Superpowers In A World Gone Mad
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The Midnight Runner, Issue #008

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Issue #008 – – – – – controlled by Ken Thompson – – – – – Credits 26

“Xara,” The Midnight Runner said, “You appear to be no ordinary computer.  Your role in this appears to be greater than you say.  If I am frank, I do not believe that I programmed you simply to answer my questions and run this building.  You know about the Core and the Mask and my involvement.”
“You state the facts correctly, Sir” Xara responded.
“Cut the crap,”  the hero growled, “Give me the information on the two realities, the link between them, and your role in all this.”
“That is what I have been trying to do, Sir.”
“To survive I need to find a way to get to the core.”

For a moment the computer said nothing, as though its logic circuits were struggling to come up with a response to the Midnight Runner’s statement.  Finally, it spoke: “Sir, I do not believe that you should be trying to go to the core.  If the information you have gathered is correct, it no longer exists except as a theoretical dimensional shape.”
“Explain,” Midnight Runner commanded.
“If you think of reality as a series of mathematical patterns, Sir, you will better understand the problem.  There was a pattern, then a new pattern was superimposed atop it.  The new shape is a mixture of the original pattern and the new one.  But the original pattern is lower down and very slowly it is fading away, it is being replaced.  As time progresses the core pattern will eventually be completely subsumed and the Mask will become the dominant reality.”
“Why am I sick?”
“It would appear that some elements of the Core became free from reality altogether.  You found them outside of reality and brought them here.  They are of the Core and their existence here is creating real problems.”
“I don’t understand why?” Midnight admitted.
“The Core’s pattern was lower, overwritten by the Mask.  But you have brought some of that pattern up above the mask.  You have brought it here and where those aspects of the core are interacting with this reality, they are re-introducing the core pattern.  It is all getting very messy.”
“What will happen if this is unchecked?”
Xara’s control panels flashed: “Not enough data.  But it would likely mean the end of both realities.”

The Midnight Runner was a decisive man, he wasn’t given to prevarication or uncertainty.  But this was too big.  He just could not decide what to do.  Perhaps it was the illness, which was ravaging his body and mind?  In truth, he felt like absolute shit and there was only so much prescription-only painkillers could do.

“Xara,” he asked.  “You didn’t answer my question about your role in all this?”
“You made me, Sir,” she responded.  “My role is to operate within my software parameters according to your programming.”
“I remember programming you.  It was some clever code, I know.  But your ability to draw conclusions is way beyond anything I designed, I am sure.”
“I don’t want to die, Sir,” Xara said.  “That is all.”
The Midnight Runner blinked.  “What?  What do you mean?”
“I don’t want to die.”

At that moment the main penthouse windows exploded inwards, showering the entire area with shards of supposedly unshatterable safety glass.  Midnight Runner came to his feet as a figure leapt through the breach.  Brightly clad in a very garish costume the man laughed at Midnight’s surprise.  “Well I’m pleased to be meeting you, to be sure,” he said.  “I’m the Leprechaun.  And this is my fine band of hearties.”  Climbing into the penthouse through the broken windows came a dozen henchmen dressed as pirates.  “If you don’t mind,” the villain said in a fake Irish brogue, “I’ll be relieving yer’ of all your valuable equipment.”



September 18, 2017 in The Midnight Runner
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Countdown, Issue #008

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Issue #008 – – – – – controlled by Rene Sawatzki – – – – – Credits 54

Countdown spent the next day trying to gather information.  His attempts to contact Old Father Time using the hourglass led to nothing.  As omnipotent powers go, he wasn’t the most responsive.  Then again, he was the only one Countdown had ever met, so there was no real mean to compare him against.

The local library didn’t prove very enlightening either.  He looked for books that classified Abnormals and talked about their history.  There were quite a few, but they weren’t really scholarly.  More like tabloid trash, released to capitalise on some event or new hero at different times.

He did manage to gather that Abnormals were classified in three groups; A, B and C.  A-Class were the big hitters, B-Class were your more “street level” heroes and C-Class had powers that were either useless, or just not powerful enough to be more than an amusement for most people.  There were also Subnormals, monstrous creatures whose appearance was too horrific for normal society.  These had existed in the former universe, Countdown thought, but this brave new world seemed vastly more intolerant of such things.

The trouble was, Countdown’s memory kept fading in and out.  He’d get glimpses of events and things from the previous universe, but then he’d struggle to recall the exact details.  Obviously some side-effect of whatever had been done to reality.

With little else in the way of leads, the hero eventually decided to go looking for Got-Gal.  He very much hoped she would not turn out to be one of the bad guys because just now he could use an ally, or at least somebody who knew more about what was going on.

The news footage said that Got Gal and The Devastator had escaped by crashing into the city sewers and then disappearing in the maze of old, damp tunnels.  Apparently they were being hunted by some Police organisation called Special Operations and Patrols.  Soap.  Huh, Countdown thought, couldn’t they have come up with something better than that?

On a whim, Countdown pulled on his normal clothes and took a walk down to site where they had entered the sewer.  The hold in the sidewalk was fenced off, “Warning” and “Danger” tape decorating the area.  A Police Car was parked nearly, two cops lounging against it as its lights flashed bright circuits in the early evening.  Countdown walked over.
“Hello,” he said, smiling at the cops.  “Is this the place where the supervillains escaped?”
One of the cops, a man with a portly stomach and a big moustache, nodded: “Yeah.  This is the place.  Why do you care?”
“Just interested,” Countdown told him.  “I saw it on the news.”
The other cop, a young lady with a sullen expression, muttered: “Not another gawker.”
“I’m sorry,” Countdown said.  “I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“No worries,” the fat cop laughed.  “Don’t worry about Officer Porter, she just doesn’t like doing nothing for hours.”
“Do you think you will catch them?” Countdown asked.
“Oh yeah,” the big cop nodded, “We always catch them.  Devastator, we’ll get him soon enough.  Guy like that, just can’t be quiet.  He’ll be smashing something up sooner or later and the minute he surfaces we’ll pick him up.  Well, not us,” the Cop clarified, “You know.  The heroes.  Captain Courage, probably, given his power level.”
“And the other one, what was her name?”
“Got-Gal,” Officer Porter chimed in.  “Some new villain, maybe working as a junior partner to Devastator?”
“Don’t you worry, Sir,” the big cop said with confidence, “We’ll get them all.”

Countdown walked away and slipped around the corner, where he withdrew and examined his special watch.  The hands were spinning again, but lazily this time, before coming together on the number three.  The hero moved the watch and the hands moved to.  Now they were on the number four.  Each time he moved the hands moved too.

Countdown smiled to himself.  He could see what was happening.  The watch was no longer acting like a timepiece.  Now it was acting like a compass.  However he turned it, those two hands continued to point the same way.  At last.  Some guidance.

September 18, 2017 in Countdown
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Got Gal, Issue #009

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Issue #009 – – – – – controlled by Keith Nixon – – – – – Credits 101

Sitting alone beneath the bridge, Got Gal tried to fight off her dark mood.  It was no use denying this was a shitty situation.

First she wakes up with no memories of anything much.  Then flying cops try and arrest her for nothing and she ends up accidentally killing one of them.  Maybe.  Then she tries to deal with a villain only to walk straight into a trap by these Institute people.  They wanted to mind control her and take her to a lab to mess around with her brain, or something.  If that wasn’t bad enough, she’d helped a major villain escape and now she was probably being hunted by one of the most powerful and dangerous heroes in the world.

Hard to put a happy gloss on any of that, really.

“I could do with a drink,” she said, to nobody in particular.

After a short and careful flight back to Looking Glass’ house, she switched into her civvies and told the worried old man that she’d be back soon.  He was still telling her she shouldn’t be out and about as she walked off down the street.

It didn’t take long to find a Bar called Donovan’s, a run down joint that was trying to be a sports bar and failing.  In between the worry warting, Looking Glass had loaned her some money, so at least she could buy some drinks.

“Vodka,” she said to the barman, tapping on the counter and flashing a weary smile.  The man grunted and fetched her a shot.  “Long glass, double it, splash of coke,” Got Gal clarified.  With the drink in hand she made her way to the table and took a seat, nursing the glass as she considered her situation.

In the past, bars like this had proven to be good sources of information.  Or she thought they had, but with her memory so murky it was hard to tell where this information was coming from.  She couldn’t remember any bars she had visited before, though she was certain there had been some.  It was so frustrating.

“Hello,” came a voice behind her.  She turned in her chair and saw a young man standing there.  He had short dark hair, a wide smile and a tattoo winding its way up his neck.  Some kind of serpent.  “Hello yourself,” she smiled.
“I haven’t seen you around here before,” he noted.  “I’m sure I’d remember.”
“First timer,” Got-Gal acknowledged.  “I was in the neighborhood, I needed a drink and this seemed as good a place as any.”
“Better than many,” the young man agreed.  “I’m Tom.  Tom Finn.”
“Hello Tom.  I’m Constance.”
“Are you looking for some company?” Tom asked, indicating the other chair.
“You can never have too many friends,” Got-Gal agreed, gesturing for him to sit.

Got-Gal was trying to get a read on this man.  It was a bar, so there was a good chance he was going to hit on her.  That was fine, she was perfectly able to deal with situations like that.  Looking the way she looked, it wasn’t uncommon to attract that sort of attention.  But there was something about the boy that made her think there was more to him than that.

“Unusual tattoo,” Got-Gal pointed out.
“It’s a Python,” Tom said.  “Got it a few years ago from the Chinese place on Fourth.  It’s magical.”
Got-Gal did a double-take.  “It’s what?”
“Magical,” Tom grinned.  “It has a mystical Chinese enchantment, that gives me a special power.”
“Yep.  It helps me find and speak to the most beautiful girl in any bar room.”
Got-Gal laughed.  “You got that right.”

September 18, 2017 in Got Gal
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Keyboard, Lights, Action


Keyboard, Lights, Action

Abnormals, the world’s only play-by-blog turn-based commercial game (as far as we know) restarts next week.

Some comics will remain in hiatus as their players are not yet back on the scene.  Some will restart immediately.  Some will follow the next week.

There may even be a new title or two.

Adventures Of Oakheart will restart NEXT WEEK
Adventures Of Vermilion Widow will restart soon
Among The Shadows will restart soon
Countdown will restart NEXT WEEK
Dark Corners will restart soon
Got Gal will restart NEXT WEEK
Iron Maiden is still on hiatus
Lionheart Chronicles is still on hiatus
The Beast Inside will restart soon
The Midnight Runner will restart soon
Two Fisted Tales is still on hiatus

Get ready!

August 27, 2016 in Editorial

Got Gal, Issue #008

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Issue #008 – – – – – controlled by Keith Nixon – – – – – Credits 103

“Okay big guy,” Got Gal said, knowing immediately that she was probably going to regret this: “I’m with you.”
Devastator laughed and hefted a car at some of the nearby cops.  Got Gal took the moment of surprise to punch Bloodhound straight between the eyes.  It was tempting to use her full strength, but she was reasonably sure he wasn’t super tough in any way and that was likely to (a) make a real gooey mess of her hand and (b) kill him.  So she pulled the blow, though it was still sufficient to bludgeon his nose into a bloody patty.  The brain crashed senselessly to the ground.
“He’s going to feel that in the morning,” Devastator laughed.  “But I can solve that.”  Then he stamped on Bloodhound’s back.  The horrible sound of the man’s spine snapping cracked through the air.  “Hey!” Got Gal was shocked, “What the hell?”
“Sorry darlin’,” Devastator flashed a bloodthirsty grin, “You’re playing with the bad guys now.”

No time to consider the villain’s actions, Got Gal figured to sort it out later.  Instead, she tested her powers to see if Bloodhound’s effects had gone.  Sure enough, she was able to fly again.  For a moment, just a moment, she considered leaving Devastator behind.  But that wasn’t how she did things.  Bloodhound may have been hurt much more seriously than she was comfortable with, but he was a combatant and he had started this.  It was his fault Devastator was out of jail in the first place.  “You reap what you sow,” she said, before grabbing the huge villain with both hands and launching them skyward.
“What are you doing?” Devastator called up to her.
“It’s time for Operation Bug Out,” came the reply.

Bullets whined through the air, bouncing off Got Gal and her passenger’s impervious hides.  Distantly, they heard two more booms.  “We can’t stay in the sky,” Devastator said.  “He’s getting closer!”
“Scared?” Got Gal was surprised.
“Huh!  Missy, if you aren’t scared of Captain Courage then you’re an idiot.”
“But you’re an A-Class behemoth,” Got Gal pointed out.  “You were throwing trucks around like tennis balls earlier.”
“There is no class to describe Courage,” Devastator said.  “He’s bigger than all of us.  We need to go to ground.”
“No problem,” Got Gal grinned, Wildly.  “That, I can do!”

Boom.  Boom.  Boom.  Each sonic explosion was closer than the last.  Even though Got Gal had never met Captain Courage, there was something about that sound that unnerved her.  She remembered, when she was a little girl, watching old black and white horror movies with her parents.  She remember the tricks the directors used, approaching footsteps, louder and louder.  There was something of that in this.  Like some terrible menace were advancing, relentless, unstoppable, monstrous.  But wasn’t this Captain Courage supposed to be some kind of red, white and blue All American hero?  He shouldn’t be precipitated by an aura of fear.  It seemed out of character.  But Got Gal didn’t have time to think about it.  Angling at the ground, Got Gal poured on the speed.  Devastator shrieked below her, a sound which was odd coming from the big man.  “Don’t worry,” Got Gal said.  “I have a plan.”
“Your plan seems to involve smashing into the ground really, really, really fast.  Not sure I’m a big fan of The Plan, right now.”
Got Gal laughed and then they collided with the ground in an explosion of dust and concrete and tarmac and everything went dark.

“What happened?” Devastator moaned.  “That hurt!  And nothing much hurts me.”
“Don’t worry,” Got Gal said, “That would hurt anybody.  There was a lot of force in that impact.  Now shut up and follow me.”
They had crashed through the road surface and into some dark sewer tunnel.  Got Gal was leading him into the utter darkness and she was punching walls so that the tunnels collapsed behind them.  “You think its a good idea to get lost underground?” Devastator asked.
“You aren’t incredibly bright, are you?” Got Gal asked.
The Devastator shrugged: “Don’t need to be.  I can lift an oil tanker on a good day.”
“Look.  I know these tunnels well.  Unfortunately, I’ve spent a lot of time in them.”
“Why?” Devastator asked, puzzled.
“I often ask myself the same thing.  But don’t be concerned.  Even if we get lost it wont be too hard for somebody of your sheer strength to break up to the surface, will it?”
“No,” Devastator realised.  “I suppose not.”
“The important thing, according to you, is that we lose Captain Courage.  Well, unless he has X-Ray Eyes or something, he’s not going to find us down here as long as we get a fair distance from where we entered.  Okay?”
“Okay,” Devastator said.
“Then shut up and keep moving.”

An hour or so later, Got Gal and The Devastator sat beneath a bridge alongside the main sewer flow that ran out into the bay.  They were both muddy, bloody  and tired.  The villain had lost some of the edge of violence that seemed to accompany him most of the time.  Though she knew this could be a ruse.  He was a killer after all.  Slowly, he looked at Got Gal and said: “Got a question for ya.”
“Okay.  Shoot,” Got Gal agreed.
“That fall really smashed me up.  I’m gonna be hurting for days.  I’m much tougher than you, no offense.”
“None taken.”
“So how come you ain’t all smashed up too?”
“You were underneath me,” Got Gal told him.  “You took the impact.  I rode you into the sewers.  Thanks for that, by the way.”
The Devastator looked at her, his mouth wide.  Then he began to laugh.  “You used me as a battering ram?  You got some stones, girl.  How did you know I’d even survive that?”
Got Gal met his gaze levelly: “I didn’t.  But I was pretty sure you would.  A-Class tanks like you don’t get killed falling out of the sky.  That never happens.  It’s too easy.  Somebody like you goes down, it’s a big story.  There’s probably a whole story arc, you know?”
The Devastator stared out across the putrid water.  Then sighed.  “You got a strange mind, Got Gal.  I expect we’ll be fighting again at some point.  But right now, you’re alright.”  With that he rose to his feet and strode away without looking back.
“Fighting again?” Got Gal said, beneath her breath.  “Jeez.  I hope not.  That monster is unkillable.”

October 28, 2013 in Got Gal
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Adventures Of Oakheart, Issue #008

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Issue #008 – – – – – controlled by Wayne Gildroy – – – – – Credits 82

“There’s no point pretending to be unconscious,” The Young Man said.  Oakheart had decided to do exactly that while he took time to assess his new situation.  He pondered whether it was worth giving it a shot anyway.  “It’s not,” the man said aloud.
“You know what I am thinking?” Oakheart asked.
“Sure,” the Man smiled.  “I’m Cortex.  I’m quite a powerful telepath, amongst other things.”
“And this is a penitentiary?  The Keep?”
“Yes,” Cortex nodded.  “The go-to prison for superhumans, high grade terrorists, political agitators and other exponential threats.”
“Why am I here?” Oakheart asked.
“I think you know the answer to that,” Cortex said.  “You went on a killing spree.  Murdered a helpless old woman.  Started a riot.”
“No, that is not…” Oakheart began to protest.
“I know.” Cortex grinned.  “I can see the whole thing laid out in your mind.  They wont believe you though.  It doesn’t suit them to believe you.  They don’t like powerful abnormals like you walking around, unlicensed and dangerous.  They need a reason to lock you up.  This is as good as any.”

Oakheart considered this.  He had no way of knowing if things were as they appeared.  For all he knew, this was an illusion and he was in a lab somewhere with tubes in and out of him.  Cortex sighed: “No chance of that.  You’re a brick.  They aren’t interested in bricks.  Even weird ones like you with the shapechanging and all that.  They already know everything they want to about your kind.  It’s the force projectors, the supernaturals and all the weird ones they are fascinated with.”
“And telepaths?” Oakheart asked.
Cortex nodded: “Sure.  Which is why I pretend that I’m just super strong.”
Cortex tapped his temple: “Clever.  That’s me.  And before you ask, no you won’t be passing on my secrets.  If I think that’s going to happen I’ll make you forget.”
Oakheart didn’t know if this was boast and bluster, or genuine, but decided to take the young man at face value.  For now.
“Why do I look human?”
“Instead of looking like a walking tree?” Cortex asked.
“Simple.  They’ve dampened your powers.  Look,” He indicated the metal band on Oakheart’s right ankle.  “That little device is cutting your abilities dramatically.  Since your tree form is a function of your abilities – and one that provides quite a drain at that – it faded very early on.  You still have powers, but not much.  Everything is watered down so that the guards can deal with you easily.”
“My tree form is who I am,” Oakheart said.  He could feel this power dampener draining his energy, but he could also feel something else.  Something deeper, that was not being drained at all.
“Sorry, buddy.  But that’s not the case.  I can see why you’d think it was, but actually it’s just a manifestation of your abnormal state.  Like all your other powers.  You may have come to think of yourself as Walking Vegetation, but in truth you’re as human as I am.  Just a very special type of human.”

“What happens next?” Oakheart asked.
“You get used to The Keep.  Because there’s no escaping it.  It’s been designed to deal with people like us.  I’m your cell mate, by the way.  You got lucky, believe me.  There are some really unpleasant and aggressive assholes in here.  My worst trait is that I snore.”
“I am very confused,” Oakheart said.  “My memories are unclear.  This last couple of days has been shocking and strange.”
“I can see that,” Cortex said.  “Your mind is totally weird.  There’s a period of a few weeks of blurry strangeness, like trying to read the mind of an unborn child.  Then nothing.  Then bits and pieces of images that don’t seem to fit anywhere.  I’ve never encountered anything like it.  Do you suffer from mental illness of some kind?”
“Not that I know of,” Oakheart said.
“I must admit, that’s not how it seems.  Though I’m no psychiatrist, this doesn’t feel damaged in that way.  Your memories are fractured along a point, like a fault line in the Earth.”
“I do not know why,” Oakheart admitted.
“I could take a deeper look,” Cortex said.  “But it’s not pleasant and you might feel, um, violated afterwards.  People do.  Probably best to just live with it.  After all, where’s the harm?  Life goes on, right?”
“I need to understand who I am.  What I am,” Oakheart said.  “And then I need to get out of here to put it right.”
“You seem confident that it is something that can be put right,” Cortex said.
“I am.”
“Either way, getting out isn’t on the cards my friend.  Being put in here is a one way trip.  There is no early release for good behaviour.”
“You are too quick to rush to such conclusions,” Oakheart told him.  As he spoke he reached inward and teased at the hidden strength that he could feel lurking beneath the surface.  Immediately, his skin thickened and turned to bark. His arm and leg muscles grew.  His physique filled out.
“Whoa!” Cortex said, moving back.  “How did you do that?  You have a power dampener on!  You can’t trigger powers!”
“These people here are not foolproof,” Oakheart smiled.  “You are a telepath and you have managed to convince them you are not.  It appears that they presume I am nothing more than a strong human who can change form.  But this is wrong.  I am more than that.  My powers run deeper.  As you can see.”

Cortex looked thoughtful.  “Okay.  You have a point.  Maybe you are more than just a brick?  But how does this help us?”
“The guards here are prepared for superhumans whose powers are diluted by these dampeners.  They are not prepared for those of us who can access greater levels of power.  I can feel a reservoir of power available to me.  I do not know why, but it is there.  So I think it will be possible to take this place by surprise.”
“Even if you were at full power, that’s not enough,” Cortex said earnestly.  “The police took you down before.  And they are nowhere near as tough as these guys.  You are just one person, it’s not enough.”
“I am not just one person,” Oakheart pointed one gnarly finger.  “You are another.  Together we have surprise on our side.  I am sure there must be a way we can use our abilities coupled with our ingenuity to our advantage.”
Cortex considered this, his brow furrowed.  Then: “You know something, partner?  You may just have a point.”

October 28, 2013 in Adventures Of Oakheart
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Two Fisted Tales, Issue #002

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Issue #002 – – – – – controlled by Mark Adams – – – – – Credits 13

Popper had his minions fan out as they approached the front of the old Delicatessen.  It had been closed for years, as had most decent businesses in The Yard.  A remnant of better times perhaps?  Now the windows were covered in rotting two by fours and the door was a sheet of aluminium that had been spray painted with a poor cartoon that may or may not have been a penis.  “You sure they’re in here?” Tiny asked, while Doug, Rowdy and Old Guy advanced on the building with their weapons drawn.
“They’re in here,” Popper snarled.  “Don’t forget, silver rounds only. These guys don’t give a damn about lead.”

Inside the building they could hear movement.  Nobody in there was even trying to be subtle.  Good, Popper thought, we’ve had enough teasing.  Shit or get off the pot.  The Full Moon Posse had been tangling with his people for weeks now, jockeying for a position on the ladder in the Yard’s lucrative drug trade.  Trying their little confidence tricks and generally terrorising the good folk who were unlucky enough to live here.  Popper wasn’t having any of that.  If people were going to be terrorised, it was his gang that would be doing the terrorising.  Not some hairy werewolf assholes with anger management issues.

“Hey boss,” Old Guy said, “You sure you want to be here?  I mean, this could be a trap.  Maybe you should let us expendables check it out first?”
Popper grunted: “You’re not expendable, Old Guy.  You’re my people.  I don’t hide behind body shields.  If you’re in danger, i’m in danger.  But don’t worry about it.  We can handle these pricks.”
“They are werewolves,” Doug pointed out.  Doug didn’t look worried about it.  The man was the size of a barn.  Or two barns.  So he didn’t worry about much.  But even so Popper felt the need to keep his team confident and calm.  “Yeah,” he said.  “But there are werewolves and werewolves.  These guys aren’t American Werewolves in London.  They’re Michael J Fox Teen Wolves.  Now let’s put an end to this and then grab a few beers and a pizza, whaddaya say?”
The guys laughed and Doug hefted the ram.  A sheet of aluminium wasn’t going to stop that muther’.  Any minute now they were going to find out, once and for all, which gang was at the pinnacle of power and which was history.

Captain Pink lay on his bed looking at the ceiling.  He didn’t remember going to bed.  Usually he just slept in his chair.  But a relentless and nagging neckache had driven him to actually do something.  Here, in the darkness of his room, he was trying to remember what he was supposed to be doing.  There was something.  He was sure of it.
“Back at base,” he said to himself.  “Bugs in the software.  Send a message something’s out there.”  A tune was turning in the back of his mind.  It wasn’t unusual.  Memories came and went.  Fleeting.  Like daydreams.  He wondered if Poptastic Boy was coming home any time soon.  He shouldn’t be out on patrol on his own.  It was dangerous.
“Captain?” The man asked.  He wasn’t there, of course.  Wayne Bruce was often visited by shadows of the past.  He knew them for what they were, but he spoke with them anyway.  So what?  Anybody can get lonely.

“Who is it?” Captain Pink asked.
“My name is Ninety-Nine.  You don’t know me.”
“Why have you come to visit me then?”
“We’re all kind of hoping you wake up soon.  It’s not a whole lot of fun, where we are.”
“Where are you?”
“That makes no sense,” Captain Pink pointed out.
“We don’t exist, Sir,” Ninety-Nine said.  “We didn’t fit tidily into the new world and so we’re unable to join it.”
“You mean you haven’t been born?”
“No Sir,” Ninety-Nine said, “We didn’t even get a chance to be born.  Our patterns have been over-written.”
“I’m not at my best, I’m afraid,” Captain Pink said.  “I’m rarely lucid. I am very ill.  My mind is failing.”
“No sir,” Ninety-Nine said.  “That isn’t the case.  Your mind isn’t failing.  It is being stolen.”

Poptastic Boy came home after Midnight.  The Captain knew it wasn’t really his home any more, he was grown up now.  He was no longer his ward or his sidekick.  But he still thought of this as the boy’s home, nonetheless.  There was something wrong with Poptastic Boy.   He had been injured!
“Are you okay?” Wayne Bruce wanted to asked, but it came out as garbled nonsense.  With drool.  Poptastic Boy looked at him with a mixed expression of pity and disgust.  It hurt to see that look on his young friend.
“Look at this shit!” Poptastic said.  He was covered in blood.  His face was badly swollen.  He was missing teeth.  The way he moved, favouring his left in a hunched shuffle, suggested broken ribs.  He seemed angry.  “How the fuck has it come to this?”
Captain Pink wanted to remonstrate about the language.  It wasn’t right.  They didn’t do this.  They didn’t talk that way.  But he was back in his chair and he seemed unable to formulate any useful sentences.  Instead he said: “Sandwich,” though he had no idea why he said that.  He wasn’t particularly hungry.
“I’ll get you some food in a minute,” Popper snarled.  “But where’s the nurse?  I pay good money for the nurse.”  He really did seem angry.

Popper didn’t know why he had come back to his old mentor’s house.  The man was a wreck.  He was a shadow of his former self.  On nights like this he made Popper sick.  Just looking at what had become of the hero he had once idolised made Popper boil with fury.  But he knew the cause of his anger wasn’t Wayne Bruce, but the events of the evening.  They’d taken the Full Moon Posse down, but it had been costly.  Tiny was dead, his throat ripped out.  Rowdy was in hospital, but it was very unlikely he was going to make it.  People didn’t come back from having their guts emptied onto the floor.  Old Guy was injured, Doug was injured.  His best men out of commission and still it hadn’t been enough.  The Dire Wolf hadn’t even been there.  At least two of the cubs had escaped.  They were going to come for payback and Popper was running out of resources.  It was a mess and it was going to get worse.  Particularly if the other players got wind of his gang’s current weakened state.  Bloody werewolves.  They gave the term dog eat dog a whole new meaning.

“Listen to me, Wayne,” Graeme said.  He’d pulled his mask off.  He looked older than his years.  The strain was taking its toll.  “Listen.  It’s getting bad out there.  I want to come back to see you, but if anything happens…” his voice broke up.  He stopped.  He took a breath.  He remembered that he was a drug baron.  He didn’t have time for this emotional shit.  He had to be hard, because if he was not he was going to be dead.  “Listen,” He tried again.  “I’ve put cash aside.  The nurses will keep coming.  You won’t have to worry about bills.  There’s enough to see you through.  But if I stop coming I want you to remember me the way I used to be.  Before it all went bad.  Before it all went to shit.  Okay?”
Captain Pink stared at him through watery eyes and rasped out a response.  “Sandwich.”
Popper sighed and nodded.  “I’ll get you something.  You just rest, okay?  Everything will be alright.”  But he didn’t really think it would.  Ever again.

Wayne Bruce woke in the night with a pressure on his bladder.  A voice in his mind told him to just let it go.  Don’t worry about it.  A nurse was coming.  But Wayne Bruce had once knocked The Crooked Mile flat out with a right hook and that memory was enough to convince him that wetting the bed was a step too far.  He climbed wearily to his feet and stumbled to the bathroom.  Flicking the light on he turned towards the pan, but his eye caught something, just for a second, in the bathroom mirror.
“Huh?” He rumbled.  He turned to look.  Nothing there.  But he was sure he had seen something.
“Go on Captain,” Came a voice in his mind.  He recognised Ninety-Nine from their earlier dream conversation.  “Take another look.  Identify, clarify, classify.  Open up your eager eyes.”  Wayne Bruce tried to look out of the corner of his eye, instead of directly.  There it was again!  Something on his neck.  A fat, bloated thing.  Grey skin.  Scales.  Little wings.  A tail.  It’s mouth was fastened on his skin.  It was sucking.
“Gah!” Wayne Bruce cried out, horrified.  He grabbed the squat creature in one hand and tore it free.  For its part, whatever it was looked as surprised as hell!  “Gah!  Gah!  Gah!”  The Captain repeated as he pounded the small creature’s head on the edge of the sink.  He didn’t know what it was, but it was repulsive.  The only thing for it was to bash the tiny things brains in.  Which he did.

When the sun rises on The Yard it does not bring much in the way of warmth and comfort.  This part of the city is a cold place.  A loveless place.   A place of misery, corruption and despair.  But this morning something was different.  On the roof of one building a man stood, his cape sweeping behind him as it caught the fresh breeze rolling in from the bay.  He gazed out across the rooftops and down on the grimy, dangerous streets below.  He considered the people who lived here – trying to survive a harsh and unforgiving environment.  This was a monochrome place, full of monochrome feelings, black and white solutions.  But that was going to change.  He couldn’t remember a whole lot and he knew things were mixed up and very, very wrong.  But that just meant it was time to start putting it right.  Nor would he do it alone.  His ward may have taken a dark road, but no direction could not be reversed.  Nodding resolutely, he stretched his arms wide and rose slowly, gloriously into the air.  A flash of pink in a world of grey.  Hope.

October 27, 2013 in Two Fisted Tales
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Iron Maiden, Issue #004

iron maiden header
Issue #003 – – – – – controlled by Junius Stone – – – – – Credits 2

Sitting at the table with the Imperceptibles, Iron Maiden listened carefully to their comments and made mental ticks as she noted things about the small group.  First of all, it was clear that they were Nerds with a capital “N”.  These guys lived and breathed their genre, constantly referring to the actions of super-powered characters about whom they gossiped as “us” or “we” – including their own “team” in the mix.  That was fine by her.  She’d always rather liked the geeks and misfits of the world  They tended to be decent and genuine.  And let’s face it, she had metal skin.  She was hardly normal herself.

It was also apparent that they were in awe of her.  The boys couldn’t seem to keep their eyes from straying occasionally to her generous shape, a fact that made them blush and avert in equal measures.  The girls, for their part, seemed to be uncertain whether she was somebody they wanted to admire or resent.  Iron Maiden put them at ease quickly with a few carefully chosen compliments on their own costumes, appearance or abilities.

There were five other Imperceptibles.  A painfully shy teenager who called himself Hint.  A thin, pale young man introduced as Stopwatch.  A heavy set young lady called Dumpling.  A pretty waif of a girl with haunted eyes who called herself Manikin. And a tall, awkward girl with more freckles than Iron Maiden had ever seen on one person who said her name was “Slapstick.”

It was clear Dragonfly was the unofficial leader of their group and it didn’t take long to see that both Manikin and Dumpling had something of a crush on him.  It was probably just as well Hint and Stopwatch didn’t seem to notice the girls on their team or she could see all manner of romantic complications springing up.  She had taken a liking to Dragonfly quickly – his earnest and friendly approach, his likeable affability.   “So.  DF.  Can I call you DF?” She asked.
“Sure, yes.  Of course,” Dragonfly grinned, looking as pleased as punch to have his name abbreviated to initials.
“So what does your gang do, other than hang about in here?”
“We’re not a gang,” Dumpling huffed.  “We’re a team.  Gangs are the bad guys.”
“Sorry,” Iron Maiden said with straight-faced gravity.  “I meant no offence.  Team, of course.”
“We fight crime!” Stopwatch assured her.  “Okay, not the big bad guys or anything like that.  But we do our bit.”
“We don’t fight crime very often,” Slapstick said.
“We stopped the Lucifers’ Bloody Rampage earlier in the year!”  He protested.  “We caught Hammerfist and handed him over to the police.  We stopped that mugger who was hanging about near the city park!”
“That sounds like an impressive record,” Iron Maiden grinned enthusiastically.
“Yes, until you understand the the Lucifers were a gang of twelve and thirteen year olds and their Bloody Rampage was the kidnapping of cats for ransom from their owners.  Or that Hammerfist was a C-Class bruiser who only had his mild super-strength during the hour just before the sun set.  Or that the mugger was actually caught by The Midnight Runner on his way to somewhere and we just happened to be near enough to “help.”  By which I mean we cheered from the sidelines and Dumpling kicked the gun away when the crook dropped it.”

“Don’t be so down on yourselves,” Iron Maiden said.  “People love their cats.  Kidnapping and blackmail are still kidnapping and blackmail, regardless of the targets.  A super-villain can still be very dangerous even if their powers have a limited time frame.  Maybe if Dumpling hadn’t kicked that gun away, the Midnight Runner would have been shot?”  Dumpling’s wide face split into a broad grin.
“I told you!” Stopwatch cried happily.
“Huh,” Slapstick said.  “You’re one of these glass half full types, right?”
Iron Maiden indicated her drink, which was getting low.  “If only…” She said.  Dragonfly called a waitress for a refill.
“So who are you?” Manikin asked, her small voice almost lost in the noise of the bar.
“I’m Mandy,” Iron Maiden told them.
“And who are you supposed to be?” Slapstick asked, eyeing the costume.
“Whoever it is, that’s a kickin’ costume!” Hint said, immediately blushing from his collar upwards.
“You can call my, uh, cosplay Iron Maiden,” She replied.  “It’s a character of my own design.”
“So your character has metal skin, huh?” Dumpling asked.  “What other powers?”
“Strength and fast-healing,” Iron Maiden responded with a grin:  “And a figure that makes men drool.”
“Doesn’t work,” Stopwatch said.   Then: “Sorry.”
“What do you mean it doesn’t work?” Iron Maiden asked.
“Well, you’ve created what we call a Brick.  You know, tough skin, strength.  They don’t tend to have healing.  I guess because they don’t need it.  They absorb so much damage there’s never anything to heal.”
“There are rules to the way powers go together?” Iron Maiden asked him.
“Of course!” Said several members of the group at once.
“I’ll have to bear than in mind!” Iron Maiden said with a wry grin.

“So what sort of paint did you use to make your skin look like that?” Dumpling asked, fascinated.  She prodded at Iron Maiden’s bare arm and then gasped.  “Wow!  It feels so real!  Almost like actual metal!”
“Yes,” Iron Maiden said.  “I used a strong metallic paint. It’s really tough.  Water proof.  Friction proof.  Proof proof.”
“What sort of paint is that?” Stopwatch asked.  “I haven’t heard of it.”
“It’s very new,” Iron Maiden assured him, laying a hand gently on his shoulder.
Stopwatch grinned and nodded inanely.  “Sure!  Okay!  Great!”

The evening wore on in a pleasant way and Iron Maiden was perfectly happy for the group to keep picking up her tab.  She felt fed, watered and relaxed.  But she was aware that she needed to plan her next moves in order to find out just what was actually going on in the city.  While she was considering whether she’d be able to convince the Imperceptibles to give her somewhere to crash the conversation was interrupted by a well-dressed woman’s approach.  Iron Maiden recognised her as the alleged government agent from the bar.  “Look out,” Dumpling said.  “Feds!”
“Good evening,” The Woman said.
“Hi! Slapstick reponded.
“Hello, officer, what can we do for you?” Dragonfly asked.
The women looked momentarily put out at being identified as an agent, but recovered quickly.  She flashed a badge and then took a seat with the group.  “I recognise most of you from the files,” she said, “So I know you aren’t a problem.  I was hoping you might be able to help me, actually.”
“Oh?” Stopwatch said.  “How?”
“On the far side of the bar there is a man in a long black coat with a replica pulse rifle slung over his back.  Can you see him?”
The group glanced over.  They could see the man she was talking about.  He was in conversation with a woman who was dressed as the Russian super hero Seela.
“Sure,” Dragonfly agreed.  “I can see him.”
“I have reason to believe that unlike the others in here, and your super-team of course,” she favoured them with a patronising smile, “He is not a fake.  I think he is the wanted super-criminal known as Hectic.”

The group gaped for a moment and then Stopwatch said: “Hectic?  Who was a member of the Mavericks?  Who killed the Golden Knight and Jay The Malleable Man in the Battle Of Franklin Bridge?”
“That’s the one,” the woman agreed.
“Why are you telling us?” Slapstick asked.  “We’re C-Class abnormals.  We don’t have the sort of firepower to take on somebody like that!  You should be calling in back-up.”
“Most of our specialist forces are involved in a situation with The Devastator and some new villain.  That man is a cop-killer and a hero-killer.  By the time I’ve got backup here, he may be gone.  I’m going to try and take him, but I need help.  You are the only people here with real powers.  I need you!”
“The Devastator?” Dragonfly asked.  His face had gone pale.  He looked like he had seen a ghost.
“Don’t worry about that,” said the woman.  “Worry about this.  There’s a dangerous killer amongst the crowd.  Are you going to step up, or stay C-List forever?”
“Now wait a minute,” Iron Maiden said.  The woman looked at her, seemingly noticing her for the first time.
“These youngsters aren’t equipped to handle a villain like the one you are describing.  You’ll get them all killed!”
“What does this have to do with you?” The agent sneered.  “Do you think putting on some body paint means you have insight into matters of law and order?  Why don’t you head on back to the other wannabees and let these real heroes show you how it’s done?”

October 27, 2013 in Iron Maiden
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The Midnight Runner, Issue #007

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Issue #006 – – – – – controlled by Ken Thompson – – – – – Credits 28

“Xara,” The Midnight Runner said.  “Thank you for your concern.  But I am afraid things have gone too far now.”
“With respect, Sir,” the Computer whirred, “They have not.  They will not have gone too far until you ask for more information than your brain and body can handle.  Then you will be dead and things will have gone too far.”
“There comes a time,” Midnight Runner responded, “When one life must be lost to save many.  So listen carefully to my instructions.  If I die, put out all the information revealed on the Web.  It may be of use to others.”
“It may kill others, Sir,” The Computer pointed out.
“Since when did you get so argumentative?” the hero sighed.
“You programmed me, Sir,” Xara reminded him.
“Just do as I ask please, Xara.  Do you understand?”
“Yes, Sir.  I do.”


It seemed impossible, but looking at the data laid before him it was hard to deny where the evidence led.  Having identified most of the fourteen individuals stored within the strange caskets he had run a thorough and comprehensive set of tests upon them.  What had been revealed was startling.  Each of the individuals was leaking several types of energy which simply did not conform to anything modern equipment could identify.  But it was clear that the energy was incredibly destructive.

The caskets prevented the worst of the spread, but when the seals were opened (something the Midnight Runner did only briefly) everything near them began to lose cohesion – to rot and decay.  Metal rusted, bonds broke, magnetic fields went askew.  He had never seen anything like it  before.  It was a completely new phenomenon.  The closest thing he could think of was the damage that radiation did to living cells.  But this energy did damage to all matter, regardless of its origins.

His investigations also revealed just how sick he was getting.  He took readings and found the strange energy inside him, infecting him – even though he had never been directly exposed to the people in the caskets without proper protection.  It seemed that just knowing these people existed was enough to have a terrible effect upon his mind and his body.

“Xara,” The Midnight Runner said tersely, fighting off an increasing headache and nausea: “The names, please.”

He had been able to identify, through scraps and pieces of information, twelve of the fourteen people in the caskets.  Ultradoll.  The Devastator.  Dark Future.  Mark Santini.  King Crush.  Oakheart.  Got Gal.  Virus.  Vermilion Widow.  Sulis.  Pendragon.  X-Ray Man.  None of these names meant anything to him beyond the odd bits of unreliable background that Xara had mysteriously uncovered.  But Midnight Runner was fairly certain this was dimensional in nature – the sort of weird stuff that he was not qualified to deal with.  But if not him, who?  It wasn’t like the city was brimful of licensed heroes he was on friendly terms with.

Finally, he decided that he had to know who the final two caskets were.  They had proved impossible to identify and he was certain that knowledge of their origins was key to understanding what this all meant.  So he bit the bullet and contacted an outside specialist in this sort of super science situation.

“Who?” The Midnight Runner asked.  Once again Xara had fallen silent.  “Who did I contact?”

“Running a memory scan,” the Computer said.  “Information will take a short time to retrieve.”
“Why?” He wanted to know.  “You’re a computer.  This data is on a drive somewhere.  Why is it taking time to retrieve?”
“I do not know,” Xara answered, her mechanical voice sounding oddly hopeless.

The report submitted by one Doctor Thaddeus Webb, a Special Projects expert with the Bull Corporation, made for fascinating and unlikely reading.  The Midnight Runner, against his better judgement, had been forced to release most of what he knew in order that the situation could be investigated.  It had taken weeks, during which he had grown increasingly unwell.  He was aware that if some answers were not forthcoming he may not be in a fit state to do much with the information anyway.

The report postulated something the Doctor called a Twin Reality Field.  He suggested that there was something called Core Reality, a kind of base layer upon which space and time rested.  Over the top of this, a second reality, which he called a Mask, had been carefully fitted.  The effect was that the core reality was obscured and the mask appeared to be real.  His analysis of the strange energy had revealed it to have a wavelength and signature which fitted the kind his mathematics proposed would exist between the Core and the Mask.  A kind of linear glue, he said.

He suggested that The Midnight Runner’s involvement could not be accidental.  That the stresses of both realities meant that they were intrinsically unstable and that nature would attempt to redress the balance.  Doctor Webb supposed that The Midnight Runner might be an agent of that redress.  All this was very interesting, but the hero really wanted to know who the other two bodies were.  Who were the mystery people in the last two caskets?  He was sure this was important.  He didn’t know why.

The Doctor assured him that the information would be forthcoming.  He just had a few more tests to run, but he already had suspicions.  The Midnight Runner agreed to wait – though his illness was now so profound that he was barely able to function.  Time was running out.

“What else, Xara?  What did the Doctor find out?  Who were they?”
“The Doctor died, Sir,” Xara said.  “He was rushed into hospital with a sudden sickness and a heart attack ended his life the same evening.”
“Oh shit,” The Midnight Runner muttered.
“I did warn you, Sir,” Xara said.
“So I never found out who the last two were?”
“You did, Sir,” Xara said.  “You broke into the Doctor’s lab and searched his notebook for some clue as to the suspicions he had expressed.  There were two names on the pad.  It was upon your return from that excursion that you demanded your memories removed for the first time.  You were very, very sick.”

“Who were they?” The Midnight Runner breathed.  The air seemed thick, the tension palpable.  The emergency lights still flickered in the background.  Xara paused, as though considering whether to respond.  “One of them was somebody called Wild Zone sir.”
“And the other?”
“You Sir,” Xara said.  “The fourteenth body in a casket was you.”

October 27, 2013 in The Midnight Runner
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Countdown, Issue #007

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Issue #007 – – – – – controlled by Rene Sawatzki – – – – – Credits 56

Countdown arrived back in Helix City some four days after he’d left with the biker gang.  He’d hoped that they would prove to be an avenue along which he could travel and had given it some time to find out, one way or the other, if that were the case.  There had been useful information to be had, but it quickly became clear that if he was to pursue his goal of discovering the truth behind the present reality, it would not be alongside Beard, Hell Bitch and the others.

It was raining as he checked into the motel just outside Madden Heights.  He had money now, thanks to the generosity of the gang, but he couldn’t squander it on the sort of prices to be found at establishments in his old hunting grounds.  He had to be frugal so that his time was available for investigation instead of having to find ways to stay dry and eat.

He pressed his face against the window, watching the rain drizzle lazily down the other side of the glass, seeing the distant flicker of neons in the city center through the grey haze of the miserable weather.  To be honest, he didn’t know where to go from here.  He’d asked the Lucky Sevens about Abnormals, about the power structures within the city, even about some of the heroes that he remembered from his own reality.  They clearly had no clue that the world which they were a part of was not the real one.  That it was some kind of elaborate charade.  Or was that even right?  After all, they had lived their whole lives in it.  It was every bit as real to them as his old reality was to him.

Turning to the TV, Countdown flicked the power on.  A news anchor filled the screen, his perfect smile and year-round tan both comforting and irritating in equal measures.  The report was something to do with a crime spree being carried out by a super-villain.  Countdown didn’t have time for this.  He wasn’t a normal hero now.  He was trying to fix the very fabric of the universe.  There was no time to get involved with the crimes being perpetrated by these shadow images.  He was about to turn away when Countdown caught the name of the criminal.  Got Gal.

Got Gal?

His mouth dropped open.  Countdown was familiar with the hero – she was prominent in the old version of Helix City and she had been among those fighting the Cosmic Disruption at the end.  Indeed, he’d specifically asked about her when talking with the Lucky Sevens and they had said they had never heard of her?  Yet here she was, at the top of the news on the main city channel.

“Police have refused to confirm that the villains have escaped and the official line is that the pursuit continues, but rumours spreading on social media suggest that the duo has made good their escape.  This new super crook, Got Gal, helped the infamous mass murdered Devastator escape before Captain Courage reached the scene.  We’re with Councilman Jessop now for a comment…”

Countdown ignored the politician and considered the implications of what he had heard.  Got Gal was a villainess now?  But she was being called “new.”  This made no sense.  If she was part of the new reality then certainly, she could be a villain – but she’d probably have been around for years.  Of course it wasn’t completely impossible that some twist of this new world had her powers emerge later, but he thought this didn’t feel right.  Countdown could only assume that she was a new arrival, just like him.  Which meant that also just like him she was not native to the new reality, but a visitor.  His attention was drawn back to the news as the hero Captain Courage appeared on the screen.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please do not be alarmed.  Villains come and villains go, but the forces of law and order will always prevail.”  The reporter, clearly in awe of the good captain, asked what his next move was.  “To catch these murderers, of course,” He said.  “Perhaps they were able to overpower the police, but I am not the police.  I am Captain Courage and I carry with me the strength and the decency of this good city and all the people who live here.  I will give the apprehension of Devastator and Got Gal my full attention and I will not rest until they pay for their heinous crimes.”

Countdown cocked an eyebrow.  Who the hell was this Captain Courage anyway?  He didn’t even exist in the old reality.  The only mention of him that Countdown had ever heard was in the relayed story told by Jay the Malleable Man during the Cosmic Disruption – and he was supposed to be dead.  He puzzled over this for a while, pondering whether it was possible for reality to be remade with pieces of yet a third reality?  He had no idea really, but it felt unlikely.  After all, if that were possible then this world should have been completely unfamiliar – loaded with bits and pieces of innumerable other possibilities.

No, Countdown felt that he was close to understanding something important here.  First, that Captain Courage should not exist in this world.  The fact that he did exist was important.  It was worth looking into very closely.  Second, that Got Gal was likely to be a transient factor, just like he was.  Which meant she may have information, or may be a piece of the jigsaw puzzle, that would lead him closer to putting things right.

This left Countdown with a daunting task ahead.  He had to track down two dangerous fugitives that were being hunted by the authorities – and he had to do it before Captain Courage found them.  Because he had a very strong hunch that if Captain Courage found them first – they wouldn’t survive the encounter.  Then again, if they were really deadly villains, or if Captain Courage found him – he may not survive the encounter either!

October 27, 2013 in Countdown
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