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Nine months ago, the world was made aware that superhumans lived among them. But despite the rise of costumed heroism spawned by the arrival of the Metropolis Superman, this evolutionary leap forward attracted the attention of a powerful being: Darkseid, vanquisher of the New Gods. The Apokoliptian ruler sought to turn the superhumans into members of his own personal army in bringing the universe towards harmony.

Just three months ago, Darkseid's herald, The Silver Surfer, saw defeat at the combined hands of The Flash, The Spectacular Spider-Woman, The Blue Beetle, The Spirit Of Vengeance, interdimensional dopplegangers of The Fantastic Four, and most notably of all, The Mighty Thor. Revealed to have been a brainwashed Mr. Miracle, The Surfer was decommissioned and restored to his rightful self, signaling victory for the heroes of Earth.

But not all is as it seems. While Darkseid has seemingly cast his gaze away from Earth, a series of extreme threats look to destabilize it's already compromised state in the wake of percieved metahuman chaos.

Norman Osborn was the first to announce a superhuman deterrent in the form of a formidable robotic army, their designs fashioned off of the mythical Goblin.

Billionaire Lex Luthor followed suite with his latest discovery to the world in the form of the most advanced artificial intelligence on Earth, Brainiac, providing alien tech with direct access to the world's cellular networks under the guise of a harmless application.

In the highly corrupt Gotham City, the mob saw themselves upended by a devastating attack by Oswald Cobblepot, leading a superhuman group of his own and utilizing a mass  extortion to render himself exempt from retaliation.

In reaction to The Flash's increased prescence as the protector of Central  City, Leonard Snart and Mick Rory have began to formulate a team that whose sole purpose is to dispatch The Scarlet Speedstress and wreak havoc in their wake - The Rogues.

And most chillingly of all, in the remote mountains of Antartica, a powerful threat to all of humankind emerged from the cold - a twisted doppelganger of The Man of Steel from the home dimension of this earth's new Fantastic Four, wielding Kal-El's immense power with none of his moral constraints.

The heroes of Earth about about to be tested in unimaginable ways, as the rise of the superhero has now given way to the dawn of something that was only inevitable - the supervillain. Can Superman, Captain America's Avengers, The Batman, The Fantastic Four, The Flash, King Thor, and others bring order where the seeds of destruction are being sewn?

The answers lie with you. Welcome to Ultimate One Universe: Season Two.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by AndyC
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“LexCorp stocks are at an all-time high since the Brainiac app was introduced to the public three months ago--”

“--survey of high school and college students in over fifty countries indicated that their grades improved drastically when using Brainiac as a study aide, and many are now not only calling for the app to be used in schools, but going so far as using it instead of traditional--”


“--profits nearly tripled compared to what they were before Brainiac was integrated into the company’s financial--”

“--debating the radical economic plan devised using Brainiac that may actually resolve the national debt within the next ten--”


“--taking a moment to consider the long-term effects of using this app. We’ve had over a decade now to study what social media does to our mental health, our attention spans, our empathy. While everyone is enamored with what we can do with Brainiac, are we overlooking what Brainiac can do to us? Analysts say--”

“--lastly, seismic activities detected off the coast of Singapore this afternoon were revealed to be the work of Superman. Experts believe the caped strongman was shifting tectonic plates to prevent a larger earthquake that would have endangered--”


”I’m just saying, I’ve never really considered beef bourguignon to be ‘Christmas’ food,” says Lois, before scooping up another forkful. ”It is really good, though.”

”The best I say, eagerly heaping another helping onto my plate. ”Ma, you’ve really outdone yourself this time.”

”Oh, hush now, Clark,” she says as she takes off her apron and sits at the dinner table. ”It’s the same old recipe I’ve been using since my Mama taught it to me. And the same one she used since she got it off the TV.”

We share a chuckle that’s more a matter of tradition; she’s said that exact joke just about every time she’s made that meal. Still, a little bit of familiarity, whether it’s a favorite dish or an old joke, can go a long way to make a new place feel more like home.

Ma’s new townhouse is certainly a lot smaller than the old farmhouse, which means a lot less room for her belongings. Most of what she wasn’t able to fit into her new home was purchased in a big yard sale, and the rest is now sitting in a storage unit on the far end of town. I know it’s all just stuff, nothing to get overly attached to, but it’s still a big change.

Then again, there have been a lot of big changes in the past three months.

Lois was nominated for a Pulitzer for her coverage of the Toyman crisis….and got the Daily Planet sued for the insinuation that LexCorp was connected to it. As a result, she’s now off of superheroes and instead covering local crime stories. For most people, tackling the heads of the city’s criminal syndicates would be a thrill, but for Lois Lane, it might as well be covering a neighborhood bake sale. Superman coverage has instead been given to Ron Troupe, who’s a hell of a writer, but tends to lack the human element in his stories that Lois provides.

I’m still on sports with Lombard, which is…..interesting. Steve’s not a bad guy, honestly; he’s just the kind who never really left high school. The kind who, for instance, might try to trick you into reading a note that says “Ice wallows perm” out loud in the middle of a meeting. Or loudly brag about his romantic prowess, describing in unnecessary amounts of detail feats that I’m pretty sure are anatomically impossible-- and, given how much the female staff of the Planet laughs behind his back, seem unlikely at best. Still, despite his corny machismo, the man’s a walking encyclopedia when it comes to statistics and sports history. Plus, I still usually get to work with Jimmy when I get assigned to bigger games, so things could be worse.

Speaking of Jimmy, he’s been hooked on Brainiac ever since it was released, gorging himself on all the crazy things he can do when plugged into the app. Every week he’s found a new hobby, and it isn’t long before he finds a way for Luthor’s artificial intelligence to make it even better. That, of course, hasn’t stopped him from going out of his way to try and impress his new crush, a shy new intern named Linda Danvers. I honestly don’t know how he finds enough time in the day-- and that’s coming from someone who usually can’t stand still for five minutes without having to stop some emergency on the other side of the world.

Thankfully, that particular part of my life has been relatively calm for the past three months-- ‘relatively’ being the operative word, of course. There’s still some new crisis every day, whether it’s a natural disaster, the Intergang syndicate on the move, or some punk who gets his hands on an experimental power-suit and thinks he’s able to take me out. However, all of those are things I’m usually able to wrap up in a few minutes. No real threats have reared their ugly heads in Metropolis since my last encounter with Livewire.

That isn’t to say being Superman has become easy. I still have to walk on eggshells when I go to work in countries like Russia, China, Khandaq, or anywhere else where a false move might accidentally trigger an international incident. The usual suspects like G. Gordon Godfrey, when they’re not crowing about what a genius Lex Luthor is, are still telling their audiences how they should be afraid of me. And after my encounter with the Silver Surfer a while back, there’s still the looming threat of his master, whoever he may be, coming to Earth.

And that’s not even going into what I found in the Arctic…..

”Something wrong?” Ma says, looking at Lois with concern. Lois is staring into her stew, absently stirring the steaming chunks of meat, when she blinks and snaps out of her contemplation.

”Oh! Sorry, it’s….it’s nothing,” she says. ”I just got reminded of a story I’m working on. Two weeks ago, Donnie Gillespie, one of the major soldiers for Intergang, starts working as an informant for the MPD. Then, yesterday? He sits down for a drink at this place called the Ace O’ Clubs, and halfway through his whiskey sour….he explodes. Just….splat. The cops can’t find a reason for it, no trace of bombs, no bullets, no nothing. One second he’s sitting pretty, the next, from the waist up he looks like, well….”

Lois gestures to the bowl of steaming beef chunks, and Ma’s face blanches.

”.....oh, well, I didn’t realize it was--”

”Oh! Oh my God, Martha, I’m sorry,” Lois blurts, embarrassed. ”I wasn’t trying to imply anything, I just….I spend all my time around reporters and homicide detectives and, well, people from other planets, so it’s….kind of hard for me to dial it back down for the dinner table. I didn’t mean to--”

”It’s okay, hun,” Ma says, and we spend the rest of the meal in awkward silence.

When Ma gets up to clean the dishes, Lois buries her face in her hands.

”Oh God, I’m blowing it,” she mutters to herself.

”You’re doing fine,” I reassure her quietly, ”She like you.”

”I just compared her favorite dish to a gory murder scene!”

”Well, okay, that probably didn’t help,” I admit, ”but she’ll come around, I promise. Just--”

”Clark? Hun?” Ma calls from the kitchen. ”Did you bring an extra Christmas present?”

Lois and I share a concerned glance.

”No, just the one from each of us,” I say, slowly getting up from the table. ”Why?”

”Well, there’s an extra one I found by the door, and it doesn’t have a name on--”

Before she’s finished the next word, I’m in the kitchen, the rush of air in my wake knocking over a chair and sending some loose paper flying. I pluck the wrapped package from Ma’s hands as gently as I can, and a split-second later I’m a hundred yards back, in the vacant lot behind the row of townhouses.

”Clark!” Ma calls after me.

”Stay back!” I shout, in a mix of fear and anger. ”We don’t know what this is. I need to make sure it’s safe.”

For all I know, it could be a bomb. Or a package full of some biological agent. Or God knows what. Who would target my Mom, though? Has someone figured out my identity, decided to get to me by getting to her? So far the only people who know the big secret are Ma, Lois, and Batman. Could someone have gotten to him, made him talk?

I focus my vision, looking through the wrapping paper and packaging to scan the contents.

”It’s…...it’s a cell phone,” I say, confused, as I walk back towards the house.

”That’s strange,” she says. ”Any word on where it’s from?”

”Let’s see…..” I say, carefully peeling away the wrapping paper.

Sure enough, taped to the box is a small note, made out to one Martha Kent. It’s clearly a mass-produced typed letter, with only the name at the top changed.

Dear Martha,

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, a time when all of mankind can take a moment to appreciate the things we have, connect with family and friends, and look out for those less fortunate than us. Sadly, many do not have the means to connect with the world around them, and that is something we at LexCorp intend to fix.

As you may have heard, a few months ago, we announced the creation of Brainiac, a new program, an app that I believe has the potential to change the world for the better. It is available for free on all compatible smart devices anywhere in the world. However, there are many people who do not have a smart device of their own, and therefore would be unable to participate in the excitement to come.

To that end, I have taken it upon myself to make sure as many people as possible get to experience the technological revolution that Brainiac will provide. We’ve taken the liberty of mailing a LexCorp L-8SE to every person in the civilized world who does not currently already own a smart device, along with a full year of unlimited service, completely free of charge. This will also give you unlimited access to Brainiac, which I know you will find easy and even fun to use, and you may be surprised at the sheer number of ways it will improve your everyday life.

While I certainly hope you find this gift to be worth your while, it’s also important to remember that the holidays are not just about giving and receiving, but about looking ahead with hope for brighter days. There’s a certain individual in the city where I live, who calls himself ‘The Man of Tomorrow.’ Personally, I look forward to the day when that title can be given to every man, woman, and child in the world. And I hope those Men and Women of Tomorrow can expect you to join them soon.

Happy Holidays and best regards,

Lex Luthor


”Clark?” Lois says as she walks out into the back lot with me. ”Are you okay? That thing’s not going to blow up or fry our brains or something, right?”

I realize my hands are shaking. Before the Toyman was destroyed, he mentioned a ‘great intelligence’ that Luthor had in his possession, so vast and so powerful that even a genius like Lex could only fall for the illusion of control over it. Something ancient and alien…...and not only has Luthor turned it into a trinket for mass consumption…..

…..but now it shows up on my mother’s doorstep.

My blood boiling, I take the box with the LexCorp phone in one hand…..and I throw it into the air, as hard as I can.

A few seconds later, I see a small flash and puff of smoke as the air resistance incinerates it like a piece of space junk upon reentry.

”Everything all right, hun?” Ma asks.

”Yeah, it’s….it’s fine now,” I say, letting the anger pass. ”It’s getting cold out here. Let’s go back and have some dessert.”




Elsewhere

Attention. Device L-8SE number 6AXC3-5OTR9-9UVQ2 has gone offline.

”And this is important…..why, exactly?”

The device was destroyed from extreme friction and heat. 2.332 picoseconds before its destruction, it was recorded traveling in excess of 61,740 kilometers per hour, and was at an altitude of 66,000 feet.

”Ah! So the big one has taken the bait, and now we can hunker down and start reeling him in. Who was our lucky soul who received that package?”

The device was sent to one Martha Kent, currently residing in Smallville, Kansas, United States.

”Ha! Ahahahaha! Ahahahaaaand the gifts just keep on giving! You know, this isn’t the first gift I’ve received from that sleepy little hamlet in the middle of nowhere. I’ve managed to get my hands on quite a few stocking stuffers from Smallville, believe you me. Had to make a pretty big mess to get some of them. But it was worth it, as, well, I’m sure you know.”

Affirmative. Many of your innovations would not have been possible without the acquisition of xeno-technology first found in that location.

”Ahhh, yes, but there is one gift from Smallville that I haven’t opened just yet. A gift that may very well prove to be even more valuable…..”



”.....the greatest gift of them all…...Happy Holidays, Brainiac.”

And to you, Mister Luthor.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Morden Man
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SHIELD Outpost Nineteen, New York

It was the middle of the night and a routine arrest during a guns bust had resulted in the acting director of SHIELD being woken from her sleep. The cause? An eighteen-year-old boy named Michael Holt. Maria Hill stood behind reinforced two-way glass watching the young man who was currently handcuffed to a table. By her side was Reed Richards. The hair around his temples had greyed somewhat and he looked to have lost some weight but otherwise he seemed in rude health. In fact, he seemed positively excited by the prospect of sitting down with Holt.

“You want to explain to me what’s so important about this kid?”

“Michael Holt is much more than just a kid, Maria. He scored higher on SHIELD’s APTI-SMRT test than I did – on his first time of trying.”

Maria made next to no effort to disguise her tiredness. “Is that meant to mean something to me? Because I’m drawing a blank.”

“The boy didn’t even finish high school. Can you imagine how intelligent you have to be to produce the kind of technology he does without the benefit of a proper education? It’s incredible.”

Reed could barely hide his enthusiasm. Had he not been so focused on Holt, he would have noticed that the tone of his voice had managed to rub Maria the wrong way. Reed had never been a field agent, or law enforcement of any kind for that matter, so the technology was fawning over was still abstract to him. He had never seen it used up close and personal on innocent civilians like Hill had.

“No, Reed, I think ‘criminal’ is the word you’re looking for on this one. Did you read his file? We picked Holt up selling weapons out of his friend’s to some small-time crooks. They were planning a heist. People could have been killed using the weapons he designed.”

“I’m under no illusions about the boy’s past,” Reed saif a grimace. “But it’s not his past I’m interested in, Maria, it’s his future. There’s still time for Holt to turn things around with the right guidance.”

The super scientist meant to provided that guidance. Richards was listless for all of about a week after the Fantastic Four had gone their separate ways, but he soon found his calling. It had been the message from the other Reed Richards that had given him the inspiration he needed. He drew up a list and saw to it that it ended up in Maria’s hands before the hour was out. Michael Holt was at the top of it.

“You know, when you told me you wanted to start a school, I thought your intake would be a little more distinguished.”

Reed looked to the acting director of SHIELD with a grateful smile. “Does that mean you’ll let me take him?”

Hill let out a weary sigh.

“It means that if Holt so much as forgets to pay his cell phone bill, he’s going to be seeing in his twenties from the inside of a padded cell in The Raft. If I agree to this, there can be no mistakes. Do you understand me?”

Reed considered the statement. Everything that had gone wrong for him and Ben, Johnny, and Sue since they had arrived in this world played through his head – being tortured in Latveria, the incident with Namor, and Hector Hammond's destroying not only the Baxter Building, but the timecraft too being chief among them. He figured he was due some good luck. And if anyone was worth taking the risk for, it was Michael Holt.

“No mistakes,” Reed promised. “You have my word on that.”

Hill signalled to a nearby SHIELD agent and Reed followed after them. He could feel butterflies in his stomach as the agent unlocked the door to the cell and gestured to Richards to step through. Holt turned expectedly towards the door and scowled in Reed’s direction, who in turn responded with a collegial smile and sat across the table from him.

“Good afternoon, Michael. You don’t mind if I call you Michael, do you? Mister Holt seems a little formal and … well, given the circumstances, I don’t think that we need to trouble ourselves with formalities.”

Holt looked as bemused by Reed’s easy charm as he was by the super-scientist’s sudden appearance. “What the fuck do you want?”

“I want to help you, Michael.”

Holt nodded his head gently as Reed spoke. At first his dark brown eyes appeared as if they were fixed on him, but after a second or two it became clear that Holt was staring straight through him, almost as if he wasn’t there at all. He seemed agitated. His knee bounced up and down beneath the table restlessly as he tossed and turned Reed’s statement in his head.

“Help me, huh? Well, why don’t you start by doing what I told that dyke behind the the glass and getting me my fucking lawyer?”

There was no malice in Holt’s words. They were designed to shock, not to offend. Even his swearing seemed put on, affected for Reed’s sake, like a performance that Holt slipped in and out of with ease to keep people from getting too close to him. Reed had seen it before. Breaking through Holt’s barriers would be a difficult task – but he knew where the young man would end up if he didn’t manage to.

“The woman behind that glass is the only person standing between you and a prison cell.”

A derisive snort escaped from Holt’s squat nose.

“You think I’m afraid of doing a little time? I’ve got more family in prison than I do on the outside. I ain’t got shit to be scared of in prison. Go ahead and put me in there. Lock me up and throw away the key for all I care, man. Just stop wasting my fucking time.”

“That would an incredible waste,” Reed sighed. “You’re a very intelligent young man, Michael, and I think you know that. The weapons you designed? Quite impressive. Not perfect, but then again what is at your age? Some of my designs were as rough around the edges as yours.”

For the first time Holt’s guard seemed to slip – if only by an inch. Whether he knew it or not, there was a flicker of exhilaration in his eyes when Reed had mentioned his designs. Since SHIELD had gone public with the ‘return’ of Reed Richards and co., he’d barely been able to travel in public being mobbed. He was one of the most famous men in the world. Or at least, he’d assumed the place of one of the most famous men in the world. The regard that Holt held Reed in wasn’t his regard to own, but he used it to his advantage nonetheless. Perhaps sensing the ploy, the young man slunk back into his seat and shrugged his shoulders casually.

“Rough around the edges? What the fuck are you talking about? My designs are airtight.”

Reed smiled. He looked towards the two-way glass and made a gesture to the SHIELD agent waiting on the other side. The agent re-entered the room with one of Michael’s designs in hand. It was a handgun that had been confiscated earlier that night. Except instead of packing snub-noses, it dealt out the kind of repulsor blasts that Tony Stark had made use of as Iron-Man. Reed made a show of inspecting the weapon.


“Oh, I don’t know about that. The makeshift arc reactor you designed is impressive given it was made out of used car parts – but inefficient. These weapons wouldn’t have lasted longer than maybe a week or two. And then what, Michael? What would you have done when your customers came looking for a refund?”

Holt seemed tickled by the suggestion his designs were less than perfect. “See, now I know you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

With breath-taking ease, Reed took the weapon apart. In three swipes, he removed the arc reactor and set it down on the table between the two of them. Holt stared down at his weapon, now in several pieces, and gulped hard. Reed could sense the young man starting to realise that perhaps not everything he’d read about the world’s most famous super-scientist had been hype. In fact, most of it had done him a disservice.

He was about to ask Reed a question when the door to the cell opened. In the doorway stood the woman Michael had described as a ‘dyke’ only moments earlier – Maria Hill – and the SHIELD agent that had brought Holt’s weapon into the room. It was clear from the look on Hill’s face that this time they had designs on more than the weapon.

“Come on, Richards, it’s time to leave. The boy’s obviously not interested in joining your little school. I don’t know why you insisted on meeting him in the first place – I told you he didn’t have what it took. Do you believe me now?”

Reed stood up from his seat abruptly and placed a paternal hand on Holt’s shoulder.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Michael. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.”

“Wait, what?!” Holt shouted. “Where are you going?”

“What was it that you said earlier? ‘Lock you up and throw away the key’? Well, I can’t pretend to be an expert in law enforcement but I believe this is the part where they do that.”

There was panic in Michael Holt’s eyes. For the first time since he’d been dragged in by the SHIELD agents, he appeared to realise the extent of the trouble he was in – and that he had squandered his once chance at redemption. He shouted to Reed as reached the doorway in a desperate attempt to stop him from leaving.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Just wait a second, alright? You didn’t say anything about a school. Look, I know I fucked up, man. I know that. I was only running those weapons to get the hell away from the group home they have me staying in. That place is a hellhole, man. I can barely breathe up in there, let alone think.”

Hill shot Reed an impatient look. He acknowledged it, but looked back towards Holt, and let out a disappointed sigh. Perhaps in preparation for his looming career change, Richards body language became less that of a scientist and more one of a teacher that had been let down by one of their students.

“With a mind like yours that is a great shame, Michael.”

Holt shrugged his shoulders. Suddenly all of the aggressiveness that he had been affecting began to melt away and the real Michael Holt came into sight. Instead of putting on a front or performing, he seemed to give true consideration to what Reed Richards was offering him – and what the ramifications of accepting it might mean. It was a welcome step towards progress.

“So if I go with you, then what? I gotta walk around in a dumb blazer and shorts? Because I think I’d rather do the time than sit in some dusty ass classroom looking like the Fresh Prince.”

“There won’t be any blazers,” Reed smiled as he extended his hand towards Holt. “And there definitely won’t be any dusty classrooms.”

A resigned look appeared on Michael's face and he reluctantly shook Reed’s hand. “Fuck it.”

The nod that passed between Reed and Hill confirmed his gratitude for her intervention. He had worried for a second there that he might not have been able to reach the young man. Saving the world wasn’t enough anymore, Reed needed to teach them – and to do that he needed a white knight. Though Hill had her doubts, Reed was sure he had found the leader his project needed in Michael Holt. For the first time, Richards spoke the name of his project outloud.

“Welcome to the Future Foundation, young man.”
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Eddie Brock
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FAVELA ESTRELA D’ALVA
RIO DE JANEIRO
BRAZIL


William “Buck” Richlen made his way down the winding streets of the favela, packages tucked under his arm. With his fair skin and close-cropped blonde hair -- the same shade as that which sprouted through the gap in the front of his shirt -- the American was an odd sight in this part of the world. Estrela D’Alva was far off the beaten path, not one of those sanitized favelas which drew tourists wanting to gawk at the poor. Just in the walk from the post office, Buck passed no less than three groups of boys toting refurbished rifles. They paid the gringo no mind. They were genial enough once you got to know them -- just kids who had fallen through the cracks of society, been forced to grow up too quick.

As Buck turned the corner, he almost found his head taken off by a stray soccer ball. The shirtless, barefoot children playing in the dirt giggled at him. In a few short years, he knew, they would be the ones sitting on the corner, resting rifles in their laps. Buck stopped to retrieve the ball, which was a hand-me-down's hand-me-down. A few more kicks like that, and the laces were liable to finally separate altogether. Less than five years ago, the World Cup had been played only a few miles from here, and yet the children still could not afford a new ball. He rolled the ball back towards them, saying, “Tenha cuidado da próxima vez, sim?” But they had already run off to resume their game. He smiled and shook his head.

It was a pleasant afternoon, so Buck elected to take the long way home. This route took him straight through the heart of the favela. The market was crawling with people who had the same idea; they crowded the tables and stalls, bartering with merchants over fresh fish from the coast, butcher's cuts of steak, and other consumable goods. Buck wandered over to his favorite stand: a farmer who brought bushels of fruit from the interior. As Buck pawed through the day's offerings of tangerines -- so fresh that the smell of citrus permeated his nose -- he saw a small figure approaching. “Bom dia, Luca,” Buck said without looking up.

Luca was the farmer's son, a wisp of a boy with skin so tanned as to make him appear almost African. The mop of hair atop his head nearly extended past his eyebrows. “Bom dia, Senhor Richlen,” Luca answered. He straightened his striped t-shirt, which -- by virtue of being about three sizes too big -- was nearly falling off his shoulder.

Buck held a tangerine up to the light, examining its color. “Você terminou o livro que eu te dei?” the American asked.

“Quase,” the boy replied.

“Boa,” Buck smiled. He looked over at Luca and said, “Eu acho que talvez o Moby Dick seja o próximo.” Finally, he had collected the fruit of his choosing. Opening a paper bag, he deposited the tangerines inside. He set the bag down on the table and reached for his wallet.

Luca peeked inside the bag. “Você não quer experimentar as papaias? Eles são muito bons hoje.” Buck couldn't say whether Luca had the making of a good farmer, but he certainly had a salesman's disposition.

“Talvez na próxima vez,” Buck conceded. He drew a five real note from his wallet and handed it to Luca. As the boy began producing change, Buck held up a hand and said, “Mantê-la.”

Luca beamed. “Obrigado, senhor.” Enthusiastically, he rolled the American's bag closed and passed it back to him. As Buck put his wallet away, Luca leaned in close; in the American's native tongue, the boy whispered, “Hail Hydra.”

"Hail Hydra." Buck smiled and took his fruit. By the time he made it home, the sun was dipping below the hills, and the streets were starting to clear. Buck began the walk up the two flights of stairs to his apartment. He passed his first floor neighbor, who was already settled into his nightly routine of sitting in front of the TV, watching Portuguese dubs of American family sitcoms. Then, there was the neighbor directly below him, a stunning Brazilian girl who might've been attainable if Buck was ten years younger. Finally, he came to his door. At first glance, it seemed no different than his neighbors’ -- until you found the thumbprint scanner hidden above the deadbolt.

Buck stepped inside the apartment, carelessly tossing his mail onto the table beside the door. He didn't turn on a light until he reached the kitchen. Once he had the day's prize squared away in a bowl on the counter, he picked the ripest fruit and carried it with him to the living room. He plopped down in his armchair and reached for the TV remote. Upon settling on a channel -- one showing a world news report -- Buck began peeling his tangerine. He had gotten no further than halfway through the rind when he felt the touch of cold steel to his throat from behind.

“Turn it off,” urged a quietly demanding voice from behind the armchair. To emphasize the point, the owner of the voice twisted the blade at Buck's throat, letting him feel the sharpened edge raking at his skin. Having no choice but to comply, Buck slowly raised the remote and turned off the television. He dropped it with a clatter, hoping perhaps to startle the intruder, but her grip held firm. If anything, she pressed the blade harder until Buck felt the trickle of blood running down his Adam's apple.

You haven't reported in for a long time, Agent Richlen, came a new voice from the shadows of the apartment. He saw a figure step forward, the scant light coming through the window showing a white star on a field of blue across the man's chest. When we saw what happened to Director Fury and Abdul al-Rahman, we assumed the worst. It's good to see that you were able to escape unharmed, Captain America said. Perhaps you can tell us what happened in that interrogation room.

Buck sneered. “If you're trying to intimidate me, save your breath. You might as well slit my throat and be done with it.”

We're not here to kill you, Agent Richlen, the Captain replied. We didn't spend three months of our time tracking down a hired gun. SHIELD has plenty of agents already working on that. No, what we want are answers. He took a step forward. His bright blue eyes cut through the darkness. And one way or another, you're going to give them to us.

“The kind of answers you want earned Nick Fury a bullet in the heart,” Buck warned with a sense of twisted pride. “You think they won't do the same to you?”

The Captain didn't blink. We're counting on it, actually. But first, you're going to tell us how we can find them.

That made Buck laugh. His laughing made him squirm, and his squirming twisted the sword against his throat, but he just smiled through the pain. “You must be getting senile, old man, because there's not a thing you can threaten me with that they wouldn't do ten times over if I betrayed them. So, like I said, just cut my throat and forget about all of this before you make an enemy you can't unmake.”

This time, it was Captain America's turn to smile. Somehow, that smile filled Buck's head with doubt. Why would he smile? Maybe you're right, Richlen. Maybe we can't use fear to get to you, he conceded, but unlike your friends, fear isn't our only tactic. He took a step back and nodded at someone behind Buck.

Diana Prince emerged from another shadowy corner of the room, holding a length of rope which seemed to shimmer in the twilight. Instinctively, Buck knew there was something unnatural about this rope. As she approached him with it, he tensed in the chair -- but Katana's grip and biting sword limited his resistance. Diana took Buck's hands and bound them. With the loose end of the rope, she stepped back to where Captain America stood. Buck's wrists felt warm where the lasso touched them. He looked up at Diana who asked, “Where can we find Hydra?”

A snarky comment came to mind, but Buck found himself unable to say it. He merely opened his mouth and felt silence come out. The bindings tightened around his wrists and grew warmer still. Buck felt an inkling, a compulsion to blurt out the true answer which danced at the back of his mind. He resisted this temptation and was rewarded with a sudden burning sensation at his wrists; it seemed to cut through his skin and get into his very soul, immolating him from the inside out. He knew without explanation that there was only one way to make it stop.

“Y-you… you can't,” Buck sputtered, a flop sweat breaking out beneath his hairline. His interrogators shared an uncertain look, so Buck -- feeling the burning coming back -- explained, “There is no ‘one’ Hydra. They work through proxies, intermediaries. They only get their own hands dirty when they absolutely have to.”

But there has to be a network, Captain America reasoned. Lines of communication. Something that ties the organization together.

Again, Buck felt the information being pried from him. Wincing, he said, “Anonymity is how they protect themselves. Only those at the top get the full picture. The rest of us… we mostly work independently. You get a handler to relay information, but outside of that…”

“Mostly?” Diana repeated. “You said you ‘mostly’ work alone?”

Buck began to grind his teeth. “Well, obviously, some missions are too big, have too many moving pieces… you've gotta work together sometimes, but they try to limit your exposure. They don't want too many agents knowing the identities of other agents,” he explained. The veins in his head and neck tightened as more information was called forward. “And, of course, you learn who the movers and shakers are… the folks you can count on to supply weapons, intel, any kind of logistical support; sometimes, they're Hydra, but other times they're just receptive to the cause.”

Just then, a high-tech drone came through the window. Buck's eyes tracked it as it drifted towards the Captain. As it came to a stop, a man's voice reported, “Captain, we've got movement on the street. Might wanna think about wrapping this up.” Buck closed his eyes and felt a wave of relief. He was starting to think that help would never arrive.

Captain America nodded at the sphere. Copy that, Vic; hold position for now, he ordered. Then, he turned his attention back to Buck. It sounds like you're aware of at least some of the identities of other Hydra agents. Smart man like you, you wouldn't happen to have kept a record of that sort of thing, would you? Something to stash away for a rainy day, perhaps?

Buck's eyes went wide. He summoned as much willpower as he could muster to resist the effects of Diana's lasso, but the amount of pain he suffered seemed to be proportional to his resistance. As Diana pulled the lasso tight, Buck let out a pained cry that could surely be heard clear across the favela. Slumping his head down in the chair, he whimpered, “B-bookshelf.”

The Captain and Diana's eyes both went to the bookshelf at the far end of the room. Handing the Captain the loose end of the rope, Diana wandered over in that direction, asking, “Where?”

There were noises coming through the window now. Voices, the sound of car doors opening and closing, the distant barking of dogs. The voice from the drone chirped in again, “I don't know what y'all just did, but we've gotta move. Now.

“Where?” Diana repeated forcefully.

War and Peace,” Buck answered.

The commotion outside was growing louder. Suddenly, there were footsteps coming up the stairs. Diana brushed a finger across the spines until she found the appropriate book. Flipping open the cover, she saw a shape beneath the binding, something that had been put there by someone. She slammed the book shut and returned to Captain America's side. Someone was banging on the door, shouting in Portuguese. Diana put a hand on the Captain's arm. “We have to go,” she urged.

Yet Captain America didn't move. His fingers tightened around the lasso as he furrowed his brow. The banging intensified. Earlier, the Captain began, you said something about the ‘cause.’" More Portuguese yelling. What cause is that, exactly? What is it that Hydra is hoping to accomplish?

Buck raised his eyes. He was crying. “What have I done?” he said to himself. He looked at Captain America, but really, he was looking through him. “They'll kill me for this. They'll make me suffer.” He was inconsolable.

“Steve, we really have to go,” Diana insisted.

The Captain tightened his jaw. What do they want, Richlen?

Buck's eyes danced back and forth. The front door nearly broke off its hinges from the force of the banging, and Buck stared it down. “They'll kill me,” he said again. He met Captain America's gaze and made his move; with one swift motion, Buck grabbed Katana's blade with his bound hands and forced it into his own throat. With a gargle, the life spilled out of him and ran down the front of his shirt. All parties present were aghast. Buck's body fell limp, and the lasso slipped from his wrists.

The Avengers were given no chance to contemplate what had just happened. In the next moment, the door succumbed to the pounding and burst open. Men and boys armed with rifles rushed into the apartment. Captain America drew his shield, and Hoplite flashed her gauntlets. As Katana dived for cover, the room erupted in a hail of gunfire. Bullets plinked and deflected back at the attackers, and the shoddy walls were perforated with dozens of holes -- as was the body of the late Agent Richlen. Get the book out of here! I'll hold them off! the Captain shouted over the chaos. He took a labored step forward to cover his teammates’ escape through the window.

The cramped confines of Richlen's apartment afforded Captain America an opportunity. Diving behind the television set, he let his shield rip and watched as it angled off the walls, knocking down the first line of attackers. It returned to him not a moment too soon, as a stray bullet shattered the television above his head in a shower of sparks. Cap grasped the base of the entertainment center and hurled it in the direction of the door. It smacked into a gunman and sent him spiraling over the balcony railing. Cap used the distraction to get in close to the rest, snatching a rifle by the barrel with one hand as he drove the shield into another gangbanger's chest with the other. At close range, they didn't stand a chance against him.

Then, the whole building quaked. Captain America lost his grip on the gun and stumbled backwards. He regained his balance in time to see one of the drug runners standing atop the building across the street; the gangster leveled the rocket launcher on his shoulder as he lined up another shot. Cap knew this one wouldn't miss. Turning, he ran for the open window as bullets whizzed by. No sooner had he jumped than he heard the coming whistle. The Captain spun and braced his shield midair. The top floor of the apartment building exploded in a massive fireball, and the ensuing shockwave slammed into Cap's shield. The force of the explosion sent him crashing into the second floor of another building, right into a Brazilian family's living room.

“The whole damn favela’s been mobilized against us!” cursed Hawkeye into his earpiece. Cap could heard the sound of more gunfire behind his words.

“Bird's ready to fly, but I don't know how much longer we'll be able to secure the LZ,” reported Cyborg. “Cap, you coming?”

Captain America stirred, groaning as he rolled over the glass and debris that had followed him onto the carpet. His ears were ringing from the explosion, and he felt like he had just tried to stop a moving train. He pushed himself off his knuckles and onto his feet, albeit a bit haltingly. Shaking loose the cobwebs, he told his team, Headed that way now. He looked over to see the poor family whose apartment he had just trashed. Unfortunately, his Portuguese was shaky at best. Eu... tenho desculpas pe-pela... bagunça? It didn't seem to comfort them any. He shook his head. Sorry, he added before running out on them.

From the sounds of it, Barton's assessment hadn't been far off. As Cap sprinted down the corridor, he heard the kind of commotion usually reserved for active warzones. Clearly, Richlen had protection -- from the gangs, from Hydra, or both. Coming to the end of the hall, Captain America leapt shield-first through the window and landed one floor down on the street. The Avengers were engaged in an all-out firefight against every able-bodied male in the favela. In the distance, he saw the Quinjet hovering, its shields barely protecting it from the constant assault. Running down the street, Cap saw pickup trucks arriving with more men. Sam, I could really use a ride, he called out.

“Twenty seconds out,” Falcon replied.

The pickup trucks began unloading, and the reinforcements pointed in the Captain's direction as they yelled orders. Need it to be more like ten, Cap said as he urged himself on faster. The first wave of firing began, and Cap barely got his shield up in time. The new arrivals were positioned between him and his destination; he had no choice but to run through them. Barreling ahead with his shield, Captain America vaulted up onto the hood of a truck and springboarded himself into the air. He performed a forward somersault to keep his shield between him and the incoming bullets. Sam?

Just as gravity took hold and the Captain began falling back towards the men trying to kill him, he felt two hands catch him under his arms and pull him skyward. He looked up to see Falcon straining against his weight. “You know, this is a hell of a lot easier when it's Katana I'm carrying,” Falcon grunted. They climbed until they crested the rooftops, at which point Falcon let Cap go. The Captain hit the rooftop and rolled, springing back to his feet. Falcon raced ahead to meet the others at the landing zone as Cap followed.

With the grace and form of an Olympic hurdler, Captain America leaped over rooftops towards the besieged Quinjet. He could see Hawkeye standing on the landing ramp, peppering arrows into the converging gangs as Hoplite and Katana met the attackers head-on. Now re-entering the fray, Falcon made a series of passes, thinning the herd with devastating blasts from his twin semi-automatic pistols. The Avengers were winning the fight yet losing the battle. An RPG whistled through the night and connected with one of the Quinjet’s engines in a spectacular explosion.

“We take another hit like that, and we’ll lose the jet!” Cyborg reported urgently.

Get her airborne! Cap commanded. He was still a good hundred or so yards away. The Avengers began to pull back with Hawkeye providing suppressing fire. From the base of the ramp, Hoplite paused and looked back at the Captain. Still running, he waved her on. Go, go! The gangbangers, having followed her sightline, split their attention and began firing on Captain America. He ducked behind his shield and kept advancing. The Quinjet grew louder as its VTOL engines powered up. Seventy yards now.

Cap watched as the Quinjet rose from the rooftop. All of the militia’s attention was focused on him now, seeing him for an easier target. The bullets whizzed dangerously close around his shield. Fifty yards away… forty… The Quinjet’s landing ramp was still extended, waiting for him; an army stood between him and his goal. Thirty yards, he was gaining fast. A lobbed grenade was batted away with the shield. Twenty yards. The man with the RPG took aim. An explosion rocked the building beneath the Captain, and he felt his footing give way. He scrambled to push off of the collapsing rooftop, but was unable to find purchase. Captain America tumbled, the street racing up to meet him…

The Quinjet swooped between buildings, performing a midair roll that should’ve been impossible. The jet swung around to present the open landing ramp to the falling Captain; bracing himself, he dropped through the opening and slammed into the waiting arms of Hoplite and Hawkeye -- mere moments before the ramp closed behind him. In the same fluid motion, Cyborg torqued the Quinjet out of its dive and somehow got the nose pointing skyward. The Avengers were thrown back against their seats as the forward thrusters engaged. The men on the rooftops were left shaking their rifles impotently at the sky as the Americans escaped with their prize.

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

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Tonight's Episode:
"The Case of the Wrong Wiseguy"


New Jersey Turnpike

Billy Martin pulled his eighteen-wheeler off to the shoulder of the highway and looked back at the flashing lights warily. The black car with the blue lights didn’t look like a cop car to him. He was a long-haul truck driver from Tennessee, so naturally he’d been all over the country. He’d noticed over the last few years law enforcement had stepped their game up when it came to disguising unmarked cars. No longer were they just patrol cars without the silver paint job and lights mounted on the roof.

But still… it was the middle of the night and he was a long way from Jacksonville. There’d been rumors among the truck drivers at the truckstops in this part of the country. Supposedly a hijacking crew was working this part of I-95 from the Delaware line all the way up to Connecticut. Nothing concrete, just secondhand information whispered from a friend of a friend.

Billy got his license, registration, and shipping manifest ready as he saw the door to the car open up and someone step out into the dark. While he held papers in his left hand, his right hand searched behind his seat until it pulled a sawed-off baseball bat out. He kept the bat low and out of sight. If this was a legit cop, then no doubt the sight of the bat would scare the hell out of him.

He saw a light click on in the cop’s hands as he approached the cab door. It was dim, but Billy noticed he was dressed in a suit and tie. He didn’t like the look of this at all.

“Need you to step out the truck, sir,” the man announced from the ground.

“Happy to,” said Billy. “Once I see some identification.”

He heard the man laugh. It was soft and filled with humor. It at once put Billy’s mind at ease. He let loose with a breath he didn't realize he was holding.

“Understandable,” the man said. “This time of night and a car like mine pulls you over? I get it. I am about to climb up to your door so you can see my ID. Is that okay?”

“Go ahead,” said Billy.

The man stepped up and placed a wallet against the glass. He flipped on the interior light to get a better look. The glare on the glass made it hard for Billy to read the details, but he could read the three big letters at the top of the wallet clear as day.

“FBI?” asked Billy. “What the hell--”

That was all Billy got out of his mouth. The man on the other side of the glass opened fire with a gun. Three bullets shattered the glass and hit Billy in the neck and face. He was dead a few seconds after he fell back into the cab.


---

Yonkers
Two Days Later


Misty Knight sat down low in the front seat of her car and watched the action. Corner boys stood ready at their post, serving fiends who always came to this side of town for their dope. The little slingers worked for a bigger fish ironically named Whale.

Whale was another link in the chain that started with Scarfe, the man who had framed her for a crime she didn't commit. That led to her being kicked off the force. His motives for all that damage died with him, but that hadn’t stopped her for digging into Scarfe’s life and following where it led. It had taken Misty six months to even get this far. Nobody wanted to talk about Whale, even with a gun in their face.

Misty took a deep breath and got out the car.

---

Heroes for Hire Offices
Midtown Manhattan


“You need someone who will defend your rights, someone to go to bat for you, someone who will act in your best interest. What you need… is a hero! Heroes 4 Hire, New York’s #1 affordable legal defense team. Call us today at 212-443-7637, that’s 212-4HEROES. Call today!”

The commercial played on a loop on the small TV in Chase’s office. It was him in front of a green screen rendered to look like an ornate legal library. He’d paid for the commercial, and six airings of it on a local channel, with part of his severance for the DA’s office. The rest of the money went towards six months worth of rent on the office. That was six months ago. The next month’s rent was coming do. Which is why Chase even considered meeting with Angelo’s wife.

“You gotta help us, Mr. Chase,” Teresa Campisi squealed.

Teresa was every bit the sterotypical mob wife. She wore loud clothes, gaudy jewels that would make Mr. T jealous, enough makeup and botox to freeze and conceal a dozen ugly faces. The crying made her makeup run and had turned her into a Dali painting come to life. Chase started to go for the pocket square in his breast pocket, but instead opted for the disposable tissues on the desk.

“It’s going to be hard, Teresa,” Chase said as she blew her nose. “Angelo has, to say the least, a checkered past.”

“But he’s innocent of this!”

“I’m sure he is,” said Chase. “But… it’s hijacking. Angelo and his crew are known for this. On top of that you got a murder charge."

“Yes,” Teresa said with a sniffle. “But Angelo has never hurt anyone when he rips off these trucks. It’s just not good for business to rough up the truck drivers, Mr. Chase. And-and-and they’re accusing him of ripping off a truck carrying Samsung phones.” She slammed her fist down on the desk, her jewelry rattling. “It’s bullshit! Angelo has never touched a truck carrying those phones. He has [i[standards[/i], Mr. Chase. He only boost Apple products and you know this.”

Chase cleared his throat before picking his iPhone off the desk and tucking it into his inside jacket pocket.

“If he were guilty you know we’d be over with Jake Wexler and his people, but Wexler is too tied to Angelo's boss. They won't fight for him like you would. They're gonna plea bargain all the way.”

“Again, with Angelo’s record and the charges he's facing--”

Teresa reached into her giant, alligator skinned bag and dropped several banded rolls of cash on to the desk. To Chase, the bills all appeared to have Benjamin Franklin’s dowdy face on them.

“With Angelo’s record,” Chase started again, reaching for the cash. “And the charges he's facing, it’s going to be hard, but I think we can work something out.”

---

“Man, fuck you bi--”

The little dealer didn’t get the words all the way out of his mouth before the heel of Misty’s boot struck him flush in the jaw. As he went down, spraying blood and teeth, two other dealers started to go for their guns.

Misty leveled one with a dropkick to the chest. She fell to the ground and swept her leg to knock down the one dealer still remaining. He cried out as he fell to the ground, his cries being cut short by a kick to the throat by Misty. She stood and let out a breath she had been holding in from the start. She felt a buzzing in her hip pocket. The screen on her phone announced Chase was calling.

“Yeah?”

“We’ve got a case. Where are you?”

“Uptown.” She looked down at the hurt drug dealers. “Maybe a little further north. Just running some errands.”

“Can you meet me for lunch?”

Misty stepped on one of the boy’s hands before he could get to the gun that had fallen on the ground. He cried out in pain and cursed as Misty dug her heel into the back of his hand.

“I think I can be done by then,” said Misty. “Wanna meet up at Stavros’?”

“Sounds great. See you then.”

“We’re gonna have a nice little chat,” she said as she tucked her phone back into her jeans. She kicked one of the boys in the ribs as he tried to get up. “I want to talk about your boss. And let’s try to speed this up. I got somewhere I need to be.”
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Simple Unicycle
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10:37 PM; December 23rd
Rose Blossom Tea House; New York City

ISSUE #17
AN ECHO OF THE PAST


The Beretta under my coat shifted nervously, the hot lead in the clip burning a hole through the kevlar vest under my shirt and into my flesh. I took a sip from the cup of tea I had ordered, eyes scanning the room over for the men. Micro told me a group of the Xuè Shǎn triad would be meeting here tonight. Ever since I effectively toppled the Maggia pecking order other groups of crooks have stepped in to try and fill the hole in the criminal underworld I had created, and since I got back to New York I've been making sure organized crime was weak.

It hasn't been easy for me since I came back into town, what with Osborn showing off his Goblins to pick off any vigilantes, but I've ducked under the radar pretty effectively for the most part. Another guy is trying to step into the underworld too, calling himself the Octopus. And I thought that Dave picked a stupid codename. Spider-Woman seems to be keeping him busy thankfully, but one of these days I'm going to have to gun after him myself.

I blink a few times to clear my head of all these thoughts. I need to focus, lest the Xuè Shǎn slip in without me noticing. Dave said they all had tattoos on their necks, red lightning bolts. Guess they're fans of the Flash or something. I keep my eye peeled for them, already twitching to pull out my guns and start shooting at the first sign of trouble. But no triad have walked through the door yet. It's just me and the customers...

At least until a familiar face walks through the door.

I haven't seen him in nearly half a year. He's cleaned up and walks with a limp, but I know who he is. Judging by the way he falters when he sees my sitting there, he remembers too. The assassin from Roscoe Street Station. I had Micro look into the guy as best he could from my vague descriptions. All we got was a name: Billy Russo. I had been waiting for the day our paths would cross again. The charming smile he put on when talking to the host falls. I give him a shark's grin to make up for it. I'm not sure if he's part of why I'm here tonight, but if he is, I'm gonna deal with him.

As if on cue, the triad walk in not long after he does. He stands as they begin to head to the back room of the tea house. He exchanges a few words with one of the guys, and points me out. I already know what he's saying. I stand up and pull one of my Berettas from its holster, firing off a shot at the man Russo was speaking to. The man falls to the ground as a squirt of blood flies into the air, and the customers are already screaming and running as I shout, "GET OUT OF HERE!"

Bullets fly through the air, destroying tea cups and pots and chairs and tables as they fail to hit me. I leap out of the way and behind a pillar for cover. The civilians are running and there's a group of seven guys on the other side of the room who want to see me dead. Hm. Me versus a bunch of guys in a heated gun fight where I'm outnumbered and outgunned? This isn't ringing any bells at all. Whatever. No time for jokes. Time to act.

I fire blindly from cover to encourage the guys to dive into their own. The teahouse is a cacophony of gunshots and property damage. I roll out of my cover and behind a booth, peeking around it to see that the scumbags are all hiding as well. Chancing it, I run out of cover and fire, managing to make one of them scramble out to try and get a good shot; he goes down with a couple of shots to the torso. I slide behind a tea cart, bullets striking it and causing a porcelain pot of ginseng to shatter on the floor.

I push the cart forward with one arm while using the other to fire in the general direction of the triad. I hear one shout in pain, guess I got lucky. Before long I'm not too far from them but my Beretta is out. I reload it and pull the other Beretta from its holster, and with two guns in hands I run towards the group's cover. One of them rises to get a shot as I jump onto the booth, and as I leap into the air I put him down with a few well placed shots. While going down I fire off another couple of rounds, putting down two of the triad. Three left.

I pull myself to my feet as they do the same. One of them rushes at me with a haymaker. I duck out of the way and stick the pistol to his head as he runs past me, putting him down with a *BANG!*. I rush towards the other one, who raises his pistol to try and get a shot off. I bat it out of the way with one of mine while pointing the other one at his gut and firing once, twice, three times, before leveling the other Beretta at his head and firing.

I suddenly remember Russo when I feel a bullet strike my left arm. I twist around in a crouch, firing off a round that hits Russo in the gun arm. He picks himself up and throws himself at me before I can react, and I drop my Berettas as the two of us fall to the ground. We begin to struggle, grappling each other and trying to subdue the other. Sometimes I manage to claw his face a bit, other times he gets a few good punches to my head.

I finally throw a kick around that catches him in the jaw, dislocating it and disorienting him enough for me to get on top and punch him a few times to make sure he's out for the count. "Billy! Long time no see, pal." I pull him off the ground and drag him over to a window. "Now last time, I went easy on you, but you still didn't learn your lesson. So now I'm gonna make sure you never forget, because I'm about to give you something to remember me by..." I punch the window out and grab a jagged piece of glass...

*Ssssss-shhhhhlcht!*

Russo screams as I cut into his face. It doesn't sound like he's giving it his all. So I put a bit more punch into it. That gets him going.

By the time I'm done his pretty face resembles a Jigsaw puzzle with the pieces in the wrong places more than anything else. I toss the blood-covered glass shard away, before leaning down and grabbing his head so that we can look eye to eye. "If I ever see you around again, Russo, I will fucking gut you and hang you by your own intestines. Do you understand me?" I'll have to take that groan as a 'yes'. I drop his head. "Good."

I leave the blood-soaked tea house behind with a spring in my step, satisfied with a job well done.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Torack
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Torack The Golden Apple

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There was something beautiful about humanity. He never considered the simplicity of a human life before he found the helmet. The mundane, every day worries that people faced, running from place to place, rushing to meet deadlines. Fretting and stressing about minute things that, in the grand scale of things, mattered very little. And yet, to them it was as though the world would end if they didn't accomplish what they set out to do. Getting filled with anxiety the more they left it, chewing themselves raw.

The jobs, the machine that kept the world turning. Money and the endless struggle to appear richer than they really were, fighting over the latest technology, the newest car, the best looking house. It was all amusing. But it was also more than that. Despite all that chaos, there was an undercurrent of something holding everyone together, keeping them from tearing each other limb from limb. That was the wonder, the beauty came from the realization it was all because they each shared a will to survive and from that will was borne love.

It only took him a step into the shoes of godlike power to realize that. Scary.

He was sitting on a sofa watching his fiancee, sitting on the other end of the large room, reading out a letter that came earlier that day. Appeared right at their doorstep, the box that came with it. Just like that. Even if the letter had been from Lexcorp there was some uneasiness he felt, mainly because it was just a box and it could have been anything inside. Lexcorp logo or not. He watched her with no small amount of curiosity as she brought out a phone, almost squealing in happiness as she booted it up.

"I honestly can't believe it's free! For a year!" She said taking a moment to look at him before turning back to the phone.

"Very generous of Mr. Luther," he said. He was going to say more when another fit of coughing took him, a hand going up to stop Inza from rushing towards him. "I'm fine," he managed to squeeze out as he dug through his pockets and brought out a prescription bottle, "I have my pills. Go back to figuring out your new device."

"You're sure you're okay?" She asked, half-standing from her sofa.

Kent took a moment to pop two pills, feeling the magic he infused in them suppress the poison. "I'm fine, I promise. How's the phone, though? That's what I'd like to know."

"It's amazing!" She said as she thumbed through it, "I mean, this makes Apple look like it's centuries old."

He snorted.

"You sure you don't want one of your own?"

"I have a very reliable phone, thank you. One I'm not exactly keen on giving it up. Besides," I don't need a phone when I can talk right in your head. From anywhere in the cosmos.

"Don't do that," she said waving a hand in front of her face. "I'm still not totally used to it yet. It's so weird hearing you in there."

"Believe me, there's a lot weirder shit out there that you'd rather not know about," he said as he stood with a grunt, "anyway, I'm guessing you're going to be too busy messing with that thing to cook dinner. So what do you want? Chinese? Italian?"

"Anything's fine."

He pulled out his own phone and started looking through the various restaurants when a sudden spark went off in his head followed by a faint, burning rotten smell.

A few moments went by. "Honey, you okay?" He heard Inza ask, her voice sounding a thousand miles away.

"I'm sorry, what?" He said as he snapped back a few seconds later, looking to see she was only a few feet from him, a worried expression on her face.

"You looked like you had a seizure or something. Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," he stood and stretched out his hand and the helmet appeared out of a pocket dimension, his stomach clenching with worry as he put it on. Then, closing his eyes he tried to feel out where the source of the magic was coming from, his mind expanding beyond his body. It took him a moment of concentrating when he finally picked it up.

It couldn't be... how strong of a --?

He felt another spark in his head, the same magic coming from the exact same place. "Oh god."

"What?"

He looked at her. "I have to go."


Daxam, a planet 7 lightyears from Earth

Multiple columns of smoke rose into the sky, fires engulfed the massive city, and cries of pain and terror rose from the chaos. Only one building remained untouched, every other surrounding it had been reduced to rubble or was slowly crumbling from the fire. Above the chaos, a golden ankh formed in the sky and Dr. Fate emerged.

Shock was the first thing he felt. That and a few other feelings all mixing together to form a fine blend of rage. As he descended he looked around in horror at the aftermath of whatever happened to this place; a few seconds later he landed in a clearing, a sort of massive square that once held a large statue that was now nothing more than a cracked plinth, and of the statue there was no sign save the few large chunks of rubble around the square. From his left he heard the desperate cry for help and flew towards it, his hand waving over the pieces of collapsed building, causing it to lift and land some distance away with a plume of dust. Underneath, within a ditch that he assumed was once the foundations to a home, he saw a mother with three children huddled around her.

He landed and got down to a knee. "What happened here?" He asked.

The mother simply pointed to the massive and untouched domed building. "A demon."

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by webboysurf
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T H E I R O N F I S T


Issue #1: The Winter of Our Discontent

New York City, New York

December 22nd, 2018 | 1:43am | Chinatown


It was a pleasant night, though the bitter cold bit viciously at Danny's fingertips. The snow fell softly. It had been little more than a day since his incident at Harold Meachem's apartment, and Danny wasn't entirely sure what his next move should be. His revenge was stolen from him by an unknown assailant. The Triad was getting bolder in New York, with the Golden Tigers being the dominant gang running the streets. For now, all Danny could focus on was bringing the Tigers to justice.

But tonight was slow. No one seemed to be out, instead situating themselves indoors with their families and loved ones. Perhaps even the Golden Tigers took the holidays off. Danny shook the thought. The gang operating out of Chinatown had caused nothing but pain and heartbreak. It was easier to bash skulls when not thinking about their families. So he turned his thoughts back to his own heartbeat. His breath. Every step was a moment of peace. Lei-Kung had taught him this form of meditation when he was a child. Danny's pace slowed down.

It was in this state that his senses heightened. He was simply being present now, the world's distractions washing away into perfect being. In this heightened state, he heard the giggling of a young couple a block away. A small group of young men were gathered outside of a small bar, waiting for their cab. The faint sound of tires crunching snow... before harshly breaking. The doors slammed open. Something was wrong.

Danny's eyes opened, and he dashed into action. From his pocket emerged his mask, which he quickly tied over his eyes. He wore a pair of yellow sweats, a yellow shirt, and a green hoodie. Anyone could easily assume this was just some jogger at first glance. Within moments, he was at the scene of the crime. A black van was idling outside of a small jewelry store. This seemed pathetic for the Golden Tigers.

The Iron Fist approached the front of the store, his fists clenched as the street lights back-lit his figure. Inside, men in balaclavas were shoving as many jewels into their duffel bags as humanly possible. Only four in number. It took them a moment to notice the vigilante in the doorway. A smile cracked Danny's lips. "With the number of superheroes and maniacs in New York, I have to give you credit. You have balls."

The thieves drew hatchets, an odd choice given the nature of their crime. It was relieving that they didn't have guns, though. Bullets were harder to dodge. Two of the Hatchets ran at the Iron Fist, swinging downward. Two quick blocks along the shaft of the weapons, followed with a quick twisting of the wrists and a rip downward. They were disarmed, the hatchets clattering on the ground. Next came swings and blows. Each punch, and kick were expertly blocked and dodged by the Iron Fist. Despite his expertise, they were managing to force him out towards the sidewalk. The two remaining Hatchet's inside dropped their bags on the pavement and surrounded the outmanned vigilante. For a moment, the fighting stopped.

"<Leave now, and you may live.>" One of the Hatchets still armed practically spat out the words in Chinese.

Danny shifted his foot slightly, changing his stance. He took two deep breaths, and then the two armed Hatchets charged. That was their great mistake. One swung towards the Iron Fist's ribs, while the other swung down at his back. Danny reversed the first attack, plunging the hatchet into the side of the other foe while grabbing the handle of the hatchet swinging towards his head. A swift kick at the knee of that Hatchet helped release the grip of his weapon. A few quick swings of the blunt-end of the hatchet at the two foes right next to him knocked them unconscious. He dropped the weapon and watched the other two hatchets skirt around the Iron Fist, having fetched their weapons once again.

Iron Fist was taken aback as he heard the door of the van behind him slide open. Before he could turn around to defend himself, a whip wrapped around his right wrist. A strong force flipped him down towards the ground and onto his back. Danny looked up to see the foe standing over him, a man in a black leather jacket with a whip in his right hand. He wasn't wearing a mask, and his smile was wide with hate in his eyes. With a flick of the wrist, the Iron Fist was flung up into the air and then back down as the foe stepped out of the van. The other two Hatchets quickly circled around and got in to make their getaway.

Danny didn't have much time to react. His left hand quickly reached over to his wrist, loosening the whip's hold and freeing his hand. His right hand clenched into a fist, glowing slightly just as the van's tires began to desperately grip for traction in the snow. Danny's fist lifted up and slammed into the ground, a large fissure in the pavement forming and shooting before the van. It was just large enough that when the van drove forward. The front left tire got caught in the new fissure just long enough for the Iron Fist to jump up to his feet and begin rushing towards the vehicle.

The foe wielding the whip, someone Danny dubbed "Backlash" in his head, swung the weapon directly towards Danny's right fist. This was just the kind of move Iron Fist anticipated. Danny spun around, the whip cracking against the ground less than an inch from his back. He kept his momentum with the spin, managing to strike his fist against front of the van as it had just begun to catch traction and begin to speed up again. His Fist cut through the chassis like butter, reaching the engine block itself and shooting it with force out onto the street. The two Hatchet thieves in the front of the van broke through the windshield and slid onto the snowy Chinatown street, falling limp rather quickly.

All that was left was Backlash, who squared up against Iron Fist as he turned around. Backlash cracked the whip left of the Iron Fist, anticipating Iron Fist to dodge right. The whip went right on the upswing, wrapping around Danny's left bicep. The speed of the whip ripped through Danny's shirt and hoodie, and blood began to seep through the clothing as a sharp gasp of pain escaped the Iron Fist's lips. With a flick of his arm, Backlash pulled the Iron Fist by the arm forward. His arm strained in its socket, an audible pop coming from the shoulder as the snow crunched under foot.

Backlash attempted to meet the Iron Fist with a swift punch towards the face. Unfortunately for him, Danny clenched his right fist and it began to glow as he lifted it up to meet his foe's in defiance. Backlash's left fist crumbled, with the bones in the hand beginning to pierce through the skin. Backlash fell backwards from the force, screaming out in pain himself. His left hand was a broken mess drenched in blood, but he rolled onto his feet and kept his whip in his right hand. The whip cracked towards Danny's Fist, again piercing the skin and drawing some blood as it wrapped around the wrist. A flick of the wrist spun Danny around so the whip wound him up and kept the Fist close to his chest. Backlash let go of the whip briefly to deliver a quick blow to his chin, forcing Danny to spit blood in the process.

Backlash was in control even when his whip had left his hand, as the handle of the whip spun back around and was caught in his grip within only a second. He flicked the weapon to his right, spinning Iron Fist out of the tangle of the whip and straight at the side of the van, creating a large dent in the van's closed door. The Iron Fist fell to his knees, blood tricking down from the corners of his lips and dripping into the white snow. A small smile escaped his lips. It had been months since anyone had even managed to give him a challenge. "Fun gimmick... Why are you working with the Hatchets?"

"They paid for my protection. Knew you've been operating in the area. Said you were dangerous, but clearly they were mistaken." With that final jab, he cracked his whip towards the Iron Fist's neck. Danny could barely breathe... but he was prepared for this. His fist lit up and slammed into the ground, firing a shockwave towards Backlash to launch him backwards. The whip launched Danny forward and tightened its grip around the vigilante. The Iron Fist almost blacked out, but managed to stay conscious long enough to see and grasp at a glint that came from the snow. A hatchet. The blade of the hatchet was raised up and cut through the fibers of the whip, freeing Danny's neck so that he could breathe. Backlash impacted into the glass of the storefront, flying into the jewelry store as Danny slid onto his back in the snow. Danny stayed there a moment, listening to see if Backlash was stirring. Apparently the final blow was too much for him. The Iron Fist rested in the bloody snow, staring up at the sky.

I am Daniel Rand... the Immortal Iron Fist... and I was nearly beaten by an Indiana Jones knock-off.

I really need to step my game up.


The distant sounds of police sirens and a realization of what would happen if he was found here stirred Danny to his feet as he slipped into a nearby ally, disappearing into the cold winter's night.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Bounce
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Bounce

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"Life Is But A Dream" [ Part I ] [ Mordred’s Lullaby ]

| THE HOUSE OF SECRETS
| The Dream Dimension | The Year of Our Lord 537

It was late into the witching hour when there rose such a commotion as to rouse the dead.

Stirred to wake at this most uncivilized time of the night, the Caretaker harried from out of the bed chamber in a fright. A candle was held aloft, the flame flickering atop the fragile wick as the bedclothes-clad man padded in bare feet through the fortified manor house. The eldritch glow of the candle’s pale light was cast along the walls as the man hurried across the upper floor to the narrow stairwell.

As he arrived at the landing, the man held the candle above his head so that it’s light cast a pallor of illumination across the threshold. The door to the great hall hung off its hinges, as though thrown open by some inhuman force.

An ill wind seemed to pass through the room, sending gooseflesh crawling through his skin.

Turning, the shadows on the wall betrayed a small form lying atop the table in the banquet hall. As the Caretaker moved closer, the candle light shone on the prone form of a mere boy. A Briton by the look of him, clad in the colors of a patron. He was page, then. Or possibly just starting to squire.

Blood strained the white parts of his tabard, turning dark the red portions. All too soon, it became apparent that the child suffered from a grievous wound. The Caretaker’s hand stretched out toward the boy, as though to feel his flesh, but hesitated just a moment before.

The child was dead.

Where did I go wrong?

Raising his head up, the Caretaker panned the candle around to sweep it’s light further down the length of the table. That was when he saw her. A woman with raven black hair. Gown torn, tattered, soiled, and bloodstained as though she had been through some horrific ordeal. She was brooding, pulling and twisting at her hair anxiously with one hand.

It was then that the Caretaker realized the resemblance between the woman and the boy. “Woman,” he uttered, addressing the wraith-like spectre in the chair. “Why are you come here?”

The hand stopped, still holding to the lock of hair, even as her eyes -- baleful, wrathful eyes, aglow with hellfire -- turned up toward the Caretaker. The man was taken aback a step by the sheer force of the lady’s gaze.

Then she spoke, her tongue sharper than a thousand daggers, each word tipped with sweet poison as she commanded, “I would speak with your master, servant.

Think twice, then Morgana.

An odor like brimstone accompanied the sudden proclamation, as the Caretaker’s candle moved to shine a light on what appeared as a column of smoke, amid which an English Gentleman was seated in a smoking jacket and pipe in hand. Holding the smoking pipe out, the smoky figure seemed to indicate the prone form of the dead child as he said, “See you not the fruits of your labors?

Pulling her fingers through her hair, the lady paused a moment to collect herself. When she had, the green-eyed monster stared down a being that many would have described as the Devil himself. “My labors have brought you the greatest story ever told,” the woman stated flatly.

For his part, the smoking spectre of Morpheus seemed to incline his head in some quiet acquiesce of the lady’s claim. “And what do you ask in return for this story?” the Lord of Dreams demanded in reply.

It was then that the lady cast down her eyes. Perhaps a trick of the candle light, or else it was a singular moment in which the woman appeared human. For a long, icy silence she merely stared over the body of the child that was laid atop the table as though awaiting the gravedigger. “My son’s wound is beyond my power to mend,” the lady remarked, glancing back up at the smoke-clad figure of the gentleman. More pointedly, she added, “But not yours.

Morpheus brought the pipe to his lips, inhaling a long draw of smoke, which he savored for a moment before he spoke. “If this story of yours is as enamoring as you believe it to be,” the Lord of Dreams conceded, before he paused to make clear his point, “But only if, and the story will not favor him.

The woman betrayed no singular emotion, yet her presence was that of a dragon’s that was embroiled in Perdition’s flames. “You would make Merlin the hero of my tale?” the lady tossed back haughtily.

Morpheus smiled. A twisted, beguiling gesture devoid of mirth. “Nay,” the Lord of Dreams spoke, saying only. “Arthur.

The lady’s fingernails were drawn like talons across the table. Curls of wood carved up as she raked the surface in the only outward sign of petulant indignation. In the stillness, she seemed to be weighing her options. Or whether she had any. It was with regard to the latter that she seemed deflated of ego and asked only, “Have we a bargain?

The Cheshire smile that the Lord of Dreams boasted only became an even more enigmatic gesture. “Always a pleasure doing business with a lady,” Morpheus declared, as the form of the English gentleman seemed to collapse into the column of smoke. As he disappeared, the smoke traveled forward to envelop the form of the boy, which seemed to disappear as the cloud passed over it. Until the smoke had cleared and both were gone.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts

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𝗕𝗜𝗥𝗡𝗜𝗡 𝗭𝗔𝗡𝗔 𝗪𝗔𝗞𝗔𝗡𝗗𝗔
𝖠𝖴𝖦𝖴𝖲𝖳 𝟤𝟢𝟣𝟪 ⫽ 𝟢𝟨𝟢𝟢

It was over. With help for his allies and family, T'Challa was able to defeat M'Baka and successfully reclaimed the throne. It was a respected fight between the Black Panther and the White Gorilla inside the royal palace with their men fighting each other. At first, it looked as if the Gorilla was going to deliver the killing blow until Vixen attacked. She managed to get him over the railing and gave the Panther enough time to tackle the Gorilla, causing them to break it. After falling two stories, the fighting abruptly ended at the throne room. Thanks to the suit, T'Challa was the one with the least injuries and got off of the ground. While M'Baka was too wounded to continue fighting, but he still tried.

After a swift kick to the face did M'Baka realized that he had lost. He got on one knee and declared defeat, making T'Challa the victor. Then, he closed his eyes and awaited death; however, it never came. Instead, T'Challa demanded treatment on him. He knew that the White Gorilla was a valuable ally for the Black Panther and Wakanda and killing him was going to be a waste. When M'Baka was taken to a hospital, the duel was officially over and cleanup begun. Soldiers that fought for the White Gorilla were rounded up and placed under arrest, leaving their fates at the hands of the king. Then, he gave them parole if they accepted T'Challa as the rightful king. Most of them didn't hesitate to accept the offer while those that refused were sent to jail. All of them were going to be spending their remaining lives behind bars for being traitors to the crown.

It had been an hour since the duel ended. The cleanup efforts were finishing up as the reconstruction of the throne room was getting ready to begin. Shuri was checking on the Vibranium mines to make sure that production wasn't halted by the previous king. N'Yami was using her medical knowledge to see if her son's injuries were life threatening on the balcony. And Vixen was looking for him.

"Your body took a beating. But, it should heal if you get some rest." N'Yami said. "God knows that you deserve it."

She heard the door opening and saw that Vixen walking towards them. She was the first outsider to see the true Wakanda that didn't have bad intentions. But, she might not be different for her son. Her necklace gave her the ability to mimic an animal whenever she touched it. It wasn't made out of vibranium nor Wakandan technology based on appearance alone. Just looked like a standard homemade necklace. Once things got back to normal, she planned on asking Vixen if she was willing for Shuri to study it. To see what was giving her the strange ability. After finishing things up with her son, N'Yami walked towards Vixen, thanked her for her assistance, and leave to see if someone else needed her help.

With the fighting over now, Vixen had some time to process the reveal of Birnin Zara, the hidden megacity of Wakanda. At first, it was breathtaking for her to look at since it can't be compared to Tokyo or New York City. Even when they landed, she was still impressed at everything. Now that she had some time to think and look around, she was confused and upset by the secret. Why would they hide this achievement for the rest of the world? What else were they hiding? She wanted answers. When she approached T'Challa, he was watching the sunrise to enjoy a moment of peace. But, he noticed that she was standing next to him.

"How are you doing?" Vixen asked.

"Fine. Just a few broken bones." T'Challa answered. There was a moment of silence before he spoke again, "I know that you have questions. But, I cannot tell you for the safety of Wakanda and its people."

"At least tell me why you are being so secretive about everything?" Vixen questioned T'Challa's reason. He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. She was an outsider. An outsider that could end up being like Ulysses. An outsider that will attempt to steal the knowledge and sell it for a profit. But, she was the outsider that helped him twice. The outsider that saved his life during the final battle. And the first outsider that T'Challa felt he could trust in. So, he breathed heavily and looked at her.

"Alright." T'Challa said. "I will tell you about our history. Follow me."

Both of them left the balcony and started walking along the hallway. T'Challa guided her to his private office with the hidden stash of Wakandan wine. He grabbed two wine glasses for the guest and served them. Vixen grabbed the glass and took a small taste before deciding to drink it or not. It wasn't as good as French wine, but decent on their own. She took a sip of wine as T'Challa got ready to tell her the origins of Wakanda.

"Long ago, a meteorite crash landed in East Africa that affected the surrounding area. Centuries later, five tribes found the site and settled in peace until a powerful mineral was discovered. Vibranium. One of the tribes began to hoard the metal for themselves sparking a war lasting for hundreds of years. Then, a servant named Bashenga was given visions by the goddess Bast. The visions led him to a plant that granted powers of a god and was ordered to consume it. Upon ingesting it, the servant became powerful and used his newfound abilities to end the war and unite the tribes. When peace finally came to the lands, four of the five tribes supported Bashenga with the fifth tribe isolating themselves from the others."

"I am assuming that the fifth tribe was the Jabari?"

"You are correct. The J'Abari went to isolate themselves for the tribes and vibranium in the mountains of Wakanda." T'Challa answered. T'Challa answered. Before he went back to finish the story, he took a quick drink of his wine. "Now with the tribes united, everyone looked upon Bashenga to guide Wakanda to glory. He went from a servant to a king and the first Black Panther, protector of Wakanda. They used vibranium to thrive while the rest of the world remained ignorant and descended further into chaos. In order to protect ourselves and vibranium, we hid our truth from the outsiders; however, you are one of the few outsiders to see our truth."

"Wow." It was the only word that came out of Vixen's mouth after listening to the story. She was shocked at the idea that the rulers decided to uphold this isolationist stance for centuries. At first, it made sense that they would isolate themselves in the past. The major colonial powers of the time definitely would have torn Wakanda apart for vibranium. And both sides during the world wars could have invaded the country for the same reasons. However, she wondered if T'Challa truly knew how much the world has changed in the past century.

"It's an incredible story that you told me." Vixen said. "I am just confused as to why all of this is still unnecessary hidden."

"Because I have been entrusted by my ancestors to protect Wakanda and its resources. And the policy has worked for centuries. Honestly, there isn't any reasons to change it now otherwise to disrespect them." T'Challa responded sincerely to Vixen as he placed the wine glass down on the table.

"I mean, do you know what's going on in the world?" Vixen asked with a sharp tone in her voice.

"I only know what will affect my people."

"You honestly think that, don't you. Do you know that you live on the same planet as the 'outsider'?"

T'Challa was about to respond to Vixen's question when he heard the door opening. Director Nakia, a respected friend of T'Challa, was standing in the doorway with a look of concern on her face. She had been training to be a member of the War Dogs, the central intelligence service of Wakanda that ensures its safety for threats all over the world. She spent years as an undercover agent working throughout Africa before the king appointed her Director of the War Dogs. Now, she has been hard at work in keeping the truth for spreading beyond the borders; however, she was here because of a serious matter.

"Your presence is highly needed, T'Challa." Nakia spoke to T'Challa with a hint of fear in her voice.


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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Inkarnate
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Inkarnate Nico Nico No

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Gotham City Harbor
10:26 PM


My name is Helena Bertinelli.

Fourteen years ago a group of men broke into my home, assassinated my parents, and set everything I had ever known on fire. I was twelve years old. I swore on my father's grave that I would avenge him. Today, I start fulfilling that promise.


The sound of my foot meeting a mob-bought goon's skull echoes on the rooftops of an old warehouse on Dixon and Barr. As his body lands with a thud I point my crossbow downward, probably looking like the most terrifying purple popsicle in the history of Gotham.

“You're not—”

I stop him before he can even begin his conversation.

“Nope. I'm not.”

He's terrified, but he's also surprised. Can't say I blame him considering that up until now the supposed Caped Crusader – The Bat of Gotham – has had a monopoly on this kind of thing in Gotham. There isn't even a name for me yet and personally, I'd like to keep it that way. The best option of fulfilling my objective is to keep as many people guessing about who is responsible as I can. Visibility is my greatest weapon.

“He was out on business, so he asked me to fill in.” I quip, a wide smirk on my lips as I pull the trigger.

As he chokes on his own blood I move back into the shadows, scaling the nearest industrial crane as I look for the particular office in this shit operation where my target, Angelo Brancati, sits comfortably as he takes the reins of a human trafficking gig that Maroni trusts him to handle.

It's kind of funny that even with the threats sent in by the Penguin and the increasing vigilance of a particular vigilante with pointy ears that Maroni trusts a coward to run such an important racket to his organization. But Salvatore Maroni trusting the wrong person is going to become a reoccurring theme once I'm done with him. Brancati's biggest mistake was thinking that turning traitor and conspiring with Maroni and whoever-the-hell-else was his way up the proverbial mobster ladder. It's kind of tough thinking this dude used to be seen as a loyal soldier of the Bertinelli method; how he used to say he believed in what my dad used to say. But here he is making deals with people who want to turn Gotham as a middleman to teenage sex trafficking. That's the kind of “Christmas spirit” that Brancati has.

It makes it so very satisfying that he is who I get to start with.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Sep
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Sep Admiral EvilScottishGuy

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PROLOGUE

THE ICEMAN COMETH
Music






Five individuals sat around the table. Heads of the crime families of Central City, Araz Darbinyan sat at the head of the table. Until recently he had been the ‘Kingpin’ of Central City. He looked around the room, eyes shifted between the various members of their uneasy alliance. Central City had crime for decades, some of the most notable thieves had come from the gem cities but now they were under attack. Not from the Flash, they had discovered early on that so long as they ran covertly the Scarlet Speedster left them well enough alone, unlike the Bat of Gotham she seemed to hold no interest in tackling organised crime head on. Araz turned his head as Lewis Snart cleared his throat. Lewis was a gangster, he was a brute but somehow he still managed to be a tactical genius. It’s why he sat at this table. Him and his ‘Renegades’ were the likely culprits of this attack on the families.

Lewis must have sensed the resentment in the room, for he spoke first. “So, what are we going to do about this?” Everyone turned to face him. “Someone has been attacking our territory, taking out our men or convincing them to join him. Running raids on our bank accounts, our operations and so far hasn’t identified himself.”

Lewis must have sensed all the glaring in his direction as he looked all around. Raising his hands defensively. “Hey, I’ve been affected just as much as everyone else. In fact-” He pointed his finger around the table. “-I reckon that more of my safehouses have been raided than everyone else's here.”

There was an exhale of smoke at the end of the table as the large form of Jack Monteleone leaned forward, he pulled the cigar from his mouth and tapped the ash into the tray. “It’s just the kinda trick you’d do Snart. Try an’ fool us. Make us think you’re bein’ made weaker then BAM-” The table shook as Jack slammed his gargantuan fist down on the table. “-You’d storm in here an’ demand that we make you the boss.”

“Are you crazy?”

“It’s the kind of thing you’d do.”

The room devolved into argument shortly after. Accusations, threats. Araz simply sat, hoping that amongst the chaos that eventually some segment of truth would come out. He reached down to pick up his glass, recoiling slightly as the coldness of the glass caught him off guard. There had been no ice in his drink, and yet the liquid was almost freezing. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he did so a gust of wind broke through the twin doors, guns cocked and raised as three figures appeared in the doorway. The first walked in, wearing green with black spiked hair. He nodded to them all, noticing the raised guns he pointed some form of rod at them. Lightning shot out, hitting all of the guards as they went down.

The second was a man in a white suit, his hood and goggles covered most of us face however his exposed chin revealed serious burn scarring The last one spoke as he approached. “It’s refreshing to see a group of rich white people sitting discussing their problems, congratulations on the inclusion of a women. Very forward thinking, though it seems you missed my invitation.”

“Leonard?”

The man shook his head as he lowered his weapon, his two compatriots however did not. “The names Cold. Captain Cold.”

Araz stood up defiantly, hand near his waist ready to go for his gun. “What exactly is the meaning of this? What do you want?”

Leonard Snart, the self proclaimed Captain Cold pointed his gun in Araz’ direction before lowering it again. “Finally, someone who isn’t afraid to ask the important questions.” He walked slowly over to the table, grabbed his father Lewis by the shoulder and threw him out of the chair before sitting in it. “I bring with me a proposition.”

“Are you a hitman now Snart? Wanting to take out our competition with this-” Araz signalled at the group of men at the door. “-motley assortment of renegades?”

Snart laughed. “No, after all I am your competition. I would very much like to offer you jobs. As managers within my organisation.”

Lewis stood up. “Leonard, Son. I’m so very prou-” There was a whirring noise as the temperature in the room dropped. Lewis Snarts body was encased in ice, Leonard then hit the statue with the but of his weapon shattering it. Pieces of his father spreading all over the floor.

“Your organisations, in exchange for your lives. All you need do is adhere to the words of me, or the other Rogues and you can operate with little impunity. In exchange I promise you wealth and riches, the likes of which you have never seen.”

This time it was Monteleone that spoke up. “This isn’t the ol’ day kid. You got the Flash to worry about, metahumans and vigilantes croppin’ up all over.”

Captain Cold pushed his chair back from the table onto its back legs, feet crossed up on the table with the gun raised in the air lazily. “Let me worry about that. In fact, I already have a plan in place to see what the hero of Central City is really made off.” He nodded at the man in green, who turned and walked out of the room.

Isaac Bowin merely nodded along, a coward of a man. Cold could take him or leave him, likely after taking over his assets he would get rid of the man. The more interesting member of the party was Amunet Black. She was his biggest rival at the table, her ‘network’ was foolproof, and she had a penchant for patience that not even his father could master. The fact that she had not spoken yet meant that she was mulling over the possibilities. She opened her mouth, the high pitched English accent grated against his ears. “The Flash has fought Mard-”

Cold tilted his head and his weapon, the threat implied. She sighed before continuing. Weather Wizard and beaten him. Not to mention she defeated Heatwave while he had powers granted to him by the Silver Surfer, I’m usually an advocate for girl power but in this case she already has all the power. What’s so different about this plan to take her on?”

A smile crossed Colds face. “This time-” He lowered his goggles with his free hand as he allowed his chair to fall forward, leaning into the table as he did so. “-you have me.”

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by HenryJonesJr
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HenryJonesJr

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“Come on, come on, come on,” I mutter to myself as I swing through the city, the cold, winter air rushing around me. The only thing keeping me from freezing being the new winterized suit Peter cooked up for me. Swinging in Under Armor really, really helps. It’s no wonder all the football players wear it. It really is that great. I mean I’m still cold as hell, but at least I’m not dangerously cold as hell. Big difference.

No, I am not sponsored by Under Armor now. Why ever would you ask?

The truck I’m chasing must be going eighty on New York roads. They’ve already driven over a few curbs to get around traffic, making me swoop down to get people out of the way. It’s a miracle no one has been killed.

I know why they’re moving so fast, too. They’re carrying a shipment of a brand new drug on the streets of New York. It’s a powerful, addictive, and effective opioid that promises no chance of an overdose. So far it’s worked perfectly. No overdoses from it have been reported, which would be a miracle if it wasn’t also creating a plague of new addictions. Whoever designed the drug could be making millions as a hero if they were designing drugs to help people, but they clearly have no desire to do that. Instead, they’re trying to rot the populace of New York.

The street name is Ink, named after its supplier, known only as the Octopus. So far I’ve got a grand total of zero leads on who the new mystery drug kingpin is. Every goon I capture running the stuff swears up and down that they’ve never met the guy that makes it. Only that a pretty woman delivers it, along with Flint Marko, the Sandman.

Sandman did say the last time we met up that he was no longer working for the Maggia. I guess the Octopus, whoever he is, was setting up his ring in New York months ago. I don’t know why the villains I fight all go for the eight-legged creatures thing. I might have to sue for tarnishing my public brand.

So far that drug hasn’t spread outside the city, but that’ll happen. It’s only a matter of time before it does, of course. The demand is through the roof here. Once it goes national, or international, it’s going to be the biggest narcotic on the market. I can’t let that happen.

My spider sense goes off, and I just manage to twist in midair to get out of the way of a bullet fired from the truck bellow. I hate when they shoot at me like that. One, it has never worked. You’d think they’d learn after the first hundred times. Two, it puts bystanders in danger, and I cannot have that.

Catapulting myself out of a swing, I fold up into a headfirst dive towards the truck. Missiling in, I fire a web to the top of the truck and pull myself in, landing in a rolling stop on the speeding vehicle.

As I make my way to the front, my phone goes off, “Hello?”

“Gwendolyn Stacy where the hell are you?” Mary Jane’s voice comes over the other end, and I wince. “We are on in FIFTEEN MINUTES! I swear if you mess this up for us.”

We have a concert. A concert that could get us a standing gig at a bar in Queens. That could get us money, but more importantly, it could get us some major exposure. That’s something the girls are definitely thirsty for.

Fifteen minutes though? I can make it.

“Sorry MJ! I’m on my way now. Thought my dad was gonna drive me but work pulled him away at the last minute. I’ll make it!”

“Yea, it sounds like you’re going really fast?”

“Yea, this Uber driver is nuts!” I yell as one of the men in the cab tries to climb up on the top with me to shoot my way. Instead I rip the gun out of his hand with a webline, close the distance, kick him off the roof, and web him to the wall of the passing building. I wave as he shrinks into the distance, struggling against the sticky substance. “Anyway, I gotta go. See you soon.”

I flip onto the hood of the cab, surprising the driver. He leans out of his window, brandishing a handgun. I stop it up with some webbing, also causing his hand to get stuck to the outside of the door.

“Two hands on the wheel, man!” I respond, climbing down to the grill of the truck. “Ten and two! Ten and two! I live in New York and even I know that!”

Using my strength, I pry the hood up, giving me a look at the engine. Not being the mechanical genius Peter is, I simply just start filling the engine with webbing. Before long, it sputters and dies. The truck slows to a stop, and I hop off.

“Well...that was easy.”

That’s when a beeping warning goes off in my ears.

“I just had to say that, didn’t I?” I sigh and start swinging, knowing what that warning means.

“Goblin patrol incoming,” an electronic voice comes over the comms.

“Thanks, WEB,” I respond, looking over my shoulder. WEB, or “Wireless Electronic Beacon”, is something Peter hooked up in the month since Mayor-elect Calvin Cassidy called on the lame duck he is replacing to allow the Oscorp Goblin robots to patrol the city.

Cassidy might not have taken office yet, but his vehemently anti-superhero stance is already infecting everything. Dad’s been taken off the anti-metahuman task force completely. Cassidy will name his successor when he takes office. Dad is back to being a detective. The smear campaign against him run by J Jonah Jameson was as effective as it could have been.

I’m now the police force’s public enemy number one. Not the rising criminal element in the city, not the Octopus. Nope. Little old me.

The characteristic whir of the Goblin’s gliders fill the air behind me as I leave the scene of the truck. Looking over my shoulder, I see two of the robots descend onto the scene, and breath a sigh of relief as I see that they’re not following me.

Probably because a third one is floating almost directly in front of me.

It flings two energy boomerangs my way, which slice through my web. It would send me tumbling towards the street if I wasn’t already ready for it. The Goblins are strong, and heavily armed, but they’re predictable. Being robots kind of play into that. If they get their hands on you, they can do damage, but if you can manage to out run them, you’ll be fine.

Luckily, they can’t keep up with me for shit.

I allow myself to tumble downwards, drawing the Goblin down into a dive. It follow me and as it does I use its chest as a point to swing off of, sending it into a spiral while I’m vaulted down the street at a high speed. By the time the Goblin self regulates, I’m two blocks down. The gliders they stand on are fast, though. He’ll be able to catch up to me.

Which is why I swing down low. It confuses their targeting, and the city council made sure they can’t fire anywhere near the citizens of New York. I guess it’s the small miracles that really matter in the long run. I swing between traffic, waving to surprised drivers as I do. I may be running for my life, but hey, I can still be friendly.

Taking a sharp turn, I can see the Goblin whiz by behind me as the phone rings again, “Hello?”

“Gwen? I saw WEB sent out an alert. You okay?” Peter’s worried voice comes over the line.

“Hey, babe. Yea, managed to ditch the chrome domes before any real fighting. I do not have time to dance with Norman’s science projects,” I respond as I make my way towards the concert venue.

“Yea, well, MJ might be your bigger worry,” he mutters. “She’s on the warpath.”

“Try and calm her down, I’ll be there in a minute.”

That is, of course, until something else pops up on my way. Something always does.

**********


The slight rumble of his idling car engine shakes George Stacy’s styrofoam coffee cup in the cupholder. He watches as small waves form in the muddy brown sea inside the cup, which is about the extent of the action he’d probably see tonight.

Since he’s been kicked down the chain of command, all the way back down to narcotics, he’s barely had a case come his way. The NYPD’s obsession with Spider-Woman has taken over like a virus. Norman Osborn’s cashflow has turned their noses from the crimes that actually matter towards Spider-Woman.

Spider-Woman. Gwen. His daughter. His daughter who fights crime wearing a mask and with super powers at her disposal. He still can’t believe it sometimes. He wrestled with it, for a time. Vigilantism is something he normally never would have supported. But Gwen is right when she says super powered threats are going to turn up in New York. And if she doesn’t try and stop them, people will die.

That doesn’t mean he’s not worried for her, of course. Every time he sees her put on that mask and put her hood over her head, he worries it’ll be the last time he sees his daughter’s face alive. It puts a pit in his stomach. But he realizes it’s probably how she felt when he put on a badge.

He puts his hand in his jacket pocket and runs his thumb over that badge. He hasn’t been looking at it the same since all of this started going down. He had never been one to question the badge before. Always thought of the incorruptible power of the law. But ever since Gwen became public enemy number one, he’s seen behavior he never would have dreamed of. Bounties being place. Revenge spoken about openly.

Maybe it’s that he’s heard about how bad Gotham PD is from Jim for so long. Maybe it blinded him to the rot that was happening right below his nose all this time.

Or maybe he’d gone soft.

He downs the rest of the warm coffee, and puts the car into drive. If his superiors aren’t interested in what’s going on in this city, at least he can help his daughter fix things.

The thought draws a chuckle from his lips as he drives into the New York City night.

**********


“What took you so long!?” Mary Jane fumes at me as I enter the dressing room, probably looking like hell after changing out of my costume in the alleyway. “We have to go on!”

“I’m here, aren’t I. I’m ready to go,” I shrug and throw my pack into the dressing room, pulling my drumsticks out of it as I do.

“Uh, no, you’re not,” MJ growls. Which is when I noticed she’s dressed in a very short Santa coat, complete with hat, and Glory and Betty are in Elf getups.

Betty, who looks absolutely thrilled, deadpans, “Yes, Gwendolyn. Look at all the fun your missing.”

“You have to be kidding me,” I look sideways at MJ.

“It’s a Christmas concert, Gwen,” MJ is clearly not in the mood for insubordination today. Normally she’s a dictator, but not to this degree. “Harry and his dad are out there. I want to put on a good show.”

And there it is. Daddy Warbucks and the dark prince are in attendance, meaning ice queen MJ is in full effect. In the months since his dad declared all-out war on me, Harry’s become a bit of a prick. Norman’s new mechanical men have been all the rage with third world dictators in the guise of “protecting their citizens”. More money has since flowed into Oscorp, and more hot air has infiltrated Harry’s cranium.

Harry’s always been a little conceited, but it comes with a territory. This is different. He’s been acting like he’s better than people now, something he’s never done before. And his pompous assholery is starting to affect MJ, which is totally not cool.

But I do want to play this show. And I want us to get the gig. So I guess I’m dressing up like an elf.

**********


“It was a great show,” Peter smiles as we walk home hand-in-hand. “You’re for sure getting the residency. The owner was loving you guys.”

“Hopefully he was loving us and not how much leg MJ was showing,” I scoff, looking up at the December night sky. “I’m sure Harry was thrilled about that.”

He goes quiet, and I know he’s noticed the friction between me and the other two recently.

“Listen, I’m sorry about that,” I start. “Things have been weird recently and it’s getting to me.”

“I don’t blame you,” he shrugs. “Harry’s been a dick ever since the election. Like he’s the mayor or something.”

“Right!?” I look over at him. “And MJ is acting like a total trophy wife instead of the kickass chick we’ve known forever.”

“I just hope it calms down.”

I wince, “In my experience as a superhero, it is always a terrible idea to say something like that.”

“Yea, well, hopefully I don’t have the same luck,” he smiles as we reach his house. “You...want to come in?”

"Yea, that luck you just mentioned? Don't push it," I joke.“Not tonight. I’m beat after the whole truck thing.”

“Okay,” he says before we share a kiss. “Sleep well.”

“You too. Give May my love.”

The words still feel sour in my mouth whenever I say that. After my encounter with the Surfer, I have to figure I'm high on Darkseid's hitlist, which has brought up my guilt in dating Peter in the first place. I could be putting him in the cross hairs of some intergalactic tyrant god.

Oh, what a tangled web I weave.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by IceHeart
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IceHeart

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Carol Danvers Is



Cape Canaveral, Florida / December

It had been a while since I had been able to look over that famous launch pad. It was currently night time so the many lights all over space program grounds made it seem almost magical. There was of course no space shuttle on the pad and the entire place was practically empty except for some random vehicles and equipment. There had been a time when I thought NASA and all the hubub surrounding the space program was the most exciting and fantastic adventure ever.

Boy did that ever get flipped around fast.

My time had NASA had certainly changed how I viewed the world. Before that we had known about hostile alien life but the most prominent 'alien' had been Superman. Superman looked just like us, though he was of course ridiculously overpowered compared to humans, and he seemed to be a force for good. Then I got to first hand experience the terror of a hostile alien empire and their ruthless ways. Now even the glamour of Superman has lost its appeal to me. The launch pad was empty, like my dream, like my job, like my life goals.

My best friend certainly helped, we had a wonderful time in that small bar a few days ago, but I was still quite out of it. I had been so busy dealing with my own crap that I had completely missed all of that Silver Surfer business and that superhero gang up battle that had happened. The Raft had been pretty much obliterated in the process and a lot of really bad folks gone free, but frankly I was sure they would all get rounded up sooner or later, my eyes were fixed on the stars and the terrors that could come from them, or even the ones that were already here.

Cupping my hands in front of me I blew into them, my breath turning into frost as it exited my lungs. It was quite a cold night.

"Maybe it's about time I visited home, the holidays are coming up after all."

I spoke to no one but myself as I considered what to do next. On my person at all times was a special messenger device that S.W.O.R.D. had given me in case I was needed. Really I had no real choice in that matter but as an ex-solider I knew my duty even if I didn't really feel up to the task. A few random things to look into had popped up in the last three months but nothing major, actually knowing that there were alien forces interested in our planet, the silence was rather unsettling.

At the moment I was wearing a purple hoodie and blue-jeans but that was soon to change. One of the strangest abilities I had gotten from the incident was the ability to change my own clothes on a molecular level. I wasn't very good at it and needed a little energy boost so, taking out a small light flashlight from my pocket I turned it on and placed my hand over it. The heat and light energy from the flashlight permeated my hand and I could feel my body greedily devour the energy, it was a very strange sensation. The best I could describe it, was like drinking a coffee and instantly feeling that caffeine rush, it was kind of like I was a rechargeable battery these days.

Within moments I had enough excess energy to do the simple task of restructuring my clothes. Kind of like a strange liquid, the clothes seemed to dissolve on my body and then reformed into my new 'flight' suit. A red-leotard like suit with a star like shape on the chest, a black eye-mask, thigh-high boots, and black combat gloves. It really was nothing like I thought I would ever wear but ever since the explosion this outfit had just seemed right for whenever I took to the skies. I had a feeling the outfit actually had some significance to the Kree but I was not exactly sure how or why, but I did know it was very similar to the outfit Mar-vell had worn when he rescued me.

I suppose he had more of an influence on me than I thought.

Taking off into the sky I couldn't help but comment to myself, "Well flying with my own power had always been a dream when I was small, wish it could have been achieved without my DNA being bound to some alien race though. I will admit, it is gonna save me an arm and a leg in the long run though."




Captain Mar-vell


Somewhere in central USA

The Kree operative was currently cursing his bad luck as he searched high and low for any sign of the object he was looking for. The last time he had check it had been hidden in a nearby cave, well actually he had positioned it there himself so it wouldn't attract unwanted attention. Just a week ago he had realized that all communication and signals had been cut off, which was strange as it should have been transmitting at all times. Sometimes it would move on its own but never very far and usually it had been easy to find.

The absolute worst case scenario was that Colonel Yon-Rogg, when he had escaped the blast, had somehow found out where it had been hidden and had taken it for himself. If that was the case he had no idea...no wait he actually had the exact idea what kind of damage the anger driven navy colonel could do to the planet if left to his own devices. But even if he had somehow done that, he doubted the colonel knew how to shut off all communication with the device so thankfully that scenario seemed unlikely.

With a sigh, he returned to the cave where he had hidden the object and decided to take a closer look this time. Very quickly he realized in his haste he had totally missed the tell-tale signs that recently a rather large object had been moved with the help of machinery. He also realized that there were foot-prints, human foot-prints on the cave floor, which would have been unnoticeable normally but with some special Kree sensor goggles it was readily apparent.

"Son of a Schlag! That has actually fallen into human hands! If they somehow set off one of its alarms the entire planet could be doomed depending on the most recent set of instructions and information from the Kree homeworld! I need to find it before something irreversible occurs!" Cursing in Kree, Captain Mar-vell exited the cave and tried to think about how he could tract it down. If he was getting no signals then it had to be place in some area that blocked off all signals, which would severely narrow down the search parameters. Even if it was in such an area it was still a powerful piece of Kree technology so he should be able to track it down somehow, his best bet was to make a device that could track down its unique power source which should be detectable no matter what human material tried to block it.

All of humanity could be in danger if he did not retrieve it before it was too late.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Witryso
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Witryso

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When three of your closest friends (one of them being an AI that you designed) tell you to stop working and go for a walk, that's a pretty good sign there's something wrong with you.

It wouldn't be the first time Tony was forced to take a break from his work, and it definitely wouldn't be the last. Everyone he talked to said that it was beneficial, even healthy to relax and just forget about responsibility every once in a while, but he'd only been out for around 15 minutes and he felt the exact opposite of healthy. What was there for him to do out here? There was no tech to design, no negotiations to make, no marketing staff to consult; nothing to do but just walk, maybe shop a little bit, get something to eat, and generally enjoy himself.

How could he enjoy himself when hearing all those car horns going off?

When Tony was at work, he was far too busy to even feel the pain of losing his adoptive parents. Naturally, his grief-riddled brain decided that the only way to repress the sadness was to simply work 24/7. While this did distract him, it also severely hurt both his sleep schedule, and his personal relationships. Pepper and Happy urged him to see a psychiatrist; they even said they'd accompany him to the office if he was nervous about it.

It wasn't about being nervous; it was about being strong.

What would people say if they knew the great Tony Stark had any form of mental illness? He wouldn't be working as much, that was for sure, and less work meant more pain. He couldn't see anyone about this, not even in private. He had to remain solid for the company. Smile, wave, talk about how great things are. Stark Industries was all he had left of his parents; he could lose it like he lost them.

"Sir, we have a situation."

Tony put a finger to his free ear so he could hear J.A.R.V.I.S. more clearly. "Talk to me."

"A Stark Industries truck has flipped onto its side in Queens."

Tony sighed; it seemed that all his business ventures in Queens were just inherently unlucky. He head already turned and started making his way back to the tower when J.A.R.V.I.S. mentioned a situation. "Load up Shell-Head, I'm on my way."

This was technically work, so...sorry, Pepper and Happy.

---------------------------------------

Tony was relieved to find that no explosion occurred during the accident. The drivers weren't seriously hurt, either, only trapped. That predicament was easily solved by Tony ripping off the driver's side door and pulling the two men out. They thanked him profusely, even apologizing about the truck.

"Not to worry, gentlemen," Tony said, his voice disguised by the suit's electronic filter, "It's not the shipment that's important; it's the people delivering that shipment."

Some people in the crowd behind him shouted happily, praising both Iron Man and Stark Industries for taking care of their employees. Tony smiled; there was a reason he loved his work. Y'know, aside from the whole "distraction from pain of parents' death" thing.

"Goblins!"

Speaking of distractions, Tony was just about to take off when he heard the word cried out from a single member of the crowd. Turning, Tony watched as the glider-bound robots made their approach. He had been aware of Oscorp's newest development, and for the most part, he tried to ignore it. Osborn's and other city officials' stance on superheroes was none of his business, but they went ahead and made it everyone's by creating a robot police force. Tony had read enough sci-fi novels to know robotic police were the furthest thing from a good idea. Regardless, they were wide-spread now, and it was only a matter of time before one of them caught Tony in the act.

Tony tried to appear as non-threatening as possible as the Goblins dismounted their fliers and came forward. "Don't mind me," he said, "just representing the best of Stark Industries. And sometimes, that means freeing people trapped in overturned vehicles."

"STAND DOWN, SUPERHUMAN," the tinny, booming voice replied. "YOU ARE TO BE DETAINED. YOUR COOPERATION IS RECOMMENDED."

Tony expected that the Goblin wouldn't be able to tell his powered armor from a guy in tights (he supposed that was due to Oscorp'...less than impressive tech). What he DIDN'T expect was what happened next.

Before he could even defend himself, someone from the crowd stepped in between him and the lead Goblin.

"Hey! The guy said to leave him alone!"

The Goblin barely even reacted. "STAND DOWN, CITIZEN."

The interloper folded his arms, refusing to move. "Oh yeah? Or what?"

The crowd gasped as the Goblin drew back its arm and swatted the man out of its way. He flew into the crowd, where he was thankfully caught by some kind observers.

That was enough for Tony.

Raising his arm, he fired a single repulsor blast into the Goblin's chest, sending him flying backward into his two companions. A follow-up last with the EMP generator disabled them, but Tony knew it wouldn't be for long. Before they could recover, he took off into the sky, flying back in the direction of Stark Tower.

"Sir, pardon my language, but I do believe you've screwed up."

---------------------------------------

Tony didn't bother watching the news that night; he already knew what the top story would be.

After a very passionate rant from Pepper, Tony managed to convince her to deflect any press members looking to get answers. He didn't even have an answer himself.

He just...reacted.

What was he supposed to do? Come clean and reveal that he and Iron Man were one in the same? Not only would they classify him as a superhero, therefore a threat, he'd most likely lose his company as well. Hell, he remembered how unsure his partners were about the whole "robot bodyguard" thing. How would they feel if they knew HE was the one running around in that suit?

God, how could he be so stupid? He should've just let the police take care of the flipped truck. As much as he hated the idea of retiring Iron Man, he was more afraid of losing the last vestige of his parents. Besides, maybe less time for being Iron Man would mean more time for actually taking Pepper and Happy's advice and getting some mental help.

There was ONE bright side, at least.

"Sir, there's something on the local news regarding your appearance today."

"Yeah, I know. Do me a favor and...don't talk to me about it anymore, alright?"

"Of course, sir. However, you should at least view your Twitter timeline. There's something I believe you should see."

Tony shrugged. He didn't see anything wrong with a catch up on social media. "Alright, pull it up."

The interface lit up with Twitter's bright webpage. The very first tweet caught Tony's attention immediately.

Norman Osborn.

"Disappointed to hear the news regarding Stark Industries' 'Iron Man.' The Goblins were simply performing their primary functions, and he refused to cooperate. Seems like Stark Industries doesn't care all too much about the people's safety."

Tony felt an all new feeling bubbling in his insides. It wasn't sadness, no guilt, nor shame. No, this was anger. Resentment. He knew Osborn was a bit shady in his business practices, but this was an all new low.

Stark Industries wasn't just Tony's company. It was his parents' company; a company they had built together with blood, sweat, tears, and most importantly, heart. He wasn't about to sit here and let Osborn of all people run his family name through the mud like that. The whole reason he became Iron Man was to maintain the keep the company alive and thriving.

"J.A.R.V.I.S., send Pepper a note to schedule a press conference. Make it as early as possible."

"Of course, sir. However, if I may ask, how exactly do you plan on addressing this incident."

Tony simply stared down the offending text on the holo-screen.

"Something tells me Osborn wants a fight. So, I'm gonna give him one."
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts

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𝗕𝗜𝗥𝗡𝗜𝗡 𝗭𝗔𝗡𝗔 𝗪𝗔𝗞𝗔𝗡𝗗𝗔
𝖠𝖴𝖦𝖴𝖲𝖳 𝟤𝟢𝟣𝟪 ⫽ 𝟢𝟨𝟣𝟤

It had been five minutes since Director Nakia told T'Challa to come with her to the War Dogs Headquarters. Vixen wanted to come along, but the director refused. T'Challa, at the other hand, considered it if she was blindfolded until she was in a secured room. She was fine with that suggestion and Vixen was blindfolded. After getting her the necessary clearance, they were walking towards a monitoring room. There were several designed at watching different parts of the world without detection (most of the time). They were for keeping an eye on those that pose a threat to the country like Ulysses. Other countries might have an idea of what Wakanda's hiding, but it was only an idea. Without the War Dogs, the secrets of Wakanda would have been revealed a long time ago.

"You know what's going on right?" Nakia asked T'Challa while escorting a blindfolded Vixen.

"Not really." T'Challa answered honestly.

"Well, I guess it's a perfect time to talk about it." Nakia said. She signaled an agent of hers and they grabbed a tablet. The agent handed the tablet to the director before rushing back to their job. She pulled out the right side of it and ran it along the side of T'Challa's face. Behind his right ear, there was a vibranium tattoo designed for security purposes. It was painful to implant, but useful in the long run. The tattoo glowed for a moment before disappearing. Nakia placed the tablet back in it's spot and gave it to T'Challa. Almost immediately, it turned on and revealed a video. And he pressed play.

"A month ago, a metallic alien known as the Silver Surfer appeared in Central City with the goal of judging our planet. Testing them to see if they were fit to be 'ruled.' It challenged The Flash, a metahuman known to be the fastest woman alive, to beat him in combat. As you might be thinking, she wasn't doing well." Nakia started talking as the video played out the Surfer challenging the Flash. Then, it cuts to cell phone footage of the Flash saving citizens as the Surfer watched above.

"We are still trying to figure out the events after that. But, we have a theory that the Silver Surfer bought down a commercial airplane to judge the Flash further. Witnesses on the plane reported seeing a blur of red during the whole ordeal. She failed to save the plane and would have died if it wasn't for Superman. He arrived in time to save the passengers and joined in the fight against the Surfer." Nakia said as aerial footage of Superman landing the plane and checking on the passengers. Next, a picture of Superman lifting a damaged car during his fight with 'Toyman.' "Superman is a whole other case compared to The Flash. Nobody knows if he's alien or a metahuman. All we know is that he appeared in Metropolis to stop a terrorist attack."

Another image of the heroes fighting the Silver Surfer in the badlands appeared. Then again, it cuts to a photo of The Flash with the Surfer's board. "There isn't much footage out there of the entire fight, but The Flash went after the board. And as a result, she ended up in Egypt and tourists told the authorities that the board started to slip like crazy before it sped off. We have theorized that the board is connected to the Surfer somehow. Regardless, Superman managed to distract the Silver Surfer so The Flash could knock him out with a strong punch. Then, SHIELD arrived and took him into custody. Nothing else has really happened with the Surfer since he was arrested."

"Until now." Nakia finished speaking as the elevator lights turned back on and the doors opened to reveal a chaotic scene. Everyone in the monitoring room was trying to figure out what the hell was going on. T'Challa looked around to get an understanding of the current situation. Nakia called out his name while escorting Vixen inside a room. T'Challa followed and entered the main monitoring room with nine screens on news channels with footage of the attack in New York City.

Nakia began to lift the blindfold off of Vixen as she said, "Fifteen minutes ago, the Silver Surfer returned to Earth and attacked the Raft. It is a super maximum security prison for criminals with super abilities located near New York City. Several criminals were fled and are causing chaos across the United States in the hopes of getting all of the heroes in one place. So far, he has managed to get several heroes to fight him."

A screen cut off from the live footage to provide the images of the so-called heroes reported at the site. There was only one person that T'Challa remembered and it was The Flash. Meanwhile, the others were brand new to him, especially the guy looking like a cowboy. Their names soon appeared below their image: The Flash, Spider-Woman, Wonder Woman, Vigilante, the Blue Beetle, and the Fantastic Four. Almost immediately, it cut to live footage of the heroes fighting against the Surfer.

Vixen, who was blindfolded and had to wear ear plugs, looked in horror as New York City was under attack by this Silver Surfer. It was the city that she grew up after her father was killed thanks to her aunt. She made a new identity and became well-known fashion model in the states. It was terrifying to know that her friends and family were in danger. "There has to be something that you can do, right?" Vixen asked while looking at T'Challa. There was a moment of silence before he answered. He watched the screen as a group of heroes was fighting a powerful individual, judging their every single movement. He didn't know the answer.

"I..I don't know if we are capable of beating him."

"But, you have vibranium and it's basically indestruc-"

"Are you watching this?" T'Challa responded and pointed at the screens. "Several metahumans with various types of abilities and powers are losing against a metallic alien capable of killing them in seconds. Nobody knows if he has a weakness or not."

Vixen wasn't happy with the response and angrily said, "We have to try something. He could destroy all of New York City while we are sitting on our asses."

"Maybe that's our only option." Nakia added her thoughts to the discussion.

"Maybe to you because you don't care about anything beyond Wakanda." Vixen responded to Nakia and then looked at T'Challa again. "And you need to start realizing that you shouldn't be exactly like your ancestors. None of them ever dealt with a powerful alien determining the fate of our planet at this very moment. You are the first and only one. Your ancestors aren't able to help you. Now, you have to be your own person."

T'Challa paused for a moment to reflect on what Vixen said. Under any other circumstances, he would have been angry with her for disrespecting his ancestors. However, he heard the anger in voice as she was trying to fight to save her world. His world. Their world. It was something that he respected, even if it was a foolish attempt to attack the Silver Surfer. He looked at the screens as the heroes in New York City were still fighting against the Surfer. Then, he started to wonder if the odds would have been in their favor if the Black Panther was there. If the city had used vibranium to build the Raft. There were so many questions floating in his mind.

Then, he watched as the Silver Surfer was studying The Human Torch after lighting up like a Christmas tree. The alien looked at the human like he could tear it apart in an instant. Every other hero tried to reach him in time, but it looked hopeless. Until he appeared. Thunder suddenly surrounded the Raft as Thor came crashing down looking to challenge the Silver Surfer. It was truly the battle of the century. T'Challa was stunned just like everyone else in the room. The God of Thunder made the Surfer bleed.

The fighting kept on going until Thor managed to beat the metallic alien. Then, a woman appeared to protect him for the killing blow. It was difficult trying to hear what she was saying, but it appeared like she was trying to comfort the alien. A kiss occurred and something incredible happened. The Silver Surfer wasn't an alien, but a man. The woman said a few words before taking her man away from this planet. The battle was over and humanity won it. However, T'Challa felt that this was just the beginning of something horrible. He looked around the room as everyone was confused and relieved.

Vixen was right. He was the first King of Wakanda and Black Panther to ever deal with metahumans and aliens able to destroy our world. Not even his father could help him in this path. It was time to reveal it all to the world. Everything from Birnin Zana to the vibranium. He knew that humanity needed some sort of defense if the heroes failed to save the day or went rogue. T'Challa looked at Vixen and said, "You are right. It is time that I forge my own path in this age of metahumans. And I am starting right now."


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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Sep
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Sep Admiral EvilScottishGuy

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PART ONE: ROGUE TAKEOVER

ANOTHER DAY IN THE LIFE OF A HERO
Music






Less than a year ago Iris’ world changed forever. She was struck by lightning, doused in chemicals and became the Fastest Woman Alive, possibly the fastest person alive. A lot had changed since then. Her best friend, Barry Allen, had died fighting a Speedster from the future, who turned out to not only be his father but the man who had killed his mother. Iris had faced threats from this planet and beyond, through the likes of the Silver Surfer. Teaming up with heroes the like of which this world had never seen. She had no doubt that one day, the world would need them to unite. She only hoped that they would, there hadn’t been a whole lot of chit-chat or exchange of contact details at the Raft.

Not that she had time for this now.

Iris jumped off the ground and onto the lamp post that was being thrown at her, maintaining her kinetic energy she ran up the post. Against its direction of travel, jumping as she reached the end of it, trying to get closer to the cause of the disturbance. Manfred Mota hadn’t really plagued her much since footage of Jay losing his speed got out to the public, apparently his lust for revenge was satisfied with the knowledge that his former foe no longer had power. That hadn’t been enough for him for long however, for currently he stood at thirty feet tall, outside of the biggest Bank of America in Central City. In one hand was an armoured truck, while the other was currently searching for something else to throw at her.

Apparently Mota hadn’t invested in a very good pension plan. Passing through the air her closed fist made contact with him, however he barely stumbled in reaction to it. Once again she wished that she had been blessed with the gift of super strength. Rolling back away from him she ran down his body and onto the road at his feet, diving to the left as she saw the telltale shadow of his hand trying to squish her. Skidding to a halt she turned and faced Mota. “I thought you retired Mota. What’s with the growth spurt?”

He snarled at Iris’ use of his real name, slamming a foot down on the ground shaking the street. He dropped the truck and ran straight at her. Sliding to the left she ran between his legs before he even knew what happened, appearing behind him. “Come on Mota. Talk to me here, you were reformed. I’m willing to let the previous attack go, power down and take off the suit. You can still walk away from all of this.” Taking on the mantle of the Flash had been a lot, and while many of the memories she had seen when her and Barry had touched hands during the fight with Eobard Thawne were fading, there were still lessons that she had taken away from it. Iris always believed in freedom of information, power to the people and doing what was right.

What Iris saw of Barry's life only fueled this resolve, it had to include people like Mota. People that for some reason or other had crossed the line to the other side, if she were to continue the legacy of the Flash in this timeline she had to act like it. Mota turned and stared her down, she instantly felt a sickening feeling in her stomach with the smirk that played across his face. That was never a good side, she turned her body slightly bracing herself, ready to run into action.

His voice boomed through the street. “You don’t know me, you don’t know my intentions. Stay out-” His face strained with the exertion as both his fists started to glow with energy “-of my-” A buzzing sound started to come from him, as the grow got brighter as the buzzing got louder “-WAY!”

“Oh shit-” A blast radiated out as he slammed his fists together. She turned and ran, however the blast moved faster than she had expected and caught her in the back sending her into the air. Swearing as she flew through the air she spun her hands to try and control her landing in a nice controlled roll.

Instead Iris landed hard, rolled awkwardly and bruised every inch of her body. Apparently the new size Mota was sporting came with a bag of new tricks, as he couldn’t do that last she saw him. “Iris, Iris you okay?” The sound of Jay came through her earpiece and she groaned as she pulled herself back to her feet.

“I’ve had worse.” Iris shook her head as she looked for Mota, she briefly caught the site of his left foot as he turned a corner and ran. Apparently he wasn’t in much of a mood for a fight right now.

The sound of Harrison Wells cutting into her radio made her roll her eyes, he wasn’t really someone she wanted to speak to but with the fact that he had designed the tech for the suit she couldn’t really get out of it. “With the energy blast that Mota just expelled, it is highly likely that he’s used all of his energy reserves. He’ll likely be running to get away with his prize before his size begins to decrease-”

“Thanks Doc.” Iris tapped the earpiece cutting him off, he could force a connection through if he wanted but he probably got the message loud and clear. She really needed to invest in another communicator, because cutting off Wells meant cutting off Jay. Who was infinitely more helpful in these situations than the great ‘Harrison Wells’. Disappearing whenever there’s a more exciting mystery, only to return and insist that she gives up the cowl to become a lab rat instead.

Iris already knew how she was going to take him down though, and it was by going up. One foot on front of the other, the rest will work itself out West. She wasn’t entirely sure why the words of her editor were going through her head right now, but needs must. She pushed off with her right, letting her speed build. Turning the corner she had seen Mota flee down she slid as debris blocked her path, kicking her right leg out ahead of her and bending her left knee she made contact with the pavement. Her costume protecting her as she slid along the ground. Kicking up with her left leg she transitioned back into a run and continued following the trail left behind, the world seemed frozen to her. The panic on the face of people however was clear.

There wasn’t anything she could do for these people yet, other than bring Mota down. As Iris turned another corner she could see him running down the street, he did appear smaller than he had been before. Though she was still barely past his knees. Speeding up as she saw him she created a minor wave of air in her wake, running straight at him she jumped as she approached him driving both her fists into the back of his knee. Even at this speed Iris saw him begin to buckle, however she didn’t stop there. Turning to the left she jumped and did half a backflip in order to start a run up the side of a building. Approaching the top she turned and started running back down, allowing gravity to give her a minor boost on the way down. Approaching the bottom she leaped, aiming a punch straight for Motas head.

Mota fell with a thud that shook the street.

Iris landed semi-gracefully almost nose to nose with a police officer who was in the process of drawing his gun. She smiled at him, blushing slightly as she took a step back. “One giant, as ordered officer.” She turned and ran back over to Mota, pulling what she believed was the control device from his body. Thankfully her suspicions were confirmed when he shrank back down to normal size, she tossed the device to the officer, who caught it clumsily. This was probably his first superhero fight. “Take care of that for me, will you? It doesn’t really go with this colour.” As more police cars started to arrive on the scene, she threw a two finger salute at the officer turning to leave, just your average day in the life of a Superhero.










Leonard Snart flipped open his phone as he held his binoculars with one hand. As soon as he had heard about the escalating situation he had done his best to arrive here in time to see the final showdown. The Rogues were strong in that they numbered four, but there was always the necessity for more muscle. Having a fifth would also give them better control over the five ruling families of the Gem Cities underworld. That said he wasn’t terribly impressed on what he had seen here today, every indication was that Mota ran by his own agenda. Not only that but he didn’t really put up much of a fight against the Scarlet Speedster. Even Mich had given her a bigger run for her money, and that wasn’t even with powers.

He hit three on his speed dial as he raised the phone to his ear. “You made contact with Freeze?” Snart nodded as the response came through, watching the street as the Flash disappeared into the distance and more police cars arrived on the scene. What drew his attention however was a Black SUV with tinted out windows. He threw a nod in the direction of the car, there was no response from the vehicle however he hadn’t been expecting one. Everyone knew their part in the plan after all. Snart turned to head down to the car. “Once you’re in position, call me back. By the end of the day, we’ll know what we’re dealing with.”
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Torack
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Torack The Golden Apple

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After reaching out with his mind and sensing no significant source of magic coming from the domed building, Dr. Fate spent the next couple of hours combing through the city trying to save as many people as he could. The amount that survived was a vastly small number. A few families, a couple of shell shocked individuals, and a small number of kids that had been lucky enough to hide in some underground bunker near the edge of the city limits.

There were no other survivors. Once they were gathered, he herded them out of the city for about a league, creating a floating disk for those too tired, injured, or weary to walk. When the the city was no more than whisper on the horizon, he raised a large hut from the ground and bade them inside, telling them to only come out on extreme emergencies until he came back.

Back in the burning city, he flew directly towards the untouched building. A large structure, domed at the top, painted in blues and reds that made a strange conflagration of colours in the fire’s dancing light. The strangeness however, came from the fact that it was as if the destruction that took over the city refused to get near the building and it’s surrounding land, it’s outer gate unmarred even by soot.

Reaching the outer, expansive courtyard he descended until he was a foot off the ground and slowly made his way closer to the building, two ankhs floating lazily around him as he passed through untouched gardens dotted with statues and fountains. Eventually he reached a large set of stairs set on either side with marble colonnades and at the topmost landing, a set of two closed wooden doors inlaid with gold.

A feeling of dread started churning in his stomach as he reached the platform and waved a hand, causing one of the doors to slowly creak open. Two more ankhs appeared around him and he entered.

The scene before him was harrowing. Blood was everywhere, the central hall and the pillars to either side were painted with it. In the centre, around a massive red smoking circle, were seven robed and hooded bodies lying still in their own blood. Dr. Fate drew closer, the dread feeling growing stronger as he felt the same magic that he had back on earth; the residue was stronger here, almost overpowering in its saturation. He paused a moment to let his mind wander around the city before expanding around the planet, searching for this “demon” but feeling nothing. Probably masking itself, he mused. He couldn’t be sure until he made a round through the planet however.

Might as well start here first. Landing, his boots making an echoing click on the marble floor, he walked towards the slaughter, knelt, and placed a gloved hand on one of the bodies.

An image immediately formed in his head, and he watched as the seven robed figures, a book floating between them, set themselves in a circle and began chanting. Low at first, but they soon began to raise their voices as armed guards rushed from the various other halls and chambers, pointing guns at them and shouting at them to stop.

Whatever happened next he couldn’t see as darkness obscured his view, but he heard the screams and shouts, heard the ripping of flesh, the crack of bones, and the agony that followed. Guns were fired, more screams followed, then a deep laughter that ended with one of the victims giving off an inhuman scream that was cut off with a gurgle.

Fate pulled his hand back, and for the first time in a while, he felt genuine fear. It didn’t stop him from trying to figure out who the figures were, however as he started to soon dig through the bodies to find anything that would identify them. After a few seconds of searching he managed to find an amulet on one body, a black circle with a red outline of a sun in the middle.

He stood, yanked the amulet from the body and stored it in a pocket dimension. Although the significance was currently lost on him, he was sure someone – hopefully someone who still lived – would know what it meant. He walked through the halls, looking around and noticing everywhere else beyond the antechamber was untouched, the walls to either side of him lined with plinths and paintings of ancient figures or massive battles over what he assumed to be the planet. Soon, he made it to another set of over-sized double doors, made of wood, silver, and gold.

Another wave of his hand and he flew inside.

He heard the guns shift and point before he saw them and raised his hands as he appeared in a large domed chamber, a raised dais on the other end with a large throne made of what looked to be gilded bones.

“What in the hell. Who are you?” One of the guards demanded.

“My name is Dr. Fate. I came to investigate the destruction of this city,” he said, “I felt the magic unleashed from my own planet, and felt compelled.”

“How do we know you’re not the demon in disguise?” Another guard asked.

Slowly, his hands went for his helm and he pulled it off revealing his face. “Do I look like a demon to you?”

“You could be casting an illusion, sorcerer.” Another guard shouted.

“Enough! I would hear what this man has to say,” the figure on the throne said. “Approach, Dr. Fate. Explain why you’re here.”

Putting the helmet back on, he flew closer to the dais before three guards stepped before his path, their weapons trained on him. “I come from Earth. I felt whatever was summoned here and the significance of that should not be lost on you. Whatever it was, it was strong enough to alert me to come here and I intend to investigate and destroy, if I can, this demon.”

“Whatever it was that was released in my palace,” the figure said, “was no demon. It’s magic was far too dense and potent. Demons we could handle. Efficiently, in fact. Whatever this thing was however, it destroyed my men and their magic as if they were children.”

He studied the figure, his eyes narrowing underneath his helm. After a moment, he asked, “how is it that this place is untouched while the antechamber of your palace, and the rest of the city, is in ruins.”

The man raised another hand and two figures emerged from either side of the throne wearing strange headpieces that covered the upper half of their faces and ended in curved point. “My own cadre of sorcerers managed fight it off before it escaped,” the man explained, then turning to the mages. “Tell our guest what you told me.”

“We suspect,” one of them said, “whatever that heretical cabal summoned, to be a god.”
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Bounce
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Bounce

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“The minstrel boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death ye will find him
His father’s sword he hath girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him”

- Thomas Moore


"Life Is But A Dream" [ Part II ] [ The Minstrel Boy ]

| GHOST CASTLE
| The Dream Dimension | Present Day

The rooster's call came early.

The old man struggled to move from the bed, his joints stiff and body aching as he stirred about the small, monastic room that was shuttered away in the oft forgotten and rarely beheld part of the castle that contained the servant's quarters. In gown and robe, the bearded figure emerged to shuffle through the stone-hewn halls in the dawn's breaking light.

An imp suddenly leapt from out of the shadows, pouncing from the rafters above as though to give an old man a heart attack. A gruff harumph accompanied the patriarchal scowl. The hellspawn was awake and bounding through the inside of the castle with enough noise as though he were a stampede of elephants. A second harumph accompanied the motion of straightening his robe, as the man continued on toward the kitchen.

He found the side door open there. No doubt left by the same spring-heeled devil who had bounded from the walls. Grumbling to himself, the old man set out two loaves of brown bread atop the simple farm table that occupied one side of the kitchen for the servant's use. A tankard of beer was drawn, as the man settled his old bones atop the wooden bench. Letting go a heavy sigh, the man drew a long draw on the tankard, easing into the morning.

The imp returned. The harried form of a young Briton, breathless and bedraggled, his raven black hair plastered against his scalp. A knee-length shirt shifted about his wiry frame as he came through the door in his bedclothes, arms full of oranges plucked from the trees. As the man watched, sipping on his beer, the boy drew a knife and labored at juicing the ripe fruit.

Decanting the orange juice into a wooden cup, the child stumbled over to collapse atop the bench beside the old man. "Bore da," the happy hellion managed, in a breathless bit of greeting in a form of Gaelic that those today might yet recognize in Wales.

"Hmph" the old man guffawed, even as he lowered his tankard and broke bread. "Good morning, indeed," the old man uttered gruffly, before opening his mouth and tearing off a chunk of the dark bread. The two ate in silence after that, pulling apart their meal with their hands as chamberlain and page ate in the shadow of the castle lord's larder.

"Take the horses down to the river," the old man uttered finally, as he finished the bread and started the task of picking the crumbs from out of the matted beard. Leaning down closer to the boy, the man inhaled sharply and tacked on the seemingly obligatory, "And throw yourself in while you're there."

The boy's dark head turned up to give the man a look that was confused at first, then quickly sparked realization and shot a look at the chamberlain. Between chomping down his bread and slurping on the sweet fruit juice, the black-haired imp was shortly finished with his breakfast as well.

And then it was time to move again.

The chamberlain's voice spun the child around right as he'd reached the threshold. "Don't forget your chores here," the old man proclaimed.

The boy had tried to pivot, except that he still had too much momentum pulling him toward the door. Inartfully, the boy's bedgown twirled as he spun back on one foot -- only for the other to slide out from under him. Crashing to the floor, the child popped back up as though no worse for wear.

Which was when the magic happened.

Bringing his arms up, glowing mandala-like forms seemed to circle and weave around his hands. An auld, eldritch energy seemed to flicker in the air, as the child stretched forth one arm and waved his hand toward a collection of mops, brooms, and buckets in one corner.

"Etamina!"

It was a word, nothing more. Yet, the inanimate seemed suddenly imbued with life as the child spoke. Brooms sweeping on their own.

His father's legacy was that of a king.

...but his mother's blood made him capable of so much more.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Freeborn Scum

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A Sep/AndyC production


The night air over the Midwest was cold and clear as the Man of Steel made his rounds, rolling plains sprawling out in all directions beneath him, and nothing but hundreds of miles of empty sky all around. He’d chosen a wide, looping circuit reaching from Chicago to Denver, covering a significant portion of the United States in a path that had taken him about fifteen minutes or so.

To be honest, Clark wasn’t really going out on patrol to look for trouble tonight; after losing his temper when seeing the ‘gift’ Lex Luthor had been handing out to millions of people-- including his mother-- more than anything he just needed a few minutes to clear his head. He’d learned the hard way from his encounter with Batman that rushing into a situation while still hot-blooded could lead to disaster. If he was going to confront Luthor in regards to this ‘Brainiac’ situation, he was going to need to keep his cool.

Besides, giving Martha and Lois a few minutes to themselves might help them get to know each other some more, start finding some common ground, bond a little. That would be extremely important if Clark and Lois were going to--.....well, he was getting ahead of himself. Things were going well in that regard, but there was still plenty that needed figuring out.

As he banked south and west, crossing from Missouri back into Kansas, he took a slight detour from his route, swooping down over the skyline of Central City-- maybe seeing a friendly face could help put him back in the right frame of mind.

Iris had been running back to her ‘base of operations’ in Keystone, the small run down little place that Jay was renting out for her. That said, it was starting to feel less like a dump and more like a superhero lair with each passing day. The fight with Mota hadn’t taken much out of her, her biggest concern was the overall lack of activity in the last couple of weeks. There had been no bank robberies, heists or open warfare between gangs. Mere petty crime, while she knew her presence was having an influence the Gem Cities, she never believed it would be so fast. The reporter in her knew there was a story there. She just hadn’t found it yet.

As Iris sped through the city she noticed a blue and red blur flying through the sky, a smile crossing her face. She kicked it into high gear in order to get a good enough lead on him to get up on top of a building before he approached it. Once there she stood tapping her foot impatiently until he was closer. “You know, you could call more often.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Superman answered, returning the Flash’s grin, “but I seem to remember the last time we met, you were going to have a friend of yours work on that.”

Carefully, Superman lowered himself, reducing the anti-gravity field around him until he was able to touch down gently on the rooftop. With practice, he had started to get the hang of flying with more control, no longer merely hurling himself through the sky in contempt for the laws of physics. It still took a great deal of concentration, however, to take off and land without leaving a crater behind.

“Good to see you again, Flash,” he greeted her.

Iris raised a finger defensively. “I’m not the only one with friends you know, and I’ve been a little busy. You know, Superheroes need to do their superhero thing. Being the fastest alive has its responsibilities.” She almost moved in order to give Superman a hug, but then realised that that probably wasn’t where they were at. Instead she turned it into a stretch as she forced out a yawn.

Smooth, West.

Clearing her throat Iris walked to the edge of the rooftop, looking down towards the street level. “It’s good to see you to Superman-” God it was weird for Iris to call him that, to his face, out loud. “- I have to admit though, I’m a little curious. What brings you by? Or is it just to appreciate the new suit?” She raised both her arms and did a spin to show it off. “I have a very good tailor.”

“It’s a good look for you,” he said. “I was able to find a new outfit myself. Bit of a long story on how I got it, but, well, it certainly saves me having to iron my logo onto another T-shirt every time I get caught in an explosion.”

Clark spread his own arms to show off the blue bodysuit, complete with red boots and belt. It was a find from about two months ago, part of his discovery in the Arctic, which had changed a great deal about his outlook on who he was and his purpose on Earth. That, however, was another story for another day.

“Anyway,” he changed the subject, “I was in the area, and thought I might drop in, catch up when there isn’t a monster to fight or a planet in immediate danger. So, erm…..how are things?”

Iris signalled to Superman with one finger, before disappearing from the rooftop. Reappearing a second later with two hotdogs, two cans of Coke and a bag of chips. Throwing a can and a hotdog at Superman she sat herself down on the ledge of the building, slapping the roof beside her indicating that he should sit. She sat on the edge and dug into her hotdog, pulling her hair behind her head to prevent it from ending up all in her food. “You know how it is. Your best friend’s dad, who you got released from prison, turns out to be a time travelling maniac who actually wasn’t innocent who created you by accident trying to give your best friend powers. He then tries to kill you after giving said friend powers, gets killed by said friend and then the friend turns into dust right in front of you.” She shrugged. “One of those superhero things.”

Iris turned to face him. “The strangest thing is recently, things are calming down in Central City. Over the past couple of months actually. Ever since Heatwave got a cosmic supercharge. Yet, I can’t shake this feeling that I’m missing a story. You know what I mean?”

Clark shifted uncomfortably. “I, erm, I’m sorry to hear about your friend,” he said. Deep down, he always blamed himself when he heard about someone losing a friend of a loved one; the drawback of choosing to save people for your life’s work is that it stings that much more when someone can’t be saved. “But I know what you mean. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help out with the Surfer the second time around-- I was busy, well, getting nuked in Gotham City at the time-- but ever since that series of attacks, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t think we’re going to be in the clear any time soon, but at least it’s nice to have a breather until then.”

Clark took a bite of his hot dog-- he honestly wasn’t hungry after dinner, but it would be rude to let it get cold. “Mm! This isn’t half bad,” he remarked. “Anyway, I’ve been thinking. Together we were able to take down the Surfer the first time, and the group that tackled him at the Raft seemed to do a good job. And I wouldn’t have been able to stop the Toyman if I hadn’t gotten help from Batman. Maybe we should start putting a little effort into, y’know, networking. Make it a little easier to mobilize when the next cosmic threat comes crashing down. And even if the sky isn’t falling, well, it couldn’t hurt to have some friends to talk to.”

Iris chuckled at the comment about the Hot Dog. “It’s a hot dog Superman, they’re crap wherever you go. When you’re a Speedster though you need to keep up with your metabolism. I figured you’d be in the same boat.” She shrugged as she took a sip of her soda. “Yeah it always seems like there’s something going on, to be real there are a lot of threats that we can’t face alone. It’ll be even worse if the bad guys start teaming up.” She finished her own hotdog, licking the last of the residue off her fingers before throwing the trash down into a dumpster at the bottom of the building.

“I’m not saying a little networking wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, it just isn’t wholly practical. There’s no real safe way for us to communicate with each other without placing a lot of trust in one individual. Unless you happen to be a billionaire with your own satellite network.” Iris pointed an accusatory finger at him, she didn’t believe it for a second but it helped bring some much needed levity to the conversation. “If you have an idea, you’re the one to make it happen. After all, in the modern age, you’re the world’s first Superhero. So what’re you thinking?”

In all honesty, this wasn’t how she expected this conversation to go. Iris had all kinds of questions running through her head. All kinds of conversation topics, and then Superman was talking to her about some kind of Superhero Network? Next he’d ask her for advice.

“Well, I don’t really have a solution off the top of my head,” Clark admitted, taking a sip of his soda, “but yeah, I think it would be a good idea to keep off the conventional channels. Radio chatter can be intercepted, phone calls can be traced, and talking over the internet is just begging for trouble. And even if we do have the methods, there’s the matter of who we can trust with it. Masks and public codenames and secret identities are fine when it comes to protecting the people you care about, but it can be hard to tell if you can count on someone when you don’t even know their name.”

Finishing off his hot dog and washing it down with a swig of soda, Superman suppressed a burp, then after a moment’s consideration, he made a decision.

“I’m Clark, by the way. Clark Kent.”

Iris spat out her soda. She had been sitting drinking it quite happily, not disagreeing with anything he had said. In fact she was about to bring up the whole Braniac thing. She had avoided having her phone updated, she didn’t like the fact that it could track her movement and quite possibly discern her secret identity. The fact that he just told her his real name however, that was something else entirely. The only secret identity she knew was that of the Blue Beetle, and that was more due to him having a slip of the tongue than there being actual trust.

Jay didn’t count, they both used the same name. The name itself also rung a bell, she hadn’t worked directly with Clark Kent before, but she had done work with the Daily Planet. She raised her hands and grabbed her mask, pulling it off of her face. The difference was negligible but it felt symbolic more than anything. She extended her hand out to him. “Nice to meet you Clark Kent. Iris West, at your service.” After shaking hands she stood up and paced.

“I think we need to think about this. Maybe sit on it for a while, there’s a lot of hate and distrust to us out there. If we unionise people might think we’re planning a hostile takeover. The two of us-” She shrugged. “-We’re pretty fast. Plus that Thor guy can open portals now apparently.”

“Heh, I’ve been hoping for a chance to meet Thor,” Clark chuckled. “One of the guys from work is betting Thor could take me in an arm-wrestling match. I’d like to take him up on that bet.”

“As long as the two of you don’t get into it. The last thing we need is for Thor and Superman to level half the country just to see who the bigger man is. For the record, I’d like to put my money on Thor.” Iris recoiled away from- Clark. In mock fear. “Don’t get up in my business, it took the two of us to take the Surfer on. He did it solo, but then again if he is the real Thor he’s been around for thousands of years so has a little more experience than we do.

Clark laughed again. “Maybe I should get my hands on a magic hammer of my own, then we’ll see what’s what. But in all seriousness, even if we don’t make anything official, I think we ought to start considering who we can count on when things really hit the fan. So far, you’re only the third person not directly related to me who knows my name, and only the second in the, erm, ‘hero community.’ The other being Batman, but that was more of a matter of circumstance. So I hope you know that means I’m putting a pretty substantial amount of trust in you, Iris.”

Clark considered the name for a moment.

“Iris West….” he said to himself before a light bulb went off in his head. “You’re with Central City News, right? I’ve read your work, it’s great stuff. My gir--....erm, my co-worker’s mentioned you a few times as one of her proverbial rivals. I, erm, don’t think she means anything by it, she just likes to get competitive.”

Iris burst out laughing. For being possibly one of the strongest men on the face of the planet. He was pretty darn awkward. “I swear Clark, you really are just a big blue boyscout aren’t you? I’m surprised you’ve got the teeth to be a reporter.” She straightened her face out. “I appreciate the trust you’re putting in me. So long as you appreciate it back, only-” She did a quick mental tally “-four people know my identity and none of them are even family. Also you can let your girl-worker know, that it’s a lot easier to write good fluff pieces on a hero, when you’re the actual hero.”

Iris shrugged. “It’s technically cheating, I know. It does keep me in with a job however, and I haven’t won he pulitzer prize because of it yet. I’m working on it though.” She stood up. “Listen, thanks for stopping by. Sometimes it’s good to have someone to talk to about work stuff, the only other people I can talk about this stuff are either retired superheroes or scientists determined to use me as some form of energy generator.” She threw a smile at him as she pulled her mask back onto her face, her hands moved as a blur before she held a piece of paper out to him, a number written on it. “That’s my cell, as in my actual cell. Call me if you need me, or. If you just need to talk. Though I think if we hang out here any longer, we’re going to start attracting attention.”

“Good point,” said Clark, “we, ah, don’t want people get the wrong idea. Erm, whatever that may be. Anyway, it was good catching up with you again. I’ll hang onto this, and give you a call when the time comes. At any rate, I’ll see you the next time the planet needs saving.”

Calling back to her ‘Big Blue Boy Scout’ remark, he gave a quick three-finger salute, and was off into the night, headed back towards a sleepy little farm town about two hours’ drive away.
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Manhattan Detention Complex
“The Tombs”


Angelo Campisi looked through the thick plexiglass partition at Chase. He wore the traditional orange all the DOC inmates wore, his clothing and jewels confiscated when the arrived. Chase noticed that Angelo’s dark hair was shiny and slicked back into place.

“At least you’re getting your hair gel in here,” Adrian said into the phone mounted on the wall. Angelo had a matching phone on his side of the glass.

“I had to trade away a carton of cigarettes for it,” Angelo grumbled. “But it was worth it. In here appearances are everything.”

“Let’s talk about your case,” said Chase. “I have to go to the US Attorney’s office to get discovery. I tried getting in touch with your previous counsel, but--”

“Jake Wexler isn’t gonna cooperate,” said Angelo. “I bet me dropping him and picking you has got the rest of the Family spooked. Jake is in their pocket, but you ain’t. They don’t want you whispering sweet little nothings into my ear.”

As a Capo in the Regetti Crime Family, Angelo knew more than enough about the Family to take them all down if he decided to start talking to the right police officers. As much as the FBI liked to tout their crime-busting prowess when it came to the Mafia, it had been informants and testifying mob bosses that had really done the most damage to La Cosa Nostra over the last fifty years. Paranoia was rampant among the mobsters. To even suspect someone was going to turn informant was grounds enough to kill them.

“And that’s what the feds are hoping for.” Angelo held his stubby finger out until it was pressed against the glass. “They framed me for this, Chase. They want to use this as leverage to get me to flip. I’m not a fucking rat, you hear me? I would rather die a hundred times over than give up my Family. Omerta, Chase. The code of silence, it is a powerful thing.”

“Right” said Chase, clearing his throat. “But from what I’ve found out about the case they seem to be doing a full-court press. No bail, deeming you a flight risk, and a potential fifteen to thirty years in a federal prison. But, it may be a moot point, Angelo. Your wife said you have an alibi.”

“Yes,” said Angelo. “I… umm…”

“What’s her name?”

“Rosa. She’s what they call a--”

“A goomar,” said Chase. “I’ve seen The Sopranos, Angelo. So you were with Rosa the night of the truck hijacking?”

“Damn straight,” said Angelo.”She lives in Crown Heights. “ He gave Chase the address before a small smile crept on to his face. “She does this thing with her pinkie where she gets it up in--”

“I’ll get my PI on it,” Chase shouted as he held the phone away from his ear. On the other side of the glass, Angelo was reenacting a very animated scene. “I’ll be in touch!”

---

Stavros’ Greek Diner
Midtown


“I don’t like it.”

Misty Knight looked at the half-eaten turkey club on her plate before looking back up at Chase.

“The guy is a scumbag, Chase.”

“He certainly is,” Chase said between bites of his cheeseburger. “And he’s gotten away with countless crimes in the past. But if he isn’t guilty of this one, isn’t that all that matters?”

“How much is he paying you?”

“Enough to keep the rent and power on for the rest of the year,” Chase said without missing a beat.

“And that’s all that really matters to you,” Misty said coolly.

“You have to start thinking about this differently,” Chase said as he wiped ketchup from his lips with a napkin. “When you were a cop, you were part of the system and that machinery was unstoppable. You know yourself how many people get caught up in the gears, regardless of their innocence. Our jobs as defense is to test the validity of that machine. It’s not so much about if he was innocent or not, it’s if the rules were being followed. If things like prejudice and laziness led to them railroading Angelo then it's not rigt. You know yourself that there are a lot of lazy and corrupt cops out there. And you also know first hand that evidence can be tampered with.”

“Yeah,” she said after pushing her turkey sandwich around. “No thanks to you.”

“How many times am I going to have to apologize for getting you fired?”

“Until you get me not fired,” said Misty. She sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “I get what you’re saying, I do. I’m not some cape-wearing weirdo who sees the world as only black and white. I get being pragmatic, I do, you gotta do what you can to keep business going? But if Angelo is innocent and we get him back on the streets, what happens when he actually does something that gets someone hurt or even killed?

Misty was surprised by Chase’s reaction. For the first time since she’d known the lawyer, he was without an answer. He struggled to come up with anything as he looked down at his plate of fries.

“I’ll… work on a solution,” he finally said. “It’s the best I can do. I’m going to go downtown to get all the discovery from the US Attorney’s office and actually start looking at the facts of this case. In the meantime, I want you to head up to Crown Heights and talk to Angelo’s mistress and see if she has any concrete proof of where they were the night of the hijacking in question. If you think it’s not kosher, then you can walk away and I can cut a deal with the US attorney to have Angelo turn state’s witness. He gets off the street and we get paid. Sound good?”

“It’s not ideal,” said Misty. “But it’ll work for now.”

As Chase and Knight wrapped up their business, eyes were watching. While a black sedan with tinted windows watched the diner from one end of the street, a burgundy Lincoln with two men in tracksuits watched the diner from the other end of the street.

---

Crown Heights
Brooklyn


Misty came to the third floor landing but stopped the second she saw the open door. 3C, Rosa Torres’ apartment, was wide open. She started forward, wishing she hadn’t left her gun in the glove compartment of her car, and gingerly stepped into the apartment.

Laying face first on the hardwood floor was a dead body, a pool of blood beneath it. Misty’s cop training told her to back out right away before she could contaminate the crime scene, but she had to know who the body was. Misty bent down to look at the body. It was female, with long dark hair and a complexion that hinted at a Hispanic background.

“Rosa,” Misty said softly to herself. “Son of a bitch.”
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