Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Lord Wraith
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Lord Wraith Leaf on the Wind

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St. Roch, Louisiana - 1878
The upbeat melody rang out across the saloon, clearly audible above the drone of its many patrons. Smoke from cigars and cigarillos hung in the air, their distinctive aroma adding its flair to the smell of the free-flowing alcohol that often splashed over the floor and tables. The laughter of sloshed men and the flirty giggles of painted women echoed within the four walls while a game of cat and mouse was exchanged between the two parties over the guise of the playing cards laid across the table. Men pretended to only come to these establishments to play a hand of poker or a round of blackjack, but the working women knew what they really wanted. They, after all, were the lifeblood of most of the frontier and St. Roch was no exception.

Suddenly, the doors to the saloon flew open. Slamming against the walls on either side of the frame, a dark silhouette filled the doorway. The echo of spurs was the only sound that could be heard through the saloon, aside from the continuing melody of the play piano. A hush had fallen over the patrons while they seemed to unanimously decide what sort of threat the man in the doorway held.

Each of his hands rested on his holsters, one strapped to either leg. A mask concealed his identity beneath the wide-brimmed hat above his head, and you'd be forgiven for mistaking him for another vigilante were it not for the white bird emblazoned on his chest.

"I’m lookin’ for ‘Gentleman’ Craddock." The man yelled into the saloon. His eyes darted back and forth, looking for any sort of reaction to the name. Not a word came from the collective gathering in front of him.

His arm was no more than a blur before a deafening gunshot rang out, silencing the player piano before the masked gunslinger spoke again.

"Perhaps you folks didn't hear me, I said I'm looking for 'Gentleman' Jim Craddock." The man in black repeated.

"Turns out ol'Jimmy doesn't quite live up to his name, and I intend to see him wear a hemp necktie."

Not a word came from the crowd. The masked man continued to study the room; he could tell some of the bolder men were getting itchy trigger fingers and would soon be throwing lead if he didn't get a better handle on the situation. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched a man slowly begin to slide his hand towards the table's edge. His other hand shot up, revolver in hand as he cocked the hammer and levelled the barrel with the man's face.

"Not another move. My quarrel ain't with you, partner. I'm only after the man who tried to force his way with my girl." Spitting in disgust at even the mention of the act committed, he turned back to the man.

"Now don't try to tell me you wouldn't want to see the man who committed such a heinous act get his comeuppance."

"You promise he'll hang?"

The woman's voice asked nervously, prompting the masked man to turn his gaze towards the source. Her face was painted, she was obviously working, but even with her face obscured, he could tell she was young. Younger than Cinnamon, perhaps too young even for the line of work she had fallen into. But that was neither here nor there, Craddock had dishonoured Cinnamon, and Hannibal Hawke wasn't about to stand for it.

"I'll string him up myself if the Sheriff won't see justice done, little lady."

"He's a horrible man." The young woman replied.

"Was here the night before last, bragging to everyone about the business he had and flashing all sorts of coin." There was a slight pause as though the girl was choosing her words before a slight shrug of her shoulder indicated she decided against being tactful.

"Surprised he made it out of here alive showing off that kind of money."

Hawke knew Craddock believed himself to be invincible. Some old gypsy had told him he'd only meet his end at the hands of 'noble blood.' It was why the coward had fled England for America in the first place. There was no nobility in the frontier.

"Did he say where he was going?"

"Said he was meeting a Mister Alan Wayne." The name may not have meant anything to the folks in St. Roch by Hawke had travelled enough to recognize a name like Wayne. No doubt that Craddock had swindled Wayne into meeting with him.

"You’ve been very helpful." Hawke replied while holstering his guns. Tossing a small wallet towards the barkeep, he spoke again.

“Drinks for all my new friends, keep the change.”


Location: Midway City - Michigan, United States of America
Ghosts of the Past #1.01: Fugue State

Interaction(s): None
Previously: None

The older model American built pick-up truck weaved in and out of the busy afternoon traffic. Exiting the interstate, the rebuilt engine let loose a loud rumble before the vehicle took the ramp and merged into the multilane road that wove its way through Midway City's downtown. Inside sat a scowling man who held a white knuckle grip on the steering wheel, all the while cursing under his breath to himself. While he supposed he should be lucky he wasn't facing jail time, court-ordered anger management was far from high on his list of priorities on his day off.

These days the driver tried to spend as little time in the city proper as he could. The world had certainly changed in the last five years, ever since the blue pyjama-wearing-boy scout the media had dubbed 'Superman' had literally flown onto every television screen in North America. Before that, it felt the world had never had to worry about a 'super-villain.' The bad guys in movies were still Germans, Russians and gang bangers. Now the world had to worry about interdimensional starfish and hive minds attacking New York every other Wednesday. It wasn't the driver's fault that he was angry about it. Everyone should have been upset by it, thoroughly enraged even.

Problems used to be solved by the guy with the bigger gun. But now, problems were solved by the guy with the bigger team of metahumans at their disposal. First came the Justice League, then came S.H.I.E.L.D. with their Avengers. What happens when either one of those teams decides to seize power for themselves, what happens when the Justice League decides they want to be the 'Justice Lords'.

Ruled over by a man dressed as a rodent.

Not on my watch.


"Carter Hall?"

The driver had been so caught up in his thoughts, the rest of the drive had disappeared. Snapping back to reality, he found himself sitting in a semicircle with several other adults, each looking about as happy about where they were as he was inwardly feeling.

"Mr. Hall, unfortunately, as this is your third time attending, I do need you to actually speak or else I can't sign off on your court papers."

It was as though Carter had been on auto-pilot. One moment he had been in his truck and the next here. He scarcely remembered parking the vehicle, let alone entering the building, taking a seat or even where the piping hot cup of coffee firmly grasped in his right hand came from. The out of body experience was something Carter was all too familiar with. Visions of other lives regularly haunted his slumbering mind. Worlds, languages and adventures he could have never known, never imagined vividly came to him while he tossed and turned only to wake in the morning with no apparent thought of where they came from nor any sort of rest. Even now, the heavy bags hung under his eyes, which no doubt prompted his unconscious need for coffee.

"One moment," Carter replied, breaking the heavy silence that hung over the room while the other individuals tried with no avail to not awkwardly stare at the man who seemingly just came out of a trance. Taking a long sip of the sobering beverage in his hand, it took almost all of Carter's willpower to not rear back in disgust. The burnt taste of overcooked cheap grinds invaded every corner of his mouth, prompting him to swallow hard and fast—the scorching liquid searing every inch down the back of his throat. With a slight sputter, he placed the styrofoam cup on the ground, before standing. Crossing the semicircle of chairs in a few strides, Carter positioned himself behind the podium the counsellor had previously held.

Gazing out over the group, Carter realized this was the first time he had ever truly looked over his fellow 'inmates'. It was a small group all said and done, only about five of them. One looked to be exactly the type you'd expect in an anger management session. Neck tattoo, gym and steroid inflated arms, too tight of a tank top clinging beneath a very loud jacket. The man next to him was the polar opposite. He wore glasses, a rumpled business suit and a tie that was clearly too tight. Another was a young woman who looked barely out of high school. Her eyes darted from the floor to the clock adorning the wall. Her left leg shook while she chewed the end of a pen held to her lips between two fingers, clearly in need of a hit of nicotine.

That left only two others. Another male with absolutely nothing remarkable about him, if Carter had to guess why the fourth figure was here, he'd go with spousal abuse. It was a shot in the dark. He had no grounds of justification for it. But he knew the type, and Mr. Bland screamed it. That left only 'Inmate Number Five'.

She was stunning. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but there was something about her that immediately took Carter's breath away. Well dressed, prim and poised; obviously white collar, which led to several questions about why on Earth she'd be in anger management. Red hair spilled over her shoulders, outlining the angular features of her face. A pair of piercing green eyes were raised to meet Carter's own gaze. They were fierce and full of life as they stared back defiantly, seemingly glowing in comparison to her radiant olive skin.

"Mr. Hall? Uh, you actually need to speak."

Carter shook his head, breaking the staring contest with the captivating woman. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her smirk.

Suddenly, he didn't hate this group quite as much.

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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Freeborn Scum

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"Oh, come on, you guys," I say to myself as I land on the rooftop of the Guggenheim and see the neat circular hole cut into the glass of the Guggenheim's intricate web of skylights. "Regular glass? While you're displaying a priceless artifact shaped like a cat? In New York? Where there's an infamous master criminal who dresses like a cat? Why not just put up a big flashing neon sign that says 'Please Rob Us?'"

"Most of the security there is top of the line," Captain DeWolff says over the earpiece in my mask. "Motion sensors, cameras that can detect the entire electromagnetic spectrum, laser-tripped alarms, pressure sensors on everything from the displays to the floor. Hypothetically, even if someone did manage to get in, there's no way they could grab the Guennol Lioness and escape without detection."

"Yeah, well, the thing about hypotheses is they have to be put to the test," I say, crawling through the skylight and lowering myself down via a web line to avoid touching the floor. "I'm going to see if I can retrace her steps-- knowing where she came in is all well and good, but we need to find how she got out, and maybe then we can figure out where she went."

"Think you can do it?"

"Pretty sure. I'm no slouch when it comes to infiltrating and sneaking around in places I shouldn't be."

"Oh, is that so? Any mischief that I need to know about?"

"I only B&E on bad guys, Captain," I assure her, as the bundle of heightened awareness, acuity, and reactions that I collectively refer to as my vaunted Spider-Sense picks up the near-imperceptible heat of a laser tripwire, and I stop my descent short. "Manfredi never knew how many times he spilled his guts to me while I was crawling around up in the air ducts. Speaking of...."

Carefully winding around the laser, I drop down another floor, before I see a vent on a far wall whose grate is just slightly off. Most people wouldn't notice it-- I wouldn't have noticed it if I weren't looking for this particular perp. By her standards, though, it's practically a dead giveaway. Either she did this in a hurry, or.....

"Captain, you mind if I put you on hold for a sec?" I ask. "I might lose signal in here, and I need to make a call."

Before Captain DeWolff can answer, I put her line on hold, open my contacts, and let out a sigh as I head for the air vent.

"It's gonna be one of those nights, isn't it?"




"Possibility," began the man in an immaculate three-piece suit as he addressed the conference hall full of excited young interns, "is the barrier that separates reality from mere dreaming. It may be a cliché to say that 'anything is possible,' but as we learn and progress, we discover far more things are possible than our ancestors could have imagined. Once upon a time, it was 'impossible' for a carriage to move without a horse to pull it. It was 'impossible' to build a machine that could calculate and compute complex equations faster than a human could blink. It was 'impossible' to split the atom, to land a man on the moon, to map the human genome. It was 'impossible' for a man to fly through the air, to lift a tank over his head, or to crawl along walls like a spider. And now, they tell us it is 'impossible' for mankind to keep stride in a world full of titans."

Toward the back of the room, Gwen Stacy did her best to act impressed. She was a third-year intern at OsCorp now, and while CEO Norman Osborn was always a commanding presence who dominated any room he entered, she had heard almost this exact speech no fewer than five times now. It certainly captured her imagination during her first year, as it was with the new crop of first-year interns in the room, but Gwen had spent enough time in and around OsCorp to know there was a lot more going on behind the sales pitches and showmanship.

"Possibility, you see, is what drives us here at OsCorp," Norman continued, the large screen behind him showcasing stock footage of happy people and appropriately 'sciencey' imagery, mixed with clips of the latest OsCorp products. "This company was founded on the notion that boundaries are meant to be pushed, that limits are there to be exceeded. Revolutionary breakthroughs in genetic engineering, in cybernetic augmentation, and in the next generation of bio-technology, all developed right here, in this very building, will propel the world forward in ways that many of our peers would consider, well, 'impossible.'"

On the screen, a silhouette of an Olympic runner kept pace with an expensive sports car. A firefighter lifted up a steel girder weighing several tons. A young woman, her eyes full of hope and determination, took a running leap, and propelled herself high into the sky. All very dramatic, very theatrical, but Gwen knew they were closer to the mark than the corny presentation let on.

Most of her work was as a lab- and administrative assistant, doing basic data entry, taking notes for Doctor Warren, getting coffee, translating long and highly technical papers into 800-word articles for the OsCorp website. It would be years before she would ever be allowed anywhere near the labs where the real work was done, the military contracts and top-secret projects that pushed the boundaries of legality and ethics. Still, Gwen had connections-- after all, she was a friend of the CEO's son-- and the glimpses she had gotten behind the proverbial curtain were eye-opening.

The presentation showed a young man standing from a wheelchair as inspirational music swelled, and Gwen wondered if an injection of Globulin Green could indeed allow a paralyzed person to walk. Maybe for a few minutes, before they went horrendously insane and attacked the nearest person.

"You, the youth of America, are going to inherit the future," Osborn went on, "And you fortunate few, you are going to have a hand in shaping that future for--"

*The Itsy-Bitsy Spiiii-der Went Up the Water Spout....*

Gwen started, her eyes wide, realizing she hadn't put her phone on silent. From the stage at the front of the conference hall, Norman glanced at her with a raised eyebrow.

"Are you going to get that, Miss Stacy?"

"Oh! Ohmygosh! I-- I'm so sorry, Mister Osborn, I--"

"Don't apologize, Miss Stacy," Osborn interrupted her, "I never do. If there's one thing I dislike more than thoughtlessness, it's spinelessness. Now please, step outside and take your call. I'm sure if you had your phone on during a meeting, the call must be for something more important."

Gwen flushed, inwardly cursing at herself as the room full of OsCorp personnel, some fellow interns like her, others high-ranking project managers and team leaders, watched her fumble for her phone and taking a mental note of the faux pas. A few of the first-year newbies laughed, and Osborn shot them a cold glare.

She stepped out into the hallway, and checked her phone, seeing who would call her in the middle of a meeting.

"Of course," she sighed as she saw the name and answered.

"Hey Gwen, it's me, I just wanted to--"

"Peter, I could strangle you right now!" she blurted out. "Norman is doing the orientation speech to all the new interns, and half of the people in the company that I want to work with now think I'm some ditz! It's going to take me months to live this down!"

"Oh--I, uh, I'm sorry, I didn't know--"

Gwen took a deep breath to catch herself. "....it's not your fault, I was the one who left my phone on. Sorry I yelled. Anyway, what's up? MJ kept hinting that you've got some 'big surprise' for me after work?"

"....uhhh, yeah, about that," Pete began, "I, uh, I may be running late. Something came up....y'know, job stuff. It might take a little longer than I thought. But don't worry, I've still got something great in mind! Just....once you get off work, don't take the bus or subway back to the dorm, I've, uh, I've got a ride to pick you up."

"What kind of ride?"

"It's, ah, kinda part of the surprise. If I'm not there in time, well, you'll know it when you see it. And I'll meet up with you later, honest."

"If you say so," she said, doubtfully.

"Okay, cool. Anyway, I've gotta get going, or this thing is gonna take even longer. Sorry again, babe. Love you!"

"Love you too," Gwen replied, ending the call. She really did love Peter, but there were times when he didn't make that easy.

As she stepped back into the conference hall, all eyes turned back to her, some disapproving glares, other silent jeers, before Norman Osborn cleared his throat to turn their attention back to him.

"Do forgive the young lady," he said to the room as Gwen sheepishly made her way for the back door. "she really is quite brilliant. But even geniuses can make the occasional slip-up. Now then, the future....."

Gwen Stacy sank into a chair at the back of the conference hall, and inwardly sighed.

"It's going to be one of those nights, isn't it?"
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 Create-A-Hero RPG GM, Blue Bringer of BWAHAHA!

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T H E ‘ E M B A S S Y ‘

Four Months Ago | Manhattan, New York

“So, I’m Blue Beetle. This is Booster Gold. We called you in to clear up some gaps in your résumé. Now it says here that your power set—”

“Strong Guy.”

“Uh huh. That’s what it says here. Seems pretty apparent too. Big unit.” Booster Gold said, pointing at the paperwork and flexing his bicep. “Must be hitting that creatine pretty hard, huh? I’ve been thinking about getting into some kind of program myself. Heard good things about this new gym program thing around here called ‘Dianetics’, there seems to be a bunch of them open in the area…”

"Dia--?" Ted turned and shot Booster a look of disbelief, before he rolled his eyes and shook his head, returning to the task at hand.

“Yeah. As we said there’s a lot of gaps in your résumé here. Also it seems to say your name is—”

“Strong Guy.”

The pair looked at each other and then at the new potential hire.



"..."

"..."

“Well, we have your paperwork on file if anything new opens up…”




I N T R A N S I T

Three Months Ago | Manhattan, New York

The team rode quickly in the Bug. It was fairly open plan and over the years Ted had added more seats for group comfort despite how many of his teammates could fly themselves. He'd even sectioned off a mobile "laboratory" for Hank on board since he'd generally either stay with the Bug or communicate via comm-link from the Embassy.

Ted sat in the driver's seat and casually flicked between visual screens whilst maintaing steady control of the vehicle with a DJ's precision. Keeping focus on the main screen using one of the ship's Doodlebug drones, whilst flying to their Wall Street destination. Janet Van Dyne watched him for a few moments, and seeing that he had control of the situation, used a lever to swing her seat up towards the front of the airship to sit alongside of him.

"So, how's things?"

Ted shot her a curious glance. "Fine. Why? Shouldn't take more than a few minutes."

"Everything alright with Tora?" Jan probed.

"Ah." Ted responded, realising what the concern was about. "She's fine. She's back celebrating her birthday with her family. They have a festival back in her home town.. village..? Let's stick with 'home town'. Whole big thing. We're fine."

"Aha..." Janet replied, as if she was understanding the situation. "And the parents don't get on with their little girl's choice of men?"

"What--? No. We get on fine. I just can't go because work gets crazy this time of year. At K.O.R.D we have our own festival. It's called 'End of Financial Year'. At hers there's folk dancing, the strange fermentation of regional fish and traditional dress. At K.O.R.D we have the annual balance sheet, Profit/Loss and the annual cash flow forecast... which in my experience has so tenuous a bearing on reality that whoever's worked on it has probably consumed numerous bottles of something well fermented beforehand. And the only dancing I do is at the Annual Shareholder meeting." He shot her a clownish grin.

"Proud of that one, huh?" She smirked.

"Little bit." His grin widened.

"So everything's fine?"

"Well, at the risk of jinxing everything - always a concern in our line of business - yeah, everything's fine. We're good. Thanks for your concern though. Anyway, we're here. He's down there. Delta formation. Hank, over to your console! Go! Go! GO!"




Five Minutes Later





Ted and Booster are pinned down behind a parked car. There's flame and the charred smell of bio-electricty in the air.

"How's he doing this? This is crazy, he's one guy!"

"In fairness we've done most of this to ourselves. I don't know about you, but I took a full shot of Wasp's stingers before and she stalled and fell out of the sky for the effort, and if it weren't for the Nomex in the suit Fire would have flash-fried me as well. I had no idea we were so out of form. We're going to have to train more."

Wasp called out from behind another car. "Are you alright, BB? I don't know what happened there, I could have sworn I had kept these set on 35%. That never should have happened!"

"Skeetz, are you picking up anything 'hinky' about this guy?" Booster asked his floating mechanical companion.

"'Hinky', sir?"

"Yeah, any kind of auras, or have you got any kind of future file on this guy?"

"Scanning now, sir... Skeetz began to play elevator music.

Fire continued to lay down covering fire from behind another car, only for the fire to roll onwards beyond their foe and hit another car, where it's gas tank spontaneously combusted and flipped the car back in her direction. She cried out in fear and quickly flew behind Wasp's car.

"Good call, Booster. I take it you saw that too?"

"Uh-huh..." Booster Gold answered in the affirmative.

The music stopped and they would have their answer. "An EXCELLENT theorem, sir! He appears to be surrounded by non-repeating, periodically expanding waves of Nega-Quantum affected energies.

"You get that? Booster asked Ted.

"I think I got the gist. The true nature of quantum mechanics is thus far unknowable, but it can be used to determine outcome via probabilities. I think he's saying the guy puts out a field that somehow expands upon and further generates negative outcomes."

"He's feeding on chaos?" Wasp clarified.

"Huh... With this team we're lucky he didn't destroy the whole city the second we touched down." Fire sneered.

"Non-repeating waves. That means he's doing it deliberately, right? He's controlling it actively, it's not a machine. It's him."

"Got it! Booster declared, seeming to have come up with a plan. "You two lay down covering fire, Beetle and I will take him out! I've been saving something special for just this kind of situation!"

His three teammates gave him looks of extreme skepticism.

"I'm serious! We've got this! Just cover us!

"Beetle..?"

The hundreds of times Booster had let him down in the past flickered before Ted's eyes.

"BB..? C'mon, man. I've really got this." Booster earnestly pleaded.

Janet shot Ted a final sympathetic look.

"Alright, go. Apparently we've got this." He gave Booster a look that suggested he was less than completely certain. Booster flashed back his well-rehearsed smile. And that was when the fear came flooding back.

Wasp and Fire briefly discussed their plan to storm Major Disaster.

"So what've you got? Secret Legion of Superheroes weapon? Pocket Captain America's Shield? What are we talking here?"

Excited, Booster started to fiddle with his suit. "Better. We're gonna wait until the girls make their frontal assault, and then we're gonna jump back minutes before anyone was here and take him out before he starts his plan!"

"Wait, your plan is to screw around with time travel to take out a guy who uses chaos as a weapon? That's less than no plan. That's taking a problem that affects a few city blocks and potentially turning it into something that could tear the universe asunder! That's crazy!"

"I call it 'Blitzing the blindside'." Booster said, barely paying attention whilst he fiddled with his suit's chronocircuitry.

"Wait, we can't do this! This is nuts!"

"Hup... there go the girls! Booster said as Fire and Wasp executed their perfectly choreographed charge from cover.

"Shit!"

"C'mon, it'll be fine. Trust me! You've just gotta stay within about a metre and a half of me while we're doing this! It'll work!

Ted was out of alternatives now. His teammates were already exposed and laying down covering fire. Faithfully depending on their attack.

"C'mon! To the end of the line, buddy! Booster held his fist out.

Ted held for a second, but then dapped him up. A light flashed within the suit. A burst of fire ricocheted and lapped against a building. Stone fell.

The pair flickered as the chronocircuitry activated. Stone knocked Ted forward. Time seemed to freeze all around them as the Blue Beetle stumbled. In reality time travelled in multiple directions, between numerous simultaneuous points. Ted reached out for a saviour. He clutched at Skeetz.

And then he was gone.

"Ted!?"

Everyone turned and faced where Booster had dropped to his knees, and the space where their friend once was.

"TED!?!"


"Codenames, Booster!"

Major Disaster started laughing. A harsh cackle that stood in stark contrast to the seemingly omnipresent laughter of their lost friend.

Now distracted, Janet walked behind him and stung him into unconsciousness whilst his guard was down.

But the damage was done.

"TEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED?!"


The Blue Beetle was gone. Lost forever in the infinite of spacetime. Who could know what horrors awaited him?




S O M E W H E R E

Sometime | Sure as Hell Not Manhattan, New York

Ted stumbled forward into being. He checked on Skeetz, who was now recalibrating after the shock of time travel. People passed him in the street and stared. Clearly his Blue Beetle costume stood out as strange here. Ted thought about what that likely meant in terms of the timeline of self-proclaimed superheroes. Anything to narrow things down and give him a sense of when and where he could be. Skeetz chimed merrily, having rebooted.

"Skeetz? When and where are we?"

"I am now back online, but it will take time to re-align database and determine chronal position."

"No..." The Blue Beetle had already got a sense of his position. He'd seen a sign on a local movie theatre that said "The Adventures of Pluto Nash".

Ted dropped to his knees and vomited all down the kurb.

"Please be wary, Mr Beetle. The effects of time travel without possessing your own chrono suit can be quite nasty and result in purging stomach conten--"

"Chrono suit be damned, Skeetz!" Ted cried out. "No need to rush with the database. It's 2002 and we're stuck in the Devil's Armpit."

"Sir..?

Ted grabbed the floating robot and turned it around to show what he saw. The sign hanging in a park that declared the township to be:

"Raven's Perch, New Jersey".
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Sep
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Sep Admiral EvilScottishGuy

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Midgard was once a world with Pantheons upon Pantheons, more Gods than many other worlds combined. The small, seemingly insignificant rock adrift in space a nexus point for various realms to come together. Over time some faded into obscurity, others left the realm altogether. While others continued to play with their influence on the world, subtly interacting with the world according to their grand design. This is not the tale of one such God. This is the tale of…


Previously: Home time!


As Thor emerged from the Bifrost atop the rainbow bridge the first thing that met him was the crisp cool air. The winter season was approaching, the farmers that had yet to harvest their crop would be doing so soon, as the cold wouldn’t be good for the crops. In the centre of the bridge before Thor stood the towering figure off Heimdall, even to his standards the all-seeing god was a giant, standing with two hands atop Hofund with his golden eyes staring, piercing into the void ahead of him.

“Hail Odinson. How fares your search for the fiend Loki?”

Thor stopped beside the other god, turning to him and smiling.

“You mean to say, All-Seer, that you don’t already know?” Heimdalls lips curled, the faintest smile appearing on his otherwise stoic, expressionless face.

“You know me too well, Thor. Your mother taught the trickster well, he is still hidden from my sight. All I know is he is once again gathering followers. By the day more and more mortals disappear from my sight.”

Thor nodded along to the gods’ words after all Heimdall had stood watch over the Bifrost for an age before the young god of thunder was born. Whenever he spoke, others listened. As when one was gifted with the ability to see and hear everything in existence, that demanded certain respect. Not merely from Asgard, but even the Gods of Olympus, Heliopolis, and Avalon to name a few. This made Heimdall one of the few Asgardians who was respected among the various other pantheons from Midgard and the greater cosmos as a whole.

“Aye. Odin has called me back, no doubt to discuss my recent failures and prepare me for the long haul. Loki must be stopped, the longer he remains on Midgard the more damage he can cause.”

Even now, having just departed Midgard, Thor’s thoughts dwelled on it. In the years since his banishment, it had become a second home. A place where he could do good daily, and while there was no doubt of the evil that some people on Midgard possessed, many more still were pure and good at heart. Truly there was much they could learn from one another.

“Your mind dwells on your friends and allies.”

“There are many threats on Midgard that need my attention. The enemies seem to be getting stronger by the day. Just, let me know if anything happens that needs my attention.”

Without so much as another word, he removed Mjolnir from his belt. Spinning it, he let go of the hammer, allowing it to pull him towards the city. Thor always had to chuckle when he saw it. In many artworks he had seen on Midgard, Asgard was depicted as a city of golden towers and glowing spires. As though the artists had mixed it with the Christians’ concept of Heaven. The reality was dramatically different. While the palace itself was a sight to behold, with some bright spires, the city as a whole, much more closely resembled European castles. Comprised of circular architecture, rugged walls, and roads. It was nothing compared to the glistening cities the Mortals inhabited, but it held its beauty.

He soared through the skies, looking out among the people going about their lives. In the distance, he could see the edge of the city, and beyond it towards the farmland and the mountains, beyond that, it just fell off into nothing. Many on Midgard believed their world to be flat, yet Asgard truly was. Beyond the water there was naught but the vastness of space. Landing at the steps before the door to the throne room he took a deep breath before pushing the doors open. A long hall awaited him, ornate paintings and pillars adjourned the room. The roof above them is a mural of Odin and Thor standing side by side with Mjolnir and Gungnir in hand defending against an unseen enemy.

Unseen as Odin felt it sent the wrong message to have a painting of them fighting someone in the throne room. There was a clang from the golden throne that sat above all else in the room as Odin slammed the base of Gungnir against the floor. “Thor returns! Prince to Asgard, Odinson, and my heir!” Odin’s voice was barely more than a whisper, and yet somehow it filled the entire hall. Thor could hear him as if they were mere meters away from each other. Thor approached the respectable distance, placing Mjolnir on the ground before him as he took a knee.

“I have come as promised All-Father.” He stood up again, looking around the throne he could see Freyja stood there. She threw a smile at him, and he returned the sentiment. Odin stood up and walked down the steps, he could almost swear that he felt every step Odin took in his direction. It all reverberated through him, there was a power to the All-Father that despite his long life, he could not understand and he doubted he would ever manage to fully comprehend it. Not until his day came.

“And so you have, come away from Midgard. Playing hero amongst the mortals, I hope it has made you feel better about yourself for a while. You must now attend to your duties here, for the Odinsleep approaches.” Thor looked up at Odin with a look of disbelief upon his face.

“But father, it hasn’t been long since you last entered the Odinsleep surely-” Odin raised a hand to silence Thor, which was the first time that Thor realized just how heavily Odin was leaning on Gungnir. Usually, the spear rested beside the throne, at first he had believed that his father just carried it for some ceremonial purpose. Now, however, he felt like it was being used as a crutch.

“There have been matters that required attending too that are beyond your knowing. Just know that they are dealt with, and I grow weary. Your place is here, you must look after Asgard while I sleep.”

Thor stood as he went to speak.

“Perhaps, if like last time Balder-”

“No, it must be you.”

“I will remain close at hand, should I be needed Heimdall-”

“No. Thor, I am telling you as your King it must be you.”

“With Loki loose once more, I am needed on Midgard. Balder can look after things then as soon as I am needed Heimdall can bring me here, this will work like it has the past-” Mjolnir shot off the ground towards Odin’s hand, there was a crackle of thunder and Odin slammed the butt off Gungnir on the ground causing a reverberation that could be heard throughout Asgard as lightning crackled. Jumping around the room.

“Foolish boy. I gifted you with ears, use them. This is not the past. Your place is here, among your people. It is where I need you to be. I thought you had learned your lesson on duty and humility. Be here for me, for our people. In the time they need you most.” As the lightning slammed around the room Thor recoiled slightly. His father’s voice booming throughout the hall. Underneath it all, an element of fear. Panic. That’s what scared the God of Thunder most of all, in his thousand years of life he had never known the All-Father to know fear, to know panic.

“Aye Father. I shall stay.”
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Roman
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Roman King of Dirt

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PREVIOUSLY...
TWELVE FOR A DASTARDLY CURSE
2: A MARE AT THE FAIR ON THE MERRY-GO-ROUND


Johannes Sebastian Hill was not overly fond of his name; it did not serve him well in this town. Johannes was too vaguely foreign, and people took a disliking to it, or deemed him untrustworthy based on their misguided assumptions. Sebastian was too fancy, too formal - people associated it with toffs and high society, and failed to take him seriously because of it. He’d tried Jo for a while, hard ‘J’ unlike the full moniker, but people spelt it wrong or asked what it was short for, and that led right back to the first problem. Eventually, in middle school, he’d settled on Seb, another abbreviation that didn’t sit quite right on the tongue, but had worked well enough. He was Seb for a long while, short and simple and easy to say, and conversation got easier and people got more trusting. Eventually he stopped being Seb and started being Officer Hill; then Deputy Hill, then, eventually, Sheriff Hill. People trusted him and listened to what he had to say then, with the weight of the badge leaning over every word, and the shining silver revolver stealing side glances from anyone who still scoffed and snorted. He still didn’t like his full name, though, and he made that clear to his officers. ‘Sheriff Hill or you’ll catch Hell’ he’d once heard a more seasoned deputy say to some baby-faced rookie: it was catchy, Hill had thought, and put the message across quite clearly.

So when Daniel Runner, Hill’s most newly appointed Deputy, interrupted his morning coffee with a call to say “Johannes...you’re gonna need to be here for this one,” Sheriff Hill stood without a word, strapped his pistol around his waist, and departed the station as quickly as he could to get over to Deputy Runner’s location.

-

Lindsay Oak had been a bright and cheerful, if slightly rambunctious, young girl. She and her friends had been picked up by the local cruisers a couple times, mostly on underage drinking, a few times smelling of pot but nowhere near enough for a possession charge; anyway, this was a quiet town, Sheriff Hill liked to think, and his town to run besides, and he thought dropping a few good-time-having teens back to their parents was a better safeguard against them causing trouble than chucking them in the overnight cells and fostering resentment and rebellion. Lindsay was a nice girl, for certain.

All these thoughts and more, every tender incident and interaction, ran through Sheriff Hill’s head as he stood at a distance, stealing furtive glances at the decapitated head of the young miss Oak. Blood had leaked and stained the ground around the stump of the neck. Her hair was matted and torn, chunks haphazardly sheared off and small bits of scalp loose or missing where hair had been ripped out. The face itself was contorted into an expression of deep anguish. Her eyes were faded and glassy and would not close, and from their corners ran two tear lines of blood that stained her cheeks; an officer had already tried, naively and with a shaking hand, to wipe the blood from her cheeks: it had come away easily, but the streaks were quickly replaced by fresh rivers. Somewhere off to his left, Sheriff Hill could hear Deputy Runner vomiting, although it sounded vaguely muffled, as if listening through drywall; Hill suppressed the urge himself.

“Who found her?” He eventually asked, and immediately wished he hadn’t; the smell of congealed blood seemed to invade his mouth and stick to his tongue. He felt bile rising in his throat, but swallowed hard and spat a glob of thick, gooey saliva instead. Deputy Runner answered from behind him, still folded at the waist and supporting himself with his hands on his knees.
“That Keys kid. Out here dickin’ around in the woods and tripped over that damn thing.”
“Jesus Christ...where is he now?”
“Station with his folks. Babbling away...said he heard it crying, Sheriff. Crying. Said the blood didn’t start until he looked at it, and it was sobbing. What the hell do you make of that?”
Sheriff Hill didn’t answer, just looked back at the head. It wasn’t crying now.
“Close this whole side of town. Get the coroner’s office out here to take this back to the morgue. You and Officer Rake find out everything you can about her last whereabouts, I want CCTV, witnesses, everything. And then...get a search party together and have them canvas a 5-square-mile radius to start with.
“What’re they lookin’ for, Sheriff?”
The body. And call ahead to my wife and tell her to pull out my best slacks and shoes. I’m going to go talk to the Oaks.”

-

Eve skulked around the edges of the scene, listening to the words on the wind as conversation drifted towards her. The thought had occurred that it would be quite easy to leave town just as she’d arrived, drifting through like a bad omen; something compelled her to stay, some misplaced mixture of righteousness and a guilty conscience. The image of the magpie, splayed awkward and unmoving across the cobbles at her feet, burned at the edges of her vision. She could feel a terrible premonition in her bones: she was being targeted, haunted. If she left, she would merely take the misery with her. Best to stop it here, plug the hole at the source. Monster-slaying and the damming of evil was not unknown territory for her.

The sheriff’s department were beginning their canvassing for the body. Eve doubted they’d find it until months later, flecks of blood in tilled soil in the new year when the ground thawed and small, intricately carved bones washing up in winter rain. Metacarpals, usually; there was dexterity in human hands that lent the bones well to witch-work, and there was no doubt this was witch-work. She could feel it in the air, a cold, earthy dread that permeated the skin and rested uncomfortably behind your eyes. Eve needed the head, as disquieting as the notion was; she might be able to glean some last moments from it. There was no opportunity to seize it now; if she moved, her glamour would fail, and she would likely be hauled into the station and made the scapegoat. As it was, the coroner's office arrived to collect what small portion of carcass there was, and Eve stayed steady and still as the canvassing officers moved ever closer - they wouldn’t see her, she was confident of that. They would merely see a gnarled, twisted tree, off-kilter and itchy to look at; they would look away, and then forget they saw it at all.

Eve stayed for two hours letting the search party move around her, before they finally gave her distance enough to move away. She knew where the morgue they were taking the head to was, but in truth it didn’t matter - she just had to follow the lullaby-sound of Lindsay Oak’s soft, mournful whimpering.

-

The sheriff's department buzzed like an upset wasp’s nest. Activity was everywhere; officers taking phone calls, manning the tip-lines, copying notes, shuffling files. Some were busy; some merely looked busy. Eve could see a cork board on the far wall; a couple Polaroids of teens and bums adorned it with labels like ‘THIEF’ and ‘DRUNK’ and ‘PEEPER’ attached below the informal mugshots, but there were also flyers for community initiatives and optional extra training. It was clear that this was not an exciting town for those in the business of law enforcement; Eve suspected, looking derisively around the station at the men who appeared lackadaisical, apathetic, and incompetent in the face of the current crisis, that it was that exact lack of activity that attracted these people to their line of work. They looked weak, indifferent. Incapable. Eve was sure many of them would die before the devilry was done.

“Do you need help, Ma’am?”
The voice interrupted Eve’s train of thought and pulled her back to reality from the macabre stupor she had been delving into. It belonged to a lithe young man with short blonde hair, his uniform shirt slightly too big for him and eyes darting with a sincere, if caffeinated, energy. He looked...Eve tried to think of a diplomatic word. He looked earnest.
“I need to speak to the Sheriff.” She said, blunt and forceful. Eve furrowed her brow, pushing an emphatic, hardened stare onto the officer. He met it, though she could feel him quake beneath her eye.
“A-and what would this be regarding?” He got out, shakily to start but picking up confidence.
“There was a young girl killed this morning. You need my help.” Eve replied. She tried to put on the same sincere affectation that the young man had initially approached her with, trying to utilize empathy; instead, the officer got only a distinct sense of misguided mimicry. He felt uncomfortably similar to a cornered field-mouse, being convinced by an approaching buzzard that its beak was a warm respite from running in the dirt. To him, he felt circled by a predator, clever enough to attempt deception, but too hungry to be convincing. He took a step back.
“Take a seat.” He said, gesturing to a rickety wooden chair that stood miraculously empty next to the reception desk. “I’ll fetch him now.”

-

Three hours later, Eve pulled her head up off her hands that rested uncomfortably atop the cold metal table in front of her. Her wrists were shackled, and the chain of the cuffs were threaded through a steel loop built into the tabletop. She’d sat on the wooden chair for a few minutes before she’d been collected by another officer and escorted to this room, and then pushed down roughly into the seat and put in binds. She pulled and rattled futilely at the cuffs, and briefly considered invoking a spell to transmute the metal into something more malleable; instead, she settled on staring at the ‘mirror’ that lined the wall opposite her. She focused her gaze until she could feel heat in her dead eye. The reflection seemed to shudder and ripple outwards, like drops hitting the surface of still water. For a brief moment, so rapid Eve wasn’t sure it happened at all, she thought she saw the vaguest shadow of a figure standing next to her mirrored self.

The door to the room opened, and in stepped Sheriff Hill, flanked by the deputy that had escorted her here, and the officer that she’d initially spoken to.
“You got a shitty way of treating concerned citizens.” Eve said, staring hard at the Sheriff as he sat down. He paused and made himself comfortable before responding.
“My concerned citizens are at home, sending their prayers to the good folks who lost their daughter today.” He gestured to the deputy, who uncuffed Eve; she snatched her arms back quickly, rubbing her forearms to restore warmth and blood flow. “My concerned citizens are out in the woods, looking for the rest of poor little Lindsay, so her family can bury her proper and get a good funeral and have even the smallest degree of closure.” He gestured to the officer, who produced Eve’s bag; Eve tried to take it, but the Sheriff held it back as the deputy restrained her. “My concerned citizens are on the phones, telling my department about a strange wanderer with a bad attitude, who arrived in town under darkness just last night, boarded up in our destitute house, and was seen killing birds in the town square, shortly before she was spotted moving away from the search area.” He rummaged inside Eve’s bag for a minute, and then slammed two objects onto the table in front of Eve. She took a quiet moment to understand exactly how careless she had been, before beginning to think of how exactly she was going to navigate this precarious situation.

The items on the table were family artifacts Eve had liberated from the Coffin House on her last night within the walls of the manor; old, steeped relics that had served a terrible purpose too many times over through the centuries of the Coffin legacy, and that Eve now intended to either put to better, more altruistic use, or destroy completely. The first was a flat black knife, utilitarian in its construction: a metal blade, a knotted wooden handle. Runes carved upon the length of it, hilt and blade alike. It was known as an Athame, and it served as a ritual knife; it had seen much blood in its lifetime, spent on mundane ambitions.
The second was a flat stone disc, rounded and smooth to the touch; it was pleasant to hold, with a good weight and comfortable grip. It rocked gently back and forth on the table, never seeming to lose its momentum; Eve resisted the urge to reach out and steady it. Sudden movements were not in her best interest. Atop the stone was emblazoned a pentacle in stark white, carved in and painted. The disc was a Paten; used to channel evocation, imparting blessing from the transfer of magic through it to the intended recipient. Mostly it had been used to impart stolen power upon her family line.

There was a long, still moment. The Sheriff was the one to break the silence, and when he did, it was a low, calm sound, full of menace and intent.
“We don’t want anymore witch trouble here in Petrified Copse. We’ve paid our dues.”
Eve didn’t say anything. The Sheriff continued, his voice still low, but softer now.
“Now honestly, I don’t think you’re our girl. You got that nasty eye, and you got these suspicious articles, and you got your odd behavior, and it all adds up to suspicion; but there’s a look about you that dissuades me from accusation. And there’s nothing to tie you to the crime. No blood on you, or anything in your bag. The knife ain’t been used in years. But like I said. We’ve had enough witch-work in this town.”
The Sheriff scooped up the athame and paten and dropped them back in Eve’s bag, then slid the whole thing across the table towards her. The deputy released her arms, and she pulled the bag into her chest, zipping it closed.
“So I got a proposal. A polite suggestion. My good deputy here will escort you to the bus station you got off at, and they’ll pay your fee to leave my town, and you won’t come back, and I won’t have to formally arrest and investigate you. You get to keep drifting on, and I get to rid my town of an odd woman, with hidden things she shouldn’t have, demanding to see dead little girls and embroil herself in business that ain’t nothin t’do with her.”
The deputy hooked his hand beneath Eve’s shoulder, and wrenched her up out of her seat. Eve pulled her arm from his grip and scowled at the Sheriff.
“You’re in over your head, and you have no idea what kind of forces are coming for you.”
Sheriff Hill just scowled back.
“I’ve made my offer, lady. We don’t want your ‘help’. You can leave, or I can formally arrest you. And the people in this town ain’t fond of strangers with black eyes.”

Eve felt a grip on her arm again, and snatched herself away; when she whirled around furiously, the deputy had not laid hands on her, and had in fact taken a step back. There was a dark moment where Eve thought of the athame in her bag and how the hilt might feel sequestered in the palm of her hand. She looked back at the Sheriff, who had not gotten up.

“Fine. I don’t care. Get your town killed. That blood is on your hands now.”

-

The trip from the sheriff’s office to the bus rank was a short walk; the streets were quiet, and the few people that were out saw either Eve’s eye, or the deputy escorting her with a firm hand, and looked away quickly. Eve held her bag tightly, and when the coach driver offered to stow it in the storage rack beneath the bus, she glowered at him until he paled beneath her, and hurried on to the other passengers. The deputy bought her ticket and handed it over, and then she was on the coach, cloistering herself away in the very rear corner. There were only a handful of other people scattered across the rest of the seats; most looked like drifters themselves, with only one girl that stood out to Eve; she was young, nearly too young to be travelling by herself, with a healthy wave of sand-blonde hair and an innocent, youthful face. She turned around in her seat and looked at Eve, smiling at her with a warm, wide grin. When Eve glared back, furrowing her brow in a concerted effort to impart hostility, the girl giggled before turning back around.

Eve brushed the interaction off, then took her jacket off to use as a blanket, nestling into the cushioned seating. She closed her eyes, attempting to sleep; it was only when the engine sputtered to life and the low rumble soothed her mind as the coach moved away that she actually managed to slip into her dreams.

-

Eve dreamt of fear and paranoia, of young girls and blood, and of old men and suspicion.

-

Eve got off in the first town the coach stopped at; her ticket hadn’t been for any cross-country trip, and she felt claustrophobic and trapped in the tube of the coach. She was thirsty when she woke, and it was dark outside; the air was frosty and her breath fogged when she stepped off the bus, bag slung over her shoulder. She needed something to drink, and she needed somewhere to spend the night; she was parched and exhausted in that order, and then she needed to find out where she was now. She couldn’t shrug the feeling of a haunting still, but avoided thinking about it - whatever was following her wasn’t attacking right now, and she wasn’t in any fit state to defend herself regardless. Eve needed to get her bearings first and begin the arduous task of looking after herself; then she could start fending off whatever dark presence had latched itself onto her.

She walked to the first building with lights on and low music playing - it was a small bar, independently owned, and clearly independently decorated: it attempted to reconcile small-town america with traditional English pub, and failed demonstrably at both. She was struck dramatically by deja vu, but proceeded through the bar regardless.

It was when she saw a single line of grimy-looking taps behind the bar that she began to become concerned; when she asked what was available, and the bartender answered ‘Bud Light’ with his back turned, she began to worry. But it was only when the bartender turned around, and Eve recognize him as the exact bartender from the night previous, and then recognize the bar as the exact bar from the night previous, and the bartender failed to recognize Eve whatsoever - that was when Eve began to panic.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Hillan
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Hillan I'm a writer - Lying's what we do.

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I still remember the first time I saw a dead body. I don't think I'll ever forget it. We had just pulled the carnival into some bum-fuck nowhere town, I don't recall where it was even. But while we were pitching the tents and raising the jenny, they found him. In the grove of Walnut Trees. He had no ID, no possessions and he looked like a hobo. People figured he had taken the train, hopped off and come down here to lay down away from the heat - and never woke up.

We should have called the cops, I know. But that would not have been good for business, so my dad and Crash dragged him off and buried him somewhere off camp. I remember trying to stare into his eyes, desperately searching for a glimpse of the afterlife in his dead eyes. But all I found was just a hunk of dead meat. I'd have to find my answers elsewhere.

Even now... All these years later, I still find myself searching for answers when it comes to heaven and hell. Still gazing into the eyes of the dead.
The only difference these days...


"The dead sometimes gaze back"


One Last Ride Pt. II


The scrapyard was back alive after Johnny's attics. Reyes had sent his guards away and was talking everything over with Johnny. Robert knew that Johnny was once the Ghost Rider, a duty he didn't envy the biker. But Robert also had his own issues to take care off, most of them of the supernatural kind. He couldn't just sent Johnny on his way, he had to make a deal with the rider. He would know how poorly Johnny feels about deals, they've left a sour taste in his mouth in the past. Usually of brimstone and sulfur. Reyes poured Johnny another bottle of his scotch, Johnny grimaced at the expensive stuff but he drank it either way quite happily.

"I always did prefer Jack Daniels to this fancy stuff."
"And that's why you're a waste of a man, Johnny Blaze." Reyes told him with a smile and Johnny smirked, swirling the whiskey in the glass.
"Not a lot of guys come back from the dead, man. I saw you, your head was blown open, you were dead as sin, my friend." And Johnny scoffed and thought back to the moment when Zarathos and left him and possessed the Accountant and pulled the trigger on the revolver, killing Mr. Blaze. How Johnny's brain had splattered on the back of the limo and how the people outside of the car had been screaming in horror as Zarathos erupted in flames and vanished.
Johnny couldn't remembered what happened afterwards, as he woke up in hell being gnawed on by imps.
"Yeah. But I crawled my way out of that pit. With purpose, too."
Johnny began, he didn't much care to explain himself or his mission to Reyes, Reyes probably didn't care either way. Reyes was after all just a man of business and far more interested in Johnny helping him out.

"You want your bike, huh? We tried to put it to use after you died. But it wouldn't start. I think you rode it too hard." and Johnny chuckled.
"It takes a special blend, I told you that." Reyes smiled
"O' Yeah. It did, I remember. What was it, sugar, spice and everything nice?"

"Brimstone, tears of the damned and the anguish of mortal souls. Makes a hellfire mix of gasoline." Reyes shrugged off the rider, and continued, he could tell that Johnny was losing his patience and given how they were still picking up teeth after Johnny's entrance earlier, he didn't want to test him.

"We buried your bike. We figured if we didn't some evil son of a bitch would come asking for it." Johnny's eyes lit up
"Where?" Reyes had a sly smile on his face.
"Not so fast Johnny. First I need you to do something for me. I have a traitor in my midst. I already found the rat, he's chained up in the basement. But he's refusing to talk. This puta stole from me, and worse he used my smuggling connections to traffic people. Children!" Johnny shook his head.
"And how am I gonna help? Don't you have big strong bikers who can hook him up to car batteries and twist his nipples into submission?" Reyes frowned and shook his head.
"It won't work. Carlos doesn't break. I need you to use your mojo on him. Pull that fear of god-shit on him."

Johnny shook his head in defeat. If he was gonna find his bike, he would have to play along, after all.

***


They walked down into the small basement where Carlos was chained up, he was beaten and bloodied, cuts and bruises on him. He was barefoot with his feet in a metal bucket with ice water in it. On the floor was a car battery. It was a biker blacksite in all it's glory and Johnny felt his stomach turn. But it wasn't from disgust.

It was something far worse.

"Carlos!" Reyes shouted, slapping Carlos who woke up, pulling off the bag from his head. "This is your last chance to come clean. Where is my product?!" He shouted, eyeing Johnny, backhanding Carlos "And the kids!"

Carlos's voice was shaky from the pain and torture, but yet cool and composed. He wasn't scared.
"Screw you." He told Reyes, awaiting Robert's raised hand to come down on his face, but Johnny stopped the hand.
"This here is Johnny. He's an old friend. And a... Specialist. You best be talking before he gets all hot in here."

Johnny nodded for Reyes and the other goons to leave the room, they did so promptly.

"Y'know. Reyes thinks I can do something to you. Something truly terrible. He wants me to show you all of your sins, to judge your soul and let you see damnation for yourself. It's very old-testament. The burning head also doesn't hurt the freak-factor of it all." He pulled the table closer to Carlos and pulled up a chair on the other side of the table, from his side pocket, he got out a shotgun shell and a pack of cigarettes.
"But I can't do that. Not anymore. I can't show you eternal torture and damn you to it if you are judged poorly. Besides, you're a modern man. You probably don't even believe hell is real." The man who smelled of smoke and brimstone smiled, he popped the cap of the shotgun shell, revealing the gunpowder inside, Carlos's eyes got wider.
"W-What the hell are you doing?!" He asked and Johnny simply gripped his hand tightly, and poured the gunpowder onto his hand.
"I can't show you hell. But I can bring you a piece of it." He promised, lighting the cigarette in his mouth with the lighter with one hand, the other holding Carlos's hand firmly in place. The gunpowder began smouldering on his skin, red tremors running up his veins from his hand up his arm, into his chest and his eyes. He groaned in pain and within seconds, the groan turned into a cry, a howl.
"Tell me where the kids are you greedy son of a bitch!" Johnny shouted, and Carlos cried in pain.
"Tell me and I stop the burning!" the rider promised and Carlos cried out again
"T-Third And Oaks. They're in a warehouse... If they're still there. Please!" Carlos wept as his body - his very soul, was being charred.
"Who put you up to it?" Johnny asked, and Carlos cried
"A guy with the Mexican cartel... They called him Pride or something, he was scary as hell! Shit, please, stop this!" Carlos cried and Johnny, upon realizing he meant the Pride, knew what had to be done. He was about to get out of his seat as Carlos cried for him to help him, Johnny shook his head, taking the cigarette from out of his mouth and putting it out on Carlos's hand, igniting the gunpowder, engulfing Carlos in hellfire and within seconds, burning him to bones. Johnny left the room, walking back out to Reyes

"The product is on Third and Oaks, the kids maybe, too. Now where the fuck is my bike, Reyes?!"
Reyes, shocked to see the man cremated in his basement, stammered for a second.
"We... We buried the bike next to your dad. It only felt fitting."

Johnny walked up the stairs, on the way, he swiped the keys to Reyes grey 1971 Challenger, he wasn't gonna walk all the way to Seatle.
But once he had his wheels, he'd hunt down pride. And after him, he'd take down the rest of the seven.

Vengeance shall be served.


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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Lord Wraith
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Lord Wraith Leaf on the Wind

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"There is no escape — we pay for the violence of our ancestors."


Location: Midway City - Michigan, United States of America
Ghosts of the Past #1.02: Old Flames Burn Brightest

Interaction(s): None
Previously: Fugue State

With his full focus now back on the group before him, Carter realized he didn’t quite know what to say. Somehow starting with, ‘My name is Carter Hall, during the day I curate a museum when I’m not out procuring another relic, but by night I smash in the faces of criminals with an otherworldly mace as Hawkman’ didn’t seem like the way to go. Weighing his options, Carter studied their faces remembering their stories before telling his own. Clearly his throat for what felt like the fifth time, Carter finally addressed the small group who were no doubt growing more and more anxious by the minute.

“My name is Carter Hall.”

That was a good start.

“And, I have anger management issues.” He continued, reiterating the reason for why the six of them were in this group therapy session in the first place.

“Hi, Carter.” Replied the small chorus as Carter felt himself die inside. Well, not literally, at least. He was all too aware of what that felt like. To some extent, Carter resented becoming Hawkman once again. Had he never been reunited with the Nth Metal, he could have lived out the rest of this life in ignorant bliss. Completely unaware of what he was missing or the ability to make a difference as Hawkman. But with his memories and alien nature restored through the power of the Nth Metal, he was forced to act again.

Which is precisely how he ended up in this mess.

“I suppose you’re wondering how I got here.” Carter stated in a monotone voice before cracking a slight grin to lighten the mood.

It didn’t work. Humour had never been his strong suit.

“It was a rainy day. I saw a car stopped just before an intersection. It had its four ways on, flashing to warn the other drivers there was something wrong. Stopping my truck behind them, I followed suit before climbing out to give them a hand.” Carter paused; there was an air of anticipation slowly forming over the group. Each one of them hoping for validation that somehow, Carter’s reaction to the situation would make them look sane, reasonable even.

Except for the woman with the hair like fire. A smirk crossed her face like the one someone has when they’ve figured out the twist ending in a movie. She had seen this one before and knew where the jump scare was coming.

For some reason, that didn’t surprise Carter.

“Inside the car was a younger man, a teenager maybe? Think it was his first time really out driving by himself. Either way, he had run into some trouble and was waiting for his parents to arrive. Offered if he wanted any help or for me to wait, he said no. No problem, so I turned to head back to my truck.” Anticipation was swapped for confusion at this point. Carter had done lectures for the museum before. He knew exactly what he was doing.

“Turning to head back to my truck, I watched as a black, luxury sedan stopped short, nearly colliding with my own vehicle, which in turn would have sent it into the kid’s car. The window opened a crack as the driver inside proceeded to tell me how I shouldn’t have left my vehicle and how he could sue me. So I walked calmly over to the man, shielding my face from the rain while preparing to explain the situation to him. Instead, the man inside the luxury sedan continued to raise his voice, berating me for wasting more of his time and telling me to move my vehicle.” Carter paused again.

“Not exactly in those terms.” A collective chuckle came from the group.

“When I suggested to the man that he go around, he acted as though I had asked him to shift the road. It was at this moment I found myself losing my patience. I began to see red. Placing my hand on the top of the window, I asked him to finish rolling it down so that we might have a proper conversation. Instead, he closed the window with my hand in it.” Choosing his next words, Carter allowed for a dramatic pause.

“So I put my other fist through the glass and hauled the man out the window.” He finished with a shrug. The anticipation changed to relief. The tattooed man, rumpled suit and young woman all let out a collective gasp of relief. Compared to Carter they had found themselves sane. However, the woman with the fierce, verdant eyes crossed her arms and sat up straighter in her chair. Carter knew that look meant she felt she could top his story; there was pride in her expression. That was the exact opposite of the bland man who now hung his head in shame. He also displayed the body language of someone who did something worse, but it wasn’t something he wanted to admit.

That only intensified Carter’s earlier theory.

“And, uh, Mr. Hall?” The counsellor interjected, scrambling to the podium to divert the session back on course.

“What did you learn from the experience?”

“That some people are real assholes.” Carter replied dryly.

“Mr. Hall! We do not celebrate violence caused by anger here. If you fail to complete this course satisfactorily, I’ll have no choice but to recommend that you see a stronger repercussion in the eyes of the law.” The court-appoint counsellor snapped, her tone sharp before faltering off as Carter narrowed his eyes towards her. Relenting, Carter forced a smile before commenting further.

“I actually learned that I should have walked away.”


I should have walked away.

Carter thought to himself as he moved across the room towards the woman with the auburn hair. The session had ended shortly after he spoke, but participants were invited to hang around afterwards and ‘enjoy’ the provided coffee and stale desserts. Carter had been an intergalactic law enforcement officer, a prince, a knight and an outlaw, yet somehow none of that compared to the unease he felt approaching the woman before him.

“I wouldn’t drink that if I were you.” Carter stated, interrupting the woman before she brought the styrofoam cup to her mouth. “Pretty sure they threw out the grinds and started using the dirt swept up off the parking lot.”

“That would explain the smell.” The woman replied, lowering the cup away from her mouth and placing it on the plastic-covered table.

“Hall, right?”

“Carter’s fine, I don’t know if I’ve caught your name though.”

“That’s because I haven’t given it yet.” The woman replied, “This was my first meeting.”

“Ah,” Carter replied, feeling slightly sheepish. “This was my-”

“Third as I recall.” The woman smirked, “Do you make it a habit of pulling people out of cars?”

If only you knew the half of it.

Carter forced a smile before answering. He had definitely pulled more people from cars than he cared to divulge. Vigilantism seemingly ran in his family. His brothers, Hank and Don, had been doing a partner gimmick for years before the latter passed away. But Hank didn’t allow the tragedy to slow him down. Instead, he found a new partner, one he’s now very happy with.

Carter couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of Hank and Dawn.

“Have to admit, that was my first time.” Carter lied.

“And yet somehow, I doubt that.” The woman teased. Her emerald eyes lit up whenever she smiled, flecks of gold and blue exploding inside her irises like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

“Y’know, if you still wanted a coffee, I happen to know a great place not far from here.” Carter offered. She paused, looking up at him before replying.

“As much as I appreciate the offer, I’m actually meeting my fiancé for a late lunch.” She replied, extending a hand towards Carter.

“However, it has been a pleasure meeting you, Carter Hall. In some sick, selfish way, I almost want you to bash in another car window to keep you here longer.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” Carter replied.

I should have walked away.

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| L U N A
| Dark Side of the Moon

The cylindrical ship had a roughly beetle or insectoid look to it. Hull armor shaped like a carapace, as jagged weapons emplacements jutted out as intimidating protrusions.

Concealed behind the moon’s shadow, the cosmic cockroach crept through the endless void of night. Within the interior of the spaceship, bulky and powerful looking aliens mulled about. Their reptilian forms were an odd mix of both alligator and lizard characteristics. Beastial and ferocious, cold and foreboding.

A gutteral language snapped back and forth, punctuated by clicks and whistles, as a series of alarms began to sound through the interior of the ship.

A series of sparks bounced off the walls in an arc of electricity, as the roughly humanoid shape seemed to form out of light. As the arc lightning faded, Billy Batson emerged, clothed in the crimson suit and white cape that were emblazoned with lighting.

As he outstretched his arms, a casserole dish materialized between them, holding the time honored Midwestern housewarming gift of the tater tot hot dish. “Hey there!” the boy chimed cheerily, even as a column of light materialized and vanished beside him. When the second light had faded, a young Kymellian stood beside the costumed human youth.

In short order, both Billy and Kofi were surrounded by the towering form of the crocodilian giants, armed with what Billy assumed was whatever passed as rifles, halberds, or some science fiction combination of the two.

Not to be dismayed or discouraged, the young Batson strolled over toward the nearest Jurassic Park looking dude and pressed the casserole into it’s hands. Or claws. Or, were they talons?

No judgement, my dude.

“Here, we brought you this,” the dark haired youth stated, flashing a Minnestora nice smile and then craning his head to look around at the interior of the brutal and severe architecture. Giving a low whistle, “So this is a space ship?”

“Of a sort,” Kofi murmured.

“Well, there’s no accounting for taste,” Billy offered lightly, giving a slight nod of his head in the Kymellian’s direction.

“What is the meaning of this trespass?”

Turning, the caped Batson stepped back as he pivoted to look over at where a rather imposing creature was standing.

That would be the dude in charge.

Or was that a chick? What would a woman of a crocodile-dinosaur lovechild alien race even look like?

On second thought, Billy didn’t want to know. So, sticking with dude.

“You speak English?” Billy chirped, almost wistfully. Then, breaking into a large smile, held his arms out as he beamed, Excellent! My alien is... eehh.”

“Very eehh,” Kofi affirmed.

Nothing like a good support system. Without breaking his stride, Billy kept his attention on the massive alien-crocodile-dude-fellow-whatever. “Anyway, we certainly don’t want to trespass. We just saw your ship up here and figured it’d be wrong not to come greet you as neighbors.”

The word seemed to send a wave of confusion through the assembled crowd. The long snout tilted to one side, rows upon rows of sharp teeth reflecting in the light before the imposing figure echoed back. “Neighbors?”

Placing both hands on his chest, as though to indicate himself, the boy continued. “Yeah, see, I’m Billy. I’m from Earth. Which is the planet that you’re currently orbiting...”

“Technically, they are orbiting a satellite which is orbiting your planet,” a snide, somewhat snobbishly certain that he was always correct, Kymellian voice interjected.

“See, this is why I bring Kofi along,” Billy remarked, without missing a beat. Then, using one hand to indicate the horse-faced alien youth, continued, “So this is Kofi. He’s not from Earth originally. But he kind of hangs out here now, and, uh... yeah, we’re just kinda wondering what it is that you’re doing up here.”

“Salutations to you, Billy of Earth,” the leader-looking-toothy-dude remarked. A gesture from his claw-talon-hand-things prompted the assembly to lower whatever those weapons were supposed to be.

“I am called Skratt,” the Zn’rx stated, eliciting a nod of acknowledgement from Billy even as the alien continued. “Be at ease, human. We are merely scientists on an archaeological survey of your world. We mean you no harm.”

“I was not aware that your people valued the anthropological sciences,” Kofi deadpanned dryly.

“The racism and abject bigotry of the Kymellians is known throughout the universe.”

“Is it?” Kofi quipped in reply. “Strange that sounds more like how I’ve heard the Zn’rx described.”

Billy raised an arm to silently quell the debate that had taken shape.“There is obviously some bad blood between your two races. It need not bring itself here,” the costumed youth noted flatly. Then, regarding Skratt again, said, “You mentioned that you were conducting a survey. If I can ask, what is it that you’re hoping to find.”

“Nothing of consequence to you or your people. Sacred artifacts of the Zn’rx long thought vanished into the void,” Skratt answered casually. “We believe that we found one of them on your world. No doubt brought here by a trophy hunter who hoped to hide it from discovery.”

“Recovering lost cultural icons,” Billy mused aloud. “I can respect that,” the youth added, with a note of sincere admiration. “We would be happy to assist you in recovering this artifact.”

“That will not be necessary.”

The look of disappointment was apparent on the boy’s face. “Oh,” Billy noted, as though trying to mask the rejection.

“We have recently re-acquired the object we believe is our missing artifact,” Skratt stated, before explaining, “In fact, we were preparing to depart, so that the artifact’s authenticity can be verified, when you arrived.”

“I’m sorry that this is both hail and farewell, then,” Billy said, arms by his side as he gave a shrug. So much for missed opportunities. “We take our leave and wish you good journey,” the caped youth offered, as he turned back toward Kofi.

Then, the sound of a hand giving a snap echoed inside the ship. Spinning back around, the white cape whipped around the boy’s slender red form as he chimed, “Oh, being that this is our first meeting, I wonder if I could see it.”

“See what, human?”

“The sacred artifact,” Billy replied innocently. “Call it curiosity. I don’t imagine many humans get the opportunity to learn more of Snark culture up close.”

“Snark?”

Pausing, Billy realized that he’d fumbled trying to say the name of the race. “Schtixs?” he uttered, trying a second time to replicate the way that Kofi said it.

“Zn’rx,” Kofi uttered, correcting him in typical Kofi fashion.

“That’s what I said,” Billy offered. Then paused and added, “I think.”

The horse-faced boy was just shaking his head at the attempt. “The shape of your tongue and the anatomical limitations of your nasal structure make it unlikely that your species is capable of producing the correct labial consonant.”

“That’s what I like about you, Kofi,” Billy stated with a nod toward the alien youth. “You’re nothing if not an optimist.”

“This is one of our sacred cultural icons. Not a trinket in a museum to be gawked at, human!” Skratt barked at the pair, dismissing them with a wave of his talons. “I will thank you to take your leave.”

“A moment, friend.”

“I’ve already asked you to leave, human.”

“I’m not trying to be disrespectful, after all we just met and I don’t know you, you don’t know me, and so I don’t want appear to suggest that you’re full of shit, but you’re awfully well armed for a bunch of scientists on a peaceful archaeology mission,” Billy noted, throwing his arms up as he gave a shrug. “Plus, I need to finish distracting you while Kofi completes his scan of your ship.”

“DECEIVER!”

“Stick and stones, my friend,” Billy murmured, before inclining his head to gaze back over at the Kymellian who was just one step behind him.

Kofi side-eyed the human boy. When he did, Billy tightened his jaw. It was not going to be good news.

“There are human life signs on this ship.”

“Well, that’s certainly interesting,” Billy remarked flatly, his eyes glaring up at the crocodile-faced Skratt. The whites of the boy’s eyes seemed to pulse with an ethereal energy that was not of this world. In the dead of space, a roll of thunder reverberated through the alien ship as Billy Batson took a step toward the towering alien and asked, “What kind of artifacts did you say that you were taking, again?”

“Kill them.”

Billy just crossed his arms as the halbred-rifles were raised again. The assembled aliens started to take a step forward when Skratt called to them again.

No, wait. Kill the human. I want to take my time with the Kymellian.”

Casually turning his head over toward the other boy, Billy noted, “Kymellians are kinda the alien kids who get beat up on the cosmic playground, huh?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”
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Metropolis

Evelyn knew she was late, and peered nervously over her shoulder at the crying baby in the back seat. She was super late. That's all that was running through her mind as she braved the downtown Metropolis traffic. She was late and her boss was definitely going to give the promotion to Phillips if she wasn't on time for the meeting. But she had to drop the baby off at day care before she went to work. There was no way she'd be able to get someone at the office to keep an eye on her all day.

From the back seat, another wail from baby Laura drew her attention, causing her to miss the fact that the light in front of her had gone from yellow to red with surprisingly little time in between. By the time Evelyn's head came around, there was a car in front of her ready to be t-boned. Its driver too focused on their coffee to notice Evelyn's crossover SUV plowing into the intersection.

There was no time for her to swerve. This was it. She closed her eyes and thought of her baby, prayinig that at least she would be spared.

She felt the world shift under her, and was surprised that there was no sudden jolt or the sound of sheering metal. Maybe she died instantly and was on her way to the afterlife. That would be nice.

Opening her eyes, she found her vehicle drifting slowly back down to the pavement. It was a miracle. In the back seat, baby Laura gaped in amazement as a figure soared upwards away from the car.
**********

Jack's hand shook as he pointed it at the bodega clerk behind the counter, the empty bag he had thrown there still without any money in it. He didn't know if he or the small Korean teenager were more afraid. But he needed the money. If he didn't the Intergang thugs who threatened his pop's shop were gonna be mad, more mad than they'd ever been before. Might even burn the place down.

"I said put the money in the bag!" he screamed again, putting the gun even closer to the kid's head. He smelled the tell tale ammonia of the piss running down the clerk's leg.

Before anything could happen, a blur swept over his vision, just for an almost imperceptible second. He looked down, and the gun was gone, replaced by a still bubbling puddle of molten metal on the counter.

Still shaking, Jack turned and saw the tell tale blue and red. He was paralyzed with fear, "D-don't kill me man!"

"I don't do that," a calm, melodious, but powerful voice responded. Jack wasn't a religious man, but it was the kind of voice someone would have written a few things about if they heard it thousands of years ago. "Go home. Don't let me see you doing this again, or I won't be as nice."

"B-b-but Intergang is gonna-"

"You let me worry about that," the voice said, and Jack instantly knew it wasn't bluffing. He ran, never really getting a good look at the voice's owner.
*********

Joseph had decided to end it all the night before. Sitting over his measly, frozen pizza, he saw that there was little use in continuing the charade of a normal life. He was thirty-four, had been single for longer than half a decade, was stuck in a dead-end job, and could count how many friends, real friends, he had on one hand. Continuing on in this state, this joke of a life, was too much. Better a quick death than a long, slow one alone.

That's why when he woke up this morning he took a big swig of the cheap bottle of whiskey from the cabinet above the sink and made his way to the rooftop of his apartment building. If he jumped into the alley, he'd be able to do it without risking hurting anyone else. That was the last thing he wanted. He wanted to be done with all this, but he didn't want to go out hurting someone else.

He stepped up to the edge of the building and took a deep breath.

Before he could jump, however, a voice, like the most calming voice from the most calming children's television programming Joseph could ever imagine, cautioned, "Watch your step there. Wouldn't want to fall."

Joseph turned and saw the most striking image he had ever seen. There, standing on the ledge along with him, was a tall, well built man in what, if Joe didn't know better, he would have called red and blue pajamas. The man's strong, pronounced chin was cocked towards him, his kind, blue eyes transfixed on Joseph's, and a single curl of hair fell down from the well manicured cut onto his forehead and bounced in the wind. Joseph had heard the stories, and seen the news, but they did the reality of Superman no justice.

"I came up here to fall," he admitted, unable to look away from the Man of Steel.

"Yea, I kinda figured," the superhero smiled. "Doesn't seem like a great idea now, does it?"

"Best idea I've had in a while," Joseph shrugged. "No one's gonna miss me."

"Oh I very much doubt that," Superman smiled radiantly. "Someone's always gonna miss someone."

"I only got like three friends," the depressed man shook his head. "Barely any family."

"And none of them count as people who will miss you, huh?" the Man of Tomorrow smirked. "Sounds like you've got a whole bunch of folks who will miss you, to me."

"I'm just...so alone," Joseph began to cry. "And it wears on me, ya know? I just want...someone to share my life with."

He felt a big, strong arm placed around his shoulders, and Superman said, "You ever talk to those friends or family about this? I bet they'd be able to help you. That's what they're there for."

He shook his head, "Nah. Don't want to bother them with my troubles."

"I think you'll find they'd prefer hearing your troubles than hearing you threw yourself off a roof," Superman smiled sadly. "But let's make a deal, if you step back off this ledge and don't feel comfortable talking to them, I'll swing back tomorrow and we can chat. You and me."

Joseph was flabbergasted, "D-don't you have more important places to be?"

"What would be more important than helping out my new pal?" Superman smiled at him with the warmth of the sun, and Joseph felt like, for the first time in a long time, everything was going to be alright.
Smallville

Clark finished adjusting his tie, smirking to himself in the mirror. The powder blue strip of fabric contrasted nicely with the grey suit he now wore, the flower on his lapel matching. From the open window, he could hear the string quartet warming up in the backyard of the farmhouse. He was tempted to take a peak, but he knew better. Clark Kent was a man who savored the first experience of something, and he didn't want to rob himself of that.

He remember the first time, as a boy, that he had managed to fly. It wasn't for long, and he ended up crashing through half of old man Smith's corn crop. But the feeling of the air underneath him, coasting through the sky, was still one of the greatest feeling he had ever had. Something told him what was about to happen was gonna feel pretty similar.

A soft wrap on the door drew his attention, "Come in!"

From the other side came Jonathan Kent, his father. The man who had always looked like Clark's superhero growing up, now just looked like the platonic idea of a dad. His gut had started to poke up just a little, but the decades of farming still kept him looking strong. His hair was more salt than pepper, but the dark streaks were still thee. The one thing that never changed were his deep, brown eyes. They still held all the warmth and wisdom them always did.

The glisten of a teat came to those eyes as the elder Kent took a look at his son on his wedding day for the first time. He composed himself and smiled, "You made it."

"What are you talking about?" Clark did a terrible job hiding the blush that came to his face. "I've been here the entire time."

"Sure, boy," Jonathan smiled. "How many?"

Clark looked down at his feet, "Three in Metropolis. One here or there on the way home."

Pa Kent laughed warmly, "Son, this is why I'll always be proud of you. Even on a day like today you won't stop."

"Superman can't take a day off," Clark shrugged and did the final adjustments to his clothes. "You see everything going on, dad. I take a day off...and who knows what will happen."

"I know, son," Jonathan nodded. "Now let's go get you married."

"Dad, I've been waiting for this a long time."
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Midgard was once a world with Pantheons upon Pantheons, more Gods than many other worlds combined. The small, seemingly insignificant rock adrift in space a nexus point for various realms to come together. Over time some faded into obscurity, others left the realm altogether. While others continued to play with their influence on the world, subtly interacting with the world according to their grand design. This is not the tale of one such God. This is the tale of…


Previously: Home at last.


NOXVILLE // TEXAS // MIDGARD


Arthur Blackwood walked in the door of his house and tossed his keys into a bowl by the door. The slight stench of mildew in his house, and the smell of dust in the air. Piles of books and papers laid around the small house. Black and white photos of various historic family members. The feature wall of his living room held an English flag and an old coat of arms. He was a third-generation immigrant but he never forgot the roots of where he came from. Cast from his ancestral home by claims of violence and racism, ‘racism’. That’s what they called his Grandfather for trying to keep England pure and clean. Chased from their home, they fled to some land they owned in Texas. Once his father passed Arthur had completed his education, earning his doctorate in history he was on the fast track to gain a position at Harvard or Yale.

That was when someone discovered his heritage and leaked it to the press. Now he was stuck in Texas teaching the fifth grade in a school that either didn’t know nor care about his family heritage. Sighing, he threw his cellphone down on the coffee table as he allowed himself to collapse into his sofa. Instead of his ass and back making contact with the sofa and stopping his fall however his back just kept going as he fell through the sofa and into the black abyss. Spinning backwards, under and over, under and over till he wasn’t sure how long he had been falling. He did not know what way was up, arms flailing in the dark attempting to grasp hold off anything that could break his fall.

There was a crack as he hit a cold stone floor. Pain coursed through his body as his head collided with something solid. Seeing stars he felt a chill through his bones as the minutes passed. By the time he was able to move, he wasn’t entirely sure how long it had been. By then night had fallen, the only light flickered in the room. Candles, somewhere beyond his sight. Arthur moved slowly, his lunch climbing to the top of his throat if he moved too quickly. It took him time to recognize that he knew this place. The archaic architecture, to the cask behind him. This was the burial ground of Sir Reginald Blackwood, Knight to the King of England, and the source of his family’s station. This couldn’t be possible though, he was in America. He was in his house, on his sofa. This was all some kind of dream.

If it was a dream, why was he in so much pain?

A bright light appeared, raising an aching hand to shield his eyes it slowly faded into nought but an ethereal glow. Which was when Arthur noticed a man standing there in the light. A man who bore a resemblance, some familiar visage. “Who, who are you?” Arthur managed to convince his body to sit, and once he was sat he managed to convince it to stand. “Where am I? What is this?”

“You mean to tell me that you do not even recognize your kin?”

“But I have no-”

“Nay, you have no living kin. I however have long surpassed the living world. You have forgotten your way, your purpose. As had your father and I am here to remind you-”

“We do not live in England anymore. I live in America it’s a whole other-”

“You are still on God’s green Earth are you not?”

“I am-”

“And thus your purpose still needs to be served.” The figure walked over too his casket, sticking his hand straight through the solid stone and withdrew a sword. “Kneel before me, Arthur Blackwood.” Unsure on what to do other than go along with what the spirit was saying. This was after all the weirdest dream he had ever had. As Arthur knelt the spirit lowered the sword till it touched Arthurs’s left shoulder, tapping it lightly and then passing to the right and then back again. “I imbue you with my power and the power of my sword. You must begin it again, so long as you have people that have faith. You will have power.”

“Begin what?”

“The Crusades.”

Before Arthur could respond he dove forward on his sofa, falling on the floor he winced in pain. His whole body still ached from his dream, had it been a dream? It had been so real, so vivid. He had felt every part of it. Pushing himself off the ground slowly he turned to face the sofa. Where a Crusader Sword lay stretched across the sofa, the same one that had been in his dream. He could have sworn that the emeralds in the hilt glistened.




MIMISBRUNNR // YGGDRASIL // ASGARD


Thor walked through the courtyard. Beyond him, Yggdrasil stretched into the sky. The world tree, on which the nine realms rest. Rested within the bark of the world tree lay a well. Water dripped in crystal clear droplets down the tree into the well. The drops could be heard splashing for far longer than they had any right too. Above the well, there was a head, perfectly preserved but it was undeniably a head without a body. A gold ringlet around his head, full head of hair, and a clean and tidy beard. As Thor approached the eyes opened. The head spoke in a croak. As if its mouth was dry. “Ah, the Son of Odin and Crown Prince of Thunder approaches. What wisdom do you seek Thunderer?”

Thor bowed his head to the head. “Mimir! I seek your counsel.”

“As I already surmised.”

Thor pointed towards several flagons that were sat nearby on a casket of ale. “May I?”

Mimir closed his eyes in a double wink indicating a silent yes, Thor went and picked up a flagon. Filling it with ale, he opened his mouth accepting the cool liquid. The froth finding a new home on his upper lift till he wiped it off. Once he drank his fill he filled a second flagon, walking towards the head he held it to the heads’ lips and poured. Mimir greedily drank the liquid until none remained. When he was a child Thor had been curious as to where the liquid went, though he still did not have an answer. Taking the flagon back he placed it back onto the casket. “I seek knowledge of Loki.”

“Hmh. That is a subject in which I will find it difficult to provide answers. Loki is not known for following any form of reason.”

Moving to the side Thor grabbed a nearby chair and dragged it closer till he sat eye level with the decapitated head. “The All-Father grows weary and ready for the Odin-Sleep and there is a threat coming. I know it, and he senses it. I need to know what you know.”

“You assume the threat our King prepares for comes from the Trickster.”

“Are you saying there is another threat?”

“I am in no position to say anything.”

“You do not know?”

“I do.”

“Then why do you hold your tongue?”

“The All-Father has willed it. The threat is only for the All-Father to concern themselves over.”

“In his absence-”

“In his absence my young prince you rule Asgard, this does not make you King nor does it make you All-Father.”

Thor scoffed, frustration travelled across his face. He had never been the politician Freyja or Loki had been. “Then I shall act in my best judgment.”

“That is all any of us can do.”

“Tell me what you know of the magicks to move between realms? How can Loki be remaining hidden even in the eyes of Heimdall.”

“Loki is well versed in many forms of the ancient magicks, as taught by your mother Freyja. However, I would doubt that even she would be able to find him these days. The magicks he uses are strong and mystic, rooted in the very fabric of Yggdrasil itself. I suspect that he has somehow gained the power of the Norn.”

Thor sat up in his seat, his focus shifting. He could already feel the hairs on the nape of his neck rising. [b][color=#a4c2f4]“That cannot be, the Norn would no more help Loki than they would me or even the All-Father. They remain impartial, weaving the destinies of all things. Their duty is to record, not to interfere.”[/b] [/color]This couldn’t be possible if Loki had gained the power to influence the fates themselves then he was more powerful than any of them realized

“They would not knowingly aid him, but in the time before when Bor still ruled Asgard there were twenty-four stones he had been gifted by the Norns in order to aid him to bring about peace to the nine realms. To prevent abuse of this power many of these stones were destroyed, however, it is said that your father hid away nine such stones on Midgard. They grant the user incredible power, that can vary from individual and in all honestly even I struggle to understand or explain them.”

Thor stood up, groaning in frustration and kicking over his chair. His father was preparing to enter the Odin-sleep even now, Loki was still on the loose and there was a threat coming to Asgard that he didn’t even know about. Now Loki held some ancient power, and the most knowledgeable of all the Gods had nothing to offer? “Then why do you waste my time Mimir.”

“Ah, your patience is that of your father's, Thunderer. I may not understand them, but I do know where you can find one.”

Thor turned back to face the head. “Where?”

The head chuckled slightly. “Do you remember the way into Avalon?”

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Location and Time: New York City; Mr. Greene's Goods - 8:56 PM
Issue #2: Charles Forte Rides, Again?

Interaction(s): None
Previously: Routine

I had been on shift for about twelve hours. The guy on next shift, Ron, called in sick today. I didn't have much better to do and Mr. Greene knew that, so I had to cover for him. I wasn't complaining. What else am I gonna do on a Friday night? I'm not one of those middle-aged guys that goes out to the bar to play pool and hit on girls half their age. Unlike them, I still have some modicum of self respect left; I'd just be there for the drinks.

My boss, Matthew Greene, walks out of his office. He's an older guy, late 60s, with horn-rimmed glasses resting on a friendly round face. A smile forms beneath his bushy gray mustache as he makes his way behind the counter to talk to me. "Thanks for working double shift, Charlie," he says, patting me on the shoulder. "I'm gonna be closing up now. Feel free to grab a six-pack or something for yourself before you go, on the house." He heads back around the counter and towards the door.

Guess I wasn't hitting the bar tonight. I give him a thumbs up and b-line for the beers. While browsing the cold beverages and trying to make my selection, I hear Mr. Greene start talking to somebody. "Hey, sorry, but we're closing up. You can't come in." Must be a customer trying to come into the shop too late.

"Sorry old man," the person outside the shop says, "But we're not here to buy." I hear a shout from Mr. Greene followed by a dull thud. Turning around, I see about half a dozen thugs walking into the store. Mr. Greene is on the floor with a bloody nose, clutching his face. The leader of the thugs, a well-built man with slicked back black hair and a leather jacket, grabs Mr. Greene by the collar and lifts him up. "Look at you. Who did that to you? Your poor face. We think you might need some protection."

He drops Mr. Greene back to the floor and moves over to a magazine rack, spinning it slowly and examining the books on display. "Lucky for you, we're just the guys you're looking for. You're gonna start paying us five hundred a week. If we don't get our money?" He nods at one of his boys. The thug he nodded to stalks over to Mr. Greene, then stomps on his knee. I hear a sick crack and a howl of pain from the old man. "You'll start having 'accidents'."

I had been hiding behind one of the shelves, watching the whole ordeal go on. I know it would be stupid to intervene. I should just head out back and go home, get drunk, try to forget about this. But that phantom calling out to me tells me otherwise. I need to do something about this. Leaving would be the smart thing to do. Unfortunately, I'm not too smart.

I step out from behind the shelf. "Hey," I call out. The thugs all turn to look at me. Mr. Greene is breathing heavily on the ground, his eyes clenched shut. "You leave him alone." The leader of the thugs looks at me with a bemused expression. He and his boys turn and walk towards me slowly, trying to be intimidating. I stand my ground.

"And who the fuck are you?" he asks. I can see the pistol stirring in his coat. He's looking for an excuse to pull it out. I need to give him one so I can get a hold of it.

"I'm someone punks like you used to fear." I take a step forward.

He turns to his boys and laughs. They join in, like a pack of rabid hyenas. "Oh, this is fuckin' precious! Looks like we got a wannabe hero in our midst fellas! Who do you think you are? Spider-Man? Moon Knight? Oh no, wait, I know. You're some Punisher fanboy, aren't you? Think you can shoot up all the big bad guys don't you?" Like I expected, he pulls a Beretta out of his coat and levels it at my head. He's leaving himself wide open. He's even holding the gun sideways. Bad move. "Tell me, shit for brains. You think you're Frank Castle?"

The irony almost makes me laugh. I merely shake my head and smile at him. "Yeah. I think I am." I grab his wrist with my left hand and jam my right palm into his nose as hard as I can, a wet cracking sound telling me that I broke it. Blood streams from his nostrils and he starts to fall to the ground. I grab the pistol from his hand just a second before he hits the ground. I plug two rounds into his chest before he even has time to process what happened.

The thugs stand there and watch me for a second, processing what just happened. "Oh. Shit," one of them whispers. Then they scatter, taking cover throughout the store as they shout and curse up a storm. I duck behind the shelf I was hiding behind and check the magazine of the gun. Thirteen shots. Should be more than enough.

A few bullets hit the shelf. Still in a crouch, I turn and start walking the opposite way around the shelf to flank them. As I round the corner, I see one of the thugs had the same idea. He looks into my eyes for a moment and starts raising his gun. I've already shot him in the throat. Unfortunately, now the others know just where I am.

Before they get a chance to act on their newly found knowledge, I throw myself through the doorway of Mr. Greene's office and lay on my back with gun trained on the doorway. Thug #3 walks in, I fire once into his thigh and he drops to the ground while screaming bloody murder. His pistol falls out of his hand and scatters towards me. I sit up, grab his gun with my off-hand, and shoot him in the head. Three left.

I stand and flatten myself against the doorway. I hear the footsteps of the fourth man heading towards the office. Right as he's about to walk in, I step forward and start blasting him. One, two, three, four, five rounds to the chest. I step through the doorway of the office with pistols at the ready.

It almost feels like time has slowed exponentially. I haven't felt like this in years. "The Zone", I used to call it. That place you go when you're stacking bodies. You don't think. You act. Focus. Guy a few feet ahead. I could just shoot him now but where's the fun in that? Let's see if I still got it.

With a grunt, I throw myself forward in a dolphin dive, firing all the while at the thug in front of me. His body shakes violently as each bullet pierces his flesh, rocking him to the core. I hit the floor and he falls to the ground. Still got it.

I push myself up and start scanning the room for the last thug. I don't see him anywhere. As if on cue, I hear the distinctive jingle of the front door opening. I peer over the shelves at the front door and see the last man running away. I fire at him once, twice. I hear him shout in pain, but he doesn't slow down. Shit. Probably just grazed him. I'm gonna have to find him so he can't warn any other friends he may have.

I stick the two pistols I have into my waistband and pick up two of the guns the other thugs dropped. Tucking one pistol under my arm, I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone while heading to the front door. Mr. Greene is there, injured but still breathing. I dial 911 and hand him the phone. "Call for help. I won't be back again. Thank you for everything you did for me while I worked here."

He nods shakily, then hits the call button. I'm out the door before he even starts talking.

Dumb move. I should've just left while I had the chance. Would've still had a job at least. But then, wasn't this what I wanted? To go back to the old days? This is my chance. I might as well take it while I still can. If I didn't, what kind of man would I be? A fool trying to outrun his past instead of embracing that part of himself. You can try all you want, but in the end, all it does is hold you back.

I look down and see drops of blood on the sidewalk, trailing after him. From the looks of it, he's already covered quite the distance. Guess the fear of getting shot in the head will let you outrun any sports car on the road. Enough chit-chat. I've got a two-bit thug to track down. I set off into the night, intent on finishing this.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Cybermaxx
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Cybermaxx Born of God and Void

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Pride of Man
Somewhere Under the Indian Ocean
Midday


Under dark waters a steel behemoth slept. It had a head of steel-reinforced glass, crowned with ever-rotating rings. The thing's body had flesh of off-color steel, and from it eight fins extended out at regular intervals. Each of these fins was fixed with a monstrous engine at its center. Many protrusions dotted its surface: observation bubbles, antennae, windows and other nautical devices of unknown purpose. A thin line stretching the length of its belly, like a docking bay sealed shut. From bow to stern the beast measured near a thousand feet long and had to weigh many tens of thousands of tons.

Upon the neck a name was branded: Pride of Man. Three months ago that name had featured in every headline, prime time news slot and internet blog the world over as Argonautica International announced its maiden voyage. They called it the first fully submersible cruise liner- the first of many to come- and it was meant to lead the way in revolutionizing deep sea commercialization.

It was a pet project of one Veronica Cale, a multi-billionaire pharmaceutical mogul and heavy investor in Argonautica International, and it was plagued by problems from the start: Its original designers had been fired halfway through the project, the technology crucial to the ship's functioning was highly experiment and so closely guarded a secret that most of the engineers had never even see it, and the crew's training had been rushed to keep to the originally announced schedule. Experts and talking heads alike had torn Cale apart throughout the process, but she'd pushed ahead with it anyway, determined to prove it was possible. The vessel's first, major test would be a months-long journey from the harbor at Gateway City to the deepest point in the Indian Ocean, the Sunda Trench.

Today marked that journey's end.

The Pride lumbered to a halt at the mouth of the trench, engines sputtering and spitting boiling water from their heat vents. A long day's travel had exhausted the vessel as much as its occupants, but their destination lay open before them: a canyon draped in shadows, crawling with strange creatures and alien plant life. Two giants stood guard at the threshold, carved from and into the cliff face behind them. They wielded a spear in one hand, a shield in the other, and bore heavy armor not unlike that of ancient hoplites. Unfortunately for the archeologists that had joined the Pride's voyage, time had smoothed out any distinguishing features from the statues and ruined the runic text ascribed along their bases.

On the morrow the passengers that paid to do so would mount smaller submersibles to travel into the trench itself. For tonight, though, they would celebrate a successful trek across the world with a gala in the main dining hall. Hundreds of passengers would attend, all dressed up in their finest silks and putting on their best faces for the woman of the hour. There were ambassadors, CEOs, celebrities and superstars from almost every country on the map. There would be much dancing, eating and drinking- oh so very much drinking if miss Cale had anything to say about it.

It sounded like a hell of a time to Captain Wilde. She had hoped to attend half an hour ago, but she was trapped on the bridge. Snags in the final routine checks of the night, if her chief officer was to be believed. She was a tall woman, gaunt and pale as milk. Glassy-eyed and dour, the captain leaned against the railing of the observation deck, staring through holographic displays and reams of data. "All signs show normal," she sighed, "as they did the last eighteen times we ran this."

Her gaze went down and to the left, where the CO was crowding their sonar technician. "Eddy, this is a waste of-"

Eddy threw up a hand to her, his eyes never leaving the screen. "We adjust, then. Set pulse transmitters standard bearing: one-one-five. Pitch thirty degrees down. Widen beams." The technician repeated his orders to confirm and followed them. He was trying his best not to sound as bored as the captain.

The first mate was tense. Sweat trickled down his round features, gathering under his fatty jowls and slicking a too-thin beard. Eddy was a portly man of fifty years who wore his officer's uniform well. Too well, Wilde had told him. He'd been out of the navy damn near a decade, now, but he was as stuffy and ill-tempered as any commissioned man she'd met.

"Have you finished with your delusions yet, Ed? I have a date with a tall glass of red with curves like ya wouldn't believe, and you're keeping me from it over...what, exactly?" The captain whinged.

"Sonar pinged." He said.

"Sonar pinged." She repeated in a low-pitched drawl. "It was a glitch, man. An aberration in the machine. We haven't seen a ship for forty days."

With a shake of his head, Eddy looked back and up at her. "All eighteen of those checks showed all functions nominal. There's something out there large enough to set off the passive sonar."

Wilde paced back and forth. "Maybe it was a whale."

"At six thousand meters?"

"Or a rock. A big rock."

"Finding it would've been easy, then. Whatever this is moved."

Or maybe," Wilde pointed down at him with a long, accusatory finger. "We've all been down here too long. Seen nothing but water and more water. Maybe in his desperation for even the tiniest kind of excitement, our esteemed colleague- whose neck you've been breathing down, by the way- imagined it."

The tech didn't turn around, but he seemed to sink into his chair at that suggestion. He kept his eyes on his equipment.

The captain pressed. "We all have our delusions, my friend, its nothing to be ashamed of! For example, I thought I might get to drink, dance and fuck tonight. But alas, I'm in here, supervising you gentlemen in your search for Moby Dick."

Eddy finally had enough, taking a step toward his captain. "Perhaps, captain, you'd like to exercise your position of command and call off our pointless search?"

She scoffed. "I have half a mind to-"



"Contact!" The technician screamed, cutting her off. "We- we have contact! Bearing three-zero-eight, degrees...its passing underneath us!"

Wilde felt her blood go cold. "I'll be damned. Maybe you aren't crazy." She stood straight and called up the sonar display in front of her, tracking the ping. There it was. It was a little red dot swimming through a sea of green, disappearing and reappearing with each chirp. Its movements were slow. So damn slow it barely seemed to crawl across the display.

"Contact is now inside minimum range, sir!"

Her voice caught in her throat as she went to call for cameras, but Eddy picked it up for her, bellowing out in that commanding tone of his. The bridge's skeleton crew rushed to fulfill the order, sending word down to the drone bay to deploy units one through five to the bottom stern. Five visual feeds popped up before her, sending her information from each of the active drones.

"Pitch up!" Wilde called, shaking out of her stupor. "Pitch up and quarter-rudder left. I don't want whatever that is scratching up the bottom of my fuckin' ship. Edward, what is it?"

"Unknown, sir!" He yelled back, running to a different station. "We need a visual first, but-"

"-But?!"

"It looks big." He breathed, his voice shaky and dry.

Everyone on the bridge went quiet. Someone from the engine room was yelling complaints at the captain through a speaker, but she ignored them. Her attention was absorbed fully by the screens in front of her. The ocean was pitch black at this depth. The only light came from the lamps and windows all along the side of the Pride and from the swarm of drones themselves. Beams of thin light cut far into the distance, but they revealed nothing but more water...nothing but ocean and shadow in every direction.

"Operator One," Wilde glanced toward the section of the bridge where the drone operators sat. Most of their seats were empty- their usual occupants off enjoying the gala, unaware of their troubles on the bridge. "Move down, see if you can't light up the sea floor." It was too dark underneath them for her comfort. She thought they'd gotten quite low before bringing the Pride of Man to a halt earlier. Had they really pitched up that quickly?

"Descending." He confirmed, guiding the fat, ocular-shaped machine into the depths. Its feed sounded with the buzzing of its propeller and the beeping of its instruments; it was loud and overwhelming. The shape of the Pride disappeared high above it, other drones also, eventually, vanishing into waves. It was alone, now, so deep that not even the flood lights pierced this far down.

Wilde could feel her throat go dry, a lump forming within. She glanced between the depth meter and the main feed, anticipating the first sign of sand or rock. 'Surely we should see the floor by now...'

She looked to the other operators. "Can any of you see Drone One?" She asked, and all at once the different machines began their search. Several tense seconds passed before a roaming beam caught a glint of metal. It was drifting above a sea of blackness, its own flashlight pointed straight down into the void.

"Contact has not reappeared on sonar." The technician called, his voice cracking. "Its still under us."

"That drone's all but pressed on the sea floor." Eddy growled. "What the hell?"

The drone crashed into something unseen, cracking the camera and knocking the lamp from its mount. Its beam went flying, drenching the screen in darkness. Operator One let out a string of curses as he tried to get the drone back under control as it spun and whirled through the water. Its other drone companions raced into the black to find it, but without the guiding ray of its lamplight the round little thing was all but lost.

Wilde and Eddy were shouting, demanding a second pair of eyes on the situation, but no one could get it for them- nor could they explain what, exactly, had happened to Drone One.

Though it offered no visuals, its auditory systems were still running. Still picking up the buzzing of its own propeller, and the off-beat beeping of its malfunctioning equipment. But there was something else, too. Something so low and distant that the propeller drowned it out.

But the captain heard it. She shouted for the operator to shut it off to much protest from the man trying to regain control. He relented, after a moment, and now all they heard were the beeped warnings of broken parts and the tumbling, twisting currents.

"Can you hear that?" Wilde whispered.

The others on the deck were silent, straining to hear something between the beeps. Nothing had ever felt louder than that damned beeping.

Eddy closed his eyes and listened. He could feel it tingling at his ears, at the edges of sensation. Like a touch so light you'd swear it was never there. Focusing, he reached out to meet it. It was the rumble of a far away thunderstorm. A single drum beat echoing for miles. Less a sound and more...that ambient, not-sound that lay behind everything else, that humans weren't meant to hear.

And it was getting louder, he realized, the more he thought about it.

"Fuck." He heard Wilde mutter. "Fuck, fuck. Its so loud. How can't you hear that?"

He turned to look at her, meeting her eyes. "I can hear it, too."

It rose to a cacophonous crescendo so overwhelming that Wilde, Eddy, and half the bridge crew dropped to their knees. Their anguished screams confounded and terrified their compatriots, who looked between each other for any explanation as to what was happening. Some called for medical personnel to be brought to the bridge while others rushed to check on their captain and her first officer. Everyone had questions yet no one had answers. In those few, panicked moments, no one thought to check the camera feeds.

Four drones remained operable, their nose-mounted lamps and cameras pointed into the black beneath. They could see it moving. Those shadows on the sea floor did not rest as previously thought, but instead writhed and twisted as a living thing might. They squirmed away from each beam, as if its radiant touch caused them unspeakable agony. Dark hands slipped free from the mass, thrashing out at the nearest drone. It crumpled under the impact and went spinning into the distance, its lamp flickering out. Other hands, emboldened by this success, raced to crush and slash at other machines, snuffing them- and their hateful little lights- out one by one.

Static filled each of the screens.

Captain Wilde couldn't see them as she lay on the floor of the observation deck, staring up at the ceiling. That horrific sound still played at the edges of her awareness, kissing her ears and dancing away before she could take a hold of it. "God," she breathed, pushing up onto her elbows. The word had to be forced out between her teeth. She focused all her energy on sounding out each letter, as if talking was the hardest thing in the world. The sound was teetering off in severity, thankfully, so she was no longer completely debilitated, but everything still felt off- like she was swimming through syrup.

Someone grabbed her under each arm and pulled her up to lean her against the railing, but she was only vaguely aware of it. She was cursing under her breath. Her eyes were glazed over and bloodshot, and she could feel something wet and sticky in her teeth. There was a vague, aching pain stretching the length of her body, but from whence it came she could not say. Wilde grabbed the deck railing in front of her, staring forward. She was looking for something- something...important.

Other things were happening around the bridge. People were running. There was lots of yelling. It was loud. Too loud. Wilde strained to listen, trying to catch something specific. Even just a word would do. Something that could ground her while her head swam. "He's not getting up!" Somebody was screaming. They were screaming it over and over and over. "He's not getting up!"

"W-what happened?" Wilde slurred, looking around. Her head was pounding, but she was sober. Why was she sober, again? "I...I need a drink."

A man was standing in front of her. His mouth was moving, and she heard him talking, but she couldn't understand a lick of it. He was all dressed up in white, with a red symbol snaking around his arm. Was he a medic? Did she need a medic?

Suddenly the bridge shook, knocking Wilde off her feet, her forehead slamming against the rail on her way down. The medic went tumbling over her head, tripping over the railing and falling to the floor below. People were screaming. An alarm was going off. There was a sound like metal being sheared apart. Wilde blinked rapidly, turning to try to see what was happening, but her head was exploding by now. Red light filled the room. She could see someone laying against their station on the other end of the room, unmoving. Someone else was scrambling on their hands and knees up the stairs, a trail of blood in their wake.

She didn't bother trying to get to her feet again. Instead, she turned over onto her belly, and flicked her eyes around the bridge. Sparks were flying from broken machinery, metal plating was torn asunder in several places, and water was leaking in through cracks in the glass bubble that surrounded the bridge. It was only then that she noticed just how dark it was outside the bridge. The floodlights were either gone or off, and the water was as black as night. She blinked again, and saw the wicked face in the black. Captain Wilde prayed to every god she'd ever known.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Zoey Boey
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Zoey Boey hypothetically functional

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B L A C K ⧗ W I D O W

in collaboration with @Mao Mao

An hour passed since their departure for Geneva, Chief Aviwe maintained her presence at the security room. It was designed to monitor for any possible threats inside and outside the jet. Of course, it was peaceful even with the foreigners’ security onboard. There was an awkward moment when two military-grade jets (belonging to SHIELD) tried to pursue them. But, they didn’t expect for the private jet to disappear in front of their eyes and for radar. She was in the midst of writing her report (making sure to include the brief incident) when Kimoyo, Wakanda’s own AI, contacted her. “We are almost home.”

Aviwe sighed and got up from the chair. “Thank you, Kimoyo. Notify the guards to prepare in case someone decides to act up.”

Natasha waited quietly in her seat. From her angle she was unaware of the SHIELD jets that were attempting to fly security, or tail then, or both or neither. She had one leg crossed over the other, signifying her currently relaxed state. For his part, John was flipping through the pages of his bible and occasionally tapping his foot impatiently.

”This jet…” Natasha pondered aloud, looking down at the ground. ”It’s going fast. Very fast. I almost didn’t realise because we were so high up.” Natasha watched the distant ground zoom underneath. ”At least twice the speed of sound?” She calculated. Either way she stuck out her lower lip and settled back into her chair, impressed. ”Could easily keep up with a Quinjet, I imagine.” She said. Black Widow wasn’t sure who she was talking to. It was an open invitation for anyone to speak. She had learned she would prefer thinking aloud, occasionally, rather than staying silent. It wasn’t good to go months without talking, like she used too.

Ambassador Fitzgerald nodded. “It’s faster than any plane or jet that I have been on before. I wonder if we can see Mount Bashenga.”

When he looked out, however, he was unable to locate it. Aiden kept on looking around until he was getting tried. He thought that they missed it given how fast the private jet was going. “I think we passed by it, unfortunately. I heard Bashenga was beautiful around this time of the year. Especially when the sun rises over the mountains.”

Natasha nodded, humming in agreement. ”I’m sure the country looks much more beautiful on the ground than from a satellite image.” She said lightly. ”I’m glad they’ve finally decided to share a little taste of Wakanda.” Natasha concluded. Going by the speed they were travelling, they most likely didn’t have much longer to wait.

Kimoyo made an announcement to everyone on board. Even know they were speaking Wakandan, the speaker was capable of speaking several languages including English. “We are almost at the destination. And with the request for the King of Wakanda, all windows will be covered to protect the location of the capital—for now. Please be mindful of this temporary inconvenience. Thank you.”
Natasha smirked, uncrossing her leg and leaning forward in her chair. She watched as the windows dimmed and the natural lighting was replaced by artificial ones. Protect the location of the capital? Black Widow thought about that. Everyone knows where the capital of Wakanda is. It’s available on the previously mentioned satellite imagery. So they must be hiding something. As to what, Natasha could not come up with a guess on the spot. Walker looked around but didn’t seem to question the illogical nature of the announcement. Which was understandable. It was a subtle trick.

She glanced over at the Ambassador. ”You ready, sir?” She asked. Aiden sat up straight in his chair and adjusted his tie and cufflinks. “As I’ll ever be.” He replied with a nervous smirk.

Shortly after the announcement, two more of Wakanda’s security entered the area while talking to each other. With their technologically advanced spears ready, one of them was finished talking to her… beads? It would’ve been strange if it wasn’t for how advanced they were compared to everyone else in the world. But, it was rather unusual for there to be so much security in the seating area.

Then, she began to use sign language out of nowhere while the beads were lit up in a blue-violet color. Aiden briefly noticed it but didn’t pay any mind to it. Instead, he went back to writing in his journal about the day. Meanwhile, the security guard finished using sign language and began walking to the end of the area. She made sure to have an eye on Black Widow, who appeared relaxed. Chief Aviwe, who was standing near the entrance, wanted to make sure that everything remained calm, which meant monitoring the Avenger.

If she began to suspect something and said it, then things would go to hell in seconds.

Natasha felt like she was being watched. Even more so than usual. As the Wakandan security filtered into the cabin she picked up on the increased surveillance of her. It was understandable given that she was the most dangerous person on the plane. But still...

Black Widow found eye contact with Chief Aviwe. She raised one eyebrow at the woman. It was a gesture that carried a lot of meaning, that could be surmised as: Are you onto that I’m onto you? Natasha seemed relaxed. Whatever the Wakandans were hiding, their intentions were most likely not hostile. The world would be watching this event. Black Widow figured she had nothing to fear from her hosts.

Aviwe noticed the gesture and immediately left the area, signaling to the other guards to follow. A few remained at their post, but most of them had left. Yet, nobody noticed the bizarre show of force.

Natasha narrowed her eyes and leaned back, interlocking her fingers together. There were many guards on this plane, and the Wakandans seemed to want her to know it. She felt like she was receiving mixed messages. Perhaps things weren’t as put together on their end, and they wanted to project confidence. Black Widow remained silent and bid her time, waiting for more information to reveal itself. She didn’t want to overplay her hand.

Suddenly, Kimoyo greeted her on the screen in front of her. To her, and everyone else, it was just a standard interface program and nothing more. But it still felt rather weird. “Natasha, do you need something to drink? You looked stressed out.”

Natasha blinked at the screen. The redhead tilted her head to the side and raised an eyebrow ”Do I?” She asked. She adjusted her shoulders and rolled one wrist, trying to get more comfortable. ”I feel fine. I’m just excited, I suppose. We’re almost at Namasia, are we not?” She asked of the capital city innocently.

“We are. You could pull up the status of the flight, which could make you more comfortable.”

Natasha shrugged. ”Why not?” She reached forward and briefly interacted with the screen, pulling up the flight status. Once she was there she briefly scanned over the info, but she had guessed it was most likely fabricated. The only thing left to do was wait until they landed and see what Wakanda had in store for their plucky little band of clueless ambassadors and security.

Then suddenly, the jet shuddered as it entered some turbulence for a few seconds. Fortunately, the shaking wasn’t violent; however, it did something strange. The flight status changed to indicate that it was heading towards Bashenga instead of passing it. Even know it changed back, it was on the screen long enough for Natasha to see it. Kimoyo made a brief announcement that asked everyone to remain seated and keep their seat belts fastened.

But, it didn’t realize the mistake until it was too late and… it panicked.

Kimoyo appeared on Natasha’s screen and tried to use the scripted cover story. “Your screen suffered an error during the turbulence. I have rebooted it and fixed the glitch. Please don’t jump to conclusions.”

Natasha’s eyes had scanned the glitch, taking it in in its entirety for the few moments it was on screen. Interesting. What could cause such a mistake or glitch? Random turbulence? Or was there more to it? Natasha’s mind pondered every possibility. No matter what, she was always trying to read the situation and get the edge over her ‘opponent’. Even though she was here diplomatically, it was something that had almost quite literally been built into her blood. There wasn’t really an off switch. Besides...she was here to be a little bit sneaky. Find out what the Wakandans knew about the most valuable and potent natural resource in the known galaxy.

”Oh, don’t worry,” She reassured the onboard computer with a smile, ”I don’t jump to conclusions. I only reach them.” She said, her accent pleasantly American.

“I’m sorry... I don’t understand what you mean. Just remain seated and we will be at Birnin Zana soon.”

Natasha nodded and settled into her seat, glancing over at the idle ambassador and a few feet ahead to her patriotic companion. ”Of course.” Birnin Zana, Natasha thought to herself. None knew what it meant, the words untranslated. Perhaps they would learn the meaning, or perhaps the Wakandans would keep it their own cheeky little secret.

In the time between then and landing, Black Widow had a little think. Mysteries, surprises and secrets were her favorite. The flight information screen glitched, showing the image of them heading directly at the mountain instead of past it. By itself, nothing too much. However, the windows were dimmed. A silly thing, considering everyone knew where the capital of Wakanda was. So they must be hiding something, literally obscuring a secret from their view. What?

They weren’t heading for the capital. They were, infact, probably headed to Mount Bashenga. But why not just tell them? What was with the secrecy?

If Natasha was a lesser spy, she would have stiffened upright in her seat as her theory came together. But on the outside she just looked content, if a little bored. The mountain itself- something was wrong with it. Satellite imagery confirmed there were no structures on the mountain, so the Wakandans weren’t mining it. Yet somehow Klau knew it was there. Now they were most likely headed right for it, but in a way the Wakandan’s didn’t want them to see. Therefore.... Mount Bashenga was covered in a hologram. Stealth technology coated the structures the Wakandans were using to mine the vibranium within. Or...even better, the entire mountain was a hologram. A projection. What if they were going to the capital after all? The real capital, the one hiding under, in, or just was Mount Bashenga? The Wakandans certainly seemed technologically advanced enough to pull it off. El Dorado, the City of Gold, hidden from everyone except those deemed worthy enough to enter. And she had an express ticket. Thank you, Phil Coulson! This was the most fun Natasha had had in a long time...not that one would know it from looking at her.

Aviwe watched Natasha from a hidden camera while in the midst of finalizing her report. She looked at Kimoyo and started caressing it as if it was a pet. The Avenger took the bait. Her boss wasn’t going to allow a former KGB agent to freely roam around her home without obstacles in place. Thus, she put forth a clever plan. For starters, security guards, including Aviwe, were required to act suspiciously around Natasha. So the seeds of doubt could be planted. Then, Kimoyo was ordered to slip up whenever it was around her. Like it did during the turbulence, which wasn't intentional; but, it did provide the perfect opportunity to "accidentally" leak the real flight plans.

And the spy fell for it, even if she wasn’t showing it.

Kimoyo smiled and sent the report off for the boss to read, knowing that her home—and its secrets—was safe.

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by HenryJonesJr
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HenryJonesJr

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1943. Salerno. Italy

The planes had come quicker than they had hoped. Steve had been sure that with the Invaders leading the charge onto the Italian shore, that the Axis forces wouldn't have had time to really muster themselves before the bulk of General Clark's forces had made the beachhead. But the planes had come quickly.

Normally, Steve and his team wouldn't be on a mission like this, but top brass wanted a beachhead in Italy. They were going to move heaven and earth to get it, so here they were. Not that any of them minded too much. They enjoyed being with the rest of the men. It was nice to meet up with some of the regular GIs and see how they thought things were going. Well, Namor wasn't too happy, but he was never all that happy unless he was smashing some tanks around.

Just an hour ago, Namor had used his incredible powers to silently bring the Invaders to the beach, without the enemy troops being the wiser. Once each part of the team had been deposited safely, Namor had whipped up a doozy of a wave and had it wash over the heart of the Axis lines, which the other members of the team had pour through. Steve and Buck systematically moved from pill box to pill box, loosening up the enemy defenses while Namor and Hammond caused some terror on the front lines. Behind them, the Howling Commandos had made sure to mop up any stragglers. It was about as successful of a first assault as they could have hoped.

But once the boats filled with the rest of the troops started to make their way to the beach, the Luftwaffe had made their presence known.

So now the Invaders had an airfield to capture.

"Looks like they haven't retreated to protect it," Bucky said as he peered through the scope of his rifle. "Still just refueling and taking off. Standard procedure."

"Well," Peggy Carter smiled wryly, "maybe we hit them fast enough that they didn't get word back that it was us. Maybe this isn't going to be so bad after all."

"Oof," Bucky winced at that.

"What?" Carter was befuddled as to what she had said.

"Peggy, you never say stuff like that," Steve tried to hold back a chuckle. "It's a jinx."

"Oh honestly you two," she rolled her brown eyes, her hair waving back off her face. Even with the grime of battle on her she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. "Aren't you ever going to grow up?"

"Probably not," Bucky admitted.

"Don't worry, boys," a voice from behind drew their attention. Even after all this time, Steve wasn't used to the unreal realness of Jim Hammond's dulcet tones. "I'll take care of this one."

They turned to find the Human Torch, clad in his special fireproof suit, climbing over a hill. The name was a misnomer, in all reality. There was nothing human about Hammond. He was a wholly mechanical construct, though easily the most amazing the world had ever seen. His skin and hair were both synthetic, his eyes a special lens made of crystal, and his bones were some sort of alloy that was almost as rare as Cap's shield. His organs, or what he considered his organs, were different bags, billows, and mechanisms Steve couldn't even begin to understand. But Steve knew the Torch was special.

If Rogers was a miracle of medical science, than Jim was his mechanical counterpart, and just as rare. Professor Phineas Horton had dreamed up the being he called an "android", and for it some called him a madman. But now Hammond, the Torch, was an invaluable part of the team. Steve didn't see him as a machine. He saw him as a friend.

"Keep the ones on the ground off my back," he winked at the rest of the team. "I'll deal with the planes."

With that, the Human Torch erupted into a brilliant ball of flames and took off into the Italian sky like Vesuvius erupting once again. The living fireball tore through the Luftwaffe planes like a hot knife through butter, and before long the Invaders had taken the airfield, securing the Italian beachhead.

Over the Pacific Ocean. Approaching Madripoor

The mission had gone sideways quicker than any of them could have imagined. The AIM androids were fast, powerful, and surprisingly advanced. If the terrorist organization had been working on this kind of technology, Steve was amazed that this was the first they had seen of them. Even a few permutations earlier would have been enough to turn some of Strike Team Alpha's previous victories into defeat. But maybe AIM had gotten smarter, somehow. Maybe they had been holding this trump card back until it was truly ready. If that was the case, Steve was terrified to think about just how many of these machines AIM could have dispatched across the globe.

But Captain America couldn't worry about that right now. Right now he had half a dozen of the mechanical menaces taking on his team. Piotr was trying to take on three at once. Choi had shrunk down to do who knows what, while Steve attempted to keep his distance from the other three.

One lunged at him, and he managed to spin out of the way, flashing out the edge of the shield as he did. It caught his attacker across the face, leaving a deep gash across the mechanical man's visage. The inner workings of the machine were visible, and its movement became stiff and awkward, after another lunge it collapsed like any dead man.

"Come on," he motioned at the other two, "I've been itching for a fight."

Before they could attack, however, one of their fellow automatons was tossed into them, collapsing the three of them into a writhing pile of artificial limbs. While the three of them attempted to untangle themselves, Steve turned to find Colossus's fist wrapped around one of the other's head. With a great flex of his mighty fingers, the android's head popped like some grotesque pinata. Gears, glass, and gyros rained onto the floor, the metal pings of like rain on a tin roof.

The remaining android that had been attacking Piotr leapt towards the mutant as his back was turned. Before it could land on its target, Captain America's shield sheered its head off before bouncing back to Steve.

As the other three began to get to their feet, Steve could hear the footfalls of more approaching, "We need to get out of here. Where the hell is Atom?"

The two of them abandoned the plan to head to the plane's bridge. They would never get there now. That much was certain. There was bound to be too many of them that way. So Cap thought there was only one plan of action.

"Let's head to the cargo hold," he nodded to Piotr. "We're taking the express exit."

They turned and ran that way, Colossus closing off the door behind them, hoping to buy them some time.

"Cap!" Crimson Fox's voice came over the comms. "They're-"

A loud bang from behind them drowned out Vivian's voice, and told Steve that the door didn't stand much of a chance against the strength of the androids.

"Repeat that!" Steve shouted as he and Colossus moved as fast as they could through the tight halls of the SHIELD plane.

"They just jumped! Four of whatever they are! Rockets came out of their feat and they were headed for Madripoor," she responded, explaining the situation.

Things began to become clear. It was nothing but a trap. AIM may not have expected the strike team to catch up, but they certainly had a plan if they did. Meaning they had to get off this plane as quick as possible.

"Everyone back to the Quinjet now!" he yelled, he and Rasputin coming to a skidding halt. "Sam, be ready to take off! We're gonna come in hot."

There wasn't much time, Steve was sure of that. He felt the slick layer of sweat building up under his suit. His team was in danger, more than most of them realized. If they weren't on that jet in a few moments, they wouldn't be coming back from the mission alive.'

When they reached the access hatch, Colossus tossed Steve up, and he landed deftly in the Quinjet. He dropped down the tow line for Piotr to climb up. By the time the mutant was inside, Vivian and Joseph were also following him up, but there was no sign of Choi.

"Ryan! Atom! Where the hell are you? We gotta get out of here!"

The minute Steve waited for a response felt like hours. He wasn't one to leave a man behind, and he had no intention of starting now. But he also knew that if he waited any longer he'd lose his entire team, and that was a nonstarter.

"Sam, detach!" he commanded.

"We can wait! There's none of those things down there!" Union Jack pleaded with Cap.

"It's not the androids I'm worried about!" Rogers retorted. "Sam, now!"

His friend nodded and in a violent maneuver he detached from the SHIELD plane and got some distance between them. Just in the nick of time, as well. As they flew parallel the bigger plane, the explosion that Steve had been expecting ripped through the middle of the cargo jet. A blazing ball of fire engulfed the aircraft, and shrapnel began to rain down into the ocean around Madripoor.

The team was silent, realizing that one of their own had just fallen. Choi may have been a pain in the ass, and often took orders from Beijing more than he took orders from Steve, but he was still a teammate, and a hero to boot. Rogers slammed his shield into the floor of the Quinjet, leaving a dent.

But before any of them could say a word, the comm crackled to life, "-in! Come in! Do you guys read me?"

Ryan's voice brought a smile to everyone, and Piotr let out a whoop.

"You sneeky git," Union Jack laughed. "Where the hell are you?"

"On the shoulder of one of these things," the Atom sounded pleased with himself. "You guys come pick me up, they seem to have stolen our package."

"Well, let's take it back," Rogers nodded to Sam.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Zoey Boey
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Zoey Boey hypothetically functional

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H A R L E Y ☺ Q U I N N


Harley Quinn was going to put a gang together. True, true, a lot of her old stuff is going to be unavailable to her. But she still has connections. Moreover she still has parts of Joker's old crew there were more loyal to her than they were to the Joker. Before visiting Ivy she had put together the Gang-a-Harleys.

(I didn't come up with the name- it was them. I keep tryin' to tell 'em how lame it is but they don't listen to me, those crazy kids. Gosh, they love me so much. They're so sweet it makes me wanna throw up, I can hardly take it!)

Harley Queens, Harlem Harley, Bolly Quinn, Harvey Quinn, Carli Quinn, Hanuquinn, and Coach. The six of them make up the bulk of Harley's henchwomen force, with Coach being co-ordinating intelligence. They all specialize in different things. They've only been with Harley for a year but they're family now. They were all directionless, bored, miserable drifters with nothing to do. Harley was the one who came in and changed their lives- for the better, of course! They've all pulled of some nasty ass heists and pranks in their short tenure as master criminals. They're the muscle Harley needs in her new independant career as a superhero! Or something. Still working out the kinks on that whole plan. Talking to Ivy made her feel better about herself though, so that's all that matters.

Harley materialized out of the Gotham darkness infront of an office building.

(That's right! A Gen-u-ine office building! With carpets and ceiling fans and lights, the whole thing. Looks a little bland from the outside but it's my base of operations, my headquarters, my evil lair! The official Kill Yaself Krew HQ. Or as I like to call it...)

"The Kick Back!" Harley finished her internal thoughts aloud triumphantly, throwing her arms into the air. Harley Quinn was always on stage. She was always performing for someone, speaking to an audience, even when she was alone. It was an old habit of hers that helped her focus.

The Kick Back was a wide but squat building, surrounded by an abandoned parking lot of broken lamps and weeded concrete. It was in one of the many forgotten sectors of Gotham, the looming downtown section glowing yellow in the night. The massive urban sprawl surrounding Gotham was often under-utilized, but it had it's uses and had a nice, homey feel to it. Out here, crime isn't crazy or supervillainy. A nice, healthy middle between urban supervillains and the monsters in the sawmp. The Kick Bakc was made of red bricks and was drowning in grafitti, some of it fresh and subtly clown related. The windows were all tinted, dark, with blinds drawn, or boarded over. The only way in was a set of heavy steel doors. Harley approached and look up at a small black dome of a camera and smiled big, her marble white teeth shining bright. A few moments later the doors slid open, revealing an airlock that was painted a painful purple. Big eyes and biting teeth sprayed onto the walls, so abrasive she could still smell the day it was applied.

The steel doors slid shut behind her and the one infront of her opened. Immediately some music of Hanuquinn's choice began playing, from one of her vidya games. The light blue one, Hanuquinn, was grooving out in a corner, throwing her head back and forth, her arms swinging too and fro. Her corner, of course, wasn't dark. Infact, right now, there was hardly a shadow in the whole place. The entire thing was bursting with color. Negative space as a core design philosophy was something the Gang-A-Harley's never picked up on, apparently. The entire place was a canvas of art ranging from bad to mediocre, to sometimes even a little bit good. Harley Quinn (quite the talented artist) had done some of the base layers herself but her stalwart companions lovingly added onto and improved her art with their own personal flare. They even agreed to color code themselves. They spent the first few months deciding on who got to be which color.

Hanuquinn was too busy flailing around to notice Harley enter. The space used to be an office building with walls and cubicles but those had all been taken down, leaving a massive large center space with a few off-shoot rooms and corridors that lead to various useful places.

Carli Quinn, the purple lady, was throwing darts at a board mounted crooked on the wall. Harvey, the green dude, was pounding on a hanging punching bag right next to her. Harlem Harley, zebra pattered dame, was leaning up against a wall and smiling warmly at Harley Quinn, who waved at her. Bolly Quinn, orange chick, was playing ping pong with little miss Harley Queens, the pink princess.

Down one hallway and in a room by herself would be couch, who was probably wheeling her way into the lounge as Harley smiled proudly around the room. Harvey circled around his punching bag and saw his leader. His face lit up. "Harley!" He shouted. Harley smiled and bowed. Immediately there was a raucous chatter as the gang turned to meet their glorious leader. She had to wave them off with a series of alrights and calm downs.

"Everybody, sit ya tucheses down! Sheesh! You guys a too much." Harley managed to get the gang seated and quiet on a large plush couch, or on the floor infront of it, or in Harlem's case, standing behind it.

"So, you finally broke up with that Joker prick." Harlem began. "What's next?"

"Kill the Joker, of course!" Queens shouted, producing a knife and holding it high in the air. Everyone agreed, nodding and looking back and forth at each other.

"Wh-wha, what's with you guys? Just last month you woulda laid down ya life for that guy and now you think we should kill him?" Harley said incredulously. The crew were silent, looking up at Harley with their big, innocent eyes.

Coach wheeled out from her corridor, smirking, her sightless gaze unreadable from behind her dark glasses. "You were much the same way if I remember, Harleen." She said. Harley pointed at her, her other hand on her hip, like she was about to say something.

"...Yeah, no, fair enough. You guys really just follow my lead, huh? When are you guys ever gonna think for yaselves." Harley asked the crew.

"Yeah, we'll start thinking for ourselves. Sounds like a good idea." Bolly said, nodding with her eyes closed.

"Yeah, yeah, definitely. You're right. Independant thinking, from here on out." Harvey cut across the invisible horizon with his brass knuckle adorned hands.

"Mhm. So, what should we independantly think first, Harley?" Carli agreed, placing her knuckles against her cheek and blinking rapidly at Harley. At this point Harley was frowning down on all of them, her lip pouted and her hands on her hips. Harlem broke first at this display, giggling, after which everyone joined in afterwards. Harley pinched the bridge of her nose and turned away from everyone, shaking her head.

"Oy vey. You guys ain't funny. You woulda thought you guys'd be funny, but no. " Harley surpressed a chuckle.

"Come on, lighten up, Harley. You always complain about how much people don't listen to you. Well, we do." "Yeah! We're with you all the way!" "For better or for worse." "Just as clueless and blind as you are!" Everyone chimed in at once.

"Alright, alright! I get it. I'm a shmuck, therefore by extension, so ar'all-a you. Shoulda learned that by now...but no." Harley concluded, blowing a raspberry.

"But we're just as smart as you, too!" Queens stated cheerily.

"Yeah...that's the problem." She looked over at Coach and rolled her eyes, and the blind woman didn't notice. At this point Harley reset the momentum, raising her hands again. "Heyeyeyeyeyeyeyeey, alright, okay. Okay, I'm here to talk tacks, alright? Brass tacks. 'Bout what I'm gonna do next." She pointed to Harlem, having produced a pink marker. "Like what you was askin'." With that she took a step back, onto a raised section of the floor, and grabbed the white board on wheels that was absolutely covered in terrible drawings. She reached up to the top, and flipped it over, to the side that was supposed to be blank. Unfortunately, there was a large pink dick drawn on the side, getting a childish giggle from Queens.

Harley laughed for a moment as she erased it before turning furiously to Queens. "You can't just draw a DICK ON SOMETHIN' AND EXPECT IT TO BE FUNNY, QUEENS! DO I LIKE LOOK A TWELVE YEAR OLD TO-" Harley cut herself off as Queens had shrunken thoroughly into her foldable chair, as the others averted their gaze. Harley pinched the bridge of her nose agaom and sighed, turning back to the white board. Using the pink marker she began to draw out her potential plans. There was silence in the room as she wrote:

Plan Uno; Kill some dickhead

Plan Twouno; Take a vacation

Plan


...

Harley turned around and looked at Queens. "Look, I'm sorry, okay?" She apologized in a way that made it clear she wasn't used to doing so. Queens brightened and sat up straight again. "It's okay, Harley! You were right, it wasn't funny. This is why I always learn from the best-"

"Oh, shuddup." Harley interrupted her subordinate. "Never apologize to anyone."

Queens cocked her head to the side. "But...you just apologized to me."

"...Do as I say, not as I do?" Harley offered with a shrug.

Queens furrowed her brow and stared at the floor. Harley threw up her hands and looked expaserated at the other members of the Kyk, who looked at her with shrugs in their eyes.

"Gaah, look, I'm not good at advice, okay? Just don't take shit from no one except me but not all the time, be your own person but also listen to me because I'm real smort-like. You get it. She gets it. ANYWAY here we go, plan A! We're talkin' tachlis, okay!?" She slapped Plan Uno with her palm.

"Kill some dickhead." Harley looked at everyone in the group, and nodded, pursing her lips. There was another silence.

"...Okay. So far, so good." Bolly nodded along, looking to the others with an amused look on her face.

Hanuquinn raised her hand. "Isn't that just what we normally do, Harley?"

Harley pointed at her. "No. What we do is we kill whoever the heck we want, then say they were a dickhead afterwards. This time, we're gonna kill some guy because he's a dickhead. Maybe." Harley hesitated, biting her marker.

"Okay, ladies. I'm just gonna come out and say it." Harley said.

"You're getting married!?"
"Omg, congratulations!"
"We're blowing up Arkham!"
"I knew you would remember my birthday!"
"It's time to KILL THE BATMAN!"
"You don't really have a PysD!"

"UPUPUBPUBUBUB- WOAh, HEY NOW, WHAT, fuck the SHUT up! No I'm not-!? You guys- Wh-" Harley sputtered, clenching her fists as her team exploded chaotically in a cacophany of chatter.

"Are you chucklefucks gonna listen to me or what!? I'm up here! I got da marker! I got the FUCKIN!!-- W-wait, Harvey, it's ya birthday?" Harley asked, her tone changing completely. Harvey smiled sweetly and crossed his legs, nodding.

"Wow! Congrats, buddy. I'm sorry, I musta forgot."

"D'aw, it's okay, Quinn. I only had one so far with you all, and it was near the beginning. My first present was getting to be with you all in the first place!" Harvey exclaimed, and the girls aww'd. Coach was listening to all this with the bemused expression that always attatched to her features. She was usually silent, letting the ladies discussion take their natural course. They were fascinating to listen too, in her opinion. She wondered frequently how they thought. All of them were enigmas in her own way, while Coach thought of herself as somewhat of an open book. Though unbeknownst to her, the Gang-a-Harleys often thought that of her.

"Aw, geez, shuddup, you." Harley waved him away. "Plan Thruno, get Harvey a birthday cake." Harley said what she was writing aloud. Her handwriting was easily legible, but had a styling that made it a little fancy. It's consistency and the steadiness of her hand made it down-right beautiful as well from a caligraphy standpoint.

"What flavor do ya like?"

"I've always been partial to-" "SHEKET, HARVEY! We're gettin' off task! I was sayin' somethin'!" Harley exclaimed loudly, though without the acidic edge she had earlier when yelling at Queens. Harvey's eyes widened and he frowned good-naturedly, looking at Carli and shrugged. Carli giggled.

"IIIIII AAAMmmm..." Harley shouted, but then trailed off as she looked down at her expecting pupils.

"I, Harleen Frances Quinzel, AM...!" Harley began again, rousing up her courage. Everyone looked back and forth, and Coach leaned forward expectantly, a smug smirk on her face. She had been expecting this, but not this soon.

Harley tugged at her low collar. "Geez...is it uh...is it hot in here or what?"

"No, it's really cold, like always. Like uncomfortably cold. Because we never pay the heating bills." Harlem said flatly.

"Wha- Coach!" Harley looked incredulously over to the woman. "Why haven't you been payin' our heatin' bills!?"

"I'm blind, Harleen."

"Blind to the needs of my membas, that is! Yeesh! Harlem, why don't you do it?" Harley asked.

"Why are you stalling?" Coach asked.

"I am not stalling! I'm...just...wondering. Bein'...pfftttssststssttststsssss....That's all. Shuddup, Coach! You don't know me!" Harley protested. Everyone glanced at Harley, then back at Coach.

"I think I know you a little, Harley. And I think you need get to the point. They trust you. They'd follow you anywhere." Coach gently reassured her friend. Harley frowned, her mouth wound up to the side of her face. At this point, the Harleys began to speak up.

"Yeah, Harley! Anywhere!"
"And anything."
"You know it!"
"You can tell us."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah!"
"Spit it out, already!"

Harley looked down at her best friends, lower limp trembling. Then she looked back at coach. "Ugh...stupid...wise-ass...frickin'...alright! All right. Here I go." Harley wrapped her hands together and breathed in deep.

"I...Harley Quinn...am getting into the uh...the hero business."

"NNNOOOOOOOOO!!!"
"WHAT!? BULLSHIT!"
"Oh, fuck off!"
"N-no! Please, no, anything but that!"
"Worst birthday ever!"
"Fuck me in the ass!"


Queens fell out of her chair and onto her hands and knees, clutching at the carpet with pale white knuckles. Bolly exploded out of her seat, sending it flying backwards and began to storm out of the room. Harlem turned like she had taken a slap to the face and recoiled to the far side of the lounge. Hanuquinn bowed her head and began to cry. Harvey crossed his arms and just stared at Harvey. "Look at what you did!" Carli face palmed, dejected, and sank back into her seat.

Harley's face dropped and she watched in horror as all this occured in a matter of seconds. Coach was genuinely taken aback, her eyebrows furrowing upwards. For once in her life, Harley was speechless. "Wh---wh--wait---" She stammered.

"AAAGH! I'M GONNA KILL EVERYONE IN THE WORLD AND THEN MYSELF!!! NOOO!!!" Queens shouted, raising from the ground and sprinting out the front door, arms flailing. Harlem looked sternly at Harley and then ran after the pink-haired wild woman. Harvey guided Hanuquinn out of the lounge and down one of the hallways. whispering to her reassuringly.

"Motherfucker. I'm gonna go find something to blow up." Bolly said, and then headed ominously towards her bedroom. Carli just kept facepalming, the last member of the Harleys in the room.

"C-c-c-Carli?" Harley asked, her eyes welling.

"Yeah. Sorry, Quinn. That's a lot." She said, before turning and heading out the door.

Harley was alone with Coach now, who had wheeled a few feet back. "What happened to followin' me anywhere!? What the frick!?" Harley threw her arms into the air as her temper began to flare.

"W-well-"

"YOU REALLY SCREWED THE POOCH ON THAT ONE, COACH!" Harley shouted angrily, causing Coach to flinch.

"I...I'm sure they'll come around, Harley. You know how they can be." Coach offered.

Harley was trembling, and wiped something out of her eye. She took a few steps to the right, a few steps to the left, and then just collapsed into a cross legged sitting position where she was, head hung low and sunk into her palms.

"Oh maaannn...I dunno what I'm gonna do if I don't have those guys no more." Harley moaned dejectedly. "This really stinks." After a moment she glanced up, her makeup beginning to run a little down her pale white face.

"D'you really think they'll come around, Coach?" Harley asked, her voice small.

"Well..." Coach said, wheeling over to where she heard Harley coming from. Her wheelchair followed the grooves of the floor and she went up a piece of wood laid out so she could get onto the stage. "Queens says she's gonna kill everyone in the world and then herself whenever she loses at Monopoly. Or her TV romances don't work out."

"Yeah...but what if this time she means it?" Harley asked again. "I think she really could do it."

"Hmm..." Coach smirked. "And as for the others..."

"I ruined Harvey's birthday!"

"Oh, he'll be fine."

"I made Hanuquin cry! They're all pissed at me! Why is this so hard!?" Harley buried her face in her hands again.

"Listen, Quinn. I've been predicting this for a while. You always cared way too much to be a villain. Your problem before was that...you cared about the wrong person." Coach said softly. She moved closer and placed a hand on Harley's shoulder. "These are good people. They just need time to adjust. After all, you're one who did the job of convincing them the hero business was for idiots, and goodie two-shoes, and morons, and they weren't really heroes, and that they hated fun, and that-"

"Alright, alright!" Harley sat up straight, a laugh in her voice. "I get it. Consequences. I dug my own bed and now I gotta count my chickens." Harley summed up succinctly.

"Look, I'll make it up to 'em. Just because we're savin' people doesn't mean we can't have fun. I'm gonna plan something big. We'll pull off a heist. Just because we're heroes doesn't mean we can't rob banks!"

"Um..."

"No, no, really! Like Robin Hood. Not bird boy, real Robin Hood, from the medieval times. Real fake Robin Hood, the one that wasn't real. But--- you get it. You know the guy! Take from the rich and give to the poor!" Harley assured Coach.

"I'm dirt poor kind of! At least I am now that I ain't with my puddin- with Mistah J- with, uh the Joker anymore." Harley's voice briefly wavered in it's raising confidence. After a moment she gestured wildly at the area around her, raising her voice and forging ahead. Who's gonna pay for this lounge!? So really taking from the rich and giving to myself is just me being Robin Hood. Everybody likes that guy." Harley nodded, self-satisfied.

After a moment she started up again, leaning towards Coach. "Or we could steal from Cobblepot, or Fisk, or any-a those other fat cats that milk their cities dry. There's loads of 'em! Once we get the money rollin' again, I'm sure the Harleys will come around. Yeah, yeah, that's a good plan." Harley stood up at this point, picking herself up figuratively and literally.

"Okay, okay, I just need to give them a gift. Something they'll think is fun, and is also really frickin' heroic! If I can't get them on board, then I can't get anyone onboard." Harley looked down at Coach. "You're with me, right?" She asked.

"Always. And I think the girls are, too. They just need a little encouragement." Coach said, smiling.

"Yeah...a little encouragement. That's a good way of puttin' it. Thanks, Coach. You're the best. Sorry for yelling at you, you didn't screw the pooch, that was definitely me." Harley apologized quickly as she hopped down from the heightened area of the floor.

After a moment Harley hesitated."Did you...is your little..." Harley turned around and looked at Coach, and Harley mimed like she was putting on a helmet.

"The AR headset? It's great." Coach reponded, taking off her dark glasses. Her green eyes looked vaguely in Harley's direction, her smile small but bright. "Thanks again for that."

"Yes!" Harley pumped her fist. "Oh, man, totally worth it." Her heart surged with the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something nice for someone else. Her morality ignoring the guilt one might normally feel from doing many crimes to do so.

"Alright Coach...start lookin' for opportunity. I'm gonna hit the streets, check with some of my sources...there's always somethin' to steal, somethin' to nab." Harley's voice began to fade as she jogged down a hallway. Coach nodded and began to make her way back to her room, smirking and shaking her head.

"Been too long since I-" Harley halted her momentum and exploded into a dark room. Inside, Harvey and Hanuquin were watching some cheesy rom-com and eating ice cream from the tub.. Eyes wide, they startled backwards on the sleeping bags they were sitting on.

"I'LL SHOW YOU! YOU'LL SEE! YOU'RE GONNA BE SO ONBOARD I'M gonna- GONNA CALL YOU A COMPUTAH! SEE YA, CHUMPS!" Harley slammed the door and was now sprinting down the hallway, towards the garage.

"Been too long since I did a good ol' fashioned heist!" She whispered to herself, her eyes glittering with ambition and a smile spreading across her face.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Natty
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So, what you’re saying is that my boyfriend is some kind of God?” Teddy asked, his hand running playfully through his partner’s hair.

I guess so.” Billy pulled an awkward face. It was clear he was not happy at the idea. “Think I’m going to have a lot of questions for my rabbi.

Teddy hadn’t given too much thought to the subject before. Whereas Billy had his Judaism, he had always considered himself more of an agnostic. Something had to be out there somewhere. There was Thor for one. Sure, he was more of a small-g god, but that had to give some evidence to those kinds of things. Wonder Woman too. However clearly there were bigger things at play here, and his handsome boyfriend was right in the centre of it all.

The two had only just recently returned to Teddy’s apartment, where they now found each other sprawled out across each other on the sofa, as a trashy reality tv show played on the TV before them muted. As a bunch of hapless chefs ran about the studio in silence, Billy had been trying to explain what had happened to him. The complications of his reality warping. The appearance of the golden giant in blue. His visit to “space”.

Despite knowing how uncomfortable the experience, particularly the bombshell of his “destiny”, had been for Billy, Teddy secretly longed to have been able to see it all too. He had always dreamed of seeing the stars. Some of his youngest memories involved him running around the apartment pretending to be an Astronaut.

He smiled at the thought, only for it to drop as he spotted Billy gazing out of the window next to them glumly, evidently deep in thought.

Maybe Thor is secretly your brother?” Teddy joked, attempting to cheer him up a bit.

He was relieved to see that the question had at least put a smile on his face.

You’ll have to start calling me Asgardian or something.” He laughed, a sparkly image of Billy wielding Thor’s mighty hammer Mjolnir materializing before them briefly with a magical wave of his fingers.

Nah, stick with Wiccan, it’s cute” Teddy expressed, tightening his arms around Billy ever so slightly.
That oh so familiar smile of Billy’s flashed across his face as he too tightened his arms.

Oh, you think so?” He asked, leaning closer.

I know so.” Teddy breathed, as he locked his lips against Billy’s. His heart pounded inside his chest.

It was the jingle of keys in the lock that finally broke the two apart, with the two rushing to opposite sides of the sofa as the apartment door across the room began to open. A mixture of both guilt and awkwardness spread across their faces.

Mary-Jo Altman was a beautiful woman, with golden curls circling her slender face. She looked good for her age, with only the odd wrinkle noticeable across her face. She was the best mother Teddy could have asked for. She was caring and understanding, especially after he had told her about Billy. It often made Teddy wonder as to why or how she hadn’t dated anyone herself in years. Initially, he had assumed it was out of respect for his late father, with him having passed away back when Teddy was a baby. Yet, the fact that she never mentioned him made him wonder if there was a different reason. She had merely claimed with a smile that she was too busy with work and looking after him. He could not fault her for that at all, as the woman had done a lot for him. She had worked tirelessly throughout his childhood; the fact that they had a reasonably sized apartment in Manhattan being a clear sign of that.

It was clear from the smirk across her face as she entered that she knew exactly what the two of them had been doing.

“Hey boys.”

The two gave a short wave in unison to greet her before Teddy had the courage to speak.

Good day?” He asked, watching her dump her handbag on the countertop lazily.

She screwed her face up slightly at the question. “Nightmare client today honestly.” She exclaimed, sighing.

“Mind if we have the rest of yesterday’s casserole? I really don’t feel like doing much cooking tonight.” She asked, grabbing a wine glass down from the rack. “I just need a nice glass of wine and a decent film.”

Teddy smiled. His mom was fun.

Sounds like a plan.” He confirmed as he headed over towards the kitchen to help, Billy following him. “Mind if Billy stays too?

She looked up from the glass of wine she was beginning to pour with a smile. “Of course not.”

Thank you, Ms. Altman,” Billy said, rubbing the back of his neck anxiously.

“Billy, you’ve been staying for dinner for years, you don’t have to keep thanking me.” She beamed, putting her hand onto his shoulder. “You’re practically a part of the family.”

As they watched her switch on the stove, Teddy slid his hand into Billy’s. He rested his head against his shoulder in response. Even with this whole Demiurge business currently, life was good.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Pacifista
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Location: Belize City, Belize
A Green God, A Green Devil – 1.03

Interaction(s): None
Previously: 1.02

The Hulk had never really been calm before. Not that Bruce remembered many of the times he’d been the Hulk.

Of course, it hadn’t helped. The already panicked kids reaching the top deck of the boat maybe would have reacted better had there not been a giant green monster there to greet them. Hulk’s arms were casually by his side, his expression, neutral, at least until he was met with an expected scream of shock. The Hulk shook his head lightly, before reaching out a hand, motioning for them to come over. As more started to surface, the initial shock passing, Hulk began to help them across the gap one by one. Grasping his hand, they were easily be able to clear the gap, Hulk pointing for them to leave. A few strange thumping noises from the ship’s innards didn’t leave room for much room to question anything. Once things seemed to be clear, Hulk reached one hand down to the lip of the ship, yanking it up. There was some noise from below, but as long as it wasn’t screaming children, Hulk didn’t care. Snorting, he stood tall, turning back to the apparent leader, and letting out a roar, sound bouncing throughout the ruined warehouse. Raising his fists, he smashed them both against the boat, crumpling the metal. Fingers tearing in, he pulled it close, yanking at the deck, chunks being ripped out before he grew tired of it, kicking it away where it crashed into the opposite wall, rocking lopsidedly as the warped metal’s center of balance was knocked out of alignment.

The only thing left behind a bunch of helpless cartel members, Hulk’s work here was done. Storming off towards the exit he didn’t even look back. As he reached the entrance, Jagger pulled a case out from behind his desk in the room above, unclasping it with a quick code, pulling out a rocket launcher, casually loading it and heading to the door. His subordinate gawked. “Why didn’t you shoot him before he fucked our stuff!?”

“Because I didn’t want to fuck our stuff myself. I haven’t fired this yet.” Jagger shook his head as he took to the door, heading down the stairs. So hard to find good help these days. Nodding his head to the boat, taking on water, he said, “Make sure everyone gets off of there, especially Reg, and call for the nearest boat to get here asap.” Looking over to a man who’d been hiding, he said, “And you! Wake up anyone you can! Cops are going to be here any minute!” As they went into action, Jagger didn’t hold any ill will. He’d more or less knew how people were going to act and react before they did. For example, a big angry monster walking away from a successful mission was likely to have its guard down.

Eyeing the Hulk through the ripped open entryway, leveling the rocket launcher his way, Jagger got to see something rare. While a big monster coming in to ruin his day had already been outside of his expectations, he also didn’t expect it to be on its knees just outside, breathing heavily. No, it was more than that, it was shrinking.

Bruce really should have seen it coming. The Hulk’s grip fading from his mind as his own hands met the pavement, he was learning new things every day, though he might have preferred some better timing. That freedom and release from becoming the Hulk was now shifting to the reality of it, the consequences, the fear. Should law enforcement come for him he might be pushed to defend himself. If General Ross still had his deep hatred of him then US military action was well within the realm of possibility. The best bet he had was to run for now. He knew where he wanted to be, and as nice as Belize was, it wasn’t for him.

A boot to the back of his head kept him from moving too far though. Bare body pressed against the pavement, Bruce grunted and tried to struggle. “Transform back.” The voice was soft, possessing curiosity with no ill will whatsoever.

Bruce tried. He bit his tongue until he bled, cried out in pain as he tried to work up his anger. But it wouldn’t come out. “Damn shame,” Jagger sighed.

-----

Minutes later, Bruce had been dragged right back into the warehouse. Handcuffs kept his arms at bay as two men dragged him to the center of the warehouse, pushing him to his knees. Looking up, Bruce was more than taken aback at the sight of ‘Reg’. Comparable in size to the Hulk, his proportions were all wrong. A black tank top was stretched across bulging muscles, swollen deltoid muscless the size of watermelons and the shoulder tapering off into a rather typically sized wrist by the end of the arm. The large upper body left the legs, clad in cameo patterned cargo shorts, looking rather small, some large thigh muscles on otherwise less bulky legs not lending good support, bent knees restricting how imposing the brute looked. The face was even worse off, bald, misshapen, with sunken, beady yellow eyes glaring at Bruce.

“What brought you here? Was it really just the kids?” Jagger asked. Bruce was pulled about to face him, the leader still brandishing the rocket launcher on his shoulder.

Bruce coughed, admitting, “Yeah.”

“Well you’re in luck. We only took them in for research. I deal in Venom, you see. You know what Venom is?” Bruce shook his head. “It’s a drug made famous in Gotham City. Hard to synthesize though, I’ve been doing my best here in these parts, trying to get closer to the real thing.” He nodded towards the big brute. “Reg here overdosed on the real thing. Ours isn’t at the level, but it’s close enough to ease his withdrawals. And the better we make our formula, the longer we can pass it off as the real thing. So I’ve been taking up human trafficking these last few months for test subjects. But then, you showed up.”

Bruce glared. His fists were clenched. He lingered on his words, trying to find the one that would send him into a fury, the one that would bring the Hulk back. “I don’t know what the hell you are, if you’re some mutant or lab experiment gone wrong, but I’m sure you’ll have plenty to offer to our cause. If we can get cleaner musculature with more balanced form then I’ll trade a thousand kids for you.”

Bruce let out a laugh. It wasn’t warm or mirthful, it was forced, harsh, biting. “That’s what this is about?” Nodding his head toward Reg, he chortled, “You’re going to experiment on me because your big guy over there skipped leg day?” Bruce’s joke didn’t go over well, no one seemed to understand what he was implying. Shakily, Bruce started to walk, going for a gap in between cartel members. The resisted, pushing him back. “What are you gonna do? Shoot me?” Bruce scoffed, before going for it again. He was met with a fist in the gut. Taking it all, Bruce lunged, teeth catching the thug’s ear. Biting down, he got a yelp, before shoving him with his shoulder and continuing to go for it. For his trouble he got a rifle butt to the head. Spots flitting by his eyes, he dropped to his knees, where he got a kick to the face. Falling to the ground, he was completely open, the whole gang going in on ruining him, stomping and kicking him until he stopped moving. Bruce tried to fight it, tried to let that pain get his anger flowing.

But he just couldn’t. Every time it bubbled, it was quelled just as quickly. With every strike, he was beaten down by fear and helplessness, even though he knew full well he had the potential to be anything but.

Black and blue rather than purple and green, the gang pulled away from Bruce, who was left a groaning wreck. Finally discarding his patience, Jagger roared, “QUIET!” with one last kick, he silenced Bruce. Taking a slow breath, he ordered, “Put him on the ship. If it sinks with him on it, it’s his fault.” Shaking his head, Jagger went back to his office, hoping to enjoy even a moment of peace.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Bounce
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| L U N A
| Dark Side of the Moon

“Kill them.”

Billy just crossed his arms as the halbred-rifles were raised again. The assembled aliens started to take a step forward when Skratt called to them again.

No, wait. Kill the human. I want to take my time with the Kymellian.”

Casually, the young Batson turned his head. Crocodiles to the left of him, reptiles to the right. As the pole-like weapons were extended out toward him, Billy knew that he was surrounded by the dinosaur-like aliens. Claws clicked against some kind of trigger mechanism.

A strange sound echoed through the chamber, as bolts of some kind sailed from all directions, slamming into the child-like body of the crimson clad hero.

Through it all, Billy simply stood there, as bolts collided about his head and shoulders. No worse for the wear, as the volley continued for nearly a minute.

When the Zn’rx had finally ceased firing, a rather bored looking Batson at last looked back over at the one who had introduced himself as Skratt. The two held one another’s gaze, even as Billy addressed Kofi. “You want this?” the boy asked flatly, before adding, “Or you want to check those life signs?”

“The Zn’rx and my people understand one another,” Kofi answered, speaking from behind him. After all, this wasn’t Freddy Freeman, but his true horse-like appearance. That was likely to be something of a shock to ordinary people. Particularly if they’d been unexpected guests of extraterrestrials of another sort. As if reading Billy’s mind, the young xenomorph added, “Humans, on the other hand...”

Skratt’s claws flashed in the harsh light of the starship’s interior. A low, gutteral growl snapping as the crocodile-like monster barked, “You think us a joke?”

Taking a step back, Billy pivoted to look back at Kofi. Then, inclining his head to indicate the angered Zn’rx, merely offered, “All yours.”

A mystical circle seemed to appear in the air before the horse-like youth. A three-fingered hand gestured in the air, alternating a pair of symbols within the circle. With the simple flick of his fingers, Billy Batson suddenly disappeared into a quickly fading column of light.

“A joke?” the Kymellian echoed, reading his head back as the circle faded and Kofi found himself now alone on a ship full of Zn’rx. Pondering how Billy might have addressed the crowd clamoring for his violent demise, the youth dryly stated, “I am not as well acquainted with, shall we say, witty repartee as Billy. But, I would note that a joke is a humorous anecdote. And I am not amused.”

The assembled soldiers moved toward the small, horse-like being.

“SHA--”

The second syllable of the spell was lost in the thunderous explosion. A collision of light and energy that arced in a spectacular display as the lightning ripped through the alien ship. The massive crocodile-like creatures were knocked off their feet, sailing backward from the small form.

When the smoke had cleared, the Kymellian youth stood attired in a costume that closely matched that of Billy Batson’s, save that it was colored blue rather than Billy’s distinctive red.

After all, Kofi was the champion of Kymellia, whereas Billy was the former champion of Earth. And now it’s Shazam.

Lightning rolled from off the blue-clad hero’s frame, as the horse-faced youth looked up at the disheveled Skratt. “You said that you wished to take your time with the Kymellian.”

Arms outstretched, Kofi glanced around the smoking wreckage of the Zn’rx ship as he noted simply:

“Here I am.”


| M E A N W H I L E
| Deep Inside The Alien Spaceship

There was a momentary sensation of vertigo.

It had been so long since Billy had been teleported by another person, that he’d almost forgotten the feeling. Familiar, like putting your feet into a pair of old slippers.

...and feeling the worm larva between your toes.

It subsided as the room resolved itself in his vision. The same interior. The same ship, just a different part of it.

The smell was the first thing to hit him.

Blood. It was the smell of blood. It was as distinctive an odor as any that Billy had known, harkening him back to the woods of Europe in the bygone decades of the distant past.

It was a smell he associated with corpses.

A large shadow moved in the peripheral of his vision. The light briefly glinted off the claws, as they came at the boy.

A moment later, the massive frame of a crocodile-like alien was sailing through the air.

Taking a step into a vaulted chamber, Billy steeled himself as he traced the scent of death toward the source.


| G E R M A N Y
| April 4, 1945

A man dropped dead, right in front of him.

The teenage soldier shifted the rifle he carried onto his shoulder. His chest felt tight. His mouth hung open in abject shock.

Two men, in their sixties, too weak to walk, crawling toward a latrine -- if it could be described as such. The smell slammed into him. Blood and excrement, mingled with smoke.

The body of a child lay in the dirt. It was so emaciated that it could have been mistaken for a skeleton. A battered tin cup was in the child’s hands, still waiting in death for a charity that never came.

Shot through the back of the neck by the Nazi administration that had fled in anticipation of the American advance, as the German position continued to collapse against the combined arms of the Allies.


| P R E S E N T D A Y

The body of a young boy lay in front of him.

The memories of Buchenwald slammed into the young Batson. The taste of bile burned at the back of his throat, as the smell of ash and excrement seemed to return from the grave of memory.

His chest was tight. He couldn’t breathe.

“Who’s there!?”

The voices of the prisoner’s echoed in his mind. Some had tried to find the strength to lift the soldiers into the air. To celebrate their liberation as the American Army moved into the camp.

Most had been too weak to even stand.

Old men. And children. He could remember the look in their eyes...

“Is someone there!?”

A gasp escaped the boy, as he seemed to -- at last -- remember to breathe. That wasn’t a voice from his past.

But it was a voice that he recognized.

Making his way further into the chamber, the young Billy collided with some kind of forcefield. Taking a step back, he looked beyond the unseen barrier and could see where a man and a girl were segregated. And both looking worse for wear.

The girl, roughed up, her face lined with tears, seemed to scramble forward at the thought of rescue. Only to recoil slightly as recognition set in. “Billy?”

A pit sank in the young Batson’s gut. It was Courtney.

He’d known something was wrong earlier when he’d seen her in the courtyard. Why hadn’t he done something then?

“Where’s Mike?” the man -- Courtney’s father? -- demanded, bumping into another of the forcefields as the man tried to approach the costumed youth. “They took Mike.”

“He’s here,” Billy offered flatly, the emotion thick as he spoke. Then, clearing his throat, said, “Stand back.”

A mystic circle appeared at the boy’s fingertips. The various orbits seemed to shift and alternate, as the former sorcerer’s apprentice weaved a spell in the air. Then, with a flick of his wrist, the force fields snapped into existence and just as quickly vanished.

The man rushed past the red costumed youth.

“OH GOD.”

Courtney came barreling after the man. Stepping into her path, the young Batson spun the girl around and held onto her. “Trust me. Don’t look.”

She let out a wail that he knew only too well. He’d heard it before. He’d heard it too many times.

Her legs gave out under the weight of all the trauma that she had born. Gently, Billy guided her to the floor, as she sobbed in his arms and clawed at the arms that were still holding her. Until she just seemed to surrender and collapse into a heap.

“Who are you?”

There was an accusatory tone. One which Billy couldn’t find fault in, even as the boy turned his head to look back at the man who was now cradling the body of the boy.

Billy didn’t answer. Instead, he simply said, “I have to get you out of here.”

“How are you going to do--”

In mid-breath, the room seemed to shift and transform. There was a blur, as, for a moment, it seemed as though everything went out of focus. Then, when it had resolved itself and the world come back into view, the four of them were just outside of the Fawcett City General Hospital emergency room.

“--that, oh shit,” the man uttered, finishing the sentence even as the wave of vertigo slammed into him, as he experienced the disorientation that Billy was only too familiar with himself.

Sometime between when they had teleported and Billy rising to his feet, the figure of a young Adonis appeared in the red costume. He had the body of an Olympic demigod, with the lighting bolt on his chest crackling with an unearthly light. A sharp whistle turned several heads, as the once-and-future Captain Marvel said, “Excuse me, these people need help.”

Who are you?”

EMTs were running toward them with stretchers. A nurse and a couple of uniformed police officers were close behind.

Then, everyone seemed to freeze in place for a moment.

Everyone, that is, except for Billy and the man.

“I’m sorry,” Billy uttered. Which seemed an inadequate expression, at best. “Truly, for what your family has been through,” the costumed figure of Captain Marvel remarked, as his form faded back into the visage of the young Billy Batson once again. Candidly, the youth offered, “They’re not going to believe the truth, so this may be difficult for you and Courtney.”

Cradling the still body of the boy in his arms, the man’s jaw tightened noticeably. “I’m familiar,” he said cryptically.

Except, now the costumed boy was gone.

As though unaware they’d ever been paused in mid-step, the EMTs and first responders snapped back into motion, rushing up toward the three.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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THE DAKOTA TRIBUNE


NEW MAYOR PROMISES CRACKDOWN ON METAHUMAN GANGS - NEW BANG BABY VIGILANTE ON THE RISE


September 20th, 2019 - By Augustus Freeman


As tensions continue to rise between law enforcement and metahuman rights protestors, mayor-elect Thomasin Jefferson criticized the movement during an live interview with Dakota National, dismissing the allegations made towards her as nothing more than “ irrational tomfoolery.”

“ I do not hate these protestors. I pity them. The liberal media has deluded them into becoming hateful extremists without a shred of reason or empathy.The metahuman threat is here and it is present. These so-called Bang Babies are actively disrupting our way of life and pose a danger to all our fellow Dakotans. As your mayor, I will not let these metahumans or their misguided supporters turn this great city into their personal playground. Therefore, I will be introducing new measures to give our law enforcement greater powers to combat this threat. “

These statements are reflective of the promises to voters that Mayor Jefferson made during his campaign for office in February. Earlier this week, Mayor Jefferson introduced strict martial law orders in an attempt to contain the spread of contaminants from the Paris Island Exclusion Zone.

Robert Hawkins, the owner of Freeman Community Center, spoke out visibly whilst attending a public protest at Dakota Town Hall.

“ We are living through the worst economic recession this city has faced. I see homeless preschoolers walking by Hemingway. Rents are becoming more absurd. Drugs are flooding our neighborhoods. Just last week, the Daily Planet reported that what happened in the bay two weeks ago was one of the worst environmental disasters this country has ever experienced in the last 40 years. Yet, how does our mayor assure the public? He wants to wage a war that doesn’t need to happen.”

As public officials attempt to make sense of this crisis, others try to solve it through unconventional means. Reports of the metahuman vigilante, Static, are on the rise with more than a dozen arrests attributed to his activities. DCPD Chief Hartley issued an official warning to the vigilante during a press conference on current metahuman activity in Dakota City.

“ I don’t care what his intentions are. As far as I’m concerned, he’s interfering with the ability of law enforcement and is proving uncooperative so far. I have only one word for Static. Cease immediately or we will be forced to escalate.”

[cont on Page 9]





“ Get a load of this, Rich.” Virgil’s temple pulses with a headache as he scrolls through the newspage. “ Uncooperative? Last night, they were getting ready to cuff me while I was stopping some guy from cracking open an ATM! ”

“ Stop whining.” A nasally voice replied back. “ You’re lucky that you’re here speaking to me instead of sitting inside a cell.”

Virgil lifted up the hem of his shirt and looked down at the purple splotches lining his belly. He was more than lucky. The police could take their non-lethal and shove it up their asses. He took the pack of ice off the table and rested it against his stomach, wincing as the chill subsided the throbbing pain.

“ How’s the new costume that I made working out for you?”

“ That we made.” Virgil said haughtily. “ I gave a few pointers on the aesthetic.”

“ Right. I’m the one who made sure you don’t become a walking fire hazard everytime you shit out lightning.”

“ Wouldn’t mind it being more bulletproof, though.” Virgil moved the ice pack and hissed at the stab of pain, biting his tongue to make sure it wasn’t too loud. “ Cops are getting more trigger happy these days. ”

“ My allowance doesn’t compensate for kevlar plating. As for the fuzz, you’re just going to have to be more careful around them. ”

“ Careful? They shouldn’t even be allowed to do things like this in the first place.”

“ Tough talk coming from the vigilante.”

“ Which one of us gassed a bunch of middle schoolers first?”

Richie stayed quiet for a while before speaking back up, this time more softly.

“ Look, V. I get what you’re trying to do but… this is just the way things are nowadays. Look on the bright side. It could be a lot worse.”

“ It could be a lot better.” Virgil retorted back. He clicked the mouse and the news site disappeared from view. “ Are you still on top of that thing we discussed ‘bout?”

“ Well, trawling through hundreds of shipping manifests isn’t what I’d imagine doing for you for a Monday evening.” There was an audible sign on the other side of the line. “ But if it makes you happy…..”

“ I’ll pay you back with a midnight showing of Destructer Man IV. Swear on my soul. “

“ The things I do for you….” Richie grumbled “ Fine. Make it the front row. We’re also getting caramel popcorn.”

Virgil stuck out a tongue in disgust. He didn’t know how the hell Richie could consume the stuff. Maybe he was from another planet.

“ Deal.”

The line shut off and Virgil laxed back on his recliner, stretching out his arms. It was 10 pm and Dakota’s winter was in full force, even when his heater was on and chugging on electricity like a competitive eater. The wind howled relentlessly outside through the boroughs, the last autumn leaves dancing in the gales. Virgil just stared up at the ceiling all the while, ice pack glued to his gut.

What to do now?

He looked at the yellow goggles hanging off the open drawer. He lifted his arm over it, fingers splayed out, charge pooling in his palm. They snapped off with a rubbery twang and flew towards his open hand as if guided on invisible strings. He caught them and wriggled them over his forehead.

Time to go back to work.
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Midgard was once a world with Pantheons upon Pantheons, more Gods than many other worlds combined. The small, seemingly insignificant rock adrift in space a nexus point for various realms to come together. Over time some faded into obscurity, others left the realm altogether. While others continued to play with their influence on the world, subtly interacting with the world according to their grand design. This is not the tale of one such God. This is the tale of…


Previously: Talking Heads.


NORÕREJYAR // KINGDOM OF THE GAELS // MIDGARD // 781AD


The stench of ale, blood, sweat and a hard day's labour filled the hall. Men jeered and yelled, songs of a thousand days and a thousand nights long past. In the corner, Mjolnir lay on the ground. Occasionally a drunkard would stumble over and attempt to lift the mighty weapon. With no success. At the end of the hall in a position typically reserved for the earl sat the boy-faced God Thor. His blonde hair was being braided by the wife to the earl, Hilga while her daughters warmed his lap one on each knee. In his right arm a horn of ale, he brought the frothing liquid to his lips, throwing his head back with the horn. The luke-warm liquid poured down his throat, the horn finished and he crushed it in his bare hand. Laughing as he did so, cheers following the action.

Turning his head, he grabbed the younger of the earls’ daughters head with his left hand and pulled her lips to his, enjoying the sweet taste of her flesh upon his. Releasing from the kiss he stood up, grabbing the two girls by the waist lifting them into the air and placing them atop his shoulders. “My friends! Long have you and your ancestors enjoyed the support and protection of your Gods, yet your faith waivered as your lands were plagued by this beast-” Thor reached behind him, kneeling forward and picking up a head and holding it in the air. “-it pillaged your lands and raped your people. You prayed for Thor for protection, and thus I delivered.”

Thor threw the head into the fire, the flames reaching up and growing around them. The fire-spitting and cracking as the flesh sizzled and bubbled. It peeled away as the heat seared the flesh. He raised both his hands in the air basking in the cheering and celebration of those that filled the hall. As he turned back to return to his seat the heavy wooden doors were blown open at the end of the hall. A great wind travelled through the hall blowing out candles and the fire leaving the hall in twilight with the main source of light being the moon through the open door. A long shadow appeared as Thor turned. Everyone in the hall was turned looking at him, Mjolnir raised from the ground as he extended his hand, the weapon roaring too his hand as thunder rumbled on the outside.

A tall feminine figure dressed all in black walked into the hall. Her eyes a livid orange. “Thor Odinson! I would speak with you, Asgardian!”

Stepping forward cautiously Thor kept his footing wide, prepared for an attack designed to knock him off his feet. Right arm back while in his left Mjolnir sat in a guard position. “You have me at a disadvantage. To whom do I speak? Afterall you seem in possession of my name, yet I am at a loss of yours.” Thor paused as she raised a hand and clicked her fingers. All the candles and the main fire in the hall ignited. There stood a beauty as fine as any of the Goddesses that inhabited Asgard. Red flowing locks, a common trait among the Gaels and pearly white skin. Her black dress hugged her form tightly in a way that left surprisingly little, and yet much, to the imagination. A corset around her waist left her bust raised in the air, with the low cut top leaving her cleavage on display in a way that bordered on the inappropriate, should they have been meeting under formal circumstances in Asgard. All in all, she was a thing of beauty, and in any other circumstance, Thor would be already trying to bed her.

“I am Morrigan-” Whispered panic echoed throughout the room. “-and that-” she pointed to the withered husk in the fire. “-is my son.”

ASGARD // PRESENT DAY


Deep within the safety and security of the palace, there was a room, the existence of which was known only too a few. It was not filled with treasures, weapons, trinkets or historical scrolls. Instead, it held a bed. A golden sphere encompassed it as Odin lay in the bed. His eyes closed, there was a stillness to him that Thor always found unnerving. The All-Father had the weight of nine worlds on his shoulders, and it was usually evident in everything he did. To see him so still and helpless gave the Thunder God a series of doubts about what it was he had to do. Even now Odin could see and hear everything going on in the world, he did not dream. He merely rested. His body shutting down to replenish its reserves of unfathomable power.

Freyja sat resting by his bedside, his hand clasped in hers as she rubbed it lovingly. Thor had heard the stories of their marriage, in the age before when Asgard and the Vanir were at war. While his Grandfather Bor sought too take Vanir by force it was Odin who proposed marriage to unite their two peoples. A rough relationship at first, in the aeons they had grown to truly love one another. Thor cleared his throat, as Frejya turned to look at him, a kind smile spreading across her face.

“Thor! How long have you been waiting?”

“Not too long, in all honesty, I had thought that you had noticed me and were simply being polite.”

“Perhaps I still am.” A slight hint of mischief crossed her face. While Loki was the Trickster God, he had learnt all his early magicks from his adoptive mother, and a lot of his tricks as well. Whether or not he liked to admit it. Standing up with a grace that Thor could never match she walked over and opened her arms. Walking towards her she held him for what seemed to be an age in a mother's embrace. Something about it made his worries almost fade and melt away, though the moment it was broken the gnawing feeling of guilt returned. “Tell me, Thor, what brings you to me?”

“I must return to Midgard-”

“Thor…” Freyja allowed it to trail off, he could already hear the disappointment in her voice.

“I know what you are going to say, my place is here while Odin sleeps. Yet it has been far longer than I can even remember since Asgard was last attacked and Baldur will be here-”

Freyja placed a delicate hand upon his shoulder, as he looked down at her face he could feel his resolve wavering. She may have been small and frail in comparison to him yet in this situation she held all the power. “Our people need you, Asgard needs you to protect it. She sighed as she pulled back and walked to Odin's bedside. Placing both hands on the edge of the bed as she looked at his face. “With Odin here, you are our best defence against whatever threats may come our way. Yes, we have Baldur, Sif, the Warriors three yet all of them pale in comparison to you, not just in power but also in prowess and heart.”[color=#7f6000] [/color]She sighed, lowering her head before turning around once again to look up to Thor.

“If Loki possesses a norn stone he poses a threat to Midgard, should he be left unhindered he could pose a risk to all the nine realms-”

Freyja shook her head, chuckling slightly as she did so. “One day you will be King and these decisions will be yours to make all the time, no matter the counsel you receive. Make the decision that you think is best for the good of the people.” Without another word she walked to the door, pausing slightly as she reached the door. Turning her head back to face Thor. “You have a good heart. Trust it.” Without another word, she was gone.

FLIGHT DL49 // 35,000FT // PRESENT DAY


Loki hated nothing more on Midgard, nothing more, than flying commercial class. Crammed in amongst the various other denizens, recycled air. Practically a flying specimen jar. He had contemplated upgrading himself to first class, his followers wouldn’t have questioned it. Their leader deserved the very best they had to offer, a life off comfort was what he deserved after what he had promised them. To bring back a world of Gods and grant them access to the realm eternal. He smirked slightly, making eye contact with a boy across the plane. He winked, the boy pulling a disgusted face at the smiling old lady who had just winked at him before turning away. Oh the fun he could have if only he had been allowed to present himself to these people, yet he couldn’t risk exposing himself to the general public, not yet. S.H.I.E.L.D, the Avengers, perhaps the Justice League and most importantly Thor wouldn’t allow a sighting of Loki to go without due investigation.

Loki turned his head to the man beside him. As devout a follower as he had ever had. Much like Loki the man did not look like a lot, yet he had a keen and conniving mind, had he unlocked his potential earlier he could have been a ruler of men. Instead he had been a manager at a small hotel. “How are the preparations for my arrival?”

Walter turned, pulling out a tablet and opening up a file. “The safehouse is prepared for your arrival, we’re still waiting for our satellite uplink to be settled but that shouldn’t be too much longer.”

The technological age. It was a beautiful thing, in the time of vikings had Loki possessed the ability to send images all over the world simultaneously then he would have already had the entire planet under his control. “Excellent. As soon as we land, call ahead and make sure that everything is set up. In order for my plans to work we need to move quickly. For too long mortals have been denied access to the Gods, I seek to fix that but it must be while Odin rests so he cannot stop us. After that we’ll need to wait years before we can make a second attempt.”

Walter nodded along as Loki spoke. “I can’t believe Gods exist, and that for millennia they have hoarded their power and wealth from us.”

Loki allowed a solemn look to cross his face “It is the greatest injustice. One I seek to fix.” Reaching down he picked up his headset plugging it into the silly little two pronged jack that planes used for some reason yet couldn’t be seen anywhere else in the technological world. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I was a sucker for the first Megamind so I’d like to watch the sequel.”

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