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'The Guede'
Rplog-icon Who: Steve Rogers, Natalia Romanova, Amanda Sefton, Victor Borkowski, Patrick, Keith O'Neil, Michael Jon Carter, Sue Storm, and Clark Kent. Emits by Clark Kent.
Dabney Donovan, Bruno Mannheim (17 created villains)
Where: Financial District, Metropolis
When: June 24, 2013
Tone: Action/Horror
What: A band of heroes come together to prevent a massive theft of financial data from Quad Towers, but one of them suffers and has been suffering at the hands of the occult.

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Superman: The Guede

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he therby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes into you." - Either Twain or Nietzche, depending on who you ask.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA-6 MONTHS AGO

An old wooden door creaks open and spills light into a musty hut of some sort. A young African American woman enters the room, but stops abruptly as she sees that Madame La Masque has company.

It's a classic altar-style sanctuary from most of our imaginations. Vodou, or Voodoo as it was previously known in America, comes in all styles and flavors but the visage of the altar always seems to be similar in nature. What feels like hundreds of used candles have spilled wax over a host of items below. There are skulls, packs of cigarettes, bottles of rum, decks of playing cards, old bones (hopefully) from dead animals, baseball cards, Barbie dolls, poker chips, and dirty magazines.

"It's okay," the elder woman says as she smiles to the woman who looks like she could pass as a 20 year younger version of La Masque. "Dis reportah was joost leavin." La Masque's gaze turns icy as she looks to the disheveled reporter, sweating up a storm in even the southern winter. He's wearing a crumpled suit and somewhere under a mess of black hair is a pair of eyeglasses so thick it makes him look as though he's got a pair of Owl Eyes.

Despite his look bordering on the hilarious, Clark Kent returns La Masque's gaze with gritted teeth. It appears he will not be intimidated.

La Masque's words are spit quietly at Kent, "If you preent dis article it weel be the end of us, Clark Kent, but it weel be the end of yu too." A bony finger comes up to point directly at the man from Kansas. "I make une promettre, Mistah Kent. Dah heavy hand of deh Baron will come down oupon you eef you do not relent."

"Be that as it may, Madame La Masque," Clark replies. "This article is getting printed. You can either offer a defense of the actions of your chapel, or you can plead the fifth. It makes no difference to me. What you did to the Harrison family and that little girl will be the end of your church at best. You'll spend prison time at worst."

Clark rises and grabs his old-style business suit hat. "Good day, Madame." He walks out the door, giving the young woman a reassuring smile as he does so; who knows how deep she's gotten herself into this. Madame La Masque, however, picks up piece of paper Clark leaves behind and begins to fold it neatly.

SMALLVILLE, KANSAS - 3 WEEKS AGO

Jonathan Kent kneels down low to the dirt with a disgusted look on his face. He pulls a dried up ear of corn and tosses it away in revulsion. "Is it all of them?" asks Clark, sans glasses and with a Kansas City Royals baseball cap low upon his head. He's wears a white t-shirt and jeans, and propping himself up by a shovel.

"All the corn, the tomatoes, and the cucumbers. We were lucky some of the spinach and radishes got through or we'd be a total bust." Clark exhales and looks to his father in frustration. "I can get everything out and we can try again. I'm pretty sure we could do tomatoes, but I think corn's probably out." Jonathan nods, "Where will get the money, son? Seed for this kind of organic farm doesn't come cheap."

Clark looks to his father with a raised chin, coming up with what he feels will be a solution, "I've got some money stored away, Dad."

Jonathan gives him a look that says, 'No way', but before he's able to get the words out Clark is already adding some. "It'd be the least I could do. I mean, I still eat half my meals here. I figure I owe you guys anyways."

Jonathan doesn't respond, but does make a sour face. He digs another rotten piece of corn from the Earth and tosses it aside once more.

METROPOLIS, NEW YORK - TONIGHT

The Quad Towers are a group of four identical buildings that house banking services and a great deal of financial information for all types of customers. Normal everyday Joe's, all the way up to Fortune 500 companies bank with Quad because they know that they can get good deals and that their information will be safe. Quad Towers hires the best computer hackers money can buy to prevent break ins via the internet.

On the physical front, not only does Quad a security team at its behest, but it's also located near Superhero Central: Metropolis. Even if thieves were to get through, the vaults, surely they wouldn't get past the superheroes, right?

From a bunker well hidden from the rest of tonight's festivities, Bruno Mannheim relaxes in a large leather chair with the haze of cigar smoke billowing from his desk. His wavy black hair cascades back over his scalp while his wire thin mustache is, as usual, impeccably trimmed. He cuts a frustrated figure as he watches the secure feeds of the four towers. "You sure your men are up to the task." It's a statement, not a question. One gets the feeling that if it doesn't work out, the man he speaks to will be in some hot water.

From behind large, circular spectacles and a bushy black mustache, Dabney Donovan seems pretty self assured. "The metahumans I've created will be able to deal sufficiently. We only need to receive one packet, Mannheim. The other three can be captured or killed and we will still be victorious."

"I hope so," Mannheim responds. "For your sake."

A couple of guys from the Quad SecTeam Tower A sit around playing cards like they do every night. This is where you go for the good life. Many of these men are retired military, earning even better money on the Security Force without any of the action. Military life will earn you a living. Getting a SecTeam job at Quad will allow you to prosper.

"Hit," says Rusty Kellison just before he takes a sip of coffee. It's been a good night for Kellison. He's up 30 bucks and going for the kill.

It's about to get a lot worse.

KABOOOOM!

The far side wall explodes and at first glance it seems as though the standing stumps of two legs belonged to a botched attempt, but slowly, all of the energy of the explosion seeps back towards the center and a man wearing a leather jacket and a pair of goggles laughs maniacally. "Hot time in the old town tonight, boys!"

A trio of tear gas canisters spill into the room as the metavillain puts a gas mask on. Within moments the room is filled with tear gas and a group of four villains, including Splodey, make their way into the brains of the operation. "Hackenslice, shut down the cameras, recording equipment, and alarms to all four towers. Then begin the downloading."

Similar scenes are taking place in Towers B, C, and D as well. The police are alerted immediately, and superheroes make their way to the scene as fast as they can.


It had been a good meal. Sushi, not bad for a first date, Keith thought as he walked down the district with Patrick, hand in hand. During the date Patrick had mentioned that he liked cities- being surrounded by people, the splendor... so Keith thought it would be a nice touch to walk through the financial district and look up at the imposing towers and sky castles.

He liked the city as well, the vibrancy and the electric pulse, the sheer life that coursed through it.

"You know, I've always wanted to fly. To be able to take i all in from above and look at all this. Coming through a cloud, looking at from above-- a creature that forever seems to grow and grow. It'd be ---"

Kabloom?

One of the advantages of having the hearing ability of a cat is the ability to hear quite a bit. Like, say, the muffled shockwave of an explosion by the building they were passing by.

"We need to change--" he says to the man he is with, letting go of his hand as he starts to unbutton his own shirt after finding suitable cover "....explosion. Over there..." he points towards the nearest tower to him---B. But then, there were more explosions echoing. ".....oh crap, we need backup, quickly...."

It was then that he pulled out something he had kept in his pocket at all times. The card read Booster Gold, and it had a star in the middle. Keith, that is, Vorpal, tore the card down through the middle of the star. "... and I know whom to call."


"Why can't these things happen when Thor or Hulk or Tony are in the Tower?" Captain America asks as he zooms along the urban canyons on an Avengers Sky-Cycle. "It's always got to interrupt our nice, quiet chess matches."

As he approaches Tower A, the Sentinel of Liberty calls out on the BSA commlink, "This is Captain America to all available heroes, we have an assault at Quad Towers Financial. Please check in and respond. I'm investigating Tower A."

Swooping in low, Cap dismounts near the ground floor where the explosion has made its large hole as the Cycle goes on hover auto pilot. "Stop right there!" he yells making himself an obvious target, "Youre under arrest, put your hands up and kneel on the ground!"


In a tiny lower East Side apartment, there is a *FZZAP* and an alarmed squeak as a golden hardlight bolt just misses a fleeing rat. It ducks into a wall crevice. "Ugh! I am -so- not renewing my lease here," says Michael Jon Carter, who is wearing only one wrist-blaster. He otherwise only has on the golden pants and blue boots of his costume.

"You missed it, sir," observes Skeets, hovering near the wall.

"Well, -yeah-, I don't want that thing dying in here. Then I'd have to touch it. Or... -you- would, because I'm not touching a dead rat. Gross." Michael starts to remove his blaster, when a beeping goes off in his goggles, which are sitting on the kitchen table. He immediately brightens up. "Nevermind, I have more awesome things to deal with!" Grabbing up the rest of his costume, he flies out of his apartment window as he pulls on his gleaming blue and gold shirt. Once he has his cowl and goggles pulled into place, he follows the signal set off by his business card at top speed.


Anole had just been out for a walk, visiting New York during summer break. Explosions, though- he couldn't ignore it. Pulling up his hoodie he ducked into an ally and quickly changed into the Young X-Man, Anole.

Climbing to the top of a roof, and Stashing his bag there out of the way and out of sight he started to vault towards the exploding buildings, close to Tower C. As he moved through the air his body shimmered into seeming nothingness. If he could, he'd try to get the jump on the baddies in Tower C! He'd make quick work of the distance- a direct route was all the trick. Through the same hole in the wall he crawled along the ceiling, eyes narrowing as he approached the men. The tear-gas stings his eyes, but luckily he's made of pretty tough stuff. The irritant billowing around his body as he dropped like a stone on the men from behind, big fist bowling for a haymaker style claw swipe at whoever it was there coming into view suddenly- his form now appearing on sensing equipment as a flash of heat and light. Hit or not, he'd attempt to run off again, and remeld with the wall, somewhere the gas was not. Hopefully, they wouldn't be too quick on their toes.


Super Soldier, Clone, and Spider from another dimension Patrick is out for a nice evening walk with a purple feline looking man after his first real lesson on how people that are not born in a large glass tube socialize when the first explosion happens. Apparently dressed in jeans and a t-shirt with a green surrealist landscape and a quote from a certain Lewis Carol book that people tend to think of when looking at his date in glow in the dark letters he stops to look in the direction of the explosion. Faint patterns of light trace across the glasses he looks like he is wearing as the HUD form his work suit uses them to display information triangulating the location of the boom and a scroll of several transcripts of calls going to the police and their dispatch out from the nearest call center.

Patrick nods his head at Keith and says, "I have the general area and the address in just a second. This way." He says the last before grabbing the furred man and dragging him into an alley way. To anyone watching not in the know it might appear as if he is planning an illicit moment with the cat. Seconds after getting out of sight Patrick's clothing starts to look different, a mix of holographic alterations and liquid metal composites changing configuration and he stops being a normal of very handsome young man and is suddenly the crimson clad hero that has recently appeared calling himself the Iron Spider. He quickly offers his hand to Vorpal once he is ready for action and if take slings him on his back and *thwip* is away on lines of artificial spider silk.

The call from Captain America is picked up automatically by the Iron Spider's suit, thank you Stark Tech for being so user friendly no matter what universe it is from, which leads of course to a response. "This is Iron Spider, I read you loud and clear I have registered hero Vorpal with me and we are en route coming from direction nearest Tower B."


Sue Storm had just returned home and showered and settled in with a cup of ice water and her e-reader when an alert signal sounded from nearby, immediately followed by the very much NOT welcome voice of HERBIE-10. "Miss Storm, there are reports of explosions from the Quad Towers, and a signal over the BSA frequency from Captain America." Sue flinches at the robot's voice, but stands promptly and rushes to go get her '4' costume. "HERBIE, find out everything you can, then send a message back letting them know I'll be there as quick as I can. And STOP following me!" It's just a matter of a few minutes, and Sue is on her way toward the Quad Towers as fast as her force fields can carry her. Which is pretty fast. She's not entirely sure what to expect, so is prepared to help anyone else already on hand in whatever way she can.


"I am frankly surprised you're complaining, Captain. I seem to recall you were using. Three moves till check." Black Widow rides laying low over her own Sky-Cycle, any smile on her lips or twinkle in her eyes hidden by her helmet. Small, slim, and dark in her costume, she scans the HUD in her visor. Through quite-possibly legitimate means, she is scanning the building's schematics.

It's not an interesting read for an amateur. It's full of wiring and plumbing and the like. But an expert eye can find determine useful information. Centers and nexuses. Windowless rooms. Places of security. Server rooms. Just destroying this place would make no sense: obviously they want something. What? No knowing. Yet.

She lands on the rooftop instead of the ground floor, seeking a way in either through a window or a rooftop door. And then? She becomes a ghost, hunting for where all those lines meet.


Amanda Sefton isn't exactly on the speed-dial for superhero affairs. Unregistered, both mutant and mage, she's more of a happen-to-be-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time sorta girl than a LSH, JLA, or Avengers sorta girl. (Even the X-Men, when she was a regular on their roster, have never been beck-and-call sorts.)

And as for why the hell she'd be in the financial district at this hour of night on a Sunday? Well... She's enjoying the fresh night air. After slogging through the mess beneath the Majestic, a sewer is fresher. And the cool night air in the city? Heaven, in comparison.

This particular mistress of magic, however, is finely attuned to the city of New York. It's her city, magically speaking. She draws her strength from it and, consequently, knows all the ripples and nuances of it. Thus, when the blasts hit the QuadTowers, because she's in such close proximity, she can feel it... rather like a 'disturbance in the force'. The result? She steps into a shadow between buildings and shimmers into her still slightly-grumey combat leathers, making a beeline for the closest of the four buildings. C Tower, in this case.


SMALLVILLE, KANSAS - TWO DAYS AGO

"No, Clark, she'll be fine. She's just got a bit of the flu."

"Do you think she'll be fine, or is she telling you she'll be fine?" comes the voice on the other end.

"Probably a bit of both, but most of the latter," responds Jonathan.

"Dad, I really think you should take her to see someone. If she's not feeling better by tomorrow, I'm going to come and do it myself. I don't care what she says."

"JONATHAN!?" comes a scream from the hallway. Inside a gleaming white bathroom, Martha Kent kneels over the toilet, getting sick. Inside the bowl, the water is stained with red.

METROPOLIS - TODAY

From her approach, Sue can see that there's definitely movement of an extreme nature going on at all four buildings. There's loud booms and screaming and the general sounds of heroing and villainy.

Tower A: Splodey leans his head back and laughs at Captain America. "Oh, silly Patriot. You can't stop us. You can't even hope to contain us.

And then, on command, his body disintegrates as it explodes once more, this time the intent is to hurt Captain America

Behind Splodey, Dr. Hackenslice is getting to work at the computer and downloading files as fast as she can. The two other villains move to intercept. One is named, aptly, FlyGuy because as he takes flight it's clear that he has the powers of Fly. The young woman in black leather bursts into flames and a flaming horse and warrior's carriage appears, which she mounts.

Meanwhile, Black Widow is sliding down an shaft within the building that houses the electrical equipment. She locates Hackenslice with ease, but not before the young IT nerd has gotten what she needs and has put the datacard in her pocket.

Tower B: Once inside the ground level of Tower B, Vorpal and Iron Spider will see a group of four super-villains not completely unlike those in Tower A that are engaging Captain America and Black Widow.

A small, maybe 5 foot, gymnast immediately starts flipping towards them at amazing speeds, tumbling to the cat-like one with hands and feet coming straight for his face. Talk about not waiting to say hello!

Then there's Brick. He's, well, a lot like the name suggests. He's a big brick looking dude, but his skin actually resembles a bunch of neatly laid red bricks.

Behind them, a metallic being his covering a floating metallic contraption. Inside, what's left of a man is jacking in to the computer system. 23% has gotten root.

Tower C: Anole gets deep within the bowels of Tower C and sees a quartet of villains before him. A pair of Chaps-wearin', 6-shooter firing, 10 gallon hattin' baddies go by Cowboy and Cowgirl. Then, there's a man in skintight spandex, done in David Bowie makeup, whose power is not so clear at this point. Then, there's a sweet little old lady, shuffling over to the computer decks as she begins to type at the keys one finger at a time.

Anole reaches out to Thwack at Cowboy and knocks the man clear off his feet. A spooked Cowgirl lies claim to being the fastest draw in the east, and she's immediately firing at where Anole was and screamin' something about ghosts comin' up on her man.

Amanda arrives just in time to see Glam open his rock-star mouth, intent on unleashing some sonic boomage towards Anole.

Tower D: Booster Gold joins up in Tower D. Skeets' readouts will take in four individuals. One, a little boy. Another a pale woman with black hair and black leather clothes with a lightning bolt emblazoned upon her front and a clumping of smeared black makeup that serves for a mask. There's also a giant looking Lizard guy, who is knee deep in conversation with a guy who looks straight out of a Japanese Discoteque with his spikey hair, neon shades, and leather jacket. "Seriously," says the Lizard, "Indiana Jones 2 was far better because it was fun. And really, that's what you're looking during those movies. Fun." They're oblivious to Booster.

Black Helicopters all begin to land, almost silently on the helipads above the towers. Though it's not visible to the heroes in the buildings, it is now clear how the villains intend to escape. There's just one problem for them. Aside from the problems down in the towers, I mean.

Superman arrives a little late, but has the decency to apologize to Captain America. "Sorry about that. I was in Asia. We've got choppers out here for their escape, Captain. I'll take care of one."

Superman hovers over a Helipad and holds his arm up. As the chopper's fins circle around quickly, eventually they come into contact with Superman's far. There's sparks and the grumble of an engine, the rotors slam into his forearm, break loose and skitter along the top of the tower.

The helicopter smashes down the rest of the four feet it had left in the air and lies immovable. Unceremoniously, Superman heads downward , using the elevator shaft to avoid as much property damage as possible.


"It's Wonderland time!" Vorpal says, grinning like a madman as a glowing purple trampoline materializes, stationary in mid-air, ready to intercept the little gymnast and propel him gleefully towards the Brickhouse-man, unless the gymnast had a trick up his sleeve.

Then again, he was a Cheshire Cat. He had enough tricks for a Vegas Review.

"Spider, hacker-- take him out quickly, I'll keep these two busy." The hacker was a very specific worry, mostly because he didn't know what he was capable of, and he wanted any threats to Patrick's suit and its systems neutralized right away.

Go-Go Team SpiderCat!


Captain America smirks as Black Widow's analysis of the chess game rings in his earpiece. He's still trying to choose what Russian proverb he's going to come back with when the explosive metahuman unloads on him. The Shield of Freedom comnes up as Captain America ducks into its lee and leaps over a desk.

"Roger that, Iron Spider. I have four metahuman criminals at Tower A, proceed with caution," he answers the comm.

"Contain you? I don't need to conatin you, I don't even need to beat you. You're going to do that all by yourselves." he taunts.

Popping back up, Captain America hurls the shield - not at 'Splodey' but at the flying figure. Meanwehile he picks up a water cooler and flings it at the flaming chariot as he sommeraults over Splodey.

"You know, Cap says as he launches a mule kick at the man's back. "I served with a hero who called himself the Human Bomb. He was a good man who made the best of a bad situation. He was a friend of mine."

Cap picks up a filing cabinet and hurls it at Splodey. "You, sir are no Human Bomb!"

The whole time Cap has the Avengers channel open so Black Widow can hear how his distraction is going.


In Tower D there is a flash of brilliant golden light, and Booster's voice saying, "We might have to agree to disagree on that particular movie. But I'm with you on the 'fun'." When the light dies down, Booster is clearly visible, hovering in the entryway the cluster of intruders had made for themselves. He smiles brightly and snap-points at them with both hands.

"So. Yeah. Booster Gold's here to bring a little fun into your lives." the pointing gestures turn into thumbs-up, which Booster then angles to indicate himself. As he flies forward to take a swing at the Lizard guy, thumping music blares out from behind him. This is courtesy of Skeets, who has a totally sweet sound system and is hovering just outside of the tower.


Thunk! Shot in the shoulder, Anole gives a grunt as he drips a bit of blood on the ground as he scuttles along quickly on the ceiling- Keep moving. He takes a moment to re-situate himself away from the gunfire, still hidden, one hand adjusting the tear of his suit to cover the would a bit. Stealth was what he had here. Particularly against gun-toating insane people- and anyone who looks like they were about to scream. He remembers getting caught in Banshee's scream once. He just keeps up his bit of retreat in the computer room, going between server stacks, hiding. Waiting. He'd attack again, and soon, but for now the young man tried to build the dread, and let the bullet would in his shoulder heal up. He was going to do his best Predator Impression.

With distance, will come Anole's sneak, returning. He was making mistakes- it was a new technique. Some blood lead from where he had been going- up and on the wall and around to the ceiling before it fades. Something was in the building- and it had a *very* big claw, by the looks of it. He even gave a rather nasty sounding Reptilian hiss with a fluttery bit of over-long tongue as he moved far from them before moving on. LEading them on.


Iron Spider sets some of the subroutines in his suit to working to try and hack into the security systems of the towers, pull up floor plans, and any other information he can get including the CCTV cameras for the buildings, stop light cameras, and even ATMs around the Quad towers. His sources though are far less likely even than Black Widow's to be legitimate though, thanks to a lack of government contacts in this world.

Web swinging mostly on automatic Iron Spider hmms before speaking out loud and off com so only Vorpal hears him. "A flashy attack on a financial information storage house like Quad Towers makes little sense. Be careful, and keep an eye out for something else going on." A public attack on the place, just not the smart way to do it. If you want information you just hire someone that could sneak in, plant a device to mine the servers for what you want and the leave after setting a fire that will destroy the evidence. At least, that is how Iron Spider would do it if he had orders to get something there.

As they Land Iron Spider is just about to tell Vorpal to take care of the bruiser and the gymnast even as the Cheshire cat beats him to it. Perhaps the others he was cloned with are not the only ones that think on the same wavelength as him. On the coms he responds, "Copy Captain, we have 4 unknown metahumans including at least one cyborg that appears connected into the building's mainframe in tower B."

Iron Spider starts moving fast to take care of the two villains left for him to deal with. Step one, separate priority target from its' major defenses. *thwip thwip* Two quick streams of webbing go shooting from the Iron Spider's wrists aimed at the metal man guarding 23% and if they hit he will quickly change his grip and pull back and sideways with all his strength to try and pull the metal man off his feet and maybe send him swinging through a wall.


Sue Storm arrives in time to see Superman disable a black helicopter and to make note of the other three, one over each building. This, she can help with. "Superman, should I make sure the other three helicopters stay put?" she says over the BSA communication channel. In anticipation of his saying yes, she wraps smallish force fields around the tail section of each vehicle. It's not enough to disturb them yet, but it will give her leverage to disable them quickly if that's what she's instructed to do. At the same time, she watches what little she can see of the goings on around the buildings. If someone gets forcefully ejected from one of the towers, she should hopefully be able to catch them quickly enough.


She might have what she wants. The question is whether she can escape with it. Black Widow slides out of her shaft, leaping from on high to tackle the young woman to the ground. She's going almost light on her so far: after all, she hasn't pulled out her Widow's Bite yet. Her hand is wrapping around Hackenslice's throat to choke out any screams: Cap is distracting the rest, but she'd like that to go on working.


Daytripper skids to a stop as she sees Anole take the bullet to the shoulder. Hey. Mutants gotta stick together, right? Glam's deep breath clues her in fairly quickly that flying lead isn't the only danger of the night.

Muttering a quick spell and throwing out a quick gesture, she creates a portal in the air immediately in front of Glam. Thus, the sonic scream he unleashes should be channeled into that... and right in to Granny's computer hardware, where the exit portal opens. (Yes. She can be her own walking Portal Gun. Fun times!) Perhaps it'll shatter the hacking attempt... (or whatever it is the old lady's doing).


SMALLVILLE, KANSAS - YESTERDAY

The doctor nods to Clark and Jonathan as they stand over the hospital bed. "She's in no pain. We've sedated her and stabilized her vitals." The doctor exhales and shakes his head sadly, "We just can't figure out what's wrong with her."

Both Jonathan and Clark look over Martha. Jonathan remains strong, but behind his glasses, Clark's eyes are beginning to moisten.

SMALLVILLE, KANSAS - LAST NIGHT

In his old room, Clark Kent has all sorts of posters up. There's one of George Brett, former Third Baseman for the Royals, and a pair of Kansas Jayhawks football and basketball posters. What is supposed to be a place of solace for Clark has turned into a horror show-not in the room but in his mind.

He tosses and turns uncomfortably on the bed in the throes of a nightmare.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Out in the field it's Superman, not Clark who walks out into a black, mangled cornfield under a brown sky. Superman pushes past the black stalks in search of something. As he continues to make his way through, his movements become more and more frantic.

Finally, he gets to what he's searching for. Two shallow graves are dug in a clearing of the earth hold a pair of skeletons, one clothed in farmer's fatigues, the other in a red polka-dot Sunday dress. Superman falls to his knees and begins to weep as red rain starts falling from the sky, staining his suit face, and hands.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Madame La Masque sits over a huge pot of boiling stew while her hands waver over it in a circular motion. Her eyes are rolled back into her head as she murmurs an old creole incantation. Suddenly her eyes focus and a devilish grin comes upon her face.

"So eet is. ClarKent and dah Supahman are dee same."

METROPOLIS-TODAY

Sue is able to grapple hold of the three remaining choppers with her powers, while maintaining an eye outside the building for stragglers, jumpers, or-uh-thrower outers. Her body can feel the power of the helicopters, but judging by her own power, she'll get the feeling she can overcome it.

Tower A: The shield thrown by Cap hits FlyGuy straight in the chest and knocks him down like a swatter at a barbecue. Likewise, Cap catches Splodey (no seriously, that's his name. And he'll be a recurring villain for me) in the back with the kick and sends him sprawling. He's down, not out. But the water that's doused Chariot seems to have little effect, other than to piss her off. Her flaming horse and warrior carriage comes burning towards Cap, shooting flames at him as it does.

Black Widow takes Hackenslice by so much surprise, that the tackle knocks the data card out of the pocket and skitters along the floor. Despite being choked, Hackenslice wrestles wildly, first trying to reach the card and then trying to claw at Black Widows's eyes.

Tower B:"Watch your hands," the female gymnast says to Vorp as his attempt to propel /her/ accidentally grips her in the wrong space. She still flies true, however, and heads for Brick. Unfortunately for the heroes, Brick catches her easily and sets her down. "U ok Tumbler?" the oaf asks. "I'll be better when we fry that cat over a fire! Get him!" Both Brick and Tumbler now attack Vorpal with speediness on one side and supreme strength on the other.

While perhaps illegitimate, Iron Spider's suit shows him that 23% has hacked the servers and is downloading a great deal of information onto a data card. Spider might have to act quickly, but he might be able to use the technology of his suit to throw a wrench in the operation.

Iron Spider's webs hit Copter right in the chest, but as the young hero pulls, it doesn't seem to do any good. Indeed, right before Spider's eyes, the Metal Man changes and shifts shape into a small helicopter. The small but powerful motors swing the rotors around and around, as Copter brings himself at Iron Spider.

Tower C: "Look," says Cowgirl to Cowboy as she finds the blood trail. "Dammit Sammy, get off your duff and help me find this lizard!" She swats at Cowboy with her hat, "Laziest damn man I ever had," she mutters. Nevertheless, the pair start to track Anole like a hunter might.

The sordid sounds that escape the maw of Glam would put a superpowered Jack Black to shame. He unleashes a sonic wave that would surely destroy the ceiling where Anole was hiding. Except, it doesn't. Because Daytripper plays quite the trick. The noise goes into Daytripper's void, and back out again, pointed right at the computer banks where Aunt Sally is working.

SMASH

BOOM

CRASH!

All that's left of the equipment is a pile of smoldering rubble. Aunt Sally sits up, her neat white hair is mussed and her glasses are down around her chin. "Kids these days."

Tower D: Booster lands a vicious shot to Rex' haw, and sends the Dinoman staggering backwards. That's all well and good, but the little boy, Todd, reaches up behind to grab Booster and lift him over his head. "Kneel before Todd!" He's going to try a Bane-style backbreaker move, but a blast of breath from the Man of Steel knocks the little tyke down and frees Booster.

"Kids these days," Superman says to Booster, before shrugging his shoulders deadpan.

Superman smiles as Sue Storm's voice comes over channel, "Sue, great to hear from you. I think that'd be a great idea."

"Ack! It's Booster Gold and Superman!" says Acid Burn, as he scurries to try and get to the computers as fast as he can. Meanwhile, Zip tries to run interference as best she can. She's flying around the joint, slashing at Superman and booster with her strong claws at super speed.


Vorpal just stands there, with his hands on his hips and an enormous grin as the terrible two tag-team him. He acts quickly and creates an exact duplicate of himself as an illusion... on top of him, so that when he activates his invisibility and Sidesteps fifteen feet to the left (it's just a jump to the left) so that it is only his illusion that is standing there.

And what an illusion. As soon as the first blow hits it, Vorpal seems to... explode! But instead of disintegrating into flesh and bone, he becomes a swarm of black and purple moths, flying in a great swarm towards the ceiling. From his vantage point fifteen feet to the left, Vorpal grins to himself as he piles up the next illusion---

Suddenly, the shadows in the room grow long and dark, and a horde of shadowy creatures appear in a circle around the two villains. Playing cards... with arms, and hoods over their heads, each carrying an enormous axe dripping with gore.

But it doesn't stop there. The swarm of moths coalesce into a single being floating in the air. She is easily six or seven feet tall, dressed in robes that would belong to royalty... but they are torn, bloody and more fitting for Miss Havisham. The elaborate robes in red and gold with heart motifs set off a long, thin face with a horrible expression of utter madness, blood-red lips, and a crown of beating hearts around her head.

Say hello to the Queen of Hearts, boys.

"OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!" comes the horrible screech and, at once, the cards rush the two villains, who adopt a defensive position back to back.

It's then that Vorpal acts. Suddenly the illusions vanish and an enormous anvil, fifteen by fifteen feet, appears above the Brick and drops on him, pinning him down hard and probably knocking him out. If not, he's still not getting up.

The next move happens as the cat Sidesteps back, appearing out of thin air before the acrobat and delivering a devastating tiger punch at her face, trying to knock her out.

"A very merry Unbirthday to you!"


Only the richocheting shield returning to Captain America's arm saves him from the direct blast of the flames, but even through the Kevlar of his uniform, Steve feels like he's at the same barbecue as FlyGuy. Excuting a roundoff, Cap lands both feet in FlyGuy's gut just for good measure. Springing up again he brabs the flourescent light bars and uses them like parellel bars to lead the chariot on a merry chase around the room.

Letting go, Captain America falls toward Splodey as the crook gets to his feet. He spreads his arms and legs wide to obscuure as much of the chariot behind him as he can.

"Come on man, is that all you got?" he asks?

When the enraged exploding man lets loose next, Cap curls up into a ball and plummets out of the way -- letting Splodey unload on the chariot. When the ensuing fireball died down, a soot covered Captain America unfolds himself out of the office rubble. "We're all fine here," Cap says over the commlink, "How are you?"


One of Booster Gold's tactical flaws is to underestimate children; but to be fair, he rarely has to fight them. What a PR nightmare. Briefly on the floor after getting dropped by Todd, Booster gives Superman a thumbs up and greets him with a, "Dude." He hovers up into the air and shouts, "Skeets!" then snaps his fingers and points at the child. "But don't stop the music!"

"Yes, sir!" The music-blasting, little golden robot zips into the tower proper to harass the kid. Skeets is a nimble flier and also has an on-board non-lethal stun blaster. It is like an adorable but seriously messed up game of laser tag.

In the meantime, Booster is swatting at Zip, but she is simply too fast for him to grab onto. Instead, he enhances his personal force field to keep her slashing claws at bay, and does his best to ignore her. Speed and finesse are really not his style.

Booster grabs the poor Dinoman he has been picking on since his arrival, clutching him by the ankle. He then swings him up and around like a big, cumbersome club, and uses him to clobber Acid Burn, because there is nothing quite like pummelling a bad guy by using another bad guy.


Excellent. Anole had a friend- thank goodness for that. That gentleman with the powerful shriek seemed pretty dangerous. That sound, terrible and crashing is when Anole acts. He'd lapped the Cowboy and Cowgirl, tongue coming down around the pair to take one gun while he dropped again like a sack of bricks behind the pair. His big fist comes flying right after his tongue snatches the gun from one of their hands. Its a surprise to be suddenly covered in sticky reptile-boy tongue- the gun flung away. "Surrender now! BEfore someone gets really hurt!"


As the metal man turns himself into a toy helicopter Iron Spider decides to see just how powerful the motors on his blades are not. AS the Helicopter man comes straight for him the Iron Spider pulls a move out of his programming straight from Spider-Man's books and does a flying leap over him twisting it into a flip only once he is past him and as he comes down the top two Spider waldoes unfold form the back of his suit to grab the bottom of the transformer. Using his own momentum, the waldoes mechanical strength, and the leverage from how he has caught the flyer he swings it around and bounces it flat into the ground in front of him. The Iron Spider is not done though, still using that momentum uses the artificial spider legs he caught the transformer with to spring him forwards so that he can land on top of 23%.

Once on top of the cyborg hacker all four of the Spider waldoes come around and find purchase in his chasse looking for places to connect to his electronics. Whomever made the 23% might have been good, but he is no Tony Stark let alone a Tony Stark that has been in the hero game for nearly 20 years like the one that built the Iron Spider suit. With his skill directing them the subroutines in the suit take little time to break in and take over. All that Data that 23% had stolen, it is getting copied into the Spider so that he can analyze it and look for a master mind later before it is deleted and the spaces it was on copied over with random ones and zeroes to prevent recovery. That done he makes sure to copy out everything he can from the cyborg's system just in case there is information there he might want to look at, saving it and the copy of the stuff he was trying to steal in a partitioned off area of the suits' hard drives just in case it has any nasty surprises. Nasty surprises like the virus that Iron Spider plants in his systems that will lay in wait and ping the suit any time it connects to a computer somewhere. Even if he escapes after this the Iron Spider will be able to track him.


There's a time limit to this. While Sue has a secure hold of the three remianing helicopters, splitting her attention is more mentally taxing than dealing with them one at a time. So, the moment she hears Superman's voice of approval she sets to work. Starting with the one over Tower C, her force field already in place holds the vehicle securely while another, in mimicry of her hands miming plucking leaves from a plant, shears both the large and small rotors off of the helicopter. They're given a chance to spin down and shatter inside their restraining fields, and then the disabled copter and what's left of its rotors are set gently on the roof.

Releasing dead-copter #2, Sue takes a breath and turns to quickly do the same to the remaining two. She's still glancing at the Towers frequently, to make sure she doesn't miss any defenstrations that need to be caught.


One of Widow's hands stays down to hold Hackenslash down, but Widow is getting bored. "Just so you know," she snarls, "I'm actually being nice." So saying, she headbutts the woman to knock her clean out. Rising, she strides over to pluck up the datacard, reaching up to her comm and giving it a tiny tap. "Almost disappointingly simple. America's computer engineers need to learn to work out."


"Sorry, Gramma," Daytripper says, entirely unrepentant. Her eyes flash and she looses another spell at the woman, the remains of the table and the chair upon which the old woman sat rising up of their own accord to become bindings that secure the woman such that she's no longer a threat to anyone -- real, digital, or imagined. One down.

The blonde sorceress lifts off the ground now, pulling up a shield around herself as she now turns toward Glam. "You call that singing?" she snarks. "See how you deal with this..." Her hands flick as she speaks a second spell, encompassing the Bowie-wannabe in a sphere of absolute silence. (Cone schmone...) Talk about sensory dep?

Chances are pretty good the screecher isn't so good with the whole can't-hear-anything bit, never mind the fact that no sound he makes can escape that sphere. He charges for her, murder on his face. She slips higher into the air and creates a shield around him. Tiles from the floor fly up to encase him, just as Granny Gump was encased, holding him easily as well as any set of cuffs-on-a-railing would.

The witch isn't much for playing with her opponents, tonight. She's had enough fighting for one day. Time to round up the posse... Or at least see if Anole needs help.


NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA-NOW

Madame La Masque holds a small doll in her hands. It's done in primary colors with a haphazard red S drawn upon the midsection and a small piece of tablecloth for a cape.

Her long bony forefinger caresses the side of the dolls face for a moment before her own face goes evil. Suddenly she begins stabbing at the doll wildly and madly with hateful glee in her eyes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

METROPOLIS, NEW YORK -NOW

Sue disables the helicopters with ease. They sputter angrily as she forces her will upon them and she'll likely feel their groans of protest. Nevertheless, the whole thing goes off without a hitch and she's still on task just in case anyone falls from a window. Gotta love that big sister style.

Tower A: Splodey lets loose, but Cap's quick action brings the hero out of the way of harm. Unwittingly, the villain does as Steve hoped and blows back Chariot in an unfortunate demonstration of friendly fire.

That is, apparently the best he's got.

Hackenslice doesn't have much better as she's knocked out cold by Widow's vicious headbutt. The datacard is safe within, well, wherever Black Widow keeps such things, and Tower A is secure.

Tower B: Brick mrphs uncomfortably under the anvil and is not going anywhere anytime soon. Meanwhile, Tumbler has stayed still long enough to get a better look at her. Her hair is pulled back nice and neat, and a ribbon holds it all together. Thick makeup obscures what might be a pretty, college aged face, but it's no matter. It's pure terror at this point. And just as we get a better look, Tumbler falls out of our view after a quick fist to the fact courtesy of Vorpal who knocks the girl clean out.

Iron Spider makes quick work of Copter as the young clone is just too fast for the Transformer, who goes crashing into the ground. Next is the 23%, who just sort of sits there uncomfortably as Iron Spider loads all this stuff into him. He's more machine than man, true, but his movement relied upon Copter, who is now out of commission. Tower B is secure.

Tower C: "What in sam-hell!" yells Cowboy as he's attacked by the tongue. "Hell, we didn't get paid enough for this," remarks Cowgirl. They both stick their hands in the air and drop their guns, almost in unison.

Try as they might, Glam and Aunt Sally wriggle in their bonds, but it's no use, Amanda has them in too tightly.

By the time Amanda reaches Anole, she'll see he's got the situation covered in much the same way she does. X-men 1, Dabney's crooks 0.

Tower D: Booster slams Dinoman upon the poor, unsuspecting Acid Burn, knocking away the young man from his attempt to get the information downloaded. Just for good measure, Superman reaches over, ejects the datacard, and smashes it in his palm. Just then, a scream of air can be heard as Zip is on her way. Too bad she gets caught with a clothesline to the stomach that stops her speed in a hurry.

"OOF!" exclaims Zip as she falls to the floor. Superman points to her, "Stay where you are." Zip looks as if she's going to run, but relents.

Superman smiles widely at Booster as it is now apparent that victory is at hand. A quick look with X-ray vision ensures it. "Well, that all ende---OUCH!" Superman twists wildly as if he's just been bitten by a dog somewhere in his back. "GAH!" he writhes in pain and twists again. The look on his face looks like said pain is excruciating. In a split second, he's ripping off his cape as well as the top part of his Kryptonian suit. His back twists as he tries to reach around to see what attacked him or how. Was there someone they didn't' see. From Booster's vantage point, he'll see Superman wipe his hands down his back. There's blood. A lot of blood, but as he wipes it away, Booster can't seem to see any wounds.

"What the heck was that?" he asks.


The cat smirks, watching Brick squirm. "I know who you are, I know where you live," he says, his voice amplified into a creepy echo using phantom sounds. "Commit another crime, and I'll let the Queen rip your heart out. She can keep you alive, you know, after that?" He gives him a horrifyingly cheerful grin and turns around "Spidey, wrap-up for two, please." Because his anvil needs active focusing to remain in place, he's going to need Patrick to wrap Tumbler and Brick up in a lot of webbing to keep them still for the authorities.

Vorpal reaches into his pocket and takes out the com-- he's still new at this and forgot to com in, thank goodness for Patrick being more trained in protocol than he was. He speaks into the com:

"This is Vorpal, tower B is secure. I repeat, tower B is secure. What's your status?"


Captain America ties the unconscious Splodey - assuming there is anything left of him - and the chariot driving woman to office chairs with electrical cable. "Tower A is secure, good work Tower B."

"<It is no time to be playing Chess when the house is on fire>"


Booster dusts his hands off, although this is a theatrical gesture; when he has his force field on, his suit stays nice and clean. "Oh... yeah. I should've mentioned, I meant it'd be fun for -me-," he explains, to the defeated quartet. Hm. Zip is the only one who is conscious enough to listen, so he points a finger-gun her way and says, "I'll make a mental note to clarify that, next time." He punctuates that with a wink.

When Superman cries out, Booster looks surprised, his eyes opening wide behind his goggles. Gesturing at Skeets, he then draws his hand across the air in a horizontal line, and the thumping fight music soundtrack abruptly cuts off. "Kal, what the heck? I thought you were all better?" A better look using the enhanced vision modes of his goggles just serves to make him more baffled. "I don't think you're injured, what the -heck-..."

Booster activates the communication system in his suit, tapping into the frequency being used by the other heroes on the scene. "Yo. Booster Gold, here, with Superman. Sorry, I didn't pay attention to what tower we're in. But we're cool. I think." He sounds a little uncertain.


"That's good!" Anole says, as he fashions some handy cuffs out of some unfortunate hunk of server rack, cuffing the baddies to eachother and one of the heavier hulks of destroyed and twisted machinery. "This should hold you until the cops come in. Its been nice working with you!" he says back over to Amanda, giving a wave of the hand. He double checks Glam and Granny- giving them their own new jewelry if required. When finished- he pinches the base of each of their six-shooters closed. "A pleasure doing business with you. I think these guys are set, I'm going to make myself scare. See you out in the country, right?" he offered to the defeated crooks and his teammate the Amazing Amand before he seemed to disappear in front of their very eyes.. neededing to make himself scarce before the police came by and asked questions. Anole would camp out, ensure the police picked up the baddies- and then sneak on out and head on home.


Iron Spider is taking just a little extra time to plug into the machines that 23% had connected to see if there are any digital fingerprints that might suggest he uploaded something, or altered data before he slides off the Cyborg's back and picks him up. Thank Stark Tech again for that little extra strength. He sets the nearly immobilized by his nature villain down and nods at the purple cat. As soon as things are clear *thwip thwip thwip* he starts to cocoon up Brick while Vorpal does the check in. After he is done he looks down at Brick, his impassive mask covered face showing no signs of emotion, and in an emotionless and just slightly off voice caused by the electronic distortion that makes matching his voice to his civilian ID impossible says, "And he is the nice one." With a nod of the head toward Vorpal he goes and grabs Copter and makes sure everyone is all nice and webbed up for the cops.


Sue Storm sets the last helicopter on the rooftop then realizes the pilots might need to be dealt with. That's the matter of just a few seconds though, as she picks up pieces of rotors and bends them to either lock the pilots in their dead vehicles or immobilize them where they are. "The helicopters are taken ca... Superman? What's wrong?" She floats over to the Tower she thinks the red and blue clad superhero is in, looking in the windows worriedly.


It isn't a long walk. Widow isn't far, and the datacard is whipped out to show her fellow Avenger. "These contents should be interesting," she says, pausing within arm's length of the man. She smiles drily and reaches up to ruffle plaster dust out of his fair hair. "We are done here? Is anyone else in need of kicking in the ear?"


Amanda flashes Anole a grin. "See you in the country," she agrees -- even though it may be a while before she's out there again.

Well, that means when someone -- whomever -- gets around to investigating Tower C, they'll see that the four perps there are also well-in-hand. Yep. Tower C is secure. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like either Anole or Daytripper have the means to tell anyone that.

Yep. Gotta love them under-the-radar X-Men.

As Amanda turns to begin creating a portal to send herself back home, however, her attention is taken by the feeling of very bad mojo in the mystical aether. Very bad mojo very, very close. She stands perfectly still for a moment, eyes closed, hands extended loosely before her, palms up, as she concentrates on locating it.

Tower D.

The sorceress's eyes open. They glow violet with power for a moment and she speaks a single word, disappearing from Tower C in a flash of light and a rush of air as molecules rush to fill the space where she had been standing.

She reappears in Tower D, dark hood concealing her face as she levitates in place, turning in a slow circle until her glowing eyes fall on Superman. "Superman?" He's the last one she'd expect to be covered in magic.

Of course, they've never met. But who doesn't know who Superman is?

"Daytripper," she says by way of terse introduction. "Sorceress. I'm on your side." Just to save him asking.

"You're glowing..." She looks him up and down, chanting softly to test the magic that surrounds him. Finally, a grimace curls her lips. "Voudoun..." she spits. "Nasty stuff. Don't know what you did to attract that, but..." Maybe she can help.

Just as she starts to prepare a counterspell, however, the magic begins to fade...


"No," says Splodey to Widow in a mutter as she asks if anyone else needs their butt handed to them.

The evening is ending up as close to a total victory for the heroes as possible, despite the odd occurrence with Superman's bloody back.

From their bunker, Mannheim's head is in his hands while Dabney is at a computer terminal, his hands flying over the keys madly. "It's not my fault!" he exclaims. "Fool," Mannheim utters. "We need to pack up immediately. 23% had enough to not only put us away, but to lead them back here. They'll be here within the hour and we need to be long gone. We'll work out the details of your failure later."

Indeed, Iron Spider's extra efforts are able to garner some important details about who and where 23%'s bosses are. Unfortunately, by the time anyone ends up at the hideout in Harlem, they'll be long gone.

Police sirens can be heard as normal officers, as well as SWAT and Metropolis' special situation units, not to mention BSA Agents all descend upon the scene. Those who need to be scarce, make themselves scarce, while the others are fit to stay and talk to the fuzz should they so desire.

Through the windows, Sue will see Superman stripped down to his pants with blood smeared all upon his back, looking over to Booster quizzically. "Yeah," Superman says to Booster shaking his head in confusion, "I think I'm fine. I'm not really sure what happened."

"Daytripper," he says as Amanda makes her appearance and gives her name. "Well," Superman thinks back, "Now that you mention it, I think I know exactly where this might come from." It would explain a lot of things that have been going on lately. The pestilence on the Smallville Farm, the sickness of Martha Kent. Superman's back feels much better, and he nods to Daytripper. "Thank you, Daytripper. I think I'll be heading down south to see about a Madame La Masque."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But as always, Madame La Masque is one step ahead of the Man of Steel. Even as the Kryptonian plans to visit her, she's already conjuring up a special treat.

There, in the Bayou, a dead man with white flesh begins to emerge from the swampy depths. His white skin barely clings on to the meat on his bones, all of which is massive. Around his neck is a giant noose and the tattered black clothing he wore the last time he died has deteriorated quickly in these bug infested waters.

"Lundi. Mardi. Mercredi. Jeudi. Vendredi"

The hulking mass now makes his way towards the shore and begins to hauntingly make his way past an above ground mausoleum.

"Samedi-Dimanche"

As the graveyard begins to sputter to life, the largest of all the Zombies makes his way to the main land.

"Solomon Grundy," he mutters dumbly. "Born on a Monday."

Superman: The Guede

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