Hidden 28 days ago Post by Fiber
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Fiber

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Doctor Doom




The castle was empty, a hollow husk in the Adirondacks. The stone parapets stood tall, several of them had collapsed roofs, and a patina covered the exterior. The entrances had been marked with caution tape and warnings that the site was condemned and due for EPA reclamation. Truly a sign of a country that did not appreciate Doom’s genius, that they would tear down such a tasteful, scaled down recreation of his true castle in Doomstadt just to restore the environment that had been there before, clearing an entire mountaintop should be worthy of appreciation.

The great hall was still structurally sound but gutted, first by the US government after he had last abandoned the site almost 20 years ago. After that came scavengers picking up whatever was left from the amusement park that took over the site until a string of lawsuits forced its closure. Fine craftmanship had been defiled with cheap decorations, then graffiti and waste, but despite this insult Doom still had some appreciation for the place. It was his once, it was his forever until he decided to let go of it, and now it would be an excellent base of operations. This time however, he would build underneath the old structure, hiding strength beneath weakness, starting fresh after everything useful had been taken from it. In his mind he laid out a complete design of tunnels, defenses, facilities, deep enough to hide and remain protected from threats, and began to conjure up the magical power needed to make it real. Of course, he could bore through the rock with sheer energy, but the thermal signature would be large enough to notice from space, better to make rock simple vanish off into some other space. With his mind clear and the power coursing through him, he summoned the energies granted by the Helm of Fate and saw…. nothing.

Nabu appeared in a way only Doom could see, an ethereal mass of golden robes and a helmet, too dense to see any humanoid shape underneath.
“My power comes with a price, Victor von Doom.”
Doom did not answer him.
“All must align with the great order of the cosmos; I will not have my energies invoked for trivial matters.”
Doom was silent again, calculating in his head how long it would take to tunnel with only his own energies, and finding himself unhappy with how slow it would be.
“I should have stolen a less opinionated mystical artifact. I am not a man who will listen to an argumentative item of clothing.”

“Doom, even now the forces of chaos are at work, plotting, planning, threatening to tear what I defend asunder. I feel the reverberations even now, the Spear of Destiny, that legendary item of power, sits still no longer, and I have sensed that the forces of Chaos are at work, seeking to claim it for themselves.”

This was actually worthy of Doom’s attention. His reply was simple, saying

“I believe this is a case of where our interests may be aligned.”

The next stop was a particular block of Manhattan, the one home to a gathering place for mystics of all types, The Bar With No Doors. Doom found it low class and had never set foot in it until now, placing it on the same level as another infamous bar. Circumstances were different today, and his time inside would be brief. He focused on the energy of the bar and began to cast a spell to enter, caring not for the warding. Regulars knew the way to come in without breaking through, but Doom could not be bothered to ask any of those simpletons. A police officer walked by and stared for a moment before approaching, checking to see if the man standing there was who he thought it was. The officer placed one hand on his gun and started to speak, Doom not even bothering to look in his direction.
“Mr. Von Doom, I’m going to ask for… uh could you just…”
Doom paused his concentration to give the officer a single glance, charged full of contempt. The officer began to reconsider many, many things about his course of action. He said
“Eh, have a nice time in the city.” before walking as fast as he could back to his squad car and off to busy himself writing traffic tickets.

Sparks flew in the room when Doom entered the bar, bursting through the barrier. Conversations paused, and Doom’s booming voice announced
“Doom requires information. Do not think even for a moment that there is another reason I have visited this disheveled hovel. All who know anything about any party who might have the Spear of Destiny will share with me now or suffer the consequences.”
Chondu, the floating head that ran the place, addressed him.
“Hey Vic, uhhh, well you’re here but you know we do things a certain way here, matter of fact I see here that…”
Then one of the bartenders whispered in Chondu’s ear
“Uhhh, he’s not actually on the banned list.”
“He isn’t?”
“Nope, we got Mordo, Felix Faust, Brother Blood, Loki, a bunch of other guys but Doom never actually tried to show up here so we never kicked him out.”

Doom stood tall, his armor looking as smug as an immobile mask can.
While the staff conferred, a patron in the back leapt up, standing at his full height and staring Doom right in the eye with his own monstrous visage. Etrigan the Demon spoke:

“I propose a challenge to thee,
Prevail and I will share what I know for free”
But if you suffer defeat,
May your flight be fleet
For never shall you haunt this domain
Not in all your years, never again”

Doom answered. “You need only name the battlefield, I will best you no matter the contest.”

At this the bar erupted with ideas.
One patron said
“Ooo, what about that game they play at the Hellfire Club, the real Hellfire Club, the one you gotta visit Hell to get to, not those BDSM loving posers with the same name.”
Chondu’s answer was swift “Logistically impossible.”
Another person shouted out “Rap Battle!” and the entire bar went silent. It was obvious that wasn’t the choice.
Chondu ended the conversation with his own answer.
“Sorcerer’s Poker, Heads Up No Limit Limbo Hold’em rules. Usual stuff, play hands until someone busts, any magic is fair game except direct fighting.”
They set the deck and the chips up on the bar and everyone crowded around. To a mundane observer it was just another poker game, but to one watching the magic it was a pitched battle. Spells flew with every hand, luck manipulation, psychic assaults to force misplays or confuse which cards they held, transmuting the cards, precognition, messages from future selves, rearing the deck with telekinesis and subtle teleportation, even please to extradimensional entities entreating them to help them make the correct play.
With every hand there were oohs and ahs from the crowd, but Doom and Etrigan were as still as stones. It was an even game, neither having the upper hand for long, but this latest round became a spiral of bidding up. After small raises, Etrigan gave a smile and pushed his chips into the pot. He was all in, and dared Doom to do the same. Doom hated to back down, but he hated losing even more, so he threw all of his might into a spell of foresight, trying to see what would happen if he too went all in. The simple, easy outcomes were too uncertain, too vulnerable to attempt to cloud them, and Doom knew he had to go deeper to arrive at the truth. So, Doom pushed, and pushed, and pushed, seeing more and more futures laid out before him, following the true thread even as his mind screamed at the overwhelming possibilities. He would not give up, by the time the hourglass was empty, and he was required to make his play blood was coming from his eyes from the strain. He went all in, sure of the outcome.
The cards were laid down and Doom took home the victory, Etrigan going bust in that final hand.
In a cloud of brimstone Etrigan summoned a ruffled scroll and threw it to Doom.

“On this scroll, your information written in ink,
Now leave us all alone, I wish to finish my drink”

Doom was off and conversation resumed. One of Etrigan’s companions still wished to discuss the game, but all Etrigan would say to him was
“An ego is a great, devouring beast,
Sometimes I allow one to feast,
And crown a false victor
It if banishes our collective afflicter”
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Hidden 25 days ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 Create-A-Hero RPG GM, Blue Bringer of BWAHAHA!

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"I didn't."

The surrounding superheroes tried to make sense of this new information they were being given by the former hero, as he sat and drank tea with a cookie resting on its saucer.

"So when you say that, you mean--?"

"Exactly what I said, and I'm surprised you didn't ask her any more questions at the time."

"I don't get it." Sandy puzzled. "I thought you said Courtney went to the original Starman to get her cosmic staff improved, to better attune to her?" He asked Pat, who seemed more confused by this recent development than anyone.

"She did! At least that's what she told me... She came back and it was firing off green."

"Cosmic ROD." The older man corrected. "And it doesn't work like that. It absorbs, manipulates and emits stellar energies and light. Why would-- It wouldn't make any sense for the color of light to be changed just for, what, some kind of weird aesthetic purpose? Why would I waste my time on that? And attunement doesn't work like that either. As far as I can tell there's no shortcut to forming better bonds of attunement. That just take time. Nothing more can be done about it."

"So I think-- I guess we can pinpoint the moment when the change happened." Rick said, trying to add a brightside to recent news. "How long ago was that again--? A few weeks? Nearly a month?"

"I want to see it." The old man said, speaking firmly.

The group looked at each other as if trying to get a sense of any reason why they shouldn't. After all, it had been his own creation which brought them all here in the first place.

Beth moved first. She picked up the staff and handed it to the older man.

"Seems only fair."

Old wrinkled hands ran along the sides of the staff, he searched the controls with a furrowed brow.

"This is a weapon." He concluded.

"Well-- You designed it."

"I did NOT." He growled, even more firmly than before. Insulted by the suggestion. "What I designed was a tool. A precision implement designed with more subtle purpose. THIS is a modified energy weapon." He twisted the base, and a part of the staff broke away.

"Regenerative jade plasma cartridges. Would need re-loading after six hours of heavy usage. Twelve of latent. If you search her room or anywhere she's been ducking away to, I bet you'll find at least two or three more." He tossed the cartridge to his son.

"Jack. Who does this make you think of?"

"I don't get it. A villain--?" Rick broke in.

"No. Like I said, this is a weapon. A modified energy weapon. Nobody on Earth has technology like this. Jack has-- been further, met more 'people' than I can claim to have gotten to."

"Nothing we'd want any part of... I can tell that much. It's too crude to be Kree. But it's derivative. Which tells me all we need to know--"

"Well-- you didn't tell anyone when it died, at least. I suppose you all had sense enough for that." The older man grumbled.

"Is-- How did you know that? Is Courtney going to be alright? Is she dead too, along with whatever that thing was?" Beth asked.

Jack tried to calm the scene. As it became obvious that these two seemed to have knowledge of whatever they were dealing with, the excitement built to fever pitch for concern oer their missing friend.

"Tell me... what do any of you know about Skrulls..?"


⭐️ 🌟 ⭐️



H O U R M A N
H O U R M A N



The hulking ship slowly drifted through the black abyss of space.

Courtney awoke with a start, grabbing her shoulder, and putting her other hand on her back where she was sure the plasma had scorched through.

Phantom wounds.

Her breathing slowed as she realised the horrors of the dream, a simultaneous premonition that she had felt had fallen away and could affect her no longer.

She looked back at the device, the frame she had been connected to, and shuddered.

"Oh-- you're awake too."

Courtney jumped back, nervous about the source of the voice - a smallish, mousey man - who had addressed her unanounced.

"It's ok-- Well, no. That's a lie. It's far from ok. But I'm not gonna hurt you."

"Where are we?"

"Space, I figure... Sorry. I'm not exactly a local either."

"What happened?"

"Well, if you're anything like me, the agent version of you just died. You lost connection and it woke you out of the hyperstasis they keep you in, where they keep transmitting your memories. We should be alright, so long as we keep quiet. I'll show you how to pretend you're still tapped in soon, in just a little while. You seem a lot calmer than the last though. Guy just started screaming. Brought them all right down in here, had to hold my cover for a good twenty minutes or so. A lot more attention than I'm comfortable with."

Courtney walked over to a massive window that gave a large vista of space and a second immense ship that appeared to be travelling alongside. She felt a familiar faint draw from it.

"I don't suppose you know where we are?"

"Hmm?" She queried. How was she supposed to know?

"It's just-- your clothes. Covered in stars. Figured, maybe there was an off chance-- No? Forget I asked..."

"What's that ship?"

"Don't know. If I had to guess, I'd say another just like this one, with more people trapped, just like us."

But Courtney wasn't so sure. She concentrated and felt the draw pull stronger.

Her friends thought she was dead. She was trapped in a metal hull hurtling through space. She had to get out, and that would take two things. A plan, and time.

"Show me how to make them think we're still tapped in..."
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Hidden 23 days ago 19 days ago Post by Roman
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Roman King of Dirt

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*Artists' Impression, the Bat-Man of Gotham
_________________________________________________________
NOBLE HERO OR CRAZED VIGILANTE?

Have you seen the Bat-Man of Gotham?
Victoria Vale

Across Gotham City, reports of sightings and encounters with the mysterious chiropteran assailant supposedly stalking the streets at night continue to flood the desks of GCPD officers, as well as journalists, bloggers, podcasters, and influencers, keeping everyone's eyes on one bewildering mystery: who is this cryptic creature roaming our city?

While often un-corroborated and rarely delivered by more than just a single witness, all stories do share a common thread: the prevention of a more serious crime, through the dispensal of profound violence. So far, Gotham's citizens seem to see this 'bat-man' as a dark protector against the seedy underbelly of Gotham City; but if he is indeed simply a man who's had enough - as many reports say he is - is he overstepping as a lone vigilante, disregarding the due process of the law in favor of street-administered 'justice'?

Reporters who spoke to staff at both Gotham General and Saint Peter's hospitals confirmed that there has indeed been a rising increase in admissions for fractures, concussions, crush injuries, and similar wounds consistent with blunt-force trauma - but hospital staff are unable to disclose patient history or identity, and GCPD have failed to see an equivalent rise in assault cases. Are these victims of the vigilante too afraid of him to speak out, or is this new trend in hospital admissions simply unrelated, and this 'bat-man' is another invention of Gotham's superstitious citizens, like the ever-popular tale of Grundy-of-the-Marsh, a similar cryptid fairytale from Gotham City's rich history?
One recent would-be victim, MARGARET PAGE, spoke to the Gazette of her close encounter only a few nights ago:

"I was coming home from work late one evening last week - when we had all that dreadful rain - and trying to avoid a flooded street I tried to cross a block over through an alley. Dumb, I know. Obviously there was some thug just waiting for me. It felt like the opening scene in a horror movie, you know? When the lone girl bumps into the monster and gets killed. God, had the wet shirt and stringy hair and everything..."

"Anyway, I guess it was kind of like that, except the thug wasn't the monster. He just appeared so quickly, like he'd just stepped out of the shadows - like he'd just...materialized, you know? And he side-swiped the guy and all I could hear over the rain was just, him beating on this guy, just these dull wet thuds, you know? And then he stood up and he honest-to-god looked like a demon. Those horns, the big wings, claws, all-black, and that brand across his chest...but then he moved and he looked at me and it all changed. He was just a guy, you know? A guy who'd had enough. You could see it in his eyes. He was so scary, but when he looked at me I knew he wouldn't hurt me. He hurt that thug a bit more, sure, I wasn't exactly about to stop him. And then he just...he told me to go home. To save my money. And he just walked off, dragging that thug behind him. And I felt like he was watching me the whole way home. And the funny thing was, I did save my money, because my landlord told me to keep the rent. And I knew that was because of him. He protected me, you know?"
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The Gazette does know; Ms. Page's story mirrors that of many others across the city - a mugging, or a rape, or a robbery, or even a murder, interrupted seemingly out of nowhere by this mysterious costumed assailant. It's little wonder many citizens of Gotham are hailing this stranger as a hero, valiantly defending the vulnerable across the city that the GCPD often forget about.

However, not everyone shares the same view of this man as a protector - EARL SKINNER, Ms. Page's aforementioned landlord, came forwards exclusively to the Gazette to share his side of the story:

"Guy's a f--king maniac. I was just sitting in my car, trying to wait out the rain, and he completely wrecks the thing - caves the roof in, puts a crowbar through my windshield - and then when I'm getting out to see what the f--k is going on, he pulls me out and starts wailing on me. I have no idea what I did to this guy, but he's left me practically crippled. And then he threatens me that he'll come back to finish the job if I don't pause rent indefinitely for my tenants. Fine, I get it, times are hard - but how am I supposed to maintain eight apartments to a decent standard without any income? I'm just an honest landlord, I don't have an endless font of money. Free housing is a lovely ideal but it's not realistic - if this guy's willing to assault and kill people for some lefty nonsense, none of us are safe. It's just another step towards war by the woke agenda."

While the Gazette can't comment on any political leanings or agenda that may or may not be behind this man's actions - he has left no manifesto and refused to contact any publishing organization in Gotham - Mr. Skinner's story certainly does call for concern around the methods employed by this vigilante. For now, Gotham's police force may be content to allow this rogue agent to mete out violent justice in their stead, certainly as it seems those falling foul of the 'bat-man' are reluctant to report their encounter; perhaps, to the GCPD, this is an opportunity to cut down on their paperwork?

*Mr. Skinner, pictured with his injuries
_________________________________________________________
In any case, opinion is certainly split across the city, while those who may be held responsible for investigating or even stopping this man appear largely apathetic. The Gazette approached both the GCPD Commissioner and the Gotham Mayor's office for comment on these swirling rumours, but were provided no statement from either. It seems that amidst cryptic sightings and unconfirmed reports, the city's leadership has more pressing, extant concerns.


#1.03: Slow News Day
Earth-93913003, Gotham City


Jimmy startled as a rolled up newspaper slapped the top of his desk, breaking him out of his focus on the computer monitor in front of him. He quickly alt-tabbed, hiding the research into this mysterious 'Bat-Man' he'd been doing from whoever was now rounding the desk to interrupt what had until now been a relatively peaceful morning.
"You seen this shit, Jimmy?"
Jimmy looked at the copy of the Gotham Gazette that was unfurling on the desk in front of him. An artist's sketch of Gotham City's latest legend stared back at him from the front page, with a couple sensational headlines next to it.
"Looks like a slow news day to me." Jimmy replied, turning his attention back to the computer and some background paperwork he'd had up just in case. Harvey scoffed.
"If some headcase in bike leathers thinks he can do our job better than us he's welcome to try, but I won't have the papers call us lazy."
"You are lazy, Harvey." Said Gordon, to which Bullock just rolled his eyes.
"And you're an asshole, Jimmy. Only one of us is worth writing about to the Gazette, though."
Jimmy had to concede a chuckle at this one. Despite their differences, there were far worse partner assignments in the GCPD, and in a way Jimmy felt fortunate that the worst he got was a burnt-out, over-the-hill lard-ass with a cap and jacket severely in need of a wash.
"Still," Harvey continued, scratching his beard as Jimmy watched the flakes of the morning's pastry drift slowly to the floor, "it has been a bit quieter around here. Can't say I miss the paperwork."
Jimmy raised an eyebrow as Harvey pulled up a chair and sat down, propping his boots up on the edge of Gordon's desk. "You know what Jimmy - I'll say it. We let him have his fun for now. And then when he washes up in the Gotham River, we'll fish him out. And I'll wager doing that paperwork that he won't last the rest of the month."
Harvey held out his hand, waiting patiently for Jimmy's assent. Jimmy rolled his eyes, but ultimately leaned forward, sealing the bet with a firm shake.
"Excellent. Now get your jacket - we've got patrol beat. Maybe you'll get lucky-", Harvey said, standing and gesturing toward the PC that Jimmy had been working at- "and catch a real-life sighting to add to your research."

Jimmy startled, having underestimated his partner again, while Harvey just chuckled and left to fetch the car keys.

- - -

An erratic, vibrant piano piece echoed through the penthouse apartment at the top of Gotham City's most premier high-rise. Layered over the top was the white-noise of a shower running full-blast, and from the corner of the apartment that housed the bathroom a steady tide of mist rolled through the open-plan doorway.

The clear morning sky - finally clear after the torrential rain of the past few days - streamed bright and crisp sunlight through the skylights and wall-panel windows into the main chamber, splashing across white marble walls and dappled zebra-wood flooring. On the far side of the penthouse from the bathroom was the kitchen, a grand row of counter and cabinets that right-angled against the wall around a subtle but imperial island.

Stood against the counter was a suited attendant - one of the penthouse's hired staff - who cracked an egg into a frying pan at the stove, and silently cursed as the sizzle immediately indicated the pan was too hot. He lowered the flames and hoped his employer wouldn't notice. Sat at the island, a bald man in small dark glasses and a long, stately coat raised a single eyebrow momentarily, before returning his attention to the model in front of him; it was a scale miniature of one of the housing blocks in the Narrows before it had been torn down as restoration works began. The bald man was working carefully with a pair of tweezers and a Kolinsky Sable brush to get the replica corpses of the murder-suicide they'd had to clear out prior to demolition just right.

The water from the shower shut off, and the attendant nearly jumped at the sudden absence of noise. Footsteps - light, yet purposeful - traced a pattern from the bathroom to the nearby bedroom, then paused, then back out again and across the penthouse where they finally came to rest as the owner took a seat at the island.
"Oh, do put that ghastly thing away, Victor. It's too stunning a morning for your morbidity."
Victor Zsasz, Chief Operating Officer of Hightowers LLC, and William Sommer's right-hand man, brought a large rectangular case from the floor up to the island's surface, and carefully stowed away his model within, sealing the clasps and placing the case back on the ground. The attendant turned, a plate in each hand, and set William and Victor's breakfasts before them, before quickly returning with two delicate, designer, price-tag-over-function mugs, and a french press to match, carefully pouring the still-steaming coffee into their vessels. William watched him with skepticism, and then frowned impatiently as he set the french press back down.

"Well? I've just had a shower. The bathroom needs wiping down. I shouldn't have to tell you every time."
William had in fact never asked for the bathroom to be wiped down, but the attendant simply nodded nervously and walked away. Victor was already silently starting on his breakfast, his expression as stone-faced and inscrutable as ever. William inspected his eggs.
"Burnt. Shocking. Victor, do make sure to fire that imbecile once he's done for the day. I want someone actually capable of handling food tomorrow morning. Get one of Chez Vous' boys. Hell, get the owner."
Victor nodded, solemnly chewing the rest of his breakfast. William sipped his coffee and made a show of grimacing slightly in distaste, despite it being a perfectly-made espresso with the finest beans William's considerable fortune could acquire. With Victor offering little in the way of conversation, and William liking it that way, he reached for the day's Gazette. He perused the front page and its evocative artwork, before opening the broadsheet in full and vanishing behind it.

"This bat-character is stirring up the city lately, isn't he?" William remarked casually, and at this, Victor actually began to pay attention. "I assume we're keeping an eye on him?"
"Yes, sir. Reports are...sporadic at best. We really don't have much more information at this time than the major outlets. But they all point towards one thing so far."
"Which is?" William prompted, not coming out from behind the paper.
"One man, no funding. Street-level crime only. Seemingly no greater ambition than common thuggery vigilantism."
"So far." William corrected, and Victor cleared his throat.
"Yes, sir. So far. We are monitoring his behaviour."
William reached around his paper for his coffee. "Good. Let him play for now. Good to give the people some hope every now and again. Keeps them hungry."
"Yes, sir. And...if he moves against us?"
William used a single finger to fold down the corner of the Gazette, a dark gaze boring holes in the back of Victor's skull that he felt even through his obscuring glasses.
"We have him killed, Victor. Really, it's not that complicated. Can't have the muck getting any funny ideas."

- - -

The rain of the past few days had done little to clear out the humidity in the sweating alleyways of Gotham City. Steam belched from building vents as the sun set past the skyline, and 'Sunny' Sonny Shepard couldn't be happier for the clammy conditions. The rain was terrible for business - he didn't do house-calls, and no one wanted to wade through the streets in the middle of a monsoon to find his den - and the uncomfortable mugginess made people itchy, antsy; what better way to alleviate that agitation than with some quality product?

Well, maybe 'quality' was a little generous, although Sunny Sonny, chipper as his name would imply, was always quick to remind you that 'quality product' didn't specify what quality. 'Low' was still, semantically speaking, of a quality. And if you argued the point any further than that, well, there were always other dealers, if you could find any that hadn't blacklisted you by the time of your hospital release from a perforated abdomen.

As the sun finally disappeared Sunny Sonny made his way back to the den, tucking in to a greasy and well-stuffed gyro as he went; a vice of his, even if the authenticity was dubious despite the stall-owner’s claims. Still, it was a close enough approximation to be nostalgic of his mother’s, without being better, which Sunny Sonny thought was important - if you had a better version of something your mother used to make you, that’d be the version you’d want from then on, and one more thread of home would be severed. Gotham was too far already. The gyro was as good as it had to be, but no better.

The den approached quickly, or Sunny Sonny approached the den quickly, one of the two - he was too lost in reminiscent daydreaming to pay attention to his journey, the steps along simply muscle memory, running on auto-pilot. He finished the gyro, licking the last of the tzatziki from his fingers (autopilot), balling up the wrapper to toss in the dumpster down the side of the den (autopilot), fishing his keys and slipping them in the lock (autopilot), not noticing the lock had been jimmied and span loosely rather than getting stiff at that six-eighths rotation (autopilot), stepping through the door and his foot coming down squarely onto the trigger-plate of a bear trap set exactly where Sunny Sonny always put his auto-piloted foot after coming into the den.

Sunny Sonny tumbled to the floor hard, screaming and swearing, writhing in pain and desperately grasping at the vicious metal teeth that dug their way into his calf muscle and shin bone. Blood seeped out and soaked his jeans, and the sticky-slick ooze made getting a purchase against the metal impossible - every slip of the hand just jostled the trap and sent new white-hot flares of pain up his leg. He swore, his face red and eyes stinging, desperately wheeling his head about for either aid or his attacker.

The Bat dropped from the ceiling where he’d wedged himself for the last hour, landing between Sunny Sonny and the open door, kicking it shut behind him as he advanced. Sunny Sonny, in his agonised fury, went for the pistol in his waistband; the Bat was faster, and a forceful, steel-toed kick to Sunny Sonny’s wrist shattered the carpal bones and sent the gun skittering out of reach. Sunny Sonny, ever the optimist, tried to throw a punch instead.

Sunny Sonny now found himself in the un-enviable position of being caught in a beartrap with a broken wrist on his dominant hand and the fist of the other caught in the Bat’s grip.
“Sunny Sonny Shepard. You deal dope, crack, amps, percs, drops, and however much more besides, for a fifty-block radius in this borough. You don’t have the means or the mental capacity for production. So what I want to know…” the Bat moved his grip on Sunny Sonny’s good hand to seize it by the wrist, and wrapped his other fist around the index finger; with the widening eyes of Sunny Sonny’s sudden comprehension, and a short, sharp yank, the finger snapped, and Sunny Sonny howled in pain again. “…is where you get your supply?”

The Bat moved his hand away from Sunny Sonny’s index finger, now crooked and sticking out at an odd angle, and wrapped his fist around the middle finger instead. Sunny Sonny and the Bat locked eyes, and despite the defiant gaze from the injured man, his face paled against the ferocity behind the Bat’s eyes, which said everything without needing a word:

You have eight fingers left. Don’t make me show you what happens when you run out of them.
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Hidden 19 days ago 19 days ago Post by DocTachyon
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DocTachyon Teenage Neenage Neetle Teetles

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The Adventure of the Dutch Diamonds
Part I


I called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, in the summer of 1890, to find him ensconced upon 221B’s chaise lounge, wreathed in the smoke that emanated from his pipe. His long fingers probed the toe of his Persian slipper for another pinch of tobacco to fill his bowl. I counted myself lucky at least that Holmes had chosen tobacco as his poison of the day, as opposed to the cocaine solution he was known to select in the blackest depths of his boredom. It was habits like these, among his other Bohemian qualities, that rendered him quite undesirable as a roommate for most men, thus why Baker Street had remained with a sole tenant in the year since I was wed to Mary.

“Watson! This is a surprise!” He said.

“Oh, don’t get up, Holmes,” I said, placing my hat upon the rack, and righting the newspaper I carried in my arm, “I come with something of a surprise myself.”

“Do not trouble yourself, dear fellow,” said my friend, “I intuit the nature of the surprise you purport to bring.”

“Yet you still say I surprise you? I shall count that as a victory, against one so observant as Sherlock Holmes.” My friend laughed and waved me to sit in the leather armchair opposite him.

“Only with your appearance here at Baker Street, Watson. I should have thought you engaged in mingling with Mary’s visiting relations. Though I suspect now that Mary indulges in the feminine kinship of her dear cousins, and has left you to your own devices?”

Though Holmes’ observational trickery was far from new to me, it astounded me as ever. My mouth sat agape. “How could you possibly derive such facts? I have never informed you about Mary’s relations, much less their plans for travel. Even if I had, surely the assumption would be that I am off to visit them as well?”

“You are aware of my methods, Watson. As ever, it was through simple observation. I see your tie’s knot tends to the right, indicating you have done it yourself on this occasion. As well, I see the tie has returned to its state of military tightness, as opposed to Mary’s marginally more breathable loops. On the subject of your dress, I observe your pocket square is pressed and folded in the military style, whereas your wife would have applied a more decorative flourish. Finally, I see that you have breakfasted alone, for a sparse sprinkling of crumbs still exists in your moustache. Mary would have certainly detected these and dispensed with them before seeing you out the door.”

“It is a wonder I can make it out at all without her!” I brushed my moustache self consciously.

“As to Mary's relations, it is not as impressive as it may appear… I have already read the society pages I see you carry in your underarm.”

Holmes continued, “I recalled the details of our investigation into the activities of Bartholomew Sholto. In specific, that your late father in law, Captain Morstan, has a widow, a Mrs. Rebecca Morstan, who returned to America upon his death. Her maiden name, so dutifully recorded in your notes, was Kane. I see therefore in these pages that a Katherine and Bette Kane have recently arrived in London, a pair of an approximately similar age to your Mary, from the same city Mrs. Morstan was said to retire. It was a rather simple inference from there.”

“A marvellous deduction,” I declared.

“An elementary one,” Holmes said, “but perhaps an instructive example for your writings.”

“It was a stumbling point on my part, to think you unaware of the movements of prestigious Gothamites,” I admitted. “I should think one such as yourself to be professionally invested in the goings-on of the so-called ‘Capital of Crime.’”

“It is, in fact, a point of some irritation. The appearance of society figures such as these in London are wont to drown out such features as I search for in the various rags about town. The spaces of gossip publication typically reserved for those most scintillating crimes on which I thrive is often replaced with information on the comings and goings of such individuals,” Holmes said, “as well, I allow that the innumerable crimes reported out of Gotham City are not themselves without their interesting points, but what reports of them reach across the Atlantic are given to the most extreme kind of sensationalism.”

I had known Holmes to allow certain gaps in his knowledge, but this seemed a most curious one to me. Surely, one would reason, a consulting detective of Holmes’ calibre would derive great analytical experience from the kinds of bizarre tales to originate in Gotham, but Holmes was known to eschew that knowledge not essential in his business as a London detective. In the past he has claimed no knowledge of the Earth’s orbit about the sun, and in fact, had claimed the reverse, and though I suppose he was pulling my leg, it does not fail to illustrate the theme of Holmes’ focus on specific, esoteric interests.

“A handful of crimes do manage to stand out. There was the Nashton case from last year, a criminal that baffled American law enforcement with a series of logical problems and deadly riddles. Yet for the most part, the news is too full of tales of huge bats, undead men, and all manner of esoterica. Nothing to take too seriously,” Holmes assured me.

“I have known Mary to believe some of it. Perhaps on the morrow I can solicit the opinions of her cousins and their guests?” I offered. Mary’s relations had in fact arrived with an entourage. The morning’s edition enumerated that, aside from the Kanes, London would play host to Mary’s other cousin, a Mr. Bruce Wayne, as well as a number of family friends, Misters Cobblepot, Dent, and Bennett. A number of other Gothamites had arrived alongside them (the evident recipients of the same group travel sweepstakes that allowed the Kanes opportunity to attend), though those named were the only ones I planned to host for brunch the following morning. We had only learned of their arrival ourselves the previous evening, scarcely in advance of the news, and had been kindly pressed into the arrangement at cousin Bette’s request, though Mary was not displeased with the arrangement.

Holmes only offered a shrug, and said “ as much as I appreciate the offer, such anecdotal evidence would hardly lend credence to these stories. At any rate, it shall have little bearing on our daily concerns… Or those of the familiar man approaching our doorstep.”

Holmes had rightly identified the peak of a custodian’s helmet, bobbing up Baker Street’s stairs and appearing through Holmes’ windows. Holmes was up and across the room to the door instantly, leaving his still smouldering pipe askew on his lounger. I pushed myself up from my seat, ignoring the dull, cold throb of pain from the old war wound on my leg, and hobbled to collect the pipe before its burning ashes set the good landlady’s furniture alight, as Holmes allowed our guest to enter before they had occasion to knock.

“Inspector Lestrade! To what do we owe your most singular presence?” Holmes asked. Lestrade trod in on muddy boots, having failed to clean them on the stoop. He was a thin gentleman with a weasel-like face, complete with a most animal tenacity in his approach to policework. Holmes counted him as one of Scotland Yard’s best, though to Holmes’ word, finding a good policeman in London was like finding a good surgeon in a ragged school.

“I perceive you are in something of a rush, Inspector.” I observed, in my own small deduction.

“Furthermore, I perceive you to have come from Northern London. Bloomsbury, if I do not miss my guess,” Sherlock began, about to launch into the chain of reasoning from which he derived his conclusion, when he was cut off by Lestrade.

“If you shall let me get a word in edgewise, I would be appreciative!” Lestrade’s typically jocular manner was gone from him, and his hand remained upon the door’s handle.

“I apologise for the outburst gentlemen, but we must hurry. A body has turned up, indeed in Bloomsbury, and the inspector in charge of the case has identified it as an accident. The chain of an old chandelier broke suddenly and crashed down upon the victim's head. A miserable circumstance, but one hard to attribute to anything but that, happenstance. In truth, I have trouble arguing with his reasoning, and yet it does not sit right with me. The attending officer is closing up the crime scene shortly, so I rushed to collect your opinion.”

“Why should the crime scene be not shuttered? What about the poor fellow’s demise stands out to your intuition?’” Holmes pressed. I could see that Lestrade’s statement had already stirred the voracious detective within. He leaned forward with a keen ear, hands clasped. Lestrade's cheeks reddened, and he rubbed his hand over his forehead, finding the will to articulate the source of his doubt with appropriate brevity. He appeared almost embarrassed.

“To put it to you simply Mister Holmes, I feel the crime scene is too… Wet, in a word.”

“Too wet? In England?” I chuckled at the notion. “I should hardly think such a thing possible. After all, we have had that most tumultuous thunderstorm just yesterday evening…”

“Yet, the most illuminatory member of Scotland Yard still sees fit to bring it to our attention. Surely he would have already checked the establishment for leaks or any obvious cause,” Holmes began. I almost chastised him for what I thought an opaque jape, but the backhanded remark seemed lost on Lestrade. Holmes digressed, “my dear Lestrade… If it was any of your esteemed colleagues in Baker Street today, or indeed, was the colour of today’s humour anything but the dullest shade of boredom, I might deny your request for the sparsity of details you provide, but you have proven yourself over the years to be intermittently capable of identifying those cases which appeal to my sensibilities. If it would please friend Watson to join us in this endeavour, then I would be most happy to join you.” Holmes said, his eyes questing for some answer from me.

It had been nearly a year since Holmes and I had been engaged together on a case, the most recent being the matter of the ghastly Hound of the Baskervilles in the fall of last year. At the time, aside from my work on my medical practice, my schedule was largely occupied in transforming that self same adventure into a novel, as I had already done for two of our previous adventures to some success.

“A new case would most certainly help with my writing process, so long as I am returned to my Mary at a reasonable hour. I must get some small rest if I am to be a good host for tomorrow's brunch,” I said.

“You shall have time to prepare a magnificent, slow cooked roast. I do suspect this will be naught but a trifle,” Holmes said breezily, already tying his boots.

“Come along, gentlemen, I’ve a dogcart waiting to take us to the scene.” Lestrade said. He held open our mahogany door.

Coat and hat in hand, my companion and I crossed the threshold of our rooms at Baker Street, and out into our first warm night in a brand new world.
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Hidden 16 days ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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issue 2: the rider and the warrior

pt 1






The walls in here are bleached the colour of bone. The fluorescent lights never dim, never set. Underneath the sweet stench of disinfectant lies the stink of death, vomit, shit and blood. The slow, monotonous beeping of the ECG, the valleys and peaks forming a maze of suspense, is a funereal bell in disguise.

The skeletal hand gripping his own is ice-cold. The skin is stretched and pale from years upon years of burnt hopes and failed promises. The man who first taught him how to ride a Harley Davidson at the age of nine is dying. He presses his keys into his palm, a eagle feather hooked through the ring. He whispers words meant for him only. The hand then falls and the maze becomes a straight line headed in one direction, one road.

it’s time to collect your debt

He had a promise. He made a deal.

the deal was 8 years. 8 years to savor the life of the client and settle your affairs. You had more than enough time.

He lied. The rage burns through him. A thirst begins to bubble in him. Vengeance.

ah, you’re a quick learner.

The fire boils in his belly and scours his skin until it is char. He has no recourse but the endless road ahead and the souls of sinners to sate his thirst.

He rides.





“ - towards your next destination. We remind all guests that we have arrived at New Orleans, Louisiana. We thank all guests for riding with Amtrek and await your ….”

The honeyed, dulcet monotone of the tour bus announcer wakes Johnny up. He blinks as laggard memories of the last few weeks trickle back down into his brain like water down a shower drain. He remembers Vegas, a few drinks, the back of his throat burning with booze. His lips purse in recollection. The casino over by Fifth and Smesson. The fortune teller. Fire. He draws blanks after that.

Being the Rider is a bender and hangover cure all in one.

Rubbing his head, he crawls off the bus, stepping onto the grass knotted sidewalk on to the I-90. It’s midday and the sun is cutting a boiling red streak towards the horizon, the blue sky growing duskier by the minute. He waits for the crowd of oddly dressed tourists and travellers to disperse before walking to joining another oddly dressed group of five individuals waiting underneath the rusted hulk of a bus stand.

“ Well, that was sure weird as hell,” Johnny said, flicking a thumb over his shoulder at the departing tourists. “ What the hell’s wrong with their get up?”

“ It’s New Orleans,” Jack answered. Teh werewolf, to Johnny's amusement, is currently huddling underneath an oversized trenchcoat. The werewolf signs at at Johnny’s blank stare. “ You ever been down south before or do you mainly just go around the rockies wearing leather all the time?”

“ Eh, beats being you, wolfie. ”

“ Don’t call me wolfie,

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Hidden 12 days ago Post by Roman
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Roman King of Dirt

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#1.04: Dottle
Earth-93913003, Gotham City


Jimmy paused as he slid his key into the front door of his flat, rolling his shoulders and rubbing his eyes beneath his glasses. As one hand turned the key in the lock and pushed open the door, the other tugged at the tie around his neck, removing it in a practiced motion as he crossed the threshold into his home. The smells hit him first; lingering aromas from the evening's dinner he'd missed, the slight mustiness of the worn-out AC unit in the window, the dampness of the last few days' rain that still loitered on the coats hung on the wall. Jimmy slid into the small chair next to the door and started unlacing his boots.

"James? Is that you?"
Barbara Kean’s voice, soft and quiet, cut through Jimmy’s short-lived fugue and brought him back to the flat; he pulled off his other boot just as his fiancée appeared around the corner from the den. She leaned against the wall, and Jimmy couldn’t - wouldn’t want to - suppress a smile as he looked at her, drinking the sight of her in to ferry away what he saw of Gotham every day on his beat. She was a vision in pyjamas, wearing some navy sweatpants and one of Jimmy’s academy hoodies, simple grey cotton with the GCPD logo on the breast. Her hair was a stunning orange in a wavy bob-cut; her eyes a bright and glittering green; her face a map of freckles that Jimmy still counted in order to fall asleep. She was intelligent - having surpassed Jimmy academically at every step of their relationship - and funny, and vivacious, and optimistic in a way Jimmy aspired to in his work and ethos. Jimmy had no idea how he’d landed her, or how he continued to hold onto her - and, quite frankly, was smart enough not to question it, lest she catch on and go find the better man she was sorely capable of getting.

“Yeah Barb, it’s me.” Jimmy replied, smiling warmly as he stood and moved to pull Barbara into a tight embrace. She reciprocated, burying her face in his shoulder as they wrapped arms about each other, and then simultaneously pulled their heads back to kiss. “How was your day, hon’?”
“It was fine.” Barbara answered, giving Jimmy one last squeeze before they broke apart, and holding onto his hand as they moved into the den where the television was playing quietly, the soft white glow illuminating the modest room. “The kids can’t stop talking about this Bat-Man. I guess it all sounds like comic-book superheroes to them.”
Jimmy chuckled, thinking about his own off-the-books investigation, no better than a few printed Gazette articles, blogposts, and notes taken from Reddit posts, tucked into a manila folder and hidden in a locked desk drawer. With the way everyone seemed to talk about him, he was hardly surprised Barbara’s schoolkids - mostly nine- and ten-year-olds, maybe one eleven-year-old proudly the class’ elder - had captured this mythological figure in their fanciful imaginations as some kind of caped crusader against their Saturday-morning villains.

“I think it’d all be a lot simpler if he were a comic-book character, Barb. GCPD hasn’t a clue what to make of the guy. Pretty sure half the department isn’t even convinced he exists.”
Barbara smiled, sitting back down on the sofa and pulling her legs into her, retrieving a mug from the sidetable. Jimmy could smell the herbal fragrance of the tea and couldn’t help wrinkling his nose.
“There’s leftovers for you, top shelf of the fridge. I made meatloaf.” She said, pointing over her shoulder at the kitchenette on the back wall of the den without looking away from her telenovela. James kissed her from behind on the top of her scalp in thanks, and moved to the fridge in search of dinner and a beer. One quick microwave later, and Jimmy sat at the small, two-person table eating straight from the Tupperware, sipping from a stubby, and watching the television over Barbara’s shoulder.

“What do you think about him?” Barbara asked, after about fifteen minutes of silent contemplation while she listened to Jimmy chew. Jimmy swallowed his last bite and took another sip of his beer before wiping his moustache with a sheet of kitchen towel.
“I think he was a damn fool to cheat on her. And with her own sister! No way she won’t be able to figure it out.”
Barbara laughed and spun around, hanging over the back of the sofa and resting her head on her forearms as she looked Jimmy in the eye.
“No, not the show - the Bat. What do you think about the Bat?”

Jimmy leaned back in his chair, folding his arms together and tucking his hands beneath his armpits. He frowned thoughtfully, his expression one of true cogitation.
“I think he’s out there. I think he’s resourceful. I think he’s tactically intelligent, if not just plain straight-forward intelligent. I think he’s got some kind of plan, not just stopping a couple muggers here and there. And I think he’s angry, which makes him dangerous. For everybody.” Barbara frowned, and Jimmy put his hands up in pre-emptive surrender as he finished his thoughts. “But I think... he has good intentions. But you know what they say about those.”

Barbara nodded, turning back around.
"I think he's finally doing what we all want to do in this city." She said, with such a solemn matter-of-factness that Jimmy was momentarily convinced she herself could be the vigilante.
"Which is?" Jimmy probed, standing up to wash his plate and cutlery in the sink.
"Fight back."
Jimmy nodded, and let the matter settle there.

There were a few soft burbles from the baby monitor on the kitchen counter, and Jimmy and Barbara caught each other's gaze.
"I put her down a couple hours ago. I'm surprised she didn't wake when you came in."
The burbles continued before raising in volume, becoming groans and whines.
"She probably needs changing. I'll get her."
"Be my guest," Barbara said, smiling and turning back to the TV as Jimmy moved to the bedroom, "those diapers have been foul since she switched to solids."

Jimmy left the den and gently pushed open the door to the bedroom; the double-bed dominated most of the room, with a built-into-the-wall wardrobe on Barbara's side and a standalone wardrobe pushed against the wall on Jimmy's side. At the foot of the bed was a crib, and in the crib was Jimmy's daughter, Barbara Gordon. She thrashed her little limbs in her onesie, her blanket now a muddled ball in the corner of the crib; as Jimmy crossed the room and appeared into view, his daughter babbled and giggled, reaching up towards his face, the endearing noises and movements punctuated by a few wet farts and a distinct odour.
"Hello, trouble." Jimmy said, and Babs cooed softly in response.

Jimmy smiled back and picked Babs up, holding her beneath her armpits as he carried her to the bathroom and laid her gently on the pop-up table, purchased for its incredible one-hand-only ease-of-use. Babs pawed her pudgy fingers at her father's face as they went, grazing his moustache and nose, trying to take tiny fistfuls of both; Jimmy made a game of weaving in and out of her grasp, the pair of them grinning and cooing, until she finally managed to seize a few strands in her infant grip, and Jimmy let out a low yelp as she tugged. Gently, carefully, he pried her fingers off his facial hair, and set about the task of changing her. Barb hadn't been lying; the contents were indeed foul.

She had the hair of her mother - the wisps were starting to come through in the vibrant ginger that adorned Barbara Sr. - but her eyes were the cool storm-gray of her father, and while her nose was still mostly the smushed-button styling of a newborn, Jimmy suspected he'd lent her that feature as well.
"Let's just hope you got mom's smarts." He said softly, fastening the new diaper and pulling her into a cuddle against his shoulder.

To say Jimmy and Barbara's engagement had been something of a shotgun proposal would be to betray the deep, devoted affection they each held for each other; but that's not to say Barbara's unplanned pregnancy hadn't played its own part on Jimmy's decision. Ideally, they'd have been married by now - but finances were tight already, and when Barbara's father, Everett Kean, died suddenly last year, what they'd managed to save for a wedding was instead spent on funeral expenses. Ultimately, the promise and the desire remained, but the financial situation to support it wasn't quite in the right place. Jimmy unconsciously rubbed his engagement band, a forlorn feeling bubbling up inside him, a disappointment in himself for being unable to provide.

Babs snored softly on his shoulder and Jimmy came back. She'd fallen back to sleep, and he crept back to the bedroom to replace her in the crib before sneaking out - leaving the door slightly ajar just-so - and returning to the den. Barbara looked around at him.
"Changed her and she fell straight back to sleep. What a life." He remarked, and Barbara chuckled. Her show had ended, and the television was now playing some generic late-night chat-show crap. Jimmy predicted Barbara herself would nod off within minutes. He went to the front door and fished around in his coat pockets for-
"Don't light that in here, James." Came the stern words from Barbara, who knew exactly where Jimmy's mind had gone. "You stand out on the fire escape if you're going to smoke."
"Yes, hon'." He answered dutifully, finally seizing his own late father's pipe from one coat pocket and his tobacco and book of matches from the other. He planted another kiss on Barbara as he passed back through the den - she wouldn't let him after he smoked - and climbed over the kitchen counter and out the window onto the fire escape, rusted metal creaking under his weight. The cold night air was brisk but felt energizing, and as Jimmy packed his pipe and sparked a match, he felt a sense of relief wash over him as the stresses of the day finally, however infinitesimally, began to melt away.

A knock at the window from inside the flat made him jump, and he and Barbara shared a chuckle as she leaned over the counter through the open window.
"Here-" she passed Jimmy another stubby, "I know that look. Relax a bit." She handed him his coat too; he pulled it over his goose-bump skin and leaned forward for another kiss. Barbara assented, though she pulled a face afterwards, half-mocking. "Smelly. I'm going to bed. Come cuddle when you're done. Love you."
"Love you too, hon'. Sleep well."
---


Jimmy could feel himself nodding off as he sat, reclined, on the soggy lawn chair they kept on the fire escape for these very evenings, when he'd contemplate the world looking down the length of his father's pipe, navel-gazing through the hazy smoke that drifted up from the bowl. He sat up, able to convince himself no longer that he was simply 'resting his eyes', and drained the last of the stubby, before standing and taking a few short steps to the edge of the metal gantry to toss the empty bottle into the dumpster below.

Jimmy froze as he reached the edge and his eyes caught fabric fluttering in the soft night breeze on the fire escape of the building opposite; reflexively, his eyes followed the edge of that fabric up to its source, and Jimmy suddenly felt very cold and very vulnerable. One-up from him, perched on the edge of the gantry, was the Bat-Man of Gotham, staring at him. Neither man said a word for a very long while.

"How long have you been watching me?" Jimmy finally said, feeling like he was breaking out of some kind of spell by speaking aloud. The Bat made no movement, the gentle fluttering of his cape in the wind the only indication he was really there at all.
"I followed you home. Listened in on your evening. Had to make sure."
"I'd have seen you." Jimmy lied.
"You did. You just didn't recognize me."
"Is that the reason for the getup? So you don't get recognized?"
"No. The suit is so I do. So I can be what I need to be."
"A maniac?"
"A symbol."

Jimmy paused. He had no idea, of the hundreds of emotions swirling within him, which should guide him in this moment. He had no weapon, no cuffs, and even if he did, what was he supposed to do? Leap the gap between the buildings and chase this vigilante up rusty metal ladders? What if he caught him, then what? Charge him with what? Take him to the station and stick him in a holding pen? Would a jury convict him? Would he even get as far as a courtroom, or would Jimmy find himself losing that bet with Harvey?

"Don't hurt my family." Jimmy said softly, settling on a course of action: to protect his loved ones.
"I'm not here for them. Or for you. I'm here to talk, to the only man in the GCPD who'd listen."
Jimmy raised an eyebrow, undeniably curious and almost, in a way, flattered. There was a presence about the Bat, and even now, in the midst of what was ostensibly just a surprise conversation between an off-duty cop and a lunatic, it felt like something far grander was at play.
"I get it. Trying to get the only good cop on your si-"
"You're not a good cop." The Bat interrupted, and only shock prevented Jimmy's anger from rising up to strike back. "You might think you are. You might think, because you don't take bribes, you don't collect racket money, you don't shake down Gotham's citizens for protection, you're the last good cop in Gotham City. But you're wrong."

Jimmy stuttered, his hand trembling as he held out his pipe like a accusatory finger, fumbling for a response.
"How many mob fronts has your partner, Detective Harvey Bullock, picked up cash from this week? How many times this month have you, in your cruiser, passed someone getting beaten, because the paperwork wasn't worth it? How many incidents of racism, sexism, homophobia, have you heard, witnessed, silently participated in, today? How many beat cops, your peers, your colleagues, the people you graduated the academy with, do you know - know - have killed someone?"
Jimmy lowered his arm, his head hanging low.
"And what have you done about it?"
"Nothing."
"Because you can't. You can't lodge a complaint, or raise a report, you can't even correct them in conversation. Because at best, you'll lose your job, and at worst, you'll run foul of the wrong cop and lose your life. So what was your plan? Change the system from the inside? Be the one good example that no one else would follow? You might not participate - but you're still complicit. And to change the system, the system has to want to change. You're nobody. You're just one man, shouting silently into oblivion, waiting to be swallowed up."

Jimmy breathed deep, lashed by the truth in the words. He stared down at the alley beneath them, before tossing his empty bottle off the edge of the fire escape, watching it sail silently through the night air before landing in the dumpster down below.
"So you just came here to put me down, remind me how pointless everything is? What about you? You're just running around in a costume, beating up a few thugs. They go to the hospital for a couple days - they don't even make it to jail - they rest up a week or two - then they're back on the streets for, what, you to beat them up again and hope it sticks this time?
"No. I came to remind you why you ever joined the GCPD in the first place. That spark of hope - that's what the city has forgotten. That's what you need to hold onto. That's what I can be, more than just a man. And I came to ask for your help. You're not a good cop. But you're the best one the city has. And I will need you on my side."
"Why? Why now?"
"Because everything is about to change. I've got my own plans - plans I can't tell you about, plans I've been following - and now, I'm on the brink of everything. Gotham will change overnight."
"How."
"Because tonight, I'm going after a cop. And when I bring the entire GCPD down on my head, I need to know there's one cop - just one - on my side. A single cop that I - that the city - can trust."

Jimmy rubbed his eyes, rattled by the conversation, feeling like he'd had some veil ripped from his vision and a deep, stark truth laid bare before him. But there was also a sense of inevitability - like it had all been leading to this, like it was always going to have been leading to this - and he felt like denying it, here and now, would forever cast him into the abyss he'd been running from his whole life.

"Y'know, I was never much of a smoker, before my father died. He loved his pipe - when I was a kid, real little, I used to think it was some kind of tusk, like a elephant's, that's how often he was pulling on it. 'Course, I grew up, realized what it was, and then I hated him for it. He got the warning signs real early, too early, the coughing, the breathing trouble, the fatigue, but he kept right on smoking. I just thought, why was he doing it to himself? Why was he doing it to us? Didn't he know it was killing him, that he'd die too young, that he wouldn't get to see us grow up, get married, have kids? He'd never dance with my wife, never tell my daughter stories, never give...never give me advice on how to be a husband, or a father, or even a goddamn cop?"
Jimmy wrinkled his nose, his eyes stinging. He staunchly refused to cry, but it didn't seem to matter.
"About a year after I graduated the academy, I witnessed my first homicide, right in front of me. Senior detective. Shaking down this young...young man. A kid. He'd been asked to do a job, a nasty job, and he'd refused, so we were sent to teach him a lesson. Kid was fiery, strong. But stupid. The detective was a vile man, but he knew the right people, accepted the right bribes, so he was safe. He shot that kid right in the face, point-blank. Then he pointed the gun at me, gave me my story."
Jimmy held the pipe in his palms, staring at it. Tears dripped onto the lacquered wood.
"I picked tiny little fragments of that kid's skull out of my face in the station bathroom. And that night, I bought a pack of tobacco, and lit my old man's pipe when I got home. Had to lie to Barb that I'd picked up a smokes habit in the cruiser and was trying to cut down with the pipe instead. She still doesn't know why I started. But that time, alone, smoking...it helped. Helped me collect myself. Helped me separate being a cop from being a human being. I think my dad probably had a similar story. The rate he smoked, he probably had a couple hundred."

The pipe tumbled out of Jimmy's hands, falling down to the street. It missed the dumpster, and cracked in half on the concrete beneath them. Jimmy watched it all the way down.
"I'm in." He said, looking back up at his new partner.

The Bat-Man had disappeared. Jimmy nodded, sniffing, feeling a strong conviction in his fresh alliance. He climbed back into the flat, closing the window gently behind him, and went to be with his family.

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Hidden 8 days ago Post by Fiber
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Doctor Doom




What Etrigan gave him wasn’t useless, but it was far from a complete picture. The Spear had been in the hands of the government, some division of SHIELD that no longer existed, and was no longer in their possession. The informant’s access did not allow him to know much more. It did contain another useful nugget, that there was a branch of magical organized crime called the Blasphemy Cartel interested in acquiring it, and that Joachim Hesse, a dealer in illicit artifacts had started talking with them, promising he’d be able to assist. Whether Hesse knew where it was or was merely offering his skills in locating it was uncertain, he could even be lying to them, but Doom had no other leads worth pursuing.

Hesse considered himself something of an entrepreneur, one who had blasted out word about his business to every corner of the astral plane, even enlisting some extremely minor spirits as magical spambots. With a trail like that, it didn’t take Doom long to find the location of his sanctum. On the outside it was a converted industrial building in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Tracking the man’s comings and goings was the first task. For those, Doom used a few strategically placed surveillance devices he built using an ESP32-CAM board, $16 for a two pack at MicroCenter. Although rarely displayed, Doom did have a practical side. The observations revealed that Hesse liked the feel of the city but did not conduct his actual transactions in his own home, his already shaky credibility might take a further hit if mystical guests spotted the Ikea down the street.

The next piece required more power, and so Doom turned to Nabu. He did not do so lightly. He invoked the power of the helmet and the great, billowing form of Nabu appeared before him.

Doom said.

“I would like to discover if you have the power to help with this. I need to see where this man’s magic has been.”
Nabu did not laugh but found Doom’s attempts to avoid humility amusing.

Nabu said.

“I can. You will need to see through my eyes if you wish to harness my magic for this. Are you willing to try that?”

Doom said.

“Do you think me a coward who would not be able to handle this power? Of course I am willing.”

So, Doom opened his mind to Nabu and began to feel his presence in his mind alongside him. It was a spiraling mass, reaching through all of Doom’s thoughts without even trying, and it took effort to avoid surrendering completely. But what it gave was wondrous. Through the eyes of Nabu Doom could see webs and strings connecting all things, invisible pieces of order that guided the world, emanating on every scale, from the stars above to the individual atoms. It was wondrous, like seeing something a thousand times more mesmerizing than a rainbow. The challenge was not finding Hesse’s traces, which was trivial, the challenge was not getting lost in the cornucopia of unknown sensations from everything else. Doom cut it off with a great display of willpower, and when he came back to normal reality it seemed so small even though he had only experienced this augmented vision for a mere few minutes. Nabu was still there and said.

“I am glad you see the value in my perspective.”

Doom did not answer him back.

The scroll had at least mentioned a meeting date and purpose, Hesse and the Blasphemy Cartel were going to do a joint demon summoning as a way of getting to know each other, prelude to additional business, maybe trade in a soul for a favor. The Cartel was due to bring the sacrifices, while Hesse was to prepare the space for the ritual. Once again, Hesse was loath to attempt complicated magic outside a familiar area, and thanks to his surveillance Doom had managed to find all four of the potential spots and lay a curse at each one. All that remained was waiting for them spring the trap.

In the warehouse Hesse and the cartel members argued about who would start the ritual. The cartel was willing to do it but only with Hesse’s guidance, he sensed they were not actually as skilled as they let on, and didn’t want to be caught making a mistake that they couldn’t blame on someone else. There was also the matter of whether the sacrifice should be done at the start or wait until talking with the demon. Finally, Hesse just decided to try the summoning on his own, telling the cartel members “Don’t expect the recipe”, because he was in no mood to help them after this mess. None of that would matter because they would all have bigger concerns.

The fire whirled and whirled, rising higher and bursting with beams of multicolor light, until a great explosion of lightning and smoke erupted. When it cleared enough to see, no demon stood before them, only Doom. He said.

“Doom needs no petty invitations.”

It became clear who were cowards and who had some backbone. All but one of the half dozen Blasphemy Cartel goons stood and fought, but their weak firebolts and bullets enchanted with minor curses simply bounced off Doom’s shields, completely ineffective. His return fire came in the form of bright flashes from his fingertips, perfectly aimed and each hitting with enough force to blow through the primitive wards on the cartel had cast upon their bulletproof vests. When his volley finished, they were all on the ground, even the one who had declined to fight, and Hesse was cowering in the corner. Doom turned to him.

“I understand you were trying to summon someone who would barter for your soul. How quaint.”

With a sweep of his hand Doom invoked the magical power imbued in this place and felt it surge through him, then gripped the very soul of Hesse. It surged out of him, and Hesse’s body went limp as the lifeforce was transferred into the vessel Doom had made.

“I acquire what I need without such trivialities.”

Now doom was satisfied but a nagging thought hit him, unsure if it was Nabu or the back corner of his own mind. He looked over the warehouse and found the people the cartel had brought in anticipation of a sacrifice, still locked in the back of a box truck. They were an odd mix, a pair of bums of the street, a refugee couple, and someone who looked like a crust punk, but all were equally terrified and confused. Doom sighed and opened a portal behind him. Through the other side the lobby of the department of social services was visible. He gestured and said.

“Go on, flee! And tell all who will listen that….”

There was a paused while he came up with the next line.

“Doom saves, and woe be to all who would harm those he protects!”
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