AC - Anthology 2: Villains "Organizational Skills"

Jason Kenney jasonkenney at
Tue Apr 25 09:55:49 PDT 2006

Artifice Comics -
Home of Cold Academy, A Man Called Mongrel, Bush43 and so much more...

Anthology Two Presents...
Villains: "Organizational Skills"
By Jason S. Kenney


Simon Cooper walked into the Pacific Diner at 34th and Easterly without
a sense of impending doom for the first time in months. Perhaps
impending doom was a bit much. More simple discomfort.

The site of his first attempt at being a villain. The site of his first

But now he was confident.

A string of successes in quick order helped with that.

So Simon was smiling when he walked into Pacific Diner with a slight
spring in his step.

He walked to a table and sat in the booth across from Tracy Pine as she
smiled at him.

"Sounds like you boys had quite the adventure," she said as Simon
pushed the menu in front of him aside.

"Everything went smoothly."

"It's all over the news."

"Of course it is."

"So much for under the radar."

Simon shrugged. "We needed Dean and that was the best way to get him.
Now we just lay low and wait for the breakout to blow over. No one
remembers this shit after a couple weeks."

"The mayor will." Tracy eyed Simon curiously, trying to poke at him and
see what he was thinking.

"I am not afraid of Mayor Romanov or any of his lackeys," said Simon,
his smile gone.

"You should be."

Tracy kept her smile as the waitress showed up. Simon just ordered
coffee and she went on her way.

"Romanov and those New Mages are nothing."

"Tell that to Tommy Orr," said Tracy.

"Orr... Why is that name familiar?"

"Called himself 'Hardcore', sent up to Alhazred sometime last year,
survived when the place went up in smoke and thought he'd try again
with his career in robberies and such." Tracy shifted in her seat and
leaned forward, lowering her voice.

"Couple nights ago he's at home, getting ready to go out when he
suddenly finds his place infested with a bunch of kids dressed like
that Silver Shadow guy."

"No shit?"

Tracy shook her head and continued. "They beat the shit out of him,
threw his bloody ass into the street and left him there."

"Huh." Simon thanked the waitress as she sat his coffee in front of
him. He smiled as she left and he looked right to Tracy. "Actually, I
couldn't care even less about those little Shadows. Bring 'em on."

"Speak for yourself," Tracy said as Simon poured sugar into his coffee.
"Look, none of us exactly have winning records against these guys. They
jump on any of us and we're gone."

"That's why we've got to work together."

"And that's going to take time we don't really have," said Tracy,
looking around a bit to make sure no one was listening. "Look, the idea
is good and all, getting a bunch of us together to team up and such,
but let's look at this realistically here. You've got a bunch of people
who have only gotten their asses handed to them every time they've
tried to do anything. And most are going to be looking for a profit,
something that you can't guarantee, especially if you're going to have
to split anything six ways."

"It's not about profit..." started Simon.

"Bullshit," said Tracy with a dismissive waive, "it's always about
profit. We aren't the good guys here, Simon. We can't do this for
'truth and justice' or shit like that. It's about what's in it for us
and you haven't even started to lay out any sort of plan about that
beyond respect and fear and that only goes so far."

"So you're not in?"

Tracy leaned forward quick. "Don't pull that shit. I said I'm in, I'm
in, but you're going to have to convince some of these folks real
quick. You're asking all of us to put a hell of a lot on the line."

"Who do I have to convince? You say you're in it for the long haul.
Frank can't piss without fucking it up and he knows it so he needs us
more than we need him. We just pulled Dean's ass out of the fire so he
owes us. I talked Roger into it without even having to bring up
anything about money. And Teapot... well, did you get her?"

"Mary," corrected Tracy, "and yes, I picked her up just fine, though I
think you'll have a harder time convincing her to stick with us than
you did the others."

"What do you mean?"

"She's not a bad person, Simon. She's messed up in the head but I don't
think she's outright willing to work with us on this. And, frankly, I
don't see what she adds to the team."

"She doesn't need to be bad," said Simon, pausing as he drank some of
his coffee. "She just needs to be confused and then she'll be perfect."

"Perfect how? If I'm understanding everything correctly she's not going
to work well with what you want to do."

"She's perfect for handling certain people and situations. She has a
history with one of the New Mages and that will work to our advantage."

"Which one?"

Simon didn't answer as he drank his coffee with smiling eyes.

"Which one?" repeated Tracy, narrowing her eyes.

Simon brought the coffee down and smiled. "Which one do you think?"

"Christ," said Tracy as she leaned back and shook her head. "I thought
this wasn't about Bush."

"It's not," said Simon, leaning forward and trying to get Tracy to keep
her voice down. "Not precisely, but he is one of the New Mages and
Teapot's history with him will come in very handy when we get around to
breaking him."

Tracy stared at Simon a bit longer, trying to figure him out, deciding
whether or not she could fully trust him.

"Alright, so you got yourself a team. What do we do now?" she asked,
sending out feelers.

"Now we wait."

"For what? Romanov to find and come after us?"

"For things to blow over. And a message."

Simon got a questioning glance as he drank more of his coffee.

"A couple of gentlemen are going to contact me soon about a final
member of the team, where to meet her, things like that."

"Who are these guys?"

"They're associates."

"Who are they?"

"It doesn't matter."

"It does matter, Simon," Tracy stated in a whispered, angry voice as
she jabbed a finger into the table. "I'm being very patient with you
while you try and form this plan of yours and it's wearing thin. I want
details, Simon, I want to be in the know, because I'm not going to go
into this blindly. Who are these people and can they be trusted?"

"Truthfully, I don't know if they can be trusted, but I don't really
have much of a choice."

Tracy leaned back and rolled her eyes.

"Great, that's just great."

"Tracy," said Simon, "look, everything's falling into place better and
quicker than any of us could have hoped. We're two days out and have a
team. We've got a win under our belt, we just need to lay low a bit and
work a few things out, let things die down, get a few things finalized,
and we're good to go."

Tracy didn't answer, simply staring at Simon with crossed arms.

"Look," said Simon, "three days. If I can't get everything organized in
three days we'll call it off, go our separate ways. But give me three
days to make this work."

"Three days?" asked Tracy, getting a nod from Simon.

"Seventy two hours. If you're still concerned about whether or not this
will work after that, fine, no hard feelings."

"You're not giving yourself a lot of time."

"Like you've said, we don't have time."

Tracy sighed and, after a few moments, nodded.


"ECHO!" shouted Frank Sign, listening to his voice reverberate off of
the walls of the empty warehouse. He smiled in satisfaction until a
hand slapped him upside the back of his head. He turned and glared at
Dean Williams.

"Keep quiet," said Dean as he stepped back outside.

The night air was warm and heavy outside the warehouse near the docks
of Pacific City. Dean looked around and up at the tops of nearby
buildings, trying to see if anything was there that shouldn't be.
Luckily there wasn't.

His attention turned back to street level as car doors closed and two
men started to approach him, one tall and built like a bull, the other
not as tall and thin. Both looked around as they approached, checking
to see if anything was out of the ordinary other than their presence.

"Anyone else here?" asked Simon Cooper as he and Roger Thompson
approached Dean. Dean shook his head.

"Just Frank and me. We expecting others?"

"Tracy and Teapot should be here shortly," said Simon as he stopped
next to Dean and looked around some more. "Anything up?"

"Not that I've seen, but we just got here."

Simon nodded and turned to Roger.

"Do me a favor, Roger. Can you get up to the roof and have a look
around, make sure no one's gallivanting around up there?"

Roger nodded short and quick and started to walk along the edge of the
building and then around the corner in search of a ladder.

"So what's the game plan tonight?" asked Dean as he leaned against the
wall of the warehouse next to the door.

"We're going to see what we're capable of," said Simon. "But nothing
spectacular. I don't want any big explosions or anything, nothing to
draw attention."

"So I'm going to be sitting on my hands?"

"Not exactly," said Simon. "Where's Frank?"

"Right here," said Frank as he stepped outside. "Where are the ladies?"

Simon looked at Frank who had a wide smile on his face and was
practically rubbing his hands together. With a sigh and shake of his
head, Simon turned away.

"Alright, let's try something real quick," said Simon as he sized Dean
up. "How much do you weigh?"


"Just how much?"

"About 86 kilos."

"How much can you carry, Frank?" asked Simon, turning to Frank.

"Not THAT much."

"On your back?"

"What, like piggyback?" Simon nodded. "You want Dean to ride me
piggyback?" Simon nodded again. "Dude, that's so gay."

Simon closed his eyes and prayed for patience. "Frank," he said slowly,
"just fucking work with me here."

Simon opened his eyes and turned to Dean.

"Dean, I want you to get on Frank's back. Frank," he said, turning to
Frank, "you're going to try and run while carrying Dean."


"Why the fuck do you think? You're fast, Frank, so maybe you can carry
one of us somewhere really quick where we can be of use, huh?"

Frank's eyes went wide as he started to understand.

"Ahhhhh...." he said, tapping the side of his head. "Smart."

"No," said Simon, "common sense. Now, c'mon and give it a go."

"What if he falls?" asked Dean.

"Yeah," said Frank. "Last time I took a spill I fucked up my leg pretty

Simon sighed again and looked around, stopping as he looked out at the

"Frank, go run around the waterfront a bit, find a beach or a lot of
soft ground nearby."

"Gotcha," said Frank and in a blur he was gone.

"I am not riding that son of a bitch," said Dean, shaking his head.

"You will if we need you to," said Simon as he looked in the general
direction Frank had ran off to. "Can you direct your explosions in any
way?" asked Simon in a change of subject.

Dean shrugged. "Don't think so but I haven't really tried."

"We'll have to play with that," said Simon. He looked up to the
rooftops and stared for a bit, part of him hoping to see one of the
city's 'protectors', just to give them a good test, but most of him
hoping above all hope that the rooftops remained empty.

"All clear," said Roger as he came around the corner of the warehouse.
Simon just nodded in reply.

Another car pulled up next to Simon's and the three men looked over as
it stopped and its headlights turned off. The driver stepped from the
car and leaned over to talk to whoever was in the passenger seat,
seeming to have to coax them out of the car. Then the passenger stepped
out and joined the driver.

Tracy Pine walked slightly ahead of the woman who sometimes called
herself Teapot, the two of them approaching with distinctly different
manners, Tracy's confident, head held high, Teapot's less so, more
looking to her feet.

"Heyguys," said Frank behind the men as he quickly stopped,
"Ifoundabeachalittlebit... ohhey!" He noticed the women approaching.

"Frank," said Simon, looking to the other three men who stared at the
approaching Tracy and Teapot, "show Dean and Roger the way and I want
you guys to start trying that riding thing."

"What riding thing?" asked Roger, glancing to Simon.

"Ican'tcarrythatbigguy!" said Frank.

"Try. Now get moving."

The three hesitated and then resigned themselves to going, turning and
leaving. Simon turned back to Tracy and Teapot.

"Where are they going?" asked Tracy, nodding towards the three leaving
as she got to Simon.

"To practice a few things," said Simon, looking from Tracy to Teapot.
"And you must be Julia."

"Teapot," corrected Teapot softly, looking briefly from her feet to
Simon and then back down.

"I'm sorry," said Simon, reaching and putting a hand under her chin,
lifting her face so she'd look to him. "Teapot. How are you?"

"I..." She looked to Tracy who smiled and nodded slightly. Teapot
looked back to Simon. "I'm okay."

Simon smiled warmly.

"Good," he said, trying to tread very carefully and approach this woman
like he had been instructed to. Slowly, carefully, calmly, coolly,
lovingly. "Teapot..." said Simon as if thinking about the name. "An
interesting name. Why are you called Teapot?"

Teapot's eyes lit up and her mouth opened to answer. She looked to
Tracy first and then back to Simon, her mouth wavering, wanting to say.

"No one's asked before," she said, her blue eyes welling up with red
tears. "No one's cared to."

"Well now someone does care," said Simon, keeping his smile. "We both
care for you, Tracy and I." Simon looked to Tracy who gave him a
confused look in return. "Has Tracy been good to you?" asked Simon as
he looked back to Teapot. She nodded rapidly.

"Oh, she's been very good to me," said Teapot with a small, almost
sheepish grin.

"Good," said Simon. "Tracy's a good person. She cares about you,
Teapot. I care about you."

"You do?" asked Teapot softly, the tears starting to roll from her

Simon paused. This was too easy. This wasn't right. Something wasn't

"Of course," said Simon, resting a hand gently on Teapot cheek. She
closed her eyes as he did so, her mouth open slightly, and she leaned
into his hand.

He looked to Tracy and his smile faltered as he felt suddenly very
uncomfortable. He wasn't sure if the discomfort was from Teapot's
reaction or the look on Tracy's face. Or both.


Roger Thompson held an ice pack to his head while he lay on the floor
of the warehouse.

"ItoldyouIcouldn'tcarryhim," said Frank as he shook his head quickly.

"Well you'll have to try again," said Simon and he closed his eyes and
held up a hand to silence Frank's protest. "You will try until you do
carry him. It's just a matter of getting your balance down. Did you
have any problems with Dean?"

"None," said Frank.

"For you," said Dean with a grimace. "His running makes me sick."

"You'll have to get over it," said Simon.

"What about you?" asked Roger, lifting his head slightly from the floor
to look at Simon.

"I'll have Frank carry me around in a bit, I'll have to get used to it
as well."

"What about you?" asked Frank, looking to Tracy.

"I can manage just fine," she replied, narrowing her eyes at Frank's
wide smile.

"She'll have to get used to it like everyone else," said Simon. "Look,
we're all going to have to work together here and that means everyone's
going to have to deal with the same things. We can't get ourselves
stuck in set ways or doing things or we're going to be fucked should
something happen. I need everyone to be able to run with Frank if it's
needed. Just like I'm going to need everyone ready to be tossed by

"What?!" said Frank and Dean in unison as Roger just laid his head back
down with a groan.

"Guys, listen," said Simon as he crouched down and stretched his legs a
bit. "We're going to have to play around a bit with what we can do. Use
our abilities to our advantage as a team. Yeah, great, Frank, you can
run like hell, but that does nothing for the rest of us unless you can
move us around with you."

"Onlyoneatatime," said Frank, as if that were a counter point.

"Better than none," said Dean.

"Exactly." Simon continued. "Roger's strength is great, it's even
better if it can help us maneuver. Maybe he can toss one of us to a
roof or out of a building as it's coming down, any number of
possibilities there, and all things we need to try and prepare for."

"Whatgoodareyourpowersforateam?" asked Frank with a sly grin, trying to
poke at Simon.

"Defibrillator if needed," said Simon, looking right at Frank, watching
the grin fade from his face. "Or a cattle prod. Or things I haven't
thought of yet. My point is that if this is going to work we need to
start thinking of ways we can benefit each other. If we don't, we're
better off going our separate ways and possibly getting killed."

"We can get killed doing this," said Roger, just staring at the

Simon nodded. "Granted, but we stand a better chance if we fight

The group was silent.

"What is he talking about?" Teapot whispered to Tracy, loud enough that
everyone heard.

"JesusChrist,shedoesn'tknowwhat'sgoingon?!?!!" said Frank, tossing up
his arms with a roll of his head. "Great!Justwhatwe... GAAAA!"

Frank jumped and then collapsed as his legs gave way, a surge of
electricity running through his body and tearing the breath from him.
He gasped while on all fours, trying to clear his head, clear his

Simon stood, glaring at Frank as he pulled his hand to his chest,
little bolts of electricity still lancing around his open fingers.

"And we will have no outbursts like that," said Simon, looking to the
other members of the team. Dean just stared jaw dropped at Frank while
Roger kept his eyes closed and head back, barely registering the
exchange. Tracy held a frightened Teapot who was crying red tears.

"If you can not remain calm in these situations then how can you expect
to remain calm when we're fighting?" Simon approached Frank and
crouched down. "Frank, I want you to apologize to Teapot."

Frank slowly looked up to Simon, his mouth still open, gulping air, his
eyes questioning and hurt.

"Apologize, Frank," restated Simon.

Frank lowered his head and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry," he said.

"Good," said Simon with a nod. "C'mon." He grabbed Frank by his arm and
helped him to his feet.

"I think we're done tonight," said Simon, looking to the others.

"Actually," stated a female voice from across the room, pulling all
attention to her and the man who stood silently next to her, grins on
both of their faces, "your night is just getting started."

"Yowza," said Frank Sign, almost fogetting his near-death experience.

His eyes were locked on the woman, tall with long dark hair and eyes,
red lips smirking across her face. Her tight leather number did more to
get Frank's attention than anything else.

"Can we help you?" asked Simon as he planted his feet, electricity
leaping around his fists as he prepared to kill them at a moment's

The rest of the group tensed as well, all but Frank who was too caught
up in the woman to feel any fear. Simon noticed it out of the corner of
his eye, made a mental note, thought he'd have to kill Frank.

"And that won't be necessary," said their male guest. Simon suddenly
felt a click in his mind and the room disappeared in a flash of white
and he was alone in bright oblivion.

"We have been sent by one with mutual aims, Mister Cooper," said a
voice out of the white nothingness.

And suddenly he was back in the warehouse, collapsing to his hands and

"Who are you?" asked Tracy Pine, taking a step back as Roger Thompson
put his large body in front of her and Teapot, fists and teeth

Dean Williams took a few steps back as his eyes glanced around the
room, trying to find the nearest exit.

"You fucking set us up, didn't you?" he asked as he glared towards

"I don't know these people," Simon gasped, eyes wide, staring into the
floor as he tried to get his bearings, "but they're with us." He looked
up and to the couple that remained on the other side of the warehouse,
both still grinning. "Happy and Sad send you?"

The woman laughed and shook her head. "The gentlemen you've met before
are merely associates, though not nearly as high up the ladder as you
may think. Our mutual employer thought that I might be of assistance to
your little band."

"Oh really?" said Frank, his voice dripping with meaning.

"Shut up, Frank," said Simon as he got to his feet. "What are you here
to offer us?"

"Knowledge, skills, a crash course in how to win," the lady said as she
and her companion began to walk across the room, her shoes clacking
harshly on the concrete floor.

"Who are these people, Simon?" asked Tracy, looking from Simon to the
couple as they moved closer.

"This is Mister Price, thought we tend to call him Apt," said the lady
with a slight gesture to the man who nodded to Tracy and the group.
"His work with you all will be brief but it shall be the most intrusive
and teach you the most. He is to give you the basics. You will hone
your skills against me. For example," she stopped and looked straight
at Frank, "Frank, is it?"

"It is," said Frank with a smile.

And then his eyes rolled in the back of his head as his body tensed.
The group remained silent as they stared at his frozen body, Simon's
eyes locked on Apt who had merely closed his eyes and seemed to be

Fifteen seconds later, Frank collapsed to the floor, gasping for air.

"Woah," he said after a few gasps, a slight snicker in his voice. "I
know kung fu."

"On your feet, Frank," said the woman as Apt stepped aside, "and show

Frank looked up and smiled and, with a blur, was moving towards her.
She moved in response, her arm jutting out just in time to catch Frank
and send him on his back. He quickly leapt to his feet and came again,
a blur of quick punches and kicks, moves that a minute before he would
never have thought himself capable of.

Yet no matter how fast he moved, she was one step ahead of him, and he
was quickly on his back again.

"Enough," she said, pushing loose strands of hair out of her face.
"Each of you will learn skills that will not only compliment the team
but also compliment your own powers. Then you shall train and when I
say you are ready," she smiled large as she eyed the group, "you will
kill the New Mages."

"Who are you?" asked Dean. 

"You can call me Gallows."

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