Nightwing: Rusted From the Rain #1: Formerly Known as Robotman

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DateNightwing: Rusted From the Rain #1ViewRead the...
01/22/17Formerly Known as Robotman(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer
RatingRating explanation
EAppropriate for everyone.
No Caption Provided

Dick Grayson got out of the shower just in time to hear a knock at the door. Grabbing a towel, he wrapped it around his waist and ran to the front of his apartment. "I'm coming! Hold on!" he called. Without opening, he said, "Who is it?"

"That's a weird story," a male voice answers over the sound of rain.

Dick scowled a little, but unlocked the door anyway. Opening it, he saw a brown haired man holding an umbrella over his head with one hand, and an old toy dog in the other. This distracted him only momentarily before he realized the man was, "Uncle Chuck?"

"Oh. So you do recognize me then?" the man asked.

"Very funny!" Dick said, giving his uncle a hug. "It's great to see you! It's been forever! I mean, what? Since...well, way before mom and dad died! Where have y--"

Holding up a hand to stop Dick, he answers, "Um, you don't understand. May I come in?"

"Of course! Of course!" says Dick, standing aside. Pointing to a chair, he says, "Make yourself comfortable, but excuse me for a minute. Let me throw some clothes on." Moving quickly to the bedroom, Dick grabs a red shirt and throws it on. Grabbing a pair of jeans, he pulls them on as he says, "So what brings you into town, Uncle Chuck?"

From the next room, he hears, "Well, that's just it. I'm not Chuck Grayson."

Dick comes out holding one of his escrima sticks, "You want to explain that, mister?"

Not moving from the chair, the man says, "My name is Robert Crane. I--"

"In the 1940's, I was known as Robotman."

"Worked with my uncle," Dick interrupted. "I remember your name, but I had no idea you looked so much alike."

"Please, this is difficult enough to explain- let me finish," implored the man.

Looking equal parts confused and concerned, Dick took a seat on his couch, and said, "Alright."

"This might be very hard to believe," said Crane, "but this is Charles Grayson's body. The brain is mine though- that is, Robert Crane's."

Dick was shocked, but didn't show it. "Okay. Now I definitely need an explanation."

"In the 1940's, I was known as Robotman."

"Robotman?" asked Dick. "Of the Doom Patrol? I know him. His real name is Cliff Steele."

"No, he came later. I was with the All-Star Squadron. My brain was in a powerful robot body of my design, but the transfer process was invented by your Uncle Chuck. Without him, I would have died."

"Go on," Dick nodded. He reached to a side table, and picked up an Oracle-dedicated tablet. He began looking up Robert Crane to see if he could verify the information he was being given.

"I was eventually trapped in a collapsed mine for several years. When my robot body repaired itself, and I was finally able to escape, I located Chuck again, only to discover that he had died from a brain disease. His body had been frozen to keep anything else from degenerating, and it was with the help of The Chief from the Doom Patrol that I was able to have my brain transferred into your uncle's body- once again allowing me to be human. Something I'm very grateful for, but I thought it would be only right to let his next of kin know. Apparently, that's you."

Putting the tablet aside, Dick said, "You check out."

"Check out?" asked Crane. "Are you law enforcement, Mister Grayson?"

"Something like that," Dick smiled.

"I see," answered Crane. "At any rate, I basically came to let you know about this. It hadn't occurred to me to think of any family Charles might have before the operation. I know this is incredible, but I wanted to ask: is this okay?" He seemed very nervous to hear the answer to his question.

Dick looked at the floor for a moment, and sighed deeply. Looking up, he said, "Well, it's done now, isn't it? It's beyond weird, I'll give you that. To ask you to undo it at this point would be akin to asking you to commit suicide. And if I tried to force it- murder. So it's very strange, Doctor Crane, but congratulations on your new lease on life."

Crane seemed very relieved, and he sank a little deeper into the chair. "Oh, thank you, Mr. Grayson. That's quite a load off of my mind...no pun intended."

"Ha! Still funny though," chuckled Dick.

Rubbing his forehead for a moment, a new pain came over Crane's face as he said, "There's a little more though, I'm afraid."

Dick cocked his head sideways, but said nothing.

"This is Robbie."

Holding the toy dog forward, and handing it over to Dick, he said, "This is Robbie. He used to help me fight crime when I was Robotman."

"I was wondering about this," Dick confessed.

"He also has the brain of your Uncle Chuck," added Crane.

Dick jumped, fumbling the robot dog from his grip, but managed to catch it before it hit the floor. "Ugh! What?! Why...? Wait. I thought you said he died of a brain disease?"

Crane's brow furrowed. "That's what I was told. Apparently, Charles had a lot to do with Steele's Robotman body too. When the degenerative disease began to claim his body, he and the Chief decided to separate his brain from his body before it could actually be harmed by the disease. So, they put it inside of Robbie, and froze the body, hoping to find a cure someday."

"Then why did they allow the transfer of your brain into the body?" asked Dick.

"Because the degenerative disease had progressed enough to make the risk too great that the body would reject the brain if implanted again. I wanted out of the robot body badly enough to risk it. Obviously, it took."

"What about Uncle Chuck though?"

Next Issue: A Boy Wonder and His Dog.-
Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: SBS #5.
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99 Red Balloons #2: Eternal

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Date99 Red Balloons #2ViewRead the...
01/21/17Eternal(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer
RatingRating explanationLast Issue:
TNo real reason, really. Just being consistent with last issue.Enchantment

Two hours later, Kord Industries Metropolis, secret subbasement- headquarters of Blue Beetle:

"Captain Marvel, Jr. vouched for you..."

"Captain Marvel, Jr. vouched for you, or you wouldn't be here," said Batman.

"I get it," said the teenage boy he was speaking to.

"I'm not sure that you do. I don't like to put children in danger," the dark knight growled.

"All evidence to the contrary," said the boy, looking over Batman's shoulder to Robin.

"Hey!" protested the Boy Wonder.

"Robin isn't going out there to face those things," countered Batman, "and I'm not convinced that you should either."

"Eternity."

Just then, Blue Beetle came running into the lab. "I got 'em!" he shouted. "It took every connection I had, and the help of The Guardian's connections to Project: Cadmus, but S.T.A.R. Labs finally gave up Bloodsport's kryptonite bullets." He placed the boxes of ammo in Batman's hands, looked at the kid, and back to Batman, his look silently communicating the doubts that the caped crusader had just voiced.

Batman looked at the boy, his scowl showing that the bullets had not changed his opinion of this plan.

In response, the boy chose to address Batman's earlier statement. "In a sense, I won't be going out there. My brother's not fond of putting me in danger either. But I don't come alone. I come with all the help I need."

"Is that so?" said Batman, skeptical.

"It is," the boy said confidently. Then he said, "Eternity," and with that, he was replaced by a tall man in the garb of a World War II flying ace.

"Wow," said Robin and Blue Beetle in unison.

"You're the help we need?" asked Batman. "Who are you?"

"Flying ace and expert marksman."

"Lieutenant Steven Henry Savage, Jr." answered the man. "Flying ace and expert marksman."

"There are fifteen hundred bullets in there," said Blue Beetle, pointing to the boxes in Batman's hands, "and one hundred of those mystical, super balloon men out there. They're giving the Marvels a hard time. Are you sure you can do anything?"

"Balloon men?" laughed the pilot. "Well boys, I am just the man you need on the job. Where I'm from, the boys in my unit call me Balloon Buster!"

Blue Beetle managed to stifle his laugh, but could not keep the smile from contorting his face. Robin looked shocked at the silly name, and slightly dismayed at their chances. Batman continued to look grim with no sign of relief, but handed over the box. "Let's get to work."

Metropolis Airfield

"You heard the man, boys!"

A long whistle from Balloon Buster was followed by, "Well heckfire, gentelmen! I ain't never seen air crates like that, but they are mighty nice," he said of the jets gleaming in the afternoon sun.

"Lieutenant Savage!" called one of the jet pilots. "I'm Bart Hawk! The Blackhawk Squadron is quite familiar with your history, and we're proud to be backing you up on this mission!"

"Can we dispense with the pleasantries, and get on with this," seethed Batman.

Hawk looked at the masked hero, and merely nodded. "You heard the man, boys!" he called to his men. "We corral 'em, Balloon Buster takes 'em out! Scramble the jets!" The Squadron all ran for their jets, and Savage climbed into a comparatively rickety looking biplane.

"Are you sure I can't get you in something more formidable, Lieutenant?" asked Blue Beetle.

"This is what I know, son," answered Balloon Buster. "If I'm going to help, this is the seat I'm going to do it from best. Those fancy green bullets are loaded, and it's time for the dogfight to end all dogfights," he grinned.

Blue Beetle couldn't help beaming at the man's enthusiasm. "Keep 'em flying, lieutenant!"

Savage saluted, and settled into the cockpit. The jets roared down the runway and took to the air. Savage's biplane seemed like little more than a wind up toy as it took to the skies a minute later.

Looking on, Blue Beetle said, "Well, the Bug's on its way. I'll try to keep down any panic in the streets. You going to coordinate things from the subbasement?"

"Don't be ridiculous," said Batman. "That's what Robin's here for."

"Are you kidding me?"

Beetle looked at Batman a little shocked. "Then what are you going to do?"

As if in answer, the roar of another jet engine was heard as the Batplane angled towards the runway. As it descended, Batman looked at Blue Beetle and said, "Miss the chance to fly with the Blackhawks and Balloon Buster? Are you kidding me?" As the Batplane hovered above them and lowered a grab bar, Batman grinned, pressed a button on his belt that signaled the bar's retraction, and zipped up into the plane which took off almost immediately.

Slightly dumbfounded, Beetle watched him go for a few seconds before touching his earpiece, and saying, "I knew that you were enjoying this!" He laughed at the radio static as the Bug landed softly behind him. "See you in the air," he called out, and then ran for the Bug.

Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: SBS #2.
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99 Red Balloons #1: Enchantment

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Date99 Red Balloons #1ViewRead the...
01/21/17Enchantment(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer
RatingRating explanation
TMystical manipulation of souls. Hypnotic manipulation of minds.
"Oh, what's the matter, boopsie?"

LittleRussia

June Moon fills the ninety-ninth red balloon from the helium tank, and hands it to the last customer who falls into line with the ninety-eight before her- holding her balloon, and waiting. The Enchantress smiles to herself, and skips to the end of the block where the first enchanted customer waits silently. Along the way, she sings out, "Everybodyyyy face the streeeet!" In answer, the ninety-nine customers of Nimball's Toy Shop turn and face the street, the mass movement almost military in its unison. Caressing the face of her first victim, June smiles. She pats his face, dabs her index finger on the tip of his nose, and says, "Boop!" As she does so, he lets go of the balloon, and falls to the ground.

The Enchantress laughs, quickly moving past each enchanted customer with a "Boop" to each one's nose, causing them to release their balloon, and collapse in her wake. It takes only a few minutes to go through the entire line, and when she reaches the end, the last customer flicks her eyes towards the sorceress. "Oh, what's the matter, boopsie?" she asks.

Unable to move from where she stands, the woman shakes with fear as she says, "Why are you doing this?"

The Enchantress tsks as she caresses the woman's face. "I would just tell you, 'because I can,' but that should be obvious, and it wouldn't really answer your question, would it?" Stroking her finger down the side of the woman's face until it rests under her chin, Moon leans in close, and with a hint of malice, whispers, "The truth is: I just wanted to see if this spell would work." The enchanted customer shakes harder, tears rolling down her cheeks. This just makes June smile, and laying her finger on the woman's nose, she says "Boop" with an exaggerated pop of her lips. The woman releases her balloon, and falls like all the others. The sorceress smiles cruelly on the fallen woman, then looks up to see the last balloon following the long line of all the others on the wind.

"Are you sure about this plan, Enchantress?"

A tall, thin man comes out of the toy shop, and asks, "Are you sure about this plan, Enchantress? Luthor was quite clear about not wanting any mistakes."

Never taking her eyes off of the balloons, she answers, "Yes, Mister Nimball, the plan proceeds perfectly. The Blood Balloons were made from the blood of Superman himself, and the soul of each fallen customer is trapped in the balloon they held. Their souls will animate the balloons within the hour, giving you a 'Red Army,' if you'll forgive the pun," she said dryly. Nimball did not reply. "They'll become the Knights of the Air- every one a 'superhero' on par with the fallen Kryptonian. Every one under my control."

"You mean under Luthor's control," said Nimball. "Don't forget whose plan this is," he warned.

Continuing to watch the balloons, The Enchantress gave an uptick to one finger, and in response Nimball lifted off of his heels, balancing impossibly on his toes. "Don't presume to give me orders, Toyman," she said sternly. "Plans change. Luthor has access to an army that could enable him to rule, but he merely wishes to smear the name of a hero that has already fallen. Why should I give a man that kind of power?" She considered a moment, then sounding bored, she added, "And Toyman?"

"Y-Yes?" he asked nervously.

"Never try to fool someone whose art is deception. This automaton you've sent in your place is ingenious, but the next time we meet, you had better be the real you." Nimball said nothing. "And Schott?"

"Y-Y-Yes?" the android Nimball replied, its controller surprised to hear his real name.

"You should pray that we don't meet again." With that, she twisted her upturned finger in the air, and the android sparked and separated at every joint, before falling into a useless pile of junk. The sorceress took a deep breath and crossed her arms, watching the last few balloons disappear from view over the city's skyscrapers.

She was startled from her silent vigil when Nimball's head called out, "Enchantress!"

She spun to face the dismembered android.

"There's all kinds of magic, you loon! Like hypnotic suggestion. Rumplestiltskin," said Nimball's head.

The Enchantress' eyes went wide, and she stiffened slightly.

"Now... what's the magic word?" taunted Schott through his fallen android.

"Don't ever threaten me again."

Her brow furrowed as she tried to resist.

"Say it!" shouted Schott.

"E-Enchantress," stammered the sorceress, and she reverted back to her ordinary form of June Moon, horrified to have once again become her mousy, ordinary self.

"That's right," the android head said menacingly. "You may be powerful, but Luthor's reach extends further than you think. Now say it again."

"Enchantress," June said quickly, and she once again became her sorceress self.

"Now let's get back to work, shall we?" asked the pile of Nimball parts. The Enchantress nodded shakily. "And Enchantress?"

"Y-Yes?" she asked as she recovered herself.

A fat man in suit with vertical stripes and working a yo-yo in his right hand stepped out of the doorway of the toy shop, and Winslow Schott replied, "Don't ever threaten me again."

Next Issue: Eternal.-
Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: SBS #2.
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Time Share: The Time Phantom Interview, Part 3

RANKED 1st BY VOTERS IN CHARACTER CREATION CONTEST #47!

DateTime Share: The Time Phantom InterviewViewRead the...
01/20/17Part 3(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer

This story was inspired by the beautiful paintings of Andreas Englund, shown throughout.

RatingRating ExplanationLast Issue:
MMild cursing, talk about drug use and addiction, violence, death.Part 2
"It was one of those days."

"It was one of those days. First it was ninjas. Then I had to fight some freakishly preserved Nazi fused with his plane- The Luftwaffan, or The Blitzkrieger, or something- who thought he was fighting the same Time Phantom from World War II. Of course he wants to dogfight, so I had to fly. The height was terrifying. The fight was brutal. Between moments, I went back in time and got high as crud, and came back. I only meant to take the edge off, but I overdid it. By the time we were done, I was exhausted and coming down, but still pretty torn up.

"So of course Rollergirl calls me on the CB, and has a list for the grocery store. I was too tired to argue, and figured I could use the time to straighten my head out before I got home. We had taught our daughter not to acknowledge me when she saw me in costume, but my head still wasn't clear when I came out with the two bags in my arms. I grinned my big dumb daddy grin, and called out, 'Hey, pumpkin!' That was all it took for her- she hollered 'Daddy!' and came running across the parking lot. Clementine came running after her, trying to catch her before anyone realized who she was running to." John pauses, chest heaving with the thoughts.

"the chain gun...unfolded from the side of the car."

"I was--" he falters, then sobs. "I was so messed up from the pills and blow that I had done during the fight, that this break from our protocol rattled me. One of the sacks slipped from my arms, breaking the eggs, and spilling the containers of milk and ice cream from the bag. I dropped my keys trying to catch it, and the keyfob hit the pavement, causing the chain gun to--" He sobbed again, then bent over the podium shuddering as he cried openly. "It unfolded from the side of the car," he said a bit muffled from not speaking directly into the mic.

He stood up suddenly, trying to regain his composure, and cracked the edge of the podium in his grip. The shock from the surprise of it jolted him from his tears. He was speechless for a few moments as he looked at the broken podium, then looked back at the group. He stood up straight, took a few deep breaths, and then said, "I bent over with the other bag still in my arm, and picked up my keys." He looked at his right hand as if his keys were still there, between his forefinger and thumb. "I reached for the ice cream, and my thumb... mashed the button for the chain gun." A couple of short cries went up from the group.

***

In the room, Time Phantom was doubled over against his legs, face buried in his hands. Breathy sobs were all that broke the silence.

***

"They were cut down in an instant." The room was silent. John rolled his lips between his teeth as he thought of what happened next.

"I lost it...Wartime...had to...chase me through time..."

"I lost it. I went back and tried to save them. Over, and over, and over again. I created so many divergent timelines trying to keep them from dying; I screwed up history so bad; that Wartime- frickin' Wartime- had to get a group of heroes together and chase me through time to stop me and fix history. And they did. Which meant that I didn't get to save Rollergirl and my daughter," he said with a hollow stare towards the back of the room.

"With Wartime's help, they held me in one time, and I went to rehab for real. I've been clean ever since, and have dedicated what's left of my life to honoring the memory of my wife and daughter- being the hero I should have been all along." There was brief applause for that, but John waved it down.

"This past Sunday was the anniversary of their deaths, and like always, I traveled back in time to see them. I always go to a time when they're at the playground, so I can see them from afar without them seeing me." He swallowed hard as he remembered them.

"And then I saw her, but not quite her..."

"Only this time, something happened. Something interfered. And rather than going to another time, I went to another universe. Maybe one of those I created when I screwed up history- I don't know- maybe Wartime didn't fix everything. But what did I see? A younger, dumber version of me, making all the same mistakes." John shook his head sadly.

"And then I saw her, but not quite her- her hair wasn't dyed, and her muscle car was a different color, doing a wheelie as it flew by on the street. I helped my younger self fight Volcanono- an altered version of Viceroy Volcano- and then we went back to his house to discuss how this happened."

"Clementine!"

John shrugged kind of helplessly, and said, "I'm old. I needed to go to the bathroom, so I asked if I could use theirs. Younger me, who called himself Sky Phantom- apparently he had no problem with flying- pointed down the hall and stumbled off to the kitchen. I went down the hall, and went into the wrong room." He took a deep breath, and said, "And there she was. Her back to me. Black hair instead of blonde. And naked. My breath caught and I gasped, 'Clementine!' She looked over her shoulder at me, and I was so stunned- so shocked by her being back- being so close to me- that it threw me back across the universal divide. Back home."

***

Time Phantom looked at the interviewer off camera, and just raised his eyebrows, acknowledging the outlandishness of it all with a look.

***

"I have never wanted to get high more than that moment," said John. "So I have been at meetings every day since, just talking my head off like this. I want to go back and see her. I want to help Sky Phantom to not go down the path that I have. But mostly, I really want to get high. So for now, I'm here." His eyes searched the cracked podium for a few moments, and the room was silent. "I'm here," he said again, and then, "Thank you."

"I'm here. That's all I've got right now. I'm here."

The group applauded.

***

"I'm here," he said to the interviewer. "That's all I've got right now." He took a drag on his cigarette, and nodded. "I'm here."

Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: CCC #47.
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Time Share: The Time Phantom Interview, Part 2

RANKED 1st BY VOTERS IN CHARACTER CREATION CONTEST #47!

DateTime Share: The Time Phantom InterviewViewRead the...
01/20/17Part 2(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer

This story was inspired by the beautiful paintings of Andreas Englund, shown throughout.

RatingRating ExplanationLast Issue:
MMild cursing, talk about drug use and addiction, lying, violence.Part 1
"That picture of me and The Three Kings...?"

"It was okay for awhile. Like any addict, I learned to hide it, and lie about it... for awhile. Of course it got out of hand though. That picture of me and The Three Kings that you see everywhere? I was flying way higher than any of us in that picture that day. Almost took out the chase plane in my stupor. That's why I'm so close in the shot, and why none of the pictures I took with the camera I was holding were very good."

***

Sitting in the chair, lighting a new cigarette with the old one, Time Phantom takes a puff to get it going and then laughs. "Yeah, one of the greatest moments in my life, flying with my idols and those beautiful planes of theirs, and I did it through a drugged out haze. What a freakin' idiot," he says with a dismissive wave.

***

"...caught me...trying to hide a stash..."

The room is silent, listening intently to John at the podium. "This went on for a couple of years. I remember Bump In The Night yelling at me that I was 'out of control' at one point. You'd think that when of my villains is telling me that, I would get a clue, but no. I beat him senseless and kept right on with what I was doing."

He took a deep breath and a swallow of water, and continues, "Towards the end, a news crew caught me on film trying to hide a stash of pills in my shorts at a drug raid," he said, snapping the waistband of his shorts with his thumb. "I'm sure you've all seen that at some point. The cops didn't know what to do- they couldn't hold me. One of them spoke up though, and I blew him off and flew away. All of that was on film of course, and Clementine was not happy when I got home. I'd rather go toe-to-toe with Viceroy Volcano than my angry wife," he said, getting a chuckle from the group.

"I'd time travel...lift his stash again..."

"We had a big blowout argument that ended with me at a press conference issuing a public apology, and entering rehab for the first time. That didn't do much. A detoxing superhero that can bench press loaded semis and toss people across town doesn't inspire a rehab staff to try to corral you when you want to go off the rails. They couldn't anyway. I'd time travel at night, going back to a point where I'd busted some dealer, lift his stash again, and come back to my room higher than the national debt. No telling how many divergent timelines I caused with those trips.

"They finally 'passed' me, rubber stamping me out of their hair and making me someone else's problem." He drinks some more water, and pauses.

"I didn't want to deal with Clem' again, but I didn't want to lose her either, so I got a lot better at hiding it. When I couldn't, I'd call her and tell her I was going on a mission in space with Jumping Jupiter, or that I had to chase Wartime across centuries, or that I was in China with Red Panda." A few whistles went up at the mention of the Chinese heroine. "Yeah, not one of the better things I could have told my wife," he admitted, which was followed by more laughter from the group. "But I'd tell her whatever, just so I could get away and get high. Most of the time, I was parked across town in a vacant lot near the docks, passed out in my car with more pills in my system than a pharmacy. Probably would have been asleep with needles in my arm if they could penetrate my skin. Don't think I didn't try."

***

In the private interview, Time Phantom laughed guiltily. "Yeah, I tried it once. When it didn't work, I went and demanded my money back from the dealer, and whatever he had in pills or blow. He gave it up without a fight. I think he was scared I was going to rip him in half. My drugged out ass at the time- he's probably lucky I didn't."

***

"When I was in my better moments," said John, making eye contact with the group, "I was fighting crime and taking down villains. Maybe a little rougher than necessary; I wasn't at my best.

"I had a CB in the car with a guarded frequency, and Clementine would call me on it with the typical housewife stuff." Going a little softer and high pitched to imitate his wife, he said, "'Don't forget to pick up the dry cleaning.' Or 'Can you pick up some milk on your way home?' Or 'Don't forget the mayor is giving you the key to the city at two.' That kind of stuff," he said with a vague backhanded swat at the air.

"She knew my secret..."

"We had this thing on busy days like that. She'd ask me to pick something up from the store, and then take our daughter to the playground next to the store. I'd get glimpses of them as I went in and out, they'd see me briefly before I got home, and of course little Clementine got to play. She knew my secret, and liked to see me in my costume whenever she could. Two birds with one stone, you know?"

***

In his chair, Time Phantom swallowed hard and turned his head from the camera- wiping his eyes with his fingers.

***

Next Issue: Time Share: The Time Phantom Interview, Part 3.-
Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: CCC #47.
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Time Share: The Time Phantom Interview, Part 1

RANKED 1st BY VOTERS IN CHARACTER CREATION CONTEST #47!

DateTime Share: The Time Phantom InterviewViewRead the...
01/20/17Part 1(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer

This story was inspired by the beautiful paintings of Andreas Englund, shown throughout.

RatingRating Explanation
MMild cursing, talk about drug use and addiction.

Cameras aren't usually allowed at these meetings, so we've obscured the faces of those in attendance. An old man in a sky blue costume with a white skull emblazoned on the chest approaches the podium. The brown leather boots, briefs, and gun belt finish the costume, complete with the sidearm, which doesn't seem to make anyone uncomfortable.

"My wife came back from the dead. Sort of."

He seems to steady himself by holding onto the podium, and looks at the group only a moment before saying, "Hi. My name is John Phantom, and I'm an addict."

"Hi, John," responds the group of about twenty people.

"I've been clean for thirty-five years, four months, and..." he stops to figure. "And nineteen days." The group applauds his accomplishment. "This past week has been an especially bad one." His head drops mournfully, followed by his eyes closing, and his lips drawing in as he remembers his pain. "My wife came back from the dead," he says to audible gasps from the group. "Sort of," he adds as he looks at the ceiling.

***

No Caption Provided

The scene switches to a private room where the old man sits at a table, still in costume, and smoking a cigarette. "No, my real name's not 'John Phantom.' Don't be ridiculous! My sponsor said that attending as 'Time Phantom' was 'hiding from who I was,' but I couldn't reveal my real name due to my enemies. Plus the group kind of felt silly saying, 'Hi, Time Phantom,' every time I spoke. So 'John Phantom' was the compromise. My identity is protected, and they get to not feel silly." The old hero shrugs. "What the hell? We all did some stupid, embarrassing sh[eep]t while we were using. What's 'John Phantom' between anonymous friends?" he chuckles ruefully. Then he takes a long drag on his cigarette, savors it, and blows it out through his nostrils while still looking at the interviewer off camera. "You know I hardly even touch these things anymore either?" he asks, then looks at the cigarette. "But like I said, it's been a bad week."

***

The camera switches back to the meeting where "John's" story continues. "I became the Time Phantom when I was eighteen. It's a legacy that goes back a little over two thousand years. 'The Ghost Who Walks Through Time' they call me, and it came with a long list of enemies trying to kill me... or kill me 'again,' in some cases. The 'immortal hero' story was easier to keep going before cameras and video." The group laughs lightly, and John smiles with them. "At any rate, I am one in a very long line of Time Phantoms, but all those crazy bast[eep]s wanting me dead just for continuing a costumed tradition? It was a lot for a stupid teenager like me. That... and the flying," he says with a shrug and an eyeroll.

"Sure... the girls. All of that was nice..."

"Who'd believe it, right? A hero that can fly, but is afraid of heights." The group laughed again. "Sure, the time travel, the other powers, the fame... and the girls," he says, pursing his lips at what is clearly a fond memory. "All of that was nice," he says with a nod, "but man, I hated flying. So whenever I could avoid it, I did. That's why I had the car," he says with a little gusto. Then his eyes go haunted as he looks at nothing in particular in the room, and somewhat weakly, he says, "That damned stupid car."

***

Back in the private room, the hero is still smoking. He says, "Oh, I loved that car.... then. If it hadn't been for that car, I might have never met her," he says with an endearing smile. Then his eyes go just as haunted as in the meeting, he takes a quick puff on the cigarette, and quietly adds, "Maybe that would have been for the best."

***

"Rollergirl was amazing. Pure beauty..."

At the podium, John says, "Rollergirl was amazing. Pure beauty from her dyed blonde hair to the wheels on her skates. From that first time I caught her when she she was knocked off her feet by The Hitman, I knew that I had to be with her. She wasn't as impressed with me, but luckily, I had the car. She loved muscle cars- that's how she got around when she wasn't on skates- and my car had more muscle than any other out there."

Life showed back in his eyes as he described it. "Motoronium engine with nitrosium fuel cells. Flight and submersible capabilities. A loud, guttural roar when I put my foot in the gas. Badass chain guns that folded out of the sides when I needed the firepower. And a sweet, cherry paint job." He smiled a little as he remembered it. "We went on many a date in that car, and even raced each other when we had the time. We married eventually, and it wasn't long before our angel was on her way. We named her Clementine, just like her mom." Pride shown on his face, and there was a little twinkle in his eye that may have been a tear.

***

At the table, the tears were more obvious. He said nothing, staring at the wall as he recalled his losses.

***

"So I started using to calm my nerves..."

"Rollergirl retired when she had our little girl, and I was all for it, but I kept in the fight. Twenty-one years old, trying to balance saving the world, being married with a kid, not liking to fly, and supervillains trying to kill me. So I started using to calm my nerves- took my first hit from some pills I took off a dealer I busted. I figured I was super strong and invulnerable- it wouldn't bother me, right? I just needed to take the edge off." He shakes his head ruefully at the thought.

Next Issue: Time Share: The Time Phantom Interview, Part 2.-
Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: CCC #47.
2 Comments

Would U Buy It #96: "Jericho vs. The H.I.V.E."

DateWUBI # 96:View:Attached to Forum:Back/ Next
01/15/17Jericho vs. The H.I.VE.(Blog) (Forum)Teen Titans Spotlight(Back) (Next)

We all have trade paperback (TPB) collections we'd like to see. Here's one of mine:

Proposed Title:Jericho vs. The H.I.V.E.
Alternate Titles:
  • Teen Titans Spotlight: Jericho vs. The H.I.V.E.
  • Teen Titans Spotlight: Jericho
  • Jericho: The Past is Prologue
  • Jericho: Inside Threat!
Collecting 4 Issues:
  • Teen Titans Spotlight #3-6.
Covers: (click to enlarge)
Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3Gallery image 4Gallery image 5Gallery image 6Gallery image 7Gallery image 8Gallery image 9Gallery image 10
TPB Cover: Teen Titans Spotlight #5.
TPB Cover: Teen Titans Spotlight #5.

Okay, so I've been blowing up your notifications all day with lists related to decades of Teen Titans titles. I even lost one follower while doing all that (sorry, dude, but I gotta be me). It was while doing those lists that I ran across this possible gem:

With Crisis on Infinite Earths a firm six months in the rearview mirror, DC decided to roll out Teen Titans Spotlight- a title for solo stories of the members of the Teen Titans. Over it's twenty-one issue run, twelve Titans got the spotlight, and the Silver Age team was featured in the final issue.

None received a brighter spotlight than Jericho- the mute, body-jumping future villain in the oddest super suit since Vartox of Valeron...okay, maybe not that bad. Regardless of the suit, when I was a kid, I really dug his power for some reason. Jumping from body-to-body by making eye contact, and controlling them? Cool! I thought about it so much I even dreamed of having his power.

Marv Wolfman must have put right much thought into him as well, because Starfire only received a two-issue arc to kick off the series, and a one-issue story later. Hawk received a two-issue arc. Cyborg and Aqualad both appeared twice in the series, with everyone else appearing only once. But Jericho? Jericho received a full four-issue arc! Four issues! That's a freakin' mini-series!

So what's it about? It's a tale as old as time itself: an old flame blows into town, with an international terrorist organization bent on world domination hot on her heels! Is everything as it seems though? Our boy Joey will have to fight H.I.V.E. to find out for sure! ...Come on, that's at least a third of all of the action hero movies you've ever watched! You want to read this. You have to read this! You must let DC know that you need to read this!

For the alternate titles, the TTS variations are self explanatory. For "The Past is Prologue" and "Inside Threat!," those are titles of two of the issues in the story arc. The other two are "Amsterdam Attack" and "Conflagration," but those didn't sound like good book titles to me.

For the cover, my pick is Teen Titans Spotlight #5- a picture of Joey going all phantom and jumping towards the reader (which is what happens when he uses his powers). That cover has always stuck out to me as the definitive picture of Jericho. But okay, my cover picks aren't always the best, and admittedly, there's nothing else going on in that picture- nothing to tell you about the story. I don't care, but DC would actually have to sell the book, so they might choose TTS #4 instead. It shows the old flame holding onto our hero's leg, a bunch of guns pointing their way, and one peeved-looking Jericho! If they did go with TTS #4, then TTS #5 should be either the back cover, or one of those first or last page pics that sometimes show up in collections. Either way, they're potentially great covers for a great story!

Would you buy it? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.
2 Comments

CCC #56 - Voting Thread

No Caption Provided

Okay, peeps! Stumpy49er had to brave the snow for work today, and took me up on the offer to do the voting thread since I am slightly snowbound (still have to make it to work tomorrow <grumblegripemoan>). So here we go...

This time around the challenge was to make two original characters for the Masters of the Universe mythos- one on the good side, and one on the bad side!

We had three contestants this time around, so six new characters for your reading pleasure! Read 'em, vote for one of 'em, and here are the voting rules:

Voting rules:
  • Read the stories, pick your favorite one, and cast your vote.
  • If you wrote, you should vote.
  • No voting for yourself- it's just sporting.
  • Deadline is January 22nd @11:59PM, California time (Google search "ca time" if you're not sure).

Happy reading!

Batkevin74 - Cat-A-Polt & Khagan

In the history of Mattel Toys, there has been nothing quite like the phenomena that was He-Man. Roger Sweet, along with designers Mark Taylor and Jill Barad, cobbled together some Big Jim figures with some modelling clay and laid out a trio of them for CEO Ray Wagner at the Mattel Product Conference in 1980. Ray liked the barbarian one and the rest is history.

Toys were made. The public loved them. Then Filmation approached Mattel with a pitch to produce cartoons. In 1987 they made a movie with Dolph Lundgren. By 1989 there were 47 separate heroes and villains, along with the 41 figures from the She-Ra range of toys.

But not all ideas made it off the drawing board. This is the tale of Garrett Silverman.

Garrett worked for Mattel, from 1977 up until his death, in their finance and accounting department. He and his wife, Maria Silverman (née Gomez), lived in Santa Ana along with their autistic son, Alexander.

In 1984 Mattel held a national contest, ‘Be A Master Of Our Universe’ [1]. The premise was to create a hero and a villain and the winner’s entry would be animated into the show, a limited edition action figure made and also a $2000 cash prize.

Garrett knew he wasn’t allowed to enter, but decided to submit an entry under his son’s name as the money, if he won, would go a long way towards helping Alexander’s ongoing medical expenses.

Garrett’s hero was along the lines of the human/creature mash named Cat-A-Polt. A catman cross siege weapon who was a soldier in the Eternian army. An older hero, like Man-At-Arms, the two were old comrades and Cat-A-Polt’s armour design was a similar colour scheme. Cat’s left hand was a large scoop that hurled rocks at his enemies. Garrett even wrote notes about the fictional conflicts he and Man-At-Arms had been in together along with an extensive backstory of the cat people race who lived in the regions that would later (2002) be assigned to King Hiss and the Snake Men.

Garrett villain delved into the largely untapped family tree of Prince Adam. Nothing had been written about them, so, using the British Royal family as a base, he expanded the Eternian royal family.

No Caption Provided

He gave King Miro a brother; Prince Melkor. Melkor WAS to be next in line but when Miro married Helvanna, also created by Garrett, he was pushed further down the line of succession. Melkor slowly moved from unhappy with his brother to outright hatred when Crown Prince Randor was born.

It was around this time that Melkor took Miro out on a hunt and the pair never returned which left the kingdom in utter chaos, known as ‘The Great Turmoil’ period’ [2]. Randor was raised by his mother, and a series of advisors and regents held the throne until Randor came of age. What really happened to the pair was never elaborated.

Melkor’s daughter, Alexa, grew up despising her younger cousin since her father had spent countless nights berating her with tales of how ungrateful, unworthy and useless his brother and kin were. Alexa had eyes on the throne but being a woman she could never take the throne by herself. She married a pliable noble and produced a strong boy named Khagan, Prince Adam’s 2nd cousin. Khagan would be a villain to Prince Adam and the Eternian throne, a step away from the constant Skeletor attacks Castle Greyskull every week.

And since Garrett worked in the building, he made sure Alexander’s entry was delivered right to CEO Ray Wagner’s desk when Ray is in a pliable mood, namely three thirty on a Friday afternoon which Ray called Scotch-o-clock. Alexander’s entry was nearly declared the winner there and then but Mr Wagner’s secretary (citation needed) reminded him that the contest hadn’t finished yet.

In August, the four finalists had been notified and Garrett was feeling uncomfortable since Alexander’s entry was one of them. Garrett scheduled an appointment with Mr Wagner under the pretence of falling share prices and in the meeting confessed his deception. It was during his confession that Garrett Silverman had a heart attack and died in Mr Wagner’s office, there was speculation that Wagner fired him which triggered the attack (citation needed)

Alexander Silverman’s entry didn’t win, that honour went to 9yr old Campbell Stott of Colorado Springs, but it was saved along with the other entries and unearthed for the book Mastering the Universe: He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion-Dollar Idea by Roger Sweet.

Garrett Silverman is buried at Santa Ana Cemetery. His widow Maria still lives in their home, though their son Alexander lives full time in facility that specifically caters for those with special needs.

Stumpy49er - Dolph Intelligencer & Full Metal Yellowjacket

He-Man and The Masters Of The Universe

Lost Episode #56- Enter the Equalizer

Eternia

The heroic warrior Buzz-Off flew over the coastal village of Broke Bottle. There had been reports of raids on the village by Skeletor's forces. The bee man landed on the roof of the lighthouse and scanned the area. The beach and the village were deserted.

No Caption Provided

He radio'd in to his closest ally. "Mekaneck. This is Buzz-Off. Over."

"I hear you and see you." Mekaneck replied. He was outside the village on a small plateau, his neck extended up fifty feet in the air and his binocular goggles pointed at the village.

"You probably see as much of this as me. The village is empty. The buildings look fine but the people have disappeared." Buzz-Off replied.

"The village isn't completely empty." Mekaneck responded. "Tri-Klops and Trap Jaw are in the mayor's building, which is right next to that lighthouse. They're searching for something. Also, there are two figures walking out of the water on the beach behind you. It looks like Mer-Man and Clawful. I'm going to alert Man-At-Arms. You'll need backup. Stay put and steer clear of the mayor's building for now. Tri-Klops can see through walls. You don't want to alert him."

"Too late. I see him." Buzz-Off replied. "He's looking at me right now and he's on his communicator."

"Get out of there Buzz-Off," Mekaneck ordered. "You're outnumbered."

"So what?" Buzz-Off replied as he flew up into the air above the mayor's building. "Everyone knows Skeletor's Evil Warriors don't have any fliers like me or Stratos. They can't catch me."

"Watch out!" Mekaneck yelled. "There's something behind you."

Buzz-Off turned in the air as someone flew up towards him. He breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the figure was a fellow Andreenid, or Bee Person, like himself.

He didn't recognize the Andreenid, who was wearing a black and yellow balaclava over his face. He wore black and yellow spiked, metal armor and carried a rare, outlawed, Andreenid M60 machine gun which shoots tranquilizer stingers.

"Bzzt. I don't recognize you, friend," Buzz-Off greeted the newcomer. "What clan do you hail from? Bzzt."

"Bzzt. No clan of yours, traitor," the newcomer spoke in a dark voice. "You can call me Full Metal Yellowjacket and I am not your friend. Bzzt."

Buzz-Off felt the manipulation of Skeletor on him. "Bzzt. An Andreenid joining forces with Skeletor?" he asked. "Are you insane? Bzzt."

"Bzzt. I joined forces to take you down, traitor." Full Metal Yellowjacket retorted. "You joined with He-Man and his Heroic Warriors. Humans! They are beneath us and they are a danger to Andreenids. They must be wiped from the face of Eternia. Skeletor will enslave the humans and Andreenid's will be their masters. Bzzt."

"Bzzt. You are a fool," Buzz-Off countered. "Skeletor will enslave humans and Andreenids alike. He is the true danger to our kind. Bzzt."

Full Metal Yellowjacket pulls up his M60, points it at Buzz-Off and begins firing at him. Buzz-Off deflects the stingers with his axe-staff, points it at Full Metal Yellowjacket and fires a yellow energy beam at him, which bounces off his thick armor.

No Caption Provided

Buzz-Off dives down and flies towards the mayor's building. He bursts through the window of the mayor's office, where Tri-Klops and Trap Jaw are concluding their search. He fires a yellow energy beam at Tri-Klops, who deflects it by firing a green energy beam from his visor.

No Caption Provided

Trap Jaw jumps behind Buzz-Off and swings his hooked arm at him. The Heroic Warrior swings his axe-staff around and blocks the hit, pulling with all his might he throws Trap Jaw towards the window just as Full Metal Yellowjacket begins firing stingers into it.

Trap Jaw passes out, his back full of tranquilizer stingers. A green, glowing orb rolls out of his back sack. Tri-Klops looks at the orb and dives to grab it, yelling. "The Equalizer Orb!"

Buzz-Off shoots Tri-Klops with his axe-staff, sending the Evil Warrior flying through the wall into the hallway. Buzz-Off grabs the orb and flies through the hole in the wall through the hallway.

Just then Full Metal Yellowjacket flies in through the window and chases Buzz-Off.

"Get the Equalizer Orb." Tri-Klops yells to his new team mate as he tries to stand up. "Skeletor wants it."

Buzz-Off flies downstairs and towards the front door as Full Metal Yellowjacket gives chase, shooting stingers at the Heroic Warrior. He bursts out the door and flies towards the beach, near the lighthouse. Looking down at his leg he sees a tranquilizer stinger stuck in it.

No Caption Provided

Standing on the beach in front of him is Mer-Man, the green scaled, amphibious sea tyrant, carrying a trident in his hand and a sword on his back.

"I need backup." Buzz-Off calls into his radio. A large shadow looms over him. A giant, red claw smacks him in the back of the head, knocking him out.

Clawful, the giant lobster man, stands over him. Mer-Man grabs the green Equalizer Orb.

"Good job, Clawful." Mer-Man croaks. "Skeletor will reward us for this."

Full Metal Yellowjacket flies down to the other Evil Warriors. With a flick of his wrists, blades extend from his gauntlets as he walks up to Buzz-Off's unconscious body.

"This one's mine." he states. "I'll cut his wings off as a trophy."

**

Commercial Break

Hey Kids!

Come buy the new He-Man action figure, Full Metal Yellowjacket, now at Toys-For-Cash.

Complete with stinger machine gun. And action karate chop.

Better watch out, Buzz-Off. There's a new bee in our bonnets.

Toys-For-Cash. Where a kid can scream at their parents to buy what they want.

**

The three Evil Warriors loomed over Buzz-Off's unconscious body. Full Metal Yellowjacket lifted his bladed gauntlets over the Heroic Warriors wings.

Just then a whistle sound came from the ocean as a man came flying out of the water. With a white, metallic dolphins head and a water jet pack on his back, the newcomer flew towards the Evil Warriors. He pointed a sleek, cybernetic pistol at Full Metal Yellowjacket. A thin, high pressurized stream of water burst out of the pistol and smacked Full Metal Yellowjacket in the face, who flew backwards into the wall of the lighthouse. The spikes in his armor stuck to the wall and the unconscious Andreenid hung there.

The dolphin headed man sprayed his gun at Clawful, who blocked the stream with his giant claw. Mer-Man ran away carrying the Equalizer Orb as Clawful blocked the dolphin headed man from shooting him.

No Caption Provided

"Who are you?" Clawful asked. "Why are you interfering?"

"The name's Dolph," he answered, his light blue and white uniform gleaming in the sunlight. "Dolph Intelligencer. I'm a friend of Buzz-Off's. I don't like how you treated my friend."

Clawful laughed as he snapped his claws. "That's a nice water pistol. Too bad it can't hurt me or my shell."

"Water pistol?" Dolph Intelligencer gasped. "My Wave Gun is no mere water pistol."

Dolph Intelligencer shot a wave stream at the sand under Clawful's feet. The lobster man sank down to his hip as the Heroic Warrior hit his water jet pack and launched, briefly, into the air above Clawful's head.

Dolph Intelligencer pointed his wave gun at Mer-Man just as the fish tyrant dove for the water. The wave stream struck Mer-Man in the back, launching him further into the water, the green orb falling out of his hands.

Clawful leaped out of the hole in the ground and grabbed Dolph Intelligencer by the leg, throwing him to the ground.

Clawful leered down at the Heroic Warrior, snapping his giant claw.

"We can't have a Heroic Warrior who can swim and breathe under water," Clawful said. "That's me and Mer-Man's territory. Time to see if that metal dolphin head is just a helmut or your actual head."

Dolph Intelligencer smiled up at Clawful. "I told you that Buzz-Off was my friend, right? Well, crabmeat, Buzz-Off is not my only friend."

"By The Power Of Greyskull."

No Caption Provided

A booming voice rang out above them.

Clawful's sneer turned to a frown as he looked up to the top of the lighthouse to see a huge, muscular man holding the Power Sword to the sky.

"I Have The POWER!!!"

He-Man jumped from the lighthouse down to the beach, swinging the Power Sword into the ground as he landed.

The shockwave hit Clawful, sending the brute flying backwards.

He-Man ran up to Dolph Intelligencer, helping him up.

"I need to get to that orb before Mer-Man wakes up." he said to He-Man, pointing to the spot where Mer-Man dropped the orb.

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A purple energy bolt hit the ground at He-Man's feet. He looked up to see his arch-nemesis standing atop the mayor's building, holding his Havoc Staff and surrounded by his Evil Warriors; Evil-Lyn, Beast Man, Tri-Klops, Kobra Kahn, Whiplash, Two Bad, Spikor, Webstor and Stinkor.

"He-Man!" Skeletor yelled. "Always interfering with my plans. You will pay for this. Attack my Evil Warriors. Bring me the Equalizer Orb."

"Get me to that orb." Dolph Intelligencer yelled.

He-Man grabbed Dolph Intelligencer and threw him into the water where Mer-Man dropped the orb. He dived down deep in search of the magical artifact.

He could see the green glowing orb at the bottom of the ocean. He did not see the sword wielding Mer-Man swimming behind him.

Meanwhile, on the beach, the battle began. Skeletor, Evil-Lyn and Tri-Klops stood atop the mayor's building shooting energy blasts at He-Man, while Kobra Kahn, Beast Man, Whiplash, Spikor, Two Bad, Webstor and Stinkor all jumped down to battle him.

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Spikor dove straight at He-Man from the top of the building, extending his trident arm straight at the defender of Eternia's chest.

He-Man blocked the trident with the Power Sword, jumped into the air towards Spikor and punched him in the one place where spikes weren't extending from his body. His face.

Spikor flew into the wall of the lighthouse, getting stuck right next to Full Metal Yellowjacket.

As he landed, He-Man was met by Whiplash's tail, knocking him to the ground. He tried all he could to block the energy blasts coming from Skeletor, Evil-Lyn and Tri-Klops, while also dodging Kobra Kahn's poison spit and avoiding Webstor's webs blasts. There were just too many of them.

**

Commercial Break

Hey kids, come buy the newest Heroic Warrior action figure, Dolph Intelligencer, now available at Toys-For-Cash.

Comes with his own Wave Gun and water jet pack. Just fill up the jet pack and spray your friends with the Wave Gun.

Better watch out Mer-Man and all you underwater evil dwellers. This secret agent spy dives down deep.

Toys-For-Cash! Where a kid can cry in the middle of the store until their parents get them what they want.

**

He-Man is doing all he can to avoid the onslaught from his many foes.

Just then, the lighthouse wall holding up Full Metal Yellowjacket and Spikor bursts outward. Kobra Kahn and Webstor dodge the debris, Whiplash however was too slow as Spikor flew on top of him. His scaly skin barely protecting him from being impaled to death.

No Caption Provided

Standing inside the hole in the wall is Ram Man. "Somebody call fer backup?" Ram man joked.

Man-At-Arms, Teela, Mekaneck, Man-E-Faces, Roboto and Sy-Klone came running out of the hole in the wall created by Ram Man.

Teela jump kicked Kobra Kahn, while Mekaneck extended his head to knock Webstor off the side of the wall. Man-E-Faces shot at Two Bad while Beast Man jumped on top of Roboto, slashing the robot's helmet only to get electrocuted. Sy-Klone used his wind powers to blow Stinkor's fumes back into his face.

Man-At-Arms shot energy blasts up at Skeletor.

Evil-Lyn and Tri-Klops both aimed their weapons at Man-At-Arms ready to blast him.

Stratos, the bird man, came flying up behind them, tackling them both off the roof of the mayor's building.

Evil-Lyn floated to the ground while Stratos brought Tri-Klops crashing to the ground.

With a mighty leap, He-Man jumped up onto the roof of the mayor's building, facing off against Skeletor.

"Your side is losing, Skeletor." He-Man declared.

"Once I have the Equalizer Orb, I will destroy you, He-Man." Skeletor counters. "I have my best warrior on the job."

Just then Dolph Intelligencer came bursting out of the water, the Equalizer Orb in one hand and Mer-Man's unconscious body slumped over his shoulder.

He throws Mer-Man's body to the sandy beach below and holds up the green orb for Skeletor to see.

"Looking for this?" Dolph Intelligencer asks as he points his Wave Gun at it. "Seems fragile."

"No!" Skeletor yells. "You don't know what that'll do."

"Destroy it," yells Man-At-Arms. "Don't trust Skeletor. That thing made the villagers disappear."

Just then a spider web attaches itself to the orb. Webstor pulls the orb out of Dolph Intelligencer's hands, while Kobra Kahn spits a wad of poison at his face. Dolph Intelligencer dives in the water to wash the poison off.

Webstor grabs the orb, just before Teela jump kicks it out of his hand. The orb lands on the ground next to Buzz-Off's body, lying on the beach.

Several Evil Warriors and Heroic Warriors converge on the orb at once.

No Caption Provided

A purple ring of energy bursts out of Evil-Lyn's staff, pushing the other warriors away. "The orb is mine." Evil-Lyn laughs as she strolls towards the orb. "I shall rule Eternia."

"Evil-Lyn!" Skeletor yells. "You give that orb to me."

Just then an axe-staff smashes down on the orb, splitting it into two. Buzz-Off looks up from the ground, holding the axe-staff.

"Time to Buzz-Off, Skeletor." The Heroic Andreenid quips.

A green light surrounds the town as the villagers return.

Skeletor and his Evil Warriors glow a green energy as they disappear.

"I'll get you for this, He-Man," he yells as he disappears. "And your Heroic Warriors too."

He-Man jumps down to Buzz-Off and helps his friend up. "Good job, friend."

He looks around at his Heroic Warriors. Dolph Intelligencer crawls out of the water, the poison washed from his face, Teela helps him up.

"Good job all of you. We couldn't have done it alone. You are all, Masters of the Universe."

The villagers all gathered round the Heroic Warriors to thank each of them.

**

Moral

"Hey kids, it's me Orko and my pal Cringer." Orko floated in the air, twirling his magic hat.

"Yowl! That was a scary ordeal." Cringer cried, throwing his paws over his head.

"It sure was," Orko replied. "Buzz-Off, Dolph Intelligencer and He-Man wouldn't have made it out of that ordeal without teamwork. With the help of each other and the rest of the Heroic Warriors, they might not have prevailed."

"Yowl!" Cringer replied. "You're right. Teamwork is great thing, right Prince Adam?"

"That's right, Cringer!" Prince Adam said as he pointed the Power Sword at Cringer. "Speaking of teamwork, Man-At-Arms, Teela and The Sorceress need our help."

"Uh-oh!" Cringer exclaimed. "Here we go again."

"By The Power Of Greyskull."

Cringer transformed into the ferocious Battle Cat with a great growl, as Prince Adam turns into He-Man, defender of Eternia.

"I Have The POWER!!!"

**

End

No Caption Provided

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Cbishop - Elephant Man & Rhino Man

Snake Mountain

Skeletor's gleeful cackle can be heard throughout the spartan mountain. Only Evil-Lyn dared to enter his chamber to see what the commotion was about. Although once she entered, Beast Man followed fearfully behind. "What has you so happy, Lord Skeletor?" asked the sorceress.

"Evil-Lyn! Beast Man!" shouted Skeletor. "Observe my latest creation! My latest warrior! My Rhino Man! Bwah-ha-ha-ha-haaa!"

Upon the announcement, Rhino Man turned from the window, assumed a stance as if about to leap, and roared. His eyes were a deep yellow, his skin was a dark gray, and the horns at the end of his nose were made of a gleaming metal, pointed on the ends and fearsome to behold. He roared again, and charged across the room towards a five foot stone column with a bust of He-Man on the top. He plowed into it, and stone and rubble flew in ever direction. He roared again and charged in the other direction, taking out an identical pillar with a bust of Teela on top. Then one with Orko, then Man-At-Arms, and still others as Evil-Lyn and Beast Man looked on in amazement.

With every hit, Skeletor shook his fists in the air triumphantly and laughed with evil glee. "That muscelebound fool, He-Man, won't know what hit him!" Snake Mountain echoed with his laughter.

The Eternian Plains

"I don't get it, Lord Skeletor," said Beast Man. "Now that you have Rhino Man, what do we want these guys for? They're just a buncha wild Elephant Men. Their horns aren't covered in metal or nothin'!" he said with confusion.

"They're tusks, you fool!" answered Skeletor, "and that's not why we need them! While Rhino Man is destroying He-Man, you will all herd these Elephant Men towards Castle Grayskull. It will be destroyed by a stampede of these creatures rampaging through its walls, and at last, I will be able to defeat the Sorceress, and cut off the source of He-Man's power." Skeletor laughed and said, "At last, victory will be mine!"

"Good plan, Skeletor," said Beast Man.

The evil lord glared at Beast Man and snapped, "So get moving, you fool!"

"Yah!" shouted Beast-Man. "Get moving, you animals! To Castle Grayskull!" He roared, and was followed by Tri-Klops, Whiplash, and Ninjor, herding the Elephant Men in the direction of Grayskull.

"Do you think this will work?" asked Evil-Lyn, as she used her magic to levitate towards Skeletor.

"Of course it will work!" barked Skeletor. "This plan cannot fail!" he shouted angrily.

"Of course," agreed Evil-Lyn.

The Grounds Behind Castle Grayskull

Prince Adam and Cringer were out for a run, exploring the grounds behind the Castle. They tended to change, and Prince Adam liked to keep apprised of new developments. "Ha ha! Come on Cringer, you big 'fraidy cat! We'd be done by now if you didn't keep lagging behind," Adam called good naturedly.

"Ohhh," moaned Cringer. "Perhaps my 'lagging' has kept us out of trouble, Prince Adam. Did you ever think of that?" he asked with a shiver.

Adam looked at his friend dubiously. "Any excuse to linger, eh Cringer? You should--" Adam stopped short, because the ground began to quake beneath them. "What's that?" he said excitedly.

"Let's not stick around to find out!" cried Cringer. "Let's get back inside the Castle, Adam!"

"It's getting louder," said Adam. "It sounds like it's coming right for us. Come on, Cringer! Let's check it out," he called, and started running towards the front of the Castle.

"Ohhh dearrr, I was afraid you were going to say that," complained Cringer, but sprang after the Prince anyway.

The Front of Castle Grayskull

As he caught up to Prince Adam, Cringer saw him staring off into the distance. As he gazed in that direction, he saw a dust cloud that was steadily getting bigger, and causing the ground to shake more and more as they got closer. It seemed to be figures running towards them, and they were making a great commotion as they came. "Wh-what's that?" asked Cringer.

"Trouble," said Prince Adam, and without another word, he drew the sword that rested against his back. Hoisting it above his head, straight into the air, he shouted, "BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!" Lightning crackled, thunder followed, and his voice thundered with it, "I HAVE THE POWERRRR!"

Instantly, he was transformed into the mighty He-Man, and without hesitation, he pointed it towards Cringer, who cowered momentarily before being changed into the fearsome Battle Cat! He roared mightily, and leapt to He-Man's side. He-Man mounted the saddle that Battle Cat wore, and they charged towards the cloud.

As the heroes got closer, they could see those at the front of the cloud. They were mostly a light gray with the bodies of men, heads like elephants, and their tusks made them seem fierce. They looked strong, were running towards them with great speed, and heralding their imminent arrival by trumpeting from their long noses. All except one who was in the lead. He was an albino white. As they got closer to Castle Grayskull, the white Elephant Man slowed, and the stampeding gray Elephant Men slowed with him. It was then that He-Man and Battle Cat could see the Evil Warriors behind them.

"Look, Battle Cat! It's Beast Man and Whiplash!" said He-Man.

"And Tri-Klops and Ninjor!" added Battle Cat.

"Then whatever this is, it can't be good," said He-Man with a scowl. "We'd better stop this now!" and Battle Cat bounded towards the Elephant Men and the Evil Warriors.

They hadn't gone far when they heard a roar, and were hit from the side, knocking He-Man from Battle Cat's saddle. "You've got your own problems to worry about, He-Man!" grumbled Rhino Man. Battle Cat growled loudly, and leapt at the attacker with a roar. The Evil Warrior simply flung his head around towards the great green-and-orange cat, and batted him aside with his horn. "You can't stop Rhino Man by yourself, kitty cat!"

"He's not by himself," came the voice of He-Man from behind him.

Rhino Man turned with a "Huh?" just in time to see He-Man's fist coming towards his face. It connected, and Rhino Man went flying backwards.

"He-Man! We've got to stop Rhino Man before those Elephant Men reach Castle Grayskull," growled Battle Cat.

"And we have to do it fast," agreed He-Man, and ran towards Rhino Man, who was getting up.

Further out from the Castle, Tri-Klops pointed and said, "Look, Beast Man! It's He-Man and Battle Cat!"

Beast Man growled, and said, "I can see that, you dimwit! Rhino Man will take care of him! We have to get these beasts moving again!"

Whiplash stepped forward and said, "Then that's what we're going to do!" The aligator man swished his great tail forward and snapped it at the elephantine creatures. "Get moving you stupid animals! Yah!"

Some of the Elephant Men began moving forward again, but Whiplash's tail struck towards the albino Elephant Man, and he caught the tail in his mighty hand. "No," he said. "I am not an animal! I am...a man!" As he jerked Whiplash forward by the tail, and punched him back again, he declared, "An Elephant Man!"

"Tri-Klops! Ninjor! Get him! And get them moving again!" Beast Man roared.

Tri-Klops' visor spun around, coming to rest with his blaster eye facing front. He let his gammavision loose, and blasted one of the Elephant Men. Unexpectedly, the gray Elephant Man disappeared, and the white Elephant Man got a little bigger.

"What?" gasped Tri-Klops.

Then, one by one, the gray Elephant Men disappeared in flashes of light, and the white Elephant Man grew bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until finally, he was nearly as big as Castle Grayskull itself! Beast Man, Tri-Klops, Ninjor, and Whiplash looked on in horror.

"You wanted me to move, little men?" said the now gigantic Elephant Man. "Then I will move!" Before any of them could react, he reached one giant hand towards them, and scooped them all up. Then he strode towards Castle Grayskull.

Elephant Man's change had not gone unnoticed by He-Man, Battle Cat and Rhino Man. They had stopped mid-fight to see him change into the giant before them. They were still staring in awe when he began to come towards them.

"That is one big problem," growled Battle Cat.

"He's magnificent," He-Man said with admiration.

"He's mine!" shouted Rhino Man, and he charged towards the gigantic Elephant Man.

Elephant Man saw the Evil Warrior running towards him, and did not stop. He smiled, and when Rhino Man was in range, he kicked him, sending him sailing over the heads of He-Man and Battle Cat, and crashing into the wall of Castle Grayskull where he bounced roughly, falling to the ground.

He-Man and Battle Cat observed this, and then turned towards Elephant Man as he got closer. In just a few more steps, he was on top of them. He looked down at them, and said, "I think these men have had enough," he said, dropping the four Evil Warriors in a heap on top of Rhino Man.

"I think you're right," agreed He-Man. "We'll have to make sure to find a way to let Skeletor know that his plan has failed."

"I think I know just the thing," chuckled Elephant Man as he scooped up the evil men. He drew his arm all the way back, and threw the five warriors in the direction of Snake Mountain. "That should let Skeletor know how things went!" He laughed a deep, thundering laugh, and then in flashes of light, he began shrinking until he stood before He-Man and Battle Cat at normal height, all of his gray Elephant Men standing with him.

Snake Mountain

"What is happening?" cried Skeletor. "I should have felt the power from Castle Grayskull by now!" he screamed.

"Perhaps Rhino Man was not enough to defeat He-Man?" asked Evil-Lyn.

"What?!" balked Skeletor. "Of course he was! Those fools should be back by now! Where are they?!" he complained.

Just then, he heard fearful yowling in the distance and it seemed to be getting closer. He looked out in that direction just in time to see his five Evil Warriors coming his way fast, all screaming through the air.

"What? You fools! Watch where you are flying! I forbid you to land here! I forb-- UGH!" he said as the five warriors flew into him and piled on him and Evil-Lyn in a heap.

"Get off of me, you dolts!" screamed Skeletor. "Do you hear? Get off of me this instant." He received only groans in return. "Get up! Get uuuuup!" he continued to scream.

"Ohhh," groaned Evil-Lyn. "You idiots."

Castle Grayskull

"They startled us at first," said Elephant Man, "but once I realized where they were herding us to, I would have no part of it. If you ever need us again, you have only to call on me, my friends," he said as he extended his hand.

He-Man clasped the hand of this new Heroic Warrior, and said, "We will, Elephant Man! You can count on it!"

Battle Cat roared in agreement, and the Elephant Men trumpeted victoriously.

Remember: Votes due by January 22nd @11:59pm California time.

Thanks for reading! -cb :^D

25 Comments

SBS #10: His Favorite Christmas Story

Stories Based on Songs #10: His Favorite Christmas Story

Hey, everyone! This contest has been kind of limping along, sparse on the entries, and it was decided a couple of contests ago that if it didn't pick up, then #10 would be the last one. Last contest, none of us submitted an entry. So here we are- one last contest. Stumpy49er told me I could pick the song for it, and I decided that since it's Christmas time, I'm going with a favorite Christmas song. It's "His Favorite Christmas Story," by Capital Lights.

This version has the lyrics, but a pretty cool college-made video by TheRescueFilms can be seen here. Check it out!

Rules are simple: base your story on the song, on some aspect of the song, or just on the title of the song, but that's the challenge. Deadline is Monday, January 2nd @11:59PM New York time (Google search "ny time" if you're not sure)- a couple of extra days just to get us past the holidays.

No word limit. Winner gets to say they won the last Stories Based on Songs contest! Thanks for playing! -cb :)

11 Comments

CCC #54 - Voting Thread

Cropped version of
Cropped version of "Halloween" by SimonWeaner on DA

It's time to vote on CCC #54! This time around, it had to be an original horror monster suitable for Halloween! You folks did not disappoint with eight entries to read this month!

Note to the contestants: I had to make up titles for a few of the stories. If you want them changed, please let me know.

Voting rules are simple:
  • Read the stories, pick your favorite one, and cast your vote.
  • If you wrote, you should vote.
  • No voting for yourself- it's just sporting.
  • Deadline is November 20th @11:59PM, New York time (Google search "ny time" if you're not sure).

Happy reading!

Batkevin74 - The Census Taker

April 1st 1960, Camp Forest Green, New Jersey

“This is the story of The Census Taker. Back in 1940, the Department of Commerce, I think its Commerce, did their decadally…”

“Decadally isn’t a word, Kevin.”

“Well what’s it called when something happens once every ten years huh, Chris? It’s not annually!”

“Just tell your boring story so I can tell mine!” Chris sneered as he stoked the fire where the six kids were camped by the shore of the lake as their parents played bridge and drank in the cabin up the hill.

“It’s not boring, it’s all true!” Kevin protested. “My dad told me about it.”

“Your dad’s a mailman, what would he know?” Beth added.

“He’s bigger than your dad!” Kevin barked, jumping to his feet.

“Is not!”

“IS TOO!”

“IS NOT!!”

“IS TOO!!!”

“IS NOT!!!”

“IS…”

“HEY!”

The camp went quiet as Mr Vine poked his head out the cabin’s back door. “If you kids don’t keep it down…!”

“Sorry Mr Vine,” came the communal apology.

“Your dad’s mean,” Kevin whispered to Josh.

“Yeah,” Josh replied glumly as he threw some twigs onto the fire. “So keep it down.”

The sextet sat quietly for a few seconds as the fire crackled when Tommy farted, bringing peals of laughter from the all.

“You stink!” Beth shrieked.

“I know,” Tommy giggling fanning the smell in her direction. “Want some more?”

“NO!” they yelled as they covered their mouths with shirts and hands to stifle the smell and their laughter.

“Okay, The Census Taker…”

“Heard it!” Chris cried. “Now there was this old ma…”

“Just let Kevin tell his story,” Jenny piped up. She was often forgotten about because she was younger and quieter than the others, and her brother Chris was so loud and boisterous.

“Thank you Jenny,” Kevin winked. “So shut up Chris okay?”

Chris rolled his eyes and scowled at his little sister who promptly stuck her tongue out.

“The Census Taker. So every ten years, the government counts everyone. They send out these guys to knock on your door and ask you questions. Then they take all that back to this big room in Washington and find out the answers.”

“Answers to what?” Josh asked.

“How old you are, how many cats you have, did you go to school…”

“Why would the government want to know how many cats I have?” Beth questioned. “That’s silly.”

Kevin shrugged. “I dunno but that’s what adults do, ask dumb questions. But this time one of their guys had a metal break down.”

“You mean mental break down.” Chris corrected.

“I said mental!”

“Did not!”

“Keep it down!” Josh warned. “Just tell the story Kevin.”

“So one of the census guys…”

“What was his name?” Chris interrupted.

“I don’t know.”

Chris rolled his thirteen-year old eyes. Kevin shook his head, pushed his glasses up his nose and continued. “He’d gone crazy from looking at all the questions. So they locked him up.”

“And he escaped and killed everyone. The end!” Chris stated. “Dumb!”

“Just shut up Chris!” Jenny snapped. “Stop being such a jerk!”

“Yeah shut up Chris!” Kevin added and was soon joined by the others. In a huff Chris kicked dirt on the fire and stomped off back to the cabin.

“Baby!” Beth yelled after him.

Tommy and Josh rekindled the fire as Kevin gave Jenny a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Okay, where was I? Oh yeah. He’s in the asylum. Ten years he’s been there losing his mind, talking to the walls when he manages to escape. And guess what he does? He goes right back to his old job?”

“Why?” Beth scratched her head.

“Because he’s crazy! He goes back to work like nothing is wrong. And nobody even notices because he looks different.”

“Different? Like a monster?” Tommy asked.

Kevin stood up, acting out his words. “No, he’s got a shaved head and he’s all skinny because they only feed you soup in the mental house. And these scars on his wrists where he tried to write the answers to all the questions with his fingers because they don’t give crazy people pencils. So every day for ten years, he’d carved up his arms like carved turkey meat.”

“GROSS!” Tommy gasped.

“So this guy gets his census stuff and gets in his car. Starts driving from town to…”

“Did they have cars in the forties?” Josh asked.

“A few.” Kevin said moving on. “So he drove around, listening to the voices in his head and he’d pull up at a house at night and go ask them questions.”

“That’s not scary,” Beth said.

“But when he asked them questions if you got one wrong…HE’D KILL YOU AND EVERYONE IN THE HOUSE!”

They all looked at Kevin and his attempt to scare them. Jemmy, his ardent supporter, looked at him. “Is that it?”

“Um, yeah.” Kevin said sheepishly.

“BOO!” They all jumped as Chris leapt from the darkness. Beth screamed, Jenny screamed, Tommy farted and Chris burst into laughter. “Ha ha ha you were all so scared.”

“Jerk!” Josh muttered.

“Told you Kevin’s story was dumb!” Chris remarked. “Now who’s ready for a real story.”

“I gonna thump you!” Kevin stated.

“Oh yeah! Try it four eyes!”

Kevin and Chris squared off, circling almost comically around the fire.

“DAD! DAD!” Josh bellowed. Quickly Kevin and Chris stopped.

“What’d you do that for?” Chris said.

“I just want to tell some ghost stories and have fun but every time, you two just start acting like jerks! I’d rather go inside.”

The kids looked up at the cabin awaiting the roaring behemoth known as Josh’s dad to thunder out and give them what for. Seconds ticked by. It turned into a minute and nothing.

“Somethings not right,” Beth said.

“I don’t like this,” Jenny echoed as she sidled up next to Beth.

“Maybe the Census Taker got them,” Kevin blurted out.

“In a holiday cabin in the woods?” Chris scoffed.

“He’s crazy y’know.”

“Let’s just go see,” Tommy said. Quietly and as a bunch they moved up the hill to the cabin. Every step made a sound that put the hairs on the back of their necks up, every awkward out of sync breath made their imaginations run wild.

“Maybe they’re asleep?” Beth suggested.

“Maybe a bear ate them,” Chris taunted. “Rowr!”

“Hope a bear eats you,” Josh mumbled.

“Did you see that!?” Tommy yelped at pointed at some shadows dancing in the window.

“Oh my god its ghosts!” Kevin whimpered.

“D…” Chris clamped his hand over Josh’s mouth.

“If there IS a bear in there eating them, don’t go yelling, it’ll come after us.”

Josh forced the hand away. “It’s not a bear.”

Again they stalked up to the cabin. The wooden steps creaked under their combined weight. Slowly they crept up and over to the window and peered in.

“OH!”

“MY!”

“GOD!”

There lying on the floor were their parents; naked and united in a group. Mr. Vine was pushing Mrs. Bishop across the floor from behind, whilst Mr. Barker and Mr. Bishop were building a human bridge with Mrs. Black. Mrs Vine and Mrs Smith were on their knees praying as Mr Goldberg held their heads. And Mr Black was pushing Mrs Goldberg over the breakfast bench.

“What are they doing?” Beth asked.

“Chris? Why is mom bouncing up and down on Kevin’s dad?” Jenny whispered.

Tommy watched as Mr Vine grabbed his mother’s hair and pulled her head back as he pushed her across the floor. “Nobody hurts my mom!” he vowed and turned, smack bang into a man standing behind them.

“Hello there,” said the rakishly thin man in a black suit with dark sunken eyes.

“W-who are you?” Kevin blurted out as the kids caught site of the man holding a briefcase who'd crept on them.

“I’m Ted.” He smiled raising his hand to tip his hat, revealing some nasty scars on his wrist. “I’m here to ask your parents some questions.”

Waezi2 - Die Toten Braut: Alles Ist Hin

Germany, 1874...

This was suppose to be the happiest day of my life, Victoria though for herself.

And now all she could do was watch as her body just lied in a hole in the dirt.

She had been so pretty. Her mother's old wedding-dress had fitted like a glove. She had been ready for the wedding of her dreams.

She should have listened to papa. Franz was nothing but a sweet talker.

... Actually, no. If only he had been nothing but that... he was a murderer as well.

Victoria should know. After all, she watched, as Franz buried her dead body in the middle of Krüegerwald, some god forsaken fores where no one would ever find her corpse.

THIS was what happened when a foolish girl, barely a woman, wouldn't listen to her parents. This was what happened when said girl allowed a handsome young man talk her into running away with him and get married in secret. This was what happened when one was foolish enough to arrive to the middle of a forest where one had agreed to meet this man. And she had been daft enough to bring gold and jewels as well on the request of her lover.

All of this had resulted in her getting her throat sliced open.

Next thing she knew, she opened her eyes to see her body, dead as dust, while Hans robbed her corpse. As a ghost, Victoria could do nothing but curse this man she had practically worshiped not long ago as he took off his bloodstained jacket and burned it. He cleansed the bloody dagger, tied the sack with gold and the other one with the family jewels to his horse's saddle, and then he rode away.

And now she was alone in Krüegerwald.

Victoria wanted nothing but to strangle the life out of that weasel.

THAT CAN BE ARRANGED.

Victoria realized that she was not the only spirit in the area, as a tall man dressed in a red jacket appeared. Or she would have assumed that he was a man, if it wasn't for the fact that where a man's head should have been was instead the golden cranium of a ox.

Victoria was not frightened. Maybe fear was only for the living? "Are you... death?" She asked.

NO

The spirit creature said with a voice as deep and dark as eternity.

THE REAPER HAVE GIVEN ME PERMISSION TO GIVE YOU A PROPOSAL BEFORE HE COMES FOR YOU.

"Proposal? What do you have to offer?"

JUSTICE. BY YOUR HANDS:

"... Are you... Satan?"

NO.

"Then... who are you?"

MY NAME IS OF NO IMPORTANCE. KNOW ONLY THAT I AM A SPIRIT. WHAT MATERS IS THAT I WILL REVIVE YOU SO THAT YOU CAN AVENGE YOURSELF.

"... What do you want in exchange?"

THE DEATH OF A SINNER. NOTHING MORE. I WILL REVIVE YOUR DEAD BODY SO THAT YOU CAN MAKE YOUR MURDERER BLEED FOR ME. THEN, RETURN TO THIS FOREST AND YOU CAN MOVE ON TO THE AFTERLIFE.

"I would be more than happy to oblige... But how do I find him?"

IN THE LOCAL CHURCH. HE IS GOING TO BE MARRIED TOMORROW.

Victoria thought it impossible that she could hate Franz more than when she watched him bury her. But now she loathed him even more. She was angry and vengeful before, but now she was furious to the point of insanity.

And then, everything went dark.

It took a moment for Victoria to realize that she was buried.

She could feel her fingers, her arms, as she began to dig herself free. Franz hadn't buried her that well. She could feel her entire body as she struggled to get free from the dirt that kept her from freedom. She stood up from the hole, feeling triumphant.

She couldn't feel her hearth beating. She couldn't feel the cold air. All she felt was the intense burning hatred that fueled her dead body and was the reason for her reincarnation.

.......................................................................................................

Max, Jacob and Wilhelm were a lot like other men. They made ends meet by working with their hands.

But they weren't good men. Not at all. They were highwaymen. Huge, strong, unshaved men. Brutal and merciless men.

They had set camp at the outskirt of Krüegerwald. They sat around the campfire, having finished heir meal and now smoke pipes.

But they had a problem. They were restless. Bored. And since they weren't much for conversations, they had to think of another way to entertain themselves.

But it seemed like they wouldn't have to worry their not too bright heads about that, as a woman could be seen coming from behind the trees and toward them. She was alone, seemed like she couldn't be a day over 18 and was dressed in a white wedding gown.

Max, Jacob and Wilhelm stood up to "greet" her. When she came close enough, the three men surrounded her.

"Hello, poppet." Jacob chuckled as he forced the young woman up a tree with one of his massive hands around her neck, and the other firmly laced at her chest. "You lost? Haven't your mom taught you that walking about on your own is risky."

"She did." The girl answered as she, to Jacob's surprise, smiled back. She placed her hands around his wrists... and squeezed. Cracks could be heard from the big man as well as his scream.

"Blasted wench!" Max was about to smack the girl, setting her back in her place, only to have his arm as big as a ham getting caught by he bride who then pulled it right out of the socket. Max fell like a tree as he cried out in agony.

"My, how peculiar." The bride began to laugh as if she had heard a joke. "It seems that I'm stronger than full-grown men. Fancy that."

Wilhelm realized that there was something wicked about this wench. And as he finally realized that er throat had a riff on it, he now understood that this... thing wasn't human. So he ran toward the campfire where he and his friends had left their weapons, grabbed a pistol, and shot the bride in the chest.

She fell to the ground backward from the impact of the bullet... But that didn't stop her.

"Were you aiming for my heart? Bad luck." The bride laughed even harder than before as she stood up seemingly unaffected by the gunshot. "Someone already shattered it! HAHAHA!"

Wilhelm had no intention of staying any longer and share the fate of his friends, so he fled.

"Brave friend you have." Victoria kicked the two wimping men who lied at her feet, then stepped over them to study their bags, see if there was anything of use for her.

Food and money could no longer do her any good. But their weapons on the other hand could be quite useful.

"Yes, this will do." Victoria studied the pistols as well as the sword that had once belonged to a soldier. "This will do just nicely."

The next day...

Hans stood by the alter with Adele. He was so happy that he could swear that he would burst.

The church was decorated with flowers, and most of Adele's family, as well as Hans' few relatives, had showed up to attend the ceremony. He felt a bit of guilt over what he had... done to Victoria, but he knew that it had to be done. Now he could truly treat his beloved Adele like royalty, as he had promised her family to get her hand in marriage. He had told her parents that he had inherited a great deal of money from a distant uncle, not that he had tricked a poor, naive girl into giving him a great amount of money with the promise of marriage. The poor thing had no chance.

But Hans was about to learn that what he had considered a necessary evil would become his demise.

As he was about to exchange vows with Adele, someone kicked the door to the church open.

"I found you Franz!" Someone said, then laughed hysterically. "Or is Hans the name you go by today? Must be confusing for you! HAHAHA!"

Another bride stepped inside the church hall.

"Her?!" The bride laughed, as she pointed at Adele. Her face was covered by a veil, but Hans could recognize the voice. "You murdered ME so that you could marry HER?! That cow with the face of a jew?!" Her laughter grew louder, and the others in the church gasped as they realized that the woman held a pistol in each hand and had an officer's sword in a scabbard attached to a belt around her waist as well as two more pistols "What does that cow have that I do not have in spades? Well... A pulse, perhaps. HAHAHA!"

"... Hans?" Adele looked at her future husband with a frightened and puzzled look. "Who is this woman?"

"I... I don't..." Han looked at the bride and gulped. His blood froze to ice. It couldn't be. "V-v-v-...Victoria? Is that you?"

The bride removed her veil to reveal a beautiful face.

"But..." Hans couldn't comprehend what he saw. It really was the woman whom he had fooled into falling for him. She even had the slice-mark on her throat that he himself gave her."But that's impossible! I left you!"

"For dead!" She replied. "You broke my heart and took my life! So I will ruin thi-"

One of Adele's uncles had gathered his courage and grabbed one of the candlestick and stroke Victoria right in the head. She fell to the floor, dropped her pistols and her neck was twisted by the impact. But she kept smiling and stood up, screwing her head back with a loud crack. Then, she took a candlestick as well and slammed it into the uncle's head. The result was messy.

Now, everyone in the church truly panicked. The priest had gotten down on his knees, praying for some sort of miracle. Most of the attenders ran toward the door, while few stayed as they attempted to stop the bride. They were shot dead. Victoria laughed as she threw away her empty pistol and grabbed new ones from her belt and went on with her attack, cheerfully singing;

"Ach, du lieber Augustin,

Augustin, Augustin,

Ach, du lieber Augustin,

Alles ist hin!"

As she ran out of loaded pistols, she grabbed her sword and slashed and hacked and buried her blade into the chest of whoever was in her way between her and vengeance. One of the men managed to grab the blade and pull it out of her hand, then used it to stab her right through the stomach. But it didn't affect her, and she cheerfully strangled the life out of the man.

"Stop, Victoria! STOP, I beg of you!" Hans' face had lost all color as he was witness to this bloodbath. The woman who would now never become his wife was paralyzed with fear. "It's me you want, stop!"

"Oh, it will be your turn, Hans, that I assure you!" Victoria broke the neck on Adele's father. "But not before your oh so lovely bride!" When there was no one left in the church but Hans, Adele and the vengeful bride(even the priest had ran away), Victoria got the sword out of herself and pointed the bloody blade at his bride. "Tell me something, Hans... Are you marrying her for her fortune? Is she a victim like me?"

"No!" Hans stood in front of his bride, trying to protect her. "It's not like that. I do love her!"

"Then I will enjoy this even MORE!" Victoria pushed Hans aside with her thin but strong arm, and sliced the bride's throat open.

Hans screamed. Whether it was out of horror, devastation or rage, Victoria couldn't tell. But she was sure that pain of some sort was involved, which was what she wanted.

"I would actually let you live, I really would. Death is mercy at this point for you." Victoria placed her cold dead fingers around Hans' neck. "But unfortunately, I have a contract."

And then she mashed his neck as if it had been a hot potato. Triumphant, she left, leaving a pile of dead bodies in the church.

................................................................................................................

"I have returned!" Victoria announced loudly, as she found herself near the hole where she had been buried.

The creature that was responsible for Victoria's revival appeared once more and pointed at her bloody dress.

"The deed has been done." Victoria sounded very satisfied. "I had my revenge. The world is one sinner poorer. I am ready for the afterlife."

But the spirit said nothing. It just stared at her with it's eyeless skull.

Victoria scratched her still broken neck. "Spirit, you do not seem to understand. I did it! I killed him, I-"

I PROMISED YOU THAT YOU COULD MOVE ON TO THE AFTERLIFE IF YOU MADE THE SINNER PAY. I WANTED A SINNER DEAD, NOTHING MORE. BUT YOU SLAUGHTERED INNOCENTS AS WELL. FOR THAT, YOU MUST BE PUNISHED.

"But I did it to hurt him!" Victoria argued. In her sick, rage-filled mind, it made perfect sense, and was the only defense she needed. "They were in my way! I had to-"

AND HIS BRIDE?

"... He broke my heart, so I broke his! Killing him wasn't punishment enough! Don't you see?!"

The spirit apparently ignored her "rationalization" and went on;

YOU WILL FROM NOW ON BE MY INSTRUMENT OF PUNISHMENT. YOUR BODY WILL LIVE THROUGH ANYTHING, MAY IT BE FIRE, BULLETS OR BLADES. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, YOU WILL FEEL NO PAIN. BUT YOU WON'T HEAL UNTIL MIDNIGHT. AND YOU WILL STAY IN KRÜEGERWALD FOR ALL ETERNITY.

"Blast you! Damn you!" Victoria yelled. "I do not recognize you to have such power over me! Only god and devil should, and you are neither! Curse you, I say, curse you!"

But the creature apparently did not give a damn, and left her in a flash of red light.

Refusing to accept her punishment, Victoria decided to leave the woods. But as she did so, a giant root came up from the hole that was her grave and wrapped itself around her left leg. Victoria tried to get free, but the root was too strong. So she tore off her own leg, and humped as fast as she could. Same root now wrapped itself around her other leg. So Victoria got herself free by making herself legless, then dragged herself through the forest by the use of her hands. But the root wouldn't let her go.

As the root dragged her back to her grave, she realized that she was going to be trapped in this damned forest for the rest of her afterlife. Victoria sank down into the dirt she was originally buried in. While her head was still free, she sang;

"Ach, du lieber Augustin,

Alles ist hin..."

Stumpy49er - Tim Drake- Teen Detective in A Halloween Mystery

Tim Drake- Teen Detective in

A Halloween Mystery

Alternate Earth- Gotham City

Tim Drake ditched his last class at Gotham High. He was already acing all his classes and he had to follow up on a police report he heard on his scanner last night. A girl had gone missing. Jamie Lloyd, who attended Gotham Junior High. She was only three years younger than him.

He went to Gotham PD and talked to Detective Gordon. She had always allowed him to help work on her cases, since they both had a mutual acquaitance in Bruce Wayne.

"I'm busy right now, Tim." Barbara said. "What do you want?"

"What's going on with the Jamie Lloyd case?" he asked.

"Tim, jeez, just because we both have a Robin Grant from the Prince of Gotham.." Barbara started.

"It's more than just a grant, Barbara. Bruce only gives that out to people who earn it." he responded.

"Ha. Yeah, like the movie star?" she chided.

"Dick Grayson is a hero to a lot of people," Tim said. "He was an orphaned as a teenager, became a blue collar stunt man, until he got his big break in the film Star Spangled. Since then he's done a lot of work for orphans and at risk youth."

"Okay, okay. I forgot I was talking to his biggest fan," Barbara said. "Listen kid, I know you'll be a hell of a detective when you're old enough but right now I need to focus. Jamie's been missing for over twelve hours now. I've been up all night. My dad keeps telling me to go home but I can't.."

"I've talked to her friends. I can help you," Tim said. "Do you have any suspects?"

"Everyone's focused on her estranged dad." she replied. "It doesn't seem right though. She has a psychotic uncle but he's in Arkham.."

"Didn't Arkham just have a breakout?" Tim asked.

"Yeah, I looked into that." she said. "But her uncle Michael is still in Arkham. He never talked to the other inmates either; as far as his psychiatrist told me, he's mute." She pulled out a file and put it on the desk. "As for the inmates, there's Edward Nigma, doesn't quite fit his profile but I'm not ruling any of these men out; Abner Krill, the polka dot bandit, he was already caught this morning; Julian Day, he's probably planning something for Halloween; and then there's Arnold Etchinson, also known as Abattoir. He's the one I'm most worried about."

Tim picked up Abattoir's profile and began reading it.

Psychiatrist: Professor Hugo Strange.

Known associates: Kai aka Hellhound, Preston Payne, Sondra Fuller.

All known relatives deceased.

Barbara grabbed this profile away from Tim.

"Damn it, Drake." she scolded. "I don't want you getting involved in this. It's too dangerous. Go dress up for Halloween. Go be a kid. I don't need you getting hurt trying to help us."

"I'm trying to help Jamie." Tim said. "You can use my help. How does Etchinson know Kai? I already know his connection to famous actors Preston Payne and Sondra Fuller. It was all over the news when Abattoir kidnapped their baby. I doubt they'll aid him more. What's his connection to Hellhound?"

Barbara sighed. "Listen. We've been grilling Abner Krill all day about the other escapees. We'll find Etchinson. I'm still not sure if it was him who took Jamie. Maybe it was her dad."

"Her friends told me Jamie thinks her dad died a while ago." he replied. Barbara lifted her eyebrow. Tim continued, "Her best friend Rachel told me she thinks it was her uncle."

Barbara shook her head. "Well, if Rachel says so.." she looked at Tim, who was dead serious. "Like I say, her uncle's still in Arkham. According to his doctor, he had no contact with the other inmates, plus he's mute."

"Who's his doctor?" Tim asked.

"I can't tell you that." she replied.

"Is it Hugo Strange?" he asked.

Barbara sighed. "You're good."

"That's the same doctor as Arnold Etchinson's." Tim said.

"I've already talked to Strange." Barbara said. "He told me the two never had any contact."

"Do you trust him?" he asked.

She laughed. "Hugo Strange? No. Something strange about him and it's not just that name."

"There is a connection." he said. "What do you know about Hellhound? It's the only known associate of Abattoir who might be willing to aid him."

"I already told you.." Barbara started.

"I won't look into it alone. I promise you. I have backup." he replied.

"I don't know why I bother." she said, reaching into her desk and retrieving a folder. "You're not going to like it kid."

Tim looked at Hellhound's profile.

..sold Abattoir pit bulls, which were used to eat his victims alive..

Tim felt sick.

"Told you, you weren't going to like it." Barbara said. "Listen kid. I want to find her too but I don't want you getting killed. These are bad men. I don't know who your backup is, I don't care. Leave this to the authorities."

**

Kai's Junkyard- Midnight

Tim waited for his back up. He wore a black, hooded sweater and carried his retractable bo staff. He scoped out the junkyard as he waited.

"Yo brat. You waiting on me?" came a brash voice from behind him.

Tim spun around, wielding his bo staff as his friend came up from behind him, wearing a red ski mask.

"Damn, Jason, you scared me." he replied. Jason stood a foot taller than Tim and was about four years older.

Jason had lived a rough life, yet somehow had been one of the few people alive to receive the Robin Grant from Bruce Wayne. Jason was also unique in that he's the only person to tear up the grant and throw it in Bruce's face, claiming the wealthy elite are the real problems with the world.

Tim didn't agree with Jason's views but he always respected him.

They had met after Tim had received the Robin Grant. Jason contacted him trying to convince Tim that Wayne Enterprises had shady business dealings and that the Robin Grant was merely Bruce Wayne's way of saving face to the public.

Tim disagreed with Jason. He had done his own research on Bruce and believed him to be an upstanding person who cared for the less fortunate.

Not only had Bruce lost his parents at a young age but in his early adulthood, he had lost is father figure when The Clown murdered his butler Alfred.

Tim felt a great deal of empathy for Bruce.

Tim retracted his bo staff as Jason walked up to him.

"That all you brought, kid?" Jason asked, then he reached in his leather jacket with both hands and pulled out two semi automatic pistols. "You come to this part of the neighborhood and plan on breaking into a place like that, you better come packing."

"I don't like guns." he replied. "Thanks for the help. We need to break in there and find out what Kai knows about Abattoir."

"Yeah, no problem. I'm doing this for the girl," he said. "Also, to find out what's going on with Arkham. I've had my eye on the Professor Strange for awhile now."

The two vigilante's jumped the fence. As soon as Tim landed on the ground he heard dogs barking. Big ones.

Tim ran as fast as he could toward the nearest car pile. He unsheathed his bo staff to full length and used it to pole vault his way onto it. He looked back and saw several pit bulls running toward him, while more ran towards Jason, who stood out in the open, pulled out his pistols and began shooting the junkyard dogs.

Hellhound came running out of the main building, carrying a shotgun, followed by three other armed men. "My dogs are hungry, boys. Let's give them something to eat." he yelled.

'This is not good.' Tim thought, as he watched Jason gun down all the dogs in the yard, then began replacing his bullets, while behind Tim, the four armed men walked straight towards Jason.

As soon as Hellhound and his goons were in view of Jason and began to point their guns at him, Tim pole vaulted himself right towards them, landing on top of Hellhound, he swung his bo staff at the nearest thug, breaking his nose. Then Tim smacked the gun out of another man's hand while simultaneously hitting another thug in the groin. The unarmed thug tackled Tim to the ground. The other two thugs grabbed their guns and pointed it at Tim.

Two shots fired. The two armed thugs hit the ground.

The thug sitting on top of Tim looked back at his two dead friends, then over at Jason, who pointed pistol at him.

Bang

The other thug hit the ground.

Tim stood up. "What the heck? Why did you kill them?" he yelled at Jason.

"They would have killed you, kid." he replied. "Don't act surprised. You know my reputation."

Hellhound stood up silently as the two yelled at each other. Grabbing his knife he slid behind Tim, grabbed him and held the knife to his throat.

"You killed my dogs, Red Hood." he yelled at Jason. "You'll pay for that."

Jason pointed his guns at Hellhounds head. "Try me."

"Don't kill him." Tim demanded. "We need information."

"Information? You want information from me?" Hellhound asked. "All I know is I'm sitting in my office counting my money, when all of a sudden two punk kids come into my back yard and start shooting up my merchandise."

"We need to know who you last sold your merchandise too." Tim asked.

"Why should I tell you?" Hellhound asked. "I keep my clients a secret."

"That's not what I heard." Jason replied.

"We know you've sold to Abattoir before." Tim asked. "Did you sell any dogs to him recently?"

"Recently? I don't know. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn't." Hellhound replied. "What's in it for me? You already owe me for those dogs you killed."

"Abattoir kidnapped a young girl." Tim said. "If he bought dogs from you, he'll use them on her. We need to know where she is."

Hellhound gripped Tim harder with the blade, blood trickled down his neck. "Like I said, boy, what's in it for me?"

"I have money." Tim said.

"It'll take about five hundred grand to pay me what you owe me." Hellhound replied.

"I don't have that." Tim replied. "I can give you twenty grand. That's it."

"Not enough." Hellhound said.

"What do you think will happen if you kill me? Maybe you'll get away from my friend? He's a good shot." Tim said. Hellhound looked at Jason and smiled. Tim continued, "Even if you get away from us, what do you think will happen if your dogs kill the girl? If that happens, The Bat will come after you."

Hellhounds confidence waned. "Heh, The Bat? He ain't real."

"Yes. He is. I know how to contact him." Tim replied. "I sent him what I already know about this case. If he finds out you helped Abattoir kill some girl, he will come after you with everything he's got."

Jason spoke up. "Did you ever hear what happened to The Clown? Some say he's hanging upside down in The Bat's cave. Still alive, barely, getting his blood sucked out everyday."

Hellhound weakened his grip.

Tim Drake grabbed Hellhounds hand and pulled, while sweeping his leg under, flipping the larger man to the ground.

Hellhound bounced back up, knife still in his hand.

Jason shot Hellhounds hand, the knife flew to the ground.

"Tell us what you know." Jason demanded.

**

Park Row District- An abandoned hotel.

"This is it." Tim said. "The Hotel Langstrom. The last owner of the hotel, Kirk Langstrom, went on a rampage and killed his family. Detective James Gordon said in his report that Kirk heard bats screeching in the attic. He claimed in his journal he was The Bat and the bats in the attic had told him to kill his family before he jumped off the roof, thinking he could fly. Scary part of the story is that apparently Kirk was completely deaf. So what did he hear that drove him insane?"

Jason looked at Tim and shook his head. "Too much information."

Tim shrugged. "What? I thought it was worth noting."

The two heroes walked cautiously into the hotel lobby. Jason had both guns loaded and in each hand. Tim gripped his bo staff.

As they walked towards the lobby desk, something began waling towards them.

It was a gigantic pit bull.

"Damn!" Jason said as he pointed his pistol at the dog. "Didn't want to start this right away."

Tim grabbed Jason's arm. "Wait!"

The pit bull walked right up to Tim. It had a passive look on its face.

Tim held out his hand. The pit bull licked it.

"I don't get it?" Jason said. "Hellhound said these things were bred and trained for murder. Why is it so.. nice?"

"I don't know." Tim said as he walked towards the stairwell. "Let's find out. Abattoir should be in the basement. Based on his profile, that's where he takes his victims."

The stairwell was shut tight. Blocked from the other side.

"We're going to have to take the elevator." Tim said.

"Great!" Jason sighed. "Guess we're announcing ourselves after all."

The two rode the elevator down to the basement. The music played a scratchy Fur Elise by Beethoven.

"Power still works for this? There is a lot wrong going on here." Jason pointed out.

As the elevator came to a stop it gave a very loud "DING!"

The doors opened.

Arnold Etchison stood before them with a big grin. His long red hair draped over his white suit.

"Welcome to the Hotel Langstrom!" he said.

Jason Todd pointed both pistols right at Abattoir's head. "Where is she?" he yelled. "Where is the girl, you fracking monster."

Abattoir smiled wide. "Oh fret not, my dear boys. She's right this way."

Tim Drake had a bad feeling in his stomach. The restrained pit bull upstairs. Had they already eaten? Why was Abattoir greeting them? Did he kill Jamie Lloyd? He looked at Jason Todd and could tell his friend was thinking the same dark thoughts.

Abattoir led them to boiler room.

He opened the door and sitting, tied to a chair was the girl.

Relief flooded over Tim as he saw her smile at them.

She was still alive.

Surrounded by large pit bulls.

Fear came back to Tim as one of the pit bulls walked towards Jamie. It licked her hand, then put it's head on her lap.

"I wish I could pet you, sweet Carol. It's too bad Mr. Etchison has my hands tied up." Jamie said to the pit bull.

"Oh my, I forgot to untie you." Abattoir began, before walking over to Jamie with with a long, sharp blade.

BLAM

Jason Todd shot Abattoir in the head. Blood splattered all over the pit bulls and Jamie Lloyd. Neither of whom twitched in the slightest at the action.

Tim Drake fell back in shock.

"What? What did you?" Tim started.

Jason looked back at Tim. "He moved towards her with that knife. I had too."

"Poor Mr. Etchison." Jamie said. "He thought killing his family would cure the evil in the world. My poor uncle Michael is the same way. Mr. Etchison wanted the doggies to eat me." Jamie giggled. "I showed them a better way. Violence isn't the answer. They wanted to eat me, at first. Now they just want to be my friends."

"What happened, Jamie?" Tim asked.

"I don't go by Jamie Lloyd anymore." she said. "I go by the name Hallow! I bring delight into this world. Peace is my gift."

Jason put his gun away, then asked. "What happened to Abattoir?"

"He was an evil man, before he met me." Hallow said. "He wanted to kill me and many more. Then he sat down with me and I blew softly in his face, as I did with the doggies. All the violence and hatred in his heart left at that moment. He was a good man, before you killed him. He would have untied me, had he not heard the elevator. He was so excited to greet people with his new perspective on life, he simply forgot to untie me. Speaking of which, would one of you please do me the honors?"

The pit bulls reared their heads at the two heroes after she said this.

"Of course, I'll hel.." Tim started.

"Don't bother." Jason said. "I got this."

Jason grabbed Abattoir's knife, bent down and began cutting Hallow's ropes.

She looked in Jason's face as he finished cutting the ropes.

She spoke, "You also have violence in your heart."

She blew an orange mist into Jason's face.

Jason stood up immediately, holding up the knife, "What the hell did you do?"

Hallow smiled as she stood up. "I gave you a gift."

Jason lowered the knife. Looking at Tim he spoke, "Red Robin."

It was their secret word to each other if something went wrong. It meant 'Run'.

Tim Drake turned and ran towards the elevator. Hallow let out an inhuman wail as Jason slammed the boiler room door shut, blocking Hallow and her doggies from following his friend.

Tim jumped in the elevator and pressed the Lobby button. The door slowly closed as the pit bulls began howling. They came running out of the boiler room at top speed, straight for Tim, teeth gnashing.

The door closed just in time. The pit bulls crashed against the door. He heard gun shots fire.

The elevator slowly rose to the lobby. He sprang out of the elevator and ran through the lobby. The remaining pit bull in the lobby ran straight towards him. Tim used his bo staff to pole vault over the pit bull. Explosions rang out from underneath them. The pit bull looked confused, Tim ran as fast as he could for the entrance door.

Tim ran out of the Hotel Langstrom, slamming the entrance door behind him.

**

Later that night.

The Hotel Langtsrom burned to the ground.

Detective Barbara Gordon interviewed Tim.

"Damn it, Tim. I told you not to get involved in this."

Tim clutched his bo staff. Barbara gave him a mug of hot cocoa.

"Drink this. It'll make you feel better." she said as she patted his shoulder. "The fire chief told me, there was only one human body. A few pit bulls but that's it. I'm betting the burned body is that of Arnold Etchison." Barbara explained. "Don't know what happened to Jamie or your friend."

Tim looked up into the night sky.

The Bat signal floated in the air.

The End

IfDCRuledTheWorld - Gaia

Location: Fancy vacation home in the mountains of Alaska. Night time.

Bzzz.... (Door Bell)

"Come on in." says Mr. Ma-Ti. (President of Geo Inc.)

"Thank you for inviting all of us, sir. We really appreciate it." replies Mr. Kwame. (Vice-President of Geo Inc.)

"No problem. No problem. Let me show you around." says Mr. Ma-Ti.

The house was gorgeous. Built right in the middle of the forest, and it even had a live tree in the middle of the house. Over 5000 sq. ft. of exquisite living. Probably the most beautiful house in Alaska. The best money can buy. And the money will continue to come in now that the court has sided with their company. In the last 100 years, the NaKota tribe has never lost their land a court battle. But this time was different. A different generation of judges that don't mind loosening their morality if it meant their bank accounts get larger.

"A very beautiful house you have here, sir." says Ms. Linka (Chief Legal Advisor)

"I know right, you're gonna have to let me borrow it later." says Mr. Wheeler (Chief Financial Officer)

"Not too shabby. Are you not worried about being so close to the protestors? They did say that the court wasn't their only way of protecting their land." say Ms. Gi (Chief Research Officer)

"Those guys, no. What can a bunch of villagers do? You don't really believe all that mumbo jumbo about their ancestral mother protector. Or whatever. " Mr. Ma-Ti exclaimed.

"Gaia" Ms. Gi answered.

"Never mind that and never mind them. Let me show you the rest of the house."

Mr. Ma-Ti wasted no time giving his board of directors the tour of the place. Safe to say they were all impressed. And that's just the reaction he was going for. Mr. Ma-Ti was going to take his company to the top. His new oil pipeline was going to make him one of the richest men, if not influential, in the whole world. And Mr. Ma-Ti liked that the thought of that.

"Everyone get yourself settled. And let's meet in the grand dining room in an hour for dinner."

Ma-Ti settled himself in the library. Kwame made his way to the kitchen. Ms. Gi and Mr. Wheeler took a walk outside together. And Ms. Linka took her leave in her upstairs bedroom.

Kwame likes to snack before dinner. So it was no surprise that the kitchen would be the first place he'd go after getting settled. "Hmm....what to eat? What to eat? Why is there no junk food in this million dollar kitchen. Well, I guess I'll have to get my stash from my car." Kwame made his way outside to where he parked his car and started fumbling for his keys when he thought he heard a whisper in his ear. It said to him, "Earth" ( in a woman's voice).

"Who said that?" as he turned around. No one was there though. "Earth." the voice whispered to again."

"I must be hearing things." Kwame said. He found his keys and popped the trunk. Suddenly, he felt a violent tug on his feet. Looking down, he found himself being dragged into the earth. "Somebody help me. Help." His struggle became fruitless though. There was no help coming. Kwame was swallowed up.

"You hear that?" Gi asked.

"I didn't hear anything." Wheeler replied. "If you wanna go check it out, go right ahead. I'll stay here, warm, in front of the fire pit."

"Fine. Be back in a bit." Gi replied.

"Women!" Wheeler exclaimed. "Get spooked over something like that. Just when we were about to get things heated up too. Her loss then."

"Fire." a voice whispered.

"Fire." the voice whispered again.

"Who's there?" asked Wheeler. Looking around Wheeler couldn't find who or where the voice was coming from. When he turned back around he found that the fire had died down. "Great." Wheeler started stoking the fire back to life when suddenly the fire leaped from its pit and enveloped Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler didn't even have time to scream before the flames took him.

"Such a lovely view." Linka said to herself. And it was. Standing up on her balcony over looking the Alaskan skyline, what else could anyone think.

"Wind." the voice softly spoke.

"Wind." the voice spoke again.

Suddenly Linka's room became the what could only be described ground zero of a tornado. Anything that wasn't bolted down became a projectile being flung towards her. The gusts of wind became so powerful that it picked her up and threw her off the balcony. "Somebody help!!" she cried. Her cries for help never made it to her companions. It was lost in the wind.

"Now I know I heard that." Gi said to herself. The first noise turned out to be nothing. This noise sent a chill down to her very bones. She returned to the fire pit only to find the crisp remains of Wheeler. Screaming in horror she made her way back to the house. Unfortunately, she never made it.

"Water." the voice spoke to her.

"Water." the voice said again.

The voice spooked her and caused her to trip and fall into the pool. Frantically trying to swim up to the surface, she felt a two hands grab her and pull her back down. Struggle as she might, the water was not forgiving. Gi was claimed by the water.

Mr. Ma-Ti was sitting in his library listening to his music and relaxing in his favorite chair when his record player suddenly went silent. The record was spinning but no music was coming out.

"Heart." the record player said.

"Heart." the player said again.

All of a sudden the room grew dark and the lights died. Jumping out of his seat, Ma-Ti ran for the door but it wouldn't open. He ran for the window but no luck there either. It wouldn't open. A black shadow slowly grew out of the wall. It came to stand in front of Ma-Ti and took the form of a tall lady in a black dress. Her dress was as dark as the night and she had eyes as bright as the moon. "What do you want from me?" he cried.

With an expression as dead as the night, the lady reached out with her hand.

"Heart." the lady asked with a smile.

Fade to Black.

The End.

LeeM724 - Weepin' Joe

Title: Weepin' Joe

Blood seeped from his tear ducts, he could not make it stop.

"Why? me, why? me." he thought aloud as he gazed at the monstrosity which lay before him in the mirror.

He could barely recognise himself, he was but a shell of his former self. The once handsome face which stared back had transformed into a pool of vile ugliness.

He could not sleep, he could not eat. The ocean of blood leaking from his eyes kept his attention, reminding him of his sin.

He grew tired. Was it his soul leaking out? After all they say the eyes are the window to the soul.

"I can help you." whispered a voice.

"I can help you."

If he had not heard it twice he would've sworn it was the wind.

Was he going insane?

"What do I do?" he asked as desperation crept into his voice like an unwelcome guest.

"Hurt him, he did this." it answered.

"Who?" He was anxious, who did this to him?

"You know who." It replied. "Hurt him, make him weep as he makes you."

He clenched his fists and he felt his sin consume him. Fury melted through the fear he had felt for the past week as the blood poured out of his eyes. He knew who did this.

"How do I hurt him?"

"By hurting them, all of them."

The voice was louder, he could hear it much more clearly.

He knew what he had to do, he had been shaken free from his trance by his mysterious saviour. For the first time in a week he looked away from his reflection.

What a mess.

He reached for his revolver, his only friend. With it he would make them hurt.

With it he would make Him hurt.

ImpurestCheese - Mountain Shadows

Mountain Shadows

The man dressed in hiking gear looked over the side of the mountain down at the layer of clouds stretched out like an ocean of white around a sentinel island of brown and green. There stretched out before him was an otherworldly shape, something that was man shaped but stretched into almost painful dimensions, a gleaming halo of light around was looked like a head. Nervously the hiker turned to look up the path to the team leader, a rough and ready looking man that had the stereotypical Indiana Jones look.

“Uh Doctor Wilson, what exactly is that?” The man asked, as he pointed to the shadowy figure imprinted on the clouds, its body spasming and shifting, seemingly at its existence being pointed out.

“James right?” Wilson asked in a voice that sounded slightly amused but also one that was willing to educate and explain. “This is your first time in the field up in the mountains isn’t it?”

“Yes and yes.” James answered as he kept shooting nervous looks at the figure out in the clouds.

“Well don’t worry about that, it’s just a natural phenomenon called a Broken spectre. What we are seeing is a warping effect of your cast shadow by the sun and clouds.” Wilson explained, as another one of the team took a photograph of the shadow. “While seemingly sinister it is as harmless as any other kind of shadow, although old European folklore associates seeing a Brocken spectre with bad luck.”

“Good thing we’re not in Europe then.” A woman’s voice explained.

“Quite Lisa.” Wilson added, as he looked the young woman up and down, before stopping on the Clovis spear-point stringed around her neck on a leather chain. “According to the men who found the remains of the structure we shouldn’t be too far from the summit.” He added, as the team continued to head upwards to the weathered flat top of the mountain and the charismatic six sticking out spires that gave it the name Six-Spire peak. Reaching the top, the researchers unpacked tents and wind breaks, before sitting down for an early afternoon snack.

“I can’t believe with all the satellite mapping that this place was only discovered when two local climbing enthusiasts decided to get a picture of the spires.” One of the researchers stated as he bit into an energy bar. The entirety of the ten man team had been surprised when the Chicago Field Museum had called them in to investigate what they suspected was a pre-Clovis site. Even in the wilds of Wyoming it was unprecedented for something so ancient had survived unnoticed by both the First People and the waves of colonists.

“We only have a few details to work on Martin.” Lisa replied as she checked the reception of her satellite phone. “And I doubt its pre-Clovis, the people back then didn’t have the resources or knowledge to build lasting structures.”

“Well let’s find out.” Wilson suggested, as he got to his feet and looked over to the small cave like opening that lead into the peak of the mountain. “Martin you and Janine stay here, I want the satellite images and geological survey data before we do anything other than look at what we have.” He added, as the two team members he had named got up and walked to one of the tents, a hardened field laptop under the arm of the later.

“Are you sure it’s okay to enter?” James stammered, as Lisa, Wilson and another man headed for the hole. “It’s not owned by a tribe or sacred or anything like that?”

“If anyone in North America claims to have heritage back to the Clovis people or beyond, I’d suspect that they were trying to con us.” Lisa told him. “That said this may be post-Clovis Native American work, in which case we need to figure out which tribe built it, before seeking permission to investigate further from any living descendants.” She added, her words causing James to gulp, just as Wilson took a glow stick, snapped it and through it into the hole.

“Yeah but to figure that out we need to look inside.” Wilson explained, as he slipped under the cave opening before vanishing into the cave interior. Seconds later Lisa and the third man joined him, leaving James standing out in the open, the rest of the team watching him expectantly. As a grad student of archaeology he had always dreamed of finding a lost tomb or ancient boat burial ground, but something about Six Spires Peak and the earlier sighting of the Brocken spectre made him feel uneasy. Taking a deep breath he ducked inside and gasped at what he saw, while the exterior was plane and could have been blamed on erosion, the inside had defiantly been shaped by human hands.

Speaking of human hands, the walls were painted in ochre with generations of hand prints from the people who had used the site. Something was wrong with them however, surrounding the prints were elongated smudges that looked as if the hands that had made the art had been twisted and deformed as they had pressed their palms against the stone.

“It’s like the Cave of Beasts in Egypt.” Lisa stated, as she swung her head around, the head torch illuminating a thin beam of light around the walls. “Except their they pressed the hands of monitor lizards inside the human hand prints, this appears to have had some large creatures hand or foot traced around the hands here.”

“We have something else as well.” Wilson added as he shone his light up to reveal dozens of human skulls fused into the roof. “This is fascinating indeed. Miguel, you have some knowledge of aboriginal symbology, what can you tell us about the way the bones are arranged?”

“It is not good, the symbol is similar to markers that I documented in an Ojibwa graveyard.” Miguel stated, his voice grim as he talked. “They represent dead people.”

“Wyoming was never Ojibwa territory though.” Wilson replied. “Unless they moved East towards Michigan and Minnesota in the genesis of their culture.”

“Where are the rest of the bones?” James whispered as he shone his light down, the tiled floor glinting as he looked down. “It’s some kind of glass or crystal!” He yelled, his voice echoing around the structure. Bending down the four archaeologists ran their hands along the surface before looking at each other in confusion. Even James knew that the working of the crystal was as sophisticated as anything modern humans could make, maybe even more so.” At that point the light of the glow stick began to flicker, and to avoid potentially getting trapped the four scientists climbed out and headed back to camp, unable to hide their excitement.

That excitement only grew when Janice handed the satellite pictures to Miguel, his eyes going wide as he looked towards the charismatic spires and then back to the picture. “The spires are shaped and arranged like the Cherokee symbol for warding evil spirits away, but like the Ojibwa, that tribe were never recorded being in Wyoming. We may have found the original Native American settlement, the location of the first post-Clovis tribe.”

**

Excitement spread quickly, and although nobody had gone into the cave, there was much preparation for tomorrow’s documentation. Going to bed, all but one of team dreamed of the accolades they would get for the discovery. Despite his earlier excitement, the imagery relating to evil and death woke Miguel from a fitful sleep. Dressing warmly he awoke Simon, his buddy and quietly whispered ‘toilet’. Shaking himself, Simon got up, dressed and picked up a torch, the pair of them heading out onto the mountain top and towards the cave.

“Give me a second.” Miguel stated, as he illuminated his head torch and dropped into the cave. After a minute he hadn’t returned, and Simon reluctantly headed inside.

**

A new day dawned, and Wilson rallied the team over breakfast and after a rushed meal of porridge and fruit, the team headed inside the cave, the walls and floors pristine save for a torch and two piles of modern clothing, intact but totally abandoned.

“Everyone out.” Wilson ordered softly. A minute and a half later he was on the satellite phone trying to contact the police, trying being the operative word. A bank of cloud had rolled in and had seemingly cut connection with the outside world, if only temporarily. Looking out over the edge of the cliff, James looked down at the Brocken spectre, its shadowy form printed over the cloud bank. Last night he’d googled the phenomena, and come to turns with how cool it actually was, despite its scary appearance. Watching the shadow he blinked, and swore he saw the dark shape flit to one side, turn its head and hold out a hand, its fingers elongated as it moved.

“Okay people, two of us need to go down the mountain for help.” Wilson called, his voice snapping James out of his study of the strange shadow. “Roland, Martin you are the best climbers, do you think you can get to the ranger’s station at the base of the hill before nightfall?”

“Probably if we leave now.” Roland, a well-built man who looked more like a pugilist than a climber grunted.

“The rest of us will stay here just in case Simon and Miguel return.” Lisa explained as she handed Martin a spare satellite phone. “We’ll keep checking for transmission and call you if anything develops.”

“Likewise.” Martin replied, as he and Roland prepared for the hike down off of the mountain.

**

Roland turned the corner to the top of a scree slope that plunged forty meters down to an outcropping of rock below. It was almost an hour since they had departed the campsite, and now he and Martin were ensconced in the cloud, dampness and cold chills gripping their body as they headed down.

“What’s that?” Martin asked as he pointed to a figure on the cliff path ahead of them. “Simon, Miguel is that you?” He asked, as Roland shone the light at the figure, the cloud sucking up the light of the torch. Cautiously Roland and Martin approached the figure, but every time he got closer it seemed to back off. Cursing to themselves, they quickened their pace before with a sudden realisation of absolute horror the rock under their feet disappeared and the pair plunged off the mountain into the cloud, their screams echoing round the mountainside.

**

“It’s been too long.” Lisa stated as she entered the tent she shared with Janine, the bespectacled young woman jabbing at the laptop she had brought, the screen showing nothing but dancing shadows and static. “The cloud should have cleared up by now.”

“We have a bigger problem.” Janine told her. “Before the computer was…” She paused to think her words over, “…attacked, I was tracking a massive storm front coming in from the north. It will hit the mountain just before midnight.”

“We don’t have enough time to get off the mountain before nightfall.” Lisa sighed. “I’ll tell Wilson.” She added, as she left the tent and headed to where two of the expedition members were taking photographs of the spires. “Chris, you seen Wilson, we have another problem.”

“He and Nate went into the cave.” James stated, his words causing Lisa to grab a glow stick and then storm over to the hole and drop in. Cracking the chemical tube, she saw the two men shining their torches at the crystal floor. “I thought you said not to come down here?!” She spat, as Wilson turned to look at her.

“I needed to…” He stopped and screamed as both he and Nate were gripped by something terrible, their bodies twisting as they collapsed onto the wall, their hand prints staining the wall as their fingers elongated to resemble the prints left by the people who had dwelled there in antiquity. Screaming herself Lisa, bolted to the door as her teammates finished contorting into spindly too-tall man shaped blots of shadow. She had crawled half way out of the cave mouth, before a tentacle of shadow wrapped round her neck and dragged her into the structure screaming and thrashing.

Racing over, torch in hand Chris dropped down into the tomb only to find two more piles of clothes on the crystal floor. Looking up he saw the roof of skulls had been joined by Lisa’s severed head and ran for the exit screaming. Despite Janine’s warning about the weather closing in, it hadn’t taken much to convince the three remaining archaeologists to leave Six Spires Peak. Packing only what was needed, the survivors headed for the path down, the ever present Brocken spectre standing on the cloud aping and exaggerating their movements.

“Maybe those Europeans had the right idea.” James stated, as Chris led them down the path, his eyes fixed on the path. “What do you think Janine?” He asked, as he turned round to where she was walking behind them.

“Perhaps.” She replied, as the four figures continued their descent down the hill. Four? James stopped and looked back again, this time to see Janine’s body convulsing as a shadowy hand wrapped itself around her waist.

“Chris!!” James yelled, as he dared to look away for a second, only to see another hand wrapped round Chris, his body mirroring Janine’s spasms as they were warped into twisting humanoid blots of shadow. “Oh c**p, oh c**p!” James screamed, as his former friends flowed towards him like liquid blackness, whilst the Brocken spectre let out a laugh that couldn’t be made by any animal’s throat, let alone a human one. Not daring to hesitate, James took the easiest path available to him and jumped off the mountain. As he did, shadowy hands grabbed him and burning pain rushed through his body as his limbs twisted and elongated, his screams of pain transforming alongside his body into the horrible sound he had just heard.

Wildvine - The Zombie in the Cornfield

Dead rotting feet shuffled ever onward, ceaselessly in search for living flesh. Pushed on by mysterious forces either viral, demonic or something stranger yet. Not that it mattered now in a dead world. Those who had known the secret had met their end by their own hands in bunkers deep beneath the Earth.

What unholy plague called forth the dead is ultimately unimportant to what living there may be and just as unimportant to those infected. Whatever mind they had once possessed has long since decayed away. Ruined, broken teeth mesh together as blind eyes scan the land before them. Medically speaking the creature's senses should have ceased any proper function, yet still it is drawn towards humanity. Or the vestiges of humanity.

The zombie wanders towards the old farm house accompanied by a few others of its kind, but walking alone nonetheless. Zombies do not congregate intentionally, nor do they seek out the company of their own kind. It is random chance and a compulsion towards similar places of interest that make them seem to act as a unit. Were there any to see them move and speculate on such things that is.

Onward the soulless creature walked, coming to a tired cornfield standing between it and an old farm. If it a thinking creature it would walk around. But indeed its days of thinking are long behind it. And perhaps if it could think or feel unease it may have paused or even turned back here. The cornfield is not unlike the wandering zombie. It is forlorn, depressing and more rotten than not. Generations of corn have apparently grown, fallen to the ground, and sprouted new plants creating a moldering overgrown field of chaos.

The zombie however is incapable of fear or hesitation and trudges into the fragrant mass of forgotten corn, shouldering its way through the stalks. It's science-defying senses somehow detect movement near by. Movement means flesh. Warm, wet flesh to be torn away and shoveled down it’s slimy craw. The movement happens again and something falls to the ground. The zombie moves quickly (or quickly for a zombie) towards the fallen thing and sinking its broken teeth into the meat before reacting as strongly as it’s kind is capable of-- pulling back and letting the meat fall from its open mouth. It has bitten one of the other zombies. Its flesh is beyond putrid to a zombie. Again, a strange thing for a creature that should not have a sense of taste.

There are footsteps behind the zombie then, but before it can react a long, corroded blade stabs through its rotten back and out its chest. Maybe the zombie would register some problem if its dead brain had a few minutes. Or maybe it would never even notice the blade protruding from its body. It has no moment for introspection, theoretical or otherwise, however as the blade is ripped upward, shearing the zombie nearly in two.

The now twice-dead zombie falls to the ground, adding to the black mass of decaying bio matter that fertilizes the diseased crops, its seemingly endless journey finally meeting a most unexpected end.

The wielder of the scythe returned to its post, Its burlap and cloth form almost as rotten as the zombie had been. And like the zombie it was driven by an unknowable force, and was equally unthinking-- but instead of searching the land for humans and crows, it remained here in the cornfield. Protecting the crops and awaiting the return of the farmer.

Cbishop - Monsters

Monsters

Rick Grimes sat in his patrol car parked next to the curb where the best food truck in town parked, polishing off a huge slice of pizza, and starting in on some fries. He was a couple of bites in when his partner, Shane Walsh, got in on the passenger side with his lunch order. "Man, I don't understand why it takes them so much longer to make the pizza pie compared to the regular pizza slice. It's just more dough on top, right?"

"I feel your pain, brother," said Rick around a mouthful of fries.

Shane looked at him and laughed. "Yeah, I can see how it's hindering you. That pain might just be indigestion."

Rick laughed after he swallowed. "Why don't you just order two single slice combos and sandwich it together yourself?"

"And do what with the extra fries?" asked Shane. "I hate to waste food."

"Feed it to the birds?" Rick asked in a tone that said it was a no-brainer.

"What?" balked Shane. "Attract those little beggars every time they see the sheriff's star? No thanks!"

"Yeah, you're right," Rick said with a hint of sarcasm. "Feed creatures that are only looking for a way to survive? What was I thinking?"

Shane punched him in the shoulder, and they both laughed.

"Dispatch to Deputies Grimes and Walsh," crackled the radio. "Holdup suspects are approaching your area. Head them off on the 85."

Shane grabbed the radio mic and responded, "10-4. Deputies Walsh and Grimes responding."

Rick hit the lights and sirens, and said, "Guess you need a faster order, partner."

As he tossed his lunch out the window, Shane griped, "Yeah, danged birds get my lunch after all."

"Monsters," laughed Rick.

****

Merle sat back on his dealer's couch, taking a long drag off of the bong they were sharing. Then he passed it to his right, and said a little too loudly, "Here, little brother! Put some hair on your--"

"Damn, Merle!" Daryl shouted back. "Why you gotta be so damned loud? I'm still feeling that moonshine from last night."

"Aw, what's the matter, bro'? Can't take the hangover?" Merle laughed. "Maybe you need more hair of the dog than the hair this'll give ya," he said, quickly snatching the bong back from his brother.

"Hey! Give that back!" yelled Daryl, his hand shooting out and grabbing the bong again. They pulled between them briefly, and it snapped in their hands, cutting Merle and spinning out of Daryl's hands, crashing to the floor in the pieces.

"Heyyy, man! That bong was handmade," protested the dealer.

Merle wiped the blood from his hand on his shirt, then sucked on the cut before saying, "What the hell are you complainin' about? It was made from a damned vase!"

"It was the only thing I got when my mom passed," the dealer whined.

"You drilled a hole in it dipsh*t," said Daryl.

Merle laughed, and tossed the other half of the vase-bong into the floor, watching it break to pieces also.

The dealer just looked at the pieces forlornly through his drugged stupor, and said, "Dude. You guys are monsters."

Just then, the doorbell rang. "Hey, hey!" Merle shouted happily. "Pizza guy's here! About damned time!" Opening the door, he said, "Damn, Kato, I think you got the wrong house. We ordered pizza, not Chinese."

"Hilarious," Glenn deadpanned. "And I'm Korean, not Chinese."

"Whatever, Kato!" said Merle as he jerked the pizza box out of his hand and threw some crumpled bills at him.

Glenn had to chase some of the wadded bills down the steps, and Merle laughed before slamming the door. Glenn looked at the wadded up cash in his hands, sighed, and shoved them into his pocket. Wasn't enough there for a tip. "Thanks, douchebags," he said as he headed for his car.

***

All it took was for Ed to come in the back door and see the empty kitchen table. "How many times do I have to tell you to have my dinner ready when I come home, woman?" he raged.

"I-I'm sorry, baby," said Carol. "It's in the oven. It's almost ready."

Ed gritted his teeth, his jaw jutting back-and-forth a few times, before he seethed, "So what are we having?"

"Corn's on the counter," Carol said nervously, "and green beans are sitting in the microwave. I'm just waiting on the fish sticks to--"

"FISH STICKS?" boomed Ed. "I COME HOME FROM A HARD DAY'S WORK, AND YOU CAN'T EVEN HAVE FISH STICKS READY ON TIME? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?" he shouted. "COME HERE!" he said, grabbing for her.

Carol instinctively jerked away, and shouted, "No!" only succeeding in making Ed angrier. "I mean, I-I'm sor--"

SLAP! sounded loudly through the kitchen, bringing a dark welt up over Carol's right eye. "I don't want to hear your 'sorry's!' Just get my damned dinner on the table, woman! If you burn those fish sticks, there's going to be hell to pay!"

Carol didn't move right away as she was feeling around her eye, and Ed shouted, "NOW!" She whimpered and moved to the oven, quickly reaching in for the pan, and burning her hand as she forgot a pot holder in her haste, the pan and fish sticks clattering to the floor. She screamed and ran for the sink, running cold water over her hand. Between the pain in her eye, the pain in her hand, her husband's lack of care that she burned herself, embarrassment over her vulnerability, and panic over the dropped fish sticks, she started crying.

Ed just looked at her, angrier than ever. He reached in the fridge for a beer, twisted the cap off, threw it at her head, and stalked out to the living room, muttering, "Stupid cow can't even get damned fish sticks done right. What the hell did I do to deserve this?"

As he disappeared around the corner, Carol continued to hold her hand under the cold water, and whispered to herself, "What did I do to deserve such a monster?"

***

Glenn Rhee was just coming in from his latest delivery when the boss called out, "Hey, Glenn! Got another one for you! Just came in a few minutes ago, but the lady promised a twenty dollar tip if she could get it quick. Her husband started shouting in the background about wasting money just after that though."

"Was it the Peletiers again," asked Glenn?

"Who else?" asked the boss dismissively. "I heard him screaming something about 'fish sticks' as she hung up. She sounded like she was crying."

"Damn," said Glenn. "Let me jump on that. By the way, those stoner A-holes you sent me to didn't even tip!"

"The monsters," the boss said in mock horror.

"What's monstrous is the minimum wage for food service, boss!"

For the first time, the boss looked up from the pizza dough he was kneading, and looked completely unamused.

Glenn just rolled his eyes as he grabbed the next pizza, and shouted, "I love my job, boss!" as he ran out the door.

The boss shook his head, then punched the pizza dough on the table. "Smart ass," he said.

***

"Mm!" said the blonde reporter. "Mister Atsan, this pizza is delicious! Great recommendation!"

"You think?" he asked. "It seems to be...missing something," he said with uncertainty.

"Well, if you know a better pizza place, I'd love to know about it!" she said enthusiastically. "This is great."

"Glad you like it," he chuckled, "but please, just call me Atsan; no 'Mister.'"

"Oh! Okay," said the reporter, pushing a dangling piece of cheese into her mouth. "Then your last name is...?"

"Just 'Atsan' will do, Miss Hunch," he said pleasantly.

"Oh, well then," she said with a small laugh, "Call me Iva then."

"Iva it is then," replied Atsan. "A lovely name you don't hear often anymore."

"You say that like you're some old fogie, Atsan, but I doubt we're that far apart in age," she teased.

"You might be surprised," Atsan teased back with a charming smile.

"Mm-hmm," said Iva. "I think I know being buttered up when I see it. So let's get to it. What brings you to Atlanta, Atsan?"

"The large homeless population," he said without hesitation. "As you know, the Atsan Association has been asked to expand beyond our orphanages into other areas where people need help, and we've gladly agreed to do so. I've come to sample the homeless population here, to see how we might best serve them."

"'Sample?'" Iva asked.

"Well, assess might be a more acceptable word," Atsan corrected himself.

The two laughed amiably, and the interview continued over their pizza lunch for another forty-five minutes.

"Well, I really have to get back to the office if I'm going to get this story in early enough for the evening edition," said Iva.

"Perhaps once you're done, I could see you this evening at my hotel? I'm staying at the Four Seasons in the penthouse. I'd love to have you for dinner."

"Something besides pizza?" Iva said, her eyebrow raised.

Atsan smiled back. "Oh, I can't imagine the two could compare."

***

Seven hours later, Miss Hunch stepped off the penthouse elevator, and was greeted by an empty foyer. Slightly confused, she stepped around the corner to see Atsan standing in the middle of the living room area, watching the news on a big screen television mounted to the south wall. The sound was muted. There were people running in the streets, chased by what looked like other people who were disfigured somehow. There were cars clogging the out-of-town lanes over the bridge, and then there was an explosion- one which she heard outside of the penthouse in the distance.

"What the hell is going on out there?" asked Iva. "I was so into my own story today, and in such a rush to get here, I hadn't checked the wires."

Atsan sighed. "It's what happens when my sampling sessions get interrupted."

Taken aback, Iva said, "Excuse me?"

"I told you I was here to sample the homeless population," answered Atsan. "Usually, that can be done without interference, but someone saw me, yelled for the police, and chased me off. The result is these... monsters," he said with some disgust. "Not quite windigo- just someone infected by a windigo bite, infecting others with their bite, and next thing you know," he sighed, "it's on the news. Damn."

"I-I don't understand," said Iva. "What do you mean 'someone saw you? Yelled for the police? Chased you off?' What do you have to do with-- gasp!" she stopped when Atsan turned around.

Blood ringed Atsan's mouth, and ran down his chin and onto the coat and shirt of his formerly impeccable white suit. "I mean I was in the middle of eating a real meal after that horrid pizza," he said. "Unfortunately, that was interrupted by those who really didn't know better. But then I should have known better really. Never let yourself get too hungry when making important decisions," he said calmly as he walked towards Iva, who was frozen in fear.

"Fortunately, I planned ahead," said Atsan, "and as I said earlier today, I can have you for dinner."

Iva started to scream, but was cut short by Atsan biting into her neck.

Remember: Votes due by November 20th @11:59pm New York time.

Thanks for reading! -cb :^D

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