Friday, July 8, 2011

Other Stuff




I've been gone for a while, I realize--real life interceded. Company of Crows has been completely halted (I'm still writing large swathes of the story--but I'm keeping it offline for now. I'm not precisely sure what I'm going to do with it. As of now, it's been re-entitled 'Imbroglio'), and I've been working on both a rewrite of the Last Skull and another superhero serial that occurs in the same setting. The latter is called Notorious, and is about an ex-supervillain trying to go straight.

If you're reading this after clicking on the link from Jim Zoeteway's excellent Legion of Nothing series, then hey--if you want to read The Last Skull, feel free to, but keep in mind that the characters featured from that crossover fic are from the new Skull universe, not this one (but they're based on the characters here). I'll hopefully have a link to that series soon.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Story (Company of Crows)


So, I've dealt with most of my IRL issues and I'm coming back round to writing again. I've written a few drafts for what's either going to be the sequel to the Last Skull or a reboot of the series; I haven't decided yet. In the meanwhile, as a side project, I've started writing something with a slower pace, to try and extend my reach outside of my usual immediate-gratification styled prose. It's in a fantasy vein, and concerns the career of a young huntsman-turned-mercenary--it's called Company of Crows, and I hope you'll give it a shot.

As of writing this, only two chapters are up--until I've gotten myself steady and comfortable, I'm only going to update twice a week. The site's a little bare-bones at the moment, but contains everything you need to read the first two chapters (and as I add more chapters, I'll add additional functionality as necessary). Feel free to comment, etc.

Once I've got three chapters up, I'll submit it to webfiction guide for review, just like this one. Thanks for bearing with me, and thanks for reading!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011




When you get right down to it, grief is a funny thing.

From my view, it's been five years since my mom died, but sometimes it still hits me like it was yesterday. A smell, a word, a phrase, a thought--and I'm twelve years old all over again, face buried in the pillow while I quietly weep my eyes out.

The first thing I found out when I stepped through that portal was that Sumerset was dead. And ever since that day, I've grieved, and I've mourned, and I've spat and I've cursed until I felt like there was nothing left to feel about it at all.

And after two years, I felt like maybe, just maybe, I'd gotten over it.

But like I said; when you get right down to it, grief is a funny thing.

Two years later, here I am--a razor-sharp instrument of fearless, unstoppable justice--and I am bawling my eyes out over a man who, for me, died a lifetime ago.

We're in Wytch's house, patched up as best as we can. Mulligan's arm and leg are in a cast; Paladin's got bandages all over him. Red is bruised, Bonesaw is still partially deaf, Woot and his family are stashed away in the bedroom, and a severely beaten Sovereign is barely conscious, laying on Wytch's cot.

Everyone here looks like hamburger except for me, and I'm the one who's crying.

I'd call that weakness, except I know what Sumerset would say. He'd just give me a pat on the back and say 'Fuck it. Cry all you want. Anyone give you shit, you go ahead and break their arm, starling.'

"Sue," Mulligan begins.

"Yeah," I say, dragging myself out of it as best as I can. "Yeah, okay. I guess I need to start from the beginning."

"You've really been gone for two years?" Paladin asks.

"From my view, yeah," I tell him. "Sumerset set this up. Triggered to activate on his death. Message to Temporis. After the first fight I had with Scourge, he tracked her down--the time-travel girl. Started communicating with her."

Mulligan nods. "Started setting up a contingency plan in case he got killed."

"Why the fuck couldn't you save him?" Bonesaw asks. Something in her voice quivers--indignation, anger, disbelief--I don't know.

"Because it would disrupt the loop," I tell her.

"The fuck kind of bullshit is that?"

"Whatever message Sumerset set to send for Temporis," Mulligan explains, "it was triggered by his death. If Sue prevented his death, the message would never be sent, and hence she'd never come. Unstable time loop."

Bonesaw starts to pace. Claws extend and recede into her knuckles. I knew she wouldn't take any of this well.

"God damn it," she says, and then she buries half a clawtip into the wall.

"Watch the drywall," Wytch tells her, but then she turns her attention back to me. "Sue--"

"It's still you, isn't it?" Red asks.

I look to her.

"I--I just mean," she says, looking nervously to the side. "You say you've been gone two years, so I imagine you might have, you know, changed, and--"

I reach out and touch the edge of her fingers. Some of her agitation evaporates, but not all of it. She smiles.

"Sue, what happens now?" Wytch asks.

"I learned a lot on my trip," I tell her. "About what's going on. About what the Mirrorverse planned; about who Percival Murdoch is, and what master he serves." I shift my eyes to look over the others. "When Temporis first came over, to warn me about the future--way back when I first fought Scourge--she had a newspaper on her. It was from an alternate timeline--one which she prevented from ever happening. In it, Sovereign turned against the government."

"Why?" Paladin asks.

"Because the government's already turned over," I tell him. "After 1984, the Mirrorverse realized they couldn't win by brute force. So they started working more subtly."

Wytch's eyes narrow. "They're already here."

"Yeah," I tell her. "Percival's one of them. There are others. They've been working since then, eroding the Society, working to kill or disband heroes. Subtly, so no one will notice. And gathering power themselves."

"That's why they wanted to kill Sovereign," Mulligan says. "He's probably the biggest threat to their power. But--"

"But that doesn't answer grandmother's question," Red says, and then she squeezes my hand tighter. "What do we do now?"

"Now?" I say, and for a moment, I hesitate.

A voice, raspy and wet, speaks for me.

"Now?" Sovereign says from the cot, slowly sitting up. "Now, you go underground."

All of us turn to him. Wytch did the best she could for him; his face looks like something you'd find on a Mongolian barbecue bar, but it looks like it's healing. Slowly.

"If even half of what you're saying is true," he says, "then all of you are in far deeper than you can imagine. You need to find out who's on your side, and who's on their side. Gather your resources. And then..."

"Then," I say, "we expose them, beat the shit out of them, and send them back where they came from."

Through the blood and meat, Sovereign smiles. "Simple plan. Clear, sensible, straightforward. You're a lot like her."

"Are you going to help us?"

The smile splits into a slow grin. Several teeth are missing. "Wouldn't be much of a superhero if I didn't, ma'am."

I smile back. Then I look to the others.

"Anyone wants out, this is the time to do it," I tell them. "We've got no idea what we're up against."

No one backs down.

"Alright, then," I say. "Let's fuck some shit up."



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tyrant - 15



"Who the hell are you?" Tyrant asked. "Another Skull? Better costume, at least. Sword's a bit much, though."

"It's over," the Skull said.

"Yes. I thoroughly agree." Tyrant threw Sumerset's armored corpse aside. "It is over. Boomerang, would you be so kind?"

Boomerang Kid sprang out from his hiding place, his boomerangs spinning forward. The Skull's sword flashed out in two quick, murderous strokes; the boomerangs were neatly carved into separate pieces.

Boomerang Kid charged shortly after, a fresh pair of boomerangs in hand. As he brought the first one down in a jagged arc, the Skull side-stepped; the hilt of their sword snapped out and hammered into Boomerang's nose, neatly breaking it. Boomerang stumbled back just as the Skull's left knee snapped up into a brutal blow, leaving him breathless and confused.

The flat of the blade swung down to deliver a final blow against Boomerang's skull. He dropped to the ground, knocked out.

Tyrant watched, an expression of disbelief settling over him. "Impossible," he said. "You're dead."

"Oh?" the Skull said. "You think you know who I am?"

Tyrant narrowed his eyes. Energy coalesced in his irises; with a simple exertion, the energy extended into a murderous blade of heat.

The Skull's sword lifted up at an angle, meeting the heat-ray; they tilted the sword's edge, reflecting the beam up, then down--until it struck Tyrant's face, burning a path straight through his eyes.

"Fuck!" Tyrant roared, and he fell to the ground, clutching at his smoking eyesockets. The tissue damage healed rapidly, but for a moment, he felt panic gripping him. "You're--you're dead!"

He blindly grabbed the nearest thing he could find--an SUV. His fingers dented into its side as he twisted and threw it in the Skull's general direction; they easily sprang up above the SUV, feet blurring as they ran across its roof, leapt down, and landed in front of Tyrant.

"Elizabeth," the Tyrant whispered. "It can't be you--"

The Skull hammered their fist into Tyrant's face. The powered armor growled as it kicked into full-force; Tyrant flew back into the far wall and kept going. As he got back to his feet, he shook off his blindness and growled.

"Who are you?!" he roared.

The Skull took off her helmet.

An older and slightly more scarred Sue Daysdale stared him down.

"...what? You?" Tyrant said. "That stupid little--teenage twit? But your fighting style--that technique. It was hers--"

"Picked it up from her old teacher," Sue said, walking forward. "Picked up a few other things, too."

Tyrant narrowed his eyes. "You do know what I'm capable of, right? You realize you don't stand a chance in Hell against me. Not now."

"No," Sue said. "I've had two years to prepare for this moment, Scourge. Two years to train. To learn. And to prepare."

"I don't care if you had two hundred years, you snooty little fuck," he said. "You think you're going to defeat me? You and what army?"

Sue smiled. "Really," she said. "In the long history of human fuck-ups, do you think anyone's ever asked that question and not lived to immediately regret it?"

Lights flashed around the parking complex. Figures began to appear.

"What the hell--" Tyrant said.

"Two years to prepare, Scourge. Two years to gather weapons from every obscure corner of human history," Sue said. "Two years to train in their usage... two years to keep returning to this same moment... and use them on you."

Tyrant's eyes widened. Around him, more Sue Daysdales were appearing--all of them in the same armor. All of them with swords. And all of them holding a different superweapon.

"F--fucking... fucking time-travel bullshit!" Tyrant said.

"No shit, Sherlock," Sue said. "This one's for Sumerset. Everyone: Open fire."

All at once, Tyrant's world exploded into a thousand penetrating beams of light.


"Ambulance has Mulligan," Anna reported. "Lost contact with Sumerset. Wytch? Is Red okay?"

"Yes," Wytch said. "Hurt, but okay. Scourge hit us hard--"

"Something's happening in the parking lot," Mulligan said. "Something just--"

Everyone stopped talking as the parking lot where Sumerset and Tyrant had continued their fight promptly ceased to exist. In its place appeared a smoking, burning crater.


Tyrant fell to the ground. His left arm had disappeared from the shoulder joint down--holes riddled his body. Nearly every bone was shattered; his skull was fractured, his internal organs ruptured, and blood leaking from what might as well have been every pore.

As the other Sues disappeared, the one who had first approached him stepped forward, sword in hand. She pressed the crook of her foot down against his throat and pointed the tip of his sword blade at his face.

"I've had a lot of time to think about what I'm going to do to you," she said. "For what you did to Sumerset."

"Nngh..." Tyrant spat up a few chipped teeth. His regeneration was already kicking in, but the process was still too slow.

"Killing you is what he would have wanted, I know. Easiest solution. Stops you from hurting anyone else."

A brilliant, burning light opened up behind Sue; Temporis emerged from the portal.

"But I've thought of a better solution," Sue said. "I'm just going to put you somewhere where you won't bother anyone ever again."

Temporis opened another portal next to Sue; Sue crouched down and lifted Tyrant up by the throat.

"We're just going to dump you a six thousannd million years into earth's past."

Tyrant made a low, pitched whining sound. Sue smiled.

"Try fucking shit up there."

She threw him into the portal; Temporis slammed it shut. For a while, the two kept silent.

Somewhere behind them, metal clattered. Boomerang Kid emerged, a boomerang in either hand.

Sue turned to look back at him, sword still in hand.

"You can't be serious," she said.

Boomerang Kid paused, thought it over, and then turned and ran like hell.


Tyrant - 14



"Anna. Sumerset. Anyone," Wytch's voice crackled over the radio channel. "How the hell does this goddess-damned thing work?"

"Wytch," Sumerset said. "Picking you up just fine. You alright?"

"Scourge has the Skull Formula. And I think he might have some of Sovereign's blood."

Anna picked up the communicator. "I think most of his team is out, though. He's got the Skull Formula, but that shouldn't be a big deal, right? You got Man-of-War--Tech-Head's down, and Red's got Rockstar. If everyone moves toward Metro Tower, even if he has the Skull's powers, you should be able to--"

"The Skull Formula doesn't work like that," Sumerset said.


"Get everyone to Metro Tower. Immediately," Sumerset said. "Unless we move fast, we are all royally fucked."


I was still in a lot of pain, but the regeneration was kicking in overdrive; I could feel my bones reknitting. In another minute or two, I figured I'd even be able to stand without vomitting my guts.

The Skull clone kept their focus on Metro Tower. I cleared my throat, tried to make some noise.

"Uh," I said. "So, you gonna explain anything else?"

"Temporis will fill you in on the details."


"Wait a few more seconds," the Skull clone said. And then: "I just wanted to say."


"For everything. I'm sorry." They turned and looked at me from over their shoulder. "I wish things could have turned out differently. But if it's any consolation..."

The tower started to shake. I heard what sounded like a dull, distant explosion.

"...we didn't do all too bad, all things considered. Anyway. See you soon," the Skull clone said.

And then there was a flash of light, and they disappeared.

And the first three floors of Metro Tower exploded.


Sovereign flew like a bullet out of Metro Tower. He hit a nearby building--ripped through concrete and steel girders--and kept going. When he emerged the opposite side, his velocity didn't slow; he slammed through three more buildings before he fell to the street, rolling into a crash.

Blood dribbled from his upper lip. His eyes burned with crimson energy; he looked up into the night sky, at the man who had struck him.

"Scourge," he roared.

Scourge grinned from high above, where he floated overhead. "No," he said. "Call me Tyrant."


"Skull Formula doesn't just give you strength and regeneration," Sumerset said.

"What else?" Paladin asked as he raced across rooftops.

"It gives you the power of whoever's blood has been added to it," Wytch said. "That must have been Scourge's plan all along. He didn't want to just kill Sovereign--"

"He wanted Sovereign's powerset," Anna said.

"Shit," Mulligan said. "Scourge with Sovereign's powerset. That's bad."

"It gets worse," Sumerset said. "A lot worse."


The energy gathered around Sovereign's eyes into a solid beam. With a roar, he fired; a streak of crimson lit up the city sky and struck Tyrant directly in the chest.

Flesh burned and sizzled; Tyrant cried out as he was hurled back and sent smashing against the building behind him. The smoke cleared, and Tyrant fell to the earth.

Sovereign struggled to his feet. Through the smoke, he could see Tyrant standing back up.

The burn marks across his chest and face were rapidly closing, healing up to reveal smooth, unmarked skin.

Tyrant grinned. His eyes started to burn red.


"Skull's powers?" Anna said. "So, like--"

"Oh shit," Mulligan said. "Oh fucking shit. That means--"

"Regeneration," Wytch said. "He's not just as strong as Sovereign... he's also just about impossible to kill."

"And increased agility," Sumerset said. "And Scourge is already a capable spell-caster, on top of everything else. Basically, if Scourge gets ahold of Sovereign's blood, we are all--"

"Guys," Paladin said. "Standing near Metro Tower now. Scourge is... he's fighting Sovereign. Alone."

For a moment, the channel was silent.

Paladin then added: "And he's winning."


Tyrant's fists became nothing but a blur; beneath them, Sovereign's face was reduced to a bloody pulp. Concrete rippled and cracked; the streets groaned beneath the relentless pressure of his pumping arms.

Sovereign spat out a bloody, chipped tooth. Tyrant grinned.

He plucked what was left of Sovereign's bloody, broken body, and hurled him into the air.

Lightning swept out from above; Wytch soared low and caught Sovereign, darting away.

"Hmph," Tyrant replied, and then he sprang into the air after her.

An empty bus slammed into him. He was sent reeling back and crashing into the sixth floor of an office building; glass popped behind him as the vehicle drilled him through the building and down to the fifth floor.

Tyrant shook his head and struggled to lift the bus; it was then that he noticed that it was full of several dozen pulsing balls of energy.

"Eat plasma grenades," Sumerset roared from the streets.

The bus exploded; the building's entire south side ruptured beneath the force of the flames. Supports above creaked and groaned; Sumerset continued to fire round after round of plasma grenades toward the building's base, aiming to bring it down in a controlled, localized collapse.

As it fell with a crash, an immense cloud of smoke swept out through the streets of Metro City. Sumerset didn't let up with the assault--blast after blast was sent booming through the rubble, turning the heap of brick and steel into a smoldering inferno.

Tyrant rose above it; the wounds he had suffered from the blast were already closing.

"Did someone leave a window open?" Tyrant said. "I thought I felt a draft."

"Oh, fuck you," Sumerset shouted.


Shortly after Metro Tower exploded, there was another flash of light in front of me.

A girl in a T-shirt and jeans emerged.

I had just managed to sit up, and was slowly limping my way toward the fight that was raging on the streets; the girl stepped forward, pressed her hand to my chest, and shook her head.

"What--look, I'm starting to get tired of all this mysterious, weird bullshit," I said. "If somebody doesn't tell me what's going on right now, I'm going to... I'm going to..."

I stared at the girl. I recognized her face.

My eyes narrowed.

"You're that time-traveling... lady," I said. "The one who warned me about Scourge--I saw you dead."

"Temporal paradoxes are a bitch," the girl said, and then she grinned. "But actually, from my perspective, this is the first time we've met. Name's Temporis. I open portals in space and time."

"Cool. So, yeah. Pardon me, gotta go help my friends."

"That's what I'm here to do," she said. "Help you help them."

"Yeah, uh, okay, but--"

"Sue Daysdale," she said. "The Scourge now has all of your powers and all the powers of Sovereign. There ain't a damn thing you can do to stop him. Not right now."

I hesitated and stopped. " what the hell am I supposed to do?"

"Easy," she said. "Search. Prepare. Train."

"Yeah, sorry, but I don't have enough time for that. My friends are in trouble--"

"Did you miss the part where I said I open portals in space and time?"


Wytch flew down to one side of Tyrant; Red flew down to the other side. Red's eyes were still obscured beneath the crackle of violet energy; music swelled around in her wake.

Both attacked --bolts of lightning from Wytch, and an ear-shattering sound from Red. The attacks hit Tyrant simultaneously, sheathing him in an illuminating halo of destruction.

When the light cleared, Tyrant brought both his hands together with an earth-shaking krack-kow.

Air ruptured beneath the force of the sound; Red and Wytch were both batted from the air at once. Tyrant darted straight down toward Sumerset.

"Everything: Fire," Sumerset whispered.

Everything went off with a series of thunderous booms. A microwave capable of heating the moisture under the skin caused Tyrant's flesh to briefly sizzle; lights capable of inflicting instant, permanent blindness scorched his retinas. A sound-wave designed to explicitly shatter ear-drums tore through his face and caused his jawbone to tremble beneath the volume. A stripped uranium slug met him in the chest, fired from the mounted rail-gun at super-sonic speed; plasma grenades detonated in front of his torso, splashing him with superheated matter.

Tyrant tore through the violent assault and hit Sumerset enough to crack the Arsenal armor's torso. Sumerset grunted, lifted off his feet and sent soaring back through the next building. Concrete gave way behind him as he rolled and crashed, halting somewhere in the parking plaza directly behind the building.


"I don't understand what you're saying," I said. "But everyone I care about is in danger. So if you don't get out of my way--"

"I'm sorry," Temporis said. "But I can't let you join the fight."

"Why the fuck not?"

"Because that's not how this fight happens."

"Excuse me, what? How the hell does it happen then, huh?" I asked.

"You singlehandedly beat Tyrant," she said.

"Then let me through!"

"Not you you," she said. "Future you."

"That doesn't--that doesn't make any sense!" I said.

"Time-travel shenanigans rarely do," she said. "Point is, things have to happen like they're about to happen, otherwise we get an offshoot timeline."

"And, what? I'm supposed to just trust you?"

"No," she said, and then she took something out of her pants pocket. It was small--it looked like an mp3 player, but with a video screen. As she handed it to me, she hit the 'play' button.

The screen flickered.

Sumerset's ugly mug appeared on the screen.

"Kid," he said, his voice filtered through the piss-poor mini-speakers that someone had plugged into the headphone port. "Do exactly what the crazy time-traveling girl tells you to do."

I looked up from the mp3 player to Temporis, then back to the mp3 player.

"This is such bullshit," I muttered.

Temporis grinned. She lifted her arm; a portal filled with light opened in front of me.

"Step through," she said.

I glanced back to the battle raging in front of me, then back to the portal. Then I looked back to Temporis.

"If this is some sort of bullshit," I told her, "I will find you."

"It's not bullshit," she said. "And yes, you will."

I held my breath and stepped through the portal.


Tyrant descended into the parking lot just as Sumerset managed to get back on his feet.

Wheezing and gasping, Sumerset tried to fire the plasma grenade; error messages scrolled over his screen. The rail gun was out too; the majority of the suit's offensive capabilities had been disabled.

"Figures," he said, just as Tyrant seized him by the collar and plucked the Arsenal suit up into the air.

"Time to make you a very holy man," Tyrant said.

"Piss off and die," Sumerset said.

Tyrant's fist dove straight into the Arsenal suit's chest; it parted through metal and circuitry and pushed on into the meat of Sumerset's torso.

His fingers crawled into Sumerset's stomach, found his spine, and squeezed.

Sumerset's eyes rolled back into his head. Tyrant withdrew his blood-soaked hand, leaving a fist-sized hole in Sumerset's abdomen; he released the Arsenal suit, letting it crumple to the ground.

As he turned, he found himself staring face-to-face with someone in a Skull suit.

Someone with a sword.



Tyrant - 13



The first thing I was aware of was the incredible, searing pain.

Then I became aware of the pressure; it only made the pain worse. It encapsulated every part of my body--my arms, my legs, my fingers, even my toes. It was as if all my bones had been broken--and my body had decided to go about the task of rearranging them in their proper positions.

My arms cracked. My ribs snapped. My fingers made loud, obnoxious popping noises.

I would have screamed, except I was fairly sure my jaw had been dislocated; then, when I opened my mouth, I felt it slide back into place with a horrible crack.

"Hurts like nobody's business, huh?" a voice said above me.

The helm's viewscreen flickered. Warning messages of every type--red, yellow, and black--fluttered across the screen. I had landed somewhere on the street; somewhere on the sidewalk. Part of the concrete had given away beneath my head, leaving a jagged crack that traveled all the way up to a nearby street post.

"What--" I began. The voice sounded familiar, but...

Victoria Noble was standing above me.

Her clothing was in tatters; her dress had been torn from the fall, with smudge-marks lining her face and body. But despite that, not a hair on her head looked displaced. She didn't even look flustered.

Her hand reached down. She wrapped her fingers around my helmet and squeezed.

The warning messages became a blinding cacophony; I heard her terrible, miserable laughter. And then--

Then, someone grabbed her by the shoulder and threw her clear across the street.

Victoria Noble landed in a crouch and glared at her attacker. The man above me--was he a man? A woman? I couldn't tell--was dressed in the same suit I was wearing, except with some modifications. It looked leaner and meaner. On top of that, they had a sword on their back; as I watched, they drew it with a metal hiss.

"Back off," they said. The voice--modulated, but differently. But still very familiar.

My pain-soaked brain made the connection.

Deep-Throat. The one who had called Sumerset. The one who had lead us to the storage facility; to the Arsenal armor.

It was the Skull clone.

"Another one? Really?" Victoria said. "Are you setting up franchises, now?" She charged, grinning with fearless abandon.

The Skull clone stepped forward and swiped the tip of their blade at Victoria. Suddenly, she stumbled and rolled, coming to a halt some distance past us both.

When Victoria got to her feet, her face had been drained of all its color. Across her cheek was a single, thin line of red--so narrow that it would have been easy to miss. When she touched it, her fingers were trembling.

"You... you cut me," she said, her voice quavering. "That's--that's not--"

The new Skull turned and pointed the sword at her.


Victoria Noble turned and did just that.

When the new Skull fixed their attention on me, I tried to sit up--but my muscles rebelled. "Who--who the hell are you?" I still couldn't move--every part of my body was shrieking in collective agony. But I could talk.

"A friend," they said.

"From where?"

"Let's say the future."

"What--what's going on," I said. "I remember getting thrown off the roof--Scourge--"

"He got you through the chest," they said. "Your suit's still operational, but it'll be screwed up for a while. Until you get it fixed, anyway. As for what's going on, well. Things are about to get crazy. For starters, the Muse of Music is about to wake up."


"Red," they said. "Not the ideal choice, but she'll have to do. On top of that, we're about to get a visit from Tyrant."

I struggled against the pain and tried not to vomit. "Who?"

They shook their head and turned to look up at Metro Tower. "You're about to see."


Tech-Head, Rockstar, and Sovereign exploded into the streets of Metro City.

Tech-Head's claws managed to slam Sovereign down into the ground. Asphalt rippled; cracks splintered out in an extending wave. Rockstar leapt high above Tech-Head and descended for Sovereign's prone form, streaks of lightning following his descending guitar.

A single note sang out from above. The sound slammed into his chest and catapulted him back toward Metro Tower; the cornerstone of the building crumpled beneath Rockstar's weight.

Red swung down from above, her voice cutting through the din of noise and chaos. The single note swelled into a song; behind her, violet lightning crackled. Her eyes were lost amidst the glow of color, the beat of a song hammering through every window, every rock, and every stone of Metro Tower.

"Figures," Rockstar said, and he threw himself into the sky to meet the new Muse of Music head-on.


"We're trying to stop... Scourge," Bonesaw said, her voice strained. "From assassinating Sovereign."

"Good. Now, I want to know precisely how many of you there are," Philip said.

"Bonesaw," Anna said, her voice humming in her ear. "Ear-drums."

"What about them," Bonesaw said, and then she groaned. "Nine, if you count the unpowered brat."

"Unpowered brat?" Philip said.

"It's next to a bone," Anna said. "The malleus. Hammer-shaped..."

Bonesaw blinked. And then she grimaced.

Her ears promptly made a loud, gruesome popping sound. A trickle of blood flowed out of both of them.

"What--" Philip started.

Bonesaw turned, her fist extending into a set of claws. She swung her hand around and drove the bones straight into Philip's chest--and proceeded to dig, pushing him back toward the hole that the descending Sovereign had left.

"Sorry," she said as she threw him over a dozen floors down. "Can't hear you."


A few of the outer plates of Man-of-War's powered armor had been torn off, exposing the ceramic sheets that his own armor consisted of. At least one portion of the ceramics had cracked, exposing an edge of steel.

Sumerset's suit was faring only a little worse; portions of the exterior had been dented and damaged, but it wasn't enough to cause any serious malfunctions. Nevertheless, each blow rattled him inside of the armor, causing him a spurt of pain.

On top of that, it was getting harder and harder to breathe.

"You know that I always admired your suit," Man-of-War said as he delivered another molar-rattling blow to the side of Sumerset's armor. Sumerset was sent soaring; he was sent slamming through a chain-link fence and down into a small power substation nestled between two apartment complexes. Sparks flew; warning signs flickered by. "Simple. Functional. Violent. It's why I designed a version of my own. But I always secretly worried that mine wasn't capable of standing up to yours."

Sumerset grunted and drew himself up to his feet--just in time to face down the metal spiked ball, aimed directly at him. "Really," Man-of-War said, "beating the shit out of you has been kind of therapuetic."

"Quit talking and fire," Sumerset said.

Man-of-War's metal sphere launched straight at Sumerset. Rather than dodge, Sumerset took it straight in the chest--and leapt. His feet left the ground as he aimed his back for one of the transformers behind him. As he felt it crumple, he drove his spine into it--and sparks flew.

The arc of electricity traveled through Sumerset's suit, harmlessly redirected around him--then flowed into the metal sphere, down the chain, and into the outer suit Woot had constructed. A sharp, jagged spark of lightning swung up through the space where the ceramics had cracked--and flowed straight past Man-of-War's armor.

There was a sudden shriek, followed by a series of convulsions; wisps of smoke flowed up from Man-of-War's torso. With a final clunk, the powered armor collapsed to the ground--its pilot thoroughly electrocuted.

Sumerset let himself fall back to the ground with a clomp, grinning inbetween his desperate wheezes for breath. "Fucking kids," he said. "Never bother to make their armor a Faraday Cage."


The smoke cleared from the rubble of the night-club. Paladin swung through it, striding on stilts; when he reached the worst of the destruction, he fell to the ground and turned both hands into immense shovels. With scoop after scoop, he started searching through the rubble.

Someone groaned near the back.

Paladin ran toward the source of the sound; Mulligan was laid out among the shattered bedrock, his face streaked with blood. His leg was pinned beneath a thick chunk of concrete; it looked as if it had been shattered.

"285," Mulligan moaned.

"Don't move," Paladin replied. He wrapped a length of light around the concrete and threw it aside; he then inspected Mulligan for any further wounds. "You lost a lot of blood, but you should be okay."

"He knew about my power," Mulligan said. "Which means Scourge knows. Which means--"

"Stop talking. Save your energy," Paladin said.

Mulligan reached up to snag Paladin by the collar, pulling. "Fucker figured we'd be coming coming. Paladin. You need to go to Metro Tower. Serious shit is about to go down."


Wytch descended in a swell of electrical sparks; Tech-Head reared his claws just in time to receive a bolt of lightning to the face.

Sovereign, bruised and bloodied, stood up and delivered a punch capable of pulping steel to Tech-Head's central body; the robot was flung back through the front doors of Metro Tower, exploding through stone and support structures.

When he finally came to a halt, he had crashed through three separate rooms and come to rest somewhere in the back offices.

"Wytch," Sovereign said.

"Sovereign," Wytch replied.

"I saw a young woman fighting against Rockstar. Will she require assistance?"

"No," Wytch said. "Let's finish this one off."

They flew into the building, side by side; Tech-Head scampered to his feet just as Wytch and Sovereign swept inside.

Lightning and fist impacted the robot simultaneously, smashing him down into the basement. When the smoke and debris cleared, Tech-Head's twisted metal appendages were left twitching--like the death spasms of a freshly crushed spider.

"Hey! Hey, down here!"

A young boy in goggles was wriggling somewhere in the far corner of the basement, thoroughly wrapped in duct-tape; behind him were two gagged adults and a little girl.

"I'll handle Scourge," Sovereign said.

"I'll take care of the hostages," Wytch replied. "Then I'll join you."

Sovereign flew off; Wytch descended in front of the boy. "You alright?" she asked, and with a flicker of magic, his bindings were cleanly sliced through.

"No," Woot said. "Listen--listen to me! You have to tell Sovereign--it's a trap!"

"What is?"

"Scourge isn't trying to kill him, not yet. Scourge has the Skull Formula--"

"He has--? Oh. Oh," Wytch said, and her eyes widened in realization. "Oh shit."



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tyrant - 12



"What is going on?"

Aunt Sylvia hung over Anna's shoulder as she scanned the various video and audio feeds inside of the storage room. Anna hit a few keystrokes and shook her head.

"Too much stuff," she said, and then she hit one of the channels. "Arsenal. Just lost all the feeds on Metro Tower except Bonesaw's. She's fighting Hex. They need support."

Sumerset's viewport showed a perspective through his armor; the immense steam-powered extension of Man-of-War's armor lumbered in front of him, swinging a maced ball directly down at the camera.

"Working on it," Sumerset said, his voice a low grunt. "Wait, Mulligan's audio feed is out?"

"Yeah. I didn't quite catch it--sounded like something exploded, and--"

"Fuck. Has Sovereign showed up yet?"

"Don't know, Skull's feed was the last one to go out, I saw something slam down, but--"

"Send anyone you can to Metro Tower. I'll be on my way once I nail this twerp," Sumerset said.


Bonesaw landed somewhere in the gutted remains of Metro Tower's upper floors; the hole that she had been falling through continued several dozen of stories down. Somewhere below her, she could see Hex's bleeding form laid out on the edge of one of the holes; beneath that, she could see what looked like a struggle between four separate powers.

"Bonesaw," Anna's voice hummed in her ear. "Sending a crew your way. Lost feed on everyone; what's their status?"

"Skull got thrown off the roof," Bonesaw said. "And I see the son of a bitch who did it. Scourge. He's fighting Sovereign, along with the rest of them."

"Okay. Stay down until we send backup," Anna said. "No way you can--"

"No. He killed her. I'm going to--," Bonesaw began, right before another voice cut her off.

"Shut up and stay still."

Instantly, Bonesaw's body went rigid; the voice seemed to slice right through her skull and seize her by the cerebellum.

"Bonesaw?" Anna said. "Bonesaw, what's going--"

"Now, listen very carefully," Phillip Darden said, stepping out from the floor underneath Bonesaw. "I want you to answer a few questions."


"Paladin," Anna's voice said. "Metro Tower needs support--"

"Busy," Paladin growled. A brilliant arc of light flashed across his arms as Gearbox brought the extended energy blades down; Paladin blocked it with a makeshift shield, but the force of her blow sent him stumbling back.

"Philip's got Bonesaw," Anna said.

"Who?" Paladin asked, just as Gearbox turned one arm into an immense piston. It shot forward, forcing him down to one knee; stone cracked beneath him.

"A fuckhead," she said. "He's got mind control powers. He's asking her about us--about what we're doing, who we are. She's going to give us away--"

Gearbox's piston hit again; Paladin's shield started to waver and splinter. He shuddered beneath the impact, grinding his teeth. "Can't help," he said. "Get Mulligan."

"His feed is dead--"


The shield instantly collapsed and speared forward into a set of prongs. They caught Gearbox around the throat and pinched tight; each tip continued to extend, carrying her into the air. The tips hit the third story balcony of an apartment, pinning her and leaving her dangling.

Paladin forced the pincers closed and squeezed down on Gearbox's throat.

"Last location," he said.

Gearbox choked. Anna's voice wavered. "Paladin, Skull needs--"

"Tell me his last location."

"Three blocks south of you."

Paladin released the metal prong; Gearbox fell and hit the ground hard. Before she so much as stand, Paladin charged forward and delivered a bone-cracking blow to her jaw.

She went down and didn't get back up. Paladin turned and started running to the south.


Somewhere in the bowels of Metro Tower, Sovereign struggled against the combined might of an enhanced Tech-Head and Rockstar.

The ground lobby had been shattered; the floor was cracked, with piping and insulation exposed. Rockstar's sonic blasts left Sovereign disoriented, while Tech-Head's immense crab-like form sprang through the air and smashed him to the ground.

Sovereign struggled to squeeze his hands around Tech-Head's pincer-like legs. Metal creaked beneath his fingers; dents and divuts formed in solid steel.

Scourge descended from above, his red hand narrowed into a single needle-like point. He fell atop of Sovereign as he struggled and brought the needle-tip down, plunging it straight into the cape's eye.

The Hand of Goron snapped.

Sovereign's eyes pulsed a brilliant crimson; a streak of red light lashed out and swarmed across Scourge's torso, arching him up and off the ground. When Scourge landed several yards away, his chest was smoking.

Sovereign pulled Tech-Head's legs off of him and used his grip on them to yank the massive machine into the air. Then he started to spin, sweeping Tech-Head in ever-widening circles. When Rockstar flew close for another sonic blast, Sovereign hurled Tech-Head straight at him--and the two masks collided, crashing through another wall.

With the Hand of Goron broken, Sovereign perceived Scourge as the esser threat, and flew after Tech-Head and Rockstar. Shortly after he disappeared--the distant, thunderous sound of battle following in his wake--Scourge picked himself up with a groan.

His arm now ended near the elbow joint in a nub; the Hand of Goron had been reduced to a hunk of metal on the floor. But the needle that had struck Sovereign in the eye was still intact--only chipped. Scourge limped toward it, pushing through the pain.

When he plucked it up, he raised the needle to his own eye--and smiled at what he found.

A drop of Sovereign's blood had been collected at the tip.