Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Outcasts, Part 3

The year was 2002. Hugh Scott had killed quite a few people during his time with the Outcasts. But this time, they’d gone too far. The bitch had gone too far.

Anne, leaning heavily on her cane, looked at Scott, “I know you don’t have a problem with murder.”

Scott stared back at her, loathing everything about her: her grayish, speckled hair, her wrinkling skin, her look of superiority. “Not murder. Killing people for the cause. But this, this is--”

“The woman you love,” Anne said, with a smirk that reeked of contempt.

“The woman I love,” Scott said, “She hasn’t done anything wrong. I’m not--”

“You’re not fully committed to the cause,” Anne said, looking down on him. That was another thing he hated about her, the fact that she never let anyone finish a sentence. Apparently, being a telepath made you impatient for people to finish a thought. “What you don’t understand is that she has done something wrong. A lot of things, in fact. She only joined this group for ‘kicks,’ as I’ve heard her think many times. That, and she makes you distracted, unfocused. She’s a pawn who thinks herself a queen, a thrill seeker who--when we’ve run out of thrills--will abandon us without mercy. Is this what you want, Hugh? A revolution filled with half-hearted revolutionaries?”

He felt Anne drilling into his head, going deeper than she’d ever tried to before, attempting to warp his mind, make him think things that were anathema to him. But she could never change his core beliefs, nor could she change his loyalty to Kecho. Perhaps that was Anne’s greatest weakness. She was so focused on changing things, she was sometimes unable to interpret the reality confronting her.

“Who’s side are you on, Hugh?”

“The side that doesn’t kill people on a whim.” As he said this, he grabbed Anne’s cane from her. The old lady fell towards the ground, and he saw her expression contort into one of pain. Using all the telekinesis she could muster, she floated off the ground and straightened her spine.

He was running away from her as fast as he could. He knew that soon the others would be coming.

It was a simple matter to find Kecho. He pounded at her door. She opened it.

“What are you--”

“No time. Run,” Scott said, grabbing her hand and racing through the metallic corridor. It didn’t last long, as a short man appeared in front of them in a cloud of smoke, accompanied by a tall man holding a samurai sword. Kecho had always been enraptured with the sword that Tatsumi--the samurai--wielded. Tatsumi had the power to bend metal, which was obvious when you looked at his sword, that sword which was constantly morphing, changing shapes, often warped and wavey, sometimes harder than steel.

Before anyone had a chance to speak, Scott pounced onto the samurai. Kecho, taking the cue, attempted to roundhouse kick the shorter man--Herbert--in the face, only to have him teleport behind her.

“You tread the path of betrayal with a great deal of lightness, Hugh,” Tatsumi said, manipulating his sword as he was falling to the ground, “Before I kill you, will you at least express your regret?”

Scott felt Tatsumi’s sword creating a single, long streak of blood on his back. He saw Tatsumi’s hand holding that warped sword, which winded from his hand to Scott’s back.

“My only regret,” Scott said, “Is that you don’t use bullets.”

With that, Scott threw his right hand behind him, grabbing the sword as he spun off of Tatsumi. Taking the sword from Tatsumi, Scott threw it down the corridor as he kicked Tatsumi in the face. Jumping up, he thrust his elbow into Tatsumi’s chest.

He looked around and saw Kecho with her arm wrapped around Herbert’s neck.

“His power works by touch,” Kecho said, “Wherever he goes, I go.”

Scott grabbed Herbert’s hand. For a moment, he thought the teleporter’s hand was bleeding. Then he realized it was his own. Choosing to ignore it, he said, “You know what I’ve done. You know what I’m willing to do. Get us out of here. Now.”

Seeing no other option, Herbert obliged.

The year was 2011. Hugh was watching television on the sofa, caressing Kecho’s soft white hair. On at that particular moment was The Jimmy Ferguson Hour, a talk show.

“It seems the man without a face struck again today, folks. A 35 year old man reports being on his way to work in the morning when suddenly he woke up in an alleyway at midnight. A man of his height and build was reportedly behind the taking down 15 of Godfrey’s men.”

“Now, there are a lot of folks out there who claim these super heroes--these vigilantes--are the next step of human evolution. But if that’s true, does that mean humanity’s future belongs to schizophrenics? If so, I guess Glenn Beck was ahead of the curve.”

Snowbird gave a weak chuckle to the television, as Hugh continued to gaze into the TV set, unfazed. Neither noticed Alex Gryzlov--perhaps more appropriately referred to in this moment as The Hunter--crouched in their lawn, hiding in a bush. He felt his heart pounding, each beat feeling like a boxer trying to punch his way out of the rib cage. Gryzlov could hear the television Snowbird and Hugh were watching. He could smell the trash that their neighbor three doors down had forgotten to take out today. He could feel the bird’s wings above him, shifting the currents of the air.

Rubbing his hands together, he couldn’t help but notice that they lacked wrinkles. He felt younger, stronger.

In leaps and bounds he darted towards one of the home’s windows. He burst through it, not even noticing the shards of glass that pierced his skin, disregarding the shards that pierced his feet. Instead, he turned towards Snowbird and Hugh.

Hugh, not getting up from his couch, said, “I haven’t killed someone in a long time. But let me tell you something. It’s like getting back on a bike: you never really forget how to do it. Either you’re a confused junky, in which case you should leave now. Otherwise, I’m going to kill you. Are you ready to die?”

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Outcasts, Part 2

Snowbird giggled, stretching out across the floor.

“What?” Scott asked, taking his eyes off the paper.

“I was just thinking back on old times.”

“I don’t see how that would make you giggle,” Scott said, with a greater gravity than he had intended.

Not heeding her husband’s mood, Snowbird continued, “You were starting out, just a kid who had no idea what he was doing. But you knew you wanted to change the world for the better. And you were striking out against hate crimes, while at the same time trying the help the poor. And that news reporter--he was just a kid too--and he tried calling you that name--” Scott remembered exactly what she was talking about, and it made him laugh.

The year was 1995. Hugh Scott had on his leather jacket. He was jumping from building to building, his eyes perusing the area, confirming that nothing was amiss. He had been satisfied for a while now. Unlike most so-called ‘super heroes’ he’d known, he preferred the quiet days. It meant his neighborhood was taking care of itself. It meant he was doing his job right, and he’d taken some punks off the street for good, while discouraging others from even trying.

All was going well, until he heard the gunshot.

Realizing the sound came from a nearby gas station, he leaped onto the fire escape, weaving his way through the ladders and platforms--climbing where it was necessary, jumping where expedient. He landed on the floor and bounded across the street, hopping over a car that was doing nothing more productive than getting in his way. Reaching the gas station, he didn’t take the time to survey the situation. As a bulletproof man, he’d found it more useful to draw attention to himself, than wait for someone else to get shot.

As was to be expected, the two robbers swung around to meet their assailant. The bullets bounced off his skin, leading to a rather impressive display (the bullets hurt like hell, Scott later admitted to Snowbird, but he figured it was best not to let his enemies know that.) Scott grabbed the first robber’s wrist and swung it back, leading to a resounding crack. The robber let go of his gun and Scott kicked the man’s feet out from under him. Turning to the second robber, he headbutted the man, pushing him into the candy aisle of the gas station. He proceeded to punch the man in the stomach. Ripping the gun from his hands, he gun whipped the second robber, who also fell to the floor.

The police sirens wailed and Scott knew it was time for his exit. Making eye contact with the gas station attendant, he tossed the gun towards the man, who caught it. Once again he burst through the doors.

The police, their guns levelled at Scott, yelled, “Stop, in the name of the law.”

Scott shook his head as he fled the scene. He never understood why they thought they could stop him. What were they going to do, shoot him? He made his way to his ramshackle apartment and without another thought plopped into his bed, weary, but feeling triumphant.

That sense of triumph lasted until the morning, when he opened the paper. He’d always felt it was important to keep up with the news. That way, he could read about what was going on in the world, and more specifically what was going on in the area he was sworn to protect. He could gain a better understanding of where the crime was happening and therefore where he was needed most.

Of course, the first thing he saw when he opened up to the local section was that a mugging had taken place an hour before the gas station robbery. It had been three blocks away from where he was patrolling at the time. Thus the night was a failure. Because it didn’t matter how much dirt he took off the streets. If they weren’t clean they weren’t clean, and he just wasn’t doing his job well enough. Thinking of various ways to improve his patrolling route, he came across the article that explicated his previous night’s adventures. He noticed that the newspapers had given him the name, “Black Panther.”


Hell no.

Poor old Corey was sitting at his desk at the Daily Word, the city’s premier newspaper. His fingers were like machine guns, shooting a never-ending stream of words onto the page. Suddenly, he felt a cool draft of wind hit his face and wake him up from the trance of writing. He noticed that his window was open, and in that window stood a man.

“My name is Ricochet,” Scott said.

“And what seems to be your problem, Mr. Ric--” Corey said, scratching his temple with the eraser of his pencil, “Oh, you’re Black Panther.”

Several hours later, Corey was found in a closet tied to a chair, with a gag in his mouth, a simple message laying on his lap. It read, “Your Friend, Ricochet”

The newspapers never called him ‘Black Panther’ again.

Back in the present day, Gryzlov’s head spun wild with thoughts. Laying before him was the dossier of Hugh Scott, better known as Ricochet, the man who was impervious to bullets. Gryzlov took another swig of rum, flipping through the pages.

Scott had been a member of the Outcasts, a paramilitary group that had sponsored civil unrest ever since the Cuban Revolution in the Sixties. It was a group whose name could only be whispered near the ears of the sensitive and at the same time a group whose logo was spread across many a college student’s t-shirt. It was a name that simultaneously inspired hope and fear, pain and tranquility, order and chaos. To put it in simple terms, it was a controversial group, one the government was not fond of.

However, Scott had fallen in love with Snowbird, another member of the revolutionaries, a Japanese adventuress with the power to manipulate wind. The two of them had defected to the American government, but had lost their usefulness in years. And there was still the fact that the United States had forgiven terrorists, one of whom was a mass-murderer. Not exactly the best P.R. move.

Gryzlov, with a degree of difficulty, got out of his chair. He walked over to the painting he was so fond of, the one of a slain lion. Lifting it up--he noted how heavy the frame was--he placed it gently on his desk. He caressed the safe’s lock with his hands, turning to all the right numbers. With a click, the safe opened and he took out one of the many bottles of serum he’d manufactured over the years.

He closed the safe and put everything back in its place, excluding that one vial he held in his hands. Those hands trembled. The bottle’s cap was opened. Looking out into the black night of the city, Gryzlov kicked his head back and allowed the serum to pour down his throat.

Tonight, the Hunter would come out and play. Tonight, Hugh Scott must die.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Outcasts, Part 1

Snowbird combed her fingers through her bright white hair, as she descended the stairs. A warm smile spread across her face and she leaped into the kitchen, for a moment seeming to float across the floor. As her feet touched the cold white tiles of the kitchen, she exclaimed, “Hello, dear.”

Hugh, having his bowl of cereal, looked up from the screen of his laptop, “Kecho. Sleep well?”

“As always,” she stated, pirouetting as she opened the cabinet and took out a box of cereal, “Did you sleep at all?”

“That’s a cruel question,” he said, looking back at his computer screen, “Cruel as the night.”

“I don’t understand why you get so worried,” she said, pouring just the right amount of cereal into her bowl, “It’s been ten years. The government has forgiven us for our membership to the Outcasts. This sort of thing happens all the time in our work--dissidents becoming heroes. So what’s the trouble?”

“The trouble’s that I can’t be as optimistic as you,” he said, turning around to look at her beautiful form as she poured her milk. She was quite slender, yet muscular. Her every movement seemed to him like a dance. He realized how precious she was to him. Her movement alone made life worth living, just like her conversation, just like her kindness, just like her sense of humor. The fact that he got all of them at once...

He got up and walked towards her. As she was putting the milk back in the fridge, he put his arm around her waist, “My pessimism’s a flaw. But at least I have you around to balance me out.” He kissed her neck. No matter how many times he kissed her, each time he was shocked by how good it made him feel.

“Nothing to worry about,” she said, smiling, as she kissed him on the forehead. He let go of her and she brought her cereal to the table. “After all, we were just crazy kids. We didn’t understand what we were doing. We didn’t realize what exactly it meant to be an Outcast.”

“If only everyone understood the Outcasts, understood what they were about,” he stated, dragging his finger across the scar on his right hand, “At least we were able to get out. We were one of the lucky ones.”

“All the more reason to be happy, no?” she asked, dipping her spoon into her milk. The cereal and milk mixed in her mouth, as she let the spoon slip out between her lips.

“I guess one good thing came out of my time there.”

“Don’t tell me you believe in all that revolution garbage. Really, Hugh, I thought we’d gotten past that. I thought we’d grown older.”

“I could never agree with the Outcasts, what they’d done, what they’d planned on doing. No, what was great about them was that they allowed me to meet you, Kecho.”

Snowbird blushed, “You’re too good to me, Hugh.”

He grinned as he leaned in towards her, “I think you’ve got something on your face,” he said.

She felt the right side of her cheek, looking for the blemish. “What?” she asked him, wide-eyed.

“Me,” he said, leaning in closely. His lips met hers. He wasn’t sure their lips would ever part again. He liked it that way.

Alex Gryzlov sat in his office in Gryzlov Towers, looking out over the great city he called his home. This week, it didn’t feel so great. His identity had been revealed to Project Redemption, two of his old friends were in jail, and another two were dead. He slouched in the chair wondering when they would come for him.

He heard the door click open. He swiveled around, reaching for his rifle before he recognized the woman before him.

“Ms. Byrne,” he said, shifting his hand away from the rifle, “I’m surprised to see you here.”

“Your security didn’t want to let me in. I changed their minds.” She sat down in the seat before him.

“Are you here to arrest me or just to brag?”

“Neither,” she said, “I’m here to ask for your help.”

“But you--”

“Know Alex Gryzlov is The Hunter. Yes. I had my theories for a while--The Hunter’s targets had grown too convenient for you--but it was Sting’s testimony that sealed the deal.”

“Then why aren’t you arresting me?”

“Because you’re more useful to me outside of prison than in it,” she said, her soft blue eyes locking with his green ones, “And as a telepath, I’m useful to you, as well. I can wipe the mind of anyone who sees the connection between Gryzlov and The Hunter. In return, when I ask you to go on a mission for me, you don’t ask questions. You go.”

He sighed, looking at the name plaque on his desk, which had his name written in sparkling gold. It said, “Alex Gryzlov.” He’d abandoned his identity as the Hunter. It was gone, forever.

He spoke up, “I’m not the man I once was, Ms. Byrne. I do jobs sparingly, for strategic gain. My blood lust is lost. The crazy Hunter of yore is gone. Now, I’m just some guy who dresses up in a costume. I’m a fraud.”

“Aren’t you all?” she asked, “Now look, Gryzlov. I don’t care about who you were or who you are now. What I do care about is that you have the skills and experience I need.” She slid a file across Gryzlov’s desk, “You’re the solution to an awkward situation the government has gotten itself into. There’s a bulletproof target who needs to be taken care of. I want you to treat him like your prey. I hope you understand the gravity of what I’m saying. You need motivation? This job
does involve personal gain for yourself, because it’ll make me happy enough with you to not arrest you. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Ms Byrne,” he said, “I’m just not sure I’ll be as effective--”

“Don’t care,” she said, turning around, “And Gryzlov?”


“Call me Julia.” With that, she opened the door and walked out of the office.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Black Gazelle, Part 3

“You’re crazy, aren’t you?” Black Gazelle asked, as he stared at the man in the bowler hat with blood dripping down his face.

“Insanity, it’s my calling card!” Finch, the man in the bowler hat, said, raising his cane in the air, as if making an emphatic speech.

“C’mon, we’ve gotta get out,” Sting said, pulling on Finch’s sleeve.

“You’re no fun when you’re not on acid,” Finch said, taking off his hat and throwing it at Black Gazelle. Gazelle jumped in the air, landing behind Finch and Sting. The hat, missing its mark, scraped the bank’s wall.

“That would have been impressive if I hadn’t seen it in

“Kids have no respect for history,” Sting said, shaking his head, “Maybe she’ll understand this.” Raising his gun, he shot at the Gazelle, who moved quickly enough to avoid getting hit.

“Dodging bullets, that would have been impressive, if I hadn’t seen it in The Matrix,” Finch said, “But at least it proves you deserve the title Black Gazelle.”

“All you deserve is death,” Gazelle said, leaping towards Finch. As she got close enough, Finch grabbed her by the hook of his cane. Pressing a button, the cane’s hook extended, closing around Gazelle’s neck, leaving her with nothing to do but jostle.

Finch laughed, “This worked on the old Black Gazelle, too. Don’t feel bad. You’ll get used to the failure. Trust me, you’ll get some more chances to beat me.”

“And I will beat you!” Black Gazelle yelled.

“Good, an archenemy,” Finch said, “I’ve been needing one for a while now. This might hurt a bit.” With that, Finch swung Black Gazelle’s head against the bank’s wall several times, until he felt confident she was out for the count. Once again pressing the button, Finch smiled as the cane released Gazelle, who crumpled to the floor. “Now we can get out of here,” Finch said.

The two criminals fled the bank in their car.

Alex Gryzlov sat in his chair, chomping on his cigar, as he looked out the window of his office. It was a bad time for him. Danner Enterprises was taking over his market share. In another situation, the solution would have been easy. Gryzlov would have changed into The Hunter and killed the CEO. However, the CEO of the company was an immortal, the infamous Gil Danner.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the granddaughter of his old enemy, Black Gazelle had developed super powers. He congratulated himself: hiring the super hero to work at one of his banks had been a good idea. But how long would it take before she discovered her boss’s true identity?

Then there was the fact that the Black Gazelle bank had been robbed. It wasn’t a terrible concern, as he knew he’d simply have the robbers killed and the money returned, but it was still an annoyance he didn’t need.

That’s when he heard the fighting outside his door. He spun around to face his desk. Opening one of the drawers, he took out a shotgun. He aimed it at the door.

Finch kicked the door open, with two bags full of cash in his hands. He laughed, as Sting shot the last remaining guards on the floor.

“Gryzlov! Fancy meeting you here!” Indicating the shotgun in Gryzlov’s hands, he giggled, “You always were a man with a plan. Well, don’t worry. We just came here for a quick hello.”

Gryzlov wasn’t entirely sure whether he should laugh or get angry, “Finch. Did you just shoot assault my entire security team?”

“Don’t worry, all’s good. We made sure every one of ‘em died,” Finch said, setting the money bags on Gryzlov’s desk.

“How is that good?” Gryzlov said, looking at his old friend with confusion.

“Dead people don’t have vendettas!” Finch said, “Gee, Gryzlov, this business thing has changed you. What happened to your bloodthirst?”

“I’m 87, Finch,” Gryzlov said, speaking to Finch in a quiet tone, “I’ve calmed down. You should, too.”

“Nonsense!” Finch said, “I’ve had more fun today than I’ve had in decades! Did you realize that Black Gazelle had a grandkid?”

“Yes, that’s why I hired her,” Gryzlov said, “Now, who’s your partner?” Gryzlov asked, indicating the man in the Richard Nixon mask.

“Ya don’t remember your good old buddy, Sting?” Sting asked, taking off his mask.

For the first time in the meeting, Gryzlov smiled, “So we’re having a reunion.”

“Yeah. Y’know, we should put the old gang back together,” Finch said, excited, “This has been a great time.”

Gryzlov shook his head, “I’m a new man, Finch. But if you two wanted to continue with this, I might have some uses for you.”

“Sounds great, Hunter!” Finch yelled, to Gryzlov’s chagrin, “But first, I’ve got one more errand to do. Hope to see you,” with that, Finch turned to exit the door. Then, he said, “Oh, I almost forgot.” He took out a wad of cash and slammed it on Gryzlov’s desk, “Now it’s all there. Count it.” With that, Finch turned and left the room. Sting, after replacing his Nixon mask, followed.

Gryzlov looked at the wad of cash, confused. The way Finch had insisted he count the cash was troubling. So he began flipping through the cash. Three or four bills in, he noticed a slip of paper. Taking it out of the wad, he read it. He ripped it in half and then cast it aside. Slamming the desk, he whispered, “Bastard.”

Finch and Sting abandoned their car in front of Gryzlov’s office building, understanding cops must be looking for them all over the city, at this point. So instead, they dove through the alleys for a while, looking to stay as hidden as possible. Sting abandoned the Nixon mask, then suggested he and Finch go to his safe-house.

As the two got close, Finch stopped for a moment. He took out his cigarette pack. Opening it, he tapped one of the cigarettes out. He closed the cigarette pack and put it back in his pocket.

“C’mon, man. We’ve gotta get to my safe-house. What are you doing?”

Finch took out his cigarette lighter and lit the cigarette. Putting the lighter back in his pocket, he took a deep breath of the cigarette. The smoke mixed around in his lungs. Only when he had to, he let it go.

Finch whipped out the Stingray gun, “I know you set me up.”

“What are you--”

“Cut the shit,” Finch said, his countenance turned grim, “You’re working for Project Redemption. I know you’ve been ever since you told me about giving away Grizlov’s identity.”

“But I never--”

“You might as well have. I could see it in your face. I warned Gryzlov in a note I slipped in the wad of cash,” Finch said, “You’re sending me to be captured by them. And y’know what? I’ll go. In fact, I’ll find them. It’ll give me something to do. But I’ve just got to ask you a question, Sting. I’m a sadist with a vendetta against you, holding a gun. Why shouldn’t I kill you?”

“We were friends, Finch. Remember that? Remember the good times? We were friends.”

The poison dart pierced Sting’s neck. He would die in less than a minute. Finch, looking at the near-corpse, said simply, “Were.”

He looked in the direction they’d been going, where Project Redemption seemed most likely to set up an ambush. Heading in that direction, he threw his cigarette behind him and it landed on Sting’s face. The cigarette was quickly turning to ash. Finch envied it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Black Gazelle, Part 2

Sting looked at Finch as if he was speaking Chinese, “Finch, I just got out of jail for robbing a bank. And you want me to try again?”

“Get back on the horse,” Finch said, shrugging his shoulders, as if it were the simplest, most obvious decision to make.

“I think you mean wagon.”

“Trust me, I mean horse. And besides, it’ll be fun. Low risk.”

“C’mon,” Sting said, chortling, “A low-risk bank robbery? I know better than that.”

“Yeah, but we’re not doing it for the money,” Finch said, “We’re going to rob one of the Hunter’s banks and then give the money back to him in person. You know he’ll love it.”

Sting smiled, looking at Finch with a good deal of surprise, “Alright. But first, I’ve got some unfinished business to take care of.” This time Finch looked confused.

Looking at his plate, Sting finished off his biscuit. Smiling at Finch, he said, “Now I’m ready.”

It was a simpler and more spontaneous matter than one would expect, greatly expedited by the fact that both men had been involved in bank robberies before. They went to Finch’s apartment, a run-down sort of place, and Sting took an old Richard Nixon mask that Finch had used, whenever he wanted to stay hidden.

“You remember Death Walker?” Sting asked.

“With the weird dog mask,” Finch said, remembering one of his stranger acquaintances, “I never could get a handle on that guy.”

“I don’t think anyone could. Anyone human, at least.”

“It was strange the way he joined the Dastards. We were just five guys, going after Black Gazelle, and here this bizarre, uncanny guy comes and joins our group. From day one it felt like he was after more than Black Gazelle, but I could never really figure out what.”

“I always believed the rumors,” Sting said, seeming almost embarrassed. “I don’t think he was a human. The way he walked, the way he talked, the way he never seemed to die, or even age. I can’t not believe he’s the kind of guy who could take souls to Hell.”

“The psychopathic psychopomp,” Finch said, smiling, “Wouldn’t be the weirdest thing we ever saw.”

With that, Finch opened his cabinet door. The number of guns reminded Sting of a shooting range.

“Take your pick,” Finch said.

“I think I’ll just use my stingray gun.”

“The whole point of the mask is so they don’t figure out who you are,” Finch said, “Don’t you think the identity of the guy with a dart gun is going to be apparent? Put it on the bed. You can get it when we come back.”

“Point taken,” Sting said, throwing his dart gun onto the bed and taking two handguns, “This’ll work.” Finch closed the cabinet. “Aren’t you going to need one?” Sting asked.

“I haven’t done this in a while,” Finch said, “So this time I’m going to stick to the basics.” He picked up his cane, which leaned against the cabinet. His bowler hat, which lay on top of the cabinet, he then placed firmly on top of his head, “The young ones probably don’t remember me. Let’s change that.”

Sting looked at the two guns in his hand, “You’re going all out this time, eh? Well, this isn’t my usual MO, but I don’t really want people to remember me.”

Finch smiled, “Let’s go.”

As Sting turned to leave the room, Finch slipped the stingray gun into his pocket.

It was a short ride over to the bank. For much of it, neither Finch nor Sting spoke. However, Sting had one nagging question that he felt needed to be answered, “What if they got one of those Anti-Super teams? The game’s changed a lot since you and I were in the thick of it. The bank probably has four or five attempts a month. So what do we do if they throw one of those Anti-Super teams on us?”

“A team like that is only called in to deal with super powers,” Finch said, smiling, “We’re just ordinary people, taking a trip down memory lane.”

Sting looked at Finch’s face, as the man drove them closer and closer to insanity. To be candid, he hadn’t remembered Finch being quite so bloodthirsty. Then again, Sting was on acid during most of the Sixties and Seventies. He didn’t remember much of anything, besides a few stories.

The car stopped right outside of the bank. Finch’s smile grew even wider as he saw the place’s name, “The Black Gazelle.”

“That Hunter moved on, eh? Doesn’t look like it. Looks like he’s got plenty of nostalgia of his own.”

“Well, we’re just going to get in, get out, right?”

“You, my friend, have no sense of fun. You go to the cash register, demand the lady put the money in your bag, and such. I’ll deal with security.”

With that, both men got out of the car. Bursting into the bank, they looked more than a little suspicious, especially Sting, with his Richard Nixon mask on. Finch, looking at the security guard with his hand on his gun, talking to his walkie talkie, smiled, “Now, now. Be a good boy and put down the gun, before ole Finch here has to get nasty.”

The security guard raised his gun, “Stop, or I’ll shoot.”

“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t,” Finch said, ducking as the security guard fired. The guard looked horrified, as he realized he’d shot one of the other guards. Finch dove through the guy’s legs. Coming up from behind him, he took a knife to the guard’s neck, “Any last words?” he said, as he slit the guard’s throat.

The guard gurgled. “Not much, but it’ll have to do,” Finch said.

Gunfire rained down upon him, but he used the guard as his meat shield. Seeing where the gunfire was coming from, Finch tapped his cane on the ground twice. From the bottom of his cane, a knife shot out. Watching the knife hit the man in the forehead, Finch giggled, “Well, it’s good to know I haven’t lost my aim.”

Spying three guards coming at him from his right, Finch raised his guard/meat shield, who at this point was thoroughly bloodied. Taking the bowler hat off his head, he threw it at the three guards. Its razor-tipped edges proved effective, efficiently lopping off their heads. “Derivative, but it’ll do,” he mumbled. Putting the guard back on the ground, Finch walked over and picked up his bloodied bowler hat. Placing it firmly on his head, he then dusted himself off. He looked at Sting. “You got everything, Tricky Dick?” Finch said, proud of the codeame he’d given Sting.

“Yeah, we’re ready to go.”

“Alright, then,” Finch said, the blood from the bowler hat dripping down his face, “That was fun. But in all honesty, the security here is kind of pathetic. Really, we’re doing them a favor. How could they be so negligent?”

As Finch and Sting were two steps from the front door, they heard a voice from behind them, “You killed my grandfather.”

Turning around, Finch’s eyes widened. He was looking at The Black Gazelle. “You. A legacy,” Finch said, “I love you.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

Black Gazelle, Part 1

Finch had been dead for 33 years now.

Leaning his back against the brick wall, he took out his cigarette pack. Carefully tapping one of the cigarettes out of its case, he slipped the rest back into his pocket and took out a lighter. One simple click and it was on fire, every second racing towards oblivion. Soon, it would be ash. He envied it. Putting the lighter back into his pocket, he took a deep breath of smoke. Slowly exhaling, he watched the smoke dance around his face and then reach up towards the sky.

He wasn’t really dead, he tried to remind himself. Someone else was. But he’d felt dead for 33 years and hadn’t even gotten the dignity of a death scene.

“That stuff’s bad for your health,” some civilian said, looking at the cigarette as he walked up to Finch.

“So’s me breaking your neck.”

With that, the man put his hands in the air, in resignation, “Just trying to help, man.”

Finch chuckled, as he saw the man walk away. “Help,” he said, as if he was obsessed with the word, “Help.” He didn’t mean it. He didn’t really think anyone could help him. But it still fascinated him to think about the word.

33 years ago, Finch had been a member of a group of villains, called the Dastards. He and five other guys, who all shared the common antagonist in Black Gazelle, basically lived their lives with the express intent of fighting their archenemy.

Finch’s time with the Dastards marked some of the best years of his life. But then, in 1978, Panther, one of the six, killed Black Gazelle.

Finch took another deep breath from the cigarette, allowing the smoke to swirl around in his lungs, fill them, make them feel like something more than they were. He let go of the smoke, just like he’d let go of everything else.

One of his friends from the group, Sting, was supposed to meet him here. If he was being honest, he didn’t remember when they were supposed to meet. He didn’t really care, either. He could stand here, waiting, for hours. It’s not like he had anything else to do. And it gave him time to think.

He couldn’t help but wonder if this meeting was going to be good for him. Maybe what he really needed was to just let go of all this, move to a new city. Get a new job, a new life. After all, whenever super villains met, nothing seemed to go right. Finch took the cigarette in his hand, looked at it, and threw it onto the sidewalk. He felt satisfied as he ground it into the sidewalk with his shoe. He took one step forward, when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey.” Finch turned around as he heard the voice. Just as he expected, it was Sting.

“Hey,” Finch replied, “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah,” Sting said, “They just let met out of jail last week.”

Finch smirked, “They finally caught the infamous Sting, eh?”

“Yeah,” he said, looking at the sidewalk, “Robbing a bank right after snorting crack wasn’t my greatest idea.”

Finch laughed, “It had to have been better than that time you gave Black Gazelle those hallucinogens.”

Sting laughed as well, “Yeah, the Sixties were crazy times. Y’know, for one guy with a stingray gun, I’ve gotten myself into a lot of trouble, over the years.” Sting looked down at his gun. It was an interesting dart machine, that shot not just tranquilizers but a variety of darts: Plague Darts, Laughing Darts, etc. Finch remembered Sting saying once that he always kept one poison dart in there, at all times, in case things got ugly. When he was arrested, he was thankful he’d never needed to use it. A murder charge was the last thing he needed.

Finch said, “Look who you’re talking to. I don’t have powers and I can’t count the number of times I’ve fought supers.”

Sting pat Finch on the back, “It’s really good to see you. Want to head on over to Denny’s? Catch up on old times?”

“Sounds good,” Finch said, looking at his friend. The two walked and talked for a while, catching up on those glorious old times. By the time they’d sat down and gotten their food, Finch felt as good as the old days, again. He was laughing.

“So here the Hunter and I were trying to pull a simple bank job, when twelve guys with machine guns come popping out of the woodwork. It was a mob bank, and apparently they’d been expecting us. So I look at The Hunter, figuring the best thing we can do is surrender and hope for the best.”

Finch looked at Sting, “The Hunter isn’t really the giving up sort.”

“Yeah, I found that out,” Sting said, “Because by the time I’m looking at Hunter, he’s thrown his spear at one guy and pounced on another. Before I had the time to say, ‘Holy shit,’ he’d taken out his crossbow and really gotten the fight started. I’m looking for cover, but I can’t find any. So I plug a few of the guys with sleeping darts, leap over one guy, and manage to dive behind a counter. By the time I looked back up, the carnage was over.”

Finch smiled, “Did you guys take the money?”

“Yeah, The Hunter made sure we cleaned out the entire bank. He was so pissed off, he ended up torching the place.”

“Was that place--”

Sting knew what Finch was going to say before he said it, “Yeah, the bank was owned by that mob boss who got his legs broken by The Hunter. I wasn’t involved in that one, though. What he did is, he got The Owl to fly him over the guy’s house. The Owl dropped him into the boss’s bedroom, The Hunter broke the guy’s legs, then The Owl flew him out. They said they were in and out in under three minutes.”

Finch shook his head, “How those two manage to stay alive is beyond me.”

“What’s even scarier to think about is that Hunter’s now the head of a major corporation.”

Finch took a bite of his food and said, “Yeah, it’s amazing the way a guy’s life can change like that.”

“I always wondered what would happen if we revealed his identity. What if we told the world that businessman Alex Gryzlov is in fact The Hunter?”

Finch put his fork down, “Why would you do that? He’s our friend.”

“Yeah,” Sting said, “It was just a thought.” The two sat there, eating there food in silence, until Sting asked, “Why’d you kill Panther?”

Finch continued eating his food, thinking about the question. Finally, he said, “I thought that would be obvious. Panther broke the code. He killed our archenemy. The Dastards were ruined. My life was over.”

“The Hunter’s still got a life. It’s probably better now than ever before.”

“The Hunter’s a madman.”

Sting shook his head, “What did Panther say, while you were killing him?”

“I stabbed him through his chest with a sword and then used his own claw to slit his throat. By the time he realized what was happening, he wasn’t in any condition to speak.”

Sting moved his food around with a fork, finally asking, “What should we do now?”

Weighing his options, Finch smiled, “Let’s go rob a bank.”