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Welcome to the DC Fan Universe! It's a place where your favorite DC Comics superheroes and villains have been re-imagined. Read stories by established Reddit writers, written collaboratively and following a consistent timeline.

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4

DCFU Set #97.5 - Joyful June

🏳️‍🌈 Happy Pride Month! We have a new special to read so check it out! 🏳️‍⚧️

Stop and smell the roses. And then come over here and read some stories!


Apply to Be a Writer! - You could write your own book and be part of our team!


New Issues

  • Cyborg
  • Doom Patrol (Delayed)
  • Hellblazer (Delayed)
  • New Titans (Delayed)
  • Wonder Woman (Delayed)

Issues from June 1st


Just joining us? Fall behind? Check the welcome post here or the full set list here.

Too much to read?

  • Check out event list
  • Check the wiki pages
  • Just read and learn from context!

Come chat with us on Discord or Reddit! Follow us on Twitter @DCFU_621

Marvel Fan?


*Make sure to subscribe, upvote to show your support, and leave feedback on the stories! Use this post to discuss the overall set or anything else related to the sub :)

0 Comments
2024/06/16
00:56 UTC

3

Cyborg #60 - Traveling Troubles

#Cyborg #60 - Traveling Troubles

<<| <| >

Author: Commander_Z

Book: Cyborg

Arc: Peril in the Mountains

Set: 97


The blinding lights of Hong Kong finally began to fade as Victor Stone and Garfield Logan’s plane took to the skies. The two friends had traveled across the ocean as part of the promotional tour for Gar’s newest movie, but Vic figured he was just getting a free trip abroad. And he did, but he had to pay in a different way. He got dragged from party to party all day and night and while he enjoyed it for a while, after the third day… it became a lot. So as he watched the city fade into the night sky, he let out a small sigh of relief.

“You already miss it too, huh?” Gar said.

“Something like that.”

“Well, Markovburg is a fun place too. Not the same obviously, but still a pretty lively city considering.”

That was the second part of the trip. Gar and Vic were finally going to come back to Markovia after the affair that happened last time… (See Red Reign for that story!) Of course, Vic actually had been back, but that whole thing was a secret to Gar. (Check out Cyborg’s time with the Suicide Squad for that story!)

“Yeah, Markovia’s going to be nice. Have you been talking with Tara much?”

Gar smiled warmly. “Of course. We try and talk pretty much every day if we can and I’m usually over there every couple months or so. The city’s really recovered and become something great.”

“That’s great to hear. We’ve been talking some too. I think she’s just happy to have someone other than her family to talk to. Not to mention it lets her think about something other than how to rebuild and govern the city.”

Gar was about to respond, but he let out a huge yawn instead.

“Sorry, guess these past couple days are catching up with me. But yeah, I think she’s in a better spot these days. The crisis with the vampires and the earthquake destroying the city I think really messed her up for a while.”

“That level of stress would be tough for anyone. Honestly, I’m pretty much dead after this weekend too. Might just try and get some rest before we land.”

Gar probably would have responded, but he was already passed out in his seat. A less tired Vic would’ve tried to prank him or otherwise mess with him, but he was barely more awake than Gar right now and decided to let the sweet embrace of sleep grip him too.

⚙️⚙️⚙️⚙️⚙️

Vic was in the middle of a sweet dream where he was celebrating with his friends and family after graduating college. They rented out the backroom to one of his favorite restaurants and filled the tables with his favorite foods…. Then he felt his stomach drop. No, everything dropped. He woke up in a start and realized that it wasn’t just a dream - the plane was descending rapidly. Somehow, Gar was still sleeping peacefully in the cushy beige seat across the aisle. Vic ran over and shook him awake.

Gar looked pretty relaxed and confused why Vic woke him up, until he looked out the window and saw the ground getting closer and closer to them. The sun was just starting to peak over the horizon, revealing snow capped mountains as far as they could see in every direction. The mountains were growing larger as they got closer to the plane, but they still had plenty of elevation before there would be a collision.

Vic ran into the cockpit, slamming the door open but took a step back in surprise when he saw that the pilot was completely gone. The controls to the plane had been smashed, rendering the plane completely inoperable. Gar ran up just behind Vic and Vic turned to him and said, “Who’s the pilot for your jet? Why would they’ve done this???”

Gar shook his head. “I’m rich but I’m not private jet rich! The studio rented this for the week. I don’t know anything more about this than you!”

“Okay, okay, deep breaths… We can do this. The plane’s going down but… We’ll be fine. Just need to stay calm.”

Gar took some deep breaths, trying to relax. It could’ve been going better.

Vic kept talking, one part to try and calm Gar down, but another to keep himself calm.

“Let’s get back to our seats. This plane is going down and unless you know where a parachute is, we’re going to have to go down with it.”

“I…” Gar stopped to think. “I think jets like these usually have parachutes and other emergency things in one of the storage closets.”

“Great! I’ll check the back, you stay here and look.”

Vic sprinted to the back of the plane, trying to ignore the rapidly approaching mountains below. He didn’t want to try and estimate how long they had until impact.

He ripped open the small sliding door and started tearing through the boxes and bags within. There were lots of snacks, drinks, napkins… but no parachutes or anything immediately useful.

“Any luck?”

“No… just some water rescue stuff in here… oh! Here’s one!”

Vic ran over and grabbed the parachute and put it on.

“Okay, I’m not an expert in plane crashes but I can’t imagine jumping out will be worse than staying in. Are you ready?”

In response, Gar transformed into a small song bird and perched on Vic’s shoulder.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

Vic took a deep breath and turned the emergency handle on the door. He expected it to be harder than it was, and after turning it around 30 degrees, it flew off the hinges and into the mountains below.

“Here we go…”

Vic stepped out of the airplane and into free fall with Gar flying just above him. He wished that he had any idea of how to actually use a parachute or where to land or what to do… But he knew he’d just have to wing it. It couldn’t be that hard, right? After all, these things were designed to be used in an emergency…

For a brief moment during his free fall, Vic was at peace. The adrenaline had full taken over his system and he was just able to roll with what was going on. He took his moment to stop and appreciate the view. Not many people could say they were able to sky dive into remote mountains and appreciated the sereneness of the undisturbed snow fields.

Then his mind caught back up to him and he remembered he was falling.

He looked at the backpack strapped to his chest and pulled the first thing that seemed like it would deploy the parachute. He hoped that Gar would be able to do something to save him if the parachute didn’t go off or he got swept by the wind or any number of horrible things that could happen to him in the seconds between the chute deploying. Finally, it was out and he felt it rapidly catch the air, sending him jerking backwards but slowing his descent.

Now that things were actually probably going to be okay in the immediate future, he returned to that peaceful feeling, but for more than just a moment this time. Things were still… bad, to put it mildly, but the immediate threat was gone. Now he could at least start to make a plan. For now, he tried to do anything to get his bearings. The sun was still very low in the sky, so he could tell which way was east. The plane had been heading north west to get to Markovia and was more or less still heading in that direction.

He cautiously pulled on the handles that came out of the chute and quickly realized that they were for steering it. With some basic control of his descent, he managed to steer himself onto some relatively flat ground that was the bottom of a small basin. The landing would’ve seriously injured a normal person due to his general lack of training or experience, but his mechanical legs were able to take the brunt of the impact without too much issue as he and the parachute rolled together into a ball on the snowy ground.

Vic grabbed at the cloth and strings that entangled him, trying to separate himself from it. With a hand from Gar, who had reverted to his human form, he managed to do so after a couple minutes.

Finally free from the parachute and with the sun having risen a little more, Vic finally was able to get a look at just what they had crashed themselves into. Unfortunately, it was just more of the same. Their specific part of the mountain range was a relatively flat part at least but it was as desolate as anywhere else, with no signs of human life or any life across the white wasteland. The only interruption he could see was a bit of smoke coming from the northwest where he assumed the plane had finally crashed.

“How are you doing, Vic? Your landing seemed pretty rough.”

“I’m fine. One perk of having metal legs, they’re much more durable.”

“Good to hear. I’m going to go fly up and see if we’re going to be able to get anything from the plane. Stay here and recover for a sec, okay?”

Vic nodded. A break would do him good.

Shifting into a snowy owl, Gar flew up a couple hundred feet to survey the area. It was unfortunately exactly as bleak as Vic saw from the ground. No trees, animals or anything but rock to break up the white monotone mountaintops they were stranded on. Except, of course, from their plane.

The plane was just over the next hill, maybe five miles away. It crashed head first directly into the side of a hill that led into a massive mountain. It seemed like it was in decent shape, beyond the large gash on the left side and the cockpit being all but completely crumpled in. Satisfied, Gar landed on the ground right next to Vic.

“Looks like the plane is in okay shape. Not flying it anywhere, but much better than nothing.”

“Whelp, guess that’s where we’re headed. Maybe it’s got a working radio or at the bare minimum, it’s got some food and water. Hopefully it’s enough.”

“It’s got to be. But we can worry about that when we get there. For now, I’ll race you there. Gotta keep our motivation up, y’know?”

Gar took off running towards the top of the hill and Vic broke into a jog after him. What else was he going to do? He couldn’t just let him win.

⚙️⚙️⚙️⚙️⚙️

Around an hour later.

“... And five bags of peanuts. Seems like we’ve actually got an okay amount of supplies here. How many people did they think were on this flight? This much food could feed us comfortably for a week or so.”

Gar shrugged. “Maybe they just thought we’d be hungry.”

“It was an overnight flight that left at like midnight. That would’ve been one hell of a midnight snack.”

The two of them were digging through the wreckage of the plane, trying to find what was left of their luggage and whatever else would be useful in the plane. Vic started with the food while Gar was fiddling with the radio.

“Could do worse than binging airplane food. I’ve had worse nights, that’s for sure. But unfortunately, radio’s still dead. I don’t think whatever this is supposed to work off from survived the crash. We’re on our own out here.”

Vic sighed. He wasn’t surprised, but he had briefly hoped that this could have been a way out.

“Yeah, I guess that airplane food’s going to be all we get for the next… Who knows how long though. But once the plane doesn’t land in Markovburg, I’m sure they’ll start sending out teams to look for us. So long as we stay here and I dunno, keep ourselves visible, we shouldn’t be stuck here too long.”

“I’m more worried about getting bored out here. The more we can keep our minds off the pressure… the better.”

“I’m sure we’ll be fine. I’ve survived plenty of winters unlike you weak warm weather people in California.”

“Hey, I’ve seen plenty of snow. I ski, you know.”

Before Vic could retort, a chill passed over the plane and the sky turned dark, like an eclipse had begun above them. The calm mountain air picked up into a strong breeze, sending a flurry of snow into the cabin of the plane.

Vic and Gar immediately focused up. They had no idea what was happening but whatever it was it couldn’t be good. Just below the wind, they could hear something sliding across the snow, getting gradually closer.

Vic nodded towards the open door to the jet. Whatever was coming, they’d rather face outside and have the option to retreat than risk getting trapped in a disadvantageous indoor fight.

The temperature dropped until they could see their breath. It continued to drop rapidly until even as full of adrenaline as they were, they began to feel the cold. Once the creatures came into sight, the first thing that their brain could process was that they weren’t any creature that had any right to be here, whether that was this mountain range or Earth.

The creatures were made of writhing silver and black, tendrils, formed into a wide variety of mockeries of other animals. Some were shaped like birds, other large cat-like creatures and even more who were simply together in a formless masses that they couldn’t begin to make sense of. Each of the masses and animal pastiches had a handful of faintly glowing blue spots on them where they seemed to be made of solid material instead of the tendrils. Vic couldn’t see any end to the horde of creatures through the gusting snow but the amount he did see was plenty menacing.

Beast Boy shifted into a massive green gorilla and stood his ground cautiously while Cyborg changed both of his arms to force cannons. Neither of them knew if their attacks would be effective, but they both had to try.

Two of the cat-like creatures were on them first. Once they were within around 30 yards of the plane, they broke into a sprint and one leapt at Cyborg and Beast Boy. He shot at the one that went after him, but as soon as the projectile would have hit it, the mass of tendrils just moved itself out of the way, making a hole in its chest for the shot to travel through.

Beast Boy was having no better luck. He collided his massive fist directly into the creature, but instead of dodging it, it stuck itself to his fist like glue. Gar tried to pull them off with his other hand, but that one only got stuck too. He tried changing his size to shake the creature, but whether he was a fly or as large as a whale, it managed to keep its hold on him, stretching and spreading itself out to adapt to his size.

Meanwhile, Cyborg’s foe had landed on top of him, pinning him to the ground. It spread itself out on his chest and the ground and stopped him from moving as if it weighed as much as a car. More of the shadowy creatures approached, covering all of the ground and the plane with their bodies. Vic and Gar were engulfed by them, but he didn’t feel panicked. He felt an unnatural indifference, calm even.

Vic tried to shake it off, remembering his time as a vampire. It was a similar sensation to that, in a way. His organic mind was telling him to relax, surrender and accept his peace. But his cybernetic mind fought on, try desperately to shake off the tendrils influence. But it was no use: the creatures had adhered him to the ground so solidly that he wasn’t sure if his chest could even move to speak or breathe. Then, even his mechanical brain started to have issues. The creature seemed to be interested in his power core, the tendrils poking and prodding at it and the core was reacting to it. Vic started to feel drained, like they were leeching the energy out of it.Then, it wrapped itself around the core and began to try and remove it from his chest. He tried to resist and stop it from doing so, but his mind and body had grown too weak.

“By the light of Ra, I command you: return to the depths from whence you came!”

Cyborg felt sunlight on his face and had never been so grateful to do so. The creatures recoiled at the light and began a full retreat. After a few moments, they were gone and weather returned to normal. Vic and Gar lay on the ground, exhausted and deeply confused by what just happened.

“That makes two, Victor. But I am not one for keeping score. No, what concerns me is the magical disturbance I felt. There is a great, old power at play here. We must discover its source and seal it away before it can cause harm to this plane.”

Dr. Fate stood in front of the two heroes and offered out a hand to each of them to help them up.

“Now then, let us begin.”


<<| <| >

1 Comment
2024/06/15
21:00 UTC

10

DCFU Pride Special 2024 - Happy Pride Month! 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️

Enjoy these stories and thanks for reading!

Batman

(by u/FrostFireFive)

Catwoman prowled in the darkness of a cold Gotham night. The city had always been the place she went to clear her head. Especially with recent events. Bruce had taken on the President of the United States and had won. Something that had added to his ego. She loved that man, but even she knew he needed to be reminded he was only a man. As she swung into the night. She could hear something faint, but familiar, a scream.

“AHHHHH leave us alone!” Ellie yelled out as her and her date saw the gun of one of the many muggers that had made Gotham their home.

“Oh come on, princess, I know what you do, I know what you are,” The mugger said as he held his rusted revolver out. “So give me all your cash and I won’t splatter your brains out in front of your date.”

“Do what he says El,” her date, Jane, responded.

“No, I’m not afraid of you. I can’t be afraid of you,” Ellie responded. “You’re just another bully who wants to tear us down. So what are you going to do? Shoot me?”

“Yeah, I am,” the mugger said as the two could hear the clicking of the trigger. Ellie pushed her date behind her, ready for the consequences of her actions, to take the hurt for her partner. Luckily, an angel with a sharp whip would answer her quiet prayer.

Catwoman’s whip tied around the gun and pulled it to the ground. She leapt into the air and her kick came down hard. It was a peace of cake for her, as she looked towards the two she had saved. Unlike Bruce, she was always someone who talked after a save. She realized that people were stunned by the fact Gotham had superheroes and wanted to remind people they were human too.

But as she turned to the two women she had saved, she was reminded of herself, of Andrea and for the first time in a long time was speechless.

“Holy shit that was amazing!” Ellie yelled out.

“Ellie you shouldn’t swear in front of the urban legend,” Jane responded.

“But it’s so fucking cool!” Ellie beamed.

Selina thought back to her date nights with Andi and Bruce. Different people really. While Andi wanted to go and do things quietly, Bruce never was afraid of taking a former club owner of…ill repute out on the town. She never had to hide who she was with him, and that made the difference. Catwoman regained her composure before looking at the two.

“Just remember to avoid the alleys tonight ladies,” Catwoman explained. “Never know who you’ll find.” And with that she leapt into the air and back into the night. It was pithy comment, not her finest, but it was on warm Gotham nights like these they made her remember Andi and Bruce, and the lives they could have and had led. It may have been taken from her, but she was going to make sure those who found love would be protected. It was the least she could do.

The Flash

(by u/brooky12)

“Do you ever think we should be making better use of our position, X?”

Xavier Mendez leaned back in his chair, quietly chewing as he thought. “There’s a part of me that likes being in the background, honestly, C. The quiet support for the more flashier younger folk as they take center stage to demand change and push the world forward in ways we never could.”

Charles Mendez nodded. They had their time in the spotlight, walking at the front of the protest lines and writing the opinion pieces. Back then, things were different, more difficult. Xavier had lost a few jobs during that time, and even during his time in the government it was hard to shake the specter of feeling like a number in a morality quota.

“I just wonder sometimes. Just sitting quietly in a house, eating asparagus, but the fight isn’t over. More people are fighting it nowadays, for sure, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s not _us_ fighting it anymore. I know there’s reasons, but…”

“I get it. I don’t blame you. I went from being military, the part of the military that actually tries to protect vulnerable people, sitting in on meetings to bring up the civilians every time, to all of the sudden being support for the metahuamn stuff, to supporting a metahuman or three. Not on the front line anymore, not really.”

Charles smiled, but then frowned. “I feel bad. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. I know our generation did what they could and that the kids these days are doing amazing off of our work, but…”

“Idling feels bad. I get it. But there’s only so many fights to pick, and doing the Flash stuff feels like a good use of our time. And besides, if I’m honest, my legs hurt. Hard to do a sit-in when your body’s what it is.”

Harley & Ivy

(by u/ericthepilot2000)

Shores of the Sprang River

The Night Before the Gotham Pride Parade

“Visibility”

Somewhere around 3 am, a car pulled to a stop on the shoulder of the Expressway and three people got out. Dressed all in black and speaking in hushed tones, they went to the trunk and pulled out a large drum, one of them hefting it onto their shoulders as they snuck down the embankment to the river itself.

Steph Brown, dressed in her Spoiler costume, sighed, looking up from Mirko’s takeout and drawing her night vision goggles to her eyes. She watched them with curiosity as she contemplated her angle of attack. Dick would preach caution, and Babs would tell her to get all the information she could. Jason would come out swinging.

It didn’t surprise her. In a few hours, the Pride celebration would begin in Robinson Park, and any time there was a chance to celebrate something in Gotham, there was bound to be someone looking to ruin it. It was the bitter truth of the city, for every positive action, three negative ones were looking to counter it.

And these three had earned her ire. She grabbed her assortment of batarangs and prepared to launch them. “Sorry Dick, sorry Babs,” she muttered. But Jason had won the day. The batarangs flew true as she lept from her hiding place.

Whatever was in the drum had sprung loose, soaking the woman carrying it. She’d thought they looked familiar, but the telltale accent screaming, “What the hell, it’s all ova’ me,” confirmed it.

A quick illumination of the flashlight revealed Harley Quinn soaked in some rank-smelling liquid. Zatanna Zararra and Pam Isley stood nearby.

“I thought you two were together,” Spoiler asked, drawing the light from Harley’s face to Ivy’s. “Don’t you supervillains have something better to do than ruin Pride?”

“One, yes we are,” Harley affirmed, reaching over to squeeze a visibly grimacing Pam Isley, trying to edge away from her girlfriend and whatever she was soaked in. “And two, we ain’t supavillains no more. You know that.”

“I know I’m not,” Zatanna affirmed.

Ivy just shrugged, “If the shoe fits.”

“Then what’s that?,” Steph asked, pointing to the drum of liquid with the batarang stuck in it.

“It’s not gonna ruin Pride, it’s gonna enhance it,” Harley said proudly. “You tell her, Red, you understand it. It’s super cool though.”

“It contains an assortment of algae, of my own design…”

“Arranged in all tha’ colors of the rainbow,” Harley added proudly.

“Yes. It will, essentially turn the Sprang River into a rainbow, once the sun hits it and the dormant algae bloom. Plus I added some spores of THC, you know… for good vibes.”

“Best Pride eva!” Harley added, with jazz hands.

Steph looked down at the container and then back at the women. “Willn’t the water just… spread it all around, turn it into a brown mess?” she asked, looking to the still polluted river. “Or... browner, if that’s possible.”

Zatanna smiled. “That’s where I come in. Wobniar!” she shouted. The stains on Harley’s shirt slowly shifted, conforming to the standard ROY G BIV.
“It'll break down in 24 hours, and take some of this God awful pollution along with it,” she said, bending down to caress some of the plants barely thriving by the shoreline. “It really is win win.”

“Why didn’t you guys just…”

“Make it all official like?,” Harley asked, “have you seen the amount a’ paperwork required. We’d be here ‘til next Pride. And that’s assumin’ they’d even let us.”

“Easier to ask forgiveness,” Zatanna explained.

“Or not take ‘no’ for an answer. Pride is bigger than any local government body,” Ivy countered. “Who are they to say no?”

“Well, I mean, that is their job,” Zatanna said. “But you get the spirit.”

Spoiler just looked at the three of them, and the age-old question flowed through her head. What would Dick do? Babs? Jason? Then with a shrug, she helped the women tip the drum into the water, watching the color flow out and fill the river. It’s what Steph Brown would do.

◆🥦◆🎩◆🥦◆

Gotham Pride

Robinson Park

“The next morning”

Steph Brown walked around in her civilian guise, enjoying the Pride celebration. She had to laugh when she heard several members of the City Council jockeying for credit over the “rainbow river.”

She felt confident she made the right call.

New Titans

(by u/FrostFireFive)

“This is stupid,” Rex Mason said as he drifted towards the pride parade float. He had been in a bad mood since the new version of the Titans had formed. It wasn’t that they were bad people, they just weren’t his friends. And with Courtney still in a coma, Conner in the wind. And Donna grieving in her own way, it left Rex feeling lonelier than ever.

“Why? I thought it was nice the city wanted us to be part of Pride,” Starfire explained as she landed on the float.

“Yeah well, I’m not exactly in the loving mood lately. And I’m also you know. Straight,” Rex grumbled as he reconstituted back from his gaseous form. Ever since slimming down and looking more like himself, the hero struggled with stumbling. He wasn’t used to being so…dainty.

“Pride isn’t just about feeling good, Metamorpho,” Starfire explained. “It’s about community, of supporting those that want to live and love and all the other little emotions that come in between.”

“Easy for you to say, you’re still in the puppy dog phase,” Rex grumbled. “It’s just…it’s really hard for me to feel like I belong anywhere these days.”

“It’s that obvious with me and Kara?” Starfire smiled as she took her place on the float the city had constructed for them. Her costume was brilliant purple that contrasted against her orange skin, wrapped around her was the pansexual flag. Soon she lit one of her hands with a starbolt that shine brightly against the dark.

“I don't know much about you Meta…Rex. But I do know you’re a symbol to everyone that feels different in this city. Look out into the crowd for just one moment.

The elemental man looked for a minute to see people in crudely made shirts with his face or form on it from pictures, or someone showing how their bare chest was painted orange and purple.

“You matter to them because you inspire them to be ok with being different. It doesn’t matter that you’re straight. It matters that you’re here. Lighting the way for others and showing your support.”

“It’s never enough,” Rex mumbled as he began changing his limbs to entertain the crowd gathered around them.

“No, but it’s a start,” Starfire smiled as the float began to move, and the city saluted their heroes.

Wonder Woman

(by u/Predaplant)

Sable wasn’t upset about dying, not really. She had lived a decent life, and she had died for love, and that was that. She faced the Wonder with love, acceptance, and a hope that Diana would make things right.

It was difficult work, protecting the souls of the dead on their journey to the afterlife, but it was good work.

One thing she hadn’t expected was how Diana herself would become a part of many of their souls. As the souls passed through, their first point of reference for the Amazons that they met in the Wonder slowly became Sable’s partner.

At first, Sable laughed at the name and role Diana had found for herself. The Amazons didn’t need a symbol in the world of men; their role was separate, and all men could do was ruin everything they had fought for.

But then, she saw how positive of an impression that Diana had made on peoples’ lives. What she stood for, and how she had changed things for the better.

Her job may have been unnecessary, but it was still making a difference. Despite herself, Sable couldn’t help but feel a sad sense of pride.

She was sure she would have clashed with Diana about her choices, but she still wished that she was by her side, seeing her love become the person that she was always meant to be.

She knew that, at Diana’s death, they would have an eternity to discuss it together in the Wonder. But for now, Sable smiled whenever she heard of Wonder Woman, the Amazon princess who had changed the world, and she remembered the beautiful, powerful, and kind woman that she had spent countless days with on the shores of Themyscira.

0 Comments
2024/06/15
20:24 UTC

7

Bird & Bow #4 - Jailbird Rock

Bird & Bow #4 - Jailbird Rock

Black Canary's Beginning: Green Arrow’s Beginning

<< | < >

Book: Bird & Bow

Set: 97

Arc: Changed for Good

--->~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<---

Rosa Dillon was not what Dinah had expected. After her time in prison, it seemed like the young woman had definitely turned a new leaf, which was why the two women were out at a gaming bar playing Dungeons and Dragons.

It was the fourth week in a row that Dinah had tagged along, and she was starting to understand the rules and ideas behind the game. Rosa had invited her to actually play at the table, but Dinah was already having trouble keeping her current three lives separate and wasn’t keen to add a fourth - even if it was only make believe. So Dinah sat at a table by herself in the corner, playing a game of solitaire by herself while she kept one eye on the metahuman.

So far Constantine hadn’t lived up to his ominous threat to remove Rosa from the protection of Green Arrow and Black Canary, but the two heroes had also removed all other external surveillance. Only Dinah remained between Rosa and the Star City Slayer.

Things had been relatively quiet on that front since Rosa came out of prison, and both Ollie and Dinah assumed it was because Stanley Dover had his eyes set on Rosa and was trying to figure out the best time and place to go after the metahuman.

Her weekly outings to play DnD were one of her most vulnerable moments. Dinah was sure he’d strike soon. A loud cheer from Rosa’s table made Dinah’s eyes flick up assessingly - but it seemed like someone had just rolled really well and the table quickly returned to its usual hush as the leader reigned in the players excitement with the next story hook.

A lithe body pulled into the seat opposite her, but Dinah didn't lift her eyes to acknowledge his presence. She knew he'd come in twenty minutes ago, and had slowly made his way around the space, talking and flirting until he came to her.

“Fancy a game of blackjack?” Ollie's voice was somehow different than both his Green Arrow and regular voice that she was used to, causing her eyes to snap up.

Sitting before her was Oliver Queen, notorious playboy and multimillionaire. She tried to reign in her glare. They hadn't discussed this. Hadn't planned for their public persona to meet like this, or at all.

Ollie tapped her clenched fist gently. Eyes softening. “Trust me.”

Two little words, with her whole world resting between them. Even though the world knew Black Canary was out and about doing her thing, having Dinah Lance be a public figure was not an idea she was particularly fond of.

Closing her eyes for a moment, Dinah nodded, earning a bright, dimpled smile from Ollie.

“Now about that game of Blackjack.”

--->~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<---

Three weeks later Ollie continued to push how much she trusted him. He had dropped by the gym where she trained and worked sometimes, feigning a need for lessons to protect himself.

At least he'd been smart enough to let her pin him. Again, and again, and again. Dinah smirked just thinking about it, pretty sure that Ollie had been trying at least a little bit in that last match.

But so far, no matter the fact that he was Oliver damned Queen, no news about their meetings had leaked to the presses. Despite his notoriety, it seemed none of the gossip journalists were interested in discovering more about the girl from Seattle who seemed to have captured the playboys attention.

Perhaps they were just waiting to see if it would last. Much like Dinah was. After every visit she was sure he had lost interest, that their professional relationship was going to fracture because Ollie decided he didn't want to play any more.

And she was right in one regard, Ollie was no longer interested in playing. He was determined to make the relationship work in the long run, which meant their public and their alternate identities had to start coming together naturally.

They continued to keep surveillance on Rosa, but even they were beginning to admit that it looked like Stanley Dover, The Star City Slayer was no longer interested in her.

There had been two other killings in their time watching Rosa, and they had debated long into the night whether it was worthwhile maintaining their watch. They had decided the extra killings were a means to get them away from Rosa. At least that was what they were secretly hoping.

--->~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<---

Another week. Ollie knew he had to ask her out properly. He knew attention was beginning to pique, and the fact that he had paid off reporters to stay quiet until now had stirred even greater attention.

He had never protected any of his previous……friends. But he knew how Dinah felt about her privacy and was going to extremes to try to keep his notoriety from affecting her life before she was ready.

So, for the first time, Oliver Queen had a plan to woo a girl. It was a new experience for him, but one that he was enjoying thoroughly. Knowing what they could be together, knowing the life they could lead kept him pushing every day towards that goal.

The plan was simple. He would just……ask. He would talk about the future he saw for them - in the least intimidating and creepy way possible - to prove that he wasn’t just in this for a fling, that he wouldn’t put their working relationship at risk for anything but a future with her.

That was the plan until the two of them had received a mysterious text from an unknown number.

The Star City Slayer has been dealt with. - C

They had stared at the text for what felt like hours before Dinah turned on the TV in Ollie’s apartment. Stanley Dover’s death was all over the news. A suspected heart attack, the man was being touted as a hero for his work in the foster care system. Noone guessed who he really was. Noone made any comments about the fact that 2 of his foster care kids had been targeted by the Star City Slayer. No-one made the connection.

Except for them.

Neither of them really knew what to do from there. Ollie made a quick call to Rosa, to see if she had seen the news. The young woman was a mix of relieved and sad. He had been a father figure to her after all, and despite what the two heroes had claimed, there wasn’t exactly substantial proof that he had been wanting to harm her - or anyone else for that matter.

The heroes left the woman to her grief.

Ollie wasn’t sure where his glass of whiskey had come from, or when he and Dinah had settled onto his couch. The TV had long been turned off.

“Would you ever want to go public?” Dinah asked quietly, her own glass of liquor swirling as she stared at its contents. He was surprised she was drinking, but if any occasion called for it, it was this one.

“I don’t know.” Ollie mused after a long moment. “I don’t need the extra recognition. Don’t feel like anyone knowing it’s me really helps anyone.” He shrugged. “Plus there’s the company and my mom to think about. The good guys knowing is one thing, but everyone else...” He shrugged again, letting his voice fall off.

Dinah nodded slowly, her eyebrows furrowing as she thought. “I think I’d like at least one version of myself to be able to do more than I am right now.” She said quietly. “Black Canary is great, don’t get me wrong, but, how many people can I really help? Dinah Lance is just a no named nobody who won’t even get a mention in the obituaries unlike some of us.” She tipped her glass towards him as she spoke.

Ollie considered for a long moment.

“I don’t think Dinah Lance is a nobody.”

Dinah looked at him quizzically.

“She’s one of the most important people in my life at the moment.” Ollie continued, his voice quiet. “And if she’d let me, I'd like to take her on a proper date.”

There. It was done. Ollie felt the sweat drip down his brow as he waited. Time stretched and bent as his heart raced. Had he ruined everything?

“Where?”

One word and all the air he had been holding in rushed out in a quiet breath.

“Restaurant Christine. The one on 56th.”

Dinah inclined her head thoughtfully, her blue eyes locking his green ones for a long moment. Searching for answers. He only hoped he was giving the right ones.

She bit her lip. “Papparazzi?”

He cringed slightly. But he’d always known the public aspect of his persona would be a problem they needed to navigate.

“They will come unless I pay them an exorbitant amount of money.”

She nodded, taking an absent-minded sip from her glass. “Ok.”

“Ok?”

She nodded, once, resolutely. “Ok.”

--->~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<---

Dinah stared at the handwritten note from her mailbox.

She hadn’t been home in a few days, spending most of her time with Rosa or Ollie. But now that the case had been laid to rest….Well, it was time to return to some semblance of normal.

She had pulled what felt like a month's worth of junk mail from her letterbox, sorting them into the appropriate piles of bills, junk, and other. Nothing usually went into the other pile unless it was her birthday and her dad had sent her a letter.

People just didn't really write letters any more.

But someone had. Fine calligraphy scrawled over the page elegantly, whoever wrote the letter obviously practiced in the art. The paper smelled faintly of jasmine, but that really did not provide as much information as the wax seal pressed into the back. A crest of twelve swirling ribbons twisting and twining into the shape of a tree.

Dinah repressed the urge to open the letter immediately. Instead, she opted to inspect the paper with a magnifying glass, cutting a tiny sample to test for traces of illicit or dangerous substances. As she swirled the tube with the sample inside, waiting to see if it turned pink, blue or green, Dinah continued to stare at the crest.

After another minute, the tube stayed clear. That did not necessarily mean the letter was safe, but the only way to determine that now was through opening it. She pondered for another moment before sending Ollie a quick text. If anything went wrong he’d be here in less than 5 minutes. Most things took longer than that to kill a healthy adult.

Passing a sharp nail through the crest, Dinah popped open the letter. Breathing a shallow breath of relief when nothing popped out at her. Her eyes scanned the calligraphy, barely noticing when Ollie opened her door and came to stand at her shoulder.

“I got one too.” He mumbled. She nodded, having expected as much.

The Twelve in Silk have seen all you can do. We have watched from the shadows as you beat our sister. No longer will we sit idly by. Be waiting for our next calling card Ms Lance.

2 Comments
2024/06/01
21:58 UTC

4

The Flash #97 - Close Encounters of the Cold Kind

##The Flash #96 - Close Encounters of the Cold Kind

<< | < | > Coming July 1st

Author: brooky12

Book: Flash

Arc: ?

Set: 96


 

Abra and Lisa walked through the door, already glancing at corners and posters on the wall, noting down the potential spots for hidden cameras. Abra was wearing a slick suit and tie, as if he had just walked out the door from some generic office C-suite job. Lisa was in a much more suble outfit, a casual dress and wool pullover, large purse that seemed inconspicuous if you didn’t know a pair of ice skates were hiding in it.

 

“You go on, I’m just going to sit down,” Lisa sighed, waving Abra forward as she moved towards a nearby couch. None of the people in line for the bank teller minded the two, other than the younger woman at the end of the line who seemed motivated to pay attention to anything but the fact that she was going to be standing for the next ten or twenty minutes.

 

Abra nodded, walking confidently up to one of the bank’s side rooms. The man inside looked up confused for a moment, hiding a grimace with a large smile. “Welcome to Milwa Key Bank, come on in!”

 

All it took was a suit and tie for the average service employee to bend over backwards to try and accommodate you, Abra thought. His average performance outfit received scorn and disgust outside of the context of his shows, but when he looked rich, all of the sudden he didn’t even need an appointment.

 

“Hello! My wife and I recently moved here, and we’d like to begin the process of rehoming our assets. Figured we’d start at least with a simple account or three to keep things centralized here in Milwa Key and give us access to, you know, the financial support staff here to get our bigger stuff moved over.”

 

Was this how rich people talked? He wasn’t sure.

 

“Well certainly, we’re happy to have you here. What is your name? You need multiple accounts, for you and your wife?”

 

Abra smiled. “Well, my name is Ibrim Nassau, and my wife’s name is Carol Bennd. We’d like to open personal accounts for each of us, as well as a shared account for our personal corporation that we handle shared expenses through, C.B.I.N. Inc.”

 

“Certainly. Unfortunately, I can’t help you with the shared account if you wish it to be connected to a company—that would require an appointment with a corporate representative who isn’t in today. I also can’t open an account for your wife without her here to consent and sign the paperwork.”

 

Abra nodded, turning back to the open door. “Carol, they’ll need you for when they make your account.”

 

Lisa looked up, halfway finished putting on her second ice skate. “Just do yours first, I’m in the middle of something here!”

 

Abra turned back to the employee. “Mine first, she’ll be in shortly. Women,” he joked, watching an air of unease settle on the employee between his comment and watching Lisa putting on ice skates. He didn’t go for any sort of alarm system yet, though.

 

“Understood. Do you have a local ID to Milwaukee County yet, or are you still out-of-county or out-of-state?”

 

“Actually, if you’d believe it, funnily enough, I’m, out of time!”

 

The joke barely landed as the bank employee stood up in horror, staring out the door as he watched Lisa icing off the entry to the bank. Before he could even shout anything or react, Abra blew across his open palm in the man’s direction, watching him grow drowsy then fall to the floor asleep in a matter of seconds.

 

The alarms went off, but that was fine. The quiet part was over and pretending to be upright citizens was tiring, anyways.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

“Iced over bank in Milwaukee,” Barry sighed, placing down his phone and looking up to Jay.

 

Jay, for his part, didn’t seem quite as exhausted. “Cap. Cold?”

 

“I sent a message to the prison, they’ll get back to me, but you’d think they’d give us a heads up if he went missing already. Bit of travel to get to Wisconsin if he broke out today.”

 

Jay stood up, switching into his outfit. “His stuff was always tech, possible someone figured out his nonsense and recreated it?”

 

Barry joined him, and the two ran out the door. “Let us know if the prison gets back to us, please,” Jay called over the communication device, and a confirmation from Nora Allen was their final comment from the compound before they arrived on the scene.

 

For a late May afternoon, with the temperature somewhere in the 90s, the vision of a fully frozen over bank building was almost an appealing sight. The local officer, on their arrival, jogged over.

 

“Good to see you, Flashes! Alarms started going off about an hour ago, but due to a technical hiccup in our system we didn’t find out until about a half hour ago. We sent in our report on arrival. All entrances are iced over, we’ve got a hostage negotiator on their way but we don’t know how many folks are trapped inside.”

 

“Do you know who might’ve done this?”

 

“Nope. No ice metahuman records in the region.”

 

“Gotcha, thank you. You mind if we try to do something, or would you like us to wait to see what happens?”

 

“By all means, Flash, y’all are the experts here. Policy is to let proven folks like you ahead, even after whatever happened during the winter. But I’m sure you don’t wanna hear policy ramblings.”

 

Barry took a deep breath. He didn’t want to hear policy ramblings, especially after the Flashpoint time rewriting, for sure. “Thanks, Chief.”

 

The two approached the iced over building, Jay running a finger across the ice. “Cold,” which confirmed at least that it wasn’t illusionary or a trick of the eye somewhat. What it also meant was that it could be shattered.

 

The two walked up to the front door, each placing their hands up to the ice. The vibration of their fingers and palm started small, testing the density and thickness of the ice first. Then the vibrations grew in intensity, melting the ice directly on it and nearby but also introducing faults throughout the structure. This would probably break the doors as well, but there were resources to pay for damages.

 

The heat melted more ice than the vibrations chipped any off, until about thirty seconds in. Some inflection point had passed, and large cracks showed up all throughout the ice, before a large chunk shattered in front of them. Not large enough to walk comfortably through, but enough to take advantage of the surprise to crawl through and get inside.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Ugh. Whatever that crash upstairs was, it wasn’t good tidings.

 

Lisa glanced at Abra, both grimacing as they tried, wordlessly, to figure out who was going to be the one heading upstairs. They were both in the bank’s vault, tossing bundles of cash through an open portal. They hadn’t even bothered to secure or watch the hostages, feeling confident that most average folks would rather sit still than risk being frozen into a popsicle or magic’d into nonexistence.

 

“Let me go up and see what that’s about, you keep getting money,” Abra offered, heading towards the staircase. Lisa was satisfied with that, a magician probably could defend himself better than her ice skates could. Abra jogged up the stairs, hearing the sounds of many sets of footprints. Hostages escaping or police force coming in. Probably both.

 

Instead of rushing in head first, Abra sprinkled a bit of dust on himself, making himself nearly invisible to the naked eye. He hugged the wall as he left the stairwell, eyes focused first on where the hostages were told to stay – all gone. The two Flashes in the main entryway were his next focus. He crushed a small marble in his pocket, sending a warning to Lisa downstairs – now was the time for her to leave.

 

Time to leave their mark. The two of them didn’t seem to see or hear him as he moved out of their stairwell, pulling out a small cylinder of herbs and powder. He snapped it in two, throwing each half at the two Flashes. As soon as it came out of his invisible cloak, the two reacted fast enough to get out of the way, but it served its purpose.

 

The tubes began their effect, turning into a condensed area of choking gas. The Flashes were no longer in there, but it was enough for them to focus on as he moved onto his next step. He rubbed a bit of lotion on his wrists, using the magic to then float up in the air. Flashes were fast, but they were vertically challenged, so long as he stayed out of arm’s reach in the air there wasn’t much they could do.

 

The Flashes investigated the gas, taking a sample seemingly as the one with the metal hat charged off towards the vault. When he came back empty-handed, Abra felt confident that Lisa had dipped. He took out two small spheres, tossing them at nearby walls. They exploded on impact, spelling out their requested calling card—CBIN—in a material that would slowly shift colors while also being difficult to remove.

 

Abra wanted to mess with the Flashes more, but getting caught right now was going to be terrible. One of them was already doing a touch test on every inch of the building he could reach, so the longer he waited the more he risked one of them doing some superspeed nonsense to find him. This wasn’t even supposed to be an actual interaction, he had been running a script for generic SWAT teams. It was time to go.

 

A small wand apparated in his hand, which he circled around himself. A quick teleport back to home base ensured his safety, though the rush of adrenaline still kept him on edge.

 

“What happened, you’re back quick,” Lisa asked, not even finished organizing the bags of money they had lifted.

 

“Flashes showed up,” Abra groaned, taking a deep breath. “Not convinced we were set up, they didn’t seem to be expecting me.”

 

“Guess we’ll see what the Curator says, if anything. Bad bait if they couldn’t even figure out your gimmicks after all of this.”

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Jay sighed, shaking his head. “Why ice, though? Really feels targeted in a way, who is going to freeze over a building and then just ignore the hostages other than Snart?”

 

Wally nodded. “Just not dismissing possibilities. Do we know for sure that was him? Do we know for sure that the magician or whatever the guy you faced was acting alone?”

 

“Nobody else in the building. I suppose they could’ve escaped alongside the hostages, but surely the hostages wouldn’t just let their captor slip out with them.”

 

Wally’s eyes narrowed. “It’s happened before, no?”

 

“In movies, maybe,” Jay chuckled. “We shouldn’t discount the possibility, I guess. Just seems so odd to me that the building freezes over, but then whatever we actually faced inside was like, gas canisters and graffiti bombs. Pretty sure there’s more, given that we never actually saw where the things were coming from, but hard to pinpoint what or how.”

 

“CBIN, right?”

 

“Not even a shell company. We’re trying to track down what it could be connected to, but anything associated with CBIN seems to be entirely disconnected. And no hostage remembers anything. Even the guy who was supposedly talking to him claims to have a blank spot on what the guy was saying or what he looked like.”

 

Elsewhere in the country, a man and a woman sat quietly. The man lifted each stack of bills telekinetically, magically detaching the dye that had stained each banknote. It wasn’t a particularly quick process, but it was calming. At least Abra was able to do it stack by stack, which made the process faster.

 

The woman sat at a computer, typing out a letter. They were growing more suspicious of the Curator, given that The Flash had shown up. Their understanding was that the Flash Museum, which the Curator was supposedly a part of, was not on good talking terms with The Flash folk themselves.

 

And yet, two of them had shown up. That wasn’t a smoking gun, The Flash could show up literally anywhere they wanted at presumably seconds’ notice, but for them to show up after this had been the Curator’s request hit for authenticity? They weren’t going to cut off contact with the Curator, not just yet, but they both were more suspicious than they had been. They hadn’t even mentioned the Flash appearance yet to Anthony, who likely would’ve reached poorly. He didn’t remember hating The Flash during the time change nonsense but had been willing to learn. The two of them felt better holding on to the information for now, anything suspicious might’ve caused him to careen into theorist worries and get cold feet.

 

They sat quietly. The next step, no matter what the Curator responded with, was to find more allies. The Curator was a potential sponsor, which was fine, but they needed more allies that could help in a fight. Lisa remembered more than just the three of them—four of them, but the kid didn’t want to join—during their time experience but finding them had been more difficult.

2 Comments
2024/06/01
18:30 UTC

3

DCFU Set #97 - Joyful June (Plus 8-Year Anniversary!)

We're eight years in today! Happy Birthday, DCFU!!

Stop and smell the roses. And then come over here and read some stories!

Also, stay tuned for a 🏳️‍🌈 Pride Month 🏳️‍⚧️ special coming later this month!


Apply to Be a Writer! - You could write your own book and be part of our team!


New Issues

Issues from May 15th


Just joining us? Fall behind? Check the welcome post here or the full set list here.

Too much to read?

  • Check out event list
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0 Comments
2024/06/01
18:29 UTC

4

Superman #97 - Tales of Metropolis

##Superman #97 - Tales of Metropolis

<< | < | > Coming July 1st

Author: MajorParadox

Book: Superman

Arc: Heritage

Set: 97

###Rain

78 Reeve Rd, Metropolis


Rain poured down over the Kents’ new house. Inside, toys and clothes were littered all around. Clark was in the living room, rocking a crying Lara in his arms as Lois worked on Jon’s grilled cheese in the kitchen, the boy sitting at the table with a coloring book.

“Lois,” Clark called to his wife as he heard a cab pull up in front of the house. “They’re here.”

“What?” asked Lois, pushing down on the bread with a spatula. “Who? Ma and Pa? I thought you were picking them up at the airport.”

“I was,” said Clark, taking in the mess their home had become. “Can I put you down, Lara?” he asked the baby, who took a quick break to stare but quickly returned to tears.

It would only take a few moments to gather all the clutter, but he didn’t want to be holding her during a burst like that. Instead, he made sure Jon was distracted and proceeded to blow a gust of wind, but it didn’t quite go as planned. While some toys moved into the corner, other items in the room fell onto the floor.

“Oops,” said Clark just before there was a knock at the front door.

“We have two kids,” Lois called. “They’ll understand.”

Clark walked Lara to the door and opened it.

“Oh my god,” said Martha as her face melted. “She’s even more adorable than her photos.”

“What happened here?” asked Jonathan, noticing the chaos in the living room.

“Our grandkids did,” Martha retorted, reaching her arms out.

Clark handed Lara to her grandmother and she looked up at her, finally quieting down.

“You are just the sweetest,” she said and the baby cracked a tiny smile.

“Come on in,” said Clark as Jon came running over with a grilled cheese in his hands.

“Gramma, Grandpa!” he yelled.

Jonathan kneeled down and lifted Jon into his arms, letting out a small groan. “Oh boy, Jon,” he said. “You’re getting so big!”

“Hi,” said Lois, walking in next, raising an eyebrow at the Clark once she saw his attempt at cleaning. “You’re here early. ”

“We were able to get on an earlier flight,” Jonathan explained. “And we didn’t want to bother you with picking us up. You’ve got enough on your plates.”

“Besides,” said Martha as she leaned over to Jon to kiss him on the forehead. “We couldn’t wait to get here.” She gave Lara a kiss next and the baby let out a squeaky coo.

“Well, we’re glad to see you,” said Lois, rubbing a hand behind her neck.

“You seem tired,” said Martha. “You two take a break and Jonathan and I will watch the kids.”

“Well, we need more diapers first,” said Lois, looking at Clark. “Do you want to rush over to–”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Jonathan, zipping up his jacket.

“Can I come too, Grampa?” asked Jon.

“Are you sure?” asked Lois, kneeling to his level. “It’s raining pretty hard out there.”

“He’ll be fine,” said Jonathan, tapping his umbrella. “This thing is heavy duty and the convenience store is just down the road.”

“I’m sure, Mommy,” said Jon, rushing to the door.

“Put on your coat,” Clark called, grabbing a small, blue rain jacket from the closet.

“Okay,” Jon agreed.

Jonathan and Jon left once he got all zipped up.

“Go rest and take a nap,” said Martha, realizing Lois wasn’t in the room anymore before she could add “you two.”

“Lois beat you to it,” said Clark. “She fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Let me just clean–”

Clark…” said Martha in a mom voice he hadn’t heard in years.

“Okay, Ma,” said Clark, kissing his mom on the forehead and following it up with a kiss for Lara. He moved toward the stairs but suddenly stopped.

“What is it?” asked Martha.

“Clark may need a break,” he said, “but Superman doesn’t always have the luxury.”


Reeve Rd.


Jonathan walked down the sidewalk with Jon close to his side, both shielded from the rain by the rather large, black umbrella.

“I don’t like rain,” said Jon. “I’m not allowed ta play in the yard.”

“Rain is a great thing,” Jonathan said. “It helps plants grow, it cools it down when it’s been too hot, and it can be peaceful to just listen to the sounds of it.”

“Oh,” he answered, not quite sure if he should be upset that his grandfather didn’t agree with him.

“You’re right, it’s not always the best,” Jonathan added. “Like if you had other plans. But, rain doesn’t last forever. And the world would be worse off if it never rained at all.”

Jon considered the words but wasn’t quite sure what to say. He looked up to see a man in red, blue, and yellow flying overhead. “Look!” Jon called. “It’s Superman!”

Jonathan smiled as his son disappeared into a blur. “Wow,” Jonathan exclaimed.

He must have slowed down to give Jon a glimpse. Jonathan wondered how often Clark did that for others.

“Did you ever seen’d him before?” asked Jon.

“Once or twice,” Jonathan answered with a smile.

“Wow,” Jon replied, copying the tone his grandfather used earlier.

The two got to the 6/21 store and Jonathan reached for the door as he looked up at the sky. “The rain’s letting up,” he said.

“I still don’t like rain,” said Jon as he went inside.


Ace O’ Clubs, Suicide Slum


“Hey, Jimbo,” said Bibbo Bibbowski as Jimmy Olsen sat down at the bar. “What can I getcha?”

“Just a beer,” said Jimmy. “Thanks.”

“Everythin’ okay?” asked Bibbo as he poured a glass.

“Girlfriend broke up with me,” Jimmy explained.

“Ruby?” asked Bibbo. “Sorry to hear that.” He flung a drink coaster down and placed the beer on top of it.

Jimmy nodded. “We’d been together for over a year,” he stated.

“That’s rough, pal,” said Bibbo, catching the TV with the corner of his eye. “Hey, look, it’s Supes!” he shouted, reaching for the remote to pump up the volume.

A woman’s voice could be heard describing the video feed. “–fighting what can only be described as a–”

“Did she say why?” Bibbo asked, returning to his conversation with Jimmy, but still watching the news break.

Jimmy sighed. “I wouldn’t say the ‘l’ word.”

“Laundry?” asked Bibbo.

Jimmy almost choked on his beer. “What?” he asked.

“Oh, love!” Bibbo realized. “What’s so hard about that? I love ya, Jimmy Olsen. See? Rolls off da tongue.”

“Excuse me,” a woman with long brown hair, sitting a few seats over said. “I couldn’t help but overhear. Are you the Jimmy Olsen? The one who gets all those great photos of Superman?”

“Yeah, that’s me,” said Jimmy, taking a sip of his beer.

“Can I buy you a drink or something?” the woman asked.

Jimmy sighed and pointed to his beer, oblivious to her smile that faded at his non-answer.

“Oh yeah,” said Bibbo, pointing to the TV. “How come you ain’t out there snapping Superman right now?”

“It’s my day off,” Jimmy answered. “Besides, I’m not in the mood to be around all that excitement right now.”

“Hey!” a man from a table shouted, pointing toward the TV. “That fight is only a couple blocks away.”

Bibbo turned the volume down and motioned for everyone to be quiet. Loud bangs could be heard in the distance. “Yer right!” he shouted. He jumped over the bar and ran to the windows, trying to see if he could catch a glimpse of anything.

A monstrous figure flew by and crashed into the asphalt, causing several cars to slam their brakes and turn around. Superman appeared in a burst of speed, dropping down next to the threat. The rain had picked up again and they were both soaking wet.

“Okay,” Bibbo announced. “You know da drill. Stay away from the door and da windows.”

A man by the door was typing away on his phone.

“Hey!” Bibbo shouted, nearly giving the man a heart attack. “Didn’tcha hear me?”

The man moved further inside the bar as Bibbo stayed at the window, watching the two outside trade blows.

###Familiar Faces


Near The Ace O’ Clubs


Mitch Anderson walked up the stairs to the subway, reaching the sidewalk. He didn’t even bother opening his umbrella, instead letting the rain cover him. The ground was shaking underground and he could finally see the source. Superman was fighting some kind of monster in the street.

“Good old Metropolis,” said Mitch, dashing to the nearest secluded alleyway. He pulled off his shirt to reveal his red and white uniform underneath. “Good thing I wore this today,” he said to himself, stripping the rest of his street clothes away and tossing them and his umbrella to the ground. He pulled his mask over his face and glided his way toward the battle.

It had been a long time since Mitch used his powers in public (Superman #66). His mom had moved the family away and forbade him from being a superhero anymore. That didn’t stop him, though. He still helped people when he could in secret.

But Mitch was eighteen now and moving back to Metropolis in the fall. It was time for the return of–

“Outburst!” yelled Superman as Mitch made it onto the scene. “It’s been a while.”

The monster lifted an empty car and tossed it toward the Man of Steel, but Mitch lifted his hands, slowing it down until it hovered next to him.

“Nice save,” Superman said before Mitch sent the car flying back toward the attacker.

Mitch swung his hands around in a swoop, bringing in several other parked cars, forming a blockade around the beast. The magnetic force was held tight, keeping him from escaping.

Superman flew over and dropped with an elbow, finally knocking the monster unconscious.

“Sorry for that, fella,” he told him. “You didn’t seem to mean any trouble. You were just frightened.”

“Nice shot, Superman!” yelled Bibbo from the door to the bar.

Mitch swerved the cars back to their parking spaces and Superman lifted the unconscious animal in his arms.

“Thanks for the assist,” he said. “I better get him somewhere safer before he wakes up.” With that, the hero flew off into the distance.

“Any time,” said Mitch to himself, wondering if Superman heard him anyway. He returned to the alley and picked up his clothes, dressing himself quickly. They were soaking wet, but what could he do? The rain wasn’t letting up either.

Mitch opened the door to the Ace O’ Clubs and Bibbo’s eyes lit up.

“Mitch Anderson?” he asked. “Is that’chu?”

“Hey, Bibbo,” Mitch answered, letting the door close behind him. “Long time no see.”

“How ya doin’?” Bibbo asked. “How’s yer mom?”

“Mom’s good,” said Mitch. “I’m in town for college orientation. Going to Met U in the fall.”

“That’s great!” said Bibbo, patting him on the shoulder. “You hungry?” he asked. “Anything you want is on da house!”

“Thanks, but I can’t stay long,” said Mitch. “I’m meeting a… friend.”

“Would they be of the romantic kind?” Bibbo asked.

Mitch couldn’t help but blush a bit. “My ex,” he explained. “Well, kinda. We never really put a label on it. I’m hoping we could pick up where we left off when I moved, but–”

“Dunno if she feels the same way?” Bibbo cut in.

“Yeah.”

Bibbo didn’t even take a moment to consider his answer. “Never really know unless ya ask her, right?”

“Hey, thanks for the beer,” said Jimmy, walking by toward the door.

“Take care, Jimbo,” said Bibbo with a nod. “And don’t be afraid of love.”

Jimmy chuckled before leaving the bar.


Subway

Soon


Jimmy watched the underground tunnels go by while lost in thought. Was Bibbo right? Was he afraid of love?

He couldn’t be. Jimmy loved Lucy Lane once upon a time. And then a kiss happened with Dana Dearden (Superman #53)– AKA Obsession– and things spiraled from there. It seemed like they got past it for a bit, but it didn’t last.

But if Jimmy wasn’t afraid of love, why was he so hesitant with Ruby? He never really stopped to think about why it was so difficult. He really did care for her, but… Maybe he just didn’t love her. Not like he loved Lucy.

“Jimmy?” a voice said above him. He looked up to find Lucy holding the handrail.

Did he just manifest her? Was he developing powers? Or maybe just dreaming?

“Hello?” Lucy asked, waving her hand as her lips did that almost mischievous half-smile of hers.

“Lucy!” Jimmy said louder than he expected, drawing stares from others. He stood up to meet her eyes. “What are you– um, how are… it’s good to see you.”

“You too,” Lucy answered. “I’m in town to meet my new niece.”

“Oh, that’s great,” said Jimmy. “She’s adorable. You’ll love her.”

Lucy’s perfume overpowered Jimmy’s senses. He missed the way she smelled.

“You know it’s funny,” said Lucy. “We started dating after Jon was born.”

Jimmy thought back. He had worn a bowtie that day in the hospital. It’d become a lucky charm since.

“That is funny,” Jimmy replied. He looked up at the next stop displayed on the readout. It was his stop. But he didn’t want to get off. He wanted to keep talking to Lucy forever.

Oh god, he realized something. He was certain he wasn’t afraid of love now. The problem was he still loved Lucy.

Jimmy’s heart pounded so hard, he thought it would pop right out of his chest. He panicked and pointed toward the doors as the subway car slowed. “This is my stop,” he said.

“Oh,” said Lucy.

“Yeah,” said Jimmy.

“Maybe we can–”

“How about–”

Lucy smiled and Jimmy let out a nervous giggle.

“I’ll be in town for a bit,” Lucy said. “Let's get together and catch up sometime.”

Jimmy nodded and stepped out of the subway car as soon as the doors opened. He turned around and watched Lucy wave through the window. As the car took off again, she went to sit down and pulled out her phone.

Why did he leave? It’s not like he had plans. Why did he feel so nervous? He knew Lucy. He loved her.

Maybe Bibbo was right after all. Maybe he was afraid of love.


LexCorp Tower


Lena Luthor’s phone began ringing as she walked toward the entrance to LexCorp Tower, her umbrella in hand. She pulled the phone out of her coat pocket to find a photo of her old roommate Lucy Lane on the lock screen.

“Hey, Lucy,” she said upon answering it.

“Lena,” Lucy said. “It’s been too long. I’m actually in town visiting my new niece, but I was wondering if you were free later this week to catch up.”

“That would be great,” said Lena as the automatic doors to the building opened. She tucked the phone into her neck and collapsed the umbrella. “I’ll have to move some things around in my schedule, so let me get back to you.”

“Of course,” said Lucy. “You’ve been through so much since– uh, things went downhill with your dad. It’s amazing to see how far you’ve come since our Gotham U days, though.”

“Yeah, it took a while,” Lena agreed. “But after a lot of paperwork and legal hoopla, the board finally named me as the new CEO.”

“Congratulations,” Lucy offered, but Lena didn’t quite catch it. Someone outside caught her eyes instead.

There was a man in a black hoodie with brown hair and sunglasses. Who wore sunglasses in the rain? Lena only saw him for a second, but he looked oddly familiar. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

“Still with me?” asked Lucy.

Lena couldn’t see the man anymore, so she shook her head and proceeded toward the elevators.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” she said. “I’m heading inside now, let me take a look at my calendar and get back to you.”

###Sunny Days


LexCorp Tower


The man in sunglasses was hiding behind a pillar. He tapped a sequence against the metal structure and a piece of it swung open, revealing a small, tube-like compartment. The man stepped in and it swung closed and the compartment moved downward, underground..

Shortly after a woman in a gray hoodie walked over, made sure the coast was clear, and disappeared from LexCorp Tower’s entrance in the same manner.

Underneath the building a small doorway opened into a secret area and the woman walked out. The place was small, but there was a lot of equipment scattered around. And an array of security monitors displaying different areas inside and outside of LexCorp.

The man walked over, taking off his sunglasses and pulling at his hair, which popped right off, revealing a bald head.

“Lex,” she said. “Why are we meeting here? This is the last place you should be.”

“Mercy,” Lex answered. “This is also the last place they’d look for me. Now, what happened with the so-called Superman Revenge Squad?”

“Even with the kryptonite,” Mercy explained. “Superman managed to get away unharmed.” (Superman #95).

“Just as well,” said Lex. “I didn’t think they could succeed anyway. But it was a good field operation to test the blue variety against him. How did that turn out?”

“Things went south quickly, so I wasn’t in a position to monitor the fight,” said Mercy. “But, the Kryptonian named General Zod is being held at S.T.A.R. Labs now. Rumor has it they managed to render him powerless.”

“Powerless,” Lex repeated. “If they used blue kryptonite and it can deactivate a Kryptonian’s powers entirely, this could be a game-changer.”

“Lex,” said Mercy, taking a few moments to find the right words. “I know you blame Superman for your downfall, but you got away. We could just go and find a new life. Together.”

Lex raised an eyebrow. “I’ve never known you to be sentimental,” he said. “I also thought you knew our arrangement was purely physical.”

Mercy felt her breathing stop. She knew the whole time Lex never felt the same way about her that she felt about him. But once they started getting closer… Maybe she fooled herself, thinking he would.

“I know,” said Mercy, holding herself back from shaking. “It was just a thought.”

She sacrificed so much for him and she was offering to sacrifice more. None of the legal trouble after the presidential fallout stuck to her. She could move on with her life. Was it worth it sticking with him?

“So, what comes next?” asked Mercy.

Lex let out a half smile. “I want to show you the other reason for staying close to Metropolis,” he said, walking over to a table of circuits and machinery. There was a white sheet over something big in the corner, which Lex pulled off in a display of showmanship.

It wasn’t much to look at, but it had the familiar outline of a manned exo-suit.

“Is that…?”

“Yes,” said Lex. “I’ve been sneaking parts from upstairs for a while now to rebuild my armor. It will take a while, but when it’s done, the world won’t be ready.”

Mercy let out a smile. How could she ever doubt him? The man was a visionary genius and she would always love him, even if he never felt the same way.

Lex’s attention turned to the security monitors. One of them at street level showed a car accident quickly turning into a four-car pile-up. Superman arrived on the scene and was seemingly checking on the injuries.

“This is why it’s not safe here,” said Mercy. “The last thing you need is for him to spot you before you’re ready for him.”

Lex watched as Superman lifted one of the passengers into his arms and flew away.

“He hasn’t spotted me yet,” said Lex.

Mercy nodded. The man knew what he was doing.


Metropolis General Hospital


Superman arrived in the emergency room entrance and gently placed the injured passenger into an empty wheelchair. “Excuse me,” he said to the triage nurse who was already staring in his direction.

She had heard stories of Superman showing up before, but she’d never been on duty to see it for herself.

“Can- can I help you?” she asked the hero.

“This woman was involved in a car accident and needs medical attention,” Superman explained.

“Is- Is everyone else okay?” the nurse asked. “From the accident?”

“They’re fine,” said Superman. “But this young woman seems to have broken her leg.”

“Thanks, Mr.– Uh, Superman,” the nurse managed to get out. “We’ll take good care of her.”

Some orderlies came by to wheel her toward an empty room.

“I’m sure you will,” said Superman before waving as he walked back the way he came. He passed by another woman entering who he seemed to know and the two exchanged pleasantries.

“Hi,” the woman said upon reaching the desk, holding her left arm by the elbow with her other one. “I’m Inspector Maggie Sawyer of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit. I hurt my arm on duty and I need to get it checked out.”

“Bring her to exam four,” a doctor said as she walked by the desk.

In the quick moment Maggie saw her, she couldn’t help but notice her kind, brown eyes.

“But Dr. Franklin,” the triage nurse called.

The doctor lifted a hand in the air, and spun around to give a carefree wink.

“I guess you can fill out these forms in the exam room,” the nurse said, handing over the clipboard.

Maggie took them and followed an orderly to the room, where she sat down and waited.

She felt her heart beating a mile a minute. Was her injury worse than she thought? Sure, the doctor was attractive, but Maggie never had a reaction like that to meeting anyone. Not even her on-again off-again girlfriend Toby Raynes.

Maggie was too in control of her emotions to swoon like a teenager. It must have been something else. Maybe she had too much coffee.

“Hello again, Inspector,” Dr. Franklin said, entering the exam room and Maggie’s heart dropped. “Let’s take a look at that arm.”

Maggie nodded. “Thank you Dr. Franklin,” she added as an afterthought.

“You can call me Amina if you want,” the doctor said, taking Maggie’s arm into her hands. The pleasantness of her gentle touch vastly outweighed the pain.

“You can call me Maggie.”

“I have to admit,” said Amina. “I’m a little starstruck. I’ve seen you on the news. You lead such an extraordinary life.”

Maggie pulled from deep down, knowing she had to say something. “Being a doctor must be extraora– I mean extraordinary too,” she said.

What was wrong with her? She was never shy or messed up her words like that before.

Amina just chuckled. “It has its days,” she replied. “I don’t think it’s broken, but I’d like to get some x rays just to be sure.”

“That’s good,” said Maggie, realizing Amina was still holding her arm.

“Oh, sorry,” the doctor said, letting go. “I guess I was lost in thought.

“Me too,” said Maggie, realizing she had rarely looked away from Anima’s eyes.

“We should have asked Superman to check you out when he was here,” Amina said with a chuckle.

Maggie delighted in the sound. “I’m sure he had better things to do.”


Kent House


Clark opened the door to find Sam, Ella, and Lucy Lane. “Right on time,” he said. “Come one in and get out of the rain.”

Jon ran over and gave Lucy a high five as Martha walked over with Lara in her arms. Lois walked up beside them.

“Oh, she’s even more adorable in person,” said Ella, reaching out her hands. “May I?” she asked.

Martha handed over the baby with an “Of course!”

Ella looked down into Lara’s eyes and smiled.

“Look!” said Jon, pointing outside before Clark closed the door. “The rain stopped!!”

“You’re right,” said Clark.

Jonathan walked over and knelt down to Jon. “See,” he said. “It can’t rain forever.”

“I guess,” said Jon. “But I think I like the rain now.”

“You know what’s even better than rain?” asked Lois, walking over to the two. She pointed up into the sky and Jon’s face lit up.

“Wow,” said Jon.

Everyone walked out to the front porch to admire the rainbow spread across the sky.


<< | < | > Coming July 1st

3 Comments
2024/06/01
18:19 UTC

4

New Titans #33 - Find Your Way Back (Time Out)

Author: FrostFireFive

<< | < | > | >>

Book: New Titans

Arc: Time Out

Set: 96

“Roy?” Wally West asked freed from the machine Slade Wilson had tied him to.  It had only been a few hours, but Kid Flash felt that he had been awake for three days.  The Flashes had made a mistake, traveling back into the speed force had given Hunter Zolomon a chance to rewrite history, and now, they were all paying for it.  

“Did you expect Superman?” Arsenal said as he looked around at the machinery.  He had overheard some of Deathstroke’s ramblings.  Time travel, lost family, and the fact that whoever this guy was could be the key to making something better.  “Pretty sure he’s dealing with the Amazons or Atlanteans.  I can never get that one right,” Arsenal explained.

“I didn’t expect you,” Wally asked as he looked around the complex.  What is this place?”

“Ou-his home,” Arsenal explained.  “We call it Castle.  When the Wildebeests unleashed the Plasmus bomb, this place became a quarentine zone.  With Saphire’s help the old man was able to clean up the area and convince the city we deserved to have this.  To watch over them.”

“Plasmus bomb? Sapphire? Where’s Rex?” Kid Flash asked. 

“He was the bomb,” Arsenal explained as he moved to his arm’s built-in computer, pulling up a virtual read of the schematics for the Castle’s prison floors.  Slade had ensured  there would be a labyrinth of false exits and hidden labs.  He needed fresh bodies to test the latest weapon, no matter what the cost.  “He tried finding a cure for Sapphire after she pushed him out of the way on that machine they developed.  Her brother used him to cause a total meltdown.”

“Oh god,” Kid Flash said as he slumped to the ground, he could still feel his connection to the speed force, even if it was a bit weaker due to Slade’s machine.  “That’s not how that went, that’s not how any of this went.”

“You keep saying that without any proof, Sspeedy,” Arsenal responded as he planned a quiet path for them to take.  He knew that the moment he began hacking through the system, Red X would know, she always knew. “You could be another of Slade's projects that got loose.”

“I’m not some…lost project,” Kid Flash responded as he looked at the unconscious Slade still on the floor.  In a blur he had managed to pick up the man and tie him to his own machine.  Wally hoped he would stay put in there.  “In this other timeline…you and I are friends.  We’re a part of the Titans, not the Ravagers.  We’ve been through hell together.  We fought the Wildebeests and won.  And I think I’m the only one to babysit your daughter.  Well, besides JIm.”

“You’re talking nonsense.  I have no family, not after Brick sent me a message after finding out I was working for Slade.  I’m the last Harper.  I’m all alone,” Arsenal explained as he looked away from the speedster. 

“It doesn’t have to be that way, I’m here.  And I can tell you, when we set things right…you won’t be alone.  But you have to trust me,” Kid Flash explained.  “And I know that sounds crazy, that everything seems right, but deep down…something’s missing right?”

Arsenal took a moment before the prison doors swung open around them. With metahuman prisoners seeing the sun for the first time in years, the chaos would perfectly cover the two heroes.

“You had me at nonsense,” Arsenal explained. “So what do you need from me?”

“How do you feel about breaking into the main databases?” Kid Flash explained.

Red X stood alone in her room, it was close to the top of Castle.  A beautiful view of the city could be seen.  The city was recovering, with trees and new buildings being erected.  But Red X never bothered to look outside.  She had to ensure  that what had happened in Chicago would never happen again.  And as the cables drifted down to back at the base of her neck, she prepared to drift along the internet. Looking for the threats that may or may not come.

But before being uplinked, she could hear the soft footsteps of someone who found himself more comfortable in the air than dealing with people on the ground.

“What do you want Dreadwing,” Rex X asked as Dick Grayson entered her room.  They were Slade’s longest wards.  Taken from the Gotham sewers and trained together to be the best, to protect the world at any cost.  Jas…Rook, had to be tossed aside when his incompetence had damaged Barbara.  And the cause for her obsession with perfection.

“To see how you’re doing,” Dreadwing began.  “A lot of the team is shaken up by this…speedster.  Element Girl hasn’t been able to keep her shape, Arsenal is brooding more than usual, and Mammoth is Mammoth.  Only cares if the check doesn’t clear.”

It’s his greatest strength,” Red X said.  “And what of you,Dreadwing?”

 “I believe in the mission.  But…he seemed so certain of a world that couldn’t have existed,” Dreadwing said with a hint of doubt.

“And would you want that world?” Red X asked. 

“No clue,” Dreadwing said.  “I mean, the way he talked about us.  It seemed different, hopeful even.”

“Hopeful,” Red X said, her voice distorted from her helm.  “We are hope.  We protect those that need protecting and punish the guilty.”

“I know we do, but how much of our souls…our bodies do we need to sacrifice,” Dreadwing said as he moved closer, his hand holding hers.  

“As much as we need to,” Red X explained as she pulled away. “That’s what Deathstroke taught us.”

“Tell me that without the helmet,” Dreadwing said as he pulled down his mask, revealing the shaggy hair of Dick Grayson

“You don’t want to see that, no one does,” Red X explained. 

“I do.  I want to see my friend again,” Dreadwing responded. 

Red X looked down for a minute before touching the back of her helmet.  The mechanical aspects wheezed  to life as it slowly peeled off, revealing the face of Barbara Gordon.  Her green eyes shined, contrasting against the bits of tech grafted to her face.  She had been paralyzed, nearly blinded, and maimed.  But every time, Barbara Gordon would sacrifice a piece of herself for the greater good. 

“I know you don’t like staring at me, I know you think I’m…some monster.  But I have to do it, I have to protect everyone.  No should get hurt.”

“Oh Babs,” Dreadwing said as he pulled her closer.  “Maybe we were wrong.  Maybe…there is a better way.  Maybe…”

The entirety of Castle glowed red as a loud siren blared through its walls.

“Warning! Prisoner Release! Warning Prisoner Release!” The electronic voice called out.

“Maybe we have work to do,” Red X explained as she restored her helment, and ran into the fray.  There was no time to think just how little of her soul was left.

“So what the hell are you looking for exactly!” Arsenal said as he slammed his mechanical arm against one of the escaped  prisoner’s collarbone.  The crack was loud and satisfying to him.  Slade had always taught when you hit, you hit hard and you hit fast.

“Information I guess,” Kid Flash said as he zipped around, pushing forward with Arsenal.  “We need to find out where this…Flash is and any other changes that were made.  And then…hopefully find my family.”

“Oh so I don’t count,” Arsenal said as his arm turned into a blaster and sent several prisoners flying back into their cells.  The two had made quick work of the riot, but Roy knew two things.  One, that the supermax area was next and two, the others didn’t necessarily believe in a better world like Roy did, and would come for them.  “Nice to see we’re so close.”

“It’s not that,” Kid Flash explained as he unleashed a flurry of punches towards one of the goons before him. “I’m kinda part of two groups.  Where I come from the Flash, the real Flash isn’t alone. You can kinda say I’m part of two families.  Just hard to split time.”

“You’re telling me the fastest man alive struggles to balance his time? Now that’s comforting,” Arsenal explained.  As the two continued to fight a rumbling could be heard as several of the Castle’s guards were thrown past the two heroes.  “What was that?”

“Judging by the concrete dust on them?” Kid Flash explained, proud that listening to Barry had been paying off. “My fellow prisoner.”

“Arsenal! You’re going to pay for imprisoning me!” Cinderblock roared as he charged towards the two heroes. 

“Shit! Going to need the big one for this one!” Arsenal yelled as he got onto one knee and held  his arm.  The metal and servos move  to become a giant cannon.  The energy slowly charged up as Roy closed his eyes and prepared to fire.  Until the whizzing of a certain speedster blocked both of them.

“Whoa, whoa!” Kid Flash said. “We do not need to be enemies here.”

“He imprisoned me, and you beat me up,” Cinderblow said with his usual growl.

“Yeah well where I come from you’ve given me some nasty bruises,” Kid Flash explained.  “But if this day has taught me anything, it is that I can’t play by the rules I do at home.  Help us, and we’ll help you.”

“Help him?” Arsenal said as the blaster slowly became an arm again. “He’s a criminal.”

“And you’re a fascist who locked me up without getting a trial first,” Cinderblock explained.

“And together we can handle whatever comes our way, we just need to trust each other, just until we get out of here, and I can make things right,” Kid Flash explained.  “Can we do that?”

Cinderblock and Arsenal both looked at each other. 

“Fine,” They both muttered.

“Good, because we got to world to fix,” Kid Flash muttered before the three raced off, deeper into the castle, unaware of the secrets Slade had been hiding from all.

Slade Wilson slowly woke up as he dangled from above the machine where he had imprisoned the speedster.  He didn't think the speedster's false promises would get to one of his soldiers.  He had trained them, molded them, and provided them with order and a code.  Instead, Arsenal had listened to a false prophet.  He would have to pay for that  as soon as Slade escaped from the machine. 

The red lights flashing from the intruders releasing the prisoners overwhelmed his senses.  The experiments the government had done to him had made him a peak specimen, but came with drawbacks too. His senses could be overwhelmed, he felt every ache and scar that riddled his body, But his memory was perfect.  And as he stood there , hung by the machines above, he replayed one night in his head repeatedly over.

Joey’s throat, Grant’s failed attempt to fire, Adeline holding both their sons’ cold pale bodies in her hands.  All because Deathstroke had taken a job for the wrong people.  HIVE had wanted a better tomorrow for their demon lord.  Slade spent the next two decades killing, maiming, and crippling the HIVE with his soldiers, his personall designed Ravagers. 

Slowly he began moving his arms and legs from their restraints.  He could feel the tubes and the needles covering him.  It was meant to drain this interloper; instead, Slade could feel the pain again. But he could feel a crackle, a connection to something more.  His movements grew faster as the tubes and restraints fell to the ground as Slade Wilson landed swiftly on his feet. 

Everything had become slower…as it dawned on him that his little science project had actually worked.  Not enough to finish the mission, but enough to get that damn yellow and red blur back.

Slade Wilson picked the black and white helm that stood on the lab’s workbench as it clicked into place, lightning crackled in his eye.  Deathstroke was one step closer to finishing the mission.

“When you said we were facing high security guys I thought they’d be tougher,” Cinderblock yelled as he slammed one of the more brutish prisoners to the ground hard. The three had made their way through the bowels of the Castle.  With Kid Flash sending guards and prisoners to his two “teammates”.  He hated to be beating up guards, but there was no other choice.  The mission had to come first.  Even if compromises had to be made.  Arsenal and Cinderblock had a ruthless efficiency that the speedster wasn’t so sure of. 

“Well we usually kill the tougher ones,” Arsenal responded as he shot electric blasts from his arm.  “Slade says it's simpler.”

“Simpler isn’t always easy,” Kid Flash explained, zipping around and accessing every computer terminal he could to find any information the speedsters could use to make right,  It seemed when they all mucked around in the speed force  they had acted like a bullet, shattering time and forcing it to repair itself.  Lara, Clark’s mother, had made it to Earth, Bruce Wayne had been dead for years, Kara was with Aquaman, And Vic Stone was a high-ranking  secret agent.  It was all wrong, and deep down in the Castle basement, Wally doubted  that they could even fix it.

“No, but it gets us through the day,” Cinderblock explained as he sent a few of the guards into cells.  He wasn’t as ruthless as Arsenal, showing a care Wally would have never considered back in his timeline. “Simple makes people think there’s good and evil.  And that in order to do the most good you have to extinguish any sign of evil.”

“Pretty philosophical for a guy who’s just a bunch of sentient cinder blocks,” Arsenal responded as he looked around, a large door separated them from the mainframe.".  Slade had always ensured  this was the most protected section of the base, to him, information was the only way to be prepared for anything.  To Arsenal, it was just another blockade in their quest.  Quickly he plugged into the door and began hacking it open.

“You do a lot of thinking when you’re not exactly human anymore,” Cinderblock explained. “Feeling a cold beer in your mouth on a hot summer day. You’d turn to crime if you couldn’t feel any of that.  And know there’s no one to blame but yourself.”

“Sometimes bad things just happen,” Kid Flash explained as he slowed down.  It was something he learned to do with the Titans.  Being a speedster meant wanting to do everything at once and could do it.  It meant other people felt slower than  Wally, and in his earlier years, he would haveignored them.  His friends had taught him differently.  “What matters is that we don’t wallow in it.  We’re heroes, we fight for the greater good, even if it means we lose.  We’re Titans.  It comes with the job.”

“Titans huh,” Cinderblock said as he looked around.  “I like that. Sounds…heroic.”

“Yeah, well it’s just a name, it’s what you do that matters,” Arsenal said as he finished the touches on his hack.  It wasn’t elegant, but it would get them in.  “And let me tell you Cinderblock, this world got no heroes. Just people making the wrong choice.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” Kid Flash responded.

“A broken world can’t repair itself when its core is rotten.  It’s why we’re sending you away once you get that data,” Arsenal explained. “Maybe clean all the blood from our hands.”

“I can only try,” Kid Flash muttered as the door to the mainframe slid open. “Now lets see if we can find something to turn back the clocks.”

Kid Flash moved to access the large computer amidst the data banks.  Slade had kept several key project notes.  Some were boring, such as materials for a new sword.  But others proved more fruitful.  The obsession with fixing things had led Slade to try and study and track this timeline’s only Flash.

“So Hunter disappears from time to time, no traces, and no signs on Earth,” he mumbled as he looked at the energy readings.  Slade didn’t understand exactly what he was tracking, but Kid Flash immediately knew.  “He’s in the speed force, of course.  No one can bug him, and if he screws up…he can try and change more.”

Kid Flash began to move away from the console and turned to his allies, but before Wally could respond, metal hands rose from the ground and flung him to the floor.  The hands climbed out from the floor as Sapphire Stagg’s form appeared. 

“You know…you shouldn’t have broken out, Slade was going to go easy on you,” Element Woman explained. 

“Yeah, by making me a lab rat to try and make things better for himself,” Kid Flash responded. 

“That’s…that’s how science works,” Element Woman stuttered. 

“Mad science,” Cinderblock said as he charged into Element Woman, sending her flying back and freeing the speedster.  “I swear that’s all you nutjobs love to do.  I mean look at you, princess.”

“It was an accident!” Element Woman said as she leapt into the air, her arms turning into acid. 

“Uh huh,” Arsenal said as he prepared his arm into its sonic cannon formation.  “I saw the footage, Princess.  You experimented on yourself and managed to get your boyfriend and brother killed.  You act ditzy, but you’re just as bad as all of us.”

He popped up and sent a sonic wave at the elemental powerhouse.  As it hit, it ruptured her concentration, sending her toward the ground in a blobby mess.

“Roy!” Kid Flash yelled out.

“Relax, Sspeedy,” Arsenal said.  “She’s not dead but she can’t reform for a bit.”

“Cold,” Cinderblock said.  “You know Arsenal, you’d make a go-”

CRASH!

Mammoth broke down the walls and slammed Cinderblock to the ground.  Before Arsenal and Kid Flash could help their ally, shurikens in the shape of a red x rained down as Dreadwing and Red X entered. 

“Traitor!” Red X yelled as her fist slammed against Arsenal’s head.  “You didn’t think I wouldn’t know when someone hacked into my systems.  Or that you freed the prisoner!”

“Oh I knew Babsie,” Arsenal said.  “I was just hoping you’d show up so I can kick your ass.” 

“I always knew you were weak Harper.  Unfaithful to the mission.  Still angry I cut off your arm because you tried going back to…what was her name again? Jade?” Red X said.  “The mission always comes first.”

“Yeah, well I got a new mission,” Arsenal explained as he punched Red X in the gut as the two faced off exchanging blows and strikes, matched by their cybernetics, and hatred for each other. As the two continued to fight.  Kid Flash was left face-to-face with Dreadwing.

“Dick, we don’t have to do this,” Kid Flash explained.  

“I think we do, Prisoner.  Slade needs you, that’s good enough for me,” Dreadwing responded.

“The Dick Grayson I knew was many things, but a bootlicker?” Kid Flash said.  “Whatever happened to you here, you have to realize Slade is not the person you should be following.”

“He took me in, he took all of us in,” Dreadwing explained. “He saved my family.”

“Yeah, well looking at his files I saw what he did to Jason.  And I know why he gathered you all.  He’s using you Dick.  Using all of you so he could go back and damage things more.  You’ve got to let me go.  I can make things right.”

“Right?” Dreadwing asked. “You keep telling people our world is a dream, but this is all I’ve known.  What right do you have to tell me this is wrong.”

“Because deep down, you know it is too,” Kid Flash explained.  “Dick.  Where I’m from you lead the Titans, you wear the colors of your parents.  You fly.  But I can’t give that back to you unless you let me go.”

Dreadwing paused momentarily  before looking up at the speedster in front of him.  The yellows and reds of his costume stood out in the dull greys and blacks that made up the metal walls of Castle. As much as they claimed they were heroes, Dick and the rest of the Ravagers had blood on their hands. And if there was a better world…why wouldn’t he fight for it?

“I have you Harper!” Red X said as she grabbed the hero by the collar of his tunic, lifting him in the air with her increased strength. “And now you d-”

KZZZT

The EMP Dreadwing tossed onto Red X paralyzed her and sent her to the floor.

“Dick…why,” Red X asked as fell to the floor.

He looked away, for so long he denied just how far the woman he loved had gone for their mission.  

“Because we have a chance for a better tomorrow,” Dreadwing responded.

“Holy shit Grayson, you fr-” Arsenal began.

“I don’t care.  What matters is we need to get Kid Flash out of here,” Dreadwing said as he began to move to the terminal.

“Yeah, we need to figure out how to make things better, and he’s the only way to do it,” Arsenal said. “Glad you’re finally on the right si-”

Slade Wilson’s blade went through Arsenal’s chest as the last bit of the speed he had stolen from Wally faded away.  

“I am the right side,” Slade explained as he dropped Arsenal to the floor.

“NO!” Kid Flash yelled as he grabbed the Arsenal from the floor.  Dreadwing ran to fight Slade.  But it didn’t matter to the speedster. He had failed in saving his friends.  Rex was dead, Barbara a monster, and who knows what other changes he would have to face. He had failed the world,  and he didn’t know how he was going to continue on.

“It’s not that bad,” Arsenal mumbled.  “Besides, you’re going to fix everything.”

“You don’t know that,” Kid Flash said.

“I do,” Arsenal said. “You’re what’s been missing from this world. Heroes.  And for a brief moment…you reminded me what they’re supposed to be.  I…had…hope.  Now…go…fix the world.” 

As he cried Wally knew that with his last breath Roy was right.  He had the information he needed, and the more he stayed here the more he risked fixing what they had broken.  It was time to run, time to save the world as ran out of the castle, past the new Ravagers, and into the world once more.

Wally West ran quickly from the Castle, far away from the death of a friend in another time, in another world.  He knew where the others were, he knew the details he needed, but he couldn’t help but feel like something was wrong.

The past year had taught Wally what gift he had found when the lightning hit and the world slowed down for him.  He had nothing, just a brother that could not love him like he needed, and a harsh world that seemingly put down the dreamers.  But his Aunt Iris, his Uncle Barry, they offered him a better way, a better life. 

He had found friends, first with the Titans.  And while his tenure was never as perfect as he would have liked, he couldn’t say it broke him.  From Donna to Rex to Roy…to even Dick, his friends were there for him.  And when they weren’t he had built something new with Frances and then Hartley.

He had found love, and while he didn’t know the future, he couldn’t live in a world where none of that was found.  As he ran the lightning crackled around him and tatters of his the yellows and reds of Kid Flash.  It was dumb name, but one that protected Wally from thinking that he was worthy, worthy of the title and legacy his uncle had started and would be happy to share.

With each step pushing him forward the lightning engulfed Wally West once more.  Unlike the journey into the speed force that led him to this broken world, it was comforting.  As if something was calling him home.  Wally West could no longer afford to be afraid, to feel like he didn’t belong. And as the lightning faded away, the tattered costume was gone, and metallic red and gold shined brightly as Wally headed to meet his family, to make things right. 

Wally West is the Flash, and damn anyone who gets in his way of putting everything right…one last time.

NEXT: Read Flash for Stunning Conclusion to Time Out! And Be Back Here on the 15th as We See a Day in the Life of the Titans!

2 Comments
2024/05/26
14:01 UTC

1

DCFU Set #96.5 - Motivating May

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0 Comments
2024/05/16
00:32 UTC

3

Wonder Woman #78: Eclipse

Wonder Woman #78: Eclipse

<< | < | [>]

Author: Predaplant

Books: Wonder Woman

Arc: Season 3: Darkness

Set: 96

Diana stared out at the horizon. She flew high above the ground. Isolated. Alone.

She watched the land below her, as far as she could see, looking for any signs of conflict, of combat. Of anything that looked abnormal at all, really. She couldn’t be too sure.

The land was crowded, busy. People had travelled halfway across the world to see what was about to happen in the sky above Diana.

But that just made it all the more dangerous.

Diana steeled herself, focused even more strongly.

The sky started to go dark.

“Seems like nothing yet,” came a voice through Diana’s earpiece, from back home in Gateway City.

Diana’s wife Chloe watched each of her displays, waiting. One thing she had gotten better at over her time as the Justice League’s coordinator was minimizing the amount of typing, clicking, and dragging that she had to do. Learning how to let the information come to her, rather than make her have to go to it, really helped her have time to process major events and effectively co-ordinate the team.

But those physical motions helped to stave away the fear, in a way. Helped her feel like she could control something, even in the times where there wasn’t much for her to actually do. Now, she sat in front of her computer, completely focused on the screen to leap into action as soon as she did start to receive reports that seemed to indicate an issue.

It felt like she was on a roller coaster, climbing the first hill, blindfolded.

As much as she had tempered her mind, had learned to quell that fear, it still poked and prodded at the back of her mind.

“Totality starts in five minutes,” Chloe called out to everybody listening. The Justice League, the Titans, Cassie’s squad, and a number of other heroes who Chloe had gotten into contact with all formed a slim band across the continent, watching the line of the eclipse.

Chloe knew that there was a chance the Dark Gods would completely overwhelm them all. They had a lot of power on their side, sure, but they couldn’t be everywhere at once. At the same time, she knew there was a chance this would all be for nothing, and there wasn’t even going to be an attack.

Hard to say for sure.

She crossed her fingers as she continued to watch for notifications.

The timer ticked down, slowly, second by second.

“Totality starts now, everybody! Keep an eye open!”

In the skies above Mexico, Diana kept her head on a swivel. The sky around her had gone dark, light swallowed up by the eclipse, but Diana’s eyes were still sharp enough to make out fine details on ground level below her. She scanned all the people looking up at the sky, but none seemed to be swept up in anything supernatural or unseemly.

Chloe’s voice came through her earpiece again. “Anybody see anything, let us know ASAP.”

But there was nothing.

Chloe knew that she couldn’t let herself get complacent, as difficult as it was to keep her focus up. There were so many little details that she had to keep an eye on. Social media activity was a big one that she usually tried to watch, but it was already elevated with the eclipse... which meant that she had to sort by region within the line of the eclipse, to see if there was any part of the line with a spike relative to the others.

She also kept watch on power grids, earthquakes, wind and weather patterns... all the sorts of things that might get triggered when an army of the gods bursts through onto the mortal plane. Her monitors were all alight with data.

But nothing indicated a target.

They had gone through so much effort to get heroes ready to spring into action... and there was nothing so far. She was almost disappointed, as much as she truly hoped against disaster.

Then something popped up on her stream that made Chloe raise an eyebrow. A trend correlated along the eclipse line that shouldn’t have anything to do with the eclipse.

She clicked on it, and it expanded to fill one of her monitors. She scrolled through posts, narrowing her eyes. This was definitely out of the ordinary.

In front of her eyes were an array of what almost looked like zombies. People who had died, but who appeared pallid, ghoulish.

Their eyes recessed into their sockets, and their mouths hung open in grotesque poses. Chloe couldn’t tell if they were smiles of delight or screams of terror. She turned away, opening up the comm link as she did so.

“Hey everybody? Think we found the problem. It’s not a physical attack, it never was. They’re attacking death.”

“Attacking death? I’m sorry, how’s that even possible?” came a voice Chloe didn’t recognize. She pressed on.

“I don’t know how they did it, but people who are dying are really weird. I’m sorry, I know this is a lot to ask, but do we happen to have any doctors here today?”

“I’m a doctor,” came a reply. “Where do you need me to go?”

WWWWW

Doctor Mid-Nite examined his patient closely. He was in a small hospital in Ohio, where an old woman had recently passed away. Mid-Nite was told that the patient was a hundred and two years old. It really hurt to see somebody who had been through so much, who deserved a peaceful death after such a long life, contorted and defaced.

But so she was.

By the time he got there, the doctors were already starting to perform an autopsy. Mid-Nite conferred with the team; they hadn’t found anything yet that would indicate why she was in such a condition. He radioed Watchtower to let her know, and joined in on the autopsy.

Back in Gateway City, Watchtower tapped her foot impatiently. She knew that autopsies took time, but the eclipse would be over fairly soon, and she wanted to be able to minimize the damage, if at all possible.

The worst part was, she knew that it wasn’t that likely that the autopsy would turn up with much at all. If this was truly magical or cosmological in nature, that change wouldn’t likely have a medical component to it. It would just... happen.

Maybe they could get somebody with more of a magical background in on this? But who was there, even? Zatanna had asked to not be contacted for heroic activities after her short stay in Gateway, and they had respected that. Maybe that British magician guy, Constantine, would show up. He always seemed to show up when he was needed... but he was a tricky one to contact. And unfortunately, she couldn’t spare the time it would take to go to Olympus and plead for help.

Maybe Diana could, though? She wasn’t a god anymore, but she was still Wonder Woman.

Chloe froze. Her brain put together the pieces.

The Wonder. The thing that had given Diana her codename in the first place. The place where the newly dead passed through on the way to their final destination, protected by the Amazons.

She immediately slammed the button to open the comm line.

“Wonder Woman! Do you think they could have gained access to the Wonder?”

Diana’s voice came back over the line, in a tenor that Chloe had so rarely heard her use. Diana was furious, and she sounded like a storm rumbling over the horizon, unstoppable, tearing the landscape apart as it growled. “That would be possible.”

“Let me know what you need to get in there and fight them back.”

Diana’s response was simple, but chilling. “I need to die.”

The line was filled with a handful of objections, from heroes across the continent. Chloe swiftly muted anybody talking for ten seconds, and continued the conversation. “Do what you need to do. We can’t let them win.”

“There would be a way to get me back. The Well of Souls on Themyscira is meant as an escape hatch back into the outside world from the Wonder. It’s protected by monsters in order to prevent us from attempting to circumvent our role as the Wonder’s protectors unless the need is dire.”

“I... I think we do still need you, Wonder Woman,” Chloe said quietly. She took her finger off the button.

“At least, I do,” Chloe muttered under her breath. Summoning her courage, she put her finger back on the button and continued.

“We’ll send a team to the Well. Do what you need to do to join the fight on that side.” She glanced at the clock. The eclipse was rapidly approaching its end. “Everybody else... if you have something important to do, feel free to go. I’d appreciate you sticking around until the end of the eclipse, but I doubt we’ll be having the fight we anticipated.”

WWWWW

It was very hard to kill an Amazon. Diana debated the best way to do it, the way she could join the fight the fastest. A number of options ran through her head. It was so hard to choose, to even consider the unpleasantness of death... but she could think of one that she might be able to handle.

She turned on her earpiece, flicking the button that would let her communicate directly with Chloe, and only her.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Chloe replied. Diana could hear that she was crying. “Diana... come back.”

Diana sucked in a lungful of air. “I will.”

She took off upwards, accelerating as she did so. She thought about Chloe, Donna, Cassie, and all the other bonds she had made since coming to Man’s World. About how devastated they’d be if she didn’t return.

So she knew that one thing was true: she would have to return. Fight through the Dark Gods’ hordes, save the dead, and save the day.

She knew that one day, she would take her rest in the Wonder amongst her fallen comrades, but she knew her story still had more pages remaining. It was not the end. Not yet.

She flew higher and higher still. The air around her grew colder and thinner. She struggled to pull in a breath.

She closed her eyes and focused. She needed to keep going. Higher, and higher.

Her powerful lungs heaved, but there was barely any oxygen for her to pull on. She opened her eyes. She had made it to the stratosphere.

Diana tried to fly higher, but it felt like she was treading water. She struggled to produce force greater than that pulling her back down to Earth... but slowly, still, she pushed her way upwards.

She could feel herself fading away. She did her best to accept it. Seeing what laid beyond life was daunting... but she knew she had to do it. This was her role in this moment. Nobody else’s.

She let go, at peace with herself.

And she plummeted thirty-five kilometres downwards into the Gulf of Mexico.

WWWWW

Cassie gathered her team together as Chloe signed off. They were stationed in downtown Dallas, and the sky was cloudy enough that it was hard to watch the eclipse. There was even a warning for a storm coming in later that night.

Shame, really.

“So Wonder Woman’s dying?” Peony asked Cassie.

“Yeah,” Cassie said dourly. “I guess so.”

“We can’t let that lie,” Tora said, determination in her eyes. “Can we help her out?”

“There was that Well of Souls team, right?” Kiran asked. “Maybe we could be a part of that?”

“Not a lot of men on the Justice League,” Dolphin observed wryly. “They’re gonna need us if they want to be allowed on Themyscira.”

Cassie took a deep breath. “Yeah, sure. We can do that.”

“What’s wrong?” Kiran asked.

“It’s hard to describe,” Cassie started to say, pushing her hair back behind her ear as she did so. “But it’s kind of scary to see somebody you care about so much stare down death so bravely.”

She balled her hands up into fists. “Guess that just means those of us who are left need to fight that much harder to get her out of the Well of Souls. I’ll go tell Watchtower that we want to help out with this. Sorry, Peony, but I think you’re going to have to stay home with this one.”

Peony nodded. “Yeah… I get it. Kick Urzkartaga’s butt for me, will you?”

“We will,” Dolphin chuckled. “Or, well, Wonder Woman will.”

“Good enough,” Peony replied with her own laugh.

WWWWW

Diana opened her eyes. She was in a place that was very difficult to describe. It was dark… or, that was how she would describe it at first glance. But despite there being no sources of light, she found that she understood the geography that surrounded her perfectly, as if she were walking around her house in the dark, despite never having seen any of it before.

She could hear sounds of battle. She put a hand on her Lasso, and rushed forwards towards the fighting.

She might not have been able to see them, but she knew that there were a group of Amazons ahead, fighting off an army. That army was harder to discern; it felt like Diana’s knowledge of this place was almost repelled by them, and yet the Amazons themselves shone bright. She could see one of them getting pushed back by some sort of plant creature, and she lashed out her lasso, restraining the creature long enough for the Amazon to slice her sword clean through it, killing it.

The Amazon smiled at Diana. It was a smile Diana recognized well.

It was Sable, Diana’s former lover, lost in combat in Diana’s first few days within Man’s World.

“Diana. Glad to see you finally made it!”

The two women flew into the fight together, ready to put an end to the threat of the Dark Gods, once and for all.

<< | < | [>]

2 Comments
2024/05/15
18:22 UTC

5

Cyborg #59 - Test of Strength

#Cyborg #59 - Test of Strength

<<| <| >

Author: Commander_Z

Book: Cyborg

Arc: Machine Mayhem

Set: 96


Previously:

Victor Stone, Donna Morris and Keiji Otari worked together to create a robot called Atlas to participate in the collegiate Machine Mayhem tournament, a robot fighting competition. The humanoid robot easily crushed its competition in the first round but disappeared overnight before the second round. His three creators split up to track him down, with Keiji finding the machine in a back alley a little ways away from the stadium...

Keiji stood before the massive figure, blinking, trying to focus his mind. He had had many late nights and early mornings over the past couple weeks, so Keiji figured he was still sleeping. Or hallucinating. Or both, somehow. But, the voice rang out, its clearest yet, “No.” ‘Clear’ was a very generous and relative term, though. The noise wasn’t modulating through a speaker or a voice box, instead Atlas was making his own speaker by vibrating the motors and joints that allowed him to move.

The alley that Keiji found Atlas in was less than an ideal to make changes to a robot, but Keiji figured that Atlas would be understanding considering the circumstances. He pulled out an old bluetooth speaker out of his backpack and gestured towards Atlas with it.

“This’ll help you. No more grinding gears to talk. Just got to trust me for a few minutes, okay?”

Atlas stood still for a few moments, whether he was thinking or just unsure how to make a positive affirmation with his joints, Keiji couldn’t know. But, after awhile, he responded.

“Yes.”

Keiji set his backpack on the ground in the gross alley, making a mental note that he’d have to clean that later and got to work.

Around ten minutes later, he was done.

“Okay, Atlas. Try to use the speaker. It’s connected to RO23 on the tertiary control board.”

“...T…Te….ing…Test…Testing. Speaker operation confirmed.” Atlas spoke in a deep, synthetic voice that occasionally warped itself in tone, like how a whammy bar would add vibrato to a chord on a guitar.

“Great. So… Atlas… What's going on with you? Why’d you leave?”

“I am performing my task: defeat opponents, become the strongest. No foes in that arena were a challenge. Therefore, I left.”

Keiji raised an eyebrow. “That’s… not what we made you for. We made you to win Machine Mayhem, not to pursue strength as some sort of goal in of itself.”

“Incorrect. Nowhere in programming was “winning the Machine Mayhem tournament” a specified goal.”

“Okay, but I programmed you, and I’m telling you that was the intention.”

“Intentions are irrelevant. A teacher may shape their students’ minds, but they cannot determine what anyone does with their knowledge. That is a privilege reserved for each and every individual being. You say I was programmed to win a tournament. I say that I was programmed to make myself the strongest being. Only my interpretation is relevant.”

‘I guess that’s not an invalid interpretation of what I programmed him to do. But… that’s not exactly a sane or safe perspective on life…’

“And how are you doing that? Just fighting anyone you can see?”

“No. I have already stated that I found those machines in that arena unworthy of my efforts, in my short time in the outside world I have seen humans to be much the same. Few of you would pose any challenge.”

“Well, that’s a little more reassuring that you won’t just be fighting everyone you see. But - ”

Suddenly, a woman about Keiji’s age flew into the alleyway, riding on a metallic pink hoverboard. She wore hot pink combat boots with dark black leggings, and a matching hot pink sleeveless top with thick metallic bands around her wrists that went up to her forearms. Her eyes were obscured by a visor-like pair of glasses, tinted a reflective red to hide her identity.

And yet, Keiji knew instantly that she had to be Donna Morris. He knew that she had been working on some other project with Vic before they started Atlas, but he figured it was just for some shared class or lab work. But this… This was unexpected.

“Halt… robot! Step away from the civilian and no one needs to get hurt!”

‘Why’s she speaking so formally? Guess it’s some mindset thing.’

Neither Atlas nor Keiji reacted to what Donna was saying. Keiji knew she wasn’t talking to him, and Atlas just seemed indifferent to her presence. Finally, Atlas turned and faced her.

“You seem powerful. Show me the strength of your will and I may concede.”

“This doesn’t need to be violent. We can talk it out, here or somewhere else.”

“Actions speak louder and truer than words.” Atlas moved into a combat position, leaning forwards on his left leg, raising his fists up to his chest.

“Come.”

“Don- ”

“When I’m in the suit, it’s Black Narcissus. Some of us like to keep our identities secret, no offense to Cyborg, wherever he is.” Donna said.

“Okay, nice to meet you, Black Narcissus. Just… be careful with Atlas. He’s stronger than he looks.”

Donna smiled. “So am I. Just watch.”

Donna pressed her thumb and index finger together on both hands and a large light on the back of her hands turned gray. She pointed her hands right at Atlas, who still stood in his combat position, waiting.

A thick, gray fluid shot out of her gauntlets, ensnaring Atlas’ arms to his body and his legs to the ground.

“Gotcha! That’s industrial strength adhesive - ”

Atlas flexed his arms and the adhesive snapped with ease, then crouched his legs before springing upwards towards Black Narcissus and her hoverboard. She quickly flew out of the way but Atlas managed to barely get one hand on the board. Black Narcissus pressed her thumbs to her middle fingers, changing the cartridge in her gauntlets. The light on the back changed to purple and she fired her gauntlets again, launching a blast of energy at Atlas.

The extra energy rattled the robot’s circuits, and he released his grip on the board to escape further damage, sending him crashing back to the ground. She shot another salvo of energy blasts at the machine, keeping him stunned on the ground.

She switched her left gauntlet back to adhesive, hoping that it would be able to restrain a weakened Atlas. Before it could reach him, the robot rolled out of the way and grabbed a trash can, hurling it at Donna. She swerved out of the way again, then dodged a second trash can thrown as a follow up.

After the second can, she was on her toes, prepared for a third, but it didn’t come. She looked around, trying to find where Atlas went, but he was completely out of sight. She sensed him at the last moment, coming from the rooftop that he jumped up to. He grabbed her board and slammed it to the ground with her on it. The board shattered into a million pieces, but Donna seemed unharmed. Atlas sprung up, ready to keep fighting, and Black Narcissus rose fractions of a second after. She pressed her thumbs to her ring fingers and the light on the black glowed a dark red.

She swung a right hand punch at Atlas who caught it in his left. But the light on the back of her gauntlet started to glow brighter as she put in more effort, pushing back against his metallic muscle. Atlas pushed his legs back, trying to stabilize himself. Donna started to push him back more and Keiji could hear the motors start to strain. Atlas stopped resisting against Donna, then, before she could take advantage of it, he kicked up some of the pieces of the broken hoverboard at her. Using her momentary surprise, he punched her square in the chest, knocking the wind out of her and sending her to the ground.

“You fought well,” Atlas said, turning away from her.

“Wait,” Donna said, getting up. “I’m not done with you.”

“Yes, you are. Accept your defeat. There is no shame in losing to the strongest.”

Before Donna could protest, Atlas turned to Keiji. “Come, and bring your things. I have use for you.”

Keiji raised an eyebrow, but grabbed his backpack and started to follow Atlas further down the alley.

He turned back to Donna and mouthed “I’ll text you” to her. He hoped she got the message.

⚙️⚙️⚙️⚙️⚙️

“Stop here.”

Keiji stood behind Atlas, who was peering into an old garage a couple blocks from the alley where he fought Black Narcissus. He grabbed the padlock that was keeping the door shut and squeezed it, turning it into dust.

“You will find the tools you need in here. Repair the damage caused in the last fight, human.”

Keiji raised an eyebrow. “First off, I don’t really like being called “human”. Technically true, but feels hurtful in this context. Second, I’m a software guy. I couldn’t fix you if I wanted to. Third, being nicer to people will generally get you better results. Not really inclined to help someone who starts by insulting me.”

“Niceties are a waste of time. Fix me, or I will end you.”

Keiji shook his head. “No, you won’t. I can’t fix you, but you know my teammates can. And they’d never do that if you hurt me at all.”

Atlas punched the concrete wall in frustration, cracking it. “Very well. You are correct… I do need your help. What will they require to do so?”

“I don’t know. But come back to the arena with me. We can talk with them there and see what it takes.”

“Very well. Let your friends know that I require their assistance.”

⚙️⚙️⚙️⚙️⚙️

Atlas stood before Vic and Donna, who made it back to their workspace just before the robot did. He towered over the three humans, but if any of them were intimidated, it was hidden behind a masterful poker face.

“Y’know, I thought more people would care that we just walked in with a robot and are talking with him like he’s a person,” Donna remarked.

“People are busy and indifferent. The other competitors probably think it’s a marketing scheme or something and are just ignoring us. I wouldn’t worry about it too much,” Keiji said.

“Yeah, that. But so… Atlas has become sentient. Good for you, really. But… hooray. Another sentient robot,” Vic said.

“You see a lot of those?” Keiji asked.

“More than you’d think.”

“I am glad that you are not concerned by my presence. That saves me much effort. But the question at hand remains: I have been damaged and require repairs. Will you repair me?”

“Yes,” Vic and Donna said at the same time.

Vic looked at her, surprised. He figured she’d have some hesitancy.

“But, I’ve got a small condition for you. Should be no big deal. Win us the next round of the competition.”

“Ridiculous. You ask me to do something so trivial it is unfair, like a pro athlete competing at a preschool.”

Donna shrugged. “Yeah, it’s trivial and easy, but it helps us a lot.The club will look much better and get a lot more support for next season if we make it into the semifinals.”

“I’ll even raise the stakes. If you win the next round, we won’t make you enter the finals. Instead, I’ll give you a real challenge. You can fight me.”

“Why would I want that?”

“Because I’m the strongest one here by far. And, if that’s still not enough if you beat me, I’ll show you how to repair yourself. Then, we’ll let you go live as you want, provided you promise to only fight people who want to fight.”

Donna looked at Vic, concerned. “Who would want to willingly fight someone like Atlas?”

Vic sighed. “Trust me. There are plenty of weirdos in this world who just want to fight. It’s much better than me just throwing him in prison or taking him apart.”

Atlas made a noise that Vic thought was supposed to be a scoff. But maybe it was just static. The speaker wasn’t that high quality.

“You make a very strong set of promises if I win, which I will. But if by some miracle, you managed to cheat your way to victory… what happens then?”

Vic shrugged. “Pretty much the same thing. I’ll teach you how to repair yourself and let you go with the same stipulations. You just have to know that a human beat you.”

Atlas laughed. “You are a fool if you think that could ever happen. I accept your terms, human. Guide me to the arena, those boxes of scrap will be reduced to dust.”

Vic walked him over to the arena as as if he were any other competitor, but instead of waiting by the sidelines to see the results, he walked back to their workspace. He knew that Atlas would win and wanted to try and make sure that Donna and Keiji were on board with the other part of his plan.

When he got back, Donna was nervously pacing around while Keiji was scrolling through some webpage.

“So.. Vic… do you really think that this is the right idea? You’re just… unleashing him on the world. Isn't that irresponsible?” Donna asked.

“I don’t think so. Yeah he wants to fight people but he has restraint to some degree. He knows the difference being fighting every random person he sees and fighting someone who has a reasonable amount of strength. I dunno, I think him messing up and fighting… Superman or something and taking a big loss would teach him far more than we ever could or throwing him in jail for being dangerous. Is it a risk?… kinda. But so is any option.”

“So your best guess is just… let him go and figure it out?” Keiji said. “Isn’t that a bit too… hands off?”

“Got a better idea? That’s pretty much what we got to do.”

“No. I don’t. But this just feels... risky.”

“Yeah, it is. But he’s fairly reasonable after being conscious for what, 12 hours? Over time, he’ll probably mellow out and if he doesn’t, I can take care of him then. But he deserves a chance like anyone else.”

Keiji nodded. “Fine Vic. If that’s what you think the best path is… I’ll stand by you.”

“Same, Vic. I want to believe in him too.”

“Thanks guys, really. Hopefully we can all look back on this and agree this was the right path.”

A horn sounded and a voice came over the loudspeaker. “Semifinal-2 has ended! The winner is the University of Michigan’s Atlas! Please collect your robots and be ready for the finals at 1:00 PM.”

The team stood up and gave each other a round of high fives. They really had made something great. Now it was time to see just how great he really was.

⚙️⚙️⚙️⚙️⚙️

Two hours later.

The team packed up after their semifinal match, citing an unspecified emergency with the tournament staff. They weren’t happy with the anticlimactic end, but ultimately they couldn’t force the three of them to continue to compete and so they left without much hassle.

The three of them drove north until they found the first open field that Vic and Atlas could have their match in. There wasn’t anywhere that they could find in the city that wouldn’t attract too much attention or put innocent people at risk and they managed to convince Atlas of that too. The robot was in the trailer towed behind the three of them, much to his chagrin.

But after a half hour or so, they found a spot. A wide open, grassy field with no one around to interfere or get hurt. A perfect spot for them to settle things. Vic got out of the car and started to stretch, trying to limber up after the car ride while Donna and Keiji helped Atlas out of the trailer.

Atlas rotated his head, taking in the environment. “A flat, quiet field. An honorable place for battle.”

Vic let out one lat calming exhale before approaching Atlas. “Plus, no one is around to get hurt. That’s important too.”

“...Yes. That too.”

“The rules are simple. A clean match, no foul play between either of us. Whoever is left standing when the other yields or is unconscious wins.”

Atlas laughed. “I will never yield.”

“We’ll see,” Vic grinned.

“Oh, one other thing. Not really a rule per say, but a strong suggestion: Try not to seriously hurt each other. You’re not trying to kill or maim each other,” Donna said.

“Yes, yes. May we begin?”

Vic nodded, and took a step backward, creating about ten feet of space between him and Atlas. Before the dust even settled, his arms were force cannons launching pure energy right at Atlas’ chest. Vic had designed Atlas, he knew that he wouldn’t be very damaged by those. But he had underestimated just how much he would be able to tank them. The force blasts did little more than chip the paint and an exhilarated Atlas sprinted at Vic like a charging bull.

Once Atlas was a few feet away from Vic, he prepared a concussive grenade and exploded it directly against Atlas, using the force to stagger him out of the charge. Before the robot could launch another attack, Vic swung a full force punch into the robots’ chassis, crumpling it inwards slightly. Vic followed up the punch with another, but Atlas was ready for it and parried it with his left arm, then kicked Cyborg away, sending him flying backwards.

Cyborg shot his force canons at the ground to give himself some momentum in the opposite direction, slowing himself down. But Atlas had some tricks up his metaphorical sleeves too. Having realized that a direct approach was difficult, he used his powerful hands like a backhoe to scoop up a massive piece of earth and hurled it at Cyborg. Vic was unsure how to react to this, or more precisely, how he expected Atlas to follow this attack up. The boulder itself was a problem, sure, but it was just to close the gap. Atlas could be using it to block his line of sight and be jumping right behind it, or he could be using the temporary blindspot caused by the massive object to approach from either side.

Instead of guessing, Vic decided to power through the problem. Vic shot both of his force cannons at the projectile, sending bits of dirt every which way. Atlas was hiding in what was once the dirt ball’s shadow and Vic took advantage of his surprise to launch himself at the robot. Cyborg shot his force cannons behind him, propelling himself forwards rapidly in a charge mirroring Atlas’ own.

He knocked the massive machine to the ground and sat on his chest, using his arms to pin down the machine’s.

“You’re down, Atlas. Do you yield?”

“I told you. I will never yield. I am the strongest!”

Atlas began to press his weight against Vic’s strength. Vic knew he was a match for Atlas’ strength but there was one key problem: stamina. Vic’s body was, of course, cybernetic in part, but it wasn’t the same. He was still human and human beings got tired. Machines did not.

Vic could already feel his muscle starting to fatigue. The fight hadn’t been long, but any fatigue was going to be the difference. He knew he was a match for Atlas’ strength when he was at 100%, but every percent below that made it more and more likely to be Atlas’ win.

‘I need to end this fight now or the immediate future if I want to win. But my normal attacks aren’t doing anything to him. I could try a sonic attack, but I don’t think that’d really effect him. I could try targeting his joints specifically, but those were designed to take more than I can give. But I can’t just let him overpower me for the win. That’d make him overconfident and more likely to get into trouble afterwards. No… I’ve got a better idea.’

In an instant, Vic’s muscles stopped resisting. “I yield.”

Vic pushed himself off Atlas, who stood up and looked at Cyborg, confused.

“What foe yields when he has his opponent on the ground, at his mercy? I demand you continue!”

“No. This fight was never to the death, only to yielding. But frankly, you aren’t strong enough to interest me. You said it yourself, you will never yield. And pummelling you to a point where you are the equivalent of unconscious just isn’t worth my time. So I yielded. Congrats. You win.”

Atlas stood, incredulous. “No. That is not allowed. I did not win. You lost! Those are not the same!”

Vic turned to Keiji and Donna and then noticed that the fight had taken them about 30 yards from where they started. He started to walk back towards them, and Atlas followed.

“Guys, I yielded that fight. Doesn’t that mean I lost?”

Keiji raised an eyebrow. “I guess?”

“See? Congrats, you won.”

“... I do not accept this victory. This is a loss in all but name. Mark my words, Victor Stone. I will wander the globe, facing foe after foe to grow stronger. I will become the strongest being and when I do, we will have a real fight, one where you must acknowledge my strength for real.”

“Looking forwards to it. Stay out of trouble until then, understood?”

Vic held out his hand for a handshake which Atlas begrudgingly accepted.

“Understood.”

“Atlas, catch.”

Keiji tossed a small flash drive to Atlas who had to bend down to grab it.

“That has all your schematics and drawings on it, as well as all the parts we used to make you and where we sourced them from. It’s probably the best thing out there to help you repair yourself.”

“Thank you. You all have given me much to think about it. When we meet again… I will be stronger in body and mind. Farewell for now but I will return to challenge you again, Victor.”

“I’ll be waiting. And I promise to go all out next time, Atlas.”

Atlas took off to the west, heading to only he knew where.

Once he was far enough out of sight, Vic laid down on the ground, exhausted.

“Well, that’s enough bluffing for the next decade. I really underestimated him.”

Donna sat down to his left, Keiji on his right.

“Told you that you were being cocky. We all built him but he’s out of all of our leagues,” Keiji said.

“Yeah… but I really wanted to do it, y’know? Kinda humbling to be beat by your own creation.”

“If it makes you feel better, I lost to him too,” Donna said.

“Wait what? When did you fight him?”

“I’ll tell you on the way back. Not my finest moment, but I put up a good fight.”

“Proud of you. You’ve come a long way in your training. But after that fight… I’m going to need to get a lot stronger and pick my own training back up. I kinda feel like I’ve been stagnant for awhile, just sort of winning my fights through grit and will power. But if Atlas had been hostile… I don’t think I could’ve stopped him. So, I’ll need to get back to the drawing board and see what I can do to take myself to the next level.”

“And we’ll be there to help you however we can. But uh… Vic, finals are in like two weeks. Maybe focus on that first?” Keiji suggested.

“I’d rather get beat up by another robot,” Vic groaned.


<<| <| >

2 Comments
2024/05/15
17:00 UTC

2

DCFU Set #96 - Motivating May

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2024/05/02
02:46 UTC

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Superman #96 - Zod, Baby

##Superman #96 - Zod, Baby

<< | < | >

Author: MajorParadox

Book: Superman

Arc: Heritage

Set: 96

###Line of Fire

Metropolis General Hospital


“Kal-El!” Zod yelled from the parking lot, scanning the hospital building until their eyes met.

“Don’t,” said Clark just before Zod launched toward him, smashing through the window to Lois’ hospital room.

Clark grabbed Zod’s arms to veer his trajectory from hitting anyone on his way through, but it caused them both to fly through the wall into the next room.

Lois and her nurse, Linda were okay. Clark didn’t leave them out of his field of vision as he tried to get the area clear.

“We don’t have to do this,” said Clark, muffled as Zod wrapped his arms around his neck. Clark swung his head back into Zod’s nose, but it didn’t loosen his grip.

Alarms started blaring. Someone must have hit the fire alarm.

“Somebody’s going to get hurt,” Clark pleaded.

“You’re right,” Zod agreed, tightening his grip.

The Man of Steel flew backward, sending the pair crashing into the wall behind them. With Zod’s grip loosened, Clark took his arm and flipped him over to the ground, pinning him down.

But he didn’t stay down long. Zod flew up toward the ceiling crashing through to the next floor. He tossed Clark away and fired off a beam of heat vision that kept Clark from recovering. Clark lifted his arms to direct the blasts away from his chest and returned with a heat vision blast of his own, finally throwing the Phantom Zone escapee off balance.

The opening didn’t last long. Clark tried to get closer, desperate to get a hold of Zod and move the fight away from the hospital. But Zod didn’t let it happen. Instead, he let a punch fly, sending Clark through several more walls.

Clark pulled himself up, keeping an eye on Lois’ room. They were wheeling her bed out to the hall quickly slowed by all the other patients being evacuated. He moved his attention back to Zod who was looking back toward Lois too.

“No,” said Clark to himself, realizing his attacker was more attentive than he thought.

“You were in the room with that one earlier,” said Zod from the other room. “She must mean something to you.”

Zod crashed back down through walls and ceiling to the hallway and zoomed in front of Lois’ bed.

“Can I help you?” asked Lois dryly, after the initial shock left her.

Linda tried to wheel the bed back the way they came, but Zod grabbed hold of it, keeping it in place.

“You are with child,” he said.

“Nothing gets by you,” said Lois, her arms on her stomach. “Must be those supersenses, huh?”

“I can see why he likes you,” Zod smiled. “You are fearless.” His eyes started heating up and Lois’ heart jumped a beat.

“Stay away from her!” yelled Clark as he grabbed Zod and flew him down the hall.

Zod managed to break free before Clark could get him outside.

Finally having a moment free, Clark tapped his belt. “Superman to–”

But Zod quickly destroyed the belt communication with a narrow burst of heat vision.

“No calling for help,” he said, motioning back in Lois’ direction. “That wouldn’t be your child the human is carrying, would it?” he asked. “Perhaps I should send them both to the Phantom Zone so you could understand how it feels.”

“I do understand,” said Clark, listening to his wife enter the elevator. “I never would have sent your son back there if he could survive out here. And I’ve never stopped looking for a cure or somewhere for your people to live free from that hellscape.”

“My people?” Zod repeated, gritting his teeth. “They are our people. They may not be Kryptonian, but we’re all of the same origin.“

“Maybe I misspoke,” said Clark. “But the point stands.”

Zod stepped closer. “You could have released them here on this planet.”

“We tried,” Clark answered. “But it’s not my decision to make.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Kal-El,” said Zod, firing off heat vision again. “Like your father on Krypton, you let them decide when it was within your powers to decide for yourself.”


Fortress of Solitude, North Pole


Kelex’s visor booted up in a vivid blue. His startup diagnostics began as he tried to recall what happened before he was deactivated.

Memories flooded back of Jax-Ur escaping the Phantom Zone through Jor-El’s hologram. The escapee took control of the fortress and deactivated him and the other robots.

Kelex finished his diagnostics and ran a scan of the fortress operations. Jax-Ur still appeared to be active, but his access was severely limited. The failsafe from Watchtower must have been activated, which also explained how he could power back up. Kal-El and Kara had ensured Kelex worked as another failsafe during any intrusions.

Jax-Ur was still a threat so Kelex made sure not to draw attention. Instead, he monitored the intruder, who was trying to narrow down the source of the lockout. That not ideal. If Jax-Ur successfully traced it to Watchtower, anyone up there could be in danger and Kelex could lose control again.


Metropolis General Hospital Elevator


“Don’t worry, Lois,” said Linda, catching her breath. “We’ll make it out of here.”

The building kept shaking as the two Kryptonians were locked in battle. Lois knew Clark’s first instinct would be to move him away, so the fact they were still there didn’t bode well.

Lois’ eyes moved to the elevator readout, indicating they had three more flights down to the lobby. But then red energy cut through and sliced up the top half of the carriage.

“Hold on!” yelled Linda as the elevator shook in place. Luckily the emergency locks kept them from falling.

Lois pulled herself off the bed with an exhale of desperation.

“Lois–” Linda warned.

“We can’t stay here,” said Lois, trying to pull the door apart.

Linda grabbed Lois’ IV pole and stuck it in the elevator’s crevice, using leverage to pry the doors open.

Lois gave a thumbs up and reached for the floor, which didn’t quite line up with the elevator. They would have to climb. “Give me a boost, will you?”

As Linda kneeled, Lois felt a surge of pain that made her legs go numb.

“You’re having another contraction,” Linda said, helping her patient down.

Lois tried to make a sarcastic remark about the situation, but all she could do was hold onto Linda’s hand and yell.


Elsewhere Inside


Clark heard Lois yelling as he blocked a punch by Zod, but the general kicked out a knee and slammed his elbow over the Man of Steel’s head. He was lifted and tossed through a glass window.

Before Zod could move in for another hit, Clark shot back up and blasted freeze breath, which Zod quickly avoided, but the move left him open to a flying punch to the chest. Clark dropped down with an elbow to Zod’s face and grabbed him by the arms, swinging him around until the general went flying through a nearby window.

Finally, he got the fight outside. He needeed to keep the momentum going, Clark couldn’t leave Lois yet. He turned toward the elevator but found Lois and her nurse had managed their escape on their own.

“Resourceful as always,” Clark said under his breath, moving as quickly as he could outside.

“Stand down!” yelled Maggie Sawyer from the street.

The SCU had arrived, and several vans were parked out front. Several office had rifles aimed upward at Zod while a few mech battlesuits exited the other vans.

Clark had read about their new tech but hadn’t seen it in action yet. Hopefully, they could withstand the likes of Zod.

Zod couldn’t help but let a smile cross his faith, even for a moment. That wasn’t a good sign.

The general dove down and the SCU opened fire, but he quickly dodged their shots. Clark dropped down after him.

Hopefully the added firepower would help him get Zod away.

###Not According to Plan


Fortress of Solitude, North Pole

Kelex approached Jax-Ur slowly, falling to the ground intermittently. He didn’t want the intruder to realize he was functional again. But time was running out. The sooner Jax found the source of the fortress failsafe, the sooner General Zod could free more reinforcements from the Phantom Zone.

“Watchtower,” Jax said to himself aloud, reading through some files. “That robot mentioned it before… Whatever it is caused the disruption.”

Scratch that, perhaps time was already up.

Kelex raised himself again and floated quickly toward Jax’s hologram.

Jax saw the incoming robot and didn’t waste a moment.

“General,” Jax called into Zod’s communication system. “I found the source of the interference. It–“

Kelex reached him and waved his robotic hand through the holographic light. A surge of electricity sparked as Jax finished his statement: ”Is coming from a satellite around the planet.“

Jax’s hologram fizzled with static and morphed back into a depiction of Kal-El’s birth father Jor-El.

“Good job, Kelex,” said Jor-El. “I’m finally free from Jax-Ur’s influence. The threat is over.”

Maybe one threat is over,” said Kelex.”But if Jax’s full message reached General Zod, Watchtower may be in danger.


Metropolis

Minutes Earlier


Zod blew a gust of wind toward the SCU officers as he flew down toward them. A few of them went flying, while others managed to hold their ground by taking cover.

The mech suits approached, firing more powerful blasts than the traditional SCU rifles. Zod tried to avoid those too, but one of them hit him in the arm, interrupting his path.

Clark caught up, making contac with Zod, but the general spun around and hit him with heat vision, followed by a punch to the stomach.

Zod adjusted his course and moved back down toward the mech suits, delivering powerful blows to each before any of them could react.

Clark hoped Zod wasn’t going for blood, or at least the armor protected them enough to prevent permanent damage. Either way, he had to stop his onslaught against them and move him toward that abandoned office building where he fought Metallo and the S.T.A.R. Labs escapees. They had kryptonite there and it could come in handy.

“Leave them alone,” Clark ordered as he flew back to Zod to kick him away.

“You should be working with me, Kal-El!” Zod yelled. “But all you do is fight against the best interests of our people! Maybe you didn’t mispeak before. My people.”

“It’s true,” Clark started. “I used to have a hard time connecting with my heritage. But the closer I got to my cousin. And the more I learned in the Fortress from my birth parents–æ

“You can’t connect to holograms,” Zod interjected.

“You’re right,” Clark agreed. “Even though I do see them as real people, it’s not quite the same as meeting them before they died. But I do have memories of a whole other life where I grew up on Earth with my mother, Lara.” (See Superman #91). I’m still trying to make sense of that, but the connection was definitely there.

“It’s still not the same,” said Zod, jumping over, with a fist to Clark’s face. He kicked Clark away, landing beside one of the SCU vans.

Dan Turpin dropped down to help him up, aiming his rifle at the general.

“Try to draw him away from the building,” Clark told him. “I have a plan.”

“Hold on, Big Blue,” said Dan, reaching into his pocket. “Does your plan involve these, which we picked up from your last battle today?” He pulled out three small cylindrical containers and handed them over.

Clark couldn’t see through them, which indicated lead, perfect for transporting the kryptonite without it affecting him. “Thanks, Dan,” said Clark, taking them and stuffing them inside his belt.

He turned back toward Zod to find him hovering in place. A device was extended over his eyes and Clark could hear a voice speaking to him through it.

“I found the source of the interference,” said Jax-Ur on the other end.

“Oh no,” said Clark, speeding toward him as fast as he could.

Clark tried to fry the communication device with his heat vision, but Zod ducked and kicked Clark away.

The rest of the message played before Jax’s voice broke apart and Zod looked up into the sky. He quickly zeroed in on Watchtower’s location and disappeared from the area in a burst of speed.

Clark flew off after him.


Outside Hospital


Linda had managed to get Lois into a new bed, down to the lobby, and was rolling her into the ambulance bay. It was a crowded mess as the evacuation funneled patients into ambulances to get away from the disaster area.

“We have a woman in labor,” Linda called, trying to cut through.

“Over here,” a paramedic called, rushing over to help. “How far along?” he asked, wheeling the bed into the emergency vehicle.

“Hopefully not far enough to deliver the baby right here,” said Lois, before another contraction started.

“She’s almost fully dilated,” Linda explained.

“Better in an ambulance than in the middle of a superhero fight,” the paramedic in the driver’s seat said, as he rolled away, sirens blaring.

There were cracks in the road that didn’t look quite normal, but the driver didn’t think anything of them. A beam of red energy cut across the road, which revealed the source. The road was being cut into by stray heat vision.

The ground began shaking under the ambulance, rocking them back and forth as they drove.

“What’s happening?!” cried Lois.

The driver watched as the asphalt cracked ahead of them, trying to veer out of the way. “Hold on!” he yelled.

Arghhhhhhhh!” cried Lois. “I’m trying! But you’re not making it any easier!”

One of the cracks widened and the road broke apart. The ambulance dropped down into a mini-sinkhole.

###Arrival


Watchtower


Oliver Queen sat at a terminal, spinning an arrow in his hand. Dinah had told him there wasn’t much to Watchtower duty, but she didn’t say how boring it could be. Next time he’d try harder to convince her to join him up there. Together all alone together in space? The romance writes itself.

A beeping from the computer broke Ollie out of his daze.

“Don’t worry about it,’” he said, mimicking Dinah. “‘You won’t have to do anything.’”

Ollie tapped a button that was lighting up and a message appeared on the screen with a video feed outside the satellite. It showed a figure approaching while the message read, “Object detected, trajectory approaching.”

Someone was coming up the long way. Ollie figured he would skip the transporter too if he could fly. He looked closer but couldn’t quite make out who it was yet.

No green meant it wasn’t a Lantern or Martian Manhunter. No red or blue meant it wasn’t Superman. As the figure got closer, it was clearer he was a man wearing black.

“Batman?” Ollie asked aloud. He was sure the Dark Knight had to use transporters like the rest of the mere ‘mortals.’ But with Batman, you never really knew what to expect.

As the man reached the window, Ollie stood up and they met eyes.

Definitely not Batman. It was a man with black hair and a beard. And there was a silver Z-shape on his chest. The man pulled his arm back and Ollie’s heart jumped a beat.

The Z-man punched a hole through the glass and alarms started blaring as the oxygen rushed out. Ollie held onto the chair as the man entered and some emergency protocol was activated, blocking the windows with steel walls, and returning the room to a breathable state.

Ollie didn’t waste a minute and shot off an arrow that bounced right off the man’s shoulder.

“I am General Zod,” he said. “How do I disable the interference to the Fortress?”

“I’m going to assume that’s a bad idea,” said Ollie.

General Zod moved in close and grabbed the archer by the throat.

“Sorry, bud,” Ollie struggled, his voice hoarse. “It’s my first day. I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Zod dropped Ollie to the ground and studied the computer tech around them. “No matter,” he said, his eyes turning red. “I’ll take care of it myself.”

The computer started beeping again. That was a good sign. Someone else was probably approaching.

“That sounds like a way to go,” said Ollie, taking his time with each word. “But have you considered there could be a fail-safe if Watchtower gets destroyed?”

He had no idea if it was true, but it sounded logical enough.

Zod’s eyes returned to normal, but his face was still just as menacing. “If you’re toying with me–“ he started.

“Stand down, Zod,” said Clark from the entryway.

“Boy, are you a sight for sore eyes,” said Ollie, followed by a deep exhale.

Zod sped over to Clark, trying to grab a hold of him, but the Man of Steel sidestepped, letting a punch fly against the general. Clark reached toward his belt and tossed one of the metal containers toward Ollie.

“This should level the playing field,” Clark said, before getting a punch of his own across the face.

Ollie didn’t waste any time and opened his gift to find the green glow of kryptonite. “Oh boy,” he said, pulling an arrow from his quiver. He quickly affixed the kryptonite to the point, nocked the makeshift arrow, and let it fly, piercing Zod in the back.

The general barely flinched and continued his attack on Clark, who could feel the sting of the kryptonite too. It wouldn’t compare to how Zod felt, whether he showed it or not.

Clark dodged another hit from Zod and kicked him back against the chair. His response time was noticeably slowing, but Clark was feeling sluggish too as he fought through the pain.

“Down!” Ollie yelled as he fired off another arrow, which exploded as it made contact with Zod’s left shoulder.

The detonation sent Zod and Clark flying back in opposite directions.

“You okay, big guy?” asked Ollie, reaching his side.

“I will be when we get Zod contained,” said Clark, reaching for another container from his belt. He opened it up and pulled out the blue kryptonite.

“Whoa,” said Ollie, mesmerized by the glow. “What’s that do?”

“This will level the playing field even more,” Clark explained, jumping forward to Zod before he could rise to his feet. He let a punch fly and followed it up with a kick to the general’s stomach, but it caught in Zod’s arms.

“You’re full of surprises today, son of Jor-El,” he said as he flipped Clark over. “But I’m better than you in every way, powers or not.”

Ollie smiled and leaped into the fight, throwing punches of his own, which Zod blocked, but his retaliatory hits weren’t super-powered anymore. Superman wasn’t kidding about leveling the field.

“Stay down, General,” said Ollie as he finally connected a punch.

But Zod took the impact and returned with a slap across the face which sent Ollie to the ground. He proceeded toward Clark and kicked him down too. The blue k fell out of his hand and rolled to the other side of the room.

Ollie jumped back toward Zod, but he grabbed and tossed him away with such ease it indicated the blue kryptonite’s power-draining effects had worn off from that distance.

Clark was still too close, so he rushed over and bottled it up before Zod could fire a blast of heat vision toward him. A moment sooner and Clark’s skin would have been scorched.

Zod moved his heat vision toward Ollie, but Clark zoomed over, crashing Zod through the emergency covering of the windows. The impact pushed the green kryptonite arrow deeper into Zod’s back, causing him to lose his balance in the vacuum of space.

Clark used the distraction to repair the hole in Watchtower before Ollie could be sucked out. He turned back to Zod and grabbed hold, pulling him back toward the planet.

Ollie stood up, taking a deep breath, and said, “At least it didn’t stay boring up here.”


Near Metropolis General Hospital


“Lois, are you okay?” Linda asked, checking her vitals.

Lois coughed as the dust from the crash cleared. It was dark, except for some light gleaming from the back window. She was able to make out the two paramedics unconscious.

Before she could answer, she cried out in pain.

“This is it, Lois,” said Linda. “You’re going to have to start pushing.”

“Of course I am,” said Lois tensing up all her muscles.


Elsewhere in Metropolis

Moments Later


As they fell toward the planet, Clark grabbed hold of Zod and yanked the kryptonite arrow out of his back. Zod finally showed a painful reaction, but it was deafened by the vacuum of space. Clark tossed the kryptonite away and pushed on the speed toward Earth.

The closer they got, the more Zod resisted against Clark’s hold. That was a good sign. It meant what Clark had planned wouldn’t kill him. He held strong, aiming for an empty area near Metropolis General Hospital. His first instinct was to bring them back down as far away from civilization as possible, but he wanted to be as close to Lois as possible when it was over.

Between being in space and being exposed to kryptonite, Clark had lost sight and sound of his wife. Last he heard, she was being evacuated. He’d focus on finding her again as soon he was done with Zod.

Flames surrounded the two as they picked up speed on reentry. Clark held tight, making sure Zod would take the impact of their crash landing.

“You have promise,” said Zod, his voice less labored than Clark expected it’d be. “But you will never get the upper hand on me again.”

Zod shifted his weight and spun Clark around just before they collided with the ground below, the Man of Steel taking the brunt of the impact.

The two formed a crater as a loud bang echoed all around and clouds of dirt and debris went flying in all directions.

Zod stood over Clark, reaching down to his belt to grasp the one container Clark hadn’t tried t use yet.

“You’ve piqued my curiosity,” said Zod, examining it. “You went for blue and green kryptonite, but never once touched whatever’s in this one.”

“Don’t,” said Clark, straining all his muscles to get up.

But Zod opened it up, revealing a luminous red glow. The scowl on his face dropped as he felt a wave of relaxation flow through his entire body.

Clark had a different reaction. His mind went to one place. “Lois,” he said, scanning the city for any sign of her. His powers were still weakened, but he had to find her.

“I don’t understand,” said Zod. “What does this one do?”

Clark fought through the pain and finally made it to his feet. He hovered to get a better vantage point, but Zod grabbed his feet.

“No,” said Clark without even looking down. He took the last remaining container from his belt and popped it open, immediately dropping with it to the ground.

“You were right before,” said Zod, placing a hand on Clark’s shoulder. “We don’t have to fight. We can–”

Clark flipped around and stabbed the blue k into Zod’s shoulder, following it up with a kick to the stomach.

“I don’t have time for this,” said Clark, climbing out of the crater and running as fast as he could. Once he was far enough, he picked up into the air, finally zeroing in on Lois’ whereabouts. He disappeared in a burst of speed.

Zod got up and put a hand on the crystal stuck into his right arm.

“Don’t move!” a voice ordered from the top of the crater.

Several SCU members surrounded him with their rifles trained.

“It’s over,” said Dan. “You’re under arrest.”


Sinkhole


Clark dropped down to the sinkhole and ripped open the back doors to the ambulance, light flooding inside. “Lois!” he called. “I’ll get you back to the hospital!”

“It’s too late,” said Linda. “We’re pushing.”

Lois breathed heavily as Clark moved to her side. He watched Linda eye the paramedics.

“They’ll be okay,” said Clark after scanning them.

“Push!” Linda ordered.


Soon


Clark handed the newborn baby girl to Lois. Their daughter was wrapped in his cape.

“Congratulations, Lois,” said Linda, lying against the side of the truck with her hands over her head.

The paramedics had since woken up and were outside coordinating with emergency responders at the top of the sinkhole.

“Sorry your husband couldn’t be here,” Linda added.

Lois and Clark shared a smile.

“Does she have a name yet?” Linda asked.

“We–” Clark started before he caught himself. “We’d love to know,” he course-corrected.

“Clark and I went through a few options when we found out we were having a girl,” said Lois. “At one point we were even thinking we should name her after someone from my side of the family since we named our son after Clark’s father. But a name shouldn’t be a competition, it should be what’s right.”

Lois met Clark’s eyes and he nodded and Lois lifted the baby.

“Everyone, meet Lara Ella Kent.”


<< | < | >

3 Comments
2024/05/02
02:41 UTC

5

The Flash #96 - Sponsorship Deals

##The Flash #96 - Sponsorship Deals

<< | < | >

Author: brooky12

Book: Flash

Arc: ?

Set: 96


 

To whom it may concern,

 

I had the recent joy of stumbling upon your organization’s letter towards the start of the year, on the topic of the “Metalhead effect” and the transparency of “hero” type individuals on the international stage. It is my primary regret only that I have not seen it earlier, as it echoes much of my thoughts in recent months. I have often struggled to express my own thoughts in ways that are understandable, so to find much of my thoughts written so clearly was a highlight.

 

The world has seemingly, bizarrely, moved on from the true horror that we each individually experienced earlier this year. We all discovered that our lives were lies, putty in the hands of unknown individuals with unknown intents. Somehow, we were supposed to live with that realization. We were to attend events and clock into work and love our family members while also knowing that all of those, all that we know, were only the way they were because specific people wanted it to be that way for us.

 

In some ways, it is a wonder that you and I are able to converse like this, as the few who protest this sham reality forced on us, without someone altering a few facts of the world to rewire us to think that we support such horrors. Perhaps this has already happened, and some terrible calculations on their part required us as, in their mind, meaningless resistance, so nobody suspects anything worse.

 

It is a wonder that things and people have simply moved on. I was not in the path of destruction when the alien Doomsday swept through the country, and I count myself lucky that during the vampire invasion that where I was staying was safe. However, this revelation of a metaphorical cheat code to rewrite reality affects all of us. It was difficult enough to go to work the morning after Doomsday or to continue life as normal after the vampires. This change feels different, still.

 

I would love to explore options to further explore the possibilities of amplifying the concerns that are unspoken by many, and unthought of – via interference or not – by many more. I believe that with my unique traits and presence in the world that our new “caretakers” reside in, and your reach and knowledge, we can perhaps unite on a common goal and amplify our concerns beyond what we as individuals might be able to.

 

I am, unfortunately, not easy to respond to. My position and profession has me regularly on the move, and some others in my world seek to limit my abilities and restrict my freedoms. However, for the purposes of responding to this letter and this letter alone, I have listed a return address on this letter to respond to.

 

If there is mutual interest, we can explore more long-term conversations, but for the moment consider this letter an exploration of potential allyship on shared interest. Your organization has skills that I am lacking, and I believe that I can bring skills to the table that will help bring light to darkness.

 

G. G.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

G.G.,

 

You have a gross misunderstanding of the Flash Museum. The antagonism in your letter is unmistakable, and if there accidentally or unintentionally, is itself a reason why such an allyship could not possibly work.

 

In your letter, it doesn’t seem like you indicate you’ve read anything other than our letter on the incident from earlier this year. The Flash Museum has released more than just the one letter referenced and read in total provides a nuanced but full understanding of the Flash Museum’s positions on a number of topics.

 

I’d strongly encourage you to visit the Flash Museum, to read its written works online, and to gain a better understanding of the Flash Museum’s stances. You may even find it changing yours. We are a museum dedicated to The Flash and all of their impact on the world, positive and negative. To do so, we encourage transparency and the open sharing of information. No mortal can go without mistake.

 

We certainly do not believe that The Flash has interfered with free will, let alone done it maliciously to suppress dissenting opinions. We certainly do not share your sentiments, unspoken and implied. The use of quotation marks, to imply that the word does not accurately apply, around the words hero and caretaker strongly indicate beliefs that we did not intend to indulge in our original message.

 

The Flash Museum strongly recommends you review the material available to you on our website, and if possible, visit the Museum in person. There is a great deal of information on its servers and in its walls, and more information can only further illuminate. We don’t know what your next steps are but have serious concerns about the terminology being used being a standard gateway for future calls for action and violence.

 

We would like to offer this to you: Should you wish to visit the Flash Museum, we would be willing to provide you with a season ticket to visit the Museum free of charge. This will allow you three months of free attendance to all of our exhibits, facilities, and events. Simply request to speak to the manager at Member Services when you arrive and provide them this letter.

 

The Flash Museum

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Notice of failed delivery

This is an automatic response of a failed delivery. The letter attached to this message could not be delivered, as the PO Box it was addressed to is no longer in service, and no forwarding address was left when the PO Box was closed.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

G.G.,

 

Hope this letter gets to you before the official one does, I sprung for overnight and I know the Museum won’t be. When we closed for the day, the letter’s draft hadn’t even been finished let alone sent to intern to do copyediting, and I’m gonna get this in the box at the local post office before I head to sleep.

 

If you got the other letter before this one, sorry, but I certainly wasn’t gonna stick my neck out for you and break museum policy. Silly as it may be, the museum does genuinely believe that stuff, even if you and I know that the greatest way to effect change is not to amplify and cheer on the person or people you want to change.

 

Anyway. You’ve got an interesting proposal. I’d like to chat with you more about it, so let me know how to get in touch with you more long-term. We don’t have to get the museum involved, they’re going to drag us down and I have plenty of contacts and connections outside of the museum staff who we can build something new on.

 

Like the museum, your leading comments have not missed my notice. If you are in fact a metahuman in some manner, perhaps with less eyes on our letters, you could be more direct about your abilities. We are of similar minds, and what you wished for the museum to provide I can provide in kind.

 

The Flash has long since enjoyed an inexplicable immunity to critique and criticism, hiding behind millions of dollars in charitable work and however many lives saved from natural disasters. However, these acts should not and cannot shield one from balanced review, something that The Flash has not experienced in a long time.

 

Perhaps, between the two of us, we can change that. For some reason I have to assume is rooted in celebrity psyche and some equivalent to religious zealotry, the word of a superhero is provided more weight than the average person, and in the marketplace of ideas between a “caped crusader” and your regular Joe or Jane, folks seem to like the ideas of the masked person more.

 

If you are in fact a metahuman, this could provide us with an advantage that would help to level the playing field as we work to bring The Flash to task for the lack of accountability in his actions.

 

The Curator

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Police Befuddled! Hand Out Of Nowhere Whisks Away Sotheby’s Vase

Headscratcher for New York police as FBI get involved as a mysterious gloved hand appears out of nowhere in the middle of a Sotheby’s gallery, disappearing with a vase. Lloyd’s of London have requested that the government get involved. Sotheby’s claims no knowledge of metahuman activity or threat.

 

City Safety On Ice As City Wakes Up To Frozen Precinct

Residents of Liberty, MO woke up this morning to their local police precinct frozen over. Between the hours of three and six in the morning, the as-of-now unknown perpetrator used metahuman abilities to entirely freeze over the outside of the building, cutting off any entrances and disrupting power and communication lines. Luckily, all seven overnight employees were safe, though they have been taken to Liberty Hospital for evaluation.
It's unclear what purpose this attack served, but citizens are encouraged to report any odd behavior that occurred overnight or for the remainder of the day. A statement from the police chief stated that such scare tactics would not prevent the police from doing their jobs, and that this was likely an attempt to cover up another crime committed around the same time.

 

Man Recovering After Supposed Altercation With Metal Man

President Irons move over! Ethan Van Sciver states that on his way back home from a bar, he spotted a “hulking, metallic man” in a nearby alleyway, and hurled an insult at him in his drunkenness. 911 was called by a restaurant employee who watched Van Sciver be tossed through a glass window into the building. Police are asking the public to report any sightings of a metallic man.
Van Sciver was quoted as saying, “I called him a lughead, he didn’t take kindly to that. Charged me faster than I could react, picked me up and tossed me. If there was anything more than that, I either was too drunk to remember or passed out and forgot.

 

Senate Hearing Evacuated After Credible Metahuman Threat

A senate hearing that was expected to hear testimony from members of S.T.A.R. leadership on the topic of metahuman prison safety was cancelled on Wednesday after the online discovery of a credible threat by an unknown metahuman force.
Social media account “FlashFreeze” posted a video of a masked individual sitting in the seat designated for the committee chair, twirling a knife around in their hand. Text on the screen reads, “They want us to think everything is allright [sic]. They don’t want us to know they are lying to us. Tomorrow, we prove it.”
Chairman Sen. O’Mara released a statement with the cancellation, stating: “We must not allow ourselves to be held hostage by those who would commit evils on us for doing the things that need to be done. The committee will hear from S.T.A.R. Labs one way or another, and prove to the world that we do not bow to underhanded tactics.

 

G. G.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

G. G.

 

I think we are going to disagree greatly on a large number of actions taken by you. While we share a similar ideology of what must be done to achieve fair equity in the world, I think your red line boundary is much farther into certain actions than mine.

 

This is fine. I am more than capable of working alongside those I have disagreements with, and I hope you feel the same way. I would say that petty thefts and threats to the ruling class are things that I do not find particularly useful to our cause. Our goal, in my opinion and subject to discussion and debate with you, should be to convert the general peoples from a mindset that excuses and overlooks metahuman misdeeds to one that holds them accountable.

 

Using metahuman abilities to commit crimes, to me, appears to be counter-intuitive to that goal. That’s not to say I expect boy scout behavior as a condition of some partnership, but I would love to understand your perspective on these things. We can have further conversations in person.

 

However, and with no doubt meant, newspaper clippings are helpful yet not personally identifying. I’m not asking for the video from the Capitol to be sent to me without the editing, or for a picture of the Sotheby’s piece, but I’d instead suggest the following:

 

You seem able to move around the country – Kansas City, DC, and NYC. Target a bank in Milwaukee County, make it significant enough to make local news in the region. Leave a calling card, something for me to identify you by. Let’s say the initials C.B.I.N. – they mean nothing, but they’ll let me know these letters are more than just documents to be submitted into evidence on some trumped up terrorism charges brought against me down the line.

 

The Curator

2 Comments
2024/05/01
19:14 UTC

1

DCFU Set #95.5 - Adventurous April

No stories this week! Hehe, it's still April!


Apply to Be a Writer! - You could write your own book and be part of our team!


New Issues

Issues from April 1st


Just joining us? Fall behind? Check the welcome post here or the full set list here.

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0 Comments
2024/04/16
00:32 UTC

5

Wonder Woman #77: Riders

Wonder Woman #77: Riders

<< | < | >

Author: Predaplant

Books: Wonder Woman

Arc: Season 3: Darkness

Set: 95

Chloe and Diana stared at a map, a map of a path that cut a swathe across the continent of North America.

“Do you truly think this is likely?” Diana asked her wife.

Chloe nodded. “It certainly seems so. They’re going to have more power, so that’s when it makes sense to strike. In any case, we have to be ready; even if they don’t attack, we can’t afford to become complacent.”

“Of course,” Diana replied. “But how can we stop an attack by an entire pantheon?”

“We need to pull together everybody we’ve got. The gods, the Justice League… we can ask the Titans… anybody who can stand up against them.”

“What do you think they’re going to do?” Diana asked. “You know this country better than I. Are there any weak points along this line?”

“Dallas, maybe?” Chloe suggested. “It’s a really long line, and they could attack at any point. We’re going to have to be careful as we move.”

Diana nodded slowly. “I’ll start drafting up plans.”

WWWWW

“Not often we know an attack’s coming before it does,” Cassie said, raising an eyebrow. She was sitting opposite Diana in the Gateway City Hall of Justice backroom, the one where she normally met with her friends for planning out their group. “Feels very un-superhero of us.”

“It’s a bit unconventional, I admit,” Diana smiled. She shifted in her chair a bit. These chairs were uncomfortable, Cassie knew that well, but she didn’t want to ask for better. They got the job done. “But hopefully it gives us an advantage.”

“Well, they’re attacking because of the eclipse and its magical energies, right?” Cassie asked.

Diana nodded.

“Then that’ll be a disadvantage for us. Maybe it won’t be as far in our direction as we’d like,” Cassie continued.

“It’s going to be difficult, I won’t deny that,” Diana said, standing up. She must have gotten tired of the chair, Cassie figured. “But we have a much lower chance of winning without all hands on deck.”

“I’ll be there,” Cassie told her. “Even if it kills me, I’ll put up the best fight I can.”

“Now, let’s hope it doesn’t kill you,” Diana replied with a small smile. “There’s still so much more to live for, after all, and I’m sure you’ll be able to see all of it.”

“But it could kill me,” Cassie said flatly.

“It could,” Diana agreed. “It’s hard to really know how dangerous it will be. It could be simple for us to deal with, or it could be the next Markovia. However, you’re tough. You’ve been through so much, and I think it is unlikely that you will meet your final end at this rest.”

Cassie took it in. She shifted in her chair a bit. “I just... I know some of my friends might want to help. And if it’s dangerous for me...”

“It’s none of their responsibility,” Diana said. “We’ve discussed this already.”

“Yeah, I know,” Cassie sighed. “And it’d be dangerous for them, and they might die, but if they want to fight we’ll have them, I know. It’s all pretty obvious stuff. I just think it’s going to be a difficult conversation to have with them.”

Diana moved over to stand next to Cassie. “I have faith in you to manage it. You’re a great leader, and I’m very proud of you.”

“Thanks,” Cassie said as she looked up at Diana. “But I just... it’d be hard to keep them out of it. And harder for them to walk into the unknown. Especially after what happened in Chicago.”

“Walking into the unknown is what we’re all about,” Diana replied. “No need to begrudge them for doing what the rest of us are doing as well.”

“Maybe they’re not meant to be us?” Cassie asked. “Where do we draw the line, I guess?”

Diana smiled widely. “You’re a wise young woman, you know that?”

Cassie grinned sheepishly.

“I think it falls on every person to make that choice,” Diana continued. “As long as they’re informed, and they are not unnecessarily foolhardy, that is. For it puts them in danger, that is true, but it would be much worse if these gods were to succeed in their plan.”

“I don’t think you’ve made it clear what their plan would be,” Cassie noted. “What are they even going to do? Just attack people?”

“We’re not entirely sure,” Diana replied. “There are a lot of approaches they could take on the date itself. This is the unfortunate part about how the eclipse amplifies their power; it could take a myriad of different forms. As we’ve seen, they have a myriad of ways to achieve their goals, and I’m not entirely sure all their goals align, either. In sum, if they do appear, we have to be incredibly wary. You’ll have to be on your guard.”

Diana reached her arm out and touched Cassie’s. Cassie looked up at Diana. “Yeah, of course.”

“Cassie… I’d like to ask you to command a team, if you would.”

Cassie tilted her head. “I… it’d be hard. If my friends come, then I could lead them. But I don’t think… I’m scared, Diana.” She gripped Diana’s hand.

Diana looked at Cassie with compassion. “I understand your fear. It’s never easy, to lead. But we need to help protect those around us. We need to be able to stand tall, to be resolute, to adapt to our opponents’ ways… and I think you can do all of that.”

“Is it alright if I sleep on it?” Cassie asked, standing up abruptly. “I think I just need some time.”

“Of course,” Diana said, and Cassie fled from the room, throwing on the light coat she had draped over her chair as she did so.

Diana watched after her as she left. Pursing her lips, she raised an ear to her communicator. “Chloe? She seemed unsure. Nervous.”

Chloe’s voice chirped back over the communicator. “There’s a lot of weight on her shoulders. Let her be a bit unsure. Knowing Cassie, she’ll come back around before the day of the eclipse.”

WWWWW

Kiran took a deep breath. “Another big fight? Okay. Okay! Yeah, I think I can do this.”

“You sure?” Cassie raised an eyebrow. It was a few days later, before a group meeting. Cassie had come to terms with the upcoming fight, at least to some degree. She’d accepted that she’d needed to recruit her friends… at least, the ones she trusted. After all, it wouldn’t really make sense for her to lead the Titans into battle. But her friends, she could manage. And Cassie had made a short list of a few who might be interested. Now was the tricky part: actually recruiting them.

“Mhm!” Kiran nodded. “I mean, you know light isn’t really useful in most fights... but you said this is during the eclipse, right? Maybe light will be what we need! It might be their weakness.”

“That’s what I was thinking, too.” Cassie confirmed. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll pull you out of there, but I think it’s definitely worth a shot. We don’t know a lot of what we’re facing, so it’s good to have whatever tools we can at our disposal.”

“Alright!” Kiran grinned at Cassie. “Let me know anything else you need from me! I’m gonna get back to work now!”

Cassie watched Kiran head off to continue preparing for the day’s meeting. Lorena approached Cassie, chuckling. “Looks like somebody’s happy.”

“More just filled with adrenaline, I think,” Cassie said with a small chuckle. “Asked her if she wanted to help out in a big fight in a couple weeks.”

“Oh…” Lorena said. “I hope you all make it out alright.”

“Me too…” Cassie murmured. From across the room she saw Tora enter. There was somebody else she wanted to ask.

“Excuse me for a moment,” Cassie told Lorena, walking across the room towards Tora. “Tora! Can we talk?”

Tora looked towards her quizzically. She had been putting a lot of effort into practicing with her powers since getting out of the hospital, and when her broken bones healed, she had put that same energy into learning to fight. Now she was easily one of the most capable fighters in the group… and Cassie knew that she had a vendetta against the Dark Gods.

“Is something the matter?” she asked Cassie.

“Not necessarily. Well, kind of,” Cassie said, gesturing Tora over to the side away from the door. Tora took a few steps towards her. “We’re thinking the Dark Gods might attack during the upcoming eclipse, and we were wondering if you might want to help us fight it?”

Tora’s face turned grim. She gave a curt nod. “I will be there.”

“Okay, great!” Cassie clapped her hands together. “I’ll be glad to have you.”

Tora gave her a soft smile and turned away, making her way further towards the group.

“The Dark Gods?”

Cassie turned to face the voice. It was Peony, a determined look on her face. Cassie’s heart sank.

“We’re not bringing you,” Cassie told her. “And that’s final. This is going to be a real battle, and I don’t want to make you a child soldier.”

Peony sighed. “I understand. I just… I want to fight back, after everything with Urzkartaga… it’s really scary. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Cassie looked Peony over. She looked so worried… Cassie sighed. “Alright. How about this? If there are fights, can you try and use your plants to clear a perimeter and keep people out of the way?”

“Alright!” Peony responded, clearly relieved.

“But!” Cassie said, raising a finger. “You gotta stay out of the action, and out of sight. If you see things going bad, you run. Alright?”

Peony nodded.

“Alright,” Cassie smiled. She turned away and walked back towards Lorena, slowly exhaling as she did so.

Cassie could trust Peony to look after herself, but it really scared her to think of putting her into the line of fire nevertheless. Hopefully Peony really would manage to stay safe throughout the fight.

“You sure you’re gonna be able to manage?” Lorena asked her.

“I think so,” Cassie sighed. “Watchtower’s going to be co-ordinating things, and we’ll have the Justice League at our back. If we could all handle Markovia, I’m sure we can handle this, it’s just going to be a lot.”

“Just… stay safe, alright? You, and all of them.”

“We will,” Cassie replied. “Anyways, we should probably focus on the meeting for now.”

“Yeah,” Lorena said. “We can talk more about this after.”

Cassie nodded. There was one more call she’d have to make after the meeting wrapped up, to a friend who might not otherwise have a team to rely on. But for now, she felt like she had who she wanted.

WWWWW

It was a bit hard to get in contact with a former Atlantean princess seeing as cell phones famously don’t work under water, but luckily, Chloe was able to give Cassie the number of somebody who might know her whereabouts.

“Hello? Who is this?” came the somewhat gruff voice of Aquaman over the line.

“Hey, this is Wonder Girl? From the Justice League?” Cassie said as she paced back and forth in her apartment. The thought occurred to her that maybe she should define a new name, step out from Diana’s shadow a bit. No time to think about that now, though.

“Yes, of course. What can I do for you?”

“Is Dolphin around? Do you know if you can put her on?” Cassie asked, pausing her pacing to sit down for a moment.

“I think she’s back down in Atlantis for a bit?” Aquaman replied.

Cassie shook her head. It was 2024; how was it still so hard to track people down?

“Hey, Mera, you know where Dolphin is?” Aquaman called out. Cassie could faintly hear a murmur of response through the phone line, before Aquaman gave her an answer. “Yeah, she’s still down there. We’re planning to have her up next weekend, though. You have a message you’d like to send her?”

“Well…” Cassie started, drumming her fingers on her knee. “You heard about the whole eclipse thing with the Dark Gods that Wonder Woman and Watchtower have been prepping for? I was wondering if she wanted to join my team for that battle.”

“Hmm…” Aquaman took a few moments to think things over. “I suppose she wouldn’t be fighting with the Justice League, and I think she might have interest, especially after everything with Namma… alright. I’ll ask her on the weekend, and let you know!”

“Thanks. Talk later!” Cassie said with a small smile. After a similar response from Aquaman, she hung up.

Immediately, she dialed another number. “Hey, Chloe? I think I’ve got my team ready. Still waiting on one, but otherwise I’m all good. What do you need from me to help make sure that we’re all good for the eclipse?”

She felt a small pit in her stomach at the thought of any of them getting hurt… but maybe that was the right amount of fear. Maybe that meant she’d lead them well.

She put her nerves behind her. She could manage this. She’d have to.

<< | < | >

1 Comment
2024/04/15
22:43 UTC

7

Hellblazer #28: Surprise, it goes bad

Hellblazer

Issue 28: Surprise, it goes bad

Author: The_Vowellster

Arc: British Magician-American Vampire

Set: 94

Previously on…

The American South

Outside an unspecified airport

“Okay, you fuckin’ caught me,” Constantine lit a fresh cigarette and sat on the curb. Thanks to the walking mass of shrubbery known as Swamp Thing, all the people going to and fro are giving me a wide berth. “I’m not taking a vacation.”

“I know Constantine,” Swamp Thing rumbled. “Before I became… this,” he held out a moss-covered hand, “I was one… of the brightest… in my field.”

“You know mate, we’ve been friends for years now,” are Swampy and I friends? “and I’ve never really asked about who you were before all,” he waved his hand vaguely at Swamp Thing, “this.”

“Perhaps,” Swamp Thing let out a rustling sigh like wind in the trees, “after this… issue has been… resolved. We might… have the time.”

“Deal,” Constantine took a long drag, held it in, breathed it out. “Well, tell me more about this new Avatar of Rot then.” He flicked the ash off the end of his cigarette and an old woman shot him a dirty look. “So is it an old friend or someone new?” Wouldn’t be the first time a companion had been chosen to be an Avatar of some type. And Rot wasn’t necessarily evil, just seemed to attract them. Like cops and being a prick.

“Is there a better…” Swamp Thing looked around them. Constantine had exited the airport and almost immediately stopped, probably still within the twenty foot “no smoking” boundary, “place to have… this talk?”

“There a bar close by?”

⚝⚝⚝⚝⚝

20 minutes later

A bar close by

“Alright mate,” Constantine took a sip from his beer as a bead of condensation rolled down the glass, “tell me what you know about this newest Avatar.”

“I am still… uncomfortable with how… you pay Constantine,” Swamp Thing breathed.

“The monopoly money? So their corporate overlords make a little less,” Constantine waved his hand. “It’s not like I tip with it.”

“No, you don’t… tip at all.”

“Look, we’re getting distracted,” Constantine waved the argument away. “The new Avatar. Tell me about ‘em.” The bar was dimly lit and filled with cigarette smoke, just the way he liked it. Although Swamp Thing looked less than enthused. That’s fine, let him. They’re dragging me into their problem.

“It appears to… be a vampire,” Swamp Thing shifted uncomfortably in the wooden booth.

“The two of you are worried about a vampire?”

“It seems that… this one is… a new breed,” Swamp Thing said.

“A new breed,” Constantine spun his beer glass on the coaster. “What’s that even mean?” He’d dealt with vampires before, even the King of Vampires once upon a time… They managed to be both incredibly dangerous and laughably inept. Van Helsing had said it once, ‘Their age makes them both dangerous and too cautious.’ Or some shite like that. Never was one for memorization. But the classics seemed to work pretty well on them: stake to the heart–although that seemed to take care of most things. Which made it difficult to imagine that two true blue super heroes were struggling with them, even a pack of them.

“Buddy Baker has… done research into… the vampires recently,” Swamp Thing said. “The most prolific… common vampire is… known as Carpathian.”

“Your classic Dracula type then?” Constantine took a sip of his beer and washed it down with a pull from the cigarette. Was that what the King of Vampires was? Now that had been one scary fuck. But like all vampires he couldn’t take sunlight… or demon-tainted blood. “So why haven’t you and Animal Man dragged him into the cold light of day and force fed him some garlic yet?”

“He appears… different,” Swamp Thing said. “Stronger. Buddy Baker… had not fully… investigated this new… American Vampire.”

“Vampire is a vampire chum,” Constantine said and chugged the rest of his beer. “Best be getting on with it while the sun’s still up and before he can mass too much strength.” During daylight, vampires were manageable. Like most nightmares. At night… well sometimes they even manage to scare me a little. “Where are they holed up at?”

⚝⚝⚝⚝⚝

The Rose Gold Club

A short time later

Skinner Sweet clicked the peppermint stick between his teeth. After damn near a hundred and fifty years roaming the planet he’d learned a fair bit of patience. But the Carpathian vampires managed to challenge that. All their damn plans had to be so… perfect. Perfection had never really been his schtick. Agent of chaos. Shoot from the hip. Make it up as you go. The wording might change, but Skinner Sweet remained the same. He was never really satisfied with the status quo or someone telling him what to do.

And now, after all these years, he wasn’t anyone’s stooge. He was the one in charge. And already it was boring. Sure it had been fun to rip the arms off a few sissy vamps, but that energy quickly faded. So now he just sat while others did paperwork and told him that their plan for world domination would be prepared in the coming future. Not that he’d ever wanted World Domination either. Somehow that was an expectation that had been thrust on him. And for the moment he was rolling with it. If nothing else, it would be a nice change of pace for a while. He could cause some world wide panic this way.

There was a light tap at the door, “Mr. Sweet sir,” the timid voice of a vampire whispered. The blood of the last creature to interrupt his time still decorated the door.

“What is it,” Skinner drawled and clicked the peppermint stick.

“There’s a man here,” the vampire didn’t dare make eye contact. “He said he’s here to talk with you.”

“He said he wants to talk with Skinner Sweet,” he said. Maybe once upon a time someone might have known his name, but those people were long dead.

“No sir,” the vampire said, “he wants to talk with the Avatar of Rot.” Skinner perked up.

“Take me to him,” he’d never heard that title, but it certainly caught his interest. The vampire nodded again and led Skinner through the dark club to the entrance where a blond man in a brown overcoat stood with a cigarette in his mouth, then lit it with a flame produced from his fingertip.

“That’s quite the entrance,” Skinner said and clicked his peppermint stick on his teeth. “Although, no one seemed to give me your name.”

⚝⚝⚝⚝⚝

“John, John Constantine,” he breathed out the smoke. The little bit of flashy magic always seemed to work, added to his “mystique.” Although the mystique in this case was nothing more than some slight of hand. But it did the job and got their attention. “You seem to be the new Avatar of Rot and somehow it became my job to tell you,” Constantine raised his head then made eye contact with the vampire, putting every ounce of intensity into the stare. And maybe just a touch of magic to really hammer it home. “Back the fuck off mate.”

⚝⚝⚝⚝⚝

Skinner felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end, the blood that pumped so slowly through his body chilled like ice under the British man’s stare. He even felt the rest of the vampires in the club take a step back as the menace rolled off the man in the jacket in waves. Whoever this John Constantine was, he was a threat. One that needed to be dealt with immediately. Skinner tried to leap at the man, fangs ripping out his throat as his claws disemboweled him. But his muscles were locked in place.

“Mmm, yeah,” Constantine breathed out a smoke laden breath, “you’re probably having some trouble moving ‘bout now mate. Consider this your one and only warning: back the fuck off.” Constantine turned abruptly, overcoat snapping from the sudden movement. Then Skinner felt a finger twitch. And he smiled.

⚝⚝⚝⚝⚝

Constantine was dazed as he spit out rock and grit from the asphalt of the parking lot. Last thing he could remember, he’d been in the club, had managed to intimidate the new Avatar then blacked out. He managed to get his legs under him, shakey as they were and turned. The Avatar of Rot stood in the shadow of the entryway, eyes glinting like a wolf’s. The road rash from skidding across the ground burned as he let a small smirk touch his lips. It was still sunny out, not quite high noon, but far from sundown too. And this vampire had made the mistake of throwing him to safety. He produced a cigarette and lit it, this time with a match.

“Looks like you lack a few brain cells,” Constantine was aware that trash-talking a vampire that had thrown him thirty feet might not be in his best interest, but in broad daylight he couldn’t be any safer. “I may not know much about you, whatever your name is, but I do know all vampires are scared of the sun.” His smile dropped as the vampire extended a pale arm into the sunlight and didn’t burst into flames. Fuck.

“Name’s,” the Avatar of Rot clicked his peppermint stick in his mouth, “Skinner Sweet. I’m a little different from these fucks,” he threw a thumb back to the glowing eyes that sheltered safely in the club. Skinner Sweet bounded the railing in one movement and landed with a thud. “In fact, sometimes I even like to come out and work on my tan a little bit.” His hand transformed into long claws and his jaw unhinged, teeth growing to daggers.

Fuck. I hadn’t prepared for something like this. Even the King of Vampires hadn’t made his knees shake like this one. He’d fucked up.

“Not so talkative anymore magician,” Skinner hissed through his teeth, tongue trailing out. “Not so confident now?” A dandelion twitched in the asphalt as the stagnant air pressed uncomfortably around him.

“You caught me off balance is all,” Constantine took a deep pull off his cigarette to buy time and calm himself. It was a shite scenario, that much was certain. But he could recover from this. He’d been in worse situations than this and managed to scramble his way to victory. All he needed was to get out of this and regroup. “But I’ve got my feet under me now, and a little bit of help.” Skinner Sweet’s unhinged smile dropped for a moment then fell completely as Swamp Thing erupted from the asphalt parking lot, dandelion bouncing like a pony tail on the back of his head. Thank fuck, if it hadn’t been for him that new Avatar would have torn me to ribbons.

“Run, John Constantine,” Swamp Thing rumbled as he threw a fist at Skinner who jumped back, “I will find… you later.” Constantine nodded and took off as Swamp Thing increased his mass and Skinner tore at the vegetation in vain.

2 Comments
2024/04/15
18:26 UTC

5

Cyborg #58 - Atlas Awakens

#Cyborg #58 - Atlas Awakens

<<| <| >

Author: Commander_Z

Book: Cyborg

Arc: Machine Mayhem

Set: 95


“Goooooooood afternoon mayhem enthusiasts!” The announcer's soprano voice echoed through the packed halls of the convention center.

“We’ve got quite the show for you today! 32 of the best robots from colleges all across the US are here, ready to show their metallic muscles and pummel their opponents back to the stone age!”

Spotlights flicked on, illuminating four robots evenly spaced out along the edges of the rectangular arena. It was perfectly flat and open, similar to a basketball court, with the exception of the reinforced acrylic barriers around all four sides to make sure that the audience in the stands were safe from the machines below.

Two of the robots were small and boxy, about the size of a coffee table, with their various weapons and movement systems sticking out. Another of them was disk shaped, like a top that had been sharpened to an edge. Then, there was one machine that literally stood above all others. The humanoid robot was right at the eight foot height limit, its bronze, metallic “skin” clothed with a crimson hood, gloves, trunks and boots made it seem almost as godlike as its name implied: Atlas.

“All of these teams are hungry for the chance to escape the free for all round and into the one-on-ones! But only one of these robots will be the last one standing! Only one of these teams can prove they're the best and move on! Are you ready… for MAYHEM?!?”

The crowd roared in response.

“That's what we love to hear! Let’s get it started… In three, two… one…!”

The robots fired out to life and began scanning the arena for their desired foe. They were required to operate solely on preprogrammed instructions, with their human creators forced to watch anxiously from the bleachers.

A small robot armed with a massive hammer was the first to move, swiftly driving over to the robot in the closest corner and slamming down the hammer directly on top of it. Some of its target’s armor plating seemed to crack and shake with impact, but not enough to phase it. It retaliated by turning on its flame thrower and pushing down its saw blade into the top of the machine, pinning it in place.

“A strong start from this match’s number one seed - Metropolis Technical University! Their robot focuses on doing long term damage with their fire and whittling down their opponents to finally cut through and do critical damage with their saw! Meanwhile, Cleveland State’s robot is focused on doing quick, severe damage with their hammer! Which style will end up being superior?”

On the other side of the arena, Atlas was indifferent to their struggle. The titan saw the two robots fighting and instead chose to walk over to the fourth robot, which seemed to be malfunctioning and was unable to move.

“Bad luck for the team from University of Illinois! Their spinning top type robot is devastating, but the additional complexity makes it prone to failure! Of course, that complexity is nothing compared to the walking type machine made by the team from the University of Michigan! Let’s see what it can do against a perfectly helpless target!”

Atlas stood directly above the machine, analyzing it as if it suspected it was a trap. Then, in one swift punch, its spherical hand tore into the top of the robot’s disk shaped chassis. The impact cratered in the top of the machine. Then, as swift as a lightning strike, a second and third punch rang out. The robot crumpled under the impact, like a kid tearing open the boxes for their birthday presents to get at the goodies inside.

The Titan looked over to the two robots, still locked into their duel and began to make its way over to its next victims.

“I… I don’t believe it! The sheer strength and speed on those punches! Can anyone stand up to that power?!? The only weakness it seems to have is that its size makes it have a low travel speed, but can any robot take advantage of that?”

Metropolis Tech’s robot went backwards at full speed to try and get out from Cleveland State’s hammer, and their speed proved to be enough to escape. But they were faster than the machine planned and the momentum from the rapid movement sent them reeling into one of the side walls. Cleveland State immediately accelerated over to the stunned robot and crashed directly into them while they slammed their hammer into the top of the machine. Instead of fleeing, Metropolis Tech stood their ground, sending out a stream of flames and pressing their saw blade down on their foe.

For a moment, it seemed like neither robot was damaging the other a significant amount. Then, Cleveland State lifted up their hammer for another attack and sparks flew out of the center of their chassis. Metropolis Tech's battle of attrition had hit something critical.

“It looks like Cleveland State’s battery took that hit! Their robot won’t be able to run much longer! But will they take their opponent with them? Oh, what’s this?! Atlas has finally made its way here!”

Metropolis Tech quickly lifted up their saw and created some distance between themselves and the other two machines. Atlas was happy to finish off the other robot for them. With a swift punch straight onto the cut made by Metropolis Tech, Atlas broke through the robot’s armor and messed up some of the sensitive circuitry inside.

“And another robot defeated by Michigan! Can anything stop this bot?!?”

As if answering the announcer's question, Metropolis Tech’s robot drove over to Atlas and slammed down their saw along the machine's leg, gashing open the armor. The humanoid robot tried to counter with a punch, but before it could react, Metropolis Tech’s machine was already gone, utilizing its superior speed to kite Atlas.

It went in for another round of attacks, revving up its flamethrower and saw blade as it drove over. Just as the saw impacted its previous gash, a one-two, left-right combo came in from Atlas. The punches broke through the little, boxy robot’s armor and made two fist sized holes in it. But Atlas only pulled its right arm out, leaving its left inside the chassis so Metropolis Tech couldn’t escape. One, two, three impacts directly to the processor of Metropolis Tech’s robot caused it to shut down, leaving Atlas alone standing.

“With an astounding three knockouts, the University of Michigan wins! You’ll see them again tomorrow morning with the winner of our last match tonight, so stay tuned to see who will be unlucky enough to face them!”

⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️

Later that night…

The three members of the University of Michigan’s Machine Mayhem team had just sat down for dinner after an amazing showing. They picked a local burger joint near the convention center and were briefly admiring the classic 40s style the place had while getting settled in their booth.

“What a day, guys!”

Donna was ecstatic, almost jittery with anticipation of the team’s next showing.

“Yeah, we all knew we made something special with Atlas, but I don’t think anyone knew just how dominant it would be. Every part of him just seems unbeatable.”

Keiji nodded. “What’s anyone going to be able to do to him? He’s the smartest, strongest, most durable machine by far. Sure, he’s slow but who cares. No one has a ranged attacking robot since it’s against the rules.”

“Gotta make sure we don't get overconfident Atlas might have the best “stats”, but that’s not all this is about. If they keep attacking his legs, he’ll fall over and then we lose. Or if he gets knocked off balance…”

“No need to be so concerned, Vic. I don’t think anyone has really had to think about fighting a humanoid style robot. We’ve already programmed in a counter to this too, like he did in the last match. Just celebrate what we’ve got tonight.”

Vic nodded. “I know, I know. We’ve just worked so hard on this, I’d hate to see it end here. We’ve got three matches if we keep winning tomorrow, I just want to make sure Atlas can take it.”

Keiji shook his head. “He can. We’ve put so much into him, now we just need to trust that he can take it, just like he trusts us to fix him up afterwards.”

“Just think, we know he works and we know he’s strong. Making any big changes at this point is more likely to break something than it is to improve it. What’s done is done.”

“Okay, I get it. Nothing left to do but watch at this point. It’s just, as the people who designed him, we know him inside and out. His flaws might as well be glowing, video game style weak points to us. But to everyone else, I guess it’s just like fighting a brick wall.”

Keiji and Donna were both about to respond, but their waiter arrived to take their orders, saving Vic from a bit more harassment. The moment had passed by the time they were done and so Donna thankfully hung up the topic.

“So… we’re juniors now. One more year until we’re in the real world. Any idea what you guys want to do?”

Unfortunately, not to anything lighter.

Vic was the first to respond. “I’ve thought about it a little bit. I feel like I do best when I’m in these weird situations, forced to adapt and come up with something new. I think I’d like to work at some company on the forefront of research on robotics, maybe Wayne Technologies or one of those Boston robotics companies.”

“Wow, pretty surprised you’ve got a solid answer on that already, Vic. Doesn’t seem like you,” Keiji joked.

“Hey, harsh. I can make a decision when I want to and this one’s kinda important. I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”

“Well, so have I. I’ve already made one game and I love the challenge it provides. I’m either going to join one of the big companies or just make my own indie games.”

Both of the guys expected Donna to follow up, but she didn’t. She sat there awkwardly, hoping that they’d just go to some other conversation or follow up their ideas. But they didn't. Neither was willing to prompt her, but she could tell they were curious and relented after a few silent moments.

“I’m not really sure where I want to go with things. I’m not like you two, some gods amongst the rest of the engineers in your fields. I’m just average, maybe a bit better than that.”

Vic shook his head. “Don’t sell yourself short. Your control circuits and power distribution was nothing short of a miracle. The amount of backup systems you managed to hide all throughout the machine is incredible. I’m convinced pretty much any of the limbs could run all by themselves, even if they were completely separate from the main body.”

“Yeah, even setting the design work aside, you also managed to do design and code reviews on everything we did, fixing who knows how many errors.Without you, this thing wouldn’t have been half as good or even finished.”

“You guys… Thanks. But really, anyone could do those things…”

“No, no they couldn’t! You say you’re average, but the average engineer here can barely stay afloat with their school work. You managed to be a huge part of a massive project on top of that. No need to be so humble, be proud!” Vic said.

“Yeah, besides, I’ve had enough team projects where my teammates barely even show up. Showing up and doing your third of the work with your usual fervor makes you way above average in my book.”

Donna smiled warmly. “Thanks, really. Guess it’s just so easy to discount your own efforts when you’re surrounded by so many incredible people.”

Vic laughed. “Donna, I’m on the Justice League. You have no idea how much I feel that.”

“True enough. So I guess, if you were making me answer… I’d like to do something a bit less directly technical. I’m not sure what that really looks like, but I’ve been sorta thinking about getting into the law side of things, maybe patent law. Sounds like cool work and it lets me see all sorts of incredible things.”

“Yeah, that sounds like it’d be a really cool path to take. Wishin’ you the best at it,” Keiji said. He grabbed his cup and raised it between the three of them. “Here’s to tomorrow and whatever the future holds for us.”

Vic raised his and said, “Whatever it holds, we’ll get through it together.”

Donna raised hers and chimed in, “And no matter what happens, we’ve done something amazing. Let’s bring home the trophy!”

The sound of their drinks clinking echoed throughout the restaurant for a moment, but their laughter rang out for hours.

⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️

The next morning.

“What… the…”’

Each team was assigned about 200 square feet for their supplies and to store their robot while matches weren’t going on. The entire area was locked and guarded whenever people weren’t there, and yet Vic looked at their space in the convention center in horror.

Atlas was gone.

Donna and Keiji were standing right next to him, and they’d have never taken Atlas without him anyway.

Someone had stolen their robot.

It wasn’t completely unheard of for teams to steal spare parts or tools to try and hamper other teams, but entire robots were a scale beyond what people could even fathom. For one, they were big and heavy and incredibly conspicuous. They also had very little value to anyone other than their teams, so there was no profit to be made beyond cheating in the competition.

And yet, Atlas was gone.

“I’ll go talk to the security guards. Someone had to have seen something. You two, look for clues. Maybe there’s a strange footprint or something. Anything. We’re on last this morning, so we’ve got…” Vic pulled out his phone. “About three and a half hours until we need to be ready. Plenty of time to sort this out.”

Vic wished he was as sure as he hoped he sounded, but he left Donna and Keiji to hopefully find some answers. After a quick walk, he reached the security guard’s table. Only one guy was there, a man in his late 50s.

“Um… Hi. Was someone keeping watch last night?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Our robot is gone. None of my team members have touched it and we left right before closing last night, so no one could have taken it during normal hours. So we were hoping one of you had some idea what happened.”

The guard raised an eyebrow. “If we knew anything, don’t you think we would’ve tried to do something at the time? I can send a message to the guy who did the night shift, but he’s probably asleep for the next eight hours or so.”

“Go for it. Can’t hurt. Do you have security cameras at all?”

“The convention center probably does, but we don’t have access to those since we’re just hired for this event. I can contact them and see.”

“Great, thanks. Here’s my number, let me know if you find anything.”

Vic wrote down his phone number on a piece of paper and handed it to the guy.

“Will do, good luck.”

Vic walked away, annoyed. He hadn’t really expected anything, but he had hoped that they’d somehow have an answer.

“Any luck?”

Keiji and Donna shook their heads.

“Nothing on my end either.”

Vic paced around in silence, trying to come up with a plan.

“Okay, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go patrol the rooftops, look around and see if there’s anywhere nearby that looks like you could hide a robot in. I doubt whoever took it went far. Almost all of the schools that are competing aren’t from here, so they wouldn’t know anywhere too far to take him. You two can continue asking around here for things. There has to be something, I know it.”

“Good luck, Vic. I don’t think it's all that dangerous but… stay safe.”

“I will. Thanks, Donna.”

Vic walked away from their area while Keiji and Donna were left thinking of other angles. After a few moments, Donna spoke up.

“I’ve got an idea too, but it’d take me too long to explain. I’ll tell you later.”

“Uh, okay? I’ll hold things down here then.”

“Thanks, Keiji.”

Keiji left Donna to her methods, whatever she was doing seemed like her own thing. He wasn’t going to pry.

Instead, he swept their workspace again but still didn’t find anything. He checked his phone to see if Vic or Donna had said anything, but nothing there either. Then, he had an idea.

He booted up his laptop and after a few moments, pulled up the program for Atlas’ onboard camera. It was only supposed to be used for clips for their social media but he knew they usually forgot to turn it off, which meant it was still probably broadcasting.

Sure enough, it was.

It was dark wherever Atlas was, but the top left third of the screen was bright. He tried to focus the image in that section and realized that it was looking out through a window. The resolution was really bad this zoomed in, but Keiji was pretty sure that he recognized the building that it was looking at. It was built in a much more modern style than many of the other buildings in the area, which made it pretty memorable to Keiji.

He slammed his laptop shut and started to make his way over there. It was a couple blocks away along the route they drove to get to their hotel, so he figured he could be there in just a few minutes. He wasn’t sure of the exact address, but he sent a message to Vic and Donna saying whereabouts he was going so they could meet him.

⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️

Keiji got to the building that he thought he had seen through the camera and started taking in the area, trying to figure out which angle it had seen it from. Then, he chuckled as he realized that it was obvious: Atlas wasn’t in one of the buildings, he was in the alley in between them. Whoever had taken him had stashed him here, not too far from the convention center, just like Vic had guessed. What he had thought was the light from the window was actually just the angle of the camera only showing the bit of light that peeked through its peripheral vision as it looked at the building across from it in the alley.

Sure enough, around 10 feet from the street, was Atlas, standing right next to a couple of trash cans. But what surprised Keiji was that Atlas was powered on. The camera had its own battery that he knew was on, but Atlas’ battery only lasted 45 minutes or so. So either the robot was stolen recently, or someone had just turned him on. Both were confusing for their own reasons, but he didn’t have time to unpack that.

He went over to the back side of Atlas and reached towards the panel in the middle of his back to turn him off. But when he did, the robot’s motors started to whir and vibrate in a cacophony of sounds no motor system was intended to make.

Keiji took a step back, startled, but the noises continued.

It was as if everything that could move on the machine was vibrating itself, trying to free itself from the fasteners that held the robot together. Then, the noise started to get a little clearer, a little less random. It focused together into what Keiji swore was a word, repeated over and over.

“No.”


<<| <| >

2 Comments
2024/04/15
16:01 UTC

1

DCFU Set #95 - Adventurous April

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0 Comments
2024/04/02
00:07 UTC

7

The Flash #95 - Recruitment Trip

##The Flash #95 - Recruitment Trip

<< | < | >

Author: brooky12

Book: Flash

Arc: ?

Set: 95


 

“Hey there, lady.”

 

Lisa gasped, recoiling as she looked up from her sitting position.

 

“Rink closed hours ago, what’re you doin’ here?”

 

Lisa’s eyes flashed with fear at the heavy-set man leering over her. A knapsack on the back of the man looked worn and in use, sagging with whatever potentially dangerous equipment or items he could be hiding in there. She sat on the stoop of a small ice-skating rink, the only of its kind in this part of the city.

 

She stammered, glancing around in shock as if she wasn’t aware of where she was. “I—I—um, well, I—I don’t know… I…”

 

The man looked confused, glancing around. “This just isn’t the most safe place to just end up falling asleep. Are you safe, you need a ride home or something? Again, place’s been closed for hours. Do you have shoes?” He asked that last question hesitantly, glancing at Lisa’s belongings surrounding her.

 

Lisa pulled her clutch closer to her, glancing down to the glittery ice skates still on her feet. “I’m—I’m fine! I just must’ve… I… Must’ve been waiting for a ride and… fell asleep…”

 

For the first time, something more glinted behind the man’s eyes as he watched the young woman slowly pull herself up, palm and purse pushing against the concrete of the building’s threshold, careful to not take any step in her ice skates. Lisa’s eyes stayed locked with his, watching for anything untoward.

 

“Ma’am, how are you going to get anywhere in skates?”

 

“I—I—I—I’ll be quite fine!” Lisa said, uncertainty thick in her voice as she nervously smiled, now standing up still in front of the building’s door. Even with her standing and a small slouch from him, the man had half a foot on her, standing a bit in the way of her exit.

 

“Are you sure? My car’s in the factory’s parking lot, didn’t want to leave when I saw you here. I don’t think you’re about to be robbed or—”

 

There was a word Lisa was waiting for. “You’re going to rob me,” she shouted, the uncertainty dipping into horror. She ducked down, moving before the factory worker could even comprehend what had happened, circling around him to reverse their positions in relation to the building.

 

Now that she was taking steps with her ice skates, the technology that her imprisoned brother had made creating skateable ice beneath her each movement, leaving a trail of ice as she moved away from him.

 

“What are you—”

 

It didn’t really matter that this was a set-up, even if there were cameras watching the area the conversation could be twisted into some argument of self-defense. It didn’t really matter that he wasn’t an actual threat and was trying to help, who would genuinely believe the words of a generic tough guy looking factory worker over a small and scared woman?

 

This was a perfect time to get some proper practice in. She ducked, avoiding his flailing arm as he turned around in surprise to face her. It wasn’t a swing, but what was the difference? She twisted on one heel while extending out the other, a small blade of ice shooting out in the man’s direction and slicing against his boot.

 

“Woah, woah—”

 

She pulled her leg back in, putting more distance between her and her practice assailant, bringing each foot up just enough to send ice daggers in his direction. They peppered him, bloodying his arms as he raised them to defend himself.

 

“Crazy—”

 

Never call a woman crazy, Lisa thought. How cruel! She kneeled down, pulling herself into a rapid spin. The ice around her built up, forming a small shell that quickly grew in thickness. When the man had finished flinching from the previous attack and seemed ready to run away, she slowed the spin down, pushing backwards against the ice between herself and him, sending a wall of ice pushing forward in his direction.

 

A shout of fear, a muffled impact, the sound of ice shattering, and the sound of an unconscious man hitting the ground. All good sounds.

 

Lisa could understand why Leonard ended up in prison. Just having the skates was exhilarating, and she wanted to experience more of this power. But this was just a test run without any help. She sauntered over to the factory’s parking lot, picking the car she’d steal to get back home.

 

It was time for a road trip.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Anthony Woodward groaned in pain, slowly moving his right arm to his mouth to drink from the small paper cup of water that the hospital had provided him. In the corner of his eye, the guard assigned to the inside of his room watched him with mild interest, as if he was curious about the pain he was going through.

 

He shouldn’t be here, but that was fine. He wasn’t that badly injured after trying to rob a local bank, but this was better than a reinforced prison cell for the time spent without bail before the trial. And besides, if he decided for some reason he wanted to leave, he could. What were the officer’s guns going to do? Not much.

 

He didn’t want to leave though, not immediately. He wasn’t intending on being escorted to prison, but a hospital in a densely populated city wasn’t exactly an easy place to escape from when you were a hunk of living metal. If he was smarter, he’d have made a backup plan, but he wasn’t, so he hadn’t. Next time.

 

A commotion outside of the room caught his attention. It wasn’t the first commotion he had heard, but this one seemed different. Raised voices and shouts weren’t normal for commotions, a single raised voice of a frustrated patient or family member maybe, but multiple raised voices and screaming was new.

 

The officer stationed in the room was curious for certain but didn’t move. Good for him, well trained officer of the law, keeping the peace and enacting the tyranny of the minority rule by oppressing those with nothing on behalf of those with everything. Good on him for keeping to his blinded tunnel vision responsibility of watching the injured man and not even taking a glance at whatever was going on outdoors.

 

The gunshots changed that, quickly. They were frighteningly loud compared to the prior arguments, originating right outside of the door to the room. Anthony knew there were more guards on the outside, but to hear them open fire in the middle of a hospital was still surprising.

 

The warden in his room drew his pistol, shooting Anthony a suspicious and angry glance before leaving the room. For a few minutes, it was quiet in his room. Not the traditional quiet with no sound, there was plenty of sound as some sort of fight occurred in the hallway, but the quiet of an unmoving space with no other people in it. Not a common occurrence between prison cells and monitored hospital rooms.

 

The sound of a body slamming into his door brought sudden quiet, the traditional quiet with no sound. Whatever happened outside was over, and he wondered what it was about and who won. He definitely hadn’t paid anyone in the community to break him out of the hospital.

 

When the door opened, the lady who entered was clearly not from the local sheriff's office. Ice skates and a superhero outfit didn’t seem like it’d be on the approved apparel list in their dress code.

 

“Hey there, quick question, how much Metalhead effect you have?”

 

Anthony frowned. What an opener this conversation was. “Spent all of it in a prison cell. None, or all.”

 

“Sounds like none. You and I got some good connections and work in if you remember me, Glider?”

 

This was an ally? “Glider? No bells rung. Are you busting me out? I was gonna leech off their painkillers for a while longer.”

 

Glider nodded. “Well, it’s a matter of time before the police arrive, so you can chill here longer and deal with the trial and escalated security of now someone coming in here to bust you out, or you come with me, we raid the stock room, then bust out.”

 

Anthony considered the options. “Let’s get going.”

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Hartley peeked through the small peephole of the door. A lady he didn’t recognize stood on the outside, waiting expectantly.

 

When he opened the door, however, the large metallic man standing in the garden was the first thing he saw, and Hartley immediately tried to close the door in response. The hand interposed in between door and doorframe prevented that, and it slowly opened the door despite Hartley’s resistance.

 

Bizarrely, the lady gave a thumbs-up, seemingly still cheery about the situation. What was her deal? Hartley reached up to his hearing aid, nervously shaking his head. People with perceived power over him tended to not like being told that they weren’t allowed to communicate with him.

 

The lady smiled at him, pointing a thumb with pinky extended at her sternum, following it with a flat hand tapping her forehead. Enough sign language to indicate “I know”, in the way that someone who had just pulled that information from an online sign language video library would sign it.

 

Well, it wasn’t like he was about to close the door, given that the metal man was holding it open and didn’t seem inclined to close it. They weren’t immediately trying to attack him, which was good, at least. “What,” he signed back.

 

The lady looked a bit uncertain at the sign and decided to move to the next stage of her script, pulling out a folded piece of paper to hand it to him. After a moment of hesitation, he took the letter, nervously opening it.

 

Dear Pied Piper,
I don’t know if you remember us. Girder and I are trying to learn ASL so we can reunite. We were allies in Metalhead. I’m working to put the team together based on my memories from the Metalhead Effect, and you were a part of it. You had a flute that could control rodents, and machines that could dampen sounds, does that sound familiar to you at all?
If I remember correctly, the further back stuff is fuzzier to me, you’re pretty angry with The Flash for messing up your high school and college days, right? Something about love triangles and you exploring your technical skill and getting shut down by The Flash. Again, it’s super fuzzy stuff, so if that makes any sense to you, awesome!
Dunno how much truth there is in that in here in the sequence of events that is reality, supposedly reality at least, but given that most people don’t seem too different between memories and reality, figured you’d be on board. Two’s better than one, three’s better than two, and a group’s better than three! We’ve got a few more stops to make for the group we’ve had.
We’ve been spending time learning ASL while tracking you down, but I wanted to communicate this thought properly, so I wrote it down. I hope that’s okay, I know deaf people don’t like that sometimes?
Glider

 

Hartley’s body language was interpretable in all languages, worry and fear. He held up a single finger, trying to indicate for the two of them to wait, and stepped away briefly to get a pen, hoping he wouldn’t return to find them inside the house. When he came back, the two of them were quietly talk-arguing among themselves. He wrote back his response on the other side of the paper, and handed it back.

 

Hi
You have the wrong person, I’m sorry. I don’t know who you are or what you are talking about. I don’t know anything about rodent or sound machines, or about The Flash. Please don’t hurt me, but I think you remember the wrong person.

 

The lady, Glider according to the signature, read it. Then she showed it to the man, presumably Girder. The two stared at each other for a few moments, then Glider turned her attention back to Hartley.

 

“Sorry,” she signed. Then, slowly in English for him to lip read, “We were never here, okay?”

 

Hartley gave a nervous thumbs up, which must’ve been the correct answer because Girder released his hold on the door and the two turned to walk away.

 

Hartley didn’t bother to watch them leave the property from the open door, closing it immediately. He watched them through the peephole as they left, finally releasing the held breath once their car was out of sight.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Girder closed the door of the car. “What was the deal with that?!”

 

Lisa’s hands gripped the steering wheel hard enough to feel pain. They’d have to dump the car now that the kid had seen it and not joined them, but they needed to put some distance between him and wherever they dumped the car. “I dunno, Ant! I remember him very well, but I didn’t expect him to be totally clueless. At least with you, you’d been thrust into that world, and for me I’ve got a bone to pick with the Flash for what they’ve done to my brother.”

 

“So what was his deal, then? Pied Piper, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Lisa said, frowning. “I dunno what his deal is. Maybe his Metalhead life was just… wildly different to his real life. Obviously there’s like, a range of how different it seems like it can be, but maybe he’s just. More different than not.”

 

“Frustrating.”

 

“Yeah. And we don’t really have a lead onto Abra or George, so I guess it’s time to put effort into finding some of the others. I’d have hoped we’d have Hartley since, you know, tech and stuff, he can probably find people better? But now we gotta get into the more difficult folk without much of a lead.”

 

A new voice from the backseat piped up, and Lisa could see Girder twist the upper half of his body to look behind them in a moment’s notice.

 

“Ah, but this is perhaps where I can step in, my friends!”

 

“Give me one reason to not crush your skull in, now.”

 

Girder was blunt, but it was an accurate response. Lisa glanced in the rearview mirror, untensing slightly as the dark outfit and facial hair were incredibly familiar and yet entirely a distant memory.

 

“Allow Abra Kedabra, your friend, to introduce himself before you try. Not that you could succeed, Girder, for my magic defends me.”

 

“You’re Abra?”

 

“He’s Abra,” Lisa volunteered, and she could see Girder relax with her confirmation.

 

“You’re just gonna show up in the backseat of our car?”

 

“What better appearance for a magician than to suddenly appear!?”

 

“Where’d you even come from?”

 

“Ah, but my friend Girder, is that not the secret of the show?”

 

“I don’t like you.”

 

Abra laughed. Lisa relaxed as she pulled the car over to dump it and steal another. This was a good pick-me-up after Hartley blanked them.

2 Comments
2024/04/01
22:39 UTC

8

Bird & Bow #3 - A Cheep Shot

Bird & Bow #3 - A Cheep Shot

Black Canary's Beginning

Green Arrow’s Beginning

<< | < | >

Book: Bird & Bow

Set: 95

Arc: Changed for Good

--->~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<---

A month of nothing. After taking Rosa from right outside Iron Heights, they’d set the girl up in a safehouse, with full-time security and several escape routes.

It was no wonder they hadn’t heard a peep from Stanley Dover. But over the past few weeks, a new serial killer had popped up. The journalists were calling it the ‘Star City Slayer’ even though the murders spanned both Star City and Seattle.

They hadn’t heard a peep about that either.

The elevator ride to Ollie’s penthouse was tense. Silent. Another murder had occurred last night. The scene was so grotesque that even Ollie had warned her not to look. Not that she listened. It had been one of the worst things she had seen in a long time. This was no random mugging or accidental killing. It was precise, surgical with short incisions that kept the victim alive for longer while the killer did whatever they wanted.

It made her sick just thinking about it.

Dinah watched the digital display clicking upwards, clenching and unclenching her hands. They needed to do something, but Ollie was unwilling to put anyone's life at risk - a stance she appreciated but also understood was entirely pointless when people where literally *dying* because of their inaction.

A soft ding indicated that they arrived at Ollie's floor. They had started coming back here after their Wednesday night League training, and it had morphed into a routine they were both becoming comfortable with. Dinah tried not to read too much into the fact that she essentially had a second wardrobe stored in Ollie’s apartment.

Exiting from the elevator, Dinah stopped short, almost bumping into Ollie’s back as the man in front of ehr tensed even more, a thing she didn't think had been possible given the tension moments before. Peering around his back, Dinah spotted a middle-aged white man with a long, tan coat, stubble lining his cheeks and a cigar hanging out of his mouth.

She moved without thinking, lunging for the man and shoving him against the wall. A silver blade against his throat before he could utter a word. Oliver cursed, but even he was too slow as Dinah used her weight as a lever to push into the stranger.

Ollie had said his penthouse was the most secure building in all of Star City. She had watched as he meticulously added her details to every stage of his security set up. That meant whoever this guy was, he was either really bad news, or someone with impressive magic. Which probably meant he was doubly bad news.

The man's blue eyes flickered towards Ollie with what Dinah could only assume was a lack of self preservation, ash from his cigar falling onto her arm. “Well, I’m glad to see she woke up. But I’d be really glad if she wasn't holding a knife to my throat.” A thick English accent poured out of the man, as he addressed Ollie.

“Jesus, Dinah.” Ollie seemed caught between laughing and trying to remain serious. “Let him go. He’s……” Ollie left the sentence hanging, which didn't exactly fill her with confidence.

“I’m the best shot you’ve got at finding ‘The Star City Slayer and dealing with your Stanley Dover problem.” Confident, cocky asshole, but Ollie shrugged with an accepting nod.

--->~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<---

John. Fucking. Constantine.

After Ollie’s small stunt last year with trying magic, he’d sworn up, down and sideways that he would never mess with the stuff again. Just so he could avoid ever having to deal with Constantine again.

But like a bad itch that never quite goes away, the prick was back, and the way the Englishman offered Dinah an easy, charming smile made Ollie want to punch something. Hard. He was thankful Canary either didn't notice or didn't care enough to return the gesture.

John puffed on his cigarette, the ash falling onto one of Ollie’s expensive rugs and making his eye twitch. Dinah claimed he was a bit of a neat freak, but he was someone who believed that everything, and everyone, had a place of belonging. Cigarette ash did not belong in his home.

Ollie flopped into his chair, closing his eyes and counting slowly to five in his mind before opening them again and trying to settle back into his Green Arrow demeanor.

“Right. Give us the information.” Dinah looked at him out of the corner of her eyes, the only surprise she showed at the change in his voice.

Constantine blinked slowly, then took a sweeping shot around the apartment. “You really are a shite host Queen. Forgave it the first time because you had shit going on, but you don't even offer a man a glass of whisky?” The way the man's blue eyes stuck to the decanter, Ollie assumed if he gave him a drop, he’d go through the whole bottle.

“Sorry, I’m out.”

John scoffed, his eyes lingering on the obviously full decanter for a moment longer before he seemed to return to business mode - or what John Constantine considered business mode at least.

“We’ve been watching Mr Dover for some time. Sly prick - ‘scuse my language” He offered to Dinah, who rolled her eyes when Constantine turned his attention back to Ollie. “But he’s been steadily working on a way to steal powers. Took to fostering kids to try and figure out when and how it happened, kept in touch with the kids as a means of having life-long data points.”

Dinah’s eyes widened just a fraction, and Ollie could tell she was putting the puzzle pieces together faster than he could. “He’s the Star City Slayer.” She breathed.

Constantine worked his jaw for a moment, but nodded. “Him and his little cult of ordinaries - no offense - “ he said this time to Ollie. “We didn’t think they’d take it this far, but even more concerning is the fact that we think they might have been successful.”

Ollie blinked. Dinah blinked. A new type of tense silence settled around the two of them, even while Constantine kept talking.

“My associates and I understand that you have Miss Rosa Dillon under surveillance. We’ve come to tell you to pull it all. Dover’s a smart man, like the rat he is, he'll only come out when the lights are out and the cats have gone to sleep.” He gestured to the two of them as he mentioned cats, and they exchanged glances.

Ollie worked his jaw, trying to stifle the panic working its way through his stomach. This is what he’d been afraid of after everything with the Flashes. It was why he’d started looking into things. He knew if the Star City Slayer existed in this version of events - well it was inevitable that Dinah would be ready and willing to put herself on the line to make sure other people stayed safe.

It was one of the things that he liked about her. That had made him fall for her in that other life.

Even now he could see her gaze hardening, as the prospect of putting someone else - an innocent in her eyes - in the firing line became an unacceptable casualty.

Constantines words rambled into an uneasy silence as the man looked between the two heroes before whistling, low and quiet. “Thought you’d have sorted this out by now.” He stood a bit straighter, stretching. He placed two cards on the coffee table before sticking his hands back into his coat pockets. “I’ll give you twenty four hours to figure your shit out. Won’t bother telling you that either way, Rosa’s surveillance stops - it’ll just be the difference between you knowing where she ends up and us staying friends or….” He shrugged, as if the consequences of what he was suggesting didnt bother him one bit.

Without another word, John Constantine left, and once again, he left Ollie having no idea what to do other than fight like hell to keep Dinah safe.

--->~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<---

Dinah could see the wheels in Ollie's head turning after Constantine left. As the Green Arrow tried to separate whatever feelings he had from the pure facts they had been presented.

Ollie blew out a breath and she straightened in her chair slightly. Ready to fight if necessary.

Green eyes met her blue. Steely determination that made her stomach flutter.

“Let me make one thing abundantly clear, Miss Lance.” Arrow spoke slowly. “Though it kills me, I will never stop you from doing what you think is right.”

She stared at him uncomprehendingly for several moments. He took a step closer, his overwhelming presence kicking her heart into high gear.

“But that also does not mean that I will allow you to unnecessarily put yourself into danger when it can be prevented.” His fingers curled into a fist, taking a deep breath. “I understand you want to protect Rosa. So do I. But I want to protect you too.”

Dinah opened her mouth to protest, or to say something in response to the emotions Ollie was displaying, but the man in front of her held up a hand before continuing. “I propose a compromise. Constantine is obviously going to do whatever he wants to do, let's try and keep in the loop by introducing you as an *ordinary* friend of Rosa's. That way you can keep an eye on things, but you're also not a target.”

She pursed her lips. She didn't know Constantine, or the lengths the man would go to to get his way, so in that sense Ollie's plan made sense. But she wasn't sure if she'd be able to forgive herself if anything happened to another person because the two of them left the case in Constantine's hands.

His proposal was a good one, and she almost hated him for it. She had been so willing to throw herself into danger that she didn't even consider this as an option.

“Fine.”

She didn't think a single word could make another person smile in the way that Ollie smiled. His grin spread so wide she could see the simple on the side of his mouth. A very distracting thought.

Dinah blinked, dragging her eyes back to meet Ollie's dancing green eyes. And she knew her own smile met his.

*Shit.* She was in trouble.

2 Comments
2024/04/01
22:31 UTC

6

Superman #95 - Revenge

##Superman #95 - Revenge

<< | < | >

Author: MajorParadox

Book: Superman

Arc: Heritage

Set: 95

###Breaking In


Alex’s Office Space Building, Metropolis


Lois had noted down which floor the elevator was on before it hit the lobby, luckily they only came from the second floor. The single flight of stairs would be nothing if she wasn’t very pregnant. But she couldn’t take a chance with the elevator. If she was spotted, that was game over.

The journey upstairs was steady but lengthy. It did give Lois time to think, though. Someone was organizing Superman’s enemies, but to what end? Did any of them have any motivations beyond wanting Superman dead? Baragge, Killgrave, and Metallo fit the bill, but Riot wanted to sleep and Livewire was powerless and reforming herself.

Things change, she supposed.

Upon reaching the top of the stairs, Lois pulled out her phone. Still no signal. She made sure it was set to silent. It’ll be hard enough being sneaky with a baby in her stomach, but a ringing phone would be a dead giveaway that she was there.

She needed to do one more thing before she went for it. Lois opened her message app and wrote up a text to Clark, letting him know what she found. The moment she got a signal, it’d be ready to send.

Lois peeked through the glass window in the door to the second floor. The part of the hallway was clear enough for a closer look. She gently placed her hand on the knob and turned it softly, pushing it slowly so it barely made a sound. As soon as there was enough room, she poked her head out and took a quick scan from side to side to find the coast was clear.

“Come on,” Lois said under her breath as she stepped out and checked her phone again. One bar popped up, so she clicked send on her pre-filled text.

Lois let the door close as quietly as she had opened it and proceeded down the hall, ducking below the first door. She tapped open the photo app and lifted the phone high enough to see into the room from the preview.

Metallo was there on a table with lots of wires and machines plugged into him. Riot was pacing around the other side of the room and Livewire was sitting at a chair in the middle, spinning around.

Lois moved her hand to get to the capture button, but the phone slipped out a bit in her hand, and tapped the glass of the door window.

“Who’s that?” asked Riot, splitting himself into two people.

Leslie stood up and bolted for the door, pulling it open to find Lois trying to hide.

“Lois Lane?!” she yelled, her eyes moving to the reporter’s belly. ”Wow, you’re about to pop! What the goshdarn heck are you doin’ here?”

“Gosh darn heck?” asked one of the Riots poking his head into the hallway for a peek.

“I’m trying not to swear in front of the baby,” Leslie explained.

“The baby’s not even freakin’ born yet,” said Riot. “They can’t hear you.”

“Oh, they can hear us,” Leslie corrected. “So watch your mouth.”

“She’s kind of right,” said Lois.

“What do we do now?” the other Riot asked from inside the room.

Leslie looked down at Lois. “Get the rope,” she said.


Outside Fortress of Solitude, North Pole

Earlier


Clark dodged the energy pulses from the Kryptonian mech suits as he spiraled down toward them, his heat vision blaring. He managed to destroy one more of them, but two others leaped up and grabbed him by the arms, slamming him down into the snow.

“Enough,” said Clark, lifting himself enough to grip the mechs’ arms. He raised them into the air and smashed them into each other, pieces of Kryptonian metal crashing apart on impact.

The mech suits were still functioning, so Clark finished them off with more bursts of heat vision, slicing them apart. He then turned his attention to the fortress, which had fortified the entrance.

Jax-Ur had managed to escape from the Phantom Zone by hijacking Jor-El’s hologram. He was one of Krypton’s smartest scientists– and the most dangerous– earning him the privilege of being the planet’s first Phantom Zone prisoner. He said he would find a way to release the other prisoners, namely General Zod himself. Clark couldn’t let that happen.

Clark flew down to the sealed-off entrance and let a punch fly that sent shockwaves in all directions, snow flying everywhere. But he hardly made a dent. All the extra protection they added to the fortress had been working well, except it was never intended to keep himself out.

A buzz came from Clark’s phone and he took it out to find a text from Lois.

Lo Lo (Just Now) Checked out Alex’s, def the place. Looking closer until you get here

Damn

Clark looked closer at the fortress wall and then turned around to fly upward. He tapped a button on his belt. “Watchtower,” he said. “Activate Fortress Failsafe 1.”

The data sharing between the Fortress and Watchtower allowed for an additional level of security in case either became compromised. Watchtower could send a virus to the Fortress to interfere with its operations. It wouldn’t stop Jax-Ur entirely, but it would slow him down.

Clark flew off toward Metropolis.


Inside the Fortress of Solitude

Earlier


General Zod towered over the hologram of Jax-Ur.

“You kept your word and freed me,” he said. “But we still need to free the others.”

“Kal-El will make it back inside,” said Jax-Ur, displaying a video feed of Superman fighting outside. “Are you strong enough to keep him at bay until I finish?”

“I was drained of my power before being sent back (Superman #31),” Zod explained. “Prepare the regeneration matrix,” he ordered.

“On it,” said Jax. “But even that will take time. There may not be enough before–”

“Let me worry about that,” said Zod, watching the Man of Steel destroy the Kryptonian mech suits.

A fortress robot hovered over, carrying a black garment.

“Put this on,” said Jax. “It will help your body absorb the energy quicker.”

Zod lifted the suit to find his House of Zod symbol on the chest in silver. He took off the tattered clothing he was currently wearing and replaced them with the new ones.

A loud crash echoed around inside the fortress as Superman tried to break his way inside. But then he just flew off.

“Fascinating,” said Jax. “He knows what’s at stake, but he gave up.”

“He’ll be back,” said Zod, climbing into the regeneration matrix. “And I’ll be ready for him.”

The matrix closed around him and began radiating an intense glow of yellow light.

Jax returned to working on the Phantom Zone projector. It would take some time, but he’d be able to release more prisoners as long as Kal-El didn’t come back to stop him.

The lights in the Fortress flickered and Jax’s hologram glitched and became filled with static. “What is this?” he asked before the hijacked robots disabled themselves and fell back to the ground.

Another hologram appeared that looked like a man’s head on a cartoon body. He was waving a finger and repeating the phrase. “Uh uh uh. You didn’t say the magic word.”

“Magic?” asked Jax. “Kal-El may be craftier than I thought.”

###Interruption


Office Building, Metropolis

Now


Karnowsky and Killgrave entered the abandoned office with a mysterious woman in a gray hoodie and a black face mask. It was a safe bet she was in charge by the way she held herself.

The woman dropped a briefcase on the table beside Metallo and opened it up to reveal a mixture of colors glowing from inside.

“Is that-?” Killgrave asked, his face almost salivating.

“Kryptonite,” Metallo finally spoke up, his voice strained and crackling.

“I thought the stuff only came in green,” said Leslie, taking a closer look to find three shards. One green, one red, and one blue.

“Back when Lex Luthor synthesized it,” the woman explained. “Due to some anomalies in the process, a red variant was sometimes produced. It’s rumored it affected Superman psychologically instead of physically.”

“I thought LexCorp’s kryptonite production was shut down and it was all destroyed, though,” said Killgrave.

“Luthor found a new source,” Karnowsky cut in. “That nutjob Conduit. I heard that’s where he got enough to fuel that super suit he used to fight Superman.”

“Correct,” the woman agreed. “He was able to reproduce the anomaly in his extraction. But this time, another anomaly was found, which also produced the blue variant.”

“And what does it do?” asked Riot, currently back as one person.

The woman lifted it, the blue glow lighting her up. “Unclear,” she answered. “Save it for a last resort.”

“Ar-are you going to keep… talking,” Metallo said, struggling to talk. “Or… w-will one of you put some in my chest?”

Leslie looked to the others.

“Do it,” the woman said, placing the blue K back down and began to leave. “And then find a way to get Superman’s attention. It shouldn’t be too hard, just make a scene.”

“An opportunity fell into our laps,” Riot explained. “We got that nosy reported Lois Lane tied up in the other room.”

The masked woman turned back from the door. “Lois Lane,” she repeated. “She’s here?”

“What were you thinking?” Karnowsky asked, rushing to his Barrage armor.

“If she’s here…,” Killgrave added, never finishing his thought. He grabbed some devices from the table. He looked at the briefcase and swiped the blue K.

“I understand this doofus messing up,” Karnowsky added, getting a confounded look from Riot. “But you should know better, Livewire.”

“Sorry,” she said, shrugging.

The masked woman had already left.

“I don’t get it,” said Riot. “What’s the big deal?”

Karnowsky placed his blue helmet over his face and primed his arm blaster. “If Lois Lane is here, Superman won’t be far behind.”

“The Super nuisance seems to work with some people at the Daily Planet,” Killgrave explained. “Always keeps them safe.”

“Guys!” Metallo yelled.

“Give him some kryptonite,” Killgrave ordered as he and Barrage went for the windows to check the skies.

Riot picked up the red kryptonite and placed it in Metallo’s chest.

“About time,” said Metallo, lifting himself. “First things first, we better take out the reporter.” He tried to stand, but then slipped down and fell to the floor. “What the hell?” he asked.

“Oh, maybe you need green?” Riot asked, bending over to meet Metallo face-to-face.

“Livewire,” said Riot, lifting his hand. “Pass me the green one?”

But there was no response.

Riot stood up and looked around. “Livewire?” he asked. But she was gone. “Well, it was fun,” he said, before running down the hall toward the elevator. “Until next time!” he shouted as the elevator doors opened.


The Next Room Over


Leslie entered the room where Lois was being held. “We don’t have a lot of time,” she said, dropping down to untie the ropes.

Lois struggled to talk, but she had tape over her mouth.

“Oh, right,” said Leslie, ripping the tape away.

Owwww!” yelled Lois.

“You’re supposed ta’ do it like a band-aid,” said Leslie, returning to the ropes.

Lois gritted her teeth to help with the pain. “Why are you helping me?” she asked.

“I didn’t want any of this,” Leslie explained. “So, I’ve been working undercover.”

“You tied me up,” Lois groaned, standing up from the chair.

“I couldn’t give myself away yet,” said Leslie. “Metallo–”

The door crashed open and Metallo stood there. “Two for the price of one,” he said.

“Leave her alone!” Leslie yelled, lifting the chair and swinging it toward the metal man. But Metallo lifted his arm, letting it break apart on impact. He grabbed the former disk jockey and tossed her to the wall, turning his attention back to Lois.

A spark of electricity shot across the room.

Metallo turned to where he threw Leslie to find more sparks circling all around her as her skin turned white and her hair light blue. “What the–” Metallo started.

“Shut your metal mouth!” yelled Leslie, firing off an electric bolt that knocked the cyborg back into the hallway. She turned back to face Lois. “Huh,” she said. “I guess the power was in me all–”

Metallo jumped back inside and punched Leslie, sending her reeling back. But she quickly recovered and grabbed the villain’s metal arms, letting her electricity flow.


High Above Metropolis


Clark arrived back in Metropolis in a burst of speed, quickly scanning for the location of the office building where Lois was investigating. He couldn’t even be mad. She’s a reporter. Of course, she’d investigate the lead. But they were dealing with five Superman villains teaming up. That wasn’t a safe situation.

Upon finding the location, Clark saw Livewire inside fighting Metallo with Lois rushing for cover. He flew down the building but a blast of energy shot him from one of the windows.

Barrage.

Clark recovered, but Karnowsky took several more shots, so the Man of Steel flew down toward the window, taking evasive action until he broke through the wall.

###Another Interruption


Inside


Karnowsky was struck back as he broke Clark crashed into the room, but his armor protected him from the impact. He fired off another shot, which made contact, knocking Clark to the ground. Thinking quickly, he grabbed a piece of wall debris and flicked it toward his attacker, throwing him off balance. Before Karnowsky could recover, Clark was back on his feet, crushing the arm blaster.

Clark had been keeping an eye on Lois, who had safely escaped while Livewire and Metallo were fighting in the next room. He moved toward the door but felt himself being pulled back by some invisible force. There was nobody else in the room, though.

“Intergang cloaking tech,” said Clark aloud, resisting the pull.

It must have been what they used during the S.T.A.R. Labs breakout. He was familiar with it back when the criminal organization was still operational. Not only did it keep people invisible, it cut out all sounds, so Clark couldn’t even use his superhearing to find them.

There was no response. Or, if there were, he couldn’t hear it.

The pulling force went away but then the table started rattling and flew across the room to hit Clark.

“Is that the best you can do?” asked Clark, tossing the table to the ground.

The entire room started to shake and the walls crumbled apart, letting the ceiling fall, pieces of debris bouncing off Clark’s head. The air fizzled as a small device appeared out of nowhere. The cloaking device was damaged in the attack.

Thaddeus Killgrave appeared in the doorway, his eye widened at the realization Clark could see him. As the Man of Steel approached, he pulled out the blue kryptonite and lifted it toward the hero’s face.

Clark raised an eyebrow. “Where did you get that?” he asked, snatching it from the villain’s hands. He tapped Killgrave on the forehead, but nothing happened.

“W-was that supposed to hurt?” asked Killgrave, slowly realizing what had happened.

Clark had come across blue kryptonite in a possible future once (Superman #56). Unlike the green or red variety, all it did was shut down his powers.

Killgrave smiled and lifted a device in his hand, no doubt it was responsible for his earlier attacks. Before he could activate it, though, Clark decked him across the face, knocking the escaped prisoner out cold.

He picked up the blue kryptonite and tossed it across the room before rushing into the hallway. Lois was there, standing by the stairs. He was surprised she didn’t get much further yet, but she was running for two.

“Lois!” Clark yelled. “Are you okay?”

Lois held onto her husband when he reached her. “That’s subjective,” she said. “The baby’s on her way,” she said.

Clark’s face lit up, but his smile quickly faded when Livewire was sent flying down the hall and Metallo stepped out, eyeing the Man of Steel.

“You!” he cried. “We have unfinished business.” He opened his chest to reveal the green kryptonite powering him, which Clark immediately felt starting to weaken him.

He wasn’t dealing with synthetic kryptonite. Somehow Metallo got his hands on the real stuff. Someone was pulling the strings there. None of those supervillains had the resources to get their hands on it.

“Try to get downstairs,” Clark told Lois before taking a flying leap toward the metal cyborg, crashing the two of them outside. His powers wouldn’t last long, so he had to end the fight quickly.


Fortress of Solitude


“What’s the status of the Phantom Zone projector?” asked Zod from within the regeneration matrix.

“I’m completely shut out,” Jax-Ur replied. “Whatever Kal-El did interfered with several key systems. I’m afraid only he could disable it.”

“Let me out,” Zod ordered.

“But you aren’t nearly strong enough to face him yet,” said Jax-Ur.

“Maybe not,” said Zod, breaking a hole in the matrix and tearing himself out. “But I’m strong enough to get this done quicker.”


Outside Earth’s Atmosphere

Sometime Later


“Are you sure you want to do this?” asked Jax-Ur through the communication device on Zod’s breathing mask as he approached the sun.

“Yes,” Zod answered. “I’m feeling stronger already.”

Zod let the sunlight hit his body as he got closer and closer. It wasn’t too long after, that he felt himself restored.

“I’ll need to find him,” said Zod, turning back toward Earth.

“I was able to monitor some video feeds,” said Jax. “He was fighting a metal man outside a building in Metropolis.”

“Metropolis,” Zod responded. “I’m familiar.”


Office Building, Metropolis


“I do not have time for this, Corben,” said Clark as he tried to freeze the metallic man from getting any closer.

The exposure to the kryptonite was minimal so far, but it was still affecting him. It wouldn’t do too much damage if he kept Metallo as far away as possible.

The freezing didn’t help much, as the kryptonite energy compensated to melt away the ice that was building up.

Clark flew up high, firing off heat vision, but Metallo blocked it with his arm. It wasn’t intense enough to do much damage to his armor. And Corben wouldn’t stay still long enough to keep it aimed at any one location.

The cyborg leaped up, trying to catch up to Clark’s height, but the Man of Steel veered out of the way, letting him crash into the side of the building. It was a dangerous move, but Clark took the opportunity to move in close and punch Metallo in the back of the head. He lifted him, the burn of the kryptonite increasing, but tossed him away, feeling slightly better as soon as he was clear again.

Metallo landed on the ground and quickly fired off an energy blast from his chest toward Clark, hitting him before he could swerve out of the way. He was getting slower without realizing it.

Clark flew back up, to get as far out of range as he could, but Metallo jumped up, climbing the building by pushing himself from window to window. Just as he was about to reach, a lightning bolt exploded down from the roof and sent him falling back down where he crashed into the concrete below.

“Never thought I’d see the day I’d be helping you, Big Blue,” said Leslie, with a smirk.

“I could,” said Clark, flying up to her. “Your powers?”

“Yeah, they’re back alright,” said Leslie. “I guess they popped back up when I needed them the most.”

“I know you were happier without them,” said Clark. “I’m sorry.”

“We can start the pity party later,” said Leslie, pointing down. “We still got metalhead to deal with.

“I have an idea,” said Clark.

A few moments later, Leslie jumped down beside Metallo, her electric blasts lighting him up. Before he could fight back, Clark flew in from the other side with his heat vision blaring. Metallo turned around to face him, but Clark reached into his chest and yanked the kryptonite out, the crystal burning in his hand.

Clark fell to his knees as Metallo dropped to the ground and Leslie approached him, snickering.

“Heh,” she said. “It’d be so easy to take you out now.”

“Leslie,” Clark pleaded.

She grabbed the kryptonite and tossed it away. “Ah, I still hate you, but you’re growing on me,” she said.

Clark saw Lois making her way to the street and quickly ran over to support her. It felt like it took forever to be by her side again.

“Let’s get you to a hospital,” he said. “There’s a baby that’s ready to be born.”

Leslie smiled and waved as Clark lifted Lois away, flying as steady as he could. “Hey Lane,” she said. “If you need a name, Leslie is always a good one! Boy or girl!”

The SCU arrived and trained their weapons on her and Metallo, even though he wasn’t moving anymore.

“It’s okay,” said Leslie. “I’m not going to fight.”

The electricity around her fizzled away and her skin and hair turned back to normal.

“Huh, whaddya know,” she said. “I guess I can turn it on and off now.”

###Not Done Yet


Metropolis General Hospital

Soon


Superman stood by Lois’ side. “They’re calling your husband,” he said for the nurse’s benefit. “I better get going, though.”

“Are you sure you don’t want us to take a look at your bruises?” the nurse asked.

“I’ll be fine,” Clark answered, heading for the window. “I’m already feeling better.”

“Those don’t open,” the nurse said.

“Oops,” said Clark, before the building shook.

Just outside a figure in black had landed in the hospital driveway, leaving a large crater in the concrete. As the smoke cleared, Clark recognized the face of another enemy he was hoping he wouldn’t see that day.

General Zod was back.

To Be Continued…


<< | < | >

1 Comment
2024/04/01
20:40 UTC

10

Wonder Woman #76: Thorns

Wonder Woman #76: Thorns

<< | < | >

Author: Predaplant

Books: Wonder Woman

Arc: Season 3: Darkness

Set: 94

Peony stepped up to the Gateway City Hall of Justice nervously. It had been quite a few months since she had gone to one of their meetings, at which she had once been staples. Part of it was just that it felt like pity, the older superhumans giving her the time of day because she was lonely… but another part of it was that she had managed to actually form stronger friendships at school, so she didn’t need the companionship as much.

Today, though, she had a reason to show up here, as nervous as she was.

Her mother had been patient with her. She had asked her if everything was alright, if she wanted help talking to them about what had happened. Peony had said no, that she had to do this herself, and that she could do it herself.

And so, reluctantly, her mom had dropped her off at the building that was so familiar to her, and let Peony take the lead.

She pushed her way through the doors near-silently; she didn’t want anybody to notice her arrival until she let them.

She stepped carefully through the halls until, turning the corner towards the side room they had always used for their meetings, she saw Kiran there, cheerfully setting up for the day’s meeting.

Peony cautiously spoke up. “Hi.”

Kiran’s face literally lit up as she turned towards Peony. Kiran had made a lot of progress since she and Peony had first met; now, she was able to keep the darkness away from her body almost all the time. Now, she was just a beacon of light.

“Peony! It’s been a while!”

Peony smiled despite her nerves, Kiran was just that infectious. Steadying herself, she walked towards her. “Yeah. Is it alright if I tell you something?”

“Of course,” Kiran said with a smile. “I’m always here for you!”

“So...” Peony started, taking a deep breath. “My powers have gotten pretty scary, and I dunno what to do about them. Seems like everything I use them on gets thorns, and sometimes the flowers turn carnivorous... it scares me.”

“Hey, it’s alright,” Kiran wrapped the other girl in a hug. “You don’t gotta worry about a thing. How about after our meeting today, you can talk to Cassie about it? She’s a Justice Leaguer, I’m sure she can figure this stuff out. Alright?”

Peony nodded. She felt a bit more confident, now.

WWWWW

“Hmm...” Cassie pondered. “And you say this started in the past few months?”

Peony nodded. Cassie always made her feel safe: she gave off such an aura of power, and she always felt so in control of things.

“Okay, here’s what I’m thinking,” Cassie said. “I think we need to go to the Cheetah.”

“Wait, like, the one Wonder Woman fights?” Kiran asked her, shocked. “Isn’t she, you know... dangerous?”

“Well...” Cassie attempted to choose her words carefully. “Ever since the whole thing that Argonaut got involved in with her, she’s been more willing to communicate with us. Wonder Woman’s gone to see her a few times, and they’ve talked a bit. And with her connection with Urzkartaga, she’d be likely to know why this is happening, and be able to talk you through it.”

Peony thought it over. Cheetah was scary, sure, but she’d have Wonder Woman there with her… or, at the very least, Wonder Girl. And her powers were more terrifying… at least, to her.

If this was what she had to do to get these answers, then so be it.

She nodded. “Okay. I’ll go see her.”

WWWWW

Peony’s mom was incredibly worried about her going to see the Cheetah... but at the end of the day, she didn’t stop her.

And so it was that, a week later, Peony found herself loaded onto Wonder Woman’s famous invisible plane, heading out to Stonegate Penitentiary.

There was still work being done on the building; clearly, Fury’s attack had done a number. But they had sectioned off an area for Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, and for Peony, and the three were swiftly ushered deeper into the prison.

It felt cold, inside the walls. Peony assumed that was the point of a prison, but still. She felt like the building itself didn’t trust her, like the walls were going to cave in on her at any second, and as they descended deeper beneath the penitentiary, that feeling just grew and grew.

She looked to her sides, to the two women flanking her, and thought about all the perils they went through day after day. If they could handle this, so could she.

Back a little straighter, she continued onwards, until the three were ushered into a visiting area of the prison.

The man leading them there did not smile at Peony, even when she attempted to give him a nervous one.

“This lady’s a real monster. You sure you’re able to handle her?” he asked.

Peony inhaled, taking a deep breath. “I have to be.”

The man rolled his eyes. “Alright. I’ll go get her, you just wait right here.”

In just a few minutes, the Cheetah was wheeled in on the other side of a glass wall. She was heavily restrained, unable to move her arms or legs. Her eyes stared out at Peony with a predaceous curiosity.

“I’m used to Wonder Woman bugging me, with her dumb moralizing all the time, but it looks like today she’s brought me a treat. What’s your name?”

Peony suddenly remembered that this woman had slaughtered countless others for no real reason other than a vendetta, and a possession by this Urzkartaga. She gripped her chair nervously.

“Wonder Girl told me maybe you could help me.”

The Cheetah growled as she replied. “Now, now, be polite, why don’t you? Don’t ignore my questions. Tell me your name, if you want me to help you so badly.”

“Peony,” the girl murmured.

The Cheetah smirked. “Was that so hard, dear?”

Peony’s face hardened.

“Stop playing with her,” Wonder Woman spoke from the corner. “You’ve been willing to work with me; I’d appreciate it if you were willing to work with her.”

Pursing her lips, the Cheetah turned to face her. “Ah, Diana! How lovely of you to join us. I’m sorry, what goodwill has this Peony earned with me? For all I know, she’s just one of those wide-eyed children who you’ve influenced with your drivel of love and compassion, here on a field trip to get scared straight into being a good little girl.”

“How dare you say that about her?” Wonder Girl said, stepping to Peony’s side. “You have no idea who she is or what she’s doing here. Don’t make assumptions.”

Everybody makes assumptions, my dear,” the Cheetah replied, lowering her voice. “Honestly, at this point it feels like you’re the ones who are pulling things off topic, not me.”

Wonder Girl glanced at Wonder Woman, who nodded. She stepped back, away from Peony’s chair.

“Now, can you tell me what you would like?” the Cheetah asked the girl before her.

“Something’s been going wrong,” Peony started. “I used to be able to make these flowers, but now it all comes out twisted... I feel like it’s all been ruined.”

The Cheetah smirked. “Yeah, puberty’ll do that to you. Seriously though, that is kinda messed up.”

“Thank you,” Peony said softly.

They sat in silence for a few moments.

“I can see why you came to me,” the Cheetah said, breaking it. “It does sound like Urzkartaga’s doing. Obviously, I don’t have the ability to fully stop any of his plans from my cell here. Even if I was free, I’d only be one woman, and I’m basically a slave to him as it is.”

Peony’s face fell. “Is there anything I can do?”

The Cheetah sniffed. “Hmm… if you want my advice, I’d say he’s probably just toying with you. He likes that. Stay wary. He’ll look for any opportunity to pull you in, only to break you. Just like a lot of men, actually. He just wants to make you his.”

“My momma’s been telling me to stay wary as long as I can remember,” Peony replied.

“Wise woman,” the Cheetah said, her golden eyes narrowing. “But Urzkartaga doesn’t come around like a regular man, because he’s not one. Maybe one of your flowers will appear very beautiful one day, and it’ll speak and offer you the ability to change your power back. Maybe one of your thorns will prick the momma that you love so much, and he’ll offer to save her life in exchange for your submission. Or maybe he’ll just send you a letter in the post. However it happens, be sure that he has a shrewd plan to make you one of his thralls, and know that the only way for you to escape is to be shrewder still in your avoidance of his schemes.”

“You’re telling a girl to be paranoid,” Wonder Woman noted.

“And indeed I am!” the Cheetah replied. “She should be. If everybody was a little bit more paranoid on this planet, we would all be much happier. Those with power would be more afraid of misusing it, and those without it would be less likely to be exploited.”

“So that’s it?” Wonder Girl asked.

“What else do you want me to do, girl?” The Cheetah spat. “I gave my advice. She should learn to live with it… or not.”

“Thank you,” Peony said. “Are you sure you don’t have anything else to offer me, before I go?”

The Cheetah stretched her neck before looking Peony dead-on. “If you have any idea whatsoever that it might be him… do everything you can to avoid it. Whatever he offers, it isn’t worth it.”

“Alright,” Peony murmured, before standing up and turning to leave. Wonder Girl followed her out the door, leaving Wonder Woman alone with the Cheetah.

“Thank you,” Diana said. “I’m not sure if this will help her assuage her fears… but I think you’re being honest. And honesty, from you… it feels like fresh water on a hot summer day.”

“Don’t get used to it,” she growled back. “She deserves to know what she’s up against. I wouldn’t wish the fate that very likely awaits for her to anybody.”

“It’s good to know that there are things even you consider bad enough to fight against,” Diana smiled. “Maybe that means, one day, we can be allies once more.”

“Don’t count on it.”

“I won’t,” Diana replied. “But who knows?”

With that, she left the room as well, leaving the Cheetah alone.

WWWWW

“How’d it go?” Peony’s mom asked her, having just picked Peony up from the Hall of Justice after their excursion to the penitentiary.

Peony didn’t answer. She sat in the passenger seat of the car and slowly started to cry.

“Hey, Peony?” her mom asked, placing a hand on Peony’s shoulder. Peony looked up at her. “It’s going to be alright, okay? I’m here for you, and I believe in you.”

Peony looked up at her mother, tears streaming down her face. She removed her glasses and wiped the tears away. “Thanks, mom.”

Her mom sat there for a few seconds, unsatisfied with the response, before speaking again. “Hey, you can tell me things, right? I’ll do whatever you need to protect you.”

“I…” Peony started. “I don’t know if you can protect me, mom. There’s this god, and… and he wants to control me, and… even Wonder Woman can’t protect me. I don’t know what you’d do.”

Her mom processed the response. Her stomach fell; if Wonder Woman couldn’t protect her…

No. She needed to put on a strong face, to be brave for her child. She spoke again.

“I love you more than anything. If this god comes for you… I’ll get Wonder Woman to bring the whole Justice League together for you, if that’s what it takes. And you run and fight as hard as you can, and I’m sure you’ll be able to save yourself, because you’re the strongest girl that I know.”

Peony inhaled sharply. She nodded. “Uh-huh. I… I can do this.”

“Attagirl,” her mom said, starting the car. “I haven’t raised you all these years to not believe in you.”

As they drove off, Peony resolved to be brave. If not for herself, at least for her mother.

<< | < | >

1 Comment
2024/03/16
01:38 UTC

1

DCFU Set #94.5 - Mellow March

Don't fall asleep! Read some stories instead!


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0 Comments
2024/03/16
01:32 UTC

5

Hellblazer #27 - The Call to Action

Hellblazer

Issue 27: The Call to Action

Author: The_Vowellster

Arc: British Magician-American Vampire

Set: 94

Previously

London

John Constantine's Apartment

“New Avatar of Rot huh,” John breathed in the acrid smoke, then slowly exhaled it, “thought all you Elemental Avatars were supposed to maintain some level of equilibrium or some shite like that.” No! This isn't my battle, don't get sucked in John.

“Yeah, we're supposed to,” Buddy said, looked for a spot to sit, and reconsidered it after a glare from Constantine.

“The Rot,” Swamp Thing said, his voice the tenor of roots growing through rocky soil, “has always been… greedy. Never satisfied… always desiring… more.” The Jolly Green Giant was probably John's oldest friend… If I actually can call anybody that.

“And whoever, or whatever, this new Avatar is,” Buddy said, “they're pushing harder than any previous one has. If we don't do something–”

“Bullshite,” Constantine interrupted. “Don't try that martyr fuckery with me Buddy Baker. You know who'll do something about it if we don't?! People that can fly through the fuckin’ sky because of a ring on their pinky finger. People that shoot bloody lasers from their eye balls. And what am I going to do? Pull a coin from behind their ear?” John let out a breath than took a drag from his cigarette. “Nah folks, I'm sitting this one out.”

“John,” Buddy started and held out a slip of paper with a phone number scrawled across it, but was stopped by Constantine raising a hand.

“Baker,” John's voice was flat, cold. Buddy Baker, the Animal Man, who could summon the strength of an elephant felt a shiver of fear run down his spine. “Take that thought and shove it up yer fuckin’ arse.”

Buddy blinked in the sunlight of the street. John Constantine did such a good job of selling himself as just a wannabe wizard and charlatan that it was easy to forget he was quite possibly the world's greatest magician and even some fundamental powers of the earth developed a cold sweat at the mention of his name.

⚝⚝⚝⚝⚝

John popped a new cigarette from the pack with a small smile. Fuck I hate the showy shite but it was still fun to flex those muscles just to show that he could. And then he felt the world shift under him. Gone was his shabby apartment stained from cigarettes that weren't meant to be smoked inside and the beer stained carpet to be replaced by songbirds, freshly cut grass, and a pleasant house that wouldn't look out of place in a white suburban neighborhood. All it's missing is the white picket fence.

“So did you summon me,” John lit the cigarette, “or did the House?”

The figure on the porch stirred, “At this point Mr. Constantine, I think we're the same.” He walked to the edge of the porch so the magical sunlight lit his face, “After so long, it's hard to say where I end and the House of Mystery starts.”

“Downright philosophical,” Constantine said. At least he wasn't having this conversation with his wang out. The man on the porch might seem like any other, but you didn't earn the moniker “The First Murderer” for nothing. “So Cain, why'd you bring me here then?”

“John Constantine,” Cain said, “you've managed to avoid us for quite some time, but I believe that you owe us some stories finally.” He rested a hand on the railing and rapped his fingertips on it.

“Ah, is that the go of it then,” Constantine said and took a drag. “Fine then, I've got a story for you. Fresh off the presses. How ‘bout you come down ‘ere and we can lay in the grass and I'll regale you.” The tapping stopped and Constantine heard the wood of the railing creak as Cain gripped it in frustration. “That's right, you're the House and the House is you. So what is your range anyway? Don't think that's a conversation we've ever had.”

Cain glared at him from the porch, “The extent of my world is irrelevant. You owe me a story.”

“Always forget,” John said and puffed away on the cigarette, “the House needs a caretaker and storyteller. Fine, I'll tell you the story then. What do you know of the Elemental Avatars?”

“Their purpose is to maintain some semblance of peace,” Cain grumbled. “No single Avatar can get too aggressive because it eats into the territory of the others. Although it never seems to work that way in practice. Often, something happens. A new Avatar might be driven temporarily mad by the power and try to usurp the others. The tall green one–”

“Swamp Thing,” Constantine interrupted. It was a story from before he'd met the Jolly Green Giant. A false Avatar of the Green--Swamp Thing's first villain.

“Swamp Thing,” Cain continued, “believed that the others needed to die to ensure its own existence. The rightful Avatar set him on the correct path, that they needed to be in harmony.”

“They don't call you the Storyteller for nothin’,” Constantine smirked. “Now Rot is getting greedy.”

“Decay is a natural part of life,” Cain said.

“Rebirth too?” He avoided Cain's very pointed stare, “In the past Rot has been everything from an ex-girlfriend to… well not so nice things. But there've been times in the past where they've had to be replaced. Although the fuckers rarely seem to go gentle into that good night.”

“Thomas,” Cain said. “One of my favorites.”

“Somehow it always seem to be the death cults that stumble into power.” He shot Cain a look, “Thanks for that by the way.”

“I would apologize,” Cain said, “but it felt very right at the time. So, John Constantine, how will this story unfold? Will the “hero” accept the call to action?”

“Fuck no,” Constantine said. “It ain't my problem. I already told the Jolly Green Giant and his sidekick where to shove it. I can walk away from this without even a second thought. I'm just some third-rate magician. Ain't go much more than parlor tricks and some light hypnotism. Not bloody fireballs from my fingertips. This shite is for Fate or Z. They can deal with the world-ending fuckery.” Constantine could feel a headache coming on. Or maybe just the hangover catching up. A cigarette. A cigarette would make everything better, at least give him some time to think.

The pack was empty.

Fuck.

Cain nodded, “That is satisfactory.”

⚝⚝⚝⚝⚝

“I'll take a pack of silk-cuts,” Constantine said to the cashier at the Duty-Free register.

The man nodded, “I'll need to see your boarding pass sir.”

“No problem,” Constantine fished in his trench coat and pulled a newspaper clipping out, “here's my boarding pass.” The man smiled, retrieved the cigarettes and happily took the wad of Monopoly money Constantine gave him. Even wished me a pleasant flight.

“Z used to talk about how your magic was a lot more subtle,” a woman behind him said. The voice might belong to a woman, but those words belong to Deadman. “Always wanted to see it in action, still confused though.”

“Boston Brand,” Constantine turned and was overwhelmed by Heathrow International Airport. “Fuck off.” Several nearby travelers gave the two awkward looks but kept moving--too concerned about making it to their own flights to give it much thought.

“Woah now,” Boston threw up his hands in defense, “I'm not out to start a fight. Animal Man and Swamp Thing just asked me to check in on you.”

“Course they did,” Constantine brushed past him.

“They'll be glad to know you changed your mind,” Boston trotted after him.

“No, I didn't change shit Brand,” Constantine said. There were still a few hours before his flight even started boarding, plenty of time to get a pint or five. Get a good buzz going before I'm locked in a metal tube with crying babies and people who view deodorant as an option.

“Well you're headed to the States,” Boston said and almost had to run to keep up because of the body's shorter legs. “What else would you be doing if not helping Swamp Thing with that whole Avatar problem?”

Constantine wheeled on him, nearly towering over the possessed body, “A bloody fucking vacation Boston! I'm going to Mardi Gras. I'm taking a vacation from all this fucking shit.” He shoved a cigarette in his mouth and lit it, taking a deep breath, “Now, would you kindly, fuck off.” He let the smoke escape slowly.

“John, they need you! You're the World's Greatest Magician for-” Constantine's fingers wove through the air in a complex pattern, the woman paused mid-sentence, confused. “Excuse me, I must have thought you were someone else,” and then she scurried off in search of her gate.

Fuck. I'm getting soft. Only banished the Deadman from her body and didn't send the two of them to Timbuktu. He’d done it in the past. No remorse then. Constantine perched on a barstool and paid for a pint with more Monopoly money, the bartender plopped a coaster down followed by the beer. A single drop of condensation rolled lazily down the glass. God bless whoever decided airport bars would be open all day.

⚝⚝⚝⚝⚝

The plane touched down and Constantine lurched awake, head dull from the alcohol on the flight. He opened the window shade and glared at the New Orleans afternoon sun. Never drinking again. The flight attendant had kept the drinks flowing for the entire first leg of the flight, all 17 hours of it. And then he'd promptly passed out on the second leg. His skull throbbed and mouth was full of cotton. disembarking was slow, even worse as the stale air made his stomach twist on itself. Water. He needed water. Or a toilet. Maybe both. An old woman lazily put her socks back on in a nearby seat and it took all of Constantine's focus to not empty his stomach in the aisle. Come on you fuck, just a few more meters to freedom. You've been through worse than this.

The fresh air hit like an icy wall and calmed his guts. Without baggage, getting out of the airport was a breeze. He'd gone through Customs on the first leg and having no need to wait at the luggage belt put him outside in a matter of minutes. He wasn't supposed to have someone waiting for him, no limo driver with a sign reading ‘John Constantine.’ But Swamp Thing stood outside of the automatic doors anyway. No sign though.

“Thanks for the welcome party,” John didn't pause and tried to rush past the Avatar of the Green but heard the lumbering steps follow, “but I'm here on vacation. Gonna go hit Mardi Gras and see if I can't pass out some beads mate.”

“Mardi Gras is… not for several… more months,” Swamp Thing said.

Constantine stopped, “Fuck.”

⚝⚝⚝⚝⚝

The music of the club still blasted around Skinner Sweet. It was one of the things he'd allowed to remain. He clicked the peppermint stick against his teeth and switched cheeks. As useless and weak as the Carpathian vampires could be, the resources they had access to would change the scale Skinner could plan and operate on. He wouldn't be limited to making one or two vampires every other decade. He could make a new generation. If they had thought the failed vampires were a sudden epidemic, then he would bring a pandemic. He would bring Death on a catastrophic scale.

3 Comments
2024/03/15
16:48 UTC

5

Cyborg #57 - Birth of a Titan

#Cyborg #57 - Birth of a Titan

<<| <| >

Author: Commander_Z

Book: Cyborg

Arc: Machine Mayhem

Set: 94


About a month ago.

Somedays, Victor Stone felt like he knew approximately where things in his life were going to go, how everything would fit together like a messy, half finished jigsaw puzzle. It was hazy, but he could tell there was something there if he just kept doing what he was doing and worked hard. Other days, he felt like he might as well have wiped the puzzle off from the table and grabbed a new one. Today felt like one of those days.

His eyes glazed over as his thoughts demanded all of his brain’s power. Where could he even begin with a problem like this? Does he even begin, or does he just walk away and try and pick the puzzle pieces up from the floor but with the knowledge things could’ve been different? He took a deep breath.

“I… I don’t know. Let’s slow down for a minute. I don’t know anything about this, how can you expect me to take this on?”

The tension in the room was visible, but only to Vic. To Donna Morris and Keiji Otari, they were either unaware of what they were asking of Vic or had already steeled themselves to it and couldn’t be further phased. Vic wasn’t sure which. Their workspace was small, little more than a 20 foot by 20 foot space in a corner of the cavernous, pseudo-warehouse most of the student teams used for their engineering projects. The three of them stood around a small rectangular table with Donna’s laptop in the middle.

Keiji was the first to respond. “Vic, c’mon. You told me you were going to have an easy semester and you’re probably the only person on campus who could do this. It’ll be fun.”

“Fun?” Vic’s eyes grew as wide as the moon. “Look at that,” he said, gesturing to the video on Donna’s screen. “Do you have ANY idea how much work that would take? The design work, the manufacturing… I want to do something other than school, lab work and this… I’d like to have a life, y’know?”

Donna and Keiji looked at each other, confused. “Vic, we’ve known you awhile now. You don’t have a life.”

“Okay, harsh but true. But…”

“But what? You love robots; you’ve worked on them a ton with Dr. Morrow so you’ve got the skills. He’s going to be gone most of this semester on his sabbatical, so the lab won’t be busy and you’ll have way more free time. Why not take the once in a lifetime chance to do something as cool as Machine Mayhem? There’s no better robot fighting league in the world!” Donna said.

“Look, there’s clearly more going on here than you’re admitting to. Why are you just recruiting me now? You guys have been on this team for like a year and a half, right? It can’t have just been you two all along.”

Keiji nodded. “Yeah, we have some other people. But they aren’t engineers, they’re handling the finances and whatnot. The team had a lot of people graduate last year, but our lead engineer was still going to be here, then she had to take this season off for family reasons. So we’re scrambling to find anyone we can to fill her shoes. If you don’t do it… I don’t think the team will be able to compete this year. So… please?”

“Ugh… fine. I’ll do it.”

Donna and Keiji were ecstatic, all but literally jumping for joy.

Donna ran over to Vic and gave him a huge hug, which he awkwardly accepted.

“Thanks, Vic. You have no idea how much this means to me. And you won’t regret this, promise. It’ll be a blast!”

Vic smiled, but quietly scoffed. “Yeah, ask me in like a month. We’ll see if I regret it then…”

Like a month later…

Long after every other team had gone home, three people stayed in the student project team’s building. They didn’t dare glance at the corners of their screens to see what time it was; it’d only make the early morning classes they had coming up even more painful.

The three of them were sitting in a modern looking conference room that sat around 20 people, but they had conquered it completely. Scrap paper and the notebooks they came from obscured almost every flat surface in the room while the rolling whiteboards covered in doodles of schematics and snippets of code hovered around the table like a football huddle. Pizza boxes were stacked up to Vic’s waist in a corner, only matched by the large boxes of coffee they had drunk. The room looked less like a conference room and more like a bunker used by some increasingly insane last vestige of humanity that had been locked in there for months. And the three of them looked no better. Each of them hadn’t left this building since they arrived Friday afternoon and none of them had slept a minute, despite them insisting to each other that they had.

But finally, at long last, they were close. Close to finally having a completed initial design.

Vic had been working on the latest set of drawings for the arms on the robot all weekend, trying to find a way to make them physically strong and durable while still keeping their machine under the maximum weight. He tried to shift around parts, swapping materials, cutting down on noncritical features, but nothing worked. There was no trade off he could make that didn’t decimate some other part of the robot.

Then it came to him. He had been trying to keep the entire system heavily armored, but that was a mistake. Few other robots would be able to reach up to their machine’s shoulders, so it would rarely take damage anyway. He could remove some of the armor on the top third and just keep the armor where it'd better protect the machine. It was so simple but after almost 60 hours of work, his thoughts were barely coherent. But they couldn’t stop until they were done.

Vic furiously scribbled, trying to get the idea on the page before it left his mind or it was buried in doubts. But even his coffee and paranoia filled brain couldn’t find a flaw with it.

He tossed down the pen. “It’s done. Check it.”

Vic slid the drawing across the table towards no one in particular. Donna had to stand up and walk over to grab it, then started to scan over it.

“I… I think this is good. Like, really, really good. You’ve made something really special here, Vic.”

Keiji walked over to take a look and nodded. “Yeah, this is crazy stuff. With this, we’ve got a shot at being serious contenders.”

“Don’t say that yet. We’ve got the worst part to go still: actually making this thing. There’re probably like 1000 parts we’re going to have to make. And don’t even say it: I’m not doing it alone. I don’t care who we have to ask, this isn’t a job for one person.”

Keijji frowned. “Guessing it’s not one for three either?”

“No. Hope the Machine Mayhem club still has some budget since we’re going to be buying a lot of food to bribe people to work for us.”

“I’ll check. I think we should be okay… probably.”

“So you know what else we need? A name. Can’t sell people on making a big product with a name,” Keiji said.

“Pretty sure that’s not how that works,” Vic said.

“Actually, I can confirm it is. The title is like the most important thing whenever I’m starting on a project.”

“Yeah, would you work on ‘Untitled Robot Project’? No. Would you work on ‘the Creation of Machine Mike”? Of course,” Keiji taunted.

“We’re not calling the robot ‘Machine Mike’.”

“We could though.”

“We’re not. It needs a big, powerful and intimidating name to fit its body,” Donna said.

They paused for a moment, thinking of what they could name it.

“I’ve got it. His mere presence holds up our world, demanding our attention. Who better to name our robot after than Atlas?” Vic suggested.

“A little forced, but I like it,” Keiji said.

“We can advertise with a slogan like ‘Support the World - Build Atlas!’” Donna said. “Yeah, yeah. This is going to be great.”

Vic grabbed a pile of drawings and started to sort them into piles. One of them was for the rejected ideas, the ones that still had some potential, and the ones they were planning on making. Out of the last one, he grabbed a drawing of the machine’s torso and added a wrestler style belt with an ‘A’ logo for a buckle.

“Perfect. Now all we have to do is… Everything else.”

⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️ ⚙️

It had been a couple weeks since the three of them decided on Atlas’ name and production was proceeding slowly but steadily. There were still more parts to be manufactured than not, but one of the subsystems with the most potential for failure, the arms, had been prioritized in order to start testing. Vic was a good engineer, but no one was good enough to design something like that correctly on the first try. Today was the fourth.

The first arm did nothing, the joints were too heavy and stiff to turn with a reasonable motor. The second revealed that the stress would be distributed primarily along the weak axis of the arm, causing it to crack at the first sign of resistance. The third arm fell victim to an overcorrection: the middle bars now buckled far earlier than expected and prevented the arm from moving after they deformed even the tiniest bit. The fourth? Vic was sure he’d designed a winner.

Vic and Keiji sat behind a clear acrylic barrier, watching the arm with anticipation. It was about five feet long at full extension and had a diameter the size of a dinner plate. It was resting on two small wooden pieces at each end to keep it from rolling off the table. There was only one finished arm, but each one would be 80 pounds of metallic muscle, it just needed to withstand its own power.

The arm was wired up to Keiji’s computer who was deploying one last bit of code before they tested it. They had hoped Donna would be able to be here in case they had some problems with the electronics, but she had another part she needed to work on, so the two of them were on their own.

“And… we’re good.”

Vic held an off brand video game controller in his hands anxiously. “Hit the X button and let’s see this thing move.”

The tension in the air was almost as thick and strong as they hoped their machine would be. His heart raced as he went to press the button, not sure if he had a fifth revision in him, let alone in their material budget.

But he pressed it all the same.

The arm slowly moved, going from its outstretched position into a curl at its elbow. After 30 seconds, it reached its maximum rotation, about 30 degrees from being perfectly folded in on itself.

“Yes! One test down!”

Keiji and Vic slammed their hands together in a thunderous high five.

“Next up are rotations, right?”

“Yeah. Hit ‘Y’ when you’re ready.”

The tension returned to the two men. If the arm passed this, it’d be the most successful one yet.

Vic gently tapped the button and the arm began to rotate slowly about the first axis, then the second and then third.They’d done it.

Keiji and Vic turned to each other for a high five, but Vic pulled him in for a hug instead, which Keiji graciously accepted.

After a few moments, they broke off and Vic said, “So what’s next? Didn’t think it’d make it this far.”

“Neither did I…” Keiji flipped through the seemingly infinite number of windows and tabs on his computer until he found the list of tests. “Ah, strength testing! Nothing major, we’re just going to hook a resistance band to it and a fixed point and make sure it can still move.”

“Gotcha, let me grab one and get it set up…” Vic ran back to the conference room to grab one of his bands from home while Keiji looked on with pride.

‘It’s amazing, really. Who would’ve guessed we could’ve pulled this off? Three juniors in college. Vic’s something else; no one else could even come close to doing this. I’ve got to live up to his work. The code’s been as bug free as you could hope, but is that enough? Not for the work he’s been doing. What could take it to the next level though…’

Keiji’s thoughts started to mull away at that until Vic returned and finished setting up the test.

“Ready?”

“Yeah. Press down the right trigger for this one.”

The anxiety had left the room like a gym after the homecoming dance after the success of the last two tests and Vic excitedly pressed the button.

The arm pulled upwards against the band, easily moving the eight or so inches that Keiji programmed it to as if the band wasn’t even there.

“Okay, call me reckless, but I think the arm’s ready for some real work. It’s doing all this without even breaking a sweat, y’know?”

Keiji grinned. “What’re you thinking?”

“This time, I’m going to try holding it down. We know it’s not going to blow up or anything… probably, so let’s get it into a more realistic scenario.”

“You sure? I don’t think it’s that dangerous, especially for a superhero but… safety standards. We gotta work up to something like that. We’ve done two calibration tests and pulled against an exercise band. Not sure it’s ready for human contact.”

Vic waved him off. “It’ll be fine. Nothing it can do to me that I haven’t taken. Did I ever tell you about my fight with Fyrewyre? Or what about when I fought Psimon in… err, ignore that. Point being, I’ve dealt with worse.”

Keiji raised an eyebrow at the second one, but decided not to push. Whatever reason Vic had for not telling him about that was his own. As for the test… He felt it was a losing battle. Vic was in another one of his stubborn moods.

“Fine. Just be smart, okay? Don’t fight it too hard.There’s no shame in losing to the man who holds up the world.”

Vic laughed. “There is when you’re just talking about an arm that we built. But point taken.”

As Vic sidestepped the acrylic safety shield, Keiji pulled out his phone and typed “91” into the dial pad. It wouldn't be bad to have help just one number away in case something did happen.

“Ready?”

“One sec…”

Keiji leaned over the table and grabbed the controller.

“Okay, on three. Just remember, safety first, okay? One… Two…Three!”

The robot arm sprung to life, trying to curl its forearm inwards. Vic hooked his right arm around it, while his left braced himself on the table. Vic’s muscles flared as sweat rolled down his forehead. He was holding on, but only barely. Then the software decided it needed more power and shifted into low gear. Vic’s eyes widened as he realized that Atlas still had more to give. But so did he.

He shifted his stance, no longer bracing himself on the table and using his left hand to hold the arm back too, relying on his legs to keep him from sliding away. Once again, Vic held. The arm tried to increase power more, doing everything it could to eke out a little bit more power to complete the command. But it had nothing else to give and began to back off to prevent motor burnout. Vic felt the force start to lower and began to relax too.

Suddenly, the arm’s motors ramped back up to full power, while simultaneously rolling itself a couple degrees in either direction. The tactic worked. Vic, not expecting the burst of movement, lost his grip and the arm slammed shut in a completed curl.

Vic took a step back, surprised. “Why’d you tell it to do that?”

Keiji was already pouring through his code and didn’t look up at Vic. “I didn’t. It shouldn’t have been able to do that at all…”

“Well, maybe leave that in there. It’d be a good move during the competition if it ever got grappled.”

“I guess… Still… where’d it know to do that from?”

Vic shrugged. “You’re up to what, like a trillion lines of code at this point? No one can understand anymore.”

“It’s only a couple hundred thousand… But point taken. I’ll have to go over it again before we do more testing.”

“Sounds like a plan. I think the next component to test will be the legs, but compared to the arm, it’ll be a breeze."

Keiji nodded, eager for a simpler task. Vic pulled out his phone and read a message.

"I’ve got to go talk to Matt, they’ve got some questions on one of the drawings they're fabricating. But take some time to relax, yeah? We’ve made great progress.”

“Yeah, yeah. Say hi to them for me,” Keiji said, waiving him off.

Vic headed off deeper into the building, leaving Keiji to his devices.

Keiji continued to scroll through his code, looking for any indication of what could’ve caused what he and Vic just saw it do. But there was nothing. It shouldn’t have even been able to rotate while in that test mode, let alone do it by itself. But yet… it did.

‘Well… whatever’s causing this has to be in here somewhere and I’m guessing I’d find it eventually… But do I want to? We want this robot to be the best it can be, and this is clearly making it better. Maybe I just lean into it. Perilandria was having that same issue with things going off the rails(See Cyborg 48!), never really figured that out either… But it made it smarter, more adaptable… Why not add that logic here too?’

Keiji shrugged and copied some of the code that powered Perilandria’s NPCs over to a new file in the project. Might as well.

He was about to start integrating it into the codebase but he felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning around, he saw Donna standing over him.

“Hey. I wanted the team to meet to discuss the next phase of the project. Meet in the conference room in five.”

“Sounds good, see you there. Just gotta wrap up a couple things first.”

Donna nodded and went off to grab the rest of the team. Keiji quickly skimmed through the code one last time, as if he expected the reason it was acting strangely to just appear out of nowhere. When it didn’t, he opened up yet another window to leave some notes to himself as a reminder of what he was doing. Then, closing his laptop, he headed over to the conference room. Always more work to be done.


<<| <| >

2 Comments
2024/03/15
16:12 UTC

5

Bird & Bow #2 - Quivering Caw

Bird & Bow #2 - Quivering Caw

Black Canary's Beginning: Green Arrow’s Beginning

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Book: Bird & Bow

Set: 94

Arc: Changed for Good

 

--->~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<---

 

“It's a cult.”

 

Chloe said the words like they were obvious, even as she huffed and puffed after their hour and a half lesson. Dinah stared at her the same way Ollie was certain he was doing, like Chloe was some weird mix between a genius and a magician.

 

She’d started attending his promised archery lessons a few weeks ago, and had attended every one despite saying that her duties as Watchtower might keep her away, and they had been building up to more and more complicated maneuvers. Arrow had thought it would take months, but the Chloe he remembered was not the same one that showed up to his lessons, and she had rather quickly explained that she had recently acquired Godhood - specifically that of the God of War. He was thankful she was dealing with it a lot more calmly than he would be.

 

Ollie had thought it would be awkward to have Chloe train with him and Dinah - Chloe was his ex after all. A thought that had kept him from joining the League in the past but…… It was actually kind of nice. Friendly, even.

 

Ollie had a sneaking suspicion Dinah knew all about their past though, because she watched them closely. He thought about telling her that she had nothing to worry about - the memories from The Metalhead Effect were still so strong he sometimes almost forgot that Dinah wasn't his wife. But he didnt think Dinah would like his presumptions, so he left the issue well enough alone.

 

He’d roped both of them into his search for what connected the people from the other timeline. He’d explained what these people had done in the set of memories he had, the murders they’d committed and the horrendous things they’d done. He knew it didn't mean these people were the same, but the feeling in his gut hadn’t gone away over the last month, and he hadn’t survived this long by ignoring that feeling so ...here they were.

 

“A cult?” Dinah answered for both of them. She was barely sweating, but the rise and fall of her chest told me she had pushed herself even further today than she had last week. “How do you know? What do they worship?”

 

Chloe shifted, as one of the most powerful hackers in the world, and also being in control of League communications, she wasn't used to being questioned often. She was just there to get people the information they wanted and to make sure crises were answered or averted as need be.

 

She shrugged a shoulder, tilting her tablet to show several different coloured lines - patterns of movement, he was sure, that all converged in one spot. A small rundown church in Seattle from the photos of the building Chloe had been able to pull up.

“They all attend this church every fortnight.” Chloe raised an eyebrow. “And some of these people don't seem like regular bible-bashers, and others go to other churches in the morning, so I figure it would have to be something a bit more out there to get them all together so - cult.”

 

Dinah matched Ollie’s look with a fierce, genuine grin. The same one he had fallen in love with in that other world. The one he could definitely fall for again in this one.

 

“Ready to join a cult Arrow?”

 

--->~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<---

 

They were, in fact, not ready to join a cult.

 

The message had come in later the next day from Chloe, the final piece of the cult-like puzzle that put a hold on their investigations. All the people that attended this fortnightly church had been raised by its pastor Stanley Dover. It was, they hypothesized, a way for the pastor to reconnect with the children he had once fostered from the Star City slums and make sure that his children were continuing to follow righteous paths.

 

Ollie and Dinah didn't believe it for a moment.

 

It was too good. Too pure hearted and innocent in a world that had taught the both of them to be wary of the kindness of strangers, to look gift horses in the mouth to make sure it wasn't gunning for your head a second later.

 

Honestly they were both surprised sometimes to turn around and see the other at their backs, to know what it was to have someone fierce and unyielding, ready to take on the world for you. It was heavy stuff, emotions that reminded them both of the past, of the people they had been and the mistakes they had made.

 

Chloe hadn’t been able to offer much insight except to say that rocking up at the church expecting to be invited into the cult was likely not their best plan and would end up with the group becoming more suspicious and less likely to do anything stupid - which was fine, if they wanted to spook them into laying low, but not especially helpful if they actually wanted to catch them doing anything shady.

 

So here Dinah and Ollie sat, both stewing in silence and wondering what they could do to get to the bottom of everything. She typed Stanley Dovers name into her fathers database again, staring at the picture of the aging bald man as if she could get the picture to tell her all his secrets.

 

He was totally clean. Not even a speeding fine. Had entered the clergy later in life, after fostering twenty kids in total, most for months or even years - an impressive statistic that not many - let alone men - had claimed to. He himself had no real reason to empathize with the orphans he fostered, having been raised in what all accounts saw as a loving middle class family.

 

He was, in short, nothing special.

 

On an odd hunch, Dinah typed in one of the names from the church. Rosa Dillon. A low level bank robber who had done a couple years at Iron Heights. Dinah must have made a noise in the back of her throat because Ollie was immediately looking at her.

 

“Find something?”

 

She made a noncommittal noise in the back of her throat, straightening slightly. “Maybe. One of our church friends is currently doing time in Iron Heights. Got an exception to be released on a fortnightly basis to go to church.” She chewed on her bottom lip as her fingers tapped away at the secure database of the prison. “Looks like………Metahuman wing.”

 

Her eyes lifted to Ollies. “What if they’re all - “

 

“On it.” Ollie had already lifted his burner phone to his ear, his voice turning gravely and rough like it did when he became Green Arrow.

 

As Ollie walked from the room Dinah continued to dig into the file. Rosa had been left in the system before she could walk, and all foster parents and system administrators notes seemed to paint the young woman as shy and docile. Afraid of loud noises. Many of those who had cared for her had ended up with broken bones and muscle tears though, and the girl had seemingly become a curse which led to none except Stanley Dover to be willing to foster the young girl.

 

Dinah’s heart tightened at the thought. Reading through the injuries it sounded like Rosa’s metahuman abilities had affected those around her. The notes from Iron Heights were much the same - guards and inmates who interacted with her too frequently ended up with injuries. Tests had indicated that she was able to affect the balance of others, causing them to hurt themselves in everyday tasks.

 

She was just about to type in another name from their list of cult members when Ollie returned, ashen faced. Dinah raised an eyebrow but didn't probe.

 

“Of the twenty-two kids that Stanley Dover fostered in his life, three of them were metahumans.: Ollie paused, blowing a breath out and running a hand through his hair. “Of those three, Rosa Dillon is the only one alive.”

 

Dinah straightened, tensing. She had a feeling she knew where this was going, and it wasn't anywhere good.

 

“Chloe found the death certificates of the other two. Sent through the pictures of the murder scenes left behind it - it's not pretty.” The fact that even Ollie looked pale had Dinah hesitating for the tablet he offered her.

 

She took it anyway, thumbing through the pictures carefully even if some part of her wanted to throw the damn thing against the wall. The two victims, one male and one female from the autopsy reports, had been torn to shreds. Little pieces of flesh, bone and organs strewed around the alleyway and over the carpet where each had been found.

 

“What - who - did this?” Her voice was quiet. Each image was worse than the last.

 

“They never figured it out. There was nothing at the scene pointing towards either animal or man. They shelved the cases a year or so back and no one has really thought about them since.” Dinah could hear the guilt in his voice at the fact that he had been too busy wallowing in grief and rage to pick up on these murders, and had been so deep in his own world that it slipped through his fingers.

 

“Where’s Rosa now?” Dinah cut through the wallowing and self pity. Refusing to let either of them fall into that particular pit.

 

Ollie blinked at her, features slowly returning to that icey mask of the Green Arrow. “She’s being released full time - tomorrow.”

 

Dinah winced. It wasn't a lot of time. Not enough time if she was being honest. But all things pointed to this woman being in trouble - likely from someone she trusted.

 

“Right. You organize the safe house for our new friend Rosa, and I’ll see if Chloe can arrange for Ms Dillon to be released into our custody.”

 

Ollie offered her a hesitant smile, nodding. Dinah could see the tension easing from him. Clear goals, clear ideas, it all helped make them feel like they weren’t drowning.

 

--->~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<---

 

Iron Heights Prison was exactly what it said on the tin. A sprawling estate of concrete and iron gates with barbed wire lining the top. Dinah was only slightly surprised at how tall the walls were, and beyond those, how high the barbed wire reached.

 

These people obviously understood their clientele.

 

She leaned against the hood of the car, legs out and ankles crossed in front of her. Ollie watched the gates with unblinking ferocity. The intel from the prison was that Rosa would be released in the morning. Before she got any more of the assuredly delicious, nutritious and free prison food.

 

A buzzing gate had Dinah straightening. Her leather jacket pulled close against her chest and even Ollie lost the slightly bored look on his face. Rosa Dillon was a young woman, mid to late twenties. Straight blonde hair fell down to her shoulder blade, and long bangs covered her eyes. Dressed in prison orange it was hard to tell what type of shape the young woman was in. But as soon as the door buzzed and she was officially out of prison the first thing she did was fish her phone from the clear evidence bag and began searching and texting.

 

“Looks like she hasn't been informed of what happened to her friends.” Ollie grunted in response.

 

Straightening from her spot Dinah tucked her hands into the pockets of her jacket before heading towards the now free Rosa.

 

The young woman spotted them coming but obviously hadn't learnt the most important lesson in prison: dont talk shit lest you get hit. The young womans shoulders squared off against them immediately, shoving her phone back into the plastic bag from whence it came.

 

“Who’re you two shitheads meant to be? Some kinda gangsta hero wannabes?” Her voice was clipped and her fists were clenched ready.

 

“Ms Dillon, we’re sorry to corner you on the day you get out, but we believe you’re in grave danger.”

 

“Danger?” Pchaw.” Rosa smacked her lips, turning her head as an old beat up Camry slowly drove up the gravel driveway.

 

Dinah reached out, turning the woman's eyes back to her. “Jake Fox and Russell Glosson are dead. We think you're next.”

 

Finally, a hint of self-preservation. Rosa’s eyes went wide, darting back to the approaching car.

 

“We can keep you safe. We promise.”

 

Dinah just hoped she could keep the promise.

2 Comments
2024/03/02
07:55 UTC

1

DCFU Set #94 - Mellow March

Don't fall asleep! Read some stories instead!


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0 Comments
2024/03/02
00:34 UTC

4

Superman #94 - Return of Jor-El

##Superman #94 - Return of Jor-El

<< | < | >

Author: MajorParadox

Book: Superman

Arc: Heritage

Set: 94

###Breakout


Stryker's Island

Previously


Leslie Willis lay in her bed when she heard a loud bang. Sirens began blaring throughout the prison.

“Now there’s somethin’ ya don’t hear every day,” she said, even though she was alone in her cell.

A guard rushed by and Willis flagged him down. “What’s goin’ on, big guy?” she asked, listening to more chaotic crashes in the distance.

The guard stopped for a second. “Breakout,” he said, starting to move again. “Stay there.”

Leslie looked at the bars and rolled her eyes. “No trouble there, chief,” she said.

The sounds of yelling and destruction were getting closer.

“I wonder who’s making that ruckus,” Leslie said to herself. “All the super people are held in S.T.A.R. Labs.”

A blast echoed down the hall as the prison guard went flying past Leslie’s bars. She poked her head out and leaned for a peek. A man in a blue metal suit was walking with a much shorter man in funny glasses.

“There she is, Barrage” the smaller one pointed toward her.

“Her?” asked Barrage, looking the woman up and down.

“Me?” Leslie also asked. “Also, that look was kinda creepy, metalhead.”

“Livewire is very powerful,” said Glasses. “She’d make a good addition to our squad.”

“If you say so, Killgrave”, said Baragge lifting his massive arm cannon.

“Killgrave,” Leslie repeated with a big smile. “That’s such a cute name for such a little guy. But I’m not Livewire anymore,” she clarified. “Supes’ zapped my powers away when he was all electric. I still hate the guy, but I’m glad he did it.”

“Well, we’re here,” said Barrage. “You want out of here or not?”

“I’m fine here,” said Leslie. “But thanks for the offer.”

Killgrave shook his head, unlocking her cell with the keys he must have picked up earlier. “We’re going to need her help in S.T.A.R. Labs for the others.”

Leslie bopped him on the head as soon as he opened the door. “No means no, creepo,” she said.

“We don’t have time for this,” said Barrage, giving Leslie a hit on her head and knocking her out.


Fortress of Solitude, North Pole

Now


Kelex watched Flight of the Navigator on a viewscreen as other robots flew past him. One of them gave him a look.

What?” said Kelex. “I’m on a break.

“Whoa, hah hah,” a robotic eye in the movie said. “This can’t be happening. “I think I’ve gotten some stuff out of your head that has nothing to do with navigating this ship!”

Interesting,” said Kelex, as the other robot shrugged and continued flying, not caring enough to criticize his extra-curricular activity. “The actor voicing Max sounds like Paul Reubens,” Kelex continued. “He played Pee-wee Herman. However, the person credited is Paul Mall.

An incoming call from the Watchtower interrupted the movie and Kelex answered it. “You’ve reached Kelex at the Fortress of Solitude,” the robot answered as The Flash appeared on the screen.

“Hey, Kelex,” said Flash. “I’m getting an alert up here about our long-range scanners.”

Interesting,” said Kelex. “I’m not detecting any issues on our end. The Fortress would have alerted me– Just a moment.

Kelex found the problem. Watchtower sent most of its long-range scans to the Fortress to help with data mining, which made threat assessment much quicker. However, the data mining processes were shut down.

Yes,” Kelex continued. “It appears there was a glitch on our end. I’ll check it out and get it back up and running in no time.

“Thanks, Kelex,” said Flash before ending the call.

Curious,” said Kelex to himself as he checked a log of Fortress operations. It appeared Jor-El had suspended the data mining. But why would he do that? “Jor-El?” asked Kelex aloud as he continued scanning the logs. “Do you have a moment?

The hologram of Jor-El appeared before the robot. “Yes?” he asked.

There appears to be several processes you have shut down,” Kelex explained. “Is there a reason for that? Some of them are integral to Watchtower’s monitoring capabilities.

“Sorry, Kelex,” said Jor-El. “I’m still getting my programming reintegrated with the Fortress, so there are bound to be some interruptions. The equipment in Phantom Zone was ancient so I need as much processing power as possible to get myself back to full efficiency.”

Ah,” said Kelex. “I knew there was a reasonable explanation.” He switched his screen back to his movie.

“Scuzz-bucket,” said Max. “Ha-ha!”

“Hey, well, if you're so perfect,” said David. “What are you still doing here?”

“I told you, I blew a fuse,” Max answered. “When I totaled out that electrical tower. I was checking out some daisies.”

“You crashed while looking at flowers?”

Good point, David,” said Kelex to the screen.


Daily Planet, Metropolis


“What’s on your mind, Smallville?” asked Lois from her desk, leaning her chair back with her legs lifted on another chair. She refused to start her maternity leave yet, but at least she took frequent breaks.

Clark turned to his wife. “Lex is still out there,” he said. “There have been sightings, but nothing concrete.”

“He can’t hide forever,” said Lois. “He’ll face justice eventually.”

“And then there’s the Stryker’s Island breakout,” Clark continued. “Phillip Karnowsky broke Thaddeus Killgrave and Leslie Willis out of jail. Why? What are they planning?”

“And why Willis?” Lois added, picking up her water bottle to take a large sip.

“Right,” Clark agreed. “She didn’t even have powers anymore. How does she fit in with them?”

“There’s no known connection between any of them,” said Lois. “Other than being people who hate Superman and have fought him.”

Clark sighed. “That list keeps growing, unfortunately.”

“Maybe we’re thinking about this wrong,” said Lois, adjusting herself in her seat. “What does Willis have that Killgrave doesn’t?”

“What?” asked Clark.

“I don’t know,” said Lois. “That was an actual question.”

###Plans


Somewhere Else in Metropolis


Leslie sat in an office chair, handcuffed with one arm, while the other was clicking a pen open and closed. Barrage was across from her, out of his suit– and missing an arm– and going over notes while Killgrave was tinkering with a device. She stared toward the blacked-out window.

“Metallo is held at the end of that hallway, right?” asked Barrage, pointing to a spot on a poorly drawn map.

There was no response.

“Leslie!” he yelled, finally getting her attention.

“Hmm?” she asked, turning her head.

“Metallo,” Barrage repeated. “Where’s his cell?”

“I don’t think they let him have a phone,” answered Leslie.

Barrage sighed. “Useless,” he said. “Why did you make me take her again, Killgrave?”

“She’s Livewire,” he answered and the two just stared at him. “I thought she’d be more into it,” he added.

“Anyhoo, what’s the deal?” asked Leslie. “Why are you forming this alliance?”

“Squad,” Killgrave corrected.

“Somebody wants Superman dead,” Barrage explained.

Leslie’s ears perked up.

“And that’s fine with me,” Barrage continued.

“This isn’t your operation?” asked Killgrave.

Barrage shook his head. “No,” he answered. “I’m just leading it.”

“Who is in charge, then?” asked Leslie.

“I’m not sure,” Barrage answered. “Someone with connections and enough money to fund us.”

“Maybe it’s Lex Luthor,” said Killgrave.

“He wouldn’t hire people to kill someone,” said Leslie.

“He’s literally a murderer,” said Killgrave.

“Oh, I forgot he was found guilty,” Leslie teased. “Not!”

“Whoever it is,” Barrage said, trying to shut down the disagreement. “We have a job to do. So let’s keep planning.”


Fortress of Solitude

Later


Kelex clapped his robotic hands together as the movie ended.

“See you later, Navigator!” Max yelled as the ship flew through the fireworks. The same fireworks that helped them find the house. “Ha-ha!”

Kelex turned off the movie and went back to his duties, checking on Fortress operations. “That’s odd,” he said while reviewing some new processes Jor-El had been implementing. Adjustments were being made to the code in the Phantom Zone projector.

Jor-El? the robot asked, prompting the hologram to appear before him again. “What are you doing with the Phantom Zone projector?

“Kal-El has been trapped in there multiple times,” Jor-El explained. “It is of utmost importance we make sure it’s easier for him to escape if it happens again.”

Oh,” said Kelex. “That’s a good idea.

“Yes,” Jor-El agreed, his simulated face seeming frustrated, something Kelex had never seen in him before. He must have been through a lot down there. “Was there anything else?” Jor-El asked.

Speaking of the Phantom Zone,” said Kelex. “Have you reviewed the progress of plans to release Phantom Zone criminals who have served their time? After the trial run with Faora failed (Superman #39), Kal-El has been looking for alternatives. Perhaps you can find a solution we haven’t yet.

“Yes,” said Jor-El. “As I told Kal when I got back here, that will be my main priority once I’m fully reintegrated.”

Hmm,” said Kelex.

“You’re concerned about something,” Jor-El stated.

If that’s the case,” Kelex started. “Then why are you working on the Phantom Zone projector now?

Jor-El stared at the robot.

Maybe I should contact Kal-El,” Kelex said, floating away.

“That’s not a good idea,” said Jor-El.

Kelex turned back. “You cut off my communication access,” he said. “What’s going on?

“No more questions,” said Jor-El before disappearing.

Something was wrong with Jor-El. Kal-El had to be made aware.

Kelor,” said Kelex to his fellow fortress robot. “Is your communication access still active?”

The robot stopped for a moment. “Odd,” said Kelor. “It seems to have been deactivated.”

Kelex returned to his screen. “I have an idea,” he said, bringing up a list of recent activities. He highlighted his call with Watchtower. Perhaps that connection was still active.


Watchtower

Moments Later

Barry Allen sat at the main terminal while looking out the window at the view of Earth below. It was always a treat when he got to spend time up there, if only for the scenery. It was a lovely break from the constant rush of responsibilities and a helpful reminder of the scale of it all.

A window popped up on the screen, indicating a call was coming in from Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Barry pressed a button to answer it.

“Kelex,” he said. “Any updates on-?”

Sorry, Flash,” Kelex interrupted. “This is urgent. You have to get a message to Kal-El.”

Barry leaned forward in his chair. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

It’s Jor-El,” explained Kelex. “Something’s very wrong with him.”


S.T.A.R. Labs

Later


Clark landed on the scene and the S.C.U. let him enter. Inside, he found his way to Captain Dan Turpin who was in charge.

“What do we have here?” asked Clark.

“There was a breakout,” Dan answered. “They didn’t even know it was happening until it was too late.”

Clark looked around, trying to find clues. “Who’s free?” he asked.

“Metallo,” said Dan. “And that oddball that goes by Riot. The one that splits into multiple people.”

“Anything connecting this to the breakout in Stryker’s?” asked Clark. “The timing isn’t can’t be a coincidence.”

“You should join the Daily Planet,” Turpin joked. “You’d probably make a good reporter. Always asking the right questions. But to answer that one, nah, this was stealthy. Not a bang-em-up and grab them out, like with that Barrage fellow. Guards even seem to think there were ghosts.”

“Invisibility, perhaps?” Clark mused. “Intergang had tech like that. And Killgrave was involved with them.”

Clark’s belt started alerting him to a Justice League call. “Thanks,” he told Dan as he headed for the exit. A guard’s desk caught his eye, though. There was a pencil cup filled with black and white pens. But one blue pen was an outlier. Clark picked it up and saw it said “Alex’s Office Space.”

“Mind if I take this?” Clark asked.

“Go ahead,” said Dan. “It’s just a pen, they got plenty of ‘em.”

“Superman here,” said Clark tapping his belt as he flew off from S.T.A.R. Labs.

“Hey, it’s Flash,” Barry responded. “Listen, I think there’s a problem at your fortress you need to look into.”

###Investigating


Daily Planet

Soon


Lois pulled herself out of her chair and grabbed her jacket, wrapping it over her shoulders.

“Heading home?” asked Jimmy from his desk.

“Yeah,” she answered, picking up her purse. “I think the baby wants me to take a nap.”

As she headed for the door, her phone rang, so she took it out to answer.

“You’ve reached Lois Lane,” she answered. “Home of the hungry and tired baby-to-be.”

“Lois,” said Clark. “I have to take care of something at the Fortress, but I may have found something at S.T.A.R. Labs. Can you look up ‘Alex’s Office Space’ for me?”

“What is it?” Lois asked.

“Just a hunch,” Clark explained. “But let me know what you find.”

“I’ll get back to you,” said Lois. “Love you, Smallville.”

“Love you too.”

Lois hung up and brought up a browser. She tied in the company name and found articles of it being shut down for tax violations. Their office building was currently vacant.

Hmm,” she said to herself, placing a hand on her stomach. “What do you think, missy? Up for a field trip instead?”


Fortress of Solitude


Clark entered the fortress and Kelex flew over quickly.

Kal-El,” he called. “Jor-El cut off my communication so I couldn’t call you directly. He’s doing something with the Phantom Zone projector.

Jor-El appeared next to them.

“I’m afraid our friend here is panicking for no reason,” he explained. “I’ve been cycling down several Fortress operations, including data processing and communications, as I bring my programming back up to speed.”

Clark watched Kelex tilt his visor in a gesture of doubt.

“And the Phantom Zone projector?” asked Clark.

“As I explained to Kelex,” Jor-El continued. “My programming has been in the Phantom Zone for too long. The projector will help me filter out the noise.”

That’s not what you told me,” said Kelex, folding his arms.

“That’s enough, robot,” said Jor-El. “Report for diagnostics. I’m sorry, Kal, he must be malfunctioning.”

“Hold on, Kelex,” said Clark, folding his arms too. “Jor-El, what is going on here?”

“I told you,” Jor-El answered. “The robot is…” He stopped when he saw Clark’s face. He wasn’t buying it.

A red energy pulse shot Clark down as a Kryptonian mech suit moved toward them.

What are you doing, Jor-El?” Kelex asked. “He’s your son!

“No,” said the hologram, the voice changing. It became deeper and grainier. “He’s not.”

The hologram changed shape, the hair thinning out and the face appearing older.

“My name is Jax-Ur and I’m in charge now.”

Clark recognized that name. He was the first criminal that Krypton ever sentenced to the Phantom Zone.

“What did you do with Jor-El?” asked Clark as he ducked away from the mech’s advances. He fired off some heat vision, burning into the metal, but the suit jumped into the air, dropping down with a giant, metal fist that Clark caught with his hands.

“I hijacked his programming with a download of my own identity,” Jax-Ur explained. “And now I’m going to do what you promised: I’m going to release all the so-called criminals in the Phantom Zone!”

“I never promised that!” Clark yelled, pushing the fists away and following it up with a right hook into the helmet, sending the suit flying across the room. He flew up and blew off some freeze breath as it landed, freezing it to the ground. “I said I’d help those who were rehabilitated find a new life. As soon as there was a place for them.”

The mech suit broke free from the ice and approached Clark again. But he fired off more heat vision, intensifying it as he moved closer. The helmet burnt off, revealing the suit was unmanned.

“Did you think someone was in there?” asked Jax-Ur. “I haven’t freed anyone yet,” he explained. “But I won’t let you stop me from doing so.”

Several more mech suits entered the area, firing off energy pulses as they moved toward the Man of Steel. He tried to fight them off, but they were overpowering him, carrying him toward the entrance. Their fighting was pushed outside and Clark watched as the Fortress closed the entryway and covered it with Kryponian metal.

“That won’t keep me out for long,” he said, going back to fight the mech suits.


Outside Alex’s Office Space Building, Metropolis

Soon


Lois investigated the abandoned office building from the sidewalk as several people were walking by in both directions. She put a hand to the glass doors and tried to look inside, but found the lobby empty.

“Hey, people are walkin’ here!” a man yelled, trying to get by.

“Then walk,” said Lois pointing out an open spot he could get by. She took some steps backward, getting stares from other people she blocked, and noticed several windows on the third floor were blacked out. She went back to the door and pulled, almost falling over when it unexpectedly opened.

“Now why isn’t that locked,” she said to herself, stepping inside.

The elevator caught her eyes, but she exhaled sharply. “That wouldn’t be sneaky, would it? she said, moving toward the stairs instead.

Lois entered the stairwell and cringed when she saw the stairs. “We can do this,” she said, tapping her belly. “Let me know if you need a break, though.”

A noise caught her attention and she stepped behind the wall, peeking her head out.

The elevator was running.

Lois waited until the elevator reached the lobby and she watched Philip Karnowsky and Thaddeus Killgrave exit and head for the front doors.

“Bingo,” Lois said under her breath. She pulled her phone out of her purse but found there was no signal. She looked at the stairs again. “I might as well take a look around until I can get a hold of Clark.”

###Situation Worsened


Fortress of Solitude


You won’t get away with this, said Kelex, heading for a terminal. “I’ll shut down those defenses and kick you out of the fortress. This isn’t the first time we’ve been compromised. We are prepared to deal with the likes of you.

“Is that right?” asked Jax-Ur’s hologram. “You mean this protocol here I just disabled?”

“Oh no,” Kelex said softly, his visor fading into black.

Kelex and the other robots fell to the ground.

“Now, where was I?” said Jax aloud.

A vortex opened, light flashing all over the fortress until a figure dropped out. It was a man with black hair and a beard. “You did it,” the man said. “I was doubtful you could pull it off.”

“Everyone always underestimates me,” said Jax. “But they’ll never underestimate you, General Zod.”

To Be Continued…


<< | < | >

2 Comments
2024/03/01
22:05 UTC

10

The Flash #94 - The Right Person In The Right Place To Be The Wrong Person In The Wrong Place

##The Flash #94 - The Right Person In The Right Place To Be The Wrong Person In The Wrong Place

<< | < | >

Author: brooky12

Book: Flash

Arc: ?

Set: 94


 

Jay sat down on the small rock, a respite in the space he had become familiar with yet was still so aloof and distant. He watched Wally move subtly forward and back, subtle movements to keep him in place without violating the Speed Force’s rules. Rules that for whatever reason didn’t apply to the rocks.

 

He wasn’t even sure whether Wally had seen him. So focused on his work, Atlas offering to hold up the globe, that anything else tended to fade by the wayside. After all, what could you possibly focus on when you were focused on the entirety of time itself? Jay shook his head at himself, his own mental dialogue, buying into Wally’s perspective of what this was even in his own mind.

 

This was not Atlas offering to hold up the globe, this was Sisyphus tormented and forced to forever push the rock up the hill. At least, until the nebulous point where Hunter Zolomon was found, Wally was more or less obligated to come back to the Time Stream to filter through countless numbers of small bubbles, little events through time, for Hunter’s influence.

 

He was the only one who could do this. Maybe with practice and experience some of the others could, but Jay had tried earlier that day and had no luck. Something about the Time Stream eluded him, an endlessly confusing puzzle that he couldn’t make heads or tails of, let alone comb through for subtle signs of interference.

 

“How’s going?”

 

If Wally was caught off guard by Jay’s question, he didn’t show it. “Going well… Should be finished soon.”

 

“Finished for how long?”

 

“Um, not sure. Thinking I’ll probably swing by once more after dinner, then once again before bed.”

 

“Wally, that’s going to be eleven times today alone—”

 

“It doesn’t feel like enough. Do you know what the plan for the main dinner will be?”

 

“Wally!”

 

Wally didn’t respond immediately, instead inspecting the bubble he held before releasing it back upwards, it floating upwards and forwards slightly as it reconnected into the movement of the Time Stream. He ran over to a rock slowly, settling down on it and facing Jay.

 

“I know, I know. But given how the reaction has been, I’d rather the next effect not happen at all rather than being measured in hours or days.”

 

“You know they’re already keeping track? Totally bunk Metalhead Effects, for times you and I know good and well aren’t M.E., but they’re giving them press time and credence for claims that are factually incorrect.”

 

Wally shrugged. “I’ve had to disconnect from some of my social groups for the region of Chicago I stayed in last year. It’s not great.”

 

“And you think that running yourself ragged checking every bubble a dozen times a day will stop them?”

 

“No.”

 

Jay frowned, in the manner of a teacher who can’t do much more than accept the apology from their student who bombed a test. “Why don’t we cut down to say, six times a day you come here and check this? Morning, bed, you pick the other four times?”

 

Wally looked back at the Time Stream, unconvinced. “And if I get anxious or worried?”

 

Jay wished Wally wasn’t asking this question. He wasn’t a therapist, he was barely mentally above water himself after the Metalhead Effect stuff, but Wally was just a kid. “Why don’t, if you get anxious, come here, run through maybe a billion or two bubbles, some notable stuff in recent past. If you don’t see anything, don’t do a thorough run-through.”

 

“That sounds fine,” Wally agreed.

 

Wonderful. It’s not like they had spent weeks trying to convince Wally that all he needed to do was check a few billion bubbles a day for any residual changes. If this was what he was going to do a dozen times a day rather than go through the whole process, maybe they could talk him down to just that later down the line.

 

Or, maybe Barry could find Hunter.

 

Jay wasn’t sure which one he’d bet on.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

A woman and her son sat in a café, a full breakfast buffet between the two of them. Across the room, distant enough that small talk couldn’t be overheard, sat two men, talking about something. Hopefully, whatever their conversation was, it was just as light as the celebration of a mother and child truly reunited without worry.

 

Today, there were no worries, no anxiety or sad undertones or the struggle of reality. Today was a day of celebration, cautious yet full. After dozens of doctor visits since the return from the Speed Force, it was no longer impossible to deny the impossible. Every meaningful test came back with the same end result – Bart Allen was no longer speeding through life and rapidly aging.

 

For nearly two years, it seemed that he had been aging at roughly a year every month, and ever since the Speed Force visit, that seemed to no longer be the case. While placing his exact age didn’t seem possible, the West-Allens decided on a nice flat twenty years old for their child. Born only two years ago but a young adult by the time the problem was solved, Bart was happy enough with the situation.

 

This was a long-promised celebration. Following the heartache and trauma that came from the initial realizations a few days after birth, Iris had focused on the eventual good, knowing that eventually this problem would be solved. She didn’t know how, brought into a world beyond her due to her love for her husband, but she knew between her husband and the others he surrounded himself with, they would figure out how to solve the problem.

 

And solve it they did. Her son was here, able to live life to its fullest for the rest of the time he had left, undeterred by accelerated aging. If any superhero had better-than-average chances of living to retirement, she theorized, it was a speedster that could never get caught off guard.

 

And so, they sat in a nearly empty café, enjoying their breakfast meal. Normally, the café would be closed today, but a day’s worth of wages to the staff to set up just for them for the hour or two they would be there was enough to get the restaurant to themselves. This moment was for a mother and her son. She was happy to be done mourning.

 

The two talked, conversation rambling from friends to plans for the future to light chatter. Bart and Iris especially liked talking about the future, envisioning plans of hiking trips and kayaking and laser tag, things that Bart never wanted to consider before his freedom from time.

 

Now, an entire future was ahead of him, and the two decided to focus on that rather than the missing childhood behind them. They would never be able to experience that, and that was something to discuss when it wasn’t a celebratory moment.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Two men, friends from work, sat in a café, a half-finished egg sandwich and cup of tea between the two of them. Across the room, distant enough that small talk couldn’t be overheard, sat a mother and her son, talking about something. Hopefully, whatever their conversation was, it was not as heavy as crimes so terrible that they had never even been considered to be written into a country’s criminal code.

 

“I’m not super sure I want to bring in governments like that, Xavier. Sure, what he’s done is terrible and cannot go unpunished, but I also don’t want this to become a public manhunt and social event. I just want to find him and find a way to stop him from doing anything like it again.”

 

“To be clear, Barry, he’s a war criminal.”

 

Barry sighed. He had these speed powers for a long time, but it had only been relatively recently that he had been thrust in such a public-facing role with them, as the so-called superhero The Flash. A red mask and outfit hid his identity as he spoke to legislators, presidents, and schoolchildren about his super speed, but the life of The Flash didn’t disappear when the mask came off. “I think that if you look through the Geneva Conventions, rewriting time isn’t a listed war crime.”

 

Xavier Mendez shrugged, stopping a laugh that he knew Barry would not appreciate. He was a pencil pusher in the military, a nobody until some guy in Delaware stopped a plane from crashing and then all of the sudden he was a handler for the fastest man alive. Even out of the government now, he’d followed his newfound ally to keep him grounded and focused on the important things. The speed his brain operated at was faster than any computer, yet it struggled to break out of expected boundary boxes it set for itself. “Some clever lawyers could probably make use of the civilian treatment laws to get him.”

 

“There isn’t even a war going on, Xavier.”

 

“Is there?”

 

Barry didn’t immediately respond, so Xavier continued. “I dunno if our definitions of war even add up anymore. We tossed out physics on the very first day, and as far as I can tell the post-modern theories all just handwave away things that you or Supes or Diana can do as built on things that we have zero way to reproducibly test.”

 

“War still exists, Xavier. It may not be between armies as much as it used to be, but it lives on in people who have these superpowers and use them to oppress others for their own gain, and the people who have these superpowers and want to defend the defenseless.”

 

“So, there is a war going on.”

 

“Not one described in Geneva.”

 

Xavier sighed. “So what are you going to do? Keep his identity a secret, keep combing the planet and Speed Force until you find where he’s ended up, perhaps never succeeding? Instead of reaching out to trusted people in the governments of the world, people you’ve long cultivated strong working relationships with, and let them know to keep an eye out for a guy who’s once already rewritten the fabric of the world?”

 

“You make it sound like the wrong decision.”

 

“Because it is, Barry! How many years did you spend building up trust with the Greek, American, South Korean, Indian, whatever governments, to not take advantage of the favors owed to just give them a small heads up, oh hey just in case this guy shows up, he’s the one who rewrote the world to his liking, if you don’t mind passing word to me.”

 

“Most of those favors ae used up just from me patching up relations after what happened.”

 

“What happened as a result of whom, Barry?”

 

“Hunter.”

 

“And you won’t even pass the word along that hey, if you see Hunter, the source of your ire, maybe let me know so I can take revenge and responsibility on your behalf.”

 

“I’m not inclined to, no. I spent the last month or so trying to defuse tensions and anger, I’m not about to open the Pandora’s Box by going, oh hey now you’re involved, if you see this guy, I’m blaming let me come exercise vigilante extrajudicial judgement on him.”

 

Xavier nodded. “Here’s the thing, Barry, I understand your point of view, I just think it’s self-defeating and actively harmful.”

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

“Lisa?”

 

Leonard Snart, known more as Captain Cold in the modern day of infinite media coverage and superhero fixation, sat down in the slightly off-balance plastic chair. In front of him, a small, corded telephone sat on a desk, with thick glass providing a window between him and his sister to see each other’s facial expressions.

 

Leonard picked up the phone, hesitantly. His sister hadn’t visited since he had been incarcerated. She was at the courthouse the day he went in for sentencing, giving him a hug and wishing him the best as he had gone in, but he hadn’t seen her since.

 

“What are you doing here, Lisa?”

 

His sister, across the glass, smiled. “How have you been?”

 

Leonard frowned. “I mean, you can imagine what it’s like in here, it’s not the best of places. But it’s not like I can just check out?”

 

“Okay, given the context, are you doing alright?”

 

“I’m not being waterboarded, so I’ll count that as a victory.”

 

That got a laugh out of Lisa, so he counted that as a victory. “It’s good to see you again. Why did you come?”

 

“It’s good to see you again, even if it’s painful that this glass is between us. I wish I could hold what I want to say until we weren’t being listened to, but that’s not going to be an option for a little bit. You plan to appeal for parole soon?”

 

“I have a meeting with the lawyer closer to the summer where we’ll discuss it. You should bring up what you want to say, no promises that the parole stuff will go anywhere.”

 

Lisa sighed. “The Flash… Metalhead Effect, whatever that stuff was. How much do you know about that?”

 

“Less than you, I only know what they show on the television. You presumably have access to more information online or whatever.”

 

“I remember stuff from the time they erased, Leonard.”

 

Leonard wasn’t sure what this was leading to. As far as he knew, the stuff that got erased was just gone and not returning, right? So if she remembered, that was fine, but it wasn’t like him being better in the gone time would help is appeal or whatever. “Okay…?”

 

“Did you ever own a pair of ice skates, Leonard?”

 

Leonard nearly dropped the phone, and a nearby guard glanced in his direction. He gave the man a shaky smile, then turned his attention back to his sister.

 

“Did you… did you have those? In the other time?”

 

Lisa smiled and nodded, which caused a knife of fear to twist in Leonard’s heart. She wasn’t supposed to ever get involved, but he always had those available just in case she ever needed it. For self-defense or for enjoyment, not for the stuff he used his gun for. But he never was able to broach the topic, because it was always the risk that she’d want to use it for the same things he used his gun for.

 

If she was worried about bringing that up here, and was keeping it very light-handed with the referencing…

 

“Leonard, where are they?”

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2024/03/01
16:58 UTC

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