From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
This is an anthology of the first few Deathspider stories that came out of his time with the Dark Dominion.
Perpetuating The Distraction
Written Feb 2006 The Longbow base was quiet. Deathly silent, considering the war that was going on outside. GAMMA BASE 12, one of the five underground operations bunkers inside Siren's Call, was manned by a small company of elite Longbow soldiers, each of them veterans of the US Armed Forces, all of them dedicated and loyal to the cause. Armed with the best weaponry, trained with the best anti-super human tactics, they were the best of the best.
And Deathspider was among them that night.
He had gained access via a ventilation shaft that he had found not too far from the hospital. It was a tight fit, but he had managed to crawl down the nearly vertical shaft, his fingers punching into the sheet metal for purchase. No security measure either. Writing on the sheet metal, leftover by the contractors who built the place, gave scrawled clues to when it was built. A note written on a shipping sticker gave measurements for cutting, but the label itself was dated only a couple of years ago. Plenty of time for people to forget that you need security sensors in your ductwork.
He looked down, and his acute vision could spot a flash of red and white down below, coming from the bright lights visible through the airvent below him. Perfect, he thought. Sentry right below me. Probably two more with him.
He let go, allowing himself to drop down the shaft headfirst. The sound of his body banging against the sheet metal made a hell of a racket, but that would make the upcoming event all the more aesthetically pleasing. He plunged down, extending a hand to punch through the grating of the air vent.
The Longbow Sergeant looked up at the cacophony above him coming from the airvent. Dear god, he thought, did one of those idiot heros toss a grenade down here again? He looked up, flicking the safety off his rifle. His two subordinates, two fetching girls by the names of Harding and McMurray, nodded, and raised their flamethrowers in anticipation.
But it was no grenade that plunged through the grating, but a flash of black, white, and red. The impact hit the Sergeant , dropping him to the ground, the hard metal of the floor breaking his jaw in three places.
McMurray gasped, and brought her flamethrower to bear at the figure in black, ready to incinerate the intruder, then thought better of it - after all, Sergeant Dyson was underneath him. This hesitation was all the intruder needed. Picking up the grating, he flung it like a shurikin, the jagged broken metal of the air vent hissed through the air, and buried itself in her face, puncturing her eyeballs and driving a sliver of metal through the cartilage of her nose. She screamed and shook like a rag doll before going down.
Agent Harding, still a little off from her drinking bender and subsequent 'sex with 2 guys' Wendesday night ritual last night, screamed in horror, seeing McMurray go down, a chunk of metal in her face. Her reaction time seemed slow... so slow. The intruder came up, his fist glowing, and it came at her all too fast, like she was going through slow motion, and he was being fast forwarded. The fist shattered her teeth first, shredding her tongue from the force of blow, sending shards of her beautiful dental work into the soft flesh of her palate. However, it didn't stop there. The fist hits her so hard, the bone surrounding her nasal cavity dislodges and presses back, puncturing her brain and subsequently bone tearing at her brain stem. She died, still wondering how he moved so fast.
Deathspider looked down at the three Longbow lying on the ground. Only one was alive - the one girl he hit with the grating... well, maybe she was alive, but not for long. The black girl he smashed with his fist was twitching, voiding her bladder through her tight costume... Which left the sergeant. He moaned pitifully, and clutched his shattered jaw.
Deathspider rolled the man over with his foot, then slammed the foot down on the man's throat, crushing his larynx. Gritting his teeth under his mask, he silently regarded the man's disfigured face as the sergeant choked to death. Should have been more careful, stud, he thought bitterly.
He stepped away from the three corpses, cracking his knuckles. He didn't particularly care for Longbow when he was on the side of the angels - a blatant display of brash, brutal showmanship by the potent combination of superheroic idiocy and good old American "Let's Force Others To Think Our Way".
Longbow, he decided, was a way for the thugs in the Pentagon and in Paragon City to exercise some brute force, all the while maintaining the status quo - for the rich industrialists and corporate big wigs. The Powers That Be don't want Statesman and company to take over their nice little world with their heavy-handed approach, and Arachnos and Paragon occupy themselves by fighting each other. Longbow is America's way of saying "Yeah, um... we care about this", sending impotent battalions of morons to die, keeping everyone wrapped up in their flashy, spectacular war. Arachnos feeds into this by being 'supervillains', being the bad guys.
Being the distraction.
Distracting the super heroes from the problems of the real world, inventing this idiotic little 'crisis' so the real villains could go on with thier schemes. Slave labor, pollution, subjugation of the masses of the world, turning America into a Third-World consumer nation. Lord Arachnos can't even begin to compete with that.
In the meantime, though, operatives like Deathspider make good money, playing each side against each other. Doing missions like this, perpetuating the lie. The three over there, their families will be told they died with valor, leading the charge for freedom, when all they really did was waste their lives for a distraction. They probably wern't even aware of what was going on. Sad, really. Deathspider resolved to ponder this and give them a eulogy while he was checking his bank account.
He creeped down the corridor, silent as death, his pheromones flooding the air. If anyone were to happen upon him, the chemicals in the air would chemically bind to crucical neuro-transmitters in their bloodstream, binding any neurotransmitter related to sight, smell, or auditory signals, rendering them blind and deaf to his approach. He could pass right by someone, and unless they were in full environmental armor, sealed against his chemicals, they wouldn't even register that he was there.
Ah, here we go.
The unmarked door led to the power switching station that ran most of the automated defenses near the War Wall. The police drones were all running off of this sub-station. The drones were powerful, immune to his chemical aura, and could see in several different spectrums of light, rendering any stealthed opponent helpless while they were blasted with energy beams. If he could set up a sub-routine into the drone, substituting his own image in place of Longbow personnel, it would confuse the drones long enough for him to slip by their defenses, giving him access into Paragon without having to deal with the troublesome PCPD, and the all-points bulletin alerting everyone that Michael Sanchez was wanted for questioning.
Smiling under his mask, he slipped in, pulling the micro-disc out of his belt. The interior of the room was dark, lit only by the banks of servers and the screen saver of the computer running the drones. Closing the door behind him, he padded over to the computer, and clicked on the keyboard. Locked, of course, but that was no matter. He was @#%$ a girl in Longbow, a pretty little Chinese girl, who -just- so happened to be one of their computer techs. He had gleaned the passwords from her laptop, which she had foolishly brought with her when he was over last night.
He still had bite marks.
The chatter of keys and a few programs later, he was in. Inserting the disc into the computer, he uploaded his Identify Friend or Foe date into the database, and hit 'enter'. The computer, the best that black operation funneled tax payer dollars can buy, uploaded it quickly, and soon, he was as invisible as ever, able to slip by the drones for a few precious seconds, seconds he could use to get back into the City.
Exiting the program, he turned and opened the door. Oh, for shame, the three dead Longbow were already discovered. He creeped out into the corridor, past the panicking female agent standing over her dead friends, where he casually took a keycard from the dead girl with the grill in her face.
He would use the front door, this time.
Written Feb 2006
“Easy, boys. Keep this bird steady…”
The terrified Army Warrant Officers piloting the Chinook helicopter looked straight ahead, the crazy person in the silver and black armor looking at them, reflected in the canopy windows. The Chinook swayed out wide over Villain Base, the ruined War Walls of Siren’s Call gaping wide, the devastation lying beyond. Lights off the oil rigs shined over the waters.
Below, in the darkness, bright flashes of heroes and villains fighting. Tracers lit up the night, flares burst and drifted over the city, billowing clouds of white phosphorous falling to earth. A hero, clad in bright blue and yellow colors passed by at high speed, shortly before being cut in half by Villain Base automated weaponry. He didn’t have time to scream as his body fell to the waters below in pieces. Maybe his medical teleporter would work… maybe not. And if it did, it really depended on which part of his body it was on. He might just have his lower torso materialize in the hospital. Tough luck, ese…
Inside the dimly lit helicopter, the Dark Dominion was set to begin the assault.
Machina Shard, his cybernetic arm glinting in the subdued red light coming from over the bay door, looks out over the city. His black headband fluttered in the wind, and he clenched and unclenched the metallic fist. He didn’t appear to care about the others behind him, but his nerves were drawn taut like piano strings, the old familiar tension before a fight.
Yuvia Trendaal, the weird reptilian humanoid, with its feminine features, green hair and blue scaled skin, crouched near the open ramp in the rear of the Chinook, holding onto a nylon strap, looking out into the darkness. Yuvia wasn’t a front line fighter in the Dominion, but it had acquitted itself well in its travels. The ability to steal life energy and the powers of superhumans was a valuable trait, especially so in the chaos of Siren’s Call.
Hunter Devil, the blonde in the tight black and red leather jumpsuit, and Havok, the black man in the white and black armor, stood close by each other. If they talked, they couldn’t hear each other over the thundering hum of the twin rotor engines. Hunter held Havok’s hand, their fingers interlocked, the looks between them the look of lovers. Both of them were just as amped up as the rest, but their looks betrayed none of that tension. Only affection.
Karnal Sin, Consort of Overseer, stood by the leader of the Dominion, looking over her troops with a critical eye. Clad in her customary red leather corset and pants, her cape fluttering in the wind coming in from the gunner doors, her blonde hair whipping about in the wind. Beside her, Overseer, his hair and cape rippling and billowing in the air. Tonight was an important objective – test the defenses of Paragon. The City was porous enough, the Dominion passing to and fro with sickening simplicity, but being able to enter in force would be the true test. To allow the Spartan Legion full-blown access to the city, bypassing the War Walls, the Drones, and the pitiful heroes protecting the city. To establish a true power base, the most heavily defended city in the world, a suitable throne from which he could conquer the rest of the globe.
In the darkness of the troop bay, clinging to the ceiling, was Deathspider, a.k.a. Arana de Muerte. He didn’t look at the others. They didn’t trust him, he didn’t think. He was the most recent acquisition of the Dominion, a former hero Karnal brought over to Master’s side. He had shown Overseer nothing but disrespect, a loose cannon, and a potential liability. Maybe this would be the mission where one of the Legion, Machina probably, gets him alone and crushes his skull with that stone hammer of his, exacting his own, and Overseer’s vengeance, all without Karnal Sin knowing about it. Plausible deniability, and all that. His new costume, black and red, hid him well in the blackness, alone with his thoughts.
Was he being paranoid? Possibly. With the realization that A) he wasn’t exactly popular with the others, and B) ranting like a lunatic about the Distraction, he discovered he wasn’t making friends. But unfortunately, both were nuggets of truth. The Distraction loomed large in his thoughts – the massive illusion that perpetuated injustice and war in the world, while keeping the heroes and villains busy at each other’s throats, it made him physically sick to his stomach. He had leaked information out to some of his old hero contacts, even… to Mio. But nothing was materializing. No hue and cry to stop anything. He felt helpless, and waited for the other shoe to drop, to have someone come out of nowhere, sliding a blade across his throat, silencing him. He was maybe a little too effective in getting all this information, getting too many good tips from disgruntled Longbow brass, too many frightened Arachnos accountants showing too many detailed covert ledgers. What if he was being set up? What if the Distraction was deeper, more insidious than he thought? Maybe the best way to keep it a secret is to lure the curious in and silence them by sending out just enough information to entice the unwary would-be whistleblower?
The thought alone made him press his fingers into the steel he rested upon.
Overseer’s voice broke him out of the reverie. “Dominion! Let us pay a visit to our erstwhile subjects to be!” He walked purposefully to the rear cargo ramp, past Yuvia, and dropped out, his form disappearing into the inky blackness below. Karnal sauntered behind him, flashing a dazzling look at Deathspider that made him feel queasy and on edge. He could never read her expression. As the days rolled by, he felt less and less comfortable with his status in the Dominion. Maybe Karnal would exact her revenge on him for upsetting Master. He never knew with her. She leapt out of the back of the Chinook, flying away, looking for targets.
Hunter and Havok went next, Havok holding his arms around the Russian assassin, leaping out together, suspended in dusk, their forms streaking towards the line of ruined buildings that formed somewhat of a barrier from the beach to the crater, where Arachnos and Longbow fought. Yuvia gave a feral growl and disappeared after them, sans parachute.
Which left Deathspider alone with Machina Shard. The man walked into the cockpit, giving a mirthless grin to the two hapless Warrant Officers.
“Gentlemen, this is the end of the line.”
An involuntary shiver ran down Deathspider’s spine as Machina spoke. Time to go. He dropped to the ramp, and suddenly, the Chinook wrenched violently, almost knocking him back into the cargo area. Sparing a glance back, Machina was destroying the cockpit, as per Overseer’s orders. Which meant the Army pilots were so much meat confetti. DS genuflected, something he hadn’t done in years, not so much out of sentiment but habit. He had killed plenty of people, but watching Machina go to work on the men, knowing Machina wasn’t a mad dog killer, but methodically killing them and trashing the chopper made his blood curdle.
He leapt out as the Chinook began to dive towards the crater. Diving down, the wind buffeting him as he descended into darkness, he could see the battle in the crater. Flashes of automatic weapons fire and plasma cannons lit up the area, the mechanized spider-bots of Arachnos skittering over the ruins towards bounding squads of Longbow. The muffled grunts of grenade launchers precipitated the crashing thunder of their payload’s detonation, while the rattling of hand held automatic cannons combined to make a cacophony of destruction, all the while never noticing the descending Chinook helicopter falling out of the sky towards the two forces. If Deathspider had bothered to bring night vision goggles, if he were able to block out the blinding flashes of weapon reports and energy blasts, he would have seen Machina plummeting to earth, his stone hammer in his cybernetic fist, ready to send some poor soul into oblivion.
Deathspider landed in a crouch, the force of his momentum making a small crater beneath him, sending up a plume of dust. His pheromones were pumping out of his pores and through his costume, ensuring any concealed Longbow Special Ops trooper nearby would be ignorant of his presence. The scent he released were airborne neurological weapons, designed to cloud his opponent’s senses, binding to specific neurotransmitters in their bodies, blinding and deafening them to his very existence. Granted, if he engaged the target, they would be able to register him, but by then, it was usually too late.
He scanned the area – off to his left front was the crater, and he could see the Chinook descending, falling way too fast. Out of curiosity, he maintained his position, and was rewarded with a satisfying explosion as the crippled helicopter plowed into the center of the crater, atop of a pinned down platoon of Longbow troops, too busy fighting to notice the instrument of their deaths falling out of the sky. The aviation fuel went up in a hiss, then a deafening explosion rocked the immediate area, incinerating any Longbow soldiers in the vicinity, then the concussion washed over the spider-bots and Arachnos troops, burning them to death or disabling them with pieces of shrapnel. An Arachnos Blood Widow flew into the air, falling near Deathspider, her body riddled with chunks of dark green metal. She choked and convulsed, thrashing about as she died.
“You like that, Bug?”
Deathspider turned to see Machina, grimacing at the devastation he had caused. His stone hammer was hefted over his shoulder, his shirt soaked through with sweat and soot. He looked over the crater, the aviation fuel having caused several more small fires around the ruined area, lighting up the night. Unfortunately, perhaps, the operation Havok had given Deathspider when Karnal brought him over to the Dominion had also ensured that other Dominion members could perceive him. Which… if Machina was here to kill him, he couldn’t do much except run. He looked up to Machina, tensed and ready to move.
“It was pretty impressive, Slots.” Ah, yes, Deathspider’s pet name for the man who had seduced his girlfriend in Paragon City, Battle Girl Mio. Slots, for ‘One Armed Bandit’, the mere mention of his cybernetic arm making Machina tremble with rage. “There a reason you’re looking at me like I’m gonna be on the business end of your little mallet there?”
“Don’t flatter yourself. We ain’t going round for round. At least not yet. Master ain’t called for it yet. Now move it.” Machina said, sneering. He crouched and leapt up and out, hurtling north towards the intact part of the Call. A streak of gold shot up from a building to intercept him, followed by a murky shrouded figure, a cloud of blackness roiling around it. The golden streak slammed into Machina, knocking them both into a rubble filled drainage ditch, running north and south, bisecting the zone. The murky figure floated down to them.
Deathspider leapt, speeding through the air, his pheromones bleeding out of his pores. He touched down, perching on an old brick wall encircling an abandoned apartment building, scanning the situation. Machina was getting to his feet while a hero, clad in gold and silver, wearing a winged headdress, pulled a ridiculously anachronistic long sword from a sheath, a radiant aura surrounding him. The murky figure made a wet squelch as spines erupted from its body, nearly invisible in the dark. Machina grunted and braced himself, ready to fight, picking up his stone war hammer.
“Machina Shard, I give you a choice! Surrender to me and you will be given leniency. Resist and meet your doom!” the hero announced, obviously not knowing what he was dealing with. The murky figure circled around, ready to pounce. Villains never went easily.
“Drop the pig sticker, ya Ren-Fair reject. Or else.” Machina snarled. The hero grunted and swung the sword in an overhead chop, Machina reacting by blocking it with the stone haft of his hammer, the two weapons meeting in a shower of sparks. The murky figure lunged forward, spines ready to plunge into Machina’s body… when out of nowhere, something impacted against his ribcage, smashing through bone and tissue.
The murky figure dropped to a knee, gasping for breath. Did Machina turn around and hit him? Another hit came fast and low, a glowing nimbus of energy surrounding a fist smashing into his throat, hard enough to cause such catastrophic damage to activate the hero’s medical teleporter. He faded away, and left the black and red figure of Deathspider crouching where the hero had been.
“Please. Continue.” He said before springing away.
The hero looked over, his friend gone, and thus, his strategy to beat Machina. A look of fear crossed over his features, still locked up with Machina, his sword edge caught in the stone hammer. Machina grinned and locked eyes with the hero. “Master sends his regards.”
He drew back with the hammer, pulling the sword free of the hero’s hands. Off balance, the hero stumbled, just enough for Machina to spin and swing the hammer around and in an upward arc, catching the jaw of the hero, smashing it up and into the front of his face, teeth shattering in a spray of white shards. Blood erupted from his ruined mouth, causing the hero to stagger back, just enough for Machina to leap up and chop down with the hammer, crushing the man’s skull. As soon as the skull gave way under the relentless pressure of the blow, the teleporter activated, whisking the hero away to the hospital, no doubt in shock over being suddenly reformed. The mental scars, however, would haunt him for life, knowing exactly what it felt like to have his skull crushed.
Machina took a step back, looking around for other challengers, and saw only Deathspider clinging to the side of the apartment building. “Nice save, bug. Although I woulda taken him out too…” he snarled. Bad feelings all around, inbetween the two.
Machina grunted and sprang off, searching for others. Deathspider remained, his fingers digging into the brick. He could hear, over the communicator, the barked orders of Overseer, coordinating strikes on heroes – Havok providing ‘bait’, while Hunter moved in for the kill. Yuvia weakening a target so Karnal could provide the coup de grace. Overseer smashing the side of a building down on a pesky hero with gale force winds surrounding them. With the other villains in the zone, mainstays such as Cackle, Rakescar, Elernet, Chimeria and Jumproot, the villains were clearing a plaza not far from Deathspider’s location – just up the street, actually. Longbow troops hustled to the area of engagement, only to find Arachnos already there, backed up by super-powered help. The din of battle was overwhelmingly loud, the sounds of crackling energy and automatic weapons fire, deafening in the blackness. Paragon City officials had long since abandoned piping power or utilities to the war zone, and as such, the zone was cloaked in darkness, with only the lights of battle to guide one’s way.
This was the heart of the Distraction. He could see covert television crews filming the battle, huddled under slabs of rubble, their cameras taking in the carnage. Wouldn’t they be surprised when the tide turns irrevocably against the heroes… which should be taking place…. Right about…
Over the communicator, Overseer’s voice.
“HAVOK! ACTIVATE THE JAMMER!” The sound of gunfire was close, probably right by his face when he screamed the order.
A blue flash erupted from the plaza, and a wave of EMP washed over the zone, shutting down the Longbow Skimmers, sending them rocketing into buildings or piles of rubble. The cameramen’s equipment died in an instant. Arachnos droids shuddered to a halt, their circuitry fried. The drones at Hero Base fell to the ground, dead. As well as the hospital’s reconstructors…
But more importantly, every hero teleporter (and non-Dominion villain’s teleporter, Havok having made sure the DD’s teleporters and communications were hardened) fried, the circuit boards inside the small unit short circuiting.
“Now! Do as much damage as you can to them while their system is rebooting!” Overseer screamed, and in the sudden, deadly quiet, the battle began anew. The sound of rock smashing into a building, the strangled cry of a hero being beaten to death, the screams of uncertainty and sudden horror filling the area, all of these the Dominion’s doing. A distraction within a Distraction, so to speak. As the chaos swept the Zone, this provided Jewel Thief the time to set up the additional EMP jammers in strategic locations, just as Overseer commanded, so that when the time came, the Dominion could reactivate them. Although counter-measures against a simple electromagnetic pulse would almost certainly in place, there were always heroes with their hospital transponders, and they were too numerous and small to be truly hardened against EMP. Even if Hero Base was safe, the heroes weren’t. And that was the whole purpose of this little exercise. Merely causing mayhem in Siren’s Call, any idiot could do that, but with Overseer, everything was like the old Russian dolls, plans within a plan within a plan. It made Deathspider even more paranoid. The reprisal for his attitude could come at any time.
The sound of someone staggering through the rubble made him tense, ready to spring. He looked down, and there –she- was…
Mio was propping herself up against the wall, spasming as her system tried to cope with the effects of the pulse. A thin trickle of drool ran from her mouth, her costume torn and dirty. Her system was composed of millions of nanites surrounding a robotic body, and the EMP must have played hell on her electronics. She probably didn’t even know her former lover was clinging to the wall above her. She probably was too messed up to even know that if she were to be attacked, she wouldn’t have the safety of the hospital to return to… she would be vulnerable. Too vulnerable.
His gut churned. Here was the woman (well, android, really, but just as capricious as a woman, and just as fickle) that broke his heart. If he wanted to, he could drop down and utterly decimate her. Hurt her the way she hurt him… But he still cared for her, so much that it hurt. Just like the time you caught her in the Pocket D with Machina, right? Does it hurt that much, he thought. No, he decided grimly. She was too… good to go out like that, and he would never be able to forgive himself if he did exact his revenge on her. What would it prove? That he ‘won’? That he got back at her? Either way, she was out of his life, but she didn’t deserve to be killed, not with her helpless like this.
Below him, Mio took a shaky step forward, shaking her head, only small arcs of electricity coming from the rents in her artificial flesh and her torn costume to show for the damage she sustained before the pulse. Without a glance up (Ugh. Bad form, Mio, he thought. There’s people like me about), she took a long jump away, towards Hero Base, the fact that her teleporter was shorted probably having dawned on her. As he watched her disappear into the night, he sighed. He wasn’t doing much good here.
- You’re right, pet. You’re not doing much good, if you’re letting her escape:: the familiar voice purred in his head, feeling smooth as silk, with a hint of amused reproach.
He looked up, and saw Karnal Sin suspended in mid-air, a bemused expression on her face. He grunted and leapt onto a nearby construction platform, abandoned by workers smart enough to know that there was work outside of a veritable war zone.
- She wasn’t mine to engage, Karnal. I thought she was your personal little chew toy to bat around:: he formed the thought in his mind, letting Karnal read it. ::Besides, it’s beneath me to kill someone who’s prone like that. That’s what the heroes have been doing.::
She laughed softly, melodically in his head. ::Food for thought, Michael. At least make sure someone’s not around to see you let a hero you could have taken out of commission escape. Some aren’t as forgiving as I am. I know you hold some ridiculous sentiment over your ex-girlfriend, but aren’t you forgetting she rejected you?::
- I didn’t forget. I just didn’t feel like killing her when she was helpless. That’s it.:: The thought was cold, clinical. Devoid of sentiment. A trick he had learned since his arrival to the Isles. Hide the emotion, kill it, starve it of any feeling whatsoever. They can’t glean deceit from a singular emotion. Diversity is your enemy, focus your thoughts, control yourself.
Karnal laughed out loud, soft and angelic. ::Alright… Have it your way, love. Regardless, we’re done here. Hustle those cute buns back to Villain Base.::
Deathspider looked up at her as she darted back up into the sky. He felt for Karnal, after all, she had brought him into the Dominion, took some serious flack with Overseer for doing so… the fact that she was a goddess made flesh certainly adding to the attraction. But Mio. She didn’t deserve to be cut down while she was helpless. Maybe he was still weak with emotion and compassion, but he couldn’t bring himself to hit her, no matter what their history was.
He sprung off the side of the building, heading south towards Villain Base. It was just as well. The Dominion did what Overseer wanted – they played havoc with the Hero’s Defenses, probed them, forced them to turn their attention to one area (building EMP defenses once they overcame the damage the pulse caused), while leaving a vulnerable flank exposed. What that was, Deathspider didn’t know, but Overseer certainly had a plan for it.
Once in Villain Base, the Dominion gathered, Overseer nodding to himself. No casualties, and the heroes scattered. By this time, the Zone was pure Hell, villains surged through, the heroes fighting tooth and nail to repel the Arachnos troops and the costumed thugs from busting into Paragon. Of course, the Freedom Phalanx had arrived, and Statesman and company were methodically mopping the floor with the unorganized and disparate villain thugs. Everything would return to normal, sort of, but the Dominion had made their mark. Hunter Devil was flush with excitement, shifting her weight from one foot to the next, standing by Havok. Deathspider knew that when they got back to the Dominion headquarters, Havok’s lab would be strewn with their clothing. Yuvia licked its fingers, full of stolen energy, making a bizarre reptilian purring sound. Machina stood, wiped sweat off his brow with his human arm, his clothes soaked with what suspiciously looked like blood. Overseer had Karnal in his arms, reveling in his victory.
In the shadows again, Deathspider leaned against a crate, watching the group dispassionately. Would his little indiscretion become public knowledge, he thought. Would Karnal hold it over his head? Would he have to live the rest of his life here in a constant state of paranoia, never being able to slip up without fear of a brutal reprisal? Again, the thought of disappearing, getting out of the whole game occurred to him, but Karnal would view it as a betrayal, and Overseer didn’t like him to begin with. They had conquered dimensions, and they would spare no expense in putting him down like a dog. For better or worst, he was here.
“Back to the Isles, Dominion! There’s still much to be done!” Overseer announced, climbing aboard the Arachnos transport. The team filed in line behind him, Deathspider reluctantly following. This is the punishment, he thought. To live your life in a constant state of fear, whether it be from a vast government conspiracy, or your very own team, in a hellhole of violence and mayhem you have to call home, to the constant cut-throat politics of the Isles – yes, this is Hell.
Before Karnal stepped aboard the transport, she turned back, almost as if having read his thought, and looked him in the eyes, smiling her dazzling smile.
And she was his Devil.
Written Feb 2006
((Please, if you haven't listened to it, download the Roadrunner United song, "The Enemy". For metalheads, it has Dino Cazares and Andreas from Sepultura on guitar, and Mark Hunter from Chimaria on vocals. The RP is somewhat synched to it))
((Soft acoustic guitar bleeds in))
A small town in Mexico, not far from Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican ‘sister’ city to El Paso, Texas, right across the border. The afternoon sun shines down mercilessly from the relentlessly blue sky. A mixture of adobe looking buildings and brick and sheet-metal covered hovels dot the landscape.
Picture – the town center. A small fountain that has long since stopped working, is filled with broken beer bottles and trash. Listless men lie on the benches, smoking poorly rolled cigarettes, silently cursing God for the economic hardships of this poor town. A woman, too beaten up and used to ever be called pretty, leads a man into an alleyway to earn her lunch, perhaps a cold beer. No children play merrily across the old town square. This town is dying, some would say, killed off by American companies moving factories more south for cheaper labor. The hermanos near the border, they said, were too apt to cross over. Hard to subjugate those who can just up and leave.
Nothing for this tertiary town off the main drag. Nobody cared. No, the Latin craze of the late Nineties never brought any money into this town. NAFTA only sucked farmers away to work for pennies, and the pull of the US and money and jobs sucked away the youth. Not even the drug lords ran through here – too close to the US, the DEA, but not close enough for jobs for the people who lived here. The scraped by, and the scrapings were getting thin, until this town dried up for good and blew away.
((The acoustic guitar dies… and a thrashing double guitar riff and thundering drums kick in.))
A long abandoned bus, sitting off to the side of the square, suddenly is in the air.
A man, lying on one of the benches, his body destroyed by alcohol, has time to open his eyes in disbelief, the bus surreal against the blue, blue sky before it thunders down to earth, crushing him instantly.
The bus smashes down into the square, rolling forward, end over end, until it collides with the carniceria, exploding into a fireball of atomized masonry and stale gasoline.
I finally found myself
From where the bus once stood, there used to be a tenement building. Now, a massive hole has appeared, smoke and flame shooting up along with the billowing cloud of dust. Something, clad in black and red, stands in the hole.
I tried to erase all this hate from my body
It walks out onto the street.
Clad in a skintight black outfit, red slashes down the thighs, something akin to spider’s talons coming from the shoulders and the waist, meeting in the center of his chest, a widow’s hourglass… Red eyes, the mask expressionless. It walks with a purpose, unmindful of the swarms of people shook up from their torpor, looking out the windows, running in the streets.
I tried to…
It walks to the center of the square, and there, unnoticed during the bus’s dramatic transformation into a tiddlywink, lay a damaged Crey Protector, his armor cracked and spitting arcs of electricity from torn connectors in it’s joints. It doesn’t appear to see the man coming for it.
end all the lies, all the pain that I caused everyone
The man in black reaches down, roughly, without elegance, tearing off the facemask of the Crey’s armor, flinging it over his head. Looking down, there is a bloody mask of what once was a man’s face, caked with gore. It spits out a bloody bubble, trying to speak, but the man in black’s hand flashes out, impacting messily, caving in the Crey’s face, bone giving away all too easily, a sickening crunch, grey matter oozing out of the Crey’s ears.
But it all seemed so @#%$ useless
As the man in black pulls his fist back, his head snaps to the side. A squad of Crey troops, armed with automatic weaponry, pulls up in an old-style military command HMMWV, a .50 caliber rifle mounted to a long pintle coming up from the bed. Three troopers get out, running towards him, firing off bursts. The trooper manning the cannon fires off a long burst, but with the way they had the .50cal mounted, the accuracy was reduced, relying on the trooper’s arm strength to keep it steady – the recoil of a 90 pound metal machine gun firing a burst was too much. Bullets tore through the air, punching holes in the sheet metal houses behind the man in black, while rounds kicked up dirt at his feet.
I can’t forgive… And I can’t forget
Diving forward, the man in black engages the three troopers. He leaps onto one, his inhumanly strong fingers punching into the man’s throat, making his neck a red ruin, tearing out the larynx. As the man falls backwards, trying to scream, the man in black falls on him, his legs pistoning down, then up, pulling the trooper’s rifle away with him.
Don’t you know who the @#%$ I am
Before the others can realign their sight picture, the man in black is in the air, silhouetted against the blue sky, the stolen rifle held by the barrel, swinging down and connecting with another trooper, the black plastic stock shifting the second trooper’s face six inches to the right of where it should be. A spray of blood and teeth fall onto the ground shortly before the trooper does.
I’m the enemy
Landing, the man in black twirls the assault rifle in his grasp, pointing it at the last trooper, who fires a burst over the man in black’s shoulder. The man in black pulls the trigger, firing a three round burst into the trooper’s belly. The Teflon-coated rounds tore through the flimsy Kevlar vest, the trooper having neglected to put in the heavy ceramic plates that could have saved his life. The trooper drops, screaming.
Spinning to his side, he narrowly avoids being tore in half by a .50 caliber round, the trooper firing the machine gun obviously not a crack shot. The man in black fires a burst, the rounds punching through the flimsy canvas doors of the HMMWV, tearing holes in the driver’s torso. Raking the side of the HMMWV with gunfire, bullets punch through the gunner’s legs, and he drops to the bed of the truck, pulling down the end of the machinegun, trying to hang on.
In a black and red flash, the man in black is in the bed of the truck, looming over the trooper. He growls and brings the butt of the weapon down on the trooper’s face, crushing his nose, driving splinters of bone into the trooper’s sinus.
The trooper falls slack, flopping on the truck’s bed. The man in black stands, surveying the situation. The driver was dying in the front seat, the trooper at his feet knocked out cold, or at least incapacitated. One foot soldier on the ground, out cold, and soon to be a candidate for major facial reconstructive surgery. His pals, dead, one shot to death, the other with his throat torn out. But soon, reinforcements would come. That was the Crey way. He leaps out of the truck, the suspension groaning as the pressure of his lift off compresses the springs. He clings to the side of a building, kicking off in a spray of masonry, pirouetting in the air until he clears the street, wary of snipers.
I’ve lived a life of regret
Landing on a rooftop, he spots the inevitable reinforcements arriving. A convoy of Crey coming down the narrow streets, past the deserted storefronts, the restaurants, the bars. All in old US Hummers, all packed with troops. Mostly Mexican thugs not psychotic enough to work for the drug lords, but too violent to be the policia. The dust of their passing billows up into the blue, blue sky.
I’ve had this burden of guilt suffocating It’s time to shed this disguise
The man in black considers the situation. Engage and eliminate the Crey’s rapid response team here, or simply continue on to the facility? If he engaged them here, it would be even more of a clusterfuck than this mission already was, making a spectacle of what was supposed to be a simple sabotage mission. If he went straightaway to the facility, he would have to deal with reinforcements piling into the corridors. Either way, the alarm has been raised. The armored forces would be getting suited up right now, arming themselves with heavy weaponry. The kind the man in black would like to avoid being shot with.
Then again… he was Dominion. He couldn’t let this corporate-fascist force take any more root here than it already had. Engage here, he thought. Kill them all. Make Crey think twice about moving its mechanized forces into Mexico. Viva la raza, and all that.
And it’s time to rise and destroy Everyone in my @#%$ path
Hurtling through the air, his leg muscles providing him with enough momentum to clear the distance from the rooftop to the hood of the first HMMWV, he lands feet-first through the safety glass, driving his heels into the driver’s face, breaking his neck. Suddenly finding himself in the driver’s seat, the HMMWV driver still in it, his head hanging grotesquely, he leans over, smashing his fist into the passenger’s face, knocking him out of the side. The truck swerves dangerously to the side of the street.
I can’t forgive And I can’t forget
The man in black pistons up, punching through the nylon canvas top of the Hummer, and up, leaping over the truck to the next one in the convoy, over the bewildered heads of the Crey troops, shortly before the Hummer plows into the side of an abandoned store at 40 miles an hour.
Don’t you know who the @#%$ I am I’m the enemy
The man in black lands on the fiberglass hood of the second truck, his fist glowing brightly, and punches down, shattering the diesel engine. The nimbus of kinetic energy smashes into the big 350 engine, the block falling through the supports and colliding into dirt street below. As the truck’s front end crumples, it pitches forward as the man in black leaps away to the side, and rolls end over end, scattering the troops in the back. The man in black crouches on the street as the last truck brakes hard, the passenger of the third truck slamming his head on the safety glass, leaving a bloody smear and a spider-webbed windshield.
The man in black darts forward, gripping the metal frame, and upends the truck on its roof, the roll-bar digging into the dirt, the men in the bed being flung out unceremoniously onto the street.
The man in black looks towards a pair of troopers lying dazed on the street, everything happening so fast it doesn’t register, probably having been woken up from a hangover. His foot flies forward, like kicking a field goal, fracturing the skull of a trooper. The other trooper rolls away, desperate to get away from the creature killing everything it sees… The man in black is on him in an instant, grabbing his dirty hair and smashing his face into the dirt. The man’s face is repeatedly smashed into the dirt, breaking his nose and his front teeth until he stops moving.
The man in black stands, cracking his knuckles. Within the span of a minute, he had disabled the Crey’s quick response force. Discounting the troops inside the facility, the ones that mattered, Crey had no way of engaging him conventionally. The way was clear to the facility…
Perhaps this would make Karnal and the rest of the Dominion high-ups to take him seriously. He was gathering massive amounts of intelligence on Arachnos, Longbow, and everything in between. The Distraction. The thing that could blow the Rogue Isles and Paragon City wide open, expose the lie for what it was… and in the seething chaos to follow, a clear path for the Dominion to set things right. To knock the wealthy and privileged from their perch, to stop the bloodbath of corporate sponsored warfare, to stop corrupt elected officials sending people to their deaths. To be the true redeeming force in this whole superhuman mess. He didn’t care about Overseer – he thought he was a bunging egomaniac… but he was the figurehead of the Dominion, and the Dominion could bring order to the cesspool of this shitty @#%$ world.
Take a good look at me I’m your enemy
He leaps in the direction of the facility, outside of the city limits. Something he had done so often as a ‘hero’. Going in, hurt people badly, get some sort of moron out of the clutches of the Crey. But now, he was here with a real purpose, -his- purpose. Inside this facility were prototype battle suits that would augment Crey troopers, something he could not allow to happen. Especially if they win a government contract to mass-produce them for the military. Then what? Marines in Eliminator armor, mowing down dissidents and farmers in some Third World country who managed to piss Washington off? While Statesman and his cronies turn a blind eye and go beat up on another spandex-wearing criminal? How could he live with himself? Every time he closed his eyes, images of jackbooting thugs killing villagers and the poor flash before his eyes.
He had a closer perspective than a majority of heroes. He grew up in King’s Row, saw the suffering of the working poor and the drug addicts – hell, he sold their drugs to them to pay his mother’s rent on their apartment. The desperation, the frustration, the hopelessness, it weighed on him still. When he was working for Paragon, he fought the ‘forces of evil’ – sociopaths, all, truth be told, but he wasn’t changing anything. Vahizlok would be back making more of his disfigured walking corpses, Malta would still be pulling their covert assassinations, the Freakshow would still be bombing and stealing and killing… Nothing he did mattered, nothing lasted.
Don’t try to make amends There’s no need to pretend it will all be ok
How many people did he hurt, put in the hospital, kill, to accomplish nothing? How many people died meaninglessly in bombings and drive by shootings and super-villain attacks he was involved in, just to maintain the status quo? To keep covering up the lie, to keep people impotent and stupid. No more.
You can try to run and you can try to hide But it’s all @#%$ pointless
He lands, kicking up a cloud of dust before leaping off again, his anger building. He would kill every living thing in this base. Destroy every prototype suit. Burn the facility to the ground, it didn’t matter what they threw at him, no matter who they called in, he would make sure that the Crey got the message. The Countess and her accountants and her shareholders and the countless psychopaths in their ranks… they had to learn. They had to know. The Distraction cannot sustain itself if the structure begins to crumble. And he would make sure to rattle the cage of complacency around the world. To alert them to the truth. To alert them to the fact they were being lied to, and that their leaders were afraid of the super-humans. To alert the heroes and villains, to keep them from fighting each other needlessly, when so much more can be done to make the world better. So much better than it is, the world that should be.
I can’t forgive And I can’t forget
The world he should have grown up in, with big super heroes like Statesman in the world. Statesman should have stopped the drugs and the squalor and the human filth coming into his own damn city, but no... he wanted to fight Nazis and Communists and super villains, not actually solving any real problems.
No... it won't stand, he thinks, leaping closer and closer to the base perimeter.
Don’t you know who the @#%$ I am
Tonight, he gets one step closer to making the dream a reality. By killing every living thing he sees.
I’m the enemy
End Of The Line
Written March 2006
Pure, majestic, primal beauty.
The massive island, covered in tropical vegetation, is lush, teeming with jungle life, the ecosystem a perfect microcosm of natural rainforests, a rapidly diminishing biome in the world. Under the depths of the canopy, things move. Hooded men with sacrifical daggers, winged demonic hulks trample the undergrowth, skeletal phantasms hover in the darkness, icy fingers of death reaching out to sap the warmth from the living. Ancient ruins, resembling Mesoamerican structures, jut from the fertile land.
This all proves to be an isolated, private place. The weird creatures of the Devouring Earth roam here, pitted against the otherworldly demons of the Circle of Thorns. Longbow and Arachnos battle it out here on the beaches, the sand drenched with blood and littered with shell casings. All this amidst the screeches and howls of the indigenous wildlife.
The perfect place for Longbow to operate from. Agincourt is too ostentatious for more secretive operations. Arachnos has the place bugged and riddled with spies, but here, you can't spy on what you can't get into. Or see. And, up till now, Agent Indigo, psychic, covert operative, and member of Longbow, after a fashion; felt it was a perfect staging area for her to pit factions of Arachnos against each other. Captain Mako's men verses the legions of the Black Scorpion. Causing strife. Causing bloodshed.
Perpetuating the distraction.
But an Arbiter had gotten wind of it. Hired someone to take out the meddler. And said someone had found out more than he bargained for...
The blast doors of the hidden Longbow base blew open, pre-positioned plastique charges fired in sequence, blowing cracks in the reinforced steel crossbars. The explosion forced open the doors, dislodging them off their tracks. The gigantic, ten ton blast door fell in two pieces, toppling over with a thunderous crash. Flocks of tropical birds flew up in fright, the jungle coming alive with the din.
As the smoke roiled out of where the doors used to stand, a figure darted out. Slung over its shoulder was a bound and writhing woman.
“You repulsive son of a bitch! I’ll @#%$ kill you for this!”
Deathspider turned his head slightly to look at Agent Indigo, tightly bound with mil-spec nylon straps. Her arms were bound behind her, certain to make the ribs he broke during their fight dig into her. Her legs were bound tightly, almost cutting off circulation. As a precaution, he handcuffed her with hinged, titanium shackles. Although he searched her as best as he could, he couldn’t be certain she didn’t have some sort of tool to get out of her bonds.
So he broke all of her fingers.
As an afterthought, he broke her wrists as well.
“Shut up.” He growled, darting forward, not particularly caring how bumpy the ride was for her. There she was, inside the base, debriefing a Longbow commander on the results of her little @#%$-stirring expedition. She managed to get the two factions fighting long enough to get more Longbow into the Isles. This infuriated Deathspider – he had ran missions for her. He had ran interference in-between the Malta Group and the Knives of Artemis at her request. Got the Carnival of Shadows and the Knives to fight amongst themselves. Stolen nuclear launch codes Malta didn’t even know they had for her. Simply put, he put his neck on the chopping block for her and her vague spy v.s. spy bullshit. And for what? So she could keep heroes busy in Paragon? Busy fighting these invented threats while the real danger went unnoticed. The dead civilians, the downed airliners, the blown up buildings? All acceptable sacrifices to keep the super powered clowns busy, to keep the gears turning.
He was not more than three hundred meters from the entrance of the base when Longbow managed to react. Killing thirty of their men, along with the commander of the base, tended to infuriate them. The roar of mini-guns and the thunder of grenades detonating filled the night. Deathspider, with Indigo in tow, leapt into the brush, his reflexes saving him from several near-hits of automatic weapons fire.
Indigo screamed, a 9mm round plowing into her shoulder. Blood and tissue sprayed out from the point of impact. “You fuckers! Put me down! Put me the @#%$ down!” she screamed, almost choking on the fury.
Deathspider ignored it. She won’t bleed out, at least not anytime soon. And he didn’t expect to have her alive long. Just long enough to have the Dominion take a crack at her. See what secrets lie beneath.
The most direct path back to safety was through some iffy terrain. The forest floor fell into a chasm, or a plateau of rock jutted up randomly from the uneven earth, coated in verdant jungle growth. To top it off, Circle of Thorns mages swarmed over the jungle floor, summoning their demons to search for artifacts of power to take back to Thorn Island, off to the north east of Primeva. Sentient, malevolent beings of rock or vegetable matter walked upright, killing anything they considered ‘unnatural’. Tripwires criss-crossed almost every barely discernable path, connected to anti-tank mines, capable of piercing the underbelly of the most heavily armored Arachnos mechanical terror.
Across this nightmarish landscape, Deathspider carried his prize at breakneck speed, alerting every demon, mage, and living tree to his presence. As they roared their disapproval of his itinerary, Longbow troops were just coming into their view. Unable to catch the interloper who disturbed them, the bright red and white costumes served to quench their rage just fine. The screams of the troopers and the strange howl of the creatures rose above the staccato rhythm of automatic rifles and the percussion of anti-tank mines exploding up and out, shaking the ground as the heavy explosive charge fires towards the sky. Indigo, slung over his shoulder, had shut up as they sped through the jungle floor, closing her eyes with the intense agony of her ribs digging into her with every jump Deathspider made. The gunshot wound didn’t bleed badly, but it sang a chorus of white hot pain as it was literally burning her flesh – the phosphorous of the tracer round that hit her was still smoldering in the wound.
The forest was a blur, Deathspider moving in leaps and bounds, steering away from the fiery shapes of the Demon Overlords, or the eldritch skeletal torsos of the specters floating in the darkness. Occasionally, his foot would set off a tripwire, but his momentum carried him far away enough to avoid the blast of a landmine. In his wake, Primeva was in an uproar, the placid night calm irrevocably shattered by his escape.
Finally, he burst free of the jungle, soaring off a cliff with his captive over his shoulder, powerful leg muscles springing forward, pitching him far over the shore, leaving the battle and the chaos behind him in the darkness. He landed on a tooth of rock piercing the waters off the coast, and he propelled himself off of it, heading south, south towards Crimson Cove, to safety. He sailed through the air, the wind tearing at him, the woman’s hair rippled behind her, the rush of air deafening.
He didn’t see the lightless black aerodyne rushing up behind him. A sleek, alien looking vehicle, it resembled a Comanche helicopter with no rotors, two large wing-looking structures with large horizontal turbofans spinning silently, kept aloft by sound-dampened engines mounted to the fuselage. It cruised behind him, nearly invisible against the blackness of the night sky. Two 20mm chain-guns protruded from the nose of the craft, and two missile pods were slung low, menacing…
Deathspider landed on the bridge to Agincourt, clinging to the side of one of the towers. His cloud of pheromones cloaked the woman as well, but the automated turrets didn’t have a sense of smell. A twin-linked .50 caliber machinegun turret swiveled around, letting loose a burst of fire, but he easily dodged it, moving behind a bunker amidst a small squad of Longbow. He was perfectly invisible amongst them… One of the Longbow troopers craned his neck to see what the turret was shooting at, while the others looked up, and silhouetted against the full moon was the strange aerodyne.
“What the @#%$ is that?” one trooper asked, reaching for his rifle.
Deathspider looked up, and the aerodyne was framed against the moon. As soon as the pilot inside the aerodyne could register his reaction, Deathspider and his captive were gone, darting down the Agincourt Bridge.
“Talk to me, Indigo. What the @#%$ is that thing?” he growled, leaping over a convoy of US Army issued five-ton trucks trundling down the bridge to the Longbow fortress.
Indigo gave out a sharp, pained grunt, then a bitter laugh. “That’s the thing that’s going to blow us out of the sky, you dirty @#%$ wetback hero wanna-be. That’s –my- people, coming to make sure you don’t get what you’re fishing for. Big @#%$ mistake… unngh! Big @#%$ mistake thinking you’re going to get anything out of me. My superiors won’t let it happen. I’ll see you in hell, you @#%$ @#%$…”
Growling, Deathspider changed direction slightly, diving towards one of the 5 ton trucks, and clipped Indigo’s head on one of the side mirrors. The assembly shattered, Indigo’s head rocked back, letting loose a spray of blood and teeth. She fell slack against his shoulder, a broad smile formed underneath his mask.
That’s when the aerodyne opened up with the twin chain-guns.
The roar of a machine gun firing is deafening. It’s not like in the movies. You can hear heavy caliber firearms fire from a long distance away. When something like a 20mm chain-gun opens up, the burst is so fast, it sounds something like a burp or a fart, or the sound of a box-cutter sliding down a length of cardboard. On the A-10 Warthog, the 30mm Vulcan cannon on its nose causes so much recoil, it can only be fired in small, short bursts, otherwise it would stall out the engines. But the devastation such a weapon causes is incredible. There are shells of armored vehicles still rotting in the deserts of Iraq from 1991, turned into Swiss cheese from being caught in the crosshairs of a Warthog. 20mm chain-guns are what the US Army puts on its Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Miniature tanks themselves, the rounds punch through light armor, cars, brick walls… basically anything it needs to punch through.
The asphalt was shredded in the almost comical sounding burst of cannon fire. His heart leapt into his throat, and he switched directions again, cutting off to the left, diving off the bridge, and propelling himself off a support beam, hurtling towards Crimson Cove. An errant burst of cannon fire cut one of the 5 ton trucks in half, the resulting fireball blossoming, lighting up the night sky.
@#%$, @#%$, @#%$, @#%$! He thought, landing on the rocky shore of the Cove. He sped across the boulders up to a retaining wall, and hurdled it, beating feet towards one of the buildings, hoping whoever was chasing him wasn’t bold enough to fire upon the civilian populace of Nerva…
The burst of cannon fire obliterating the tavern in front of him convinced him otherwise.
He froze, Indigo still over his shoulder. The aerodyne hovered silently behind him, a cloud of cordite and smoke wafting from cannons, locking in on him. He looked up at it, every muscle in his body tensed. Was this it? Whoever was piloting didn’t care about collateral damage. Didn’t care that the governor of Nerva was going to be calling in Arachnos Fliers to blow it out of the sky, and launch a reprisal against Longbow…
A shot blew through his thigh. He felt the impact, looking down to see his leg give out from underneath him. He stumbled and fell, the weight of Indigo dragging him to the ground. His other leg went out to brace him, and he leaned on it, wrapping an arm around Indigo’s neck. He let out a dangerous growl, his bicep and the crook of his arm clenching around her throat. Looking up, he saw a black man, dressed smartly in a red suit.
Crimson. The other mysterious government contact who hung out in Peregrine Island. Indigo’s partner. So he was complicit in this too... He was holding a smoking .45 caliber pistol, a cruel smile across his face.
“My man, what do you think you’re doing? First you go off chasing skirt to the Isles, get yourself all @#%$ up, leave a promising life in Paragon and leave some prime heroine tail behind you. Now, I find your ass digging where you ain’t supposed to be digging, leaning on some bean counters and some has-been informants I ain’t gotten around to waxing yet, and roughing up my white girl? You gone too far, amigo.” His tone was almost playful, carefully trying to conceal the rage underneath. Behind him, a dozen men in black outfits, carrying silenced machine pistols and submachine guns, formed a perimeter around the three, Crimson, Deathspider, and Indigo.
“Huh… I’ve gone too far? You’re part of it, ain’t you? You and Indigo, keeping blinders on the heroes, keeping them busy while your bosses can run the @#%$ world, right? Meanwhile, you’re in bed with Malta and all the others, getting them to keep the supers occupied. Heh. I’m nowhere near as far gone as you are…”
Crimson laughed bitterly. “Mike, Mike, Mike. You know how crazy you’re sounding, my man. Nobody is gonna believe you. You think your new friends believe your line of @#%$? You sound like a crazy person. And even if you could prove it, you think anyone cares enough to change anything? The heroes are fighting the villains. The villains are trying to run wild and get theirs… Heroes trying to stop it. All’s right in the world, with their 8th grade mentality. You think people care, as long as they can get their gas cheap, their cheap ass slave labor-made crap from Wal-mart, and they can pay their bills? Nah, man, people don’t give a @#%$. I’m doing my job keeping everything smooth, and motherfuckers like you are upsettin’ my apple cart. I ain’t having it.”
His voice softened into a silken growl. “Now hand over my girl, Mike. Before I shoot you in the @#%$ face.”
Deathspider’s arm clenched, and Indigo made a choking sound, her windpipe slightly pinched. “Back off or the bitch gets her neck broken. I’m not @#%$ around here, Crimson. Take your black ass back to Paragon, and tell your bosses that things are gonna come out. You can’t keep getting away with this @#%$, and I’m gonna make sure people like you are exposed for the slimeballs you are. You think once all this comes out, the heroes are gonna sit by and let you control them?”
Crimson snarled. “Of course they are! You think Statesman is gonna revolt if Recluse is pounding down the War Walls? As long as dumbasses like you are threatening people’s lives, you keep doing our work for us! Now, let go of Indigo, and I’ll let you live… You got ten seconds or my boys light you up. I can put a slug right in your brainpan from here, but I’m gonna let you choose, boy.”
Deathspider tensed, the pain in his leg fading, his metabolism already pumping endorphins into his bloodstream, the mess in his thigh clotting over, enough for him to get to safety. He was trapped – Crimson’s men could gun him down, and he wasn’t sure Crimson didn’t have a blocker signal on all of the medical teleporters in the area, or maybe just his. The aerodyne could turn him into a red mist with those autocannons.
But… He had Indigo. He could get Karnal to get so much precious information out of her. Things that could blow the conspiracy wide open, show the world what’s been going on, show the heroes how they’ve been duped into ignoring the real problems of the world. The villains were a group of psychotic thugs bent on their own little myopic conquests, and they were a paid tool of the state. They keep the heroes busy while everything else goes unnoticed. And part of the proof was here, he had Indigo, operative of the government in his arms! Everything he was searching for, ever since he had found hints of the conspiracy, was right here.
But he had no choice. The choice was already taken from him. Crimson had him dead to rights, and he couldn’t get away with Indigo. This lead was done, and getting any future leads would be even harder to come across. Letting out a barely perceptible sigh, he released Indigo, letting her unconscious form fall to the ground.
Crimson let a wicked smile play across his lips.
“Smart move, hombre. That’s the kind of intelligence I can appreciate. It takes a man to know when to walk away. Course, with that leg, you ain’t walking real far, are you? But I’m a sporting man, Deathspider. I’ll give a five second head start. If my boys don’t gun your ass down, best believe I’ll be hunting you until the end of your days. You done @#%$ up now… Five seconds. Now.”
Deathspider sprung backwards, hurtling through the air, his wounded leg hampering his attempt. He flung himself back about one hundred yards, somersaulting back and landing in a hand stand, pushing himself back off with his upper body strength, giving him another fifty or so yards. The aerodyne hummed forward, the chain-guns spinning, ready to unleash a hail of 20mm rounds.
The Crey Towers, he thought feverishly. They had anti-aircraft defenses, to keep any hero incursions at bay – Rogue Isles building codes were notoriously liberal in such matters. The aerodyne was coming in fast, the chain-guns opening up. The ripping sound filled his ears, the guns tearing up the stone and concrete of the streets. Deathspider pushed back again, gaining about one hundred and fifty yards before turning in mid-air, twisting his body to allow his momentum to carry him out of the aerodyne’s path. The aerodyne thundered by, the turbofans spinning to try and correct itself. It swung out wide, allowing Deathspider to spring underneath it, carrying him northwest, towards the Crey Towers. His leg was on fire, the channel the bullet tore through the meat of his thigh almost blinding him with pain.
His breath came in ragged gasps as he bounded forward, the aerodyne spinning around to lock on to him again. He sped over Longbow and Arachnos troops alike, both tensely co-existing in the Archipelago for reasons unknown to him. His heart was in his throat, never so close to death as he was now. Ever since he became a hero, he always had the safety net of the medical teleporters, whisking him to safety before any serious, life-threatening injury could occur. Even as a villain, he had that failsafe, allowing him to act with relative impunity – sure, being clobbered could hurt, but he could never really be killed while the grid was up. Now… he wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure he could count on that peace of mind with Crimson and the Illuminati out to get him.
Another blast of cannon fire was close… too close. His nerve broke, and he misjudged his next jump. He ended up falling too short and slammed into a retaining wall with a sickening crunch. His ribs impacted into the hard stone, knocking the breath out of him.
“Unngh!” he gasped, slumping against the wall. He could hear the aerodyne whizzing behind him, the whir of the chain-gun… and the clacking sound of the mechanisms reloading. Thank God, he whispered, and pulled his aching body over the retaining wall, his nerves screaming a symphony of pain. He staggered closer to the imposing edifices of the Crey Towers, and hoped his tenuous combination of luring and eluding the aerodyne would work…
The aerodyne buzzed close, and let loose a barrage, blowing holes in a nearby building… He spared a look back, and the aerodyne’s pilot was caught on a series of powerlines. “Should used running lights, @#%$…” he muttered, diving to the ground, near a sewer grate. He saw three streaks coming off the top of one of the towers, anti-aircraft missiles homing in on the aerodyne – whatever stealth the aerodyne was running was fouled by the feedback coming through the powerlines. He rolled into a ball as the missiles plowed into the aerodyne, exploding with a brilliant flash, blowing the aircraft apart in a spray of shrapnel and flame. The deafening roar drowned every other sound out, and a rain of aircraft parts and burning jet fuel showered down onto the street. Deathspider groaned, pulling himself into the sewer grate, slipping in-between the bars, away from the growing inferno.
Inside the outflow pipe, he lied in the muck, gasping for breath. The filter in his mask blocked some of the stink, but not much. He didn’t mind at the moment, trying to keep his wounded thigh out of the filth. Oh God, he thought, what the hell did I get myself into? Why did I have to prod and push? These people… these people had resources he could only dream about, and it wasn’t like the Dominion was helping him.
Which was odd, because the Dominion would thrive on such a conspiracy. If it were brought to light, it could destroy the confidence of the American people, leaving a power vacuum that Overseer could use to come to power. Every time he tried to bring it up, he was ignored, or everyone else was too busy blathering about petty rules and policies to prop up the paranoid power structure Quinn was trying to maintain. Hell, right now he was supposed to be checking in with Karnal to look for the chronically absent Jewel Thief, a girl who didn’t endear herself to him at her initiation ceremony. But maybe it would just be easier to tow the line, to be the stupid flunky they wanted him to be. No ridiculous conspiracy or lying in a sewage pipe with a gunshot wound. No shadowy people shooting him.
Just be Karnal’s dog, to sit and fetch and lick her hand. It would be so much easier than always fighting against Quinn’s authority. Easier than what he’s doing now.
His breathing slowed slightly, and outside, there were Crey Fireguard troopers rushing around, spraying flame retardant foam on the wreckage – they practically owned this part of Nerva, and they policed it well. He groaned and began to crawl deeper into the pipe. He was at least one hundred yards from the wreckage, but he couldn’t handle another fight. Not now. He was exhausted and hurt, and he couldn’t afford to get into it with Crey, who would –love- to get their hands on the guy who caused them such trouble in Paragon City.
He rested his head in the muck, as soon as he was sure he was out of detection range. He shuddered, the pain washing away any other concerns at the moment. He had been shot before, yes… six years ago, in Skyway City…
When it all started…