[PINCITY] [acra] Thunderclap #6 - High Stakes

rickhindle at gmail.com rickhindle at gmail.com
Thu Sep 20 17:20:00 PDT 2007

Cover shows Thunderclap fighting a large robot in the center of an
arena filled with various superc criminals. Some of them are clear - a
midget in a pinstriped suit and top hat, a well dressed middle-aged
man, a very attractive woman in a leather skirt, a cyborg, and a man
in a heavy dark cloak.

#7 - "High Stakes"
by Rick Hindle

	I should have been more concerned with the pain throbbing in my
hand.  Or at least the oppressive humidity that had enveloped
Protector's Island and the rest of Pinnacle Bay.  At least, I should
have cared about the body of the American Ranger, laying on the
carefully manicured lawn of the island, knocked out by my fist.
	Instead, I was focused primarily on my continued embarrassment from
not being able to produce a simple, well, thunderclap.  All I had
managed to do was to produce a simple energy burst, which the Ranger
had brushed off like it was a mosquito in the summer.
	The anger in me still tingled maliciously in my fingers and toes.  My
breathing was heavy.  Sweat poured down my face, stinging my eyes and
soaking the edges of my mask, not to mention the probable chafing
going on under my spandex.
	Through my anger and my breathing, I heard Tommy shout out, "Clay, I
didn't know you had it in you!"
	The anger began to ebb a bit, but the pain in my hand took over.  I
shook it a couple of times, "That guy could be a heavyweight fighter -
he's got a rock for a jaw."
	I looked around - the Department of Superhuman Affairs shock troopers
were standing there in awe.  The Protectors, Ace and Senator Simian,
stood there, watching what was happening with their compatriot.
Something caught my eye with the Senator, he started forward slowly,
his eyes not leaving my hand.
	"Your hand," the Senator stated, pointing towards it as I shook the
hand again, trying to get rid of the slight pain. "Is it broken?"
	I flexed the fingers and rolled my wrist.  I shook my head, "No, it's
	I heard Tommy scream and it cut me off.  Wheeling around, I saw the
Tommy had gotten to close to the Ranger.  He was firmly in the large
man's grasp.  The guy has been playing dead.  He was standing up,
locking Tommy in a harsh headlock.
	As the Senator jumped towards them, I heard him yell something about
the Ranger being a fake.  I intercepted the Senator.  It wasn't
anything personal, I just didn't want Tommy getting hurt.  For all I
knew, Tommy was in this position because of me.
	Senator Simian was right.
	I heard Tommy yelp and turned to see the Ranger holding him from
behind.  The Ranger held a pistol in his left hand, the end of the
barrel resting only scant inches from my friend's jaw.
	The Senator growled and tossed me to the side.  "One more step,
Senator, and he dies," the Ranger stated coldly.
	I recovered and watched the Senator's eyes narrow.  "His blood is
nothing compared to the horrors you may have committed today, Ranger,"
Simian growled.
	"Whatever you want, Ranger, just let him go," I said.  This was my
friend's life on the line.  I wasn't going to let him get hurt.
	The Senator turned his attention briefly to me - the fire in his eyes
seemed to burn even more intently than before. "It's not the Ranger
it's -"
	"Oh just say it, Senator," the Ranger began to drag Tommy away
towards the helicopter.
	"It's the Facebook," the Senator finally stated.
	I was speechless.
	The whup-whup-whup of the helicopter blades began to increase.  I
felt the air pushed against my chest.  It didn't faze me.  I couldn't
feel anything.
	I had just sent my best friend to be a hostage of the Facebook,
whoever that was.
	"Now what?" Ace asked from behind me.
	The Senator turned and looked, first at me, then at Ace.
	"We go protect people," he said quietly. "That's our job."
	I shook my head. "Not me," I stated firmly.
	The Senator looked back at me, shaking his head. "Don't be foolish,
Thunderclap, there's nothing you could do."  Simian put his hand onto
my shoulder and squeezed.
	I took a sharp breath. "There's got to be something for me to do."
	"Like what?" Ace now asked.
	"Who does he work for?"
	"Nobody knows," Ace replied.
	Suddenly, something crossed my mind.  The Fedora would know.  I just
needed to find him, and to see if he'd calmed down from earlier.  "I
	I turned to look at Ace and then the Senator. "You've got to go
protector somebody, but I've got go save somebody."
	I didn't think about stopping and waiting for an answer.  My
destination was clear, at least in my head - I had to find the Fedora.

	The Baron shook his head and sipped at the glass of scotch in his
right hand.  He enjoyed the liquid as it burned its way into his
stomach.  A few more of these and I'll feel comfortable in here, the
Baron mused to himself.
	He was standing in a large, abandoned warehouse somewhere in Pinnacle
City.  On purpose, mainly to protect himself, the Baron had convinced
one of his associates to arrange the auction.  If something happened,
he could claim little knowledge of what was happening.
	Of course, if searched, he'd have to admit to having a vial of some
sort of strange liquid in his pocket.  The liquid, stolen from a
Bakker Industries laboratory, was called Para-X13.  While it's formula
was not recovered by the Baron's operative, he still understood what
it could do to a human being.
	But what it could do to a superhuman was both exciting and
terrifying.  The Baron smiled to himself as he thought about it.  The
possibility of a superhuman's powers suddenly going 'supernova' was
amazing.  A superhero like Ironwing's alien metabolism would be an
issue, but not the American Ranger.  His super strength would
potentially cause his muscles to expand so far that the fibers tore
away from each other.  The pain was so great that no one could survive
	The Baron took another sip of the scotch and looked around the room
at the others there.  Standing barely four feet tall was the assassin
King Friday.  He wore a dark pinstriped suit, which helped hide some
of his pudginess.  What it didn't hide, the Baron ruefully noted, was
the bulge of a hand gun tucked into his left armpit.  The Baron shook
his head - he had told his security team to take all weapons from
everyone.  Obviously, someone had failed.
	With a slight wave, the Baron signaled his assistant over. "James,"
the Baron said softly, enunciating the thin man's name, "I want you to
arrange something."
	"Yes, sir?" the thin man took out a pad of paper and a pen.
	The Baron rolled his eyes, "Put away the paper."  James did so
dutifully.  "Now the pen."  Again, the assistant complied.  Needing a
drink, the Baron slugged down the rest of his scotch.  "Have the head
of security killed."
	James' eyes grew large. "Bu...but why?"
	Thrusting his glass into James' trembling hands, the Baron turned and
looked, slightly upwards, at his assistant. "Because I said so."  All
James could do was nod.  "And get me another drink."
	The assistant ran off, leaving the Baron to again shake his head. "
Friggin' midgets with guns," he muttered under his breath. "I should
have him kill my assistant, too."
	While James was fetching him another drink, the Baron's attention
turned to the thigh high boots and leather skirt that encased the
lower half of Italy's most wanted criminal.  Prada possessed hair
darker than a cloudy, moonless night's skies.  Her top was tight
enough that any weapons would have shown through.  She didn't need
weapons to be dangerous, like King Friday.  Between her looks and her
training, she could kill any man - or any woman.
	James returned with a fresh glass of scotch, which the Baron quickly
sipped at.  He saw Major Akiro Tanaka in a corner, yelling at one of
his giant robot guards.  To the Baron, it looked like something out of
Robocop, with two large Gatling guns mounted instead of hands.  Tanaka
himself wasn't fully human - cybernetic implants had replaced one eye,
his right arm and both legs.  Part of his torso was probably
cybernetic as well.  The guy was a genius, the Baron told himself, but
he was freaking crazy to be yelling at a robot.
	"You know, staring at people like that will bound to get you killed,"
a snake like whisper came from the Baron's right.
	First, the Baron looked over at James, who was staring wide eyed at
what was to his right. Then, he turned his attention to the speaker.
	"You know, Emil, that sneaking up on people will get you killed
first," came the Baron's response.
	A half cackle, half slither escaped from the throat of the man only
known as Emil, the Shadow Keeper.  His army of half-lizard, half-
ninjas were utilized by drug lords, revolutionaries and the like all
over the world.  Emil was the result of an undisclosed Eastern
European nation's attempts at re-creating the process the imbued the
American Ranger with his abilities.  Something had gone wrong, and
Emil had emerged as the living embodiment of a shadow.
	"What brings you to Pinnacle City, Emil?" the Baron followed up his
joke with a prying question. "I've heard that the NSA, DSA, CIA, and
all the other lovely acronyms are after you these days."
	The half cackle, half slither returned. "All I try to do," he
wheezed, "is to run a business.  America is supposed to be.  The land
of opportunity.  What do I get?  Harassment.  Extradition charges.
Something call RITA-"
	"It's RICO, Emil, RICO," the Baron corrected him before sipping his
scotch again.
	"RICO.  RITA.  It matters not to me," Emil continued.
	"So you just want to supply arms and trained killers to businesses
such as mine."
	The two men laughed a bit.  Well, one laughed, one cackled.
	They were interrupted by the garage door of the warehouse opening,
and an unmarked white van driving in.  The vehicle slowly drove in,
avoiding the various criminal masterminds.
	"Please excuse me," Emil rasped before moving back into the shadows.
	The Baron waved his hand at the Shadow Keeper, all the while keeping
his eyes on the van.  It slowed to a stop next to him.  The driver
opened the passenger side window.  Instinctively, the Baron leaned
down to see inside the van.
	The driver's face was covered in bandages.  Only the lips and mouth
were visible, while two holes were cut for the nostrils.  "Herr
Baron," Facebook stated in a heavy German accent.  The Baron answered
with a nod in return.  Facebook got out of the van, ignoring the
stares from the other criminals and walked around to the other side of
the van.  His bandage-covered hand snuck out and shook the Baron's
scotch-free hand.
	Without exchanging a word, Facebook opened the sliding door of the
van.  The small overhead light illuminated what was on the floor.  The
Baron's jaw dropped before he quickly recovered.  A smile smile
appeared on his face as he looked at Facebook.  "Velocity?"
	The bandaged head nodded.  "He's the one."
	"Is he really marked?"
	Again, Facebook nodded.  What the Baron could see of his lips were
raised in triumph at the corners.  "He's an Ancient."

	A helicopter didn't normally land in East Shore, especially along the
rock strewn beaches that were usually unoccupied even in the summer.
East Shore was the poorest neighborhood in Pinnacle City.  It had
drawn comparisons to the worst slums of any city in the United
States.  Boarded up windows were the norm.  As were the sky-high
housing projects that made Cabrini-Green and Marcy Houses look like
the cleanest toys along a model railroad scene.
	That's where the Fedora was sitting - at the top of the Logan Heights
building, his eyes peering around the dark and dusty slums of East
Shore.  He noticed the helicopter when it was moving across the
skyline.  It was a military helicopter, painted in dark greens,
completely the opposite of the sleek news copters and company-owned
helicopters that served the city.
	The fact that it landed on Howton's Beach was just the icing on the
cake.  The Fedora knew all about what had happened at the Protectors
compound, which meant he knew who was on board the helicopter.
	Grimacing at the potential situations that whirled around in his
head, the Fedora pulled a cell phone out of his coat and punched in a
series of numbers.  He heard the phone ring four times and flip over
to voice mail, "Hey, it's Clay, I can't -"
	Grunting, the Fedora snapped his phone shut and looked around.  His
photographic memory took quick snap shots of where exactly the
helicopter was and where in the East Shore he was.  Shaking his head,
the Fedora reached into his jacket again.
	He pulled out an object the size of a medium flashlight encased in a
hard rubber, but really was a rocket propelled rappelling hook.
Leaning his head instinctively backwards, the Fedora fired one end
into the edge of the tower.  The arrow-like head tore into the
concrete and held fast.  The Fedora clipped the other half to his
belt, the now open end facing his head.
	Looking over the edge of the tower, the Fedora nodded and took a step
off into the sky.  He drifted towards the ground until the line went
stiff.  The Fedora's body jerked hard, but he was used to the whiplash
by now.  He reached down and flipped a switch, letting the rest of the
line out slowly.  As he lowered himself into the alley by the side of
the Logan Heights building, the Fedora flicked another switch, letting
himself drop the ground.
	A jet black Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG sat waiting for him.  He had had
it imported from Europe, since, as he liked to tell himself, "As great
a country this is, we don't do shit with cars."  It's sleek lines
called to him.  He could tell she ached to be released, to run wild
around the cattle in the streets of Pinnacle City.
	"Ok, sweetheart," the Fedora said as he ran his fingers along the
hood of the Benz.  "Let's go stretch your legs."

	I don't know why I agreed to go along with the Fedora.  I was still
heated from what had happened with Frankie the File earlier in the
day.  But when he showed up on my balcony (again), telling me he knew
where Tommy was, I listened.
	It's not like I didn't want to listen, of course.  The topic of the
very one-sided conversation was Tommy.  Like the last time he had come
to my apartment, the Fedora surprised the hell out of me.  His voice
had interrupted me before I had the chance to put my fist into the
wall for the third time.
	"Dry wall is expensive, do you own the place?" he had quipped.  I
wheeled around.  His face would do in place of my wall.
	"It's not that expensive," I retorted. "And yes, I do own the place."
	The Fedora nodded.  He was leaned on the sliding door to my balcony.
"Family money?"
	I knew the money had come from my dad. "Something like that."
	Again, he nodded.  His nodding annoyed me.  It was like a nervous
	"I know where your friend is," the Fedora broke the heavy silence.
My anger-clenched jaw slackened immediately.  I thought I saw the
Fedora smile at my reaction. "I've learned of a meeting tonight, where
your friend is going to be on display.  I'm not sure what's going to
happen, but it can't be good.  King Friday, Prada, the Shadow Keeper,
Major Tanaka, all of them."
	"All of whom?" I still wasn't sure I knew what he was talking about,
but it didn't sound good.
	"You name the mercenaries that the Medusa Corporation employs, then
they'll be there," the Fedora continued. "I haven't called the
Protectors yet."
	"Why not?" I asked.
	"As much as they want to bring them in, you have a much larger reason
to be there."
	We were now sitting in his fancy sports car, roaring down Kennedy
Boulevard towards East Shore.  He took a sharp left onto Martin Luther
King Jr., the tires squealing on the dry black pavement.  The car
fishtailed a bit, but quickly it was back on course.
	I tried not to think about his driving - it honestly made me a bit
queasy.  Huh, I told myself, I can fly around all I want and feel
fine, but driving in a car with this maniac made me want to lean
myself out the window and start puking.
	Before I knew it, the Fedora slammed on the breaks.  As my head
whipped back, I took a look around.  We were in a burned out section
of the city, filled with warehouses, some of them the gutted, rotten
corpses of buildings.  "That one over there," the Fedora stated,
pointing out one intact building.  It looked completely non-
nondescript, except for the faint light coming from a number of
windows across the building's front.
	I tried to climb out the car, but the Fedora pulled me back down.
"Don't be an idiot," he said, grabbing my left shoulder.
	"What?" I snapped, turning in my seat to look at him.
	The Fedora set his jaw, "You can't go rushing into there with all of
those wackos," he told me. "I'll call the Protectors, and they can -"
	I didn't let him answer.  I popped the door and stepped out into the
night.  It was humid, making the spandex that I was wearing feel
tighter than before.  I had a massive lump in my throat.  I had to
rescue Tommy.

	The gurney had been set up on a stage in the middle of the
warehouse.  Tommy was strapped to it, his eyes still heavy with
whatever drug Facebook had used to knock him out.  Sharp, harsh light
stung his eyes as he tried to focus on what was around him.  He saw
faces staring down at them, fiendish lights in their eyes.
	Everything was blurry, moving in slow motion.  His ears rang, his
neck was on fire.  Tommy closed his eyes tightly and then re-opened
them.  Nothing was different.
	His entire body felt like it was floating in jello.  Nothing
responded when he moved it.  He had been drugged, he knew that.  But
what was it?  That he wasn't sure of.
	"...this is the Para-X13 serum," a voice was saying.  It was a plain
voice, dripping with malice and hatred.  No accent.  Tommy tried to
remember who was speaking, but nothing registered.
	The Baron was holding up a syringe, filled with a light blue colored
liquid.  He moved the syringe up for everyone to see.  Nobody murmured
or "oohed" and "ahhed", which was fine by him.  He wanted to see their
reaction when the liquid was injected into the body of a superhuman
	But Tommy wasn't just a normal superhuman, not at all.  As an
Ancient, the Para-X13 could do anything to him.  It was almost like
playing roulette, the Baron thought, this serum could turn him into a
human bomb, or into the most powerful being on Earth.
	"Now, for the ultimate test," the Baron called out.  He had heard
rumors of the syrup being tested on other subjects.  Rumor had it that
Bakker Industrial had been testing it on super humans in far off
countries.  He didn't fully believe it - that was more like something
the Medusa Corporation would do, not Bakker.
	The room was hushed - you could hear the sweat start rolling down the
side of the Baron's face.  More than one person held their breath as
the needle plunged down towards Tommy's skin.  Tommy was moaning
something lightly, trying to figure out where he was.

	I couldn't wait any longer.  The glass shattered around me as I flew
into the warehouse.  Everyone in the room turned to look at me.  I
only knew bits and pieces of who they were, but it was the guy
strapped to the gurney that I was here for.
	A well dressed guy had been about to plunge a nasty syringe into
Tommy's arm when I had crashed into the giant room.  He stopped to see
what was going on.  "What-Come on!  Can't I do this without some
spandex wacko interrupting," the gentleman yelled.
	I took a quick step on the concrete floor, and aimed myself at him.
I shoved forward, ignoring the groping arms of the criminals below me,
and crashed into the guy's arm.  The needle shot away from him, flying
through the air until it stuck into the leg of a thin man standing on
the stage.  He let out a blood curdling scream that echoed over the
	I didn't take time to pay attention to them.  Instead, I start
tearing at the binds holding Tommy - he was slowly coming back, but it
was taking longer than I would have liked.  The rest of the crowd was
starting the climb out of the way of the stage.
	A massive robot was taking their place.  It sat on two squat legs,
with massive cannons in place of their hands.  It looks like something
out of Robocop, I quipped to myself.  My  eyes grew to the size of
saucers as robot turned to face me, its large guns pointed at me.  "Oh
crap," I started to say.
	A bulky Asian man in a military uniform and covered in metal yelled
something to the robot.  I turned and grabbed Tommy, pulling him to
his feel and throwing him to the side as the robot opened fire.  I
flew the opposite way, not noticing that Tommy had run into the thin
man on the stage's side.
	"Ewww!"  Someone screamed as a nearly inaudible explosion reached my
ears.  The robot had stopped, and I turned around.  Tommy was sitting
in a gooey mixture of fluid and what looked like bone.  He was shaking
him head, slowly realizing where he was and what he was doing.
	Tommy didn't have a chance to even get sick.  He stood up and moved
rapidly away.  A little too rapidly.  My jaw nearly dropped.  Tommy
had superpowers?
	"Uh...Tommy..." I started saying when he yelled out "Move!"  The
robot had returned its attention to me, and the guns opened up again.
I jumped up, avoiding the shots.  The robot was smarter than it seemed
- instead of tracking me, it turned it's attention to Tommy.
	Tommy started moving, forcing the robot to track it across the length
of the warehouse.  As Tommy was nearing one wall, the large metal and
concrete side suddenly crumbled.  Tommy skidded to a stop, but fell,
sliding into the feet of Senator Simian.
	The Protectors had arrived - Senator Simian, Ace, Liberator, Solstice
Powers, Steelhide, Ironwing, Hawk, and ZipGun.  They stood there,
trying to cower the criminals with their glares.
	They didn't seem to notice that the robot had now laid eyes on them.
I didn't know what the military guy was yelling at the robot, but I
understood it perfectly.  The guns tracked onto the heroes.  They
didn't seem to notice it immediately, but some of them did.
	I stared down at this.  I couldn't get them in time.  I had only one
	"Come on, Dad," I whispered, "Come on."
	I stretched my hands out to each side of me, my eyes focused on the
robot below.  With all my strength, I brought my hands together.
	A ball of energy escaped.  It steadily grew larger as it moved away
from me.  The ball of energy took a moment to do anything.  Suddenly,
it changed into a massive disc of energy, whipped across the air,
slicing through the robot.
	The machine fell in half as a roll of thunder echoed throughout the
	I didn't know what happened next.  There was fighting.  A lot of
yelling.  But everyone stayed away from me.  I hung in the air for a
little while longer, taking it all in.
	I had done it.  The energy burst that was my power.  Or at least, one
of them.  I had done it.  And I had probably saved the Protectors.
	As I descended towards the ground, Tommy was waiting for me.  He was
covered in what looked like the ectoplasmic goo from Ghostbusters.
	"Wow," was all he said.
	"Wow?" I repeated. "When were you going to tell me?"
	"Tell you about what?"
	I was surprised. "You, who can't keep his mouth shut for five fucking
minutes.  You have superpowers?"
	Tommy nodded sheepishly.  "Yeah, there's something I need to tell
	"I think I know."
	"Well, it's really a long story."
	I chuckled, "I think you're right."
	I turned to go and ran smack into Ironwing.  I hadn't seen him since
our very chilly conversation after the Red Samurai had tried preparing
me for a pig roast.
	He stared down at me, those haunting alien eyes seemed to tear into
my soul.  It was creepy.  Really creepy.
	"You did well today," the alien said simply before stepping aside and
walking past me.  I turned and looked at him as he walked away,
surveying the rest of the warehouse, and the handful of criminals
	"Thanks," I muttered in response.
	Ironwing stopped and without looking over his shoulder, added, "But
you've got a long way to go before you can rightfully call yourself
what you want."
	"Easy boys," a voice cut through the quickly tensioning air.  I
hadn't even had a chance to respond, but the tall, attractive woman
with brown hair cut in.  It was the Liberator.  She had been a big
hero back when I was a kid.  Gretchen had been fascinated with her, I
remembered.  Was it awkward to ask her for an autograph? I thought.
	She turned to me, a smile on her face.  "You did do well," she
stated, "We do owe you."
	I shook my head, holding my hands up.  "Ms. Liberator, you don't -" I
cut myself off and cringed.  I had called her "MS".  I was a freaking
	"Thanks," I simply replied.  She was still chuckling as I turned
	"Let's go," Tommy said.
	"Where?" I replied.
	A mischievous smile spread across his face. "I'll race you."

- - -

Author's Notes:

Wow, that only took like three months to write.  Crazy stuff, and I
even had this thing completely written in an outline form.  I'm please
to finally write this.  And I really really really have something else
to write and give to you guys.  We'll see - I'm not making any
promises this time.

The "PINCITY" in the title is to help differentiate and define the
world that I'm trying to develop here.  If you've read "Thunderclap"
or "Goddess and the Bomb", you'll know that Pinnacle City is the home
base for these super heroes.



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