Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 Create-A-Hero RPG GM, Blue Bringer of BWAHAHA!

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by GreenGrenade
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GreenGrenade

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S P I D E R - M A N
T H E N I G H T G W E N S T A C Y D I E D




I’m falling, and I can hear you scream.

We’re in my room. Dancing. It’s messy, cluttered with books and records and piles of clothes, but we don’t care. It’s just us and the music, your punk and my pop, and even though neither one of us has said it yet, I know then that you love me.

I’m falling, and I can hear the wind howl.

It’s our first date. We go into the city, spend the afternoon in Central Park. The air has a bite to it, dry and freezing like true Christmas air, and your cheeks are flushed red. You blame it on the cold, but I can tell that you’re nervous, from the way you wring your hands and look down at the ground, as if that’s where you’ll find the confidence to hold my hand, to tell me how you feel – how you’ve been feeling for years. In the end you do find it, and you kiss me on the train ride back to Queens. It’s awkward and sloppy, and I definitely do it wrong. But I still want it to last forever. With you, I never want it to end.

I’m falling, and the wind chokes out your screams.

We’re thirteen years old. We’re supposed to be studying for our math exam at my place, but Dad’s showing you his badge, and you stare at him, wide-eyed, as he tells you about the people he gets to help on the job, the small differences he gets to make. But he also tells you to be proud of your science, your smarts – because even though he gets to help clean up the streets, one day you’ll get to help clean up the world. And now we’re sixteen, and he knows who you are – who you think you need to be. And he just hopes that while you do this, you don’t lose sight of the man we all know you can be.

I’m falling, and my dad is dead.

We’re arguing. It’s a bad one. You’re in too deep, drowning, getting hit from all sides – Fisk, Kraven, Dr. Octavius, the Bugle – and instead of taking a step back to breathe, to reassess and lay low, even for a little while, you’re throwing yourself headfirst into it all, letting your burdens, and the world’s, crush you. It’s killing me almost as much as it’s killing you, and I want you to stop, but you’re not having it. My eyes are hot with tears, and I’m yelling, getting louder and angrier because you won’t give me anything back. Just a deafening stare. Just a final, “I can’t.” You and your responsibility.

I’m falling, and you try to catch me.

We’re on a date when Harry calls you. You expect him to ask how the date’s going, and you grin as you answer: “Believe it or not, she hasn’t dumped me yet.” But as you talk, that smile fades. He asked to hang out, you explain. He sounded drunk. Desperate. It’s 1 p.m. on a Saturday, and he’s by himself – you do that thing with your face when you’re trying to figure something out, creasing your forehead with worry. But you don’t dwell on it for long. With an apologetic kiss, you hail me a cab you can’t afford to the Osborn family mansion, and swing your way there as fast as you can. You get there before I do, and by the time I walk into his room you’ve put his dad’s eighty year-old scotch away, feeding Harry water in small sips from a cup you struggled to find. Your love and concern for him is so clear, so palpable, that I don’t think I’ve ever felt as in love with you as I do in this moment.

I’m falling, and Harry’s dad laughs.

It’s Christmas. We spend the day together, the five of us – you, me, May, Mom and Dad – and Dad’s telling us how you conspired with him to sneak my present under the tree last year. Then, it was a stack of records you’d tracked down from all over the city, swinging from shop to shop in a frenzied Parker panic, the card asking me out on our first date; now, it’s a cat. I hear the meow before I see it, and I’ve tackled you in a hug before the poor thing’s had a chance to come out of its carrier. May and my parents are smiling from ear to ear. I think they all thought that we’d end up married, then. I thought so, too.

I’m falling.

Harry’s dad is the Green Goblin. Harry’s dad knows who you are. He has me, and he wants you to know. He wants you to be afraid. You come to the bridge as fast as you can, and all I can think is why? Why is this happening? You try to be strong for me, to show me that you’re not scared, so that I won’t be. But I can see you shaking. I can hear your voice trembling. And so can he. I stop thinking about why, and start to think about us. About you. About how strong you are. How caring. How vulnerable, how sensitive, how brave. How I don’t doubt for a second that you would throw your life away if you could, so that I’d get to walk away from this alive. And I start falling.

I start falling, and I just want it to stop.

I’m scared, Peter. I’m so scared.

But I think… I think it’s going to be okay.

You’ll save me.

You always–

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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo 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

“OK… so it says here that you’re a mutant…” Ted started, flicking through the résumé and pausing to look for the name of this new prospect

“Is that going to be a problem?”

“What, no-- No! No problem at all. I’m best friends with mutants. My girlfriend’s a mutant…” Ted stammered.

“Ah-huh.” Came the flat reply.

“Part of why I put this team together. Was to show that mutants and humans can collaborate and work together effectively without any kind of issues or problems at all. No problem. What I was saying though, is that it says you’re a mutant but then underneath ‘Powers and Abilities’ it mentions—” He tried to get the interview back on track.

“I have a beak.”



“Yes. I can see that. But— does it come in useful at all? Like are you able to use it for—”

“Sometimes I open bottles or cans with it…”

“I think what my compatriot is asking is, does it make you adept at all in a fight? Can you just let someone have it with that thing, or..?” Booster asked, shadow-boxing from his seat.

“What? No. It’s on my face. I’d literally be smashing my face into things. That’s not fun.”

“OK. Flight? Can you fly, or?”

“Well, I have got extremely lightweight bones…”

“Uh-huh.” Ted said rocking forward.

“And I used to wear a suit that would kind of help me glide a bit.”

“OK.”

“But that was kind of just the suit. I mean I have some feathers growing—but they’re kind of growing through patchy underneath these clothes. Charles Xavier said one day I might be able to fly though. Without the suit. It seems that’s how my body is growing...”

“Ah, references. Yes. That's good...” Added Booster, flicking forward through the résumé to that part.

“But not yet.”

“No.”

“And you can’t fight?”

“No. In fact, I’m pretty uniquely terrible there. Hollow bones aren’t the best for throwing a punch.”

The three sat in silence for a moment at that response. Ted trying to think about how to address the uncomfortable truth.

“Sooo… how exactly do you plan to be effective out in the field? I mean superheroics isn’t exactly the most forgiving field of endeavour to be learning self defence on the fly.”

“Whoa—whoa—Superheroics? I’m just here to get a job.”

“A job?” Booster queried.

“What exactly do you think we do here?”

“Yeah, I get that. I mean I’m not stupid or anything. But you’re not only hiring mutants to put them on the front line or anything are you? I mean, there’s gotta be other jobs around here that you’d be willing to take on a mutant for… or are we only any good when we’re out there putting our lives on the line for—”

“Whoah!” Exclaimed Ted immediately on the defense, immediately thrusting a palm out as if to stop that line of discussion.. “No! We’re not like that at all!”

Booster watched on, slightly amused at his friend’s response.

“I mean, I can push a broom. This is a big place, I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff around here that needs doing on a day to day basis.”

“That IS true.” Ted considered.

“I mean there seems to only be the two of you here…”

“Alright, hold it right there. We’re not the only two.”

“The others are out at the moment. On patrol or other assigned duties.” Said Booster.

“Then why are you two here doing this?”

“Well, I’m here because I’m supposed to squeeze some sleep in before I have other duties elsewhere in my other life. My other job.”

“And him?”

“I didn’t feel like going out. Patrol’s boring.” Booster explained, stretching out in full recline on the lounge..

“Well, wouldn’t it be good to have someone else here on payroll taking care of the mundane daily operations, making sure the pantry stays full and all the rooms stay clean, who can call you all in if there’s some kind of attack on your headquarters here? So someone like him doesn’t have to stay back to protect the homestead?” The young mutant pointed at Booster. "Because it seems like a waste of manpower.”

“The whole complex has an automated defense system that I designed myself. And he wasn’t joking.” Ted corrected, with a sigh. “He just genuinely didn’t feel like going out, and doesn’t do it if he thinks I’m skipping out on something he’d find boring.”

He turned to Booster and scowled. "It’s not something I thought he’d be so open and honest about with members of the public who he’s only just met though...”

“But you make a good point." Ted got to his feet looking back to the young applicant, signifying the end of the meeting. The potential new candidate also got to his feet and shook Ted’s hand.

“We’ll go through your references. Make sure everything in here checks out, and we might get back to you about-- that kind of position.”

The newcomer shook both heroes hands and then walked out the door.

"Man, he figured you out in seconds and played you like a fiddle." Booster derisively said of Ted.

"What do you mean?"

"What do I mean?? Feh nyeh nyeah no, we duh--duh--don't mistreat mutants, we aren't bigots." Booster delivered an offensive imitation of his friend.

"What? We don't."

"I KNOW we don't. But all anyone has to do is throw up the mere suggestion of you being an anti-mutant bigot and you turn into this stammering wet puddle of awkward liberalness. It's pitiful. AND, if anything, it looks like you're overcompensating."

"That's ridiculous... you don't really think he thinks we have something to hide, do you?" Ted looked concerned.

Booster let out a deep sigh. "Ughhhhhhh, Ted! Why do you care?"

"Beeeeeecause I don't want to come across as a bigot?" He replied, thinking that adequately explained his motivations.

"Fiiine. Then just confirm with his references and hire the guy."

Ted looked at the résumé in his hand and clucked his tongue in his cheek before dropping it on the coffee table.

"Naaaah. I think I'll just tell him he's fine and we'll start him this Monday."

"What? Whyyyyyyyyohmygod! You DO have a problem with mutants! I knew it!" Booster exclaimed, pointing at Ted in an "Ah-Ha!" gesture as if he'd caught him in a lie.

"What--? No. It's not that. You know I don't have any problem with mutants. It's-- Charles Xavier. He's not just "a mutant", I've heard the guy's a telepath..."

"So..?"

"Well, some of us, Booster, value what's between our ears very much. I don't care where he got his powers from. If they came from some other means, a pill, whatever, I'd still be just as unnerved. It's too much power for anyone to have. The thought of it makes me uncomfortable."

"How do you figure? You don't have any problem with Superman. He's waaaay powerful."

"Alright, let me put it this way. If Superman decided for whatever reason, that he wanted to walk up and punt you or me into the sun, he could probably do it--"

"Exactly!"

"--BUT everyone would see him do it, because he's one of the most recognizable individuals on the planet. And if they didn't SEE him do it, there's so few people capable of doing that here on Earth that they'd check for alibis to the people capable, investigate, and there'd be consequences for those actions. A TELEPATH on the other hand, could potentially just give you or me a stroke, and then immediately erase the memory of you from the mind of every person who ever knew you. They could potentially undo your existence. THAT'S the power of the mind, Booster."

"Whoah, that's dark... You've been thinking about this."

"No. Not really. Isn't that much just obvious to people in general?"

"So, you're just going to give this kid the job without checking his references because you think, what, this Charles Xavier guy's going to kill you?

"Well, no. I mean, I hardly think the guy's going to kill me. I mean he's the pre-eminent name in mutant rights. Heh, if he was going to misuse those powers and really drive mutant rights through he could just plant the suggestion in everyone's heads. So if he doesn't want the heat from misusing his powers over something as meaningful as that, I hardly think he's going to use them to kill some guy he's never met before... let alone someone who runs a superhero team devoted to proving that humans and mutants can co-exist."

"Then what are you scared of?"

"I don't know... I have a board meeting later. Public speaking... Imposter syndrome. I don't really like these things in the first place, and just coming back from talking with a telepath it'll be in the back of my mind. 'Maybe Xavier put some hex on me... maybe he's Manchurian Candidate'd me. Maybe he's going to make me drop my pants in the middle of the meeting'..."

"Wow, really?"

Ted jumped up on the coffee table and started, strutting around making wings. "'Maybe he'll make me run around clucking like a chicken' or something dumb like that... in front of the board."

"Alright, I'm starting to see what it's like being on this side of these ridiculous discussions and I'm not comfortable with it..."

Ted was in full swing now, jumping from the coffee table to the sofa and crowing like a rooster. "Buk-- bukk-- BUKKAAAW! BUK-- BUK-- BUK--!"

Then the door started to crack open.



Ted looked from Booster to the young mutant. "That-- wasn't about you..?"

"Ah-huh... I left my backpack."

He slowly trudged across the living room and picked up his backpack, before slowly walking back to the door.

"So... see you when you start on Monday?"

The young mutant turned around, a stoic expression across his beak. "Regular hero salary." He flatly replied.

"I-- I think we can work something like that out." He reassured.

"I wasn't asking." He opened the door and walked out.

"OK! Oh-kay!" Ted said as he jumped off the lounge and raced towards the door, calling out after him. "So we'll see you Monday, right?! Barnell?! RIGHT?!?"

Booster just stood back with his hands on his hips in judgement. "--Tch-- Like I said. Pitiful." Shaking his head at his friend's display.




R A V E N ' S P E R C H

2002 | Oh, are you kidding me??? Still, New Jersey...

Ted sat on the park bench, with a full length tan trenchcoat mostly covering his colourful superhero attire, and the hat from the set of Karl LaFrey and the Plunderers of the Ark of the Covenant perched upon his head.

Skeets floated gently beside him, and the three kids were still gathered around him.

"So how exactly does this work? Will they show up on the hour? You wrote an exact time and date on the car, right?" Jughandle asked.

"I did. But the one who's going to be coming isn't exactly-- perfectly reliable-- so just being in the ballpark wouldn't be out of the question for him. He's--"

"Kind of a screw up?"

"..."

Ted just sighed before deciding not to answer the question.

"So thanks again for the coat, by the way." He flapped open the trenchcoat on one side indicating the new clothes.

"That's fine. My parents own an antique store with a vintage and secondhand clothing section attached. It comes in pretty handy since-- well, I kind of go through clothes pretty fast." Mize replied.

"In fact--" Fateball added, holding up the tail of his own coat and showing him the significant deteriation, tattered holes, and signs of extreme wear on the back of what he was wearing.

"Aww man... I just grabbed these yesterday!" Mize complained.

The trio waited as seconds of silence passed before Jughandle suddenly and abruptly broke it by speaking up.

"Ugh. I've gotta go. My Dad's calling me home."

"Phone on vibrate?" Ted asked.

"Phone?"

"JESSE! Stop messing around with that vagrant and get your butt home, Mister!"

"Ah." The Blue Beetle uttered in understanding.

"Sorry." He said, calling back over his shoulder as he ran off. "I gotta go. I'll see you tomorrow!"

"I hope not!" Ted yelled back at the absent-mindedly optimistic youth, his brow furrowed.

"We should probably get going too." Fateball said, grabbing Mize. "Our parents aren't as hardassed as Jesse's, but they'll still be expecting us for dinner. We'll check on you later."

"Yeah, sure."

"Seeya, man." "Bye."

They left him in peace, and in the sudden complete silence Ted could not only finally hear himself think, but his stomach grumble.

He sighed and pulled the trenchcoat tight across himself. A bitter wind swept through the park.




Three Weeks Later





"Alright. This time when we go back, I leave a specific note marked FOR BOOSTER in an envelope marked to not open it until the year I'm gone..."

Ted looked like Hell. He'd grown a beard, albeit patchy. The others had offered to let him use their bathroom and laundry, but the wiring in his suit made it clearly "Dry Clean only" and the chemicals he used to personally clean his Blue Beetle suit were stuck in his home in the future. As such his body clung to the funk of a man who was trapped in a spandex-nomex-PVC jumpsuit.

"Why don't you just mail a letter not to be sent until that date, like they did in Back to the Future?"

"...well because, obviously--"

Ted thought about it further. "..."

"...oh my God I just got out movie referenced!"

"Umm..." Fateball nervously wasn't sure how to broach this next subject. Jughandle nudged her forward and smiled reassuringly.

"SHIT! WHY WASN'T THIS THE FIRST THING I DID!?! SHIT!!!"


"I just send a letter! I've been travelling to Boston, risking running into my younger self and screwing up the whole timespace continuum for NO REASON! SHIT! Get me a pen!"

"Well if it makes you feel any better, it wouldn't have mattered even if you had..."

"What do you mean? It couldn't hurt to try, I mean, sure maybe they think it's some kind of prank and don't-- wait a minute. What are you talking about?"

Fateball looked back sheepishly, and dropped her head, not making eye contact.

"What did you do?"

She produced the fateball from her bowling bag.

"No... No, we said we weren't going to do that!"

"Does Blue Beetle's letter ever get delivered to his friends?" She looked down and held up the fateball for the others to see. "'Outlook not so good.'" She read out.

"Hey! Stop that! We said we weren't going to do--!" He got to his feet and ran over to her grabbing her wrists.

"It'd been weeks, Blue. Weeks. I already did it."

"No..."

She repeated her question so he could see the answer for himself.

"Do we ever get a message back to Blue Beetle's friends in the future, for them to come and rescue him."

Ted looked down at the fateball in her hands.



Ted slumped into a quiet depression.




Another Two Weeks Later





"Sir, I don't think this is a good idea..." Skeets chimed in a somewhat panicked state.

"Well, I think it's a fantastic idea and I don't think now is the best time for your pessimism." Ted said, zooming in his left lens and prepping his new bargain-bin quality tools.

"I've worked with fine circuitry before, and I can't imagine 25th Century circuitry is any less finicky, so it would seem this isn't a good time for shaky hands or lack of confidence."

"Couldn't be more straight forward an idea. We cannibalize some of your temporal circuitry, find a way to expand the field... exponentially. Then we ride you back to our friends in the present day, where I fix you up."

"Such an action is almost certain to short out those fundamental circuits. And the components required to repair me won't exist for several hundred years." Skeets quickly replied.

"'Several'. Pfft. Now you're just being hyperbolic, three or four centuries. It's barely more than a few. ...Centuries."

Skeets red light blinked at Ted, as if judging him.

"Alright, I guess it is technically 'several'. But that's still no reason to be a big whiner about it!"

"Sir..." The red light blinked again.

"Alright, alright! Fine. We'll ride you to the 25th Century. Repair you. Buy whatever redundant components we need to fix you up again back in our time. THEN we go home." Ted folded his arms sullenly. "Chronal crybaby."

"Does RadioShack even exist in the 25th Century?" Jughandle asked, referring to where Ted had just bought his new tools.

"Of course it does, Juggy. Some companies like RadioShack, Blockbuster, Sharper Image... Some businesses are just forever. They're too big to fail."

Ted sucked his teeth, sighed and turned to Mize. "I don't care if she has that ball. Don't ever take stock tips from her."

"Is this really the best place to be doing this?" Mize asked.

"What are you talking about, it's a beautiful day. RadioShack was right there. I've got myself some new tools. I'm feeling reinvigorated. Excited to possibly be going home. Where's better?"

"Well it is kind of breezy... And there are birds. What if you're in the middle of doing your thing and a bird flies over and craps in--"

"Yes, alright. Renewed confidence aside, I suppose I am starting to come to terms with the reason they don't do open surgery outside..."

"Sir. Please don't let him anywhere near me when you--- well, you know..."

"Skeets, why are you being so dramatic? This isn't surgery. You're not going to die. I know what I'm doing."

"I suppose I'm just nervous because Mize rapidly degrades matter on a molecular level and I won't be protected by my chronal plating, which is also what protects me from the effects of time travel due to shear..."

"Well, it's alright Skeets, I'll make sure Mize keepes his distance whilst we--"

"...And your use of the word 'cannibalize'. As well as your use of 'find a way'..."

"Ok. That's fair--"

"...As well as your intention to tamper with my innerworkings using cheap tools from RadioShack."

"Well--"

"As well as the seemingly baseless overconfidence in your abilities to figure out technology from the 25th Century, whilst ignoring the obvious comparison of it being akin to someone from the age of the French Revolution figuring out how your Bug works whilst they barely have an understanding of basic muskets and the nature of the orbits of the earth, moon, planets and sun."

"Are you finished?"

"Are you still planning on tinkering with my innerworkings?"

"Of course."

"Then no, I'm not finished... As well as the fact that--"

This was going nowhere fact. Ted was growing weary of complaints, complications and obstacles between himself and his trip home back to friends, family and loved ones.

"--audacity to consider doing this outside, open to the elements where any squirrel might run off with a stray--"

"Look, Skeets. You're not really being fair. Sure, I'm from the 21st Century and the technology that was used in your creation came from the 25th Century. But I'm not just any 21st Century schlub. I happen to be one of the best engineers and scientists of my time. And sure, my own technology might baffle and bewilder the average man from that era, what if it were a Galileo or Sir Isaac Newton who were trying to figure it all out--"

"You did not just compare yourself to Sir Isaac Newton..."

"WHERE LOGIC, thank you very much Skeets, is key. I may only be a twenty-first Century man, but I am a THINKING Twenty-first century man. Am I not? And the most important thing would be to observe and consider things rationally before making any potential moves. Would you accept that? So let's take it slow. Have a look under the plating and see if maybe this is at least a problem that can be reasoned out."

Skeets carefully flickered his red light in consideration, and began to float less eratically.

"Weeeeeell..."

"Fair..?"

Skeets drifted back and floated into Ted's arms. "Fair."




Five minutes Later...





Skeets's casing has been opened up on a picnic bench, whilst Jughandle looks on over Ted's shoulder. Far off in the distance Mize stands sullenly, forced to be away from the action because of his powerset, whilst Fateball talks him down from his disappointment. Ted's left eye looks huge from the magnifaction of that single lens on his cowl.

"Whoa..." Uttered Jughandle.

Skeets flickered nervously.

"It's alright, Skeets, calm down. You're in expert hands nowww-- What the Hell is that..?" Ted poked gently at a crystalline component with a screwdriver that was clearly invented sometime in the distant future.

Skeets suddenly closed up, flashed his lights and flew away erratically.

"NOPE-NOPE-NOPE-NOPE-NOPE-NOPE-NOPE-NOPE-NOPE-Nope-Nope-nope-nope..."

The pair watched as Skeets flew across the park in a panicked serpentine fashion, narrowly avoiding trees and a frisbee.

"I probably could have handled that better..."

"We'd better catch him before he gets out of sight, or gets himself in trouble. He's pretty quick. Guys!"

Fateball and Mize suddenly snapped to attention and, recognising the situation, began chasing after the fleeing robot.

Ted quickly boxed his new tools and took off in pursuit as well.

The four chased the floating robot this way and that throughout the park, before they came to an impasse. Skeets floated above a lake in the park and amplified his mechanical voice through a small loudspeaker which was produced from somewhere within. Whilst the other four stood on the bank several metres away, watching on, panting from the chase.

"That's enough! I think it's time we faced some hard facts. I have been more than cordial until now, but we are clearly still experiencing difficulties in understanding--"

"Wait, Skeets-- Look over there!"

"Wow. Sir. That is really insulting. I'm a robot powered by a 25th Century artificial intelligence, and you think I'm going to fall for 'Look over there'..."

"No, Skeets. You're floating over a lake. I can't reach you anyway, just-- Look!"

"Over the course of our mutual adventures you have employed a 'Look over there!' tactic against no fewer than 46.4% of our antagonists. Including an incident when the Mayor of New York City wished to discuss property damage, at which time you slipped through a crowd and tapped Maxwell Lord on the shoulder so that he would look up and act as a diversion--"

"Is that true? Do you really try and make 'Look over there' work as a superhero tactic..?" Fateball whispered.

"Well, now I'm embarrassed to say..." Ted whispered in reply. She shook her head in judgement.

"It's not my fault, I just go with what works..."

"--it's one thing when you're trying that kind of fatuous 'move' against the likes of Blockbuster or the Condiment King--"

"The Condiment King..?"

"Don't ask, it was a very sticky situation..."

"--but to think you'd try and use such a transparent, idiotic ploy against me. I'm not sure if it says more about you or me."

"Look, you're 25th Century tech, floating higher than I could jump, over a lake I couldn't cross without swimming! I couldn't get at you if I wanted to! Just look! Over at the RadioShack!"

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A Cage in Harlem
Part I:
"Summertime"


Harlem
1936

A light rainstorm fell on Harlem that scorching hot summer night. Instead of breaking the heat, the rain just increased the humidity. Cage could see steam wafting off the pavement from inside the car. He pulled a handkerchief out of his dress’ shirt’s breast pocket and dabbed sweat from his bald head. Jeff, sitting in the driver’s seat, perused over a racing sheet. The rain futzed with their radio, but the sounds of big band music filtered through the static. Glen Miller and his orchestra were playing at the Rainbow Room and NBC was broadcasting it out across the city and the country.

“I think your tip may be bullshit,” Cage grunted.

“Turk just likes to take his time is all,” came Jeff’s response.

Cage had been working with Sergeant Jefferson Pierce for five years now. The two men were the only black plainclothes officers among the NYPD’s sworn officers. And, naturally, they were assigned to work Harlem from the 32nd Precinct. Jeff was the only black sergeant inside the organization, just one of two black men to attain any kind of rank. Cage knew that Jeff had earned those sergeant stripes and then some. He’d had twice as much service time as Cage, and had put up with at least twice as much shit from within and without the NYPD.

“Speak of the devil,” said Cage.

The skinny form of Turk Barrett came out of Ms. Sadie’s, pulling the collar of his blazer up against the rain. Cage started to open the door, but stopped when Jeff put a hand on his shoulder.

“Not yet. From the way Turk is walking he just lost a lot of money. Five gets you ten he’s going back to find work.”

Jeff tossed the racing form into the backseat and started the Ford. They gave Turk a long leash as he walked down 110th Street in the rain. Cage lit up a cigarette despite Jeff’s dirty look. Cage cracked a window to temper his partner’s passive aggressive waving.

“Think he’s going to the Cotton Club or to Harlem’s Paradise?” Jeff asked Cage.

“Depends on how much money he lost gambling,” Cage replied. ”If he lost a lot, he’ll go to the Cotton Club and pick up a package. If he lost everything, then he’ll go to Harlem’s Paradise and put himself at Stokes’ mercy.”

Jeff nodded slightly at the younger cops’ logic. If Cage didn’t know any better he may have seen a flash of pride on the man’s face. Cage felt even better as they saw Turk approach the Cotton Club. Harlem’s preeminent nightclub and, despite its location, was white’s only for the most part. You had to be somebody rich and famous if you were black and wanted to pass through the doors. NYPD were also pretty sure it operated as a front for organized crime, with heroin being sold out the back. How else could you explain “dishwasher” Turk Barrett being able to afford such nice suits and such hefty gambling debts.

“What’d I tell you?” Cage said as he flicked the butt of his cigarette out the window.

Turk ducked into a side alley beside the club. Jeff parked the Ford and put it in park.

“Alright,” said Jeff. “When he comes out, we put him against the wall and shake him down. Try to sweat him and see if we can roll him up. From there we-”

Jeff’s words were cut off by the sound of gunshots. Gunshots coming from the back of the Cotton Club. Cage and Jeff jumped out the car with their own guns drawn. And that’s when hell broke loose.




The gun felt heavy in Turk's hands. It always did any time he held in it his rough, calloused hands. He rarely pulled it out. He wasn't like these other two-bit gangsters always flashing iron whenever they got a chance. For Turk, the gun was a weapon of last resort. He usually used his fists and legs and the occasional switchblade to get his work done. If Turk pulled a gun then people were going to die.

The two dead bodies on the kitchen floor were proof of that. Turk had walked into the back entrance of the Cotton Club and found manager Paulie Legs and his bodyguard Momo talking business. Momo flashed a cool look towards like always, but was off guard. Like Momo, Turk was the hired help around here. There was no reason to be on guard. It was easy enough for Turk to pull out his snubnose and blast away at the two men. He killed Momo first with two shots to the chest and neck. What was going on dawned on Paulie just in time to get a bullet in the forehead. The contents of Paulie's brains splattered against a set of pots and pans hanging above the kitchen's prep area.

Turk quickly tucked the gun back into his waistband and started to rifle through Paulie's pockets. The Cotton Club always closed on Sundays so there would be limited staff here, but plenty of them were around to hear the gunshots and come running. Turk found Paulie's keys and hurried through the kitchen towards the manager's office. He unlocked the office and stepped inside, locking the door behind him. The digs were standard, a couple of chairs and a desk with a door behind the desk leading outside. But in the corner was a safe nearly as tall as Turk and at least a ton heavier. On Paulie's keys was the skeleton key for the safe. Turk slipped it in and popped the safe open.

He nearly licked his lips at the sight of all the heroin. Six packaged pounds of pure, uncut heroin from Turkey, appropriately enough. More than enough to pay off Turk's debts and buy him a new life. Turk found a paper bag in the office and started to put the heroin inside. He stopped when he heard the door to the office rattle.

"NYPD! Open up!"

Fuck

Turk stood and grabbed the bag as the door began to shake on its frame. One of the benefits of the manager's office was it had access to the side alley. Turk ran towards the back door as the door behind him buckled and came off its hinges.

"Stop!"

Turk didn't bother to look back as he bolted out the back door and ran like hell down the alley.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by GreenGrenade
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GreenGrenade

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S P I D E R - M A N
V O I C E M A I L




[You’ve reached the message bank of: 9-1-7-0-3-1-1-2-6-5. Please leave a message after the tone.]

[BEEP.]

Hey, Gwen.

I tried to take a break from this-- from talking to you. Leaving messages on a dead girl’s phone doesn’t exactly scream “healthy”, does it?

… Sorry. That wasn’t… sorry.

I’ve been feeling pretty bad, lately. You know that feeling I’d always tell you about? That dense emptiness. Hollow chest, heavy insides. I dunno what to call it. Not anxiety, that’s-- that’s not right. I dunno, I can’t really articulate it that well. Words don’t come easy for me, I don’t think.

I was doing good for a while, too. Going out for some air when I needed it. Talking to someone when I felt like calling you. But here I am.

I don’t get it, Gwen. I have so many people who love me and support me, but I-- I’ve never felt so alone. How do you figure that? How does that work?

I miss you. Everywhere I look, I’m reminded of you. Harry reminds me of you, MJ reminds me of you, May reminds me of you-- my suit, the bridge, all of it, all of it makes me think about you. And I’ve gotten used to it, I think. I’ve come to terms with the fact that you’re not coming back. It doesn’t feel any better, but it doesn’t feel any worse, either.

It’s easier to wake up these days. To get up, you know? And I think-- I don’t think I’m angry anymore. I was so angry. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t… I’ll never forgive Norman. I won’t. I don’t have it in me. You were here, and then you weren’t, and… and he’s why. But I’m not angry anymore. It was too much. Being angry, all the time. It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t…

Yeah.

Oh! We were at Stan’s the other day, me and Harry, looking at comics-- y’know, trying to take each other’s minds off things, hiding in a quiet part of the city. And there’s this kid there with his mom, maybe six or seven years old, the smallest little guy you’ve ever seen -- and he walks up to the guy at the counter, and asks for the new Squadron Supreme. The guy gives it to him, and his mom comes over with her wallet, but the kid says, “No, I wanna pay.”

And he takes out loose change from his pockets, and he gives it to the man at the counter. It wasn’t enough to pay for the comic, but it was-- I dunno.

You would’ve thought it was cute.

I… I had things I wanted to talk about. That feeling in my chest, other stuff. But it doesn’t-- it doesn’t feel right. Not right now.

I think I need to move around for a bit. It’s cold up here. The view’s nice, but it’s cold, and I just… I need to move. I might go to Central Park. It’ll only take me two minutes.

Hey, remember our first date there? It was freezing. So cold that my hands went numb.

That was my excuse to hold yours, at least.

It was a good date. I loved it.

I love you.

I hope you’re safe, wherever you are. I hope you’re not scared anymore. I hope… I hope you’re getting these, somehow.

Bye, Gwen. Talk to you soon.

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Hidden 5 days 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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