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The Apocalyptic Council: Suddenly, an End!

Posted by meekrat on September 30, 2010

The head of the Apocalyptic Council sat at his desk in the darkness. He couldn’t remember being a young man. He couldn’t remember being an old man, either. He could only remember the days when he had been less ancient, but he truly wanted to remember his younger days so he could undo the curse of immortality that had been placed upon him. This was the reason he had founded the Council, after all. Surely the end of the world would end him as well. It was all he dreamed about, all he wanted: the sweet embrace of death. He could not even remember the name he had been given at birth, and simply called himself Checker. He couldn’t remember why.

The door opened, letting in a sliver of light and a young man with claws.

Checker squinted, his ancient eyes rapidly adjusting to the light. “Ah, Joshua.”

Joshua leaned against the wall and took a steel file out of his pocket and began to sharpen his claws, “How are you doing today?”

“Absolutely wretchedly,” Checker hobbled over to a file cabinet and began paging through its files, “Any luck?”

“None whatsoever,” said Joshua, “We’ve sent out many agents to try and find out who you are and why you’re still alive. No luck yet. Also, we’ve had an infiltration.”

Checker slammed the file cabinet shut and hobbled back over to his desk, “Has it been taken care of?”

“Kind of,” said Joshua.

Checker cursed under his breath, “Kind of. How do you kind of take care of an infiltration? Did someone escape?”

“Nothing like that. We seem to have attracted some very interesting individuals.”

“How interesting?”

“Charleston Charge, for one.”

Checker hobbled back over to the file cabinet and began paging through the files contained within. The cabinet was a surrogate memory, though some things had been forgotten entirely. Joshua sat and waited patiently for Checker to pull out a file, read it, place it back into the cabinet, and hobble back to his desk.

Checker grinned, though his teeth had long ago been replaced with dentures, “Charleston Charge, eh? Good thing you’ve captured that one. According to my memory, he’s quite important. Could have put this entire operation in jeopardy.”

“That’s not all. We also captured a young man named Edwin Cloudstar. No, don’t bother going to your cabinet. He’s not in your memory,” said Joshua.

“He sounds familiar, though,” said Checker, “So familiar. Cloudstar. Hm. If he’s not in the cabinet then he can’t be important. Good work, all the same.”

“We also captured the Impossible Mister Frink and Vincenzo Fitzpatrick,” said Joshua.

Checker’s eyes lit up, “I remember those lads! Dashing young men. I remember seeing them so many years ago. Weren’t there more?”

“Yes. They weren’t here, but I think we should take the precaution of contracting some outside help with this. I’ve got contacts out there, and there’s probably more than a few people who would like a piece of the Basset Hound Brigade,” said Joshua.

Checker nodded, “No. The Basset Hound Brigade and Charleston Charge? We’ve got to move our operation.”

Joshua balked, “Do we have time?”

Checker chuckled, “You know damn well that you and I have all the time in the world.”

“I know that, but really, sir. We’re on a time-table.”

“We’ve got time. It’s better to just move than to have our whole operation dismantled by the likes of them. Get on it, please. Release the prisoners, first. Give them a fight, but let them go. We mustn’t let on that they haven’t won, nor can we kill them. It’ll bring the rest of them down upon us” said Checker, leaning back in his chair.

“Of course,” Joshua left the room, grinning. He was itching for a fight.

***

Charleston Charge paced the cell while Mister Frink sat in the corner and thought. Vinny Fitzpatrick gazed longingly out the window while Edwin Cloudstar remained up against the wall, being unable to move.

“Back in the day, we could count on the Little Spick to get us out of jams like this,” said Vinny with a sigh, “Back in the day. I wonder what he’s up to?”

“He’s dead,” said Mister Frink, “I think Orphan Freelance is still operational.”

“That’s sort of racist, isn’t it?” asked Charleston, who had stopped in his tracks upon hearing “the Little Spick”.

“It was a different time. Now, are we going to go through with this plan?” asked Mister Frink.

“It don’t feel right, Mister Frink, killin’ some lad,” said Vinny, “Even if he says he’ll just pop back.”

“It’s the only way,” said Edwin.

Vinny slumped to the ground, “Can’t we just wait for something to happen to you?”

“It’s impossible for anything to kill Edwin while we’re sitting in this cell,” growled Mister Frink.

Just then, a meteorite came flying through the window, hitting Edwin square between the eyes. It plowed through his brain and burrowed itself deeply into the wall. Vinny stared.

“We must act!” screamed Mister Frink, throwing himself against the door. It budged slightly, and Charleston aided him in the next impact. The door broke off of its hinges.

“Grab Edwin!” said Mister Frink, striding down the hallway. There were no guards. This bothered him.

Charleston threw Edwin’s body over his shoulder and Vinny followed. The quartet walked down the hallway to the next door, easily opening it.

“This can’t be right,” said Mister Frink, “There’s nothing in here but the sword.”

***

In the realm between life and death, Edwin watched as his companions carried his body down the hallway. There was a tap on his shoulder and he turned to see a tan red-headed woman wearing a purple blazer and skirt, holding a clipboard.

“Nice to see you again,” she said.

“Nice to see you, too, Camilla. I’m pretty sure I haven’t fulfilled the prophecies,” said Edwin.

Camilla looked at her clipboard, “No. Of course you haven’t. So what mess have you gotten into this time?”

Edwin pointed to Charleston, “I’m helping that guy with the hat stop a group dedicated to the Apocalypse. They had to kill me so that they could reunite me with my sword.”

“Fun,” Camilla wrote something on her clipboard and it vanished, “How’d you get separated from it in the first place? You haven’t died for a while.”

“What?” Edwin’s brow furrowed, “Then how did this happen?”

“I don’t know,” said Camilla, “Well, looks like it’s time for you to get back to living. Be careful. Not that I don’t like seeing you, of course.”

“Of course,” Edwin vanished from the realm.

***

Fifteen minutes later, the quartet was wandering through the mysteriously empty halls.

“This isn’t right,” said Mister Frink.

“You’re telling me,” said Charleston Charge, sidling along the wall.

“I feel a disturbance,” said Edwin, stopping dead in his tracks, his hand instinctively going to the hilt of his sword, “Not really. It’s more of just bad mojo.”

Joshua stepped around the corner, his claws shining, “Hello. You can’t leave here alive.”

Edwin stopped and stared at Joshua, his hand resting on the sword’s hilt, and suddenly things made sense.

“Maddon! He’s you!” shouted Vinny.

“I’d love to know your history sometime,” said Joshua Cloudstar, “Not right now. Right now, we’re going to test your immortality.”

Edwin Cloudstar drew his sword, “Same to you.”

“So witty,” Joshua ran forward, claw raised. He brought it down, meeting Edwin’s sword and giving off sparks.

“Run,” said Edwin, attempting to force Joshua forward. Despite being dimensional twins, Joshua was stronger, and so this attempt met with failure.

As the pair continued to battle, Mister Frink and the others were running through the compound. Suddenly, there was a flash of light, and they fell to the ground.

***

Vinny Fitzpatrick awoke to find himself on Mister Frink’s couch. Charleston Charge was eating a plate of waffles on a cot next to him, while Mister Frink was already up and about. Edwin Cloudstar was nowhere to be seen, but Mister Frink’s son was there.

“Are you sure you don’t want the Neo-Bassets to track these people down?” he said, not wearing his uniform.

“You know them?” said Charleston, in between mouthfuls.

Brian Frink stopped, and then nodded slowly, “Yes. I’m their pal.”

“What happened?” said Vinny.

“Ah, good. You’re awake,” said Mister Frink, “It’s been nearly a week. To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure what happened. All I know is that that compound has vanished into nothingness.”

“So we won?” said Vinny.

“I can only assume so,” said Mister Frink, pouring some tea.

“For the first time in years, I have nothing to do,” said Charleston, “It feels weird. I tell you what, though. I’m tendering my resignation with Brachiosaur. I’m going to do things my own way from now on. Maybe start a detective agency.”

“Bully for you,” said Mister Frink.

Vinny walked over to the table and took a cup of tea, “What happened to Edwin?”

“I don’t know,” said Mister Frink.

“The Neo-Bassets could find out,” said Brian.

“No. I don’t think we could find these people again unless they wanted to be found,” said Mister Frink.

***

Edwin Cloudstar floated in the void between universes once again, shunted once the Apocalyptic Council’s compound transported itself to its new location. Joshua was nowhere to be seen, and Edwin couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to his dimensional twin that made him think the Apocalypse was a good idea. Oh well. Soon, Edwin would either find his way back to a universe at some point soon.

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The Apocalyptic Council: Mister Frink’s Holiday

Posted by meekrat on September 27, 2010

Note: This is the finale of Choose Your Own Blogventure.
Note #2: This takes place before March Meekrat Madness 2010.

Charleston Charge awoke to find himself in a closet, and remembered what he was doing there. There was a conspiracy to bring about the Apocalypse, or at least to keep it on track, and Charleston had somehow become responsible for making sure that the world didn’t end. He opened the door to see a tribe of Mayans standing in the hallway, some walking and chatting with each other, some drinking coffee. They all turned to him and Charleston slammed the closet door behind him and hoped and prayed that his ally, Edwin Cloudstar, was able to find him.

***

Deep within the bowels of the Apocalyptic Council’s headquarters, Edwin Cloudstar sat in a dank dungeon. It wasn’t the worst dungeon he had ever been in, to be certain, but it was still quite annoying because they somehow knew how to circumvent the mystical connection he had with his sword. Again, not the first time, but no less annoying than all the other times. He sat and hoped that his ally, Charleston Charge, would be able to find him.

***

The Impossible Mister Frink sat in his breakfast nook, sipping some tea and reading his paper, basically enjoying his morning. His adopted son, Brian, was off on some adventure with some costumed heroes, so it was a fairly quiet day. Most days had been quiet since the unofficial disbanding of the Basset Hound Brigade, in fact. Not too quiet, of course. A man like Mister Frink knew how to create his own excitement, after all, but it was still nice to have a quiet day every now and again.

There was a knock at the door, the sort of knock that insinuated that if you didn’t open the door, then it would be opened by force. Were Brian there, Mister Frink likely would have continued sitting there enjoying the comic strips. Since he wasn’t, he cracked his knuckles and walked over to the door.

Vinny Fitzpatrick was standing on the other side, holding his aviator cap and goggles in front of him.

Mister Frink sighed and opened the door, “Good morning, Vincenzo. What brings you here?”

“I know we only get the ol’ team back together for big things, Mister Frink, but I got word that there’s the mother of all trouble brewin’ down south,” said Vinny.

“Very well,” said Mister Frink, “I suppose we’re expected to just go down there and solve things?”

“I was hoping,” Vinny smiled, “Only I wasn’t able to get anyone else.”

Mister Frink’s eyebrow raised, “What’s Douglas and Jenkins doing that are so important?”

“They’re on a case,” said Vinny, “And Mister Lucky’s nowhere to be found.”

“He’s busy with that blasted literature club,” replied Mister Frink, grabbing his overcoat, “Details, Vincenzo! Details!”

They walked to Mister Frink’s private airstrip, and along the way Vinny explained how he had found himself in contact with the new iteration of the spy organization, CAST, most notably a young woman who called herself E. A young man she knew had traveled south months ago and no one had heard from him since, and she was unable to travel there herself. Since she knew Vinny’s history with the Basset Hound Brigade, she hoped that he would at least check into it, which eventually led him to this point.

Mister Frink nodded, “Do we know where this complex is?”

“She says she don’t know,” said Vinny, “Could we take your plane? Only I had a bit o’ trouble wit’ mine.”

Vinny’s plane had been crashed, like the vast majority of his planes, into a small grove of trees several hundred yards from the airfield. He had never been able to land, except in the direst of circumstances. Mister Frink just tossed him the keys to the plane and hoped for the best.

***

Several hours later, the pair flew over some farmland.

“Have you been here before?” asked Mister Frink, pointing to a crashed bi-plane.

“Never,” said Vinny, “I think we’re on the right track. Look!”

A giant monster loomed in front of them, lumbering down the road, its massive black wings flapping slowly. As far as such things went, it wasn’t that terrifying, having the normal amount of arms and legs. Of course, all these arms and legs were tentacles, and its head looked like an octopus. It looked up and its giant coal-black eyes narrowed.

“It’s seen us, Mister Frink!” shouted Vinny, who threw the plane into a dive.

“Pull up, lad! Pull up!” screamed Mister Frink.

It was too late. The tentacle monster reached out and plucked the plane from the air. Instead of crushing it, he placed it gently on the ground, and then shrank, pulling his wings inwards. They formed a cloak around his body. He slithered over to the plane and knocked on the window.

“Are you two all right?” slobbered the demon.

Mister Frink and Vinny stared out the window, a look of shock upon Mister Frink’s face. Vinny, however, was either too afraid or too dumb to realize that he should be afraid, and gave the monster a thumbs-up. He hopped out of the plane.

“I’m so sorry about that,” said the tentacle monster, grasping Vinny’s hand, “I was in deep thought. I didn’t mean to make you crash.”

“No harm done,” said Vinny, gently pulling his hand away, “Say, you couldn’t tell us where some base for a bunch o’ Apocalypse nut-jobs is, could you?”

Mister Frink groaned.

“You’re the second two guys I’ve met today who are on their way there,” said the tentacle monster, “I’m S’treafael, but please, call me Steve. It’s right up the road. I’d love to help you storm the place, but I’m probably already in deep with my uncle.”

“No worries,” Vinny smiled. He saluted Steve and hopped back into the plane, “He said — ”

“I know what he said,” said Mister Frink, “Take us there, and for the love of God, keep us alive until we get there.”

***

Charleston Charge sat in the closet. He had built a small-scale model of his homeland, the Lost City of Uhld, out of various janitorial supplies. He pulled a voice recorder out of his pocket. He clicked the record button, “While trying to figure out what to do, I’ve built my home town. I would build a scale model of this place, but I’m not entirely sure what this place looks like.” He clicked it off and put the recorder back in his coat.

“At least they’re not trying to kill me,” said Charleston, idly knocking over bits of his model with flicks of his fingers, “They could totally get in here if they wanted to. Kill me right off.”

He leaned on his side and thought about taking a nap when he heard a noise. By the time he realized what it was, a small plane had crashed into the wall. Charleston barged through the door, knocking it from his hinges, and continued running down the hallway, holding onto his fedora-like hat. Behind him, the plane continued to come, by this time its wings had snapped off and it was just the cockpit and fuselage sliding down the hallway, knocking over Mayans left and right. It began to slow, and Charleston braced himself for its impact, hoping his low-level super-strength would be enough to stop it entirely.

The plane slid into his ready hands and his feet began to skid down the hallway, but Charleston could tell that the plane was slowing down. Behind him, a wall continued coming towards him, and he hoped he would stop before he became a pancake.

He grinned and laughed, “After all, I prefer waffles.”

Soon, the plane stopped, several feet away from the wall. Charleston stepped back and sat heavily on the ground, trying to catch his breath. The plane’s doors opened and two men he recognized as the Impossible Mister Frink and Vinny Fitzpatrick hopped out.

Vinny looked at him, “You Charleston Charge?”

“I am,” said Charleston.

“We’re here to rescue you, though it may not look like it,” said the Impossible Mister Frink, “Now then, shall we get going?”

“Not yet,” said Charleston, “My friend is somewhere in this complex. Also, these people are trying to bring about the Apocalypse. Or make sure it happens. I’m not really sure. We have to stop it.”

“You were trying to stop it by yourself?” said Mister Frink, obviously impressed.

“No,” said Charleston, “I had a friend with me. Is Mister Lucky with you guys?”

“He was busy with other matters,” said Mister Frink, “Though I’m sure if he thought he was required to stop these people, then he’d be here by now.”

Vinny nodded, “Do you know where this friend of yours is?”

“No,” said Charleston again, “We got separated when we came in.”

“Damn and blast,” growled Mister Frink, “It’ll be impossible to find him!”

Just then, all the Mayans that had fled when the plane began to crash through the hallway returned. They took their spears and pointed them at the two Bassets and Charleston Charge. It didn’t take a genius to know what they wanted.

***

“I’m so glad you found me,” said Edwin, “I really mean that. Even if this really stinks as a rescue attempt.”

Charleston Charge was shackled to the wall next to him, with shackles strong enough to withstand his super-strength, “It’s not like we planned this.”

“I know. At least we’re all together now,” said Edwin, “Who are those guys?”

Vinny smiled, lying on his side. Both his hands and ankles had been tied. Mister Frink has shackled to the wall on the opposite side of Edwin and Charleston.

“Those are Vinny Fitzpatrick and Mister Frink. Two members of the Basset Hound Brigade,” said Charleston, “They’re adventurers. Bassets, this is Edwin Cloudstar.”

“Are they? Good,” said Edwin, “I’ve seen stranger.”

“Your hands aren’t bound,” said Mister Frink.

“They don’t need to. My sword’s on the other side of this wall, and the only way it leaves my back is if I grab hold of its hilt,” said Edwin, “It’s a mystical thing.”

“Vincenzo is, for some reason, not secured in any way,” said Mister Frink, “I can’t imagine why our captors would do this, but we can work this to our benefit. Vincenzo, please see if you can make your way over to Edwin. Good, good. Now, Edwin, can you untie Vinny’s hands? Good. I would hate to have to stand alone against these ruffians.” Mister Frink took a deep breath and then tore his shackles from the wall, freeing himself.

Charleston’s eyes went wide, “You’re super-strong?”

“Indeed I am, though I do prefer to use my wits instead of my fists. Needs must, however,” said Mister Frink. He grabbed hold of Charleston’s shackles, “On the count of three, boy! One. Two. Three!”

The shackles resisted at first, remaining secure against the wall, but eventually gave when Vinny lent his own strength to the effort.

“Now what?” said Edwin, still unable to free himself, “How am I going to get free?”

“What would Mister Lucky do?” asked Vinny.

Mister Frink chose to ignore that comment, knowing full well that there was no way he could match Mister Lucky’s intelligence. He was still quite formidable in that department, able to craft machines that pushed against the laws of the universe. Mysticism was not one of his strong suits, however, and so the mechanisms of the sword’s bond with Edwin were a puzzle he could not solve. Something else puzzled him, though.

“How did you get into this position in the first place?” asked Mister Frink.

“They killed me and tossed my body in here, and my sword in the other room,” said Edwin, “When I came to, I was stuck against this wall.”

“Hold on, killed you?” said Vinny, stepping back, “You a vampire?”

“No, I just can’t stay dead,” said Edwin, “I’m still not entirely sure how they did this. Usually, the only one able to lift my sword is me.”

Charleston turned to Mister Frink, “Couldn’t you just impossible us out of this situation?”

“It’s passive,” said Mister Frink, “So if you’re killed, the sword can leave your body, but the only one who can lift your sword is you?”

“That’s what I said. I guess they could have moved my body,” said Edwin.

“You’re not from this place, are ya?” asked Vinny, “You got the air of a traveler about ya.”

“No, I’m from a different universe,” said Edwin.

Vinny nodded, “You don’t stay in this business this long without picking up a few things.”

“We could smash through the prison door and the door to wherever they put Edwin’s sword, and then kill Edwin and carry his body to his sword,” said Charleston Charge, “Not the perfect plan, I grant you, but it’s the only one I’ve got.”

“Could work,” said Edwin.

***

Elsewhere in the compound, the second-in-command of the Apocalyptic Council sat and watched their captives on a closed-circuit television. He was sure they didn’t know they were being watched, and was quite pleased that none of them had realized what had gone on. He smiled. It was only a matter of time now.

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I Don’t Give Adam

Posted by meekrat on September 23, 2010

It was a lovely spring day, seemingly like any other, and most of the city’s notable citizens were gathered at Central Park to celebrate the city’s upper crust, its most generous citizens. Among those gathered were Mister Lucky, the Impossible Mister Frink, and Dick Douglas, who had been invited by the mayor himself.

“There’s absolutely no reason for us to be here,” groaned Mister Lucky, looking at his pocket watch, “It’s a complete waste of our time, and I don’t like the fact that we left Jojo, the Little Spick, and Vinny Fitzgerald in charge of things. Who knows what trouble they’re getting into?”

“Yes, our unique talents do seem to be wasted here,” said Mister Frink, trying to deal with the situation with the legendary stiff upper lip of the Britons. He was not doing a very good job, and seemed to be on the verge of shouting at someone.

“This is the worst free play I’ve ever been to,” said Dick Douglas, reclining on the grass, “When are they going to stop just milling around and get to actually doing something?”

Mister Lucky put away his watch and was about to leave when a large blond man took the stage, “Look, that big fella’s about to say something!”

The man took the microphone and smiled at the crowd, the sun glinting off his perfect white teeth, “Hello, fellow philanthropists and people working for a better tomorrow! As many of you know, I’m Adam Supreme, and the mayor has asked me to say a few words on behalf of the Committee for a Better Tomorrow. In order for us to have a better tomorrow, we certainly have to work for it, and there are some in this fair city of ours who want nothing more than to upset the delicate balance we’ve achieved so far. This, my friends, is the worst form of injustice: trying to undo what others have worked so hard to achieve…”

“Blah blah blah,” said Dick, shaking his fist at Adam Supreme, “Won’t this guy ever shut up?”

“Don’t be so impolite,” said Mister Frink, who felt some sort of odd connection with Supreme, “I< for one, find him very charismatic."

"If you think he's so charismatic, why don't you marry him?" sneered Dick.

"Look up there!" whispered Mister Lucky, pointing to the tree line, "The sun's glinting off something in those branches! It looks like a gun!"

Mister Frink turned, "I do believe that assassin means to shoot Mister Supreme!"

"We have to act quickly," said Mister Lucky, glad to have something to do, "I'll go try and warn Supreme, you two go after the assassin!"

"Indeed!" said Mister Frink, sprinting towards the gun.

"Meh," said Dick, who lied down and put his hat over his face.

Mister Lucky grabbed his hat and threw it after Mister Frink, "Just do it, Dick!"

"Fine, fine," Dick grudgingly got up and stalked off after Mister Frink, picking up his hat on the way, "I'm going."

"We must hurry," Mister Frink ran back, grabbed Dick by the arm, and began running again, dragging the detective behind him, "If we don't make it to the tree line before the assassin shoots, then a man might fall this day!"

"Why don't we just shout at him," asked Dick, half-struggling against Mister Frink's vice-like grip.

"We want to capture him if we're able, and then question him, of course," said Mister Frink.

"Oh yeah, of course. So shouting is a no-go," said Dick, reaching into his coat for his gun, "What if I shoot him?"

Mister Frink turned to him and scowled, "I think it would serve us best if you would keep you mouth shut and kept running!"

"Fine, Mister Grump," muttered Dick, though he was nearly drowned out by the sound of a gunshot, "We're too late, anyway."

Mister Frink let go of Dick and kept running, "No, there's still a chance that we may be able to catch him, but I fear it's impossible for anyone to save Adam Supreme now!"

"I don't see why you're so worried," said Dick, slowing down to a casual saunter, "The guy seemed like kind of a self-righteous jerk."

Mister Frink shouted back to Dick, knowing that once the assassin's deed was done, the need for stealth was negligible, "He seemed like a good man to me, and I consider myself to be an excellent judge of character. Look, descending from the treetops! The assassin!"

"Eh, he's getting away. Oh well," Dick stopped to nudge a dead squirrel with his foot, "Let's go back, I think they had some food, and no one's going to be eating it since that Supreme guy got shot."

"No! I shall persevere!" screamed Mister Frink as he launched himself at the retreating assassin.

Dick stared in amazement as Mister Frink flew through the air, tackling the assassin with a heavy thud, "Jesus, you probably crushed that guy."

Mister Frink stood up, lifting up the assassin with one hand, "He is unharmed, except he appears to be a harlequin!"

"No, that's a clown," said Dick.

Mister Frink chose to ignore him, "This is positively bizarre."

***

As the gun went off, Adam Supreme stopped speaking and looked up, "What was that?"

Mister Lucky leapt onto the stage and shoved Adam Supreme to the ground, "Get down!"

As the two men fell to the ground, the bullet whizzed overhead. Adam Supreme looked at the hole it left in the backdrop, "I owe you my life."

Mister Lucky stood up and helped Adam Supreme up, "Just part of what the Basset Hound Brigade does, Mister Supreme."

"Please, call me Adam," said Adam Supreme, holding out his hand, "I'd like to invite you and the rest of the Bassets to my home for dinner. Just my way of saying thank you."

"Sure thing, Adam!" Mister Lucky grasped Adam's hand enthusiastically, "See you there!"

By this time, Dick Douglas and Mister Frink, clown assassin in tow, had made their way back to the stage. Adam Supreme and Mister Lucky watched them, and all the blood drained from the latter's face. Adam noticed, "What's wrong?"

"It's nothing," said Mister Lucky quietly, "We'll be by around seven."

Adam Supreme looked at him for a moment and then walked away as Mister Frink and Dick Douglas walked to the stage. Mister Lucky hopped down and Mister Frink tossed the clown down in front of him.

"We caught the assassin," said Mister Frink, immediately regretting stating the obvious.

"I see that," said Mister Lucky, unable to tear his bespectacled eyes from the clown, "We have to turn him over to the police, I guess."

"So he almost killed that Supreme guy," said Dick, leaning against the stage, "He should get a medal, not jail-time!"

"I won't hear you say an unkind word about Adam Supreme," said Mister Lucky, who had begun to feel the same odd connection with Supreme as Mister Frink felt, "He's invited all the Bassets over for dinner."

"Aw, shucks, do I have to go?" said Dick, pouting.

"We're all going," said Mister Lucky, "Even Jojo and the Little Spick."

"Aw nertz," said Dick, "Pardon my French, but you're a pain in the rear!"

"Not to interrupt, but the clown has gone quite limp," said Mister Frink, leaning over the assassin.

"Mister Lucky probably bored him to death talking about Supreme," said Dick.

"I'd say it's far more likely that he took a poison capsule after he got captured," said Mister Lucky, deep in thought, "It doesn't matter. Just toss the body somewhere, we have other things to worry about."

"More important than a suicidal assassin clown?" said Mister Frink, who couldn't believe the malarkey that was coming out of his mouth.

"Yes," said Mister Lucky.

"We really should find out who's behind it," said Mister Frink, "Or at least bury him."

"No, we don't," said Mister Lucky with the air of someone who was done with the conversation, "It's nothing for us to worry about."

"My keen detecting skills tell me something's bothering him," said Dick Douglas as Mister Lucky walked away.

Mister Frink watched him walk away and a deep sense of unease fell upon him, "Yes, but it's something he alone must face, I think. Let's get back to the Fox's Den. We must prepare for tonight. Whatever is happening, I doubt this clown is the end of it."

***

Around seven, the Basset Hound Brigade arrived at Adam Supreme's house, which was a mansion on the outskirts of the city.

"Golly!" said the Little Spick in awe, "I ain't never seen a house this big!"

"My granddaddy used to work at a house like this," said Jojo Jenkins, "Then he and his friends burned it down."

"Why'd they do that? Oh!" said Vinny Fitzpatrick.

"Well, it was during the war, and my granddaddy and his friends were just fed up with being treated like slaves," explained Jojo.

Vinny looked at him while still trying to look at the house, "They weren't?"

"No, they was," said Jojo darkly, "Until they burned the house down."

"Yeah, I know how he felt," said the Little Spick, "I burned down this one workhouse I used to live at. Best thing I ever did."

"Maddon! You two are the devil's own brand o' nuts," said Vinny.

"Enough chatter, you three," said Mister Lucky, walking past them and motioning for them to follow, "We have to be on our best behavior. That means no stealing. Any of you."

"I don't need to steal when they're givin' me stuff," said the Little Spick defensively.

"I wasn't necessarily talking to you, Little Spick," said Mister Lucky, turning his gaze upon Dick Douglas.

Dick grumbled, "You take one cup from a place and you get branded for life. I don't even want to be here. This Adam Supreme is bad news."

"You're the only one who thinks that," said Mister Frink, who had combed his beard for this occasion.

They reached the front door and before they knocked, Adam Supreme opened it, wearing an apron, "Hello, Bassets! Come on in, dinner will be ready soon. Until then, I've got a slight problem."

"Told you," said Dick, "He just wanted us to come over and fix his problem for him."

"Shut up, Dick," said Mister Lucky, "What's the problem?"

"Since I got home from the banquet, someone keeps shooting things at my house," said Adam, removing the apron, "Strange things."

"What sort of things?" said Mister Frink.

"Little people with pointed helmets," said Adam.

"Midget bullets?" said Dick, immediately scanning the skies for any sign of such a thing.

"Yes, I suppose you could call them that," said Adam, "You've gone all white again, Mister Lucky."

"I just need to get inside," croaked Mister Lucky, "That's all."

The team followed Adam inside, and the Little Spick looked at the splendor surrounding him, "Golly! It's even better on the inside! A man could eat like a king all his life with all this loot!"

Adam wagged a finger at him, "A man could also eat like a king by working hard and staying on the straight and narrow, young man. Earning your way in life is better than just surviving."

"Yeah, I guess so," said the Little Spick dejectedly.

"Of course, tonight you can eat your fill and more," Adam placed his hand on the Little Spick's shoulder, "All of you can!"

There was a knock on the door and Adam walked over and opened it. No one was there, save for a package. He picked it up, "I wonder what's inside."

"Don't open it," said Mister Lucky, "I think it's a very good idea not to open it."

"Don't be silly," said Adam, placing the box on a table, "What's the worse that could happen?"

"You should listen to the man," said a voice. Everyone turned as a man stepped out of the shadows, "He is known for his luck, after all."

Adam Supreme grabbed an umbrella from the stand by the door and held it in front of him, "Who the blazes are you?"

"Mister Lucky knows me all too well," said the man.

"I certainly do, PT Barnum!" said Mister Lucky, venom in his voice.

"But didn't you die years ago?" said Adam Supreme.

"That's just what I want the world to think," said PT Barnum, "I'm a master showman, after all, and all the world's my stage."

"Why is the owner of a circus trying to kill Adam Supreme?" said Mister Frink.

"I'll tell you why," said PT Barnum, pulling a telescoping baton from his belt. He pointed it to Mister Lucky, "It's all because of him!"

"I find all of this hard to believe, especially that," said Adam Supreme, "Besides, why would you attack me because of Mister Lucky?"

PT Barnum whipped his baton at a chair and it telescoped to it, wrapping around it, and the chair was pulled towards Barnum, who sat upon it, "It all started years ago, before Mister Lucky joined the Bassets, when he was just a man wandering around the country getting by on his luck. You know how he operates, don't you?"

"I certainly do," said Adam Supreme, "He's the World's Luckiest Man! Good luck happens all around him, and he uses that to perform good deeds."

"Yes, and as you know, a circus has no need for the world's luckiest man," said Barnum, "However, I happened upon Mister Lucky performing a feat of so-called luck and it got me to thinking that, perhaps, he wasn't the world's luckiest man!"

"Then what is he?" said Adam Supreme skeptically.

PT Barnum stood up and kicked the chair away, forcing it to flip through the air and land where it had originally sat, "The world's smartest man, which would be an attraction indeed! However, until he joined the Basset Hound Brigade, I was unable to find him and test my theory. Now, though, I had the happy circumstance to be performing in New Jersey and heard about the banquet in the park. It was the perfect chance to see if Lucky was, indeed, lucky."

"Hold on a second," said Dick Douglas, attempting to digest all this information.

"Yes?" said Barnum.

"The circus is in town?" said Dick.

"Yes," said Barnum, sidling up to Dick, "The famed Dick Douglas, no doubt acting dumb in order to lure me into a corner! It won't work."

"How the blazes is attacking Adam Supreme testing Mister Lucky?" said Mister Frink angrily.

"I don't expect anyone to understand my motives," said Barnum, "Except the world's smartest man! Do you understand why I did this?"

"What?" said Mister Lucky, "No? No! Of course not! I'm not smart, just really lucky!"

"I see," said PT Barnum as the front door opened behind him. He stepped through it, "Well then, I'm done here. Farewell."

The door shut and all was silent until Adam Supreme said, "That was relatively bizarre."

"I only got one question," said the Little Spick, "When are we gonna eat?"

Adam Supreme smiled and laughed, "Right away."

"I'll be along in a minute," said Mister Lucky, still staring at the door, "I need to wash my hands. No need to test my luck. Heh."

"Right you are," said Adam, "In fact, we should all wash our hands."

"Don't think you're off the hook, Supreme," hissed Dick Douglas, "I swear I will take you down one day."

Soon, Mister Lucky and Mister Frink were left alone in the foyer. "Now that we're alone, tell me. Are you the world's luckiest man, or the world's smartest man?"

"What do you think I am, Frinky?" said Mister Lucky weakly.

Mister Frink pondered this for a moment and nodded, "I see."

Adam Supreme returned, "It sure takes you fellas a long time to wash your hands!"

"Yeah, but they're washed now," said Mister Lucky, the weakness vanishing from his voice, "Let's go eat!"

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Terror at the Lion Drome

Posted by meekrat on September 21, 2010

The man known only as Death-Trap Devon, and also Devon Danger, and also Devon Smith, ran through the Lion Drome through the pouring rain. Every drop mingled with his panicked sweat and caressed his danger-hardened body, eventually being soaked up by his undergarments. This led to a slight squishy noise when he turned suddenly, but he was in far too much of a tizzy to care about things like funny noises. No, for Devon worked in a Lion Drome, and when there’s terror in a Lion Drome, even the strongest of men turn yellow. Not literally, of course. Metaphorically. Death-Trap Devon crashed into the offices of his boss, Cortez Montego, with the news that had him so panicked.

“Sir! Sir! All the lions are in a tizzy, make no mistake!” gasped Devon, trying to catch his breath, “I’ve no idea what’s gotten into them!”

Cortez Montego puffed his cheap cigar, the foul aroma of which filled the tiny office and nearly made Devon opt for the downpour outside. Montego put his feet atop his desk, soaking some safety violations that had been sitting there for months, “I know. They’ve been acting that way all week! Ever since we got that new lion from Darkest Africa.”

Devon knew the lion’s reputation well, and his face grew dark, “You mean that big fella? I heard some strange things about him from the trappers, sir.”

“So did I. Apparently, there was a smaller lion riding on top of him!” Montego began to chortle, which turned into a raking cough. Devon ran over and began patting him on the back, but Montego waved him off and continued, “A lion the natives called — ” There was a crash of thunder, ” — Leon Leopolous!”

Devon leaned against a file cabinet, “Maybe the big fella misses Leon?”

Montego sat up and slammed his fist on his desk, kicking up scraps of tobacco and a good helping of dust, “Don’t be silly, Devon! Lions don’t miss things! They’re just animals, and other than the noble donkey, animals don’t have feelings at all! In any case, maybe we’d better get someone to figure out what’s going on. Get me the foremost lionologist in the United States!”

“Uh, those don’t exist,” said Devon, softly.

“Then get me the Basset Hound Brigade!”

***

In the heart of New York sat the Fox’s Den, fabled headquarters of the Basset Hound Brigade. Though few of its members chose to reside there, it had enough trappings for a dozen men to live happily and in good health for decades. The headquarters was supposedly secreted behind a gentleman’s club, but there was also a side door which proclaimed the Fox’s Den to be the home of the Bassets. It was at this door that a mysterious figure now knocked. The knocking continued until the daring detective Dick Douglas answered the door.

“Hello?” he said, looking out the door. He was about to close it when he heard a noise which sounded remarkably like purring at his feet. He looked down to find what appeared to be a soaked hairy midget, “You’re a hairy little midget, aren’t you? We don’t serve your kind here, so why don’t you make like a freight train and go somewhere else?” The midget continued to purr, more forcefully, and Dick Douglas pulled out his sidearm, “Forceful little freak of nature, ain’t ya? Well, I’ve just got the thing for that!”

The sound of gunshots caused Mister Lucky running. He met Dick Douglas in the main hallway, “I heard gunshots! What’s going on here?”

Dick Douglas shot a priceless vase, “There’s some hairy little midget running around, Lucky, and I aim to put him out of my misery!”

“A hairy little midget?” Mister Lucky pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, “What?”

“That weren’t no midget, Mister Lucky!” said Dick’s gardener, Jojo Jenkins.

“Holy Christ!” shouted Dick, leaping back and aiming his gun at Jojo, “How long have you been here?”

Mister Lucky gently pressed his forefinger on the barrel of Dick’s gun, pointing it towards the floor, “What was it, then?”

“I think it was a dog or somethin’!” said Jojo, excited to be included, “Maybe some sort of cat!”

Mister Lucky peered down the hall, seeing nothing out of the ordinary, “Well, if it’s in here, then we have to find it — ”

“And shoot it!” finished Dick.

“No! Unless it attacks us, in which case blow its brains out,” said Mister Lucky, “Jojo, go to the Room of Science and bring me back Frinky’s new invention. Dick, you come with me. We’ve got to find that beast!”

“Yessir!” Jojo saluted and ran off.

“Pardon my French, Mister Lucky, but you’re a pain in the rear!” said Dick sourly.

“You wouldn’t think it’d be so easy for some wild animal to hide in here! Especially for this long, considering your detecting skills,” said Mister Lucky.

Dick Douglas aimed his gun down the hallway and noticed something he hadn’t before, “Oh my God! My sleeves have buttons on them!”

“Then again…” said Mister Lucky, who was unable to finish his thought as the hairy midget had entered the hallway, “That’s no dog! That’s a lion!”

“Stand back! I’ll shoot it!” said Dick, already aiming his gun at the lion’s forehead.

Mister Lucky pushed Dick’s arm down, “No, it’s not even attacking us.”

“Is this what you wanted?” said Jojo, coming out of nowhere and proffering a small metal box with a leather belt connected to it.

“It sure is!” said Mister Lucky, kneeling next to the lion and wrapping the belt around its neck, “Hold still, little guy. Let me get this on you. There we go!”

The box crackled to life and soon a low scratchy monotone was heard, “Mrrowhat is happening.”

“Dear God!” shouted Dick, running into the kitchen. He peeked around the corner, “That lion is a witch!”

“No, Dick, it’s just Frinky’s invention,” Mister Lucky stood up and placed his hand on the lion’s head, “It allows animals to communicate with man!”

The box crackled, “I have to come to ask assistance. My friend was abducted by white apes. I want to find him.”

“What a silly lion,” said Dick, emerging from the kitchen with a jar of honey and a spoon, “Here, have some honey.”

“No, Dick!” said Mister Lucky, but he was too late.

The lion’s tongue cautiously licked at the honey, and then began greedily lapping it up, “I like the taste of honey. On my tongue.”

There was another knock on the door and Dick dropped the jar of honey and ran to the door. Mister Lucky dove to the floor to catch the jar and watched in terror as Dick drew his sidearm, “I hope it’s someone I can shoot!” The door opened to reveal Death-Trap Devon, dressed in a white jumpsuit and carrying his helmet under his arm. Behind him, the rain pelted his motorbike. Dick holstered his weapon, “It’s not. Just some white guy.”

“Hello there, I came here…” started Devon, and then he noticed the lion, “Oh my God! It’s a lion!”

“Hey! I know him!” said Jojo, who had obtained a brush and was brushing the lion’s mane with love, “He’s Death-Trap Devon! He works at the local Lion Drome!”

“Hello there,” said Mister Lucky, stepping in front of the lion, “What brings you to the Fox’s Den?”

“Uh, actually, I came here to ask for help with one of our lions, but it seems you have lion problems of your own,” said Devon, pointing to the lion.

The lion sniffed the air and stood up, walking close to Devon and sniffing him, “The white ape. He has the scent of my friend on him. He has my friend. Give me back my friend.”

“Jesus Christ!” said Devon, stepping back, “You gave it the ability to talk?”

“We sure did, and today’s your lucky day, because we’re all going down to this Lion Drome of yours to get to the bottom of this,” said Mister Lucky.

“All right,” said Devon, putting on his helmet.

Mister Lucky smiled widely, almost malevolently, “But wait, there’s more! If we find out this Lion Drome is up to no good, then we’re going to shut it down!”

“Oh boy!” said Jojo, “I get to go on an adventure!”

Mister Lucky’s smile shrunk into a nervous one, “Uh, by everyone, I mean everyone but you.”

“Aw man,” said Jojo, kicking a prudently placed can, “I guess someone has to watch the house.”

“Also, the Lion Drome doesn’t allow coloreds,” said Devon, with a small apologetic smile.

“Oh,” said Jojo.

***

Dick Douglas, Mister Lucky, Death-Trap Devon, and the lion known as Leon Leopolous stood outside the mammoth Lion Drome. While its lights were off, one could tell even in the darkness that it was a wonder of the world.

“My God! It’s magnificent!” said Dick Douglas, looking up in awe.

“Oh yes. The nineteen-twenties truly are a time of wonder and decadence. Now then, Devon, show us what you need to show us!” said Mister Lucky.

“I smell my friend,” said Leon Leopolous, “My friend is here.”

“Sure thing, Mister Lucky,” said Devon nervously, “Just let me consult with my boss.” He ran off.

“He sure left in a hurry,” said Dick.

“Almost too much of a hurry. Oh well,” said Mister Lucky, placing his hand on Leon’s back, “Lead the way, Leon! The Basset Hound Brigade doesn’t need things like permission and cooperation to get the job done.”

Leon snorted and began walking, “He is this way.”

***

In Cortez Montego’s office, Montego spat out his coffee, “What do you mean you brought them here?”

Death-Trap Devon shifted nervously from foot to foot, “Isn’t that what you wanted me to do?”

“That was before I knew they had a lion with them, you nitwit,” said Montego, standing up and coming very close to slapping Devon, “Not only that, a talking lion!”

“I was thinking that maybe we could kidnap the lion and make it perform,” said Devon, unflinching, “A talking lion is pretty magnificent.”

Montego began pacing his office, “Don’t you get it? If that lion talks to the other lions, then the whole jig is up! Those are black-market lions!” There was another clap of thunder.

Devon was taken aback, “What?”

“We couldn’t afford lions the legit way, so we had to hire unsavory thugs to go to Africa and take the lions from their homes and families,” said Montego.

“I don’t get it,” said Devon, “Wouldn’t that cost the same thing as hiring legitimate trappers?”

“No, you fool!” said Montego, slapping Devon, “If that lion talks to the other lions, the jig is up! I need you to go take care of Lucky and Douglas! And the talking lion!”

“I most certainly won’t! I have no problems risking my life daily in death-defying stunts, but black market lions?” said Devon, stomping towards Montego and backing him into a corner, “Killing people? That, sir, is where I draw the line! Good day to you!”

“I thought you might say that,” said Montego slyly, “Oliver Aquarius!”

Devon stepped back, “Not him!”

“Yes me,” said a large bald man with especially dry skin, “What do you want me to do, boss?”

Montego dusted himself off and pointed at his other employee, “Grab Devon, and then take care of the Bassets and that talking lion.”

Aquarius nodded and grabbed Devon with his massive hands. Devon struggled, but was unable to free himself. Without the slightest hint of any sort of emotion, Aquarius said, “Right away, sir.”

***

Unaware of the goings-on elsewhere in the Lion Drome, the Bassets stood in front of the lion cage with Leon Leopolous.

“That’s a whole lot of lions,” said Dick, not for the first time.

“Is your friend in there, Leon?” said Mister Lucky, trying to ignore him.

Leon sniffed the air, “Yes.” A large lion looked up and walked over to the bars, and he and Leon began nuzzling.

“Are they queer lions or something?” said Dick Douglas.

“It’s not our place to judge, Dick,” said Mister Lucky, “I think lions do things differently, though. I mean, their bond is so strong that Leon found his way from Africa somehow and sought us out.”

“My friend tells me something,” said Leon, “He says that he and the others were taken from Darkest Africa badly.”

“What do you mean?” said Mister Lucky.

“Kidnapped,” said Leon as the thunder clapped overhead.

“That’s terrible, I think!” said Mister Lucky, driving his fist into his palm, “Well, we’ll just have to go set things right.”

“Danger behind you,” said Leon.

“Stupid lion,” said Oliver Aquarius, holding some rope and sacks in front of several other nameless thugs.

“Oh no! Shoot him!” said Mister Lucky.

“Right you are!” said Dick, grinning as he pulled out his gun and aimed at the brute’s head. He pulled the trigger, but the only thing the gun did was click. “Huh. Guess I used up the bullets.”

Mister Lucky stepped back and looked around for something he could use as a weapon, “Oh no!”

“Get them, boys!” said Aquarius, pointing at the trio.

Before they knew it, the Bassets were beaten and tied up in the middle of the Lion Drome’s main arena, a giant bowl-shaped track designed to allow men in motorbikes with lions in the sidecars to drive as fast as possible to the thrill of all. Nearby, Devon was tied to one of the Lion Drome’s motorbikes with Leon Leopolous in the sidecar.

“I can’t believe we lost so easily,” said Mister Lucky.

“I just wonder what they’re going to do with us,” said Dick.

“They’re going to kill us,” said Mister Lucky with a sigh, “They said that fifty times.”

“Oh. Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention,” said Dick.

Oliver Aquarius towered over his captives, “Not only that, but we’re going to kill you with each other! I’ve tied Devon up to his motorbike so that it’ll keep going until it reaches the very tip of the lion drome, at which point it will start going downwards, slowly building up speed with your lion friend in the motorbike’s sidecar. Then, when he reaches the absolute bottom, he will crash into you, killing you all in the process! And, just to make it seem like a suicide, I’m going to leave Douglas’s gun sitting right here on the ground within easy reach of you! It’s the perfect crime!”

“My God! He’s right!” said Dick, his voice rapt with appreciation for such a scheme, “What a mastermind!”

“Sorry, Bassets,” said Devon, “I didn’t know the world of Lion Dromes was such a dark and seedy place.”

“It’s okay, just let me figure out a way to get us out of this,” said Mister Lucky, “I am the World’s Luckiest Man, after all. Shouldn’t be too hard.”

“You can’t! And now I’ll retreat to a safe distance, as to not be collateral damage! See you in Hell!” Aquarius turned the key for Devon’s motorbike, bowed, and ran out of the arena.

“This is it, I guess!” said Devon as the motorbike began its ascent of doom, “I’m sorry you and your friend had to be dragged into this, Leon.”

“It is all right,” said Leon, remaining remarkably peaceful, “I forgive you.”

Devon gritted his teeth, “You do? Well, that gives me the strength to get us out of this! At least, some of us.”

“What do you mean,” said Leon.

“I know what you’re thinking, Devon, and don’t!” shouted Mister Lucky, “Better for all of us to die with honor than for one of us to die with honor and the rest of rest of us to go on to live long and happy lives!”

Dick’s brow furrowed, “Uh, wait — ”

Devon’s mind was made up, however, “No, this is what I have to do to atone for my sins.”

Mister Lucky sighed with relief, “We’ll remember you, Devon! You’re an honorary Basset!”

“Thanks, Mister Lucky! See if you can put that gun in my way!” screamed Devon, struggling to be heard over his motorbike’s engine.

Mister Lucky stuck out his leg and easily pushed the gun in front of where he knew Devon’s path lay, “Done!”

Devon turned to the lion in his sidecar, “Leon, I’m going to try to slow down. Can you jump out?”

Leon turned to him, “Yes. I am only being held here by centrifugal force and the fear of death.”

“All right then,” said Devon, closing his eyes, “Here we go.”

Using all his might and inner strength, Devon was able to relax his grip on the motorbike’s accelerator, allowing Leon Leopolous to easily leap off. As the bike continued to descend, it eventually hit the track and sped towards Mister Lucky and Dick Douglas. Once the front wheel hit the gun, the bike somersaulted into the air over the pair and landed on the ground, exploding on impact and taking Devon with it.

“Devon made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live,” said Dick, sadly.

“Quick! Get us out of this ropes!” shouted Mister Lucky, turning towards Leon. Leon ran over and easily bit through them. Mister Lucky stood up and rubbed his wrists, “There we go! Now let’s go get Montego and Aquarius!” Somewhere in the Lion Drome, a gun ran off and Mister Lucky froze in his tracks, “Oh god. That came from Montego’s office.”

Dick Douglas squinted, “I can see the window from here. Poor bastard shot himself. Couldn’t live with the shame of what he did, I guess.”

Mister Lucky took off in a sprint, “Then let’s get after Aquarius!”

***

Back the lion cage, Oliver Aquarius stood at its door with an axe in each hand and a smile on his lips, “With the Basset Hound Brigade out of the way, I can kill all these lions! Then I’ll make a killing of another kind, on the meat black market! Selling lion meat! Ha!”

Two glowing eyes looked at him from the shadows, and Leon Leopolous emerged, snarling, “No you will not.” He leapt through the air and knocked Aquarius to the ground and began clawing at the man’s face and chest.

Mister Lucky ran out of the shadows, followed by Dick Douglas, and pulled Leon off of Aquarius, “That’s enough, Leon! I know you want to exact jungle justice upon him, but he’ll get his! In jail!”

Aquarius snarled and was about to sit up when Mister Lucky brought his foot down upon his chest. Aquarius spat at him, “I swear to you, I’ll spend my life trying to get revenge on all of you and your descendants! Especially you, talking lion!”

Mister Lucky smiled down at him, “Oh, put a sock in it. We stopped your evil scheme, and you’re going to jail for the maximum length of time. Several weeks!”

Dick Douglas stood in front of the open cage door, “Should I just let the lions go, then, so they can all go back to Africa? Only I sort of already did.”

“I will lead them back to our homeland,” said Leon as he began to claw the voice box off his neck. Mister Lucky began undoing the buckles, and Leon continued, “Thank you for what you have done, Bassets. We will never forget your heroism and courage.”

With that, Leon Leopolous ran after his lion brethren to lead them back to Africa. Dick Douglas and Mister Lucky stood and watched them leave, and waved to them. Mister Lucky smiled, “It was all in a day’s work for the Basset Hound Brigade!”

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Mister Lucky’s Off Day

Posted by meekrat on September 20, 2010

The sunlight poked through the curtains of the Impossible Mister Frink’s quarters, slowly engulfing the modest hotel suite he called home in a dank light. He grumbled to himself and rolled over, pulling his nightcap over his ears to block out a din coming from other room in the hotel. The whole situation was not to his liking, and he ached to return to his rooms at Oxford with the terrible beds and cobweb-infested windows. He could get a decent night’s sleep there, and he could be certain that any noise he heard could be quelled with the threat of expulsion or some sort of reading assignment. Yet, as a member of the Basset Hound Brigade, he was counted on to reside in New York, though he refused to stay at the Fox’s Den, the storied home of the Basset Hound Brigade.

The riotous din was growing closer, and suddenly Mister Frink’s bedroom door flew open, revealing the all too familiar face of Mister Lucky, upon which the unfamiliar look of fear had settled, “Wake up, Frinky! Wake up!”

Mister Frink attempted to roll over, but knew that there was no stopping Mister Lucky once he set his mind upon something and so he rolled onto his back and sat up, “What the devil? Mister Lucky, why are you in my private rooms?”

Mister Lucky smiled, completely failing to convey any sense of comfort or happiness, “Today’s your lucky day, Frinky! It’s our day off!”

Mister Frink’s brow furrowed, his mind already acting at peak efficiency despite being active for a meager amount of minutes, “We do not take holidays. We are adventurers and scholars!”

Despite his obvious fear, Mister Lucky cocked an eyebrow and managed a sly smile, “Would you say it’s impossible?”

Mister Frink folded his arms across his chest, “Yes! It’s quite impossible for us to take a day off!” Slowly, Mister Frink realized that he had activated his power to affect probability, which rendered the impossible quite possible indeed, “Oh, drat. I’ve done it again.”

Mister Lucky dug through Mister Frink’s closet and pulled out a suitcase, and then took it over to the wardrobe and began tossing various items in, “You sure have! What do you want to do with your day off?”

“I’d quite like to return to my slumber,” said Mister Frink, already reclining and shutting his eyes.

Mister Lucky stopped packing the suitcase and leapt atop the bed, grabbing Mister Frink by his lapels and pulling him up, panic dripping from his every word, “And waste your day off? We should go somewhere! Far, far away! For a very long time!” He laughed nervously, then leapt off the bed and resumed packing.

Sensing that his slumber was over for the time being, Mister Frink removed his covers and walked behind an oriental screen, a gift from an Oriental trader the Bassets had helped previously, “What are you blathering on about?”

Mister Lucky tossed Mister Frink a gray three-piece suit and sat down on the bed, “I got a message from the Nantucket Dragon Group. They’re going to set off a series of bombs in the city today and I don’t want to be here for that.”

Mister Frink emerged from behind the screen fully dressed and straightening his tie, “I’m surprised at your behavior! You are one of the foremost adventurers of this age, and here you are acting like a common coward! I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re addled, for some reason, but we not must turn our backs on this crisis! We must join up with Douglas and the rest and — ”

Mister Lucky slumped forward, removing his bowler hat and putting his forehead in his hands, “They’ve all been kidnapped, Frinky. Every last one. Even Jojo and the Little Spick, and some ancillary member we just inducted last night and who’ll probably be dead before this whole thing is over.”

Mister Frink froze momentarily, “We must save them, even if it seems impossible for us to do so!”

“Oh, damn it. Fine. Let’s go save our…” Mister Lucky ran a few words through his head, found one he was happy with, and continued, “Let’s go save our allies from the clutches of the Nantucket Dragon Group and avert a city-wide disaster.”

“Indeed! First, let us eat breakfast. One can’t operate properly without a full stomach, and I sense that your stomach is very empty indeed,” said Mister Frink, ringing the bell to summon room service.

Mister Lucky smiled pathetically and nodded, “Okay!”

***

In a warehouse across town, the rest of the Basset Hound Brigade was, indeed, in the clutches of the sinister Nantucket Dragon Group.

Vinny Fitzpatrick scowled at the Dragons, “You’ll never get away wit’ this!”

Shoshy Raphael, sleepy-eyed and sharply dressed in a white suit with a fur-lined coat draped across his shoulders, laughed once, “Oh, but I think we will! Just to show you how serious we are we have secured your newest member, Quick-Exit Quinton, to our deadly explosion apparatus!”

Dick Douglas began frothing at the mouth and fighting against his bonds, “You fiend! Let him go and take me instead!”

Vinny tried to turn to look at his detective compatriot but only managed to get his head half-way turned, “I’ve never seen you so worked up about anyone, Mister Dick!”

Dick Douglas stopped struggling for a moment and closed his eyes solemnly, bowing his head and gritting his teeth, “In the short time I’ve known him, he’s become like a brother to me.”

Shoshy Raphael tapped his ivory cane against the floor and smiled maniacally, “All the more reason to destroy him! Amazing Rando, are his bonds secure?”

“Hizzah!” The magician Amazing Rando waved his hands mystically and stroked his immaculate mustache, “Nothing up my sleeve, no slack in the bonds! Let’s make him disappear!”

Shoshy Raphael pointed towards a Cockney pick-pocket, “Is the power prepared, Simon?”

The pick-pocket nodded, “Cor! It sure is, or my name ain’t Simon McCockindale!”

Shoshy Raphael stared for a moment, and then cast his eyes downward, “Yes. Guerdon Trueblood and Guy Magistro, are your tasks complete?”

The Native American warrior Guerdon Trueblood nodded, his voice slowly reaching a crescendo, “As sure as the sun rises in the east and the white man took my land.”

A crazed-looking man in robes and holding a basket filled with colored eggs turned to Shoshy Raphael, “He shall know centuries of pain in moments!”

“Then let our powers combine to summon Baggy Satan,” said Shoshy Raphael, thrusting his ring-adorned fist towards the heavens, “Fire!”

Guy Magistro thrust his fist towards the heavens, “Earth!”

Guerdon Trueblood did the same, “Air!”

As did the Amazing Rando, “Water!”

Simon McCockindale was the final link in this chain of power, “Energy!”

Thin beams of multi-colored light emanated from the rings, arcing towards the sky and quickly descending and meeting in the center of the five members of the Nantucket Dragon Group. As the five beams met, a hellish rainbow drilled towards the Earth and in a flash of fire and brimstone a demonic hobo emerged.

“Blimey! What’s all this, then?” said Baggy Satan, waving his arms to escape the smoke. He recognized his surroundings and rolled his eyes, “Not you lot again.”

“Yes! Baggy Satan, pull the lever that will activate the machine to destroy Quick-Exit Quinton!” shouted Shoshy Raphael, pointing towards the explosion apparatus and a lever not five feet from Simon McCockindale.

Baggy Satan looked from Shoshy Raphael to the lever, and back, and back again, “Really? I could just blast ’em wit’ the ol’ hellfire, I could, or any number o’ creative and ‘orrifying t’ings.”

Shoshy Raphael replied, “The lever, Baggy Satan!”

Baggy Satan floated up to the lever, trying to ignore Simon McCockindale as he did so, “Whatever you say, guv’nar.”

Baggy Satan pulled the lever and the machine below him started slowly, rumbling softly, sounding somewhat like an oncoming train. The Basset Hound Brigade watched in terror as the Nantucket Dragon Group looked on with glee as Quick-Exit Quinton quickly tried to free himself from bondage. An escape artist by trade, he easily freed one of his hands and reached down to undo his feet. With each foot, the machine rumbled louder and more quickly, until Quick-Exit Quinton reached up to free his other hand. As he did so, an explosion erupted from the machine, engulfing Quinton and leaving behind nothing but a singed hand which tumbled into the bowels of the machine.

Dick Douglas screamed, “No! Quinton! You’ve killed him, you filthy bastards! You’ve killed him!”

Shoshy Raphael laughed, “He’s just the first! We shall kill every last one of you do-gooders, as our machine runs on the power of virtuous souls, and we shall use those virtue-laden souls to destroy the city!”

“You people are mad!” shouted Vinny Fitzpatrick.

“Only because that fool Mister Lucky isn’t here to witness my triumph!” said Shoshy Raphael, completely unaware that Mister Lucky was across town arguing with Mister Frink about toast.

Dick Douglas looked around and gestured to his African-American gardener and a young Hispanic man, “Too bad the Jojo and the Little Spick are knocked out. I’m sure they could use their native magicks to free themselves, and then us.”

Vinny Fitzpatrick attempted to glower at him, mouth agape, “That’s a bit racist, don’t ya think?”

Dick Douglas thought about this deeply for a moment, “We’re tied to a wall. How can we be racing?”

Shoshy Raphael giggled madly, “You are racing Douglas! To your deaths!”

A dirty child named Mugsy dropped from the ceiling, landing with a cat’s grace, followed by a baby, a young Brachiosaur, and several other children, “Not so fast! Orphan Freelance is on the case!”

Shoshy Raphael turned towards the new arrivals, his eyes bulging, “What? Urchins? What madness is this?”

“Go get ‘im, Babyface!” shouted Mugsy.

The baby simply sat there, “Goo.”

Mugsy beamed with pride, “We call him that on account of the fact that he’s a baby, with a face!”

“He’s just sitting there,” said the Amazing Rando, who was nevertheless too bewildered and fearful to approach the infant.

Mugsy just smiled, “Okay then, plan B! Brachiosaur?”

Brachiosaur stepped forth, “Brachi!”

Mugsy pointed to the Bassets, “Go free the Basset Hound Brigade!”

The other orphan tugged on Mugsy’s sleeve, “What do you want us to do?”

Mugsy grinned, “Pillage and plunder, same as always! Crack all the safes, and make sure the Little Spick gets his cut or he’ll crack some skulls!”

“Right away!” The other orphan saluted and dashed off with several of his fellows.

Shoshy Raphael waved his arm theatrically, “Nantucket Dragon Group, kill the orphans! Every last one! We shall use their pure souls for our machine!”

Guerdon Trueblood raised his eyebrows, “Bear spirit thinks that’s rather harsh.”

Guy Magistro had no such qualms, however, and was chucking his magical eggs at the orphans as they ran about the warehouse over-turning boxes and making a general mess of things. As the eggs burst, unleashing various magical effects such as bursts of ice and fire, the orphans screamed and fell to the ground. However, Brachiosaur was finishing up his work.

“Brachi brachi!” he said, finishing removing Vinny Fitzpatrick’s bonds.

Vinny Fitzpatrick pat the young dinosaur on his head, “Thanks a load for untyin’ us. Let’s go get ’em, Dick! For Quinton!”

Dick Douglas looked up from rubbing the life back into his wrists, “For who?”

Vinny Fitzpatrick slapped his forehead, “Quinton. The man who said was like a brother to ya.”

Dick Douglas shrugged, “All right, but there’s six of them. The orphans skedaddled, and Jojo and the Little Spick are still lying around being useless. Lazy minorities!”

“They’re knocked out, Dick,” said Vinny, praying that history would understand Dick’s casual racism.

“Yeah, lazy. Anyway, there’s two of us and they have a giant machine to kill us with,” said Dick.

“I know it looks grim, but I think we can pull through!” said Vinny, striking his chest, “Just like Mister Lucky would!”

Dick Douglas looked thoughtful for a moment, “Huh, if that incompetent lout could pull through, then I can, too! Watch out, Nantucket Dragon Group, here we… er, where’d they go?”

Vinny looked around. The Nantucket Dragon Group were nowhere to be seen, nor was their machine, “I think they left while we was talkin’.”

Dick Douglas smiled and rubbed his hands together, “Great! Another case solved. Let’s go get us a drink.”

***

Elsewhere in the city, the Nantucket Dragon Group sat atop their incredibly slow-moving explosion apparatus as it made its way towards the center of the city. Amazing Rando attempted to practice his card tricks while Guy Magistro chucked his magic eggs at passer-by and laughing. Guerdon Trueblood stood with his arms folded, looking over the white man’s domain. Simon McCockindale sat with his legs dangling off the side of the apparatus, wondering if he should use his energy ring to increase the apparatus’s speed. He opted not to, as Shoshy Raphael was standing on the edge and gesturing out towards the city and ranting. Speeding up would no doubt cause him to fall off. Simon McCockindale’s monkey climbed on the outside of the machine while Baggy Satan hovered some distance behind.

“We shall take this apparatus to the very center of the city where we shall use its awesome power to destroy the centers of population,” he shouted, occasionally pointing at a pedestrian.

“Not to be cheeky, sir, but ain’t the whole city a center of population?” said Simon, listlessly waving his legs.

Shoshy Raphael turned to Simon, “That’s now what I meant and you know it.”

“I guess, sir,” said Simon, as he went back to his ponderings.

Shoshy Raphael pointed at the still-rising sun, “In any case, this shall be the first strike of the Nantucket Dragon Group’s war against the world!”

Several streets in front of them, a ghostly voice traveled on the wind, its sing-song cadence heard only by one man, “Here comes Mister Lucky, sad that he missed the handsome young boys…”

Mister Lucky scowled and whispered harshly, “Shut up, you!”

“I didn’t say anything,” said Mister Frink, frowning.

“Never mind, Frinky,” said Mister Lucky, “Here they come! Let’s go!”

Mister Lucky and Mister Frink stepped into the straight, causing the already nearly immobile explosion apparatus to become completely stationary. Shoshy Raphael looked down upon his enemies, “Oh, drat! It’s the rest of the Basset Hound Brigade. No matter, it’s still seven against two!”

The Nantucket Dragon Group descended from atop the explosion apparatus and took up a battle formation in front of the two members of the Basset Hound Brigade. Mister Lucky stood firm, “Too bad you’re facing off against the Luckiest Man in the World!”

Mister Frink stood two steps behind, “Even with your… ahem… luck, it’s impossible for us to triumph!”

“Just what I needed to hear, Frinky! Let’s have it!” said Mister Lucky, lashing out with a roundhouse punch.

It landed on the side of Simon McCockindale’s head, who cried out, “Oh no! I’ve been waylaid!” He slumped to the ground and his monkey dragged him away.

“A bit of fisticuffs, eh? Take this!” said Mister Frink, hitting Guy Magistro in the jaw with a right hook. The sorcerer fell to the ground in a slump. Mister Frink followed up by hitting the Amazing Rando with a right hook.

As the Amazing Rando fell, he said, “Now I see you, now I don’t, because I’m unconscious now!”

Mister Lucky found himself facing the man-mountain known as Guerdon Trueblood, and so he attempted to appeal to the Native American warrior’s better nature, “Your proud native American heritage can’t possibly agree with using innocent souls in a death machine, Trueblood!”

Trueblood looked down at him, “It does when they’re the souls of the white man.”

Mister Lucky smiled and wagged his finger, “In that case…”

A flowerpot fell from the sky and hit Guerdon Trueblood square in the head, knocking him unconscious.

“That flowerpot came out of nowhere,” said Shoshy Raphael, hissing.

“Did it?” said Mister Lucky with a wink, “It’s your turn, Shoshy! Give up and we’ll go easy on you!”

Shoshy Raphael stepped back, holding his ivory cane up as if to repel Mister Lucky, “Not so fast, Lucky! You forget that we have the power of Hell on our side! Baggy Satan, transport us back to our secret headquarters and destroy this machine! Farewell, Mister Lucky! We won’t meet again, because you’re going to die!”

Baggy Satan groaned and waved his hands, causing the Nantucket Dragon Group to vanish into thin air. Mister Lucky and Mister Frink braced themselves for the destruction of the explosion apparatus, but it simply fell apart.

“Well, that was a let-down,” said Mister Lucky.

“I believe they sought to have it explode. They should have given their demon more explicit instructions,” said Mister Frink.

“Well, then, I suppose today really is our lucky day!” said Mister Lucky, picking up a piece of the machine to examine.

“It will never be a lucky day so long as their evil roams the world,” said Mister Frink solemnly.

“Way to go, Captain Killjoy,” said Mister Lucky weakly.

“That’s not my name,” said Mister Frink haughtily, “You know my name.”

“Just… never mind,” said Mister Lucky, tossing the piece of machine to the ground and walking away, “I knew we should have just taken the day off.”

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The Cracking of ASS: ASS Strikes Back

Posted by meekrat on August 31, 2010

All around the city, the villains prepared for their final plans. Elvin Clovar sulked in the factory of Doctor Mandroid, his zombies having lost to the robots and the terms of their agreement stating that he would serve under Doctor Mandroid in the coming battles. Elvin Clovar, too late, realized he shouldn’t have trusted another villain and probably could have gotten out of Doctor Mandroid’s terms had he remembered that the terms weren’t defined until after the battle. The robot factory had picked up production, creating an army of robots which dwarfed that which had been at Belle Isle. Zombies, too, were being created, their numbers nearly matching those of the robots. Still, Elvin Clovar sulked, wishing nothing more than to go back to creating minor mischief and sitting in his basement eating Funyuns.

A robot walked up to him, his movements more fluid, and Elvin recognized this as Doctor Mandroid’s nameless robotic companion.

The robot spoke, “Our lord and master is resting, but there is work to be done. We must modify the factory to sustain production. Are these plans agreeable?”

Thus spake Elvin Clovar, “Yeah. Sure. Make it look like a skull, too.”

“What purpose does this serve?” said the robot.

“It serves the purpose of making this place awesome,” said Elvin Clovar.

At the bar, Black Raven perched on the bar, holding the Wiper up by his collar.

“You let him get away,” said Black Raven, “I had to send out one of my men to clean up your mistake!”

“He was just a kid,” said the Wiper, “Around here, we don’t do that sort of thing to kids.”

Black Raven grimaced, his teeth grinding, and he hurled the Wiper into Bootman.

Bootman whispered, “I’ll give ’em the boot, I will.”

The Wiper coughed, wiping blood from the corner of his mouth, “Not yet.”

Novacaine had been given the task of finalizing the coming of Kumbiya, and had brought Chuckles Fairbanks and Amos Andrew, America’s Fastest Growing Criminal, to aid him. Shadow Beast and Club arrived with Liana Koleyna, who brought with her one of her father’s Native American heirlooms.

“You should have seen the looks on their faces,” said Shadow Beast, “It was priceless.”

“I care not for your mirth, simply deliver to me his blood so that the rite can be completed,” said Novacaine, “And the two of you, give me the tokens of your religious beliefs.”

Amos handed over a crucifix, and Chuckles a small statue of Buddha. Koleyna only had a dream-catcher, and hoped it would be enough. Club gave him a vial of Night Rabbit’s blood. Novacaine took them all and threw them into a pile in the middle of a giant golden ring, the vial of blood shattering and pouring over the other items.

“You must leave now. None can see what it is that I am about to do,” said Novacaine.

The other villains left. Koleyna asked, “I thought Kumbiya was a space minotaur. Why do you need to conduct a sacred rite to bring him here? Why not just use technology?”

“Novacaine is a quirky man,” said Shadow Beast, “We don’t argue.”

***

At the headquarters of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate, Mark King had just made his announcement, disbanding the team. All the heroes turned to him, especially the Can.

“Night Rabbit just got tossed off a roof,” said the Can.

Mark King looked at him and narrowed his eyes, activating the microscopic vision that was his sole superpower.

“Whoa!” he said, lurching back in surprise, “He needs medical attention!”

El Scientist Magnifico was summoned, carrying with him a device designed to safely transport victims of spinal trauma. He activated it and Night Rabbit was enveloped in a blue aura, rising off the ground. The Can grabbed the device and ran into headquarters, unknowingly knocking Night Rabbit against so many walls. El Scientist Magnifico chased him, all the time petitioning the Can to slow down, with Land Captain and Mark King following behind.

“We just passed Connor’s office,” shouted Mark King.

The Can realized that Connor, being a doctor, or at least wanting to be a doctor, would probably be the best person to go to. He turned, ramming Night Rabbit into a potted plant, and banged on the door. After three solid minutes of knocking on the door, Connor said, “Why did you keep knocking? I opened it on your third knock.”

The Can grabbed him by his shirt, “Night Rabbit’s been hurt!”

Connor looked at the prone figure floating in blue and nodded, knowingly, “I think I know what the problem is. He’s been frozen by a basilisk, yes?”

“No! He was thrown off a roof,” said the Can.

“By a basilisk?” said Connor, “They don’t have any arms, you know. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”

“It wasn’t a stupid basilisk,” said the Can, “I think! There may have been a basilisk involved at some point, but then he was thrown off a roof.”

“He was then thrown into walls by a madman,” said El Scientist Magnifico, angrily.

“When did that happen?” said the Can, “Can you help him, doc?”

Connor nodded and stepped to the side, “Bring him in. I’ll see what I can do.”

Two hours of poking and prodding later, Connor the Wanna-Be Doctor delivered his diagnosis, “I don’t know what’s wrong with him. Are you sure no basilisks were involved?”

Land Captain sat in a chair, becoming increasingly annoyed with his choice of team, “Let’s just take him to a real doctor.”

“I am a real doctor,” snapped Connor, pointing to the framed certificates on the wall. None of them were from actual universities, and all bore titles saying that Connor was able to practice medicine on any Federation planet and things like that.

“Just the same, I’d like a second opinion,” said Land Captain.

“Me too,” said the Can, “I’d also like a first opinion.”

“If this other doctor doesn’t back up my basilisk diagnosis, I’ll eat my hat,” said Connor.

“You don’t have a hat,” said Mark King.

“I’ll bake one and eat it, then,” said Connor.

“If you’re as good a baker as you are a doctor, I’ll accept that,” said Land Captain.

***

Clyde, El Scientist Magnifico, and Justice-Bot sat in the lab, boxing up test tubes and all that. El Scientist Magnifico had to stop packing every few minutes to stifle back tears.

“I won’t know what to do with myself,” said El Scientist Magnifico, “I have been with Senor King’s organizations for more than twenty years.”

“I’m sure you’ll find something,” said Justice-Bot.

“Photogra-She can probably help find something for you,” broadcast Clyde.

“I refuse to believe you two are dating,” said Justice-Bot.

“Jealous?” broadcast Clyde, doing his best to send with it a feeling of smugness.

“No. I just don’t see what she sees in you,” said Justice-Bot.

“Why? Because I’m a giant floating embryo, you jerk-ass?” broadcast Clyde.

“No,” replied Justice-Bot calmly, “You’re foul-mouthed and you keep trying to smoke and drink.”

“Whatever,” broadcast Clyde, “You’re just jealous. Hold on, I’m picking up psychic cries of distress. There’s an ass-ton of zombies and robots roaming the city and attacking things.”

“We can’t do anything, not until the paperwork goes through,” said El Scientist Magnifico, “Our hands are tied.”

“No they aren’t, father,” said Justice-Bot, “You built me for peace, for justice, and I’m going to do something about those robots!”

“What about the zombies?” said Clyde.

“I’ll see what I can do about them,” said Justice-Bot, running out the door.

***
Land Captain, Mark King, the Can, and Connor pulled up to the offices of Doctor Bob Smith. The quartet hopped out and pulled Night Rabbit from the trunk. The Can activated the device and a blue aura engulfed the fallen hero, and soon he was on Doctor Smith’s counter. Doctor Smith, a perfectly normal looking man, emerged from a backroom, his bottom half unseen, but the sounds of hooves emanating from behind the counter. He took one look at Night Rabbit.

“Why did you just throw a corpse on my counter,” asked Doctor Smith.

“Dead by basilisk attack?” said Connor hopefully.

Doctor Smith leaned over, “No, it looks like he suffered severe spinal trauma, and then some fool kept smashing him into walls and poking him with things. He’s been dead for hours.”

“That Club did this,” said the Can, “I have to go bring him to justice.”

“There’s nothing you can legally do,” said Mark King, “Once the paperwork is filled out, anything heroics we perform is considered vigilantism.”

“Screw your paperwork,” said the Can, “Justice needs to be done!”

“You’re willing to break the law in order to uphold it,” said Land Captain, “That’s what being a hero is all about. Let’s go. We have a fallen comrade… no, a fallen friend to avenge.”

The Can smiled for the first time in what seemed like days, and he and Land Captain ran out of Doctor Smith’s office.

“I should probably call the police,” said Mark King, “Let them know some vigilantism is going to go down.”

“Before you do that, could you get this body off my counter?” said Doctor Smith.

Connor looked at him, “Are you a centaur?”

Doctor Smith laughed and walked into the backroom.

***

Black Raven stood atop the skull facade the robots had constructed and looked out at the city, smiling and thinking of the chaos that the robots and zombies were causing. He had sent out Club and Shadow Beast as well, and the Detroit villains had mostly decided to take advantage of the chaos. Only Elvin Clovar, still sulking, declined to join in. This was probably beneficial, as he was the source of the zombies. Novacaine’s ritual was probably nearly done as well.

“You know what they say,” said Black Raven, softly, “Today, Detroit. Tomorrow, the world!”

“How the hell did you get to be their leader?” said the Wiper, who had been beaten and tied up, “You’re just a thug in a costume. Your friends all have skills that make them better than you.”

Black Raven turned to the man he had brutalized, “That’s why. They’re obviously better than me, but I keep up. Besides, I killed the hero who I based myself off of. You have any idea what it’s like to kill the person you’ve based your entire gimmick off of? It’s at once the best and worst feeling in the world. Best, because you’ve finally proven yourself better. Worst, because there’s no reason left to keep doing what you’re doing. So now? Now I lead, I scheme. I swear to you, Wiper, by the time we’re done with this town we’ll show the world what we’re made of. Maybe we’ll kill all your lame heroes, too. Then, who knows? We could go back to Ohio, kill off the Neo-Bassets. Then off to Indiana to whack the Paragon People! After that, we’ll just get the straggler solo heroes. There’ll be literally nothing anyone can do.”

“There’ll always be others,” said the Wiper, “Other super-criminals like me who think you’re nothing but a glorified jerk.”

“We’ll kill them, too,” said Black Raven, “After that, maybe we’ll take on the Paci Custodis. Screw that Agreement, right? They’re just a bunch of guys with guns and whatever. We can take them. Who’s left after that? No one. Just a bunch of normal people.”

“There’s actually a bunch of people and creatures who would stand against you,” said the Wiper, “Seriously, even if you do get rid of the superheroes and anti-heroes and Paci Custodis, there’ll be an endless stream of people to stand in your way.”

Black Raven laughed, “We’ll just kill them all!”

The Wiper nodded and smiled, clarity finally setting in, “Oh! I get it! You’re completely insane! That makes all of this make so much more sense.”

***

The robots and zombies had already made their way throughout most of the city, so Justice-Bot didn’t have to travel far. The other robots were weak and poorly made, more likely made to overwhelm the city with their sheer numbers than to be individual threats. The zombies, on the other hand, were just as potent as a zombie could be. It didn’t really matter to Justice-Bot, however. He was easily able to defeat the robots, punching and kicking them away and using their various body parts as projectiles against the zombies, using his shield as needed. Then a robot stepped forward who was obviously better made. He carried with him a blaster, attached by holster to his wrist. Two others of the same design stepped forward, and all three robots took aim. As Justice-Bot stood in a cleared circle, atop the fallen bodies of his enemies, he knew that this was probably the end, but he would go down fighting. He leapt forward and kicked the center robot’s head off, and landed, readying his shield to hopefully block the blasts of the other two. One blast hit, but as the other blast came, a spiked bat came down upon the robot’s head, causing the shot to go off-course and the robot to crumple to the ground. Behind him, a tall black man in a long blackish-blue coat stood, fixing his captain’s hat.

“Robots don’t know shit ’bout watchin’ their backs,” said Captain Zimball, “Lucky for you I got back when I did. Saw a bunch of ‘bots and zombies walking around, thought to myself, ‘Shit, Tyrone, zombies? You got this in the bag.'” Captain Zimball stepped forward, offering his hand to Justice-Bot.

Justice-Bot took it gratefully and stood up, “Thanks.” He reached down and took two of the robots’ wrist blasters and attached them to his own wrists. He shot a robot and a zombie who were slowly approaching Zimball.

Captain Zimball smiled, “Name’s Zimball. Captain Zimball. You that Justice-Bot Mark King was all freaked about?”

“I sure am,” said Justice-Bot, “The Astounding Superhero Syndicate disbanded, you know. We’re not supposed to fight these things.”

Captain Zimball took his spiked club and swung it thoughtfully, “Day they keep me from something like this is the day they put me in the ground. Let’s kick some undead ass.”

Justice-Bot smiled, “I think we should go that way.”

“Why,” said Zimball, “Robot senses tell you that?”

“No, there’s just a big factory that looks like a skull,” said Justice-Bot, shooting a zombie.

“Good reason,” said Zimball, smashing a robot.

***

Jihad Man exploded, taking a bus shelter with him, looking towards City Hall. He took two steps forward, but a voice called out to him. He pulled two blades from his belt and turned, ready to attack.

“We’re here to help,” said Hanser, “Between us, we should be more than able to take out the government and name our heart’s desire.”

“Oui,” said Fromage Roi, “They shall bow to the King of Cheeses! As well as the two of you.”

“No, you capitalist pigs,” said Jihad Man, “Leave unless you want to meet my blades.”

“I’m a terrorist, too,” said Hanser, “Also, from your history, I believe you’ve had some troubles with the Astounding Superhero Syndicate. So have we.”

Jihad Man lowered his blades, “They are a thorn in my side. What do you suggest?”

“We take city hall and lure our enemies there by holding their government hostage,” said Hanser, “Between the three of us, it’ll be a simple job.”

Jihad Man pondered this, “So we don’t blow it up?”

“No, we’ll blow it up. We just wait until our enemies are within,” said Hanser.

Jihad Man grinned like a mad dog, “A good plan.”

***

Land Captain and the Can drove through the city, doing their best to avoid the zombie and robot attacks, trying to find the Club and Shadow Beast.

“For such a big guy, you’d think he would be easier to find,” said Land Captain, “We’ll find him, though.”

“Land Captain?” said the Can, gazing out the window.

“Yes?” said Land Captain.

“If I get killed, I need you to go find a girl named Clarissa and tell her Eugene says he’s sorry,” said the Can.

“We won’t be killed,” said Land Captain, “At least, I hope not.”

“Me too,” said a voice from the backseat.

Land Captain stopped the car suddenly, causing the person in the backseat to hit the seat in front of them.

“Ow!”

The Can turned, his Can-non armed and ready to fire, “Show yourself!”

Photogra-She let the brown cloth she had been hiding under fall to the floor of the car. She smiled sheepishly, “I just wanted to get pictures.”

“When did you get in the car?” said Land Captain.

“I’ve been here the whole time. I had to keep moving so Mister King and Connor wouldn’t feel me,” said Photogra-She, “I think Connor felt me, though. Then he kept feeling me.” She made a disgusted face and stuck out her tongue.

“Why are you here?” said the Can, disarming the Can-non.

“I wanted to take pictures,” said Photogra-She, holding up her camera, “If we are disbanded, then I’ll need to make my money somehow. I’ll need to find a place to live and all that.”

“Why don’t you just go live with Clyde?” asked the Can, “I’m sure he has something lined up.”

“Why would I do that?” snapped Photogra-She.

“Aren’t you and him dating?” said the Can.

“The nerve — ” started Photogra-She.

“Now, kids, is not the time. It’s gotten awfully dark,” said Land Captain.

“It is night,” said the Can.

“Even darker,” said Land Captain.

The windshield window developed a grinning face, and then it dissipated. While it was less dark, it did reveal that the Club was standing on the hood of the car and was pulling his massive fist back.

“Everyone out of the car!” screamed Land Captain.

The other two didn’t need to be told, and they had all escaped the Buick before Club’s fist came crashing through the window. Darkness engulfed them once more.

“The three little heroes, come to avenge their friend,” said Shadow Beast, his voice surrounding them, “You’ll see him soon enough!”

“It’s because we’ll be dead,” said the Can.

“I know!” said Land Captain, sharply, “I hear wings flapping.”

“So?” said the Can.

A hybrid flying-fish/piranha/mudskipper flew through the darkness, trying to bite the Can through his armor.

“Freak-fish!” said Land Captain, hitting another freak-fish out of the air.

“I’ll do what I can to help!” said Photogra-She, readying her camera, “I know all I can do is take perfect pictures, but that’s better than nothing!”

She snapped a photo of the Can and Land Captain fighting off the freak-fish, the camera’s flash went off, and the darkness wavered slightly. Shadow Beast gasped.

“Keep taking pictures!” said Land Captain, grabbing a fish and throwing it into another.

“Aye aye, Captain,” said Photogra-She, smiling. With every picture she took, the darkness wavered and eventually began to shrink. Shadow Beast became less an abstract form and more humanoid, though a rapidly shrinking one.

Photogra-She raised her camera one more time and said, “Smile!”

With the last flash, Shadow Beast vanished. Club, who was still pounding away on the car, noticed that what was basically his thinking-brain beast had vanished. He turned to the heroes and bellowed, a cry equal parts sadness and rage, and charged at them. Off to the side, Liana Koleyna waved her arms, causing more freak-fish to fly from their tanks at the heroes.

“Hey there, lover-boy,” said Liana Koleyna.

Land Captain scowled at her while dodging one of the Club’s attacks, “You lost the right to call me that when we broke up. Also, when you turned evil.”

The Can readied his Can-non and shot the Club with it, “This is for Night Rabbit!”

The Club was completely unfazed, turning his attention to the garbage can-clad hero.

“I’ve got an idea,” said Land Captain.

“Me too,” said the Can, quickly removing the body part of his costume. He held the can up and the Club punched into it, his fist breaking through the bottom and getting stuck. The Club began waving his arm and trying to pull off the garbage can.

“Self-repairing polymer, or something,” said the Can, “Do one of your judo moves on him.”

“It’s not judo, but I know what you’re saying,” said Land Captain. He darted between the Club’s legs, grabbed the man’s ankle, and used his own mass to propel the brute behind them, crashing into the tanks of freak-fish. The Can raised his fists and clenched them both, arming the Can-non. He did so again, and it let loose an immense electrical charge, which coupled with the water, incapacitated the brute.

Liana Koleyna stood looking at them in shock, then turned to run. Land Captain ran at her and managed to tackle her at the knees before she get anywhere. The pair fell to the ground, and within seconds, Liana Koleyna was cuffed.

“You weren’t into this sort of thing when we were dating,” said Koleyna.

“You’re under citizen’s arrest,” said Land Captain, “By the way? I’m seeing someone else now.”

“What?” said Koleyna, who lay on the ground, unmoving, as Land Captain stood up.

***

At City Hall, Ben Hanser walked through a room, semi-automatic weapon raised. Jihad Man stood in the middle of the room, meditating. Fromage Roi sat to the side, making a cheese platter dance around.

“How soon until they get here?” said Hanser, pointing his gun at a clerk.

“Soon! They didn’t say!” said the clerk.

“Wrong answer,” said Hanser, letting loose a burst of gunfire. The clerk fell, a woman screamed and fainted, and several people began crying. Then Hanser looked thoughtfully at the clerk’s body, nudged it with his foot, and said, “Then again, you can hardly be blamed for that. Too bad.”

“That’s the last life you’ll take!” said the Forgiver, kicking the door open. Go-To Guy and the European Branch stood behind him.

“Finally!” said Hanser, “We’ve been waiting for hours!”

“Half an hour,” said Fromage Roi, hopping off the table.

“I sincerely doubt all of us need to be here,” said Englishman.

“Englishman,” said Captain Monocle, hurriedly finding cover, “Look out!”

“Then again, you colonists probably don’t count. Leave this to — ” Englishman was cut off by a burst of gunfire from Hanser. He continued through gritted teeth, “Leave this to the real superheroes. Now then, who’s first?”

Englishman adopted his boxer’s stance. Britain Sandy leapt in front of him, solidifying her body so that Hanser’s next shot dropped harmlessly to the ground, “Move, you daft sod!”

“No need for such language,” said Englishman, “I say, is there any chance someone here knows medicine? Proper British medicine, of course.”

Hanser continued shooting while the Forgiver and Captain Monocle tried to get close enough to stop him. Go-To Guy, being invulnerable, aided Britain Sandy in keeping the bullets from doing anymore damage. The Scottish Boxman stepped through the door, pulling a boomerang out of a ring box, and he chucked it at Fromage Roi, who defended himself by hurling an uncut wheel of pepper-jack. The boomerang and pepper-jack met, and both fell to the floor, the pepper-jack in pieces. Fromage Roi raised his hands, causing the bits of pepper-jack to rise as well, and then he launched them at the Scottish Boxman with the force of a sling-shot. The Scottish Boxman fumbled for another box, but the Scooter drove in front of him, ramping his scooter so that its sturdy would take the brunt of the cheese damage. The Scottish Boxman grinned as Fromage Roi turned to find more cheeses, only to be hit in the head with a flying office chair.

Jihad Man chose this moment to stand, pulling out his blades and leaping towards the Scooter, kicking the man off his vehicle and causing the scooter itself to run into Go-To Guy. It did little damage to either thing, but allowed Hanser to wing the Scooter. He collapsed to the ground holding his wound, and struggled back to his feet. Captain Monocle turned and saw his ally’s injury and, while Jihad Man was in mid-leap, blasted the villain with his monocle, causing him to fall away from his goal. Instead, he rolled towards Englishman, and upon standing, was met with a fist to the jaw, knocking him to the ground.

“Ha ha,” said Englishman, still bleeding.

Meanwhile, the Forgiver tackled Hanser and wrested the gun from his hands, “You’ll take no more lives this day,” said the Forgiver, “Now, apologize.”

Hanser laughed maniacally for a full minute, and then said, “Yes! I apologize!”

The Forgiver stood up and let the man run out of the room, to the collective moans of the room. Before any of the other heroes could go after him, though, Jihad Man stood up.

“Now you’ll all die, capitalist pig-dogs!” He let out a tribal cry and his body began to glow malevolently.

Hanser was completely unaware of this as he ran down the stairs to the front door. As he hit the bottom of the stairs, he slipped on a pillow. Hanser stood up and looked at the pillow for a moment, confused. When he turned to the door, Sitting Tricky Pillow Man emerged from the shadows, holding more pillows. Hanser pulled a revolver from his jacket.

“Who the hell are you,” said Hanser.

“You once meet woman, named Katya. She is beautiful girl. You shoot her,” said Sitting Tricky Pillow Man, throwing a pillow at Hanser and stepping forward with every period.

“Doesn’t ring a bell,” said Hanser, shooting at Sitting Tricky Pillow Man. It clanged off the superhero’s stomach, revealing a steel pillow under his coat.

“That makes it no better,” said Sitting Tricky Pillow Man, only holding one pillow. He hurled it at Hanser with all his might. It hit with little effect, but managed to distract Hanser long enough for Sitting Tricky Pillow Man to run forward and tackle the man to the ground.

Hanser’s next few shots went wild as he looked at the wild-eyed Russian who was now sitting on top of him. Sitting Tricky Pillow Man reached under him and pulled out a pillow and pressed it firmly against Hanser’s face. The man struggled, but before his struggles ceased, Sitting Tricky Pillow Man removed the pillow. Hanser looked at him, fear in his eyes.

“I think long and hard about killing you when I meet you, Hanser. You kill woman I love, it is only fair I kill you. Then I think, Katya? She does not want me to kill. I honor her memory now,” said Sitting Tricky Pillow Man, who then punched Hanser in the face, several times, knocking the man out. “We will find good place to put you, da.”

As Sitting Tricky Pillow Man finished, an explosion erupted behind him. In the office, Jihad Man stood laughing amidst the smoke.

“Sodding loony!” said Britain Sandy, punching him towards the Scooter.

“Lunatic!” said the Scooter, hitting him with his good arm towards Captain Monocle.

Captain Monocle blasted him solemnly and silently towards Englishman.

“When will you learn, you silly man?” said Englishman, punching Jihad Man towards the Forgiver.

The Forgiver delivered an uppercut, knocking out Jihad Man, “I guess I’ll have to apologize later.”

“Good thing I was able to get this bomb-proof shield out before he went off,” said Scottish Boxman, standing in front of most of the surviving clerks.

“I’ll take these two to prison,” said Go-To Guy, wrapping them in bits of broken office chair, “I’ll make sure the police see me. Shame that Hanser got away.”

“Nyet,” said Sitting Tricky Pillow Man, “He is downstairs. I get him.”

“Good job,” said Go-To Guy, flying off with Fromage Roi and Jihad Man in tow.

“What are you doing here?” said the Forgiver.

“I am part of European Branch, yes?” said Sitting Tricky Pillow Man.

“You are, but you usually never show up for anything,” said Captain Monocle.

“Da. I like America better,” said Sitting Tricky Pillow Man.

Everyone laughed, except for Englishman who said, under his breath, “Pissant.”

***

Captain Zimball and Justice-Bot fought through the robot and zombie hordes, the robots and zombie growing stronger with each one defeated. As the robots and zombies closed in upon the two heroes, they smiled.

“Good fighting with you,” said Justice-Bot.

“Damn good,” said Captain Zimball.

As they prepared to fight to their deaths, a head came flying out of nowhere, knocking a robot back. A man appeared behind the robot and punched it, then vanished and appeared again in front of it, punching it again. Another identical man picked up the head and threw it upwards, where the Amazing Serial Hang-Man caught it and threw it at another robot.

“Toss me more,” shouted Serial Hang-Man, “Death from above!”

Two-Places-at-Once Man obliged, one of him getting things to Serial Hang-Man while the other popped in and out fighting robots and zombies. Occasionally, Dismembero’s head would be tossed up and thrown back down, being protected by what appeared to be a see-through orb of some kind.

Captain Zimball smiled and hit a zombie with his club, “Looks like this fight ain’t over!”

“Nope,” said Justice-Bot, blasting robots and zombies with both hands. A robot was about to hit him when it was pushed back by an unseen force. Justice-Bot turned to see Clyde hovering a few feet away.

“Pop wanted me to come out and help,” broadcast Clyde, softly, “Doesn’t mean I like you or anything.”

“As long as you’re here,” said Justice-Bot, with a smile, “Let’s get these jerks.”

“Jerk-asses,” broadcast Clyde.

A cream pie flew through the melee, hitting a falling Dismembero. Chuckles Fairbanks swung his pimp-cane at Two-Places-at-Once Man, failing to realize that he was fighting a man who could be in two places at once. After a barrage of fists rained down upon the clown, he pulled a little white flag from his coat.

“I surrender,” he said, falling to the ground. A massive hand reached down to grab him, placed him on a rooftop, and then pulled the Amazing Serial Hang-Man off his perch.

“America’s Fastest Growing Criminal,” said Two-Places-at-Once Man, bitterly.

“Ain’t only thing you need to contend yo’self wit'”, said Robbin Hood, pistol-whipping Two-Places-at-Once Man.

“Son, you’re just perpetrating the stereotype,” said Captain Zimball.

The two black men stared each other down, and then Dismembero’s head flew out of the air and hit Robbin Hood in the face.

“Dayum,” said Robbin Hood, holding his face, “You guys fight hard.”

“Damn straight!” said Captain Zimball, hitting Robbin Hood with the force of a piston. Once again, the giant hand lifted Robbin Hood out of harm’s way.

“So we need to deal with the robots, zombies, and a giant,” said Justice-Bot.

“I’ll deal with the giant,” said Mark King, striding into battle carrying a giant gun, “You deal with the rest of them.”

“I thought this was vigilantism?” broadcast Clyde.

“I burnt the paperwork. We’re back on,” said Mark King, aiming his weapon at America’s Fastest Growing Criminal. A burst of white energy shot at the man, causing him to shrink, and allowing Mark King to step forward and punch him out. He rubbed his fist, “All right. Let’s get the rest of these jokers. You can bet I’ll be Mark King that down in my report.”

The superheroes continued fighting, joined by their various compatriots, their enemies safely put away for the time being, and soon only a handful of robots and zombies remained.

“I’ll go in,” said Justice-Bot, “I’ll destroy the robot-making machine.”

“All right,” said Mark King.

“I need to go pick up my kid from soccer,” said Two-Places-at-Once Man.

“Go ahead,” said Mark King, “You did all right today. We all did.”

***

Justice-Bot broke through the front door of the factory, broken and sparking but still alive and able to fight, coming face-to-face with Elvin Clovar. Justice-Bot lowered his weapon but Elvin Clovar raised his hands and smiled nervously.

“Hey now, I won’t make anymore zombies, okay? At least, not today. I’m tired of these guys,” said Elvin Clovar.

“How can I believe you?” said Justice-Bot, blasters still at the ready.

“You can’t!” said Doctor Mandroid, lowering from the ceiling on his platform, “Nor can you trust me!”

Doctor Mandroid pushed a button and a massive energy blast hit Justice-Bot, causing him to collapse and his pieces to scatter. Elvin Clovar turned to Doctor Mandroid.

“So not cool,” said Elvin Clovar.

“You think I care? As long as I’m still up and going, I’ll take over this city. They can’t fight my robots forever,” said Doctor Mandroid, going up.

Elvin Clovar sighed and ran out the front door, raising his hands so that the heroes would know he was harmless. Dismembero still hit him.

“Ow, but hey, another one of your guys might be dead,” said Elvin Clovar, “The robot guy.”

“Justice-Bot?” broadcast Clyde, “Good. I hated that jerk.”

“We’ve lost a lot of guys this time,” said the Can, “Well, two, and those ones who got shot, but you know. Also, I have no armor.”

“Go-To Guy, could you take Justice-Bot and the Can back to headquarters? Thanks. The rest of us, we’re going in,” said Mark King, as Go-To Guy did as he was asked.

“This is bloody exciting,” said Sandy.

“I’m sort of sick of it,” said Land Captain, “All we need to do now is defeat that Mandroid fellow, right? Perhaps destroy his factory?”

“I think so,” said Mark King.

“You’ll never do such a thing,” said Doctor Mandroid, descending on his platform.

“Let me see your hat,” said Land Captain to the Can, who gave over what remained of his costume. With a well-aimed throw, Land Captain knocked Doctor Mandroid from his platform. The mad cyborg fell to the ground.

“Good hit,” said Mark King, “Can someone get up on that platform?”

“On it,” said the Forgiver, using the various accoutrements of an evil robot factory to propel himself upwards until he landed on the platform, “What am I looking for?”

“Self-destruct switch. Any self-respecting mad scientist has one,” said Mark King.

“I think this is it,” said the Forgiver, who pressed the button and leapt to the ground.

As the Astounding Superhero Syndicate ran from the building, Doctor Mandroid in tow, they knew it was the right button, as the factory began exploding. They stood and watched the building fall, the skull facade crumbling to nothingness. None of them noticed the lone figure leaping from the factory roof, nor the Wiper and Bootman running out the back.

“So we won?” said the Can.

“I think so,” said the Forgiver.

“Good job, everyone!” said Mark King, “I think we’ve proven to everyone that the Astounding Superhero Syndicate can get things done.”

“We sure have,” said Land Captain.

Suddenly, there was a colossal roar and the team turned towards the lake where a giant space minotaur had appeared. He began smashing buildings nearly immediately.

“Darn it,” said Mark King, “I knew we forgot something.”

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The Cracking of ASS: The Fall of Night Rabbit

Posted by meekrat on August 30, 2010

Night Rabbit’s eyes gradually opened, but he slowly realized that his left one was too swollen to allow him sight. With his right eye, he could see that he was in a darkened room. He could also feel the cold steel of manacles digging into his wrists and holding him up against the wall. He chuckled, remembering some comic strips with similar scenes, but failing to remember if the comics had said anything about it hurting so much. Night Rabbit assumed that they hadn’t, as it would upset the readership if Hagar the Horrible started complaining about how he couldn’t feel his hands anymore. A door creaked open outside his field of vision.

“You’re awake,” said a voice Night Rabbit recognized as Black Raven’s, “Good. Drop him, android.”

The manacles opened and Night Rabbit fell to the ground, unable to keep himself from flopping over like an idiot. He sat up and started rubbing the feeling back into his wrists, a feat made nearly impossible by the fact that he couldn’t feel either one of his wrists. He did see that his sleeves were slightly damp, and it didn’t take a detective to realize that it was probably blood. Inspiration struck, and so did the Night Rabbit, launching himself at Black Raven.

Black Raven easily dodged the attack, “Novacaine?”

Before Night Rabbit hit the ground, he felt his entire body go numb, probably paralyzed. He hit the ground, hard, but thankfully painlessly.

Black Raven walked forward and squatted in front of Night Rabbit, wagging his finger, “Now, now. That’s no way to treat your hosts. In fact, let’s see who you really are. I mean, unless you’re famous it’ll be useless, but I’m sure one of our allies could figure out who you are.”

Night Rabbit watched as Black Raven reached forward for his mask, unable to do anything to stop him. He didn’t have to, as a cream pie hit Black Raven’s gloved hand off-course. The villain turned towards the culprit, Chuckles Fairbanks, and growled, “What the hell?”

“That move’s got no class,” said Chuckles, “I don’t know how you did things in Cleveland, but here we don’t do that sort of thing.”

Black Raven stood up and stomped towards Chuckles, “Why the hell not?”

Chuckles honked a bicycle horn, “Like I said, it’s got no class. If we went around knowing who everyone was, we’d never get anything done. Look at you and your friends, you found out who your enemies were and then you got run out of town.”

Black Raven stared at the Clown Pimp of Crime, mouth agape, “That actually makes a weird sort of sense.”

“Yep,” exclaimed Chuckles, “You can still mess with him, though.”

Black Raven paused and nodded, “Yes. I think I will.”

***

Elsewhere, the assembled members of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate sat in the converted tiered classroom that served as their meeting room. The Forgiver and Go-To Guy sat towards the top, with Land Captain directly below them. Photogra-She and the Amazing Serial Hang-Man were a little below them, sitting next to Two-Places-at-Once Man, who was trying to discreetly take a call from his wife. El Scientist Magnifico, Justice-Bot, and Clyde the Embryonic Man sat on the next tier, with Sitting Tricky Pillow Man sitting as far away from the robot as he possibly could. The Can was sitting up front with Dismembero the Dismembered Man’s head sitting on the desk in front of him. Perry Zalia was next to him, looking over paperwork. Connor the Wanna-Be Doctor was next to him, looking at a book about the various diseases one could find in Middle-Earth. Even the European Branch was there, sitting in a corner up front. Captain Monocle sat stoically while Englishman observed tea-time. The Scooter had ridden his scooter into the room and was lounging upon it, while Britain Sandy looked around excitedly. Scottish Boxman sat with his hands folded in front of him, grinning madly. The only members who weren’t there were Llewellyn, whose health prohibited him from travel, and Captain Zimball, who was currently aiding a lone superhero named Hydro-Knight battle a villain known as the Master Trawler. Mark King stood at the front of the room, glowing with an ethereal light which shielded him from all known weapons that was his sole superpower, with reserve member Captain Depresso next to him.

“I’m glad you could all make it,” said Mark King.

“You told them if they didn’t show up you’d cut the meals and recreation budget by seventy-five percent,” said Zalia, not bothering to look up from his paperwork.

“Be that as it may, I’m still glad you could make it. Now, apparently we have a bit of a situation,” said Mark King, smiling, “According to the Can, we have a full-on villain invasion on our hands, maybe!”

“You can tell it’s serious, because he’s treating this like it’s a god-damned joke,” Clyde telepathically broadcast to everyone but Mark King.

Mark King continued, oblivious to the Greek chorus, “Now then, here’s Captain Depresso to give us all the run-down. Depresso?”

Captain Depresso stepped forward, dressed in his usual black ensemble, consisting of a black turtleneck with matching slacks, boots, and cape. He coughed, “Could you maybe turn down the lights please? Thanks. Start the slide-show, please. All right, this looks like Chuckles Fairbanks. He’s the Clown Pimp of Crime. He’s just an angry clown, I don’t think he’s actually done a lot of crime. He’ll still fight if he needs to, though. Next. Okay, this is Elvin Clovar. He calls himself the Geek Necromancer, he’s also not much of a threat. I guess he can make zombies, or at least zombie-like constructs, so look out for that. Next. Liana Koleyna, sometimes known as the Witchyologist. Specializes in fish-based crime, and has a school or flock of flying freak-fish, pretty dangerous. Next. Amos Andrew, America’s Fastest Growing Criminal. Hey, what do you know, he grows to about fifty-feet tall. He’s usually non-violent, but might step on you, so watch out. Next. Robbin Hood? He’s actually pretty tough, he has those arrows and everything. Some of them could hurt pretty bad. Next. The Wiper and Bootman. It’s unlikely that the Wiper will do any melee combat, but Bootman probably will. He’s almost invincible and a loose cannon, so look out. He’s pretty tricky. I’d consider him a high-level threat. Ben Hanser — ”

“We put him in prison!” shouted Go-To Guy.

“No, you put him and Fromage Roi in front of the local prison in nets. No one saw you do it, and they just got out of the nets and left. It’s like you didn’t want them to be caught,” said Captain Depresso, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “Anyway, Ben Hanser? He’s a psychopath. He has guns. He hates superheroes. High-level threat. Fromage Roi? He telekinetically controls cheese. Unless they attack near a grocery store, I’d consider him a low-level threat. Since Hanser and Fromage Roi are here, there’s no reason not to think that Jihad Man won’t show up. He’s a high-level threat, as he has those blades and the ability to blow himself up over and over again. Spring-Heeled Jack might show up, too, but I really doubt Jack will, as he’s more likely to be hanging out in Loveland’s, which is off-limits to everyone and in Cleveland.”

Everyone began to murmur, and Two-Places-at-Once Man tried to stand up and leave. Captain Depresso scowled at them, “I’m not done yet!” Everyone quieted and Two-Places-at-Once Man sat down quickly in response to the young man’s tone, “There are some new people. I know about them, but not much about them. Only that they were based in Cleveland until they murdered all those heroes. That alone would make all the Cleveland immigrants medium-level threats. Next. First, we have Black Raven, who set himself up as the anti-Green Dove. Next. Doctor Mandroid and his robots. Settle down, Sitting Tricky Pillow Man, it’s just a picture. Doctor Mandroid is sort of dangerous with his robot parts, but his true menace lies in his ability to construct robots quickly and on the cheap. We may have to deal with a robot army. For God’s sake, Sitting Tricky Pillow Man! They’re just robots! Next. Shadow Beast is intangible, but can create shadow constructs. These are solid enough, but he rarely resorts to violence. Next. His partner, Club, on the other hand only uses violence. He’s your typical super-strong jerk. Next. Novacaine will paralyze you with something that’s either magic or tech, I’m not really sure. All right, that’s it, I think.”

Captain Depresso grabbed a glass of water and chugged it, then poured himself another glass and dumped it on his head. He hurriedly left the room. Mark King stepped forward, “Captain Depresso, everyone! The Can also says that they’re supposedly trying to get a thing called Kumbiya going? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Now then, all go about your business as usual, we’re going to sit tight until we hear about any crime. El Scientist Magnifico! Perry Zalia! Can we count on you two to come out of retirement?”

Perry Zalia and El Scientist Magnifico looked at each other, then at Mark King, and replied in unison, “No.”

***

Night Rabbit was still lying on the ground, paralyzed by Novacaine. The door creaked open and he heard Black Raven talking to the Wiper.

“So what I think is that we’ll just wipe chunks of his mind until he’s unable to do anything,” said Black Raven.

“I usually get paid for this kind of thing,” said the Wiper.

“We don’t have any funds, but once we do, I promise you that we’ll pay you. Once Kumbiya arrives, this city will be our oyster.”

The Wiper knelt down next to Night Rabbit and placed his hands on the mask, “If you say so. Now then, what should I go with first?”

Black Raven responded far too quickly, “His real name.”

The Wiper nodded, “Okay, then.”

Blue energy arced from his fingertips and traveled through Night Rabbit’s mask, becoming diluted in the process. The name Eugene Stovens flashed continuously until only E Sos remained. The loss of this knowledge left Night Rabbit feeling like someone had torn away a piece of him, one he would never get back.

“Now what?” said the Wiper.

“How about his friends and family?” said Black Raven.

The Wiper nodded, and once again blue energy arced from his fingertips. The Night Rabbit’s family lived somewhere else, but he could no longer remember where, or how many there were, or what their names were. Next, the Neighborhood Watch flashed in and out of his mind, ending with Mabel Sturmond. Clarissa and her mother flashed through his mind, only to be blanked out, leaving only the feelings behind, and Night Rabbit began to weep. The Wiper turned to Black Raven, “Something’s wrong. They usually don’t know what’s happening.”

Black Raven smiled mirthlessly, “Keep going.”

“All right,” said the Wiper, as blue energy continued to flow. The Can appeared momentarily, followed by Land Captain and the other members of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate. With each memory wiped, Night Rabbit felt less whole, and now he only knew his enemies. The sounds of his sobbing were hardly muffled by his mask.

“What else?” said the Wiper, who was having strong misgivings, both about his actions and who he was working for.

Black Raven shrugged, “Just keep going until he’s nothing.”

“I need to go grab a bite to eat,” said the Wiper, seizing the opportunity, “My powers take a lot out of me.”

“Go ahead,” said Black Raven, nudging Night Rabbit with his foot, “Enjoy being able to control your bowels, hero.”

Night Rabbit continued to cry, though he didn’t know why.

***

Doctor Mandroid stood on a platform overlooking his converted factory, face locked in a smile, his robot standing emotionless next to him. Below them, the factory continued to make more robots. Not the best robots, but good enough for their purposes. They would be able to fight and steal and destroy and if they themselves were destroyed, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Doctor Mandroid would just send out a Sweeper unit to retrieve the pieces. He was very green like that.

“Okay, so tell me if this idea is dumb, but robot zombie army,” said Elvin Clovar.

“It’s a dumb idea,” said Doctor Mandroid, who had forgotten about the chubby geek. Forgotten, or blocked from his mind. Either or.

“It’s totally not a dumb idea,” said Elvin.

“It is. Besides, aren’t zombies part of that whole Agreement?” said Doctor Mandroid, already dreading this conversation.

“Ah, but mine aren’t real zombies. I mean, they are, but it’s more like latent death-energy and death-particles combining together in order to create humanoid zombie-like constructs,” said Elvin Clovar, “So while they’re technically zombies, they’re also technically not.”

“You just wanted to be a super-villain, didn’t you?”

“I did,” said Elvin, “Imagine, though. Between my zombies and your robots, we’ll turn this town on its ear!”

Doctor Mandroid sighed, “I think that, perhaps, my robots alone could do the job.”

“Oh yeah? I think my zombies could kick your robots’ metallic backsides,” said Elvin, growing angry.

“A contest, then. All the robots I’m able to fabricate in the next hour versus all the zombies you’re able to create, in the park,” said Doctor Mandroid.

“Which park?” said Elvin Clovar.

Doctor Mandroid hadn’t considered this, and was unfamiliar with the area, “Robot! Get me a map of the parks of Detroit.” The robot stalked off towards a nearby laptop and ran a quick search, printed out the results, and brought them back to Doctor Mandroid, who seized the paper. He read it over and pointed to one, “Belle Isle. It’s nice and isolated.”

Elvin Clovar cocked an eyebrow, “It’s really not. There’s a bunch of stuff there.”

“Too bad! That’s where it’ll take place.”

Elvin Clovar shrugged in defeat and walked away, “See you in an hour.”

***

Black Raven and the Wiper sat in the bar, with Night Rabbit in the next room. The Wiper had ordered Chinese, and was very slowly going through a small carton of pork-fried rice. Black Raven sat next to him, watching him eat, his patience wearing very thin. The process was even more excruciating because the Wiper was trying to use chopsticks. So he would struggle to pick up enough of the pork-fried rice to make putting it in his mouth worthwhile, and then he would slowly lift it towards his mouth. Most of the time, all the rice and pork would fall back into the carton during this process, but when it managed to make it to the Wiper’s mouth, he chewed slowly.

“It’s rice and bite-sized pieces of pork,” said Black Raven through gritted teeth, “You don’t have to chew it forty times.”

“Thirty-two, and yes I do. I have very delicate digestion,” said the Wiper, “You could have offered to pay for it.”

Black Raven pointed to a knocked-out and tied-up delivery boy shoved into one of the booths, “I basically stole the food for you.”

“You don’t understand,” said the Wiper, slowly chewing, “I liked that place. They didn’t care too much about serving to costumed villains, so we made sure to treat them okay. There’s so many places in town that have blacklisted all of us that we have to do our part to make sure they keep bringing us food.”

“Why not just order in your secret identities?” said Black Raven.

“Oh yeah. I’ll just call up Pizza Hut and tell them to deliver to the seedy bar down by the docks where all the villains hang out. I could have them come by my relatively secret office, too,” said the Wiper, done chewing and slowly going back for more.

“What about your home?” said Black Raven.

“If I was at home, I’d just eat the food I had there, but you know how often I go home? Maybe once, twice a month. I don’t know how things were done in Cleveland, but around here we’re pretty dedicated. We don’t go home and sleep. We got cots and stuff all over the city so we don’t have to go home during a job. Makes thing easier,” said the Wiper, very slowly lifting the chopsticks towards his mouth. A clump of rice fell, and he let the rest of it drop, and he slowly went back for more, “You know, when we’re not doing an overnight.”

Black Raven stared at the chopsticks, “An overnight?”

“Yeah, spending the night in prison. Occasionally one of us will get caught and we’ll get handed over to the authorities, and we’ll spend the night in prison. By the next morning, we’re out, either legally or illegally.”

“You guys don’t get handed over every time?”

“Nope, and when we do it’s not like they can keep us. Oh no, you made a bunch of crappy zombies? There’s no law against that. If we do an actual crime, like Amos over there tends to do, it’s just a quick letter from a lawyer explaining stuff about this Agreement that took place years ago,” said the Wiper, “I don’t think many people know about that thing, but it’s a god-send, because no one wants to mess with it.”

Black Raven nodded, “So why not just mind-wipe the delivery guy?”

The Wiper slammed his fist and dropped his chopsticks on the ground, “God damn it! Get it through your head that I’m a gun for hire! I don’t just go around mind-wiping people for fun! Someone finds me, pays me, and I go do my thing.”

Black Raven inched back, slightly hurt, “Fine. You’re still going to mind-wipe Night Rabbit some more, right?”

“Yes, but I think I should get a fork,” said the Wiper.

Black Raven’s eyes lit up, “Really?”

“Yeah, too bad there ain’t any here,” said the Wiper, rising from his seat, “I’ll have to go get one from that Denny’s down the street.”

Black Raven sighed heavily.

***
At the Astounding Superhero Syndicate headquarters, Mark King had drawn a flowchart. Then he had redrawn it several times, and now the whiteboard it was on had adopted a grayish hue. On one side, little pictures of all the available heroes were shown, on the other, the villains who were at large. They had been at this for hours.

“All right, so we’ve established that Sitting Tricky Pillow Man can’t fight Doctor Mandroid or team-up with Justice-Bot,” said Mark King wearily, “Since he’s afraid of robots. He also can’t work with the Can, since the Can is vaguely robotic.”

“Da. Sometimes, I remember. Sometimes, nyet,” said Sitting Tricky Pillow Man.

“And El Scientist Magnifico and Zalia are going to be here, running support with Connor,” said Mark King.

“If by support, you mean working on the monthly budget, then yes. I’ll be doing that,” said Zalia, who had not moved from his desk.

“I don’t get why I need to go out there,” said Clyde, “What the hell am I going to do? I’m a giant floating embryo.”

Mark King took a marker and drew a line from Clyde’s picture to that of Chuckles Fairbanks, “You’ll be facing Chuckles Fairbanks, as you can see from the line I just made. He’s just a clown. I’m sure you can do it.”

“I don’t want to,” said Clyde.

“You’re going to,” said Mark King, “Dismembero, are you okay with going against Elvin Clovar?”

“No,” said Dismembero, “I’m just a head. He summons zombies. I’ll just be a Hot Pocket for them!”

“True,” said Mark King, “What about this Shadow Beast? According to Depresso, he can’t actually touch anything.”

“Actually,” said Photogra-She, “I was thinking I could — ”

Mark King raised a finger to shush her, “Now, now. The men are talking. You in, Dismembero?”

“I guess I could see what I could do,” said Dismembero.

“Okay! Serial Hang-Man, you’re going against Novacaine,” said Mark King.

“Of course!” said the Amazing Serial Hang-Man.

“Englishman, you can — ” said Mark King as the alarms began to blare, “What is that?”

“It’s the alarms,” said Zalia, not looking up from his paperwork, “Someone please answer the phones and turn them off.”

Clyde telekinetically lifted a phone to his ear and listened to an excited voice, then slammed the receiver down, “A bunch of zombies and robots are attacking Belle Isle.”

Mark King nodded, “That would be Elvin Clovar and Doctor Mandroid. Shoot, who had Elvin? No one yet? No one had Doctor Mandroid, either. I know! Sitting Tricky Pillow Man, you go against Elvin. The Scooter, you fight Doctor Mandroid. The Forgiver and — ”

The alarms blared again, and Clyde once again answered the phone and rudely hung up, “Shadow Beast, that Club guy, and Liana Koleyna are there, too.”

“Okay. So Dismembero, Go-To Guy, and Sandy. Since sand is like a beach, and fish live by beaches,” said Mark King.

The alarms blared once more, and Clyde again answered the call, “Novacaine and Chuckles are there. You know, I’m willing to bet most of the guys are there. We should probably all just get over there.”

“Now, now. Don’t be hasty,” said Mark King, “We have more than enough people.”

“Wouldn’t it be good to give them a show of force,” said Land Captain.

“No, it would not. So just the following people head out, and I’ll be following along, so make sure you only attack who you’re supposed to attack!” said Mark King.

***

Night Rabbit sat in the corner of his cell, rocking back and forth and trying to remember. The door opened and the Wiper walked in with a small bowl of Chinese food and a spoon. He knelt down next to the hero and lifted up the man’s mask just a little so that he could eat.

“Do you remember how to use a spoon?” said the Wiper.

“Yes,” said Night Rabbit, “I remember that. Who am I?”

“Your name is Night Rabbit, as far as I know. I don’t know your real name. You got caught by some bad people, and I think you should get out as soon as you can. I convinced Black Raven and most of his guys to leave, so you have a clear shot,” said the Wiper, handing him the bowl and spoon.

Night Rabbit took the food and started eating, not remembering the last time he ate or the last time he ate something so delicious, “Thank you. Are you a friend?”

“No. No, I’m not,” said the Wiper, “I’d get going as soon as you finish. No telling when they’ll be back.”

Night Rabbit nodded and continued eating, enjoying every bite.

***

Elvin Clovar stood on a rock pointing dramatically towards Doctor Mandroid and his robots, screaming. Doctor Mandroid had constructed a rudimentary hover-platform and was floating above his robot army, clutching the railing and bellowing. No one could understand a single word either said, and their armies just stood there. There were only about two dozen zombies and fifteen robots. The zombies were just shuffling around, occasionally moaning and trying to attack one of the robots, while the robots just stood there awaiting living targets. People had gathered around them, thinking it was some sort of live show. The Scooter, Sitting Tricky Pillow Man, the Forgiver, and Scottish Boxman arrived on the scene.

“Halt whatever this is now, or pay the price,” shouted the Forgiver. He was barely audible over the bellowing and screaming. However, his presence, as well as the presence of the other superheroes, caused the robots and zombies to take notice, and they all turned towards the superheroes and began moving towards them. Sitting Tricky Pillow Man sat down and pulled a pillow from underneath him, then stood up and wound back to throw the pillow. Mark King, standing a few yards away, shook his head and pointed at Elvin Clovar.

“Idiot,” said Sitting Tricky Pillow Man under his breath, and he turned and tossed the pillow at Elvin Clovar. Then his steely resolve broke and he ran screaming from the assembled robots.

At the very least, it stopped him from screaming. He turned towards the superheroes, “Come on, guys! We’re having a contest!”

“No,” said the Forgiver, “We’ll deal with you later! For now, I have to fight something. King?”

“You take on the zombies!” shouted Mark King.

The Forgiver nodded and leapt into the zombies, punching and kicking and using each as a platform to leap to the next. However, no matter how hard he punched or kicked, they continued coming, and what was worse, whenever he would pin one, he would simply ask for an apology.

“They won’t apologize,” said the Forgiver, horrified, trying to fight off the zombie horde.

The Scooter was barely having better luck with Doctor Mandroid, who kept flying just out of reach of his scooter. “Balderdash,” muttered the Scooter.

The only one who was having any luck was the Scottish Boxman, who had managed to take one robot and use it as a weapon against the others. He pulled out a ring-box and reached inside, pulling out a grenade. He grinned, yanked the ring out and threw it against the ground, bracing himself for the explosion. It never came, as it was a tear gas grenade, and soon he and his three allies were incapacitated as the zombies and robots continued fighting.

***

In the aquarium, Liana Koleyna, Shadow Beast, and Club were walking along, admiring the fish, ignoring the looks from passerby.

“My ancestors lived in the sea,” said Shadow Beast, “Some still do, at its deepest depths. I was exiled, you know.”

“Fascinating,” said Liana, reading a placard for an interesting fish and ignoring Shadow Beast. Club simply stared dumbly at the fish.

“Stop whatever it is that you’re doing,” said Dismembero, his head rolling into their path.

“They don’t look like they’re doing anything,” said Go-To Guy, hovering above the ground.

“They’re villains, ain’t they?” said Sandy.

The villains ignored them. Liana kicked Dismembero’s head into a wall, knocking him out. Go-To Guy, not believing in attacking those had not attacked him, did nothing. Club just shoved Sandy into a wall, causing her to explode in a mess of sand. As she slowly recombined herself, the villains walked on.

***

The Amazing Serial Hang-Man was taken out by Novacaine due to the fact that he would have just hung from something, anyway. This allowed Novacaine and Chuckles Fairbanks to team-up against Clyde, who performed admirably. Since Novacaine’s powers worked on a person’s mobility, they were useless on Clyde. Chuckles’s pies were not useless, and a combination of being pied and getting shoved into a garbage can resulted in Clyde’s defeat.

The other heroes, prohibited from acting by Mark King due to the fact that no other villains arrived, simply wandered around, some itching to join the fight but not doing so. Eventually, the robots and zombies defeated each other, and all the villains left, leaving the heroes standing in a wooded area feeling sorry for themselves.

“Good effort, everyone. I think maybe next time we should change tactics,” said Mark King.

“You think?” said Land Captain, angrily.

***

Night Rabbit finished his third bowl of Chinese food, the Wiper sitting next to him and getting increasingly worried.

“You have to finish. There’s more Chinese food on the outside,” said the Wiper frantically.

Night Rabbit turned to him, his cheeks stuffed full, “Really?”

“Yes,” said the Wiper, enthusiastically.

“I’ll be leaving then. Thank you,” said Night Rabbit, handing the Wiper the spoon and empty bowl. He exited the cell and looked around, noticed several villains, none of them paying attention to him due to their inebriated and apathetic states, and walked out the front door. He was half-way down the street when the other villains had decided to return. Either instinct or the spark of remembrance caused the Night Rabbit to take one look at them and run the other way.

Black Raven sighed and tossed away the fork he had stolen from Denny’s, “Go after him, Club. Do whatever.”

Club nodded and charged forward like a football player, little caring about things such as benches, walls, and mailboxes. There was no chance that the Night Rabbit could escape him for much longer, but the adrenaline pumping through his veins allowed Night Rabbit to keep running at a pace he was unaccustomed to, and he began monologing, as if by instinct.

“The intrepid Night Rabbit runs through the city streets, knowing that if his pursuer catches him then it’ll be the end of him. What can the hero do in order to save himself? He can call other heroes. Are there any other heroes? Yes. There is the Can!” said Night Rabbit, reaching for his pocket and pulling out his cell phone, not realizing that he should be thankful that the Wiper had done such a shoddy job, and dialed the number of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate. It went directly to voicemail and he left a message, “Night Rabbit requires the assistance of the Can and anyone else who could help him as he runs through the city from a muscle-bound villain. Please hurry.”

Night Rabbit ran down an alley and leapt onto a dumpster and then onto a hanging fire escape ladder, swinging for a second, and then clambering up it. Club ran right past the alley, and Night Rabbit was thankful that the man was as dumb as he was strong. He took a deep breath and then climbed to the top of the roof and stood looking out over the city, his mind working overtime to complete connections to allow him to remember. He was having a very rough time of it, and could only remember that he was Night Rabbit, friend of the Can. Everything else was a blank.

There was a thud behind him, and he turned to see Club rising from a small crater. Night Rabbit realized that he had nowhere to run, and assumed a fighting stance. As Club stepped forward, he leapt at him, fist at the ready. Club reached into the air and grabbed Night Rabbit by the leg, holding him upside down.

“I don’t like rabbits,” said Club, grabbing Night Rabbit’s arms in his other hand and reversing the hero so that he was facing the sky. With one more motion, Club brought the superhero down upon his leg, and the sickening crack of the costumed hero’s back echoed through the city.

***

Mark King, Land Captain, and the Can entered Mark King’s office, Mark King doing his best to ignore the ranting of the other two. Land Captain was yelling at him about the lack of tactical expertise displayed at the earlier battle, while the Can was badgering him about going to find Night Rabbit. Mark King had something else on his mind, however.

“We didn’t even need to be there,” he said, softly, taking his seat, “They all just left. Didn’t steal anything. Didn’t hurt anyone but our teams. Didn’t do anything.”

Land Captain slammed his fist on the desk, “That doesn’t mean we couldn’t have collared at least some of them!”

“We’re not any closer to finding Night Rabbit,” said the Can.

Mark King waved the two into silence, “My eyes have been opened. We haven’t been keeping crime and injustice in check. In fact, looking over my reports, half of our exploits have simply caused more crime and injustice. Occasionally, we do some good, but for the most part this whole thing is just a farce. Besides, I had Zalia pull some court records. You know how many of the villains we capture actually spend more than a night in prison? Less than ten percent. I’d say we’re a deterrent, but we’re really not. We’re just useless.”

Land Captain thought for a minute about arguing with Mark King, but decided that he had finally realized what most of the world had. The Astounding Superhero Syndicate lived up to its acronym.

Mark King placed his hand on the intercom, “Clyde, could you tell Zalia to come up here?”

Clyde contacted him telepathically, his words carrying with them a nervous excitement, “Boss, there’s something you should hear.”

Mark King pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed, “Not right now, Clyde. When you have Zalia come up, have him bring the papers to disband CAST.”

Silence reigned as the Can and Land Captain stared at Mark King, looks of horror on their faces. The horror was compounded when Clyde contacted them telepathically, “Guys? Your pal Night Rabbit sent out an SOS earlier, and now there’s a big guy lugging a body to the roof of the building across from here. Maybe get on that?”

Alarms began to blare as Perry Zalia entered the office and the Can and Land Captain ran out its door.

***

As night fell, the Astounding Superhero Syndicate gathered outside their headquarters, watching as the brute known as Club stood at the top of the building opposite theirs, holding a body aloft. A figure coalesced from the shadows surrounding him, a wicked smile upon its face. It pointed to the gathered heroes.

“You may have had this town well protected, but now we’ve arrived, and with the blood of this hero spilled, Kumbiya will soon be here as well!” cackled Shadow Beast.

“Blah blah blah, stop talking and actually do something,” said Two-Places-at-Once Man, “Some of us actually have places to be.”

Shadow Beast stopped laughing and looked at Two-Places-at-Once Man, slightly confused. He shrugged, “All right, Club. You heard the man.”

Club roared and tossed the body down. It hit an awning, rolled, and then fell to the ground. The Can immediately recognized him.

“Night Rabbit,” said the Can, running to the body and kneeling next to it, “Oh god! What have they done to you?”

“Take off… mask…” said Night Rabbit, faintly, coughing up blood immediately after. The Can did so, “Remember you. Tell Clarissa… sorry.”

The Can watched as the Night Rabbit’s eyes closed, though a faint pulse still beat through his body. He struggled to pick the fallen hero up, but eventually settled for grabbing his hand and screaming, “No!” at the sky. The two villains had long since left.

Mark King chose this moment to exit the building, a worried-looking Zalia following behind, “Well, folks. It’s been fun, but the last thing I’ll be Mark King down in my report is that, as soon as the paperwork is filed, the Astounding Superhero Syndicate will be disbanded. I won’t be seeing any of you in PE.”

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The Cracking of ASS: The Ohio Incursion

Posted by meekrat on August 26, 2010

The Can sat on the examining table, his arm in a sling while Connor the Wanna-Be Doctor fussed over him, poking and prodding him with various medical instruments. Mark King leaned against the wall a few feet away while Clyde the Embryonic Man hovered next to him, using his telekinetic powers to hold a notepad and pencil.

“You were gone for three days,” said Mark King.

The Can frowned and nodded, “Yessir.”

Mark King flicked his wrist and a notebook appeared, this being his sole superpower, and turned the pages, “Furthermore, my reports state that you signed out with Night Rabbit to go on a routine patrol.”

“Yessir,” said the Can, flinching slightly as Connor shone a flashlight in his eye.

“One doesn’t go on a routine patrol then vanish for three days, only to show up battered and exhausted. Why, I’d say that’s anything but routine. I’d even go so far as to say it’s an incident,” said Mark King, flicking his wrist, causing the notebook to vanish, “That’s why Clyde is here, to fill out the incident report. I’d fill it out myself, but Zalia tells me that these day-to-day matters are better left to the secretary.”

“That jerk-ass single-handedly quadrupled my workload,” said Clyde, broadcasting his thoughts telepathically.

“Anyway, go over what happened for us,” said Mark King.

The Can nodded, “Well, it all started when Night Rabbit and I were on a routine patrol and we went after Robbin Hood — ”

Mark King laughed and clapped his hands together, “Fantastic! This should be hilarious!”

Connor shot him an angry look, “With all due respect, Mister King, this man has been through a lot! In fact, having to go through whatever caused his injuries might lead to a T’lokan schism! Your file said you were a Vulcan, right? Besides, you might not want to laugh about his experiences. It might be some bad stuff.”

Mark King stared at the Wanna-Be Doctor, wondering what brought on this sudden thought that he could talk back to Mark King without being reprimanded, but then decided that Connor was right. He said, less enthusiastically, “Fantastic. This should be hilarious. Is that better?”

“Yes,” said Connor, “I’ll start contacting his family. We may have to do a mind-meld.”

“You do that,” said Mark King, “Can?”

The Can nodded, “Well, like you said, it all began when Night Rabbit and I went out for a routine patrol…”

***

The Can and Night Rabbit stood on the roof of a nearby building, which by necessity was just a bus shelter. Night Rabbit perched, staring out at the street and monologing, while the Can sat with his legs dangling off the side to the complaints of the people waiting for the bus.

“Isn’t this exciting?” said the Can, his cheeks red with the exertion of dragging himself onto the bus shelter, “Our first patrol without a vet!”

Night Rabbit took a deep breath and, in a gravelly voice said, “The city can sleep soundly tonight knowing that it is being protected by the best and brightest the Astounding Superhero has to offer, the dynamic team of Night Rabbit and the Can! Yes, evil, do not rest on your laurels for we will find you and pull you off your laurels so you can no longer rest upon them!”

“My thoughts exactly,” said the Can, smiling.

They were still sitting there fifteen minutes later when the bus came. As the passengers got on, each shot an angry look at the two superheroes, and the bus driver leaned over and looked up at the two heroes, “You two getting on?”

“It would be a more efficient means of patrolling the city,” said the Can.

“Agreed. We shall use public transportation to protect the public and transport safety across this fair city, seeking out the dens of evil and injustice wherever they may be along the bus route, ensuring — ”

“Just get on the damn bus,” shouted the bus driver, shaking his fist.

The two superheroes got on the bus, Night Rabbit paying the fare, and sat down towards the back of the bus. An elderly lady turned to them and held her glasses in front of her eyes, cooing at Night Rabbit, “Is that you, Eugene?”

Night Rabbit nodded, “I have to keep my secret identity safe, Mabel.”

“Oh, so you’re still pretending to be a superhero,” said Mabel, “How nice for you! And who’s your little friend?”

“I’m the Can, ma’am, armored protector of justice,” said the Can, grinning in what he hoped was a confident manner, “We’re part of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate, so it’s a little more than playtime.”

“How nice that you found a little friend to play superhero with! Why, I saw you two get on the bus and I said to myself, I say, ‘Mabel, there’s that nice young Eugene Stovens boy! I’d recognize that black bunny outfit anywhere!’ and sure enough it’s you!”

“Mabel,” hissed Night Rabbit, “Secret identity!”

“Why don’t you ever come along to the Neighborhood Watch meetings,” asked Mabel, frowning.

“I told you, I’m now part of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate. They’re teaching me new ways to fight crime and keep the city and neighborhood safe. Such as new gadgets, like these,” said Night Rabbit, pulling a pouch from his belt and pouring some jacks into his hands, “These are designed to stop enemy combatants in their tracks.”

“They look just like jacks, dear, with the tips filed down.”

“I can’t reveal their design, but I will assure you they’re quite effective,” said Night Rabbit.

“You and your friend should come to a Neighborhood Watch meeting at some point. It’d be so nice to see you again! Clarissa has been asking about you, you know.”

The Can grinned from ear to ear, “Clarissa?”

Night Rabbit mumbled, “She’s a girl.”

“I could tell from the name, you old dog! You and her an item?”

“Little Clarissa just loved having Eugene around,” explained Mabel, digging through her purse, “He would always walk her to school, with her daddy being enlisted and all that. Helped out little Clarissa’s mother, too. I always thought it was such a shame that Clarissa’s daddy got discharged and came back right about the time you left. I think I have some photos…”

“Really?” said the Can, whose grin had been replaced with a minor frown, “You never told me about that.”

“I didn’t want to talk about it. Hey, you know what would probably help us patrol? If I sat on top of the bus,” said Night Rabbit, getting up and opening the emergency exit on top of the bus. The bus driver shouted at him as he scurried onto the roof and shut the door behind him.

“Oh dear,” said Mabel, “Poor Eugene always was sensitive.”

The Can nodded thoughtfully, “I think there might be a bit more to it than that. Pardon me, I’m going up after him.”

“Oh, good gracious, yes. Remember to remind him about the Neighborhood Watch meetings! You’re invited, too, dear. You seem like a nice young man!”

“Thank you,” said the Can, hopping up and opening the exit, “I’ll remind him.” He took a significantly longer time to get on top of the bus, all while the bus driver shouted curses at him. He eventually got on top, thanks to several friendly (and some not-so-friendly but much more angry) passengers. Night Rabbit was perched towards the front of the bus, his mask off, revealing a sandy-haired young man with freckles and thin-rimmed rectangular glasses.

“I wish you hadn’t followed me up here,” said Night Rabbit, his eyes puffy and his cheeks wet.

“I just thought you might need someone to talk to,” said the Can, “Since I’m your pal, I’m the only one who seemed to fit the bill. So what’s up?”

“You are my pal, aren’t you?”

“Sure am. So tell me what’s up.”

“You might not like what you hear,” said Night Rabbit, wiping his eyes with a handkerchief.

“Just lay it on me.”

“Well, what happened is after Clarissa’s father got sent off, her mother went around looking for people in the neighborhood who could help her fix things around the house. I’m a pretty decent handyman and I worked from home, so of course I offered to help. The first few times I helped her, we got around to talking and I guess I made more of an impression than I meant to and she started asking me over to help her with,” Night Rabbit paused, trying to find the right words, eventually deciding upon, “Other things, if you get what I’m saying. I resisted the first few times, because really, I’m not the sort of man who’d do that. I’m not made of stone, though, and so after she asked about six or seven times I gave in. After this went on for a few months, she thought it might be good for me to start doing things with Clarissa, sort of ease her into how things would be. Night Rabbit was actually Clarissa’s idea, you know. I made the costume for her birthday party and she liked it when I wore it when I walked her to school and all that, like Mabel said, and I was in the Neighborhood Watch so I started wearing it to meetings. Eventually, the time came for Clarissa’s father to come home and the plan was for her mom to sort of send him off and for me to step in. When he came home, though, I guess she changed her mind and told him what happened while he was gone and I thought it was best that I leave before my presence caused trouble. That’s the real reason I joined the Astounding Superhero Syndicate. So I wouldn’t get my ass kicked by an angry husband.”

The Can stood behind him, mouth agape, “Wait. Wait. So you — ”

“Yes.”

“And you — ”

“Yes.”

“And — ”

“Yes. Clarissa and the Neighborhood Watch did think I had what it took to be a superhero in one of the big groups, though.”

The Can sat next to him, “This is a lot to take in, buddy.”

“Don’t tell Zalia or Land Captain or anyone, please,” said Night Rabbit.

“I promise,” said the Can, “Your secret is safe with me.”

***

“You do realize you told us all that?” said Mark King, “Night Rabbit’s secret identity and his deep dark secret.”

The Can’s eyes grew wide, “Oh. Oh no.”

“It’s okay. Clyde, don’t write that down. I won’t be Mark King that down in my report, either. I think it’s best that we cover that little bit up. Bad enough we have to deal with Go-To Guy’s polygamy, we don’t want to deal with Night Rabbit’s adulterous ways. Might lend us a bit of a dangerous, sexy air, though,” said Mark King, looking thoughtful, “Anyway, continue. How long did you guys ride around on the bus talking about your feelings and secrets and all that?”

“About an hour and a half,” said the Can.

“Skip all that. Get to the next good part.”

“Well, we heard a window breaking and an alarm going off,” began the Can.

Mark King smiled, “Good! Good!”

***

“Did you hear that?” said Night Rabbit, still unmasked.

The Can sat next to him, in minor shock after all Night Rabbit had told him, “Uh huh. You sure got around, didn’t you?”

“Not that,” said Night Rabbit, donning his mask, “A window broke!”

“Oh? Oh. Yeah. I think that’s an alarm, too,” said the Can.

“As Night Rabbit and the heroic Can rode astrode the bus, traveling across the streets of the city and the battered crossways of Night Rabbit’s psyche, a window broke. A window representing the glass which Night Rabbit had put up to protect himself from the world which the noble Can had broken with some well-placed words and a caring ear. The bus stops and Night Rabbit and the Can leapt into action,” said Night Rabbit, climbing off the bus.

“That was more narration than monologing,” said the Can, climbing down after him.

“I have to get back into it. That’s why I usually don’t break character,” said Night Rabbit, dropping the last few feet the ground and breaking into a run.

The Can dropped as well, and after grimacing in pain, ran off after him, “All right, then.”

As they turned the corner, they saw a large black man dressed like Robin Hood stepping through the broken window of a storefront holding a bow with a blue plastic bag tied into his belt, shoved full of paper money and leaking change. He turned and saw the two superheroes coming towards him.

“Shit,” shouted Robbin Hood, his eyes bulging in shock. He turned and ran from the superheroes, who gave chase.

Night Rabbit continued running and pulled his cape in front of his face, then dropped the cape from his face and hurled a handful of the sharpened jacks in front of him, “The tools of justice may appear to be mere children’s playthings, but know that justice is not a toy! Justice is swift, real, and pointy! Justice is life!”

Robbin Hood trod heavily upon a jack, hopped several steps while clutching his foot and cursing, then fell down upon several more of the jacks, moaning in pain. Night Rabbit and the Can ran forward to apprehend the felon, who smiled, his teeth covered in gold, and pulled a Glock arrow from his quiver. He leapt to his feet, arm still bleeding from the jacks stuck into it, and pistol-whipped Night Rabbit whose mask turned, instantly blinding the hero. He then notched the arrow and aimed at the can, letting the Glock arrow fly. Since it was just a Glock tied to an arrow, it bounced harmlessly off the Can’s armor while Night Rabbit stumbled around helplessly.

“Dayum,” said Robbin Hood in awe, “You be invincible!”

“Not invincible,” said the Can, his new-and-improved non-fatal Can-non popping out of his chest, “Just powered by justice!” The Can-non shot an arc of yellow energy at Robbin Hood, causing the villain to convulse and fall to the ground. The Can-non retracted and the Can ran over to Night Rabbit and righted his mask, “We did it! We beat him!”

Night Rabbit looked at the fallen felon, “No evil can withstand the combined powers and friendship of the dynamic team of Night Rabbit and the Can, be they common thug or something more intimidating than a common thug.”

“Like maybe someone who knows what they’re doing?” said a mysterious voice from above them.

The pair of superheroes turned to see a man dressed in black with a gray cape and matching trunks, boots, and gloves sliding down a rope towards the street. The man’s mask looked like two black wings coming to a beak-like point upon his nose. He reached for a pouch on his belt and pulled out several egg-like items and tossed them at the Can and Night Rabbit.

***

“Those egg things were filled with some sort of gas. It knocked us out,” said the Can.

“That fight wasn’t nearly as hilarious as I hoped it would be,” said Mark King, “Still, good job taking Robbin Hood down. He’s not a heavy hitter, but still dangerous. Great story, but I think I have other things to do, so if you’re done, I’ll just be going.”

“I’m not. That was only the first night. We woke up tied-up back-to-back in an old warehouse by the docks,” said the Can.

***

The Can and Night Rabbit struggled against their bonds, a single light shining down upon them in a small closet-sized room. This was because this room was, in fact, a closet.

“Where do you think we are,” said the Can, wishing for the first time that his costume wasn’t as bulky as it was pinning his arms against his back in a most painful way.

“My mask shielded me from a lot of the gas, so I was awake while they brought us here. It’s a bar,” said Night Rabbit, too groggy to monologue.

“Good. I could use a drink,” said the Can.

“It’s a bar filled with super-villains,” said Night Rabbit.

“Not so good,” said the Can, falling over onto his side and exhaling heavily.

“Filled with what you call super-villains,” said another mysterious voice from the shadows.

The Can sat up as quickly as he could and Night Rabbit looked around, his grogginess stripped away, “Little does evil realize that its presence can rouse even the most lethargic of doers of good, and that those doers of good are ready for anything. Armed with right and justice, none can withstand them!”

The voice scoffed, “Then again, with what they call superheroes, who can blame them for being lazy?” The shadows coalesced into a slim man-like form with blank white eyes and spiked hair. The two superheroes tried to pose heroically, but with their arms tied, failed miserably. The shadow creature’s mouth opened into a wide toothless smile, “They call me Shadow Beast, and while I admire your readiness to throw your lives away, keep in mind that I am made of shadow. You cannot touch me, I cannot touch you. I can rest upon you, to be certain, but touch you in a way that would cause you pain? No. So you are both for the most part safe.”

The closet door opened behind Shadow Beast and an eight-foot tall heavily muscled man with a red bowl-cut and wearing tight red clothing stepped through the door, grimacing angrily. He looked at Shadow Beast and then the two superheroes, and said, “Are these them?”

“It’s are these they,” sighed Shadow Beast, “Yes, these are they. Now, gentlemen, while I may not be able to hurt you, my associate here is. I call him Club, because he hits things oh so well. Resist him, and he won’t hesitate to break something.”

Club held a superhero up in each behemoth-like hand and carried them carefully out of the closet, then tossed them onto the ground in front of the bar where the man in black who had gassed them perched on a stool. Beside him on one side, a diminutive cyborg nursed a non-alcoholic beer and a familiar robot stood by passively. On the other side, a man in dark purple robes and a matching hood sat with his hands folded in front of him. The man in black smiled at the two superheroes without even the slightest hint of happiness and turned to the other super-villains in the room. Robbin Hood was sitting in a booth and drinking a malt liquor, though clearly not his first. A Native American woman in a lab coat embroidered with piranha sat at a table filled with empty glasses with tiny paper umbrellas in them, with a clown dressed like a pimp sitting across from her with a nearly full glass of gin and tonic in his hand. Another man, dressed in normal jeans and sweatshirt but overlain with a red vest and a tweed flat cap upon his head, had a mug filled with normal beer. At the end of the bar, a man in a black cowled bodysuit with an opaque visor over his eyes and yellow gloves, boots, and shoulder pads sat drinking a mug of beer with a another man, this one waist-deep in a giant green boot and the rest of his body covered in inky blackness. A portly young man with greasy blond hair in thick glasses and wearing black robes drinking Mountain Dew alone. The villains were rounded out by Ben Hanser and Fromage Roi, who were complaining about the poor wine selection. All the others were watching the man in black warily.

“Villains of Detroit,” he said, raising his hand, “I am called Black Raven! We come from Cleveland — ”

This was as far as he got before the portly young man in robes, better known as Elvin Clovar, realized who they were, “You’re the people who killed all those kids!”

Black Raven nodded, half-smiling, “Yes, yes! That would be us.”

Liana Koleyna, the woman in the fish lab coat looked at Black Raven, hatred in her eyes, “You people make me sick.”

Black Raven’s half-smile turned into a frown, “They were superheroes, though.”

Chuckles Fairbanks, the clown pimp, frowned beneath his make-up, “You don’t kill kids. You just don’t do it.”

“Even Bootman knows that, and he’s half-retarded,” said the Wiper, the man in a visor sitting at the edge of the bar.

“I’d give ’em the boot, I would,” said Bootman, the man in a boot.

“Jesus Christ, I can’t take you anywhere,” said the Wiper.

“He’s not so bad,” said Amos Andrew, the man in a tweed flat cap and America’s Fastest Growing Criminal, “Handy to have around, I remember.”

“His outbursts are just so embarrassing,” said the Wiper.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Chuckles Fairbanks, “You two are aces in my deck.”

“Thanks, fellas. Still embarrassing, though,” said the Wiper.

“You know what’s embarrassing,” said Liana Koleyna, downing another drink, “Waking up with that whack-job Professor Greenthumb standing over you. Following the sun, my foot.”

“That whole thing with the Red Scare and his asylum was a mistake,” said Amos Andrew, “Especially after CAST and ASS came after us. That other guy, too. The one dressed like Hudson Hawk. Whosa Boss or something?”

“Charleston Charge,” hissed Liana Koleyna, “Bastard.”

While all this was going on, Black Raven stood with his mouth agape and brow furrowed, amazed that these villains could get so off-track so quickly. Black Raven’s compatriots stood by, watching with only mild interest. The Can and Night Rabbit were more than a little confused, as neither thought villains acted anything like this. Black Raven turned to the man in purple robes.

“Novacaine?”

The man in purple robes nodded and held out his hands, the air slightly rippling at the things he claimed were mystical rays coming from his hands. The mouths of the villains of Detroit froze shut.

“Are we all done talking? Are you ready to listen to me?” said Black Raven, “Good.”

“We did kill a bunch of children,” said the cyborg.

Black Raven face-palmed and groaned, “I only killed one supposed child, who was eighteen. I’m eighteen, too. Shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, I think the youngest one we killed was that sixteen-year-old girl, and one of your robots did that, Doctor Mandroid. In fact, between the six of us, we only killed four people, and all of them were costumed superheroes. Hear that, Detroit villains? Of course you do, since you’re not talking. Oh, I think the fat kid has a question. Novacaine?”

Elvin Clovar lowered his hand and moved his mouth a bit, then began to speak, “I thought you were all killed by vampires?”

“No, we were run out of town by vampires. Which, in a roundabout way, is why we’re here. We want to set up shop here since Cleveland is out of the question and this seems like a pretty good place to settle. However, we want your approval. We promise we won’t weasel in on your turf and we’ll play by your rules. See? We even captured two of your superheroes for you to do whatever you want with,” said Black Raven, gesturing to the Can and Night Rabbit.

“Those aren’t even good superheroes,” said Ben Hanser, “Now, if you managed to bring down that damned Forgiver, we may have something!”

Black Raven looked at Hanser, eyebrows raised in confusion, “The Forgiver? Wait, no. Never mind. Well, gentlemen and lady, in addition to myself and my five associates we also have one more person in our ranks who couldn’t be here tonight, but he was the one who killed most of the superheroes and was the reason the vampires ran us out of town. Just let us stay in Detroit and I promise that it’ll be worth your while.”

“Whoever your seventh guy is, he better be damned good,” said the Wiper.

“He’s called Kumbiya,” said Black Raven.

The bar erupted with laughter, even from Night Rabbit and the Can.

“What is he going to do, make a campfire and sing everyone to death?” said Chuckles Fairbanks.

A malicious smile crept across Black Raven’s face, “Kumbiya is an ancient two-hundred foot tall space minotaur.”

The laughing stopped quickly, and Amos Andrew said, “That’s four times as tall as I can get.”

Black Raven sensed that he had them, “So if you welcome us to Detroit, not only will you get myself, a man proficient in robotics and his evil robot army, a sorcerer who utilizes ancient ways to paralyze his foes, the mighty Club, and cunning Shadow Beast, but you’ll also get a two-hundred foot tall space minotaur who does whatever we want. Oh, and these two. We don’t need them for anything.”

The Wiper stood up and gestured towards Black Raven and the Cleveland villains, “I think we should welcome our new brothers-in-arms!”

Everyone in the bar raised their drinks and cheered.

***

Connor the Wanna-Be Doctor had fainted, while Mark King stared at the Can.

“A what?” he said, eyes wide in disbelief.

“A two-hundred foot tall space minotaur,” said the Can, sadly, “I guess they have one.”

“I’m trying to telepathically contact Depresso,” said Clyde, “If there’s a giant minotaur running around, he’ll know about it.”

“So he’s just a big space minotaur,” said the Can, “So what if he’s two-hundred feet tall? What else can he do?”

“He’s two-hundred feet tall!” snapped Mark King, “Isn’t that enough? What happened next?”

“After they drank for a while, the robot and Club carried us to the tower of the Geek Necromancer,” said the Can.

“Where?” said Mark King, “I’ve never heard of such a place.”

“Neither have I, chief,” said Clyde, “Something else to ask Depresso about when I can get in touch with him.”

“They took us there and Fromage Roi contacted some other villains from Europe,” said the Can, straining with the effort of remembrance, “I don’t remember who.”

“Oh, this just goes from worse to worser,” said Mark King.

“That’s not a word,” said the Can, helpfully.

“I know!” shouted Mark King, “This is so bad I’m abusing the English language!”

“It doesn’t seem that bad,” said the Can, “We have at least ten people on staff here. There’s only about twelve of them.”

“Twelve of them, plus a potential robot army,” said Mark King, “Oh, and a two-hundred foot tall space minotaur. Plus whoever else Europe has! For all I know, we could get beset by leprechauns.”

“I guess we should be prepared,” said the distraught Can.

“Yes, which is why you’re going to tell me what happened next, and why I’ll be Mark King it down in my report,” said Mark King, flicking his wrist and causing his notebook to appear.

“We were stuck in the Geek Necromancer’s tower for at least a day. After the others left, he untied us for a while so we could eat and go to the bathroom and all that. He didn’t seem that bad, really — ”

Mark King leaned forward and growled, “Focus!”

The Can flinched, “Yeah. Well, this morning they took us to some factory.”

***

Doctor Mandroid beamed happily at the empty automobile plant, caressing one of the manufacturing arms. The Wiper and Bootman stood by with the Club and Shadow Beast. Club held Night Rabbit and the Can in his massive arms.

“So this will do,” said the Wiper, “Just say the word and I’ll go wipe this place out of its owners’ memories.”

“Yes, yes! This place will do quite nicely,” said Doctor Mandroid, “The world thought it had seen the leading edge in evil robotic armies when Professor Futuro fought the Paragon People, but soon it shall learn that Doctor Mandroid is the leading edge!”

“Come on, Bootman. We’ve got some people to visit,” said the Wiper, holding the door open for his partner.

Bootman hopped through the door, “I like visits, I do.”

“I know you do.”

“What should we do with these two?” said Shadow Beast gesturing to the Can and Night Rabbit, “Black Raven gave no orders, nor did any of our new allies.”

Doctor Mandroid waved him away, “I don’t care! Do one of those deathtraps you’re so pleased about!”

Shadow Beast smiled brightly, “You heard the machine-man, Club! Let’s head to the roof!”

Club grunted and followed Shadow Beast up the stairs to the roof, a place engulfed in the shadows of nearby buildings.

“This will do nicely,” said Shadow Beast, waving his arms rapidly and causing a maze to appear on the roof, “Put them down. Let’s have some fun!”

The Club did so and snapped their bonds. Nearly immediately, the two superheroes sprung into action. Night Rabbit threw his elbow into the Club’s stomach, which did little but surprise the brute. It did enough to allow Night Rabbit to fling himself at the Club and grab onto his neck, punching him repeatedly in the head. While this was happening, the Can turned to Shadow Beast and armed his Can-non, letting loose an arc of energy. While the energy was usually only strong enough to subdue a foe, the fact that it was very nearly weaponized light caused it to have a potent effect on the being made of shadow. He screamed in pain and fell to the ground, convulsing and causing the maze to blink in and out of existence, further distracting the Club from Night Rabbit’s attack.

“Can! Run! Get help!” shouted Night Rabbit.

“I’m not leaving you here!” said the Can, “We have to stick together!”

“They’re building a robot army and they have a giant space minotaur,” screamed Night Rabbit, still punching the Club who was lumbering towards his shadowy associate with a look of concern.

The Can looked worriedly from Night Rabbit to a fire escape, but his mind was made up for him when the Club pushed him out of the way to reach Shadow Beast. The force of the brute’s push knocked the Can towards the fire escape and he tripped down the first flight of stairs, resting for a second at the bottom to catch his breath. He stood up and clutched his arm, and ran the rest of the way down, hoping against hope that the Night Rabbit would be all right.

***

“I ran around the city looking for headquarters, but then Land Captain saw me and gave me a ride back,” said the Can, sheepishly.

Mark King scowled at the Can, “So where’s Night Rabbit?”

“They still have him, sir,” said the Can, eyes welling with tears, “We have to go rescue him!”

“We will,” said Mark King, “We’ll gather up a group and go after him as soon as we know what we’re dealing with. Any luck, Clyde?”

“Depresso is on his way,” said Clyde, “I guess he was in Ohio, but he’s getting a ride here from Malcolm. Should I have had them bring the whole team?”

Mark King stuck his tongue out in disgust, “Oh god, no. I can’t stand team-ups with the Neo-Bassets. Contact the European Branch, though.”

“They won’t come, not after we had ’em come all the way here and sent ’em all the way back once they got here,” said Clyde.

“Tell them we’ll fly them first class, and we’ll even pay for Britain Sandy to have a seat,” said Mark King, “Then contact our members. The Astounding Superhero Syndicate must stand together!”

“Even Player One?” said Clyde, apprehensively.

“Not him,” enthused Mark King, “Good intel, Can. You ready for the fight of your life?”

“I guess so, sir!” said the Can, with wary excitement.

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They Call Him Mister Fahrenheit!

Posted by meekrat on August 24, 2010

Land Captain sat in his car, begrudgingly accompanied by the Can and Night Rabbit. The Can, due to his armor, was lying in the back seat. Night Rabbit was in the passenger’s seat, staring out the window and communicating his thoughts through stream-of-consciousness monologues. Though these monologues actually made some sort of sense as first, Night Rabbit had long ago just started naming random things he saw.

“I shall protect the dumpsters of this city, the dead cats of justice,” spat Night Rabbit, his words dripping with all the intensity of a driven man. “The stoplights of anger and the broken windows of intolerance shall be undone by my acts tonight.” The last statement in particular was especially erroneous since it was a few minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon.

“I really could have handled this myself,” said Land Captain. “It’s just a bank robber.”

“Not just any bank robber,” the Can corrected, his voice at once muffled and yet echoing due to the aluminum can encasing his body, “but a ‘serial’ bank robber!” When pressed prior to the car ride, the Can refused to remove his costume, citing that he was “on duty”. For what it was worth, Land Captain mentally noted that he had never seen the Can “off duty”.

“I’ve dealt with world-destroying aliens before,” stated Land Captain. “I don’t think a bank robber could give me much trouble.” Land Captain checked his mirror and looked out his window to make sure he could switch lanes. He was still getting used to his new car, a 2009 brown Buick Lacrosse, and thought that a nice leisurely patrol might help him become accustomed to it. That was, of course, before the Can invited himself and Night Rabbit along for the ride.

“Come on, a little back-up never hurt. Besides, we — ” replied the Can as the sound of static filled the car. His brow furrowed with the effort of trying to figure out what the noise was, but panic quickly set in and he screamed, “What the hell is that?!”

“It’s just the radio,” explained Land Captain over the crackle of static. “I set it to the local police band.”

The radio continued to crackle as Land Captain turned the knob from right to left, trying to find the proper frequency. After a short period of white noise, Land Captain landed on the right station.

“We have reports of another bank robbery,” said a weary-sounding officer. “Witnesses claim he’s the same guy.”

“You mean the guy who’s dressed like Tron?” responded a second officer.

The first officer sighed heavily. “Yes, the guy who’s dressed like Tron. Considering this guy’s M.O., I wouldn’t worry too much about it.”

“Where was it?” asked the second officer, his own sigh carrying an equal amount of girth.

“Brachiosaur Savings and Loans,” replied the first officer.

“Jesus Christ, that’s not even a real bank!” groaned the second officer.

The radio crackled again and went silent.

Night Rabbit stared at the radio. “The radio becomes silent, but justice can never be silent — for crime and injustice are loud, and I will refuse to let the cry of justice be stilled!”

“You have to admit, that was pretty good,” said the Can.

“I have to admit no such thing,” replied Land Captain. “That place is right around here. Hang tight, men.”

Land Captain sped up and turned the corner. There, a man dressed in an orange bodysuit embroidered with dark blue patterns reminiscent of circuits was running very slowly down the street, carrying in his hands two bags with dollar signs on them. Several people on the other side of the street were watching curiously. There were no places to park. Land Captain had to circle the block several times.

“Why don’t you just pull up on the sidewalk?” asked the Can.

“That would be breaking the law,” said Land Captain. “Help me look for a parking space.”

Each time they circled, Land Captain noticed that the bank robber was still running but gaining very little ground. Many pedestrians were overtaking him, and he looked as if he was about to give up.

“There’s a spot,” said the Can.

Land Captain sighed. “Can you even see out the windows?”

“Maybe.”

Land Captain looked and saw that there was, indeed, a spot. However, there was a parking meter.

“I don’t know how long this is going to take, so I don’t want to pay for parking,” explained Land Captain in frustration.

Night Rabbit turned from the window. “The cost of fighting crime is ever steady, ever rising, yet who will pay it? The bold Can? The noble, if cheap, Land Captain? Nay, the one who will pay is the dark Night Rabbit.” He then looked out the window again and continued naming things.

“Well, if you pay, then I’ll park,” said Land Captain, pulling into the spot. He jumped out of the car and started to run towards the miscreant when he realized that he was running alone. Land Captain turned back and saw the Can struggling to get out of the car and Night Rabbit digging through his pockets, mumbling something about knowing that he brought some change with him.

The Can saw Land Captain stop. “Keep going!” he yelled. “We’ll catch up in a minute!”

Land Captain nodded and smiled, pleased that he might be able to finish this without interference. He ran around the corner and saw the bank robber, still running very slowly, almost about to finish the stretch of street he had been running down for the past twenty minutes.

“Halt, criminal!” said the Land Captain, pointing to the bank robber. “You face the Land Captain now!”

The bank robber stopped and stared at Land Captain, looked him up and down, and adjusted the futuristic visor over his eyes. “Never heard of you,” said the man. “You new?”

“No, I’ve been doing this for years,” replied Land Captain.

“Okay, okay,” dismissed the man. “So come get me.”

Land Captain shrugged and dashed towards him. The man dropped the money bags and held out his hand when Land Captain came close. Land Captain stopped, confused as to what was happening.

“Listen to this,” said the man, pressing a button on his gauntlet and turning a knob. Suddenly, Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” started playing from his chest. The man held up a finger. “Okay, listen. Keep listening. Now!” The music grew louder as Freddy Mercury sang, “Two-hundred degrees, that’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit!” The music grew softer again as the bank robber smiled at Land Captain. “Eh? Eh?”

Land Captain blinked. “What? It’s an all right song, I suppose, but I’m more of a jazz man.”

The bank robber stared at Land Captain blankly, and then slapped his palm against his forehead. “Of course! I go by the handle ‘Mister Fahrenheit’!”

Land Captain nodded. “So, you rob banks?”

Mister Fahrenheit shook his head and laughed. “No, no. I don’t even keep the money. Here, take it back to the bank. Just trying to get the attention of one of your people. My plan, you see, is to make arch-enemies with a superhero so that when that superhero becomes popular and they make a movie about him, they have someone playing me in the movie and they play Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ in the background. Then it’ll show me doing something great. I don’t even care if I’m the main villain. So you think they’ll put you in pictures anytime soon?”

Land Captain looked at Mister Fahrenheit with a scowl, mouth agape, unable to find words. Eventually, he was able to say, “Why would you do that?”

Mister Fahrenheit sighed. “Look, back in college, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ was my song. It still is my song. It was always there for me, in one way or another. I would have chosen ‘Supersonic Man’, but my specialty is heating and cooling, so Mister Fahrenheit it was.”

“So, you’re a scientist who wants to be in a movie. Is that correct?”

“No, no,” corrected Mister Fahrenheit. I just want a character based on my super-villain identity in the movie while that song is playing. So, in that medium, I’m always associated with that song. I really love that song, you see.”

“I gathered,” said Land Captain.

“After that happens, and I’m happy with the results and everything, I’ll hang up my suit for good. No more trouble-making from me. So how about it? Let’s go a few rounds! Just don’t actually hit me, okay? We’ll stage-fight.” Mister Fahrenheit, assumed a fighting stance.

Land Captain was still digesting this man’s plan, however, when the Can and Night Rabbit chose this moment to run around the corner. Land Captain expected Mister Fahrenheit to be frightened, or at least a little concerned, but instead the man smiled widely.

“Three on one? Man, this will send a message, that’s for sure! Mister Fahrenheit is a big name! Weird armor, but you’re a superhero, what can I expect? Who wants to go first?”

The Can stepped forward, pushing Land Captain out of the way. “I’ll take you on — er, what’s your name?”

Mister Fahrenheit continued smiling and turned the dial and pressed the knob. Once again, “Don’t Stop Me Now” started playing, growing louder when “Mister Fahrenheit” was mentioned.

The Can narrowed his eyes. “So you’re Queen?”

“No,” said the slightly insulted Mister Fahrenheit. “I’m Mister Fahrenheit. What’s your handle?”

“I am the Can, and I’ll take you out to the curb!”

Mister Fahrenheit giggled. “Good, good! Little strange, considering — ” Suddenly, Mister Fahrenheit grew concerned. “Wait, the Can? Like, garbage can?”

The Can nodded. Night Rabbit, who instead of following the Can ran into an alley, emerged from said alley now, holding his cape over his face. As usual, he began to monologue. “You’ll find that justice always runs hot and cold, Mister Fahrenheit — but today, you’ll find it runs hot when we put you in the cooler! Your reign of terror ends now, so says the Night Rabbit!”

The concern grew into outright worry. Mister Fahrenheit put down his fists and looked at the assembled heroes with sadness in his eyes. “Are you three members of ASS?”

“We don’t use the acronym!” shouted the Can, slamming his fist down on an empty newspaper dispenser.

“Oh, God. You are. All three of you? Even you?” Mister Fahrenheit looked at Land Captain. “You seemed like you were actually competent. Oh, God. I can’t be labeled an ASS villain. They’d never put me in a movie, unless it’s like ‘Mystery Men’, and even then who wants to be the villain in a comedy? Oh, God. I better lay low for a while, maybe do some research, find out where the good heroes frequent. Oh, Jesus. To think I almost…God!”

Mister Fahrenheit walked away without the money, mumbling and waving his hands. The three superheroes watched him leave.

“What just happened?” asked the Can, picking up the bags of money.

“I think we were just slighted,” said Land Captain. “Still, mission accomplished. I don’t think he’ll be robbing anymore banks today.”

“Should we go after him?” asked the Can in disappointment.

Land Captain watched Mister Fahrenheit as he dejectedly turned the corner, and shook his head. “No. No, I don’t think we should even report this one. Good work, all the same.”

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Attackers from Beyond Modern Britain

Posted by meekrat on August 23, 2010

The European branch of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate, known to all but themselves as EurASS, stood in the terminal of the London Heathrow Airport, all three men sullen and cranky from jet-lag. Englishman was the first off the plane, very nearly hitting a table in anger. The next was Captain Monocle, dressed like an 18th-century British Naval captain with a weaponized monocle, carrying a plastic container. The last was the Scooter, dressed in a tweed suit with a brown bowler cap, a trim little mustache upon his face below a brown domino mask.

“The nerve of that colonist,” said Englishman, “Bringing us all the way to his upstart little settlement and then turning us away with nary a thought! See you in PE? What does that even mean?”

Captain Monocle stretched and adjusted his 18th-century style naval jacket, “No idea, old chap. At least we’re back home. Might as well let Sandy out of the carry-on, what?”

Englishman waved him away, “I don’t care what you do with that common harlot. If Llewellyn thinks I’ll let this injustice go — ” Suddenly, Englishman’s demeanor changed. He checked his watch and looked almost panicked. He took out his mobile tea set and began to drink his tea.

Captain Monocle sighed and took out the large plastic container filled with sand. He removed the lid and placed it on the ground, and the sand took the form of a sandy-haired young woman, dressed like a much cleaner 19th-century chimney sweep. She stretched.

“So this is America, then? Ain’t never been here,” she said, looking around, “Cor. Looks a lot like home.”

Captain Monocle nodded, “We are home, Sandy.”

Britain Sandy turned to him, eyes filled with anger, “Just how long did I spend in that box?”

Captain Monocle looked at his watch, “Nearly a day.”

Sandy stepped out of the box, poking her finger in Captain Monocle’s face, and the man acquitted himself poorly, only just managing not to back away from the angry young woman. “I thought we was going for a bit of a team-up and you let me out of the box and I find out I been in there since yesterday? Bad enough you lot put me in there so you wouldn’t have to pay for me, you leave me in there the whole time?”

“Well, yes,” said Captain Monocle, having trouble adjusting to this young woman’s rage, “We didn’t have much of a chance to let you out. King sent us right back. We hardly had a chance to stretch our legs, ourselves.”

“Stretch your legs? Stretch your bloody legs? I was in a bleedin’ box the whole bloody time, you daft sod!”

Captain Monocle looked over to Englishman, still enjoying his tea-time and disregarding the stares of passer-by and a guard who kept asking him how he got a tea-set on-board, and as such currently unable to aid Captain Monocle. More important than the young lady yelling at him was the fact that people were beginning to stare, and it would not do to make a scene. Suddenly, Captain Monocle realized that one of their number was missing.

“Where has the Scooter gone?”

***

On the runway, another person was bound and determined to avoid making a scene. He dropped from the wheel-well of the plane, dressed in a black leather-like jumpsuit adorned with silver balls, with matching boots and gloves. He looked around nervously, saw that the ground crew was paying him no attention, and climbed back into the wheel-well. Moments later, a large transparent metallic orb fell from the wheel-well with the man, now wearing a black helmet, inside. He placed his hands on the dashboard in front of him, and the orb began to levitate, and then fly off. Unfortunately for him, he was not unseen, as further down the tarmac, outside the gates, the Scooter was waiting for a valet to bring him his scooter, a specialized craft which could adapt to any terrain. He tapped his foot impatiently and looked at his pocket-watch, watching the mysterious orb retreat.

“I’ve no idea why they even brought me along if I couldn’t bring my scooter,” he said, “I’m always one for a good rumble, but without my scooter, I’m just a bloke with a good right hook. Could have given my seat to Sandy, the poor girl.”

The valet arrived, terror in his eyes. He handed the Scooter the keys to his vehicle and hurriedly got off it and ran into the small room the valets hung around. The Scooter rolled his eyes, assuming that the youth had either scratched the scooter or activated one of its many different modes, and sat upon it.

“Not as if we do much of the old super-heroics here,” muttered the Scooter, pressing a button on his hat which caused it to transform into a helmet, “We get one, maybe two ne’er-do-wells a fortnight, if that. Sick and tired of it, is what I am.” He scanned the horizon, trying to see where the orb had gone, decided to just guess, and drove off.

***

An hour later, Englishman, Captain Monocle, and Britain Sandy sat on a bench outside the airport. Englishman’s arms were crossed, his face filled with hate. Britain Sandy’s arms were also crossed, as she was in the middle of a pout. Captain Monocle sat between the two, hands folded in his lap.

“I don’t see why they had to escort us out like that,” said Englishman, “I was only indulging in the most sacred rite of the Empire.”

Captain Monocle turned to him, “I don’t think it was so much that you were practicing tea-time, but rather the fact that you were doing it in the middle of a crowded airport and had somehow smuggled all the necessary tools onboard an aircraft.”

“One must always be prepared for tea-time.”

“I fear we’ll all be placed on that no-fly list after this,” said Captain Monocle.

“Oh no, now I can’t be put in a sodding box,” muttered Sandy.

Captain Monocle had no desire to get into that conversation again, “Anyway, I’ve ordered us a car! No need to be put in your box there, eh? I’ve no doubt the Scooter will catch up with us at headquarters. No doubt Llewellyn will want to hear all about our grand adventure!”

Sandy stared daggers at a young man who had the gall to look at her for more than two seconds, “You mean how we got kicked out of an airport and you all put me in a box while the Scooter ran off? Sure he’ll get a kick out of it, the sick old goat.”

“He’s not a goat, he’s a lion,” said Englishman, “Or something like that.”

“Llewellyn is the spirit of England, a lion-man with a lion’s heart and a man’s courage,” said Captain Monocle, “Shame he’s been so sickly lately, though.”

“Never seen ‘im well,” said Sandy, “Hope he kicks it soon. Tired of him lyin’ there coughing all the time.”

“Sandy! That is simply unladylike,” said Captain Monocle, scowling.

“Like I ever been concerned with bein’ ladylike,” said Sandy.

Captain Monocle raised his forefinger and began to speak, but was interrupted halfway through when his cell phone went off. He pulled it out of his pocket and flipped it open, “Salutations! What’s your emergency, citizen?”

“It’s me,” said the Scooter, on the other end, “We’ve got a situation about ten kilometers west of the airport.”

Captain Monocle’s brow furrowed, “Isn’t there some sort of nature reserve there?”

“Looks like it,” said the Scooter, “Hurry along, chaps.”

Captain Monocle put his phone back into his pocket and pointed westward, “We’ve a situation to attend to, my fellows! We must away!”

Englishman stood up, “What is it?”

“No idea, but the Scooter sounded entirely nonplussed! It must be serious!”

“You know what’s not ladylike,” said Sandy, still sitting, “Being put in a stupid box. Hope you all get put into a box soon.”

Englishman squinted westward, “How far away is it?”

“About ten kilometers,” said Captain Monocle.

“You expect us to walk there?”

Captain Monocle looked westward, “I do suppose it’s a bit far of a walk. By the time we get there, they’ll probably be gone. Perhaps we should commandeer a vehicle?”

“Nah need!” said a massive red-haired Scotsman, wearing a kilt and tight white shirt, his wild beard and mustache flowing in the wind, as he leapt from the top of the airport, “I got ye covered!”

“Weren’t you just in America?” asked Englishman.

“I’m where I’m needin’ to be, lad!” said the Scottish Boxman, “Now all o’ ye get in me box! I’ll git ye there in two shakes!”

A smile slowly grew upon Sandy’s face, “Someone up there likes me. How about it, gents, up for it?”

Captain Monocle sighed, “I guess we have no choice.”

***

Ten kilometers west, give or take, the Scooter floated upon his vehicle in the water of the Arthur Jacob Nature Reserve. The flora in front of him did little to hide him from his quarry, the mysterious man with the orb. The man was currently outside of his orb and walking around in front of it, occasionally talking to it and waving his arms. He was clearly insane, but other than illegally entering the country and trespassing, hadn’t done anything outright evil. So the Scooter waited.

The man, on the other hand, had problems of his own.

“What do you mean we’re in England?” he said, pointing to the orb, “You said that plane was going to California.” He paused for a moment as the orb fed information directly to his brain. “Well, yes, I know that it was the wrong plane. You could have let me known that before we wound up here. Is there anyway I can get back without having to sneak into the wheel-well of a plane? That was the worst.” The orb fed more information. “Oh yes, I’ll just buy a plane ticket. I’m a convicted criminal, it’s not like I can walk up to the desk and just buy a ticket.”

The man sat down and placed his chin in his hands, “You know, I used to be a normal guy. Just minding my own business, and then what happens? A bunch of blue aliens show up and destroy a few buildings and leave their little sphere-craft behind, I take it because that’s what you do with abandoned alien tech, and suddenly I’m public enemy number one. At least, I guess, if I lay low then no one here will start hunting me down for a while. So maybe being in England is a good thing.”

A wooden box floated upon the water, listlessly going past the Scooter, who watched it with reserved curiosity, and ending up on the shore by the mysterious man in black. The Scooter continued to watch as the man in black looked at the box, shrugged, and dragged it onto the shore. He turned to the sphere, “Give this a scan, please. I don’t want to open it and find a corpse or something.”

A faint blue light came from the sphere, passing over the wooden box several times.

“What’s up?” asked the man, “You usually give it two scans.” Silence. “It’s a what?”

Just then, the lid of the box exploded upwards and the Scottish Boxman and Britain Sandy jumped out, ready to battle. Englishman climbed out and stuck a pose. Captain Monocle, however, slowly peeked out, and then hurriedly climbed out of the box and kicked it back into the water. The Scooter chose this moment to accelerate, and joined his compatriots.

“What the bloody hell was that,” said Captain Monocle, pointing to the wooden box.

“It’s one o’ me boxes,” said the Scottish Boxman, still in a fighting-stance and facing the man in black.

“Guess someone don’t like bein’ put in a box,” said Sandy, smirking.

“We shouldn’t have fit in there! Besides, you pulled that box out of another box! There’s no way that chain of events could have happened in a just universe!”

The man in black chuckled, “Buddy, this universe is anything but just.”

Captain Monocle turned to the man in black, “Excuse me, who are you?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” said the man in black, “I’ll go first. My name is Paul Seams, but they’ve attached the name Kinetosphere to me.”

“He’s a criminal back in the States,” said the Scooter, “He talks to his bubble.”

“A criminal, eh? Not only that, but an illegal as well! From the colonies, no less! You’re the lowest of the low,” said Englishman.

“Enough wit’ the gabbin’,” said the Scottish Boxman, pulling a hatbox from his belt and opening it, “If yon Scooter says he’s a criminal, we have to bring ‘im in!”

“I’m not a criminal,” said Kinetosphere, “I’ve done nothing but try to help people!”

“Then how’d you get on a plane to the UK?” said Sandy, smiling.

“It was an accident,” replied Kinetosphere, backing slowly towards his sphere, “I was trying to get on another plane.”

“Without paying? Sounds pretty crime-like to me,” said the young lady, transforming her fist into a hard sandy hammer. She slammed it on the ground between Kinetosphere and his sphere.

“Get rid of his bubble,” said Englishman, “I’ve no doubt this coward means to use it to flee!”

Sandy nodded and scooped up the sphere, flinging it away. Captain Monocle’s monocle whirred and began firing laser blasts at Kinetosphere, who narrowly dodged them, rolling onto the ground. Englishman adopted a boxer’s stance, and began easing himself from heel to heel as he circled his fists in front of himself. Scottish Boxman pulled a large wooden club from the hatbox and tossed the box into the water, where it dissolved quickly. The Scooter leaned against his scooter and wondered when there’d be a chance for him to use it. Kinetosphere grabbed a handful of soil and rolling it into a ball.

“One of the reasons they call me Kinetosphere is because I have telekinetic power over spheres,” said Kinetosphere, holding the ball of soil in front of him. It began to hover above his palm, and with a flick of his wrist, it hit Captain Monocle in the face.

“I say!” he exclaimed, trying to wipe it off.

The Scottish Boxman surged forward, trying to bash Kinetosphere on the head with his club. Britain Sandy slammed her hammer into the ground, following it as it landed, and continued to jump around, continually hitting the ground around Kinetosphere as he desperately tried to dodge. He continued grabbing handfuls of soil to fling at the attacking superheroes, but they were largely ineffectual. On the sidelines, Englishman continued circling his fists in front of him, occasionally exclaiming “HA!” or “Have at thee!” while the Scooter just stood there.

“Ye’ll not last long, laddie,” said the Scottish Boxman, swinging his club, “Eventually one of us will hit ye, and that’ll be it fer you!”

Sandy smiled as she slammed against the ground, “I’m surprised you lasted this long.”

Captain Monocle wiped the last of the dirt from his monocle and changed the setting, “No! The sphere’s coming back! Blasted thing! Scooter!”

The Scooter nodded and mounted his namesake vehicle, executed a one-hundred-eighty degree turn, and sped off to stop the sphere from reaching their location. Captain Monocle’s monocle whirred again, and he began shooting more laser blasts at Kinetosphere, easily dodging the spheres of soil as they were thrown. He blasted the ground under Kinetosphere, causing him to lose his footing and allowing the Scottish Boxman to hit Kinetosphere in his midsection, knocking him right into the path of Britain Sandy. The direct hit was enough to knock Kinetosphere towards Englishman, who lashed out with one of his twirling fists, knocking Kinetosphere to the ground.

“Once again, I’m the hero of the day!” said Englishman, grinning.

***

As the Scooter drove off, he knocked the wooden box his teammates had somehow arrived in on its side, and it quickly filled with water. It sank quickly to the bottom of the pond the battle was taking place by, where many things had been sleeping for a very long time. This did little but cause one of the creatures to toss in its seemingly endless slumber. As the particles from the hatbox found their way to the bottom of the pond, one of the creatures woke up, stirred by the residual energy the hatbox had contained. It noticed the wooden box and swam over to it using its long slender arms. It turned the box over and over and then began to chew on it. The taste was not to its liking, but as it spat out the bits, the released energy allowed one of its fellows to awake. Noticing it this, the creature chewed again, this time with its fellow, and one by one, the creatures awoke.

***

On the surface, the Scooter sped towards the sphere, which sped towards him. He pushed a button on the side of his scooter and it sprouted gliding wings and secured its rider, and with a well-placed wheelie, the Scooter achieved altitude. He reached out and grabbed the sphere, but the sphere seemed to lash out with malevolent electricity. Still, the Scooter held on, until he realized that the sphere was not attacking, but attempting to communicate. Knowing this allowed his mind to process the signals, and after the sphere’s message was received, the Scooter let go of the sphere and followed it back to the nature reserve, where Britain Sandy had wrapped her sandy arms around Kinetosphere, who was just now waking up. Captain Monocle noticed the Scooter and sphere’s approach.

Captain Monocle angrily waved his arms, “What part of stop the sphere did you not understand?”

The Scooter slowed to a stop in front of his angry teammate, “I had a talk with it. Its rider is a kind and virtuous man. All he wants to do is clear his name.”

Englishman laughed a quick hard chuckle, “Oh yes. We should all listen to spheres!”

The Scooter scowled at them, “Go ahead. Touch it.”

The Scottish Boxman laughed heartily, “The look in yer eyes is enough fer me, lad. Might as well let ‘im go, lass.”

“You’re not the leader of this team!” said Captain Monocle, striding up to Scottish Boxman angrily and jabbing his finger into the man’s hard chest.

The Scottish Boxman carefully moved the finger off of his chest, “Just callin’ ’em as I see ’em. Our leader’s bed-ridden, anyway.”

Captain Monocle angrily turned away, “Fine! Englishman, don’t you have some sort of training in this? I’d much rather trust your word over that of a sphere or, God forbid, a Scotsman!”

Englishman blanched for a microsecond at this, but just as quickly regained his composure, “Of course! I’ll have to wash my hands strenuously afterward, but give me the man’s wrist.” Sandy let the man’s arm out and Englishman took it with disgust, placing two fingers where he thought the man’s vein should be.

“Shouldn’t you remove his gauntlet?” asked the Scooter.

Englishman let out a single laugh, “An amateur may do that, perhaps, but for a professional like myself, I can take readings through a gauntlet. Many gauntlets, in fact. Now then, are you a criminal, you coward?”

Kinetosphere groggily looked at Englishman, “No. Not a criminal.”

Englishman concentrated intensely for a moment, then let go of the man’s wrist, exhaling with relief as he did so, “He’s telling the truth.”

Sandy let Kinetosphere go and he leaned against the sphere, “So can I go then?”

“I suppose,” said Captain Monocle.

“No! Don’t go,” said a voice which was half-gurgle, coming from the water’s edge, “So hungry! You look tasty!”

All eyes turned to the water’s edge, where a short green-scaled creature with short legs and long slender arms stood, its eyes wide and snake-like, its mouth filled with sharp jagged teeth. It also wasn’t alone, with more of its race emerging from the water with each passing moment.

“Is this normal?” asked Kinetosphere.

“No, it’s not,” said Captain Monocle, “I think we should all back away quite slowly, then once we’re sure they can’t catch up, quite quickly.”

“I’ve seen worse creatures delivering my take-away,” said Englishman, “Granted, I doubt many of them wanted to eat me.”

“They won’t eat me, will they?” said Sandy, eyes wide with worry, “I’m made of sand, after all.”

“They’ll try,” said Captain Monocle.

“Perhaps we should try reasoning with them,” said the Scooter.

“Yes! Grand idea!” said Captain Monocle, “Hello there! We mean you no harm!”

“Good!” said one of the creatures, licking its lips with a long slender tongue, “Less fight!”

“So you’d eat a defenseless group of people?” said Englishman, his British pride offended by the creature’s remark.

“Best kind to eat!”

“You can’t fault his logic,” said Kinetosphere, who had opened his sphere and was pulling long black boxes out and affixing them to his arms, “They want to eat us, but seem to not be willing to fight us for that honor. So maybe we should fight them.”

“This is a nature reserve, man!” said Captain Monocle, “These horrid abominations are part of nature, I’m sure!”

“Then don’t kill any of them,” said Kinetosphere, flexing his arms.

“Now see here, you creatures,” said Captain Monocle, pointing to the foremost one, “We’ll not be your supper!”

“Yes you will!” said the creature, its tongue waggling madly, “More of us! Special day for us today! Day we wake up! King of the Grindylows say we need to feast!”

“Grindlylows, eh?” said Englishman, “You’re just a myth, a bogeyman to scare children!”

“They’re standing right there, lad,” said Scottish Boxman.

“I demand to speak with your king!” said Captain Monocle.

“I be king!” said one of the grindylow.

“No, me!” said another.

“I be queen!” said yet another, seemingly indistinguishable from the others.

“Only be one king!”

“Or queen!”

“And queen?”

“Maybe! Only be one king and maybe one queen! Can’t all be king or queen!”

“Quiet! The food is leaving!”

EurASS and Kinetosphere had indeed taken the opportunity to take the first steps towards fleeing.

“You be king today!” said one of the grindylow to the one who had pointed out the escape attempt, “We eat before they get away!” The grindylows surged forward.

“Defend yourselves!” shouted Captain Monocle, shooting off a series of short weak laser blasts. They were still enough to deter the grindylows hit by them.

The Scottish Boxman simply waded into the mass of creatures and began kicking and punching those who came close. Britain Sandy’s arms became shovels, used to pick the creatures up and toss them to the water, where they simply returned to the fold. Englishman stood in his fighting stance, punching and kicking any who dared come close to him. The Scooter circled them in his scooter, knocking aside those he could. Captain Monocle continued to shoot his laser blasts. Kinetosphere aimed his hands at the creatures and used his powers to launch rubber balls at them. However, even with six of them attacking, the surge of grindylows was proving too much.

“We feast tonight!” shouted a grindylow as he grabbed onto Britain Sandy’s arm and tried to bite it.

“Shove off, you wanker!” said Sandy in reply, grabbing the creature and throwing it in the water, making a “V” with her fingers at the creature as it hit the water.

Another grabbed onto the Scooter’s leg, “Only qualified for one passenger!” said the Scooter, punching it off with a right hook.

Gradually, the fight began to seem hopeless, and then began to seem lost.

“I’m out of spheres,” shouted Kinetosphere, kicking grindylow as they came near him.

“I can keep doing this all night,” said Englishman, punching another grindylow in the eye.

“As can I,” said Captain Monocle, blasting another, “We’ll have to, unless we wish to be their next meal.”

“If we just killed the little — ” started the Scottish Boxman as he flung more grindylows away.

“No killing!” said Captain Monocle and Kinetosphere in unison.

They fought and they fought until, suddenly, the woods behind them began to glow. None of the superheroes noticed, but the grindylows did.

“The light!” shouted one, immediately retreating back into the water.

“He said he wouldn’t hurt us! He said he wouldn’t hurt us!” said another, trying to force his way forward, away from the dreaded light.

Within minutes, the grindylows had retreated back into the water, save one. “We’ll be back to feast!” he cried, shaking his fist. Scottish Boxman picked him up and chucked him away.

“They finally saw the light,” said Englishman, “No opponent can attack Englishman and succeed, much like no opponent may attack England and succeed. The rest of you did help in minor ways, however.”

“How kind of you to notice,” said Captain Monocle, who turned and was facing the woods, “I think perhaps they did see the light. Look!”

The team looked towards the woods where a bright light was already dimming. As it came closer, its source appeared: a regally dressed bipedal lion, walking through the woods, relying on a cane to steady him. As he reached the clearing, he raised his hand-like paw to his mouth and coughed.

“Llewellyn?” said Captain Monocle, rushing to the spirit of England’s side.

“I was growing concerned,” said the lion-man, who eased himself onto the Scooter’s scooter, “So I made my way to the airport to see where you had gotten to. Imagine my surprise when I heard that those nearby were complaining about odd noises from the nature preserve. I thought to myself, that’s where they’ll be. So what happened here?”

“Allow me,” said Englishman, who told a version of the tale in which he single-handedly defeated Kinetosphere and the grindylows.

“That’s not what happened — ” started Britain Sandy, who became silent when she saw the glint in Llewellyn’s eye.

“A colony of grindylow awoke, eh? It’s been years since I’ve seen one, and decades since I’ve seen one alive. The fact that they’re waking up is worrisome. We shall have to make a report,” said Llewellyn, “They’ll have to be classified, as well. We don’t want to step on the toes of the Paci Custodis, after all.”

“So am I free to go?” said Kinetosphere.

“Of course,” said Llewellyn, “I’m sure we can arrange something to get you back home.”

***

“…and that’s the way it really happened,” said Britain Sandy to her young American friend.

“How’d you know about what happened with the Scooter?” he said, wondering not for the first how Sandy’s skin felt.

“Half of it, I asked him. Half of it, I guessed,” she said, sitting down next to the young man, “So what do you think, Charley? Help a girl out?”

Charley, perhaps better known as Charles Earheart-Lindbergh-Algernon Junior, and perhaps even known better as Codename: Lucky Charms, looked into Sandy’s deep brown eyes and knew that he’d probably regret what he was going to say. After all, he was in the United Kingdom to pick up some antiques, not to help out a girl. Even a girl who was exceptionally attractive, if made of sand. What the hell, he thought, might as well help a damsel in distress. He smiled at her, “Today’s your lucky day, doll. Just tell this Kinetosphere guy to meet me at my plane tomorrow morning. I’ll arrange the rest.”

“You’re a sweetheart, Charley,” said Sandy, leaning over and almost kissing him on the cheek, “Talk to you later. Look me up next time you’re in town.”

“You too, Sandy,” said Codename: Lucky Charms, feeling his cheek where her breath had touched, “You too.”

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