[A vain, Vanguard-vindicated villain who follows phenomenal filaments of Fate to bequeath the beauty of eir own bodily barrenness unto the lawless, Ani Hess 'Returns the Favour' as...]
Issue #43 (May 2010)
GOING TO BAT!
Featuring: The RETURN of KINGS ARROW!
(by Special Guest Writer: Buck "The King" Adelman!)
Usually the use of eir preternatural powers provided this maverick mutant a fine
focus, free from fret or fancy. Following fate-threads to eir destination, determinedly darting
through space and time in search of a date with destiny, asked an
astonishing amount of attention and alacrity from none other than Ani Hess, THE AMBIGUOUS ANDROGYNE. Alas, at the moment, aloft as e arm-over-arm arranges emself across the air
above Atlas, eir attention is averted by eir own introspection and intuition,
intensely intertwined in irritation at the inexplicable, inexcusably
iniquitous incident in which e intended to intervene.
Eir friend and fellow Fist, THE FREAKY NOISEBOMB, had been maligned as the murderer of an endangered eyewitness to COUNCIL
capers whom the cunning chiropteran crime-fighter had been commissioned
to conduct.* Now, the Noisebomb appeared to have chosen to shoulder
the difficulties of his circumstance as an outlaw on his own, rebuffing
any resolution of the redoubtable RECIPROCATORS to aid him in order to avoid endangering their still precarious standing with Paragon City's bureaucrats.
* -- In THE FREAKY NOISEBOMB #46!
Androgyne was unswayed by the Noisebomb's insistence on independence;
Ani uniquely understood the urge behind such an undertaking, as e had
feinted a flagrant fall to flamboyant felony emself, eight months prior
while the Reciprocators faced a slew of suspicious statutory
setbacks*. With the Reciprocators' reputation only recently recovered,
the Noisebomb would have no doubt his name's new notoriety now
reflected negatively upon his teammates. Since the word went out about
the Noisebomb's implication in the innocent informant's death, the
Androgyne had been pursuing the truth.
* -- Courtesy of the conniving COUNTESS CREY, as revealed in THE RECIPROCATORS #41!
the Noisebomb dare not speak for fear of the dire destruction his
decibels would produce, Ani could not help but see the circumstances of
the slaying as suspect. According to the media, the lawmen on the
scene when the murder occurred went relatively unharmed, despite the
allegation that he had pulverized the protected person in front of
their eyes. Ani was after answers, so e intended to initiate some
interviews with those who'd been on the scene. Before e started,
however, e wanted VANGUARD verification of where e stood in a situation such as this. For that, there was only person to talk to: the Herald's own ADVOCATE THOMPSON.
Lt. Hess, as the Androgyne was known to the Vanguard private
scanning identification at the DPO in Atlas Park, had called ahead to
request a meeting with eir Herald Advocate, the driven former district
attorney who represented em and several other former felons who had
made the transition to heroing through their work with the Vanguard.
She was waiting for em in the lobby -- unexpectedly clad in sturdy,
form-fitting Vanguard armor of her own with an advanced pistol
holstered at either hip*-- and as soon as e smiled in greeting and
opened eir mouth to speak, she interrupted em: "No." The Androgyne's
mouth closed, then opened, but once again Thompson interrupted before e
could form a full phrase. "I understand he's a team-mate and you want
to look out for him, but he's a wanted man. The Androgyne can not be
seen as aiding and abetting a fugitive, whatever the circumstances,
barring of course War Zone operations but then you're our
responsibility, while this is a city matter."
* -- See TALES OF THE VANGUARD (SERIES 2!) #33!
Though it was exactly the explanation e expected, Ani emoted eir exasperation. "But--!"
Androgyne gave her a grim glower. E hadn't expected encouragement, but
e had at least longed for a loophole. ...and as e reviewed her words
in eir head, e realized: e'd found one! For while the Androgyne's
legal standing was even more precarious than that of the Reciprocators
as a whole, e had an ace up eir sleeve neither Vanguard nor Paragon
Somewhere out in this torrential, thunder-torn night,
the Androgyne hoped, the Noisebomb would find shelter from the storm.
With eir powers still limited by the lingering limitations left by the
interference of the vengeful SEER CARNEGIE*, e could not follow
the thread of Fate binding em to the Noisebomb or any of eir other
longtime friends. Still, if e could not find eir framed friend, e
could nevertheless seek his foes, though for the time being, e would
have to find other threats than transmutation with which to tempt the
truth from them.
* -- Scared off by the fearsome PARIAH FLUX in THE RECIPROCATORS #39
For on this night, crouched on the cornice of a Canyon condominium, Ani
Hess had no access to eir radical radioactivity -- e had surrendered
the ability when e had donned the distinctly different from eir usual
costume e now wore. After a brief rest in the CITADEL OF DEFIANCE, discussing eir plan with emself, and a chat to clear eir mind with eir closest comrade, RON CLEMENS, AGENT OF M.I.R.A.,
e had decided to go forward with this plan, despite eir doubts. Ani
Hess was no longer in command of eir actions, though e still perceived
eir perceptions as a passenger of sorts. If the Androgyne could not
help the Noisebomb, and he would rebuff all remediation from the
Reciprocators, then the Androgyne would prevent either from being
implicated by eir attempt to aid: e would step aside and allow the
fractured persona of KINGS ARROW to rise to prominence in eir psyche!*
* -- Confused, Loyal Subjects? Last year's mini-series, HANK STILLER'S KINGS ARROW, explains all!
from head to toe in black, wearing a mask with eyeguards that rose to
tall, swooping points, Kings Arrow wore sculpted padding beneath the
costume to lend the Androgyne's figure a masculine musculature it
normally lacked to further conceal "his" true identity. Upon his chest
was the golden crown that had once been the crest of the crafty KINGSWOMAN,
as a credit to whose character Ani originally crafted the costume and
concept of Kings Arrow when e needed a new heroic identity to aid the
Reciprocators. In time, Kings Arrow had proved to be too
heroic. The portion of eir personality e had partitioned eir lawful
impulses into eventually turned against em, vying for control of the
body they shared and trying to derail eir plans for vengeance. Once
the Androgyne's grim scheme was averted and e realized e really
relished reform and returned to Reciprocating, Kings Arrow had
retreated into the shadows of Ani's mind, ever-present but now more
cryptic colleague than combatant, asserting himself only when they
encountered Countess Crey out of distrust of Ani's self-control.
Months before, Kings Arrow had ingratiated himself to a high-placed
former contact of the Androgyne's, Captain Izzy Sixex of the PPD's Data
Crimes Division. Leveraging a loophole in the "law-tomaton's" logical
logarithm, Arrow had earned the erstwhile enforcer's trust despite his
unregistered vigilante status. At the time, Arrow had exploited the
loophole to obtain for the Reciprocators footage from police drones of
the truck used in the cowardly kidnapping of THE STARTLING STATIC BOLTER
by the East Libertalian ambassador.* This rainy night, he had begun
his search by contacting Captain Sixex straight-forwardly, relying on
his craftily created confidence with the "Digital Detective" to learn
the identities of the police officers who had been assigned to the
detail meeting with the Noisebomb and his charge at the safehouse
wherein the latter's liquefaction loomed.
* -- The climactic cliff-hanger concluding THE RECIPROCATORS #39!
The first few flatfoots furnished nearly nothing new to Kings Arrow, and he'd begun to worry he would not in fact be able to uncover the machinations muddling the murderer's true identity; then, he had sought answers at the apartment of one Leonard Lieber, a beat cop assigned to the detail at the last minute at his superior Sean Seaborne's specific request. Drunken and despairing already, having seen the remains of a man killed in a horrifying way and knowing he had played a part, Lieber needed little lubrication or intimidation to admit his awareness that the Noisebomb had been set up to take the fall for Ballard's murder. Lieber gave up a name: Trevor Tompkins, a policeman popularly perceived as perfidious for a pathetically paltry price.
The Kings Arrow crept along the edge of the roof as a PPD squad car
pulled up outside the building he stalked, staring intently at the twin
threads which twined down through the air into the front two seats of
the vehicle. The officer in the passenger seat exited, wearing
civilian clothing, and rapped a grateful knock across the roof of the
Crown Victoria. Duffel bag in hand and a newspaper over his head to
shield him from the pouring rain, Tompkins walked towards his
building's entrance, utterly unwitting of the black-clad bearer of bad
tidings for bad guys that lurked above! Kings Arrow stopped beside a
weathered art-deco gargoyle that watched over Steel Canyon from the
corner of the 22-story building, and folded his fingers firmly about
the Fate-thread which connected him to Tompkins.
EDITOR'S NOTE: PAGE REDACTED PER RECOMMENDATION OF
PARAGON COMICS LEGAL DEPARTMENT, DUE TO PENDING
TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT & PLAGIARISM LITIGATION.
With a snap of his elbow, Kings Arrow yanked upwards on the thread,
ripping Tompkins off the ground below and drawing him through the
spaces between the dimensions up to Arrow's own altitude! Tompkins
popped out of thin air as the thread strained for release in Arrow's
grasp then shortened in reflection of Tompkins' new position. The
crooked cop dropped, and the back of his jacket snagged on the
outstretched wing of the gargoyle. His duffel and the keycard in his
hand were both lost as his hands flailed about in search of purchase
when the sensation of falling first hit him, and he let out a
strangled, startled shriek as his jacket saved him from joining his
dropped belongings. Arrow gave him no time to come to grips with the
situation, standing defiantly at the edge of the cornice with his small
gold-lined cape whipping behind him in the strong winds. He glared at
Tompkins with hate and contempt and rasped so deeply it would pain the
Androgyne's throat when e returned to primacy, "WHO KILLED BARRETT BALLARD?"
Tompkins recoiled as if struck, his startled scream abating as he
stared at the masked man on the ledge and realized his predicament.
After an instant of panicked stammering, he managed to get out, "I
didn't see! I-I didn't know--I swear to God, I--"
Arrow interrupted, infuriated by Tompkins' imitation of ignorance, "SWEAR TO ME!"
With only a twitch of his wrist to the side, he teleported Tompkins a
foot further out into space, freeing him of the snag that saved his
life, and let him plummet, screaming in horror. Arrow's fingers
splayed as he watched the officer's thread unspool between them,
lengthening at the speed of gravity, and waited until the right moment
to yank his hand up and throw Tompkins right back to where he had
dangled an instant before.
Tompkins kept screaming for a few seconds after he lodged back into
place suspended from the gargoyle's wing. Gasping for breath as he
recovered from his seventeen-story plunge, he began immediately to
spill his secrets! "I don't...I don't know! I never knew, never! Seaborne, he went to see a guy the day before, who paid him, he paid me--"
"For information! Locations of protected witnesses usually, just this
time the buyer must've had some kind of special request--"
"I never went to the meeting point! It was in the Hollows, cops only go there when they're in force!"
Kings Arrow leaned forward, threatening to fall from the ledge, but
kept his balance as he pushed his face towards Tompkins' to ask him
coldly, "DO I LOOK LIKE A COP?"
Without giving the cowardly crooked cop time to respond, Arrow flicked
his wrist again to cast him back out into space. This time as he fell,
Arrow held his thread firmly and snapped it to hurl himself along it,
overshooting its anchor in Tompkins as he shot across space-time to
alight on the sidewalk below in less time than it took to blink.
Keeping his fingers coiled loosely around the slackening thread that
now stretched into the sky above him and half-listening to the
descending scream, Arrow picked up the duffel Tompkins had dropped from
where it had crashed into the sidewalk, slung it over his shoulder and
opened it as he walked away. When Tompkins was two stories from the ground, Kings
Arrow's hand snapped once more around the thread tying them together
and gave it a quick jerk to the side to pull Tompkins out of his
doom plummet and into perfect placement for a safe landing atop the
rain-soaked garbage half-filling a dilapidated dumpster. Arrow pulled
a padlock purchased for the purpose from his utility belt and locked
the lids down as, inside, Trevor Tompkins wept.
Arrow pulled Tompkins' cell phone out of the duffel bag -- it survived
the fall thanks to the gym clothes it was lost among inside -- sent a
text message from it to Captain Sixex notifying him of Tompkins' location, then skimmed through its
recent calls until he found one attributed to "Slick". A nickname Lieber had mentioned in referring to Sean
Seaborne! Before dialing, Kings Arrow spent a moment playing with a
different device, one he'd carried on his belt, active, for the purposes of the
interrogation. Similar in size and appearance to a touch-screen cell phone, it
was a device borrowed from the daring, wired CYBERETTE's Noise Shoppe at the Citadel. Designed for on-the-go handheld recording, playback, and manipulation, it came with
editing software built in.
Kings Arrow was created as an amalgam of some of the heroes the
Androgyne held in the highest esteem, and as other heroes grew into
their own and Ani developed a greater respect for them, Arrow's pool of
influence seemed to have grown. In this case, he would borrow for his
purposes a trait of none other than the freaky Noisebomb himself! With his
recording device programmed, he called Seaborne from Tompkin's cell.
Relying on the pouring rain's pitter-patter against the awning of the
storefront he paused under to mask any oddities, as soon as Seaborne
answered the phone Arrow pressed play, and let "Tompkins" do the
"Seaborne. I. Must. Request. Meeting. In the Hollows. I. 've had some kind of special. Information! Some kind of. Witness. The day before."
Arrow pressed the button to end the call, stroked a hand through the
myriad mingling threads he saw for one that pointed south-east, then
seized upon it to thread towards Eastgate!