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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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Laurel Canyon
Now


Jake Stowe’s eyes lit up at the sight of the satchel John carried into his garage. The old man clapped his hands together in celebration and instructed John to place the bag on the wooden counter than ran the length of the garage wall.

“Your task appears to be accomplished.”

John thought back to whacking J. Lewis Wasserman in the back of the head with a vase while he was in the process of getting naked. Jenny had quickly put her clothes back on while John hog-tied Wasserman and started searching his ten million dollar mansion. It didn’t take long to find it. John had the Sight to guide him so it was easy. The typewriter had more than enough bad mojo on it for John to walk right to it. He nicked the typewriter and a few other mystical goodies for his own personal use before slipping out of the house and into the LA night.

“Easy enough,” said John. "Even the most shrewd man in the world still thinks with his cock."

He unzipped the satchel and placed the typewriter on the counter. From far enough away in the dim lighting it looked just like any other old typing machine. Upon closer look you could see the crimson bloodstains that had faded over time. Their color may have faded, but their effects had not. John hated to touch the thing. Wasserman had never had the Sight so he had no idea what it was doing. He couldn’t feel the pain and horror that it oozed. In John’s eyes, a cloud of twisting black and crimson energy hovered over the thing. From the way Stowe looked at it, John knew he was also unaware of the poison that the typewriter carried.

“Beautiful,” Stowe said as he limped towards it. “So tragically beautiful.”

Stowe ran his twisted hands along the blood-spattered surface of the machine before he looked up at John, his eyes shining with emotion.

“Well done, Mr. Constantine.”

John lit up a fresh cigarette and waited until he had exhaled his first drag before speaking again. Meanwhile Stowe was lovingly inspecting the typewriter.

“Now you said there would be an ample reward.”

“Yes,” said Stowe not bothering to look up from the typewriter. “My next book will be dedicated solely to you, Mr. Constantine. A great honor, indeed”

“Er.. that’s not exactly the same as cash, squire.”

“I thought your type didn’t fool with money.”

“Most don’t, but I bloody well do.”

“Well,” Stowe looked back up at John. The adoration that had been in his eyes a few moments ago was now gone. “You will have to settle with the reward of joining Hollywood folklore. For, it is with this very typewriter that I plan to write my next book on the horrors of Hollywood. Think of the poetry, Mr. Constantine. The very item of which I will write about being used to tell its own story.”

“Not a good idea,” said John.

“What do you know?” Stowe asked with a scowl.

“I’m only the bleeding expert in the occult, and--”

John stopped mid-sentence. He smiled and bowed his head.

“And what am I saying? You are the expert when it comes to Hollywood myths and legends.”

“Correct.”

Stowe leaned forward and started to try out the keys of the typewriter. The smile on his face quickly disappeared when he recoiled from the machine, a cut on his forefinger.

“Ow. Something sharp on the keys, it would seem.”

His hands went back to the keys, a concerned look on his face as he continued to type. The loud clacking of the keys filling the garage.

“What is happening?” He asked with a frantic look towards Constantine.

“Tried to warn you,” said John.

Now, Stowe’s blood was flowing freely from the cut on his finger and dripping across the surface of the keys. The crusted blood on the typewriter glowed a deep, dark crimson as Stowe continued to type.

“The story you told me the other day didn’t end like you thought it did,” John said as he blew smoke rings into the air. “You see, I have that nifty condition that lets me see the shite that people like you can’t. And when I touched the typewriter, it told me the rest of the story.”

---

Hollywood
1978


Frederick Waltham snorted a line of cocaine off the surface of his desk. He sighed and rubbed his nostril, doing his best to get the coke into his system faster. He needed it to pull the all-nighter. Waltham turned to his typewriter. Fifty years on and he still used the same old typewriter with the blood-stained keys. A reminder of where he’d started. And the big office filled with awards was a reminder of where the typewriter had taken him. Even still, approaching eighty years old, he was still pushing forward. That’s what the coke was for. A little bump to keep him going. It was the middle of the night and Waltham was the only one in the building, dedicated to finishing the latest draft of his next big movie.

Science fiction pictures were all the rage now thanks to that movie last year, the goofy as fuck one Waltham only half-watched. It was stupid and the dialogue was tin-earned, but people lined up around the block to see it. Frank Waltham would be damned if he missed a chance to make that kind of money, to have that many people watching his movies. But nothing was coming to him. His first draft hadn’t been perfect, but he was able to muscle out one hundred and ten pages of rough draft. But now? Going back through the draft he just couldn’t think of anything. It was a complete and total blank.

“Having trouble?”

The cheery voice made Waltham jump in his seat. He looked away from the typewriter and saw him standing in front of his desk. The same gentile smile on his smooth face, the same perfectly round pitch black sunglasses, and the same straw boater that had fallen out of fashion around the time of the stock market crash. He hadn’t aged a day. Waltham recoiled back at the sight of the man.

“I have to blame myself,” he said. “As of midnight, the covenant we signed fifty years ago has come due, Mr. Waltham. I am running a little behind, so I apologize.”

“No,” said Waltham. He balled his wrinkled fist and slammed it on the desk. “You can’t do this! That agreement or whatever it was, was bullshit. Everything I built was by my own hands, and nothing to do with you.”

“Mmm,” the man said. He had wandered off into a corner of Waltham’s office. He inspected the rows and rows of Academy Awards and other trophies on the shelves. “You doubt my powers, Mr. Waltham?”

“Yes,” said Waltham, pounding the desk again. “Yes I fucking do.”

The man turned around, a large smile on his face. He flashed those razor-sharp teeth that had been the subject of Waltham’s nightmares for thirty years.

“This is always my least favorite part of the deal,” he said with no trace of sadness or remorse in his voice. “But we must get to it. You've have had fifty years of uninterrupted success in your profession. You are a giant who straddles Hollywood like a colossus. Everything I promised all those years ago has come to pass. I have kept up my end of the bargain, now you must keep up yours.”

“But--”

“But nothing,” said the man, his jovial nature suddenly evaporated. The fact that greeted him was made of stone. Or ice, more likely. “We made an agreement, one you entered into willingly, and consecrated in your blood. It has been bonded and nothing can break that bond.”

“I want an extension,” Waltham said, standing and rushing around the desk. “Can you give me that?”

Waltham fell at the man’s feet and wrapped his arms around his ankles.

“Please, more time. Just more.”

“I cannot extend your time,” the man said as he stepped out of Waltham’s grasp. Suddenly, a smile was back on his face. “But I can offer you something else… an escape clause.”

“What?”

Waltham stood up slowly. He couldn’t get up and down like he used to, but the offer the man was dangling in front of him seemed like a lifeline so he jumped up as fast as he could to grab it.

“What escape clause?”

The man sighed and looked at Waltham, his fiery eyes hidden behind the sunglasses.

“If you can prove that the talent that I bestowed upon you is still there, even after the covenant has come due, then that means you had the ability all along. That will be considered a breach of contract on my part and our deal will be null and void. You get to keep your soul.”

“Yes,” said Waltham. “Yes-yes-yes. How do I prove it?”

“Go back to your typewriter and write me a screenplay, Mr. Waltham.”

Waltham hurried over to the desk and slid into his chair. He pulled himself up in front of the typewriter while the man sat on the edge of the desk, watching Waltham through his sunglasses.

“Meta-fiction on film won’t really take off for another few decades, but write me a story about a man beating the devil. I think that's very apropos.”

Waltham started to type furiously. For the first time tonight, the ideas were coming to him. He set the scene on an English moor, a nobleman in the grips of depression. He was madly in love with a woman he couldn’t have. He would give anything to be with her. He cried to the heavens to help him. But what answered his cry wasn't from the heavens at all.

“Ow,” Waltham said under his breath. He looked at his index finger and saw a few drops of blood. One of the keys on the typewriter must have been loose and pinched him hard enough to draw blood. He could power through it.

The Devil appeared on the moor, breathing out brimstone as he laughed ruefully. He could see the scene clearly in his mind's eye. He had ideas for shots and how to block the scene and…

“That’s a lot of blood, Mr. Waltham,” the man said as he leaned forward and looked at the typewriter.

Waltham looked down at the keys. He was right. His fingers and the whole machine had been covered in blood, his blood.

“Keep going,” said the man. “The only way you can win is to finish it before time runs out.”

Waltham pressed on. The devil in the screenplay towered over the nobleman, heat radiating off his damned body as he asked the English lord what it meant to truly bargain with his soul. Asking the lord if he were prepared for the consequences of failure. No, the lord had responded. He wasn’t prepared because he knew he would not fail.

He stopped and looked up from his writing. His vision was dimming and he could see black spots floating just ahead.

“The cocaine isn’t doing any favors,” said the man. “It has your heart racing, that’s making the blood flow faster and faster.”

Waltham blinked slowly and looked down. Blood was pouring from the cut in his hands as if he had nicked an artery instead of an appendage. He could now see it wasn’t a tiny cut but a massive gash. Then he remembered that was the same finger he had cut open fifty years ago when he made the deal.

“There’s no escape clause, Mr. Waltham,” the man said with a grin. “I just wanted to have a little fun.”

Waltham, his face now white and deathly pale, fell over on to his desk, the blood pouring from his open wound and covering the desk in the warm, sticky liquid. The man looked on with a bored expression as Frederick Waltham, pillar of Hollywood and the greatest filmmaker of his generation, died right there on the desk. He did not have to worry after his death. Waltham’s soul would arrive at the place it had been destined to for the last fifty years: Right inside the typewriter.

“A half century of success, wealth, and power the likes of which few could imagine,” the man said as he stood over Waltham’s now dead body.

“And still, you wanted more. Always more. Humans.”

The man gently patted the blood-covered typewriter and sighed. He checked his watch before he disappeared into the ether, nothing but wasps of smoke left behind where he once stood.

---

Now

“No,” screamed Stowe. Now, his face was pale and his immaculate suit sleeves were stained with his own blood. Still, his hands continued to type and the blood continued to freely flow.

“Yes,” hissed John.

“Help me,” cried Stowe. “For God’s sake, you have to help me! Lucifer asked you to help me on his behalf! What would he do if he found out you let me die!”

“Lucy is a man of his word,” said John. “But he’s also a fickler for language. He wanted me to help you find the typewriter, nothing less and nothing more. I fulfilled my obligation, Stowe.” A smirk crept onto John’s face. “The devil is in the details, isn’t it?”

The typewriter began to shake and shimmy. Stowe tried to pull away, but his fingers wouldn't’ budge to do anything but hit another key. He screamed and kept trying to pull away, the typewriter furiously shaking each time.

“He’s getting antsy,” said John. “But of course he would be. He’s been in that bloody typewriter for forty years now. He wants a friend.”

“Waltham?” asked Stowe. “No. His body is interred at the Fallen Stars Memorial--

“Not his body, you git,” John snapped. “It’s his soul. Trapped in there since he died. And he’s about to have company. You should feel honored, Jake. You're about to go from grubby little C-Film producer and gossip monger to a genuine Hollywood urban legend.”

Stowe’s eyes went wide, his head snapped back, and he lurched forward on to the typewriter, a pool of blood covering the counter and dripping on to the concrete floor of the garage. John put his nub of a cigarette on the counter beside Stowe’s body and turned away from him.

He felt anger at the sight of the garage before him. These testaments to suffering and pain. It wasn’t being naive. He knew that power in the magical sense often came from pain and suffering. But Stowe, and Wasserman to a lesser degree, had no interest in the magical properties of pain. They collected and showcased these horrors because it got them off. And that’s what pissed John off. He started through the garage in search of something. He stopped a few minutes later when he found a few cans of paint thinner. A smile crept on to his face as he started to pour the cans through the garage.

---

John watched the house going up from atop Laurel Canyon. The fire brigade would soon be there, but it was far too late to salvage anything in the garage, the spot where the fire had started. He sat and smoked, watching the flames grow higher as the smoke curled up into the sky. He could see the evil energy from the garage dissipating as all the horrible objects in Stowe's collection turned to ash.

By his feet was the typewriter, the only thing from the house he had salvaged. He stood once he started to hear the fire engine sirens off in the distance. He looked down at the typewriter and kicked it down the hill. It was dark, but he saw it tumble down and land into some thick patch of underbrush, a place where it would be hidden from the world but exposed to the element. He wanted it to rust and decay and fall apart… but not for a few decades at the least. Let Stowe enjoy the Hell he had so justly earned.

With a last look at the flames, John turned away and started back to the road that would lead him as far away from the place as humanly possible.

END
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Hexaflexagon
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Hexaflexagon Birth | Death | Rebirth

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Красная комната Compound, Byelorussian SSR - The Past



"Do you think we can climb it?" Yulia asked as she gazed upward.

Natasha followed her gaze upward towards the apex of the towering birch. It was the tallest thing on their side of the fence. The splintered bark worn with the tangible progression of time. Looking up at it now she felt very small as its towering branches reached like hands towards the sky.

"Of course we can." Natasha declared.

Small hands grasped a heavyset burl bulging from the wood above her head and pulled upwards. Branch by branch the pair moved higher, freezing in place as a strong wind caused the branches to dance. Natasha's eyes focused on the marks on the tree as they climbed: symbols of others marking how far they had gone. Each mark that she passed seemed to ease the aching in her muscles.

"We are almost there!" She called to Yulia whose panting breaths she could hear below.

"Really?" Yulia called back up voice coated in disbelief.

"Yeah! We have to make it up to this next branch though." Natasha responded as she clung to trunk for support.

The names stopped at the branch she rested upon and looking up at the next branch, the reason was obvious. The bark had smoothed out at these heights, no foot holds or other such pleasantries to make a path onward. Natasha was going to have to jump. She rose from a crunch as the branch sagged under the shift in weight. She closed her eyes and took a breath.

"Natasha what are you -"

Before she could finish Natasha leap through the air. For a brief moment she dangled in open space, free and weightless, before she slammed into the branch. Squinting in pain as stars clouded her vision, Natasha pulled herself up and onto the branch. She scrambled into the small divot made where branch and tree joined. She rested her back against the trunk, breathing hard, as her sternum burned from the impact.

"Yulia, you coming?" she called down between breaths.

"I think I'm going to stay down here..." Yulia responded as she tried her best not to look down.

"What? Come on you gotta!" Natasha responded as a shock of red hair appeared from her resting place looking down. "I'll catch you!"

Yulia swallowed hard.

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

She jumped, the branch rising upward to meet her, before it began to fall away. Eyes grow wide as hands grasped for purchase but found only air. A scream forcing its way upward was stifled as her throat closed in panic.

There was a blinding pulse of pain.

And Yulia jerked to a stop as she hung suspended in air; a shoulder torn from its socket screamed.

Above her grasping her arm with two hands in an iron-clad grip was Natasha. Her teeth gritted in determination as the branch she rested on protested the sudden movement. For a moment they hung suspended in time, the sounds of heavy breathing and disgruntled wood filling the air.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity Natasha spoke voice shaking with adrenaline.

“I got you.”


Castle Markov, The Kingdom of Markovia - Present Day



“Дерьмо”

Yulia muttered as she rubbed her eyes. A digital clock nestled amongst the clutter of paper upon her desk taunting her as it red lettering called out 03:30. Night had passed somewhere back into morning without her having even noticed. She stretched and rubbed her bad shoulder before going back to work.

A massive spreadsheet sprawled outward across her two computer monitors. A maze of notes and time-tables color-coded arranged together like some bizzare eldritch script. King Gregor Markov was heading to Brussels to continue his ongoing attempt for Markoiva to have closer ties with the European Union and by proxy the wider world. Yulia, as the head of Gregor’s personal security detail, was in charge of wrangling the circus and making sure everything went according to plan. A process which involved several very tiring calls with the Commissariaat-Generaal and other dignitaries.

“You could’ve gone anywhere... but you had to come here.” Yulia spoke aloud as she drained the last fragments of cold coffee from a mug emblazoned with a small orange tabby.

Markovia was a unstable and festering dungpile and everyone knew it, Yulia and King Gregor included. ‘Europe’s chamberpot’ that still clung to its glory days during the Dual Monarchy of Latkovia when knights and wizards pranced about. Modern history hadn’t been so kind to it: invaded by the Nazis, invaded by the Soviets, and after the USSR went to shit massive poverty and political instability. In short it was the perfect place for somebody like Yulia to vanish.

It would’ve been all too easy for Yulia to phone her work in and vanish once again into the chaos, yet she couldn’t. King Gregor was a good man, trying to mend the scars that his father’s own bloody and authoritarian rule had left on the country and its people. His cause spoke to some innate desire inside Yulia, a hope that despite all the bad things, perhaps there were chances to start over again.

A fitful stare at unforgiving red numerals showed four in the morning. Sighing, Yulia saved her work and began to shut her computer down. The world of spreadsheets and travel arrangements vanishing back into the void. Somewhere outside birds rising from their slumber began to fill the air with song. Yulia grabbed the empty coffee mug and exited her office.

The king in his gratitude for her service had converted a small few rooms in the upper levels of Castle Markov into living quarters. It was a strange juxtaposition of affairs, modern stylings and design sensibilities rooted into old stone architecture, much like the rest of Markovia - trying to look towards the future but clinging stubbornly to the relics of the past.

Entering the kitchen, Yulia washed the mug in the sink and placed it upon the counter to dry. As she did her eyes were drawn to the letter stuck to the fridge - Ava’s most recent school report. The general conceit was the same, if presented in a different manner: smart girl but trouble dealing with others, and authority issues. Yulia rubbed her temples wondering if she would’ve been this difficult at 15 if things had turned out differently

It was then that she heard it. A sound too faint for normal ears to even register. Camly she reached into a nearby draw where sat resting was an old Lahti L-35, already preloaded. The cold touch of the steel held a familiarity to it, like a reunion with an old college friend, resting easy in her experienced grip. Slowly she began to turn the corner that lead out into the living room, calling out as she did.

“Ava is that you?”

There was no response as a heavy foreboding silence hung in the air like fog.

Yulia turned the corner, gun drawn, and she froze.

She stood staring at a ghost that had a gun pointed at her chest.

“Nata-”

The flechette rounds found their way home before the word left her mouth. The gun dropped from her hand and she staggered backwards. Her vision tilted and wobbled and blood began to pool and overflow throw raw and angry crevices and fissures torn through flesh and sinew. Stumbling she tripped over a small end table and felt her body pitch to the floor, but the impact never came as found herself cradled in a pair of familiar arms.

A voice whispered to her from someplace very far away.

“I got you.”

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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Nightrunner
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Nightrunner Gentleman Anarchist

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The Weapon X Facility, Canada
The Summer of 2018


Everyone shuddered. I've seen fire hydrants that spray slower than that, Cornelius thought while massaging his goosebumps back into place. Anyhow, it was time to begin. "Send the patient to the labyrinth." Following orders like obedient little sheople, the nerds on the control module marched their remote-controlled grim reaper down the hall.

On the inside of the helmet, though, it was quite a different experience. "Come on, buddy, the voice of God seemed to tell him. "Your destiny is just over yonder. Y'see that?" God asked before illuminating his destination, summoning yellow light from the heavens to show Logan the way. "Now, this is your chance to make a really good first impression on the big boss."

Logan wondered why God was speaking of himself in the third person. It seemed so damn condescending. Nonetheless, he followed the yellow light. His legs seemed to walk that way without him thinking about it, like it was what he really wanted to do. But it wasn't.. was it? Logan asked himself. He didn't really want to follow the light. He didn't really want to serve God like this. He tried to think of why he was headed this way, but reason seemed to escape him. There was no continuity to anything he was doing. When he tried thinking back any further than the last fifteen minutes, it was like trying to read a diary page that had been bleached out.

The nerd at the controls grunted.

"Damn," he exhaled sharply, "controls locked up. Sucker doesn't wanna walk." He kept smacking the joystick against its plastic perimeter. "You try it Chucky."

Chucky scoffed.

"Well, Roland, you simple minded fool, there are two ways to get this Weapon to walk. You can use the controller to electrically stimulate the relevant muscles, but if the target resists, you just type in your commands like this," he struck his keys with the fluency of a career pianist.

"Enter the door. Enter the door. You should enter the door. Enter the door. It's in your best interest to open the door. Weapon Ten: Your mission is through the door."

Chucky grunted. "Looks like this one has a lot of spine to him. If they start acting up, all you gotta do is press the Home button. It sets off an electrical surge inside the brain and clears out the episodic memories."

"WAHAAAHAARGHHHHHHAAA!" the patient howls from down the hallway.

"Weapon Ten: Enter the door."

Logan walks through the door that glows yellow as casually as a minivan rolls through a carwash. Living in neutral. Entering the labyrinth whose challenge is such a fantastic and concise microcosm for the ongoing struggle that is this life. He tries to think of how to phrase that poetically, then he gets his memory wiped again.

Surrounded by grass, Logan looks around, letting his claws slide out of his fists with the same unengaged suffering that a man swallows a tablespoon of cough syrup with. He stands in a dirt circle, in the shadow of a palm tree. Everything is illuminated with a stark white light that is beyond even the pale extremes an ivory filter would provide. The distance is blacker than sin, blacker than the innards of the coffins buried beneath Martian soil, blacker even than the vanta. The distance is disarmingly empty, just like Logan. He hears a rustling, so he knows he's not alone.

"Weapon Ten: At your four o' clock--defend by leveling a claw at shoulder level!"

Logan's instincts kicked in, telling him to level a claw at shoulder level, so he holds his fist like a spear and plants those terrible talons of his in the chest of a heavyset man who'd evidently expected to take him by surprise. "Take him down: Jaguar style!" Faster than fast, Logan dumps the bleeding brawler on the dirt before swinging around on nothing, kneeling on his opponents back and perforating a thousand little holes in the man's brain from behind. The bones try to reinforce each other, but cannot keep up with Logan's uncanny speed, so the brawler's healing factor bites the dust and the man's resilient skull is turned into a scarlet parfait of brain and bone.

Roland screams, "Ohmigod--we took down Weapon One in seven seconds flat! Hell Yeah!"

At that, Logan kneels down and slurps the insides of the man's skull like a country boy slurping the broth out of his mom's chicken soup. He hums and sings quietly, "All I wanna do.. is drink some blood. I get the feeling.. I'm not the only one."
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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South Central L.A.

It’s know the world over as a modern day wild west. That’s a bit overblown to be sure, but it sure as shit ain’t Mayberry. It’s story is like a lot of other places. Used to be a nice working class area, then the jobs dried up and poverty rose. Those that could afford to get out didn’t look back and left behind the poor and the desperate. Then crack came and hit the entire neighborhood like a fucking atom bomb.

I’ve seen it happen with me own eyes. I grew up in Liverpool during the halcyon days of Skag City. Saw how drugs tear apart communities, friendships, and families. How in the hell could South Central take a punch like that and keep going? It’s no wonder the gangs that dealt crack got powerful. A kid living in a hellhole, a place where the Old Bill only shows up to knock you in the head and bang you up, you see the gangs as the only source of power and protection in the neighborhood. It’s an organization where you can join and belong and dress in matching colors. Kind of like the Boy Scouts, only with more drugs and less sex.

With gang life flourishing, there had to be those that glorified it. Enter gangsta rap. Led by a bunch of lads with one foot in the life, they told the tale of what it meant to be young, black and disgruntled in Reagan and Bush’s America. Using words I’m too white to even attempt to use, they ignited the imagination of the public and sent suburban America into a panic. Calls for social reform dressed up around stories of drug dealers and corrupt cops. They tried to warn L.A. about police brutality years before anyone had even heard of the name Rodney King. When the city burned in ‘92, they were seen as more Cassandra than anything, screaming and rapping to deaf ears. And like those that didn’t listen, some of them paid the price.

There’s a writer, an American, I’m rather fond of that once said “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” And that’s what happened to these blokes. They pretended to live the life, they carried out coastal feuds and swore bloody vengeance on their rivals. Got so caught up that the lines blurred and shit got real. They acted like gangsters and were gunned down like gangsters. Those that survived moved on. You’ll see them now in PG comedies or baking cakes with Martha bloody Stewart on telly. They were the smart ones. They got close to the abyss and were able to pull away. Unfortunately, not all of them can be that lucky.


---

Crenshaw Boulevard
1:23 AM


To Detective Charlie Rembrandt, this stretch of Crenshaw was on fire. Ash gray flames rose up off buildings and roared intensely. He knew the fire wasn’t real. What he was seeing was part of the shadow world of Los Angeles, ghost images that had been imprinted by the riots twenty-six years ago. He was surprised there wasn’t more scars from the riots. This part of the city went up in flames during those six days of anarchy, and helicopters hovered above it all to broadcast the damage to the world. He’d seen ghosts on Florence and Normandie pulling a spectral truck driver from his semi and bash his head in with a brick. It played on a continuous loop as Charlie passed by in his unmarked squad car.

“You okay, Charlie?”

He looked over at his partner Bonnie, watching him curiously from the passenger seat. Rembrandt looked back at the road and the ghost flames licking the side of buildings.

“I’m fine.”

“Bullshit,” said Bonnie. “You haven’t been acting right since we had that weird ass case at Wilshire Division.”

“You know I am,” Charlie said with a shrug. “I hate giving up on a case and that one is pretty much unsolvable.”

He could feel Bonnie sizing him up out the corner of his eye. She wasn’t a dummy. Unlike the majority of detectives who worked LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division, Bonnie both gave a fuck about her job and was competent. Like Rembrandt she was newest edition to the squad, the reason they were on the late shift, which meant she was among the sharpest detectives with the most to prove.

“Whatever’s going on, you can tell me,” she finally said.

Charlie laughed to himself. How do you explain you’ve been cursed with the ability to see dead people, psychic energy, and ghosts? He was still trying to explain it to himself. He'd gone fifty years thinking the world was one way, only to have the rug pulled out from under him and told he was completely wrong in every single way.

“Thanks,” Charlie finally said. “I’ll keep a note of that when something’s bothering me.”

“Okay, asshole. Keep it to yourself.”

Rembrandt laughed again, this time aloud, as he turned the corner and saw blue lights at the end of the block. Patrol cars and unmarked units from 77th Street Division were parked outside a nightclub, a cordon drawn up that sealed off half the block.

He found parking at the edge of the block that forced him and Bonnie to walk in. The uniformed officer standing sentry let them through when they flashed their badges. A small smile found its way to his lips.

“What do you know about rap?” he asked as they passed.

“Just limited to those that were anti-cop,” said Rembrandt. “N.W.A. and Ice Cube and a few others.”

“My kids listen to Drake,” said Bonnie.

“Heh,” the uniform chuckled. “The two of you are gonna learn today.”

They walked towards the nightclub entrance where another plainclothes cop met them. He wore a badge around his neck and reading glasses on the tip of his nose.

“You the RHD guys?”

“Young and Rembrandt,” said Bonnie. “What’s going on here?”

“Nightclub shooting,” said the cop. “I’m Ben Baker, by the way, D3 out of 77th Street Homicide Table.”

“Sounds pretty straight forward,” said Rembrandt, looking around the area. “Why'd they call out RHD?”

"It’s because of the victim.”

Baker waved for them to follow him as they entered the club. All the lights were on, making the place look washed out and sad. Nightclubs were meant to be cast in shadow. It was unnatural to see it like this. Crime techs were busy taking photos of a body prone on the dance floor.

“The departed is K2, either of your familiar with him?”

After negatives from both Rembrandt and Bonnie, Baker nodded and pulled a notebook from his jacket pocket.

“Neither am I. Real name is Kirsnick Kemp, twenty-three years old. South L.A. native and rap star.”

Bonnie was busy taking notes as Baker reeled them off to her. Charlie was distracted by something else entirely. He already knew he was out of his depth when he saw it mulling around by the crime techs with a confused look on its face. He resisted the urge to swear at the sight of it. He was going to need help, and there was only one man for the job.

---

East L.A.
2:34 AM


“¿Es esta tu carta?” John Constantine asked in clunky Spanish.

The cholos gathered around him applauded wildly as he held up the ace of spades for them all to see. His trench coat had been jettisoned, his shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows and his tie unknotted. It hadn’t been his intention to join their late night barbecue, but they were set up in the backyard of the apartment complex he lived in and John was invited. Far be it for him to turn down a generous offer of ribs and booze.

“Thank you, thank you,” John said with a grin. With the flick of his wrists, the card disappeared. A shot glass filled with tequila replaced it. “For my next trick, watch as I make this shot disappear.”

They cheered again as he downed the drink quickly. Drinks were passed around along with plates of food. Morrissey wailed "Irish Blood, English Heart" on a bluetooth speaker somewhere. John traded dirty jokes with a heavily tattooed Chicano man with multiple tear drop tattoos under both his eyes. Almost everyone at the barbecue was in the Life, always with a capital L. They were part of PBS13, loyal to the Mexican Mafia and owners of this part of East LA. They were criminals and gangsters, proud cholo warriors who ran guns and drugs and whores. In short, John’s kind of people.

John looked up from his food when he sensed the mood had changed. It suddenly became very tense and the sounds of Moz were cut short, leaving an uncomfortable silence. All eyes were looking towards the entrance of the apartment building where a man stood in the shadows. He stepped forward, Charlie Rembrandt and his rumpled suit coming into the light.

The looks shifted from Rembrandt to John. Swallowing his mouthful of rib meat, John stood up and cursed. The cholos knew Rembrandt was a cop without having to ask. There was an invisible barrier between them that both sides could easily see. The fact that a cop was here to see him ended his party with the group. Anybody else they would have beaten or killed for associating with policia. But not John. He had a reputation in the neighborhood, one that scared off the superstitious gangbangers from trying anything serious. No matter how hard a cholo might be, he knew better than to fuck with El Mago.

“What’s going on, Charlie?” John asked once they were out front by Rembrandt’s car. John could make out the silhouette of a person in the back of the car. “Must be a bloody emergency for you to barge in on me and my mates like that.”

“I got called in to a murder tonight,” Rembrandt said, reaching for the pack of cigarettes in John’s breast pocket. “Whatever’s been happening has been fucking with me, but this is something new.”

“Take a deep breath and tell me what’s going on,” said John.

“The victim was a rap star by the name of K2,” said Rembrandt, the unlit cigarette in his mouth as he rapped on the window of the car's passenger seat. “Meet the best witness I have.”

Out of the car came a tall black man wearing blood spattered clothes. He didn't open the door, more like he phased through the hard metal and plastic until he stood on the sidewalk. John could make bullet holes amidst the blood on his chest. Six or seven at the very least.

“This is K2,” said Rembrandt. “Or at least his ghost or soul or whatever.”

“I don’t know who the fuck you are,” K2 said, looking at John. “But I know who killed me and why.”
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Sep Admiral EvilScottishGuy

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T H E F L A S H

Revelations:
NOT FAST ENOUGH






Iris ran up and down the street grabbing people and moving them off the block, closing and blocking doorways. Using whatever she could to cordon off the street to stop people from walking into what was likely to be a very interesting fight, and very dangerous fight. It was her duty first and foremost to protect them. She didn’t do this for the glory, she didn’t do this to enforce her will on other people but to help other people in a way that others couldn’t.

She stopped in front of him after clearing the street, and noticed a grin spread across his face. “Why so cheerful?”

One of Hydros arms reformed into a mace like appendage while the other into a curved sword. “When that Zoom guy told me you’d run passed this street I didn’t believe him, I’ve been here almost all day without so much as a hint that you were going to come this way. Then right when I’m about to give you up, here you are.”

‘Zoom’. The entire word threw her balance, as the man of water came running towards her she only dodged at the last second. Barely calling upon her speed as she did so, regaining her composure she ducked below his arm and then moved off to the other end of the street. “I didn’t have you pegged as a lackey Hydro.” She sped towards him, sending her first straight for his face. Like every attack before however it just landed on water as her first entered the space where his head should be. Shortly after a massive fist punched her right in her gut. Doubling over she was pushed back, coughing she ran to the other end of the street. Grabbing various knives from a cutlery tray outside a restaurant she threw them at Hydro from various angles, she had no real skill in throwing knives but the speed really helped her alter the trajectory of the knives to ensure that they would find their target.The knives gave her a second to think.

As they tore into him, they passed straight through but as his water changed it’s consistency to water Hydro seemed to be unable to really control much of his body while it had to keep reacting to the knives. Iris could keep him off balance, but off balance wasn’t going to win her this fight. It wasn’t going to put him somewhere where he couldn’t hurt anyone ever again.

As she ran out of knives she ducked as he sent blasts of water at her, dashing back and forth at the end of the street dodging streams of water as they threatened to take her out. Could she really trust Jay? Iris had just been at his house, and on her way back she encountered someone who had been put in her path by Zoom. That seemed a little too suspicious, but the advice he had given her made some form of sense. Electricity and water didn’t mix very well, so whatever gave Hydro his powers likely meant that he had this weakness incorporated into his very being. Her trail was made out of lightning, though she wasn’t entirely happy about the prospect of having to run through another human being.

There had to be another way. Running at him again she jumped as he cast out a low torrent of water, jumping over the stream before it was even close she landed in a run. Moving around him she started to circle him.

With every revolution she gained speed, until she started to form a small vortex of air with Hydro at the centre of the vacuum. His body distorted as the forces pulled at it, it’s entirety taking on a liquid form as it was pulled apart. He screamed as he lost form and she smiled. She didn’t need Jay to figure this out, she could do it on her own. Slowing down she skidded to a stop looking over the puddle that was Hydro. Iris looked over him, trying to think of a clever quip. A superhero had just defeated a bad guy, that meant that a quip was in order. At least that was the etiquette that Barry was trying to force on her. When nothing was coming to her she shrugged and ran to a nearby hardware store. Seeing what she needed she picked up the Vacuum Backpack and slung it over her shoulders, returning to the scene she was almost ready to clean up her mess when a fist shot out from the puddle and hit her square in the jaw.

Seeing stars she fell backwards, wind knocked from her as she hit the ground.

“You think taking me out would have been that easy, Flash?” She groaned as she sat up, Hydro reforming himself but this time he didn’t look like a man. Instead he was a mass of water with eyes and a mouth.

She rolled as water shot the knives she had thrown at him earlier straight for her chest. Kicking herself to her feet the whole world spun for a second before it righted herself. Iris had never been more thankful for her regenerative abilities than right this very second. A blow to that would have knocked a regular human on their ass for hours.

“Don’t you get it girly? I’m the real deal. You’re just an amatuer.”



Lightning burnt through her as she planned her next move, as he shot a stream of water at her she turned and ran away. When she found herself pushing the sound barrier she turned in a wide arc, returning to the street she was already on. At this speed everything was at a standstill: Cars, people, animals. She moved around them as if they were statues, she stumbled slightly on her feet as the worry that she’d never be able to slow down crept into her mind. Iris took a deep breath and pushed on, right now she couldn’t worry about that. She saw the shockwave as she broke the sound barrier, just at the moment she had hoped to. Passing through a park where there was no glass.

She had learned the hard way that civilians and shattered glass didn’t go terribly well together. She took a deep breath and felt the air coursing through her, the speed and the lightning flowing with her as she ran. She could see Hydro now, still frozen moving to attack the place where she had been. Iris felt the entire world shift, running straight towards him she closed her eyes as she passed through him, and the next building. Zipping back around she was just in time to see him convulse in pain as the lightning knocked him down, simply falling into a puddle.

Taking no chances she used the vacuum on her back to suck up every drop of water.

A smile crossing her face, she had just beat her first metahuman.



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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Morden Man
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Morden Man

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Central City, Missouri

Four days had passed since the Fantastic Four had arrived in the Baxter Building. It had taken a day for the craft that had brought Reed Richards and his colleagues to be transported to them. The next two he had spent running thousands of projections on the effect potential alterations to the craft’s composition might have. None of them had come back positive. Yesterday Reed had run through the list of those that might be able to help him.

This world’s Doom had been unable to help him. Lex Luthor was the next choice – or so Reed had thought. It seemed that this world’s Lex didn’t quite possess the same zeal of the Luthor that Reed was familiar with. That left a host of names that were either unreachable, not age appropriate, or unfriendly to the cause – including some that had made attempts to Reed’s life back on his Earth.

Only one fit all of the criteria that Richards was searching for – S.T.A.R. Labs founder Harrison Wells.

Reed had met Wells on half a dozen occasions on his own world. He had found him to possess a peculiarly naked kind of ambition. It was a trait that Reed had noticed in Victor von Doom once. Where Reed saw science as exploration, Victor saw it as conquest. There were shades of that to Wells – but he had proved a hardy ally to Barry Allen over the years and Barry’s word was more than enough for Reed.

The reading that Reed had done on this world’s Wells and its Flash had given the super scientist some pause for thought. Whoever was behind the cowl, it certainly wasn’t Barry Allen but Wells still seemed to be providing them with support. Perhaps he could provide the Fantastic Four with some assistance.

Reed was sat in the back seat of a black sedan parked across from the S.T.A.R. Labs building. In the driver’s seat was Guy Gardner – whose crooning along to eighties soft rock Reed had been forced to endure for the entirety of their car journey.

“What’s our plan here, Doc?” Guy called over his shoulder to Reed. “You want I should come with you, give you a little backup, or are you g-”

Gardner let out a startled scream as he made eye contact with Richards in the back. His face was swollen out of recognition. One of his eyes was so bulbous that it was almost the size of a grapefruit and his usually dark brown hair was almost mullet-length on one side and short on the other.

Thick drooping lips let out slurred words. “What’s wrong, Guy?”

“What’s wrong?” Gardner said with bemusement. “What’s wrong with your face?!”

Reed glanced towards one of the sedan’s mirror and let out a wholesome laugh upon noticing his nightmarish appearance.

“Oh, my apologies, I must have got distracted. It’s a trick I learned from an old friend back on my Earth.”

With a click of his fingers, Reed’s features returned to their normal state.

“You see, when I first acquired my powers I subconsciously blocked myself from doing more than stretching and bending my appendages. I think I was worried that if altered my appearance too dramatically I might lose my sense of self and not be the same man afterwards.”

Guy bristled in the front seat. “Yeah, well maybe give me a little warning next time. I almost had a heart attack.”

“My friend Eel was very fond of practical jokes,” Reed said with a wistful smile. “He showed me that with a little imagination my powers were next to limitless. With enough training, I could make myself look like anything or anyone that I wanted to.”

Richards snapped his fingers again and his form shifted into that of a teapot. After a few seconds there was a snap and he was transformed into a mirror image of Guy. Reed lifted up one of his arms playfully and flexed his bicep as Eel might have done. It bounced up and down like something out of an old Popeye cartoon.

Gardner shook his head disapprovingly at the display. “Alright, you proved your point.”

Reed smiled. Suddenly his smile faltered as it dawned upon him that he couldn’t recall the last time that he had spoken to Eel O’Brien. He wasn’t even sure whether Eel was still alive when they’d left their world. It punctured his mood and he slid back in his seat.

He clicked his fingers one last time and the visage of Guy Gardner was replaced with that of Doc Savage – the protagonist from a series of pulp science fiction books Richards had read growing up. Maria Hill had made it very clear that he couldn’t risk being recognised if he ventured out. As long as he didn’t run into any pulp enthusiasts he figured he ought to be alright.

With a few parting words, Reed climbed out of the sedan onto the busy Central City street. Even at night there were still throngs of people dawdling up and down. Reed felt someone’s gaze on him and turned to face it. A Japanese tourist had their viewfinder pointing towards him. He smiled politely, realising he was obstructing their view, and skipped out of their way. The other passersby bore him no mind.

For the first time in a long time Reed Richards knew what it felt like to be “normal” again.

The impulse didn’t last long as one glance back towards the S.T.A.R. Labs building reminded the super scientist why he was there. He had studied the building’s schematics on the journey over and was determined to put them to the test now that he had arrived. He told himself it was some elaborate test of Harrison Wells’ ingenuity but if Reed were being truthful he had been looking for an excuse to break a sweat ever since their run-in with Namor.

The lone night watchman on the front desk was easy enough to bypass. Reed waited for a quiet moment and then melted his form down and slid beneath the building’s locked front entrance. He slid along the ground of the lobby unnoticed towards the elevators. They were outfitted with thermal sensors. A nice touch but not enough to stop Reed. He had no intention of riding the elevator to begin with.

He slid through the crack in the elevator door and snaked his way around the cables. It was tough going. Richards made sure not to set off the tripwires placed on the twelfth and eighteenth floors. It was on the twenty-first floor that things got interesting. Wells’ official office was situated on the twenty-sixth floor but there was a floor – the twenty-third – completely unaccounted for on the schematics. It was no accident.

Reed slid free of the elevator shaft on the twenty-first floor and dabbed the sweat on his forehead with the back of his hand. In the distance he spotted movement. Two armed guards were conversing among themselves – in their hands state-of-the-art weaponry that could have fried Reed on the spot. One of the guards looked up in Reed’s direction for a moment. There was a glimmer of suspicion that passed upon hearing the punch line of his colleague’s laboured joke.

The two walked on and Reed let out a nervous sigh and expanded. He had rendered himself wafer-thin. From dead on he was next to invisible. Had the guard looked at an angle the super scientist’s game would have been up without a doubt. Buoyed by his success, Reed slithered after the men, making sure to observe each of the technological marvels they had been stationed to guard along the way, before breaking towards a nearby restroom.

He wormed his way through the cardhole and made sure not to set off the pressure pads placed discretely beneath the tiles.

“Here goes nothing,” Reed muttered under his breath as he perched on the edge of a sink.

In an instant his body became almost liquid and filled the sink to the brim. Richards grunted as he squeezed his way through the faucet and inched through the limescale-covered pipes. It was slow going and Reed had to hold his breath most of the way – but he arrived on S.T.A.R. Labs secretive twenty-third floor not too worse for wear and without setting off any alarms.

He dusted himself down upon exiting the restroom and made his way toward the faint tapping sound he deduced was Harrison Wells working away into the night.

His deduction proved correct. Haunched over a worktop with a pair of goggles resting atop his head was the man that Reed had travelled across the country to see. He seemed none the wiser as to Richards’ presence there.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way, Harrison, but I think your defences could do with upgrading," Reed called to him with a collegiate smile.
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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 day ago Post by Lord Wraith
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M A R V I L L E, O K L A H O M A:

M O N D A Y, J U L Y 2 N D, 2 0 1 8 - 0 1 : 1 7 p m | D O N A L D S O N F A R M

Thunder clapped as Creel hit the barn door, the door nearly falling from its hinges as Blake walked forward, the remains of his bindings falling from his wrists he advanced towards the fallen foe. Strength swelled within his body as the wind began to pick up.

Creel snarled at Blake as his hand quickly found a stray piece of gravel. It was the first time Blake had actually seen the transformation as Blake's skin took on the properties of the stone, its smooth appearance becoming jagged and pitted like the source as Creel stood, raising his fists towards Blake.

"Looks like you've got some of that spark I was looking for," Creel smiled as Blake assumed his own offensive position. "Who'd 'ave thought Itty Bitty Blake would have some fight in him after all. Apparently getting laid did you a world of good."

"No, some of us just grew up after high-school, Creel," Blake retorted as he rushed forward, but Creel was ready as he caught the punch. Blake felt the momentum leave his body as a stony fist met his torso, knocking the wind from Blake's lungs as his knees buckled. Creel had always been a better athlete, captain of the Ravens' wrestling team, star of the football and hockey teams.

But you are stronger.

The voice in the back of Blake's mind was insistent as Blake pushed back, Creel's arm giving way to Blake's as the latter swung his left fist, catching Creel across the face and prompting the man to spit out a stone tooth.

"Fuckin' eh, that's not supposed to happen," Creel muttered as he wiped the blood from his lips, looking around as Blake cracked his knuckles. "What the hell happened to you?"

"You threatened the people that I care about," Blake answered, the wind howling as the skies continued to darken. Creel's eyes went skyward as a smile crossed his face.

"Here he comes," He smiled. "Two birds, one stone." He added, smiling as Blake shook his head.

If he only knew.

With Creel busy anticipating the arrival of Thor, Blake saw his moment. The old fence beside the barn was undergoing repairs and thankfully, it looked as though Creel had caught his father in the midst of them as a sledgehammer was laying on the ground. Taking the tool by the shaft, Creel noticed far too late as the heavy head made contact, shattering pieces of his arm and shoulder across the laneway. Creel cried out in agony only for Blake to deliver another blow as more stone flew into the air.

"Return to normal and I'll stop." Blake roared as he swung the hammer yet again.

"FUCK. YOU." Creel roared as the hammer colliding with his chest again, this time lifting the man off of the ground as Creel was hurled through the air, landing somewhere in the cornfield. Giving chase, Blake looked down at the weapon in his hand, grumbling as he realized the head had broken off with the final hit.

Entering the innumerable rows of corn stalks, Blake found where Creel had landed but the man was nowhere to be found. Turning around, he was suddenly greeted by a steel fist as Creel made himself known, sending Blake stumbling backwards.

"That really fuckin' hurt." Creel snarled, the head of the sledgehammer held firmly in his right hand. Tossing it to the ground, Creel and Blake began to circle one another as Blake observed the other man's new steely exterior. The wind continued to howl as a tornado touched down across the field prompting Creel to smile again.

"You might be strong, but that twister ain't going be able to lift me," He grabbed ahold of Blake's shirt, hoisting the man up. “You, it's going to fuckin' rip you to shreds!" Creel taunted throwing Blake in the tornado's path.

End this, now.

Landing on the ground, lightning struck Blake causing Creel to shield his eyes from the flash, opening them in time to see Thor deliver a blow to his face.

"No fuckin' w-" Creel went to speak only for another of the god's fist to silence him as lightning traveled the entirety of Creel's very conductive body. The man staggered backwards, as Thor delivered another blow, the lightning from the sky traveling to his fist before colliding with Creel's torso as the man cried out in pain again.

"Return to your natural form, Man of Absorbing, and you will be spared," Thor ordered as Creel fell to the ground, gasping for breath as he placed a hand on his chest. Reaching around, Creel's hand landed on a stick buried into the dirt as he made a split second decision and took on the wooden properties.

"Now try and fuckin' zap me!" Creel roared. "Bet your girl's never seen wood like this!" He laughed before Thor's hand suddenly wrapped around his neck, the wood splintering as Creel was lifted into the air.

"Farewell my foe." Thor smiled as he spun around, tossing Creel into the path of the tornado, the wind lifted him high into the air, his screams echoing across the field until suddenly disappearing as the winds ceased. The sky turned to blue as Thor looked upwards, a relieved sigh exiting his chest as the armor fell away to reveal Blake beneath as he began to long trek back to the barn.
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Hidden 30 days ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 A CAH GM... LIKE UNTO-- --A THING OF IRON!

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Marlene Alraune carefully crept out from her hiding place to check on the fallen man. He was bleeding from two places; he had a deep stab wound to the chest and a head wound from the fall into the temple. She looked around for something to slow the bleeding. There was a first aid kit in the car, but the man may not make it until she could get there. There was a white shroud hanging over the statue in the temple; but that, first, seemed like an artifact and, second, had thousands of years to accrue bacteria, dust and everything you didn’t want around an open wound.

Instead she tore strips off his shirt, was immediately thankful for what this choice revealed, and wasn’t too harsh in chastising herself for sneaking a quick peek. This man came with the one who killed her father, but when she stood stunned from the sand dune she could also see how he’d raised the firearm at the other one. How it led to him getting stabbed. Then she had the wherewithal to get in the car and drive, before the other mercenaries could descend upon her. to She could ask him questions as to what he was doing with this “Bushman” when he came to, after all, by the looks of the injuries he sustained he wouldn’t be going anywhere fast…

“KHONSHUUU!” He didn’t so much regain consciousness as explode into it, launching himself into a seated position.

Marlene stepped back, shocked at the sudden outburst. He was staring at the large statue standing before him.

“Yes. That’s Khonshu. Who are you?”

The man was still breathing heavily, but seemed to take a moment to consider the question.

“I--I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? So I suppose you don’t know why you came in and shot at our camp? Our workers?”

“I--I did??”

“What were you doing here?”

“Where’s here?”

She arched one eyebrow in consideration. On the one hand, he personally had never shot at anyone and made no effort to deny doing so. On the oher hand, could this guy really expect her to believe he didn’t remember who he was, where he was or what he was doing here? Seemed a tad convenient.

“Is that-- is that why I’m bleeding? Did you shoot me back?” He grabbed his chest at the stab wound. “No. That was a knife, not a bullet.”

She ignored how he could distinguish between how it felt to be stabbed and how it felt to be shot and asked the more pressing question at hand. “If you don’t remember who you are, how do you know that’s Khonshu?”

“Dream.”

“You saw him in a dream? When? Just now?”

“Yes.”

Curiouser and curiouser.

“What happened in the dream?”

“He spoke to me. He told me there was work to be done, to don his robes and do it in his name. He said there was a woman here who would seek our help. That she was in need of Khonshu’s blade - That was his name for me - and he just kept repeating … and ...”

“What did you just say?”

Spector repeated. “It means ‘It is time’ and ‘The time is now’.”

“How could you even know that’s what it meant? I think… I think you may have just heard Ancient Egyptian. It certainly wasn’t arabic, coptic, or any local tribal language. But nobody even knows what it sounds like. It’s been a dead language for thousands of years. How could you possibly know what it meant?”

“I don’t know. When he said it the meaning carried through. It was very clear.”



Spector gingerly got himself up, despite the blonde woman’s protestations. He took one knee, then stabilized himself on the statue, using it as his crutch, before getting to his feet. Standing face to face, he pulled the shroud off the statue and swirled it around his back and over his head.

“I was told something precious was taken from you. It was broken, and recompense is impossible. What little restitution remains comes under Khonshu’s purview. Vengeance, most pure.”

“You can barely stand…”

“Yet I stand.”

The man was refilled with new purpose, even if he didn’t know his own name. Even if that purpose was liable to lead him to a bloody end, he seemed to care very little. From an altar the man who shrouded himself in white grabbed two ornate daggers and pulled them within the white shroud, pocketing them in his own clothes within.

“Lead us out, and see the man who wronged you pay in full.”

Marlene sighed to herself, why are the hot ones always crazy? If nothing else, he could probably do with water which she had in the car. He’d been staggering around the desert for God knows how long before the temple. She led him through the temple to the other exit, and back topside to the partially submerged car. She told him all about what had happened, about her father’s plans for the dig. About how her research had helped pinpoint this area as the probable location, about her father’s saving and work finding grants had managed to raise just enough to get the dig started if they could find profitable artefacts in the first excavation. How they had done so, but a local group of mercenary raiders led by Bushman who was infamous for sweeping across the region and bringing terror as he stole and killed with impunity in the name of his rabble army and their efforts to conquor local tribal lands.

She told him how she knows that he was with Bushman, and that was how he came to be here. Pangs of guiilt washed over the man staining him with a sense of shame. Then she mentioned how Bushman murdered her father and cut a swathe through the workers. Then that she saw him stand up to Bushman before, but found himself on the sharp end of Bushman’s combat knife.

Softly at first, the distant sounds of rotors caught both of their attention.

“That’s coming from Luxor! Maybe someone managed to get a signal out for help!” Marlene enthusiastically called.

“It’s a military helicopter. Get behind the car!”

“Military? But how could you--?”

“Sound of the engine. It’s a Hind. Flying light though. Since we’re in Egypt I’m guessing the mercs bought Russian surplus somewhere along the line. Forget the car, get behind the sand. It’s light but it may still have cannons, they open fire on the car and you’d be toast.”

The chopper soared in, dropped a spotlight on the scene and lowered to the ground.

The man in white reached within his shroud and wrapped his hands around the helms of the two daggers.

A man with a pencil-thin moustache and immaculately kept pilot’s jacket alighted from the helicopter.

“Marc! Sacre bleu! At last I find you!” he exalted with a tone that clearly marked him as a friend.

But a friend to whom? To this Mercenary Marc, or to decent folk?

“Did you find the girl? Is she alright?”

Marc unsheathed both daggers but kept them hidden within the white shroud.

“The girl?”

“Oui Marc! The last I saw you, you were staggering off after the Alraune woman. I circled around and turned the rest of Bushman’s men with the cannon, but I had not seen you since! I knew you’d keep going thou--”

“Stop! Don’t! He’s telling the truth!” Marlene ran out from the sand dunes waving her arms.

Marc sheathed the daggers. The Frenchman looked confused.

“I saw someone shooting at the cars that were chasing me from a helicopter. That was you?”

“That was me.” The Frenchman confirmed. “Ms Alraune, I presume?” He removed his hat and gave a quick bow, his eyes never leaving hers. “Jean Paul DuChamp. I see you are already familiar with my friend Marc Spector.”

“We’re more familiar than he is, I’m afraid…”

“Eh? What do you mean?”

Marc stepped forward and shook DuChamp by the hand. A strong, warm handshake, but lacking in familiarity. He was through letting people speak on his behalf.

“She means I took a head wound and can’t remember who I am.”

Frenchie looked Marc up and down and saw spots of blood seeping through the white shroud at the head and chest.

“Ah! Je vois! You need a hospital. And you Ms Alraune, do you need care as well? I will have us at at Luxor International Hospital en vitesse!”

Already Marc was getting the sense that his French came through thicker as he got excited.

“No, I’m fine.” said Marlene.

“Wait.” Marc halted Frenchie with a bark. “What about Bushman?”

“Marc? You’ve been here for hours. Raoul and his men left long ago.”

“The chopper.”

“He brought RPGs. Even if we could find which way he went, he’d hear us coming and blow us out of the sky before we could launch any kind of offensive.”

Marc dropped to his knees and rested the daggers in front of him in the sand. He gazed up at the moon.

“Marc, you look very pale. Get in the chopper.”

His eyes dropped from the moon to his old friend, whom he barely knew.

“Yes. I think you’re going to have a lot to tell me about myself…”

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Hidden 29 days ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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Compton
2000


Antonio took a large bite from his roast beef sandwich and surveyed the action on the corner from the stoop across the street, that new Outkast joint blasting from the boombox beside him. The junkies shuffled down the sidewalk with the same strung-out gait, the same glassy look in their eyes that seemed to reflect in the dim lights hanging above the street. Cars also came through, mostly white folks from the nicer areas of Los Angeles. A few rode in from Long Beach, plenty still from the other side of the city looking to score. Willing to put up with LA traffic just for a fix was proof that his shit was the bomb.

A small queue of women stood off to the side of the action by the alley between two houses. They were the junkies who didn't have enough money to get anything. If you were a dude and rolled up to the corner without any cash and looking for a fix, then you got told off and maybe got your ass beat for fun. If you were a woman and didn't look too used up, then Antonio's boys might work out a deal with you. Antonio saw one of the dealers walking out of the alley, zipping his pants up while a woman walked ahead of him and wiped her mouth. The dealer winked at one of his friends and passed the woman a baggie of powder. All in all, a normal Saturday night on the corner.

The car people that rolled through mostly copped coke, a few here and there got crack or weed. Crack, which had been almost like a literal bomb back in the day, wasn’t in fashion like it used to be. The junkies now days always went for the Double Drop. A little bit of coke and horse mixed together on the same spoon and shot straight into the veins. Mixing the two together seemed futile to Antonio. Dope was a downer, coke an upper. The two didn't seem like a natural fit, but he'd never touched the stuff and it kept the fiends coming back so what the hell did he know?

Antonio finished his sandwich and wiped the crumbs on his navy blue pant legs. The five-man crew he managed were among the best dealers the Crips had in all of Southern Cali. The shot callers who ran things never had to come down here to beat somebody's ass for skimming money or product. The count was never short and Antonio knew how to handle his boys. He motivated and inspired them, pushed them to keep going and keep making money. In another life, he would have made one hell of a sales manager at some car dealership. But he was a black man born and raised in an American city like Compton. As a drug dealer and Crip, it was a motherfucking miracle that he was twenty-five and still hadn't seen the inside of a jail cell.

Rico, the youngest member of his crew at twelve, flashed a hand signal at Antonio from across the street. He held up two fingers three times, their sign that they needed more product. The stash for that night sat in a large gym bag in a hollowed out section underneath the stoop Antonio sat on. He was the only one who went in to get more product. Anybody tampered with it or even went for it, no matter who, Antonio pulled the 9MM in his waistband. That was what the big businessmen with their MBAs called asset control and loss prevention, ten dollar words to describe something that was common sense to a lowly dealer who dropped out of Compton High at the age of sixteen.

Antonio stepped off the stoop and surveyed the area. Everyone around was too busy conducting business or going about their lives to notice him preparing to open up the hollow side of the stairs. He still held one hand on the gun in his hands as he opened up the panel and rooted through the open gym bag with bindles of coke and dope strapped together. In terms of street value, it was easily ten grand in packaged drugs ready to sell.

"5-0! 5-0!"

Antonio's head snapped up at the warning. A black SUV pulled up to the corner where the junkies and dealers alike were starting to scatter like roaches when a light goes on. Antonio cursed and shoved the bindles and gun back into the hidey-hole before covering it. Goddamn Compton PD. The people above Antonio paid good money to keep the cops off their back, but every so often they had to roll up and show some force. They would cruise through and bang some heads, take in a few junkies and maybe one of his crew, but they never hit the stash or took Antonio in. That was why he ditched the gun and the dope. They wouldn't take it. Like all cops, bent or otherwise, they did just enough to say they were doing their job.

Antonio got ready to be thrown to the ground, but stopped when the four men came out of the SUV. They were dressed head to toe in black clothing, balaclavas over their faces and submachine guns in their hands. They sure as hell weren't cops.

"The fu--," were the only words Antonio got out of his mouth before a burst of bullets tore through his body.

He hit the ground, blood pouring from his chest and throat while the men went through the street, gunning down the rest of Antonio's fleeing crew. They were not blindly firing on anyone running, instead they took time to pick their targets and fire. They knew exactly who the dealers and buyers were.

With his vision fading, Antonio saw a pair of black combat boots step over his body. A moment later, the same boots stepped back over him with the gym bag in their arms. Rough hands went through his pockets. He let out a protest that only came out as a gurgle thanks to his neck wound. His mind was fuzzy but Antonio had at least two thousand dollars on him from that night's work.

“Sup?” the man in the mask asked as he stood over him. He slung the submachine gun over his shoulder and looked down at Atonio. He could make out black skin underneath the holes in the ski-mask. The man’s gloved hands contorted in a gang sign that Atonio knew well. His twisted fingers spelled out the word BLOOD.

“Piru for life, nigga.”

Antonio tried to put up a fight as the man dug for something underneath his black turtleneck shirt, but his body wouldn't respond. The man pulled out a plain medallion that hung around his neck. It was simple gold with a blood red gemstone in the middle of it. The red stone flashed a bright, crimson light. Antonio gasped as he felt the light pulling at him. A cold feeling set in and made his body numb. At the same time, he could hear the blood rushing in his ears and pounding as hard as it ever had in his entire life.

He could suddenly look down at his dying body from above. He saw how young he looked and how scared he was, breathing heavily as blood spurted from his chest. A sharp panic went through him as he started to pull away from his body. He turned and saw he was being sucked into the red stone. He screamed as numbness and adrenaline mingled together in his body for something close to a high. His last thought before his soul went into the medallion was that maybe this is what the Double Drop felt like.

---

East Los Angeles
Now


“The Nine goes brra, brra, brr, brr! All these girls out here know who this dick for. Yeah, I keep that red flag hanging on my back side, but only on the right side yeah that’s the Blood side! Fuck with me think I’m gonna let it slide? Kill so many niggas they gonna call it genocide!”

“You call this shite music?” John Constantine looked up from the phone on his kitchen table. On the screen was recently departed hip-hop sensation K2, wearing a red bandana around his neck while rapping on a couch. He had an AK-47 in one hand while he gestured with his free hand. On a coffee table in front of him was a stack of hundred dollar bills.

“Fuck you, you Gordon Sumner looking motherfucker!” The spirit of recently departed hip-hop sensation K2 said from the corner of John’s kitchen. “You probably had some shitty garage band back in the day."

"Were were shitty, alright," said John. "But we were more than a garage band, that's for sure."

"Whatever. Meanwhile I got a following.”

Had,” John said with a smile. “Need to start speaking about yourself in past tense, mate.”

K2 looked sullen at John’s crack. It wasn’t a good look on him. He was tall and gangling with dreadlocks dyed purple. There were face tattoos under his his eyes, spiderwebs, and an upside down cross on his forehead. John thought of him as a kid, more in a literal sense than any attempt at condescension. He looked to be all of twenty years old. A fucking baby, or at least the ghost of one, with a tight grouping of bullet holes in his chest.

“This is a first for me,” Charlie Rembrandt said from his spot leaning against the kitchen counter. “As you can imagine, homicide detectives never get the opportunity to interview the victim.”

“Then why do you need me? Let our tattooed friend here tell you his tale and then you fit up the bloke who did it.”

“Not that easy,” said Rembrandt. “Because K2 here has quite a story.”

“Oh yeah?” John asked, looking at the kid. “So, tell me, who shot ya?”

“That nigga Pooh Bear,” said K2. “I saw him in the club hovering nearby, but didn’t think nothing of it. He’s tight with my security guys so they had their guard down. I saw him pull out a piece and tried to say something before he pulled the trigger. But I was too late.”

“There you go,” said John. “Sounds like you need to find that… African-American gentlemen, Pooh Bear.”

“Keep going,” said Rembrandt.

“If Pooh Bear shot me, then he did so on Lance’s orders,” said K2. “Pooh Bear don’t wipe his ass without Lance’s say-so. If Lance killed me, that means that scary nigga is gonna be after me.”

“Lance?” John asked with a laugh. “In my experience, Squire, nobody named Lance is a threat.’

“Lance is his nickname,” said K2. “Lancelot Rawlings. Nobody knows how he got the nickname, but the last nigga who gave him shit about it ended up in traction.”

“Lance Rawlings is K2’s producer,” said Rembrandt.

Was,” said John. “And why would this bloke be after you if he already had you killed?”

“Lance dabbles in scary shit,” said K2. “Like, robes and candles and pentagrams and shit. He’s more than a record producer, dawg. He runs Piru, a Blood set out of Compton.”

“LAPD and FBI both have files on him,” Charlie said. “I looked him up on the computer on my way over. He's suspected of gun running, drug dealing, money laundering, and a dozen other scams at local, state, and federal levels.”

“Busy bee,” said John.”All that and he dabbles in magic.”

“More than that,” said K2. “I’ve only seen a little bit of it with my eyes, but I’ve heard stories. Niggas who really piss him off get their souls snatched. I seen a living body without no soul in it. Shit will shake you to the core.”

“I bet,” said John. “And let me guess, you wanted out?”

“Fuck yeah,” K2 said solemnly. “He was scaring me, and I was getting too big for him. The contract I signed was dogshit, man, so I started working with a lawyer to get out of it. That's why he sent Pooh Bear after me. Lance couldn't abide my disrespect. He wants my money, my music catalogue, he wants my fucking legacy and all that comes with it.”

John leaned back in his chair and thought it over. Music as magic ritual was nothing new. If K2 had a fanbase like he said he did, then his death would cause outpourings of grief, creating a sigil of power even the most elementary of mages could tap into. Even if Rawlings had one foot in the occult world, he could still with harness a lot of power with K2’s soul.. John looked over at Rembrandt and raised his eyebrow.

“What do you say we pay this fair Lancelot a visit?”
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Hidden 29 days ago Post by Master Bruce
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Master Bruce Winged Freak

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Earth.

Once known to the cosmos at large as Terra, Fer-Kel, Gaia, and Midgard, depending on whom one would ask. Normally, even the mention of such an insignificant glimmer in the purview of the galaxy would be met with mocking regard, a sort of smirk or diminishing jeer soon following what was considered to be the single most trivial section of the very universe itself. Even following whispers that a member of the intergalactic peacekeeping Green Lantern Corps had needlessly been designated the protector of the region, there were few throughout the faraway worlds of Xandar, Thanagar, Spartax, Warworld, Hala, and New Genesis that would speak to achievements of this place, if there were even achievements notable enough to be considered worthy of speaking upon.

But in a very recent time, something had awoken within the hearts and minds of the denizens of Earth. As his board swept over the unusually light gravitational pull towards the planet itself, The Surfer noted how many conflicting ideologies of emotion had struck out at him through it's populace. Aggression, firstly. Confusion, most assuredly. Lust, abhorrently. And to The Surfer's surprise, the emotion of fear, almost predominantly. The species known as "human" had dominated the direction of the world's intelligences for what could be sparingly considered a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of things. But their short reign had brought about destruction amongst themselves. Disease and plagues had wiped a considerable number of them out, yet they multiplied in a staggering amount of numbers.



Even as he contemplated this, The Surfer felt as many lives extinguished as he felt the spark of a new one. This strange planet was as foreign to him as one could imagine, unlike anything he had ever experienced. Lacking in as much forward advancement as it excelled in growth. Earth was a living testament to the opposite nature of the universe, where chaos was the rule of law and order was a concept merely spoken aloud, never enforced. That very fact was the reason why The Silver Surfer had been sent to watch over the planet in the first place. Why he was tasked with judgement over them, when none had given the planet so much as a glare in the many eons that the galaxy had thrived beyond their notice.

And The Surfer did judge. This civilization didn't even realize there were other worlds beyond their galaxy, choosing to live in solitude beyond their yellow sun. Or perhaps even worse, lacking the nessescary sciences to traverse what many worlds had already mastered many ages prior. More perplexingly, a majority of them could not understand the many chosen languages of their own people beyond one. As The Surfer listened, he could hear a dialect that was as contradictory to the last as the one he heard next. Most of which were audible only under the planet's predominant body of water, though the humans that lived above the waves thought themselves to be all that was. All that existed. Earth was a thriving beacon for ignorance, that much The Surfer could attest.

But there was undoubtedly something here that had changed the tone of the planet's significance. The Surfer waded through the emotional spectrum of these primitives, concentrating on their fears. The words "metahuman" and "mutant" were now more often an adopted topic of conversation than ever before, both within the minds and within their spoken words. And there were even names that had become a point of fixation in collusion with this subject. Names such as Superman, Spider-Woman, Wonder Woman, and The Punisher were broadcast worldwide, and again in every language. A separate, but equally tangible fear that no border held in any less regard.

Was this the beginning of a new stage in humans' evolution? Or was it merely an abberation for humans to ever achieve the power to shape the destinies of others?

A test, The Surfer surmised, was in order to determine the answer. For the humans themselves had none to give, as they were equally as lost to the fate of their own planet as he. And so the Herald of a great and powerful master willfully descended past the barrier of the planet's steadily weakening surface. Even as the clouds below his board parted and the noises of the planet became louder, forcing him to naturally tune out the interference from his personal focus, The Surfer did immediately realize that this world was not long for itself. It would soon burn and die, as it's sun gradually melted away the cold and allowed the heat to render it uninhabitable.

There was apart of The Surfer that had wanted to turn back and relay this information to his master alone, as it made the planet insufficient for their purposes. But he knew that he would not complete this task on mere spectulatory fact alone. Perhaps one of these "metahumans" would alter the course of Earth's destruction, if they were truly as powerful as it's inhabitants seemed to believe.

"There."

The Surfer's eyes were drawn to a source of power that was active at the very instant that he had found himself adrift in the skies that rested miles above the humans. A source of electricity, heat, and acceleration given birth to one traceable figure of which the energies imminated. He could feel this human, this "metahuman", as the female raced along the ground that had been artificially hardened beneath her. She was quite possibly the fastest human alive, though The Surfer knew that it was possible that none had simply chosen to accelerate themselves at the same moment in time. Those that did were hindered by a human's seeming physical limitations. This metahuman woman did not possess that. She simply moved, and the world around her was forced to split itself open in order to allow her traversal. Almost as if a force were guiding her.

A force comprised of... speed, perhaps? The Surfer did not yet know. But he intended to find out, as this power was calling to him like no other. The ability to master the art of simple movement, yet remain at level with those who could not keep the pace. It was another contradiction that Earth seemed to be made from. This would be his test. This woman, birth name Iris West. Known to some by that name, but by many others as The Flash. Perhaps that was the name her culture had simply chosen for her now, eradicating the need for traditional moniker.

The Surfer raced across the skies of a cold, barely inhabited landscape below him, save for a less evolved collection of species. He could see the molecules of the ice as it withered under the sun. What was this world, he wondered, where it's life was so fragile that it would melt under something as rudimentary as heat? He did not know. And this fact frustrated him, as he realized that for all that the Power Cosmic had taught him, he still did not truly comprehend.

His speed picking up, The Surfer watched as Earth's sun and moon chased eachother above him. Humans were now a mere few miles beneath his board, unaware of his presence. Radio frequencies and radiation danced across the mirrored aura that protected his skin, trying to interface with his biological form and failing. It was The Surfer's doing, as he wished to remain undetected until he dictated otherwise.

In a matter of seconds, he had observed six major continents before coming to an effortless stop above the one of which The Flash called home. He listened, for context, to the minds below him as he drifted toward the location of the accelerated activity. "Central City", he heard. Perhaps this entire region of Earth was called that, even though other names struck out at him. But the citizens of this interconnected series of states in the country of "Central City" would be the first to know of The Surfer's presence. Then perhaps the Earth itself would follow.

Arching himself into a downward dive, The Surfer flew faster than what these humans perceived as light. Some minor cosmetic damage to the surrounding area was suffered, and some humans were blown back by the force of his own speed, but The Surfer cared not for these individuals. He sought only The Flash, and was gaining on her quickly. It was not a mere few milliseconds before he could see the red and yellow-tinged streak before him, laced with the female's body heat. The Surfer narrowed his gaze and accelerated faster, only slowing himself when he realized that the figure ahead was his target. Leisurely drifting until he was at an equal pace beside her, The Surfer looked over.

It took many moments for this Iris West, The Flash, of Central City to notice him. And when she did, the chemicals in her mind altered from a state of euphoria brought upon by her speed into a state of confusion. The Surfer lifted his hand, and light sprang forth, glowing like a beacon. She may have felt confusion now, but he would initiate the emotion of fear from The Flash soon enough. And then the test would truly begin.

"THE FLASH OF CENTRAL CITY. HEED MY CALL."

The light bounced from his hand into the street before her, sending the hapless woman tumbling into the air at supersonic speeds. She was able to catch herself from serious harm with a wave of her hands in a circular motion, indicating a partial understanding of her own power. The Surfer noted this, and came to a floating stop infront of her. There was no longer confusion. There was only anger. Still, he had failed to elicit the needed emotion. This would have to change.

"I AM THE SILVER SURFER."

His voice seemed to quake the Earth itself as he spoke.

"AND YOU ARE TO BE JUDGED. FOR THE EARTH'S DESTINY ITSELF DEPENDS ON YOUR ACTIONS TODAY."



"STRIKE."
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Hidden 29 days ago 3 days ago Post by Sep
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Sep Admiral EvilScottishGuy

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T H E F L A S H

Revelations:
NOT FAST ENOUGH





Confusion coursed through Iris’ head as the man in silver, on a surfboard, appeared flying alongside her. She almost recoiled as light appeared in his hands.

"THE FLASH OF CENTRAL CITY. HEED MY CALL."

The light pushed forth infront of her, sending her tumbling head over heels. Thinking fast she spun her arms to cushion herself, pushing herself up and back onto her feet.

"I AM THE SILVER SURFER."

His voice seemed to quake the Earth itself as he spoke.

"AND YOU ARE TO BE JUDGED. FOR THE EARTH'S DESTINY ITSELF DEPENDS ON YOUR ACTIONS TODAY."
"STRIKE."


Iris had to get some police tape from Barry, as these lunatics were coming out of the woodwork now. The first thing she sought to do, was clear the street. A blur of lightning moved up and down the street as she grabbed people, moved them into buildings up and down the block before placing objects in front of the doorways to prevent people from coming out into the middle of a fight. That was step one, she had learnt that on day one. She was fast, not strong so the first step was always getting other people out of danger. While she had her speed, and this mantle. She wasn’t going to let someone else get die, like Barry's mother had during his childhood.

After the street was cleared she turned to face the surfer. Moving in she proceeded to let loose a number of quick down low trying to knock him off his board, none of which appeared to do much of anything. It probably hurt her more than it had hurt him, she was having terrible luck recently when it came to fighting people who she could actually hurt. She pulled back and twisted around, creating distance between herself and him while she could get a second to think about what her next move was. He was obviously fast due to this board, capable of taking a punch and could expel energy from his limbs. That didn’t leave her with a lot of possibilities in what she would be able to do.

“Okay there ‘Silver Surfer’. Why don’t we just calm down a little, talk this out. Why are we fighting? More importantly, who’s judging me and why?”

She slid her feet gently trying to get a better angle on the Surfer. If she could angle him the way she wanted, she could get a straight shot to run up a car and punch his face. While hovering she could hit him again, but she figured she may as well aim for the head where she was more likely to do some damage.

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Hidden 29 days ago 29 days ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Freeborn Scum

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"Welcome once again, ladies and gentlemen, to the Godfrey Edition, the only reliable source for the unvarnished truth! I am as always your humble host, the inimitable G. Gordon Godfrey, here to enlighten and illuminate the masses as we shed some light onto the shadowy corners of the corridors of power! And speaking of power, tonight's top story: no one in the world wields more power than the so-called 'Superman'.....or at least, that's what he'd have you believe! But for the past month, between bouts of putting out fires and pulling cats out of trees for good publicity, the Big Blue Boy Scout has been outwitted, humiliated, and run around in circles by yet another in a long line of costumed freaks, laughing at him every step of the way!"



"They call him the Toyman, and thus far he's taken credit for over a dozen acts of high-level cyber-terrorism in Metropolis alone. First, there was the drone attack in Centennial Park. Dozens of innocent men and women were injured during the battle, and property damage caused by Superman in his bull-headed effforts to stop them totaled well into the tens of millions. It should be noted, dear viewers, that the drones were targeting Superman specifically-- why, then, didn't he simply fly out of the city and let them follow after him? Well, why bother? After all, it's not as if he's going to stick around to pay for everyone's medical expenses! More importantly, why take the fight somewhere where he wouldn't have crowds full of greasy fan-boys snapping pictures and gushing about him on Facebook?"



"And of course, after the drone attack, the hits have just kept coming! Toyman's next act was to take control over Metropolis's high-speed rail system, sending commuter trains hurtling through the city on collision courses with each other. And once again, Superman arrives on the scene attempting to take control of the situation with all the nuance and subtlety of a professional wrestler. Were lives saved? Undoubtedly. But once again, the Man of Steel crashes through buildings and rips up millions' worth of infrastructure in the name of reining in his body-count, and he's still no closer to apprehending the culprit!"



"Fast-forward to Toyman hijacking the city's traffic lights, causing city-wide gridlock and multiple serious collisions. Again, Superman tries to solve problems by throwing heavy machinery around like a toddler. Again, the city is left to foot the not-inconsiderable bill. And again, the Toyman gets away scot-free! Are you detecting a pattern yet, dear viewer?"

"My first guest tonight is the CEO of Steelworks Industries, a genius engineer, and unfortunately, the first of many whose works have been commandeered by the Toyman for his rampages through Metropolis, Doctor John Henry Irons. Thank you for joining us, Doctor Irons."

"It's, erm, it's a pleasure, Mr. Godfrey."

"The pleasure's all mine. And please, call me Gordon. So, without putting too fine a point on it, the drones that attacked Superman last month were being controlled by the Toyman, but they were in fact military models, which you yourself designed, correct?"

"Ah, well, yes, but they were never intended to be used offensively, and especially not in populated areas. I realize that it's going to take a long time for Steelworks to repair its reputation, and I claim full responsibility for any weaknesses in the network that allowed the Toyman to infiltrate it, but if the implication is that I or my company had something to do with--"

"Oh, I didn't mean to cast aspersions, of course, Doctor Irons. I don't think any reasonable person is blaming you for what happened, and I know how hard you've been working with the authorities to track the attacker down. My question was merely meant to establish that you're one of the leading minds in both mechanical engineering and in advanced software development. Would you say that's a fair assumption to make?"

"Well, ah, I wouldn't exactly call myself a Tony Stark, but, erm, yes, if you'll excuse me being immodest, I'd say I'm among the best in my fields."

"And whoever this 'Toyman' is, he was able to get around even your best cyber-security, correct?"

"Well, yes, he was able to--"

"Then if the Toyman can outwit someone as gifted and brilliant as yourself, then what chance does a clumsy brawling oaf like Superman stand at capturing him?"

"......well, with all due respect, I, err, I think you're expecting too much out of him. It's a bit like, ah, like expecting the Army to put out a forest fire, or the paramedics to stop a bank robbery. They may have the best intentions, but, erm, they don't have the right equipment for the job."

"Maybe, but-- forgive me, is something the matter with your eye?"

"Excuse me?"

"Your eye, it seems to be twitching quite a bit."

"Oh! No, it's, ah....just my allergies acting up."

"Hrm."

"To, er, to get back to answering your question, Superman's area of expertise seems to be the direct application of brute force. The Toyman, on the other hand, he's, ah, he's an indirect threat, one who puts layers of separation between himself and, well, the damage he's doing. Superman may be able to stop whatever disasters Toyman puts in front of him, but he's only, ah, only treating the symptoms. He'll need someone else to, er, step in if he ever wants to cure the disease itself."

"So what you're saying is that despite his image as being an all-powerful righter of all wrongs, Superman isn't cut out for anything more than punching monsters in the face?"

"Not necessarily, but in this case--"

"In this case, he's proven to be a bumbling oaf. He may have good intentions, like you said, but he's completely incompetent against threats like--"


"Could you turn that down, please?"



"Sure thing," grunts 'Bibbo' Bibbowski from behind the counter, stepping away from the big flat-top griddle to adjust the volume on the old CRT TV bolted to the wall. "That better?"

"Much better, thanks," I say, rubbing my forehead to soothe an aching head as I turn my attention away from the TV and back to my plate,

Bibbo's Place is a Metropolis mainstay, the kind of place the locals don't really bring up in order to keep the tourists out. The Bibbowski family's been making the same classic greasy-spoon items for three generations now, run by three generations of big, burly, almost cartoonishly gruff men who just go by the name 'Bibbo.' The place is small and a little cramped, with laminated menus that may very well be the same ones they used in the 60s, and I'm sure one look in the back kitchen would make a health inspector have a conniption fit.....but I dare you to try and find a better short-order meatloaf plate on the East Coast.

"I really can't stand listening to that guy," I mutter, gesturing to the TV as G. Gordon Godfrey continues to bloviate about how I'm out of my league, and how Toyman is making me look like an idiot, and how this is going to lead to me getting everyone killed.

"I hear ya," Jimmy commiserates as he taps away at the newsfeed on his L-Pad. "Every day it's the same thing with this guy-- Superman's so terrible, he's ruining everything by saving people, yadda yadda. He's suffering a severe case of Cape Derangement Syndrome, am I right? ......Lois?"

Lois keeps glancing back and forth from her notepad to the TV, jotting something down.

"Lois? You there?"

"Huh? Oh, right," Lois says as she focuses back on the conversation long enough to break out one of Perry's standard one-liners. "'Breaking News: Godfrey Says Something Asinine. Water: Wet.'"

"Still," I say after swallowing a fork-full of mashed potatoes, "as obnoxious as he is, I think he might have a point. Superman's been running around for a month now, and it doesn't look like he's going to be able to stop the Toyman any time soon. And every time he shows up, innocent people are paying the price. You don't think--"

"Oh come on, Clark!" Jimmy scoffs. "You're not actually taking Godfrey seriously, are you?"

I shrug.

Truth be told, the last month has been some of the most frustrating times of my life. It's all I can do to just clean up the messes that the Toyman keeps making, and while I'm trying my best to keep the damage to a minimum, I can't be everywhere. Metropolis continues to get trashed, even if it's only a block or two at a time. People are getting hurt, even dying.

And I'm no closer to catching the Toyman than when I started.

"Look, it's been, what, seven months since Superman showed up?" Jimmy starts in again, gesturing with the half-eaten Reuben in his hand. "And do you know how many times he's personally saved my ass? Sixteen. Sixteen times that I'd be straight-up dead if Big Blue weren't around. That doesn't happen if he's 'completely incompetent' like Godfrey says he is. Are things tough in the city right now? Yeah. Is Toyman giving our boy some trouble? Sure. But you don't give up on your team just because they lose a few games. Superman's gonna find this guy and knock his teeth in, mark my words."

"I hope you're right," I say, unconvinced as I take another bite. I really wish I had as much confidence in my ability to root out a world-class hacker as Jimmy does. But I'm not exactly Sherlock Holmes. I don't even know where to start when it comes to--

"T-S-C....." Lois mutters to herself, looking at her notes. "T-S-C........hm. Those initials mean anything to you guys? As in 'HOT T-S-C?'"

Jimmy and I exchange glances, then look back at Lois and shrug.

"Can't say it rings a bell, Lo," I say. "Where'd you get that from?"

"Him," she gestures to the TV, at the nervous Doctor Irons, shifting and twitching his eye. "That little twitch he keeps doing? Watch carefully."

As Irons continues to mutter and stammer uncomfortably, I pay closer attention to his gestures. In particular, his left eye keeps twitching. A few short rapid twitches, followed by a longer one, alternating.....

"Oh my God," I say, standing up from my seat. "That's Morse Code!"

"What are you talking about?" Jimmy asks, a little slow on the uptake.

"He's doing something my dad used to tell me about," Lois explains. "When POWs were captured in Vietnam, the enemy would make them appear in propaganda videos and force them to lie about how they were being treated. They'd practice little nervous tics, blinking or itching their nose, or twitching. Then they'd use these tics to send messages home in Morse Code without the Viet Cong noticing."

"What's he saying?" I ask.

"I....I don't really know," she admits. "He just keeps repeating the same six letters. 'H-O-T T-S-C.' Maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way, but I don't--"

"Hold up," Jimmy interrupts, breaking up our concentration as he puts his L-Pad on the table. "Something major's going down in Central City! You know the Flash? She's getting called out by some crazy guy on a surfboard. Check it out."

On his tablet, he pulls up the breaking news. Aerial footage shows a man coated in metallic chrome hovering in the air, on a surfboard of all things, just like Jimmy said. Through the blurs of color and crackles of lightning, I see her.

I'd followed what bits of the Flash's work that I could. When I first heard about her, I thought she might be another alien like me, but the current speculation is that she's one of the 'metahumans' that have started to crop up since I first debuted. I don't know a whole lot else about her, other than that she appears to be on the right side of things, and that she's fast. Very fast.

All her speed, however, doesn't seem to be helping her against this surfer person.

I glance up from the screen and look at Lois, who gives me a questioning look in return, curious about what I'm going to do. So far, I haven't had much inclination to get involved with the other 'super-heroes'-- there's been sort of an unspoken rule about everyone keeping to their own proverbial territory, and Central City is the Flash's turf, not mine. Still, I can't exactly leave someone to fend for themselves over something as silly as that.

Maybe it's high time I start making some friends.

Besides, a change of scenery and a break from all this Toyman business might help clear my head, so I can come at it from another angle.

Coughing to excuse myself, I start to stand back up. "I'd better get back to the office. Perry's gonna want someone covering this story as soon as possible if--"

"In your dreams, Smallville," Lois cuts in with a knowing look, just shy of a wink. "That by-line's as good as mine. You've still gotta finish your story on the charity golf tournament, remember?"

"Right, well, I'd better get on that," I say, fumbling for my wallet and leaving a twenty on the counter. "I'll see you guys back at the Planet."

Hurrying out the front door of Bibbo's Place, I round a corner and duck into a nearby alleyway where I can change. Doing some quick math in my head, I take flight.

Central City is about twelve-hundred miles from Metropolis, as the crow flies.

According to reports released by NORAD, the fastest I've ever been clocked is around Mach 30.

Meaning that if I really open up the throttle, I can get there in just about three minutes.

For someone that can move as fast as the Flash, though, three minutes might as well be an eternity.



Three minutes. Here's hoping I'm not too late.
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Hidden 29 days ago 29 days ago Post by Morden Man
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Central City, Missouri

No sooner had Reed Richards run down STAR Labs’ defences than Harrison Wells had spun around to face him. It was clear from the look on his face that Wells had not been as oblivious to his presence there as Reed had thought. The self-satisfied smile on Harrison’s face would have been heartening if not for the threatening looking rifle in his left hand.

“Whoever you are, you spoke too soon,” he said as he pulled the trigger three times in quick succession.

Three balls of yellow electricity came sprouting from the muzzle of the rifle. It careened through the air towards Reed. He'd calculated their trajectory the second Wells had pulled the trigger. Two strikes to the heart and one to the head. It would have been enough to put a lesser man down – perhaps for good – but Reed barely had to break his stride to evade them.

The super scientist's torso bent like melted taffy and he simply ducked his head to avoid the third. “You always were one to shoot first and ask questions later.”

The STARs Labs founder primed the rifle to unload another barrage of electricity towards Reed. This time the world's smartest man was having none of it. He reached out a smacked the rifle out of Harrison's hands. It went skidding along the floor of the laboratory and came to a stop beneath a desk.

Wells clambered around frantically, searching for something else to use as a weapon, but Reed's oven-sized hands were wrapped tightly around his shoulders before he could manage it. He lifted him off of the ground and attempted to calm him with a word. It had barely left his lips when Harrison's forehead came crashing down against Reed's nose. There was a loud crunch and Richards went staggering backwards.

"For the love of God," Reed muttered disapprovingly under his breath as his nose sprang back into place cartoonishly. "I'm not here to harm you, Harrison, I'm here to ask for your help."

Harrison Wells struggled between Reed’s fingers.

“People that need help don’t break in during the middle of the night like two-bit cat burglars.”

Every time Wells managed to pluck free one of his arms, Reed’s hands would swell with size and pull the scientist’s limbs back under their control. Harrison’s face grew red with exertion but kept struggling against the inevitable. Finally once it became clear that Richards had him, Wells stopped kicking out. He simply glared at Richards with contempt.

“They definitely don’t wear the face of a man two galaxies away to do it.”

The words hit him like a sledgehammer to the chest. Two galaxies away, Reed repeated to himself in his head, as he replayed the real fate of this world’s Reed Richards. Maria Hill said that he – and Sue, Johnny and Ben – had been burned alive. It was enough to make Reed’s stomach churn.

He nodded wearily as he acknowledged Harrison’s complaint. “Ah, well I’m afraid there’s not much that I can do about that particular detail.”

There in Wells’ eyes was a glimmer of intrigue. It was all the reassurance that Reed needed. Slowly he began to loosen his grip on Wells and lower him to the ground. A few inches above it he sought some affirmation from the scientist that another barrage of attacks wouldn’t be coming his way – and he received it by way of a begrudging nod.

Wells dusted himself down and Reed took a few gentle steps back from him.

“You’re not wrong as such, Harrison. I’m not Reed Richards. At least, I’m not your Reed Richards. I come from another world. One like yours in many, many ways – in fact where I come from, you and I have met on several occasions. That’s how I knew how to find you. And it’s how I know that you offer the Flash … assistance from time to time.”

An incredulous look appeared on Harrison’s face.

“I don’t know what you’re t-”

“You don’t have to deny it,” Reed interrupted. “The people of Central City owe you a great debt. I don’t and haven’t always agreed with the methods of my Wells, but there’s no doubting his – and your – commitment to the greater good, Harrison. In both the work you do here at STAR Labs and out there with the Flash.”

Harrison Wells had heard enough.

“That’s enough.”

With a sigh he walked towards one of the hidden twenty-third floor’s walls and placed his hand against it. Without a sound the wall disappeared to reveal the Central City skyline. Yellow orbs mapping out the signs of life in the darkness. Reed watched him studying it. There was a heaviness to him, like a man carrying a secret, the weight of which Richards himself had perhaps only begun to appreciate.

Wells stepped back from the view and placed one of his hands through his thick brown hair.

“Let’s say for a moment that I choose to believe you. Let’s say that I believe that you somehow managed to crack inter-dimensional travel. Why come here? What’s so important about this world?”

This was the part that Reed looked forward to the least.

“Does the name ‘Darkseid’ mean anything to you?”

There was nothing. Not an ounce of recognition in the look that greeted the name. Richards wasn’t sure whether to feel thankful for that or to shake Wells uncontrollably. Even now Darkseid was likely ruling Reed’s home world with an iron fist. He recalled to Wells every last part of their tale – Darkseid’s arrival, Luthor’s defeat and the craft Doom and Reed had built.

“Your world,” Harrison muttered as he tried and failed to comprehend the scale of the destruction. “I’m sorry.”

Reed shook his head defiantly.

“I don’t need you to be sorry, Harrison, I need you to help me get home.”

The time craft was Reed’s only chance of returning home. Where Doom and he had failed, Reed hoped that Wells would succeed. He was a brilliant scientist. Not quite on Reed’s or even that of a Ray Palmer but he had different specialisms, a different approach, and most importantly, an understanding of speed.

If anyone was capable of getting the four of them home, it was Harrison Wells – if he was willing to try.

“There’s plenty of room at the Baxter Building,” Reed promised. “If your Flash is anything like ours, she’ll be able to make do without you for a week or two.”

Wells let out a heavy sigh as if taking the decision caused him physical pain.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some reservations, Reed, but I’ve always been a sucker for lost causes. Give me a day to get my affairs in order and I’ll be on the first f-”

A beam of light so pure and blinding seemed to stop Wells in his tracks. It had come from out there – something was moving in Central City – and it wasn’t the red-yellow blur that Wells had become so accustomed to.

Reed Richards looked at him confused. “What was that?”

Wells sprinted over to a nearby desk and pressed his thumb down against it. The table sprang into life as a thousand of holographic buttons and symbols appeared on it. In front of Wells appeared four screens with schematics of the city, a frequency scanner, and other useful tidbits of information on it.

“My sensors are going crazy,” Wells muttered as he tried to make sense of the collection of information in front of him. “Whatever caused that thing is it’s moving fast.”

It took Reed a couple of seconds to deduce how to work the panel. “Cameras?”

“I’m working on it.”

Harrison’s fingers typed furiously as he tried to find footage from the city’s many CCTV cameras that could confirm the source. Pictures and videos flashed across the screen of the point of origin of the light. Wells slowed the video over and over again until finally in the blurry image something discernible came into being.

It was a sight familiar to Reed Richards.

“Flash?” Wells called into the microphone. “Can you hear me? What’s going on? What is that thing?”

Reed reached out a hand and placed it on Harrison Wells’ shoulder gently.

“That thing is called the Silver Surfer – he’s the herald of Galactus. If he’s here, that means Galactus isn’t far behind him. Our whole planet is in danger, Harrison. We have to call in everyone – and we need them to get to Central City fast.”
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Hidden 29 days ago 29 days ago Post by Simple Unicycle
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"Daddy? Why are you running?"
"Stop running, daddy!"
"Why run from the truth, Frank?"
"Why did you let us die?"
"You didn't save us!"
"You let us die."
"Why won't you stop running?"
"Just stop running!"
"Stop running from the truth."

I wake in a cold sweat.

The nightmares haven't stopped. I tell myself that the voices aren't real. That they can't touch me.

I like to think it helps.


ISSUE #11
DIRTY LAUNDRY

Outside of A Cheap Laundromat; New York City

I step out of my van, carrying a tub of dirty clothes. I used most of the money I had left to have Dave buy the van for me, the type that swim teams and garage bands use. It's not too hard living out of it, and it has the added benefit of being mobile. I'm living under the radar, trying to avoid cops whenever I can.

Lately I've stuck around the poorer areas of Harlem, where the cops only rarely go. It's worked out okay aside from the occasional harassment from some of the wannabe gangsters around here, which I can handle; they're too scared to actually try anything. Thankfully, none of the actual gangs have come around. If they did, I'd have to relocate again.

I'm not too sure why I decided to stick around New York. There are so many other places to go. Particularly, there are places where I'm not wanted for over 200 counts of murder. Maybe I just like New York too much, and can't bring myself to leave it even when I'm being hunted by the police, the remnants of a crime family, and a teenage girl in a Halloween costume.

But those days of mass murder are behind me. Now, I'm just Frank Castle, ex-cop, fugitive, and bum. As I walk to the laundromat, I hear the sound of a car pulling up, rap music blaring loudly from the speakers within. The car pulls up in front of a group of women, prostitutes probably, and out of the car comes a group of the most generic gangbangers I've ever seen. Baggy pants, gold chains, backwards ball caps... The works.

"Ey bitch," one of them, the head honcho presumably (he has the most gold chains, after all), says to one of the women.

The women are already speedwalking away, but the 'gangsters' follow. "I already took care of you!" the woman replies. The man grabs her. She screams. He slaps her around a bit, and begins dragging her to an alleyway. Her screams increase in volume, and in pain.

I keep walking. I enter the laundromat. I pick out a washing machine, open it up, and put in my clothes. I pull a few coins out of my pocket. Should have enough to cover it. I put in a few quarters, and start the machine up, before taking a seat.

I grab a newspaper off the bench. It's from yesterday. Nothing too big, just some more stuff about Spider-Woman fighting bad guys, and the police rallying against her and me, stuff like that. The story also mentions something about gun violence and blah blah blah, it's just the same old stuff. A year or two from now some other crazy bastard with a vengeance will start gunning after criminals and the papers will forget all about me. Until then, they're milking the story for all it's worth.

I look out the window. The other gangbangers are occupying themselves by harassing some young kid while their leader is busy with the girl. I hear a few things that help me determine why they're doing it: something about drugs, and this being their territory. Sounds like they want the kid to run drugs for them, and he takes exception to the idea.

Soon enough, the clothes are washed, and I put them into a drier. I sit back down. Watch them swirl around inside. I hear the shouting from the street. The screams of the woman being raped. The thumping of the clothes inside the drier. It agitates me. I can't stay in this damn laundromat.

I've got to do something.

I exit the building, looking down the street at the gangers beating up on the kid. I turn around and head into the liquor store down the street. It stinks of cheap booze and broken dreams, the clerk a crippled old man who looks defeated. He looks up at the sound of the door opening. I grab a bottle of Yoo-Hoo from the refrigerated section, and head up to the counter.

"No booze?" he asks.

"No. Been on the wagon about a month now," I reply. "How much is this gonna be?"

"A buck fifty." I pull out my wallet and lay two dollars down. He sticks it in the register and hands me two quarters. I open up the bottle of chocolate milk, heading to the door and looking out at the scene down the street. Their leader has joined the party, and he's sticking a gun to the poor kid's head. "Makes you fuckin' sick, don't it?" the clerk says, looking out at the scene as well. "Makes you wanna do somethin' too."

I stay silent. Drink my Yoo-Hoo.

"About two decades back, that was me, standin' where you are now. Lookin' out there, wantin' to do something. Was a little girl then. Not much older than that kid is now."

"... What'd you do?"

"... I walked out... Heh. Did a tour in 'Nam, not a fuckin' scratch. Come home and then..." He gestures to himself, sitting in his wheelchair. "They're fuckin' animals. Even if God came down and smote 'em all himself, there'd just be another batch comin' around a day later. World's burnin' down, my friend. Least I got a front row seat for it."

I turn back around and head to the counter, laying down twenty dollars. "... Bottle of Jack. Keep the change." The clerk laughs bitterly. He takes the money, puts the bottle in a bag, and hands me it. I leave the store.

"-in' choice! You always got a motherfuckin' choice!" the ganger is shouting at the kid, gun still pressed against the boy's head. The kid is crying silently, tears and blood mingling on his face.

It makes me want to do something.

I pull the bottle from the bag, holding it upside down in my right hand as though it were a mace. It's heavy. Heavy enough to crack a skull, I reckon. Time to find out.

The gangsters are all so focused on the kid, they don't see me coming from behind. I swing at the nearest one.

*KRAK!*

The sound of his skull being caved in is a dry, thick sound. It takes until I kill another for the gangsters to notice me, and it takes another going down for them to realize what's happening. They all shout. One of them pulls a gun while their leader backs up to let his dogs handle the problem.

I slam the bottle under the nose of the one who had just pulled the gun, taking it from him and firing off two rounds at another. I don't have to worry about aiming. At this range, there was no way I'd miss. I twist around and hit the last one in the temple with the bottle. Gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey caked in blood in the other, I turn to the leader. He holds his gun shakily, pointing it in my direction. If I so much as twitched, he'd fire.

That's when the kid got off the ground and bit the bastard's leg, making him shout and fire the gun, the shot going wide. I shoot the man in the hand, making him drop his gun, then run up to him. The kid scrambles backwards, away from me and the gangster. I use the bottle to break his nose. Then his arm. His legs.

The tough guy was reduced to a blubbering mess on the ground, cries mingling with screams of pain. I loom over him like some dime store angel of death. "... Do you know the difference between justice..." I open the bottle. "... And punishment?"

"W-what!?" He was confused. I'd be too if some guy came up and killed all my buddies, then started babbling on about punishment. I empty the bottle onto him. "N-no! No! D-don't! Please, don't!" I pull out my zippo, flicking it open and lighting it. For a second I consider throwing it onto him and being done with it. But that wasn't my call to make, if he lived or died. He hadn't wronged me.

I set the still lit zippo down at his feet, and walk back into the laundromat. My clothes are done drying. I pull them out, and put them back into my laundry bin. I look outside and see the prostitute, face bloody and bruised, standing over the wounded gangbanger. He's pleading with her, telling her he's sorry.

She kicks the zippo.

Flames burst around him, cooking him like he's some sort of baggy-pantsed steak. He screams in vain, trying to call for help that won't come. The hooker leaves as his screams die down with the flames.

I exit the laundromat. Load my clothes up into the van.

"Hey mister." I turn around, seeing the kid behind me. "... Thank you."

"Don't mention it. Just doing my part to keep the neighborhood safe."

"Heh. You're a regular Spider-Woman, aren't you?"

"Something like that," I reply. "... Can't stick around here. Cops come, I'm done for." I look down at the tub of clothes, then back at the kid. "Hey kid. Anybody starts something with you, don't do what I did. And definitely don't do what you did. Leave. Taking any other way will only lead to an early grave, either then or somewhere else down the line."

He nods slightly.

"See you around." I close up the back doors of the van, and get into the driver's seat. I drive away.

Maybe it was time to pay Micro a visit. I left all my guns with him, after all.
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Hidden 29 days ago 16 days ago Post by DocTachyon
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”The Ranchero of Miracle Mesa” - Something Wicked This Way Comes
Now retconned, True Believers! Check out the upcoming "Strings: Part Three" for the situation with Vig!
Warpath, Texas




”How’s the news treatin ya?” Vig asked. Jonah Hex sat with his feet up on the porch of the Crossroads Saloon, L-Pad in hand. For an old world cowboy, he’d caught on to the new technology quick. He didn’t much prefer it to newspapers, but those had stopped coming a long time ago.

“That Punisher boy in New York just blew through the last o’ the Italians, n’ the Spider lady took out some rough n’ tough goons. Usual. No word from Frank or the others.” Hex said.

Vigilante nodded slow and pulled his hat off his head. He ran a hand through his sweat slicked hair. The sun was high in the sky, he and Hex and just spent the last six hours using horse teams to drag in old car husks from the nearest junkyard to bolster the outer lines. Gunn was down by the Town Square, trying to teach the townsfolk what he could about gunplay.

Much like The Crossroads, Vig reckoned that Warpath was damn near impossible to kill. Three years real-time with only Gunn and and handful of other gunslingers to protect it and the town held out like it was the Alamo. In Hell, it was impossible to defend a single location. If you tried to lock down any one spot, the demons would be itchin’ to bumrush you before you could proper take your boots off. Maybe it had something to do with the magic of the spot. Or maybe Gunn was a better sharpshooter than anyone realized.

”Well, they better git back soon. More and more Fatboys coming to knock every day. Saw three or four fixin’ to breach while you were just readin’.” Vig said. Fatboys were entities of plague. Demons wearing human skin, gone turgid with puss and disease. They were low level scum, but usually packs of Fatboys meant somethin’ a whole lot bigger and meaner was around the corner.

Hex gave a slow nod and set the L-Pad down on the porch railing. He leaned back into his rocker.

“Yknow boy, there’s some things you never consider missing. Like that lucky ol’ sun.” Jonah Hex’s eyes lingered on the sky, following the clouds. Vig joined him, gazing up into the great blue expanse. There was a kind of possibility there. Here was a place of infinite rolling plains, giving way to the heavens themselves, dominated only by the great yellow jewel of the universe. Maybe that was why the monsters clawed their way to the surface. To gaze unto it and wonder where it all went wrong.

”Mhm. First time in a long time we got somethin’ to protect.” Vig said. He leaned on the railing and stretched his arms, willing the ache in his shoulders to go away. The voices had quieted, now. They usually did around this time of day. Vig figured it was something about the sky, maybe they were the souls of the damned and the light let them reminisce about what they had instead of screaming about what they lost.

Way on the edge of the horizon, there was a brief wisp of light. Almost like a shooting star in the day, a little blue-silver trail almost blotted out by the blue of the sky. Just on the edge of human register, if you were looking.

“HIIIIIIIIIIMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!” It was like a bomb had gone off in his brain. Souls sreeched across his mind, vomiting blood and sin and fear into every crevice of his head, bellowing out for retribution in one voice. Greg dropped to his knees and spasmed, choking on the air.

“Greg?” Hex stumbled to his feet and vaulted the railing. A shaky hand reached for him, while blackness swallowed Vigilante’s consciousness.

”Hex?” Vigilante’s voice felt small in his throat. The darkness closed around his vision, and all that was left was the fiery head of death itself.

“The bringer of the end calls, Greg Saunders. A being more powerful than any mortal can imagine trembles on the edge of our being. The Herald alone drags trillions of wailing souls behind him. Destruction of untold magnitude lies in his wake. Vengeance Must Be Done.”




To Jonah Hex, Vigilante had stopped moving. The Cowboy lay flat across the ground, eyes rolled back into his head. He was lost in some kind of sleep. Or maybe the Good Lord had come from on high and struck ‘im down for bargaining with The Devil.

Hex was on his knee, shaking the boy. They’d come too far to have this be the end. Fallen dead in the street of a brain aneurysm while hellspawn waited just outside the perimeter to slaughter countless innocents. Hex pressed the back of his hand to Vig’s head, looking for any sign of life. He was hot. Too hot, boiling. Hex grunted and pulled his hand away, rubbing the back of it.

Vigilante’s flesh began to drift away from him in chunks, floating into the air before dissolving in an orange light. It revealed stark white bone underneath, that blazed with unholy fire. Hex drew to his feet. His hand went to his pistol.

Skeletal fingers shot out of his friend’s body and locked around his wrist. His flesh burned and he screamed, trying to yank his gun from its holster. A skeleton pulled itself from the hunk of flesh. The last bits of Vigilante’s skin and sinew clung to the bones and the monster’s tattered clothes. The skeleton’s other hand came around and snagged Jonah Hex under the chin, hoisting him into the sky.

“Everyone. Central City. Now. The words gurgled from the skeleton’s jaw. An inferno broiled in its eyesockets, it seemed to stare into Hex’s very soul. It dropped the old man in a pile of dust and turned on its heel. It made for Vigilante’s bike, The Silver.

Hex fumbled for his gun. He snatched it out of the sands and drew it to his eye. He pulled back the hammer and fired. The round entered the skeleton’s shoulder blade and exited out the front; it didn’t flinch. Long finger bones caressed the bike’s fuel tank and a shade spread over the bike, enveloping it in a dark metal. Wicked edges and lines of bone grew from the bike’s chassis as the skeleton sat astride it. The beast wrapped it’s hands around the handle and fire flashed across it.

The engine didn’t rev as much as it howled. A cacophony of souls begged for blood, bellowing from the engine. The rider shot out of Warpath, leaving a trail of hellfire in his wake as he headed for Central City.
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Hidden 29 days ago Post by Byrd Man
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“Okay there ‘Silver Surfer’. Why don’t we just calm down a little, talk this out. Why are we fighting? More importantly, who’s judging me and why?”

She slid her feet gently trying to get a better angle on the Surfer. If she could angle him the way she wanted, she could get a straight shot to run up a car and punch his face. While hovering she could hit him again, but she figured she may as well aim for the head where she was more likely to do some damage.


"THE BURDEN OF HUMANITY FALLS UPON YOUR SHOULDERS TODAY," said the Surfer. "COMPARED TO THIS, DOES KNOWING THE JUDGE OF YOUR MERIT TRULY MATTER?"

Tendrils of silver liquid oozed from the Surfer's board. They broke away from the object and floated in the air, twisting and rolling until the tendrils formed two orbs. The Surfer outstretched his arms, palms out. The two orbs rested upon the palms as he looked them over impassively.

"IS YOUR KIND SOMETHING NEW?" The Surfer held up one of the orbs. Images reflected inside of it, showing the Flash a utopian world of peace and prosperity.

"OR ARE YOU JUST THE LATEST EVOLUTION OF SOMETHING VERY OLD?" He held up the other orb, showing black and white images of Earth's history. Wars, famine, brutal acts of violence all played out in the reflection of the orb.

"MY TEST IS ONE OF STRENGTH, WISDOM, AND SACRIFICE. IF YOU PASS, YOUR PEOPLE SHALL BE RULED WORTHY. IF YOU FAIL, THEN ALL OF CENTRAL CITY SHALL PERISH."

The Surfer smashed the two orbs together, causing a massive shockwave of cosmic energy to ripple through the street and knocking the Flash back. Windows shattered, cars flipped, and the streets cracked under the force of the explosion. a sinkhole collapsed halfway down the block and threatened to drag the whole area down. The pavement started to crumble away underneath the Flash's feet.
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Hidden 29 days ago 3 days ago Post by Sep
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T H E F L A S H

Revelations:
NOT FAST ENOUGH







Music
"THE BURDEN OF HUMANITY FALLS UPON YOUR SHOULDERS TODAY," said the Surfer. "COMPARED TO THIS, DOES KNOWING THE JUDGE OF YOUR MERIT TRULY MATTER?"

Tendrils of silver liquid oozed from the Surfer's board. They broke away from the object and floated in the air, twisting and rolling until the tendrils formed two orbs. The Surfer outstretched his arms, palms out. The two orbs rested upon the palms as he looked them over impassively.

"IS YOUR KIND SOMETHING NEW?" The Surfer held up one of the orbs. Images reflected inside of it, showing the Flash a utopian world of peace and prosperity.

"OR ARE YOU JUST THE LATEST EVOLUTION OF SOMETHING VERY OLD?" He held up the other orb, showing black and white images of Earth's history. Wars, famine, brutal acts of violence all played out in the reflection of the orb.

"MY TEST IS ONE OF STRENGTH, WISDOM, AND SACRIFICE. IF YOU PASS, YOUR PEOPLE SHALL BE RULED WORTHY. IF YOU FAIL, THEN ALL OF CENTRAL CITY SHALL PERISH."


As the orbs dropped Iris was cast back by the blast from the orbs as they dropped. There was a crumbling sound as the blast weakened everything around the point of impact and the street started to collapse. All of her punches didn't seem to phase him, he just stood there and watched. Grunting in frustration she turned her attention to the buildings. Iris didn't have long before the entire block collapsed into the forming sinkhole. There was no way she could clear them all, this Surfer would no doubt interfere and she'd end up loosing somebody. There had to be a way for her to save everyone.

Her communicator, she started to hear Wells voice but then it tuned out as the world slowed to a crawl. Adrenaline kicked into her system as her brain switched into 'fight or flight' mode. The blast of energy continued to crackle out caving everything beneath it. Energy. She took off, pushing through the fear. One foot in front of the other. This surfer may be out of her league but she had thought that about everyone she had faced so far. In the end Iris had been the one to come out on top because she was the one who was right.

Lightning crackled through her, behind her, as she circled the Surfer and the forming hole. To the outside it would seem like a lightning storm in the middle of the street as the cosmic energy was stopped in its track by her trail.

Slowing down again to face her foe she finally heard the entirety of Wells message.

“Flash?” Wells voiced called out through her earpiece. “Can you hear me? What’s going on? What is that thing?”


"I can't talk now Doc. I need to get him out of here."

Looking straight into the eyes of her foe she stood tall and strong. Her dad had taught her that Wests never back down from a fight, they never run unless it's to save other people. This was her fight, and nobody else was going to get hurt because of it.

"You want to test me? Well. Catch me if you can." She was gone in a Flash, her planned destination? The badlands. She needed open space to manuever, open space where he couldn't hurt anyone else and she could really kick up speed.
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Hidden 28 days ago 28 days ago Post by Morden Man
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"You want to test me? Well. Catch me if you can." She was gone in a Flash, her planned destination? The badlands. She needed open space to manuever, open space where he couldn't hurt anyone else and she could really kick up speed.




With a gust of wind the Flash sped off into the horizon. The Silver Surfer stood impassively on his board and allowed the Flash to pull further and further away from him. She jolted from one side of the road to the other, pulling drivers from passing cars and ushering civilians to safety, until she reached the edge of Central City and took a glance over her shoulder. The Surfer's lithe metallic body had disappeared – so to had his board.

Suddenly a vice-like grip applied itself to the Flash's neck and she was lifted from the ground. The brown eyes beneath the Flash's cowl met with the Silver Surfer's dead, vacant white eyes. There was no sign of emotion, no sign of feeling to them, only a cold, resolute determination to fulfil a purpose.

"YOUR MEAGRE DISPLAYS OF SPEED ARE AS TO NOTHING TO ONE THAT HAS WALKED UPON THE SURFACE OF DYING SUNS AND OUTRACED SHOOTING STARS."

"No," The Flash muttered as she tried to pry the Surfer's fingers from her neck. "It's not possible."

The Surfer's board began to hum. The Flash's feet kicked out at the herald, sliding off of his silver skin harmlessly, but she was rendered limp and helpless by the sudden display of speed the Surfer was subjecting them to. They burst free of the city towards Central City's Badlands – and the mountain range that encircled the city.

"ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE THROUGH THE POWER COSMIC."

The Surfer plunged the pair of them into a nearby mountain and the Flash braced herself for impact. There was none. Instead they passed through the mountain. She gasped in shock as the the emotionless Surfer dragged them through what felt like a lifetime of rock. Once they were clear of the mountains, the Surfer began to ascend. The air thinned and whipped past their heads so loudly it was deafening.

At last they burst through a thick layer of clouds and the Surfer brought them to a stop. The stillness drew all tension from the moment for a few seconds. Until it was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a plane on the horizon. The Surfer cocked his arm back and prepared to launch the Flash towards it like a javelin.

"YOU WILL LEARN, THE FLASH OF CENTRAL CITY, OR THEY WILL PAY THE ULTIMATE PRICE FOR YOUR FAILURE."

With that, the Surfer sent the Flash hurtling towards the plane at a speed unlike that any the Flash had ever encountered before. He watched in silence as the metahuman had only a fraction of a second to save her own life and the lives of those onboard.
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Hidden 28 days ago 28 days ago Post by ErsatzEmperor
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The Sanctum Sanctorum,
Greenwich Village
NY


"Thanks for the tea..."

In the grand reception area, near the entrance of the Sanctum Sanctorum, a stranger lamented in silence. His hands were warmed to the point of discomfort by the mug of liquid that had passed his way upon entry. He barely flinched, anxiety overriding his basic instincts. Miles Garland was a television personality and celebrity chef. His professional accolades were common knowledge, as were his abrupt, cocksure attitude and reliance on abrasive language. All that stripped away the second he knocked on the Sanctum's door. Here sat a man in mortal peril. Sweat clung to his frame as closely as his manscaped beard clung to his face. His right leg shook uncontrollably, jittering against the floor.

"He won't be long." Wong smiled reassuringly. The man reciprocated nervously. Fear had melted his bravado away.

A crash could be heard from another room. The guest flinches as Doctor Strange enters.

"My apologies for keeping you," Strange assured. "The Cauldron of the Cosmos required an... Exorcism." He shuddered, removing from his hands a pair of long, yellow gloves. They came away from his fingers with a snap - each snap sent a shiver through Garland's back.

"I see Wong has seen to you." The man nodded. Strange came to a seat, opposite from his visitor, as Wong moved to the side. His posture echoed that of his time as a surgeon. In his mind this was no different to a consultation with a patient. Subconsciously, his demeanour changed. "How can I be of help?"

The stranger took a sip from the offered cup. It was a far cry from relaxation.

"You're the -- you're the Mystic Consultant aren't you? With the ad in the paper. Dr. Evil or whatev--"

"Strange, please," the mage interjected.

"Strange, okay." The doctor began to speak but was cut off. "Strange, listen: I want you to know, under any other circumstances I wouldn't buy into this crap, you know? Capes and masters of the mystic crap... I don't get it, I just don't." He took a moment to look Strange up and down, taking in the collared cloak and Elizabethan robes. "I'm all out of fucking options." Garland shook his head, already sensing this was a waste of time.

"What am I fucking doing here? Jeesus..."

"Easy, please." Strange looked on with empathy. The man before him was a mess. "Start from the beginning."

"Okay." The chef took a breath, slowly, trying to manage his heart. "Okay... Something is seriously going wrong. With my life, with my body? I don't know."

Strange raised an eyebrow, quizzically.

"Please explain."

"I think... I think I'm cursed." Strange looked to Wong, then back to Garland. Slowly, he went over what was said.

"You believe that someone has put a curse on you?"

"I think someone has put a curse on me, yes," Garland gulped. Strange paused. "I don't know, things have happened around me. Things I can't explain. I can't sleep at night, it's eating at me."

"Are you sure what your experiencing can't be put down to bad luck?" Strange remained sceptical.

Something about the way he had said it, or perhaps just having someone else reiterate it besides himself made some part of Garland snap.

"Oh for... I'm fucking out of here, Jesus Christ... I'm not sitting here to get judged by a... a ponce in a skirt."

Garland put down his cup as he started to stand. Without a second thought, Strange paced past him, undercutting as he proceeded towards the left side of the room. From a cabinet he removed a small, gold box. As he opened it the smell of rose water filled the room. Garland stopped, confused. Strange returned, before coming to face him. Arm outstretched, he offered the box.

"Take one."

Garland studied the contents closely. Nine gelatinous cubes sat inside, dusted with something. Silently he does as he's told.

"Good. Eat it." Garland looked at him with surprise.

"What is it? Is this medicine?"

"Loukoumi." Strange replied, shortly.

"Excuse me?"

"Greek candy. It will help with the nerves." Strange looked the man over. Now he was up close, he began picking something up, something magical. Garland cautiously placed the pink cuboid in his mouth and began to chew. If nothing else it would give him a task to occupy his mouth with for a few seconds besides talking.

"I'm picking up some quite odd residual energies from him, Wong." As he spoke, he moved his hands around his patient's form, careful not to get too close. "I'm not sure what I'm seeing, some sort of chaos magic perhaps?"

"Where is the energy centred?" Wong enquired. Garland watched on in vague horror.

"It's everywhere, vaguely. Like an afterglow." He turned his attention back to his guest. "A curse you say?" Garland swallows.

"It's like bad luck, but its not... It feels engineered, if you get me." He stretches his hands out. They were a mess of cuts and adhesive plasters. "I don't know when it started. At first I thought it was me. When I chopped, I was sloppy. I might go through a finger. I'd shave and I'd cut my lip open. Fall down the stairs. But lately, its not just me. Traffic. Strangers. It's like the fucking world is out to get me. I've seen things, things I really don't have answers for. I think I'm being haunted."

Strange thought on this for a long time.

"Forget the magic for a moment - lets leave the practical side of this to one side. Can you think of anyone who'd have a motive to do something like this to you?"

At this Garland couldn't help but laugh.

"What's funny?"

"I mean, you've seen my show, haven't you?"

"Your show?" Strange quizzed, dumbfounded. "I don't follow."

"On TV. Miles Garland, TV chef. Restaurants from Hell?"

"Look at me and answer honestly: Do I look like I watch much TV?" Strange posited. Garland laughed for a second.

"Restaurants from Hell. I get invited to restaurants across the country - real shit holes - and try to salvage their failing, sorry businesses. You know. The success rate, it isn't great. The ratings though? Fuck me, people eat this shit up."

"Perhaps a vengeful business owner blaming you for their misfortune?" Strange pondered for a moment. "I'm going to need a list of all the restaurant's you've been invited to. We'll start there and try to piece something together. How does that sound?"

"Doc, you don't know how good that sounds." He stopped, breathing slower. He felt a small semblance of optimism. "So like, do you charge by the hour or what?" He shuffled uncomfortably from side to side, shifting his weight.

"We don't require any payment." He explained, brushing the offer off quickly. "In the meantime, it would help greatly if you could detail some of the strangeness you've uhh, you've experienced." He stopped. Something was off. Another energy, overpowered him. "...There's something else isn't there." Something about the way Garland was carrying himself finally clicked in the former surgeon's head. The way he was standing, and shuffling on his feet. He had a limp. Strange looked down at the floor.

There was a puddle on the floor. It was red.

"What aren't you telling me, Miles? What happened to your leg?"

The whites of his eyes widened as Garland too realised. He was bleeding. He rolled up his pants leg, quickly. Beneath, a large, blackened wound.

"I... I was attacked on the way here."

"On the way here? Why didn't you--"

"Why didn't I mention it? I - I forgot. But I remember now... My god, that face... The fuck! What the fuck is going on?"

Strange paces for a moment. Without breaking his stride, he crouches down to inspect the gash. Six deep cuts ran in tandem down the man's leg.

"Wong, what does that look like to you?"

"I have no idea."

Strange sighed.

"Wong, I need you to go to the window, check to see if anything's outside."

"Now, you:"
He said, now addressing Garland "Get up on the table. I'm going to need to examine this."
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Hidden 28 days ago Post by Master Bruce
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Gotham City, The Narrows
Earl's Body Shop
10:15 PM


"I'm heading out. You good to close up shop tonight, Jay?"

Jason Todd wiped a bead of sweat from his brow as he finished another late-night break job, rolling himself out from underneath a recently restored Sedan. His boss, Earl Cooper, was just getting his coat on in anticipation of the coming rain. Jason looked back at his hand and smirked, noticing the grease marks on his gloves. He had only been employed at the shop for around four months, now, but Jason had long forgotten what it had been like to earn his way in a legitimate line of work. Before this, he had survived by living off of all of the skills his drug-pusher of a father had taught him at an early age. Theft, smuggling, beating people to a pulp to collect protection money. He'd practically considered it secondhand by the time he'd turned thirteen. But one night had changed everything, and now, the twenty-two year old had traded a life of physical abuse and reckless disregard for everyone and everything around him for a cushy apartment five blocks away, a girlfriend that had helped him on his road to recovering from a life that'd left him bloody and ravaged, and most importantly, a great job under a decent man who treated him with respect he never knew. Jason thought long and hard about how far he had come in just a few short months as he stood up and put away his mechanic's tools for the evening. Sometimes, it was good to remember what life had taken away to reinforce just how great things had ultimately turned out.

"You got it, Earl. Er, Mr. Cooper."

Jason nervously grinned as the old man chuckled.

"I keep telling you, kid, Earl is just fine by me. You have a good night, okay?"

"Can't hurt me to try, can it?"

The lights hovering above the front entrance of the shop flickered off as Earl gave his employee a customary nod and pulled out his umbrella, opening the door to a torrential downpour. Gotham City was notorious for it's evening showers, and no area ever got hit like The Narrows. It was as if God were punishing the city just for daring to exist, casting down a black cloud over it's most economically fractured area. If one believed in that sort of thing, of course. And Jason was a believer, given that the Irish Catholic blood ran deep on his mother's side. Tearing off his leather gloves and soothing his battered, overworked hands under the cool stream of water in a nearby sink, Todd took a look at his reflection before dunking his head down to splash the grease off.

By the time that he looked back up, however, something else was staring back at him in the far distance. A pair of white slits for eyes that glowed in the shadows cast over a corner of the building. Immediately springing into action, Jason showed the prowess of an acrobat as he leaped over the car's hood behind him and grabbed a rusted old crowbar, ready to hurl it at the intruder in the darkness. But whenever he turned back around, the "intruder" had stepped forward, catching his throwing arm in an iron-tight grip. Jason gasped as he realized what he was doing - and more importantly, who he had nearly just tried to mangle.

"HOLY SHIT!"

The Batman narrowed his eyes as he snatched the crowbar from Jason's hand, letting it fall to the floor. Todd turned around and leaned against the car, looking to catch his breath after the short burst of adrenaline had overtaken him.

"Christ, man. You just about gave me a freaking heart attack. I could've taken your head off! Anyone ever tell you not to sneak up on people like that?!"

Batman's glare indicated that it had never been an option. Jason apologetically held up his hands in defeat.

"Right, I forgot. You generally punch people first and ask questions later. Because nobody's ever gonna get the drop on the big, bad Bat."

Unphased by the comment, The Dark Knight advanced past Jason and walked towards a lever jotting out from the northeast wall of the shop. Knowing exactly what that meant, Jason hurried ahead and joined the masked vigilante as he reached up and pulled the lever down.

"That's the problem. Someone already did."

Turning back to the Sedan and the skeleton of another car that he and Earl had just started to work towards bringing back to life, Jason watched as the floor infront of him gave way to a series of hydraulics systems. It wasn't so much that the floor came alive, it just flipped in on itself in a gentle, but effective manner that thankfully didn't damage the vehicles that were now being held in place by electromagnets. On the new topside floor stood a series of titanium chests, flanked by a large computer screen that glowed with the insignia on the armored torso of the man to his right. Jason smiled, approaching the workbench that his mysterious benefactor had set up for him after talking Cooper into giving him the job.

The night that had changed his life? It may have also inadvertently given him a nice little side career as an anonymous contributor to Gotham's most wanted man in black. A fact of which gave him the only rush that he needed to stay away from pickpocketing old women and mobsters for good.

"Right. So we'll remedy that. What'll it be tonight, boss?"

Batman approached the terminal and placed his palm onto the onboard scanner, activating it. He had displayed some degree of trust in the young mechanic by allowing him to help with certain matters that Lucius Fox of Waynetech couldn't quite deal with under the radar, but there was still a measure of control that he needed to maintain over their agreement. And one of those conditions was that Todd not be allowed to use the computer unsupervised, in the event that the former criminal decided to try and utilize it for purposes outside of it's intention.

"I need to know the current operating status of our side-project, and how soon you can get it up and running."

Jason's eyebrow shot up as he heard that.

"Up and running? What, you mean now?"

The Caped Crusader typed in a series of commands, bringing up a set of advanced technical schematics that had been supplied from a source he had withheld from Todd. He didn't need to know the source of this project, just that his role was to repurpose it for Batman's specific needs.

"Uh, I mean, I can get you a working version online within the hour, if you really need it. But we're still a few weeks away from a complete demo, let alone anything you wanna take out into the field."

Batman gave a slight nod as he indicated that Jason take his place at the terminal.

"There's an assassin loose in the city. A new player, by the look of it. My usual contacts are unlikely to give me anything to use, if they're even willing to talk."

Jason shrugged. "What, and you can't get them to talk?"

"I don't have the time. There's too high of a probability that he'll try and take out his target again. I need to get the assassin's location before that happens."

Todd nodded, beginning to work his magic.

"Right. And you'll need a skilled super-hacker such as myself to get our baby boy to start walking. Or maybe crawling, since I can only get you a barebone interface to work from."

Batman grimly looked over the files as Jason began to digitally piece together the patchwork framing of a highly advanced artificial intelligence that was meant to serve as a guidance system in the modern theater of war. Soldiers that were currently stationed in Qurac and Kahndaq during one of the worst civil wars in Eastern history were supposed to have this technology readily available to them already, but a hostile takeover of Waynetech's R&D division had forced the project to be shelved. Luckily, Lucius Fox was able to save his employer a few working scraps for Jason to build off of.

It was alot to ask of a young man, much less any man, but Todd had proven himself to be more than up to the challenge if given the chance. And that's exactly what the amateur thief had needed all his life - one chance to make everything right. Perhaps that was why, when catching the thief in the midst of stealing the front tire off of The Batcycle during one of his earliest cases, Batman took pity on this particular unfortunate soul rather than inflict the usual physical punishment. Jason hadn't handled himself like a man out to cause anyone harm. He had handled himself as someone rendered entirely desperate by a system that had forced him into homelessness and starvation, as evidenced whenever Batman looked into Todd's troubled background. A few weeks later, the vigilante returned with an offer.

It wasn't much in the way of changing how Gotham worked, but it was a start.

"Annnd... boom. Ready to lock n' load."

Batman scanned the data as it was uploaded into a thumbdrive that could be easily ported into his suit. It wasn't going to give him the expansive remote control of Gotham City's power grid, as he hoped, but it was going to be enough to at least get a lead going on Deadshot's whereabouts. And with Harvey Dent's life hanging in the balance, that was as much as he could hope for.

"Good work. I'll contact you again if there are any problems."

Removing the thumbdrive as soon as the rendering process had been completed, Batman readily placed it into his belt. As he moved to pull the lever that would restore the actual workspace that Jason thrived in, the vigilante noticed that the young mechanical engineer was giving him a certain look.

"There aren't any problems, are there?"

Jason awkwardly rubbed the back of his own head.

"No, not with the interface. I just... there's no easy way to ask this, so I'm just gonna do it. Promise not to get mad?"

Batman glanced back at him.

"The things they're saying about you on the news. About, y'know, Harvey Dent. You didn't really try and do that, right? Because I appreciate everything you've done for me, but if I'm working for a guy looking to off..."

The vigilante held up his hand in a bid to cut off the sentence.

"The assassin that I'm hunting is responsible for this, not me. I was trying to protect Dent. He's... a friend."

Jason quizzically stared back, wondering if what he had just heard was true. It definitely didn't seem that way from how the District Attorney had talked about Batman to the press, but the more that he thought about it, the more it made sense. A public face of venom, a private face of trust. Just as his alliance with Jason himself was a secret, an alliance with Harvey Dent was certainly not out of the question for The Dark Knight, and having the D.A. publically rally against him was just the sort of thing that would ensure no one suspected the vigilante of having a series of allies.

The relatively brash young man had often wondered if he was the only one, and it seemed as though that was clearly not the case. Jason smiled, thinking of how cool it'd be to be apart of a whole network of people working for a man who beat the hell out of criminals on a nightly basis. It was like something out of The Gray Ghost, or one of the comic books that he had grown up reading.

Of course, that was a kid's way of looking at it.

In reality, he was aiding and abetting a known fugitive.

But to him, what else was new?

"Sweet. All I needed to know."

Looking back at the platform as it flipped over once more, revealing the two cars that were going to be giving him hell tomorrow morning, Jason began to think aloud.

"You know, I've been thinking about that ride you've been handling ever since we met. And not to knock it, but you're in need of a serious upgrade. Maybe if we collaborated on something, we could get you a new set of wheels..."

By the time Jason had turned back around, Batman was nowhere to be seen.

He smirked, his mind already brimming with ideas.

"I'm not taking that as a no."

Gotham City, The Narrows
The Rooftops
10:35 PM


"Alfred. I'm uploading a sizable data file into the Batcomputer's secure server. Make sure it gets through."

Pulling back the black leather cowl that adorned his head, making sure to stick to a heavier set of shadows to ensure that his identity wasn't compromised, Batman plugged the thumbdrive into a USB port that was built into the base of the armored helmet that he wore beneath the mask. Made up of a series of carbon fiber plates with a tri-weave layer of kevlar and nomex, the helmet itself looked like something best described as a monstrosity out of Cyberpunk novel, with exposed wires and a series of complex rivets and circuitry barely hidden away by steel plates. It was all protected by a thick plastic shell that made up the inhuman shape of the cowl itself, but even so, the vigilante wondered if he could do with building something simpler to fit his purposes.

"I'll see that it does, lad. I assume that whatever this is, it's the project you were referring to that'll aide you to entrap the esteemed Mr. Lawton?"

Batman smirked.

"You're partially correct. In reality, though... this is going to go alot farther than that."

Even as he spoke, The Dark Knight watched as a digital grid began to interface with his cowl's digitized readout of the cityscape ahead of him. Everything began to take on a blue tint, followed by a red one, then a green. Before finally settling on the chosen color of yellow, building up the beginnings of a program that would become instrumental in Batman's escalating war on crime.

"Alfred. I'd like you to meet Ace. Say hello, boy."

From the other end of the line, Batman could hear his friend gasp in shock as a three-dimensional face stared back at him, partially resembling a great dane. The program had been modelled after Bruce Wayne's late childhood companion, who had ran off into the woods behind Wayne Manor and never returned, only to be discovered by the billionaire later in life after stumbling into the cavernous depths beneath the mansion's grounds. The dog had fallen in and never made it out. This was Batman's way of paying a bit of tribute to his old friend.

Scanning. Subject identified as Alfred J. Pennyworth. Known associate of billionaire Bruce Wayne, former Agent of SHIELD. Authorized user of this interface. Greetings, Alfred J. Pennyworth.

"My word. You and your friend have certainly been busy, haven't you?"

The vigilante wordlessly placed his cowl back over the shell, again peering out at Gotham as he prepared to take his new weapon out for a test run. Stepping forward, he allowed the A.I. program to observe the city as Batman himself saw it - cold and gloomy on a rainy night, with shades of hope seeded throughout. Somewhere in the darkness, Deadshot was more than likely to still be waiting to take another shot at his friend, awaiting release under heavy guard from Gotham General. With Ace on his side, there was a slight chance that Batman could prevent that from happening. But he had to hurry, as the poison-induced coma that Bruce Wayne had sustained from their first encounter had the vigilante at a slight disadvantage.

Awaiting your command. What shall I do first, Mr. Wayne?

"Secure a private connection to the Waynetech satellite. Triangulate it to map out the rest of Gotham, and use that data to find a man named Floyd Lawton."



"We're bringing him down."
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