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.”

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