[AC] Silver Shadow #14
artificecomics at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Feb 16 11:02:42 PST 2004
>>From Artifice Comics:
"We have to keep going."
Murmurs of assent drifted towards him. The crowd here
was all of one mind. Well, perhaps crowd was a strong
term. The seventeen young people did make the small
basement crowded, though, technically making them a
crowd. All of them had at least one thing in common
besides their ages. Each of them had a personal
encounter with Jian Li Fong, the Silver Shadow.
Of course, they didn't know him by his birth name, but
he'd touched each of them all the same. Two young
women saved from rape. A young boy of twelve who'd
been kidnapped in hopes of ransom from his wealthy
parents. One saved from terrorists inside the Museum
of Antiquities, another saved from a beating and a
more terrible fate at the hands of muggers with more
than money on their mind.
It was the last of those that stood before them all,
the one who'd had the original idea and found a
kindred spirit in Wayne Greene. Wayne and Scott
hadn't known each other, though they were only a year
apart in school. They ran in different circles, but
late at night they orchestrated a domestic response to
the petty terror that gripped Pacific City.
While the professionals jaunted after the big fish and
ran at the new mayor's beck and call, the Ghostface
Legion took care of the streets, just as the Silver
Shadow had done.
Bradshure continued. "Even though sightings are up
again, we can't stop. The scum are still there, they
still need to be shown the error of their ways." He
looked at the faces before him, some painted, like his
own, in anticipation of the night's events. Others
were new as they recruited from those saved and aided
in their endeavors. "We won't stop until we
absolutely have to."
Everyone in the room knew when that was. . . after the
first arrest of one of their number, or when the
Silver Shadow himself or another hero confronted them
about what they were doing.
Rather, any hero except Bush43 or his idiotic
Artifice Comics presents Silver Shadow #14: Gathering
Their system was relatively simple, actually. Through
their parents and their own hard work and contact
system, the seventeen young people had threaded
themselves deeply into the weave of downtown Pacific
City. Their control center was run by Wayne Greene,
assisted by two computers and a host of decoders and
signal monitors, courtesy of his father.
By monitoring the emergency bands, they could get a
small jump on such calls, sometimes doing things other
than simply pummeling the no-goodniks of the city. At
least a few times, they'd helped save people from a
fire and Scott had used CPR to keep an older man alive
until the ambulance could arrive.
The less technological edge was a system of informants
and lookouts through the city. It's amazing what
children overhear and see, though the adults may try
to keep them from doing so. After that, it was a
simple matter of a few cellular phone calls, and the
Legionnaires on the street were on their way.
Scott, with his martial training, was the natural
leader for the 'field expedition' half of their
operation. There were four others who routinely
accompanied him, one a boxer in his freshman year of
university, the others students of one form of marital
arts or another. One trained under Charles Ling, like
Scott, while the others trained under Zhao, the
interim master at Lee Studios while the owner was away
In the hallway that led to the door, Scott checked his
gloves and used the small mirror they'd put on the
wall to check his face paint. He looked at his crew,
watched them go through their little rituals. Sara,
the only female amongst them, looked at her face in a
compact mirror, dabbed a few more places gray. Greg,
the boxer, was letting Benjamin put the finishing
touches on the yin-yang in the center of his forehead,
and Ray crouched by the door, fiddling with a loose
bit of tape wrapped around the handle of his shortened
Scott let his hand brush against the pair of nunchaku
tucked in the back of his pants, saw the snap batons
in their small pouches at Sara and Benjamin's belts.
He knew that the kangaroo pocket on Greg's sweatshirt
held a pair of brass knuckles that he'd slip on over
his gloved fingers. The first time they'd gone out,
he'd been apprehensive, but once he'd seen Greg work
over a street pusher, it was all the convincing he
"Ready?" he asked the group, and got silent nods in
response. "Right. Wayne, give us the clear."
"Working on it," said Wayne as he tapped a function
key and was greeted with the view from outside his
father's small electronics shop courtesy of the
exterior cameras. There was a new one in the circuit,
covering the exit from the basement stairwell below
street level. It was that exit that needed to be
clear. He panned his mouse pointer to a small control
panel on the screen and clicked the box labeled
The door at Scott's elbow buzzed and clanged as the
large electrically driven deadbolt slammed back into
its recess. Ray hauled on the handles and the advance
party of the Ghostface Legion moved out onto the
Charles crossed to the wall mounted phone and cradled
the receiver between his shoulder and ear while he
stirred noodles into a spicy peanut sauce for his
dinner. "H'lo?" he said brusquely.
"Charlie. I hope I didn't interrupt anything."
Charles briefly forgot about dinner and sat the pan
down, knocking the stove temperature down to barely
warm. "Jian." He breathed the name and leaned
against the wall, hand holding the phone in place.
"How've you been?" Jian began conversationally.
"Good. Busy. How is Hong Kong?"
"Fine when I left it."
"Ah. So business is taken care of?"
"Pei Wang is dead, Charlie. So is Takeda and the rest
of the Grand Masters."
Ling was silent a moment. "I see."
Jian laughed. "I should be thanking you, though you
may not realize it."
"You've saved my life again, Charlie. Calling Fei Tzu
turned out to be a great decision."
"So he found you, then?"
"Not a moment too soon. Wang had just put a bullet
"A bullet! I warned you. Since you're talking to me
through a means other than ESP or a seance, I take it
that all is well?"
"Yes. Fei Tzu has good doctor friends, and I'm
stronger than ever, thanks to Master Ra Ming."
"So you've been training? Improving yourself for a
triumphant return to duty on the city's rooftops?"
"Eventually." Jian was silent a moment, and Charlie
could hear him shifting on the other side of the
connection, maybe switching the receiver from one side
of his face to the other. "Tell me about this girl,
Ling closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. "It had to
be done. She's...amazing."
"Better than me?"
Charlie could hear the other man's smile in his voice.
"No, not yet. She doesn't like the costume, though."
"Not surprising. Now that I've thought on it, too
much fabric, though it is quite comfortable."
"Regardless, Jian, she still needs direction. She's
my pupil, but there's only so much that *I* can teach
her. She needs assistance from the Silver Shadow
"Why, Charlie? Did you feel that you couldn't control
me well enough? Tired of putting on the yin-yang and
the hood and leaping around like a man ten years
younger than you?" Jian's words weren't heated,
weren't mean, they were simple and straightforward, no
seething undercurrent of repressed action. It was
something Charlie was a tad unaccustomed to.
"It's been too long, Jian. Far too long. Rooftop
appearances weren't enough, and once Alhazred went up,
well, I couldn't sit idly by and watch this Romanov
character simply take over and have no way in."
"So the tripe I've read about the New Mages returning
and making exorbitant demands of the Australian
government isn't garbage?"
"Far from it, I'm afraid. Romanov's managed to bring
in Mysteria, Millennium Man, our new Silver Shadow,
and that Bush kid, plus someone claiming the old
"Exactly. A walking skeleton calling himself Dr.
Creep is in the city, too. Needless to say, Jian,
things are hitting the fan in Pacific City. We won't
even talk about your little fan club."
"Fan club?" A brief discussion with Roger Greene many
weeks prior came to Jian's memory. Things about
selling gray shirts with yin-yangs on the front, how
that emblem engraved on martial arts knick-knacks
would ensure sales.
"Not so much of a fan club as an underground
Charlie chuckled mirthlessly. "They call themselves
the Ghostface Legion. Kids who idolize you or your
deeds, going about and taking care of the lower scum
that you no longer prey upon. They're doing it
"Good for them." That sounded a little bit more like
the colder Jian Li Fong who'd come to Ling all those
years ago, asking for instruction that he couldn't
find elsewhere. Ling had complied, a decision that he
often considered with some regret. But the past was
the past, couldn't be changed.
"That's rather cold."
"I know, but it's the truth. There's no reason why I
shouldn't want this, Charlie. Hell, what's the
difference between me and a bunch of people getting
together to do the same basic thing? What's the
fundamental difference between one man waging a
vigilante crusade on the evil people in a city and a
small group of inspired individuals doing the same
"They're kids, for crying out loud. Kids, Jian.
You've had enough life experiences and brushes with
dangerous people to realize that your fate was in your
own hands. You're an adult, making those choices.
These kids are doing it because you're their idol,
their hero...hell, their inspiration. They aren't
prepared like you are, they might catch a bullet while
they're trying to make the city safer."
"So ultimately it's my fault? Is that what you're
Charlie opened his mouth to respond, but no sound came
out. He paused, gathering himself. "I'm not sure
what I'm saying."
Jian let out a deep breath on the other end. "Take
care of her, Charlie," he said after a pause. "Don't
let her get in over her head...or yours. If you feel
funny about the city, about anything with this New
Mages group, get the hell out of there. There's no
reason for any of it to be the end of you or of her."
Charlie nodded. "Yeah. Alright." The discussion had
not gone exactly as planned. He hadn't wanted to
lecture, but it had happened anyway.
"Look, Charlie, I'll come and see you when I get the
chance. We'll hash this out, and I'll see what I can
do for the girl."
"WAYNE!" screamed Scott Bradshure, pounding on the
alley door to their lair. Behind him, Greg and Ray
supported Benjamin while Sara held two wads of
blood-soaked gauze to his thigh and side.
The bolt slammed open, and Scott led the group into
the relative safety of the basement. Wayne was
already heading towards them, first aid kit in hand.
"Jesus, oh Jesus," muttered Ray as Scott swept a table
clean and they all lowered Ben onto it.
"What the fuck happened?" snapped Wayne as he flipped
the small white suitcase open and began tearing open
large sterile gauze packages.
Scott grabbed another and they put them on top of the
ones already there, Sara maintaining pressure while
Wayne began cutting at the clothing surrounding Ben's
wounds. "We thought they were alone," Scott said
softly. "We thought it was just a pair of them."
Wayne pulled the soiled material away from the wound
on Benjamin's thigh and felt around behind his leg.
No exit wound. To his side, then. Nothing. Both
bullets were still inside.
"He has to go to the hospital," Wayne said.
Benjamin's eyes fluttered open. "No..." he said
weakly, "no...we'd have to...I can't stop now." His
voice was weak in volume, but still sounded like it
had some iron to it.
"I can't help him here," said Wayne, eyes on Scott.
"We can't take him to a hospital, it'll ruin
everything, everything we've worked for all this
"So you'd rather him bleed to death? Or do you want
me to try and dig those damn things out right here?!"
"I don't know!" Scott shouted, responding to Wayne's
"One of you decide something, dammit!" shouted Sara,
suddenly joining in. "He's lost a lot of blood, he's
trying not to fall asleep." Her eyes were
"This is fucking crazy," muttered Wayne, as Scott's
expression clearly told him that he was about to try
and perform an operation on top of a table in the
basement of his father's shop. Still, he pulled the
scalpel from the kit and pulled off his sweater to
work in shirtsleeves. Benjamin's eyes fluttered, then
closed as he passed out.
"Ray," Scott said, "if he wakes up, you tap him back
out with that damn bat of yours."
"What? Give him a concussion that could kill him
while you dig around inside him? Fuck that."
Scott let the matter drop as Wayne poured rubbing
alcohol into a shallow tray and dropped the scalpel
inside, followed by a handful of cotton balls. "Keep
it clean," he said to Greg as he moved aside the
blood-soaked gauze on the leg wound. Gritting his
teeth together as if he were the one being cut, he
widened the entry wound with the scalpel and pushed
two fingers inside. Blood, deep red and warm, welled
around his hands and Sara mopped it the best she could
with new gauze. Greg swabbed the area, and Wayne's
eyes focused on nothing as he worked by feel.
"Shit, I can't...wait. I feel it!" He dropped the
scalpel and picked up the forceps, then moved them
along his fingers and squeezed. Out they came with a
distorted lump of metal pinched between the tips. He
dropped it into the pan with a dull clank, then
pressed the gauze back over the wound after Greg
swabbed it again.
"We need needle and thread," Greg said, looking
expectantly at Wayne.
"Don't look at me!" he protested. "I still can't
believe this thing has a scalpel."
"Here," Scott said, directing Sara to hold both of the
large bundles of bloody gauze. His fingers moved to
Benjamin's neck, feeling for pulse.
Jian hung up the airport phone, then turned and picked
up his one carry-on. What had become of the few
articles he'd brought with him to China was a mystery,
and all he had were the simple things the monks and
Kwai Shen, the recluse doctor from Hong Kong, had
bought him. It was enough.
A short walk later, and he emerged into the harsh
sunlight of southern California, Los Angeles, to be
exact. After a deep breath, Jian fished out the
address he'd scrawled on a napkin, as he couldn't
bring himself to tear a page from the telephone book
like others had done before him.
An empty shot glass joined its brother on the desk,
and Wayne lifted the whiskey bottle somewhat shakily
towards their open mouths. "Nnnnn. No. No more,"
slurred Scott Bradshure. His head slipped off his
hand and the muscles of his neck only barely reacted
in time to keep his skull from rebounding.
Wayne smiled, a drunken, lopsided affair. "Mister big
shot Ghostface all under the table. Shite."
Scott smiled, levered his head up so his eyes could
meet Wayne's. "S'fine, you're the surgeon."
Wayne smiled and poured them a pair anyway.
"To Wayne," said Scott, holding his glass aloft. "The
guy voted least likely to remove two bullets from my
"Hear hear. And to Benjamin, who let me start my
doctor skills way too damn fucking early," said Wayne.
Scott smiled and lifted the shot glass to his lips
while Wayne pounded the whiskey back. The first drops
hit Scott's lips, and his eyes went wide as he turned
to his right and vomited noisily on the floor. Wayne
nearly fell out of his chair laughing.
"Anything else, then?" asked the man at the head of
the table. His one good eye scanned those assembled,
each looking at him, at the others, wondering if any
had questions or the temerity to disagree with the
laid out plans. Each of the twenty-three people,
dressed well enough to be in any business capital on
the planet, remained silent.
One of the double doors opened enough to allow his
best assistant into the room, a thin binder and manila
envelope conspicuous under his arm. He smiled under
his gray-going-on-snow-white beard and stood. "Then
we stand adjourned until the next meeting. Good day,
ladies and gentlemen."
Chairs rolled back, silent on the thick carpet, and
the people left, a few murmurs of minor conversation
beginning here and there. Once the room was empty,
save for the two, the assistant came forward.
"Caesar. I haven't seen you look this excited in
The assistant smiled. "Well, sir, your policies of
keeping your fingers in a lot of pies has proven most
"Get to the point, Caesar. You were never good at
using big words. They don't fit you." He lifted a
tumbler of whiskey to his lips, ice rattling against
Caesar frowned, however briefly, and placed the
contents of the envelope before his boss.
"Interesting," said the older man. He looked at the
picture, the fingerprint, the dossier. "God love the
President. His new system for all international
visitors is certainly making our jobs easier."
"My thoughts exactly," agreed Caesar.
"And you think he is the best possible candidate?"
"I do. We were unable to contact him before due to
that awful Romanov creature. If he hadn't left before
it took control of the city and gave the Australian
government the big middle finger, we may never have
gotten to him."
"And you're sure he's this vigilante? The 'Silver
"Sixty percent positive. We traced him to Hong Kong
from Pacific City, but lost him there. He obviously
knows it better than we, because he disappeared from
our radar after single-handedly destroying the Triad
infrastructure and killing over half of its senior
leadership. The other half either fled or went so
underground as to be impotent."
Another sip of whiskey. "And this Wang character?"
"Dead as well. He moved in quite well, but
underestimated our Mister Li Fong."
The man known only as The General smiled and pulled
the picture of Jian Li Fong closer. "This
son-of-a-bitch in Australia has some serious balls,
Caesar. I thought that the Four were bad enough, but
it trumps them all. What I'd give to see Charlie
Winters right now. Earth in the balance, Pacific City
at the heart of it . . ." he trailed off, then
brought his other hand down on the picture. "I WON'T
be left out of it. Period. I've lived too long, done
too many things to have the whole pot upset on me now.
Get this Li Fong, bring him to me. Unharmed. If he
won't go back to Pacific City and kill this thing,
I'll have to move up on the secondary plan."
"Yes sir." Caesar turned on a heel and strode towards
the exit to the conference room, leaving The General
to pick up the picture and study it once more. "You
just may be the answer, my boy. You just may be."
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