[FFML] [Ranma/Multi] Avenging Act III Chapter 8
sommert at connecttime.net
Wed Jul 23 21:23:46 PDT 2008
At last. Here it is. Only one to go to finish the act.,
The Animal Farm
Akemi Shutaro listened to the familiar sounds of other reporters and
cameramen milling about the room with the press conference only minutes
from getting underway. Looking around, she noted most of them were
regarded as ‘third stringers’ or worse, completely unrecognizable. It
was like the old days of her toiling in obscurity instead of conducting
the high profile interviews she should have been getting, and perhaps
wouldn’t be seeing ever again. Her thoughts turned bitterly back to the
day everything had changed…
Akemi puffed away on a cigarette in the one of the less used corridors
of Channel 4 news, despite the “no smoking’ policy in the building. She
tapped her foot and wanting to kill something. She had covered enough
unsolved murder cases in her time that she could get away with it. Most
murders went unsolved. Her mind started plotting the perfect murder when
a voice behind her interrupted her train of thought.
“So, our young and eager rising star has discovered the grim horrors of
working for others.”
Akemi turned to see Abe Kosaka had come up behind her. The man was an
institution within an institution. He was mostly a beat reporter that
had the occasional big story, and had been that way for the last forty
years. He was also unlikely to ever be anything else, despite nearly
winning a Pulitzer for a scandal he broke twenty years ago. Rumor had it
he was on the outs with the higher ups, and the only reason he was still
around was because he had an information network second to none, and
knew where all the bodies of his superiors were buried, so to speak.
Akemi hadn’t crossed paths with the man at anything other than the usual
company function, and couldn’t understand why he was here. “What’s that
supposed to mean?” she bit out angrily.
Abe broke out a cigarette of his own and lit up. The corridor near the
janitors’ closets was the unofficial area where people went to smoke
when it was too inconvenient to go outside of the building. “Heard you
got bumped from the Ariyoshi interview.”
That opened the floodgates, and not in a good way as Akemi finally gave
release to her built up anger, unheeding of the words or who might hear
them. “Those bastards! The producer tells me I’m being given the
interview. So I say great, I have a really trusted source close to
Ariyoshi that’s been telling me the councilwoman has an inside line on
the ALF so I can ask her about that. Well, the producer cuts things
short and ends the meeting. I come in the next day and he tells me I’ve
been dumped, I’m sorry, I mean ‘reassigned’ to a press conference for
the umpteen millionth shuttle launch of yet another satellite, while
that clod, Toji, gets the Juna interview.” She ended things with a
string of colorful epithets learned from her trash mouth aunt that her
parents had never wanted her to hang around.
Abe took a long drag and smiled. “I see you failed to do a proper
investigation on your employers. Otherwise you would have known that our
esteemed owner and president was a major supporter of Councilwoman
Ariyoshi, holding fundraisers and printing glowing editorials on how she
not only walks on water, but purifies it as she does so.”
Akemi bristled. “I know that, but a story’s a story, damnit! One
shouldn’t have anything to do with the other.”
Abe sounded winsome as he waxed nostalgic. “Ah, my dear, but one
reporter’s story is another’s hatchet job. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m
sure our esteemed president went to the country club he and councilwoman
Ariyoshi belong to and over drinks asked, ‘I heard a nasty rumor today
that a source close to you claims you have close connections to the
ALF,’ and the councilwoman replied, ‘That’s absurd. I do not now nor
ever have had any connection to the ALF or any similar organization.’
And then our president thanked her and congratulated himself on
conducting a magnificent investigative report, then had a servant bring
her another round.”
Akemi turned crimson as she swore under her breath.
Abe seemed satisfied by the reaction. “A wise editor, a rarity in our
business, once said ‘I don’t care if my reporters are sleeping with
elephants, as long as they aren’t covering the circus.’ That’s why I’ll
never cover my beloved Yomiuri Giants, may they win the pennant ever
year, or actor Takao Yamaguchi, may he burn in hell for an eternity.” He
pulled his cigarette from his mouth and wagged it at Akemi, spilling
ashes on the floor. “You want to be a real reporter, take no sides in
anything in either private or public life. That’s the sacrifice a
reporter makes. Let me see your wallet.”
“Why?” Akemi asked, bewildered at the request.
Abe just waved his hand toward him, indicating she should hand it over.
Amazingly she found herself digging it out of her purse and handing it
He took a moment to look through it, pulling out a single card. “You
only belong to a gym. How’s your voting record?”
Since they were throwing famous quotes around. “’I never vote for
politicians, it only encourages them’.”
Abe smiled at the foil. “I always liked Twain. Good satirist. If you get
the chance, read him in English rather than Japanese. It loses something
in the translation.” He took one more drag on his cigarette, then went
over to a nearby drinking fountain and ran water over it to extinguish it.
“Now you’re at a crossroads. While it might be your first, it won’t be
your last,” he informed her. “You can go up to our president and
apologize for casting groundless accusations about the councilwoman’s
integrity. You’ll be in the doghouse for a while, but a little brown
nosing and watching what you say will get you back in his good graces.
Or you can dig away at the truth and get consigned to a low level
position for eternity, or fired when you step on the wrong toes. Your call.”
Akemi took a long drag on her cigarette, then mirrored Abe’s putting it
out under the running water. She pulled out a sealable plastic bag from
her purse, put her now extinguished remainder in it, then held it open
“The janitor hates it when people leave cigarettes on the floor in here.”
“Now that’s investigative reporting.” He put his in the bag as well.
Akemi gave a resigned sigh. Then squared her shoulders and said in a
voice filled with conviction, “A reporter attached to a desk is just a
Abe held out his hand, which she shook. “Now, as a form of introduction
into the ranks of true reporting, I shall teach you a valuable lesson.
Real reporters don’t drink in country clubs. We drink in hole in the
wall dives that have atmosphere. I’ll take you to one and the first
round is on me.”
Akemi still remembered the hangover the next day. It might have been a
dive, but the booze (and it was ‘booze’, not ‘drinks’) still hit you
between the eyes. Luckily she hadn’t accidentally slept with anyone,
especially Abe. He might have been as good a mentor as a reporter could
hope for, but to be romantically involved with someone as old as him
made her shudder.
Akemi came back to the present as the spokesperson for Japan’s recently
blossoming space program took the podium. Microphones were moved into
position as everyone prepared for his speech.
The man began, “This is a momentous occasion. As you know, we’ve been
working hard putting a number of satellites into orbit with the
assistance of General Communications Systems. In fact, they’ve been
financing everything, which has helped our space program immensely. I am
proud to announce that the majority of these recent launches have been
part of giant communications network which will not only improve Japan’s
systems, but the world’s. And the final pieces of that system will be
going up in the launch four days from now.”
That caught Akemi, and every other reporter’s, interest. While everyone
knew GCS had been working with the government, no one had any idea that
they had been footing the entire bill. Powerful or not, that had to have
taken nearly all of their resources, and if this didn’t pan out, there
were going to be many irate stockholders. Moreover, the head of GSC was
some man known only as ‘Mr. Gentleman.’ Other than being Russian, no one
knew anything about him.
Everyone loved a mystery.
Akemi broke protocol by interrupting. “If this occasion is so momentous,
why doesn’t Mr. Gentleman let us know himself?”
The spokesman frowned. “Mr. Gentleman does not make public appearances.”
A guttural voice, one that sounded like it wasn’t intended for human
speech, came from off stage. “Perhaps it is time for me to do so.”
The man that walked up to the podium was short, no more than four feet
high, and deformed. While it wasn’t so noticeable in the body, other
than a slight limp from one leg being a bit longer than the other, the
face and cranium bordered on hideous. His skull was oversized, as though
his brain was a balloon that had been over-inflated. One eye was larger
than the other, and he had a horrific overbite.
Most of the reporters gasped, but Akemi didn’t blink. This was nothing
compared to seeing the Hulk up close and personal.
The spokesman removed the microphone so Mr. Gentleman could speak.
“As you may have surmised, I am Mr. Gentleman. My name was formerly Yuri
Topolov, though my Soviet masters referred to me as ‘The Gargoyle’ for
obvious reasons. For all of my deformities, I am something of a genius
in sciences. My former masters saw fit to have me create weapons for
them, and after the fall of the USSR, I began using my genius for
myself, creating a financial empire in communications. However,
recently,” He looked pointedly offstage. “A woman has entered my life
and changed my outlook upon it.
“My anger and hatred at a race that has treated me like a freak has
disappeared. Now I wish to help everyone by using my vast fortune to
create a communications network that will revolutionize the world. To
date, thanks to the assistance of the Japanese government, we have
built, not many communication satellites, but rather one communications
station which will be able to cover the entire world using a unique form
of energy. Any television, radio, computer, even cell phones, will be
able to receive the signal. Moreover, I will be offering this for
nothing to everyone. It is my gift to the world, for only through
communication can peace and love be spread throughout. I will take any
questions you have now.”
The room was a riot of sound and noise as everyone began asking
questions. Akemi smiled to herself. Well, it looked like it wasn’t going
to be a slow day after all.
The Gargoyle left the podium and walked off stage, rejoining the
tawny-haired beauty waiting for him out of sight of the room jammed with
reporters. The light of his life. The apple of his eye. Such sayings
were only cliché to those who did not feel the emotion they were
intended to evoke.
“So how was that, Felicity mrph—“ He found his question cut off as the
girl lifted him up and planted a big kiss on his lips. While he didn’t
weigh much, she was deceptively powerful, and he wouldn’t want her any
“It was magnificent, my Little Gentleman,” she said as she put him down.
He felt himself blush at her accolade. Holding hands, the two departed
for his limousine. Most gave them a wide berth, despite his lover’s
great beauty. He might have cared once in the past, but no longer. One
woman’s love outweighed a race’s disgust. And that would be changing in
short order as well.
The Gargoyle smiled, a bit of a problem given the deformity of his
facial muscles, but he couldn’t help himself. “To think, in less than a
week the final component will be launched, ushering in an era of
intercommunication and understanding. The human race will finally have a
chance at ending war and creating lasting peace.”
Felicity gave a wide toothy, grin. “Oh yes, I’m certain it will mean an
end to all strife among humanity. Yes indeed.”
He missed the momentary changing of her pupils from round circles to
vertical slits, only to change back again.
Captain Japan looked at his cards. Initially, poker night at Avengers
mansion with his teammates sounded good. It gave him something to do
with the money he got from his salary as an Avenger. And he was a great
card player. He couldn’t remember ever losing a game. Not that he played
all that often. Still, he was a nice guy, and swore he’d go easy on
everyone. He wouldn’t take more than half of what they came to the table
with before bowing out. He was an icon of heroic virtue, after all.
However, his plans had been for naught, his luck running bad all night
long, almost as though a super-villain had hit him with some sort of bad
luck mojo. But not this time. Oh no. Five card stud, no wilds, and for
the first time in his life he had drawn a straight flush. On the draw,
no less. If he played it right, he would deal everyone a crushing defeat
Captain Japan style.
“Let’s open up,” Captain Japan said. “I’ll begin the bidding with a
A chorus of “Fold”s, met him from around the table.
Captain Japan turned as red as Daredevil’s uniform. “What the heck?” He
slammed his cards down on the table face up, revealing his hand. “That’s
the third time tonight I had a great hand and everyone folded on me!
What’s going on?”
Tigra spoke first. “Might as well say. Playing cat and mouse no fun when
mouse have four broken legs.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Captain Japan snapped.
“Hunky Cap have too, too obvious ‘tell’.”
“I do not!” he insisted.
Thor shook her head. “In truth, thou doth have a most glaring tell.”
“Well what is it?”
Hawkeye said, “You smile when you have a good hand, and pout when you
“But I’m wearing a mask!”
Giant Man said, “With the mouth cut out, Like mine.” He smiled, then
pouted as an example.
Captain Japan’s fist hit the table hard enough to make it bounce. “Then
how does Daredevil know? He’s blind.”
“I can read your heart rate and tell from that how good your hand is. Oh
“So that’s why you’ve been doing so well,” Wasp said, glaring at the
large pile of chips the blind adventurer had accumulated.
“Let’s call it a night.” While Ryouga was glad he was spending time
around the Avengers non-Hulked out for a change, he felt a bit guilty at
shunning Ukyou, even if she had told him to take the night off since she
was closing the shop.
“Wait, I want a chance to get my money back,” Captain Japan insisted.
Iron Rose stared at him through the slits of her face plate. “You can’t
possibly succeed. Daredevil can tell from your heart rate whether you
have a good hand or not.” But when she put a fake pulse regulator in her
armor, he was the one who would fall to her superior intellect.
“All I got to do it control my heart rate, and I’ll be fine.”
“Let’s try something.” Hawkeye grabbed the deck of cards and took
several seconds to sort through them, eventually coming up with two
hands which she kept face down. She slid them to Captain Japan. “All
right. Check out each of these hands.”
He did so.
Hawkeye looked at the others. “All right, which was the good hand and
which was the bad?”
“First hand good. Second hand real crap.” Everyone nodded at Tigra’s
“If you can’t even control your facial expressions, how do you expect to
control your heart rate?” Ryouga asked. The guy really reminded him of
Ranma. Just a mindless need to win no matter what, or how stupid, the
“Let me try again,” Captain Japan insisted.
Before the others could force the shield-slinger into gamblers
anonymous, their manservant, Sasuke, entered the room, shouting, “Master
Avengers! Master Avengers!”
Iron Rose cleared her throat menacingly.
“Ah yes, and Mistress Avengers, something is happening on television you
must see.” He activated the central media column (which had screens on
all sides) and began hitting buttons, trying to find the proper station.
“Is it a super-villain trying to destroy the city.” Wasp sounded eager.
“Worse.” Sasuke continued flipping through the stations.
“What could be worse than a super-villain?” Hawkeye asked.
The screen finally settled on the proper station.
“Why yes, a politician would be worse,” Iron Rose stated flatly at the
image of Councilwoman Juna Ariyoshi on the screen, sitting in what must
have been her home, being interviewed by Toji Yamamoto.
Thor said, “Asgard has no such creatures as ‘politicians’. Once some
individuals did insist to the All Father that politicians were ‘needed
to make the realm fair and just’, and by some coincidence, they were
ready to fill such ‘necessary’ positions. Odin did resolve the matter be
decreeing that if they could convince Surtur to not ‘cleanse Asgard with
fire’, as he had attempted to do on several occasions, Odin would
consider it. They accepted the challenge.”
“What happened?” Daredevil asked.
“Surtur sent a message thanking mine father for the kindling. Evidently
politicians burn well and long.”
“Listen to what the Councilwoman has to say,” Sasuke pleaded.
The conversation went silent around the table as he raised the volume.
Judging from the tone, Juna was in the middle of a building speech. “You
heard me correctly, Toji. These Avengers are a menace on every level.
Their most recent involvement with the destruction of several oil
storage tanks caused catastrophic ecological harm to a significant area
of one of our most important ports. Have you seen the damage to the
area? It looks as though it was a war zone, though in truth it was just
these self-proclaimed ‘heroes’ engaging in their usual brand of
horseplay, unmindful of the damage and billions of yen it will take to
restore the area, as well as contributing to our rising gas prices.
“And then there’s the tragedy with the ALF. Just as a dialogue was about
to be opened with the group, the Avengers invaded the building like a
bunch of jackbooted storm troopers and caused the deaths of a number of
ALF members under mysterious circumstances.”
In patient yet sympathetic tones, Toji said, “The Avengers claim most of
the dead took their own lives when they threatened to blow up the building.”
“In an explosion which killed only them.” Each word spoke heavily of
disbelief and disgust. “We only have the Avengers word that any such
conversation took place. There was absolutely no evidence anyone in the
ALF was now or ever suicidal. And as to the explosives that were
supposed to destroy the building, they never went off, and the Avengers
conveniently sent the ‘explosives’ to another dimension before they
could be examined. Now does this sound like a bunch of coincidences, or
a carefully contrived plot to destroy an animal rights group to you?”
“I don’t think my boss would buy those sorts of excuses if I was trying
to cover my backside, no.” Toji laughed in good natured fun. “They have
included an animal person in their ranks, though.”
“As a teammate, or a pet?” Footage ran of the Hulk petting Tigra when
she was first voted on the team. The picture cut back to Juna. “Here’s
more evidence of their destructive tendencies. These photos.” The screen
showed photographs of a ravaged section of some unnamed countryside.
“Were released by SHIELD, showing the hideous destruction the Hulk is
capable of. There was once a beautiful hill and forest there. Thanks to
that menace, it’s been blown off the face of the Earth, inflicting
environmental damage on a planet that is already teetering on the brink.”
Ryouga said, “Hey, that hill attacked me first! It was trying to take
over the planet!”
Even his teammates didn’t look like they believed that one.
“That is quite gruesome,” Toji agreed.
“Their actions are gruesome,” Juna insisted. “They’ve inflicted billions
of yen in damages, been suspected of mass murder, caused massive
ecological damage, and even gone so far as to attack a number of
handicapped people. Most would call that a hate crime. They call it
“We ain’t never attacked no handicapped people!” Captain Japan insisted.
“I think she’s referring to Bushmaster and Commander Kraken,” Giant Man
“Kraken was a slaver wanted in over forty countries!”
“He was technically handicapped.”
“His peg leg shot laser beams!”
Juna’s speech reached a crescendo. “This group consists of a religious
fanatic with delusions of godhood.”
“What insolence!” Thor’s hammer cracked the meeting table in half.
“An ultra-nationalist who drapes himself in our country’s flag.”
“I’m just trying to be a heroic icon,” Captain Japan insisted.
Daredevil, who had kept his cool, jerked in his seat. “I’m an atheist!
The costume is intended to strike fear into the hearts of evil doers,
not indicate any religious tendencies!”
“A creature with the power of a nuclear bomb and the intelligence of a
“Tigra’s not that tough and much smarter than that!” Ryouga insisted.
Tigra’s eyebrows twitched fiercely at that one.
“A would-be Robin Hood who gives nothing to the poor.”
“Keeping poor people from having the world blown out from under them
counts!” Hawkeye insisted.
“And a tin-plated mercenary. All in the employ of one of the largest gun
runners in the world.”
“Gun runner? Gun runner?!” Iron Rose raged. “Kunou Industries deals in
more than weapons! We build agricultural equipment, make
pharmaceuticals, give free computers to schools, and other non-weapon
“They completely skipped me,” Wasp said, crestfallen.
“You’d better kill that before the whole mansion gets destroyed,” Giant
Man suggested, relieved he had been skipped over.
Sasuke wisely turned off the screens, already lamenting the cleaning
that would have to be done with the shattered ruin of the heavily
reinforced meeting table.
The raging went on for a good fifteen minutes before it finally petered
out. Once calm began to take place, Iron Rose spoke.
“Take it from someone that’s used to bad press, we’re going to need
damage control before people start spray painting ‘baby killers’ on our
“The defense systems will neutralize them harmlessly,” Hawkeye said.
“And then we’ll be labeled as attacking protesters.”
“Legally they’ll be trespassing,” Daredevil pointed out.
Iron Rose shook her head. “Given the hatchet job we just got, I’m sure
that fact will be determined as ‘irrelevant’ when the story is run.
Which sells more papers, “Avengers stop illegal trespassers’ or
‘Avengers attack protesters’?”
“There was nothing libelous in there,” Daredevil confirmed. “Technically
everything was accurate, just framed in an… unappealing light.”
“It was self-defense against that hill,” Ryouga said firmly.
“Well, Kunou Industries will go on an aggressive advertising campaign to
restore our image, that’s what the PR people are paid for, after all,
but we’ll have to take personal steps to redeem ourselves in the eyes of
“What dids’t thou have in mind?” Thor asked.
“I was thinking autograph session,” Iron Rose said. “It’s benign and
harmless. What could go wrong with that?”
“Damn, we blew the shit out of this place, didn’t we?”
“What do you mean ‘we’. You did it when you tried to feed that nicotine
habit of yours with a defective flame thrower.”
“Oh. Yeah. I guess so. Speaking of which, does anyone got a light?”
“Don’t you ever learn?”
“Anyhow, now that we’ve been let back into our burned out offices, it’s
time to figure out how to stop the Tigra from reuniting with the Phantom
Cats. Although she seems to be doing a good job of it herself since
she’s still with the Avengers instead of the Phantom Cats, getting it on
with the Balkatar, and opening a portal which would allow an entire
dimension of the buggers over to our world.”
“Youse want us to stop her permanent like, though? No sense in takin’
“Exactly. Now, we need a foolproof plan to confront and destroy her. Any
“How about we go to the autograph session the Avengers are holding and
nab her there?”
“Taba, that is the most stupid idea I’ve ever heard.”
“But boss, his idea’s pretty good, actually.”
“Oh, I guess it is. I’m so used to his ideas being dumb, I did it
reflexively. Okay, let’s decide how to ambush her.”
“How’s about we go in guns blazing and take her out dat way?”
“We always do that. Let’s try some strategy instead.”
“How about, each of us take a target our abilities are best suited for
and challenge them one-on-one.”
“Taba, that’s the most stupid—“
“Good idea, boss. Good idea.”
“Shoot. Reflexes again. Ah well, if I didn’t have quick reflexes, I
wouldn’t be able to impale Phantom cats on my bolts before they could
kill me. Okay, as to the one-on-one combat situation, since it was your
idea, Taba, you’ll be taking on the Hulk.”
“… I hate my job.”
Captain Japan sighed, uncertain if this was what it meant to be a heroic
icon. Really, sitting at a table in a sporting goods store signing
autographs seemed so… regular. True, it was an attempt at restoring his
and his comrades’ public image, but the least the others could have done
was all show up. Wasp said Giant Man was busy with office hours for his
job, and Iron Rose had to do the bodyguard thing for Kodachi Kunou at
some important business meeting. Ryouga/Hulk got lost on the way here,
and Thor had to work her job, too, though what job required the use of a
thunder goddess was beyond him? It was hurricane season. Maybe she had
to make storms over the Pacific or something.
That left a delighted Wasp, a sullen Daredevil, and a scowling Hawkeye
--scowling at Tigra, to be specific—and one eager were-woman who was
constantly draping herself all over him. Or worse, trying to do some
things under the table which really would have dragged his name through
the mud if anyone knew of them. And his mother, dear god, he didn’t want
to know how she’d react to Captain Japan getting caught in a situation
“I should have come as Bucky,” he muttered under his breath.
The next person in his line came forward for an autograph. She was a
rather attractive woman, nearly as buxom as the cat girl next to him.
“Can I have an autograph?” she asked.
“Sure. Ah, I’ll need something to write on?” He looked around trying to
find a piece of paper.
Rather than pulling out a piece of paper, she leaned forward and undid
her top enough to show a very scandalous amount of cleavage. “Could you
Before he could make an awkward excuse, Tigra slid in-between him and
the girl. “Tigra can scratch her name there, if want.” She flashed a
The girl gave a screech and ran off.
“Oh yeah, great idea for redeeming our image.” They didn’t need Juna to
make them look bad; they could manage it on their own just fine.
As Captain Japan bemoaned his fate, he heard yet another person try to
get Hawkeye to give them a signed arrow… from the archer’s quiver.
Really, people were so rude. Those things didn’t grow on trees. Well,
actually the wooden ones he had did grown on trees, but a lot of them
were fiberglass or some other substance. So not all of them grew on
trees. Just some.
Suddenly there was a movement from one of the lines and several people
cried out as they were shoved aside. A figure threw aside a trenchcoat,
revealing a man in a skin tight body suit that was jet black, showing
off a slender form. He shouted out, “I am—“
A stun arrow struck him in the head, instantly rendering him unconscious.
“I thought it was my turn,” Daredevil said to Hawkeye, who was putting
the bow back in its spot next to the chair.
“No, you knocked out guy with the bug eyes and creepy voice.”
“The Bug-Eyed Voice,” the Wasp supplied as security dragged the
unconscious form away. “Who was this one, do you suppose?”
“Does it really matter?” Captain Japan asked in a tired voice. Only a
complete moron would try to jump them at a public function. Or morons.
They had stopped not only the two that were mentioned, but El Tigre (who
had no feline powers whatsoever, just a whip and bolo), the Mad Viking
(some eighty year old guy dressed in a Viking uniform) the Feathered
Felon, (who made the Gamecock look tough) and not one, but two separate
Manglers (muscleheads with no superhuman strength whatsoever). The
heroes had been taking turns knocking the imbeciles out to keep from
getting bored. Hawkeye had the fastest knockout now. Captain Japan vowed
to be quicker with the shield, just in case the archer felt like
bragging. No sense in letting him get too egotistical. It could lead to
a mistake in combat.
Captain Japan was just about to lament his fate when the sound of
shattering glass and masonry came from behind them. The people in the
lines screamed and ran away while the heroes spun around. To their
surprise, someone had crashed a giant semi through the wall, the entire
vehicle coming through and remaining impossibly undamaged. Through the
front windshield they could see a mass of figures, including a driver
who wore a green bodysuit with a hideous, hairy pig headpiece on the top
of her skull.
“We’re here,” the driver called out, fishing out a cigarette, lighting
it, and taking a deep drag as she shifted her seat back and propped her
feet on the dashboard.
The opposite door opened and a group of people shouted as they came
spilling out, limbs entangled in a mass of flesh.
More idiots, Hawkeye intended to use the confusion to put them down with
a blast arrow. The archer launched one at them, but it was intercepted
in mid-air by a metal shaft.
Hawkeye turned to see that someone other than the driver had remained
behind in the vehicle, popping up through a hatch in the top of the
driver’s cab. She was dressed in a forest green outfit that did resemble
one of Robin Hood’s merry men, purple domino mask over her face. She
held a crossbow with what looked like a drum magazine on the bottom.
Cocking back on the weapon like a shotgun, the string was pulled back
and locked as another bolt loaded into place.
“Nobody move!” she announced.
“What about us?” a voice moaned from the pile.
“Of course you guys can move.”
The mass of limbs sorted itself into a quartet of individuals wearing a
variety of outfits. One was a well built woman in a leotard and with
pounders --metal bands worn on her hands like a pair of brass knuckles--
at the ready. A second figure was dressed in a small, frilly, blue
dress, making her look more like a teenager than super powered being.
She wore a set of skates on her feet and two odd devices attached to
wristbands looped around her wrists. A third was a rather androgynous
girl wearing a white suit reminiscent of an American gangster from the
1920’s, complete with Tommy gun. The last was a man wearing a regular
business suit, also armed with a crossbow. All of them wore masks
identical to the girl who had launched the first bolt.
“Let me guess, you’re called Crossbow,” Captain Japan said.
“You got it, and my companions are Razorback, Knockout, Blue Streak,
Torpedo, and Taba. Collective we are known as the Geobreeders.”
The man said, “I can’t believe you just used my real name.”
“There’s no way I’m calling you Salaryman: that’s just dumb. Besides,
there’s millions of Tabas in Japan. They have no way of knowing which
one you are, or if it’s your real name, if you hadn’t told them just now.”
“Of course they would have known it’s my real name. What sort of masked
person goes around using a first name?”
The girl in the gangster outfit said, “Why can’t I just stick wit
‘Crimson Shooting Star’?”
“Because it’s too long. Torpedo is a term used to apply to hitmen from
back in the era you regard so highly, so it suits you!”
“Okay.” Torpedo leveled her Tommy gun at the group. “Now are youse guys
gonna hand over the Tigra, or are we gonna have to get rough wit youse?”
The Avengers looked at one another. Tigra said, “Gangster girl mistaken.
Tigra name, not noun.”
Crossbow said, “I don’t care if you call yourself Chesty McTits, I know—“
Tigra gave a delighted cheer and began rubbing herself suggestively
against Captain Japan. “Hunky Captain see? Even super-villains can tell
Tigra hot. We should go out on date.”
Hawkeye snapped, “You’re not hot, fur butt! You just dress like a slut
in a bikini that you’re nearly falling out of!”
“And Bucky already does that a lot of the time,” Daredevil added.
“It ain’t her fault. She’s a victim of circumstance!” Captain Japan snapped.
Crossbow cleared her throat. “I don’t know why you Avengers have thrown
in with the Phantom Cats—“
Tigra interrupted again. “Is some confusion. Tigra not Phantom Cat.
“I don’t care!” Crossbow snapped. “You either let us use our tag system
to cage the Tigra, or things will get violent.”
“I vote for ‘violent’,” a tiny voice said as the Wasp, who, at the start
of things had moved out of sight behind an overturned table and shrunk,
had flown up next to Torpedo and blasted her in the face, knocking her
unconscious before she could pull the trigger.
Wasp aimed at her next target, the ‘Knockout’ woman, and fired. However
the woman parried the shot with one of the metal pounders on her hands,
deflecting it away. With a backhand she swatted Wasp out of mid-air and
to the ground. The diminutive Avenger bounced once before lying still.
That broke open the floodgates as a melee ensued.
Crossbow shouted out commands. “Since Thor’s not around, Knockout takes
the Captain. Taba since there’s no Hulk or Iron Rose, you help Blue
Streak immobilize the Tigra so we can tag her. Hawkeye’s mine.”
“You mean you’re mine!” Hawkeye began firing arrows at Crossbow, each
shaft met with a bolt in mid-air, though the hero did the same to the
bolts aimed at her.
“I’m a much better archer than you!” Crossbow taunted.
“You use a repeating crossbow. That barely qualifies as archery.”
Tigra decided to take out her opponents before they got to her, though
she was suffering from ‘Daredevil Syndrome’ when it came to villains.
Some whiney guy and a person on roller skates? How lame could you get?
She barely dodged a pair of laser beams, aimed at her legs, from the
mechanical devices at Blue Streak’s wrists. Testament to the beams power
was that they cut through everything they touched, neatly slicing the
objects as though they were butter.
“Stupid arrow girl say immobilize, not kill!” Tigra shouted, now a lot
more worried than before.
“As though cutting off your limbs will do more than slow you down, you
Phantom Cat.” Blue Streak skated around for a better shot, trying to
position herself so she that wouldn’t slice any of her friends in half
along with her foes.
“It do more than slow down!” Tigra assured her, trying to avoid her
surprisingly swift opponent. Apparently roller skates had a practical
application after all.
Captain Japan went charging toward what was clearly the only
hand-to-hand expert they had, the chick in the leotard. Judging from the
way she moved, she knew what she was doing, and it took damn good
reflexes to parry Wasp’s shot and then bat her out of the air in two
fluid motions. He could do it if he had to, of course. But she wasn’t
Knockout seemed to focus on him as well, and charged him. Metal pounder
met shield, nearly knocking it out of Captain Japan’s hands.
“Hey!” Captain Japan threw a fist that Knockout parried. “You have super
“So?” Knockout released a kick, but Captain Japan ducked under it and
came up with a backfist which connected with her the head.
“But you’re using weapons. That’s like cheating when you have super
strength.” She blocked his next attack.
“Thor uses a hammer.” She brought her pounder down on the ground, nearly
hitting him in the foot and successfully cracking the floor tile.
“But she needs it because she’s the Goddess of Thunder.” He leapt over
her head in a somersault, landing behind her, then unleashed a kick that
struck her in the back. “Her heroing without a hammer would be like me
calling myself Captain Japan, Master of Fire, and not even being able to
use a lighter.”
Knockout landed a glancing blow into the Captain’s gut, driving him
back. “Fist pounders are directly related to strength. Since they
augment my power, I don’t think it should count against me.” She
unleashed a volley of fast punches at her foe, which he blocked with his
shield, though he found himself being driven backward.
“Good point.” He continued talking as he planned a counter offensive.
As the fight progressed, Razorback continued sitting in the cab of the
semi, watching idly. “Looks like we have a slight advantage,” she
muttered to herself while noting her cigarette was getting a bit low.
There was the sound of something landing on the roof, and then Daredevil
poked his head from the top of the open window on the driver’s side.
Sensing impending violence, Razorback shouted, “Wait, I’m just a driver.
All I do is drive.”
Daredevil said, “Then you’re like ‘the Transporter,’, only with a stupid
pig skull sitting on your head.” He reached in to grab her.
“You don’t want to do that,” Razorback warned.
Daredevil ignored the warning and grabbed her by the front of her
outfit. Suddenly electricity shot out of the costume, knocking him
“Told you so.” Phantom Cats listened to her about as well as
super-heroes, which was why she needed a little something to keep them
from getting frisky with her. Razorback left Daredevil’s motionless form
on top of her vehicle while going back to the fight.
Hawkeye was shouting out as many epithets as Crossbow. So far the pair
had either shot each others projectiles out of mid-air or evaded the
ones fired at them. But sooner or later the girl would flinch, and then
Hawkeye would get one past her and victory would be hers. She’d prove
who the best archer was.
Hawkeye reached back into her quiver for another arrow, then, to her
horror, discovered there were no feathered shafts left.
“Ha!” Crossbow shouted, cocking back on her weapon, only to have it
remain empty. “Crap! I knew I should have loaded the first one manually
after loading the ammo drum.” She pouted, looking pissed, then raised
her weapon high above her head and shouted as she charged.
Hawkeye could barely believe it, but then answered in kind, bringing her
weapon back and charging forward as well.
The two swung at the same time, crossbow and bow meeting skull, knocking
each other senseless to the ground.
Tigra was getting very annoyed, and concerned, as the lasers came close
enough to singe her fur. Blue Streak’s skates kept the were-woman from
closing the distance to her foe, and those lasers seemed inexhaustible.
The same could not be said for the Avenger. Sooner or later she might
get hit and end up a lot more than immobilized. Regenerating from a
bullet wound was one thing, but she didn’t want to try for a whole limb.
Or even four of them.
Tigra was barely avoiding another pair of criss-crossing beams when a
bolt with a tag dangling from it went past her face, nearly hitting her.
It impaled itself in golfing display several feet away. There was a
burst of light from the tag, forming a sphere about ten feet in
diameter. When the light disappeared, so had everything in the sphere,
including some of the flooring. It was like it had ceased to exist.
Taba tried smiling in a disarming manner.
Tigra smiled a bit more viciously.
The Avenger leapt between two more laser beams and landed next to the
man, who was trying to reload his crossbow in a more traditional manner
then his compatriot, but fumbling the bolt. Seeing the looming woman
before him, he sighed. Sadly, he had been in the position of Phantom
Cats standing over his helpless form so often, it no longer scared him.
He tried running away, but Tigra snared him be the back of the neck,
almost like a mother cat would a kitten. One very angry with her kitten.
“Y… you put him down,” Blue Streak shouted. “If you hurt one hair on
Taba’s head, I’ll cut you into so many pieces, you’ll never pull
“Okay. Tigra give boy back.” And she threw him at the skater.
Blue Streak’s first instinct was to dodge, she had enough time, but then
she realized that at the velocity Taba had been thrown, he might get
hurt by an impact against something hard.
“I have you!” Blue Streak shouted, trying to catch him. For all her
hopes, she was so slight all she did was slightly cushion his fall as
the two slammed into each other, getting knocked into unconsciousness.
The fight between Captain Japan and Knockout wore on both foes, and each
was gasping for air, though neither had landed a telling blow. Despite
the intensity of the duel, the two carried on a conversation the entire
Captain Japan said, “You know, you almost sound like one of the good guys.”
“I am.” Knockout almost landed a punch on his face, her pounder
caressing his nose with just the barest of misses. “You don’t seem too
bad either, just misguided. Do you know your teammate’s a Phantom Cat?”
“You got it wrong.” He noted she had trouble parrying his latest kick,
but managed to do so. She was definitely wearing down, but so was he,
super soldier serum or no. “She’s no ghost.”
“You don’t have to be a ghost to be a Phantom Cat. Has she ever walked
through solid objects or controlled electronics?” Another blow was
absorbed by the shield.
“Nope. Just strong, fast, and very touchie-feelie,” he bemoaned
slightly. “She’s no phantom cat thing.”
“But we are!” a voice shouted as twin beams of energy slammed into both
opponents, knocking them out.
Tigra, the only member conscious and not cowering behind a dashboard,
looked around to find herself surrounded by about thirty cat people. The
speaker of the group was a tan colored male that was a good bit larger
and more muscular than his comrades. Around his forearms and wrists were
metal gauntlets composed of circuitry. Yellow smoke rose from them.
Cougar smiled at her. “Welcome, oh great Tigra. We have reunited at
last. And just as the prophecies have preordained, by day’s end we will
exterminate humanity and perform the ritual for the crossing.”
Tigra laughed nervously. This did not sound… good.
[Writer’s notes: Only one more chapter to go and Act 3 will be over.
Then we really get things rolling in Act 4 with the Hate Monger and the
Peacemaker. BTW, the unnamed guy in the black suit was the Japanese
equivalent of ‘Snake’ Marston, a guy who had the ability of
contortionism. Which wasn’t a super power at all. Or even much of an
ability. Even hanging out with the Enforcers couldn’t make him into a
winner, and don’t get started on his role in the Satan Squad.]
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