Come on, Gordon Gecko. Time for your rescuing. And now, I'm not carrying you after...that."

I swing down to the street with him in tow before getting the others down from the streetlight. As I do, the assembled citizens of New York begin to cheer. I wave to the crowd as emergency services shows up to get the situation under control.

Sometimes it's good to be Spider-Woman.

Oh shit! The show!
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Hidden 5 yrs ago Post by Bounce
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Fourteen thirty hours, Oa standard time. I've spent the last ten years trying to find some credible shred of evidence that one or more of the Guardians involvement in organized crime that would enable me to bring down these criminals. At least three Green Lanterns are dead for my efforts, and a fourth is in danger. That makes it my problem. My name is Salaak. I carry a ring.
"Orphan's Lament" [ Part II ] [ Terrible Fate ]

It was strange how irregular it felt now.

Enshrouding himself in emerald light, the Slyggian Green Lantern lifted off for the atmosphere of Oa the very moment that he had exited from out of the main administrative structure. It was a movement he had made countless times in the forty years that he'd spent as a Green Lantern. Except, he'd been on Oa for the last decade. In that time, had he ever once used his ring for something other than a simple construct?

The answer was no.

So now, lifting off into the upper atmosphere, Salaak found himself shaking off the cobwebs of atrophied skills even as he straddled the line between earth and space.

3,600 sectors of space. 100 billion stars. Approximately 7.6 billion inhabited planets. And a lot of vagrant space, the depths of interstellar void in which nothing existed. Hundreds, even thousands of lightyears of emptiness that was as cold as it was unending. Somewhere in all of that was one small human child that he would need to find before the boy succumbed to a terrible fate.

No doubt the scarred Guardian had timed her request to see him just to create this moment. The overwhelming sense of powerlessness. Any of the Guardians could know in an instant where one of their rings were. Instead, Salaak was left with a cosmic needle-in-a-haystack.

...except Salaak had the benefit of knowing something that the scarred Guardian did not.

A proverbial ace up the sleeve. Though, he'd never expected that the scheme would work to this benefit now. Extending out his hand, the Slyggian closed his eyes and allowed his mind to dwell on the bond between him and his ring.

It was not enough to merely don the ring. The wearer had to be chosen. Opening his eyes, the Slyggian vanished in a swell of green light, as the Green Lantern made the jump to lightspeed.

The Slyggian slid back into normal space-time, gliding up in time to see the jade ring starting to pull away from the child's hand.

He was too late.

A green construct formed around Kai-ro's small form, sealing the boy into a stasis pod. Craning his head down, the Slyggian Green Lantern examined the two rings. The ring in his palm. The ring on his finger. There was history there. So much of the last ten years was so much sleight of hand. Nothing was right anymore.

Nothing had been, since those rings had parted ways.

Raising his head up, the Slyggian started calculating his next move. He was too late. But that was not the same as being out of time.

Maybe there was still time to try and make this right again.
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Hidden 5 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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“And the Academy Award for Best Picture goes to…”

Director Billy Wilder carefully opened the envelope while the crowd beneath him looked on in anticipation. The large microphone in front of Wilder was broadcasting the event out across the country, a testament to the power of pictures that even their industry award show was eagerly consumed by the masses.

“It’s a clean sweep,” Wilder announced with a large smile. “The War at Home, a Pinnacle Pictures production, Frederick Waltham producing!”

Fred Waltham jumped from his seat and ran towards the stage. This would be his third trip up to the stage. He’d already won the Oscars for best director and best original story earlier in the night. His melodrama on soldiers returning home from the war also received best leading actor for Randall Houghton’s performance as a shell-shocked Marine trying to adjust to life back home, and best leading actress for Shelley Claudette as the Marine’s wife. The first time since 1934 that a picture swept all five of the major Oscar categories.

“Thank you,” said Waltham after Wilder had handed him the Oscar. "Thank you so much. Let's get everyone else up here."

He looked out at the applauding audience while he waited for the other representatives of The War at Home to make their way to the stage to join him. Waltham laughed and pointed at people he knew in the audience. That was pretty much everyone in attendance. He’d risen through the ranks, first as a dynamite screenwriter during the transition from silent films to talkies, to a director in the 30’s and early 40’s. Now he was above even that, what people in the biz called an auteur. He wrote, directed, and produced his own films. Complete creative control over every aspect of the process. Already a major player in Hollywood, he now had five academy awards to show for his creative efforts.

Waltham felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck as he spotted a face he recognized in the crowd. Standing, clapping harder than anyone else, was a cheerful middle-aged man with dark sunglasses on and a straw boater. He stopped clapping and waved at Waltham, flashing a set of razor-sharp teeth in his head.

“Here,” Waltham said as soon as Claudette got on stage, handing her the award. “You give the speech for us.”

“But Freddy, darling, it’s your award.” She furrowed her brow when she saw his face. “Are you okay? You look white as a sheet.”

“Just give the fucking speech,” he hissed.

Taken aback for a moment, Claudette’s mask slipped back on and she was all smiles as she approached the microphone. The rest of the members of the film were on stage now, allowing Waltham to slip into the back and scan the crowd. The man in the suit wasn’t anywhere to be seen. He took a deep breath and nodded to himself. He hadn’t thought about that night in the hotel in a long time. He’d put it out of his mind days after it happened. But he had shown up here as a reminder, looking no different than he had twenty years ago. Waving and reminding Fred that he could enjoy this night, but he would be back soon enough.

“And thank you to our dear director, producer, well… just everything, Freddy Waltham.”

Waltham raised his hand, giving his best smile as Claudette and the rest of the people on stage looked at him and applauded.

“The man with the magic touch,” said Claudette. “The most talented and hardest working man in show business. Without you, Freddy, I don’t know where I’d be… and I shudder to think of where the movie business would be without you as well.”

More generous applause from the audience as Waltham nodded his thanks to her. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement and turned his head. On the far right, behind the stage near the stage door, was the man again. He stood watching, a playful smile on his face. When he saw he had Waltham’s attention, he smile grew wider until the sharpened teeth could be seen. He simply tipped his boater at Waltham and turned to leave, exiting out the stage door as Claudette finished her speech and thunderous applause filled the theater.


Venice Beach

“Welcome to Mistress Devine’s Spiritual Sanctum.”

John Constantine had a laugh at the scene around him. The small shop on the boardwalk was crammed with holistic, spiritualistic mumbo jumbo of the first order. Racks of cleansing crystals, healthy coffee, and all-natural supplements were next to so-called healing potions and blessed incense. The woman in the flowery dress behind the counter hadn’t bothered to look up when she rattled off her greeting, but she did as soon as she caught scent of the cigarette smoke.

“John Constantine,” she said with a sigh. “What do you want?”

“Well, hullo to you too, Jenny.” A smirk emerged on his face as he glanced around the store. “Or should I say, Mistress Devine?”

“It pays the bills,” said Jenny. “And in Venice Beach, Mistress Devine's Spiritual Sanctum is like the third most normal thing you can find. There’s a legit sex-cult a few stores down. Or at least, they were there. I think the cops raided them. NXIST. You hear about that?”

“Maybe,” said John. “But I do have to say this is a pretty solid con you got going.”

“We live in the age of anti-vaxxers and flat-earthers, John. People rebel when they’re told something is an undeniable fact. They no longer want to be told what’s the truth, they want to discover it for themselves.... regardless of how full of shit that truth is. And I offer them a means to discover thier truth.”

“For a price.”

“Everything has a price,” she said seriously. “You know this better than most.”

“You're right on that count," he said, looking around the shop. "You think we could go somewhere else and talk privately?”

“Sure,” Jenny said with a raised eyebrow. “But don’t get any ideas.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, love,” he said with a grin. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”


“I’m gonna come, you piece of shit! Don’t stop! Don’t you fucking stop! I'm coming! I'm coming! You ready to come, you British son of a bitch? Yeah? Let me suck it. Mmmmppmmmpp yeah, you almost ready? Mmmmpppmmppp. Yeah, right there. Fucking finish on my face. Yeah, right there. Oh, yeah...”

A few minutes later, John pulled his pants back up and buckled his belt while Jenny slipped the flowery dress back over her naked body. John's face was flushed and sweaty, while Jenny's was flushed and sweaty and... plastered.

"I forgot how much you love that dirty talk," John said with a content sigh.

“Have you seen my panties?” she asked.

“No idea,” John said as he tucked the soiled underwear into the pocket of his trench coat. “You threw them off in a fit of passion, crying you’d never need them again.”

“Well.. I’ve gotta clean up.”

“Right,” John said, pulling a cigarette out of his pack. “Care for one?”

“No,” she said as she went into the bathroom. “Just keep telling me about this score.”

“Well, this Stowe wants me to nick this object from a wealthy businessman. It’s supposed to be a cursed typewriter some wanker sold his soul to the devil over. Bought at one of the auctions the Good People have.”

“Tricky,” Jenny said from the bathroom. “The Good People protect the stuff they auction off, or so I've heard. There’s always been rumors that there’s protection spells on the items they sell. Don’t you have a friend who does the auctions?”

“Epiphany, and she used to be a friend,” said John.

“Another bridge burned?”

“Another day, another woman hating my guts, love. Anyway, she once told me the rumors aren’t true. But she never confirmed nor deny. Best to let people think they’re protected. It took Stowe a long time to track the guy down, but he is sure this is our guy.”

“Why are you doing this?”

Jenny came out the bathroom, her dress in order and her hair to where it had been pre-copulation. Her face was now cleaned up from the mess it had been earlier.

“You’re a conman, sure. An asshole, no doubt. A major prick, of course--"

"Is there a compliment in there somewhere?"

"--but this Stowe guy sounds like someone you wouldn’t work for. As sleazy as you can be, you generally tell people you don’t like to fuck off.”

“True,” said John. “But I’m doing it as a favor for someone else. Someone I owe dearly.”

“Wow. John Constantine never owes anyone anything.”

“This one in particular was huge. Saved my immortal soul huge.”

“Care to share?”

John thought back on the searing pain. Lucifer’s long fingers, turned into talon-like claws as he ripped the cancerous growths and tar filth from his lungs. The way John had doubled over and coughed up blood and tarry mucus as the Lightbringer had stepped over him like you would a homeless man splayed out on the sidewalk.

“Love, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“You’ve yet to ask me what you want,” said Jenny. “Other than a quick fuck. Which you already got.”

“I’m going to need a little help in this grift. Like any good magician, I need an assistant, and Stowe is willing to pay very well. The cunt has more money than he has anything else. It’d keep you stocked up in holistic incense shit for the next year if you help me do this job.”

Jenny rubbed her fingers together and thought about it. John knew she was going to say yes the second she opened her mouth at the sight of him, even more so when she bent over and let him take her from behind. If she was smart she would have said no when she saw him and kept saying no until he left. But she’d been intrigued by his sudden presence and that got his foot wedged into the door before it could be slammed in his face. John could tell by the look in her eyes that as much as the Spiritual Sanctum paid the bills, it didn’t have the same high as running a con.

“What kind of scam were you thinking about pulling?” she asked.

“Not sure yet,” John said with a smile. “But how about you close the shop and we go scope out our mark?”
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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 yrs ago Post by Simple Unicycle
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10:32 PM; July 25th, 2018
Entisen Apartments; New York City

The last guy on my list was Frank Niagara, a high-ranking tough of Manfredi's. His nickname was 'the Bat', and no, it wasn't because he dressed up in a bat costume like that guy in Gotham. Back when I was a cop I would see the corpses of some of the people he tortured, using nothing but a wooden baseball bat. He knew just where to hit to ensure maximum pain without inflicting any lasting damage. Then he'd work his way up before finally executing his victim by completely pulverizing their head. Killing someone and leaving their face unrecognizable was the most disrespectful thing you could do to an Italian mobster; it meant their family couldn't have an open casket funeral.

He was cold, brutal, without mercy or remorse.

But I was worse. And tonight, he would die by my hand.

The apartment building he was staying at, Entisen Apartments, was owned by the mob. All the guys who lived there were linked to Manfredi in one way or another, same with all the guys who worked there. That meant I didn't have to feel bad if I killed a whole bunch of them. I snuck into the building through a basement window.

What I found was Niagara's latest victim, tied to a chair with half of his face caved in, dried blood caking his disheveled clothing. Even with all the things I had done along this journey to Hell, the sight made me sick. Next to the body was a card from a Mickey Mouse themed playing card deck. A King of Hearts, represented by Mickey Mouse making a heart with his hands. A dried up drop of blood marred the upper right corner of the card.

I pulled out my Glock, fitted with a suppressor. Take it slow and quiet, Castle. Slow and qui-



Time Is An Illusion
The Inner Workings of A Twisted Mind

The pictures on the walls showed happier times, snapshots of our wedding and family photos with the twins. Blood was smeared on the walls, their screams echoing through the halls of our home.

I remembered something she told me just a day before they were all killed. She called me while I was at work. "Frank, I got something weird in the mail today... Something about Silvio Manfredi."

"Sorry, Maria, I'm a bit busy. We can talk about it when I get home." I was busy, but with nothing important. Nothing was more important than her and the kids. But I didn't realize that until it was too late.

"Right, sorry. I'll see you when you get home. We're still taking the kids for the picnic tomorrow, right?"

"Of course. Love you."




You never realize what's important to you until it's too late.

11:14 PM; July 25th, 2018
Entisen Apartments; New York City

I stirred awake with a groan.

"So. Yer the famous Punisher?"

I blinked the blood out of my eyes, looking for the source of the voice. What I saw was a fat man with a shark's grin, a bat clutched in his hands. I was looking at Frank 'the Bat' Niagara, just the man I was killing to see.

"I'm Frankie Niagara. The Bat."

"Niagara?" I choked out, "As in you cry a lot?" I was tied to a chair and he had a blood soaked bat in his hands. Making fun of him was the smartest thing to do.




"Heheh. Yer a funny guy, Mr. Castle. Too bad jokes won't help yous out with me."

I spat out blood. "What, having a sense of humor doesn't run in the family? Your mother was laughing her ass off when I was telling 'em to her last night. Was what got me into her pants."


Niagara swung the bat, nailing me straight in the face. He hit me with enough force to put a crack in the bat.

"Ya don't fuckin' talk about my mother, you son of a bitch!"

Blood was pouring out of my nose and a gash on the left side of my forehead. I probably had a concussion at the very least. So I just stayed quiet, to avoid any further brain damage.

"I'm comin' the fuck back later. All this work's workin' up a thirst. Then I gotta get me a new fuckin' bat, 'cause ya face broke it so bad." He began to head out the door. "Don't go nowhere," he said, before shutting the door behind him, not even bothering to lock it.

"You play, you pay, you bastard..."

I began to struggle with the bonds. I don't know why I did. This seemed like a pretty fitting end to this tragedy: so close to the last target on my hitlist, only to get ambushed and killed. So blinded by rage and my thirst for revenge that I forgot I was still human, and could still be jumped. Sounded like something out of a Shakespeare play.

The chair was wooden, and judging by the creaks it made when I made the slightest move, it was about ready to break anyway. It took me a minute or two but with one last push, the chair broke into pieces. I undid my bonds, and clutched at my bruised and bloodied face. I checked my holsters; they had taken my guns. Of course they did.

All I had was Niagara's cracked bat, caked with my own blood.

The door he went through lead to a hallway, doors lined up on both sides. Music was blaring from one of the apartments. There were room numbers on them, and I could hear voices behind every door. It'd be a dumb move to go in like some sort of action hero. But if we've learned anything along this journey, it's that I was a dumb move guy.

I kicked in the nearest door, labelled 101, and swung my bat at the nearest man, nailing him right in the left temple and putting him out for the count. There were two other guys who were still trying to process what happened. I threw my bat and hit one in the face, while pulling the gun from the pants of the one I just took out. A Beretta. At least they had good taste in weaponry.

I fell to the floor as the uninjured one took aim. He fired and missed just a second after I moved out of the way of the shot. I jumped up and fired at him, nailing him in the throat. I twisted around and shot the one who got a baseball bat to the face moments before.

I heard the animated talking from the other rooms be replaced by shouts of confusion and anger. "The fuck was that?!" "It's that lousy cop Frankie caught!" "Let's get him!" That kinda thing.

I pulled the Browning Hi-Power from the belt of one of the other two thugs I had just killed. I ran to the door and pressed myself up against the wall next to it. From my knowledge of firearms, the Browning had 13 rounds, and the Beretta had 15 (now 13 after I had used it). 26 shots. That would be enough. I took in a breath and waited for one of the gangsters to charge in...

I didn't have to wait long. One of the thugs ran in right past me, gun at the ready. I fired and nailed him in the back of the head. I leapt out into the hallway, finding four thugs with guns at the ready. The gunshot coupled with my sudden appearance put them in a momentary state of shock, unable to do anything but stare. I took advantage of that and fired, putting them all down.

21 shots.

I pressed myself against the wall, next to the closest unopened door. I kicked it open and aimed inside, finding no one; one of the other doors down the hall opened and out came a mobster, who fired and managed to hit me. I returned fire, putting him down. Thank God Frankie didn't strip me of my kevlar.

19 shots.

I had a stupid idea. The walls were pretty close together, and there was a decent sized gap between the top of the doors and the ceiling. Maybe...

I pressed my legs against the walls, pulling myself up to the ceiling and flattening myself against it. I was right above two adjacent doors.

The doors opened. Two mobsters stepped out, not leaving the doorways just yet, and looked around the hallway. Thankfully, they didn't look up. "Where the fuck is he?" one of the mobsters who came out asked the other, who shrugged in response.

I swung myself down, legs still keeping me on the roof, and aimed one gun at each of them.


I dropped to the ground and jumped back to my feet, sticking both arms out and firing into the two rooms, managing to kill the remaining mobsters inside.

12 shots.

The hallway was clear. I moved on.

Frankie had said he'd be having a drink. The building, in its heyday, had been a hotel not unlike the Royal Palace, serving mobsters and the people who had enough money; it still had a restaurant and a bar from back then. As I exited the hallway and entered the main lobby, I saw a sign in the shape of an arrow reading 'bar', pointing to the left. I followed its directions.

Frankie was there, true to his word, having a beer. Four other mobsters were there as well.


He turned around and his eyes widened. "What the fuck? How'd you get free?"

I smirked. "Got bored waiting, figured, 'what the hell? I'll go see what he's doing.'"

He chuckled, sneering. "Looks like we'll be finishing here."

I dove to the side as he produced an Uzi. I fired at two of the mobsters that were in there with him, taking them both out before they could prove to be a problem.

10 shots.

I leapt onto a table as Frankie and the two remaining mobsters fired at me, running over several tables while firing back at them. One went down.

6 shots.

I jumped onto the bar and slid down it, firing in Frankie and the last mobster's direction. I took the last gangster down, but Frankie leapt out of the way of my shots, landing on a table while still firing.

1 shot left.

I rolled off the bar and came to a stop in front of the table Frankie was laying on, lying on the floor. He leveled his gun at my head before I could do the same to him. "Heh. They shoulda called me Quickdraw. You're fuckin' dead, Castle." He pulled the trigger.


"Someone wasn't counting." I aimed at his shocked face.

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Hidden 5 yrs ago Post by HenryJonesJr
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"Half an hour, Gwen!? Are you serious?" MJ shouts at me backstage as I struggle to get my mind straight after the run in with the Enforcers.

She's right to yell, of course, at least from her point of view. This show is big for her and the rest of the band. To her, I'm half an hour late because I just don't care as much as she does. She doesn't know that I had to stop both a bank robbery and save people from an explosion. Okay, sure, I didn't actually stop the robbery but I tried. MJ doesn't know that I'm a superhero, so I just stand there and take her berating.

"MJ, I know," I nod and look down at my feet. "I'm not going to give you any excuses. All I want is to make up for it by rocking the beanies off those hipsters out there."

She considers it for a few moments. I know she wants to continue screaming, but the pull for the spotlight is even stronger than her anger. I know she'll probably be mad for a few days after this, but no way in hell is she going to not start the show.

"Fine," her eyes narrow at me, "but this is not cool, Gwen. Not cool at all."


After tearing the house down at the gig, Pete and I head back to Queens in the subway. After saying goodbye to the girls at their stops, the two of us walk home together, hand-in-hand.

"So they threatened to keep targeting civilians if you interfere again?" Pete asks worriedly. "That is some cold stuff."

"It's cowardly," my words come through gritted teeth. "But even worse is the fact that I think it's probably going to work."

Pete gives me some side eye, "How? You're not gonna stay out of their way, are you?"

The question has been rattling around in my brain since the Russian strong man put it forth. On one hand, not trying to stop the Silk Cartel's takeover of the crime world of New York would be one hell of a dereliction of duty. At the same time, I can't put civilians in danger. The reason I am on this mission to begin with is to make sure innocent people never get hurt again under my watch. If I go after the Enforcers and their boss, it means I'll be knowingly doing just that. Then again, letting the Enforcers run wild probably isn't the safest idea either.

"Until I figure something out, I'm giving them a wide berth," I finally decide. "I'm not going to give them carte blanche, but until I can figure out a way to take them down outside of reach of civilians, I don't have a choice."


Two Weeks Later

I put the kitten into the arms of the waiting girl and rub the little fluffball's head, "Now remember not to let her out of the house, okay?"

"Good job, Spider-Woman!" the roasted nuts guy on the corner cheers and throws me a bag.

Shrugging, I catch the snack and pop a few in my mouth before swinging off. It's nice to do some random acts of kindness, especially because I need something to make me feel better about not going after the Enforcers and the Cartel.

For the past week I've stayed away from their operations, and it shows. They've been carving out sections of the city at an alarming rate, causing my Dad to really worry and work insane hours. Add on top of that the fact that since I can't take on their crimes, I've been putting away Maggia member after Maggia member. At this point I'm probably actively helping the South American gang take over the city. Which just makes me feel extra special good inside. Hooray me, ancillary gang war participant.

It's made even worse by the fact that the Enforcers seem to be rubbing my face in it. They've been causing some serious collateral damage in their wake. No deaths, thank god, but they've definitely left their mark on the city. It's impossible not to notice.

"The Enforcers, ladies and gentlemen!" Jameson's voice starts back up as I listen to his daily show. "A group of highly trained, dangerous individuals who have cleaved a path of destruction across our fair city. Banks robbed, property destroyed, and mayhem spilling into the streets. All the while the notorious 'Spider-Woman', someone who claims to be a hero and protector of the people of New York, is nowhere to be found. Why is that, INFO BUGLE listeners? Is it because she is afraid of four normal humans? Is it because she's unable to stop them? Or maybe Spider-Woman isn't the hero she wants us to believe she is. Maybe she's in league with these Enforcers and needs to be stopped? Let's hope Captain George Stacy can get the job done and bring her in. And who knows, maybe he'll need some help from us. Keep you eyes peeled, Bugle listeners!"

Triple J has been having a field day ever since the Enforcers started running wild. I mean, he's been on my case since day one, of course. But this is different. He can smell blood in the water and is sending his little fish after me. His listeners, according to Pete, who's been reading their message boards, are all saying they're going to bring me down. Jameson's propaganda is starting to get dangerous for me, and that's not good.

I need to take down the Enforcers.

"Pete," I call my boyfriend.

"Yea, babe. What's up?" he answers on the other end.

"I'm gonna do something stupid."

"Oh yea, what's that?" he asks, half-listening.

"I'm gonna go talk to the cops," I respond and hear him drop something on the other end of the line.

"Gwen what the hell are you thinking?" he chokes, clearly eating something during our conversation.

"I'm thinking I need someone to help me set a trap for the Enforcers. I think it's the best move I've got."

It's something I've been thinking about for days, keeping it to myself until now. If the Enforcers want to make sure they extra a civilian price for me getting involved in their comings and goings, it means I have to take the possibility of human casualties out of the equation. The only way to do that would be to get them away from civilians. There's no way I can do that on my own. The minute they see me coming they'll put normal people in danger. So I need someone to lead them to somewhere they can be neutralized in a safe way.

"Ugh," Peter grumbles. He doesn't like the plan, but I think he realizes it's the only way. "Fine. But be careful."

"I actually need you to call a number while not being traced and tell the officer to meet me on the roof."


"I cannot believe I'm doing this," Jean DeWolff mutters to herself as she takes a drag of the cigarette that hands on her lip. She pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose and looks down at her watch. She has already been up here for ten minutes. Whoever is meeting her here, and she has a good guess who it is, is late. She hates when people are late.

I know because she was my father's partner at one time. They were so close at one time that Jean was almost like an Aunt to me. The cop never had any children of her own, and she had seen me as kind of a surrogate, I think. At least until her and dad had a bit of a falling out after he was promoted. Still, Dad has put her on his new squad, so hopefully that means the fence is mending a bit.

"Lieutenant DeWolff," I announce my presence behind her. She turns, startled, and points her firearm at me. I put my hands up, crouching on the ledge of the roof, "Listen, I'd really appreciate it if you didn't use that. I've been shot at way too many times the past month. I'd hate to get shot at by someone I'd like to consider a friend."

She lowers the gun, "You know I'm on the team that supposed to arrest you, right?"

"Yea, but I mean, this is parlay, right? No shooting or arresting?" I shrug.

"Par what?"

"Parlay? It's a...pirate thing. You know what, never mind," press my left palm to my face and wave my right hand dismissively. "Look, I need help with the Enforcers, and coming to the police is basically the only thing I can think of."

An eyebrow raises above her glasses. Her stance softens and her head tilts at me. I can tell she's intrigued. Whether that means she'll actually help or not remains to be seen.

"And what do you expect us to do about them?" she asks, unimpressed. "We've had about as much luck as you have against them. Actually, scratch that, we've been trying to stop them."

That one hits me right in the chest, I gotta admit.

"Listen," a sigh escapes. "I've wanted to go after them. But the last time, at the bank and with the RPG attack, they said they'd continue to target innocent people if I interfered. I couldn't have that on my head."

She considers my words carefully, "Let's say I do believe you. What could we do to help you? They don't seem to be dumb."

"They're not," I agree. "But their leader, the Black Tarantula, whoever they are, is ambitious. Too ambitious for their own good. We use that hunger against them. I already stopped them trying to wipe out some of the Maggia's lieutenants at a drug delivery. I figure, you spread the word through some undercover officers that another shipment is on its way..."

"And they jump on the opportunity to finish the job they start," DeWolff nods along. "It makes sense."

"Once they're neutralized you can move in and arrest them," I offer.

"And what about you?" she raises her chin.

"Hey, you guys can try," I shrug. "The docks on the south side of Queens. I'll be waiting for them there."

I swing away, hoping to all that is holy this plan works.
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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 yrs ago Post by Master Bruce
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Master Bruce Winged Freak

Member Seen 1 mo ago

Gotham City, Precinct 27
Gordon's Office
7:00 PM

"Captain, if I may? Keep this quiet."

Captain Gordon narrowed his eyes as Agent Nashton placed Jim's phone back on the table. Thanks to a mysterious benefactor, video evidence had just made it clear that The Batman hadn't been responsible for the assassination attempt against District Attorney Dent. And yet Nashton, the man that Loeb had thrust upon the department to dictate how this investigation was going to go from here on out, had affixed a skeptical gaze throughout the entire behind-closed-doors briefing between Gordon's top officers, with Renee Montoya, Michael York, and Duke Thomas already sent off to work their own leads on who the actual shooter was. Not skepticism towards Batman's innocence, of course. That much was obvious. But to the very idea of exonerating the vigilante of the crime.

"Want to run that by me again, Agent? Because it sounded to me like you just insisted that I divert my people from trying to capture a dangerous sniper running loose in Gotham."

Nashton massaged the bridge of his nose, frustrated, as if Gordon were several miles behind him in grasping the very concept of the Agent's current train of thought. It gave off more than a little bit of an air of condescension, but the Captain was quick to bite his tongue. After all, whoever Nashton was, he was undoubtedly used to higher-profile cases than this and was thinking in a way that Jim probably didn't even think to approach. Rubbing elbows with the Gotham City PD seemed to be about as fun for Nashton as it had already been for Gordon to have him. They were both in a bind.

"Make no mistake, I do not believe that your department should lessen the security surrounding Harvey Dent anytime soon. Send your very best, if you must, to ensure that the true shooter doesn't attempt to prematurely end the District Attorney's life a second time. But if you make this video public and renounce Batman as a suspect, you're only making it easier on him. He could very well slip through our fingers, just as the perfect opportunity to put him in the crosshairs comes to us."

"Now just a minute.", Gordon interrupted. "Are you suggesting that we keep this to ourselves and publicly accuse Batman of this? In order to, what... help our case against him? Because going after the man for vigilantism is one thing, Nashton. To say nothing of the countless assault and battery charges, or breaking and entering. Hell, even resisting arrest at the scene of a crime. All of that, we could easily indict him on. But going with attempted murder of a public servant is an entirely different ballgame, and it's one that I'm not willing to play if we know it isn't true."

"Do we, though? Because I wonder.", Nashton posited. "The video simply shows the two men in a struggle near the scene of the shot. While it's very damning in it's suggestion that yes, the other suspect is the sole perpetrator and that Batman was simply interfering, there's nothing to also suggest that he was entirely innocent of this crime, either. The second individual could simply have been an accomplice."

Gordon side-eyed him, picking up the phone and rewinding the footage.

"You mean to say that there's plausible deniability?"

Nashton nodded.

"Think of it, Gordon. The public rallies behind Dent's proposed Anti-Batman task force if they believe the man is now targeting civilians aswell as criminals. We're given immediate funding by the Mayor. And then the binds that restrict us from capturing him are released.", he continued. "Before, they might have been lenient on the vigilante's relatively minor infractions. After all, however unlawfully, there are some that believe he's ultimately acting in their interest. But Dent is a respect civil servant, and right now, they fully believe Batman has crossed the line from altruistic crusade to personal vendetta."

The Captain was silent, watching as the caped vigilante violently struck out at a man who was clearly armed to the teeth. He was their suspect, there was no doubt of it in Gordon's mind. Killing wasn't apart of Batman's M.O. before now, and changing that all because Dent publicly condemned his actions didn't make any sense. The vigilante had never sought public approval and had never retaliated against bad press.

But Nashton saw an angle, and it was clear that this was what he had already set his mind to. Regardless, it was an angle that Jim didn't like. Batman may have been a dangerous criminal, but he needed to go down for the laws he had broken himself. Not become a target for a proverbial witch hunt, especially for an actual perpetrator that was still on the loose.

"This isn't the way."

Nashton leaned against the table, leering.

"I'll admit that I can see why it might not be your preferable cause of action. But it may prove to be the crucial bridge we need to ending a citywide threat once and for all. And do not take this as me thinking in a manner such as Commissioner Loeb, Captain. I've read your file, and I am no more a fan of dirty politics as you are. It is also no secret that the corruption in this city runs rampant, so if you help me on this, I will do whatever I can to make room for your department at other intervals. But I was assigned here to capture The Batman. And the way I see it, this is how we capture The Batman."

Gordon shot him a glare.

"This is how you turn the city against Batman. But that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. We're officers of the law, Agent Nashton. And I will not tolerate bending the facts to fit our version of them just to appease Mayor Thorne."

"And what are our facts, may I ask?", Nashton shot back, indignant. "You received a series of text messages on your phone? From whom, exactly? An anonymous source with a callsign? There is nothing about that to apply as tangible evidence in a court of law. Your eyewitness would have to step forth and reveal themselves to prove that the video isn't a forgery, among other things. Provided that the eyewitness and the Batman aren't even the same person to begin with."

Gordon stood up from his chair.

"The argument's no flimsier on your side, Nashton. There's a difference between nailing a man to a cross and burning the cross while he's still attached. What you're proposing is no different from throwing an innocent man out to the wolves. You light the fire on this, and Batman just might get burned by Dent's task force. That's not what my department wants. We want him alive to stand trial."

Nashton raised his finger, ready to make a counterpoint, but then stopped. Seemingly content to regather his thoughts, the Agent pulled out a cellphone from his own jacket pocket and began sorting through a series of images that looked to be on an encrypted server, repeatedly stroking the screen with his index finger as he spoke.

"Question. I take it that before this video dropped into your lap, you were familiar with The Batman's reputation for never getting caught on film?"

Gordon raised an eyebrow.

"I'm aware of that, yes. It's the entire reason that he was able to perpetuate the idea of being a myth, those first few months. We've had tech specialists look into possible theories on whether or not he could be carrying a focused EMP, given every witness testimony filed with the Precinct complained of cellphone outages whenever they tried to take a photo or video. But it's still only a running theory."

"And one of which I would personally subscribe. But I also suspect that whatever method he's using, Batman hasn't always had the luxury of that discretion."

Nashton handed Gordon the phone as he sat back down. The Captain looked at the photo presented and removed his glasses, eyes widened. Unable to comprehend what he was even looking at, at first. But there it was, clear as day. The Batman, as clear as any photographic evidence had ever presented. And more importantly...

"That officer... That's Marcus Driver."

Agent Nashton stood up straight, arms folding across his chest.

"A former Lieutenant of this precinct. You knew him."

"Knew him? I helped train him. He was one of the best officers I've ever worked with. He held the Major Crimes Unit together for over five years. We even held his retirement party just last month, but..."

Jim fell silent. Nashton sneered.


"But... he always maintained that he was beaten half to death by Falcone's men. A whole group of them that we were never able to identify. And he never once mentioned an encounter with Batman. The only reason he was able to claim disability was because of the fact that he'd sustained nerve damage from the assault. Christ, he packed up with his wife and kids and moved to Florida..."

Nashton pulled up a chair and sat down, bringing himself at eye level with a clearly shaken Gordon.

"That photograph was never made public because my superiors prevented it's release. We've had it for five months, meaning that it was taken just after the vigilante's first encounter with the five families. Had this been made public, your Lieutenant Driver would have been able to give us the ammunition we needed against The Batman before this even escalated. Instead, he ran away. Rendered a cripple by a masked vigilante taking the law into his own hands, and the lunatic had made him too scared to even tell you."

The Captain got back up and leaned against the window, shellshocked.

"I didn't..."

"Nor could you have known. My agency was tasked with keeping The Batman's existence a secret in the wake of the metahuman crisis, in the event that he was one of them. A decision which was left out of my hands, unfortunately. But I'm telling you now to make a point. You've been lied to on all sides of this, Captain. All for the sake of protecting a man who willfully inflicts damage to men and women you've known. Men and women you've trained."

Gordon looked back at him, the clear resentment for the Agent gone. There was only a look of uncertainty replacing it. He had trusted Driver with his life, and all this time, this had been kept from him. If he was lying about that, how was Gordon to say that he wasn't hiding something else? Something worse that the vigilante held over him, or threatened him with? It wasn't as if the former Lieutenant had been some rookie. Something would have had to have been said to coerce him into not even mentioning his true attacker.

"Help me to end this, Gordon. I don't want to have to force you to do it, so I'm asking you. Not for Loeb, not even for my Agency. But to put this man away before he does decide that killing off public servants might suite his needs."

The Captain wasn't sure of what to say.

On one hand, Nashton had basically admitted to knowing fully well that Batman wasn't responsible for the attempt on Dent. But on the other, there was clearly a ton of information that the Agent knew about The Batman that his department didn't. And if he could have a resource like that as an ally, in a city where those were particularly hard to come by...

"I need some assurances."

Nashton leaned back, a smile beginning to form across his lips.

"Name them."

Gordon adjusted his glasses, handing the phone back to the Nashton.

"Firstly, we do not exonerate the man who really pulled the trigger. We continue the hunt for the would-be assassin and bring him in for questioning. Off the record, if need be. But we still do the due diligence for Dent's sake. Letting the other man walk isn't an option."

The Agent shrugged.

"Gotham breeds criminality. From what I can tell, it practically thrives on it. It's far from a stretch to be able to say that this individual has committed any number of other crimes that would justify a warrant."

Gordon narrowed his gaze.

"Secondly. I want you to share everything your agency has on Batman. Every file, every suppressed incident. All of it comes straight to me."

Nashton smirked.

"I believe I can do you one better."

Pulling up his phone once again, Agent Nashton brought up a logo that made Gordon's eyes go wide once again.

"That can't be..."

"Riddle me this, Gordon. I am the gatekeeper of all the world's knowledge and protect it with my life, yet if a single crack appears on my person, I find myself entirely compromised. What am I?"

Gordon stared quizzically at Nashton's question.

"The answer, of course, is a shield. Specifically, S.H.I.E.L.D's intelligence on The Batman. My agency was able to hack their servers last month, and so far, we've remained entirely undetected. Any and all information that is sent Nick Fury's way about your vigilante, I have in the palm of my hands. And I extend that palm to you."

Placing the phone on the table, Nashton leisurely pressed it forward.

"At your convenience."

Captain Gordon stared down at the phone, looking directly into the emblem of the world's foremost peacekeeping organization. A level of authority that superseded municipal government and the highest ranking offices of power. S.H.I.E.L.D. was never even considered to be on the cards for co-operation with an inner-city police department because of the fact that they dealt with worldwide disasters, and yet they still found it in their best interest to keep a dossier on the man Gordon had relentlessly pursued for six months. Why? What warranted their interest in The Batman?

Gordon grabbed the phone and initiated the login sequence.

"I guess you're not giving me much of a choice."

The smirk on Nashton's face grew wider.

Even without the assurance of his task force, the hunt for The Dark Knight had officially began.

"You won't regret it."
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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 yrs ago Post by Sep
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Sep Migs Mayfield - Core

Member Seen 17 hrs ago



”I don’t like this Jay. I don’t like this at all-”

”I didn’t have a chance Joan, this is my mess to tidy up.”

“You’re not as young as you once were Jay, we made a deal. YOU made a deal with the government to hang up the tin hat.”

“Mota is my problem, he was my friend until he stole tech from the lab to turn into a bank robber. I don’t even know how he got out of prison-”

“He was released Jay. He robbed a bank, he’s served his sentence, it’s been a long time.”

The first thing she heard were the voices, as she slowly came too. Everything ached, her head was a special kind of sore. She didn’t even bother trying to open her eyes yet, she doubted they would have complied anyway. Instead she focused on the voices, she didn’t fully understand what was going on. Some kind of fight, she didn’t expect to be waking up on what felt like a couch. Instead she was expecting to wake up on the sidewalk, or not at all.

Had she seen what she thought she had seen?

“Joan, I have to stop Mota. I can’t let him do this all again, besides he’s not the only problem in the city right now-”

“Oh no. Don’t think about it Jay, you are not fighting all the crime in the city-” Iris could hear the womans voice begin to break. “-if you do that, S.H.I.E.L.D will take you away from me again, like last time you threatened to break the accords. You’re not the Flash anymore Jay. She is.”

The Flash. This must be the Flash that Zoom and this Mota had been referring to. She willed herself to sit up and open her eyes, groaning slightly as the room began to spin. Her body fighting her for every inch she tried to gain in sitting up. She placed her arms on her legs to stop herself from falling over. “Look who’s up.” Iris turned her head to the doorway where the man stood, he still wore the red top with a lightning bolt upon it though he had forgone wearing the helmet indoors. “How are you feeling Flash?”

“Flash?” Iris shook her head to clear the fog that threatened to close in on her again. How was this possible? This was The Flash. The one that Barry named her for, the one from comic books. Who fought alongside Captain America and later the Justice Society of America. “I don’t. I don’t understand.”

“Well, best I can tell is when you gained your powers you took my name-” She raised her hand to stop him, though quickly had to return it to her knee to prevent her from falling head first onto the floor.

“Not that. I know Ba-” She stopped herself from mentioning names. “-my friend.” She corrected herself, sitting up straight as she started to feel steadier. “Gave me a name based off a comic book hero, but that’s all you were, right? You can’t be real.”

The man chuckled. “It’s a long story, I’m real as you are. In terms of the comic book stuff-” he just shrugged. “-coverup. A lot of that stuff is exaggerated for entertainment purposes. Some of it isn’t. It’s a real mixed bag of truth and lies. Thankyou S.H.I.E.L.D. Names Jay Garrick, and I’m the Flash-” She pushed herself up and onto her feet, spreading her hands out as she felt dizzy for a second but then lowered them as she regained her balance.

“I’ve got two, two super powered freaks out there. Both of them have beaten me in the last twenty four hours. I need to find out what they want, and stop them.”

Jay walked over. “Not alone you don’t-”

“Eh-Ehm.” A woman stood in the doorway, presumably ‘Joan’. She looked undeniably pissed off.

Jay turned and flashed her a smile. “-What I mean is, I can help you against Mota.” She didn’t look happy, but she looked slightly less pissed off. “I can maybe even give you advice against what was the other guys name?”

“Hydro-Man.” Jay looked like he was going to burst into laughter, though a strange wave of nostalgia seemed to cross his face.

“Why do they always come up with such silly names? Mota used to go by Atom Smasher, I used to fight a guy who called himself Shade-”

“Excuse me, Flash?” Joans voice had a hint of playfulness in it now, a sign of a spark that still existed between the two of them.

Jay pointed an accusatory finger at Joan. “You know that I wasn’t given a lot of choice. Between the Streak, Flash and the Whizzer what was I supposed to go with?”

She chuckled slightly. “The [i[Whizzer[/i]. I still can’t believe they wanted to call you that.” She waved her hand as he scowled at her before she turned and walked out of the room.

He turned to face her again, indicating she should sit back down. Iris did, world going unsteady from the movement as he sat beside her. “The thing is Kid, I’ve been following your exploits since you made your debut. I found it a bit too convenient that someone with the same abilities as me appeared in Central City when I live in Keystone. Not only that, that they took on the same name that I did back in the day.”

Following her? “That was you, at City Hall. The one I got the shock from.” He nodded.

“Yeah that was me. The thing is, I’ve felt it every time you’ve been in trouble. I have a sense for these things, this force that helps us run it connects us and you-” He shook his head slightly “-you have the potential to be far faster than I ever was.”
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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 yrs ago Post by Morden Man
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Morden Man

Member Seen 3 days ago

Baxter Building, New York

Under the cover of darkness, Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben were whisked across the country to their new place of residence. Maria Hill had proven true to her word and provided them with accommodation that was more familiar to them. They just hadn’t been expecting it to be this familiar. The Baxter Building they entered through the back entrance was similar enough to their own that it brought memories flooding back, but different enough to make the experience unsettling.

Johnny Storm looked around the spacious living room wistfully. “Home sweet home.”

Ben Grimm eyed a large brown leather couch at the centre of the room. He flung himself down onto it. As he landed there was a worrying crunch and dust scattered around the room. Grimm glanced around at the TV against the wall, the cabinets, and the tables. All of them were covered in thick dust.

“You’d have thought SHIELD coulda paid someone to run a feather duster through the place before we arrived,” Grimm said through his fist as he coughed noisily. “I can barely breathe in here.”

Sue on the arm of the chair and patted Ben on the back to soothe his coughing.

“Let’s not complain too much, Ben. After all, we could still be cooped up in the Triskelion with SHIELD agents following us around twenty-four seven. At least here we have some privacy.”

The tranquility of the Fantastic Four’s return to the Baxter Building was broken by the sound of someone clearing their throat.

“About that.”

Lent in the doorway to the Baxter Building’s living room was none other than Guy Gardner. His face was significantly less red than when they had last crossed his path. He’d changed out of his SHIELD uniform and into a pair of denim jeans a tight-fitting black t-shirt. There was a red “W” emblazoned on his chest.

Ben lent towards Sue and rolled his eyes. “Looks like you spoke too soon, Suzie.”

Johnny’s eyes narrowed. He strode towards him and shoved an accusatory finger in the SHIELD agent’s chest.

“What are you doing here, Gardner?”

“What?” Guy said with a coy smile. “You’re trying to tell me you’re not happy to see your Uncle Guy again?”

It might not have been their Baxter Building but Gardner’s presence their felt like an intrusion. It was traumatic enough for Johnny to be surrounded by reminders of their past – the world they had left behind – but Guy’s sudden appearance had only shaken him up even more. Ever the empath, Sue stood up from her seat and placed a reassuring hand on her brother’s back.

She offered Guy a polite smile. “I don’t know if ‘happy’ is the word I’d use.”

Johnny nodded in agreement.

“The last time we saw you, you were storming out of Hill’s office with your panties in a bunch. It seemed pretty final to me. What’s changed?”

Guy let out a derisory laugh at the question.

“You’re kidding, right? That was nothing. A lover’s tiff between two old friends. You should see Maria and I when we get going after a couple of drinks. They're really something to behold.”

From the couch Ben studied Gardner’s body language. There was a tension in the SHIELD agent’s movements. He’d seen a confident Guy before – one so confident that he was willing to stand toe-to-toe with him. This wasn’t that. There was more going on here than Gardner was willing to let on and Grimm was tired of all the smoke and mirrors this world seemed entangled in.

“Lying ain’t your strong suit, Carrot Top.”

“Alright,” Gardner said with a knowing smile. “Let’s just say that the Fürher needed someone she could trust to make sure the four of you don’t land yourself in any trouble.”

A hearty laugh burst its way through Johnny’s lips. “And she chose you for that?”

Gardner’s joviality slipped and the big vein on his forehead bulged with outrage.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Reed, who had diligently been unpacking the few things the four of them had amassed since arriving in this world, looked over his shoulder towards the SHIELD agent. He had barely been listening to the conversation but the dribs and drabs that had filtered through to him made it simple enough to deduce how Gardner had ended up there. Reed set down a bottle of Latverian on a nearby table and concluded the inquisition in one mouthful.

“She didn’t have a choice. Maria wanted to remove the Pegasus from under your command and you threatened to kick up a stink about it. She also had a Fantastic Four problem on her hands and didn’t want to risk bringing anyone else in on it. So she killed two birds with one stone.”

“Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding,” Guy said as he mimed The Price Is Right claxon. “We have a winner.”

Ben let out an unimpressed grunt. He climbed out of the leather couch, picked up one of the boxes filled with research equipment, and pushed it into Gardner’s hands.

“Alright, enough flirting. I can’t say I’m exactly thrilled by the thought of having you around, but I guess it can’t hurt to have another pair of hands around.”

The pair of them wandered off down one of the Baxter Building’s corridors, leaving Reed, Sue and Johnny stood in silence. Reed and Sue’s eyes met and they looked at one another awkwardly until the super scientist returned to unpacking their things. Johnny let out a silent groan, grabbed his sister by the arm, and took her through a doorway into an adjoining room.

“Are we going to talk about what happened back there with Namor?” Johnny whispered. “Because this is getting ridiculo-”

Storm stopped dead in his tracks as he noticed the name engraved into the nameplate on the desk at the centre of the room. He walked over to it and lifted it up from the desk in complete disbelief as to what he was reading.

The office they were stood in belonged to one Dr. Franklin Storm.

“Whoa,” Johnny muttered.

He ran his fingers over the name almost as if it might wipe clean. It was every bit as much there as it had been before Johnny had touched it. He let out a little laugh and handed it over to his older sister to inspect.

Sue couldn’t quite bring herself to say anything. Her hands shook as the nameplate rested in her now clammy hands. She squeezed the nameplate to steady her hands while her brother reached for a picture on Franklin Storm’s desk. He muttered a silent “wow” as he recognised four people in the picture. From left to right stood Johnny, Sue, Reed and Ben. For the most part they looked the same outside of this Reed looked skinnier than his Reed and Ben looked slightly better looking than Johnny remembered him ever being.

It was the man stood behind Sue and Reed that Johnny didn’t quite recognise. There was something familiar about the round, affable face buried beneath the well-groomed strawberry blonde beard. It was Franklin.

As Johnny looked up from the picture he noticed his sister was on the brink of tears. He set the picture down on the table and wrapped his arms around her without saying a word.

Franklin was a ghost to him. The car crash that had robbed Johnny and Sue of their parents had taken place when he was barely old enough to walk. Sue was old enough to remember him – and remember having him taken from them. He should have remembered that. His thoughts had been so scattered by Darkseid – by what he’d suffered at the Marquis’ hands – he’d almost forgotten about everything they’d lost before Darkseid arrived.

Sue regained her composure after a minute or two and insisted on studying the picture of their father with the four of them.

The sound of Guy Gardner’s voice in the living room broke Sue’s focus. She thought about setting the picture down for a moment before realising that their in-house SHIELD agent could help shed some light on this world’s Franklin.

Sue had thrust the picture into his hands before she opened her mouth. “Gardner, tell me everything you know about Franklin Storm.”

The SHIELD agent winced at the mention of the name. For a second he considered avoiding the request altogether but the redness to Sue’s eyes elicited some sense of sympathy in him. He nodded begrudgingly as his thoughts turned to Franklin Richards.

“Your pops was … well, he was the biggest brain the world had ever seen until Richards came along. Doctor Storm set the Baxter Building up as a school for super smart kids. He was going to solve all the world’s problems – and your boyfriend was going to help him do it until the accident put an end to all of that.”

There was a finality to Gardner’s voice that made Johnny suspicious.

“What happened to him?”

“He committed suicide after the accident,” Gardner said solemnly. “Poor bastard couldn’t accept that the four of you were gone. He was convinced the whole thing was a put-up job by SHIELD or something.”

Johnny’s heart sank in his chest. Sue’s head dropped despondently and he tried to reach his hand out to comfort her but she pulled her hand away at the last moment. Without saying a word Sue disappeared down one of the Baxter Building’s many corridors. Johnny turned to follow after her but he a hand holding him back.

Reed gave his forearm a supportive squeeze and then followed after Sue. Whatever problems they might have been having, Reed Richards wasn’t about to stand by and watch while the woman he loved grieved alone.
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Hidden 5 yrs ago Post by Simple Unicycle
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Simple Unicycle ?

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2:00 PM; July 26th, 2018
Manfredi Manor; Outskirts of New York City

Silvio Manfredi had clawed his way to the top over the course of the last fifty years.

When Kingpin came to town and overthrew him almost a decade ago, he was livid, to say the least. But he fell in line. He'd done too much to have his entire organization crumble to dust because there was a new guy on top. He'd just have to settle for being second best. Kingpin had let him stick around out of respect, because one thing the mob held dearest was respect. They were cold-hearted bastards to the guys who spat on that respect, who defiled it. Respect others, and you too shall be treated with respect, even as cinder blocks are being tied around your ankles in preparation to throw you into the harbor.

But respect meant jack fuckin' shit these days. His entire organization was crashing down because some lousy cop went crazy and decided to come gunning for him. The gook bastard had already killed over a hundred of his men, including most of his top guys save for Frankie, Marko, and Hammerhead. He had no semblance of respect, fighting dirty, from the shadows, killing men with extreme prejudice. The man's capacity for violence was godly.

The son of a bitch had eluded him for most of the month. Even the third party assassin Silvio had hired failed to put him down. But he had confidence. Niagara had called him last night saying he had caught the fuck, and was gonna make sure his death was nice and slow. Silvio hadn't gotten a call back, yet. Knowing Frankie, he'd probably drag it out for the rest of the day.

His phone rang. Silvio pulled it out and checked the caller ID. He smiled. There was Frankie, right on cue. "Manfredi here. How's it going with the Punisher?"

"B-boss... I have some bad news..." Silvio didn't recognize the voice, but it sure as hell wasn't Frankie.

"... Who is this?"

"I-I'm Andy Russo, I work for you. I... Look, boss, Frankie's dead."

No. That fuckin' schmuck did not manage to kill Frankie. "... You better not be bullshitting me."

"I-I'm not! Frankie's fuckin' dead! That chink shot him and a bunch of other guys! He got away!"

"..." Silvio hung up the phone.

Frankie was just behind Marko and Hammerhead when it came to the rank he held. Considering Silvio had sent Marko and Hammerhead out of New York City while the Punisher was being dealt with to ensure they didn't get killed, that meant that the Punisher would be coming for him next. That would not fuckin' happen on his watch.

With the rise of metahumans and mutants, the criminal underworld had obviously jumped at the chance to get some on their sides. Manfredi hadn't been lucky enough to nab up metahumans when they were first cropping up, but he had decided to do something smarter...

His boys had managed to get some blueprints from Stark Industries.

They seemed to be very rough and were most likely for a prototype for some military tech they were working on, but it was military tech nonetheless. He ordered a chop shop and a computer shop he had under his control to start working on it together when he got his hands on it a month ago. They were making good progress on it, but it wasn't finished yet.

Still, it would have to do.

He dialed the number for the chop shop, where the armor was being worked on. "Vinnie? It's Silvio. I'm gonna need you to finish up the Silvermane armor, fuckin' ASAP."


9:41 PM; July 26th, 2018
David Lieberman's House; New York City

This was it. Probably my last time seeing Dave for a good while. Tomorrow night, I would be hitting Manfredi in his own manor. I had taken out all his top dogs. He'd probably be keeping the rest of his goons with him, to provide 'protection', if you called being there to soak up bullets protection. By the time this was all over, I'd have spilled enough blood to fill a lifetime supply of blood bags.

"... Something on your mind, Frank?" I was pulled out of my thoughts by the voice of the man I had come to visit.


I don't know why he helped me out in this. After I got married we sort of fell out of touch. I was busy raising a family, he was busy being a nerdy bachelor. It wasn't that we had a falling out or anything, we just... Drifted apart. I think the last time we had talked before I had recruited his help was two years before that. But still, he jumped at my request.

"... Yeah. Just thinking... Soon, it'll all be over."

He chuckled at that. "Heh. Yeah. Been a wild ride."

"That's putting it lightly." There was silence, for a moment longer. "... You know that after this, I'm gonna have to lay low. We probably won't see each other for a while."

Dave nodded. "Yeah. I know."

"It's been a pleasure, Dave."

He looked down, smiling. "Pleasure's all mine, Mr. Castle." Dave stood up, grunting as he did. "Enough of this sappy shit. Let's have a beer. For old time's sake."

I laughed. "Sounds like a plan."

And then it was just like the old days, when we were both fresh out of the academy, spending late nights chatting over a cold brew. Come tomorrow, I'd be dead, either at someone else's hand or, if I managed to survive this suicide mission I was on... My own.

But for now, I'm just Frank, and I'm having a conversation with an old friend, blissfully ignorant of the storm on the rise.
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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 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 Two

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



“You are my vessel.”

Greg Saunders couldn’t make sense of the world before him. It was a mess of color, images bled into one another until it was an amalgamation of nothing at all. The one thing he could make sense of was the air around him. It somehow had a waxy, burnt quality to it -- he could feel waves of heat rippling off from the nonsense.

Greg flopped on the ground, trying to gulp in as much of the thin air as he could, closing his eyes shut and hoping whatever this was would end. He felt a searing hand close around his neck.

His eyes opened to a figure out of the madness that swirled through his vision. It was a stark white skull, streaked with calcification and wreathed in fire. The hand closed around his neck was made of thin, spindly bone. The bone creaked and Greg dropped, slamming into the familiar feeling of brimstone.

“Guh-” Greg felt a boot on his chest, forcing out what little was left in his lungs. Above him was a ghastly rider. He was wrapped in leather and hellfire. The skeleton cocked its head, considering him. Greg pushed at the boots. They refused to budge. The skeleton cackled.

“You try so hard to resist. You feel me at the edge, rotting your defenses.” The skeleton drew closer. Greg could feel its head flames licking his face.

“It’s only been days since we’ve been together, but you are already losing. Mephisto rallies his forces. Soon, you’ll have to let me out.” The skeleton’s smile was a perverse thing. The bone drew itself back, sending a crack spidering up past its jawline in a hollow imitation of the gesture.

Warpath, Texas

Greg was soaked in sweat, near naked and on the floor. The dim neon of his clock read “2:33 AM”. He groaned and pushed himself to his knees, trying to raise himself back into the warmth of his sheets. It’d been like this the past few nights. Countless Advils and tylenols to try and drown the voices and the headaches so he could get some sleep. Every time he closed his eyes he was back there, swimming in demons while a skeleton laughed at him. It made him look forward to the back breaking defense work in the morning with Hex.

The Kid and Stripsey had left a few days ago to seek out their old SHIELD contacts to try and accrue some aid; Shining Knight was still convinced that his horse was alive out there, somewhere, and Crimson Avenger tagged along so he wouldn’t get himself killed. Frankenstein had gone off in search of some old occultist friends of his, if they were still alive. That left Greg and Jonah Hex to make what defenses they could for Warpath.

In Hell, the game had mostly been about dumping as much firepower into demons as possible, until they stopped moving, or just outrunning the things. Warpath had neither the luxury of extreme firepower or of mobility. Over the past few days, Greg and Hex set to erecting makeshift frisian horses and digging trenches around the town’s edge. They’d also been trying to get as much Holy Water as possible, but the town’s one Priest who hadn’t split could only work so fast. At least by Billy Gunn’s reckoning the attacks had slowed since the start, but he had a feeling the demons sensed the presence of the town’s new defenders and were marshalling their forces. They’d come in force, and soon.

Greg rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and stared at the wooden ceiling. His eyes followed the gentle curves and cracks in the wood, trying to distract himself from the voices. They were quieter at night, evidently sated by the dominion they held over his dreams. Every other moment they were crying to be let out, attempting to wrest control of his mind and his body. God knows who or what they’d exact their “vengeance” upon. Hopefully he’d never have to find out. All he could do now was close his eyes and surrender himself to the lull of his nightmares…

New York City, New York --- The Offices of Ramon J. Solomano

The office’s intricate tilework had been sledgehammered away to reveal the subflooring. Now there was a pentagrammic rune there, carved in with a small pile of now broken combat knives in lieu of access to a proper cutting tool. The only light in the room was from the Moon, high in the sky, projecting a shaft of light onto the circle and the two figures that stood around it.

Big Caesar wrung his hands at the far end of the circle, his back to Solomano’s desk. On his belt was a wicked, curved knife, with humming red runes beveled into it. Across from Caesar was Solomano, The Hand himself. He held a leathery black tome in one hand, while the other showed his scar to the pentagram.

“I nommus Otsihpem.” The Hand cast the book aside, verbal portion of the ritual done, and snapped at Big Caesar for the knife. The goon complied and the knife sailed through the air. It caught above the center of the pentagram, and the runes upon it changed shade to blue. The humming grew higher in pitch. The knife moved closer to Solomano’s hands as his scar changed its hue, pulsing with the blue.

He snatched it out of the air with his scarred hand and sliced down on the other. His blood dribbled onto the edge of the circle. The Hand made slow revolutions around it, allowing his blood to pour onto every part of the circle. That done, he threw the knife inside. The blood around the circle began to dance, like crimson waveforms, revolving around the circle’s edge.

“I tnaw ot ekam a laed.” He said. The blood began to vibrate down the lines of the pentagram, moving towards the center and spiraling up into the sky to meet the knife. The blood pulsed to the beat of the knife’s song, gradually forming around it into a necrotic, red torso. The knife’s runes pitch-shifted back to a deep scarlet, as the rhythm sped up. The room itself seemed to vibrate to the hymn, as the blood coagulated into the form of a man.

He was both there and not, a hollow representation of some greater monster. He stood easily eight feet tall, with horns spiraling off his head and down his back. Blood continually dropped or shook off his form and then shuddered back to the center, coming to refill the holes that exposed his empty interior.

”Who summons me?” The creature’s voice was unreal, each word seemed to trail off into the whispered screams of lost souls, and sent vibrations through the blood that formed its body.

“The Hand calls for aid.” Solomano showed his mark to the creature. Its blood lips drew back to reveal the black nothing inside.

”What do you require? And what do you offer?”

“I need powered Enforcers. My people need to fight back against the metahuman scourge. In return…” Solomano swallowed, “I offer my mortal soul.”

Somehow the monster’s smile drew back further, the edge of its ‘lips’ going up past its cheekbones.

”Exxxcellent… But I have a… Counter offer. Come inside the circle, Roman Solomano.”

Solomano stared into the creatures empty eyes. His jaw hung open. He looked to Big Caesar for guidance, but he was just as locked on the monster. This wasn’t supposed to happen. All the scripts said that the caster should never enter the circle. But he felt compelled. His legs were moving before his brain told them to. Every atom in his body quivered as he crossed the line, slicking his shoes with blood. His organs shuddered in their cages of flesh and bone. Solomano could feel his own sacrificed blood drip onto him as the creature towered over him.

”I take your soul… But, you can get it back. I suspect a Vigilante in Texas has something of mine. Just one, little, trident. Get it for me… And your soul is yours again.”

Solomano felt his hand rising, slowly, towards the Demon lord. A clawed hand came out to touch each digit on every word:

”Just one soldier for each, finger, on, your, hand.” He said. ”Do you accept?”

Solomano nodded slowly.

”Excellent. Sign.” The creature's blood claws snapped to Solomano’s wrist, turning the mobster’s inner forearm to himself. The creature reached into its own chest, blood pushing past blood, and producing the ritual knife. He forced it into Solomano’s hand.

Solomano bit his shirt with his mouth. It didn’t make his screams any quieter.

When the deed was done, the words “THE HAND” bled anew from Solomano’s forearm.

The creature gave one last smile before all the light left the knife and the rune. All at once the blood lost form and fell in a thick sheet, covering Solomano’s face and clothes. He clutched his new scar and hissed. He turned to Big Caesar, his face locked in a sneer.

“Bring me the fucking Dummy.”
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Hidden 5 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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“Listen, I don’t care how fucking burnt out that son of a bitch is, The Shadow IV will start filming next month. Now, he can either report to the set in Atlanta in a timely fashion, or I can sue his ass for breach of contract.”

J.Lewis Wasserman continued to yell insults and threats into his cell phone as he weaved his mid-sized car through the streets of Beverly Hills. This car was a rental, his quarter of a million dollar sports car having recently been stolen. The rental had been designed with a safety feature that would block incoming calls and texts from inside the car once the vehicle got above fifteen miles an hour. Wasserman had paid extra to have that disabled. As a studio head, he lived and died by the calls he made. Punching the numbers in on the touch screen, gripping the phone as he snarled into it, all those things were part of his ritual. If he strayed a little into the adjacent lane, then so fucking be it. They'd just get out of his way.

He swung into the parking area of the hotel and climbed out of the car, making sure that it was locked before heading towards the hotel entrance. He continued talking while waddling towards the lobby. A clerk at the front desk pointed him towards the hotel’s restaurant without another word. He was running late for a lunch meeting with a screenwriter, but he still walked at his own pace. A guy as powerful as Wasserman was never late.

“Yeah? Oh, yeah? Well, fuck you,” he said, hanging up on the agent.

“Excuse me,” a voice said from behind.

Wasserman turned around and fell in love. She was wearing a tight flower dress that ended at the ankles of her sandal-clad feet. Her dirty blonde hair was done in an updo and her green eyes seemed to glow with sensuality. Wasserman had known his share of Hollywood beauties. But nothing like this. Her beauty was… deeper and more powerful than anything he’d ever seen. Heavenly was a cliche and he knew it, but his brain was locked into the word. Heavenly. An angel straight from heaven.

“I have to say,” she said, flashing a perfect smile that made Wasserman's legs go weak. “I am a huge fan.”


Eighteen Hours Earlier
Beverly Hills

“We’re in the franchise business,” Wasserman said into his phone as he pulled up to the valet parking of a swanky Beverly Hills restaurant. “The next six movies he’ll be in are already planned out. The train is rolling, fuckface, and nothing stops this train.”

Wasserman ended the call and climbed out of his car. A uniformed valet was already waiting for him with a ticket in one hand, an open hand ready to take his keys.

“You scratch this car you’re fucking done,” said Wasserman.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, squire,” the man said in a thick English accent.

Wasserman looked up at him and narrowed his eyes.

“Anyone ever tell you that you look like Sting?”

“All the bloody time,” the man said with a smile.

Wasserman watched him climb into his car and speed down the street without stopping at a red light. Angry drivers honked at him as he passed by. Wasserman almost dropped his phone at the sight of the rapidly disappearing car.

“Where the fuck is he going?”

A young man dressed in a red blazer and navy slacks came out the side door of the restaurant with a confused look on his face.

“Where is who going?”

“The other valet,” said Wasserman, pointing in the direction his car had gone. “Guy dressed just like you.”

“I’m the only valet,” said the young man.



That Night
Silver Lake
Ray’s Occult Bookstore

“When’s the last time you did a charm spell?”

John looked up from the spellbook he was reading and squinted at Ray. The two of them were in the backroom of his store. He’d closed early after John had waltzed in needing help. The book in question was a German medieval text the Catholic Church had declared blasphemous in 1345.

He thought back to the last charm he’d cast. A bit of work on a bouncer at some nightclub a few years ago, a paid job for a paparazzi who wanted some shots of Little Miss Disney Channel doing blow. John kept the paid ape at the door enthralled with magic, both of the close-up and occult varieties, while the little weasel snapped shots of Wisconsin Johnson doing a line of blow before she blew an L.A. Clipper. John got stiffed by the pervert, but he got his revenge when the git’s digital camera suddenly and mysteriously went on the blink, all of his shots wiped clean off the memory card and his big payday was ruined.

“It’s been a year or two,” said John. “But I can do one of those in me sleep."

"So why can't you do one of those?" asked Ray.

"This Wasserman bloke has a reputation for being tough, which is a nice way to say arsehole, but in addition to that he dabbles in the occult. So a regular, run of the mill charm spell may not work."

"So, overkill it is."

"Quite bloody right," John said, reaching for the cigarettes in his coat pocket. "And this is a different beast than a regular charm. Different altogether, Ray. The spell as is would be like shooting someone with a .38 Special. I need to have a gun, and I need to be up close to hit them. This fucking thing I want to cast is like shooting a laser beam from a satellite all the way up in bloody space. Distant and focused, it’s a more intense spell.”

“There’s one I know that involves a potion,” Ray said as he started to search through the shelves of his collection. “We would just need to find a three-eyed frog.”

“I got a better one,” said John. “An Invocation of St. Valentine. Luckily, I have all I need.”

He reached into his coat and pulled out a long and curly dark strand hair. Ray leaned forward to examine it through his thick glasses.

“I hope that’s from a head,” said Ray.

“Back hair,” said John. “Our boy Wasserman is part gorilla, it seems. Thankfully he likes to take the occasional shirtless drive,"

“But the Invocation of St. Valentine is a two way spell,” Ray said. “Something from the target and something--”

“--from the object of desire. A sacrifice of lust, given willingly.”

With a large smile, John pulled out a pair of soiled panties.

“Got that covered as well, Squire. One pair of knickers, covering in nothing but lust.”



“You know I do more than produce movies, right?”

Jenny had to keep from laughing at the effect she was having. The short, stocky little man couldn’t take his eyes off her. Constantine had said the charm would be powerful, but she had no idea it would be like this. Wasserman had blown off whatever meeting he was supposed to have and instead treated Jenny to a meal that had to cost almost five hundred dollars in wine alone. If she knew he would be this easy, then she wouldn’t have gotten so dressed up.

“Such as?” Jenny asked with a flirtatious smile.

“I’m a collector,” Wasserman said with a conspiratorial grin. “Hollywood is a deeply fucked up place, sweetheart. So many people get chewed up and spit out and so much debris gets left behind in their wake. I like to collect the debris. It reminds me of all the schmucks I blew past.”

Jenny leaned forward, putting her hand on top of Wasserman’s.

“What kind of items?”

He stared down at the hand for a long time, a leering look on his face, before he looked back up.

“All kinds of crazy shit. I paid an LAPD officer to swap out OJ Simpson’s bloody glove for a fake. I got the real thing at my house, under glass.”

“You know,” Jenny said with a soft smile. “I think I’d like to see something like that. Can you show me?”

“Check please,” said Wasserman.

From the far end of the hotel restaurant, John watched as Wasserman and Jenny left the room. He waited until ten seconds had passed before he stood and walked out behind them.
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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 yrs ago Post by Master Bruce
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Master Bruce Winged Freak

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Gotham City, Wayne Tower
The Cave
9:47 PM

"When I warned you to take it easy, lad, I expected you to at least pretend to follow through. Heaven forbid you allow yourself a single night's rest of your own volition."

I allow the comment to wash over me as I snap the belt into place. Alfred's chiding me for making a full recovery much faster than he could have anticipated, but it's been three days since Harvey was targeted by an assassin that I failed to capture. An assassin who's still out there in Gotham, ready to make another move against either my friend or another innocent civillian. Seventy two hours is long enough for me to have been out of action. Whatever poison that Deadshot utilized against me in our initial encounter is a chemical agent that I'm more than prepared against now. From what Lucius and I have been able to discern ever since I awoke in better spirits, the toxin is of foreign origin, derived from a series of plants spanning half the globe. Whoever made this compound is someone far above Deadshot's paygrade, and given that this individual is also likely to have ordered the hit on Harvey, I intend to find out who that person is. Whatever the cost may be.

"And I already told you that I feel more rested than I've been in months, Alfred. Everything's under control."

Grabbing my cape and gloves, I lean forward to activate the retinal scan attached to the Batcomputer. Lights on thirteen seperate monitors suddenly flicker to life, and a series of three-dimensional models appear on the table behind us. The first model is a recreation of the crime scene as put together through reference photos and video from the night of the rally, from the point of view of someone filming Harvey just after he was hit. The second is that same recreation from a different angle, rewound to the point that Deadshot was about to fire the rifle. The third and final depicts an entirely different scene altogether, compiled from the footage removed from my cowl's camera of the actual fight between Deadshot and The Batman.

I've been studying all three for the past hour. Going over the variables, trying to find a pattern to my enemy's tactics beyond the obvious. The toxin unfortunately helped to blanket alot of my memory of that night, but from what I can still recall, he was more bark than bite. Used tactics that befitted a rookie in his respective field as a mercenary. I can use that to my advantage as soon as I've discerned his current whereabouts.

"Though if you're really concerned, I could use a second pair of eyes. Take a look at this angle, here, and tell me that you're able to make more sense of it than I can.", I begin, indicating the first and second models. "From the trajectory of Deadshot's stance and the caliber of the weapon, the shot should've been fatal. And it would've been, had the bullet not bounce off of something else. But when I replay the footage, the bullet itself seems..."

Alfred squints as he leans over to look at the scan, once I replay it from the beginning.

"Hmm. You're right. There is something rather peculiar about the trajectory, isn't there?"

I smile to myself as Alfred inspects the scene closer. There's a small part of me that relishes the opportunity to utilize Alfred's expertise in the field. As much as I learned overseas at the hands of a series of different masters, I've always considered the old man to be my original mentor. And with good reason, given that he was considered a legendary field operative under the codename of "Outsider" - as a former agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Infact, I may be willing to disagree with you about the assassin's stance, given I don't think he was aiming directly for Mr. Dent. As I recall, we once called these types of hits 'dodgers', given their proclivity to aim for one target with the intention of hitting another."

Placing the gloves on and snapping the gauntlets into place, I look back at him with a curious glare.

"You mean to tell me that Deadshot meant for the bullet to bounce off of a stray target in the environment to cover his tracks?"

Alfred folds his arms, eyes still affixed to the model.

"Perhaps not to cover his tracks, necessarily, but to hit his intended target more effectively and from an angle unconventional in a crowd as large as the one gathered at the rally. From Lawton's range, any rank amatuer would have been able to pull off a successful hit that would have sent Mr. Dent to the morgue."

I pause as I'm just about to don the cape, turning back to Alfred.


Alfred turns to me, realizing that I'm unaware of a vital piece of information that he knows. He shakes his head.

"Apologies, Bruce. A force of habit. While you were unconscious during the fit with the anti-toxin, I took the liberty of identifying the assassin by sending over a screenshot from your cowl's footage of when you unmasked the hapless fellow, for the purposes of utilizing S.H.I.E.L.D.'s facial recognition software. My contact came back with an immediate match. Deadshot's real name is Floyd Lawton. He's a mercenary that's been making waves across the country, not just in Gotham."

Resuming the assembly of the suit, I try and hide my skepticism towards the fact that Alfred has a secret contact within S.H.I.E.L.D that has given us a considerable number of leads. They've all been on the level, but I don't like having a secret ally. Out of respect for Alfred and his past entanglements, however, I've refused to pry. After everything that he's done for me over the years, he's allowed some secrets of his own, even if it makes me uneasy.

"Then I was wrong in my assumption that he's an amatuer. Which makes the theory that Lawton missed Harvey entirely even more unlikely, as I think about it."

Alfred smirks.

"You? Being wrong about something? Surely not, lad."

I shoot him a glare, to which he shrugs. We've developed an understanding, at this point, that nothing we say to the other is meant to be taken entirely seriously - until it is, of course. Trading jab at eachother is practically the norm. Though lately, I've been concentrating more on the work at hand to really engage.

"We're going to have to take another look at that footage. See what really led to Lawton's inability to take Harvey out, and if it has any relevance to the events of the night in question."

Alfred queues up the footage once again and replays it, as I type in the nessescary commands to render the playback at a much slower pace. Largely for his benefit, given that he latched onto the bullet seemingly disappearing from thin air as quickly as I did.

"Wait. Pause there."

I comply with his request and pause at the exact interval that he instructs. Once he's able to grasp what he's looking at, he turns back to me with his eyes widen.

"Bloody hell. You're going to want to take a look at this, Bruce. I can hardly believe it myself."

Walking over to join him, I stop dead in my tracks as the footage reveals something that I would have never even thought possible six months prior, let alone now. The three-dimensional model depicts the figure of a person leaping into the air and catching the bullet with their bare hands. Leaping being a generous term, given that the height of the catch itself renders this incident a metahuman interference, nevermind the fact that they caught the bullet and remained unharmed. I immediately go back to the computer and begin furiously typing in a further series of commands, as Alfred joins me.

"What do you think this means?"

I stare back at the screen ahead of me, initiating an "enhance" to the clarity of the models. I hadn't thought it nessescary before, given that I at least knew the faces everyone that was in attendance. But with this metahuman, it seems I was mistaken.

"It means we have a new player in the field. One that can fly and, potentially, deflect bullets. This person may have saved Harvey's life without even being seen."

Turning back to the digital recreation as it clarifies the human models, the figure reveals itself as a human female. Black hair, caucasian, scarf, leather jacket, jeans, fingerless gloves and leather boots. Mid-to-late twenties, possibly even early thirties. I don't recognize the woman, but she has the look of someone who's determined. Must've been apart of the crowd at the rally as either a participant or a bystander. Enhanced senses could've given her forewarning as to when Lawton was going to fire off his shot.

"Alfred, I need you run a second facial recognition profile while I'm gone. If there's a meta operating in Gotham, I need to know."

Pulling the cowl over my head, I begin to load some of the equipment I'll need to take Deadshot on into my belt.

"Certainly. And what you do intend to you in the meantime?"

Completing the tasks at hand, I activate the voice modification unit built into the cowl to lower my baritone to a register unrecognizable as Bruce Wayne's.

"Pay a visit to a friend about a project we've been working on for the past month and a half. If it's ready, it'll prove useful whenever I take Lawton down."

Alfred follows me as I mount the "Batcycle", as he suitably named it.

"And Mr. Dent? Do you wish for me to continue the surveillance on him via the drone you dispatched?"

Pressing a button on the side of my cowl, a hidden visor slides over my face, similar to traditional enclosed motorcycle helmets. With the exception that this one is entirely bulletproof. Another gift of Waynetech's R&D department.

"For now. But I'll be taking over guard duty on Harvey later tonight. I have a feeling that if I want to lure Lawton out of hiding, we're going to have to take a gamble with his safety."

Alfred raises an eyebrow.

"I was under the impression that we were to protect your friend at all costs, lad."

"I won't let him die."

Revving the engine of the Batcycle to life, I kick the stand back and prepare to head into Gotham.

"But I won't let his assassin get away again, either. Lawton's days are numbered."


With that, the engine roars against the hollow crevices of the bunker as I thrust forward, hitting 80 MPH in a span of seconds and entering the tunnel that leads out of a secret entrance, located just beyond an abandoned subway system beneath a warehouse leased to me and formerly owned by my late grandfather. An area of the city nobody pays attention to, and even if they did, would be discreet enough to escape their notice.

The road I'm taking leads out about fourteen miles away from the freeway into Bristol, but I can make up for time with the cycle's thrusters. Within another minute, I've bypassed the entrance to The Cave and made it into Gotham. Even though it's only been three days, it feels as if I've been gone a week. I won't lie and say that feeling the night's air against my skin is a welcome return to form.

The important thing is, I'm back on the trail that Deadshot left behind.

And when I catch up to him, he's going to wish he'd killed me when he had the chance.

Gotham City, The Narrows
BMB's Pawn Shop
9:55 PM

"We're about to close up shop. Just lettin' you know before..."

The owner stops as he recognizes the woman that enters, arms tucked into her jacket and with an intense glare on her face. The man apologetically closes his cash register, indicating that he was counting the day's earnings before closing up shop. The woman seems oblivious, or perhaps disinterested, as she leans against the front counter.

"Ey, what can I do for you this time? Try and match another gold tooth to a mark you're lookin' into? Or are you actually gonna trade in something of value, this time? I ain't exactly in the business of offering my services as a freakin' forensics expert."

"Cut the shit, Vinnie.", the woman coldly responds, reaching into her jacket. "This won't take but a second of your valuable time. You can resume jerking off to stag porn or downing a bottle of cheap whiskey whenever I've run out of use for you."

The owner chuckles, before being shown a rather unusual item. A halfway bent shell-casing of a high-caliber bullet. He reaches up to take it from her, but she relents.

"Oh, no. Not before you're willing to make me an offer. And follow-up with some information that I need about this thing."

Flustered, Vinnie slicks back his own greased matting of hair and glances the bullet over the best that he can.

"A caliber that high, I already know I'm not gonna get away with lowballing you. Though it's condition ain't exactly pristine..."

The woman clasps the bullet in her hand, withdrawing it. Indignant, but playful at the same time.

"Fair enough. Guess I'll have to pay a visit to one of the other pawn shops in the area with this. A pleasure talking to you as always, Vinnie."

"Hey, I was just bustin' your chops, lady. Let me get a closer look at that thing."

The woman turns back towards him, having pretended that she was just about to leave.

"Put on some gloves. I need to make sure no one leaves any prints on this thing aside from mine... and whoever shot it to begin with."

Vinnie complies with the woman's request, reaching from behind the counter and producing a pair of cotton gloves used for inspecting weapons, stolen goods, and anything else that just happened to come his way that he would rather avoid being implicated in the sale of.

"Fuck me, you're gonna want me to get you that other set, aren't you?"

The woman smirks.

"Good dog. I knew you'd eventually learn a trick or two if I came around often enough."

The truth was, Vincent 'Vinnie The Shark' Valestra had connections to more than a few unsavory individuals from all across Gotham. He'd done dealings with everyone to the Grissom family to Jefferson Skeevers, a high-ranking member of Capo Italiana. The woman knew this because finding out such information about people was her trade. And right now, she needed Vinnie to help her on a case in progress. Notably, the case of who really shot Harvey Dent. Because despite what the papers were saying, it wasn't The Batman.

She knew because she had been there to catch the bullet herself.

"I'll see what I can do, Jess. But I ain't promisin' no miracle, here."

Slamming the bullet on the counter, 'Jess' immediately turned in the opposite direction and began to walk away.

"That's Ms. Jones to you, Vinnie."

As she brushed against the front door to the shop with her shoulder, she side-eyed him with a hostile glare. Vinnie may have her only lead, but that sure as hell didn't mean she had to like him. He'd make good on his promise, though, given that he knew what she could do if he had the guts to refuse to help.

"Jessica is reserved for my friends."

"And that sure as shit isn't you."
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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 yrs ago Post by Morden Man
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Morden Man

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Baxter Building, New York

“Now?!" Sue Storm shouted at the top of her voice. "You don’t look at me for almost two days and now you want to talk? You’re ridiculous!”

It was fair to say that Reed Richards’ attempt to console his fiance hadn’t quite gone as he had hoped. Sue had spent the past five minutes shouting at him. He had started to suspect that letting Johnny go after his sister might have been the right idea after all. But it was too late for that – whether Reed liked it or not they were now having the conversation that he had tried to so desperately to avoid ever since they had disembarked from the Pegasus.

It didn’t help that they were having it through one of Sue’s force fields. She had erected it after Reed had tried to hug her – and now they stood on either side of it embroiled in as serious an argument as they had ever had. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“I’m sorry, I just ... I couldn’t get me head around what you agreed to with Namor,” Reed stammered as he tried to make sense of his feelings. He gritted his teeth and pushed his reservations to the back of his mind. “Look, that’s not what matters right now, Sue.”

Sue’s nostrils flared at that. “You might be the smartest man on Earth, but you don’t get to tell me what matters to me, Reed Richards.”

The Atlantean had come between them before on their own world – but never like this. Perhaps with everything that had happened Reed had been too focused on what the four of them had lost rather than what they still had. Either way, regardless of Sue’s protestations he refused to let Namor’s shadow, be it in this world or their own, blot out the more pressing issue at hand.

Franklin Storm.

“I know how much your father meant to you,” Reed said softly as he placed his hand against the force field. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to lose him all over again.”

Sue crossed her arms over her chest and let out a laboured breath.

“It wasn’t my father that I was mourning for, Reed, it was myself. Do you know how many times I’ve asked myself what my life might have been like if my parents hadn’t been killed in that car crash? What kind of woman I might have turned out to be?”

Even in the dingy hallway Reed could make out the tears that were forming in Sue’s bright blue eyes.

“This Sue had that,” Sue said as she approached the forcefield slowly. “She had two parents, Reed, and she still found her way to you. Our paths still crossed despite all of the thousands of differences that one change must have created. If our love can overcome all that – if it can overcome time and space – why do you still not trust me?”

The words were like a dagger in Reed’s heart.

He shook his head in shock. “What are you talking about? I trust you with my life, Sue.”

His fiance’s sadness was etched into her face.

“No, no, you don’t. You might say that – you might even think that – but I saw the way you looked at me after I shook Namor’s hand. You genuinely thought that I would throw away everything we have together … and for what?”

Only then did it occur to Reed that he might have made a grave misjudgement.

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t,” Sue scoffed. “How could you understanding the reasoning of someone whose intellect is so inferior to yours?”

Reed’s hand slipped from the force field. It hurt him that Sue would ever think that he thought that she was somehow beneath him. A thousand rebuttals sped through his mind but he stopped himself before speaking and thought with his heart, as opposed to his mind, for once about how hurt Sue must have felt if she believed that to be true. A deep sense of shame swept over him. One he did not begin to know how to make right.

“You know I don’t think t-”

The sound of Guy Gardner clearing his throat from behind Reed brought an abrupt end to their conversation. He smiled at them apologetically and then thrust his thumb in the direction of the living room.

“Sorry to interrupt but I think there’s something the two of you are probably going to want to see.”

Reed gave Sue a remorseful look and Sue met it with one that made clear their conversation was far from over with. She lowered her force field and followed after Guy and Reed. In the living room Ben and Johnny were on their feet facing someone that Reed couldn’t quite make out.

As they grew closer the features became more and more familiar to him.

It was Reed Richards. At least, it was this world’s version of him. An interactive holographic projection, as like the ones they had seen in Maria Hill’s office, though this one seemed more complex. It seemed to sense Reed’s approach and turned to face him.

“Greetings, my name is Reed Richards. If you’re watching this, I am dead. And you, Reed, have finally mastered inter-dimensional travel, as I always suspected that we might one day. Congratulations. I regret that I cannot be there to congratulate you in person but it would seem that the universe had other plans for me.”

“Two Stretches,” Ben muttered under his breath. “As if one wasn’t bad enough already.”

Sue shot the Thing a disapproving look. “Quiet, Ben.”

The hologram Reed was slighter than him, his cheeks were gaunt where Reed’s were full and plump, but his body language, even the tiny facial movements he made, were so reminiscent of the way that he moved that he found it disorentating.

There was only one difference.

There was a warmth in the other Reeds eyes. Was that what he had looked like once?

“Perhaps you come from a world not too dissimilar from my own – riven with conflict over internecine religious differences and squabbling over scarce resources. Perhaps you come from somewhere else – somewhere more enlightened – where the problems we face seem quaint and anachronistic. But if you made it this far then you have exploration in your blood too.”

The hologram turned away from Reed and started to pace around the living room. It smiled in Sue and Johnny’s direction, as if it could sense that they were there, and ran one of its ‘hands’ along a table for dust. It was remarkable.

“This world needs us, Reed. It’s dying. Slowly but surely, mankind’s endless consumption is going to be its death if we don’t do something about it while we still can. And we are the only ones that can. This isn’t your world, Reed, and you certainly don’t owe it anything – but if you’re even half the man I suspect, you won’t let that stop you.”

The hologram flickered for a moment. The sound of a voice in the distance calling to the other Reed played. It was his Sue’s voice calling to him. The hologram looked over his shoulder at the Sue Storm stood before him, whose hard blue eyes softened slightly under the weight of the hologram’s gaze, and then turned to face Reed a final time.

“The people of this world held me up as its saviour since I was twelve years old, Reed, but clearly I failed them. It falls to you to succeed where I did not. Show them that there is always hope, Reed. Teach them.”

With that the hologram lifted its hand into the air towards Reed. Reed reached out and met it with his own. The second they made contact the hologram disappeared abruptly and left the Fantastic Four and Guy Gardner stood alone in the living room in shock.

For the first time since they had fled their own world, Reed Richards considered the possibility of not returning.
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Hidden 5 yrs ago 5 yrs ago Post by Sep
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Sep Migs Mayfield - Core

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Something clicked for Iris when Jay said he had been following her.“That was you, at City Hall. The one I got the shock from.” Jay nodded.

“Yeah that was me. The thing is, I’ve felt it every time you’ve been in trouble. I have a sense for these things, this force that helps us run it connects us and you-” He shook his head slightly “-you have the potential to be far faster than I ever was.”

There was a lull and a pause in the conversation. “I want to train you.” Iris arched an eyebrow. It was all a little too convenient for her. She’s almost killed by a speedster and then a couple of days later the ‘Original’ Flash appears and offers to train her? When nobody had ever heard of a Flash before her other than those that existed in comic books. “I know it’s a lot to take in at once, the existence of other speedsters-”

“I’ve actually met one.” She stood up, unable to stand near him with the conversation that was about to take. “He called himself Professor Zoom, he was looking for you I think. Called me a fake and a fraud, that he created the Flash and that it was meant to be some guy instead of me.” She turned back to face him. “Said he was the Flashes opposite, and that the history books would forget me in lieu of this male Flash. Know anything about that?”

A look of concern crossed Jays face. “No. I once had this Rival, but he’s the only other Speedster I’ve ever met and he’s long gone. At least I’m pretty sure he is, I thought Mota was gone for good too and that he’d never show his face again. It seems that an old dog can’t learn any new tricks.” A sad smile crossed his face in a brief flash of vulnerability. “I don’t know who this Zoom character is, or this supposed male Flash is supposed to be. As far as I know I’ve been the only Flash before you and there isn’t another one out there.”

“Well. I guess not everything is as it seems then.” She sighed, covering her eyes with her hands before running them back over her head. “Things were a lot simpler a couple of months ago.” Iris let loose a small nervous chuckle. “I can’t accept your offer to train me. I’m sorry it’s just-”

“You don’t trust me.” He hung his head for a second before raising it, shaking it. “Don’t feel bad, if I was in your shoes I’d find it hard to trust too. You have to know though kid, things are changing fast. They changed for me back in the day and I barely managed to keep up, you’ve got more threats rising up and more to deal with than I ever had. You may not want me to train you, yet, but I’ll stick around for awhile longer.” Jay shrugged. “You never know, you might change your mind.” He stood up and walked towards her, she recoiled slightly by the movement and he stopped sensing her discomfort. “I did have an idea for how you can stop Hydro though. If you’re interested.”

She turned to face him, suddenly his whole body went out of focus as he walked right up to the wall, and then through it. Then he must have turned back around and came through it again. “Phasing. He’s made of water, electricity and water don’t tend to mix. If you phase through him, while running, you’re lightning trail should incapacitate him. In theory.” Iris was speechless however, she had seen phasing once before. When Zoom used it to stick his hand into her chest.

“I’ve got to go.”


“Thanks for all the help, I mean it Jay. I’ll let you know how it works out.”

With that she turned, and ran. Closing her eyes for a brief second she took a deep breath before opening them again, rushing her way back across into Central City.

”Help! Help!” Turning off her course she followed the high pitched voice of a woman in distress, running into a car park she saw a man approaching her with a knife. Grabbing the knife, she threw it in a nearby trashcan before giving the perp a punch in the stomach. Not as fast as she usually would, as that’d cause havoc on a regular human, but hard enough to dissuade him trying to continue his advance without his knife. Moving on, her brain was in overdrive. Possibilities, what to do. She’d have to consult Barry but not right now. She had other she needed to speak to.

As she approached a crossroads she turned to look down the street, when she noticed a familiar face blending in with the crowd.

Hydro. She had him now.
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Hidden 5 yrs ago Post by Simple Unicycle
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Simple Unicycle ?

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8:49 PM; July 27th, 2018
Manfredi Manor; Outskirts of New York City


I looked up at the gargantuan manor before me. From what I could see through the windows dotting all four stories of the house, all the lights within were on, and the place was teeming with mobsters. My chances of sneaking through the mansion without being detected were nil. I'd just have to do this the old fashioned way.

From the woods outside of the mansion, I double checked my arsenal. The M16 was strapped to my back. The sawn-off Winchester Model 1912 was attached to my hip. My MAC-10 and micro Uzi were in my shoulder holsters. Grenades were clipped to the front of my vest, alongside extra ammunition for all my guns. A combat knife was in my boot. My trusty Glocks were in my hands.

I took in a breath and reminded myself of what was important.

One: Frank Castle is dead. He died with his family.

Two: in certain extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside of the law. To pursue natural justice.

Three: this is not vengeance. Revenge is simply an emotional response.

No, not vengeance.


One of my Glocks was fitted with a suppressor. I may not have hope to go about stealthily when I got into the house, but on the outside, I could pick off the guards to make my entrance easier. I grabbed the binoculars that dangled from my hip, scanning the perimeter of the mansion. There were six guards outside, all decently spaced out from each other.

Clipping the binoculars back to my vest, I holstered my other Glock and pulled the knife from my boot. Knife in one hand and suppressed Glock in the other, I began to make my move, silently taking out guard after guard. My knife cut through one guard's jugular as though it was butter. A bullet embedded itself into another's head. I was a ninja. My kung-fu was strong.

Before I knew it, the perimeter guards were dead, and I was free to enter the house. I unscrewed the suppressor from my Glock. There was no need for it now. It was time to go hard, fast, and most importantly, loud. Manfredi wouldn't know what hit him.

I pulled a smoke grenade from my vest, pulling the pin and throwing it through a first story window in the east wing. Smoke filled the hallway, and I heard the guards shout in surprise. "It's the Punisher! He's fuckin' here!" "Get ready, boys! That zipperhead's slim pickin's!"

I came crashing through another window, firing off round after round from my Glocks. There were ten mobsters in the hall, all facing the window I had thrown the smoke grenade through. Half of them went down before they could even think to turn in my direction. The others followed soon after, but at least they had the benefit of comprehending what had just happened before they went.

I jumped back up to my feet and went through the door leading to the manor's foyer. What I found was a lavish room larger than my entire apartment, two sets of stairs leading up to a balcony overlooking the foyer. Marble pillars lined the left and right sides of the room. But I think most noticeably was the group of guards all throughout, guns at the ready.

Overlooking the foyer from the balcony was Manfredi himself, looking smug as a snake. "You're dying here tonight, Punisher!"

"Can't wait, Manfredi!"

"Boys, take care of him! Buy me some time!" Time for what? Getting your will in order? Before I could react, Manfredi was running off, and gunfire forced me into the cover of a pillar. It was sort of flattering to see Manfredi running scared while having an army of his thugs try to take care of me. Maybe it was his own weird way of giving me a compliment. But it was one I didn't need.

Bullets tore through the pillar. I hadn't been able to count how many gangsters there were, but it was at least half of Manfredi's remaining thugs, putting the number around fifty or more. It wasn't even fair. They'd need at least another fifty to pose any real challenge.

I pulled a grenade from my vest, biting off the pin and tossing it in the direction of the thugs.


I began to sprint from my cover to the other side of the room, firing off round after round in the direction of the mobsters. Gangsters shook violently as bullets pierced their bodies. It didn't matter where I hit them. The only thing that mattered was hitting them with enough bullets to make them drop.

Their guns screamed, bullets whizzing past me, missing by scant millimeters. Maybe one or two hit my vest. It didn't matter. I was too pissed off to die. I had come too far to be put down by some cannon fodder. If anyone was killing me tonight, it'd be Manfredi. I rolled behind a pillar on the other side of the room, tossing another grenade at the gangsters.


I checked my clips. Not enough for another round of spray and pray. I holstered the Glocks, pulling out my SMGs. I took in a deep breath, then dove out of cover in the direction of the next pillar. It felt like I had become an angel of death, raining justice down on the wicked. Really I just had a near endless supply of ammo and a lot of luck on my side.

Mobster by mobster fell to my might. I picked myself up and began to run. Time seemed to slow down, the bullets flying through the air visible as I narrowly ducked and twisted my way out of their paths. Einstein was right: time is relative to the observer. With enough adrenaline, you could twist the time stream to your liking, slowing the ballistic intensity of a fast-paced gun battle down to a snail's crawl.

Man. I was really getting caught up in Max Payne fantasies these days.

My SMGs were dry after that last round of run and gun. Thankfully, most of the mobsters had fell by now. There was only another dozen or so left. I holstered the Uzi and the MAC-10, swinging the M16 around from my back. One last push, and Manfredi would be mine.

I ran, twisting out of the way of bullets as they flew past me. As I ran, I fired my rifle, pumping round after round into them. They dropped like flies. Death had caught up to them. Their punishment had finally come.

It was there, striding through the bodies of my enemies after making like Chow Yun Fat, that I truly understood the concept of power. Power was this feeling, conquering your enemies with an endless stream of bullets. Power was raining death upon the wicked. Power was surviving insurmountable odds.

Power was...


... Power was fading. I took a shot right to the left leg, making it nearly buckle from the pain.

I looked up in the direction of the gunshot's origin. Overlooking the balcony was a fresh batch of mobsters, one of whom had just got me in the leg with his pistol. Anything bigger and I wouldn't have been able to walk, let alone run. I threw myself back into cover, bullets striking the ground where I once was.

I pulled a grenade from my vest. I had just one more, and I wouldn't waste two on these guys. I'd have to throw this perfectly.

Breathe in.

I peeked around my cover, pulling the pin from the grenade and throwing it at the balcony.

Breathe out.


I ran out of my cover and began to fire, running towards the stairs.


By the time I reached the balcony, they were dead. The entire room had been painted red, blood pooling up on the ground and dripping down walls. It'd be a pain in the ass to clean this shit up. I almost feel sorry for whoever will have to do that. I took a moment to reload my weapons.

I pressed on, shotgun in my hand.

Manfredi had come through this hallway. Unfortunately, there was at least a dozen doors in here. I had a flashback to Entisen apartments. Well, suppose it was time to do this the old fashioned way. I readied my foot in front of the nearest door, remembering my time as an officer as I did so, and kicked it down.

Considering how loud that display in the foyer must have been, I was amazed to find a group of mobsters all playing poker. "Ey Henry, ya got any sixes?" one asked.

"Nah Tommy, go fish," the other replied.

Scratch that. They were playing Go Fish.

I cleared my throat, the five mobsters turning and looking in my direction. I leveled the shotgun at them.


That took care of them. I pumped the shotgun, and loaded another shell into it. I kicked down the door across the hall. Nothing. I went back into the hallway, ducking back into the room at the sound of gunfire. I went back into the hallway, firing my shotgun at the two mobsters at the other end of it. They went down.

I continued on through the hall, checking each and every door. Occasionally I found a guard or two, but the rooms were all empty. Manfredi was nowhere to be found. I guess that meant he was deeper into the mansion. I continued on, ready to send that bastard to his mak-


I was sent flying through the air, hitting the ground with a grunt. Standing before me was a metal man, twice my size, having just crashed through a wall. He laughed. And then he spoke. I recognized the voice.

"What did I tell you, Punisher? You're dead!"


"You like it? Had some of my boys make it. It's not finished yet, but it's better than twiddling my thumbs in my office and waiting for you to come and kill me."

I pulled myself to my feet, grabbing the shotgun that had fallen out of my grip. I aimed at him and fired, the pellets barely denting the armor. "It's steel, Castle. You won't do anything to it."

I continued firing in vain as he approached. He grabbed my throat and squeezed. I gasped for a breath that wouldn't come, staring into slits on the mask, through which I could see Manfredi's eyes. They were brimming with barely contained rage. I could only imagine how angry he was; his entire organization, destroyed by some cop with a grudge.

He threw me through a wall. As I struggled to get up, he approached, grabbing me again. Through another wall I went. Another grab, another wall. Only this time, I went flying right out into the foyer. The corpses managed to cushion my fall, just enough that I didn't break anything. As I waited for Manfredi, barely able to pull myself up, all I could see was the ceiling... And the large chandelier hanging from it.

Time for one last dumb move, for old time's sake.

Manfredi jumped down into the foyer through the hole in the wall he had created, landing right under that chandelier, just a few feet away from me. I pulled myself to my feet with a grunt of pain. "What's wrong, Punisher? All that machismo fading now that you're getting your ass kicked?"

"S-somethin' like that."

"You're weak. Pathetic. I'm not going to kill you, no, not right now. Just disable you. I'll keep you alive for weeks, months even. Let the boys use you for target practice maybe."

"What boys? Thought I took all of them out."

He slapped me aside. "I've gone through much worse than this. I'll rebuild. From the ashes that you created, I will rise, and all will fear the name of Silvermane once more!"

He went into a monologue. That's the thing about old-timey bad guys like Manfredi, they love going off on tangents. While he was distracted with lecturing me, I pulled the pin on my last grenade, and threw it onto the chandelier, which hung over his head like the Sword of Damocles.

I got up and dove out of the way. The grenade exploded. Manfredi looked up, and saw the chandelier crashing down above him. He didn't have time to move out of the way.


I coughed, waving the dust away from my face. I approached Manfredi, who was trapped under the chandelier. I tore the helmet from his head.

"Your boys killed my family, you son of a bitch. You shouldn't have picked that park to do your dirty work. Because now, you're going to die."

"H-heh... Heheh..." The laugh he choked out sounded painful.

"What's so funny?"

"... You still think... That it was just a case... Of wrong place, wrong time?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Your wife worked... At the... The DA's office... Didn't she?"

I nodded.

"Someone... I dunno who... But someone sent her... Files... Incriminating me... I found out... No one does anything... In this city... Without me knowing."

"Bullshit. It was a coincidence." Something in my head told me otherwise.

"It wasn't... Believe me... I sent Rossi and Francesco down there... Where you were having your picnic... Had 'em kill a thorn in my side... And your family... Two birds with one... One stone."

"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" My boot slammed down on his face. I heard a sick crack. Manfredi grunted, but didn't scream. Only laughed that Goddamn laugh.

"Heheheh... Heheheh..."

I pulled out one of my Glocks and aimed at his head. "Any last words, you son of a bitch?"

"Two... Fuck. You."


They were all dead. The final gunshot was an exclamation mark to all that had led up to this point. I slowly released my finger from the trigger... And then it was over.

I left.

12:01 AM; July 28th, 2018
Frank's Warehouse; New York City

When I got back I took off my vest and grabbed one of the bottles of whiskey I had. I didn't bother with a glass.

I pulled out one of my Glocks.

It felt like this was a fitting end to my journey. A bottle of whiskey in one hand, and a gun in the other, barrel resting under my chin. I took one last swig, and prepared to pull the trigger...


I couldn't do it.

I don't know why I couldn't. I told myself at the beginning of all this that I would blow my brains out when it was over. But I couldn't do it. Something in the back of my head forced itself to the front and stopped me. It felt like throwing my life away would be... Disrespectful, I suppose. My family was gone, yes, but I was still here.

I released my finger from the trigger, and set the gun down.

I was still here.

The Punisher was no more. But Frank Castle... Maybe he wasn't dead after all.

I threw the gun at the wall, and continued to drink.

Here's to the Punisher: may you be needed no more.


lolnah he'll be back later
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Hidden 5 yrs ago Post by HenryJonesJr
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A light breeze blows through the abandoned factory complex, kicking up a light cloud of dust. I watch as the dust rolls down the main thoroughfare like the ghost of the throngs of workers who once made their livings here. The quiet is intoxicating. There's not many places in the city where you can find a place that lacks the constant noise of traffic, construction, and the general hustle and bustle of its citizens.

This is the best possible location for the showdown with the Enforcers. No guard on duty at all, no residences anywhere in a ten block radius, and I made sure DeWolff cleared any night watchmen out of the buildings around the complex, ensuring the only people in the line of fire tonight will be the Enforcers, the cops, and me. We all know the score. We all know what we signed up for, and the Enforcers lose any leverage they have on me.

Somewhere in one of the derelict buildings around me, a can rattles through the rubble. The metallic sounds of tin on plaster and concrete echo through the empty streets and corridors of the once mighty center of manufacturing and shipping. I stand, leaning against the inside of a window that has long ago crumbled from lack of maintenance. Below me, a dirty street coated in the litter and dead, wet leaves typical of a place in New York not cleaned for years. Bridging the gap of the two warehouses is an old truck-loading crane. A rusted-out truck, leaning on a bare front left rim, sits like a fallen dinosaur waiting for a coating of dust to turn it into a fossil.

At the end of the street are the docks of the old factory. The wooden planks of the docks have long begun to rot, and gaps where they have fallen into the river below show like the gaps in an old man's smile. Discarded crates and equipment are strewn about, making it look like the dockworkers merely disappeared in a flash one fateful day, like something out of a science fiction movie.

That makes the brand new boat at the end of the dock, with its high end paint job and finishes all the more out of place. A few high-end trucks also sit at the end of the street, recreating the scene I found on July 4th. The yacht's interior lights are on, and its curtains are drawn. Inside, Lieutenant DeWolff and a few other officers lay in wait. I'm sure there are more cops in the area for backup, more than likely in order to arrest me when this is all over. At least, they're going to try. That much is sure.

I'd be lying if I wasn't slightly nervous about the whole thing. One of the officers here tonight could be my father. Hell, considering DeWolff is on his squad, it's likely. The fact that I could be coming face-to-face with him in costume for the first time has me on edge. The Enforcers I can deal with. That's all on me. But if I have to run away from my dad, if I have to look him in the eyes and run from him, it's not going to make me feel good.

"How you doing?" Pete's voice tentatively asks. He knows how I'm feeling. I paced around his room the entire time we were together last night, spilling my guts out to him. I felt bad about wasting our time, but I have to admit it made me feel better. Sometimes all you need is someone to listen to your bullshit to give it less power over you.

"Okay," I take a deep breath. "At this point I just want it to get started."

"You set up the stuff I made for you?" he asks, and I can detect the excitement in his voice. Whenever he has a new gadget for me, he always gets excited. It's cute, and I certainly don't mind the help. I wouldn't be half the Spider-Woman I am without them. I won't tell Peter that, of course. But he knows it.

"Yea, they're all set up. Well, except a few I kept on me just in case."

"Well I hope they work as well as I think they will," he muses. "They'll definitely be enough to take down the martial artist. Don't know about the big guy."

"Well, they can't hurt," I reassure my boyfriend. "I'm gonna go radio dark now."

"Okay. Good luck...and be careful."

"I will be," I say with care. "I'll call when it's done. Have a bad movie ready for me later. I'm probably going to need it."

"Oh, 'Cry Wilderness' has your name on it, baby," he chuckles and hangs up.

The moments before the Silk Cartel show up drag on for an eternity, seemingly. Part of me worries they won't show up, that the best idea I could come up with will fail, and the Enforcers will continue running across the city unchecked. I'm not Superman or Wonder Woman. I can't swoop in invincibly and take any criminal I want without an issue. I'm vulnerable, and the people around me are as well. If I can't learn how to stop these kind of people in my own means, I'm not the hero I want to be. Tonight means more than just taking the Enforcers off the street. Tonight is proof that Spider-Woman can be what I want her to be.

From below, the crunch of footsteps on broken glass and broken concrete filters up to me. I climb out of the window and slink up to the roof. Out of the building I was hiding in emerge all four of the Enforcers, creeping silently down the street. On each side of the low, long warehouses that line the main stretch of the factory creep groups of the cartel's commandos, just as I assumed. The Enforcers were never going to come alone, not when this could be a place I could show up.

Luckily, from the way they're approaching the cars, they have no idea they're walking straight into a trap.

I leap silently form the window I was perched in, landing on the roof of the warehouse on the left without a sign. Getting low and crawling on all fours, I stalk my prey as they approach the vans. Their body language gives them away. They think this is it. This is going to be the night they put the knockout blow on the chin of the Maggia and take them off the board as rivals. My lips curl up into a smile.

This is going to be fun.

Gargan and Sytsevich approach the vans, and I shift into a crouched position, preparing for the fight about to come. A nod from Digger Harkness, also known as Captain Boomerang and the leader of the Enforcers, tells the two men to proceed. Behind Boomerang is Delilah, the small, but agile, fighter standing guard in the back. The two men swing the doors of the vans open, ready to kill anyone inside.

"What the hell is this?"

The vans are empty, of course. I let them stew in their confusion for a moment before pressing a new button on my right webshooter. On the doors of the van, now facing the two Enforcers, and on the ground below the commandos on each side of the warehouses, small capsules flash from blue to red before exploding in a bloom of webbing.Remote web bombs that Peter cooked up. He'll be thrilled to see they worked as well as they did.

Gargan is instantly cocooned in the stick substance. The Russian manages to escape with one hand free, and he paws at the webbing. Pete was right, he is far too strong to be trapped for long. I look over my shoulder and see the strike team trapped in their own web, meaning the team on the other side is as well.

Good. Now it's just me and the Enforcers.

After a button press on my left webshooter, music queues up in my audio system and I get to work. I swing over the opening, attaching a webline to Delilah as I do. When I'm on the other side, I yank her off her feet and into the air. She soars like a doll over the warehouse on the right, and lands hard on the other side. My landing is much softer, and I crack my knuckles as she staggers back to her feet.

"I should have known this was too good to be true," she snarls.

"I can't believe I'm gonna say this," I motion with my hand for her to bring it on, "but enough talk. It's time to put you crazy circus acts away for good."

She comes at me, but noticeably slower than when she had the jump on me. Whether it's from the hard landing or me having the upper hand this time doesn't matter. I've already taken her off her game, which means the others will hopefully be just as rocked.

Her strikes are still quick and but not as precisely put together as they once were. I notice she's favoring her left leg, only throwing kicks with the right. The injury means her strikes don't have the exact same bite they did, and it leaves her left side exposed. I allow her to back me up a bit. Drawing her in means when I strike, it will be hard and fast. Meanwhile, she's probably thinking she can delay me until one of her friends manages to get free.

No such luck for the martial arts master, however. She tries to deliver a roundhouse kick with her right leg, a desperation move to get me off my feet. Her foot catches nothing but air. The wild kick causes her to lose her balance, which results in an awkward landing. She winces in pain as her leg shoots through her body. I take the opportunity of my own to kick the injured appendage out from under her. Delilah slams down on her back, the wind knocked out of her instantly. I web her to the ground securely and head back towards the warehouse.

Which is when the large, loading bay doors burst open and Aleksi Sytsevich comes rumbling through them, "You vill pay for zat Spider!"

"Somehow I doubt that, big guy," I laugh as I easily duck under a swipe from his massive mitt. He comes back at me, trying to stomp on me with his size thirteen boot. Backflipping out of the way, I land and break out into a sprint towards Sytsevich. Vaulting off his leg, I knee him in the chin, sending him stumbling backwards.

The big Russian is strong, sure. But he's big and slow. Those two things play right into my hand. He falls back into the wall of the warehouse, swinging wildly at me. He's got as much chance to hit me as a blind man does at catching a fly. After ducking another attempted haymaker punch from my left, and spring off the pavement with all the strength my legs can muster. My right fist connects with the chin of the strong man with a resonating thud. The strength of the blow sends the two of us tumbling through the wall of the decrepit building, raining rubble down on top of us.

Sytsevich stumbles back and teeters for a moment like at the end of a Mortal Kombat match, before he falls over. His gargantuan body kicks up a tidal wave of dust and dirt, filling the air inside the musty old warehouse. Drool seeps out of his mouth like a river and pools around his chin as I completely coat his arms and legs in webbing.

"Let's see you get out of that one, you big bastard."

My spider sense alerts of a new threat, and the trademark hum of approaching boomerang buzzes through my ears. The first wave of three comes from seemingly every direction at once. Even as I jump and flip through the air, contorting my body to ensure I don't get caught by one, I sense three more coming towards me. No time to get out of the way of these, though. I track them with my eyes, and fire shots of webbing to knock them out of the air.

"Nice try, Digger," I mock the criminal's failure to land a hit on me. "Looks like the dingo ate your aiming."

Harkness's voice seethes from the shadows of the warehouse, echoing through the empty space, "Come on now, Spida. You can do better than that one."

Slinking through the rubble of decades trying to locate the source of the Australian accent, I respond, "Yea, probably, but it's late and I don't feel like being more creative with my taunts."

Another wave of projectiles fly towards me. One clangs off a rebar support beam, another embeds itself in some old plaster, and the third comes dangerously close to hitting me in the head as I can feel its wake ruffle my hood. Luckily, Captain Boomerang gave away his position with that throw. I look up to see the catwalks above, and a shadow taking cover behind an old electrical panel.

"You know," the shade says, unaware I know exactly where he is, "you talk too much. Maybe it's because we usually kill our marks a lot fast than we've been able to take care of you, but usually they don't talk anywhere close to this amount. You always this chatty?"

"You have not I idea." I continue to act like I'm searching for the hitman, but out the corner of my eye I can see him get in position for another volley my way. Good. He has no idea, which means I can goad him into a mistake. "My dad tells me that I could bring Atlantis back to the surface with all the hot air I let-"

He fires off another succession of throws my way, but this time I'm more than ready. As the first one leaves his hand, a webline snatches it out of the sky like a frog does a fly. With a wide-arcing swing, I slash the rusted, decaying supports of the catwalk. With a dry, dead snap like the wishbone at Thanksgiving, the supports give way and the catwalk teeters towards the floor.

Digger Harkness is good though. Really good. As he falls towards the ground, he tosses two more bladed boomerangs my way. One slices me across the right shoulder, and the other against the left calf. It hurts, but they're just glancing blows. What they manage to do is drop my guard for a moment, allowing him to close the gap and give me a stiff right across the jaw.

I see stars momentarily, but manage to shake them away in time to catch his next punch with my bare hand, and deliver a devastating uppercut that raises him into the air before coming back down to earth in a crumpled heap.

With some more webbing, the Enforcers are taken care of, and I let out a long, deep sigh.

Strolling back into the courtyard of the factory complex, I'm not gonna lie, I feel like a victorious gunfighter out of the old west. All I need is Stranger to ride me into the sunset. Well, it's well past sunset but you know what I mean.

Still cocooned to the side of the van, I find Gargan still struggling in his webby prison, "Well, this is a truly pathetic display, if I do say so myself."

"This ain't over, web-head!" he screams, spittle flying from his mouth. "You ain't gonna keep us down!"

I look over both shoulders, "Looks like I'm keepin' ya down pretty good so far, Gargan."

"Yea, well next time'll be different," he promises. "And next time, we're gonna kill ya!"

"Okay, have fun trying to kill me from prison, scout," I pat him on the head condescendingly. "Hey, Dewolff! I'm doing out here!"

Suddenly, my spider sense explodes with warning. From the buildings surrounding me come dozens of police officers donning SWAT gear, all of their weapons trained on me. I keep my hands by my side, eyeing up the rank and file. They're all close. Point blank range. Any of them fire and I'm done for. I'm fast, but no way am I fast enough to dodge gunfire at this range. Plus, if I do, one of the cops is almost certainly taking a bullet.

The officers surrounding me separate, and from the gap strolls Lieutenant DeWolff and my father. From Jean's face, I can tell she's nervous, not ready for what happens next. My father, on the other hand, looks as determined as I've ever seen him. He's certainly taking this new task force seriously. I guess that's a good thing. Well, it would be if he didn't have a football team's worth of rifles pointed at me right now.

"Well, DeWolff," I snicker in my Spider-Womany voice, hoping to god my dad doesn't recognize it, "I can't say I'm surprised. A little hurt? Maybe. A bit hungry? For sure. But not surprised."

"Enough of the talk," Captain Stacy barks. "Put your hands on your head. Your days of vigilantism are over."

"Hands on my head? Yea, I can do that."

As my hands come away from my hips, however, I toss the two web mines I kept for myself at the assembled officers. They explode as I fire a webline to the crane above and yank myself out of the line of fire. I look back to see the SWAT team, DeWolff, and my dad encased in webbing.

I swing out of the old factory complex, and as I gain alttitude, I can see the veritable army of cop cars that were ready and waiting if needed.

"Sorry, Dad. Maybe next time."


Ditko Luxury Apartments

The Black Tarantula's fists slam down on the table in front of Otto Octavius who doesn't move a muscle. He merely smirks at the sign of frustration from the crime lord.

"Is that all you can do!?" the Tarantula rages at the genius. "Is all you do laugh and smile at my failures!? This is not a game to me, Octavius! This is my birthright! This is everything my family has worked for! Down the shitter because some bitch in a costume decides to get in my way. She wiped the floor with my best lieutenants in minutes! Minutes! You told me she wouldn't be an issue! You told me the Enforcers would be a match for her!"

Octavius merely takes off his glasses and wipes them down. Before returning them to his face he looks at the mob boss and smiles again, a little bigger for effect. With his normal German-twinged monotone, he explains "Yet again you fail to really listen. I said the Enforcers could be a match for her. I truly didn't know. They won the first round. The stratagem of threatening innocent civilians worked for a time. Then she led your men into her web and scored a TKO. With every encounter we learn more, my naive friend. Taking down a superhero will not be possible until we learn all there is to know."

"And that's all this is to you?" Tarantula's eyes narrow. "A learning exercise."

"Precisely," he nods happily. "If we at AIM ever hope to perfect the enhancement of the human race to combat the superhuman threat, we need to see if Spider-Woman is capable of dealing with everything we throw at her. So far, so good."

"So AIM wants to save humanity?"

A small titter of laughter escapes from the scientist, "AIM wants to reshape the world, and nothing less. Think of what someone could do with ten obedient Spider-Women at their side? Fighting the superheroes of the world merely is data collection to improve our product to sell to the highest bidder."

"How will you test her against superhumans?" the crime lord is puzzled. "She is the only one in New York."

"Ah!" Otto becomes so excited he is practically bouncing up and down. "That brings us to the next phase in our little experiment. Shall we begin?"
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