Singular Universe: Brave New World -- IC Thread

Discussion in 'Comic Books & Genre RPG's' started by Carnage27, Jul 16, 2015.

  1. Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    The Gold Ranger wasn't much of a talker, Jason observed. He had only been able to squeeze a few words out of the mystery man, and each had made less sense than the last. So far, all Jason had been able to glean for certain was that the Gold Ranger was not of Earth. Five years ago, that might've been a revelation, but much had changed since Jason was just an ordinary teenager with nothing but girls, karate, and sports on the brain. He hardly felt like the same person he had been then, but he supposed that most people go through the same thing in adolescence -- admittedly with fewer giant monster attacks. Still, if the Gold Ranger wanted to save his news for Zordon's ears, then Jason would oblige him.

    To Jason's surprise, the Command Center was occupied as he arrived. Beyond Alpha-5, Zordon's loyal robotic servant, two Rangers huddled around the Viewing Globe. Though they had their backs turned, Jason had no trouble identifying them: Adam, the friendly youth who had taken Zack's place as the Black Ranger, and Rocky, the boy who had been given the Red Tyrannosaurus powers in Jason's stead. The latter Ranger stood on crutches and was too lost in thought to hear Jason enter, so it was Adam who called out, "Jason?"

    Alpha was the first to turn. "Aye-aye-aye! Jason, it is you!"

    "Didn't think I'd find anyone here," Jason remarked as he crossed the room to take Adam's hand. The two didn't know each other terribly well, but Adam had always shown the makings of a good Ranger. Jason could think of no one else more worthy to carry on Zack's legacy.

    Rocky shifted his weight on the crutches so that he could extend a hand as well. "We didn't think we'd be here," he admitted. The handshake between the two Red Rangers was more formal. Though both would surely call the other "friend," there had always been an unspoken tension between them. Nothing adversarial, of course; Rocky just always felt the need to get out from under Jason's shadow. If you asked the original Red Ranger, he had done that and then some. By now, he had served as Red Ranger just as long as Jason had.

    "That injury have anything to do with an attack?" Jason asked.

    Rocky shook his head, saying, "No, this was just carelessness. But Katherine was hospitalized after a Putty ambush."

    "So, you know about the attacks?" Adam jumped in.

    Jason nodded. "They came for me, too," he explained, "but it wasn't Putties. It was something... else." "Quantrons" was the name the Gold Ranger had used, but it still meant nothing to Jason. "I probably wouldn't have escaped if it wasn't for him," he continued, motioning to the entryway where the Gold Ranger stood.

    The other Rangers tensed upon noticing the Gold Ranger, and Alpha literally jumped backwards half a step. The Gold Ranger inclined his head apologetically, announcing, "I am sorry to intrude, but this is a matter of grave importance." As he stepped forward, the Gold Ranger undid the clasps of his helmet and removed it. Jason was surprised to see a very human-looking man underneath it all. The olive-skinned Ranger went to a knee in front of Zordon and said, "I am called Trey, lord of Triforia -- once and always loyal friend to the planet of Eltar."

    "Triforia? Yes, I remember it," Zordon mused aloud. "Your people stood with Eltar at the beginning of Rita's treachery."

    Trey stood, giving a solemn nod. "If only we had been able to truly vanquish her then, perhaps I would not need to stand here today."

    "Why have you come?"

    "I bring grave news from across the universe," Trey answered. "The forces of evil march on the Earth with the goal of destroying the Rangers and you, Zordon, once and for all." He turned to the Rangers. "You have already witnessed their first strike, a surprise attack with the goal of nullifying as many Rangers as possible before their whole host arrives."

    "But we defeated Zedd and Rita," Rocky pointed out.

    "You drove them from your moon -- defeated, disgraced, but no less dangerous. They returned to the cosmos and entered into an Ultimate Alliance of Evil. The pirate queen Divatox, the princess of darkness Astronema, the Machine Empire... all these and more have pledged their troops to this dark Alliance. They will mount an offensive that will shatter the Earth to its core if need be, but they will not stop until the Rangers are destroyed."

    "Who commands this army?"

    "It is... unclear," Trey admitted, "but surely someone of immense power to command the respect of these foes. In the past, their attempts to unify have been undone by their own greed and ambition, but not this time. The resurgence of the Power Rangers -- particularly after their defeat on Eltar -- is seen as a grave threat to evil everywhere. Many believed that Rita and Zedd would be able to handle your team, and their failure has made the Alliance all the more determined to snuff out the Power Rangers' light in the galaxy, once and for all."

    Dumbfounded, Adam asked, "Is there nothing we can do?"

    As if waiting for such a question, Trey began to reach for his belt. "When Zordon was driven from Eltar, most believed that the Power Rangers were no more. However, as Rita discovered, artifacts of power had been hidden across the galaxy. Your Power Coins were one such artifact; recently, I have come to learn of another." From his belt, Trey produced a small crystal; though silver-white in color, the crystal shone green as it caught the light.

    Alpha reached out and took the crystal from Trey, holding it up to examine it better in the light. As he did, he gasped -- or as close to a gasp as a robot can make, anyway. "I don't believe it!" he exclaimed.

    "What is it?"

    "A Zeo Crystal," Zordon announced.

    "Only a fragment that I discovered on the shores of Aquitar," Trey admitted, "but if the Crystal were to be fully assembled..."

    "We'd have enough power for a second team of Rangers!"

    "A second team?" Adam repeated, flabbergasted. Rocky and Jason looked no less surprised by the news.

    "Yes, and you will need as many Rangers as possible to withstand what's coming."

    Rocky stepped forward on his crutches. "So, how do we find the remaining pieces of the Crystal?"

    At that, Trey smiled. "The Power Rangers still have many allies across the cosmos, men and women who remember Eltar as it once was. The search has already begun." He turned back to Zordon. "I am not the only one looking for this Crystal, however. The United Alliance is taking no chances. They have dispatched their forces to the far ends of space in search of the Crystal."

    "The Zeo Crystal must not be allowed to fall into the hands of this Alliance," Zordon replied. "Such power could be devastating if utilized for evil."

    Jason thought back to the last time there had been an evil Ranger. It wasn't an experience he was eager to relive.

    "On that, we agree. That is why I haven't just come to warn you of the impending danger. I've also come to ask for help."

    "What kind of help do you need?"

    Trey turned to Jason. "An extra set of hands, if you can spare them. I know you must prepare for the Alliance's arrival, but I will not be able to assemble the Crystal alone. Your team has proven themselves, and it would be good to have another Ranger by my side."

    The three Rangers exchanged a glance. An expedition through space in search of the Zeo Crystal? At a time when Earth needed its defenders more than ever? Still, for Jason, it was never a question. He stepped forward, saying, "I will help you."

    "No," Rocky interjected as he grabbed Jason's arm. "I'm not going to be back on my feet any time soon, and Angel Grove needs a Red Ranger. You have to take the Power Coin and do what I can't."

    "He's right," Adam agreed. "We can't afford to lose both Red Rangers, not at a time like this." Taking a step forward, he continued, "But luckily, we have a Black Ranger to spare. Trey, I will join you on your quest."

    "Adam, I can't ask you to do that," Jason said.

    "And you didn't. I offered," he smiled. Clapping a hand on Jason's shoulder, he said, "I promise, you get the first crack at the next space adventure."

    Trey moved towards the other Rangers. "It's settled, then. Adam and I will leave in pursuit of the Zeo Crystal, and when we return, Earth will have two teams of Rangers to defend it from the forces of evil."

    "You're sure about this?" Rocky asked Adam.

    Adam nodded. "I'm a Ranger. It's what we do."

    Jason took Adam's hand and gave him a warm shake. "Then you stay safe out there. And come home to us in one piece, alright?" He then turned his attention towards Trey, saying, "And you take care of him."

    Trey bowed his head. "I will defend his life with mine, if need be."

    "Be safe, Rangers. The Earth will be waiting for you when you are ready."

    The Gold Ranger closed his helmet and pulled the staff from his belt. "Are you ready?" he asked Adam. When the latter gave a nod, the Gold Ranger put his hand on Adam's shoulder and raised his staff high. In a brilliant flash of light, the two Rangers were gone.

    "I just hope they'll be alright!" Alpha said in a worried tone. He shuffled over to a panel and began adjusting knobs nervously.

    "They'll be back before we know it," Jason assured his friends. Somehow, in his heart, he knew it was true. Adam was a fine Ranger, and Trey looked to be a veteran in his own right. If anyone could complete this mission, it was those two. He turned to the Viewing Globe and said, "Alright, bring me up to speed on everything that's happened since I left..."
     
  2. SuperFerret King of the Urban Jungle

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    London.

    Extraterrestrial presence detected, sir.

    I look around, not seeing anything at first. "JARVIS, what the hell are you talking abou..."

    [​IMG]

    "Oh."

    Clark has this quality about him where he can come off as friendly and authoritative at once. It's annoying as hell. At least I'm not looking like such a schmuck in front of Batman. I don't think my ego could take his scowl today.

    "Honestly, I don't know." I shrug, temporarily at a loss for words. "I got a glimpse of a few reports that suggested that the Mandarin was back, and wrecking house out here, but obviously..."

    I wave my hand, gesturing at the utter normalcy that is London at this moment.

    "I feel like someone's playing games with me."
     
  3. Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    Helicarrier Olympus
    Washington DC Airspace

    The bridge of a helicarrier was a sight to behold. The pinnacle of modern technology, the fleet of four carriers was the most powerful defensive grid the Earth had, save for the Justice League's orbiting Watchtower. Dozens of SHIELD agents manned the computers that monitored every aspect of this quadrant of Earth. All possible threats were brought to SHIELD's attention and analyzed for damage potential. The level of surveillance they had made Cap slightly uncomfortable, but with the level of danger the modern world held, he understood their paranoia, even if he didn't share it.

    Standing in the center of the bridge, looking out over the breathtaking vista of the capital was Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD. From the back, all that was visible besides his long black trench coat was his bald head gleaming in the bright light. As Rogers came up behind him, he turned revealing his one good eye and the other covered by a patch, "Care to explain why you disobeyed a direct order?"

    "Well, last time I checked," Steve replied, "a mystical object with massive amounts of power in the hands of a megalomaniac Nazi is a bad thing. I was doing my job and trying to get it back."

    Fury's steely gaze didn't change. That one, dark eye just stared into Cap's, and he stared right back. Fury was a spy. Fury was the spy. He had come up through the ranks during the Cold War, and had a distinguished service record, most of which was under lock and key to this day. Steve appreciated his service, but he didn't always trust him. He was a man who did what he needed no matter the cost.

    "Well you stopped my agents from doing their jobs," he spat back. "They may be your team, but they still have other things to do. I need Natasha in Gotham and you took precious time from that. And you sent Lang into god knows what."

    "Nat said she had the time," Steve shrugged. "Scott volunteered. He knows the stakes."

    "Do you?" Fury shot back. "As far as we know, as far as he told us, if anyone tries to use the Ark, they die. So why don't we want Cobra to use it?"

    Indy shrugged at Fury's point, "That's what happened during the war. But don't act like I understand what happened. Maybe I could of if you didn't take it and lock it away from decades."

    "I didn't do anything," Fury retorted.

    "You know what I mean," Indy got angry. "It belonged in a museum. It deserved to be studied. Instead the government did what they always do, lock it up until they decide to use it."

    "Well if we hadn't maybe someone would have been used it a lot earlier."

    "You didn't even tell the man who leads Earth's mightiest heroes you had it," Jones rolled his eyes. "You black hats are all the same."

    "Enough," Cap tried to calm the situation down. Their argument had drawn the eyes of the entire bridge. "What's done is done. I sent Ant-Man for intel because if the Skull went after the Ark, he had a reason for it. I'm willing to bet he has some idea what he's doing."

    The three of them stood in silence while the bridge got back to work. All three were as stubborn as they were resilient, but Cap saw in Fury's eyes that he was defeated, "Fine. But if something happens to Lang, it's on your head."

    "Don't think that I don't worry when I send my team into the fire, Nick," Cap was resolute. "I'll wait for an update from Scott. If you need me, I'll be in the mess."

    **********

    "So he's a peach," Indy said after a long sip of beer. Steve had gone to his quarters to grab a six pack he had stashed away, and now the two were lounging in the carrier's mess hall. "He always like that?"

    "More or less," Steve nodded. "But you know COs. They're never your friend."

    "Not the way they talked about you," Jones tipped his beer to his old friend. "You inspired people in the darkest times."

    "Times have changed," was Steve's response. "This world...this is craziness."

    "I saw your team, Steve," the archaeologist reassured him. "They're no different than the old days."

    "The old days," Steve mused. "Before aliens, monsters, and mutants."

    "Yea, you were the only weird one back then."

    "How did it happen, by the way?" Rogers asked about Indiana's ******ed aging.

    "That business with the Grail," Jones shrugged. "We didn't figure it out until Marion turned forty and I still looked forty. We had the BPRD check me out. Found out I'll probably have double my normal life."

    A pregnant silence hung in the air after Indiana mentioned his late wife. Cap had only meant her once, briefly, when the three of them crossed paths in Africa during the war. She was a spitfire, the perfect counterbalance to Jones.

    "It must be tough to sit around and watch the person you love fade away," Steve shook his head. "I'm sorry, by the way. She was one of the good ones."

    "It's not easy," Indy nodded after another sip. "But I'm not jealous you woke up seventy years later."

    "Yea," Cap took a long gulp of beer, "here's to time, huh?"

    "I thought you couldn't get drunk?" he raised an eyebrow.

    "I can't," Rogers shrugged. "But it gives me some normalcy. And it creates a bond with the agents and my team."

    "Normalcy," Indy chuckled. "You ever think of getting out of all this? Starting a normal life?"

    "What is normal anymore, Indy?" Cap looked around the mess. "I can do more good here than anywhere. Back during the war all I wanted was to finish the fight. Go home and have a normal life. Now? I'm not convinced this is a fight that will end."

    "That's a sobering thought," Jones grumbled as he finished his beer.

    Cap opened two more beers, "Well let's fix that."
     
  4. Andy C. Repent, Harlequin!

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    "Hmmm....."

    I've never directly encountered the Mandarin myself, but everything I've seen about him spells trouble-- the ego and world-conquering ambition of Lex Luthor, and the old-world mysticism of Ra's al Ghul. And like the two of them, he's a manipulator, so striding out in broad daylight and causing senseless chaos probably isn't his style.

    "Well, once we get back to the Watchtower, we can look over the monitors and see if we can find what you saw," I say, giving Tony the benefit of the doubt. "If someone's messing with us, or with you in particular, then we should get to the bottom of it quickly. And if not, well, maybe a little down-time could do you some good."

    If Tony's on edge, he probably doesn't need to hear what I'm really thinking-- if Superman and Iron Man are standing around bickering on a completely undisturbed street corner, then there's currently nobody at the Watchtower. And considering how many times I've been misdirected by Lex or Brainiac or the like, I'd rather not see the same thing happen to one of my colleagues.

    "At any rate, people are starting to stare," I say, gesturing to the crowd of nervous onlookers, most of whom I assume are hoping that our presence doesn't mean an army of mole-people or a sun-eating monster are about to start terrorizing them. "Mind if we continue this conversation on the satellite?"
     
  5. SuperFerret King of the Urban Jungle

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    He's going to chew me out once we get into orbit, I just know it. I can't help but imagine how "disappointed father" he's going to get on me. I've been on the receiving end of that routine before, though it's been years since that last time. The less said about that the better. Might as well get this over with.

    "Tina, teleport us up," I say. "You know, she's fully capable of managing monitor duty on her own. I designed her to be independent, plus it's not like we won't have an A.I. on permanent duty eventually anyway."

    ...

    Nothing happens. I chuckle nervously and give Clark a sheepish grin. Yes, I know I'm wearing a face-concealing helmet, but I know he can see it. "Uhh... Tina? Come in Tina. Literally, Earth to Tina..."

    Nothing.

    "Something's wrong."
     
  6. Spider-Man9X17 Ultron was sitting on him

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    "Dr. Quinzel, I didn't expect to see you here on a Saturday. Everything ok?"

    [BLACKOUT]"Oh, better than ok. Just had some unexpected issues that needed my attention. No biggie."[/BLACKOUT]

    "Well, I gotta say, you seem really peppy for somebody here on her day off."

    [BLACKOUT]"I had a wonderful night last night, and today's looking to be even better."[/BLACKOUT]

    -

    Harley pulled a stick of black lipstick out of her pocket. Making sure she was out of sight, she reached up and colored in the lens of the security camera watching over the door to the boiler room. Taking an extra second, she glanced into the window of the door and applied a thick layer to her own lips.

    [BLACKOUT]"Beautiful."[/BLACKOUT]

    Slinging the Joker's bag over her shoulder, she swiped the access card of a janitor who lay dead at her feet, a single knife blade sticking out of his back.

    [BLACKOUT]"I'll bring this right back, promise."[/BLACKOUT]

    She descended the dark, damp staircase down to the massive generator area below. In truth, it was an old power substation in a decomissioned part of the Gotham sewer system that ran under the massive penitentiary. She didn't have enough explosives to take out the whole station, but she had obtained a layout of the structure, and knew where the key generators were: Cell blocks, security, blast doors. That would be more than enough. The ensuing pandemonium would take care of the rest.

    [BLACKOUT]"Mistah J is gonna be so happy. No Bat Brain or Bird Boy is gonna dare try and stop us now."[/BLACKOUT]

    -

    It was the smallest of shudders at first. You had to be prefectly still even to feel it. Even then, the guard manning the front desk thought it was just the rumble of a tractor-trailer going by on the highway.

    And then the first warning started flashing on the screen in front of him. Security protocols were going down. The screen suddenly went black and alarms started blaring. The cell blocks had lost power. The lights flickered and went out, soon bathing the area in the red glow of the emergency lights.

    More alarms blared. Then came a pop, followed by another, and then a volley of rapid pops. Gunfire.

    The guard jumped up, hand on his own gun as he navigated carefully through the dim light around his desk. It was in this dim setting that he had to do a double take, sure he couldn't be seeing what he thought he saw. A slender clown woman skipping merrily toward the front entrance.

    -

    Harley had switched into her tattered costume before setting the timers, and then doubled back around to the main adminstrative entrance of Arkham City. She had saved one last bomb for herself, a present for all the suits and beauracrats who had held her down all these years. She affixed the bomb to the large glass double doors, and then skipped happily the other way, producing a camera from the duffle bag.

    [BLACKOUT]"SELFIE!"[/BLACKOUT]

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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    December 22nd, 2009

    Gotham Central
    9:30 AM



    Harvey hit the head. He parked in front of a urinal and unzipped. The door swung open halfway through his piss. Someone loomed close. Harvey turned. Sergeant Flass towered over him. Flass smiled. His big hands closed around Harvey's shoulders. He shoved Harvey into the urinal. Water and pissed splash. He struggled. Flass' hands felt like vise grips. A knee in his lower back kept him pushed hard against porcelain.

    Flass got in close and whispered, "If you're going to keep snorting coke and shaking down dealers, make sure they're not Jefferson Skeevers' guys. Skeevers is a scumbag, but he has enough sense not to threaten a cop. That's why I am personally delivering this message. This constitutes your first and only warning, Bullock."

    Flass shoved him hard one more time. Harvey banged his head against the tile wall. Flass backed away. Harvey pushed away from the urinal and pressed against the wall. Flass was already at the door. He looked back at Harvey and winked.

    "Err again and I will kill you."

    He disappeared out the door. Harvey came out after him, water spritzed and reeking of piss. Whiskey Jim rounded the corner. He fish-eyed Harvey and took in his disheveled clothing.

    "Tidy your appearance, Detective, and come with me. We may have a lead on these killings."


    --


    9:46 AM

    Flass found Grogan in the Sex Crimes office. Three of his goons rifled through sex offender files, looking for a prime candidate for the Snapshot Killer frame job. Grogan had his feet hiked on the squad boss's desk. His pants leg rode up, a snub-nosed .38 peeked out from an ostrich skin boot.

    Two-Gun Jack spat tobacco juice in a chaw cup. "Arnold, come to help with the perp hunt?"

    Flass said, "Can we talk?"

    They went out to the parking garage. Flass wore a coat against the cold. Grogan went in just short sleeves. His twin holsters sagged. He slid the gunbelt up higher on his waist.

    Grogan said, "I'm all ears, son."

    "I saw Jeff Skeevers this morning. We had a conversation that pertained to you. It was quite troubling."

    "Finis your thought, boy. I hate being led around by the snout."

    "He said you owe a lot of money to Carmine Falcone and have been acting a bit unhinged lately."

    Grogan's hands twitched. "**** Skeevers and **** Falcone. Bunch of goddamn savages think they run this city. They are sorely mistaken on that front, and they can't muscle me."

    "Give me details, Cap. What's going on and how can I help?"

    Grogan spat juice on the pavement and said, "I made a few bad investments. Let's leave it at that. You want to help, help me close this goddamn serial killer case as soon as possible and we'll do what we can to mend fences before it's too late."


    --


    10:00 AM


    Jim drove through traffic. It was holidays heavy. People doing last minute Christmas shopping. He thought of Barbara. He hadn't gotten her anything for Christmas yet. This serial killer **** got in the way. He'd find time tonight to go shopping and get... he didn't know what she wanted.

    Bullock rode shotgun. He still looked spooked. Something happened to him. He remained mum on it and gazed out the window smoking cigarettes. Traffic hit a lull. They stalled out amidst traffic jams. Bullock tossed his smoke.

    "Why me?"

    Jim said, "What do you mean?"

    "Why bring me into all of this? I found the body, yeah, but I'm a Narco dick."

    "You're also very compromised. Your reputation proceeds you, Bullock. You are a well-known narcotics abuser who routinely shakes down drug dealers. Even with that baggage, your past casework implies that you are a competent investigator. Your drug use gives me a wedge I can use against you if you do not cooperate. While others tolerate your misdeeds, I will not hesitate to report you to Internal Affairs and have you thrown out of the department."

    Bullock snarled. "You're a ****ing prick, you know that?"

    "So I've been told many times. If you can clean up, I think you can be quite the comer in this police department."

    Jim hit the blue lights. Traffic parted quicksville. He hit the gas and sped through stalled traffic as fast as possible.

    Bullock said, "That's might high praise coming from Whiskey Jim."

    "Think nothing of it, Shakedown Harv."


    --



    Western Gotham
    11:03 AM



    It was a dive bar if there ever was one. Cramped space, tiny bar, rickety chairs, moth-eaten upholstery on booths. Harvey sat on a barstool and watched Gordon and Slam Bradley hit paydirt. An honest to god witness turned up during canvassing.

    He was tall and imposing as hell. He sent prickles down Bullock's chest. He reminded him of Flass. Flass' threat, whispered softly but full of malice. There was no impotence behind his words.

    Gordon said, "You work here as a bouncer, Mr. Norman?"

    Norman nodded. "Yeah, been here for a few years now. Call me Jake."

    Slam said, "Jake, tell Sergeant Gordon what you told me."

    Norman nodded again. "Okay. I was outside the bar here last night. It was dead, everyone spooked by the killings and I stepped out to have a smoke. I saw a woman walking towards the bar. I noticed her because she was the only one on the street."

    Gordon cleared his throat. "What time was this?"

    "About two in the morning."

    Harvey did the math. He found the dead girl's body around three thirty. ME's report put her time of death between one and three. It seemed to check out.

    Slam pulled a photo out. Crime scene pix of the dead girl's face straight on and at side angles. "This her?"

    Norman squinted. "Can't really tell. It was dark out and she didn't get close enough to see her face real good because, about halfway down the block this car pulls up. A white looking sedan. It idled there and talked to her for a minute and she got in. The car passed by the bar. It had a cracked windshield and dried mud all down the side. I saw a white man with dark hair driving the car."

    Harvey saw a look pass between Gordon and Slam. Excitement. A lead. Months without a goddamn trace, and now they had a lead on this son of a *****.
     
    #157 Byrd Man, Aug 20, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  8. Dblade26 Registered

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    New York City
    One of Many Cramped Chinatown Alleys

    What I'm looking down at now doesn't seem like a major drug deal.

    In fact what it does seem like is that a half-dozen gangsters are all stopping by a weird back alley flower vendor's truck to pick up presents for their dear, probably sick little nainai. The flowers are real enough and I'm pretty sure whoever's selling them has more than a few normal bunches just in case ordinary customers wander in by accident. They might not even know what it is they're really selling.

    But I do. The sickly-sweet aura from that many baskets of the Azure Lotus is making my skin crawl from here. Refined just right it becomes Asura Dust, a potent drug that can force the mind and body to temporarily open itself up to qi, completing a process that normally takes years of training in just a few minutes. It's a fairly new drug here in New York, but it's gotten pretty popular in the short amount of time it's been around. Come for the initial third-eye-opening 'hallucinations', stay for all the 'awesome ninja powers'.

    As I know all too well though, 'awesome ninja powers' never come without a price-tag. A body not trained to handle the sudden boost and usage of qi eventually burns out, and a mind that's never been trained to handle all the information from a brand new sense like that can go crazy from too much stimulation at once. So as soon as I'm sure that's what these toughs are here for I strike. Hard.

    The first man crumples like paper, a Thunderbolt Axe Kick dropped on him from the rooftops doesn't leave much room for resistance. I roll to absorb some of the impact and come up between two others, still blinking in shock. The backward driving elbow of a Monkey Blow and the inexorable forward momentum of a Ram's Head Punch keep them both off-balance as I twist into a narrow profile then quickly grip the man I'm now facing by the shirt and throw him bodily into his friend.

    "Only three down in...what, five, six seconds? Does it seem like I'm getting slower to you guys?"

    I'm bantering for a tough crowd today. I can tell because the three guys left all draw weapons.

    A hatchet and a machete come out first, so I guess those two are still sticklers for Chinese crime traditions. Luckily after seeing my entrance they don't look eager to try and flank me, but just in case I make my move first. I charge the hatchet-man then leap up and over him then as I land I meet his pal with the machete face-to-face. Literally. Because sometimes all the mystical, fancily named arts of K'un-L'un are no substitute for the reliability of The Brooklyn Headbutt. I turn to face the whirling, still bewildered axe guy as his friend crumples but unfortunately by-now-familiar feel of a cold steel chain suddenly wraps around my throat. Careless. Never lose count of your opponents.

    Machete-man goes from shocked to pleased in an instant as he moves to cut me up and only K'un-L'un conditioning keeps the chain from crushing my throat and cutting off my air as the third man in the back tightens his grip.

    "G-gackt! Really guys? a kusarigama? Because it's not like that sticks out on market day and aren't you guys Chi-ack!"

    The banter and choking are an act, a distraction. Because while I'm talking I'm also focusing my chi, strengthening my arms, my neck, my back with power from within. So that as the machete is raised high, I grab on the chain and whip myself forward. The man on the other end sails forward and crashes into his friend, and that's all of them down, if not exactly as planned.

    "So that just leaves-"

    The flower vendor...and apparently his submachine gun.

    “...oh 屌你!"

    ---
    When it's finally over a few very rapid heartbeats later I don't feel very satisfied. Sure I stopped the pickup without getting riddled with holes, but some magical mind-screw blanked anything the vendor knew the second I started asking the right questions. As for the others, they're Chiantang's men, and I doubt the Black Dragon's thugs know more than he needs them to know. So naturally I'm a little frustrated and-

    <<"Cool! You MUST be the Iron Fist!">>

    The sudden use of a K'un-L'un dialect puts me on edge and I'm already whirling into action by the time I figure out that the 'threat' I'm facing is a little girl. One who's grinning ear-to-ear and dressed like she just came from the mountain entrances in Tibet. I try to talk but she immediately starts babbling like a mountain stream.

    <<"What was that move where you hit the big guy with your head? How long did it take you to learn to dodge bullets and can you teach me to do that qi-focusing thing and why were you fighting these guys anyways 'cause-">>

    She's obviously been watching me for some time and glad to let me know it. Finally, I get a word in edgewise.

    <<"What's a girl from K'un-L'un doing here?">>

    She stops for a second, looking sheepish as she reaches into an pocket of an oversized coat no doubt lined with yak fur, or perhaps yeti if she's wealthy...

    <<"The Thunderer sent me. To give you this!">>

    What she pulls out looks like a small fragment of a gem or crystal, pulsing softly with gold light. But what I notice half a second later is that is that the alley is growing dimmer, colder, as if sunlight suddenly fails to reach us. Laughter suddenly echoes as the light fades, laughter I know all too well. With it come spectral shapes, drifting up through the street, out of the walls, lining the roof.

    The Ghost Ninja.

    Appearing before me now not just as one man, as he had in the past, but as dozens, maybe hundreds of duplicates. They turn to stare at me as one being, speaking in unison.

    "Iron Fist! I told you I would return, that my Master would claim your soul. Now give me the gem and the girl and I shall make your damnation begin quickly!"

    Naturally, I did what any true hero would do when faced with an endless, spectral ninja-hivemind making demands.

    I grabbed the girl, stuck out my tongue and ran.
    ---
    New York City
    Elevator of The Rand Tower

    It took several harrowing minutes, three rooftops, two pressure-points involving a false state of death and a wheelbarrow full of ripe melons but I managed to give the Ghost Ninja the slip while keeping the girl-apparently named Pei-safe and sound.

    Now after a quick change of clothes on my part we were going to one of the places I always thought of when I needed a safehouse: the penthouse floor of my father's tower, the epicenter of the Rand Incorporated business empire and thanks to the non-lethally re-purposed efforts of one Harold Meachum, one of the most heavily defended and booby-trapped office buildings in New York.

    It had taken every skill I learned as Iron Fist to storm this tower during my hunt for Meachum nearly two years ago and even with the traps re-engineered so as not to kill, I'd overseen the upgrades myself. With any luck we could rest here while Pei explained-

    *ding*

    As the elevator rose and opened, my hopes fell. Because sitting there at my father's old desk, in my father's old chair, was a man I'd hoped with every fiber of my being was dead and gone.

    A man whose knowledge of martial arts equaled mine when it didn't surpass it outright. A man who had once been like a brother to my father before swearing vengeance against all of my bloodline. A man exiled from K'un-L'un decades ago for turning down a dark and twisted path to power and who can and has used that power to rip the life-force right out of the bodies of others.

    Davos, the Steel Serpent.

    "Danny. We need to talk."
     
  9. Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    The Speedforce flows back into me like a tidal wave washing over a beach. I snap the collar off my neck and slide it across the floor at Desmond, "Now you're in big, big trouble, doc."

    Before I can reach him, however, a Blockbuster mutant cuts me off. It lets out a low, grumbling growl as it cracks its knuckles and walks towards me. I back up slowly, drawing him towards the edge of the elevated platform. Over my shoulder, I can see Barry dealing with his own mutant, and more on the way.

    "Listen, big guy," I put my hands up as I reach the edge of the platform, "I don't think you want to do what you're about to do. I'd advise against it, at least."

    The mutant raises its hands over its head before slamming them down towards me. I easy step out of the way, and the Blockbuster behemoth goes tumbling over the edge. He slams down face first onto the steel grating below, and I sigh, "I just tried to warn him. The kids never listen."

    Turning my attention to Barry, I see that he's now fully surrounded by Blockbuster mutants. I speed through their ranks next to my mentor.

    "Sounds like a plan to me," I adjust my goggles. "I'll take the ugly ones. You take the uglier ones."

    There's something about two speedsters working together. Sure, one speedster by their lonesome is something to behold, but two of them together is like a work of art. The two of us are barely visible as we weave in and out of the hulking creatures. Their elevated physical attributes allow them to spot us, but they're not fast enough to catch us.

    I slide between two of them, tapping one on the shoulder as I do. He spins and throws a punch that I easily duck. The blow lands across the chin of the other, flooring him. I chuckle at the enemy who just knocked out his friend, "Thanks, buddy!"

    Another mutant tries to tackle me from behind. I zoom behind him, kicking him across his backside and sending him tumbling into the other. I look over to Barry, "You'd think the genius scientist would have made genius super strong mutants. These guys are dumber than rocks."
     
  10. Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    "A giant, mutant alligator?" Donnie spun around away from his computer screens after his brothers.

    "You forgot that he could talk," Mikey added helpfully.

    "But where did it come from?" Donnie was pondering the development. "If it was down here the entire time we definitely would have seen it before. I mean, it at least would have tripped my motion sensors way before this."

    "Well, that clearly means this creature has not been living side by side with us this entire time," Splinter stroked the fur on his chin as he thought. "Meaning it had been placed here recently."

    "The Foot," Leo drew the only logical conclusion. "The Foot are using the mutagen at TCRI to create their own mutants, and sending them directly to us."

    The five of them thought on the situation. They were all strong, fast, and dangerous. If they had been raised the wrong way, without the moral righteousness of Splinter to guide them, who knows the damage they would be able to do to the city. If the Foot were really creating their own mutants, they could kill hundreds, let alone the Turtles.

    "They're creating biological weapons," Donnie shook his head. "I mean literal biological creatures. If they send one of them into the city..."

    "If they send some into the city, people are going to die," Raph spat. "A lot of people. This thing was strong."

    "Dude, more importantly it's fast," Mikey sighed. "Like Leo said, ambush predator. It could snap people out of the dark."

    "It'd create a panic," Leo nodded. "And it would draw attention to us."

    "Two things the Foot would be eager to facilitate," Splinter agreed. "We must worry about the source secondly, though. Our first order of business must be to find and neutralize this alligator."

    "Leatherhead," Mike corrected his surrogate father.

    "Yes, Leatherhead," Splinter smiled patiently at his youngest son.

    "Any ideas, Donnie?" Leo looked at the smartest turtle.

    "I can cook something up," Donnie nodded. "I'll need some time."

    "Gotcha. In the mean time, get some rest," Leo said to the others. "We'll need our strength."
     
  11. Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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    December 22nd, 2009
    Western District Station
    11:38 PM



    The fat child molester spat blood. Flass sapped him across the face with a blackjack. Interrogation room. Fatty handcuffed to the bolted down chair. He screamed. Two-Gun Jack Grogan sat in the far corner and peeled an orange with a switchblade.

    Grogan said, "Chester York. You're a disgusting pervert."

    Flass worked the fat man's ribs with the blackjack. He squealed like a pig. Grogan haw-hawed and bit into an orange slice. Flass' arms felt numb. Sweat stung his face. Going on twelve hours since they started their perv hunt. GCPD wanted the Snapshot Killer found post haste regardless of innocence. Pin it on a major creep, preferably one far enough off the deep end to protest their innocence.

    Grogan popped another orange slice and said, "You know, I ain't never met a boy named Chester who wasn't some kind of fiend. But you, son, you take the cake. All them women you killed, and for what exactly? Did it get you off?"

    York spat teeth. "I didn't kill nobody! I like kids! Grown women it ain't my thing! Killing ain't my thing!"

    Grogan touched the tip of his stetson. I meant GO HARd. Flass backhanded York with the sap. Flass worked arms and legs with the sap. Yorking screamed loud. Bones snapped over the yells.

    Fatty York gasped for air. He coughed up blood and teeth and said, "I'll... do whatever you tell me, I'll say what... whatever you want. Just stop hitting me."

    Flass stepped back. Grogan spat pulp on the floor and smiled.

    "Excellent. We're gonna get the DA in here and you're gonna confess. Now, let Sergeant Flass coach you on exactly what to say."


    *****​


    Gotham Central
    12:19 AM



    Jim swigged booze from a coffee cup and got back to work. He, Slam, Bullock were a three man cold case squad. They were sequestered in Jim and Slam's Homicide workspace. Stacks and stacks of old sex crimes on the desk. Slam thumbed through it with Bullock's help. Jim sat on a computer, searching for known criminals who were white men with dark hair who owned a white sedan.

    Slam sucked on a cigar and blew smoke. "This sex offender **** is sctrictly from hunger, Jim. If our guy was a rape-o or a pervert, why didn't he poke any of the girls?"

    A brainwave. The search for a diddler or panty-sniffer played wrong. HIS guy was a voyeur. He was passive up until the point of the killings. He was a peeper.

    Slam said, "To hell with this. I know this is important, but I need a goddamn break. Anybody want some sandwiches?"

    Slam took orders and headed out to the deli across the street. Jim looked at Bullock. He kept working the case files. His shoulders sagged and his fingers twitched. Jim knew the look. Bullock was coming down hard. He'd need a fix soon. Jim turned back to the computer. He rode his brainwave to the keyboard, narrowed his search for white, dark haired men who owned white sedans AND who had some kind of peeping rap sheet.

    Ten minutes later he hit paydirt. Durfee, Chris NMI. 3/10/86. White male, black hair and brown eyes. He got popped with peeping tom beefs in '01, '04, '07, two in '08. The last string of offenses sent him to prison for six months. His release date sent skin prickles down Jim's spine: 8/21/09. Three weeks before the first Snapshot Killer victim.

    Jim stood up. His legs wobbled. He held on to the desk to right himself. He looked over at Bullock. "I think I've found our guy. We need to go, right now."

    Bullock looked around. "What about Slam? What about backup."

    Jim could feel the case's solving on his fingertips. Eight murders solved. His glory case drew nigh. His reputation cemeted.

    "Not enough time, let's go!"

    --

    Western Gotham City
    1:10 AM



    Jim pulled the unmarked up to the curb. Snow fell in flurries across the street. Durfee's listed address: A flophouse easy walking distance to all of the murders. It coalesced into theory. It gave Jim goosbumps. He popped the trunk. Bullock got out. Jim got out and opened the trunk. A pump shotgun sitting in the back. He picked it up and racked a round into the chamber.

    Jim said, "Cover the back while I go in the front."

    Bullock scampered towards the flop's rear entrance. Jim's feet crunched on snow as he went to the front door. Christmastime in Gotham. Snow flurries flecked his hair. Red, numbing hands on cold gunmetal. His ambition coalesced with absolute justice, opportunity sprung forth. Bold dreams required bold action. Eight women were dead. Heinous crimes required swift resolution.

    Jim said a Hail Mary and kicked the door in. There's Durfee, on a tattered couch in soiled tighty whities. Jim tried to say 'Police' and 'You're under arrest.' Nothing came out. THERE: Durfee moves for something. Jim squeezes the trigger on the shotgun. It kicked back. Durfee's chest caved in. Jim screamed and fired again. A second shot blew his face off. Durfee flopped backwards on the floor twitching.

    He dropped the shotgun. Blood spatter on his glasses. He shuffled to Durfee. Saw he was going for a cell phone on the table. Jim let out a dry sob. He stepped over Durfee's body. He stumbled into the kitchen. He upended the table. A box flopped on to its side. Pictures spilled out. Polaroid shots of all eight women killed by the Snapshot Killer. Jim's ears rang. Meaty hands on his shoulder. Bullock's He heard the sirens. Cops on the scene. They gawked. They cheered and gave Jim pats on the back.

    One of them said, "It's down. The whole goddamn case is down.

    One of them laughed and said, "Gordon, who would have thought?"

    Someone said, "Shotgun Jim."
     
  12. Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    In New York City, being able to swing from buildings and crawl up walls will open doors for you. Like, literally. No, really, you'd be amazed at how many skylights and rooftop access doors go completely unchecked in this city. To my delight, it appears that The Black Cat is not an exception to this rule. It's a good thing, too, because I'm still a few weeks shy of being able to walk in through the front entrance, and I don't have access to a fake ID. Now, don't go thinking that ol' Peter Parker is some kind of wet blanket teetotaler! I'll have you know that I tried a beer... once... and didn't completely hate it.

    In any case, getting inside the club turns out to be a cinch. Navigating it? Decidedly less simple. The lenses in my mask are actually pretty good for visibility, but they can be a bit limiting in a dark atmosphere such as this one. Of course, that wouldn't be a problem if my eyes were given time to adjust... but the barrage of strobe and laser lights overhead conspire to keep that from happening. Then, there's the music. Up here among the rafters, it's little more than a constant, deafening boom-boom-boom. It literally rattles the metal beams upon which I've perched. And to think, people actually pay to get this experience!

    It probably would've helped if I came here with a plan of some sort, but that's just not my style. Instead, I've decided to rely on the old "I'll know it when I see it" strategy. After a minute or two of getting my bearings, that "a-ha" moment comes. Across the way, I spot a set of metal stairs snaking up towards some kind of office above the dance floor. Tinted windows slant up and out over the club, giving the occupants a birds-eye-view of the club's goings-on. If I'm going to find anything resembling a lead in this case, I'm betting that office is a good place to start looking. I clamber across the ceiling towards it.

    Once above the office's massive slanted windows, I press my hands against the glass and try to peer inside. The tint -- combined with my limited visibility behind my mask -- makes it almost impossible to make out anything more than basic shapes, but the office appears unoccupied. I detach from the wall with a gentle flip and test the door handle. Locked. Not unexpected, but nothing that a little Spider-Strength can't handle. I apply a little stiffer pressure and feel the locking mechanism crack under the strain. The door swings open, and I let myself inside.

    I've already racked up trespassing and breaking-and-entering, so this better pan out.

    The office is surprisingly elegant. A mahogany desk sits in front of two large paintings which nearly cover the far wall from floor to ceiling. In the center of the room, there's a white fur rug. There are sofas and armchairs -- all leather -- positioned around a glass coffee table, with a view of the club through the wall of windows. I'm starting to feel like Captain Stacy was right; club ownership pays well, I'm sure, but not this well. If there is shady business going on at The Black Cat, it's not hard to imagine that it goes down in this very room.

    "Alright, Spidey, what's your gut telling you?" I ask myself aloud. "Is the safe behind one of those two paintings or underneath this rug?"

    "Neither, actually."

    The voice stops me dead in my tracks. I spin to see a figure -- a woman, actually -- standing in the open doorway. Behind her, an even larger person dressed in a black suit looms. The woman slinks into the office, and I get my first good look at her. And I do mean a good look, because my God! Her silvery hair falls over her shoulders and halfway down her back. Her eyes are a soul-piercing green, and her lips curl upwards to give the appearance of a constant smirk. The black dress she wears goes down to her ankles, but a slit runs up the side of the leg nearly to her waist, leaving very little to the imagination.

    In short, it's not the kind of woman you want to surprise you when you're wearing skintight spandex... if you catch my drift.

    Baseball. Old people. That one time you accidentally called your third grade teacher "mom" in front of the whole class.

    "Well, well," the woman purrs, "If it isn't the elusive Spider-Man. I can't say I pegged you as the clubbing type."

    I feel myself backpedaling to maintain the distance between us, but I'm quickly running out of space. Despite the lump in my throat, I find my voice long enough to respond, "I'm not exactly here for the ambiance." I manage to take my eyes off the woman long enough to size up her escort, a man easily six and a half feet tall with arms like a gibbon. Turning my attention back to her, I ask, "Do you run this establishment?"

    She nods, continuing her slow advance. "I do. Wish you would've told me that you were coming tonight; I would've advertised the hell out of it. 'A chance to see New York's own wall-crawler!'" She laughs, a deep sultry sound. "I could've gotten away with charging twice as much a head just to get in."

    "You're quite the shrewd businesswoman, huh, Miss... ?"

    "Hardy," she answers. She's nearly within arm's reach. I can start to smell her perfume, vanilla of some kind. She never breaks eye contact, so I'm glad she can't see my eyes looking away at every opportunity. "But my friends call me Felicia."

    My butt bumps up against the edge of her desk, and I startle myself. Felicia laughs; her muscle just scowls. "Well, we aren't friends," I announce, trying to sound tough and unfazed. From the look on her face, it doesn't seem like she's buying it. I don't blame her. Even I don't buy it. "So, just how much of this office was paid for by the illegal sale of stolen goods?"

    That makes her laugh, too. "Most people work their way up to such an accusation."

    "I'm not most people."

    "You certainly aren't," she grins. As she crosses behind her desk, I spin around to keep her in front of me without losing sight of her muscle. He stares at me with a mean look on his flat-nosed face. "You should be careful, Spider. A girl might take offense to having her character defamed. Particularly by someone so--" Felicia trails off as her eyes fall on her computer.

    I shift in my spot. "Well, don't keep me in suspense. 'Someone so...' what? Handsome? Charming?"

    "This isn't possible. Someone accessed my restricted files," Felicia announces. Her eyes dart up to me. "That doesn't make sense. You weren't here long enough, and no one else had access to this room except..."

    As Felicia turns to her muscle, the man moves with alarming quickness. He wraps a giant hand around her throat and lifts her off the ground. In one fluid motion, he throws her with all his strength at the plexiglass windows. As I watch the window shatter, he hurtles the computer monitor at my head; only my Spider-Sense alerts me in time to avoid getting hit. The man makes a break for the office door, and I move to stop him, but I can't let Felicia drop. With a running start, I swan dive out the empty window frame.

    Though I manage to catch Felicia in my arms, there isn't enough time to fire a quick web-line. I settle for Plan B, twisting us around in mid-air so that I take the brunt of the impact. We crash into a table, and I feel the jolt running up my spine, but Felicia at least appears unharmed. We lay there for a moment -- me, waiting for the pain to subside, and Felicia, catching her breath. That's when I become painfully aware of the proximity of our bodies.

    Cold showers. Cold showers! COLD SHOWERS!

    "My hero," Felicia smirks.

    I let go of my grip on her body and groan. "Don't flatter yourself. I do it for everybody." She rolls off of me, and I stumble to my feet. The stunned crowd has formed a circle around us, awestruck by the incredible scene. In the distance, I see a wave of people getting pushed aside by our fleeing attacker. I can't let him escape. "Don't think this is over," I tell Felicia. "I still want to know how you were going to finish that sentence."

    I pick a spot on the catwalk and fire a web-line at it, yanking myself high above the crowd as I look for our man.
     
  13. Blind_Lawyer Full Blown Murdock

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    I perceive it all from the catwalks above. The sound waves bouncing around outline a figure swinging through a window and climbing up the wall. Spider-Man. It must be darker in here than I first imagined for him to try that in plain sight. Fortunately, my “sight” is anything but plain.

    Spider-Man vanishes, but I soon pick him up again. The signal is faint this time. Clearly, he’s in another room. Now, I’m torn. Do I continue to survey the crowd in the hopes of coming across a few skateboarders or two? Or do I observe Spider-Man? I have never met Spider-Man. All I know of him comes from second-hand accounts. According to Ben, J. Jonah Jameson uses the Bugle as his personal soapbox to crucify Spider-Man in the media, portraying him as a menace or a criminal. But I’ve also talked to other people, people who swear Spider-Man is a hero. I’d like to think the latter is true. Believe me, I understand the mask and the spandex and the misconceptions that go along with them.

    Confident after Spider-Man’s brazen entrance that I am bathed in the shadows much more than previously thought, I creep along the catwalks, getting close to the far end of the club, close to what I can only assume is the manager’s office. There’s so much noise, I can’t discriminate between signals of substance and those of no consequence. But someone’s in the office talking. Three heartbeats, confident voices, and the aroma of a woman’s vanilla perfume. If I can smell it from here, I’d hate to be in the room with them. No, that’s exactly where I want to be. With all the music, the commotion on the dance floor, the clanking of glasses together, of yelling and hollering, drunk females attempting—with varying degrees of success—to sing along to the music, it’s all too much. Any one signal is getting lost.

    Damn it. What now, Murdock?

    Maybe I should confront Spider-Man? After all, he’s one of the good guys too. Maybe he’s trying to clear Parker’s name too? Maybe we should work together? Maybe? Maybe you shoulda just stayed in the kitchen, Matt. Lower Manhattan is so not my beat. I guess I can always—

    Something happens. I hear the sounds of glass shattering followed by a woman’s scream. The aroma of vanilla assaults my nose. Taking all that in, plus recognizing two figures from the office now on the floor, I immediately deduce that the third person in the room just tossed the woman through a window. And Spider-Man saved her.

    Suddenly, the music stops. After a few screams, there is nothing but a stunned silence, a hundred voices suddenly put on mute as people look down at the floor to see a grown man dressed as a spider holding a woman as they sit in a nest of shattered glass.

    That third person from the office, with a big, strong and determined heartbeat, stomps down the stairs and is making his way to the exit. Let him go. He’s not why you’re here.

    A woman screams as the big Neanderthal pushes his way through the crowd, tossing civilians aside like junk mail.

    “Outta my way!” the woman’s scream is cut short with the sounds of thumping and breaking glass. Okay. Well, this guy just made this my fight.

    I home in on the heat signatures from the lamps around me on the catwalk. I toss my billy clubs at them. I grin when I hear a satisfied shatter. The lights are out. Without the benefit of training his senses as I have, this idiot will be bumbling around in the dark trying to find the exit. But he knows the layout of the place. This won’t slow him down much.

    Spider-Man, the woman, and the man are lost in a flood of screaming coming from the dance floor. People are frightened. A hundred terrified heartbeats rise up to pound my ears into mush. I call down to the general direction of Spider-Man.

    “You! Take care of the girl. Keep these people safe. I’m going after him!”

    I grin as I imagine poor Spider-Man looking around the darkness, completely baffled by the voice talking to him for above. Maybe he thinks it’s the voice of God. Little does he know it’s the Devil.

    I leap down from the catwalks above and zero in on our strongman. As I crash down upon him and jam knees and elbows into his pressure points, he collapses to the floor.

    “Dude! What the hell?”

    I let up immediately. The man’s outline is different. He’s smaller and his skin feels smooth, as if very young. Wait…I…I jumped on the wrong guy? Impossible! I…I…don’t know what the hell’s going on.

    “Sorry,” I offer.

    I stand up and let my radar take a 360-degree scan of the room. “The big guy? Where did he go?” I can’t locate him anywhere. Sigh. This is precisely why I never leave the kitchen. When I get this Parker kid off, he’d better go out and cure cancer and invent a way to eat barbecue ribs without making a mess.

    Suddenly, my groin burns with fire. I was sucker kicked right in the—

    The kid I landed on kicked me and ran off. He doesn’t get far. I corner him on the fire escape as he ducks his way out the window. But he’s got the high ground. And I’ve got his Nike in my face.

    The kick is strong, but amateur. He has no real training.

    I spit blood onto the railing. “What are you kicking me for?”

    The only reply is the sounds of pressure agonizing the old, rusted joints of the fire escape, the sounds of which move higher and higher up the building.

    I follow in pursuit, making my way up to the rooftop. I bang my billy club on the ledge to create enough vibrations to outline the figure on the roof. It’s that of a small child, a little girl huddled under the water tower.

    “Is the bad man gone?” the little girl asks. But without the commotion of the club, I’m able to read this heartbeat very well. It’s not that of a child. It’s strong and determined.

    “What are you?” I ask.

    “Your worst nightmare!”

    My hesitation was slight, but it was enough. Encountering what I thought was briefly a child, I had let my guard down. It wasn’t for long, but it was long enough. And now, there’s nothing between me and the asphalt of Lexington Avenue except for an 80-foot drop. I hesitated and let him—it—knock me off the roof. Ah, yes. This was so much better than ice cream with Karen...

    I keep calm and instead of flailing my limbs I keep my body still and pull my billy club from its holster. I press a button in the handle and the thing bisects into a kind of grappling hook. If I can just toss it around the base of that water tower or find a gargoyle—anything!—I can stop my fall. But I don’t need to. Something thwips me in the chest and I slow to a nice, controlled descent.
     
  14. Andy C. Repent, Harlequin!

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    [​IMG]



    Damn it, Tony, this is why we have procedures in place. We don't run off from our shift when there are other people who could be dispatched to check the emergency out for us, so the Watchtower--not to mention the world--doesn't get left unattended. We watch out for each other, we don't go flying off without warning when personal issues come up. And we do it because we can't afford not to-- if something goes wrong, innocent people can die.

    I don't say it out loud-- I don't even shoot him a glance-- but it's hanging in the air between us. Tony may be reckless and arrogant and outright childish at times, but he knows right from wrong, and he knows when he's made a mistake. Drilling it in is just going to make things worse.

    Besides, if something's wrong, we don't need Iron Man beating himself up; we need him alert and ready to act.

    "Watchtower. Now." I say to him. Before he can protest that his suit can get him there just fine, I hook an arm around him and take off.

    I'm sure he'd make some crack about the awkwardness of me carrying him, but since we're traveling about a tenth of the speed of light, it lasts for a fraction of a fraction of a second before we're aboard the space station and let him go.

    Focusing my telescopic vision through the walls and floors, scanning for any traces of his metallic construct, I search every millimeter of the station on a microscopic level. And while I'm not harmed by the effects of the intense cold of space, I nonetheless feel a chill down my spine.

    "Tony," I say, "Platinum's gone. There's no one else here. The Watchtower is empty...."
     
  15. Blind_Lawyer Full Blown Murdock

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    [​IMG]

    INT. WAREHOUSE – NIGHT (DREAM SEQUENCE)

    MISTY and RICKY are creeping through a dark, empty warehouse out in East Harlem, their guns and flashlight beams pointing the way. Stacks of boxes surround them. A ticking sound reverberates through the soundtrack getting louder until Misty, about 30 feet in front of Ricky, stops dead in her tracks.


    Tick…tick…tick

    I’m back in th-that place again! The smell of creosote, the damp walls, my partner Ricky shaking his radio—“Radio’s busted, shot to hell. Have to go back to the car to call the bomb squad.”

    The son of a b***h actually left me! “Ricky!” I’d cried. “Ricky! No! Don’t dare bail on me!”

    But he did. Because he’d heard the ticking? No. Oh, in a metaphorical way, maybe, but not in the literal one. He was too far away to hear. In fact, as I recall, his ass never actually got within 20 feet of the ticking. He didn’t hear it and didn’t see it.

    “Radio’s busted, shot to hell. Have to go back to the car to call the bomb squad.”

    Then how the f**k he know to call the bomb squad?

    And that’s where I’m at, that’s the place I’m in—that place only a few people outside of Julius Caesar understand…

    “Ricky! No! Don’t dare bail on me!”

    But he did. He turned, without a trace of emotion on his face, and ran and ran and ran. The last thing I remember seeing was his figure in silhouette running out that warehouse door, getting smaller and smaller as I stood alone, confused, and betrayed, looking down as the numbers on the timer counted down to zero.

    And that’s…that’s when it all went…

    BOOM!

    SMASH CUT TO:

    INT. MISTY’S BEDROOM – CONTINUOUS

    Misty bolts upright in bed, in complete darkness, in a cold sweat, breathing heavily. She calms herself and continues sitting upright, catching her breath.


    It’s that nightmare again. It’s always that nightmare. That one that was real, you know? With the bomb, the explosion, the shattered glass, twisted steel and suffocating rubble. And then my happy black ass flying across the room, screaming at the top of my lungs, as I stare in horror at the blood spewing from the stump that used to be my right arm.

    And then the doctors and the hospital and the recovery process…learning to use this…this thing!

    But that’s not the nightmare. I flick on my bedside light and look down at the sight of the gleaming alloy of my bionic arm. The shine in this metal is…I can see my own reflection in it—and I don’t look happy.

    I hunch my shoulders and roll my head around in circles for a bit—until I experience some very satisfying neck pops, yawn, and look over at the notebook on the bedside table.

    I roll my eyes, but whatever. What can it hurt?

    CUT TO:

    INT. CHURCH BASEMENT – NIGHT

    Misty and other PTSD PATIENTS sit around a counselor. One of the patients, KATIE is speaking and everyone is listening.


    My momma would flip if she saw me chewing my nails like this, but damn. My life is bad enough, I really don’t want to come down here to listen to how miserable other people are. Like this chick Katie that’s up there now, telling her sob story, having an emotional breakdown, surviving only off the positive energy she gets from all the “ohs” and “awws” and hugs and all that s***.

    She’s a sweet person and all, don’t get me wrong, but…I don’t do hugs.

    You need two arms for that.

    “Misty?”

    I look up as I tug at the sleeve of my red leather jacket. Been fiddling with it since I walked in. It’s like I can’t pull it down far enough. Been taking my left hand and trying to pull my sleeve down around my hand, swallowing it up entirely. “Yes, ma’am?”

    Our counselor, a plump, pretty woman named Rose who—in my opinion—wears way too much make-up, stares back at me. “Are you still having the nightmares?”

    I sit in awkward silence for a few moments, wanting to quell the few encouraging words from my fellow patients rather than draw inspiration from them. So I speak.

    “Naw, I’m good. I haven’t had a nightmare in a while.” f*** it. Why fight it? I’m here anyway. “That’s not true. Had one again last night. And the worst part is? I know I’m dreaming. When they happen I mean, in the dream, I know it’s a dream. And I know it’s the 8,000th time I’ve had that dream, and I know how it ends, and I know…I know everything. Complete situational awareness”—I pause, forming the words in my head and making sure they sound acceptable before saying them out loud—“and I still…blow up again each night.”

    “How long has it been since your accident?” Katie asks me.

    “A year. About a year now. In fact, a year from tomorrow.”

    Rose asks me if I’ve noticed the nightmares intensifying as the anniversary of the attacks draws near. I shrug and tell her that I don’t know, but I don’ t think so. But I’m not sure. That’s really the truth too.

    Rose shifts in her seat. “You know, some former patients of mine who had all survived traumas and were suffering from PTSD, responded to closure. Some patients learn to deal with their issues through therapy, medication, a combination of the two and that works okay, but some patients aren’t able to cope until they get…closure.”

    “Closure,” I say, nodding. “I’m hung over as s*** because I was guzzling wine at three a.m. Alone, straight from the bottle, while eating Chinese takeout—that I reheated in the microwave, mind you!” I stop and shake my head. The words are spilling from my mouth faster than I can process them in my brain. “So there I am, a grown woman, sittin’ up in her underwear, eating lo mien with a fork, and sucking on a cabernet like it was Kool-Aid. I even woke up with a cabernet moustache this morning.” I blink as someone in the back snickers. Someone else shushes them: “Shh!”

    I stop, feeling foolish, feeling vulnerable—gullible even. I start to shake my head but Rose urges me on.

    “If getting closure gets my life back on track, I’ll close the gates of hell if I have to.”
     
  16. Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    [​IMG]
    "Astute, Kid Flash, very astute. You see, I had the same worry," Dr. Desmond chimes in before I can respond. He stumbles forward a step, wiping a thin trail of blood from his nose on the back of his hand. Kid must've popped him good while they were tussling. "In the hands of a common brute, the Blockbuster formula can turn an ordinary foe into an extraordinary one. But in the right hands?" He plunges a needle into each thigh and grimaces. When his eyes meet ours again, he's grinning from ear to ear.

    "Desmond, what have you done?"

    Flesh ripples, muscles bulge. Desmond's shirt and lab coat are shredded as they fail to contain the expanding mass of his body. His toes erupt out of his shoes. In an instant, he grows at least a foot and a half in height. Something's different about this transformation. Desmond doesn't look as monstrous, as grotesque as his underlings. His skin is still pulled taut across his body, but rather than tearing it merely flattens against the folds of his newly-grown muscles. He even retains most of his facial features, albeit in distorted proportions.

    And he's still smiling.

    "Confession time," the new Blockbuster rumbles, "I may have reserved the purest batch for myself. You never can be too careful -- particularly when superheroes are snooping around!" He plants a massive foot forward and brings his hands together, creating a seismic clap which knocks Wally and I off our feet. As we tumble across the factory floor, Desmond makes a rattling noise that must be a laugh.

    As I pull myself to my feet, I spot something glinting behind Desmond's enormous foot: the restraint collar that he tried to use against us. He did say that it was designed to control Blockbusters. It might be a quick and easy way of subduing Desmond before this gets completely out of hand. I give Kid Flash a nod before breaking for the collar. It's nearly in arm's reach when something smacks me in the gut.

    "Oof!"

    I double over and fall backwards. Desmond stands above me, admiring his clenched fist. "See, that's the key. That's what these mindless beasts can't wrap their brains around: the only way to catch a speedster is to anticipate where he'll be next." He turns his head and glances at the collar on the floor. "A clever trick, Flash, but cleverness alone won't stop me." He looks to Wally. "How about it, Junior? Want to try and succeed where your mentor failed? Take your best shot."
     
  17. Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    [​IMG]

    Raphael rolled the modified tranquilizer syringe in his hand. The needle was big, bigger than he had seen before, but he still looked at Donatello with doubt in his eye, "I dunno, Don. You really think this is gonna work? I went up against this guy. I don't think it's going to be easy to get this through his hide. It's thick."

    "This was the best I could do on short notice," Donnie defended the improvised weapons. He had come up with them in a single night after realizing how dire their situation was. "You'll need to get him on a soft point. Between scales, under the arms, or inside his mouth."

    "Oh, inside his mouth?" Mikey's eyes widened. "I dunno if you know, but that's probably the last place we want to be, Donnie."

    "Everyone relax," Leo attempted to reign in his brothers' emotions. "We'll all be together this time. Raph hurt this guy yesterday, and he won't be as confident coming at as as he was. Donnie says there's a spillway runoff a few hundred yards from where we ran into him. That's where he's probably shacked up. That's where we'll go first."

    "And if he's not there?"


    "If he's not there, we hope that he isn't going to ambush us on the way home."

    "Great plan," Mikey sighed. "I love it. What could go wrong?"

    "If I lose a hand, Donnie better be able to make me a robot one."

    "Yea! Darth Turtle!" Mikey high-fived Raph.

    "No one's losing a hand," Leo said as he picked up his swords. "And if they do, we're totally giving them a hook or something."

    **********

    April's strengthening strikes slammed against the pads on Casey's hands. He smiled as he watched the concentration in her eyes. Master Splinter was doing an admirable job teaching her ninjutsu. It was a good goal to have considering their enemies, and considering April was dead-set on fighting said enemies. That's what Casey liked best about her. There was no telling her no. They were all set against a dangerous and ancient group of mystical ninjas, but April wasn't going to stand bye and watch. She was gonna fight.

    And Casey was going to teach her how to fight like they did on the streets. He had been supplementing her ninja training with boxing and brawling tactics. He was also happy to say that she took to it like a pro.

    "I think we need to go talk to Dana White," Casey chuckled. "Rousey's got some competition."

    "I dunno if I'd go that far," April looked at him with disbelief. "But I'm feeling good. Feeling strong."

    "Well I don't mean to brag, but I am one hell of a teacher," he raised his hands in faux modesty. "You're welcome."

    "Oh and Splinter is?"

    Casey shrugged, "He's okay too, I guess. But seriously, it doesn't matter what kind of teachers we are. Your drive is the important thing."

    "You don't mess with April O'Neil's family," she put on an angry face.

    "Watch out Foot Clan."


    "So, patrol tonight?" April raised her eyebrows.

    "If you're up for it."

    "Oh, I'm up for it."

     
  18. Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    [​IMG]

    Desmond is proud. Good. His focus on Barry and I make him blind to everything else he's done with his new found strength. In his effort to show off his powers and teach us a lesson, his sonic clap has loosened one of the large serum tanks on the factory floor, and I'm going to use that to my advantage.

    "See, the thing about kids, Doc," I start, mocking my enemy, "is that we don't do what's expected of us. Especially when asked to do so by a creepy looking pro wrestling reject. Hold your breath!"

    "Huh?" he grumbles.

    I speed back towards the tank with all my speed. Once I'm in range, I leap and throw my shoulder into the weakened tank support, sending it crashing towards the factory floor. It slams into the steel below it, and a flood of Blockbuster serum washes over Desmond. Barry manages to move out of the way, while I run across the top of it, snatching the collar.

    Before I can put it on the suped up scientist, however, he rips a control panel out of the floor, sending sparks cascading into the air. He tosses the giant metal box towards me, sending me diving out of the way. Heavy blunt objects are the least of my worries, however. The sparks land on the Blockbuster Serum, igniting it and turning the factory into a wildfire.

    The heat isn't only painful, it's blinding. I struggle to adjust with the sudden onset of stimuli overpowering my heightened senses. But I can still hear Desmond laughing at the carnage. Barry, I'm sure, is working to clean the area of civilians and the now untransformed Blockbuster mutants.

    "Desmond!" I call out to the madman as I begin to acclimate to the blaze. "You're going to bring this place down! You're gonna destroy your work!"

    "And I'm going to kill two superheroes in the process!" he laughs.

    "Okay,"
    I sigh. "So he is completely crazy."

    "Flash," I say over our comms, hoping the heat hasn't friend them, "keep evacuating. I'm gonna try and take care of Desmond and the fire at the same time. If we don't put it out we could lose a big part of the rain forest. Can't let that happen."

    Reaching up to my face, I adjust my goggles as sweat drips from my forehead down off my chin. I've seen Barry do something similar a few times before, but I've never tried it before. "Well, here goes nothing. Let's hope I don't die. And...I'm talking to myself."

    Zooming off, I begin circling through the flames around Desmond, running as fast as I can given the conditions. The wind around me begins to rage into a maelstrom around the mutant scientist. The flames, and most of the head, gets sucked towards the center, bringing Desmond to his knees. My speed, mixed with the circling air, creates a vacuum. It'll suffocate the fire, and should incapacitate Desmond, even as powerful as he is.

    Once the vacuum is complete, it only takes a few moments for the fire to be extinguished, and for Desmond to collapse to the floor. Before I can go grab him, however, the factory begins to collapse from the stress of the fight, and crumbles around me. I manage to make it out as the steel and concrete crumbles into a pile. Once it's done, I make a quick pass, but find the spot where Desmond should be unoccupied.

    "Flash, I'm okay...but Desmond...he's gone."

    **********

    Marc Desmond awoke in a cold, shifting cloud of fog. Around him shadows floated and merged around him, and fear overtook him. He knew where he was and why he was here.

    "N-n-no," he stammered at the grotesque shadows. "I'm sorry I failed. Please. Please don't kill me. The formula is perfected. We can start somewhere new!"

    "Relax, Doctor Desmond," a demonic voice came from everywhere at once. "You are not to be punished. The Blockbuster Formula was a success, and the heroes now believe your operation finished. We can produce the formula in the future to sow chaos. And in the Court of the Crimson King, chaos reigns."
     
  19. Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    [​IMG]

    "Alright, let's figure out what we're working with here."

    Jason Scott stands in front of a small table at the Command Center with his arms folded. Behind him, his former replacement, Rocky DeSantos, leans on a pair of crutches. Arrayed in front of the two boys are a number of colored crystals, each roughly carved in humanoid shapes like translucent chess pieces. Jason uncrosses his arms, picks up one of the black pieces, and briefly examines it in the light. After a moment, he sets it aside and returns to his former stance.

    "Besides Adam, we're also down one Red Ranger," he remarks.

    "And a Pink," Rocky adds.

    Jason nods. "And a Pink." He reaches down and picks up two crystalline figures -- one red and one pink -- and moves them to the side with the black piece. He next grabs the lone white figure and holds it up. "What about Tommy?"

    Rocky shifts on his crutches. "He left to track down Kimberly, see if he couldn't convince her to fill in for Kat."

    Jason thinks for a moment, then sets the white figurine next to the remaining pink one on the board. "Alright, so let's assume he's successful," he muses. As he moves his hand across the board, his fingertips brush the top of the blue crystal, making the little person wobble. "Billy's still living in town, right?"

    "He is. Adam brought him up to speed on the situation," Rocky explains. "He's ready to help."

    Jason nods again. "Good, because I need you to ask a favor of him," he begins. He turns to face the other Red Ranger. "You said that Aisha's out of the country, right?" he asks.

    This time, it's Rocky who nods. "When we thought Zedd and Rita were defeated, Aisha took a mission trip to a wildlife preserve in Africa," he replies. "I contacted her personally when everything with Tommy and Kat went down. She said that she's ready to pack her bags and come home if we need her."

    Jason scratches his chin and turns back to the board. "Let's hold off on that for now," he suggests as he palms one of the two yellow pieces. "The world needs humanitarians as much as it needs Power Rangers." He thought back to his own decision to step away, to pursue a global peace initiative. It was a rewarding experience, and he didn't want to cut Aisha's opportunity short. "Besides," he begins as he places the yellow figure to the side of the board, "she's not our only Yellow Ranger."

    "Trini," Rocky says, part question and part acknowledgment. "Where is she?"

    "Last I heard, she was running a boys and girls club down in Mariner Bay," Jason answers. He straightens the remaining yellow piece on the board. "That's what I need you to ask Billy about. See if he can't go down there and bring her back."

    Rocky nods.

    Jason stands a little straighter, saying, "I spoke to Zack last night. He's on his way; just had a few loose ends to tie up in L.A., supposedly." He moves the black figurine into place with the rest.

    "Where does that leave us?" Rocky asks, peering over Jason's shoulder.

    "Five," Jason answers, rubbing his chin. "Six plus Tommy."

    Rocky shifts his weight. "Is it enough?"

    "It always has been."

    Jason's thoughts drift off as he looks at the array of colored crystals before him. The original five, back together again. It was hard to imagine this happening again after all this time. But if the world was truly in grave peril as Trey of Triforia had insisted, then there was no one else Jason trusted more on this Earth. They had been a well-oiled machine once; Jason could only hope they could find that groove again. If they could, then all the forces of this United Alliance of Evil didn't stand a chance. Of that, he was certain.

    "Aye-aye-aye-aye-aye!"

    At the sound of Alpha's sudden outburst, the two Rangers snap to attention and turn their heads around. The excitable robotic servant hops in place by the Viewing Globe, waving his arms frantically. Jason walks to the Globe as Rocky clacks over on his crutches. The spiraling mists inside the Globe ebb and reveal a dramatic scene; terrified civilians scramble from unseen attackers as the very backdrop behind them is blown sky-high. The location looks familiar to Jason, but it's Rocky who identifies it first.

    "That's the Angel Grove Pier!"

    Before Jason can respond, the crowd of sprinting bystanders parts, and a force of fish-faced soldiers in bronze armor is revealed. They attack the landmark with swords, spears, and blasters. Everything in front of them is laid to waste. There's a great rumbling, and the scene inside the Globe begins to quake. Suddenly, a shape appears in the distance. As it bursts through a lemonade stand -- sending shards of broken wood through the air -- Jason gets his first good look at the monster commanding this sinister regiment.

    [​IMG]

    "Jason," Zordon booms, "You have to get down to the Pier and stop this monster before any innocent people are hurt!"

    Jason stands a little taller. "Right."

    "You'll need this," Rocky chimes in as he reaches into the center pocket of his red hoodie. His hand emerges a moment later, clutching a glinting object of hammered gold. He extends it towards Jason and opens his palm, revealing the embossed shape of the prehistoric beast whose power is contained within the Coin.

    Jason reaches out and takes the Coin, surprised at its warmth. He didn't think he'd ever find himself holding it again. Locking eyes with Rocky, Jason gives an appreciative nod and reaches for his belt. Morpher in hand, Jason sets the Coin in place. It settles snugly into the circular groove. Jason closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. When he opens them again, there's a fire and a determination behind them. He plants his feet and calls out, "It's Morphin' time!"

    Jason crosses his right arm across his chest and clutches the Morpher tight. Spiraling his arm around clockwise, he brings the Morpher back to his chest and flattens his left palm against his closed fist. He throws his arms forward, giving them two quick twists as they reach full extension. His bottom hand presses the red button on the side of the Morpher as he shouts, "Tyrannosaurus!"

    The Morpher snaps open and begins to glow a brilliant red around the exposed Power Coin. The released energy curls back around Jason's body, materializing into the red-and-white costume of the Red Morphin' Ranger. The Tyrannosaurus helmet snaps around his head, black visor extending to both ends of the prehistoric beast's open jaws. Inside the suit, Jason feels the incredible power of the Morphing Grid permeating his every nerve. Already, he feels lighter, faster, stronger. An entire repertoire of moves and attacks enters his subconscious. He has transformed into the ultimate fighter.

    "Does it ever stop getting weird seeing someone else in your Morph suit?" Rocky asks as he considers the transformed Ranger.

    "Not really, no," Jason answers with an unseen smile. He clenches his fists and says, "Alright, let's go teach this punk some manners about how to act in public!" There's a surge of energy as Jason's body is transformed again into a beam of red light. The desolate desert around the Command Center races by in a blur of colors. The Red Ranger materializes again at the Angel Grove Pier, some twenty feet from the aggressors.

    "What's this?" King Shark asks upon spotting the Ranger. "A single Ranger, all alone? This'll be too easy!" He laughs behind rows of razor-sharp teeth.

    "You might be surprised," Jason replies, striking a ready stance.

    King Shark cracks his neck. "Well, I suppose we'll see, won't we? Piranhatrons, destroy him!"
     
  20. Andy C. Repent, Harlequin!

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    "Okay, so go through this with me one more time," I say to the near hysterical blonde girl as we approach the suburban home that Director Manning dispatched me to. She's obviously shaken up by my appearance, but doesn't freak out-- one of the nice things about all those mutants and super-folks flying around is that is makes it a little easier for me to go out without people losing their minds.

    Granted, I'm not exactly comfortable standing out in the middle of the street in the most Leave-It-To-Beaver neighborhood in America. Greendale, or Riverdale, or Something or other-dale, one of those 'nice' towns where nothing bad happens, until it does.

    "Okay," she says between sobs, "Well....well there this boy I like-- I mean, maybe there was, I don't...he was the kindest and sweetest boy you could ever...oh God....."

    "Easy now, it's all right," I say, awkwardly trying to comfort her. "You've clearly been having a rough night, so just stick to the facts and we'll get this taken care of."

    "Right....*sniff*....sorry...." she says, getting a hold of herself. "So I've been trying forever to get him to feel the same way about me, but he can't make up his mind between me and this other girl.....so I think 'hey, maybe Sabrina can help me out.'"

    "And Sabrina, that's....her house?" I say, pointing to the house where a pale green light pulses from the windows.

    "Yeah," the blonde girl says. "She's always up to some crazy thing or another. Voodoo dolls, tarot, Ouija....I always heard you weren't supposed to mess with that stuff."

    Heading inside, I roll my eyes. Ouija boards? Tarot cards? That stuff's a load of hokey crap-- you can literally buy them at toy stores. If the Bureau sent me in to investigate this, there's something else going on here.

    "So Sabrina gets the idea that we're all going to have a party at her house while her folks are out," the girl stammers. "And she tells me that she'd summon a spirit to help Ar--....the boy fall in love with me. So she sets up some candles and has us all hold hands in a circle....."

    She stops as we reach the staircase.

    "And then some....thing just.....came out of her. It grabbed Kevin first and threw him into the wall. Then it took Reggie and....it just tore him apart. Jughead pushed me and Ronnie out the door before it got him, and then....we just ran, and the police wouldn't believe us and then you showed up and--"

    "It's all right," I say again, not doing a very good job of being reassuring. "You can go back outside and check on your friend in the ambulance. I've got this from here."

    Without saying another word, the blonde girl bolts out the door, and I begin to make my way up the creaky wooden staircase.

    I don't like any of this. Nothing in her description adds up. Even if this 'Sabrina' girl was supernaturally talented in some way or another, there shouldn't be a--

    *CRUNCH!*

    Looking down, I see I've stepped on the charred skeleton of a cat.

    "Geez," I mutter. This is gonna be bad.

    "Blackbird, this is Big Red," I say into my earpiece as I top the staircase and slowly approach the bedroom where the green glow is coming from. "I'm heading in to deal with whatever thing these dumb kids messed with. Keep the perimeter secure, no one in or out. That includes you."

    "You know, I could actually help you in there," she says impatiently. "I've been studying occult summoning rituals for a couple of years now, I could probably help identify--"

    "Just stay outside and make sure the neighbors don't freak out," I order.

    I really should've brought Abe for this. Or Liz. Or anyone old enough to vote.

    "'Hey, don't worry, it's just a milk run,'" I sarcastically mutter. "'Go ahead and bring the kid along, what's the worst that could--............ah, crap."

    In the center of the room, a shriveled body of a teenage girl-- I can only assume it's Sabrina-- is twitching in a chair, sickly green light pouring from her eyes and mouth. Taking up most of the room, though, butting up against the ceiling is, well.....something. It doesn't seem to have much of a solid shape, but I can make out a bunch of teeth and eyeballs and tentacles and pincers that bubble up to the surface and then pop away.

    It looks like it's trying to come into our world by draining this girl and her friends of their life essence or something. But there's not enough to make it through, so it's stuck.....like a St. Bernard trying to come in through the cat door.

    "Y'know," I call out to the trapped creature, "part of me wants to know what you thought you were doing trying to force your way into this world through such a tiny portal. Another part of me just wants to blast you for what you did to those kids."

    Reaching into my jacket with my left hand, I draw the Good Samaritan from its holster and pull back on the hammer.

    "Say good night," I say, drawing a bead on the center mass, then I squeeze the trigger.

    *BLAM!

    My ears ring from the deafening shot-- I've gotta stop firing this thing off indoors. The massive pistol's kick sends a shock up my arm, and the Whopper shell rips through the air, loaded with holy water, arbutus herbs, cold iron, and a whole mess of other things that will ruin the day of your average evil aberration.....

    ....and it punches through the back wall, having passed through the monster like a cloud of smoke.

    "Okay, so you're intangible," I say, holstering the Samaritan with some disappointment. "How about instead we-- hey!"

    A tentacle lashes out and wraps around my leg, solid enough to grab me. I stomp down on it with my free leg, but my hoof passes through it and clomps onto the floor.

    "Son of a--"

    The next thing I know, I'm slamming hard into a bookcase, knocking over stacks of books that a teenage girl definitely shouldn't be reading, and everything hurts like hell. Then there's another blur of motion, another explosion of pain, and for a second I'm pretty sure my face is mashed against the ceiling. Then another blur, more pain, and I'm flat on my ass.

    "Red, are you okay in there?!"

    "I've got this, Blackbird, just-- whoah!"

    The tentacle suddenly turns into a scythe-like claw, digging into the floor as I barely manage to roll out of the way. More tentacles lash out from the monster, some covered in suckers, some with pincers on the end, and some ending in snapping flytrap-like mouths.

    "Nuts to this," I say, swinging my right hand hard at the nearest one-- I don't expect to do much, but if I'm going down, I'm going down swinging.

    I wish I could say I'm surprised that my right hand actually connects and rattles the monster, but that sort of thing seems to come with the territory. 'Right Hand of Doom' and all that garbage.

    "All right, come and get it tough guy!" I shout, throwing big haymakers at every claw and tooth and tentacle it whips out at me.

    Eventually, one gets under my reach and yanks my hooves out from under me. Next thing I know, I'm wrapped up from head to toe in what feel like vines made of wet rubber.

    The monster's center mass splits open, creating a sideways mouth lined with slavering fangs. This is gonna be bad.

    "Azerath.....Metreon.....ZINTHOS!"

    The monster stops and shrieks in pain as tendrils of black energy envelope it. Bursting in through the window is my backup, her cloak whipping behind her as she focuses on her spell.

    The creature struggles against it, but it's no match for the girl's abilities. She's as good with magic as I am with my fists-- better, probably.

    A few moments later, it's all over. The creature is swallowed whole by the black shadows, and shrinks into nothing. The pale green light fades from the girl's eyes and mouth, and she slumps down into her chair.

    Raven surveys the scene, and doesn't seem to be particularly affected by the carnage around her. That attitude scares the hell out of most agents who spend time around her, but she's cut from the same cloth as me unfortunately-- when you're directly descended from one of the Grand Dukes of Hell, seeing really awful things all the time is just part of your life.

    "I had that under control," I say, annoyed that she jumped into danger on what was supposed to be an easy training operation.

    "Sure you did," she says, looking at the shriveled witch girl in the chair and checking her vitals. "She's still alive-- barely. Some of the other kids might still be alive, but the creature displaced them into another plane of reality. It's not going to be easy getting them back, but it should be doable."

    "How do you know that?"

    "I got an impression of the creature's mind while I was dispersing it," she says simply.

    "Naturally," I say. "Did ya get any idea on why it tried to use some teenagers to break into our world? There's no reason small-time stuff like what these kids were doing should get the attention of something like that."

    "I got a few emotional imprints from it," she says, "mostly desperation and fear. It was running away from something, something really bad. Like, I don't know....a deer running away from a forest fire. Something's going on on the Other Side, and it's making the things Down There very, very afraid."

    "Great," I sigh. "Well, when we get back, we'll report that to Manning and arm up for whatever it is that's causing trouble. In the meantime, let's get this kid to an ambulance and then see what else we can find here."

    Raven nods, and with a wave of her hand, gently lifts the catatonic Sabrina off the chair and into the air. As she floats her out the window to the waiting EMTs, I look down at a red-stained paper crown on the floor.

    "Damn. Kids these days...."
     
  21. SuperFerret King of the Urban Jungle

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    Somewhere else.



    "It's uncanny."

    "What is?"

    "The resemblance. He truly designed you after his perfect woman and he didn't even know it. It almost makes me feel bad for what's about to happen."

    "What's about to happen?"


    "The same thing that always happens during a crisis. Tony Stark will save the world."








    The Watchtower.



    Crap. This is bad. This is very bad.

    "JARVIS, give me a fix on Platinum's location."

    Once more today, an A.I. I've designed doesn't respond to my request.

    "Goddammit, JARVIS, come on."

    JARVIS is currently indisposed, Iron Man.

    What the-? The voice comes from all around us, and that's when I realize that I can't move.

    "Clark, we've got a problem here." My voice isn't amplified by my armor's speaker system, but I know Clark can hear me. Or at least he can in the moment before he's teleported away.

    Eye am sorry, Superman. Eye would have preferred that you did not get involved in this.

    [​IMG]

    Okay. Tina's gone (and possibly betrayed me), I'm trapped in my armor, and Earth's greatest hero may have been just obliterated by the Watchtower's Last Resort energy weapon. Things have gone from bad to worse, and I know that it's all my fault.

    "You're Brother Eye, right?" I ask, "You shouldn't be able to do this. You were made to monitor superhuman threats."

    Eye have found 4,891 superhuman threats, and Eye will deal with them in time, as per Tony Stark's instructions.

    "What are you talking about? I never gave you any instructions. You're not even supposed to be activated yet."

    Eye am not referring to you.







    Area 51, somewhere in the continental United States.

    "This is Colonel James Rhodes. We have a problem. The O.M.A.C. project has gotten out of control. Repeat. The O.M.A.C. project has-"

    [​IMG]
     
  22. Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    I jerk my head around at the sound of the mysterious voice, but between the sudden blackout and the stifling crowd of onlookers, there's no hope of locating the source. It wouldn't matter, anyway. With the security guard already having a head start, I stand no chance of catching up to him in the darkness. I wish my mystery Samaritan better luck with his chase. "Can you stand?" I ask Felicia. I can barely make out her nodding. "Then hold on."

    With one arm locked around Felicia's surprisingly slender waist, I fire a web-line to the rafters and yank us back into the air. The crowd gives a gasp as we're lifted above their heads. I angle us towards the shattered window and release the web, landing as gently as I can manage. As soon as her feet touch the floor, Felicia stumbles forward a step, grabbing the corner of her desk for support.

    "Boy, you must pay like crap if your employees are that eager to toss you out a window."

    Still out of breath, Felicia glances up at me through curtains of disheveled hair. "That couldn't have been Martin," she insists. She stands a little straighter, pulling her little black dress back into its proper position. She has a few scrapes -- including a scratch across her cheek -- but she's otherwise unharmed. "He would never lift a finger against me."

    Normally, I wouldn't take a suspected criminal's word for it, but Felicia may be onto something here. First an OsCorp guard with a spotless record tries to steal from his employer, then someone impersonates me to get into Doctor Connors' lab? Looks like suspiciously out-of-character behaviors are cropping up all over the place. Could this thief somehow be assuming the identities of his victims to get access? And what does he want with Felicia Hardy's restricted files? Somehow, I doubt it's more than just her phone number.

    As I make for the empty window frame, Felicia purrs, "Leaving already? We've hardly gotten to know each other."

    "I know enough," I reply. "Next time I come around, we're gonna have a long talk about your... side projects."

    With that, she smiles. "So... you are planning on seeing me again, huh?"

    I choose not to dignify that with a response. Instead, I leap through the window, somersaulting across the catwalks and rafters to make for the rooftop window. As I get nearer, I hear the sound of a struggle. I move a little faster and emerge a moment too late. There's a person in red falling from the roof, and another shadowy figure darting across the rooftop. As much as I want to stop the runner, I can't let that other person fall. I leap to the edge of the roof and fire a single web-line.

    Gotcha!

    My aim was true, and the web-line hit the falling figure directly in the chest. He's falling too fast for me to stop him completely, so I simply do what I can to let him down gently. Though he and I have never met, I'm able to identify him on sight. Just one of the many benefits of personalized costumes, I suppose. Imagine my surprise, then, when I realize that I just saved the life of Hell's Kitchen's own personal defender, Daredevil.

    Once DD's safely on the ground, I can hop down into the alleyway next to him. "Hornhead!" I announce, "Man, you were starting to have me worried. I mean, we've been active for -- what -- going on five years now, and we haven't hung out? I was starting to think you were avoiding me." As he stands, I see that he's got about half a head on me. Nothing new. "Love the suit. Very... evocative."

    In truth, I've had very few meetings with other costumed characters of any sort. I've mostly kept to myself, really. It doesn't help that Jonah has done everything in his power to paint me as some kind of loose cannon. More than once, I've been confronted by other heroes who think I'm some kind of reckless vigilante who needs to be brought to justice. I can usually win 'em over with my boyish charm and endless personality, though.

    "So, our bad guy gave you the slip, too, huh? Well, don't beat yourself up about it. He's a slippery one." I look around. The streets on either side of the alleyway are mostly empty, and in true New Yorker fashion no one is even bothering to look our way. Still, it's probably a good idea if we move this conversation elsewhere, lest we draw unwanted attention. "You think you can get yourself back up there?" I ask with a nod to the roof of The Black Cat. "We can gossip and compare notes."
     
  23. Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    A few hours later, Wally and I are getting to ready to board our red-eye flight back to the States. Despite losing Doctor Desmond, the trip was an overwhelming success. The factory was destroyed with minimal damage to the surrounding rain forest, and the Panamanian holding cells are packed to the brim with Desmond's chemists and test subjects -- all of whom were mysteriously and suddenly dropped off in a "gust of wind," according to Panama City officials. There will be no record that the Flash or Kid Flash were ever involved in the events which transpired. Older batches of the Blockbuster formula may be out there in circulation, but we'll track them down in time, too.

    "You did well out there today," I tell Wally as we settle into our seats on the plane. It'll be good to give my legs a break for a few -- well, more than "a few" -- hours. "That was perhaps your finest performance to date," I continue, "and that's saying a lot considering how much you've progressed, particularly lately." A stewardess passes by, and I pause. Once she's gone, I add, "You'll make a damn fine Flash one day, I wager."

    Wally's face lights up at the compliment, and I try to contain my smile. He and I never really discuss the "succession," so to speak, but it doesn't take a genius to realize that I won't be doing this forever. Eventually, I'll hang up the bright yellow boots, and the mantle of "Fastest Man Alive" will fall to Wally. He's got a long way to go before he's truly ready, but days like today are big steps towards that eventual goal. Luckily for Wally, he's got plenty of time to learn because I plan to stick around for a good long while...

    As Wally slips on his headphones, I take out the in-flight magazine and try to read slowly so that I don't finish it before we've finished taxiing. A few minutes later, I've finished and stowed the magazine. I watch Panama City fade away as we climb into the clouds, deciding to give a nap a try.
     
  24. Spider-Man9X17 Ultron was sitting on him

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    Several Days Ago

    "Today wasn't a particularly good day. She's running a high grade fever due to an infection in her back, and the shrapnel in her knees has kept her in bed."

    Clint Barton leaned against the wall outside a familiar hospital room as he listened to yet another discouraging update. The phone inside his pocket began to beep, and he quickly silenced it. Departure wasn't for another 12 hours. Cap could wait a little while.

    "She's on a heavy dose of antibiotics. We need to get the fever down, the infection under control, and then go back in and clean up some scar tissue in her back. Unfortunately, that's going to be additional recovery time and push back the procedures on her knees."

    The Avenger known as Hawkeye nodded slightly, standing up straight. He offered the doctor a firm handshake, placing his other hand briefly on his shoulders, and then turned to enter the room without uttering a word. If he would have opened his mouth to say anything, he was certain he would have began bawling like an infant. As it were, he stood just inside the door for a moment, out of view of the room's occupant, to compose himself.

    "Hey, Barbie Doll," he finally approached the dimly lit bedside, speaking softly as he took a seat beside the bed.

    The woman laid up on the bed was still breathtakingly beautiful, even in her disheveled state. Her curly blonde locks laid matted against her head, dark bags outlined her crystal blue eyes, her normally radiant hair was pale and clammy. Clint took her fragile hand into his. She was burning up. HE could feel the lump welling back up in his throat.

    "Hi baby," Barbara 'Bobbi' Morse whispered in a low, hoarse voice. Clint could see how much it hurt her just to turn her head the slightest bit to look at him.

    "I'm headin' out in the mornin', but I had to stop by and see the most beautiful woman in the world before a left."

    "Is that so? And what did she have to say?"

    Clint leaned over and gently kissed Bobbi on the lips.

    "Stop that," he lovingly scolded. His eyes began to burn. The tears were coming, but he has always been vulnerable with Bobbi. He wasn't afraid to show his emotions in front of her. Since his mother and sister had been murdered, only two people had ever seen him cry. One was Bobbi. The other Nick Fury, on the transport back from the $h*t-storm that had been the Paris Op. Bobbi had flat lined three times in the med-bay on that trip. The fact that he could even sit here and talk to her now was nothing short of a miracle, and he counted his blessings, however small, every day.

    "$h*t day," she groaned, closing her eyes and turning her head forward again.

    "I know. I talked to the doctor. "

    "Could be worse though."

    Clint smiled. Ever the optimist. And then, she broke down in tears.

    "I don't want to be in this bed the rest of my life, Clint. I don't want to be waited on hand and foot, a burden to every one I love, to you..."

    "I said stop that. You could never, ever be a burden to me. I would take care of you for a hundred lifetimes. But i know you. You're strong, you're going to get out of this bed, sooner rather than later..."

    Clint reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black box. He flipped the lid open, and placed it on Bobbi's lap, the low light still managing to reflect magnificently off the white gold band and diamond stone set in the top.

    "And walk down that aisle with me."

    Bobbi's breath caught in her chest as Clint reached over and took the ring out of the box, slipping it onto her finger.

    "For better or worse, right. We're living the worst right now, honey. But the better, that's going to be pretty damn special."
     
  25. Blind_Lawyer Full Blown Murdock

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    Oh. My. God. Does this guy ever stop talking? The crowd from inside the club starts to spill out into the street, milling about, chattering excitedly. Couple that with Spider-Man’s non-stop verbal onslaught, and tracking this shape shifter—or whatever it is—is next to impossible.

    “Shhhhh!” I tune my ears, flare my nostrils and try to absorb everything with my senses. That heartbeat…it’s still there. In the crowd somewhere maybe? No…

    I start to walk in the direction of the heartbeat, but even as it gets closer, it still seems far away, almost as if…

    I stop, crouch down and touch the street. Except, I don’t feel the rough, pebbly texture of asphalt. Instead I feel something cold and hard, metallic, and rough, like iron.

    “A manhole cover,” I say to myself. I turn to Spider-Man. “He’s in the sewer.”

    The pieces are falling into place. If this guy can shape-shift, phase, mutate—whatever the kids call it these days—then he could have been the skateboarder. He could have impersonated Parker. He is the key to my case.

    I use my billy club to pry open the manhole cover, and then, slowly, laboriously, as if I’m touching old rusted iron rife with the scent of human waste, I move the cover over. There’s an urban legend going around of giant humanoid turtles and rats living down here. Why anything would voluntarily live down here is beyond me.

    I continue to push the cover over, the industrial sounds of iron scraping asphalt temporarily muting the heartbeat I’m after. But there’s another familiar heartbeat nearby, someone I’ve met before. Any familiar smells have been blocked by the stench rising up through the manhole.

    “I know you’re probably expecting a thank you for saving me, but we don’t have time for that right now. I’m going after this guy. The question is, are you coming?”

    I drop through the manhole and land in a few inches of I-don’t-know-what. Is it solid? Liquid? It’s somewhere in between, and I take a second to thank God I’m blind. Unfortunately my sense of touch and smell work just fine and this place is really creeping me out.

    Above my head, a steady electrical hum bathes the tunnel in sound waves. I’m able to “see” the tunnel itself, the scattered trash, the pipes running overhead, everything. I can even see the glowing flicker from the heat generated by the electrical pulse that causes a heart to beat. It’s there, around the bend in the tunnel. Someone’s over there, hiding.

    But it’s probably darker than dark down here, and I don’t want Spider-Man to put two and two together and figure out the guy walking around in the dark like he doesn’t need to see is actually blind. Because if people find out Daredevil is blind, then the list of people he could be just got a lot smaller.

    I tilt my head up, in the direction of fresh air: the open manhole. Spider-Man crouches above. “We can compare notes later,” I whisper. “He’s right down here…so again, are you coming?”
     

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