Ultimate One Universe - Genesis

Discussion in 'RPG Archives' started by UltimateRPGs, Oct 1, 2014.

  1. Byrd Man

    Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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    Part 1

    "It was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice."
    -- Joseph Conrad​




    Then
    Cambodia



    The four men waded through the thick brush towards their destination. Five past three in the morning and it was still humid enough that the sweat stuck to their bodies. They were dressed in jungle camo with a stripped down field kit that consisted of an M16, a .45 sidearm, a radio, one day's worth of C-rations, anti-venom and malaria pills.

    The leader of the soldiers stopped the group short just before they emerged from the brush. He activated his radio and held it close to his mouth.

    "Big Duke to Eagle Eye,"whispered Sergeant Frank Castle.

    "Roger Big Duke,"the radio operator droned in the earwig stuffed into Castle's ear.

    "Fire Team Delta has reached the boundaries of our orders. Ready and awaiting further orders"

    The line buzzed with static. Castle knew what was going on on the other side of that line. A major was running an order up to a colonel, who ran it up to a general in Saigon, sitting in a plush office with a CIA man whispering in his ear. They weren't supposed to be in Cambodia. The official line stateside was that the United States would never go into a neutral country during this war but everybody in 'Nam knew what was really going on. The parameters of the mission had changed, the communists were running men and guns through Cambodia. Covert special forces action and overt carpet bombing from the Air Force had threatened to turn what started out as a "police action" into a two-country war. The more the United States struggled, the more it got stuck in the quicksand that was Southeast Asia.

    "Big Duke, you are approved to move forward with mission as ordered. Eagle Eye out."

    Castle cut off his radio and looked at the three men in the dark. Even though at twenty-one he was almost the youngest member of the fire team, he was their unquestionable leader who led them through many questionable missions.

    "Let's move."



    *****​


    Boston
    Now



    Castle came to on the third floor landing of an apartment stairwell. The side effect of his "condition" was that time had a bad habit of running together. One moment he was in 1985, drowning a mobster in a toilet in a memory so real and vibrant he could smell the piss in the bathroom and feel the water splashing on his wrist, the next moment he was thirty years in the future and back in the present. It was the thing inside him's fault. He could feel it stir every time he relived a violent memory, especially one that was painful to Frank. It lived to torture him. A prisoner forced to witness his worst memories with crystal clarity for the rest of eternity. Punishment for the Punisher.

    Frank continued up the stairs to the apartment's fifth floor. The thing inside him became restless the closer he got to the door at the end of the hall. The trail that led him to the city was leading here. Castle was unsure of why he had been called to Boston, but it made sense the day he arrived and saw the newspaper headline screaming murder, the fifth victim of the brutal serial killer the papers dubbed Bunker Hill Butcher because he dumped his victims near the war monument after hacking them to bits.

    The entity inside Frank champed at the bit and actively sought to get out when Frank stepped forward and passed through the door. The moment he set foot inside the apartment he knew this is where the Butcher was killing his victims. Images flashed through his mind, screaming mouths and severed limbs and blood spatter.

    The apartment was perfectly empty and pristine, no trace of the carnage that had taken place inside its walls. What was inside of him had the power to knew exactly who did this, but neglected to let Frank in on it. Instead, it thrashed and pointed him in the right direction to find the person responsible for the deaths of five people. While the Spectre like to torture him, they had a lot in common. Together they would make sure this serial killer faced the punishment he so sorely deserved.



    *****​


    Then
    Camboia


    "Chó chết tiệt American," groaned the tiny Vietnamese man.

    He lay flat on his back, desperately trying to keep his intestines from spilling out of the gaping wound on his abdomen. Smoke and screams filled the air. The burning huts illuminated the night.

    "**** you too, Papa San," Frank said as he stood above the dying man. "How far into Cambodia does the supply line run? Understand me, ****er? Làm thế nào đến nay vào Cambodia hiện nó đi?"

    "**** you," the man said in heavily accented English. "Understand word, mother****er?"

    Scowling, Frank put two more shots into the man's stomach. He groaned loudly and spat up blood. Not dead yet, but in immense pain. Frank kicked dirt on him before turning around to check the progress of his team.

    They were working their way through the huts, killing anyone they found inside before gathering the guns and ordinance they found inside. So far they were coming up empty and Frank was getting antsy.

    "No joy, Sarge," one of the men reported. "We can't find a goddamn thing. No guns outside of the one that ****er with the belly wound had. No ordinance and not even traces that they were smuggling Horse or any of that other **** they like to run in from Cambodia."

    "Found a buncha farm equipment," one of the other men said from across the small encampment. "Hoes, rakes, soil. Looks like this may have been one of them work camps. We're just a half klick from a rice paddy."

    Frank looked down at the Vietnamese man. He was still now, color draining from his face while his blood ran into the dirt. There was nothing for them to find here. The men that had died were innocent and now all that the owned and worked for was being destroyed by the hated Americans. Those were the perfect conditions that made more VC.

    "Carlton, call it in to Eagle Eye. Radio the coordinates to the camp and give them the green light to go ahead with the airstrike."

    "Sir? I thought this was--"

    "An enemy encampment? You bet your ass it was, and once they drop those bombs, there'll be nothing left of this place but a crater. Nobody will be able to say otherwise. Understood?"

    The men nodded. Frank stepped away and walked out towards the edge of the camp while the bombing was called in. In the dark, he dropped his facade and let his teeth chatter and let the smile slip on his face. Thousands of miles away from home, surrounded by death and madness and destruction. This horrible place that was destined to be the rock upon which American exceptionalism would break...

    He wished that this would never end.
     
  2. Morden Man

    Morden Man Registered

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    I ache. Every part of me aches. As I make my way downstairs towards the kitchen and the smell of bacon and eggs all I can think about is how sore my entire body feels this morning. Who knew that running across rooftops in the middle of the night would be so physically demanding? I’d spent around four hours on patrol last night and to my knowledge had been responsible for at least eight arrests. I was still learning. It was difficult to know when to use your discretion and let someone go and when to leave them tied up for the police but I had to trust my judgment. It was the only thing that was stopping me from being killed out there.

    I can hear Ted whistling to himself in the kitchen as he pushes the bacon around in a pan. I slink in, taking a seat at the kitchen table, and hope that he doesn’t notice I’m nearly limping.

    “Good morning.”

    “Good morning! I heard you thumping around early this morning. Did you have trouble sleeping or something?”

    I’ll have to remember to be quieter next time I come back.

    “Something like that.”

    “I’m surprised you’re up this early then,” Ted said with a laugh. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

    “I guess what happened with Austin has made me reassess things a little. I can’t sit around feeling sorry for myself all day and expect things to change all on their own. You know?”

    It wasn’t exactly a lie. I could tell from the happy little exhalation that came out of Ted’s nose after I’d spoken that he was pleased to hear that I was trying to be proactive. If only he knew the extent of it. I’d spoken with Cross about maybe telling Ted what the procedure had done to me and about becoming Daredevil, but he’d shot the idea down pretty early on. I was doing him a kindness in not telling him, Cross had asserted, because it meant he didn’t have to live in fear for my life every time I stepped out of the house. The lesser he knew the safer he would be.

    “That sounds more like the Matt Murdock I know.”

    I hadn’t been able to think of a counterargument. So Cross had to be right.

    “Bacon?”

    I nod. Ted lifts several pieces of bacon from the pan and flicks them onto a plate and passes it in my direction. Instinctually I go to reach out for the plate before remembering that to Ted’s knowledge there’d be no way I’d know the plate was coming so stop myself at the last second.

    He places the plate in front of me and hands me a knife and fork, placing them in my hands with care.

    “Austin’s mom has gone to stay with some family across town for a little while. She thinks it would be good to get out of The Kitchen until this whole thing is sorted out.”

    I smile sadly as I chew on the bacon. Ted had liked having female company around the house the past couple of days and I could tell from his voice that he was upset that Austin’s mother had gone. After al she’d been through, after all she’d suffered at Cao’s hands, it was probably a good thing for her to get away from it for a while.

    “It’s probably for the best. How are you dealing with things?”

    Ted shrugs his shoulders.

    “You know me, I’m as tough as old boots. It’s been a rough few months around here but things will get back to normal. They always do in the end. Some of the boys at the gym are still a little shell-shocked. It would be good if you could come down to the gym one of these days and speak to them. I think it would do them some good.”

    I’d not been back to Wildcat’s since the day of the attack. It wasn’t that I was scared or that I thought it would be morbid to go back, I’d just not had the time. So much had happened since then that I’d almost forgotten about the gym.

    “I’ll think about it.”

    Ted begins to scoff down bits of bacon noisily and wipes the grease from around his mouth with the back of his hand. There’s something on his mind, something he wants to ask, I can tell by the way his pulse is rocking back and forth as if he were trying to psyche himself into saying something.

    “Have you heard from Angela?”

    Oh.

    “She emailed me this morning. She wants to meet for coffee tomorrow afternoon.”

    “And? Are you going to meet her or what?”

    “I’m not sure.”

    It was an odd feeling. When the email had arrived and I realised who it was from my heart jumped in my chest. There was a part of me that hated her for what she had done but the thought of seeing her and being able to speak to her again made my heart race. We’d been together for years and it had felt unnatural being apart from her over the past few days. Every time I thought of her and tried to conjure up memories of the good times we’d shared together I couldn’t help but hear her moaning that night and it would shatter them in an instance.

    Despite that all I loved her still. I knew that much at least.

    “You should hear the girl out. I know it seems unthinkable now that you could move past what happened but weirder things have happened. She’s been good to you these past few years and given everything that’s gone down over the past four months I’m not surprised her judgment was impaired. Go, see what she has to say, and if you think you can forgive her then so be it and if not then you go your separate ways. No harm has ever come from trying to talk something out over a coffee.”

    I sigh and nod solemnly.

    “I guess she’s earned that much.”

    I had no idea how I’d feel when I saw her tomorrow but I knew that I wanted to, so that had to count for something. I couldn’t fault Ted’s logic in so far as meeting Angela for a coffee couldn’t do any more harm than had already been done by her act of infidelity or my lies. What was the worst that could happen? I’d hear her out and one way or another I’d find out how I felt. But first I had some unfinished business to attend to.
     
    #102 Morden Man, Jan 16, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2015
  3. Carnage27

    Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    Knowhere

    Knowhere was unlike anything Sue had ever seen. The dirty streets were chockfull of different races from across the stars trading with one another under tattered tents and shacks. It was like the street markets of Africa or Asia crossed with the cantina scene from Star Wars. She walked past a shack displaying glittering rocks of every color. The dim light from the station's lighting reflected off of them, and with the nebula floating above made them seem like a rainbow made tangible.

    As she reached out to touch one of the crystals, Rocket laughed, "Not a good idea! Those are bug chrysalis. They're used for assassinations. They hatch in the right conditions and kill whatever's in the room."

    Sue pulled her hand back and looked at Rocket, "Are you kidding me!?"

    "Nope," he chuckled. "But you should see your face."

    "I am Groot," the tree laughed along with his smaller friend.

    "What the hell is this place?" Ben asked as he looked around in awe.

    "Knowhere," Rocket shrugged, "you need to hide? Knowhere's your first stop. Need to hire an assassin? Knowhere's got 'em. Drugs, women, men, anything you want. Knowhere is where you'll find them."

    "So it's Vegas," Johnny smiled broadly. "You said something about women?"

    "Down, Johnny," Reed shook his head. "It looks like a mined out asteroid."

    "Well...kinda," the raccoon jumped off Groot and stole a purple fruit off a stand while the proprietor was busy. He took a big bite before continuing, "It's the head of a Celestial."

    "Celestial?" Ben growled. "That one of your 'gods'?"

    "Sorta," the small mammal shrugged. "But no one's seen one of them alive. But anyway, a mining company found this head just floating around and discovered some of the biological materials in it sell good on the black market. So of course, there was profit to be made. They probably didn't expect for the station to become a haven of the scum of the universe, but hey."

    "So why are we here?" Sue got to the crux of the situation. They had spent their first hour marveling at their new location, but in reality there was no reason for her to be here. "Doesn't seem like it's closer to getting us back home."

    "Cuz this was the only place I knew the coordinates off the top of my head," the raccoon admitted. "Plus, I know someone who might be able to help you."

    "Where?"

    Groot pointed to a blue neon sign that hung over a dark doorway, "I am Groot."

    As they approached the door, the smell of stale alcohol and urine nearly knocked Sue off her feet. The sights that greeted them inside weren't much better. The bar's walls seemed to be covered in a slime composed mainly of dirt and a blue liquid, and the light in the place barely illuminated its shabby looking patrons. Sue bumped into one of the aliens as it drunkenly stumbled out onto the street. He grumbled something at her in an unintelligible language as his craggily green chip quivered sloppily. Sue sighed, "Charming."

    "Like I said, Vegas," Johnny smiled.

    Rocket motioned them towards the bar, where they found something they weren't expecting. There, in an old, beat-up leather jacket, with a scruffy beard on his chin, was a human male. He was obviously trying to hit on the cute, pink-skinned girl sitting next to him. She laughed at the whispers he spoke into her ear, but he sprung up when he saw Groot and Rocket approaching, "Oh terrific."

    "Who the heck is this guy?" Johnny asked skeptically.

    "Me?" he smiled and moved to put his arm around Sue. "I'm Star-Lord."
     
  4. Carnage27

    Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    Genosha

    The Blackbird hovered silently over the landing zone as Scott and Jefferson Pierce eased the plane to the ground. Charles and his students had taken it when they escaped from the military, and it had been an invaluable resource ever since. While he didn't want to give the appearance of his X-Men as a military-like fighting force, but the Blackbird was a necessary evil. Without it they'd never be able to react to situations like this. It's stealth capabilities

    As the plane set down, Charles gathered the X-Men around him. He looked at each one, and had to marvel at how far they had come as a group. He remembered the day he met each and every one of them. They started as individuals who were lost and alone, and together they had created a family stronger than any Charles had ever seen before. Not only that, but they were what he believed to be the best chance for peace between mutants and humans.

    They had never faced anything like they were about to though.

    "All, gather round," he began. "For years we've been like a family. We've faced more adversity in that short time than most would have in an entire lifetime, and we've become all the stronger for it. I started this school and this team for one reason: to foster peace between our people and the human race. Today we face our greatest challenge. We've been captured by the military, fought terrorists, and struggled for our very existence. But today we very well could stand between nuclear war. While this is our greatest responsibility yet, we've also got our greatest opportunity. Today we can show humanity how good mutants can be."

    The X-Men nodded at each other, and Xavier turned to Jean, "Jean, if you will."

    Charles and Jean's minds reached out to the rest of the team and began setting up a psychic neural network in order to communicate silently while they carry out the mission. The X-Men had done this so many times that it was a near instantaneous connection.

    ~Everyone connected?~


    After the affirmatives came in, Scott said to the group, "Get to it, X-Men. We've got a war to stop."

    Alpha went towards their mission, and Beta went towards theirs. Charles let Scott take the lead, as the only reason Xavier was on the mission was because he knew Erik would be there and the height of the stakes. Scott had taken to leadership like a fish to water. Charles enjoyed staying out of his hair. But Erik always required their full attention.

    ~Animal Man~ Scott said to Buddy, ~scout out ahead.~

    Buddy Baker nodded and slunk into the jungle silently. Baker had once been a famous child actor before his powers manifested. Having the ability to mimic the abilities of any of the animals on earth was great, but not when he was playing with friends. He ended up hurting someone gravely, and was hidden away by his parents until Xavier came calling. His story was so typical of the mutant condition.

    ~We're clear to the city limits~ Baker reported back. ~Patrols are standard two-man lookouts from what I could see.~

    ~Right, we're on our way.~ Scott affirmed. ~Storm, lay down some cover.~

    Ororo Monroe's eyes glowed white as a thick layer of fog rolled over Beta team and over Hammer Bay, ensuring the X-Men safe passage.

    **********

    Magneto smirked as he saw the fog envelop his forward command center in the capital of Genosha. He looked over at Bolt, "It seems Charles and his X-Men have arrived. Go give them a welcoming party."

    "Yes, sir," he nodded and turned to leave.

    "Bolt," Magneto warned, "remember, I want them alive."
     
  5. Morden Man

    Morden Man Registered

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    Another long night patrolling the streets of Hell’s Kitchen and another night I fail to find Grotto or Turk. I felt more confident out there this time and it certainly showed. Three muggings thwarted, six fights broken up, and one armed robbery foiled in a single night wasn’t a bad return by any stretch of the imagination. It didn’t bring me any closer to making sure Austin was safe though and he was the reason I’d put the suit on in the first place. There was nothing more that I could do than I was already doing. Everywhere I went I’d called them both out by name and in Hell’s Kitchen if you didn’t respond to that type of challenge you wouldn’t stay on the top of the heap for long. Something told me I’d be hearing from them both soon.

    “Good work out there tonight,” Dr. Peter Cross said as he dabbed a cut over my eye. “Try not to get hit so often though. You can only explain away so many bruises.”

    I smile.

    “You’d be surprised what a blind man can get away with.”

    Peter’s lab was the closest I came to being properly blind. It was as sterile and as serene a place I’d ever been in. The lack of sound and smells rendered my radar sense less useful in here than it was elsewhere. It made for good practice for the outside world. I was slowly starting to get the hang of my heightened senses and at times would forget that to everyone else I was simple blind one Matt Murdock. Having to traverse Peter’s lab from time to time with outstretched hands helped me refine my act.

    “We both have a lot riding on this. It’s better not to take unnecessary risks.”

    In the corner of the lab one thing does pick up the attention of my radar sense. In an airtight container in the corner of the room the formula that Cross had used during the procedure hummed. Peter had tried to explain to me what was in the formula before but it had gone way over my head. We hadn’t spoken about it since discovering it wasn’t the miracle drug that he’d hoped it would be.

    “Have you ever been tempted?”

    “By what?”

    I gesture in the direction of the formula.

    “I can have much more of an impact wearing this coat than I ever could that suit you’re wearing,” Peter said as he gestured towards his lab coat. “Not to mention that I’ve seen what happens when the procedure goes wrong. I think one Daredevil is probably about as much as the world can take at the moment.”

    Daredevil. The name still felt like it belonged to someone else. When I put the suit on though I felt more free and alive than I ever could as Matt Murdock. I could run and jump and swing from rooftop to rooftop without care and my enemies would cower in my presence. Matt Murdock was lucky if people let him walk up a flight of stairs unaided.

    “Go home and get some sleep. Maybe you’ll have better luck tomorrow.”

    ********

    I’m sat opposite a smiling Angela. She smells like apricots. After having not been around her for a while even the smell of her is intoxicating. I thought I’d be stronger than this, I thought I’d be able to stay angry with her, but in her presence the anger that I’d been feeling had melted away completely. It was only beginning to dawn on me how much I’d been missing her these past few days.

    “So how have you been? What have you been up to?”

    I have a radar sense that all but mitigates my blindness, I stalk the streets of Hell’s Kitchen at night in a skintight costume, and I think still in love with you. Does that answer your question?

    “I’ve been okay,” I say with a smile. “It’s been good to get some space to think about everything.”

    Her pulse picks up a little.

    “We don’t have to have to talk about that if you don’t want to,” Angela says gently. “I heard about what happened with Austin. You’ve probably got so much on your plate at the moment what with that and losing your… I don’t know, this whole thing seems so trivial in comparison.”

    I shake my head.

    “I want to talk about it.”

    Things had been hectic and a lot had happened but since I’d lost my vision all I’d had was time to think. If anything, the series of events that led up to me losing my vision had taught me that thinking about things a little too much was probably a virtue. I couldn’t afford to rush into things like a bull in a china shop anymore, I had to think about things.

    “I’ve been thinking about what happened and though I’m still angry about it I think that given everything we’ve been through it would be a mistake to throw it all away over a few moments of weakness. I know that things got a little out of hand near the end there and I guess now that I can’t see things are going to be very different, but I think we can survive this. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re willing to fight for this then so am I.”

    Midway through my sentence Angela’s heart rate spikes and her eyes widen. She sets down the cup of coffee in her hand and pinches the bridge of her nose with a heavy sigh. It wasn’t exactly the response that I was expecting.

    “Excuse me for saying so but I thought you’d seem a little happier about that,” I say with a smile. “Is something wrong?”

    Angela reaches across the table and places her hand atop mine.

    “Oh, Matt…”

    I hold her hand tightly.

    “What’s wrong?”

    She takes a deep breath. All of a sudden the scent of salt hits my nose and I realise that Angela is welling up. She uses her hand to fan her the tears that had begun to form in her eyes and clears her throat.

    “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking whilst we’ve been apart too,” Angela mutters. “I thought about the secrets you’d been keeping from me, all the lies you’d told me, and all the times I’d made to feel like an outsider looking in by you and the people around me. And I realised that even though I loved you I couldn’t in all good faith say that I wanted to go back to that.”

    I let go of her hand. This can’t be happening. I’d agreed to come here as an act of good faith and had even found it in me to swallow my pride and forgive her for what she’d done. This wasn’t how this afternoon was meant to go. She didn’t realise what she was saying. I’m a different man than I was before I lost my sight.

    “It won’t be like that this time,” I say with a shake of my head. “I’ve changed.”

    “You very well may have but I’ve lost count of the times you’ve told me that you’re going to change and nothing has happened. It’s not worth the risk anymore. I know that what I did to you was horrible and I’ll never forgive myself for it but I don’t want to be with you anymore.”

    I sit in silence.

    “I know you might not want to hear about it but it’s better that you hear it from me,” Angela says nervously. “Ben and I are… I don’t know what Ben and I are… but it’s a thing. It’s more permanent than either one of us planned for it to be and I think I’m okay with that. I think he’s what I need right now.”

    From my seat I grab my cane and rest my head against it with a heavy sigh. It felt like one thing after another of late. First the attack, then my eyesight, then Austin, and now I’d lost Angela for good. I’m not sure what I’d done in a past life to make the world so angry at me but it must have been heinous.

    “Please don’t be angry with me.”

    Her voice quivers as she speaks. She’s shaking too. As much as I want to lie to myself and tell myself that her vitals didn’t support what she was saying, I knew that would be one step too far. She genuinely didn’t want to be with me anymore. And worse, she had shacked up with the guy she had cheated on me with whilst I sat in a hospital bed.

    I want to throw the table over and make a scene. I want to hate her more than anything. But I still love her more than anything, even after all this, and in a way the thought of her being happy with someone else made me happier than her being miserable with me.

    “Does he make you happy?”

    “Not as happy as you used to make me,” Angela says sadly. “But he’s honest with me. And that means more to me than anything.”

    I stand up from my seat and grab my cane.

    “Well that’s all that matters then.”

    It hurts. By God does it hurt, but I try my best to maintain my composure at least until I’m out of her sight. We say our goodbyes and I plant a soft kiss on her forehead like I used to, before she insists that we’ll stay in touch and departs. There’s no way we can keep in contact anymore. But at least I’ll know that wherever she is, whatever she’s doing, she’ll be happier than she would have been than if she’d stayed. The sound of her high heels against the sidewalk fades as she makes her way up the block and the smell of apricots, the smell that I loved so much, fades soon afterwards. I’m alone now.
     
    #105 Morden Man, Jan 20, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015
  6. Carnage27

    Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    Metropolis

    The city was a disaster zone. Smoke rose from the center of the city where the meteor had crash landed, and the streets were full of sirens as emergency crews rushed to respond to the unprecedented occurrence. The meteor was said to come out of the blue, and without any warning. Clark was no astrologist, but he knew that wasn't normal. The Earth had enough orbital surveillance to have a good idea when something of this size was going to hit. That meant there was most likely some sort of intelligence behind this strike.

    Superman swooped down to the impact zone to get a better look. The damage was, all things considered, relatively minor. While there was a small crater, and some windows in the adjoining buildings were blown out, there didn't appear to be any major, structural damage.

    With a mighty guest of breath from Clark, he cleared away the smoke rising from the impact site in order to get a better view of the object. Once revealed, Clark's fears were realized. While the majority of the object was made of a red, asteroid-like rock, the rest was very clearly mechanical apparatuses.

    The rock split in half with a great hiss and a jet of steam. The two halves separated and turned onto their sides. From the bottom of each, tentacles emerged and the two halves stood up, each as its own, self-standing tripod structure. They each looked like large, standing octopuses made of rock and metal. They looked at one another before turning to Superman.

    ~WHERE IS THE ENEMY?~ a pair of voices screamed in Clark's head. The force of the psychic connection coming from the alien tech nearly knocked Superman out of the sky. He knew psychic beings existed. Charles Xavier, the world's most prominent mutant, was a psychic. But Clark had never come face to face with that power before. Having someone in your brain was not a fun sensation.

    "I don't know who the enemy is!" he called back to them. "But I'm willing to help do whatever I can to end this peacefully."

    The two walkers seemed to consider this for a few seconds, before their voices once again boomed through Superman's skull ~UNACCEPTABLE!~

    Before Superman could react, both tripods let loose with a blast of energy that sent him spiraling into the concrete of the street below.

    He got to his knees and looked up at the great war machines who had begun tearing a straight path through Metropolis, and for the first time, Clark wasn't sure how he was going to win this time.
     
  7. Carnage27

    Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    The pain running through Batman's body was sharp and stinging, but he had felt worse. The glass shards that were embedded in his flesh had missed all arteries and vital organs. His suit protected them. Still, they were in major muscle groups. The would would slow him down all night, and could keep him off the streets of Gotham for a prolonged time if not treated properly. The shoulder wound would take potency out of punches, the leg would would slow him down, and the stomach would would bleed. A lot.

    "Bullseye," Wayne spat. "I've heard of you."

    It was a name that came to him from his time with the League. Bullseye was a merc of incredible prestige. He and Deathstroke were two of the only non-League members to ever gain the respect of Ra's al Ghul. Bullseye was known to have extreme precision. Innocent bystanders weren't an issue. Bullseye never missed.

    "I'm not surprised," he smiled. He seemed to enjoy being recognized. That was good. Batman could use that to his advantage. "Those in our line of work often know one another. Oh, don't look so surprised. You have all the training and bearing of an assassin. Hell, before tonight I wasn't sure if you even existed. You can imagine my happiness when I saw you on that roof."

    "How'd you know I'd be there?" Bruce asked. He wanted to keep Bullseye talking. Clearly he enjoyed it, and it gave the vigilante time to look for an opening. There'd be an opening, there was always an opening.

    "Lucky guess," he shrugged, nonchalantly. Bruce knew better, however. Bullseye studied his targets like a book. He didn't go into a job blind. Still, Bruce was careful. He didn't let on clues to show his alliance with Gordon and the MCU.

    "But you missed," Batman smiled through the pain at Bullseye. Bruce knew that a mood swing from cocky to angry could get the assassin to slip.

    But Bullseye merely laughed, "And that's why you're bleeding to death in front of me."

    The sniper turned around and looked out the unfinished wall towards Gotham, "This city is good to people like us, isn't it? I've certainly cleaned up here. And now with the money I'll get off you, I could retire! I won't, but I could!"

    Bullseye spun on his heels, and when he did, he receiver a batarang in his should and his thigh. Batman, wounded as he was, sprung on his enemy, connecting with a roundhouse kick to his solar plexus. Bullseye stumbled backwards, and Batman sneered, "Let's even the odds."

    Bruce grabbed the assassin and through him into a column, causing part of the unfinished floor above them to crumble down. The dust obscured their vision, letting Bullseye an opening. He tossed a piece of the drywall towards Batman, which the vigilante managed to evade.

    Bruce in turn charged Bullseye and used a judo throw to take him to the ground. Unfortunately, the ceiling collapse weakened the floor, and the two combatants tumbled to the story below.

    **********

    Gotham Police Headquarters

    Things were going to hell in a handbasket. That's all Gillian Loeb could think as he and DA Hamilton Hill. Whoever this Black Mask was, he came out of nowhere, which was saying something for the crime scene in Gotham. Nothing happened in this city without him knowing about it. Or more specifically, nothing happened in organized crime without Cobblepot knowing about it.

    But this entire bounty situation had thrown them all for a loop, and now they were in crisis mode. If reports from the field were to be believed, rioting had begun and Gordon had been shot.

    "How the hell are we going to get this under control?" Hill asked, pushing up his glasses and rubbing his eyes.

    "It's Christmas Eve and we're dealing with psychopaths," Loeb took a sip of the whiskey in his glass. "What the hell has this town come to?"

    "This Bat character has destroyed everything we built, Loeb," Hill snarled at the thought of the vigilante. "There were always problems, but we had always smoothed them out. But this bastard doesn't play by the rules. He's the problem. Maybe this Black Mask has the right idea."

    "I don't care if he has the right idea or not," Loeb sneered. "He went outside the structure. That can't be abided."

    "And that's our real problem here," a new voice said from the doorway. There, in a masked that looked like a falcon, a man and two other masked men stood with automatic weapons. "Gentlemen, you are part of the old regime. You stifled Gotham's criminal creativity. We, in the False Face Society, are here to bring that back."

    "What the hell are you-"

    The commissioner was cut off as the men opened fire, mowing the two government officials down.
     
  8. Eddie Brock

    Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    The past few months have been a whirlwind. My life has gone through so many changes that it's all I can do to keep my head on straight and my feet on the ground. In this period of transition to this new and exciting stage of my life, I have seen and done things that would've seemed unimaginable to myself even half a year ago. And yet, in spite of all that I've been through, there's a good chance that this, right here, is the single most unbelievable...

    Peter Parker at the Midtown High School Homecoming dance. With Liz Allen on my arm, no less! As soon as we walk into the freshly decorated gymnasium, I can quickly tell that I'm not the only one in total disbelief. Dumbfounded eyes follow Liz and I as we stroll over to the check-in table. To Liz's credit, she's completely ignoring the extra attention. Then again, I suppose she must be used to it. And on nights like tonight, when she really goes the extra mile to put herself together, it's easy to see why.

    Liz looks positively radiant in her sparkling blue strapless dress. With every turn, she catches the light, and her dress literally twinkles. Her golden hair falls straight on either side of her face, the ends coming to rest on her bare shoulders. I don't think I've cleaned up too badly myself, either! I've only worn this suit a handful of times - once for a private school interview at the Brentwood Academy near Gotham and a few other times for extended family events. I even found a blue tie that matches Liz's dress closely enough. And I ran a comb through the typically untamable mat of brown waves atop my head. Guess I must really like this girl, huh?

    As Liz and I fill out our ballots for Homecoming King and Queen - I scribble down fake names as my own little form of rebellion. Sue me! - I see Miguel and Anya enter. It's clear that Liz and I weren't the only ones to put some serious effort into our appearance. Miguel looks like he just walked out of a Calvin Klein ad, dressed to the nines with his hair slicked back. Anya, meanwhile, looks like I've never seen her. Her hair tumbles down in soft curls, and she's wearing a silky peach-colored dress. I even think I spy some makeup, a rare sight for her.

    "Well, don't you two look dapper," I announce as they wander over to the check-in table. I turn to Anya. "Very nice, Corazon, very nice. That dress suits you a lot more than the one you wore for your quince."

    Miguel's eyes light up. "Oh yeah! That bright pink one with the poofy shoulders?" he laughs, looking down at Anya. "I had almost forgotten about that one!"

    Anya gives Miguel a light, yet firm, punch in the arm. With a smile, she says, "Thanks, Peter. You don't look too bad yourself." For a moment, she breaks eye contact. She then continues, "You should wear your hair like that more often." As she looks over my shoulder, she adds, "You look very nice, too, Liz!"

    "Thank you," Liz answers distantly without looking. I follow her intent gaze to the door, where Flash has just arrived with Sally Avril as his date. Though they're surrounded by the usual crowd of lackeys and sycophants, Flash still manages to spot us. His face contorts into a half scowl, though he shows no surprise. Guess he heard about Liz and I already.

    "So, Pete, what are the chances I can get a dance out of you later?" Anya asks, bringing my attention back to her - though I can't say the same for Liz, who continues to glare at the door.

    I give Anya a smile. "You know, I think you've got yourself a deal," I promise.

    Liz puts a hand on my arm. "Hey, come on. Let's go get our picture taken," she suggests. Before I can say something to Miguel and Anya, Liz whisks me away to where a small backdrop and "Homecoming 2014" banner have been set up. There, a few spots ahead of us in line, stand Flash and Sally.

    Sally turns slowly, a smug look on her face. Licking her lips, she says, "Love the dress, Liz." Then, with a not-so-subtle glance in my direction, she adds, "Not sure about your taste in accessories, though."

    "Maybe I should take a lesson from you. You've received your share of pearl necklaces, right?"
    Liz fires back with fire in her eyes. The photographer whistles to get Sally's attention. With a huff, she grabs Flash by the arm and stomps off to take her picture. Once she's out of sight, Liz turns back to me. "Hey, don't let her get to you, alright?"

    At that, I have to smirk. "Liz, if I seriously let people like Sally Avril get under my skin, I'd never have survived this long at this school," I assure her.

    Soon enough, our turn to take a picture comes up. Liz takes her arm in mine, and we take our place in front of the backdrop. The photographer holds up a finger to signal that it'll just be another second. As we wait, Liz glances over to see Flash and Sally watching us intently. The photographer asks if we're ready. "Actually, can I switch positions?" Liz asks. She spins around to face me, pressing a hand against my shoulder and leaning her body into mine. She stares directly at Sally until the last moment before the picture is taken. By the time it's done, Flash and Sally have stormed off.

    After we receive a ticket to pick up our picture at the end of the dance, Liz and I make our way to the now crowded dance floor. I can see neither Flash and Sally nor Miguel and Anya. The one person I can see is Hobie Brown, hamming it up on stage in front of his bandmates. The Hypno-Hustlers spend the night trading songs with a DJ playing Top 40 hits. And to their credit - and my surprise - they're actually killing it! At one point, Liz leans in to shout, "They're actually pretty good!"

    "Just be glad you didn't have to sit through the early rehearsals!" I reply, eliciting a laugh from her.

    After a little more dancing, I ask Liz if she wants a drink. She nods and says something about going to the bathroom, but I can't really hear over the music. While she heads off to do that, I push my way through the dancing crowd over to the refreshments table. It feels about fifteen degrees cooler once I'm away from the mass of gyrating bodies. As I start pouring myself a cup of lemonade from the half-emptied cooler, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn to see Anya, sweaty bangs stuck to her forehead. "Hey!"

    "Hey, you." Without even a word, she grabs the plastic cup from my hand and takes a drink. As she hands it back to me, she says, "So, you and Liz seem to be having a good time."

    I begin refilling the cup. "Yeah, actually she's really cool! She even said she likes the Hustlers."

    Anya laughs. "That'll make Hobie's night."

    "Where's Miguel?" I ask after swallowing a swig of lemonade.

    "He said he had to 'check on something,'" she shrugs. When she sees I've emptied the cup, she holds out a hand. I hand her the cup, and she starts filling it from the water cooler. "So, how about that dance you promised me?" she asks, peering over the edge of the cup.

    "Give me a few minutes to catch my breath, and it's yours." She offers me the cup, but I shake her off. As she turns to dump it in the trash can, I see Liz approaching at full speed. I can tell by her expression that something's up. "Hey, you alright?" I ask.

    "Perfect," she answers curtly, "Let's go dance."

    For the second time that night, Liz takes me by the arm and drags me away from Anya before I can say anything. I'm practically jogging to keep up with her pace. Liz marches with authority into the center of the dance floor. When we finally come to a stop, I nearly bowl her over. I open my mouth to ask what's wrong, but then the answer presents itself. Not ten feet away, Sally is grinding her hips up against Flash. She glances up for the briefest of moments, flashing a devious grin.

    Liz puts her hands around my neck and pulls her body into mine. Before I can even process what's happening, the hottest girl in school is sexy dancing with me. Of course, I'd feel a lot happier about it if I felt like it had anything to do with me at all. But with Liz looking over at Flash and Sally every twenty seconds, it's obvious that I've found myself in some pissing contest between the girls. Every time Sally makes a move, Liz generates one of her own. Frankly, it's more uncomfortable than it is sexy.

    Just then, the phone in my pocket starts vibrating violently. I push Liz away from me for a second to pull it out and check on it. Of all times, now? Really? I had set up an alert on my phone to message me whenever there was a report of unusual seismic activity somewhere in the city, figuring that the Shocker would make his presence known eventually. And as it turns out, he has. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to leave my spare costume in my locker, so I should be able to just pick that up and...

    "Peter?"

    I look up from my phone. "Sorry, I've got to go," I announce suddenly as I begin making my way through the crowd. I'm halfway to the door when I feel a tug on my arm. Liz is standing there with a confused look on her face.

    "Where are you going?" she asks.

    "Look, something's come up," I offer feebly. I take another step towards the door, but Liz doesn't release my arm.

    "But there's still another hour before the dance is over."

    My phone vibrates again. There's no good excuse I can offer, not in this situation. I start to feel antsy. "I'm sorry. I just have to go." Again, I turn. Again, Liz holds my wrist.

    "Is everything alright?" she asks, concerned.

    A third vibration. Whatever Shocker's up to, it's big. I don't have time for this. I yank my hand away from Liz's grip - perhaps a bit too roughly. "Look, Liz, I don't know what's going on between you and Flash, and frankly... I don't care. Whatever issue you two are having, it's completely between you. And I don't care to be some pawn in your plan to get back at him, so if that's what tonight is about, then find some other dope. Just leave me out of it."

    Liz's mouth hangs open slightly, but no words come. I spin on my heel and leave her there before she can come up with some ridiculous defense for her actions. I can't worry about that now, anyway. Tonight, I've got bigger fish to fry...
     
  9. Eddie Brock

    Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    No one ever promised Peter Quill that it'd be easy to make a dishonest living. In fact, the man who picked him up off the street and raised him had warned him profusely about the potential pitfalls in Quill's chosen line of work. Had that man not been a no-good scoundrel himself, he could've turned young Peter over to the Lanterns, and Peter could've gone through puberty in a juvenile sciencell. In that respect, Peter had been very lucky. But even for the man who called himself "Star-Lord," luck ran out eventually. And in the infinite reaches of the uncaring cosmos, one fact held true: when it rained, it poured.

    It was supposed to be the surest of sure things, a slam dunk by any definition. A Kree freighter hauling a full hold of luxury goods was passing through the Kree-Skrull disputed territory when it was beset by Skrull fanatics. The Skrulls had disabled the ship and either killed or kidnapped the crew. Reports on that last point varied. What was undeniable, however, was that the remains of the freighter had been left floating just outside the orbit of an unnamed moon, its cargo hold and all it contained intact. All Peter had to do was find the ship, raid its hold, and deliver the goods to his fence. A quarter of a million units upfront, plus a percentage of the sale. Easy money.

    Or it would have been, had Peter been able to procure the goods. But just as he was preparing to load up his ship, the Milano, with as much as it could carry, Peter was ambushed by the woman who was once like an adopted sister to him. Nebula. She had done well for herself since taking over the family business. She and Peter had some... difference of opinions on things. Peter found himself a bit uncomfortable with Nebula's definitions of "collateral damage" and "innocent bystanders." Negotiating his resignation had been a delicate affair, but Peter and Nebula parted amicably enough. Not that it stopped her from screwing him over on this. Peter did find himself wondering if it was personal.

    So it was that Peter found himself where he always was after a job had gone sour - or after one had gone well, for that matter - drinking on Knowhere. Grimy, dank, poorly lit. Just the way Peter preferred it. The Kalanorian stout he was drinking had the smell - and most of the consistency - of mud, but one didn't drink it for the taste. The Kalanorians were a race of warriors, and they preferred their drinks strong. Smaller races had been known to die of alcohol poisoning after only one pint.

    Peter sipped his drink slowly while the pink Arcturan girl - or was she Krylorian? Peter couldn't tell - prattled on about her dreams of becoming a dancing girl on one of those luxury barges which offered tours of strange and exotic sectors of the galaxy. Peter pointed out that she would need to audition for such a job and selflessly offered his evaluation of her talents if she wanted to practice on the Milano later. The girl giggled and put her hand on top of his. Ever since Peter had been old enough to be interested in girls - irrespective of skin color or other unique traits - he had realized that being Terran put him at a serious advantage. Much like how Earth girls found British accents attractive, Peter's "exotic" nature brought him to the beds of many beautiful women from one side of the quadrant to the next.

    Just as Peter was leaning in to comment further on the girl's dress, he spotted an unwelcome sight out of the corner of his eye. Waddling over to the bar was the cybernetically-enhanced raccoon who called himself "Rocket" and his walking, talking houseplant, Groot. Peter had... interacted with these two before, and those interactions hadn't been entirely pleasant. "Oh, terrific," Peter grumbled as he leaned back on his stool.

    That's when he noticed that Rocket and Groot weren't alone. There, flanking the "dynamic duo," were three humanoids and some kind of rock creature. The youngest looking of the humanoids, a blonde boy who reminded Peter a lot of his younger self, leaned over to Rocket and said out of the corner of his mouth, "Who the heck is this guy?"

    Peter stepped closer to the most interesting of the group, the slender golden-haired female. "Me?" he said with a smile, draping his arm over the girl's shoulders, "I'm Star-Lord." He turned his attention fully to the girl and admired the deep blue of her eyes. Maybe Rocket and Groot weren't so bad. Not if they brought someone like her into Peter's life. "But you can call me Quill. Peter Quill," he explained as he addressed the group once more.

    "Alright, pal, hands off my sister," the boy said threateningly. Once he mentioned something, Peter could see the resemblance. Though the boy needn't be so confrontational; the girl slinked away from Peter's arm all the same.

    "Peter Quill, you say?" the third humanoid spoke up. "Is that an Earth name?"

    Peter was taken aback for a moment. He looked around at the three humanoids. "Wait a second. Are you guys Terrans? Like, actual Earth Terrans?" Peter felt his jaw drop. Never in a million years would he have expected to run into fellow Terrans way out in the cosmos. Particularly on Knowhere. He found himself in total disbelief. "Well, welcome to the galaxy, I suppose! Holy *****! That's amazing. So, what're you doing way out here? Particularly with Ranger Rick, Giving Tree, and... well, I don't actually know your race, sorry," he apologized to the rock creature.

    The third human cleared his throat. "Well, actually, that last one's with us," he clarified.

    Peter furrowed his brow. "Okay, I know I've been gone from Earth for a long time, but he doesn't look like any Terran I've ever seen." He quickly added, "No offense."

    The rock man sighed. "It's a long story."

    "That's why we brought 'em to you, Quill," Rocket began. "These humies need your help."

    "I am Groot," Groot added in something sounding like assent.

    "Alright, well, we should get a round of drinks to celebrate the Terran reunion, anyway," Peter offered. "Then you guys can tell me all about what happened and what I can do to help." He turned and signaled the bartender to bring a round of drinks for the group before motioning everyone over to an available booth.
     
  10. Eddie Brock

    Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    When I finally come to, my head is still swimming. With a groan, I gingerly press a hand to my temple where a dull, rhythmic throb has begun to form. How long was I out? The last thing I can remember is a loud hum, a flash of light, a red wave, and then... nothing. "Oh, good, you're awake," a voice sounds suddenly, causing my heart to skip a beat. I lean up a bit to see a mop of curly hair on the back of a man's head, seated at a nearby workstation. "You gave me quite a scare back there," the man continues, "I couldn't find a pulse at first, but then you started breathing again, so..."

    The man spins around in his computer chair. In my foggy state, it takes me a minute to place how I know him. It's Darwin Elias, the famous theoretical physicist. Which means this must be his lab. It's positively enormous - easily double the size of the room housing the miniature particle accelerator. Just one of the perks of being a prestigious, big name hire, I suppose. As I shift from my prone position, I realize that I'm laying on something soft. Puzzled, I look down to see that I'm on top of a twin-sized mattress. "You have a bed in your lab?"

    Dr. Elias shrugs. "I don't sleep much, anyway, but sometimes it's easier than going all the way home," he reasons. He leans forward in his seat and rests his arms against his knees. "How do you feel, Barry?" When he sees the surprised look on my face, he simply shrugs again. "I might've taken the liberty to look at your badge while you were unconscious," he admits casually. "Any concussive symptoms?"

    "Just a little haziness," I answer as he gets up from his desk, penlight in hand. As he kneels at the foot of the bed, he shines the light in my eyes one after the other. Evidently satisfied with my pupillary response, he clicks off the light and drops it in the front pocket of his white lab coat. As he stands, I add, "I also have a dull headache."

    "Well, I'm no doctor, obviously - not that kind, anyway - but my amateur opinion is that you seem perfectly hale and hearty, considering," he concludes. As he strolls back to his desk, hands tucked in his pockets, he says, "Astonishing, really, given the state of the lab I found you in."

    "What happened?"

    Dr. Elias glances back at me from his desk. "Near as I can tell? Someone was messing with the circuit board. The power in my lab flickered for a moment. Whoever it was, whatever they were hoping to accomplish, they threw open the breakers at the worst possible time. A bolt of lightning struck that gaudy weather vane on the roof, and..." He makes an exploding fist to demonstrate his point. Spinning back around, he continues, "In any case, I don't think we'll be using that particle accelerator anytime soon. Or ever." After a moment, he says abruptly, "So, forensic science, huh? I take it, then, that you were investigating Dr. Frank's murder."

    "Yeah," I reply, sitting upright for the first time. "Did you know him?"

    "Not well. I haven't been working here long." He leans over his desk to scribble on a notepad. "He had some cute pet theories, I'll grant you that. Horrendous calculations, though. His views on tachyonic transmission were completely backwards. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of particle physics could've seen that." Before I can say a word, Dr. Elias looks at me and says, "But I didn't kill him, Barry. I may have abhorred the man's arithmetic, but it'll take more than that to make me kill someone."

    "I didn't say you--"

    "No, but you did consider it. Briefly," Dr. Elias interjects. Nodding, he says, "That's good, though. You're both a man of science and a man of the law. You have to consider every possible angle, no matter how unlikely." After another pause, he says, "You're good at your job, Barry."

    I furrow my brow. Dr. Elias is... odder than I might've expected, yet somehow he still effortlessly conveys his true genius. Though his mind leaps from topic to topic, seemingly at random, it's clear that he's simply operating at a higher speed than the rest of us. The connections may not seem apparent to everyone else, but they're clear as day to Dr. Elias. I watch him as his writing hand darts from one side of the notepad to the other. I'd wager that he wouldn't notice for hours if I walked out right now.

    Feeling a little stronger - and with my curiosity getting the better of me - I hop down off the makeshift bed and begin crossing towards Dr. Elias' desk. As I get closer, I can peer over his shoulder at his work. To my eyes, it's a semi-organized jumble of numbers and unintelligible symbols. I can't be sure, but I think it's some form of shorthand of Dr. Elias' design, punctuated by various equations. "What are you--?"

    Dr. Elias holds up a hand to shush me. His pen goes completely still as his head pops up alertly. He tilts slightly to look at some nearby devices and monitors which are now flashing. A needle on one of them bounces excitedly, registering some sort of major event. "An anomaly," Dr. Elias says for his own benefit as much as mine. He frantically flips over his notepad to a fresh sheet and starts jotting down notes rapidly. I can see the consternation on his face. "I don't understand," he continues, thinking aloud, "These readings don't make any sense. It's like they've totally come out of nowhere."

    "Maybe the lightning strike affected your equipment?" I offer. I might as well be talking to a brick wall, though. Dr. Elias is completely lost in thought, his pen racing to keep up with whatever possible conclusions he's drawing. "Well, look, I am feeling better," I begin, "so let me just get out of your hair. I really appreciate you taking care of me, and it was nice to meet you."

    I'm halfway to the door when Dr. Elias calls out, "Stop!" I turn around and see that the flashing screens and bouncing needles have stopped. So has Dr. Elias' notetaking. Without looking at me, he beckons me back over with his hand. "Come here again, Barry, if you would." When I do so, the devices start up again. "Back away," Dr. Elias instructs. I do. The devices stop. He turns to look at me. "I don't believe it..."

    "What is it?"

    "Stay right here," Dr. Elias says in much the same tone someone would use on a pet or a small child. He stumbles out of his chair, sending it rolling across the face of the desk. For a moment, he disappears. He then returns brandishing some kind of handheld device which resembles a price scanner. Without looking at me, Dr. Elias holds out the device and stares intently at its small readout screen as he waves it around my body. "Unbelievable."

    "What is?" I ask a bit more urgently.

    Dr. Elias doesn't answer me right away. Instead, he looks me in the eye and asks directly, "Was the particle accelerator active at the time of the explosion?"

    "I think it was," I answer. "It started humming."

    Dr. Elias rubs his chin as he tucks the scanner device under his arm. "If the resulting power surge somehow supercharged the accelerator at the moment of the explosion..." For the first time since he started talking cryptically, he actually looks at me and recognizes my concern and confusion. "Whatever energies you were exposed to when the accelerator exploded, it seems your cells drank in that radiation and became saturated by it," he explains for me.

    "Meaning what, exactly?"

    "Meaning that your body is now generating some kind of quantum energy field, the likes of which I've never seen before," Dr. Elias answers.

    My eyes go wide. "What does that mean?"

    "I don't know."

    "Is it dangerous?"

    "I don't know."

    Panicked, I ask, "Well, what do you know?"

    Dr. Elias reaches out and puts a hand on my shoulder. "Barry, there's no need to be alarmed just yet. So far as we can tell, you're not in any immediate danger. You feel normal, right?" I nod. "That's good. Listen, I can't tell you anything about what this all means, specifically, until I run some tests. And I won't be able to do that without making the proper preparations. Can you make it back here tomorrow morning?"

    "Yeah," I reply as I try to calm myself down, "yeah, I can do that." I've never been in shock before, but I suspect this is suspiciously close to how it feels. After all, it's not every day that a renowned theoretical physicist tells you that your cells are irradiated and that your body is generating a "quantum energy field." I try to force myself to accept the reason behind his words. If I feel normal, then there's no need to panic. A thought occurs to me. "What about the accelerator explosion? Shouldn't we tell somebody?"

    "I'll fill out a formal report, but we can just leave your involvement out of it. At least until we have a better grasp on what we're dealing with," Dr. Elias reasons. When he senses my hesitation, he grips my shoulder once more. "It'll be alright, Barry. There wasn't a crime committed, and no one got hurt. There's no harm in keeping this to ourselves until we've run our tests."

    I give a hesitant nod. I guess he's right. No need to kick up a fuss about this whole thing. Not unless tomorrow's tests reveal something dramatic. Once I've completed calmed myself down, I collect my things and promise to return as early as possible the next morning.
     
  11. Morden Man

    Morden Man Registered

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    Tonight of all nights I’m thankful that Cross convinced me to put this suit on. After the emotional catastrophe that was my meeting with Angela earlier I’m in desperate need of a release. The lowlifes of Hell’s Kitchen seem more than happy to provide me with one.

    “<Is everything okay?>" Peter’s voice comes through my earpiece. “<You seem a little tense.>”

    Where would I even begin to explain? As much as Cross and I had grown remarkably close over such a short span of time, I wasn’t remotely comfortable discussing his romantic life with him. Not to mention that it was Ben Urich that Angela had acquired Peter’s phone number from in the first place. There were plenty of reasons why this conversation couldn’t happen.

    “I’m fine.”

    From the noncommittal grunt I get back in response I can tell he knows I’m not telling the truth. There are much more pressing things at hand tonight though. One of the homeless muggers from my first night on patrol had a lead on Grotto’s whereabouts. Rumour had it that he’d been seen frequenting a brothel on the other side of town of late and if I showed up at the right time I’d be able to find him there. Cross had warned me that it might be a trap but I could tell by the old guy’s pulse that he was telling the truth. At least he thought he was.

    “I’m coming up to the building.”

    “<Make sure you get the lay of the land before you go in,>” Cross urged. “<We might only have one shot at this so everything needs to go perfectly.>”

    It’s an old apartment building in one of the more squalid parts of Hell’s Kitchen, riven with mold and falling apart in places. It was almost hard to believe the damn thing hadn’t been demolished. There were seven floors to the building that smelled about as dirty and unsanitary a human dwelling as I’d ever come into contact with. Even without amplified senses the place must have smelled bad. With them I was able to smell every piece of rotting food, filthy tick-ridden mattress, used syringe, and human excrement in there.

    Most importantly of all I could tell Grotto was in there. It was his heartbeat. It was stronger than any heartbeat I’d ever heard before. Grotto was a mountain of a man and what he lacked in intelligence he certainly more than made up for in brawn so it was no wonder he had a heartbeat like a racehorse. It wasn’t the only thing either from the sounds that were coming from the room he was in.

    “Grotto’s definitely in there,” I say quietly. “From the looks of it they’ve cordoned off an entire floor to do their business there. Twelve rooms, three times as many girls, and a hell of a lot of drugs.”

    “<How many hostiles?>" Cross asks. “<How many guns?>”

    I try to navigate through the sounds coming from the building. There was so much moaning, the sound of children crying piercing through from other floors, and raised voices. God, this place is a hellhole. Eventually through all the noise I see the silhouettes of three men making their way up and down the corridoors of the brothel.

    [​IMG]

    “There are three of them, not including Grotto. Not sure how many guns, that places smell so bad it’s throwing my radar sense off a little.”

    “<Be careful, Matt.>”

    I unsheathe my billy club and aim it towards the apartment building. It fires into the side of the building, several floors above the one Grotto’s on, and I swing across. As I begin to descend down my thoughts flash back to Grotto standing over me after he’d beaten me, the way he’d laughed, what he’d done… I grit my teeth. This wasn’t about revenge. Austin couldn’t be safe whilst Grotto, Turk, and Slaughter were still walking around free. I’d need to remember that once I was in there.

    I hang drop down the ledges on the outside of the building until I’m at the right floor and say a few silent words of prayer as I slide through the window and into the building. It’s cold in here and from what little I can tell there’s next to no lighting outside of a few dim light bulbs scattered around the hall. It was almost like they knew I was coming and planned the perfect obstacle course for me.

    I’m on the first guard before he even has a chance to realise what’s happening. I grab him by the head and smash it against my knee. There’s a loud crunch as I’m certain I’ve broken his nose and several of his teeth as well as having knocked him clean out. Before he falls to the ground I catch him and lay him on the ground without a sound. I wrap some plastic handcuffs around his hands and lay him on his back so that he doesn’t choke on his own blood before continuing further into the building.

    The second guard is faster off the draw than the first and even manages to draw his gun. I clamp my hand over his mouth and grab his wrist, slamming it against the wall and knocking the gun from his hand, before slamming his head against the wall with twice the ferocity and in doing so knocking him clean out. I slap some plastic handcuffs on him too and make sure to kick the gun away from him. The last thing I needed right now was to be shot in the back by some dime store pimp.

    The third one was more difficult to locate. He’d decided to head into one of the rooms and taste some of his own stock. I stood in front of the door and weighed up whether to enter and deal with him or whether I should deal with Grotto first and hope it didn’t come back to haunt me. Every part of me told myself to handle Grotto first and come back afterwards, I couldn’t risk being seen by one of the women in there, but from inside the room came the whimpers of the woman he was on top of. The other women laid motionless on mattresses, vials and syringes strewn around them, and seemed oblivious to his presence. Grotto could wait.

    I pushed the door open slowly and one of the women’s head turned towards me slowly as if seeking divine intervention. I raised a lone finger to my lips and unsheathed my billy club, pulling it apart as I approached the last conscious guard. He was muttering horrible things into the ear of the poor woman he was on top of and vodka seemed to lace his sweat. Soon enough I’d put an end to her suffering.

    I wrapped the wire that connected the two pieces of my billy club around the man’s neck and yanked him away from her with a harsh tug. He fell to the ground clawing at his neck to get free of the wire that was restricting his neck. Slowly but surely his pulse began to slow down and the frequency of his attempts to scratch free of the wire slowed to a halt. As he slipped out of consciousness I relinquished him from the grips of my billy club and let him fall onto one of the dirty mattresses. I wrapped his hands in plastic handcuffs and made sure to remove his gun from his person so the women couldn’t exact their revenge on him once I’d left the room.

    I wordlessly make my way towards the door and press my finger to my lips again. Without fail the women nod in recognition, though they shy away from eye contact and keep their distance from me as I make my way out. I can’t say I blame them at all. I wouldn’t trust a man on Earth if I had to live like this.

    “They’re down,” I whisper as I hold my hand against my earpiece. “Only Grotto left.”

    I make my way towards the room that Grotto’s thumping heartbeat had been emanating from and pause before entering. My radar sense pings and I see two women inside on a bed and Grotto in the bathroom alone. Two women? If I didn’t know how much of an awful human being Grotto was it would almost make me laugh.

    Slowly I turn the doorknob and step through into the room. With a well placed throw of my billy club I manage to smash the only light in the room and the women are enveloped in complete darkness.

    “What the hell was that?”

    “This place is a goddamn dump,” the older of the two women said. “Another light has gone out. What do you expect?”

    I sit in wait for Grotto to step out of the bathroom. The two women talk amongst themselves casually whilst Grotto begins to finish up in the bathroom. These women weren’t the same as the ones in the other rooms. Though they weren’t high class escorts by any stretch of the imagination they didn’t seem to be drugged up to the point they were catatonic and seemed to be here of their own volition. They must have brought them in especially for Grotto. It seemed working for Eric Slaughter had its perks.

    The door to the bathroom opened and Grotto’s lumbering silhouette loomed large over the light escaping from within. He was completely naked and reeked of sweat but seemed either none the wiser to the fact or completely indifferent to it. Somehow he managed to look even more childlike without the hat than he’d manage with it on.

    “Come back to bed,” one of the women said with a smile. “We’ve missed you.”

    Grotto laughed and stepped forward.

    I slammed the bathroom door shut behind him and leapt onto his giant back, placing my arms around his neck whilst trying to wrestle him to the ground. The women screamed and ran from the room as Grotto and I tangled with one another around in the darkness. He couldn’t see a thing but it didn’t make as much of a different as it ought to have. He was too big, too strong, and the room was too cramped for me to properly use my agility to my advantage.

    After several failed attempts to put him in a hold Grotto manages to fling me to the ground, luckily the roll I do on impact takes much of the impact and allows me to evade the flurry of stamps he launches in my direction.

    “Who the hell are you?” Grotto shouts, sweat pouring down his forehead. “What do you want?”

    I unsheathe my billy club and send it crashing against one of Grotto’s massive knees. He shouts out in pain and falls to one knee. He doesn’t know it yet but his kneecap is shattered. He’ll be lucky if he was walking again anytime soon.

    I try to take advantage of his pain and finish it but he’s too strong. I remembered what one of his punches felt like and I wasn’t intending upon being on the receiving end of one of those again anytime soon. He flails at me from his knees with his huge arms and begins grabbing things within his reach to throw at me. After several minutes he runs out of things to throw at me and all the flailing leaves him a breathless and sweaty mess. From the look on his face I can tell he’s resigned to his fate.

    “What are you meant to be? A superhero or something? You’re a pretty crummy one if you ask me,” Grotto said with a chuckle. “Reckon I’d have knocked you out if I’d have landed a single punch.”

    I think back to the beating I took from Grotto on the floor of Wildcat’s Gym all those months ago and smile. I’d taken near to a dozen of his punches if memory served. The Murdock family had many a failing but a glass jaw was never one of them. With that being said with so much on the line I’m content in my decision not to try to slug it out with him. Austin was still a sitting duck for as long as Turk and Slaughter were still calling the shots around here.

    “You listen to me and you listen good,” I say as I point at him. “You’re going to tell me everything I need to know about Turk Barrett and Eric Slaughter’s organisation or I’m going to hurt you in ways that you didn’t think were possible.”

    Grotto spits blood at the floor in front of my feet.

    “I’m no snitch.”

    I smile.

    “We’ll see about that.”
     
  12. Carnage27

    Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    [​IMG]

    Hammer Bay, Genosha


    The team moved through the fog covered streets of Genosha's capital without a sound. While fires still smoldered throughout the city, the capital seemed oddly peaceful. Just this morning fighting had ripped through these streets, and revolution gripped the country. While Charles would never say Erik's methods were right, he had to admit that the Brotherhood were a polished fighting force. The Genoshan government didn't have much of a chance against Magneto and his Brotherhood, but it was impressive how order had already been restored.

    ~Have you heard from Jean and the other team?~ Scott asked as he kept his visor trained in front of him.

    Charles shook his head, ~No, we're most likely out of range at this point.~

    While Xavier and Jean were two incredibly powerful telepaths, there were limitations when attempting to connect so many minds across such distances. Not taking into account Jean's own limitations. When Charles had found her, she was alone, scared, and institutionalized. Her powers had manifested as a child, and were more powerful than anything Charles had ever seen. Unfortunately, it was far too much for a young mind to control, and Jean's abilities lashed out, destroying her school and killing some of her classmates. The incident was covered up as a gas explosion, but Jean was scarred and alone until Xavier brought her in. He had spent years teaching her how to control her abilities, but even to this day he could sense a burning potential that Jean fought vigorously against.

    ~Hopefully they found the missiles~

    ~We can only hope,~ Charles smiled weakly. Suddenly, Buddy stopped in his tracks. Xavier could tell the young man was smelling the air. ~Animal Man?~

    ~Someone's close, I think,~ Baker responded.

    Cyclops ready for an attack, and Storm cleared some of the fog around the team to increase visibility. As she did, however, a figure appeared in the fading mists. The Brotherhood member Bolt smiled at the X-Men as Scott let loose with a concussive blast from his visor before Charles could stop him. Blot easily teleported out of the way, and Scott's beam was absorbed by an unseen foe. More fog parted to reveal Killer Frost who blasted Storm with a stream of ice, taking her out of the equation. The fog completely cleared, and as it did Sabertooth pounced on Animal Man. Bolt appeared behind Charles, and sneered at Scott, "Stand down. Magneto wants to talk."

    ~Do as he says, Scott.~

    ~But professor!~

    ~Do it.~

    Scott put his hands up, and the Brotherhood escorted them to their base of operations.

    **********

    Charles was separated from the others when they arrived, and was taken to Erik. Xavier found his old friend hovering a few inches off the ground in front of a map of Genosha. With his magnetic powers, he moved markers along the map as he wandered his thoughts.

    "Charles," the master of magnetism greeted Xavier without looking up, "I'm surprised you got here so quickly. Welcome to Genosha, the world's mutant haven."

    Xavier rolled his eyes slightly at the title. Erik was often one for theatrics. It came in his nature.

    "You truly think this a victory for you?" Charles pondered.

    Magneto turned and smiled, "Of course this is a victory. I've secured a home for out people. one which we can defend and shape into a true utopia for mutant kind. And no one will be able to take it from us."

    "Because of your nuclear weapons?" Xavier raised an eyebrow.

    "Among other things," Erik shrugged. "But the only thing humanity fears more than us is nuclear winter. I now have both their greatest fears on this island."

    "So they are on the island?"

    "Some," Erik nodded. "But I thought it would be effective to keep some in undisclosed locations."

    Charles cursed himself at that. So some of the warheads were on Genosha, but Magneto most likely had some ready to deploy across the globe. It reminded Charles of the days the two of them played chess. Erik had always been one step ahead of the professor. Charles had to scratch out ever win he managed to get. Today, Erik was head of them all yet again.

    "They won't let this stand, Erik," the professor warned his friend.

    "And you think they'll let your school stand, Charles? You think the answer lies there? In living next door to humans?" Magneto snarled back. "You don't think the government looks over your hedges like nosy neighbors waiting for their chance to strike? They'll destroy your school. They'll kill your X-Men. They'll experiment on your children. Your method will destroy us, Charles. But here we have a chance to defend ourselves."

    "By threatening nuclear war? By killing innocents? You draw more ire than you create fear, Erik," Xavier shook his head. "If we don't stop you, someone else will."

    Magneto looked at Charles suspiciously, "Ah...so others are on their way. Who is it? SHILED? The UN? Ah, or your precious Mason and Checkmate. Either way, I believe we're in for one hell of a show."
     
  13. Carnage27

    Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    [​IMG]

    Sue sat back as the waiter...or waitress, she honestly couldn't tell the sex of the slug-like creature that brought them their drinks, place glowing glasses of blue liquid to the table. She eyed the drink suspiciously until the so-called Star-Lord downed his glass and ordered another, "To Terra!"

    Storm raised her own glass, and as she brought it to her lips, she thought it smelled of gasoline. The taste, it had to be said, wasn't much better. She put the glass back down and listened while Reed explained their story.

    Johnny and Ben added their points in as they went, such as their training to fly the X-1, and how Hal was originally supposed to be with them. While the men talked, Sue focused on Quill. He seemed amiable enough, but there was cunning hidden behind his eyes. She could tell he used his rugged good looks and charm to hide a keen mind. Johnny was similar, but Quill seemed to have a dangerous edge her brother lacked.

    That was a potentially deadly combination.

    "Finally, Rocket managed to hotwire Warworld's transporter, and we managed to escape to Knowhere," Reed completed the story of their journey to that moment. "What we need, in all honesty, is to get back to Earth...or Terra, as you call it."

    "Yea, and I need to get to my employer," Rocket slurped the last of his glass. "Quill, they're all yours."

    "Wait a second," Ben growled, "why were you on Warworld?"

    Rocket smiled mischievously and pulled something out of his pack. It looked like some sort of hand held remote, "You know those boom tubes? My customer wanted to control some. So here it is. A Father Box. I've broken out of way worse prisons than Warworld, and for a lot less money. Gods, I love gettin' paid."

    "I am Groot," the tree smiled broadly.
     
  14. Eddie Brock

    Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    As Peter listened to the Terrans recount their harrowing tale, he nodded politely and sipped at his cocktail, a Birjan Moonrise - so called for the brilliant blue color of the Birjan night sky from which it drew its name. Peter let the Terrans talk as he basked in the dulling of his senses which accompanied the alcohol. Their story was an entertaining one, he had to grant that, if a bit hard to swallow. After all, when Peter had last seen that spinning ball of rock he once called home, they considered getting to the moon a big accomplishment. Now, they were experimenting with interstellar travel? Had he really been away that long?

    Peter watched warily as Rocket skipped out of the bar, whistling as he tossed the Father Box in the air. Groot lumbered along behind the rodent. There was something about those two that Peter didn't trust, though he did have to admire their... entrepreneurial spirit. Once they were out of sight, Peter turned back to the Terrans. "You guys really escaped from Warworld, huh?" he asked, his tone a mixture of surprised and impressed.

    Reflexively, Peter glanced around the room. If their story were true, then surely these Terrans' faces would be plastered all over the HoloNet shortly - if they hadn't been already. Knowhere was as good a hiding place as the galaxy had to offer, but it would only serve for so long. Eventually, some seedy type would recognize them and figure to cash in on some units - or favor with Mongul - by turning them in.

    "Are you going to help us or not?" the one called Johnny blurted out impatiently, bringing Peter's attention back to the group.

    Quill ran his finger along the edge of his glass as he considered his response. "Look, I'd like to. Us Terrans, we've gotta stick together after all," he began, "but it's just not that simple. It's a long way between here and Terra, and there's a whole lot of nasty things along the way. It ain't exactly like taking a quick trip down to the corner store."

    "I know the passage wouldn't be without risk," Reed acknowledged.

    "You don't know the half of it, Stretch. You think Mongul's just going to let the four of you get away? After you ruined his big show?" Feeling the eyes of curious patrons on his back, Peter leaned forward on his elbows and lowered his voice. "And if that weren't enough, I'm sure the little stunt you and your raccoon friend pulled landed you firmly on the Lanterns' radar."

    "Lanterns?" the woman, Sue, repeated.

    "An intergalactic peacekeeping organization with power rings and a real hard-on for law and order," Quill explained.

    "Oh. So, space cops."

    Peter shrugged. "Something like that." As he leaned back in his seat, he continued, "And the whole truth is that all that wouldn't really be that much of a problem, except that I'm experiencing a bit of a... cash flow problem right now."
     
  15. Morden Man

    Morden Man Registered

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    [​IMG]

    Grotto had talked. It had taken a lot longer to break him than it would have taken with most men but Grotto had broken nonetheless. Turk would be at an abandoned warehouse on the docks for an underground card game in two days time. Before the cops arrived I’d dragged Grotto outside and chained him up to a streetlight for all of Hell’s Kitchen to see. Turk and Eric Slaughter would know I was coming for them now and that put them in a difficult position. If they hid out whilst I was on the streets using their names people would think they were weak, but with Grotto down a large part of their muscle was out of the picture and so going about business as usual would leave them vulnerable.

    As was to be expected they chose the stupid option: go loud, pretend things are fine. Turk would be at that warehouse because he couldn’t afford for people to think he was scared. I’d make sure that he would be by the time I was finished with him, the same way I had with Grotto. My little fracas at the brothel had made the front pages of the newspapers and it seemed that nearly everyone in The Kitchen had a story regarding the “Daredevil” phenomenon.

    “The Devil walks among us,” Foggy said with an incredulous exhalation as he threw down the newspaper in his hands. “Can you believe this nonsense? Where do they think we are? This isn’t Gotham or Metropolis. Hell’s Kitchen doesn’t do vigilantism.”

    I smile. It was no coincidence that Foggy had decided to call me so shortly after my meeting with Angela had amounted to nothing. It had Ted’s fingerprints all over it.

    “What was it you said to me when you picked me up from the police station that day? The Kitchen’s not what it used to be? Maybe there’s some truth to that. Maybe someone’s finally decided to draw a line in the sand.”

    Foggy should his head.

    “You almost sound like you approve of this wacko.”

    “Maybe I do,” I say with a sip of coffee. “If the police around here aren’t going to do something about guys like Grotto then maybe someone should.”

    Even if I couldn’t hear his rising pulse I knew that Foggy wouldn’t approve of even the slightest amount of sympathy on my part for Daredevil. His commitment to the law was unshakeable: though he’d helped me get out of several legal binds over the years, I don’t think Foggy could bring himself to perjure for me if my life depended on it. In that sense he was a stronger man than I was.

    “Vigilantism is a crime, Matt, and there’s a reason that people like him end up dead or in padded cells somewhere. They aren’t right in the head to begin with. You can’t be if your idea of fun is running around in a stupid costume in the middle of the night.”

    “Didn’t you ever dream that you had superpowers when you were growing up? That you could protect people?”

    I knew that he did. Small, podgy Franklin Nelson had been bullied tirelessly whilst we were growing up with one another in Hell’s Kitchen and I’m not sure he’d have made it out of there alive without me there to scare some of the bullies away from time to time. More often than not I’d take Foggy’s beating for him and they’d leave Foggy alone. Which child gets bullied and doesn’t dream of being strong enough to tear their bullies apart?

    “Yeah,” Foggy said with a sigh. “And then I grew up and realised that things like the rule of law and due process are more important than the fulfillment of any one person’s messiah complex.”

    I’d known how the conversation would go before it had started. I’d lend Daredevil my tentative support and let Foggy voice his principled opposition to vigilantism and then I’d eventually agree with him as if won over by the power of his argument. The less Foggy knew, the better and the more he thought I agreed with him on it the less likely he was to suspect me.

    “You’re probably right.”

    A content smile appears on Foggy’s face.

    “Anyway we’re not here to talk about this “Devil” character,” Foggy said with a chuckle. “Are you going to tell me about your coffee with Angela or is Ted going to have to drip feed me the information?”

    I sigh.

    “It couldn’t have gone worse. I walked in there thinking that she wanted to rebuild what we had, that if I forgave her for what happened we could start again, and in fact the opposite was true. Whatever she has with this Urich guy is more important to her than she first thought. We’re through.”

    “That’s tough,” Foggy muttered. “Wait, did you say Urich?”

    “Yeah.”

    A look of shock appears on Foggy’s face.

    “As in the Ben Urich?”

    There we go again with that “the” people kept using whenever they spoke about him. As if my self-esteem wasn’t bruised enough about the whole encounter hearing Foggy refer to him as “the” Ben Urich had only added to my feelings of inadequacy.

    “Yeah,” I say with a bemused look. “Why do people keep saying that? Who the hell is this guy?”

    “Only a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist that’s known the world over for his work,” Foggy said, trying and failing to hide his admiration for the man. “How have you not heard of Ben Urich? I mean, the standard of his work has dipped since in recent years but he’s still Ben Urich. Everyone knows who Ben Urich is. He practically made The New York Post what it is.”

    I bristle silently and take a few sips of my coffee.

    “I never did read newspapers very often.”

    From the way Foggy fidgets in his seat opposite me I can tell that my blissful ignorance as to how much of a big shot this Urich character is genuinely surprises him. From the sounds of it he has the perfect life: people like Foggy known who he is and respect him, he obviously earns a lot of money if he works at The Post, and now he had Angela. It certainly didn’t sound like a bad life to me.

    Perhaps sensing my awkwardness, Foggy leant back in his chair, shrugged, and with a faux-obnoxious sigh placed his hands behind his head.

    “Maybe that’s a good thing. I’d hate to have to read an article about the Democratic National Convention written by a guy that had stolen my girlfriend.”

    “You’d have to have a girlfriend first,” I say with a smile. “How long has it been? Three years? I’m surprised you still know what a woman looks like.”

    We laugh. For the next half an hour we don’t mention Angela or Austin or any of the other bad things going on in our lives. We sit and talk like normal friends that lead normal lives and it feels great. I needed this. Whilst out there at night under the moonlight, feeling the cold wind against my face, and the sound of the city washing over me it was easy to get lost. I am Daredevil, but I’m Matt Murdock first and I need to focus on him occasionally otherwise I’ll end up in a padded cell somewhere.
     
  16. Carnage27

    Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    [​IMG]


    Gotham General Hospital

    Katherine Kane peered out the window of Lieutenant Gordon's hospital room onto the snowy streets of Gotham City. Sirens echoed to her ears ever here, and she could see flashing lights illuminating the buildings around the streets of the hospital. Gotham PD had their hands full on this Christmas Eve, and Kathy worried about them. Gotham had always been a tough place. It was a city where only the toughest could survive, but after the past weeks, she thought it was becoming a place where on the craziest could survive. She wasn't sure whether Batman had caused it, or whether he had come along at the proper moment to try and save the city from itself. Either way, he was here now, and Gotham was a much more dangerous place.

    Behind her, the Lieutenant rested after the bullet had been removed and his wound had been sowed up. He was lucky the sniper wasn't aiming for him, so the shot didn't hit anything vital. It ripped through the muscles in his leg something fierce, but he'd walk fine once it was healed. On a night when the two of them should have been spending time with their families, one was wounded, and the other was worried about her girlfriend out in the city on a night like this.

    Bullock had left, insisting that he needed to be out on the frontlines during this. Kane couldn't disagree. If there was a cop best suited for what had essentially become a free for all, Bullock was it. She knew Allen would take care of Renee, too.

    But the air of unpredictability that had just been draped over the Gotham organized crime scene made it hard to feel truly at ease.

    Kane turned and walked passed the sleeping Gordon to grab some coffee from the hall. She had declined the offer for someone else to guard Gordon while she went out on patrol. The Lieutenant had ruffled a lot of feathers back in the day, and there would always be someone looking for a convenient way to off him to settle the score. She wouldn't take the chance of that happening.

    Immediately as she stepped outside of Gordon's room, a chill ran down her spine. Kathy had never been a fan of hospitals, something about the clean smell and look mixed with the spectre of death hanging over the place just made her uncomfortable. But that wasn't what bothered her this time. No, on this night it was the quiet. Christmas Eve was a busy night for hospitals and police no matter what. But with the city devolving into riots and fear? This place should have been hoping.

    Instead, every one of Kathy's footsteps echoed off the walls. A faint, sweet smell mixed with the overpowering scent of sanitary cleaner. She stepped cautiously towards the nurse's station, hand on her hip, ready to draw her gun at a moments notice.

    But what she found at there shocked her. Slumped over the desk was the nurse that was on duty. Blood poured from underneath her, cascading slowly over the edge of the desk. The drops hit the group with a gross, morbid drip.

    In another chair, a man in a purple suit had his feet propped up in her back. Ruby red lips exploded off of his chalk white skin, and slicked-back, neon-green hair shocked the top of his head. He picked his fingernails with a bloody knife before looking up a Kathy. He smiled at her with shockingly white teeth, "Well, well. Merry Christmas, detective!"

    He hopped up out of the chair and looked down at the dead nurse, "Shame about her. Holiday exhaustion can just kill the overworked female."

    Kane fumbled with her gun as the man walked towards her. She had stared down the worst thugs of Gotham's underworld, but the horrible visage that stood before her threw Kathy for a loop.

    "Now, now," the man's smiled seemed to extend and contort in unnatural ways, "no need for this to get violent. Well...more violent."

    "What do you want?"

    The man exploded in uproarious laughter, though his wide, piercing eyes never broke eye contact with Kane, "I'm just here to have a little talk with you and Lieutenant Gordon."

    "Why?" Kane managed to get out.

    "Oh, I don't know," he smiled as she still fumbled for her gun, "maybe it's because I know Santa won't be coming down my chimney and I need to talk to someone in a goofy costume. Batman talks to you two. I'd very much like to meet him. You wouldn't deprive me of my wish, would you?"

    "I-I don't know what you're-" Kathy stammered before the handle of a pistol fell hard against the back of her skull, sending her into unconsciousness.

    **********

    Batman and Bullseye fell hard on the floor below after falling through the story directly above. Drywall, plaster, and metal fell about them as they slammed into the sturdy landing. Bruce managed to fall on top of the assassin, and he felt and heard the sickening pop as his opponent's shoulder popped out of its socket.

    Without a cry of pain or missing a beat, however, Bullseye pulled a knife from his belt with his good arm and drove it into the vigilante's shoulder. Bruce's armor managed to absorb the majority of the blow, but it was enough for Bullseye to get some distance between himself and Wayne.

    "Well, well," Bullseye laughed as he popped his shoulder back into place. "I have to say, you're surprising."

    "You didn't do enough research. That's not like you," Bruce taunted the sniper. In reality, Bruce knew that he needed to suture the wounds Bullseye had given him soon. He was losing blood, and he most likely needed all the strength he could muster to survive the rest of the night.

    "Or maybe I just figured you would be a lot easier to take down," the mercenary chuckled. The two combatants began to circle one another yet again. Bullseye's black uniform was torn in multiple places, and blood poured from his mouth from where teeth once held firm. Batman may have looked in better shape, but Bruce owed that to his suit. The dark colors he had chosen helped hide the blooped that was seeping from his injuries. "I mean, someone who dresses like a flying rat...he can't be anything to worry about."

    It was a final taunt to attempt to get the vigilante to charge his opponent. Bruce had seen it many times. As polished as he was, Bullseye wasn't used to going this long in a fight. He was a quick strike and collect his bounty. He would also use his best asset, his accuracy, at this range.

    Batman used this to his advantage. He feigned to the assassin's good arm, before sliding back to the other flank. As he did, he felt Bullseye's knife zing by his mask. With a quick motion, he was on his opponent. Batman drove his palm into Bullseye's chin, snapping the villain's head back violently. Bruce grabbed the other man by the shoulders tossing him down hard. From the vigilante's belt, he produced ties to restrain his adversary, "Now I made you miss twice."

    "You think this is over?" Bullseye grunted. "I'll be back. And next time I'll kill you."

    "I'll make sure the prison gives you the address of my nursing home," Bruce retorted. "Because that's how long you'll be put away."

    **********

    Batman left the confined assassin on the doorstep of the MCU with a flabbergasted officer before climbing into the Batmobile, "ORACLE, medical mode. Suture."

    He began taking off the pieces of armor that covered the wounds he had sustained in the fight as robotic arms emerged from the cockpit of the vigilante's vehicle. They got to work stitching the cuts as the Batmobile began a random pattern of driving down the streets. Police cruisers blew past him, on slowing down slightly when they saw the unusual transport.

    "Gotham status report," he commented as he winced from the pain.

    "Small pockets of civil unrest," the computer program commented. "Overall the city seems stable."

    "Bruce," Alfred's voice interrupts, "I'm afraid that's not necessarily true."

    "What happened, Alfred?"

    "Gotham General has gone dark," his mentor's voice was somber. "Shortly after Lieutenant Gordon was taken in."

    "Copy," Batman cut the line to Wayne Manor off before calling Detective Kane.

    The phone ringed two times before someone answered. Batman waited for a few seconds before saying anything. No one on the other end responded before he said, "Detective Kane?"

    "WRONG!" a voice on the other exclaimed joyously. "But would you like to play Double Jeopardy where the scores can really change?"

    Batman snarled as he began to put his armor back on over his freshly sutured wounds, "Who is this?"

    "Well at least you answered in the form of a question," the person on the other end responded snarkily. "I'm your biggest fan, Bats. And I'm afraid on this night before Christmas I am stirring. Come find me. Let's have a chat."

    "ORACLE," Bruce commanded, "plot a course for Gotham General."
     
  17. Misfit

    Misfit Disciple of The Dork Arts

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    Firestorm: The Worst Headache Ever V

    Youd think it be easy to save the day, right. I've got as much power as Manhattan in my pinky. I could wipe an army of Mindbogglers off the face of the planet by sneezing. There is just one problem...

    I don't think I can hit a girl.

    Then it hit me (by it, I mean her). The stapler off our teacher's desk rolled like a wheel through the eye before it popped my nose.

    "Jesus! Why would y.. Like.. Urgh.." while I was looking for a snappy one-liner, something happened for the first time. Dr. Baker talked, er, thought to me.

    <Stop thinking, just stop altogether.>

    I listened to him, wondering what in the world he could be talking about before feeling my fists unfold. My palms raised up and pointed towards the fake teacher. She unleashed a barrage of encyclopedia entries, but when they left her hands they glowed like hot metal before bursting into confetti. My arms were wrappped in chained lightning that gathered at my hands.

    For a minute I thought it would be perfect to kill her. The witnesses would all be asleep. She'd have no way of really protecting herself. The air around her face turned to a smoky green before she choked it down her lungs, coughing like a smoker. After all the air cleared and the confetti settled, Mindboggler slumped down and dropped on top of the desk.

    <It's a sedative to stop her from causing any more trouble.>

    But my hands weren't done yet. A pencil sharpener beside her face transformed into a loaded gun, stuffed with bullets.

    "Why are you giving her a gun?"

    <I'm not. I'm building a case against her. Its hard to prosecute a crime on a psychological plane. But bringing a gun to a school is an open and shut case.>

    Probably as a result of the illusion disappearing, the students began to be roused, with one problem, I wasn't in my seat. Before anyone could spot The Nuclear Man amongst them, I dove behind the teacher's desk and powered down, my body flashing like a tv changing channels before my clothes were all back to normal. Standing up, I smiled at my classmates, most either looked spooked or amused. Then they came to the correct conclusion, even a curious looking Jason Rusch. No, scratch that. Especially Jason Rusch. Their voices exploded.

    "You saved us!"
    "Is that a gun!?!"
    "Oh my God!"
    "Call the cops!"
    "Ronnie's the man!"
     
  18. Carnage27

    Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    [​IMG]

    "Guys," Sue turned to her friends and family, "we need to talk. Please excuse us, Peter."

    As the four walked away, Sue was sure she heard the man grumble, "It's Star-Lord."

    "What's up, sis?" Johnny asked with another glance at the girl Quill had been talking to. "Guy seems like a stand up dude."

    "Johnny, that's because he's you with a spaceship," Ben growled. "Cept he can grow facial hair."

    "Hey, that is NOT fair."

    Grimm shrugged, and Reed nodded, "He does seem a bit dodgy. He's going to want something in return for helping us."

    "We've already got ourselves into one intergalactic heist," Sue warned. "Do we want to get into another?"

    "Do we have a choice?"

    The four of them considered the situation they were in. Sue wanted nothing to do with the rogue, but even she agreed there was little choice. Rocket and Groot had already left, and she had no idea who would take them back to Earth if not Peter Quill. Still, what would they have to sacrifice to get home?

    "So I guess we're doing this?"

    "Doesn't look like we have a choice."


    "It does look like our only alternative."

    The nonchalant tone in Reed's voice made Sue ball her fists in order to cage her rage. He still didn't care about what he had done to them. That much she was sure of. Hell, he seemed like he was enjoying himself. And why wouldn't he be? Reed Richards had always been looking to the stars, and here he was. He was immersed in alien culture, people, and places. This was all he had dreamed about. And he had rolled the dice on the words of a mysterious figure.

    Sue turned and approached Quill, "Hey, Star-Guy."

    "Star-Lord," he corrected her.

    "Whatever," she blew him off. "If we help you get some money, how about you help us get back to Earth?'

    The rogue perked up immediately when she said this, and Sue realized he had faked his earlier melancholy, "Actually, there might be a job. It's at least a three man operation, and I'm between crews right now, so I wasn't going to pursue it myself. But since it sounds like you guys can handle yourselves pretty well..."

    He looked back towards the door, and his face dropped. In strolled what appeared to be two members of the station's police force led by what, to Sue, looked like a golden retriever in a space suit.

    "But how about we go over the details in my ship?" he motioned. "The back exit's this way."

    As the five of them hurried through what Sue assumed was a kitchen, the owner of the bar screamed at them in an unintelligible language. She turned to her friends, "I guess we're absorbing some of the local color."
     
  19. Morden Man

    Morden Man Registered

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    [​IMG]

    After seeing Foggy yesterday I’d got to thinking about things. I needed to do more with my days than sit around planning out patrol routes in my head. With Daredevil’s crusade against organised crime in Hell’s Kitchen making the news, Eric Slaughter had more on his hands these days than going after Austin. A day from now Turk Barrett would be down and, if he broke like Grotto would, I’d have information on Slaughter that could lead to me bringing him down once and for all. So I felt more comfortable taking a little time to myself than I would have this time last week.

    For the best part of ten years I’d worked at Wildcat’s Gym with Ted and since the attack I’d not been back once. It was the longest stretch of time I’d spent away from the gym since juvie and I knew how much Ted and the boys wanted me to come past. So why not?

    Miles and the rest of the boys are stood beside the ring watching on as Ted runs Tom through some drills. Tom had gotten even bigger since I’d last seen him and his form had noticeably improved. Slowly I slink through the entrance to Wildcat’s unnoticed, as unnoticed as a blind man with a cane can do anything, and step beside the boys.

    “Space for one more?”

    I hear a dozen hearts pound a little faster as they all turn in my direction. Miles pushed past another boy and threw me a hug.

    “They thought you’d never come back,” Miles said with a smile. “I told them you’d be back and they didn’t believe me, Mr. M.”

    “Are you being serious? Me never come back? This place is my home. You boys are like family to me. You think I’m going to let a little thing like going blind stop me from seeing you?”

    There’s a smattering of nervous laughter and I realise “seeing you” might not have been the best choice of words.

    “Well, obviously not seeing you seeing you. You know what I mean, idiots.”

    They pepper me with hundreds of questions and I try my best to answer everyone one of them. I realise that here, unlike most people, they still treated me the same as they did before I’d lost my eyesight and I feel a fool for staying away for so long. One of the boys wants to try on the sunglasses I wear to hide my damaged eyes and I hesitate for a moment, knowing it’s not a pretty sight underneath, but relent with a smile and hand them to him.

    “Nice colour,” the boy says with a grin as he plants them over his eyes. “What made you choose red?”

    “I hear red is in season at the moment.”

    “Okay kids,” Ted said as he stepped out of the ring. “Let’s try not to crowd Mr. Murdock too much. I know you’re excited to see him but he’s not long been out of the hospital and God knows the last thing he needs is your germ-ridden hands all over him.”

    The boy hands me back my glasses and I plant them over my eyes as Ted approaches me.

    “I told you it would do you some good. When are you coming back? We could do with you here, the kids could do with you here.”

    I sigh.

    “I won’t leave it so long next time,” I say as I fiddle with my cane. “But there are some things that I need to take care of before I can come back for good first.”

    Turk Barrett and Eric Slaughter were still out there. Until I’d taken them down and sent a message to anyone else in Hell’s Kitchen that thought they could trample all over innocent people’s lives, I couldn’t go back to this life.

    Ted nods but I can tell he’s disappointed.

    “You know, even for a blind man you still always manage to sound like you’re fixing to do something bad. It might almost be impressive if it wasn’t so goddamned scary half the time, Matt.”

    ********​


    I sit in Peter’s lab in my costume and twiddle the billy club in my hands. Cross had managed to pull the schematics of the abandoned warehouse that Turk was going to be in tonight and we’d been going over them for the past hour working out a strategy for my approach. Peter had been critical of my chaining Grotto up in the street after I’d got the information out of him. He said all the unnecessary media attention had made our jobs harder than they needed to be. It had him worried for tonight.

    “You’re sure you’re ready for this?”

    I nod confidently.

    “Grotto went down easily enough and he was twice the size of Turk.”

    “Grotto didn’t know you were coming for him,” Peter says with a shake of his head. “Turk’s going to be on edge and he’ll have four times the firepower guarding that warehouse. You take one wrong step and he either gets away or you end up dead.”

    “I’m better than I was then,” I say as I grit my teeth. “I can feel myself getting faster and stronger every time I go out there. My radar sense is getting easier to understand every night.”

    “That may very well be the case, Matt, but don’t go in there expecting a retread of what happened with Grotto. It’s not going to go that smoothly every time and we need to be prepared for those instances when things do go wrong.”

    I nod.

    “I understand.”

    We go over the schematics one last time and Peter makes me repeat the plan word for word. Peter was as thorough as they came and it was no wonder that he’d been as successful in business as he had given his approach. He’d taken to coordinating a vigilante campaign against organised crime as naturally as he had ocular surgery or giving TED Talks about urban renewal. He was a polymath if ever I’d met one and I was damn glad that he was on my side. It wasn't Daredevil the criminals ought to be afraid of, it was Peter Cross.

    As I prepare to leave Peter’s lab he whistles softly to catch my attention.

    “Hey Daredevil,” he says with a smile. “Give them Hell.”

    Now that I could do.
     
  20. Eddie Brock

    Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    When they emerged from the alleyway behind the bar onto the street, Quill glanced over his shoulder at the front door. There was no sign of Cosmo, Knowhere's chief security officer, or his two goons. "Alright, I think we gave them the slip," Quill announced, slipping his hands into his pockets. He nodded for them to follow as he continued down the street.

    A few paces later, they were approached by a green-skinned A'askvariian blubbering some sob story in his people's slobbery language. Quill rolled his eyes. "Keep your tentacles to yourself, pal," he warned, well aware of the common pickpocketing technique. To sell his point, Quill patted the Quad-Blaster on his hip. Annoyed, the A'askvariian bared a grimace of pointy teeth and slithered off to find easier marks.

    "How do you know so many languages?" Ben asked curiously.

    "Oh, I don't." Quill tapped a finger to the side of his throat. "Universal translator implant," he explained, "Not cheap, lemme tell ya. But it's a necessity if you're gonna make it out here."

    "Fascinating," Reed observed.

    Finally, they came upon the blue and orange ship that Quill called home. Even after all this time, seeing the old girl still put a smile on Quill's face. "There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The Milano."

    Johnny snorted. "You named your ship after a cookie?"

    "No, not after a cookie," Quill fired back, perhaps a touch too defensively. "It's named for the most beautiful girl in the known 'verse: the lovely Alyssa Milano."

    Johnny furrowed his brow in confusion. "Who?" After a moment of thinking, he offered, "You mean that chick from that cheesy witch show?"

    "Charmed," Sue corrected. The other three Terrans gave her a queer look. "What? It wasn't that bad of a show." When no one jumped to her defense on that point, she simply folded her arms and made a sour expression.

    "Well, I don't know anything about all that," Quill admitted, "but I used to watch Who's the Boss? all the time with my mom back on Terra." As Quill approached the Milano, the ship recognized his bio-signature and automatically deployed the loading ramp.

    "Who's the Boss?" Reed repeated, one hand on his chin. "That would put your departure from Earth sometime in the eighties, wouldn't it?"

    Quill shrugged. "Thereabouts, yeah."

    "Welcome home, Peter," the synthetic yet ethereal voice of the Milano's central computer announced. The sound emanated from multiple hidden speakers in the walls, giving the illusion that the voice was coming from everywhere at once. "I see we have guests?"

    "Terrans, if you can believe it," Quill answered. He turned to the group. "Guys, this is Aurora. She runs the ship. Aurora, this is Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben."

    "Pleased to meet you."

    "Artificial intelligence?" Reed asked, amazed. Behind him, Sue was staring daggers into the back of his skull - though Reed remained completely oblivious. She apparently did not share his enthusiasm for this trip.

    The loading bay of the Milano connected to a larger, octagonal room which evidently served as some sort of central lounge. It was immediately obvious that Quill wasn't the best at cleaning up after himself. Trash and various knick-knacks littered the center table and floor - including a brassiere which must've belonged to some triple-breasted alien. Quill motioned to the various seating spaces. "You guys can get settled in. I'm going to pop up to the bridge and set the coordinates for our destination, then I'll be right back down."
     
  21. Misfit

    Misfit Disciple of The Dork Arts

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    [​IMG]
    The Jordan Residence
    Wichita, Kansas


    Standing in my dad's garage next to a freshly deceased space cop got me started thinking. I've never seen a ring fly on its own before. Then again, I've never seen an alien at all, til now. There's a lot of life out there, not that any of thats more important than my own people.

    My dad told me that what separates the men from the boys is their toys. When I was a kid, I'd slipped into his planes to pretend I was the one who was flying. And a minute later someone would always tear me off the seats and rip my fantasy to pieces to protect their investment from the menacing hands of a misunderstood minor. Years later I moved on to a smexy blonde and the chance to fly spaceships, history repeated itself, and I never got to ride either of them. But I mean it when I say that the only way anyone is taking this ring from me is over my dead body.

    Hal Jordan of Sector 2814, you have the ability to overcome great fear. You could surely be welcomed into the Green Lantern Corps.

    His words, the alien's, keep slipping through my ears over and over again. It's hard enough to forget a man's last words, let alone a purple space marine. I have this now, this ring. It chose me to be something. I don't need the pity of some alien wacko, and I don't need a ring to help people... But Suzie does.

    It's the most powerful weapon in the universe, but its purpose is peace. It takes someone with a strong will to resist the temptation to abuse it. It takes a stronger will to use it to help those who can't help themselves.

    If I sold this thing, I'd be rich, never have to work another day in my life. Someone else could put it to good use. Me, I just can't do that. So, Sue's alive then? Great, but I don't know where and I don't know how. But I am going to make sure she gets back one way or another. There is only one thing standing in my way, this ring.

    Charge the ring with the Lantern, and all you have to do is think. The possibilities are limitless.

    It's like painting without a brush, or sculpting without a chisel. I've been sketching on bathroom stalls since the sixth grade, but I'm no artist. I've got my fists, I just need a place to put 'em. Rolling my fingers into a coil, I raised them to my eye and poured my heart out into my ringed fist. The pressure I put on my brain made it feel like a RumblePak from the N64. When I'd starved my lungs long enough to feel like I must be glowing purple, I was mashing my eyelids together and trudging past the point I'd been determined to give up at. Then it happened.

    Through my eyelids I saw an emerald blaze burst from my ring and rocket through the ceiling. Startled, I leapt backward, pinning myself against the wall before cooling off. As soon as I'd got my breath back, I ran to the hole I'd just put in the ceiling. It was like someone threw a bowling ball through a piece of paper. But the real surprise was the light in the sky. Decorating the cloth of stars, my burst washed out and spread over the nightsky like an emerald aurora. Miraculously, it kept waving like the tide on a beach.

    Then I realized that I'd just made a magic flare. Grabbing the deceased alien's body, I slung him over my shoulder and bolted out the garage door with the Lantern Battery in my free hand. I swear, I was in my truck faster than a cat jumping on a mouse. I was outta my dad's place, just hoping noone would find out about his dirty little secret that I inherited. The last thing I wanted was anyone asking questions I couldn't sidestep.
     
  22. Misfit

    Misfit Disciple of The Dork Arts

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    The very last thing I wanted was to be noticed going down the highway with a dead alien in the back of my truck. I can't look like I'm hiding something or I'll be arrested before you can say 'I'm innocent', and I am, I thought to myself. But that's not really the case at all. I effectively placed a hit on this guy without realizing it.

    "Drive casual," breathing out as I mouth to myself, "keep it cool Jordan."

    The stars are hardly ever visible in a big city, but I couldn't spot them through the green mud I put in the sky if I wanted to. This is all weird-too weird. I don't know how yet, but I'm sure that this won't be going well for me. Makes me nervous. If blood was green, all the constellations would be dry by now.

    Spotting an entry ramp, I hop onto Kellogg, the road leads all around the city and can getcha where you need to go. And there is no question in my mind, that I need to go as far from the city limits as possible. When I get to a place I can get some privacy, I'll act swiftly. I'll bury the body-even dig the grave with my hands if I have to.

    As stereotypical as it would be, I'd kill-er, love for it to rain. Anything to soften the ground.

    But it doesn't. Instead of raining, the sky darkens and the green light seems to condense itself at a focal point. A green dot that dropped through the atmosphere was on a course for a meeting with the heart of a corn field on the side of the road. I'm clearly in no position to investigate whatever just happened, even though it's clearly my fault. But I decided to anyways. Who knows if its something I made. The corpse in the back of my truck told me earlier that it could make whatever I wanted. And I know that there was only one thing I wanted it to do. So..

    Did it bring Suzie home.

    Without another thought, I threw my foot into the brake pedal and bounced off my steering wheel before feeling the punch from my air bags. Unclicking my seat belt, I grabbed my Lantern off the floor and bolted down into the infinite grid of green and yellow, leaving a trail of fallen stalks in my wake. Panting, I felt my thighs burn like I was dragging an elephant. But finally, I found the center of the glow and my jaw dropped. "GAHhh!"

    Along with the rest of my body.

    My ankle was wrapped by a neon tentacle and snatched sideways before flipping me upside down. I'm lucky it didn't sprain. Angrily growling the way a drunk does when you've changed the channel from a football game, I looked around for whoever decided to trap me. Spinning, I was suspended just above the nearest stalk of corn. I tried to reach upward, but the mysterious vine stretched out to wrap my wrist and coil around my finger before it slid my ring off, trapping it inside a bubble that seemed to shrink-wrap around it, stopping it from going anywhere.

    "What is the meaning of this, human! he barked.

    I could ask the same thing.

    "Where have you gotten this! Answer me quickly, for I am on borrowed time, and if I lose my most valuable resource-my time, yours will surely come to an end," I felt the tentacle constrict all over, pressing into my skin, bending a few of my bones even, but the worst part is the blood rushing to my head. It's staying there instead of making its way back. The most I can do is wheeze, weakly.

    ".. hagaddet.. haygoddet.. imn.." the pressure releases a bit, and suddenly I can breathe again. "Whoo. I got it in my dad's garage. A purple alien like you gave it to me."

    "Alien?" he huffed. "You clearly misunderstand, the term means little coming from a species on a backwater planet like this one. Your credibility is lacking, I have trouble believing he gave the ring to you."

    "Umm.. I guess it came to me." I pause When he died."
     
    #122 Misfit, Feb 13, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2015
  23. Carnage27

    Carnage27 No one's puppet

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    The Milano was an impressive ship, Sue had to admit. At least, it would have been if it wasn't for the mess. It was like stepping into Johnny's room when he was thirteen. Except the floor was like a movie theater.

    "Jeez, Storm," Ben said as Quill was out of earshot. "He really is you with a space ship."

    Johnny was busy inspecting a bra that was clearly for a three breasted woman, "Okay, so who says we have to go back to Earth? I mean, clearly there's plenty of sights we've yet to see. Clearly this guy knows how to live life. I say we stay."

    "There's plenty of women on earth, Johnny," Reed responded offhandedly. He was busy trying to examine the artificial intelligence center on the craft.

    "But Reed," Johnny was exasperated, "there are three!"

    "Johnny, seriously?" Sue rolled her eyes as she took a seat towards the back of the ship where it looked the cleanest. At the very least, she knew they were making progress. Who knew what Quill had in store for them, but at least it was an avenue.

    Ben came over and took a seat next to her, "You doin' okay, Suzie?"

    "It's like he doesn't care, Ben," she motioned to Reed. "He put all of our lives in danger. He turned us into...whatever we are. He stranded us god know's where in the universe. And he goes on like it doesn't matter."

    "You know how he can get," Ben sighed. "I'm just as mad as you are. But we're all in this together, Suze. We need to work together and get back home. Once we do that. we'll have it out."

    She had to hand it to her old friend. As long as he wasn't dealing with Johnny, Ben was the most level headed of the group. As a pilot, his calm demeanor more or less made him as great as he was.

    She nodded and made for the cockpit. Once there she announced herself to Quill, "So, what is it you want us to do?"
     
  24. Morden Man

    Morden Man Registered

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    [​IMG]

    As usual, Peter had been right. Tonight was going to be different. As I landed atop a rooftop across from the abandoned warehouse that much became clear very soon. There were sixteen men in and around the warehouse and from as far as I could tell at least twelve of them were armed. All I had at my disposal was my billy club, the darkness, and my radar sense. It would have to be enough.

    &#8220;They&#8217;re packing an awful lot of heat in there,&#8221; I say with my hand against my earpiece. &#8220;If one of these guys hits me are you sure this suit is going to hold up?

    &#8220;<Unless it&#8217;s from point blank range you ought to be fine.>&#8221;

    &#8220;Ought to be or will be?&#8221; I smile. &#8220;That&#8217;s a pretty important distinction there, Pete.&#8221;

    &#8220;<You worry about your end of things and let me worry about mine. The suit will hold up.>&#8221;

    I hit my billy club against the ledge of the building softly to create a ping for my radar sense so I scan the warehouse one last time. Turk was inside with three other men around a table, all of them unarmed, and presumably the ones here to play cards. Inside with them were four of the guards, leaving eight guards on the outside to guard the perimeter from attack. Taking them down wasn&#8217;t the hard part. It was taking them down without raising the alarm and giving Turk time to escape that would be the challenge.

    I slide down a drainpipe and take a very wide berth as I approach the warehouse. I can smell the Hudson River with every breath I take and hear the sound of its waves underneath the surface being dragged back and forth. One of the guards stands beside it smoking a cigarette completely oblivious to my approach. I take him down with a chokehold and make sure he doesn&#8217;t make a noise as I gently set his unconscious body down. With a flick of my foot I launch his assault rifle into the Hudson and it lands with a faint splash.

    Only seven more.

    The next two come easy as I catch one taking a leak up against the warehouse and another dozing whilst leaning against his gun. They didn&#8217;t know it but they were lucky I had caught them and not Barrett. They&#8217;d wake up in the hospital or a police cell tomorrow morning with a headache and not riddled with bullets the morgue.

    The last four on the outside would be difficult. They were huddled around a fire outside of the front entrance of the warehouse. I couldn&#8217;t risk Barrett and others hearing but there was no way I could leave them. I scaled the warehouse and picked up a piece of tile from the roof and threw it about thirty yards from the entrance to catch their attention.

    &#8220;What the hell was that?&#8221;

    &#8220;Probably nothing,&#8221; one of the men said with a shrug. &#8220;Dumb kids or something.&#8221;

    They were scared. It was so dark out here that it was impossible to see further than ten yards in front of you, unless you happened to have a radar sense. If any of them had a radar sense I&#8217;d be screwed. Thankfully they were in pretty short supply at the moment.

    &#8220;You want to be the one Turk holds responsible if this Darkdevil character shows up?&#8221;

    &#8220;It&#8217;s Daredevil,&#8221; one of the men said. &#8220;And he&#8217;s an urban myth. Everyone knows that Grotto had turned snitch. Mr. Slaughter brought some guys in from out of town to take care of him. The media are trying to put the screws on us by having us chase after shadows instead of going about business like usual.&#8221;

    &#8220;Why don&#8217;t you go over there if you&#8217;re so sure?&#8221;

    One of the men laughed and pointed in the direction of where I&#8217;d thrown the tile. The other men looked in the direction of the man that had denied Daredevil&#8217;s existence expecting him to step forward. The man shook his head and muttered under his breath, cocking his weapon and walking into the darkness.

    As soon as he was out of their sight I threw my billy club as hard as I could at his head. He dropped to the ground unconscious with a thud as my billy club returned to me. I was getting better with it. Hopefully they&#8217;d take the bait rather than raise the alarm.

    &#8220;Wallace? Wallace?&#8221;

    One of Wallace&#8217;s colleagues stepped through the dark looking for him. The other two waited nervously by the doors as if scared to join the search. Clearly they weren&#8217;t as skeptical at the existence of the so-called Daredevil as Wallace had been.

    &#8220;He&#8217;s probably messing around,&#8221; said one of them with an unconvincing smile. &#8220;Trying to scare us or something. Give it five minutes and he&#8217;ll get bored and come back.&#8221;

    The one in the front shook his head.

    &#8220;You all heard that noise,&#8221; he said with a grimace. &#8220;I&#8217;m not leaving until I know where the hell Wallace is.&#8221;

    I smile as he walks off into the dark and the two remaining guards look to one another as if to defer the decision to the other one. One of them finally summons up enough courage to follow after in the dark, leaving only one guarding the entrance to the warehouse. His heart was racing as he scanned the darkness all around him, gripping tightly onto his assault rifle anxiously, as if he&#8217;d begun to realise what was happening.

    Before he had a chance to act on his suspicions I was on him. I leapt down from the roof and landed behind him, lifting him from his feet with a chokehold as I strangle the breath out of him. The two guards that had gone off searching for Wallace in the dark had heard the sound of the struggle and turned to face me. I flung my billy club at one and hit him directly between the eyes, knocking him straight out, and bound towards the other one.

    &#8220;It&#8217;s the Daredevil,&#8221; he shouted at the top of his voice. &#8220;He&#8217;s here!&#8221;

    Damn it.

    I knock him into the Hudson River with a single punch and pick up my billy club. I can hear the sound of movement inside of the warehouse and Turk Barrett&#8217;s voice barking orders at the men inside to barricade the doors. Four assault rifles on the inside, close quarters, this wasn&#8217;t exactly what Cross and I had drawn up but all I could do was play the hand I&#8217;d been dealt.

    I scale the warehouse walls and find a crack in the roof to slip through. I sit in the rafters of the warehouse and peer down at Turk and the other card players cowering behind some up-turned tables, taking in my surroundings for a few moments. The armed guards stand around the barricaded entrance with their guns at the ready. Their hearts pounding with fear so loudly that it sounded like a drumroll. Good, they were right to be scared.

    I launch my billy club in the direction of the industrial-sized light that lit the warehouse and it smashes on impact.

    &#8220;He&#8217;s here! Shoot him! Fifty grand to whoever brings me his head!&#8221;

    I leap down and unarm one of the guards with a kick and manage to throw him to the ground. Behind me one of the remaining three fires blindly in my direction and misses, though the sound of the gun firing so near to my ears is excruciating I keep pushing on. The other guards start firing now and I do my best to avoid their aim and disarm them before they harm one another, but one falls to the ground dead, not before taking down two of the card players by accident.

    I wanted no casualties but there was nothing I could do for them. I could smell the blood pouring from one&#8217;s neck and the other had been hit in the heart. There wasn&#8217;t enough time for anything to be done for either one of them. With a swat of my billy club I knock the remaining card player out without so much as a glance in his direction and make my way towards Turk Barrett. He&#8217;s scrambling around in the dark trying to reach for one of the guard&#8217;s guns when I reach him.

    With a swift kick I knock the gun out from his reach and follow it up with a knee to his face that knocks him to his knees.

    &#8220;You really are stupid," Turk said with a laugh. &#8220;You think you can come after Eric Slaughter and there won&#8217;t be blowback? You think he doesn&#8217;t have contingencies for people like you? You don&#8217;t know what you&#8217;re getting yourself into. These people don&#8217;t mess around.&#8221;

    I lift him off the ground by his lapels.

    &#8220;Tell me everything you know about Eric Slaughter and I&#8217;ll go easy on you.&#8221;

    His pulse doesn&#8217;t so much as move. Unlike the rest of them, unlike his guards, he wasn&#8217;t scared of me. That or there was someone out there that scared him more than I did.

    &#8220;I know that if I tell you anything I&#8217;ll be dead by the end of the week.&#8221;

    After five straight minutes of pounding on him Turk doesn&#8217;t offer up anything. It becomes clear to me that whatever Slaughter was capable of was ten times worse than what Turk thought I could do to him. Grotto was muscle and little else. He&#8217;d clearly never met Slaughter in person like Turk had because I doubt he&#8217;d have spoken if he had. I was wasting my time trying to get information from him. But there was one last thing I needed to address.

    &#8220;Austin Cao,&#8221; I say to him. &#8220;Does that name mean something to you?&#8221;

    &#8220;Used to run with the boy&#8217;s pops, word has it the kid killed him last week, shot him dead in cold blood if you can believe that. Word also has it he&#8217;s been using Mr. Slaughter&#8217;s name in talks with the police department. Wouldn&#8217;t want to be him when Slaughter&#8217;s men catch up to him,&#8221; Turk smiled through bloody teeth. &#8220;Why do you care?&#8221;

    In the distance I can hear the sound of sirens approaching. The gunfire must have brought them. There was enough here to put Turk and the rest of his people away for a long time. Slaughter would be forced to run his own affairs for the first time in years with Barrett out of the picture. That&#8217;s how I would get him, that&#8217;s how I&#8217;d make sure that Austin, and everyone else Slaughter had made miserable, was safe again.

    &#8220;Austin Cao is under my protection. If he so much as catches a cold, I&#8217;ll find who was responsible and make their lives a living hell. You think this was impressive? I wasn&#8217;t even trying. If Austin gets hurt, so help me God I&#8217;ll find the people you love and see to it that they end up in the cell next to yours.&#8221;

    Turk smiles.

    &#8220;Fine, I promise I&#8217;ll leave the kid alone,&#8221; he says as he lifts his hands into the air with a chuckle. &#8220;I can&#8217;t say the same for Mr. Slaughter though.&#8221;

    I throw him to the ground with a thud and wrap some plastic handcuffs around his wrists.

    &#8220;You leave Slaughter to me.&#8221;

    I scale the warehouse walls and begin to climb through the crack through which I&#8217;d entered through when Barrett shouts up at me from the ground.

    &#8220;What sort of name is Daredevil anyway?&#8221;

    I smile and slip through and escape into the darkness. Grotto was down, Turk Barrett was down, and now there was only Eric Slaughter left on my list. My body ached and I had bruises all over, I was running on fumes in there for all my grandstanding to Barrett, but the job was almost over and I wasn&#8217;t about to stop. Slaughter would have to poke his head above the parapet soon and when he did he was mine.
     
    #124 Morden Man, Feb 17, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
  25. Eddie Brock

    Eddie Brock Golden Domer

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    Steve Rogers had always been something of an introvert, yet even he was not immune to bouts of loneliness. The first few weeks of his new life had provided an ample supply of those. Reestablishing a social life after a seventy year absence was proving to be quite the difficult task. As an only child, Steve had outlived his parents and had no family to speak of – not that they would know him even if he did. Of his new neighbors, most simply ignored him while others settled for the occasional nod of acknowledgment in the hallways. On the few occasions where Steve had been able to strike up a conversation, it rarely went well. Steve knew little of current events and less of popular culture, and "shared life experience" wasn’t exactly a viable topic. He may as well have been living on another planet for all the good his attempts to socialize did him.

    He wasn't friendless, however.

    “So, tell me true, Steve. How’s retirement treating you?” asked the man who once called himself the "Flash." Jay Garrick hadn't been a young man during World War II, and a considerable amount of time had passed since then. Still, considering his advanced biological age, Jay hadn't aged poorly. He still had the sharp blue eyes of a younger man. Deep creases ran here and there on his face, particularly the laugh lines that he had spent a lifetime of smiles developing. His hair was as thick as ever, though it had drained completely of color. All told, Jay could've passed for a man thirty or forty years his junior. And as shocked as Steve had been at the changes in his friend's appearance, Jay had been equally shocked to see Steve exactly as he remembered him.

    Steve swirled his whiskey, listening to the soft clink of the ice cubes against the glass. He paused for a moment as he considered how to answer Jay's question. “It’s not without its challenges,” he began diplomatically. He allowed a sly grin to appear at the corner of his lips as he met Jay's expectant gaze.

    “Oh, come on,” Jay said, unconvinced, “you can admit that you hate it.” He took a sip from his glass, swallowing before he continued, “It’s alright. I hated it, too. When those damn politicians forced the Justice Society to disband, I was bored out of my mind. I’d go out at night sometimes, just looking for things to do. Little things, y’know? A mugging here, an apartment fire there. Anything where I could get in and get out without being seen.” As he leaned back in his chair and reminisced, Jay smiled to himself.

    Steve thought back to his encounter with the drug dealer outside his apartment building. It had felt good to do something. “I guess I just don’t know what my purpose is,” he mused. “During the war, all I could think about was stopping Hitler and Schmidt. I never gave any thought to what I’d do when that was done. Now, the war’s over, and everyone’s moved on. I just… don’t know where I fit.”

    Jay nodded. “I know what you mean. Without my Joan, I’d be hopelessly lost myself. She keeps me grounded.”

    Steve frowned. He didn't have a Joan. “I keep coming back to something Fury told me,” he thought aloud. “He said the world’s full of new Schmidts. He said SHIELD’s all that stands between them and the rest of the world, and he said I could help.”

    “And what do you think?”

    “I don’t know,” Steve admitted. He glanced at the tablet on the coffee table, the one Fury had given him before he left. From what he had read, it certainly seemed like Fury wasn't lying. In the seventy years that Steve had been gone from the world, new threats and conflicts had risen up like weeds. “If the world needs Captain America, then I have an obligation to serve, don’t I?”

    Jay shrugged. “You have an obligation to yourself, too, Steve. Don’t take this the wrong way, but the world’s gotten by without Captain America for a good while now. I’ll be the first to admit that I know nothing about Fury’s crew, but it seems they’ve been handling things pretty well so far, wouldn’t you say? If you’re ready to take a break from that life, then that’s what you should do.”

    “How do I know if I’m ready?”

    At that, Jay had to smile. “Only you can answer that one, kid.” He drained the last of his glass and set it down on the table. When Steve asked if he wanted another, Jay waved him off. “I really shouldn’t. I need to be getting back to St. Louis soon, anyway,” he explained with a glance at the clock. “Joan’ll kill me if she finds out I’m using my speed outside the house again.” At the door, Jay clapped a hand on Steve's shoulder. “Believe it or not, I know what you’re going through. Just like I know you’ll make the right choice for you.”

    After Jay left, Steve spent a lot of time thinking about what his friend had said – particularly about his wife, Joan, keeping him grounded. Steve had only ever had someone like that once in his life. That person was Gail Richards. Of all the girls from the neighborhood, only Gail had ever been sweet on Steve before his transformation into Captain America. The two had even gone steady for a while, though Steve's insistence on joining the war effort had driven them apart. Gail wanted Steve to stay in Brooklyn where it was safe, and she broke things off when it became clear that Steve wouldn't be deterred. When Steve finally received his marching orders, Gail had seen him off with tears in her eyes, making him swear to stay alive out there.

    Since that day, Steve had tried not to remember that moment, but his talk with Jay had brought the memory back to the surface. On a whim, Steve picked up Fury's tablet and decided to see if he could track down what had become of Gail Richards. Much to his surprise, he found that she was still alive, residing in an assisted living community there in Brooklyn. Letting the impulse drive him, Steve jotted down the address. It was a fool's errand, he knew. Gail would have to be well in her nineties by now, and she didn't have the benefit of an accelerated metabolism to keep her young like Jay did. Still, something about what Jay had said compelled Steve to make his way over to the building where she now lived.

    “I’m looking for Gail Richards,” Steve explained to the receptionist. When she asked his relation to Gail, it took Steve a moment to come up with a believable lie. “She’s my… aunt,” he offered. Upon seeing the receptionist's skeptical look, he corrected, “Great-aunt.” The receptionist – either convinced or merely apathetic – told him the appropriate room number, and Steve made his way down the hall. Finding the correct room, Steve took a moment to gather himself at the door before going in, unsure of what to expect.

    Inside, the room was softly-lit. Someone had hung light blue curtains by the window, which added some much needed character to the coldly clinical environment. A television played in the background with the volume set barely above a whisper. Near the window, a wisp of a woman lay on an oversized bed. Steve made his way across the room to the side of the bed, where he found her sleeping. It was hard to believe that this could be the same woman he left behind all those years ago. So frail and feeble, she looked as though the years had sapped her of all her strength. It made Steve sad to see her like this. Regretting his decision to come, he turned for the door when she made a sound.

    When the woman opened her eyes, Steve could no longer deny that she was Gail. The years may have changed her face, but nothing could take away her eyes. As she considered Steve, her face contorted. Steve's breath caught in his throat, waiting for her to say something. Then, she blinked, and suddenly the recognition was gone from her eyes. “You remind me of someone,” she announced weakly. “But he died a long time ago. I… I made him promise. He promised me, b-but… he never came back.” As she finished, she looked away from Steve and frowned. “He never came back,” she repeated.

    As Steve left the room, he felt heat behind his eyes. He needed fresh air. Outside the assisted living home, Steve found a bench. Elbows on his knees, Steve sat and gathered himself. Seeing Gail was a mistake. It only served to remind him everything he had lost. Steve closed his eyes and focused on his breath until he heard someone approach. Looking up, Steve saw a female jogger with chin-length brown hair. The woman came to a stop in front of the bench and removed her headphones. She motioned to the empty spot on the bench, and Steve slid down to accommodate her.

    “Thanks,” the woman said, out of breath, as she sat. After a moment, she glanced at Steve and said, “Are you alright?”

    “I will be,” he assured her, though he wasn't so confident himself.

    The woman nodded. “Sorry. I shouldn’t pry,” she apologized.

    Steve shook his head. “That’s alright,” he insisted. “After all, that’s why Nick sent you, isn’t it?”

    The woman furrowed her brow. “I’m sorry?”

    “Your watch,” Steve said with a nod. “It’s set to the wrong hour. You’ve been traveling from time zone to time zone and haven’t had the chance to adjust it. Your face is tan, but not your arms or legs, so you’ve been getting sun… but not in those jogging outfits.” With a smirk, he added, “And your Brooklyn accent needs work.”

    Defeated, the woman dropped the accent and explained, “I’m Agent Sasha Bordeaux.”

    “How long have you been spying on me for Nick Fury, Agent Bordeaux?” Steve asked.

    “I haven’t been spying she insisted. “I’ve only been tasked with keeping an eye on you. Making sure you’re handling the transition back to civilian life – to the modern world – okay.”

    Steve arched an eyebrow. “Oh yeah? And what’s your assessment on that front?”

    Agent Bordeaux hesitated. “It was never going to be an easy thing to do. You have to give yourself more time. I promise you, it will all get easier.”

    It was the answer he expected, the answer which belied Agent Bordeaux's true professional opinion. Steve nodded. “You may be right, Agent Bordeaux,” he admitted, “but Nick Fury knows me as well as any man alive. It’s why he sent you, why he instructed you to make contact with me today. He knew that after a few weeks of civilian life, I’d be begging to get back in.” Steve looked away from her and stared off into the distance. “It’s who I am… all I am now.”

    Agent Bordeaux let his words hang in the air before saying, “Captain Rogers, I can’t imagine what you’re going through…”

    Without a word, Steve stood up from the bench. “I’ve given this a lot of thought,” he began. Tucking his hands into his pockets, Steve said, "Tell your boss I’ll take him up on that job offer."
     

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