[AC] Bush43 #14: "This City Ain't Big Enough..." (PG-13: adult language)

Artifice Comics artificecomics at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Jan 1 20:08:21 PST 2004

>>From Artifice Comics:


What a glorious sight. Or lack of a sight. 

No stupid fucking Bush Signal blazing the night sky. 

Ah. Back to anonymity. Which was good I guess. I mean, okay, getting
some attention is nice and all but I don't want too much. At I
especially don't want so much that someone can track my ass down,
like, say, by following a Bush Signal.


Okay, maybe I was a little harsh on the guy, but I was not in a good
mood. Yep, my mood was bad so he must suffer my wrath. Grrrr...

Maybe I should drop on by and apologize, maybe buy the guy a drink.
Yeah. Wait, that would probably mean going out to a bar. In my mask.
It's not like I'm going to take it off! Last thing I need is some
freaky fanboy knowing what I look like.

Though, I really should make amends. Otherwise who knows what might
happen. Maybe he'll become a villain.

Spurned by his hero, heart crushed, one would be sidekick curses the
name of whom he once followed and swears revenge!

Eh, if he tried it I'd just kick his ass anyway. 

A female voice started screaming, an alarm for attention in the middle
of the night. It worked as I tried to stop my forward momentum and
turn and ended up stumbling over my own legs and over the edge of the
building and into the alley below.

I have got to work on that landing. 

I picked myself up and went back to the roofs and towards the area of
the shout, hoping she might scream again so I could find her.

No such luck. 

But there was some noise as now a man called out, a muffled cry for
help that ended as quick as it began.


I stopped at the edge of a building and glanced over to see a very
different sight.

A woman cowered against the dead end wall of the alley as a group of
six or so folks in gray pummeled some guy. It was pretty funny except
that these... kids?... were kicking the shit out of the man. And,
assuming he was the bad guy, that's fine and all but up to a point.
The guy was obviously down for the count.

I leapt down and landed with a thud next to the group. 

"Alright, kids, break it up," I said. 

Most of them jumped off of the guy and back, ready to pounce on me.
One kid didn't move from his position straddling the guy as he fiddled
with the man's coat. I grabbed him by the back of his hooded
sweatshirt and picked him up.

"I think you've gotten your point across, guy," I said. The kid looked
at me, a scowl on his gray painted face, his forehead wrinkled so the
black and white yin-yang symbol got all mushed.

Silver Shadow has a fan club? 

"Shadow Boy Scouts?" I asked. Then I looked to his hands and saw a
piece of paper. I snatched it out of his hands and unfolded it as the
boy started trying to hit me. I held him out a bit farther and all he
could do was beat at my arm.

"'Simply because the Shadow does not strike does not mean he has
departed,'" I read out loud. "'Those who have forgotten they need to
fear the shadows shall learn to do so again...'" I tried to skim the
rest of the overdramatic ominous letter. "Uh huh... many fall, some
watch, ghosts, a 'legion' huh?" I looked up to the group, five gray
faces with yin-yang symbols, all looking at me, all holding assorted
melee weapons.

"Hey, wasn't there another one of you guys?" 

Then something hit me in the back of the head and I let the letter and
kid go, he scrambling off to join the others, the letter falling to
the ground, me watching part of a splintered bat fly in front of me. I
turned to see one of the gray kids holding the other end of it.

"Did you just hit me?" 

I flinched as something struck my side and I turned to see another one
of the gray guys skipping away from me, his club or whatever held in
front of him, ready.

"Christ, kid, what am I? A piñata?" 

They all swarmed at me at once. Bats and sticks and clubs of sorts all
wailing on me, none doing a damn thing as I stood there all super
strong and invulnerable.

One stick broke on my shoulder, another cracked off my hip, my head
breaking a couple more. As their weapons broke the kids took to coming
at me all fists and elbows and having even less of an effect. One by
one they tired of trying to beat me up and fell back.

Then the few left stopped at once, all falling back but one who stood
back just a couple steps and brought his bat back.

"Are you finished?" I asked. 

Then the little SOB Babe Ruthed my nuts. 


Issue #14 
"This City Ain't Big Enough..." 
by Jason S. Kenney 


Pacific City lurked like... uh... like some sort of lurking
creature... A puma? Yeah, like a puma waiting to strike.

No, wait. 


Pacific City lay there like a two bit whore offering a discount rate
that the evil John's of the world eagerly took great advantage of.


And I was the pimp that ensured they paid the price. 


Fuck it. 

I looked over Pacific City to see if there was any bad stuff going on.
There was. Yea, I had something to do.

Such is life in the big city. 

You'd think that having a superhero mayor who was willing to kick ass
without taking names would do something to decrease the crime rate.
Then again, I guess you could say the same thing about the previous

And while major crime had decreased, you know, big guys tearing down
buildings, threatening the city, mass slaughters and the like, it
seemed like little crime kept on happening. And more of it. Maybe it
was the lack of Alhazred that did it. Maybe it was because of the
mayor and rogue nature of his/her/its leadership leading to plenty of
heated discussions with the Australian government. Maybe it was that
the Mayor didn't care about robberies and muggings.

Or maybe folks are right when they say that heroes attract villains. 

Pfft, nah. 

With the more bad guys came more good guys. Hell, even if there
weren't more bad guys, more good guys kept coming. Perhaps they wanted
a piece of the action. Maybe they were wronged folks coming of age and
discovering their powers and ability to avenge stuff. Maybe they were
crying for attention. Or, as I've said before, maybe it's for the

I tend to lean towards the thought that they want attention, and to
get it they'll ride the coattails of the already known heroes.

For instance, those little Silver Shadow punk ass bitches who are
definately up WAY past their bedtime and are looking to get killed at
a very young age. Stupid kids. I mean, what else are those notes for
but attention and publicity?

Or, more particularly, take this Jet Bastard guy. The name alone is
like screaming "LOOK AT ME!!!" while dancing like a monkey on a stage
in the middle of Bristol Street during rush hour. But then he starts
using my name, folks trying to compare him to me. "This year's
Bush43," or "Bush43 without the stupid mask," or "Bush43 with a bad
ass jetpack," or some crap along those lines. Really pisses me off.

So why is nobody looking into this guy? I mean, how the hell does a
kid come by a jetpack anyways? You can't order it from Highlights or a
comic book. And it's not like those things are readily available, let
alone cheap to get or make. And if he did make it there would have
been failed test runs or something like that, folks would have noticed
him before.

Questionable? Hell yeah. But the public doesn't care, they just look
up and point and go "ooooo..." Never mind that this kid might be a
menace, a wolf in sheep's clothing. Or get himself killed.

So I took it upon myself to play savior here and help the city while
also helping the kid out in the process.

Just had to run into him. 

Or, even better, follow him home. 

First a person has to trail the guy, which isn't hard when you're
trying to follow a guy who's blowing fire out of his back in the
middle of the night. So, once you trail him all night, he eventually
will decide that he's done enough of this patrol thing and want to go
home. But he can't exactly fly home, that's too obvious, and, besides,
his parents might catch him.

He then makes the freshman mistake of not being really really really
sure no one's looking and changes and starts walking home, with
perhaps a particular super sexy hero watching. He finds himself
walking down a few blocks, never once looking back over his shoulder
to see if he's being followed, so he never sees this hypothetical hero
possibly picking himself up after maybe stumbling, purposefully of
course, off the edge of a building and perhaps falling ass first to
the street below. He'll hop the bus which might make the job harder
for a particular chick magnet of a superheroic guy that may be
following him, and then get off a couple blocks from his house,
walking the rest of the way and giving ample time for any sort of
beefy hero that might be trying to catch up.

Theoretically speaking of course. 

So the guy with the jetpack walks into his home and may never see the
smart, detective of a damn fine looking super sexy superhero writing
down the address and nodding to himself in satisfaction. That is, if
said superhero is there. Which he may not be.


"Alfonse, did Mister Burke have any sort of high-tech computer with
connections to super computers around the world that could look up

Alfonse looked at me as I studied and admired my drying job on the
plate and set it on the stack, reaching for another one to rinse and
dry as Alfonse cleaned.

"No, Jeffery, he did not. Why do you ask?" 

"Just needed to look something up," I said, continuing with the

"Why don't you just use the Internet?" he asked as he set another
plate in my side of the sink. "Or the mayor?"

"Internet," I repeated, looking up and out the window to the yard
around Burke Manor. "Yeah, that's it, thanks! Gee, Alf, you're awfully
useful for an old guy."

His hand moved quick but I was quicker, blocking the wouldbe blow to
the throat. I dropped the plate as I brought my other arm around to
stop his second blow.

"Eh?" I said with a grin as Alfonse pulled his arms back. "I'm a
pretty good learner, huh?"

And then Alfonse, the stoic, stuffy, prissy butler, kneed me in my

"As am I," he said as I crumpled to the ground. "Never call me Alf." 


Burke Manor did not have internet access. Or so Alfonse told me.
Though I was pretty sure Victoria probably had an office there
somewhere that did, he seemed pretty sure about the lack of modern
technology, so I found myself sitting at a branch of the Pacific City
library and looking up some important stuff.

Or trying to. 

I hit one of the many search engines and plugged in Jet Bastard's

Antonio Chrysostom. 


The name didn't ring a bell but I searched it anyway, finding lots of
information about the Chrysostom family and the various community
events they partook of and was reported or posted on the web. Too much
shit. These guys were the freakin' Cleavers with their son Alex the

I decided to put jet in with the name. 

That got me nothing. 

I leaned back and tapped my chin in thought. 

This Jet Bastard guy seemed young enough. Perhaps Alex was playing the
part. But where did he get the jet pack?

A quick search on heroes with jet packs brought up too many results
for me to have bothered with. Even trying to narrow it down to Pacific
City wasn't going to help.

So all I had was a hunch that the kid was Jet Bastard. A damn good
hunch, mind you, but nothing that gave any origin or reasons.

Here we had a kid who had lived a boringly normal life with a
stereotypical family. Where would he get a jet pack and why would he
bother to strap it on and try to be a hero? Was he that bored?

There was no sign of any great loss, no obvious sign of any great
powers or some sort of supreme being guiding him. He was a kid that
had a cool pack and wanted to use it for good.

In a town that had next to no crime due to there being more heroes
than criminals.


I guess I'll have to ask him myself. 


"And why exactly are you bothering this boy?" asked Alfonse after I
had gotten back from the library and told him my intentions during a
little sparring in the Millennium Cave. Maybe I should call it the
Bush Cave...

"I figure I could be the voice of reason." Alfonse failed to hold in
his laugh. I flipped him the bird and continued. "The kid has no idea
what he's getting himself into, how he's going to be in a world of
hurt. And how if he keeps this up someone else will track him down,
someone other than me, someone who might want to hurt him or his

Alfonse came at me with a lunging jab that was easy enough to deflect.

"If the city's crime rate remains as low as it has been I am sure
young Chrysostom will quit his enterprise soon enough."

"The sooner the better." 

I took a swing at Alfonse which he not only blocked but followed up
with a strike to the back of my elbow. I yelped and jumped back,
moving my arm a bit to get feeling in it again but also standing

"Jeffery, I believe you feel threatened by this Jet Bastard." 

"How's that?" I asked as I ducked and then pulled back as Alfonse
swung and then kicked at me. I pushed my leg out and he leapt over my
kick, coming down with another jab that I had to roll out of the way
of to dodge.

"You are going awfully far out of your way to talk him out of his
heroics," said Alfonse, "meanwhile you are on a team with quite a few
young heroes that you have not even mentioned talking out of their

"That's different," I said, coming at Alfonse with a barrage of
punches that he deflected for the most part, but I got a quick one in
low and caught his gut. He pulled back and I slackened but that was a
mistake. As soon as he was back he sprang forward with a jab into my
face followed by a low kick that sent me on my ass.

"How's that?" he asked as I lay there. 

"They're New Mages," I said, staring at the ceiling of the cave.
"Romanov's passed some sort of judgment on them and if I tried to talk
them out of it I'd be contradicting him. Her."

"It," said Alfonse, reaching out a hand to help me up. 

"Or it," I said as it stood with his help. "Still, I don't want to
step on any toes. Jet Bastard, meanwhile, has not been sanctioned by
anyone other than Virgil Rock who's opinion is about as valuable as my

"How do you really feel about Mister Rock?" 

"Ha ha," I said as I bent to touch my toes and stretch my back and
legs. "Still, this kid's flying around with probably little to no
training of any sorts and is really putting his ass on the line and
for what?"

"Jeffery," said Alfonse as he walked towards the towels, "if someone
had come to you during your first month and tried to talk you out of
being a hero, would you have quit?"

I didn't answer that. 

"Or," he continued as he came back and handed me a towel, "if you knew
then what you know now, if you knew what you were going to go through
and the effects, would you have quit?"

My silence was my answer. 

Alfonse smiled. "But that is a different situation, isn't it?" 

"I'm invulnerable, Alfonse," I said, looking him dead in the eyes,
"and strong. And able to stand up to a hell of a lot more than just
some kid with a jetpack."

I paused and Alfonse just looked right back at me, waiting for me to

"Besides, I've done some good things as a hero, saved lives, made a

"How can you be certain?" asked Alfonse. 

And I have no idea what effect he wanted that question to have, but it
pissed me off.

"I think we are done for today," Alfonse said, turning and walking

"Yeah," I said, but I just stood there. 


I sat and watched, waited, eagerly anticipated the boy's movements. 

Alexander Chrysostom, Jet Bastard had gotten the bug. The hero thing I
had caught last year. He was going to go out tonight, every night, at
least until the novelty wore off. Or he got himself killed.

God, I hope he didn't get himself killed. 

I had trouble going out that night myself, thanks to Alfonse. His
questioning me made me question me and that's not good for me. I made
a difference in this town. Pacific City was safer thanks to me. Lives
had been saved. People were safe.

Except those two people in the car. But that was the Siege Engine's
fault, not mine. How can I be blamed for that?

Christ, why did I blame myself for that? 

I decided to think about something else as the door to the house
opened and out walked Alex Chrysostom with a leather bomber jacket on
his back and a black sports bag on his shoulder.

One guess on what's in the bag. 

Okay, two guesses. 

I followed him and discovered freshman mistake number two: he got
ready in the exact same alley where he finished the night before.

I decided to surprise him while he was making sure he was all set. 

Man, did he jump when I landed behind him. The thud was a satisfying
one that made my teeth clench. He spun and held out his balled up
hands like he was going to do something with them but he wasn't sure
just what.

"Heya," I said, slipping my hands in my pockets and playin' it cool.
"What'cha doin'?"

"Who..." he started, scared witless at my sudden appearance. I love it
when that happens. "You... you're... you're Bush43!"

"Am I?" I looked down and around like I was checking myself out.
"Well, hell, so I am. In the flesh! And rubber. And suit. But enough
about me, Mister Bastard, you and I have to have some words."

"Did Mayor Romanov send you?" he asked, lowering his hands, a certain
glint in his eyes.


"You're with his team, right, those New Mages? He sent you, right?" 


"You're here to recruit me, right?" 

Oh, brother. 

I laughed and started walking towards him. 

"Ah, no, not exactly," I said. He stepped back a bit, starting to get
concerned again. "I'm here on my own volition to do the opposite,

Now it was his turn to be confused. 


I looked over my shoulder to the end of the alley to see a couple
folks looking down, a small audience forming to see two of Pacific
City's 'heroes' chit chatting. I wanted a bit more privacy.

"Tell you what," I said, turning and walking to a fire escape,
jumping, grabbing the ladder and pulling it down. "How about we go
talk about this somewhere a bit more private."

"The roof?" he asked. I nodded. He started reaching for what I assumed
would activate his pack.

"Ah," I said, holding up a hand to stop him. "Please, use the stairs."
I pointed to the fire escape. He looked to it and then to me.

"But it'd be much easier if I just..." 

"Humor me, kid," I said, still pointing at the fire escape. He looked
at the fire escape, to me, and then back to whatever was in his hand,
probably some sort of triggering mechanism.

With a visible sigh he went for the fire escape. I watched as he
started to climb, turned to face the few folks still looking and

"Show's over folks," I said, and I jumped and climbed onto the fire
escape at the same level Jet Bastard had reached.

"Hey," he said as I pulled myself over the railing. "Why do you get

"Keep going," I said, giving him a nudge and he continued up the


"You know, we could have just saved time if I used my pack and you
just jumped."

"Ah, but that would be counter productive," I said as I walked towards
the center of the roof. "Do me a favor." I turned to Jet Bastard as he
stood near the edge of the roof where he had climbed up from the fire
escape. "Take off the jetpack for a couple minutes."

"What? Why?" 

"Cause we need to talk," I said, stepping towards him. He tensed up,
probably expecting me to tear the pack off of him. "And I don't want
you bailing on me before we're through."

"Why should I trust you?" 

"Dude, I'm one of the good guys!" 

He glared at me, my answer obviously not enough. I sighed. 

I knew this kid's real name, I knew where he lived, I knew his age,
what high school he went to. I knew a hell of a lot more about this
kid than he would probably ever know about me. I had to be straight
with him.

"Listen," I said. "I'm about to say something and I don't want you to
freak out on me, okay? I want you to just bear with me and maybe
you'll trust me, okay?"

He stood for a moment and then nodded. 

Deep breath. 

"I know who you are, Alex." 

His face dropped, his mouth gaping for words and finding none. 

"And since I know that," I said, reaching for and pulling off my mask.
"My name's Jeffery Carter."

His eyes went from my face to my mask that I held out just to
emphasize that it was off.

"Alex, I'm trusting you to not tell anyone this, just like you have to
trust me not to tell anyone about you."

He looked from the mask to me, his face frozen in shock and panic, his
mouth trying to find anything to say. He closed his mouth, swallowed
hard and nodded.

"Okay," he said, and he took off the jetpack. 

He set it against the ledge and looked at me, dead in the eyes. 

"How did you know my name?" he asked. 

"You made a freshman mistake," I said with a shrug. "You didn't make
sure no one saw where you went. I followed you home last night, Alex.
Can I call you Alex?"

He nodded. "Do I call you Jeffery or Jeff?" 

"Whichever you want. Anyways, how I know who you are is besides the
point except that you better hope no one else has bothered to follow
you around."

"Why did you follow me?" 

"So we could talk." 

"What about?" 

"Your early retirement." 

"My what?" 

"I'm gonna give you some free advice, kid, something I've found out
the hard way and would really like to not see anyone else go through.
Quit now while you're ahead. Put the pack away, focus on school, go to
college, get a real job and a girlfriend and just keep your feet on
the ground."

"What's to say I can't do that now?" 

I hung and shook my head. 

"Look," I said, looking back up, "I've met the other heroes in this
town. They're miserable. All of them. Sure they've been doing this
stuff longer than I have, but I can see how they got that way and I
can see myself heading down it."

"Then I'll learn from your mistakes." 

"My biggest mistakes weren't made by me. Alex, did you pay any
attention to the news last year? The mayor and the Siege Engine?"

He nodded but didn't seem to get what I was saying, not yet. 

"Alex, the mayor commissioned that thing to take down the heroes of
this city, namely me and Millennium Man. Heroes. Both tossed into
Alhazred. THAT'S the reward for doing this shit."

"Why are you telling me all of this?" 

"Because I'd hate to see someone else go down this road. I don't want
someone else to suffer through the bullshit that comes with trying to
do good on this level. You want to be a hero? Spend your time at a
soup kitchen or teaching folks to read. So real stuff that actually
helps people. Leave this crap to the guys who are already suffering
through it."

"And when you're gone?" 


"What happens when you all are gone? As far as I know, none of you all
are immortal. If no one else starts heroing because you don't want
them to deal with this shit then who's going to do the saving when you
all are gone?"

"The police," I said. 

"Then why don't you quit now and let the police do their jobs?" 

"Because the police aren't equipped to handle it right now." 

"Because when they get the equipment they beat you up with it and you
don't like that."

"Christ, kid!" I said, trying to figure out how the hell he came to
that conclusion.

"You're jealous," he said, jabbing a finger at my face. "The new kid
on the block is stealing your thunder so you're going to try and scare
him off, is that it?"

I pushed his hand out of my face. 

"No," I said, "that's not it. If I wanted to scare you off I'd kick
the shit out of you, but I'm not doing that. I'm trying to talk to you
like we're both adults, I'm trying to help you see what you're getting
yourself into. I'm trying to give you all the facts so you can make a
proper, ADULT decision."

"You're trying to beat out the competition," he said, turning and
bending to grab his jetpack.

"And what about your parents, Alex?" I asked. He stopped halfway
upright, jetpack in his hands, his head quickly turning towards me.

"What about them?" he said, his eyes narrowing. 

"Your family is at risk as long as you do this. All of your friends.
Anyone you care about, you're putting them at risk."

"Are you threatening me?" he said, straightening up and quickly
strapping the pack onto his back.

"I'm trying to talk some sense into you." 

"Jeffery, go to hell." 

He pressed something and the pack roared to life. Right as he got off
the ground I grabbed his leg and pulled him down, my free hand
grabbing at the straps that held the pack to him.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!" he shouted over the roar of the pack. 

I tore the straps and he fell to the ground as the jetpack shot into
the air and then stopped as he lost grip on the trigger, the pack
hovering for a moment and then falling, right past the edge of the
roof and clattering into the alley below.

"YOU SON OF A BITCH!" Alex shouted, jumping at me. He got a couple of
good hits in and they would have been pretty damn effective were I not
strong as hell. One punch came at me and I grabbed his arm and
twisted. He turned in an effort to free himself and I planted a foot
in his back and pushed, letting go of his arm and watching him stumble
and fall face first onto the roof.

"You want to go this route, Alex, fine," I said as I just stood there
and watched him scramble to his feet. He brought the back of his hand
across his mouth and looked down to see the blood on it from his
bleeding nose and scraped chin. "You think this sucks, just imagine if
I was trying to kill you. Think about what I could have done by now,
not just to you, but to your parents, your friends, everyone. Don't
think about your daydreams of flying through crystal clear blue skies
and swooping down to save the damsel in distress. Think of having to
explain that," I said, pointing to the blood on his hand, "or worse to
your family every night. Think about the guy with the gun who fires
one shot into the back of that pack of yours and blows you to hell.
Think about the sadistic fuck that's going to destroy your life before
finally killing you off."

"Fuck you, Carter," he spat, spittle mixed with blood flying from his

I shrugged, shook my head and turned away. 

I leapt off the roof and left Alex Chrysostom alone up there with his
bleeding face and hopefully something to think about it.

But I don't think he listened to a word I said.

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