Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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So saying, from the ruin'd shrine he stept

And in the moon athwart the place of tombs,

Where lay the mighty bones of ancient men,

Old knights, and over them the sea-wind sang

Shrill, chill, with flakes of foam. He, stepping down

By zigzag paths, and juts of pointed rock,

Came on the shining levels of the lake.



There is a lake south of the parish of Bolventor in the green pastures of Cornwall, small and untouched by the ravages of tourism or industrialization. It is not the largest or the oldest in the isles. Few know of its legacy except for him.

It was on these very shores that the first men to walk what was known as Briton would make their first hearth. It was the waters of this lake that were mistaken for the famed Fountain of Youth by enterprising Spanish conquistadors. A thousand nameless duels, confrontations, discoveries and historical records happened and were forgotten here, buried under the loam and the sand, never to be unearthed.

He’d always feared coming here, of tasting the ashes of yesterday’s glory. Every step he took on the sand brought back memories he’d long tried to bury. He could clearly see the five of them standing on the shoreline: him, Percy, Lancelot, Edwin watching stoically as the boy king rowed to the middle of the loch to retrieve his birthright. He could smell the dew that dripped from the petals of lilies that once dotted the lake’s surface. Most of all, he could hear the voice of his king, a boisterous laugh that reminded them all that the sun would always dawn tomorrow.

Justin crouched down and touched the surface, watching the waves radiate out and dissipate, eventually settling back down into stillness. The center of the lake was occluded by a dense thick cloud of fog that floated on the water’s edge. Tendrils of grey mist flicked in and out as if they were looking for any unwary traveler to take hold of.

Why did he come here? This place was nothing but a graveyard of memories and lost faith. Did the stranger send him here to take the piss out of him? Justin then spotted an old boat, moss clung to the underside, with a paddle hanging out from the seat.

He’d have to walk the same steps as his king.

Justin pushed the boat off the shore and clambered onto it. The planks creaked underneath his weight as he sat and took hold of the paddle. The water felt like treacle as he cut through the lake with his paddle, pushing the boat ever so closer to the fog. For brief moments, the blanket of fog devoured his senses. It was suffocating as an indistinguishable void permeated everything outside of the boat. He focused on the monotony of rowing, his arms moving back and forth, as he continued to venture deeper and deeper.

The fog then cleared and he saw a small island with a gnarled tree, hooked branches free of leaves. The trunk was hollow and twisted in a helix with glowing runes inscribed onto the bark. The lip of the boat hit the dirt with a thunk and Justin stepped it off slowly. Je reached his hand towards his belt

“ Hello, is anyone there? My name is Justin.”

His voice travelled out back across the lake, growing dim before it echoed back.

“ Justin Inse Ghall.”

“The Shining Knight.”

“ The Last of Arthur’s Men.”

“ Sir Justin.”

The last words made the hair tingle on his back and he turned around to see himself from over a thousand years in the past. A coif of chain mail obscured his sandy hair and his cleft chin remained bare of the overgrown beard that obscured much of his jawline. Thick yellow plates of quilted brigantine covered much of his body, inalid with war scratches and trenches from enemy swords. In the center of his chest, an ornate raven had been stitched on the outer layer, the sigil of his ancestral homelands.

Justin stood agape at his own reflection. Or perhaps, he was the reflection, a pale imitation of who he once was. They stood apart for a while, silent, before Justin spoke up, his voice quiet.

“ I don’t deserve to be called sir. “ He motioned to himself, placing both his hands on his chest. “ You should be ashamed of how much I’ve ignored! Why are we still here?!”

“ What blossoms in the springeth, burgeons in the summ'r, sheds in autumn and dies in wint'r but remains the same und'rneath?” His reflection took a step towards him, his stoic face never changing. “ What did thee seeketh here again?”

“ Faith.” Justin’s face turned away from his reflection, downcast with shame. “ B-but we’ve lost it.”

“ Thee never hath lost thy faith. From thy dunnest nights to thy brightest days, thy faith did remain alive. How can thee feareth, cry, chuckle, rage without faith to fuel?”

“ I’ve seen too much to still have faith,” Justin murmured, voice heavy with defeat as he begun to walk back towards the shore of the isle. Just as he was about to step into the boat, his reflection then chuckled wistfully.

“ So, we hath kept telling ourselves for 9 centuries. Your faith has always been strong, Justin, whether you try to convince yourself otherwise. Arthur knighted you for a reason. ”

Anger flashed in Justin’s heart as he rounded back on his reflection, wanting to strip off that past arrogance, hurt him, show him what he was exactly fighting for. Grass crunched underneath his feet as he pounded his reflection’s armor with a balled fist.

“ My faith is broken!” He kept battering it repeatedly, his blows growing more feeble, as he slid to his reflection’s feet. “ I used to believe that He gave me a purpose to walk the earth for a reason. I thought this eternal life was a blessing and that I could champion the ideals of my King throughout these many ages. Instead, I feel emptier with every passing day. t’s harder to wake up? ”

Justin sobbed before letting out a final plea.

“ Can’t my quest end?”

For brief moments, he was lost in his own world of grief and futility, grabbing onto his reflection like a lifebuoy. Firm hands then grasped his shoulders and pulled him up. His reflection looked upon him sombrely, not with pity, but with patience.

“ Our quest hasn’t ended. The quest never ends, whether you will it to be or not. That is the great burden of knighthood. We fight to honor our oaths and protect those shielded by our vows because that is what a knight does. The call never escapes us, as much as we want to ignore it. To do so would tear apart a knight from the inside.”

“ I haven’t been much of a knight in the last twenty years.”

“ A knight’s greatest strength isn’t in their feats of daring or their renown throughout their lands but their faith. To hold onto faith even when all is lost. You still have faith, Justin. It calls upon you and you must answer.”

Justin suddenly felt a sharp pain blossom in his chest. He looked down to see a sword buried to the hilt, yet, no blood came out. His reflection’s face smiled tenderly as he placed his hand on the handle and gripped it tightly, wracking his body with agony.

“ You must answer the call.”

The words didn’t register in his brain. Black dots swam in his mind as he felt the distinct sensation of sinking in ice. The sounds of his breathing grew shallower before he felt something pull on his ribs as darkness devoured his vision.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Alternax
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Shout my name! (Part 2)


Scott Mason felt like he was swimming in some sort of intense black void, it felt overbearing, more than that though, it was cold. If he gave in for just a second it would rush in all around, swallowing him, and he would be gone. Yet he it would also relieve him from this pressure, this incredible intensity, and he was so very tired. For some reason he knew that. Would that be so bad?

"Wait." A voice called to him.

'Ok.' For some reason he couldn't hear his own voice, but he knew he at least said that. What was that voice anyways? He was still cold, insanely cold now. Geez, why didn't anybody close the door? Then he remembered something, wasn't he hurt recently? Besides today, he remembered another incident from months ago.

He was riding a train out of Coast City when something happened to the tracks, whatever happened also caused the metal on his side of the train to warp, it bent into his leg, breaking it. He remembered it happening so fast, he blinked and suddenly he was pinned. It was actually quite freaky to see all the blood and bone, but he didn't scream; doctors later told him it was shock and adrenaline.

Scott remembered the next part almost perfectly. A giant green hand pried off the metal that was pinning him. Scott tried to stand immediately and nearly tore his leg off. Thankfully, that hero stopped him from making any stupider mistakes, and offered to fly him to a hospital. But simply being saved like some damsel in distress isn't what ignited his respect for Green lantern. In his strange state of shock, he asked if he could be taken in a jet, instead of a ball, and the hero did it. The sphere changed into a slick F-16 right around him, and he rode all the way up to the hospital front doors like that.

'Oh, that was so sick!'

Scott thought, well in hindsight it might have been pretty embarrassing, but he was younger. Upon further reflection he decided it was still a good memory, and he noticed it was starting to get warmer.

"Awaken, human."

Scott gasped, his body automatically attempted to breathe as deep as it could, his head pounded, at the same time his mind felt clouded and muddy. He could hardly think, he didn't even know where he was. Finding it hard to breathe, he brushed his hands across his face, just barely rubbing off some kind of plastic mask.

As he swiped his hands in front of his face, he discovered his skin had paled, and he had grown slightly slimmer. Completely forgetting about the voice from earlier, he took a moment to take in his surroundings. Sterile white walls, tan-curtained windows, a wall-mounted TV, and flowers on the table next to him. A few more seconds to catch his breath, and he attempted to sit up, struggling against a heavy sheet covering his body. Still breathing heavily, he placed a hand onto his head, to support himself, and another hand on his chest.

"What the hell is this?" His raspy voice just managed to utter, even he could barely hear it, and yet someone responded.

"No, young human, fear not. Tis not the purgatory known as hell. Thou hast been taken to a hospital, where thou have been resting for many of thine weeks."

"W-what the.." Scott scanned the room as quick as he could, and yet he could find no other person, even the TV was off. There was a ringing he couldn't quite place, but it was making his headache even more.

"My deepest apologies, but thou hast suffered a mortal injury, thou hast died."

"The hell? You're kidding!" Scott shouted back as defiantly as he could. "Who the hell are you anyways, how come I can't see you?" He shouted again, not out of anger, but general confusion, almost panicking. It had only been a minute since he woke up in a new place, and instead of another person, some disembodied voice had woken him up. In the back of his mind he wondered why nobody had come to check on him, what with his yelling, and his conversation with this weird voice.

"I am known as the Starheart." The voice said again, then a small green glowing ball floated down from somewhere out of sight. "And I need thine aid." Scott was rightly confused, now that he was starting to pay attention, and simply made a face, starring at this supposed 'Starheart'. Stuck between wondering if he was even awake, if his head was more banged up than he thought, and trying to remember his Shakespeare training.

"Can thou understandeth me?"

"I do, but you kind of talk funny."

"Is that so?"


"I see.." The voice sounded weird, was it right to call it sullen? The voice itself was normally deep and authoritative, not exactly something he would have wanted to be woken up too. Why couldn't it have been a cute voice? He briefly wondered.

"W-well, what do you need my help for?"

"I have decided to follow the last wish of an old friend." The voice replied quickly, perhaps it was grateful to get back on track. Scott noticed the ringing in his ears had never faded, and his talk with the Starheart was beginning to clear his head. He realized now that the ringing was a fire alarm, focusing his hearing, he could hear screaming.

"Wait, then you need my help to-"

"To save the people in tis very building. I cannot fight without a partner, and I have chosen thine self." The Starheart bobbed in place as it grew closer. "Will thou aid me?"

"If I say yes, can we save these people?"

"Yes." The Starheart replied with a dignified resolve, and steadied itself in front of his eyes. Scott swiped his hand forward, grasping this strange light. A blinding green light exploded from in-between his fingers, engulfing the room, flooding his vision with an emerald flare that didn't seem to fade.

"To use mine power, you must first make a medium for which to channel mine energies."

"A medium?"

"If thou were to attempt to use mine raw power in thine current, thou would surely pass away, even with mine help. This 'medium' will be a lens with which thou may focus mine power merely using thine will, whatever thoust desires can be made."

Scott thought about it. Being a superhero used to feel like a fantasy, like some kid's dream, but if this thing was telling the truth, that dream could be real. If he could be like a hero, wouldn't he be like the one that saved him? His mind began to fashion that same image that was burned into his memories, a green ring, with a vague lantern shape in the center. He didn't know why or how he knew this, but it felt like the Starheart approved of it.

"I believe I know what thoust is thinking of, allow me to take care of thine appearance."

Strength began to flow through his limbs again, he slid off his bed, throwing the sheet off to the side, struggling to finally come to an unsteady stand. Scott put a finger through the ring, made a fist, and finally replied. "Please do."

The blinding light faded as bright emerald bands shot out from his ring, the bands wrapped around him, taking shape into an old form the Starheart used to use. A long flowing cape with a high collar, red long-sleeves, baggy green-parachute pants, a dark colored mask, and some sort of giant belt. Scott looked himself over, stretching his arm and legs about so he could see better, pulling at the cape to examine it more, and finally shouted.

"The hell is this?"
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Bounce
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[ Prev ] | Issue 1.03 | [ Next ]
[ build that wall ]

The sound of a grown man backhanding a woman was unmistakable.

The arguing. The shouting. The immutable clap-snap. Then the sobbing. More shouting. Sometimes pleading.

Why did you make me do that?

When he’d been smaller, Jason would hide under the table when his old man and Catherine would argue. Then he’d hide in his room. Except sometimes his dad would stumble into his room, drunk and angry.

Sometimes he knew why he was getting beat. Teacher sent a note home? That’s a beating. One of the guy’s in the bar said his son was acting like a sissy boy? You better believe that’s a beating.

Other times, Jason had no idea. There probably was no reason. Willis Todd was just drunk and angry and wanted to take it out on someone. And that ‘someone’ was going to be either Catherine or Jason.

So Jason hid in the closet.

His dad would come up. Flip the bed mattress. Kick things around. But stumble out after awhile for a victim that would give him what he wanted. A reaction. Unless, that is, he was so drunk that when he’d tried to flip the matress, he’d just wind up on his ass and passed out.

That happened a few times.

So, Jason avoided being at home as much as he could. And, when he was home, closeted himself to just stay out of his dad’s way.

That’s what home was like.

Walking on eggshells, wondering what was going to set Willis Todd off. And then hiding in the closet, waiting for the drunken storm to blow over.

The photos lined the hallways.

Family portraits. Candid snaps that presented a foreign landscape. Smiling faces. People who seemed to genuinely be happy together.

A large oil panting of a man and a woman, with a little kid that he guessed was Bruce at the man’s knee.

Jason looked at the faces of the woman and the kid. He didn’t see any fear. No bruises or marks that were explained away as having fallen down again.

Man, what was that like?

“Dinner is served.”

The announcement sent a shiver down the boy’s spine, which he masked by running a hand through his still damp hair. He’d taken a shower when they’d returned back to the mansion, changing into a pair of boxer shorts and a Jurassic World t-shirt that was too large for him.

It had belonged to Dick, along with the room that Jason now occupied.

Making his way down the hall, the boy passed by the vaulted dining room. Its massive table shrouded in silence and shadows.

Did it ever even get used?

Jason and Alfred ate in one corner of the kitchen. A math textbook open, as the Boy Wonder propped an elbow against the table and scribbled away at his homework between bites of crusty bread and some kind of pale greenish-white soup.

It was a bit like eating a bowl of snot, but, hey, the bread by itself was better than just about anything Jason had ever put in his mouth.

Folding his newspaper down, the butler peered over at the boy. The elbow obviously caught the man’s ire, but the mouthful of soup the boy took seemed to make up for it. “I must say, Master Jason, I’m impressed. The first time I served vichyssois to Master Bruce, he spit it back out because it was cold.”

Blinking, the boy’s large blue eyes just stared back blankly at the butler.

Really? He could think of lots of reasons the soup wasn’t very appealing. But he’d learned the hard way that beggars couldn’t be choosers. Besides, the flavor wasn’t all bad. It was more just how it looked.

He looked down at the soup. Stabbing the viscous contents with his spoon, the boy swirled it around as he said, “Catherine would just open a can of Spaghetti-Ohs, drop a spoon into it, and hand it to me.”

Setting the spoon down, the boy reached over, tearing off another hunk of bread and popping that into his mouth – ignoring the mess of crumbs he was making – as he turned his attention back his math homework.

Alfred didn’t say anything after that.

The Wayne house was good for that. There was a lot that was left unsaid in this home.

“Tonight on WGCL News at Ten: The search for a lost boy in Gotham ends in tragedy tonight...”

There was a small television on in the background.

Turning his head, Jason peered over to watch for a bit. So the kid that had been missing was dead?

Did Bruce know?

Was that why they hadn’t heard from him? Was he on the trail of the kidnapper?

“...now to weather...”

“They didn’t say anything about the body outlines in Crime Alley,” the boy uttered.

Alfred’s newspaper rustled slightly, as he man’s voice uttered from behind the pages, “Body outlines?”

“Yeah, someone had drawn out the outline of two bodies, just like in those old crime movies,” the boy offered, pausing to tear off another piece of bread before he added, “But there wasn’t any crime scene tape or nothin’!”

Alfred folded the paper down on the table. Mid-bite, Jason paused, the hair standing up on his neck.

He had the distinct impression that he’d just said something wrong. Like with his old man, when there was that moment before he’d just go off.

“I see,” Alfred remarked finally, giving the boy a smile that was utterly fake.

Yeah, he’d definitely said something wrong.

“Well, tomorrow is a school day,” Alfred noted.

That was pretty much Alfred for ‘go to your room.’

“Can I wait up for Bruce?” the boy asked. Seriously, did Bruce Wayne even live here anymore? “I haven’t seen him, like, all week I think.”

“Not tonight,” Alfred answered flatly, rising from the kitchen table and lifting the now-empty bowl away. “To bed, Master Jason.”

With that, the butler gave a wave of the remote and clicked off the television.

Closing the textbook, the boy scooped up his homework and made his way out of the kitchen and into the labyrinthian abode. Up the winding stairs, down the hallway to the left. All the while, walking underneath the passage of the life of Bruce Wayne’s happy childhood.

He dropped the text and the loose papers down on top of the open backpack that was by the door to the room.

Alfred had made the bed up again.

He didn’t know why the butler bothered. Grabbing a few pillows, the boy tucked one under an arm as he peeled a bedsheet from off the bed, then turned and made his way to the closet.

It was bigger than the one he’d had back home.

Dropping the pillows and bed sheet onto the floor, the boy left to go brush his teeth. He returned a minute later, closing the door to the closet behind him as he curled up on the floor and wrapped himself in the bedsheet.

This felt almost like home.

There wasn’t enough noise. He used to fall asleep to the sound of Gotham traffic. Police sirens and gunshots.

Wayne Manor was quiet AF. Which was fitting in a lot of ways. It looked like a home. But it was really a tomb.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Kyoka
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Kyoka Sleepy

Member Seen 1 mo ago

X - 2 3

Weapon X-23
Issue #1.1 - Blood-Drenched Marionette
Previous Issue - Sample Post

Dawn drew nearer and nearer as X-23 travelled down the narrow path. The further along the path she travelled the more she noticed the trees around her thinning out providing less and less cover. The snow had been steadily building up overnight and the cold had not grown any more bearable. A brisk wind stung the eyes slightly forcing a rapid blinking. X-23 found herself wandering into an icy plain, the path ended abruptly, before her lay a tranquil sprawling landscape. In the distance there looked to be a frozen river before the environment jarringly transitioned into formidable grey mountains. There was nothing in sight that indicated any kind of base that was being operated out of. It has to be somewhere here. She thought

X-23 continued onward now with now guidance in direction from the path, closing her eyes she focused her efforts on listening. There was nothing she heard that stood out to her. Her nose began to twitch as she sniffed. Someone is near. She picked up a weak scent nearby, slowly she followed it until it was almost directly below her. With a swipe of her foot, she kicked aside some of the snow, and again until something that looked to be metal was uncovered. Here. With her hands and legs, she began to dig out the snow, large piles of snow steadily formed the outline of what was quickly becoming recognizable as a large, sealed metal door, almost like a trap door.

She stood up to survey what she had just uncovered. All around the door were large mechanical latches, at least that is what X-23 could make of them. At the bottom were two handles, likely to lift the door although it also seemed to be an aided opening. Beside the handles was a security device to scan cards and unlock the door. “Location found.” She whispered. “Make your way inside the outpost X-23. Eliminate anyone that you encounter.” The voice in her ear spoke. From this new standpoint she could pick up several new scents from inside the base. "Understood." She replied quietly.

Taking out the security card she retrieved from the guard earlier, she placed it carefully into the card reading device and swiped it along its surface allowing it to be scanned. There was a brief but sharp electronic beeping before the door began to make obscure noises and flashed up a light of green, causing X-23 to take a step back momentarily. Bending over she took hold of the two handles and pulled them upwards, she only needed to apply herself briefly before the door opened the rest of the way automatically. Now revealed to her was a staircase heading down, at the end was a bright light emanating from the subterranean room. Cautiously she made her way down the staircase to find herself in a large open space that was full of crates, boxes, and equipment that had been used to move them. Some were opened while others were carefully sealed and secured. At the far end of the room, it narrowed out into corridors that led further onwards.

Quickly X-23 leaped behind one of the crates, ducking to hide behind its cover. She had realized there was a group approaching. Possibly several. She could smell them, hear their footsteps, the words they were speaking idly. “How much longer do you reckon this will take?” One voice said, it was a high pitched and strained male voice. “Who knows, could be here for another month still, I’ve stopped trying to guess.” Another responded a course female voice. “Probably a wise way to look at it, it will be done when it’s done, eh?” A third voice, belonging to a soft-spoken man. The three were making their way to the entrance/exit, which was still left open by X-23.

“So where are they then?” The high-pitched man said. “Did they wander off leaving their manners behind them?” He continued. “No, they just got here where would they have even gone? Likely would have passed them even if they did.” The soft-spoken man replied. “Well, where are they then?” The course woman asked.

NOW. X-23 thought, and once thought found it almost impossible to resist.

SNIKT X-23 involuntarily popped her claws. “Huh?” the soft-spoken man said.

Darting out from behind the crate she charged the three guards. Their eyes widened in surprise and then fear once the realization of what was happening hit them.

BANG. BANG. BANG. They had managed to raise their rifles and started firing off shots. Without slowing down X-23 deflected two of them with her claws and dodged the third before pivoting to the left where she now closed the distance from behind cover.

Shots continued to fire off the sound of bullets tearing through wood and other materials could be heard as the bullets pierced the obstacles between themselves and X-23.

With great speed X-23 jumped atop one crate before using it as a platform to launch herself over to the three guards with a feral yell “RRRAAAAAAGGGGHHH!”. She landed on the man with the high-pitched voice, sinking her claws into his shoulders, he yelled out as they fell together.

“Run damn it run!” The course woman yelled at the soft-spoken man who after a second of hesitation turned his back and ran as fast as he could back towards the corridors that they had emerged from.

Pulling her claws out of the man X-23 dashed forward and stabbed them into the solar plexus of the woman. As she went limp, she retracted her claws allowing her too to fall. The soft-spoken man had not gotten far before she started her chase after him, in no time at all she closed the distance and tackled him to the ground. Popping out only one set of her claws she pierced the soft-spoken man through the back of his throat and retracting it once more.

After she dealt with the guards, X-23 approached the corridor from which they had come from. It was a long, clean, light grey room. Entering it she began to walk its length before a bend to her right gave the option of continuing forward or turning into a new corridor which looked identical to the first direction. Above her were thin rectangles of light that were evenly spaced out. She closed her eyes again and focused on her sense of smell. Forward she could pick up on nothing, however after a moment she caught something that was coming from the right corridor. And so that was the direction she continued her journey down.

Eventually, the corridor opened into a room, it was a rather simple one with the same lights as those of the corridors. Its furniture was simple benches and a drinking water fountain. There was also a large, shaded window. Through it there could be seen to be a pristine lab environment, although one that had been mostly cleared out of what equipment it had once held within it. There was, however, still a group of people that unfortunately for them were still there. They were talking to each other, X-23 could not hear them nor any other sound from that room. She could see that there were four of them in the lab, however at the far end there was another door that led into a second room, meaning she could not count out the possibility of there being more.

Crouching down she slowly crept towards the door to the lab, on its handle was a device to scan cards like that of the one that was on the entrance to the outpost. Once more X-23 took out the security guard she had taken from the guard and swiped it on the device. This time, however, she was met with a flash of red light, the door remained locked. They know I am here now... she realized. Then I will do what I have to. She stood up and backed up from the door. Inside she could see that the doctors in their long white lab coats were in a panic. With a run up to the door she slammed into it shoulder first.


The centre of the reinforced door splintered and split as X-23 burst through.

“Oh god! Oh god!” One of the doctors cried out as they all made a dash for the door at the other end of the room. Three of them made their way through the door before stopping the fourth from following them.

“Wait wait. Please, wait!” They cried out in despair as one of the doctors on the other side of the doorway took out a vial and sprayed the fourth before closing and locking the door on them.

What was-

X-23 found her own line of thought interrupted as soon as she caught the scent on the doctor that was now sitting dejectedly with their back against the door they had tried to escape out of. Her vision was a crimson red. “GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!” She lashed out in a rage, her claws were extended and as she waved her arms around uncoordinated, she made deep gashes on the walls and floor.

She couldn’t think straight, she couldn’t focus on anything. She couldn’t control anything.

Before she knew it, she was standing in front of the door that the doctors had escaped from. It was covered in a dark bloody red, as was that entire section of the room from the floor to the walls to the ceiling. She was standing over what once was a living breathing human being, looking at it know that might have been hard to believe.

X-23 caught herself breathing laboriously. Why do... they have... that.

With a boot she kicked in the door before her, taking it off its hinges with one powerful impact. It led to another staircase that went further down underground.

“That is enough X-23.” The voice in her ear spoke suddenly. Her body jolted to a stop.


“Return to the entrance now X-23.” The voice commanded. There was a moment of silence.

“Understood.” She whispered.

X-23 turned her back on the staircase. Her job here was done. Even though it did not feel like that.

Looking down she noticed that her hands were still clenched into fists, her claws still extended. She was shaking.

I followed my orders... That wasn’t supposed to happen again. Not again... He promised.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Guardian of the Universe

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Victory Square, at the foot of Castle Doom
Doomstadt (formerly known as Hassenstadt)

Six Months Ago

"My brothers and sisters," Lucia von Bardas began as she approached the podium, "After the long, bitter fighting that has seen so many suffer needlessly, we have at long last toppled the rotten, clapped-out regime that had been afflicted upon us for so long!"

A thunderous din of triumphant cheers rose from the throng of loyal followers before her. Next to her on the dais, a haggard, beaten man was forced on his knees, trembling and crying, a pair of green-armored DoomBots flanking him on either side.

"Vladimir Vassily Gonereo Tristian Mangegi Fortunov," she addressed her prisoner, drawing out his long name in almost mocking tones. "Former Prime Minister of an illegitimate government. For nearly thirty years, you danced on strings pulled by NATO, propagating their lies and their deceit. Time and time again, Latveria has been given empty promises of autonomy, of 'greater standing in the international community,' of free and fair trade, only for more restrictions and sanctions to be placed upon us! Time and time again, you signed away land that rightfully belonged to the Latverian people, for the benefit of NATO and EU pet projects that have only done us harm! And each time you tell us to swallow their tripe, each time you tell us to settle for less, you line your own pockets with their dirty money!"

The tens of thousands in attendance roared with boos and cries of anger.

"The people of Latveria have said no more!" Lucia bellowed. "We have seen the way forward, and it is not dancing to the tune of the Western pigs. The way forward is that promised to us by one of our own, the genius who brought us onto the world stage, who made the White House and the Kremlin tremble! This is the way of destiny! The way of fate! The Way of Doom!"

Lucia paused to bask in the cacophonous applause, before turning back to the beaten man.

"And your doom, comrade Fortunov," she said, drawing a pistol from the inside of her jacket, "is sealed."

The gunshot rang out through the air, followed by another deafening roar of triumph from the crowd as Fortunov's body slumped forward, before falling off the dais and into the crowd, who proceeded to stomp and tear at the corpse until there was nothing recognizable left.

"The Way of Doom has saved the people of Latveria, my brothers and sisters," Von Bargas beckoned, "but our work is far from over! There are many yet who still cry out under the lash of the corrupt and the incompetent. Our brothers and sisters in Symkaria, in Sokovia, in Pokolistan, we hear your call! Our friends and comrades in South America, in East Asia, we share your struggle! Even our perceived enemies in Russia, in China, in America....they, too, will see the way to that shining future! In time, all will know the power and glory of Doom!"

The cheers had grown so loud, the voices of the Latverian people shook the dais.

"Doom," she called out the now familiar chant, "does not beg!"

"DOOM! the voices chanted back in unison, "DOES! NOT! BEG!"

"Doom denies death!"




Von Eeden, Kingdom of Vlatava

Four Months Ago

"Come, my queen!" shouted Grieg von Krupp over the immense noise of the helicopter's engines as its rotors began to spin. "The Legion has breached the palace! We must get you to safety!"

Her eyes wet with tears of panic and confusion, a tiny young girl scrambled across the tarmac, clutching a stuffed bear as if her life depended on it. Flanked by heavily-armed bodyguards who harried her forward, Queen Perdita Vladek ran towards the waiting chopper as fast as she could, sobbing uncontrollably.

"M-make it stop!" the ten-year-old Queen wailed as the staccato bark of assault-rifle fire sounded from inside the palace less than a hundred yards behind her. "I w-want it to s-stop!"

Grieg von Krupp had been the bodyguard of the Vlatavan royal family for twenty years, and it was a job he took very seriously. All the more so after King Bruno Vladek had died from a stroke five years ago, and Queen Perdova succumbed to lung cancer two years ago, leaving the young heiress an orphan. For the past two years, Queen Perdita had been surrounded by political enemies, ambitious Parliament members and jealous nobles who wanted the throne for themselves. On more than one occasion, von Krupp had rooted out plots against the child Queen from her scheming uncle, the now-banished Count Werner Vertigo.

Count Vertigo vowed revenge for his humiliation at the hands of a child. And von Krupp had vowed he would see Vertigo dead before any harm would come to Perdita.

"You're almost there, my queen!" von Krupp encouraged her. "Just a little further!"

The attack had come like lightning, beginning only that very morning. After weeks of posturing against the neighboring nation of Symkaria, the Legion of Doom had revealed their sabre-rattling was merely a feint, launching a surprise offensive into the smaller kingdom of Vlatava instead. While the Vlatavan Royal Guard had been on high alert for months ever since the Latverian Civil War earlier in the year, the small nation could only mobilize a miniscule force, mostly outfitted with decades-old equipment from the days of the Soviet occupation. The Legion, on the other hand, seemed centuries ahead of Queen Perdita's forces, and had blown her army away like dandelions.

Bram Velsing, the now-infamous 'Dread Knight,' had issued the invasion at 8 AM local time. By noon, the Legion had reached the capital city.

A ear-splitting roar tore through the air overhead, as an old fighter jet-- a well-worn MiG-21 LanceR, its simple triangular wings and cylindrical fuselage repainted with the blue-teal-and-gold stripes of the Vlatavan flag-- swooped low above the palace, attempting to cover the royal family's escape by strafing the invaders with machine-gun fire from above. As it spewed bullets down into the mass of green-uniformed soldiers, however, the LanceR erupted into a dark orange fireball, the sudden wave of immense heat and percussive shock from the blast knocking the young Queen to the pavement.

"Come on, get up, get up!" von Krupp begged as he tried to pull the girl to her feet. "Just a little more to go and--"

There was a flash of red light, and the helicopter at the end of the tarmac exploded. In the split-second he had to act, von Krupp tackled Perdita to the pavement, feeling a sudden sharp sting in his lower back before everything became a blur of fire and pain.

Grieg was not sure how much time had passed--seconds, minutes, years-- before his senses returned to him.

The other bodyguards were strewn around him, some burning from being splashed with ignited fuel, others torn to shreds by shrapnel. As he fought through the agony that wracked his body tried to pull himself to his feet, Grieg realized he could not move his legs. A sharp, blinding pain drove him back down onto his face, and he fumbled with one free hand for the source of it, finding a long, jagged shard of metal lodged in his back.

On the ground in front of him, Queen Perdita clutched her stuffed bear, curled into a ball, her face stained with soot and tears.

"H-help...." she whimpered. "P-please....help...."

"D-d-do not w-worry....m-my queen," Grieg tried to console her through gritted teeth, fighting against the excruciating pain as he crawled towards her. "I w-won't let anyone h-hurt you..."

"A touching sentiment, von Krupp," came a familiar mocking voice from behind them, as a figure marched down the tarmac along a cadre of soldiers. "But I'm afraid it matters very little what you will and will not let us do."

"Count Vertigo," Grieg spat out the name like poison.

"That would be King Vertigo now, worm," the blonde one-eyed man in formal attire corrected him, his tone full of triumph. "I have suffered the indignity of serving under this miserable brat for quite long enough. The time has come for a change in Vlatava. I see a new way for the kingdom, and my new allies have been so very helpful in bringing this new way about."

The roar of rocket engines filled the air around them as another figure approached from the sky. An enormous figure in thick purple and black armor, its helmet shaped and painted to resemble a stylized skull, the Dread Knight made the ground tremble with the impact of his landing.

"Queen Perdita Vladek," the Dread Knight's voice boomed from his suit's external speakers, "For generations, your family has held back your subjects, clinging to the outdated notions of kings and nobles. The Way of Doom has no place for these relics."

"N-never," Grieg von Krupp sputtered, fumbling for his service pistol. "I-I'll die...before I l-let you h-hurt her!"

The Dread Knight turned his death's-head mask to the crippled man, and held out an open hand.

"Yes," he said, "That is precisely what you will do."

”Please, no….don’t….I beg you….”

Velsing snorted with derision. ”Doom does not beg.”

For a split second, Grieg von Krupp saw a flash of red light, and felt an intense flash of searing heat.

Then, he neither saw nor felt anything ever again.

Markovburg, Principality of Markovia

Two Months Ago

"Everyone take cover!" Brion Markov bellowed out orders amidst the gunfire and explosions. "I'll hold them off!"

With a strained grunt, Brion thrust his right hand up, motioning like an uppercut punch at the column of advancing tanks. The thunder of shifting stone rang out as the earth heaved upward, tossing the dark green tanks in all directions.

After Vlatava had fallen, the other satellite nations near Latveria fell like dominoes. Akenbourg, Barania, Kasnia, and Modora all capitulated within two weeks of each other. Transia, Alberia, Attania, and Nrosvekistan were soon to follow. In some instances, the Legion of Doom had poured across the borders and crushed their opposition like the fist of an angry god. In others, the government would simply roll over and capitulate without a shot being fired. Little by little, one pocket-kingdom and rump-state at a time, the bloc of nations that had broken away from the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 60s and sworn allegiance to Viktor van Domashev were being brought back into the fold.

The Principality of Markovia had been next on that list. But the Legion of Doom would find this country to be made of sterner stuff.

"You dare to come to my country," Brion growled, ripping boulders out of the ground and hurling them at the Doomist soldiers, "threaten my family, my people! And you have the gall to call our ways backwards, while peddling the well-worn lies of a long-dead madman!"

As a Legion VTOL drone launched a rocket at him, Brion stomped his foot into the ground, sprouting up a massive wall of stone around him. While the rocket blasted the rock to pieces, Brion stood unharmed, then with a wave of his hand, launched the rubble into the sky to fill the air with flak that perforated the invading drones.

"So long as I stand, Markovia stands!" he bellowed, a one-man earthquake, crushing his enemies with flying boulders, swallowing up others with huge fissures in the ground. Brion Markov stood against the might of the Legion of Doom, and for a time, stopped them dead in their tracks.

But only for a time.

"Your tenacity is to be commended," called out a voice, seemingly from all directions at once, "but this battle is over. The Markov family has ignored the pleas of its people for years; do not presume to act as their champion and protector now that their liberators have come."

"Liberators?!" Brion scoffed. "I have seen the type of 'liberation' your Legion brings. You have prisoners shot, hanged, or impaled in public! You round up populations like cattle to be brainwashed in your camps!"

"We remove the dross of society," the voice retorted, almost condescending. "Corrupt officials, gangsters, murderers, rapists, the predators and parasites that their old governments ignored or empowered. And yes, those who we have liberated must then be instructed in the Way of Doom, only so that they may find their new purposes, their new destinies. There is no place for mere 'cattle' among us."

"Spare me the propaganda," he sneered. "You and your jack-booted thugs are no different from every other tin-pot dictator to prophesy some brave new world. And you will collapse and die just like the others."

Brion felt a sudden sharp sting in his neck, and within seconds, his limbs began to feel numb.

"Oh, I believe you will find us quite different from the failed philosophies that came before us," came the calm, almost academic voice of Kristoff Vernard as he materialized next to Brion, a now-emptied syringe in his hand. "And we do not plan on dying out any time soon."

As Brion's senses blurred, he felt his body fall forward, only to be caught by powerful mechanical arms.

"After all....Doom denies death."

Port of Los Angeles, California


"--claim credit for the bombing in Nairomi, making this the fourth time in just as many weeks that an insurgency in the third world can be tied to them. And make no mistake, folks, the People's Liberation Legion is very much a terrorist organization, designed to spread instability around the world to make it that much easier for their puppet-masters in Doomstadt to scoop them up later! The regime may be new, but their methods are the exact sort of stuff Doctor Doom himself was carrying out during the Cold War. Latch on to the fringe groups of society, then marginalize, disenfranchise, radicalize, and weaponize them! Have them do all your dirty work, softening up your targets for the bigger war to come!

"And while all this is going on, pundits on both sides play the same tired old blame game-- the Right throws them in with the Marxists, the Left lumps them in with the Fascists. And this only lets the Neo-Doomist movement recruit from the extreme ends of the aisle equally! Joining me tonight to discuss what exactly makes this dangerous movement so seductive to the loonies and losers of the world, my guest--"

"Uhhh, hey boss? I think you might want to take a look at this."


Harbor Master Bill Warrant switched off the small TV on his desk, and looked up at the stevedore who had come into his office.

"Something wrong?" he asked.

"I dunno, maybe," the stevedore answered, approaching with a tablet. "The Green Harvest finally pulled in, and delivered her cargo manifest, and....and it's all blank."

Bill frowned. The Green Harvest had been a publicity nightmare for weeks, after getting stuck in the Suez Canal for several days, making both the Harvest itself and hundreds of other cargo ships incredibly late with their deliveries. The company had been made a laughingstock by one captain’s astounding incompetence, and things weren’t helped by tinfoil-hat types claiming they had seen other ships approaching the Harvest in the middle of the night, unloading its cargo and replacing it with other containers. A blank cargo manifest wasn’t going to help those wacko rumors.

”Right,” Bill sniffed, getting up from his chair and getting ready to tear the captain of the Green Harvest a new behind, ”If this dumbass can’t even steer a boat in a straight line, I guess filling out his paperwork is going to be too much for him to bother with too. Gimme a minute, and I’ll be down there to give this guy a piece of my mind.”

Several minutes later, Bill stormed out onto the wide loading dock where the enormous cargo ship was moored, cranes having already unloaded a dozen shipping containers before he arrived.

”Hold on, hold on, what the hell is all this?” he yelled to the workers who seemed to ignore him as they went about their tasks. ”Nobody told you to start unloading the ship! Get this stuff back on until—“

”Excuse me, Harbor Master Warrant?” a distinctly European man called him by name as he approached.

Bill raised an eyebrow, growing wary. ”….yeah, that’s me. How did you—“

”I was instructed to meet with you upon our arrival,” the blonde man answered. ”I believe I can provide some answers to questions you must be asking yourself.”

”Boss, what the hell’s going on?” the stevedore asked, growing uneasy himself. ”I don’t recognize any of the crew out here.”

”If I may?” the mystery man asked, before turning and shouting. ”Lazlo! Franz! The container!”

With crisp, almost mechanical movements, two of the deckhands put down their work and approached the nearest container. Undoing the latch, the two of them swung the steel doors wide open. Inside the container were row after row of black rectangular crates.

The deckhands then pulled one of the crates out of the container, setting it down before the Harbor Master. Typing in the pass code on the crate’s keypad lock, they lifted the lid to show its contents.

”H-hey now, this isn’t—“ Bill stammered. ”…oh my God, it is…”

Inside the crate were a half dozen state-of-the-art military-grade automatic rifles. Bill had heard about these on some of the chat groups he frequented. Using electromagnetic rails instead of gunpowder, they projected bullets at hypersonic velocities, allowing a 9mm round to hit with the force of a traditional .50 cal, and did so without a muzzle flash and barely a whisper. What’s more, they could be fitted with any number of modifications, from increasing the rate of fire to that of a conventional minigun, to increasing the distance to rival those of the leading sniper rifles.

Given the size of the container and how many crates were in it, there must have been nearly a thousand rifles in the single container alone. And considering how many containers were aboard the Green Harvest….

”Jesus Christ,” the stevedore muttered. ”You could set up a whole friggin’ army with—“


The stevedore fell to the concrete, a hole punched straight through his right temple and out the left side of his skull.

Harbor Master Bill Warrant lowered the smoking pistol, and turned to the blonde stranger.

”It’s really happening?”, he asked, sweat beading on his brow.

”Very soon, my friend, very soon,” he answered. ”The day is very nearly at hand, and you will be one of the heroes who helped bring it about.”

Bill struggled to catch his breath, then finally drew himself up, and put his right fist to his chest.

”Doom is supreme,” he said, barely able to contain his excitement.

The blonde man grinned. ”Doom is supreme.”
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Ruby
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Ruby No One Cares

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House of X
Unincorporated Genosha

The morning dawned calm and clear, a warmth in the air suggesting the humidity and heat that would come later in the day at the height of Genosha’s warm season. The House of X was, in truth, no house at all; but a collection of buildings surrounded by tall walls masoned with thousands of smaller stones reinforced into one surface, each building beyond a mixture of modern glass, concrete, and woods native to Africa. Among the tallest structures within the compound resided the X-Men, with one of the tallest suites belonging to the White Queen.

Within the wall of windows stood the reflection of the man behind the blonde woman in white, as she sat curled in a large leather chair aimed at the wilds of the Indian Ocean beyond the shoreline of Genosha and the clear blue waters that rolled upon its white sands. The tone that reached out behind her, towards the man in the reflection, was little more than a placeholder for the normal conviction of the White Queen, “What is it you want this morning, Scott?”

If anything about his facial expression changed, she missed it, crystal blue eyes focusing past the glass, and back into the red and pink morning light hanging in the air above some of the bluest water she had ever seen. His voice came out secure, and cautious, as if he were braving potentially treacherous waters ahead with the thoughtful mind of a strategist, “I’ve heard that tone before from other telepaths.”

She moved her body just so with a tiny turn of her hips and shoulders, delicate not to upset the balance of the steaming mug of flavorful coffee resting in her lap, allowing a more comfortable angle to tilt her head back and turned in his direction, an angle from which to unleash the bright blue eyes that he usually found so beautiful upon his uncovered hair and visored face. “It’s too early in the morning for seductions, Scott.”

“The whites of your eyes are turning red.”

Emma’s unpainted lips set into a tiny frown, her head turning back towards the far-away horizon, her tone changing only with the passing of a soft sigh, “I didn’t sleep very well. Did you come to point out flaws of beauty and underscore your propensity for telepaths, or was there an actual purpose to any of this?”

Much to her absolute irritation, he smiled his pretty smile from behind her. There was little toying with Summers, his mind ran on contingencies and pragmatism. Coming to a rise towards her would accomplish nothing of what he wanted to accomplish concerning her, let alone the rest of his day. Truly, the man could be maddening.

“You have a vengeful heart, sometimes, Ms. Frost. I come in peace; I’m meeting with part of the US Military delegation flying in today. I know you were supposed to meet with Xavier today.”

A slow sip of her coffee, and her voice seemed to smooth, “And how do you know that?”

“I have my sources. I just wanted to say…be careful, there, Emma. I think Charles is up to something. There’s got to be a reason for all his recent trips beyond the diplomacy. At least, a reason for all the secrecy, and we still haven’t seen Douglas show back up since the last trip. And we haven’t seen Gambit since the, uh, ‘disagreement’ between Rogue and he blew up.”

Despite herself, she didn’t sigh again at him, “Are you worried about me, Scott?”

Even without looking with her mind or her eyes, she could hear the warmth in his voice, “Worried about the White Queen? Well, she can take care of herself better than most, but maybe I just wanted an excuse to say good-bye.”

For the first time during the talk, Emma Frost sounded truly invested, “Are you not coming back tonight?”

“I don’t know. But let me know how it goes if you will.”

“Good luck, Scott.”

“You too, Emma,” he said, before making a futile attempt at a furtive escape.

——— ———

Genosha International Airport, Pilot’s Club
Outer edges of Hammer Bay, Genosha

Tropical greenery, humid air, and the glow of the bright afternoon sun on miles of concrete stretched out as far as he could see, bordered only by the hint of tall steel security fencing protecting the flightline of the Genoshan International Airport. The sounds of turbo-jet airplane engines and helicopter blades chopping air drifted from the flightline to the interior of the small cement and reinforced glass building that housed the Pilot’s Club on the far side of the airport, away from the main hangars and the only terminal building of the comparatively small international airport.

The flightline sounds mixed with the drifting background music of 60s rock and Motown playing on an old jukebox in a corner of the club’s bar until a door in the exterior wall filled with windows to the outside opened, bringing a high-pitched whine of a high engine spin hundreds of feet away from the building louder than normal into the bar. Scott Summer looked up and smiled, sliding off the barstool and approaching the newcomer wearing the khaki US Navy officer’s working uniform, gold aviation wings and a checkerboard of various ribbons and medals underneath it upon the left breast, the gold oak leaf designating a Lieutenant Commander, and silver aviators on a face framed in a tightly cropped head of short dirty blonde hair.

“Scott, how the fuck are you, man?” The man all but laughed joyously as he came in for a hug, before stepping back and transitioning to a firm handshake.

The man’s attitude was as infectious as it was just plain good to see Jack ‘Solo’ Owens, Scott returning the quick and tight hug, smile, and the handshake before motioning to the barstool next to him. “I’m good, Jack, really can’t complain too much, all things considered. Long way from the orphanage days, huh?”

Jack slid the aviators off and allowed his youthful blue-gray eyes to get a better look at the uniform Scott wore, grinning as he sat down, sliding the sunglasses on the counter in front of him, “I’ll fucking say. Talk about uniforms, man. Superhero Scott Summers. That thing breathable?”

Scott looked down at the navy blue, light blue, accented suit he wore with hanging hood. Even he had to chuckle at it, considering the point of view of the man next to him, “More than you would think, you never know the situation we’ll find ourselves in. How’s that thing? Are those creases really ironed in?” Scott asked, as he motioned the bartender for two beers.

“No,” Jack admitted with a little snicker, “they iron them for sharpness, but the crease is sewn in with something like fishing line, real thin thread.”

“They iron them?”

“Ship’s laundry at sea, dry cleaners at shore. You launder and iron that thing yourself?” Jack asked, taking up the frosted mug of lager the dark-skinned bartender brought them.

Scott took a quick taste before a small shrug, “You know, I do. Our materials aren’t exactly Navy issued, but now that you mention it…we could use a laundering and ironing service ourselves.”

Jack’s expression turned, even as the warmth and shade of a smile stayed at his mouth, his tone became a more somber thing, “I’m sorry to hear about your wife, Scott. She was killed by aliens?”

A stronger, thirsty, drink and Scott was shaking his head, trying not to smirk at how badly informed his old friend was, “Not exactly. Getting your information from SIPRNet or the grocery store checkout?”

Jack’s bark of laughter was a welcome sound even as he laughed through another drink of the beer, “Shit, man, the ol’ SIPRNet doesn’t have much on the X-Men.”

Scott’s smile hollowed as memory hit him; the day his wife gave her tearful farewell, before activating the Kree weapon that ended her life, and the threat of the Dark Phoenix. “She, uh…sacrificed herself to save a lot of lives. A lot of lives.”

Jack stared in some variation of empathy and wonder, clasping a left hand with a wedding band on his shoulder, “I’m so sorry. I tried to reach out when I heard.”

“Yeah,” Scott nodded, forcing the smile back to his lips, trying to stay where he was instead of returning to that day, again, “What about you, Jack? How’s Heather? The little one?”

“Oh, shit, dude check this out.” The Navy officer reached into the back pocket of his pants and revealed a wallet, flipping through military ID, civilian driver’s licenses for various countries, he got to the pictures in the wallet; Heather was blonde, beautiful, blue-eyed. Some kind of political staffer on ‘the Hill’ that Jack had met when he was a military liaison officer to a Senator—Scott didn’t ask which one. The little one was a dirty blonde Gerber rascal; a few months shy of two years old.

Mostly, the two traded buying rounds and war stories, most of them centered around flight hours. Jack was a veteran Navy pilot of multiple platforms, and Scott certainly had his questions about everything from the old Prowlers to the F-35s, while Jack was curious about the Blackbird and other smaller jets he’d seen in intelligence and aircraft identification charts—Naval pilots were so constantly trained on being able to spot other types of aircraft in the air that instead of women posted in their state rooms and heads it was pictures of aircraft. By the time the sun was lower in the sky and a darker burnt orange, he'd even heard the origin of Jack’s call-sign ‘Solo.’

“So this Genosha thing is getting serious? Sovereignty at the barrel of a gun?” Jack finally asked.

Scott shook his head, “I’m not fond of it either. It’s not the right way to go about it. We can’t undo what Magneto did, all we can do is try to turn it into something better.”

Jack had to nod as he gave a half-hearted sip to his latest, half finished, beer, “I guess so. Got the Pentagon strategy boys nervous. Conventional and nuclear is one thing, if what I read and hear in the classified briefings is true, Magneto can end the world as we know it by himself? Just screw up our atmosphere. Charles Xavier can enter almost any mind he wants, from anywhere. Ororo Munroe can weaponize weather? These ‘Omega Level’ mutants. Scary fucking shit, Scott. Let me ask you…you renounce your US citizenship?”

Scott’s brows perked, “No, I guess I didn’t.”

Jack stared for a long, longer than usual, hard-buzzed moment before the back of his hand gave a tap to Scott’s nearest arm, “Come on to dinner. I got the Vice Admiral in charge of 7th Fleet, CAG-5 C.O., PacFleet NavInt C.O. Nothing political.”

“I got any enemies in that room, Jack?”

The Naval pilot chuckled, “No more than I do. C’mon, Scott. Come to dinner.”

“What’s our ride?”

Jack laughed, “Hell it’s your country, Scott, you tell me.”

——— ———

Hellfire Club - Hammer Bay
Hammer Bay Waterfront, Genosha

The building looked little like the modern architecture of the surrounding Hammer Bay waterfront. Instead, it was surrounded by black iron gates affixed to solid stone pillars, with a security force of mostly veterans from other similar postings, all within the same organization. Here, in the Victorian-era Gothic Revival architecture hall bearing the name ‘Hellfire Club, Hammer Bay’, the White Queen awaited the founder of the X-Men.

Two minutes later than he was scheduled to be, the visitor was announced, Jeffrey led him through the foyer and past the double Palladian door frames and their glasswork doors of the outer parlor. The room opened up to a two-story ceiling resplendent with multiple crystal hung chandeliers, paneled walls of dark green wallpaper, detailed architectural ornament, large volume, and symmetrical decoration with stylish furnishings.

The White Queen was seated near the entrance of the room in a high-backed chair of red leather, knee high boots, white leggings, and a silk blouse with a plunging neckline and cap sleeves; all of it snow white in color. Her hair was straight, shoulder length, with not a hair out of place. In the background the sounds of the second movement of Bedřich Smetana's Má vlast played quietly.

She awaited him with a half-full wine glass hanging from her hand, just off the arm of the leather studded chair, legs crossed and crystal blue eyes unwavering. He approached wearing some black turtleneck, tweed trousers combination. He looked slighter than he ever had before, as if the width of his shoulders was the cost of Shi’ar healing—an observation she kept to herself, for now.

“Thank you for seeing me on short notice, Emma,” the bald man began, though she ignored it, instead her eyes drifting to the thick black rubber and ribbed case he carried by a handle at his side. The smile in which she offered was closer to that of an ‘Ice Queen’ than a ‘White Queen’ but given the times they all had their little sacrifices to make.

“Put it there,” Emma had no notion of what was within his oversized case, yet the comfort she had in ordering him to place it upon the brass legged polished wooden table before her was the same level of comfort most people had lounging on a couch, alone.

Though there was some slight pause, Charles Xavier did, in fact, place the case he carried upon the table she directed him to. “I know there are a lot of questions—”

“—Oh? Are there?” She cut him off with a genuine sounding surprise to her measured tone, even if it was in truth meant to be every bit as condescending as it didn’t sound, “Whatever do you mean, dear Charles?”

Charles Xavier stared blankly. Shit, she could all but hear him thinking. Instead, however, he spoke in firmer tones, “What Erik and I are orchestrating…it must be done very carefully. You are to be one of the first people, when we’re ready, even If before it’s fully ready. Your importance in the endeavor cannot be overstated, Emma, but for now…”

Emma Frost sounded dreadfully bored, and even more unimpressed, “Charles…don’t flatter me. It’s cheap. What have you brought me?”

“Without Jean, you had as much experience with Cerebro as anyone. When we updated to Cerebra, I considered an update to the very structure, but I’ll admit there were struggles. It wasn’t until I got something of a Shi’ar education in some of their technical processes that the answers were clear. With Erik’s help in the incredibly precise construction, we were able to produce an update.” Xavier leaned over as he clicked each lock of the case open, opening the case and turning it around in one motion, presenting Emma with a…helmet.


Xavier blinked up at the White Queen, again, “It’s a mobile Cerebra. Each helmet is connected to the same psychic-digitized system. If anything were to happen, either to me, or cut off communication, whatever the worst cases are…it would be important you have one, as the only other telepath within our movement with the skill and experience to operate it.”

Emma Frost took a long sip of the wine glass and tilted her head at Xavier in confusion. “You think this answers anything? The others can talk of secret trips. They can talk of missing mutants—”

“—no one is missing, Emma—”

“—I’m not talking about any of that, Charles. Care who you’re speaking to. I see what you’ve been doing. The acquisitions. The reorganizations. Oh, you can try to hide behind your shell companies and your fronts, Charles, but don’t for a second think any of that obfuscates your moves. I see the board. My advice: should you require my assistance as badly as you say? Do hurry with your truth telling.” The glass was finished, and placed gently next to the open case, as she stood and simply walked out of the room. “Jeffrey will see you out.”
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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“Then loudly cried the bold Bedivere:

“Ah! My Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?

Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?

For now I see the true old times are dead,

When every morning brought a noble chance,

And every chance brought out a noble knight.

Such times have been not since the light that led

The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.

But now the whole ROUND TABLE is dissolved.

Which was an image of the mighty world;

And I, the last, go forth companionless,

And the days darken round me, and the years,

Among new men, strange faces, other minds.”



The rain comes down in blistering sheets, beating the yew branches she’s standing under until they are stripped bare of spring needles. The thin parka around her body is little more than paper as she huddles around the warm thermos of coffee she prepared this morning. Her ears pick up the crunches of sodden dirt behind her followed by a loud yawn.

“ Christ, I fuckin’ hate this weather,” Julia, her supervisor, grunted lightly, lighting a cigarette. She drags the blunt along her lips and breathes out a wispy cloud of smoke that is quickly cut apart by the rain. “ Can’t believe we had to drive all the way down to Manchester when the EMTs are already here picking over the body. I don’t care if I get the stink eye from Wisdom. I’m sending an email to HR as soon as we get out of this dump. ”
Ystin nodded in agreement. The director of M113 had sent them all the way out here to Cornwall out of all places. Ystin was hoping that their next assignment would be located in Bristol so that she could use that favor from her ex in time for Glastonbury. Instead, she had to drive all the way to the middle of nowhere to some glorified ditch filled with swamp water with possibly the most crankiest person she ever knew on this earth.

Julia flicked away the cigarette and stamped it under the sole of her boot. “ Well, enough standing by, kiddo.”

She then glanced cheekily at Ystin with a lopsided grin.

“Wanna see a dead body?”

Julia began walking down the hill and Ystin followed whilst putting on her hood. The bright yellow uniforms of the EMTs reminded Ystin of the rain jackets she would wear on rainy days to kindergarten. As the pair got closer to the scene, Ystin’s first impressions of the dead man was that he was enormous. His chest was barrel-sized and his arms could wrap around an entire oak with enough room to touch his elbows. Judging by the defibrillator that was hurriedly unpacked at their feet, it seemed that they’d already tried resusticating the man.

“Well, what do we have, officer?,” Julia gruffly spoke.

The EMS stood up, a curl of ginger hair peeking out of the parka. She looked up from the neoprene clipboard she was scrawling on.

“ Well, we got a John Doe. No wallet or any ID on him. Guy’s built like an ox, though. Took the three of us to drag him out of there. Time of death is 11:45.”

Julia tilted her head pointed towards the large stretch of mottled scar tissue that stretched across his belly in swollen bubbles.

“ What about this?”

“ What about it?,” The EMT shrugged casually, his face lined with decades of caffeine fueled nights. “ If you’re suspecting foul play, there’s no blood loss. It’s not up to me to figure out what junkies do in their spare time.”

The EMT jotted down another note, giving a brief nod towards one of her partners. The partner unzipped a bag and took out a paper tag, tying it around the victim’s ankle.
“ Alright, we’re done here. Let’s see if we can get this sucker to the morgue - “

A hand around the EMT’s neck paused him mid-conversation as the man suddenly gasped and woke up hyperventilating. Bloodshot eyes flitted back and forth between her and Julia as he shakedly scrambled up to his feet. His steps were unsure, sometimes treading on his own feet like he was a newborn. Julia immediately whipped out a taser, the contacts buzzing with static.

“ Sir! Let go of the man, kneel on the ground and place your hands behind your head,” Julia barked out.
Ystin, meanwhile, wasn’t concerned about the fact that somehow, a man had seemingly risen from the dead in front of her. She was more unnerved by how the man wasn’t fazed by the pistol in her supervisor’s hand. He stared at it as if it was an annoying fly more than something that could end his life in the pull of a trigger. His ventilation slowed down and he let go off the EMT who fell down on the ground, skin paper white with fear. The other EMTs began walking away slowly as the man kneeled onto the ground.

“ Alright, now, place your hands on your head.” The man didn’t respond, his hands still hanging by his side. “Are you deaf? I said - “

In one swift movement, the man dug a handful of dirt into his palm and tossed it wildly at Julia’s eye. Ystin heard her supervisor swear out loud in frustration, coughing as some of the mud made it into her mouth. In the next second, the man was in front of her, swiping to knock the pistol out of her hand. His arm then wrapped around her shoulder whilst his left hand grabbed her thigh before proceeding to flip Julia over as if she was a sack of potatoes, slamming her into the mud. Beads of sweat ran down Ystin's forehead as she was determined to get away from the man who had somehow treated a M113 agent like an overgrown toddler. She looked around, to see the fading yellow jackets of the EMTs flapping away in the distance.

A quiet cough broke her out of her reverie as the man gave a tiny little wave.

“ Greetings.”

“ Hey,” Ystin said unsurely.

“ My apologies for how I treated your colleague.” The man was busy taking apart her supervisor’s gun with one foot on her torso. “ Rest assured, she is unharmed. Do you have any means of transport out of here? A car or -”

“ A truck.” Ystin paused before detailing further. “ Toyota 1984.”

“ Then, that is satisfactory.” The man took off Julia’s jacket whilst she was still unconscious, wrapping it around his body. “ What date is it?”

“ July the 4th.”

“ 7 days…..but how…”

The man looked in disbelief at what she said, somewhat bug eyed, before looking down at the scar on his chest in wonder. He opened his mouth, the edge of asking a question, before clamping it shut deliberately as if he was holding himself back.

“ I must take my leave. I have matters to attend to. I apologize again for borrowing your friend’s vestment. I will repay later when I am able to do so. I bid thee farewell.”

The man then gave a bow (Who the hell gave bows?) and began to trudge away on his bare feet.

“ Wait, Wait!” Ystin shouted out. “ Who the bloody hell are you?”

The man stopped and his head swiveled back slowly, his haunted slate eyes seeming to expose every inch of her soul.

“ My name is Justin Inse Ghall, my lady, and I am a knight.”

Then, thunder flashed, making Ystin’s world white, and when she lowered her arms down from her eyes, Justin Inse Ghall was gone.




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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Roman
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Roman King of Dirt

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Batwave alert on my gauntlet. Fire in the Narrows. It's a large blaze, threatening to grow out of control. I can already see it, the smoke billowing up over the rooftops. The horizon glows orange from the inferno. By the time the Batwave makes an anonymous call to GCFD, I'm already mid-air, sailing over Gotham's skyline.

Boots make a heavy crunch on debris as Batman hits the ground. Fragments of glass and splintered wood litter the ground from where fire has burst from window frames. Thermal display through the cowl is useless - the entire building lights up in a brilliant orange, one solid block of overwhelming inferno; Batman can feel it already, stood outside while the blaze burns within, an oppressive heat pushing on his skin. The suit’s plating will protect him from burns, but clad in his armour he runs a serious risk of heatstroke. There’s no time to think of that, though - there’s innocent people, a mother and her children, trapped inside, and they will die if he fails.

The Batman cannot fail.

The first and second floor have been consumed by the flames - only the third remains relatively unscathed, but every second the fire climbs higher as it feasts on the building. Batman pulls his grapnel from his belt and fires skyward, aiming for a third-floor window that still retains some structural integrity. The grapnel hook crashes through the glass pane and Batman heads a shriek from within - the mother. He reels the hook back and braces himself for when it latches, but the latch never comes; the fire has weakened the wood and the hook tears straight through, whipping back down the building into the launcher. A woman’s head looks through the shattered window pane and scans the street below; Batman can see the desperation in her face, hair matted to her forehead with sweat from both panic and the heat of the fire.

Batman swivels on the spot and launches his grapnel again, this time at the rooftop opposite the window. The grapnel finds purchase quickly, piercing into the brickwork, and the line pulls taut as the launcher rappels Batman upwards; he hits the wall with his legs curled and tight, muscles ready to spring - and spring they do, pushing him off the wall as he twists mid-air and opens his cape, unfurling gnarled black wings that carry him to the window before he pulls them in just as rapid and paths like a missile through what’s left of the glass.

There’s another shriek as Batman lands in the room and stands up, cloak draping around him and making something inhuman of the man beneath the armour. Low sobs ebb behind the roaring of the fire - the children in their mother’s arms, eyes streaking from the smoke and the fear - but then the cloak parts, and Batman kneels, extending a single hand and a kind eye, and suddenly a creature no more but a stalwart, noble man. A rescuer. A guardian.

The mother grabs her children’s hands fiercely as they reach out toward Batman, the younger brother no older than 8 at the most. They’ve both heard of him, stories on the playground, punching bad guys and flying across the city and driving around in his cool car; but the mother’s heard of him too, and her stories are far more violent than Saturday morning cartoons. Living in the Narrows, she has witnessed first hand what the man in front of them is capable of.

There’s little time to think of stories and rumours though, with the fire racing up towards their oh-so-temporary sanctuary, and Batman strides across the room and kicks open the door that had become too hot to touch with a single powerful blow. Looking down the hallway he sees the fire already advancing up the stairs, and knows that getting lower is not an option. So that only leaves one alternative. Batman turns back toward the mother, shrinking in her fear of this dark, violent crusader - but he crouches again, puts a hand on her shoulder, meets her gaze calmly with an open face, and says:
“What’s your name?”
Shakily, she replies: “M-Maria.”
Batman nods. “Maria, I need you to come with me.”
And she does.

They reach the roof quickly, and Maria takes big gulping breaths, drinking the cool night air. Her children are coughing and spluttering and still weeping, but every so often Batman looks at them and smiles or nods, and they smile or nod back, weakly, and quieten a little, partially soothed. Batman scans the rooftop, looking for an exit - and it presents itself quickly. On the south side of the building, across a small alleyway no more than a few feet wide, is a roach motel, and on the back wall of the motel is a fire escape. The metal landings and ladders stretch all the way to the ground, now some 4 storeys below. He points toward it.
“There. Jump the gap. Climb down. You’ll be safe.”
Maria can barely approach the edge.
“I’m afraid of heights.” She says, and Batman nods, putting that calming hand on her shoulder again.
“That’s okay. I’m afraid of bats.”
Maria nearly laughs, but a great cracking and groaning begins to emanate from below them, some eldritch yawning from deep within the building.
“The building’s coming down!” Batman shouts, his voice full of urgent authority. “We need to jump, now! Go! I’ll take the boys!”

Batman scoops up both children, one in each arm, and they cling to his armour tightly as he nods at Maria again before sprinting towards the edge of the rooftop. The boys bury their heads in his cape, screaming as the street opens up beneath them; but then they land, and the fire escape holds, and quickly Batman is ushering them down the ladders, instilling in the elder a sense of duty to lead them both to the ground.

Maria is still on the rooftop.
“I can’t do it!” She yells across the gap, and she is ready to crumple under the weight of her own terror. Her children are safe, and every maternal instinct is screaming that this is fine, this is enough, the important duty is done.
“I’ll catch you!” Batman yells back. Maria has maybe a few seconds to will herself into standing and making the leap before the building implodes in on itself. Slowly, shakily, she pulls herself to her feet, edging closer to the edge. Batman hangs from the metal, one arm extended out to catch her. Below them on the street, the two boys stood huddled together, watching their mother try and summon the bravery to leap. Eyes squeezed shut, Maria ran to the edge of the building and jumped...

...as the building completely collapsed, and the rooftop fell away beneath her. Eyes wide and aghast, a scream bellows from the depths of her throat as she begins to drop.

Batman launches himself from the fire escape immediately, body straight and tight, flying through the air toward Maria like a bullet; he catches up fast, scooping her up into his arms. The ground is coming up quick, quicker than he can do anything about; mid-air, he twists himself, putting himself between Maria and the concrete of the alleyway.

They land, hard, and Batman feels at least one rib crack under the weight of his armour and Maria on top of him, and as she rolls off, saved from the impact, his shoulder screams. But as he scrapes himself off the street, Maria, unharmed, embraces her two children, the family stained a faded grey from the smoke but otherwise...safe. Rescued. Alive.

Batman stands, clutching his ribcage with his free hand while his other arm dangles, shoulder dislocated. As the family embraces, quiet relieved sobs bubbling out from them, he silently walks away. By the time Maria looks back to thank him, he's already gone - but she has a new story to tell about the Batman, and the things he's capable of.


Garfield Lynns watched everything from the corner of the block, hidden in plain sight among the crowd that had gathered when the first signs of the blaze began making themselves known to the neighbourhood. He'd attempted to subtly sow seeds on the why of the fire, but it was mostly posturing; it was inconceivable that Black Mask didn't already have something planned to claim ownership of the arson attack, and it was unlikely that Lynns' failure to secure the deaths of the family would go unpunished. He wondered if it would be wise to run, to flee the city.

Hmmm. No. He wouldn't make it past city limits, and Black Mask hated cowards even more than failure.

Whispers of Batman began spreading through the people, admiration for his heroism, which only caused the singed Lynns to pale more. Positive propoganda for the Bat was definitely not what Sionis had hoped to achieve here tonight. As paramedics and firefighters finally arrived, Lynns slunk away from the crowd and hurried himself back to his room in a nearby hostel. As he went, he glanced upwards, and what he saw struck a new fear that had been ignited in him as swiftly as the fire he'd set: a spotlight, splashed across the sky, calling for the Bat.

Lynns knew judgement was on its way, inevitably metered out by Batman's or Black Mask's hand. Lynns wasn't sure which he dreaded more.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Martian
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Martian Possibly a mascot

Member Seen 8 days ago

Reprise of Destruction

1.03: Let slip the beast

Bruce Banner shuddered as the stream of hot blood touched his face. As it dripped off his eyes, Bruce could now see that the blood trickling down on him was coming from Rick Jones’ left arm. The junior S.H.I.E.L.D. agent moaned in pain as his right hand grasped the wound on his left side.

“Fuck,” muttered Rick before speaking into Bruce’s ear, “We need to move, or we will be dead in seconds.”

As the junior agent spoke, he pulled himself and Bruce to their feet, another shot ringing out but missing its target. The bleeding Rick Jones managed to lead his friend past the green field, taking refuge behind the large metal body of the Quinjet. As the pair hunkered down, Rick pulled his firearm from its holster.

“I counted at least two shooters. What about you Bruce?” asked Rick.

But Bruce didn’t respond, his mind not present in this situation. His entire focus was on his breathing. As he tried to properly remember the techniques Dr. Samson had taught him, Bruce found his breaths getting shorter and more labored. Meanwhile in his chest, Bruce was feeling the raging presence of the Hulk. It took all of Bruce’s willpower to force the Hulk back into the pit of his body.

“Rick, you got to go,” said Bruce through labored breaths, “He’s going to get loose. I can’t let him out.”

“I mean would that be a bad thing?” questioned Rick, “The Hulk could take these guys out.”

“But he wouldn’t stop there. He just creates tragedy,” explained Bruce.

It was as Bruce was talking that he realized that the shooting had stopped. Looking over at Rick, he saw that he had realized it as well. Rick rose to his feet, his gun at the ready. Bruce gingerly got to his feet as well, still forcing the Hulk down. Rick then dared to peak his head around the side of the Quinjet, only to be immediately shot at.

“Damn it, run Bruce,” stated Rick as he pumped his legs.

Bruce had only a second of seeing the squad of men carrying assault rifles, before he turned and ran after Rick. The two men ran into the nearby forest, the massive redwood trees granting them cover from the team of what seemed to be black ops operatives. Bruce continued to run at maximum speed, finding that he was getting winded quickly.

“C’mon,” muttered Bruce as his lungs burned.

“Puny Banner,” laughed a voice within Bruce’s head, “I’m right here. I can run. I can also smash!”

Bruce just shook his head, but he could tell that he couldn’t keep us this pace much longer. And sure enough after a few minutes, Bruce could tell that he was running on fumes. And to make matters worse, Bruce had lost track of Rick among the massive trees.

A burst of gunfire from behind Bruce told him that the soldiers had caught up with him. Unleashing a torrent of curses, Bruce just narrowly avoided several shots, landing less than a foot from him. As he did so, Bruce began to feel like he was about to collapse. His breathing was so ragged that it was affecting his vision. As he faded in and out, a barrage of gunfire came at Bruce.

But then he leaped into the air, his legs becoming green and massive. As Bruce landed back on the forest floor, he had trouble breathing, and felt the monster within rising up. The scientist then collapsed to the ground. As his vision went between light and dark, Bruce then fell into unconsciousness.

And the Hulk awakened. The body of Bruce Banner then convulsed as his muscles grew in size, his clothes ripping, and his body turning green. With a roar, the Hulk rose to his feet, pulling off the shredded remains of Banner’s shirt.

“Who wants to fight the Hulk?” chuckled the Hulk loudly.

The response came in the form of bullets as the soldiers surrounded the Hulk. The shots did indeed hit the Hulk, but they only bounced off his hide, feeling more like mosquito bites. So all that did was annoy the Hulk. With a grimace on his face, the Hulk pounced at the nearest soldier, who then emptied all the bullets in his gun into the Hulk’s chest.

But the green giant ignored it, instead grabbing the rifle with one hand and grasping the man by the neck with his other hand. The Hulk then threw the rifle against a redwood tree, causing it to shatter. With his other hand he tossed the soldier at one of his comrades, causing them both to collapse to the ground.

The remaining three soldiers began to back up. The Hulk then rushed at them, grabbing two of them by the head. He then slammed both of their heads together, causing a major concussion at the least. The last standing soldier then went into a full on run, dashing away from the battle.

“And this little piggy ran all the way home,” muttered the Hulk.

Then with a mighty leap, the Hulk rose into the upper levels of the forest. Then with pinpoint accuracy, the Hulk landed on the fleeing soldier. Pinning him to the ground, the Hulk grinned at him, his face only centimeters from his.

“So who are you?” asked the Hulk, “Why did you shoot at Banner and his friends?”

The soldier began to cry as he replied, “Look, we were just ordered to take out any S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that showed up. That’s all the General said.”

At the mention of a General, the Hulk remembered General Ross, the man who spent a year trying to kill the Hulk. To the green giant it made sense that Ross would try to kill him while he was puny Banner. But as he thought this, the Hulk noticed that the soldier had peed a little bit.

“Gross!” shouted the Hulk as he tossed the man away from himself.

The man collided with a giant redwood, going limp as he did so. The Hulk sighed as he got to his feet. He wasn’t going to get anything from the unconscious soldiers, so the Hulk decided to explore around. It had been awhile since he had been unleashed, so he wanted to take as much advantage of this opportunity as possible.

The Hulk breathed in the fresh forest air as he walked in a random direction. After a little bit he found a road running through the redwood forest. Deciding to follow it, the Hulk wondered if there would be anyone else to fight up ahead. After following the road for a few miles, the Hulk saw a sign: Welcome to Ferndale, Population: 1,371.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by webboysurf
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webboysurf Live, Laugh, Love

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Location: Bludhaven Police Department Headquarters - Bludhaven
Take Me Out #1.03: I’m Just a Crosshair

Interaction(s): None

Adrian Chase sighed as he leaned back in his chair. Four hours of interrogation produced nothing. He turned his wrist to take a look at his watch.

11:28 am.

Flores opened the door to the observation room as Luciano "Lucky" Coronetti sat back with a smug grin on his face. He was harder to crack than expected. No matter the criminal threat or lead was yielding anything, and it was clear Agent Flores was just as frustrated as Chase. He looked down at the various notes he had sprawled out before him. Nothing was working. Lucky knew he was busted, but worst case he was in jail for a couple years maximum before getting out. Rumor was Scarapelli had connections to some of the guards at Blackgate, and they could easily keep Lucky safe while Tony Scarapelli got to walk free.

Flores must have been thinking the same thing, as she muttered towards Chase. "Do we have anything else we can try to pull on this guy? He hasn't even asked for his lawyer yet."

Adrian shook his head. "He's cocky, and his lawyer is most likely one of Scarapelli's. He's not calling his lawyer because his lawyer is down at the court house getting ready for the Bond hearing. Once Scarapelli's out, Lucky's going to lawyer up quick and that lawyer will freeze you out real quick."

Agent Flores grabbed her now lukewarm cup of coffee and took a sip. Her gaze was focused on Lucky on the other side of the one-way mirror, who almost seemed to be staring back in mock amusement. "Then what if we tackle someone close to him? Someone not under Scarapelli's protection?"

Adrian gave a half-hearted shrug. "That would be a great idea if he wasn't a cold blooded bastard with no friends or family outside of the gang. I mean, the only thing he does when he's 'off the clock' is go to that..." Adrian's eyes grew wide as he quickly sat up in his chair, leaving his sentence dangling in the air as he flipped through files and notes. One of the interns had prepped a sheet of contacts based on FBI surveillance data. And from warrants for phone records, there was only one person that Lucky contacted with any frequency. Adrian grabbed the list, and thumbed through a small pile of envelopes until he got the right one. "Kandy. That's our best ticket."

Flores raised an eyebrow as she took another sip, plucking the envelope from Adrian's hands. "Kandy?"

Adrian nodded, motioning towards the envelope with his hand. "Kandace Gomez, a foreign exchange sutdent from Brazil. She's one of the dancers at the Narrow's Nest."

Flores opened the envelope and flipped through the printed pictures, which all had time stamps printed in the bottom right corner. Sure enough, pictures dating back to the start of the investigation. The pictures showed them both exiting the club together a few times, with the more recent pictures showing them exiting an apartment building. "Alright... and how exactly do I press him?"

Adrian got up from his seat, grabbing the pictures and another manilla envelope as he walked towards the door. "I'll do it. Make a deal with him directly now. I'll give him whatever he wants if he's willing to flip on Scarapelli."

Flores tilted her head in shock, not having time to react as Adrian exited the observation room and quickly opened the door to the interrogation room. Lucky turned his gaze towards Adrian as the latter entered the room. "Well well, long time no see, Mista District Attorney."

Adrian crossed the room and quietly sat down on the metal chair across from the career criminal. "I hope I didn't frighten you too much last night, Mr. Coronetti. But if I'm entirely honest, I couldn't care less about your little attempt at intimidation last night."

Lucky raised an eyebrow and chuckled to himself, his words dripping like sweet venom. "Then why dont you cut to the chase, Mister Chase."

Adrian shrugged and set down the folder before fanning out the pictures of Kandace and Lucky on the table. "I came to make a deal, Lucky. And not just for your sake."

Lucky's eyes widened as he saw the pictures, and Adrian smiled. The District Attorney learned years ago how to recognize weakness under interrogation. The gap in the armor was clear. Now it was the time to push his luck. "Let's be perfectly frank, Mr. Coronetti. I don't care about your little shake up last night, or if your intentions were to stick a knife between my ribs and leave me to die. And you don't care about going away for what you did last night. You would get, what, a few years? With good behavior, which is likely because we both know Scarapelli's got friends to watch your back in Blackgate, you would be out in 3. Sure, you would miss your girl Kandy, but you're thinking that she'll be waiting for you when you get out."

Lucky sat up in his chair, leaning in towards Adrian with a scowl on his face. His cheeks and neck were turning red. "I don't know what tale you've got spinning in your head, lawyer-man."

Adrian's smile grew a little wider as he leaned in, getting a little closer to Lucky. All the lawyer needed to do was go in for the kill. "Kandy overstayed her visa, Mr. Coronetti. One call to the right department, and they're going to raid your place." Lucky's face went almost ghostly white, and Chase had to stifle his excitement. Lucky bought the bluff. "Agent Flores will make a call, goes along on that raid. Takes a look around your apartment. Maybe she finds something, maybe she doesn't."

Lucky readjusted himself in his seat, leaning against the table and speaking a little softer. "Doesn't matter if she finds anything, you'd need a warrant for anything on Scarapelli."

There it was: a slip-up. Not an admission for working with Scarapelli, but a sign that the cracks were spreading in Lucky's defenses. Adrian leaned back slightly, nodding to Lucky's response."You're right, anything we found wouldn't be admissible regardless. But do you know what Scarapelli would do in response to that?" Adrian paused for effect, and Lucky looked up towards the one way mirror at his own reflection. "Any protection you have is gone, Mr. Coronetti. Your apartment goes up in smoke, wiping any evidence before we can get a new warrant. Kandy goes back home, cartels finally catch up to her when she's back. Best case, she gets a bullet in the back of her head like the rest of her family. Worst case... well, I'm sure you can imagine."

Lucky clenched his jaw, and Adrian saw the muscles in the mobster's face tighten. Within just a couple minutes, the District Attorney had the career criminal fighting back rage and tears. just one final push. "But you won't get the chance to find out what happens to her, Lucky... because Scarapelli's not going to let you live. Your friend in the other room doesn't have any connections to this world. But you? You have Kandy. And when Kandy's gone, Scarapelli is gonna be worried that you're second-guessing your decision to protect him. And so, one night, your cell door is going to open and some men are going to pay you a visit, grab your bedsheets, wrap them around your neck, and hoist you up on the bars until the world goes black. Meanwhile Scarapelli sleeps like a babe in some villa near Naples and replaces you the following week. Because I think you and I both know that if Scarapelli posts bail, he's in the wind."

Luciano Coronetti's eyes turned down to the table, hands balled into fists so tight his knuckles were white. The thought never occured to the mobster that he could be betrayed. That little idea was all Chase needed. The District Attorney got up from his seat, scooping up his notes and documents. "So tell me, Mr. Coronetti... does that sound fair to you? Or do you want to do something about that chain of events."

"What... What do you need from me?"
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Simple Unicycle
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Simple Unicycle ?

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I S S U E # 3
I S S U E # 3


The truck rolled steadily along the freeway, exiting the town of Highwood and getting back onto the rural roads leading to Hub City. The forest that Richard Dragon and George Waltson called home was far behind me. I won't be able to return for a while, if I ever will, but my time there will stick with me forever; it's left an imprint on me that no hardship could ever deface, a permanent mural on the walls of my soul that can't be washed away with the fires of-

My musings are cut off as I see a sign on the side of the road. I flick my gaze to it quickly and make out "Hub City 31" before setting my eyes back on the road ahead of me. Whatever I was thinking about before I saw the sign leaves my mind as the realization dawns on me: 31 miles from Hub City, traveling at 70 miles per hour... Just under half an hour until I get home.


... Shit.

The man is scared of the trials he will have to tackle in the coming days, weeks, months. He is coming back to a city that is familiar, yet foreign; there's no way for him to know how much has changed since he's been gone. All he can know is that he will face adversity from his enemies, people who will try to destroy him, both physically and spiritually. He is uncertain if he can truly retain what he has learned when he is in the face of evil, staring into the gaping maws of corruption. Will the wisdom of Dragon depart from him in that moment? Will the butterfly be blown away by the gusts from the beast's breath?

The butterfly...

... Shut up about the butterfly...


The butterfly knows that all things are temporary. Everything that's good will slowly die off, but so will the evil, and they shall be replaced. An eternal cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth. Never ending. Constant. The only constant in an uncertain universe. The man is scared of that certainty, for he has made due with the uncertain. The butterfly takes heart in it and knows that even if they fail, even if they give it their all and get nothing in return, that their passion was what truly mattered in the end. The destination matters not, only the journey.

... And right now, the journey is boring as hell. I need some sort of stimulation to make sure I don't nod off at the wheel.

I glance around the car for anything to keep myself occupied when I spot it: a binder of CDs peaking out from under the passenger seat. I pull over on the side of the road and park the car, grabbing the binder and setting it on my lap to flip through it. As expected, the punks' taste in music is as crappy as their personalities. There's some names I don't recognize but I know the type, hardcore metal bands with merely hypothetical morals, but the names I do recognize make me laugh a bit: Rage Against The Machine (ironic considering their subject matter), System Of A Down (ditto), Nine Inch Nails (three for one!). At least some of those might be able to distract me from the dread building up in my gut, but I'm hoping for something a bit less... Heavy.

I flip another page and-

No fucking way.

Swimming! This is my favorite album! What the hell are skinheads doing listening to Mac Miller? This seems a bit too... Y'know, not vile and disgusting enough for them. I shake my head at that, deciding that I'll just take the blessing without questioning it too much, before sliding the disc out of its sleeve and into the car's CD player. I hit play, taking comfort in the guitar chords and vocals that begin nearly immediately.

Time passes. The road rolls along as it so often does. I hum along to the music as I get closer to home.

"I switched the time zone, but what do I know? Just spending nights hitch-hiking, where will I go?"

I'm closer to Hub City than I have been in over a year. The skyline is on the horizon, peeking out from beyond the hills and over the trees. From this far away it looks like Sodom, or maybe Gomorrah. A city of sin, rivaled only by Vegas or Gotham or Detroit. The way I'm heading into the city I'll be passing by countless homeless camps, shanty towns composed of tents, broken down cars, maybe an abandoned building if they're really lucky. Just a few miles further up the road is Hupert Square, all the law firms and news stations and banks. The most decadent highs of wealth brushing shoulders with the most crushing lows of poverty.

When I was a child, my mother and I were only a bad month away from being in those camps, and even then we weren't much better off. We had to count change to buy bread and butter to feed ourselves. And somehow, just a few years ago, I was brushing shoulders with the highest paid newscasters in Hub City, lounging around in leather armchairs and snacking on croissants and drinking gourmet coffee. Amazing how quickly a life can change, how one can go from nothing to everything and then lose it all again. Just one mistake is all it takes.

Now, I deny both. I take the middle path, where true virtue lies. Both poverty and power can corrupt, through desperation or greed. When one is content with what they have, they have no desires. Have too little and your needs become wants, have too much and your wants become needs. I've seen it, I've been it. My desire to rise above my status corrupted me, and when I had it all my desire to make my mark took it that much further. I was still corrupted by desire when I was pushed into writing for Starrstruck, might have been corrupted further without intervention. Only through Dragon's teachings have I learned to shun desire and embrace what I have. I am content with what I have.

... And yet still that hunger remains, a low roar echoing through my entire being, something that wants me to crush others underfoot to satiate it. But it doesn't have to remain a weakness, it can be a tool, something I can use to my advantage. Aim the hunger at something that will help people, use it as fuel for a hearth rather than fuel for a tank. Something to warm those who need it, not destroy those I hold animosity towards. Before, my crusade against Fermin and the Sinners was something to make myself feel better, hurt some people and have some excuse to justify it.

I'm good at it. Hurting other people. It makes me feel good. When I punch a man so hard that he crumples at my hit, I feel powerful. It's a high like no other. Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine; I've tried them all at least once and nothing can hold a candle to the ecstasy of having a life in your hands. You can snuff out that fire in a person so quickly, end their life so easily.

... I can deny it all I want. I like hurting other people. I'm not a good man. Probably won't ever be.

But now, I can truly say that I want to take Fermin down for the sake of Hub City, not my own ego.

"I didn't know, I didn't know..."

The beat switch pulls me from the depths of my mind, back to reality, back to Earth. I realize that I've stopped in front of a townhouse, on the edge of Lucifer's Corner and Hupert Square. A pleasant little place with plants in the windowsills and a mid 2000s SUV parked in the driveway. Some antique garden gnomes out front, always creeped me out but I guess that's why they're still around. Quaint belongings for a quaint owner: Aristotle Rodor.


I chuckle to myself. Of course I'd drive straight to Tot's.

I pull into the driveway and park behind the SUV, taking a moment to steel myself before turning off the truck. I exit the vehicle and walk up to the doorway, searching through my pockets for the spare key before realizing I had left my keyring at home over a year ago. Shiva said she'd take care of my apartment, make sure the rent was paid, all that. I wondered why I hadn't stopped there first... But maybe seeing a familiar face would help ease me back into life in the Hub.

I'm standing in front of the door now. I take a deep breath then knock.

E N D O F A R C # 1 : O D Y S S E Y
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Sep
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Sep Migs Mayfield - Core

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177A Bleecker Street - NYC // 1042HRS

"-and in doing so you are neglecting the Master of the Chinese and Japanese Sanctums who have come to seek the counsel of the Sorcerer Supreme."

"You could always-"

"No. There is tradition, it must be you. Five minutes. They'll be expecting you."
Previous Post

Stephen knocked on the door before entering. Sleep looming under his eyes, he ignored the look from Wong as he bowed his head slightly to the delegates from the other sanctums. He and Longwei had studied together during Stephen's time at the Japanese sanctuary, and in-actuality he was surprised Longwei hadn't given him a prior warning about this meeting.

That said, Eri from the Japanese sanctuary was young, upcoming and ambitious. So it wasn’t all surprising, it was likely her idea.

”Greetings exalted Guardians. I would like to wish you welcome to my Sanctum.”

The two representatives bowed. ”I hope that-” He paused as Eri raised her hand to stop him.

“Perhaps we can skip the pomp-and-ceremony and just get down to business?” Stephen internally gave a sigh of relief, finally someone who understood that many of the Magi traditions were obsolete, and did nothing but waste time, but at the same time… why.

He looked over to Wong who merely shrugged. I don't know what's going on either Stephen.

Stephen signalled to the seats. ”Straight down to business. I can do that. Why don’t you tell me why you’re here Eri-” He paused as Wong raised an eyebrow. “-If I can call you Eri?”

She nodded as she sat down. “Yes, you can call me Eri.”. She smiled politely. It was a pretty smile, the kind one used to get what they wanted. “The Japanese Sanctum would like Yao transferred there, or to China-''. She pointed to Longwei who bowed his head slightly. “-Japan has one of the largest Magi communities out there. The recent mutant activity on Genosha has reignited the belief of many that perhaps our community is not best left in the dark, and that we should announce ourselves to the world and become true world citizens. We believe having Yao close we could easily question him, to find some of the more troublesome individuals before they do any harm.”.

Longwei cleared his throat next. “It is the belief of many within the Chinese Sanctum-” political speak for many, but not mine. “-that Yao should be returned home to answer for his crimes. During the revolution he used the unrest and chaos to eliminate many political rivals and entire families. Some groups are still merely listed as being missing. We wish to put him through the Trial of Shangti.”

Stephen nodded along. ”I understand where you are coming from-”

“But you are going to deny our request?”

Stephen had to steel himself, so as not to audibly scoff. He could practically see the disdain on Wongs face at the blatant lack of respect for tradition. ”It was always my belief, as taught to me by Arhi’ahn-”

Wong nodded. Good play, dropping the name of the master.

”-that together we all form an international community. Therefore it truly doesn’t matter where he is being held.” Stephen raised his hand as he saw Eri about to interrupt him again. That said, he is too powerful to be moved elsewhere. Afterall, I am the Sorcerer Supreme and it is my duty to uphold the Sanctums. Keeping him here, and secure is my duty-”

”-and you don’t trust anyone else?”

Wong raised an eyebrow. What is she up to?

”I trust you both, you are doing a fine job fulfilling your duties and keeping your sanctums secure. Surely you can both understand that Yao is far too powerful. Even if I were to move him myself there is still a chance he would escape.”

”Perhaps we can figure out an alternative solution.” Stephen smiled at his friend, always trying to find the diplomatic solution, the middle ground, the solution that everybody could agree too.

Son of a bitch.

That was why she included Longwei. She learnt of Chinas interest in Yao and used that, his connection with Longwei and his renown for finding middle ground. Stephen had come into this meeting expecting a game of checkers, and yet she had come prepared for a game of chess.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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The cherry trees are blossoming on the streets, petals strewn under my feet.

Smiling isn’t as strenuous anymore.

A month has passed since my sojourn at Cornwall. I walk now with purpose.The spirit is more whole than ever.

And yet, the quest has only begun.

Dreams call to me now instead of nightmares. They are scattered, grainy. I can barely recall them.

What purpose are they guiding me towards? Why am I still stricken with them?

Perhaps, I must learn to listen more carefully.



Those were the first words imparted to him by his first master at arms when he first began training as a squire in Arthur’s court. Other maxims were forgotten and shed as technology progressed and the sword was forgotten in favor of new ways of bloodshed but Justin held onto that lesson. Rage was easier than calm, more addicting than the foulest spirits that he could imbibed in any tavern. To draw from calm required focus and most men didn’t have the luxury of honing the will of their minds in the heat of battle. To kill was easy but to kill for a living was the occupation of a knight. Dealing with the toll of killing was an art itself; to walk a fine balance between numbing yourself to the wanton slaughter and being aware that your life was on a fine thread with each passing moment.

The fashion store mannequin shook from Justin’s blow, swaying on its pole. With a pull, he dislodged his weapon and took a breath, spinning it slowly in his hand. Readying himself, he began slashing away again at the dummy at various angles. Sweat beaded on his naked chest as he recited the exercise mentally in his head.

Right, left, feint, top, down, left-right. Pause. Left, feint, right, top, down, left-right. And other combinations that were more or less the same as the last. Under the steady rhythm of his sword, the junkyard groaned around him as a crane shifted its haul of scrap from one mountain to another. As he continued training, muscle and mind became one as the movements of his blade became second-hand, gliding and scything through the air like butter. It was that moment of peace, of thoughtlessness where Justin could find solace away from the modern world.

He was consumed so entirely in it that he didn’t notice how his blade came forward at an awkward angle. Instead of embedding cleanly into the dummy, it was knocked out of his grip and was sent skipping a few feet away. He walked forward to where it laid and picked it up. Turning around, he prepared to settle into his stance again. Only, it wasn’t his dummy.

It was Arthur tied against a pole, bleeding from the various wounds he’d struck into him. His ruby-encrusted crown laid askew on his blood-matted hair and his stubble was ridden with drool and spit. Justin froze still as Arthur inclined his head towards him and whispered.

“ Save us, Justin,” The corpse opened its mouth and spoke again. “ Save us.”

Justin dropped the sword, clanging growing deeper in the ground, as he walked back in horror at Arthur’s unblinking eyes and gormless open mouth. The crows in the pines above cawed a cacophonous dirge and in a blink, the headless dummy was there back again. The hills became mounds of rusten cars and the blood-rent sky was back to the smoggy clouds of London. He

That was enough training for today.

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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 Create-A-Hero RPG GM, Blue Bringer of BWAHAHA!

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Hal clamboured over subterranean rocks, stumbling and mumbling.

"In Brightest Day..."

"Hup-- In-- Brightest Day..."

He trips, rocks clatter. And suddenly the clattering of something else - chitinous legs - begin to clatter louder now.

"In Brightest Day..." He whispers hoarsely. "In Brightest Day..."

He looked behind him, as he continued to reach forward for his destination. "In Brightest day... In Brightest Day..." Behind him, the rocks nearest the entrance to the cave still held enough light from the distant day that their photoluminescent glow dimly backlit the silhouettes of the clattering creatures. The Brood. They knew there was a presence here. And they scavenged on desperate for the new warm place to keep their eggs.

So... Aren't I the popular one? Hal Jordan. Cosmic cop of Sector 2,814. How'd I get myself in this situation where I'm scrambling, powerless for my life from what seems to be a small to moderate nest of Brood based somewhere off of their Homeworld?

Well, I guess to understand that, you need to understand some things about the ring...

A furry upright dog-like alien is chasing his tail, with frantic intent.

The ring's power, whilst being almost infinite in scope and limited mostly to the mind of the user, is not unlimited in it's duration.

When the Guardians of the Universe created the rings with the intent of empowering a law and order force to watch over the entire universe, they were mindful of the potential for corruption and abuse of power.

...although as what exactly their definition of corruption is that they haven't intervened already, I sure would like to know...

The doglike creature stands upright and scratches its head. "Umm..."

So what the Guardians did is they ensured that the rings required to be "Powered up" and charged, at regular intervals which they determined. They based these intervals on the gradual rotation of their home planet Oa.

It just so happened that the amount of time they landed on was roughly a day. Well... twenty four hours, three minutes and twelve seconds - I timed it out once at home just to be certain, because when the thing that provides you with all life support when you're flying through space... well, you want to be sure. You can't really "Get out and push".

Anyway, you might be thinking to yourself, "A day? That's not very long. My cell phone has more juice than that." Well, thing is that number never changes. The charge doesn't degrade. It's been twenty four hours, three minutes and twelve seconds as long as I've had the ring. It was twenty four hours, three minutes and twelve seconds for when Abin Sur, the guy before me had the ring. Twenty four hours, three minutes and twelve seconds when the guy before him had the ring, and it'll be twenty four hours, three minutes and twelve seconds when I'm long since returned to cosmic dust and the next spacecop has the ring.

I'm pretty sure your L-Phone can't claim that... And I get better coverage as well.

The doglike alien checks it's "pockets", and is looking under assorted rocks. Behind trees. Again it scratches its head. It holds it's hands out in despair, with a pleading look on its face.

Yes, yes, G'nort. We're getting to you.

So anyway... rings charge lasts a day pretty much regardless what we use them for... how do we charge them?

Well, that's where the "Green Lantern" name comes in.

There is a physical, solid charging device. Takes the appearance of a large light source. Humans, english-speakers, it translates out as a green lantern. Hence the name of the corps. Insert the ring into the lantern, repeat the oath we all Corps members received when given the ring, there you go, like magic - although, I don't know if it technically is magic... Huh... maybe it is..? - anyway, it charges the ring and you have yourself another day.

But it ties each Corps-member to a sizeable, and frankly cumbersome physical object.

So the question becomes, "What do you do with it?" and you have a few options.

You can keep your cumbersome physical object in a cumbersome physical space. Some leave it on their homeworld, some, like my predecessor Abin Sur, well, they chose to fly around in a ship rather than use the ring's power and then have their lantern with them wherever they may be. Now this has a few obvious shortcomings. The lantern can be lost, it can be in a place too awkward or difficult for the corpsmember to get to, potentially leaving said corpsmember stranded and powerless. Or its presence can also add risk to a Green Lantern's own homeworld - as, for that matter, can personal ties. But we'll get to that later...

So what's the other option?

Well, as mentioned before, the rings are INFINITELY versatile. hey actually possess the power to open up a pocket dimension - a space OUTSIDE of space - in which the Corps member's lantern can be stored.
Corpsmembers are shown how to do this in basic training, because most come from species who don't perceive time and space in such a way that doing so would naturally occur to them.

The upright dog howls in despair.

Now the downside of this is the Green Lantern's own ability to charge his ring becomes tied to the notion of the Corpsmember's ring having power left to start with.

Take our friend G'nort here. G'nort has used the "pocket dimension" storage method, and foolishly--

"Hey!" The dog-creature objects.

--foolishly waited too long to produce his lantern from the pocket dimension, now leaving it stranded there since his ring no longer has power.

There is a third option... you can also, if both corpsmember's will it so, re-charge a ring off of another ring. But this is somewhat inefficient, since it can only do so at about a 33% loss. Or in other words, charging one ring 2% will come at the loss of 3% from the other ring. Of course since rings are potentially capable of FTL or Faster than Light travel, very little is needed to either get to the destination where the corpsmember keeps their lantern, or to simply open the pocket dimension to re-charge their ring in full.

...but let's not forget, there are currently 7,204 Green Lantern Corpsmembers and they patrol 3,600 sectors of space.

So... there's not that many to potentially charge a ring off of. It is recommended by the Guardians and at basic training that should two or more corpsmembers find themselves collaborating on a case, they should space out charging their rings at intervals to assure there is possible backup in case of emergencies. It is sensible policy--

"So... uh... Give me a jump?" The dog-creature asks.

Oh. Umm... Yeah, you're not really here though. You're a hypothetical G'nort. The real one's actually... Where are you again? I think you're in Sector 68.

"Beg y'rs..? I'm not here? Hypothetical? What do you mean?"

Yeah, you're not actually here. In this case you're hypothetical. I was--

"Are you kidding me?! I'm not real?! I'm a cosmic joke?! My suffering is just the result of some kind of some sick joke of a malevolent God's sense of humour?! A god that just seeks to make an example out of me!"

Well, I'm not a god. But yeah, I was just using you to make an example of what can potentially--

"Yeah, no, that actually checks out now that I think about it... My whole life. Things-- Things actually seem to kind of make sense now. Huh... It's not all my fault. I'm just-- God's just making an example out of me..." The dog creature starts to walk away, feeling revivified, with renewed confidence in his understanding of his place in the universe.

Wait--! No! Not your whole life! Just this occasion here! With you leaving your lantern-- Ah well. I'm sure he'll be alright. Anyway, where were we? Ah yes. Rings charge. Twenty four hours, three minutes twelve seconds. Keep your lantern either in the physical world or sub-space. Don't let the juice run out. So let's go back a little bit before...


Hal Jordan touches down on the planet's surface. A starfreighter crew been found with much of it's crew slaughtered and it's cargo stolen. They were hiding out somewhere on this wilderness planet, bereft of civilised life, as far as he could tell. Waiting him out for an opportunity to planet hop again, once it was clear to do so. The planet's yellow sun was scorching, so he took a moment's respite in the most remarkable cave.

The rock's in the cave seemed to be covered in some kind of photoluminescent material. It would absorb and emit low light back, like the glow-in-the-dark stickers his ceiling was covered in as a child. He walked in deeper and deeper and opened the pocket dimension for his lantern to charge his ring.

...and then he heard screaming.

Hal put his lantern down and clamboured, scrambling and running out of the cave where he then looked across the planet's wasteland... and he saw it. The shade was coming. And before it, the wave.

Due to some kind of gravitational anomaly due to the relatively close proximity to the great yellow sun, nightful was preceded by a colossal wave of a sandstorm. Like a giant tsunami, of less dense sand particles in the throes of the falling sun's gravitational pull.

Before the planet would enter the "great night" it's surface would be covered with sand anew. Hal ran and scrambled, he clamboured back into the protection of the well lit cave, just as the sandstorm sealed its entrance.

But the photoluminescence from the rocks and rockwalls near the entrance had caught so much light that they provided far more than ambient lighting. Exposed to more light, they had absorbed a great deal and when the light source is everywhere it was enough to seem artificially bright, even if the process was entirely natural.

Hal ran his hand along the wall half expecting it to be warm, with it's light, but it was cool to touch.

"Well-- I suppose I'm here for a while then..." He said to himself.

Only to be answered by a distant chittering.

Something else was here. And Hal was pretty sure he'd just tipped off that he was too. He looked down at his hand, and remembered he was about to charge his ring. And the Lantern was--

He looked further into the depths of the cave. It was darker there. The rocks further in the cave hadn't been exposed to as much daylight, for the photosynthetic process to absorb. Then in horror he watched as it got darker still. The creeping darkness approaching him. As rocks further into the cave had been emitting what little light they had already absorbed, and fell into darkness.

"Shit!" He hissed out his curse in a hushed tone. The chittering reply told him it was not hushed enough. And around him, from directions unknown, he heard the clattering of exoskeleton legs falling on stone. Hal matched it, with his own boots pounding rock. He thought back and realised the scream he'd heard earlier wasn't one of anguish from the oncoming sandstorm wave, and the doom it presented, but one of pain. Of being overwhelmed.

How much juice was left in the ring? He didn't know. He knew he'd been cutting it pretty fine. Too fine. Stupid. He couldn't risk using it, making himself a bright obvious target as the light source and then having that light go dim when he might need it most. Sure, he couldn't see what was coming, but he hoped that cut both ways. He hoped.

He knew he was around the area where he'd laid his Lantern to rest. He started desperately reciting the start of the oath in hope of falling upon it and speeding up the whole process.

"In brightest day--"


"Hup-- In-- Brightest Day..."

Looking behind him, he saw the rocks nearest the entrance still held enough light from the distant day that their photoluminescent glow dimly backlit the silhouettes of the clattering creatures. The Brood.

Hal remembered something about the Brood. They designed their nests in such a way that entrances and exits fell on the outside, so that prey would stumble its way deeper within the Brood-nest and the Queen itself. Of course before he got to the Queen herself he'd hit the nursery where the prey were contained whilst they-- ugh-- gestated, where he'd no doubt find himself dealing with the Warrior breed who protected the nursery, the weaker Nurse breed and of course the Queen herself. They were mustering him further into the nest, corraling him away from what their evolutionary process had taught them was any avenue of escape.

"So let's just find the lantern first." He thought to himself. "With that less than comforting thought..."

"In Brightest Day..." He whispers hoarsely. "In Brightest Day..."

He felt their presence closer now. They were on top of him!

"In Brightest Day--!"

He was warmed by a sudden emerald glow, which illuminated the cavern and caused all of the Brood to clatter back briefly at the new development. "Oh Hell, yes!"

"In Blackest Night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power-- GREEN LANTERN'S LIGHT!"

Suddenly the entire cavern was filled with a flash of the brightest green light, and seconds later an emerald bottle seemed to fire out of the cave like a bullet from a gun. Three Brood was chattering and clattering their fanged jaws against the hard-light bottle's surface, as they still searched for a way in. The bottle took to the sky, before it exploded in a spray of verdant pyrotechnics, revealing Hal carrying his Lantern like a football. The Brood fell back to the planet's surface. Hal searched beyond for an ion trail, but found nothing. There was no sign of the space pirates having made any attempt at an escape. The sandstorm wave had swept over any all tracks and trace of life.

This "abandoned planet" had become a home for Brood. And in light of not seeing any other signs of recent civilisation, and with no escape route he felt he could safely assume where they were.

In a nursery in some unseen nest or another down below, housing the next generation of Brood.

Hal sighed, and returned his Lantern to its pocket dimension, before taking to the stars.

Far below, the last of the rocks at the mouth of the cave faded into darkness.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Ezekiel
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Member Seen 0-12 hrs ago

Collab with @Ruby


Present Day
Hammer Bay

Bobby Drake already missed the brief window of freedom he had enjoyed on Genosha, able to walk freely across the island without attracting stares of any kind. Then M-Day had happened. The stares were not the same as those he had learned to experience elsewhere, not the outright glare of hate, but the insidious wrath of envy. The Mutates had lived for years as slaves and sacrificed much for freedom, then fate had robed them of their identity, human again when it was finally free to be a mutant. He'd be pretty pissed off as well.

He'd take envy over hatred though, it didn't stop him buying a drink. Hammer Bay was still in the process of rebuilding, a process which had slowed down dramatically following the depowering of most of the population, but the majority of the city now functioned, just with a few lasting scars.

O'Malley's was the typical attempt at an Irish bar by foreign nationals who had never been to the country. It predated the Revolution, but its old owners had either fled or hadn't bothered to return to claim it. New ownership came from among the Mutate population, of which Bobby had heard were some of the few to retain their mutant identity in these trying days. Still, the Guiness wasn't bad. Not that he was purely here for the alcohol.

Sliding up to the bar, quite literally, the blue sheened man took a seat. It was only the early afternoon and service, while not enthusiastic, was immediate.

"I'll take a pint, and I'll pay for five more you can keep if you answer a question of mine."

"Depends on the question." The man was starting the pour even as he spoke, the non-committal reply barely more than a grunt.

"Girl with green hair, think you'll know who I mean if you've seen her."

"I ain't helping you stalk some poor lass now." Bobby didn't know if the somewhat poor attempt at a Gaelic dialect was really part of the act, he hadn't the heart to suggest that was a Scottish term.

"I'm not on personal business." Bobby set the coin down on the bar, a silver piece bearing the Reichsadler, blackened on one side. Much as with the girl he was hunting, if you knew, you knew. "And I'm still paying." The coin was soon joined by several crisp noted, far more than was required for the lonely pint that was already at his lips. Refreshingly cold, but then so was everything he drank once it had touched his lips.

"Came in a couple of times, asking around about folks. We still keep an eye on new folks for Remy, she's staying at Hoffcraft Motel, little down the ways." It was impressive how many syllables the man could fit in a grunt, but it got the point across.

"Cheers, I'll bring the glass back." Bobby stood, still sipping the pint as he left, taking the coin with him but leaving the notes. It was a short walk, but plenty of time to sink the pint before a reunion he wasn't sure he wished to occur took place.

"Jesus, Bobby, would subtly hurt you?"

It was like walking down the street with blue furball Hank McCoy, except the sunlight of early afternoon Hammer Bay reflecting off Bobby Drake and bent as it's rays of light went deeper into the ice blue of one of the original five X-Men. Despite the fact that Magneto was the biggest draw on the island, it was the difference of a royal and a celebrity; there was some cross-over appeal, but the vibe was very different between the two. Magneto was an unofficial royal of Genosha, while the X-Men were celebrities. And the original five X-Men, those the four that were still alive? None seemed to draw more attention than those four.

Lorna's wavy hair was lazily kept up high on her head with a gold jaw-clip, keeping it behind her and down her back. Her denim jacket was time-worn, the back of it covered with flag patches; nearly forty flags from nearly every continent except for Antarctica, including a few unofficial flags, the most unusual of which was a green jungle Xate palm behind the black silhouette of a T-Rex; the Savage Land. With the crimson and gold standard of the Shi'ar Empire a close second. Her jeans were tight things with a thick brown leather belt and silver buckle, coming up a inch or two over her round hips, the teeshirt underneath was black with bold white kanji for Shueisha. Her eyes were covered with black square frame sunglasses, and they never even turned his direction as she walked up from behind him and past, just one pedestrian casually walking past another, shopping bags in hand, the other holding the strap of a brown leather large purse resting off her left shoulder as she marched.

Unlike Bobby Drake, Lorna Dane had no intention of inviting too many eyes and too much attention. She wasn't the 'look-at-me' daughter of Magneto; the other one held that distinction.

He didn't fall into step beside her, nor even more to catch up, watching the figure move past him as any other that moved on the street. That wasn't quite true, she was captivating in a way that no mutant power could replicate, even his own shining skin. The lead had proven true, at least, as he watched her go without directly doing so, had her hips always swayed quite like that?

Suddenly the thought of not arriving empty handed came to mind and he stopped by whatever closest street vendor was hawking something covered in grease, bad for the heart, but oh so good for the soul.

"I'll take two."

By the time he looped back around, several hours had flown by, the Sun burning into low Afternoon. One side effect of his relative fame as a member of the X-men made the iconic look of his frozen exodermis well known, but the very much human look he had been forced to adopt for all the years prior had faded back into obscurity. A change of clothes was all it really required. A second factor, his ability to control temperature and his environment, meant that the wrapped taco shells within the bag he held were good as new.

He waited for her in the lobby, at one of several small cafe tables set up in what had once been a fashionable hall. There was establishment catering, but the place didn't seem to mind him bringing in the package from the outside, still, he did the good favour of at least ordering a rum and coke from their own supply. Long before the Revolution, Genoshan rum had been famous across the world. Perhaps it would be again, particular if this taste was anything to go by, and now it came slavery free.

He had time to kill, and another had been ordered by the time his patience paid off, another set in front of him in the case he wasn't stood up from the engagement he had assumed all on his own.

"Keep cool." He breathed to himself, enjoying the benefits of his own terrible pun.

She stood before the table, arms crossed, shades still concealing her eyes while her tone of voice bordered between intrigue and irritation. “Are you stalking me, Bobby? I didn’t want team pitches, I didn’t want old dramas re-hashed, I didn’t want media attention, I didn’t want anyone to know I’m on the island; in a city where there’s probably a telepath per city block I’m probably hoping against hope there, but even still…what do you want?”

"I'd recommend sitting down then." The look he gave her in turn was all intrigue and no irritation. "No pitches, just carne asada, I hope that sounds a little more appetizing." Long before any of this had all become rather serious, Bobby had always been known as the easy charm of the X-men, and that had carried forth with him into adulthood. It was a little tougher with the weight of history, but he still managed all the same.

Before answering her fully, he began to unwrap his offering, taking up his own portion to manage a bit washed down with the tasting of cola and liquor. "Sometimes we can't avoid all old dramas, and I think you'd prefer me asking you why you're here all of a sudden, instead of Darkholme or Exodus…. Besides, haven't you heard? We're rather down on telepaths these days."

"Sure. You're down telepaths, but all the best ones are still around," she all but snorted, taking a seat and dropping the purse on the floor next to the chair. Then it hit her: his former teammate and friend. Her eyes snapped up to see his face, to see if he was staring, to see if there was some sign the omission had crossed some line, but there was no sign. No outward sign, anyway. One taco wouldn't be enough, but it was a start, especially as she asked the roving waitress for a cerveza, "Right next to Africa and it's Mexican and pizza that I still see everywhere as I walk around Hammer Bay. Well, the more affluent areas, anyway."

There was serious poverty to some of Hammer Bay, much as the mutants, and her father, wanted the issue dealt with there was no magic silver bullet for poverty, but it wasn't a good look...especially when so many of the impoverished were human residents that stayed, or, worse, depowered mutants. Genosha was strange. She'd been there a few days, and it was still just strange. She couldn't help but feel for the depowered; her sister had made her one such victim. It was only Apocalypse that allowed her some restoration of her abilities, and even then...every time she used them it felt more like reading your favourite book, but not your copy, just a copy of it you'd borrowed from someone else. You knew all the words, but everything else about the book was...different, a bit weird.

"I'm sure Raven and Bennet have more pressing matters. Besides, if they knew I was around, he'd know. And if he knew..."

Well. That was obvious, she thought.

"They don't know, I suppose these days I'm meant to tell them about this sort of thing." He spoke with something approaching a defeatist sigh, before carrying on with the easy lack of concern, If you're complaining, I'm sure we can find something more local after, I thought a taste of 'home' made for an alright start, though." It was memories, rather than geography, than tied crunching shell of his second bite to any idea of familiarity. That was the same thought of home that made the sudden memory of Jean burn as brightly as she had in his mind, hot enough to melt even him. Still, he kept the reaction from her, she might have brought it on, but it had never been malicious.

He was tempted to leave it at that, an offer to find somewhere else, to breathe in the tastes of the mutant dom's new home, but he kept talking. "Seemed more likely to work than expecting a text back." There was the usual teasing taunt of his words, but it wasn't entirely untrue. Time apart had made strangers of them, no matter what the past held.

Despite everything, she smiled at her ex-boyfriend, a history that seemed now to be lifetimes ago, “You never answered the question, Iceman,” his codename being used more as a gentle tease, in the moment.

“I’m not stalking you, Lorna.” He replied with a gentle laugh to the use of his codename, another sip of drink as he leant forwards over the table to prevent an errant bite of taco mix ending up on his clothing. “You want to pin down exactly what brings me here, watching you walk away down a street again? Curiosity, concern. Maybe any and all of the above.”

Lifetimes though it may have been, Lorna could still tell when something was up. “Bobby…what are they doing? I’ve been around a few days and all I hear is talk about Charles and my father are up to something. Why are they teaming up? What's changed with Xavier?"

“Your father isn’t the man he was.” There was another munch of taco, swallowed down with a slight laugh, “Normally that’s a negative, but now, it really isn’t. Can’t say it makes up for everything that happened in the past, but I’ll take it.” The pause came afterwards, with a softer sigh, “And, I think Charles is worse, he’s come back, from whoever knows where. It’s like they’ve both been pulled to common ground, an idealistic Magneto and a pragmatic Xavier.” Then the true pain came, the pain which had spurred on his decision to find her without suggesting to the others that there was a mutant unaccounted for on Genosha. “Whatever it is, beyond making this a home for us all, they’ve not told me.”

Lorna Dane took a long drink of the ice cold cerveza, and chuckled at the suddenly grim Bobby Drake. "Guess I'll have to stick around to find out. We need more tacos, and more alcohol, though. Definitely, definitely, more alcohol."

In days gone by the district of Havershaw Heights had been the epicentre of the vast, unequal, wealth of Genosha. The human elites had dined in luxury on the spoils earned by the slave labour of the Mutates.

It had suffered some of the worst devastation during the Revolution, furious Mutates, finally free from both their physical and psionic chains, along with their sympathetic human allies, had vented the greater portion of their wrath on the district. Even the most moderate of the partisans had little sympathy for any of the families who had resided in such wealth, although the leadership of the Revolution had done what they could to ensure servants and children would not be harmed.

The version of Erik Lehnsherr that had waged nearly a century of war against the human dominated globe would likely have simply rebuilt the district to house elite mutant overlords, but now free of the worst of his madness and paranoia, he had forged a different path. Opulent estates were rebuilt as buildings of governance, of institutions that would support the community and nation. Of great personal note had been The Piotr Rasputin Memorial Orphanage, alongside the latest incarnation of Jean Grey Institute of Gifted Youngsters. All the problems of nation building had hardly been solved, poverty had still sunk its claws into the recently ruined nation, but the demolishment of the estates had gone someway to at least removing the visual markers of inequality.

There did, however, remain one private household in the district, the Palatine House, the home of Magneto. Far more humble than the Presidential Home it had replaced, it nevertheless provided a commanding view over the entire city of Hammer Bay. It was not, however, the man himself, enjoying the view of the city sprawling to the sea. The wind caught in her hair, the red and gold of her gown, Wanda Maximoff tried to drown out the weight of memory and her own power with the vast sensation of the view before her. For the moment, it wasn’t working. No power was without cost, and very little compared to the terrifying force of chaos magic she had worked upon reality. With a single desperate cry she had irreversibly altered her own world, and while she did not know, she felt the echoes had passed beyond, spilling forth into alternate realities she had never even witnessed.

To put it mildly, it was a lot.

Had she meant to do it? There seemed little doubt from those who had witnessed it. Her own memory, her own recollection, was flawed. She couldn’t recall the act, but her heart ached with grief and guilt. Those were not the emotions of an innocent woman, so she must have.

Any further time she may have had to ponder events was interrupted by the sound of the wall unmaking behind her. The Palatine House had been crafted by those with great power for beings of their own ilk to live within. It was deliberately impossible for those reliant on simple human locomotion to navigate, few doorways, even fewer staircases. An impossible maze carved into less space than your average McMansion.

Magneto stepped through the already sealing archway he had formed in the wall behind her, leading out onto the balcony. The house appeared to be made from stone, but there was enough metal running through it to make his act less than a moment’s thought for the ruler of Free Genosha. He made a habit of not wearing his helm these days, signifying the lack of discord among mutants. There was nothing hidden between him and the great telepaths of Mutantkind anymore.

An unforeseen side effect of this for Wanda, and she would imagine her twin brother and the rumoured cases of other children, was a constant reminder of how time and worked differently upon her father. His features were closer to her own in age than a man who had been born close to the dawn of the previous century. Yet another reminder that they were far from a normal family, not even a normal estranged one.

“Wanda, how are you feeling?” Still, the age sometimes crept into his voice. The feeling of the concerned, doting, father he could have been, had the fates been less cruel. Had he been less cruel.

“Better than yesterday.” She didn’t expand on the specifics further. Most days she couldn’t maintain consciousness for long. This was likely the longest she had been awake and present since The Decimation. That should have been a good thing, but illness and madness were a shield against what she had done. Lucidity felt too painful.

He paced close to her, but not enough to be truly familiar, his hands behind his back. She would have to make do with the concern in his voice and expression. In truth, she did not know if she would have appreciated anything more.

“You’re wearing the gown.” The doubt was in his words as he drew in the painful vision of her, a comment which made her own eyes draw down to herself, to the loosely flowing red and gold of royal majesty she was clad in. The casual outfit of a Princess. Exactly that.

“I know, I like it.” It was a harmless enough statement. Never mind the gown was one of the few surviving relics of the world she had built, a world where she had been a princess, and the gown within which she had annihilated her own people. Thankfully, the man across from her was one of few witnesses who could recall such details. Eventually, perhaps, even that would fade. She hoped so. It really was a lovely gown. It wasn’t the fabric’s fault she was a monster.

Eric either conceded the point or gave up the purpose of engaging within it, moving himself, walking, to the edge of the balcony, alongside, but apart from her. “It looks almost peaceful from up here.” He was quite correct, everything substantial enough to be visible from this distance had been rebuilt, many districts were thriving in a way they never had even at the height of Genoshan wealth. The greatest conflicts that remained were those hidden from on heigh, that dwelled in the hearts of the disenfranchised and disempowered, in this case, more literally than most.

“This sounds like the beginning of a warning.” Her voice was a soft sigh, barely heard over the call of the ocean wind, roaring up to the nearly mountainous heights of the city’s premier districts. “Must I fear you too, father?” Since reawakening in this version of reality, she had rarely called him that. She hadn’t meant it to be something of note, but it evidently was.

“Never, Wanda. I know that has not always been true, I cannot claim to have ever been a parent, let alone a good one. But no harm shall come to you, or Pietro, whenever he wishes to return, by my hand, never again.” The words were carefully chosen, expressing the truth of his feelings while accounting for the errors of his past and the difficulties of the present. He had always been good with words, even when there was little else good in him. “But I cannot hold this nation to that standard. They are angry, and I cannot say they are wrong to be. So long as I am here, you will be welcome, but I understanding of them will only bring you further hurt.”

“And you fear what I might do when hurt again?” Once again she did not mean the sense of betrayal that forced itself into her words, but when her large, glistening, eyes turned on her father, she could not help but read the hurt they had caused him. She didn’t regret it, not quite, but she didn’t mean it either.

“Wanda, I…”

”You are with the Decimator” The archaic tone of Exodus burned into his mind. Charles, even Emma, were always easier to have in his consciousness than Exodus. His telepathy ignited with the zeal of his cause.

”I am with my daughter, Exodus”

”It is not my place to question, Sire, but..

”Then do not, what is it you wish, Exodus?” It had been difficult enough to prevent the zealous mutant from referring to him as such out loud, he had given up the attempt within the privacy of their minds. He was not sure Exodus was capable of that change.

”Scott Summers is with a representative of the US Navy in Hammer Bay.

”Indeed, both myself and Miss Frost have approved this.” He still avoided using Xavier’s name when communicating with Exodus, his old friend’s role in the governance of Genosha would have to be made official before the ancient mutant would accept Xavier’s prominent role as anything more than a citizen and adviser of the nation.

”Did you approve an escort of seven score souls and world ending fury? Exodus lacked subtlty just as much as his words often fell into poetry and allegory. It was a genuine question, damn him.

”Show me.”

The conversation took all of a heartbeat, well adjusted minds speaking directly to each other. Already Magento had begun to float into the air as he fixed Wanda with a sad smile. “I will return, Daughter.”

“Fly safe, Father. Rememver they only do what they must.”

“As do I.”

It was not true flight, that enabled Eric to soar, the way the world distorted around him as the magnetic forces of the Earth propelled him could never be mistaken for it. The air hummed with too much power, crackled with potential. Like a continuous sonic boom, Magneto screamed through the air. He moved with purpose and pace. Had Genosha relied on typical human technologies of electromagnetic detection, they would have gone haywire and winked out. Soon the streaking figure of red in the sky was joined by another, a literally blazing trail, a comet of vengeance.

The land of Genosha quickly gave way to the sparkling expanse of the Indian Ocean. A small land mass, it wasn’t long before it was a distant smudge on the horzion, yet still well within the waters claimed by the sovereign nation. Magneto did not feel they guarded their waters too jealously. Any could pass through the waters of Genosha so long as they meant no harm to Mutantkind, and accepted the status of Genosha as a sovereign state. The fact that none of the UN had yet admitted to such a thing changed nothing. The waters were closed, until the world opened to Genosha.

When the pair of flying mutants came to halt above the crashing tide below, there was little of note to mark it from any other part of the wide expanse. A small outcrop several hundreds of meters to their right denoted volanic activity that might one day, in tens of thousands of years, grow the ambition to become an island, was all that interrupted the sparkling sea. To the nake eye, anyway, to one who could sense through the magnetic currents of the Earth and perhaps the third strongest surviving telepath, it was everything but clear.

”What would you have of me, Sire?” Exodus’ thoughts were not concealed and betrayed him. He would scour the sea if it was his will, end nearly two hundred lives in conflagration for the crime of ignoring the will of Genosha, of Magneto. There was a time when Eric would have agreed, but for now, he would settle for Awe, over Shock.

”Give me their minds, the rest, I shall see to.” While Exodus drifted in the currents of air, the true flight of his telekensis apparent, Magneto appeared utterly static in the air, rooted by forces far beyond the raging winds of Earth. His power ran deep. It was this power he called upon with outstretched hand. At first, nothing about the sight before them changed. Steadily, new waves began to ripple out for the water, a vast shape displacing the tide above it. Soon the creaking groan of tortured metal became audible even over the surf, dark shape rising below.

A moment later, and the shape of the USS Florida broke from the surf, the vast submersible, almost 200 meters of human power, was wrenched from the safety of water. It took more of Magneto’s effort to hold the vehicle together than it did to wrench it from the tide, a structure never designed to exist without the pressure of water suddenly finding itself in the sky. The odd system still broke, although its surface hummed with Magneto’s power, preventing any burst or leak that would spell doom once reset, he had little concern for the death dealing weaponry which failed to survive the transit from nautical vessal to unwilling airforce. Sirens blared from within the hull as instruments gave back impossible readings.

Then the voice of Eric Lehnsherr resounded within the mind of every crew member aboard.

”United States Vessel, you act in transgression of the laws of Genosha, Free and Soverign Republic. Be thankful you recieve the clemency your kind have so often denied our own. You have built these weapons to terrify and subdue, but we are no longer afraid, and you will find we have weapons of our own. Do not return.” Even as the words were projected across the vessel, it was in motion, Magneto, Exodus, and the vast submersible traversing the air away from the island nation, the vast bulk of the USS Florida steadily turning as it did, pointing away from the island, as if there was any doubt as to which direction they were being commanded to go.

”Inform Scott Summers of this, and provide my best wishes to him and his guest.” The continuation of Magneto’s thoughts were directed to Exodus, but were still felt by the crew within the Submarine as it was set back into the water. Let them know of the error they had committed.

Exodus’ thought reply was heard only by Magneto, however, before the ‘fire’ wreathed mutant arced away in the sky. ”By Your Will, Sire.”

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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Martian
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Reprise of Destruction

1.04: The other side of the trees

Dr. Walter Langkowski breathed raggedly as he followed behind Agent Payne, the S.H.I.E.L.D. operative exchanging gunfire with the squad of unknown soldiers. The Canadian scientist took cover behind a large redwood tree, as he wondered why he hadn’t been assigned a gun. Granted he had never fired a gun before, but Walter would’ve felt better with a weapon of his own.

As the pair of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives fled the mystery gunmen, Payne tried to call for an extraction, only to discover that something was jamming all the cell signals in this area. As he went from tree to tree, shielding Walter’s body with his own, Payne told the scientist his plan. There was a nearby town called Ferndale where the jamming might not reach to, or if needed they could find a hard line.

“How much farther to town?” asked Walter as he cowered behind a redwood.

“Not sure,” replied Agent Payne in between reloading his gun, “I sort of lost track of distance once we started zigzagging.”

“Great,” responded Walter through gritted teeth.

The pair continued to move among the trees, bullets landing not far from behind them. As Agent Payne poked his head out to try and spot their assailants, he could see a road cutting through the forest. Motioning to Dr. Langkowski, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent fired a few shots before dashing toward the road.

Walter did his best to keep up with Payne, pure adrenaline taking him to the thin road. Once the pair cleared the tree line, they began heading west down the road, hoping to reach the nearby seaside town.

“Not to call bull on your plan, but aren’t we sitting ducks out here?” Walter asked Agent Payne.

But before the agent could respond, the sound of sirens roared up the road. Looking down the road, Walter and Payne could see a police car approaching, its red and blue lights spinning. The car would stop a few meters away from the pair, a sheriff getting out and drawing his weapon.

“I don’t know who the hell you are, but drop your weapon!” shouted the sheriff.

“Alright, be cool,” replied Agent Payne as he placed his gun down on the road, “We’re with S.H.I.E.L.D., and I’ll prove it by showing you my ID.”

As Agent Payne slowly took his ID, Walter held his breath as the sheriff kept his weapon pointed at them. But once the sheriff did get a look at the ID, he lowered his weapon.

“What the hell are S.H.I.E.L.D. agents doing out here?” asked the sheriff as he holstered his gun.

His answer came in the form of gunfire striking the road near the three assembled men, the sheriff exclaiming, “God dammit!”

“Do you mind driving us to town,” asked Agent Payne as he picked up his firearm and returned fire.

“Sure,” replied the sheriff as he too shot at the soldiers in the trees, “Just pile in.”

Walter did need to be told twice as he opened the rear door and took refuge in the backseat. In between shots, the sheriff and Payne got into the front seats. Taking the wheel, the sheriff spun his squad car around, and bolted back toward Ferndale.

“So why are we being shot at?” questioned the sheriff.

“Not sure,” answered Payne, “Why were you here?”

“Responding to reports of gunfire, and before that someone reported an explosion,” stated the sheriff.

At the mention of an explosion, Walter’s ears perked up, “What kind of explosion?”

“I don’t know. A driver apparently heard it coming from the forest as he was driving down this road,” responded the sheriff.

“Well that’s why we are here,” explained Walter, “We detected a gamma radiation event.”

“Radiation?” asked the sheriff, his face very concerned looking, “Do we need to evacuate the town?”

“I don’t think so. It seemed to be a small, controlled explosion, probably some kind of experiment,” theorized Walter.

“Isn’t that against the law? How the hell do you even make gamma radiation?” asked an incredulous sheriff.

“Well clearly these guys don’t care about the law,” interjected Agent Payne, “And these guys have some kind of backing. Those guys shooting at us were clearly military trained.”

The three of them didn’t talk for the next few minutes, still in shock from the battle that they had just escaped. Off in the distance Walter was able to see the first few buildings of Ferndale. But as they got more into focus, Walter could see that the road was barricaded, vehicles and soldiers blocking any further driving.

Seeing this, the sheriff attempted to reverse his vehicle, only for more vehicles to pour out of the woods, blocking their escape. Walter started to panic as he realized that they were surrounded. A group of soldiers with rifles in hand then approached the squad car, forcing the three men out onto the road.

“What should we do with them Captain Blonsky?” asked one of the soldiers.

“Well, I’m all for killing them,” replied the Captain with a sneer.

“Wait a minute,” said a voice from within one of the military jeeps, “I recognize one of them.”

A man with a thick beard got out, Walter recognizing him as well, “Dr. Crawford? Why?”

“Yes it has been awhile Dr. Langkowski. You should spare him, he’s an expert in the study of gamma radiation,” stated Dr. Crawford.

“So the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and the cop are fair game?” asked Captain Blonsky.

“Sure, go ahead,” answered Crawford as he had soldiers pull Walter away from the other two men.

“In that case, I’d like to test my new powers,” said Blonsky as he dropped his rifle.

The Captain’s eyes flashed green as his body began to ripple. In a few seconds his musculature doubled in size, as his skin turned gray in color. Blonsky’s tactical gear began to rip as his body grew, some pieces falling to the floor, others just dangling onto his massive frame. In thirty seconds, where once the Captain stood was now an Abomination of some kind.

“Alright, who would like to be smashed first?” asked the massive creature.

Dr. Langkowski looked back in horror as the Abomination raised both fists. But before he could see what happened, a bag was placed over his head.

“Please ignore that brutality Dr. Langkowski,” said Crawford, “You’ll be coming with me. We have a lot to discuss.”

Walter began to hyperventilate in the small confines of the bag. This whole life or death situation had brought on a panic attack, his first one in years. As Walter struggled to breath, he felt himself being placed in the back of a jeep.

“What the hell is going on?” asked Walter through the bag.

“Simply survival,” muttered Dr. Crawford.

Walter had no idea what that meant as he felt the jeep begin to move. The presence of Dr. Crawford here perplexed him, as he had been told that the gamma radiation studier had retired. Yet here he was with these mystery soldiers.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Bounce
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[ Prev ] | Issue 1.04 | [ Next ]
[ school day (sing the blues) ]

He’d have preferred to just ride the bus.

The problem was, living way out in the goddamn county, there wasn’t a school bus from the plebian dregs of the city that came out to stately Wayne Manor.

Most of the lifestyles of the rich and snobbish types sent their kids to board at Gotham Academy – if they could get in – or Brentwood Academy over in Crest Hills if they couldn’t. But Jason was from the Gotham City public schools. And, between arrests and changing foster homes, he’d rotated around and his grades reflected it. Not that his grades were all that great to begin with. But, hey, who was he supposed to be trying to impress?

Willis “The Score” Todd had asked to see his son’s report card exactly zero times.

Had his dad even finished high school? Jason had the impression in his mind of his dad just being a thug his whole life. Moving from one boss to the next. First shaking down kids for candy on the elementary school playground, then probably graduating to hookers and blow in high school. Which, was pretty much all that his dad ever seemed to want.

Hookers and blow in high school. Yeah, now that he thought about it, that was probably right given how old Jason was compared to his parents.

How was that for a superhero origin story?

With a sigh, the boy got out of the Bentley. Alfred didn’t wish him a good day, Master Jason. But, Jason wasn’t offering the butler any pleasantries either. Instead, the man just pulled away as the door shut behind the boy, leaving him staring up at his prison during the week.

It was called Dillon Academy. A charter school. Probably the only place that Bruce could get Jason accepted, especially after his arrest for selling on school grounds that had prompted his last round with juvenile detention.

Well, that wasn’t entirely accurate. If Bruce just cut a large enough check, Brentwood Academy would have been glad to cash it. And then they wouldn’t even have to put up with Jason in the mansion.

Seriously, Jason had caught Alfred counting the silver candlesticks to make sure the street trash hadn’t stolen anything.

...so why didn’t Bruce just ship his ass off to Brentwood?

Throwing the backpack up onto his left shoulder, the boy just gave another sigh as he put his head down and headed toward the doors.

Of course, if Bruce did ever send him to a boarding school, who would Alfred scowl at with such obvious disapproval?

A pair of dirty Vans stepped into the hallway. They were about the only personality he was allowed. A pair of navy trousers, white shirt, and a gray sweater with the school’s crest on the left side of the chest. A navy tie hung loose from the open collar. It’d be safe that way until Mister Hinkley in third period. Then he’d be told to straighten that tie, young man!

Wasn’t there some Roman philosopher dead dude who wrote about the levels of Hell? That’s what school was like. And it didn’t matter if it was public, charter, or probably anywhere else. There were the middle schoolers – Dillon called them junior high schoolers – and there were the high schoolers. And within those categories, you had the usual preps, jocks, freaks, and geeks.

Jason occupied the freak tier. So, not the bottom rung of the social ladder, but also not very far from it.

It suited him fine. Half these kids thought they were better than him. The other half probably were. A charter in the middle of Gotham, Dillon drew its students from all walks of life. Those who wanted to be there. And then the kids like Jason, the ones the public schools didn’t even want.

For them, Dillon was either a second chance or the last stop before prison.

What the hell was salisbury steak?

That shit was like a bun-less hamburger, lying shriveled and naked on a school tray, with some brown liquid sprinkled over it. And that gravy was sus as hell.

Probably that unpronounceable Wor-chur... or watercest-shire... however the hell that shit was said.

When he’d lived on the street, Jason had dug his dinner out of the dumpster behind the Denny’s in Brideshead. Or the East End Golden Corral. And that shit had looked more appealing than what was in front of him.

He poked at the yellowish-white lump that he thought was supposed to be mashed potatoes. Which also had the same brown sauce slopped over it.

He knew he shouldn’t complain. It was food. He knew better than anyone what it was like to go without. But living with Bruce, he didn’t have that problem. And Alfred was maybe, sorta, a kinda okay cook.

Honestly, Alfred and he had gotten off on the wrong foot because apparently the butler came through and picked up their clothes to do laundry. And Jason had a habit of stuffing biscuits and other bits of food into his pockets. Because street kid.

Apparently, that didn’t go over well in the wash.

Stabbing a fork into the congealed mash, the boy swirled the potatoes and gravy around on the tray absently. A glance up at the clock at least affirmed that the school day was halfway over. Now he just needed to survive two more classes and then it was coast until the last bell rang – because Jason had P.E. for his last period.

...which also saved him from having to shower at school. For this year, anyway. Assuming Alfred didn’t kill him before the start of the next school year, then Jason would probably be schlepping through a mid-period gym schedule.

The low point of anyone’s day.

“Jason Todd.”

You ever hear a voice and just automatically know it's a cop? Is it a tone thing? Or is it just that most people who say both his first and last name together like that are cops. Or judges. Judges definitely do that, too.

Turning his head, the boy glanced behind him to see – yep – one of Gotham City PD’s finest. The local school resource officer. Officer Montoya.

A hand reached out, taking him by the arm and bringing him up out of his seat slightly. “You’re coming with me.”

Note: What she didn’t just say was ‘you’re under arrest.’ Which, honestly, might be the first time a cop had ever said Jason’s name and then not also said he was under arrest.

And, for that matter, why were they even here? Not only was Jason clean, but he was living his best boring life. Wait, what’d I do?” the boy blurted aloud, as the pieces started to come together as to what was happening.

Before he’d even realized what had just happened, Jason found himself being slammed down against the top of the table. And, for that matter, his lunch tray.

The side of his face planted into the mashed potato mush, as he felt his arms being twisted as the cop moved to handcuff him. "Wrong answer," the voice over him announced.

“Seriously!?” Flecks of potato and gravy shot out as the boy protested from his rather ignoble position, before being hauled up to his feet and dragged toward the door to the cafeteria.

This was just... a day in the life of Jason Todd.

Except this time, he was certain of one thing that hadn’t been true any other time: This was some bullshit.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Roman
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At least two ribs cracked. Shoulder dislocated. Body slick with sweat beneath the armour, and still coughing up smoke. A wave of exhaustion hit the Batman, and he stumbled slightly, loose arm still swinging raggedly as he clutched his injured shoulder. Carefully, he released it to press a finger to his ear, and activated the radio in his cowl’s horn. It chirruped, and then the line was opened directly to the Batcave.
“Alfred…need med table prepped. Sling for arm, and set two-“ Batman groaned as something in his chest creaked, “-three ribs.”
“Understood, Master Bruce. Your heroics have made quite the stir on social media. One cellphone video has already been posted to Tweeter and is making quite the splash.”
“I don’t do it to get Trending, Alfred.” Batman replied, his patience three-ribs-and-a-shoulder thinner than usual.
“Quite right sir. We shall expect you back at the manor shortly?” There was a tinge of something akin to hope in the butler’s voice. “…Master Todd rather misses you, sir. It’s been days…”
Batman paused, casting his mind to his ward. Jason was a good kid and a better soldier, but there was still work to be done to ensure he understood the mission and its parameters, and he didn’t spend as much time as he should with the boy. Dick had been so independent. Jason needed a father, but raising a child was not the battle Bruce has spent years training for.

He looked upwards to the sky, staring at the batsignal that cut a wound across the cloudy night sky, and clenched his jaw as he finally approached the Batmobile. He rested his limp arm against the brick wall of a building, and then, with a precise, quick movement, shoved his own body weight against his shoulder. He grunted as a hard pop burst forth, and then stepped back, rolling his now-relocated shoulder. It hurt, mobility would be impacted, and he’d be sore for at least a couple days - but he could move it, and that was enough.
“Not yet Alfred. I’m still needed.”


GCPD Lieutenant James Gordon paced up and down, his steps kicking up dust. The construction framework surrounding him was, at one time, intended to become a new block of affordable flats, but had at some point been purchased by one of Falcone’s shell-corps before that dream had materialised. Falcone likely had his own ambitions for the development, but these had been dashed when he’d been arrested, and then incarcerated, and the land officially became city property. Of course, the city did nothing with it, various councillors and Gotham public officials debating the best use for it, all the while ignoring its initial purpose; and so it stood derelict, a skeleton of homes, nothing but concrete and rebar and wire, eighteen storeys high and the city’s pollution blackening every surface. Two years ago, Batman had installed the signal, after the success against Falcone and Maroni cemented his partnership with Jim. That very first night, it lit the sky in silent celebration. Every time since, it had been an omen.

Batman stepped silently from behind the metal barrel of the light, and Jim found himself startled when he reached the end of his pace, swivelled on the spot, and suddenly found he was no longer alone. He moved forward to shut the light off, but Batman stopped him.
“Leave it on. Remind them I’m out there. Sometimes, that’s enough.”
Jim didn’t protest, merely shrugged, and then lit a cigarette. Batman stood, silent and stoic, as he took a long drag and blew the smoke out into the night air before he began to explain why he had called.

“Breakout at Arkham. Your oldest friend.”
If Batman had a reaction to the news, Jim couldn’t see it.
“How many dead?” He asked. More to the tally. He didn’t know why he kept count.
“Two, so far. Ha, his cleanest yet.”
“More will come.”
“Oh, undoubtedly. More always do before we stop him. Always playing catch up…”
Batman declined to make comment. Jim still wasn’t looking at him.
“It’s not his usual M.O., you know. Low body count. Minimal destruction. No one injured. We didn’t even find out until shift swap…”
Batman understood. “He didn’t break out. He was released. An accomplice? Someone paid off?”
“Thats the thing. All the inmates are being unusually forthcoming, and they all say the same thing: he was just as surprised as we are. This wasn’t his plan. It was someone else’s. And they walked past 30-something other inmates to get to his cell. They wanted him loose. No one else. And they left a message.”
Batman didn’t need to ask the obvious question; he merely took a single step forwards, beckoning the information from Jim.
“I think it’s best if you see it yourself.” He said, turning back around to flick his cigarette over the edge. “Before the station boys get in and contamina-“
Jim stopped mid-sentence as he turned, and Batman was gone. The light burned brightly, casting the bat into the sky.


Inmates jeered and hollered on all sides as Batman walked through the asylum corridor. Angry shouts followed him and Jim as they made their way into the deepest corner of Arkham, where Gotham's darkest nightmares were locked away and forgotten. Here, behind clear walls in sealed cells, dwelled the city's most damaged, and damaging, individuals, a cabal of men and women who, like Bruce, had experienced unimaginable trauma in their lives, tragedy they were unequipped to deal with. Like Bruce, they had been sharpened by it into something new. Unlike Bruce, their zeal, born of calamity, did not take the form of a protector.

The Joker's cell appeared before them, looming out of the darkness at the end of the corridor. Even from here, the open doorway into the room seemed impossibly askew. A single dirty bulb burned dimly within; Batman could see the splashes of red inside already. He pushed forward, ignoring the inmates that continued to heckle and deride the Dark Knight. His steps felt heavier the closer he got to the empty cell, resisting his commands to step further and further down the corridor. The room yawned open before him, dingy and ill-kept. Batman stood upon the threshold, willing himself to put that final foot through the doorway; a strange fear seized the back of his mind, that once he stepped in, the door would slam shut behind him, and the Batman would be locked away forever in the depths of the Asylum. He took a steeling breath and stepped forward. The door remained open. He breathed out.

Before him were two bodies - Arkham staff, the Security Lead and Head Orderly, Batman could see from their ID badges - slumped against the wall, leaning their heads against each other and arms arranged fondly on one another's shoulders. Their faces had been carved up, ghastly smiles torn into their cheeks and eyes ripped from their sockets; yet despite the gruesome handiwork there was minimal blood splatter within the cell itself. Upon the wall was daubed:
In the breast pockets of each of the victims there had been placed a single black-and-white feather. Batman plucked one from the sticky-red of their shirts and examined it closely, shining a torch along its length. Was it a match to the feather debris found in the boy's neck? Or to the bird that he had encountered upon the rooftops in Crime Alley? The feather flashed a monochrome sheen in the harsh white beam of Batman's flashlight. A common Black-Billed Magpie, indisputably. It made sense, with the rhyme, that now spooled out in Bruce's mind with the second line presented so macabre before him. Unconsciously, he ran the numbers, summing up the total body count threatened by this killer.

"28..." he mused, stepping out of the cell as he secreted away the feather for cross-reference testing at the cave. He wasn't expecting a reply.
"91." It came anyway, off to the side, its quiet solemnness making it stand out among the crass heckling of the cruder inmates. From behind a thick transparent wall, in a cell not unlike that which Batman had just left, crouched a man of short stature and thin, sandy-blonde hair. His eyes darted around rapidly, focusing on sights unseen by the common eye.

Batman stood before Jervis Tetch's cell, examining the hunched-over criminal. Psychology doctorate, hobbyist hypnotist, ephebophilic rapist. The man was mentally ill, his condition only worsening in Arkham's unholy halls, but Batman held little pity for the wretched man.
"Seven for a secret." Batman said; it was the final line of the rhyme. "28."
"Nonono..." Jervis replied, absently, only ever half-there. "Eight for a wish, Nine for a kiss..." he straightened as he recited the poem, his emaciated frame stretching uncomfortably beneath the thin Arkham inmate uniform. "Ten for a surprise you should not miss. Eleven for health, Twelve for wealth..." Tetch approached Batman, standing straight but still a few feet from matching Bruce's stature, his eyes still darting about following some invisible trace.
"That's 78."
"Thirteen beware the Devil himself." Jervis concluded. "91."
"Did you see who released Joker, Tetch?"
"Wishes be horses, beggars will ride."
"Are they working alone?"
"Turnips be watches, wear one by my side..." Jervis turned away, hunching back over as he crouched in the corner. "If's and An's be pots and pan, tinker never works."
"Jervis! Answer me!"
"Snicker-snack, she left them dead. With their heads, galumphing back."
Batman stood silent. Since his incarceration, this is how Jervis Tetch, Gotham University PhD, communicated. Garbled nursery rhymes and nonsense. He was wasting time.
"Miss Polly had a dolly, sick-sick-sick, call for the doctor, quick-quick-quick." Jervis mumbled, his hands twisting against the floor, tracing doodles in the dust. "Wednesday's child, full of woe..."
Batman walked away, frustrated. Jervis mumbled his rhymes until he could no longer hear the boots on Arkham stone.
"Jack Sprat could eat no fat, Joan could eat no lean, and so between them both you see...they wipe this city clean..."
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Retired
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Retired "Hayao Miyazaki"

Member Seen 0-12 hrs ago

Three figures strode into Puckett National Bank. Their automatic rifles swept across the lobby singling out the armed guard present, then corralled the panicked civilians and newly unarmed security into a far corner. A fourth joined them moments later before moving toward the rear of the building with a cohort. Less than three minutes after that, they left the building with a pair of large duffles in tow.

I watched the events replay on my screen for the fifth time, pausing and slowing at key moments. The bank robbers were entirely dressed in black from head to toe. Non-descript boots, pants, shirts, gloves, and balaclavas masks with mirrored sunglasses left little skin uncovered. From the heights and builds, at least, I could assume they were men, but that offered me next-to-nothing to go on.

The way they carried themselves, the almost chillingly calm demeanor each had, and the tactics used told me they were seasoned professionals. Paramilitary types that didn't make for common, run-of-the-mill thieves. They had been in and out of the bank in exactly one hundred and eighty seconds. On the dot. They had known precisely what to expect, where to go, and how to access their plunder without issue. And they had done so entirely without harming any of the civilians or employees present.

Which just made it more confusing and infuriating knowing what had happened once the four armed men had left Puckett National. I didn't have video footage of that portion of the crime but I knew the events well enough from the constant news coverage over the last six hours. Two responding officers had found themselves on the receiving end of a controlled explosion. Their cruiser had wrapped around a telephone pole like paper folded along a crisp seam. Neither of the cops had survived.

For such a highly trained and coordinated group, with all the expertise they presented, and the restraint they had shown in not so much as errantly pointing their firearms in the direction of the innocents inside of the bank, I found it hard to believe they had carelessly detonated their explosives on the way out. No, it had been planned. Thought-out in advance and timed for maximum carnage. An act of premeditated murder against Star City's finest.

This was the third bank hit in as many weeks. Each had been assaulted by a group of four well-armed figures. In each case, the robbers had entered and exited the structure in a strict three-minute window. Also in each case, police response had been delayed by a seemingly innocuous but debilitating surge in traffic. Most recently, lower downtown Star City had experienced serious congestion for a ten-minute period that preceded and led up to the robbery. Conveniently, the traffic blocked the most direct paths from the surrounding police precincts to Puckett National.

Neither police nor news outlets had made a connection between the two, but I theorized a direct link. Somehow, the paramilitary group had arranged the traffic jam to aid their bank job. I had contacted a colleague who had the necessary expertise to check my theory and hoped to have confirmation on the how of the matter soon.

Whoever this group was, they were exceptional at what they did. Certainly better than the typical ragtag criminals that polluted Star City. None of the street gangs could pull off anything close to what had been displayed here.

Still, with as little evidence or clues as this group had left behind, the foursome had provided me with one lead. As I said, three bank heists in three weeks. First, there had been Herron Lee United; then, Conway Trust; now, Puckett National Bank. These banks were in strategically poor locations for robberies with each being in relatively close proximity to a police precinct. Response time to any attempted crimes would be quick in any usual circumstance. Further, the holdings at hand for any of these banks would be significantly less than that of myriad other potential marks throughout Star. They didn't exactly make for prime targets.

Which is exactly why Herron Lee United, Conway Trust, and Puckett National had been used to house the illicit finances of Star City's premier organized crime family since the 70s.

This unknown group had robbed three mob banks in succession.

"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action." Ian Flemming wrote that in Goldfinger and I wasn't one to disagree with the observations of James Bond.

These were targeted strikes, of that I had no doubt. I just couldn't be sure of the motivation. Retribution, perhaps. Or opportunistic cash grabs against a recently crippled organization. Regardless, it was the only lead I had to pursue at the moment until my associate could follow up on my traffic theory.

The display of the four armed men winked out as I rose from my chair. Donning my gear, I pulled my hood forward and slipped out of my bunker into the dead of night.

It was time I pay a visit to the mob.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

Member Seen 4 hrs ago

Verdun is on fire.

Smoke rises out of great pits rent in the earth, strewn with bodies,bullet shells and ashes. Mass graves don’t even begin to describe the scale of the carnage Justin sees as he whips the reins forward. His steed neighs nervously, hooves coming to a crawl in front of the shelled neighborhood.

“ Easy there, my companion,” Justin rubs the horse’s cheek affectionately, trying to calm him down. The trotting becomes faster from its once inexorable pace. Good. They had to get there in time before the Germans -

The sound of the air screeching is the only warning he has before he is sent flying off his horse along with the entire block being leveled to a pulp. He hears the sound of frantic whinnying. He tries to move but his ribs dig into his chest like spears when he tries to raise himself up. His ears are ringing and -


“ - Oi, Justin. Wake up! I said, wake up!”

Flannegan’s hand slapped his back heartily. The sounds of bustling conversation and faded pop music combined to awake Justin from his slumber. Wiping away the drool on his lip, Justin realized much to his embarrassment that he’d fallen asleep on the bar counter. Flanagan had invited him to a night out in the pub to celebrate his new promotion. He accepted the invitation in spite of the fact that alcohol and deep drinking had lost its effect on him in the 19th century.

He downed the last dredges of ale in his tankard before observing the television above that everyone paid rapt attention to. The reception was horrible, resulting in grainy images that were cut off by bursts of static randomly. Justin could make out a racing track as the camera zoomed in on a line of eight horses with their riders on the back. The sound of gunshot erupted and Justin’s ear nearly bled at the roar of excitement in the bar, cash held in white knuckled grips as attendants were both praying and gnashing their teeth at the animals they had bet their entire life’s fortune on.

“ Beggar’s Chance is coming fast behind with London’s Bridge behind her. We’re rounding around the last turn now. And, what’s this!” The announcer’s voice became ecstatic as if he had witnessed a miracle in front of him “ Winged Victory is leading! I can’t believe it. Another tally in the twenty year long streak - “

It was a white palomino horse that broke through the line, outstripping the other horses. Whilst the other bar attendants were busy alternatively celebrating their wins or mourning their losses, Justin stood up and observed the winner of the race. He noticed something odd that others didn’t. The rider wasn’t in control of the horse. He was a spectator, merely making an illusion that he was controlling the horse, pulling the rein in unnatural ways and spurring the horse onwards when it didn’t need to.

“ Flannegan, who’s that?”

“ Winged Victory? Crowd favorite. He’s been on the scene for about two decades at this point. “ Flannegan quirked his eyebrow in thought and took a long drag from his beer. “ Surprising he hasn’t retired yet. Most horses retire at 10. Bless his trainer for maintaining that stallion as long as he did.”

Justin considered Flannegan’s words for a silent minute before sliding his bar tab forward and pushing himself off the stool. The trainer wasn’t responsible for that horse’s long life. Something else was.

“ Where are you going?,” Flannegan called out.

“ To find an old friend,” Justin replied back, pushing through the crowd and buttoning his trenchcoat to wander into the cold night.
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