[AC] Shadestalker #5 - by James Queally

Artifice Comics artificecomics at yahoo.co.uk
Sun May 30 11:46:19 PDT 2004

Artifice Comics - http://www.artificecomics.com


Nicole Lanza clasped her fingers around her mother's cold hands,
hoping that through some miracle she would squeeze back. The only
person left in this world that meant anything to Nicole now lay dead
against the far wall of the hospital room that had imprisoned her for
the past year. Nicole slid back, hugging her arms around her knees,
letting the tears fall where they chose too. She kept her head
straight up, staring into the lifeless shell that lay only five feet
away from her. She glared at the metal pole that had formerly held her
intravenous fluids in place. The inanimate object that had become a
very animate murder weapon.


As the word ran through her mind along with thousands of others she
could feel bile fighting its way up from the pit of her stomach,
clawing through her esophagus with a purpose, with designs on bursting
through her throat. Nicole swallowed hard and forced the wave of
nausea to retreat. She let her moist pupils drift back to the
grotesque sight of her mother's body. The woman did not look at all
like she died in peace. Her arms and legs lay limp, sprawled out in
different directions by the force of the blow and then frozen in place
by the cessation of bodily functions. Her midsection was a scarred
battlefield. Bones and flesh lay juxtaposed between bloodstains and
ripped cloth. Two of her ribs poked through her abdomen, their rough
calcified edges surveying the surrounding carnage. The wound itself
resembled a crater. Her clavicle had shattered, caved in and dug a
trench down into her flesh, bringing her entire breastplate down with
it. The bones there varied on location. The closest to the center had
broken down into inconsequential pieces the size of molars, some
already burying themselves into the surrounding red pulp. The most
exterior bones had remained in tact, except for their repositioning
they stood in pristine form, escaping unscathed. The pole itself
formed an acute angle with the woman's head, piercing its way through
the corpse and damaging the plaster and sheetrock behind where her
spinal cord used to be. The nerves, tissues, and discs of her lower
back had been destroyed to make room for an unholy exit wound.

Nicole completed her inventory of the injuries that took her mothers
life, and then stared into her eyelids. The beige flaps of skin that
had been permanently shut.

That I permanently shut. 

Nicole felt more tears trickle down her cheeks; she heard them sizzle
and felt them vanish against the white-hot light radiating from her.
The strange aura had not faded since it had caused the disaster before
her. Nicole had no idea what it was, what it was capable of or why she
even had it. At the moment, she didn't care either. She just wanted to
get away from her mother's limp body before anyone else came in the
room, before she again lost control of whatever she had been given and
killed another innocent person. She looked to the window and nodded,
finding her escape in the stormy night sky. She rose to her feet and
gave her mother one last glance, biting her lip and then charging
forwards, diving at the window. Shattering glass and the crash of
lightning were the only things Nicole heard as she plummeted towards
the concrete. She knew this was the right course of action now. There
was nothing and no one left for her, and she knew that she could only
bring pain and suffering to anyone else she crossed. She streamlined
her body against the rain, seemingly trying to race each drop of water
to the ground.

It will all be over in a few seconds, I'll see you then Momma. 

The cement approached rapidly, the sharp rock welcoming her. She came
to within three feet, close enough to smell the sweat from the
miniature crowd that had seen her freefall begin. They watched
nervously, cringing as she approached but refusing to miss it
nonetheless. Nicole smiled as her nose came millimeters from the
ground, and then screamed as her freefall came to an abrupt end. The
white light pulsated around her, forcing her body to an upright
position, leaving her gently hovering above the sidewalk. The crowd
breathed a collective sigh of relief in unison with Nicole's agonized
screams. As she shrieked she saw the aura beginning to glow brighter
again. Instinctively the gawkers backed away, slowly at first, and
then breaking into a sprint in various directions to escape the
potential danger that stood amongst them.

Nicole looked up into the driving rain and watched it fall with more
fury then ever before. She watched lightning cross paths with the
moon's light, distorting its pristine radiance for seconds at a time.
The white aura began to pulsate again, creating a barely audible hum,
as it seemed to be preparing for its next task. The hum grew to a roar
and Nicole Lanza found her body propelled skyward. She flew high and
fast, the velocity forcing her arms to bend back as she took flight.
She drove higher and higher, cutting a swath through the falling rain.
Her ascent halted when something caught her eye, a silhouette of a
man, moving about on a rooftop twenty feet below her. She watched him
carelessly stalk the rain gutter of the apartment building, walking
with an uncommon grace, as if daring the winds to throw him to the
earth. Another flash of lightning and Nicole saw that the man was
facing her, although his own visage was hidden by the thick brown top
hat he wore, and the heavy brown trench coat whose collars he wore
upturned. Nicole gravitated ever closer to the man, feeling drawn to
him somehow. She couldn't explain it, but the man held an almost
ominous familiarity. As she stood about five feet away another
lightning flash made his lethal physical frame noticeable, as well as
his haunting smile.

"Murderer!" she screamed and dove forwards, allowing her thoughts and
emotions to take control. Her arms lurched forward as if to tackle
him, but the self-proclaimed angel merely hopped to the right, ending
his tightrope act. She flew by him, close enough to smell the damp
leather of his coat, but still too far away to cause any damage.

"I believe that would be you," he replied smugly, grabbing a mass of
her hair and pulling her body down onto the slick rooftop. She rolled
over immediately and leapt to strike out at him again, but he was
already gone by the time she had landed face first in a puddle.

"Nicole, would you please stop?" he called out. She spun around as she
stood up to see him floating in the air above her, a truly terrifying
sight. The rain itself seemed to form a cone around him as if it was
afraid to land on his body.

"We have a great deal of things to discuss and I have other matters to
attend to this evening so if you would be so kind as to..." His
sentence was cut short as Nicole flew up and punched him as hard as
she could in the stomach. She watched the wind leave his body as he
curled into a ball. She charged again, believing she had taken the
upper hand until she saw his body spring back to a fighting stance
with an unfathomable quickness. She punched anyway, leading with her
right, but he caught it with ease, doing the same to her left.

"I almost felt that Nicole. Maybe you aren't such a waste of my time
after all."

He pulled her in and kissed her on the lips playfully, then threw her
back. The feeling of his lips burned her. She screamed and tried to
charge forwards a third time but her dash was intercepted by a bolt of
lightning. She crashed to the ground, feeling her clothes burn away
leaving her a naked soaked mess on the rooftop. She looked up into the
sky listening for a thunderclap but she heard none. As the man floated
down from above like the angel he claimed to be she saw his right hand
still crackling with electricity.

"Why?" she muttered, grimacing in pain. "I don't even know your name
and you're destroying my life! Why?"

The man smiled as he landed, standing over her with his legs spread
out to prevent her escape.

"My name is Coda," he said offering his neutrally charged hand and
pulling her up so the pair made eye contact. "And if by giving you the
ability to fly and manipulate gravity you mean destroying your life
then I'd hate to see what you would say about my previous clients."

She seethed, tears of rage falling in harmony with the rain. His smile
only grew wider.

"My mother is dead because of," he placed a soft finger to her lips,
cutting the sentence short.

"Your mother is dead because you're alive. Your mother is dead because
as you said," and with that his voice changed to an exact replica of
her own, producing wholly unknown sensations of terror in her mind, "I
made her a promise as a little girl that I'd be there to hold her hand
when she was passing away. I need you to help me keep that promise."

Nicole screamed, her words choked back by mucus and tears. 

Coda put both his hands on her shoulders, gently massaging them and
bringing his eyes inches from her own.

"Now Nicole, did you or did you not say that?" 

She nodded, knowing she had no recourse against this man but

"And did it happen just like that?" 

She nodded again, trembling violently as she began to weep

"Then whose fault is this?" 

She searched for any way out but she knew there was none, there was no
argument. She had brought this on herself. She nodded again falling to
the ground at his feet a complete emotional wreck.

Coda crouched down besides her stroking her hair. 

"C'mon Nicole, let it all out. Because when you're done crying I have
some good news."

Her head sprang up, her face swelling with a look of urgency and
desperation. Coda chuckled.

"What?" She clutched at his jacket furiously as if it was hope itself.

"Well, honey," he whispered gently stroking her hair, "if you do me a
favor or two... I can make this all go away."

Shadestalker #5 
"Little Revolutions" 
White Lies Part II 
By James Queally 

The black mist curled curiously upwards, completing the spiral. The
darkness solidified on command and stood erect, taking its place
amongst the montage of figurines that sat dangerously close to wooden
door of the bedroom. Reggie slowly lowered his fingertips to his
palms, forming a half closed fist and breaking the telekinetic link
with the shadows. He sat still for a second, smiling down upon the
city of darkness that he had created.

With some direction from Father McKinley he had taken up residence in
the spare bedroom of the rectory's east wing at Nine P.M. the previous
night. Left alone with nothing to entertain him but an uncomfortable
bed and an empty bureau, Reggie had simply stared off into the walls,
as if waiting for them to find a way to interest him. After the first
hour or so Reggie had attempted to retire to bed, but that proved
futile. Ten pm was hardly his normal bedtime. The rambunctious
teenager usually caught his rest at the earliest around two o'clock in
the morning. After ten minutes of fruitless cover tossing Reggie
returned to his upright position, glaring at the darkness once more.
His eyes drifted over to the solid finished oak door and he considered
going out for a walk on the town.

Nah. He quickly shrugged off the idea. The old man gave me room and
board, I can't skip out on him on the first night, just chill, Reg. He
frowned as he threw his head back on the pillow, resigning to stare at
the ceiling until his eyelids fell from exhaustion

Gonna be a long night, just you and the shadows. His eyes returned to
the deep pocket of black hiding from the scattered moonlight that hung
over the dusty tile floor. Just you... an idea was born in his head,
and he almost kicked himself for not considering it before.

He got up and concentrated hard, thinking about nothing else but the
triangular black shape enshrouding the silver doorstop. Closing his
eyes he swung his arm to the left, feeling his wrist make a small
popping noise in response to the quick motion. He opened his eyes
again to see the shadow had shifted with his hand and it now sat
beside the dresser drawer. Time was suddenly no longer a factor.
Reggie began to play with eagerness, sliding the darkness around as if
it were a toy. He began to perform crude tricks like making faces and
writing his name. Sometime around midnight Reggie began to stack some
of the black shapes he created on top of each other, forming an
unbalanced pyramid.

The sight of interlocking pieces brought with it a childhood memory. A
Christmas present from his uncle when he was only nine or ten years
old. He still remembered the ugly plastic orange case that held the
most wonderful toy he had ever seen. Reggie had nagged mommy and daddy
about it daily for almost two months, but they had decided not to buy
it. The endless supply of pieces would be hell to pick up and make
vacuuming a catastrophe. But good old Uncle Chris didn't have to worry
about that; he only had to worry about making Reggie smile. So in
direct opposition to Eugene and Ariana's advice, Uncle Chris had
brought Reggie a K'nex starters set.

The box was his own private wonderland. He still laughed at how many
times he had lied to his friends who wanted him to come out, saying he
was sick when in truth he just wanted to be left alone to master the
tiny plastic shapes. Within three weeks he had already conquered the
guidebook, constructing every device and animal that it offered. He
began to manifest structures from his own imagination. Warplanes,
monster trucks, swords and fantastic buildings soon lined the shelves
of his room, intertwining themselves between baseball trophies and
bats. Sadly, the box of his creations had been lost in a move at the
age of twelve. Crushed, Reggie never found the energy to pick up the
remaining pieces again.

The morning sun interrupted Reggie's extended flashback, and he
finally looked over at his right wrist, taking note of the time.

"6:30? In the morning?" he glanced at his shadow metropolis, the
product of six hours of handiwork, and he smiled wider then he had all
week. He felt redemption for the lost creations of K'nex, but at the
same time nostalgic for multi-colored plastic. The realization of the
time quickly dragged exhaustion back to the forefront of Reggie's
being, and he pressed his shoulders back yawning loudly. He dropped
back to the soft white pillow and pulled the blankets tight around
him, feeling a sense of accomplishment lull him to sleep.

His dreamless slumber lasted a brief twenty minutes before the
rattling of door hinges and wood scraping against tile woke him again.
His eyes narrowed and he scowled at the sight of Fr. McKinley's dark
dress shoe flattening the last remains of a replica of the Pacific
City Tower, which had taken him a good 45 minutes to construct. Irony
had its way of stalking Reggie everywhere. McKinley tried to sweep the
shards of darkness away unnoticed as he casually stepped around the
remaining obstacles.

"I see you've been practicing." he forced an uneasy smile and pressed
against the wooden slats of the wall.

"Heh. Did you happen too see I was sleeping?" Reggie retorted, more
aggravated at the destruction of his creation that the interruption of
his sleep.

Father McKinley frowned at Reggie's reply "I'm sorry to disturb you
but it's time for you to get up, you're going to be late if you don't
start moving."

"Late?" Reggie asked still rubbing his cheeks and trying to fight off
the yellow crusts forming beneath his eyes. "Late for what?"

"School, just because it's Friday doesn't mean you get off you know."
The old man replied flipping on the light switch.

Reggie hid beneath the covers trying to grasp the situation and hide
from the fluorescent light cascading down on his half opened eyes.

"School? Are you freaking serious?" Reggie screamed ducking deeper
into the comforters' velvet safety.

"Of course I am." Seriousness over took his complexion. 

"What about all this stuff about me being God's champion and whatnot?
Since when do soldiers of the Lord need to know Earth Science?" Reggie
pleaded, trying to ignore the ridiculous ways he was referring to

"You might be slightly," he paused searching for a word "...special,
Reggie, but your still human. Your gifts don't exempt you from the
rigors of normal teenage life."

Reggie moved his mouth to argue but gave up, a half smile creeping
onto his face.

Who am I kidding? I've been in this situation hundreds of times
before. I'll just cut. Not like old man river over here is gonna be
wise to it.

Reggie got up and reached for the white sweatshirt that he had draped
over the bedpost. He pushed past Father McKinley with an attitude and
marched down the hall.

"Oh" the old man called out, freezing Reggie in his tracks. "I will
find out if you were in attendance or not. And if you don't go I have
no qualms about calling the police and reporting a truant. And I'm
sure they will want to know why the leading candidate for District
Attorney's son is playing hooky. And we both know that will land you
right back on your father's doorstep. We wouldn't want that now would

Reggie watched his plan sink deeper and deeper with every word. He
walked along the hallway suddenly feeling a new sense of dread for the
return to Nathan Myers High.

"Breakfast is down the hall and to your right," McKinley called after
him in a pleasant tone.

"Oh, thank you," Reggie replied in the most forcibly gracious pitch he
could find. As he sat down to his applejacks and orange juice, he
silently hoped he choked on it.


Despite the misting rain, Fusamasa Yukonawa could see promise and
opportunity smiling down upon him as he approached the gray marble
edifice of ATLAS Labs. Today he had been given the perfect chance to
prove his worth to the Yakuza, and he was determined not to waste it.
As he and his two armed associates pushed through the heavy revolving
doors that marked the entrance to the lobby, his mind drifted back to
the night before. He had been wasting away at the Green Dragon,
overseeing the rundown bar's daily activities and admiring his star
waitress Ariana Evans. The woman had been kind enough to engage in
another "personal conference", seeming almost happy this time to do
so. The reason why was unimportant to Fusamasa. There was nothing like
a mid-day servicing to break up the monotony of work. But Ariana had
come and gone for the day, leaving Fusamasa to his boredom. After
hours of thumb-twiddling the ringing of his office phone was a welcome
distraction, even if it was from Kozu.

Kozu's voice was calm but he had skipped his usual greeting, simply
insisting that Fusamasa listen closely. Whatever he wanted done he
wanted done quickly, he seemed to have no intention of this phone call
lasting more than five minutes. So Fusamasa shut up and listened to
how the assassination of Eugene Evans had been botched, how some
gutter punk had run away with the only remaining samples of Fuel, and
how Dr. Weiss was mysteriously blocking all calls from Kozu. Kozu went
on for forty-five seconds about the dire importance of Fuel, about how
it was key in the Yakuza's plans for Lorrington. Kozu then paused for
a moment, catching his breath from the longwinded explanation that he
had just stripped down to its bare essence. He then spoke slowly and
clearly, explaining that he needed Fusamasa to go down to ATLAS Labs
and "persuade" Ms. Weiss to return to the Yakuza's employ. As Fusamasa
tried to exit from the conversation Kozu stopped him and made it
evident that a successful mission would cause Kozu to set the wheels
in motion to make Fusamasa a Shaitei, or senior boss. Yasutomo-sama
had been running the Dragon's Tail into the ground as of late, and if
Fusamasa could prove himself as a more capable associate then the
position would be his.

As Fusamasa stepped into the crowded elevator carriage he smiled at
the diabolical politics at work within the Yakuza. Kozu had no
objections to Yasumoto-sama's skills nor did he have any particular
desire to see Fusamasa climb through the ranks. This was all one
sweeping gesture in saving face. Kozu didn't want any of the senior
bosses to become aware of his error in allowing a pledge to embark on
such an important hit. He could correct his mistake and keep his dirty
secret buried if say a young, ambitious man like Fusamasa went out and
retrieved the Fuel formula for him. The promise of a promotion would
be more than enough to keep Fusamasa quiet about the whole ordeal, and
the delay in Fuel's production could be waved off as an error in the
doctor's calculations.

As Fusamasa exited the elevator onto the fifth floor he exchanged
confident glances with his two partners. They each patted their sides
as if to make sure their glocks were still in place. The trio marched
forwards, rapidly approaching Lab Station G as they were directed too.
Fusamasa paused at the sight of the humble green door and rapped
lightly. Seconds passed and no reply came. He knocked again, harder
this time and with a hint of urgency in his voice he called out

"Ms. Weiss?" 

Still no answer. He shook the silver knob and was surprised to see it
swing open, inviting him into the maze of microscopes and Petri
dishes. He and his men shared shrugs and sighs and advanced onwards.
Fusamasa ran his hand against the wall and found a light switch. He
trapped the plastic switch between his index and middle fingers and
raised it, causing the overhead shafts of fluorescent light to hum to
life. A petite woman in a white lab coat spun around at the far edge
of the room, turning her back to a caged chimpanzee. She seemed
immediately displeased to see the three men in business suits and open
overcoats standing in her doorway.

"You startled me," she said placing down a tray of food inside the
cage. She scanned her eyes over each man with scrutiny, pressing the
knuckle of her right index finger to her chin.

"I'm afraid I don't know any of you," She spoke again, this time with
a twang of nervousness in her voice.

"Why should you?" Fusamasa forced a half smile, "We've never met. My
name is Fusamasa Yukonawa, you can call me Fusamasa-sama."

While she approached, Fusamasa felt the womanizer in him roaring to
life. She stood at only 5'3 but her long wavy brunette hair and pink
lipstick had enticed him in about three seconds. She wore tiny glasses
that only added to her brainy bombshell look. Her lab coat hung past
the black skirt she wore, which floated well too high over her knees.

She stopped her advance at the sound of his name, a look of dread
overtaking her.

"My name is C-Catherine Weiss," she stammered "and I'm sorry but I am
simply too busy right now to converse with uninvited guests. You'll
have to make an appointment and come back some other time."

She turned back to the animal cages but Fusamasa quickly chased after
her and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder that she quickly
brushed away.

"Please Miss, this will only take a minute. I believe we both know
what I'm here for."

She backed away, casting a quick look over Fusamasa's shoulders and at
the two shady looking men who were patrolling the entranceway.

"Then I believe you know that my answer is still no. I'm done working
for you underworld pigs. I understand that science sometimes requires
its casualties, but your masters are going to raise the body count
into the hundreds. I won't have that on my conscience."

As she walked away her heels made a delightful clicking noise against
the black tiled floor. Fusamasa waved for the guards to advance slowly
behind him as he continued to corner his prey.

"Miss Weiss" he spoke softly as she tried to immerse herself back into
her work. "It's very difficult to have this conversation if you're
going to keep running away."

"This isn't a conversation Fusamasa-sama. This is my resignation" She
replied coldly, not even sparing a look in his direction.

"There are many things we need to discuss Miss Weiss, you are only
seeing one side of the story. I truly believe a nice conversation
would help straighten this matter out for you." He tried to see what
she was working on, but her vivacious body blocked his view.

"Well I'm sorry but I simply don't have time now. I'm terribly busy
and your stone-faced goons over there aren't exactly loosening my
jaw." Her answer was colder still

"Well maybe dinner might help loosen you up a little then?"
Catherine's turned around with a shocked look on her face, the same
look of surprise that was now worn by the cronies who guarded the

Catherine had to contain a smile "Wait. Wait. Wait. You came in here
with the intent to muscle information out of me, and now your asking
me out? I must say this is the strangest way that I have ever been hit

He tried to put on his most seductive glance as he grasped her hand.
"Ms. Weiss, you'll find there are many strange things about me."

"Are you bi? Because that would be strange." she shot back out of
nowhere. Fusamasa's playboy façade collapsed leaving a look of horror
on his face.

"No! Not that strange I meant," she raised a finger to his lips.
Fusamasa was thankful as she prevented him from burying his foot any
deeper into his mouth.

"I'm a picky eater, so I'd have to say dinner is out of the question."

Fusamasa frowned but her next sentence plastered the smile back onto
his face. "Perhaps you'd simply like to come by my place?"

Fusamasa nodded eagerly, nearly drooling at the prospect of being
alone in this woman's bedroom. She wrote down an address and a
telephone number on a piece of paper, handing it to him.

"Eight o'clock," she whispered. 

"I'll be there," he called out as he walked back to his flabbergasted

"You'd better," she replied. 

As the lab door shut behind him Fusamasa wondered what other pleasant
surprises fate had waiting for him today.


Nathan Myers High School was an alcove cut out of a teeming housing
district somewhere near midtown Lorrington. The school was pretty much
indiscernible from any other public high school in the city save for
its history. Nathan Myers had been a prominent industrialist back in
the early 1920's. The expanse of his steel mills into the land down
under resuscitated a dying economy and gave jobs to the poor and
disenfranchised working class. His biggest and most heavily employed
factory lay on the outskirts of Lorrington. The thick black smoke from
its humongous gray stacks could be seen for miles, usually forming an
ugly ring around the city skyline. Myers was revered by the people as
an economic savior and all around benevolent millionaire to the people
or Lorrington for the rest of his life. After his death in 1954 the
local government had decided to memorialize him in some way so they
chose to give him a park with a marble statue of the man at its
center. They also re-named the city's most prominent school at the
time, simply called Lorrington Central, after him.

Funny how a few years after his death some busybody with nothing
better to do did some checking into just how easily Mr. Myers
established a monopoly over the Australia market. He faced no
competition whatsoever when he made his big play for the area. After
some digging and chasing of tails, the investigators found some pretty
strange money transfers in his ledger. Large sums of cash going off to
corporations and subsidiaries that didn't exist, or hadn't existed for
years. Sure enough the accounts of the alleged benefactors of Myers'
wealth all shared a common pin number, that of a young Leonardo
Grimaldi, the don of La Casa Nostra back in its early days. It seemed
Mr. Myers was paying off the Italian muscle to scare off any up and
coming entrepreneurs with designs on staking claims in the area for
their own companies. Between assassinations of working class jackos
and theft of raw materials the other companies were looking at
financial and physical ruin if they tried to compete with Myers and
his mob connections. When this all became public knowledge the park
was stripped of its title and the statue was torn down, but the school
name sadly was retained simply because this pitiful town hadn't given
rise to anybody more worthy of the title than Mr. Myers. It seemed
that nothing in Lorrington existed without some kind of dark side too

Reggie Evans looked up at the wall clock and saw the hour hand
positioned at two and the minute hand stationed at three.


The recollection of the legend of Nathan Myers had been a blissful
waste of the previous ten minutes. Now only another ten minutes and
Mr. Gary Horn, European History teacher extraordinaire, stood between
Reggie and his weekend. The weekend seemed like a foreign thought to
him, most likely because it was such a normal idea to an average
teenager. However with everything that had happened in the previous
seventy-two hours normalcy was all but a common occurrence in Reggie's
life anymore. School and the weekend seemed like they were items from
somebody else's life. Reggie felt as if he were borrowing them for use
as an anchor into reality before the night swept him off into a world
of shadows and gods and mystic priests and whatever other supernatural
figure awaited him next.

"Should have never knocked over that store," he grumbled to the wooden
face of the desk upon which he dozed. The mutterings must have rattled
Mr. Horn because the scraping of shoe against floor became
increasingly louder until Reggie felt a bony finger drumming on his

"Excuse me Mr. Evans," Horn clamored on from behind his teacher's
edition textbook.

Reggie closed his eyes and clicked his heels together hoping that the
rules of Oz would apply here.

"I said excuse me," Horn spoke again in his nasal voice 

Guess not. Well I'm suing Dorothy. 

Reggie grudgingly raised his head, revealing a dazed look and a light
drool stain too the rest of the class, earning a few snickers.

"Oh hi, Mr. Horn, lovely day isn't it?" 

Mr. Horn lowered his glasses to the bridge of his nose and frowned 

"Quite. Now would you care to answer the question?" 

"That depends if you'd care to let me know what it is." More snickers
filled the room, this time from the opposite side.

"Your quite cheeky today Mr. Evans." He said fingering the pages in
the book trying to locate something.

"Cheeky? Like what kind of cheeks? Are you hitting on me Mr. Horn?" 

Full-blown laughter erupted this time from around the room, and Mr.
Horn looked around nervously as his students giggled and cackled at
his expense

"That's enough! Now unless you'd all like to join Mr. Evans in
detention this afternoon you'll hush up." he yelled, his voice
cracking in its usual whiny manner. He elicited the desired response

"Detention?" Reggie asked innocently "That doesn't sound like fun. Why
don't we make a wager then?"

"A wager?" Mr. Horn looked skeptical, "For what exactly?" 

"Well why don't you ask me that question you were so excited over. If
I get it right, no detention, and I walk out of here when that school
bell over yonder rings. But if I'm wrong I have to stay here for
detention today, and Monday." He extended his hand waiting for Mr.
Horn to acknowledge the deal.

Mr. Horn smiled and shook Reggie's outstretched hand. "Hope you have
nothing planned Monday."

Mr. Horn flipped the pages to the left a few times, nodding when he
found his desired question.

"Alright Mr. Evans, here is your question." 

Reggie folded his hands together in a failed attempt to look studious 

"Who was the leader of the Roundheads who beheaded Charles I in

Reggie rubbed his chin hard, alluding to the class that he was deep in
thought. He glanced back and forth several times at the wall clock and
Mr. Horn.

"I'm waiting, Mr. Evans. Either you know the answer or you don't." 

Reggie nodded smiling, "Ok, Mr. Horn. The answer is..." 

The school bell let out a shrill cry signifying the end of the day. A
massive eruption of noise filled the entire school. Feet slamming to
the ground out of desks, book bags zipping closed, and classroom doors
flying open. Reggie leapt out of his desk and filed into the sea of
exiting kids. Mr. Horn called after him but his message was lost.

"Sorry Mr. Horn, we're out of time. Love to play again someday though"
Reggie called back as he slid out through the doorway. With a few
well-placed elbows and shoves Reggie forced his way past the crowds
and out the southern exit door, bypassing his locker. It wasn't like
he planned on doing any homework this weekend.

Once in the courtyard Reggie breathed in deep, sucking in the sweet
smell of freedom and exhaling the musty scent of textbooks. He made a
beeline for the black gates that marked the edge of school property
and the last barrier between him and carefree days.

"Reggie," a soft voice called out, the only voice that could ever stop
him from getting away from school. He spun around to see Christina
Hall wearing tight blue jeans and a black down jacket, approaching him
steadily. He opened his arms and swept her up in a bear hug as she
kissed him lightly on the cheek. Her joy turned to concern when she
looked Reggie in the eyes, running a delicate finger along his

"Reggie, why do you have such huge bags under your eyes? Are you
alright?" she asked.

"I'm fine," he replied. "Just, didn't sleep well last night," 

She shrugged it off and clasped his hand, leading him out towards the
sidewalk and away from the hundreds of other student with designs on
escape from the premises.

"So what are you doing tonight?" she asked with a hint of excitement
in her voice.

Reggie ran his fingers through her hair and smiled devilishly. 

"I was hoping you." 

She pushed him playfully laughing out loud, he tugged her arm and
pulled her close and they kissed briefly.

"Don't get ahead of yourself their Mr. Evans," she laughed and bit her
lip for a moment. "I was actually hoping we could go out tonight, my
friends band is playing down at The Muddy Cup."

The name struck a chord with Reggie, as he remembered a semi-run down
coffee shop on Livingston Boulevard. Christina looked up at him with a
plastered smile on her face and tugged on his shirt.

"So can we go?" she asked. 

Got to keep appearances, Reggie thought, if you say no, she'll think
something is up.

"Sure, why not?" he smiled and she leapt up and hugged him. 

"Thanks baby. I got to go home and get ready and stuff. Meet you there
at eight." And with that she darted off down the sidewalk, rushing to
catch up with a group of friends heading for a train.

Reggie simply smiled in amazement for a second as she vanished from
sight and then a thought occurred to him. He quickly reached for his
wallet, digging it up from his pocket and opening it to find it empty.

I'm broke. He sighed and started to walk off towards the bus stop.
Guess I'm going to have to make an unannounced visit to the collection
plate tonight.


"Why are you making me do this?" Nicole Lanza asked, her voice
teetering on the edge of desperation as she watched a candelabra
impale a middle aged couple against a wall. While the blood seeped out
from their fatal wounds Coda snickered, watching fat tears leap forth
from her eyes.

"I am not making you do anything, Miss Lanza, and the sooner you learn
that the better it will be for both of us. This is all on your head."
Coda paused for a moment, scowling at Nicole's aversion to murder.
"If, however, you are inquiring as to the reason that you are
murdering the inhabitants of this church and bringing it to the
ground, then I can answer you."

He watched as she raised the first five rows of pews and the altar
itself into a cyclone, shattering stained glass windows and milk white
statuettes of supposedly holy figures throughout St. Vincent's
Cathedral. While displeased with her increasingly agitating
disposition, Coda was quite happy with the development of her powers.
She had learned the ropes of gravitational field manipulation rather
easily, a task not to be scoffed at.

"And that answer is?" Nicole asked as she caught up one of the few
remaining deacons in the cyclone, watching his body be pulled apart by
the sheer force of it.

"To erase your past and to ensure my future." Coda spoke coldly as he
heard a side door slam shut. The last protesters to Coda's disturbance
of the baptism must have fled, realizing their opposition was not only
futile but also verifiably deadly. He had refused to let one more
human being be anointed under that blasphemous name. He ran his
fingers through his long black hair feeling free now due to the
emptiness of the church. He stepped forwards and surveyed the damage,
the ruined relics and strewn bodies that now decorated what was once a
pristine testament to Roman Catholicism. He walked up to the crucifix,
glared at the effigy of Christ that hung from it, and spat directly in
the savior's face.

"I don't understand," Nicole spoke, allowing all the floating objects
to crash down to the ground, knowing her work was done for the moment
"Why these people? Why this place?"

"These people themselves have not offended me." He checked to make
sure his saliva still dripped from the crown of thorns "The master
they serve is my nemesis."

A look astonishment crossed Nicole's face, her wide-eyed stare
highlighted by the white aura enshrouding her. "You have a feud with

Coda let out a guttural roar as if he were in pain, spreading his arms
out and firing lightning blasts in all directions. One blast connected
with the silver pipe organ that sat upon the balcony overshadowing the
entranceway. Nicole glided forwards as the organ exploded, the force
of the blast sending sheetrock and plaster tumbling down to where she
had been standing.

Coda raced towards her and grabbed her by the throat, a wild look in
his eyes as he stared into the pure fear radiating from hers.

"NEVER EVER MENTION THAT NAME AGAIN!" he squeezed tighter, feeling her
body begin to go limp in his hands. He released her and dropped her to
the red carpeting beneath his feet.

"Now, " he continued, breathing hard from the anxiety attack he was
sure that was boiling up. "Finish your work here, there's still one
more task for you to do tonight." Coda flung the church's front doors
open as if they were light as feathers. Behind him he heard stones
begin to turn and support beams begin to buckle, metal crashing
against metal. In a matter of minutes the glory of St. Vincent's
Cathedral would be nothing but a memory.


"How do I look?" Fusamasa spun around once for his two attendants,
allowing the tails of his suit jacket to waver about in the nighttime

"Um..." The muscleman on the left remained speechless before the elbow
of his counterpart egged him on. "Marvelous, Fusamasa-sama."

Fusamasa only nodded at his approval, humoring the bodyguards as if he
needed their opinion on his outfit.

"Good. Go ahead and park somewhere close by, I'll call when I have
what we need."

When their headlights became nothing but a tiny flicker in the
assortment of cars down the street Fusamasa turned towards the front
lobby of Catherine's apartment complex and advanced through its heavy
revolving glass doors. He exited the roundabout into a humble tiled
lobby, dusty peach flooring with black diamonds scattered about.
Well-worn brown couches sat in a small-carpeted area off to the side,
surrounding a coffee table that had almost certainly been purchased at
a garage sale.

This building is mundane at best. He thought as he entered the
elevator bank, watching the ugly black door slide back. Peeling paint
crinkled against the metal of the shaft as the door slid out of the
way and then back into place. Perhaps that was why Ms. Weiss had been
indulging herself in a side project like "Fuel." The research game
hadn't been paying enough money for her to live in an upscale area
that she most likely desired and definitely deserved. The elevator
ended its ascent at the fourth floor and the door slid sideways again,
allowing Fusamasa to exit into and equally boring hallway. Dim lights,
peach walls and a brown carpet that was torn in several places rushed
to meet him. He looked to the floor at this black suede shoes and
allowed his eyes to travel upwards along the fresh business suit. He
ran a hand through his well-oiled hair and seriously wondered if he
had dressed to well for the occasion. He plodded along, removing the
white slip of paper from his pocket and checking the address once

"D57" he mumbled looking to his right to find D53 hanging in black
letters from a peach doorway. He advanced along two more doors and
found his destination. He raised his right hand and tapped lightly on
the door, taking his place in front of the glass peephole. He heard
the clicking of heels against hardwood on the other side of the door
and he stood attentively awaiting her arrival. He took a deep breath
as the door half opened and Ms. Weiss motioned for him to come in.

He stepped inside and turned around to say hello, but his mouth failed
him, emitting a series of useless stammers. Her lightly tanned body
was accentuated by what he could only guess to be a mixture of jasmine
oils and fragrances. Her brunette hair hung down to her shoulders,
floating just above her back. A strapless red dress clung to her
petite body for dear life, beginning beneath her shoulders and ending
a quarter of the way down her thighs. After a brief stare at her
heavenly legs Fusamasa's eyes wandered down to the source of the noise
he had heard earlier, red open-toed stiletto heels.

"What? No Flowers?" Catherine asked innocently, feigning sorrow as
Fusamasa silently kicked himself.

"I, um, you see..." She shook her head and smirked, waving off
Fusamasa's attempt at a half-assed explanation.

"Don't worry. I'm not exactly a flower type of girl. Have a seat," She
pointed a smooth finger in the direction of the next room. Fusamasa
obeyed and marched off into the dining room to find a bottle of white
zinfandel and two full glasses atop an oak dining room table with a
white cloth draped over it. He took his place beside his glass,
wrapping a hand around it and taking a sip just to ensure that he
wasn't dreaming. The pleasant sting of alcohol against his tongue
proved that he was not. Catherine took a seat across the table from
him, immediately crossing her legs to offer a teaser glance to
Fusamasa. As her skirt slid back to her upper thigh Fusamasa's eyes
followed like moths to light.

"So," she said in a sultry voice, interrupting her sentence to sample
the zinfandel for herself." You have a proposition for me?"

Fusamasa took a long swill from his glass, trying desperately to
regain his composure.

Come on, man. You can let your urges subside for 10 minutes. Get the
formula, and then get the girl. Cause if you don't the only thing your
going to get is a severed finger.

"Yes Miss Weiss." He started, paused for a second to refresh himself
on the topic and continue. "We have been very pleased with your work
on Fuel, but since a recent incident with our test subject we have
been unable to produce more and you have stopped responding to our
phone calls. Simply put Miss Weiss, we need your help again."

"Oh, the mighty Yakuza need my help?" she smiled and drank again from
her glass, leaving a red lipstick stain on the rim. "Are you sure you
don't need anything from me?" she asked, a bewitching look in her

"Ms. Weiss..." he continued. 

"Call Me Catherine," she said. 

Fusamasa cleared his throat and loosened his suddenly all too tight
blue necktie.

"Catherine, what I need from you is..." he tried to continue again. 

"What you need from me is right here." She ran her hand along her
thigh as she arose from the chair allowing her skirt to ride up
purposely. She strode flirtatiously towards a hallway that Fusamasa
was praying led to the bedroom.

"C'mon. Pleasure before business," she smirked blowing him a kiss.
Fusamasa had had enough of her little seduction game and he leapt from
his chair, allowing his suit jacket to slide off behind him. He rushed
too her and put his arm around her hips, pulling her close. When their
lips were so close that they could feel the other's breath on their
faces, Catherine pulled away.

"Wait," she said blushing, nudging her head towards a closed door on
the opposite end of the hall. "I need to get something first."
Fusamasa shrugged and released the women, allowing her to strut away.
She vanished through the door and slammed a thumb lock behind her,
leaving Fusamasa to his own thoughts. He looked down and noticed an
unwelcome bulge. Fusamasa quickly adjusted his pants to hide the
sudden alertness of his lower extremities. He glared at the bathroom
door with contempt, wondering what was delaying him from his prize.
Maybe she was putting in a diaphragm, who knew? Seconds later he
watched the light flicker off and saw her feet appear in the crack
below the doorframe.

"Showtime," he exclaimed as the door opened. Too his horror Catherine
exited the bathroom accompanied by a large man in a similar business
suit to his own, holding a silver pistol over her right shoulder. She
wore a decidedly evil expression while the much taller man simply
glared at Fusamasa, a wild look of hatred stirring in his cold brown

"Man that was a long piss," the shady man behind her muttered. 

Fusamasa glanced down at his ankle knowing there was no way he could
reach the derringer strapped there in time. He simply put his hands

"Smart boy." The man chuckled in a gruff voice. 

"What the hell's going on here? Who the hell are you? Christina?"
Fusamasa asked, a mixture of anger and confusion spreading across his

"My name's Jack Casso, and you can guess who I work for. Your little
girlfriend over here came to us for protection and for money a few
days ago. Guess she wasn't happy with the money you guys were shelling
out to her," Jack smiled and took his eyes of his captive for a second
to steal a glance at the beautiful Dr. Weiss.

Fusamasa scowled as he realized whom "us" was referring too. The
Italians. La Casa Nostra. The fucking mafia. Wow, he had really gotten
in deep this time. These bastards had been the chief enemies of the
Yakuza for control of Lorrington for forever and a day.

"So what exactly do you want?" Fusamasa asked, his hands now firmly
pressed against his head

"I've got what I want numb nuts. Dr. Weiss had agreed to sell us the
formula for Fuel in return for an exuberant amount of money. Certainly
enough to get her out of this dump anyway."

Fusamasa was still confused as he glared into Casso's eyes. 

"Alright, but then why are you here sticking a gun in my face?" 

Casso laughed out loud, still keeping the barrel trained on Fusamasa's
forehead as Catherine began to speak

"Oh, that's easy. After your visit to the labs today I got a little
worried that Kozu wasn't taking no for an answer. Couple that with the
fact that you had designs on getting with me and I decided I needed
Jack to protect me."

"Then of course there's the fact that a half dozen members of La Casa
Nostra turned up dead with their fingers severed off last night."
Chimed in Jack. "Wouldn't happen to know anything about that would you

Fusamasa wasn't surprised by the fact that the Yakuza had killed off a
bunch of mobsters; it was basic protocol when you wanted to scare off
a rival gang. Unfortunately he had no hand in it or even any clue that
it had taken place.

"Turn around." Jack motioned with the barrel of the pistol. 

Fusamasa obeyed, beginning to tremble slightly as he heard the creak
of floorboards behind him. Jack was advancing pistol in hand, and in a
matter of seconds he had pressed the nozzle of the gun into the back
of Fusamasa's head.

"What are you doing?" Fusamasa shrieked as if he didn't already know
the answer.

"Sending a message." Jack spoke coldly and deliberately, Fusamasa felt
the barrel ease off his head lightly and he heard the barrel spin into
place. He closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable.

The gun fired its report but Fusamasa was surprised to find himself
not dead. Instead he found and unholy sensation in his right hand, and
he looked down to find twisted bone and muscle where his middle and
index fingers had once been. He looked up at Casso, his eyes begging
the question why. Casso simply stared back at him uncaringly and
pointed the barrel of his gun at the doorway.

"Get out of my sight." He hissed. 

Fusamasa sprinted back towards the elevator leaving a thick trail of
crimson behind him. As he entered the empty shaft he wondered why fate
had finally chosen to abandon him.


Bad lighting, scarcely painted walls, various abstract paintings and
long hair created the decidedly drab atmosphere that hung over the
Muddy Cup. The place held all the general aspects of a non-starbuck's
coffee shop save for one; it was enormous. The Muddy Cup was a hole in
the wall, a very large wall. The space the owners had bought when they
opened the business was formerly a two-story bookstore, and that gave
ample room for the "Cup's" various couches, latte machines, and a
stage for local bands. Reggie glanced over at the raised blacktop
being referred to by others as the stage and found half-stacks, a
black Fender bass, a guitar of indeterminable make and a drum set
being constructed by a morose looking fellow with a shaved head. As he
turned around to attach the snare drum Reggie got a view of his face,
which was brightly adorned with silver spikes and industrial bars
jutting out from his eyebrows and nose. Reggie looked over at his band
mates and found them dressed in similar black attire with different
piercings in the same body parts. He leaned over towards Christina and

"Those aren't your friends are they?" Christina glanced up from her
cappuccino and onto the stage, a look of disdain crossing her face.

"No, " she replied firmly, getting up on her toes and looking left and
right, searching for her friend. Her body stopped its awkward
movements as she raised a nimble finger and pointed to the left of the
stage. Reggie followed the path traced for him and cast his eyes on a
brown haired, lanky boy who was tuning an acoustic guitar. Reggie
nodded and Christina clutched at his arm, pulling him through the
crowd towards the front. As Reggie wafted through the scents of mocha
and sweat he wondered just how friendly Christina was with this guy.
As they exited the sea of onlookers Reggie found himself face to face
with a long brown haired kid in a tan leather jacket. He had piercing
blue eyes and the typical boyish look that drove all the girls mad.
Reggie's insecurity bubbled. It almost exploded when she hugged him.

"Reggie this is Adam," she said with a smile on her face as the
musician offered his hand. Reggie accepted the shake with some
reservations, an aggravated expression hanging around his face.
Christina turned back to Adam nodded.

"Adam this is Reggie my boyfriend." Adam released his grip and smiled
at Reggie, tucking has hands back into his pocket.

"Nice to finally meet you man, Christina's told me a lot about you." 

Reggie's smile returned. That's right she told you all about me, her
boyfriend the guy who gets to be with her while you just go home and
write songs about how you wish you were with her. Bitch.

Reggie decided that it would be best for his thoughts not to drift
down to his vocal chords. He settled for "I'll bet she has."

Adam turned his attention back to the silver tuning heads on his
guitar for a second and Christina shot Reggie a disapproving glance.
He decided to rebound and try to make small talk.

"So uh..." Reggie said fishing for a topic. He looked back at the
greasy haired uber-punks on the stage and found a subject. "Who are
these guys?"

Adam turned back to speak but a loud eardrum shattering voice
interrupted him.

"We are Biological Warfare and we're here to fuck shit up!" a
distorted voice screamed through the building's PA system.

Great. Reggie, Christina and Adam turned their attention to the stage
as the singer clutched his microphone. He looked back at his bassist,
guitarist, and drummer, all four trading nods of approval. He then
turned his malevolent gaze back at the crowd.

"Alright then you little coffee house pussies, here we go! Our first
song is called Genesis!"

The drummer clapped his sticks together in a traditional count off
format and then he began to bash on the splash cymbals. The guitarist
and bassist each launched into an identical four-chord massacre
deadlocked on the E string. Fifteen seconds later the singer tossed of
his spiked leather jacket revealing a gray novelty shirt beneath it.
It read something along the lines of "conformity is the disease,
rebellion is the cure". Reggie glanced sideways to find the bassist
wearing the exact same shirt.

Irony strikes, he thought to himself, a smirk creeping onto his face. 

The song drilled on painfully for the crowd, the vocalist's screams
overshadowing their groans of despair. As the song came to a close
minutes later the vocalist looked surprised at the lack of applause.
Then just as the last notes rang out terrified screams erupted from
the back of the room. Reggie cocked an eyebrow at their reaction.

"I would have just booed," He muttered, earning a chuckle from both
Adam and Christina.

Then the reason for the screams became no laughing matter. Out of the
back of the room something floated above the crowd. A woman who seemed
to be glowing was dangling in the air, waving her arms at the back
door frantically.

"What the hell?" Reggie asked, earning no response from the terrified
Christina or the equally bewildered Adam.

"Get out now! All of you out!" she was screaming, she looked almost as
terrified as the people she was threatening. Reggie stared down at the
shadow his body cast on the ugly stained beige carpet.

Oh no, I'm not playing hero. Whatever she wants she can take.
Christina and I are getting the hell out of here.

Reggie tucked his arm around his girlfriends' and started to lead her
towards the door, filing into the mass exodus of the crowd. Reggie
stared up at the woman as he passed under her and he swore he saw
tears running down her face. Adam caught up to them from behind,
tapping the pair on the shoulders.

"What's going on?" he asked 

"I don't know and I sure as hell don't want to find out," Reggie shot

The trio reached the door first with only about twenty or so other
bystanders behind them. Adam reached the outside first and Christina
stepped through the light wooden door second. Reggie moved to follow
his girlfriend through the narrow passage way but a microphone stand
dropped in out of nowhere and crashed into his stomach, lifting him up
and carrying him back to the stage.

"He's the one I want!" the woman shrieked. "The rest of you get out
now!" The remaining people fled into the street screaming, but
Christina fought her way back through the mass rush of escapees

"What the hell do you think you're doing? You put him down right now
or I'll come up there and bitch slap you so hard that," she was
interrupted by a flung wooden chair ripping past her head and
exploding on the wall into a dozen pieces.

"Please just get out. Don't make me kill anyone who I don't have too!"
the woman screamed as she let another chair take flight, this time it
exploded at Christina's feet, debris brushing against her legs.

"Christina!" Reggie yelled from the back of the room, raising himself
up from a pile of instruments and dust. "Just go, I'll be fine, trust

"But..." she muttered glancing back and forth between their attacker
and Reggie.

"Trust me love, I'll get out of this, just go!" Christina looked back
at Reggie once more and then at the crazed woman floating over them
both, and sprinted for the door.

Reggie watched her fade into the distance and then the got up, a much
more confident and angry look on his face as he stared into the
floating woman's eyes.

"Now," He said rising up a staff and shield from the shadows. "You
bust in here un-announced, you drive a bunch of good people into the
street screaming for help, and then you throw a chair at my
girlfriend? No wait, two chairs? Just who the hell do you think you

The woman's body pulsed with energy and she raised her arms over her
head and threw them forwards. A table came hurtling at Reggie. He dove
to the side at the last second, allowing it to crash into the
amplifiers behind him. Sparks flew and wires squealed in pain as the
heavy object smashed into them. Reggie hit the ground running as
chairs began to fly at him from the right side of the room. Each
successive toss came closer, the wood splintering at first on the
walls and pillars to his side, then on the tile where he had just
stepped. Reggie finally stopped and spun, raising the shield to absorb
the blow from the next chair. He sucked in hard for oxygen as he
braced himself for the next throw that never came. He peered up from
behind his shield and found the woman with her back turned facing the
stage. She was focusing on the wreckage that her table throw has

Reggie seized the opportunity forming three black objects in his hand
the size of baseballs.

"Looks like chivalry is dead." He yelled hurling the first ball into
the woman's spine. She screamed in agony as her back arched and her
neck craned upwards. She turned around in time to meet the second ball
with her stomach. The wind was physically expelled from her body as
she doubled over in pain. Reggie launched the third ball at her head
and the woman looked up just in time to see it hurtling towards her.
Her eyes glazed over in pure white and the ball froze in midair. It
quickly spun around her once and flew back at Reggie, moving with
three times the speed it once had. Reggie dove again, this time
dropping his shield. He watched the black ball tear through the floor,
causing an explosion of floorboards and tile. He heard successive
crashes and imagined the ball falling to the center of the earth.
Reggie looked up at the woman who was now seething with rage and
wondered if he was out of his league.

"So is there any reason you're trying to kill me? Or are you just
bored?" he asked spreading his palms out towards the ground.

"Son," she said with desperation in her voice. "You can't imagine the
series of choices that have led me here." Her body radiated with a
blinding light and the stage erupted, wires taking flight and shooting
out sparks, amplifiers spinning in directions they weren't meant too,
guitars and basses becoming stringed javelins.

"Now before I let this go I've only got one thing to say to you. Life
is a terrible experience where one mistake haunts you for the rest of
your life. Trust me, this isn't murder," and with that she hurled the
mosaic of deadly instruments at Reggie "this is mercy."

Reggie Evans watched his death fly towards him and called up the
shadows that surrounded him, praying for a miracle.


The streets were deserted. The blocks surrounding the Muddy Cup had
become a ghost town after that floating madwoman had appeared. Yet,
for some reason, the nut job had wanted to kill her Reggie. And she
wasn't going to let that happen, no matter what he said. She scrambled
up the green dumpster in the alley, searching for and finding a
window. It was too dark to see inside the only thing that she could
make out was the white aura surrounding that crazy woman. Christina
tried opening the window and finding it locked, slid back down into
the alleyway. Back on the ground she found an assortment of tools that
could be used for shattering the glass but in the end a rough edged
orange brick won out with the two by four lying next to it finishing a
distant second. Christina hurled the brick at the window screaming

"I'm coming Reggie!" 

As the glass exploded inwards Christina ascended to the top of the
dumpster once more and crawled through her self-made entranceway.
Peeking her head inside she found Reggie in a fighting stance facing a
pile of wires and equipment speeding through the air.

"Oh my God," she whispered, the image of Reggie lying cold and dead in
a casket immediately leapt to mind. Then her fears subsided
momentarily as black walls began to explode from the floor around him,
a dark column enshrouding the space between him and the ceiling. The
first wave of items, guitars and microphone stands acting as javelins
and spears, embedded themselves into the black walls, hanging there
and then falling uselessly by the wayside. The collections of plaster
and rubble smashed themselves into the mysterious walls next, causing
them to shake and shift position, but they held their ground and the
materials split and fell as well. The sparking copper wires dove in
finally, making their approach in v-shaped formations. The light show
was something to see, it rivaled all the fireworks displays she had
ever witnessed. Sparks flew down and set some of the rubble on fire,
and as the last of the wires smashed into the wall it fell, collapsing
all around Reggie, joining the fallen instruments of death.

He stood their exhausted but with a smile on his face, completely
unaware of her presence as the lone onlooker to this fight.

"He's alive," she breathed a sigh of relief as a million questions
flooded into her head.

How did he... since when can he? Why didn't he tell me? Doesn't he
trust me?

Christina felt her world slowly but surely turn upside down, and she
backed out of the window and put her feet on the ground. Once she
stood in the alleyway she took a few deep breaths and did the only
thing she knew would be safe. She ran.


Reggie drew five deep breaths and counted his blessings that it had

"How?" the woman asked a look of complete and utter shock on her face
as she floated to the ground exhausted.

"I'm a resourceful little bastard," he exclaimed between pants. 

The two of them shared the closest thing he could imagine to a smile
right now and then regained focus. She began to march forwards, two
microphone cables surrounding her and striking the ground like whips.

"Oh I didn't bring my handcuffs," Reggie said feigning disappointment.

"Would you stop with the jokes? I'm fighting for my life and your
making jokes!"

Reggie looked shocked as he called up a shield and staff again "Your
life? Hi, I'm the one you almost killed two seconds ago!"

"SHUT UP!" she screamed, charging and spinning the two chords like
hyperactive windmills.

Reggie crouched and raised the shield, feeling the two chords slash
against it like a hawk's talons on Styrofoam. He was sure the shield
could hold out for a while, but his eardrums were another story.

"Does the phrase nails on a chalkboard mean anything to you?" he

"Does the word die mean anything to you?" she retorted 

One of the chords wrapped around the side and bit into his forearm,
producing a mean flesh wound.

I've got to end this. She charged again screaming and he returned by
charging with the shield. The two weapons collided again but Reggie
swung low with his staff tripping her up. She slammed into the ground
on her back but the chords struck out like vipers. Reggie caught the
first one around his staff. The black wire coiled around it and he
simply tossed the weapon away wear it fell lifeless. The other one hit
him hard in the stomach driving him back. The woman got up and began
to extend her fingers, seemingly preparing to start hurling objects

"Oh no. I've had enough of dodging UFO's for one day." Reggie created
another baseball in his hand and hurled it. The ball made up the
distance between them in seconds and hit her squarely in the temple,
effectively putting her lights out. The woman, and all the floating
objects in the room crashed to the floor unceremoniously.

Reggie breathed a huge sigh of relief and stumbled towards the exit,
thankful that he'd survived.


As the boy walked away Coda made himself visible again, standing over
the fallen Nicole Lanza and smiling.

"He's ready," He announced to the air as he stepped over the
unconscious body of Ms. Lanza and vanished again.

Next Up: Higher Ground!

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