- October 30th, 2011
Chapter 3:Lying in the Gutters
Please note, the first section of this is not actual comic script format
and is meant to be read as prose while also evoking the style of
traditional super hero comics.
(Gutters = comics trade term for the space between panel borders)
The hulking metal body of ROAD SCORCHER barrels through the bricks and mortar of the east wall of the TRIPLE MUG CAFÉ, smashing to the ground, his armored carapace crumpled, the green lights of his glass eyes flickering like a broken set of Christmas tree lights.
The assembled heroes, a luminary cast of the bravest souls of the pacific northwest, gathered here this night by that stalwart hero of stumptown, the COMETEER(!) to strategize-“how to best continue their battle against the forces of evil ?”, spring into action!
STAND BACK, PEOPLE!
ON GUARD friends! Whoever could have done this to Road Scorcher is clearly a threat to be reckoned with!
The costumed heroes heed the call of warning from the more seasoned adventurers, respecting their natural leadership and strength of command.
In the Rubble, NICKEY ROBO and WIZ KID hover around the collapsed robotic form of their fallen comrade. NICKEY turns a dial on her wrist gauntlets and hundreds of microfilaments shoot out connecting to access points on ROAD SCORCHER’s wrecked body.
He’s a tough guy, Robo, he’ll be ok…
I’m running a diagnostic... He needs to hook up to a power source soon or we could loose him!
The robot hero’s eyes continue to flicker, revealing the unexpected fragility of artificial life.
The space hero SPECTRA raises her arm and all the light in the room gathers to a point and shines like a spotlight into the cloud of dust and debris that lingers in the ruins of the former wall, illuminating the shadowy forms of monstrous hulking shapes.
UNKNOWN VILLAIN (silhouetted in the dust cloud):
You were a fool to leave your domain PARISH, your wards do not prevent me from troubling you when you walk in the world of men.
The light from SPECTRA’s beam silhouettes the shape of what appears to be an immense and terrifying BAT. Giant! But it also seems somewhat ethereal, ghostlike. Its wings seem to beat, but far too slowly to keep a creature of that size aloft. It propels dirt and grit into the heroes’ watering hole. A dull reddish glow emanates from the eyes of the great beast.
Now these mortals will pay the price…
Meanwhile smaller shapes on all fours scramble into scene taking to the edges of the broken wall, perching on piles of rubble, crouching on half demolished support beams, ready to attack. They look more beast than man, lithe and sinewy muscled bodies possessing snouts, talons, fur or scales, and yet troubling traces of humanity remain. A delicate ladies watch is fastened around the hairy forepaw of one of the beasts. It snarl-squalks, possessing both a lion’s snout and a toucan’s beak sprouting from the same ruined face.
It leaps at MAJOR MOUNTAIN, who despite his hugely muscled frame, moves with the speed of the mountain winds. His fist connects with the possessed things head, splintering its grotesque beak. It falls to the ground emitting a piteous whine, a forked tongue poking out of its face through the jagged ruins of the beak.
You came for me, Daemon, leave these men and women, I promise you a fair fight.
I think not, avatar, I have brought my legion forth, and now that they again possess flesh and bone, skins and souls, their hunger has returned for the same. I shall not deny them bloodmeal.
The twisted forms of the demonic beasts take their cue and swarm the room. Leaping after the assembled heroes, their clawed feat scrabbling on the hardwood floors as they run at their foes.
SPECTRA has taken to flight, hovering near the creaking rafters of the cafe. The room goes dim again as she gathers up the ambient light in the room, calling it to her fists, where forms a lance of piercing white light energy, which she then hurtles like a javelin.
The bolt connects with one of the beasts, which was in mid air, about to leap onto THE GRAY WRAITH, whose cloak was tangled on a barstool. The beast alights and falls to the ground, sizzling and filling the room with the smell of burnt dog hair.
Everyone gather up into attack formation! Circle tight! Hold your ground!
But The Cometeer sees most of the crowd in the Triple Mug Café is fleeing, WIZ KID is pushing back the crowd of younger and less formidable costumed heroes to the rear fire exit. NICKEY ROBO, distraught kneels at the side of her metal-bodied brother, his eyes dim and powerless.
Hurry up, run as far as you can! The cops’ll be here soon!
What? No, Come on, we can TAKE THEM!
RUN! DON’T LOOK BACK!
JACK STORM has taken cover behind the bar, and is picking off the pressing mass of beast-men with his high-tech gun. He blinks in and out of sight, appearing in brief flashes to halt the advance of man-monsters with deadly precision. But the legion of beasts creeps further into the space. MAJOR MOUNTAIN has his hands full trying to occupy as many of the minor daemons as he can, trying to disable them without killing them. The COMETEER fights back to back with the living legend, delivering punch after explosive punch.
The DEVIL BAT has pushed his giant ghostly form into the wrecked wall. His spined spectral wings reaching into the ruined café like hungry hands searching for food in a shelter of small, frightened animals.
NO! Boys, get DOWN!
The Brave hero of the golden age steadies himself, flinging himself free of the grasping deformed beasts, and hurtles himself into the wings of his ancient and otherworldly foe. This man, this avatar of the ancient powers and spirits of this land, entrusted with the defense of the mortal realm has no fear of this thing from the pits, save for what it might do to the innocent lives he is pledged to protect. His mighty thews, like coiled springs send him hurtling into the waiting claws of the enemy.
The DEVIL BAT’s ghastly hooked wings, seemingly immaterial, spread wide inside the room as if to welcome its old enemy in a warm embrace, but then they fiercely swing down, swatting the mighty Major Jim Parish like a housefly, down into the rubble. His head connects with concrete.
And now my minions, the meal I promised, the food of the gods, eat and be sated.
The bulk of the daemons heed their master’s call, and before the Major can recover, they descend, a gridiron pile on of muscle and hungry mouths.
Now no one stands to prevent me from taking a mighty form to once again walk in this realm. Mortals, you will once again have reason to fear the lands where I tread. My footsteps will be felt, my voice heard, and no sleep or death will be refuge from the terror I bring.
Billy, we need to get the FUCK out of here man.
No, NO! this is our chance! This is the big event that will bond the team together! Every great superteam starts with facing down a threat together! It..it’s FATE!
You’re certifiable! If we don’t leave now, we’re going to get killed, we need to get Nickey out of here, make sure our friends are ok out there…
The COMETEER observes the room, WIZ KID, his partner, has his arm around NICKEY ROBO, practically holding her up. Tears streak her face, she appears lost in this fight. ROAD SCORCHER lays in the center of the café where he had crashed only moments before, seemingly lifeless. JACK STORM has vanished from his position behind the bar.
SPECTRA remains aloft, the sole remaining fighting force in this room so recently crowded with “super heroes”. She keeps at a safe distance trying to pick off the daemons with her light lances, they rain down in the ruins of the Triple Mug like a lighting storm, but the nimble beasts elude her, quick as cats. She divides her efforts, striking some of the beasts heaped on top of the Major and providing covering fire, preventing them from advancing further on WIZ KID and the COMETEER, but for how long?
CLEAR THE ROOM! (huf), I’M GOING TO TRY TO FREE THE MAJOR. You guys don’t want to be these things next snack!
We’re leaving NOW, Billy, FUCK!
No, wait, RoSco…He…He’s moving!
They turn and see ROAD SCORCHER’s form slump into a sitting position, but something is wrong, he is darker, as if seen through a veil of shadow. The trio of Portland Heroes realizes that the DEVIL BAT has in fact enveloped him, it’s wings wrapped around the fallen metal marvel like a shroud, gripping the cold metal in a tight and intimate embrace. It’s head turns, a grating sound as the metal plates twist out of accord with the body’s construction. His eyes begin to flicker again.
The form of ROAD SCORCHER, now possessed, lifts itself, the broken body still twisting, the metal plates being mangled by the invisible pull of the malignant spirit. From His back sprout jagged metal wings, the metal of RoSco’s head crunches, like a half smashed beer can, mutilating his formerly benign features.
Nickey, don’t look, BILL, WE’RE GOING!
No, no I can’t let this happen…I can fix it.
The young hero retrieves his helmet from the toppled table where it rested during the meeting. Quickly strapping it while SPECTRA’s rays of deadly light sizzle the monsters that move to attack him. They fall inert like mosquitos flown too close to a bug zapper.
WIZ KID moves Nickey to the back exit, practically pushing her out the door.
He watches, transfixed as the COMETEER faces down the standing form of their friend’s giant walking corpse. The DEVIL BAT makes use of the incendiary fuel in ROAD SCORCHERS body, and ignites from within. A flaming demonic husk of burning twisted metal. The white paint peels and fumes revealing the robot’s scorched black metal bones.
But our hero, the COMETEER, does not back down. He backs up to the rear of the café, as the DEVIL BAT approaches on its new heavy legs. He braces his back leg on a sofa, and crouches down like an Olympiad about to race, waiting for the starting gun. He glows, possessed of his own internal luminescence, and a corona forms about him, the air crackles like a firey shell of living energy. Then, with explosive force, he shoots like a bullet, like a COMET, careening at the ancient evil, a human projectile, the deliverer of swift sure justice. The COMETEER will make this monster pay.
He shoots ahead, his arms outstretched, double fists, ready to pummel this villain with superhuman ferocity.
But…the flaming robot sidesteps at the last minute, and the COMETEER sails straight through the front window of the Triple Mug, (SFX: SMASH!), and continues flying right across the deserted street, crashing his head into a telephone pole
(SFX: CrrrrRRACK!) which creaks and falls on his dazed form like a pine felled by a lumberjack, (SFX: yyyyyeAAAeeeCGH!).
As his vision fades he hears the sound of sirens approaching.
“Billy, can you hear us?”
“if he’s alive I’m gonna fucking kill him.”
“Whatever, this is all on him.”
“Eugene, not now, ok?”
“How’s this one doing?”
Billy stirred. He heard voices. “Dad?” he tried to creek, but it came out “deeaaaa?” He wasn’t sure anyone heard him. What was wrong with him? He kept his eyes closed, trying to figure it out.
“We think he’s ok officer, he’s tougher than he looks”
“Oh, I’m sure he’s great, he probably doesn’t even have a scratch on him…”
“Eugene…Give him a second.”
Eugene was here! Billy opened his eyes. Red and blue flashing lights reflected off of brick walls and broken glass panes. He was lying on concrete, he was on the street, his head propped up on the curb looking back at an upside down storefront.
Billy saw the pair of 20 eye, cruelty free Ox Blood, Doc Marten style boots he had been wanting for his costume in the darkened window.
“Well you should let the paramedics have a look at him. They have their hands full but stay put and someone will have a look at him. Don’t move him”
“Ok, thank you officer”
Who was that? The voice was familiar, but Billy couldn’t think. His brain was mush for some reason. Hot mush, scrambled, side of bacon, crispy. Come to think of it, there was a burning smell…awful. He closed his eyes again and saw a twisted metal face adorned with jagged horns, red eyes.
Billy shot up, and promptly vomited in his lap. He opened his eyes again, his gaze meeting the soiled crotch of his pants. The red spandex of his costume covered in the former contents of his stomach.
(Let it all out Billy)
Where was that voice coming from? It was the girl who was talking to the cop, familiar, but…He didn’t hear it, it…it was in his head. Billy was confused, but he listened, and obliged. He scrambled to his knees and emptied himself into the gutter, coughing it all out until he was exhausted with the effort. He took deep heaving breaths. Was…was that RoSco? It couldn’t be.
“Get up, asshole”
This he heard, it was Eugene. He wanted to get up, but he couldn’t. He was so dizzy. He plopped his ass on the street and held his head in his hand. He was still wearing his helmet, but it was ruined, cracked right down the middle, it fit loosely now, the eye shield broken free somewhere. His gloved fingers fumbled at the straps. They were good gloves, expensive, he ordered them online from a super-gear depot, bright yellow (they went perfectly with his color scheme), but right then they may as well have been mittens.
(Let me help you…)
Billy saw two hands, small with tattooed wrists, reach underneath his chin and undo the nylon strap. The helmet fell away and Billy lifted his eyes to see a freckled face, brown eyes and curly brown hair poking out of the corners of her black hooded sweatshirt.
(You’re going to be ok)
The voice buzzed in the back of his head, but he was, calming down, he was remembering. The Devil Bat. Jesus H. Christ. THAT was the devil bat? In the old comics he was just, just a guy in a corny devil suit, red cape, bat winged cape, the whole bit. He could have been a mascot for your favorite hot sauce. But what he saw tonight in the triple mug, was something his comic collection hadn’t prepared him for.
“Diane?” His throat was a dry hoarse tunnel made roofing shingles. “You, you came…you do think we’re cool…”
“Yeah, Billy. You’re cool.” She had a soothing voice. She was patient, like a kindergarten teacher. “Just relax, ok? I’ll get you some water.”
As she rose and backed from his field of vision, Billy saw Eugene standing behind her in his familiar tight black jeans, black hoodie. He always made fun of superhero costumes, but he had his own sort of uniform. Diane passed him, putting a hand on his shoulder and stood on her tiptoes to whisper something to him. They matched, he realized.
Billy’s gaze followed her across the street; he didn’t want to look at Eugene.
Police and emergency vehicles crowded around the ruined corner building. He saw Jack Storm talking to a small circle of police officials and guys in suits. Spectra was sitting in the back of an ambulance. Her mask was off, she was crying. Her features were so pixie like, it made Billy think of Tinkerbelle weeping mutely, and slaughtered boys, truly lost.
“She’s with RoSco,… and the Major.”
“They’re alive!!?” Billy finally met Eugene’s eyes. They were hard, unforgiving marbles.
“The Major is, RoSco…we don’t know yet. It’s ugly.“
“It’s your fault”
“I….I didn’t do this? I didn’t…I didn’t… ask a giant bat demon to coffee…” Billy thought of the billowing smoky wings, then of Rosco’s face, burning and crunched like a car that has seen the wrong end of a trash compactor. They were friends, had known each other for years. When Billy first moved to Portland from his nowhere life in Yuba County they worked together, catering.
RoSco had modified himself to transform into the fastest pick up van in PDX. Billy was the quite unnecessary driver, but he was the friendly human face that could unload the van of its trays of hot food, and set up serving stations in board rooms, and convention halls, scooping spaghetti & meatballs or chicken legs onto paper plates for white collar warriors. He remembered how hot he would get, wearing his costume underneath his white serving smock.
When they kicked off they would go on long drives together outside city limits. RoSco said he liked to stretch his wheels. He would tune his radio to his favorite station, he liked classic rock, and they would get into the redwoods. RoSco loved trees. He was fascinated with organic life, raised to, by robotic parents who themselves “built” a human girl to raise as their own, his big sister.
“I want to see Nickey…”
“I don’t think she could stand the sight of you any more than I can.”
“I need to see…help me up.”
“The cop said not to move you. Someone’s going to check you out.”
“I’m fine, help me up Wiz,…”
But Eugene just stood there. His arms crossed over his chest, his long face smudged, covered in soot.
“Come on, I’m sorry! Ok? …I mean it wasn’t my fault, but…but I’m sorry this happened, I mean…obviously!”
“That doesn’t FIX it, Bill! People are fucking dead!!, you clueless, selfish motherfucker!”
Billy was able to get his feet under him. He felt less….spinny. He steadied himself on a stump of a toppled telephone pole (did he do that?) and managed to stand. “You, you said the major was alive…”
“Who do you think those other monsters were, Bill?…They were people! Men and women, -children possessed by that thing’s …things! Its followers! How many of them got fried or broken or shot tonight while Spectra and the Major were saving our asses? “
“They…they’re all dead?”
Eugene shook his head. “Most.” He looked like he wanted to spit. Then he spat. “When the Devil Bat was exorcized the other daemons left the bodies they had taken. Their bodies tried to transform back to normal, some are still alive, scarred, or catatonic, most died of shock.
“They…you said there was an exorcism? Who managed that? “
Eugene didn’t answer, just turned to walk back towards the ruined café, the lights and emergency workers. Billy stumbled, following slowly. He tried to remember his time studying hero-wiki, the webs greatest resource on the careers and abilities of the superhuman set. It was the only subject he ever really excelled in. He knew that, while Major Mountain possessed supernatural abilities, he wasn’t necessarily the type that could perform an exorcism; it wasn’t really in his power set. He was basically a magic powered tank, an avatar of nature spirits local to the region. Despite being room mates with Eugene, Billy’s understanding of how “magic” worked was pretty limited…but he DID know superpowers, and evicting an evil spirit from someone’s body was…well it was the sort of thing that Ms. Magika could do, and Billy couldn’t think of any witch or sorcerer in the hero scene out here with the chops to take out something like the Devil Bat.
“Is…is your mom here?”
“Of course not…”
Eugene didn’t turn around. Billy followed, eyes fixed on the silkscreened patch stitched to the back of Eugene’s hoodie, white thread on black. It was the CRASS emblem. Crass was one of Eugene’s favorite bands, old British punks, anarchists, but smarter, Eugene said, than most of the others. The logo, he had once explained had the marks of someone who is adept in magical writing. It was a sigil, an amalgam of symbols of corrupt authority, a cross, a swastika, a union jack, subverted and infused with the image of a snake eating its tail, an ouroboros. It was a symbol, Eugene told him, that power would destroy itself.
“It was you?...”
Had he done it? He said he never would again, but he must have. He said it.
His magic word, and somehow Eugene had saved them.
“It was you.”
Eugene kept his back to him. “Keep walking”.