[PINCITY/ACRA] Thunderclap #13 - 'Spooks'
rickhindle at gmail.com
Sat Mar 14 19:59:05 PDT 2009
#13 - âRevolution Part I - Spooksâ
by Rick Hindle
[cover shows Thunderclap chained up on a dungeon wall; Suzie is
shackled into a chair nearby while the Ice Queen and Playboy prepare
to torture our fearless hero. Cover copy reads: âA Revolution Begins
The room the Playboy sat in hardly met his standards. He grumbled
under his breath at every opportunity about the poor service by the
staff, the lack of proper airflow and how his contract called for
Champagne, not sparkling wine from California. After he patted his
brow dry with a handkerchief for the umpteenth time that day, he threw
down the cloth and stood up.
âThis is insufferable,â he commented to anyone who would listen.
The Ice Queen wasn't listening. She was sitting quietly, enjoying
the painkillers that were masking the pain from the bullet wound that
Suzie had inflicted upon her at the Bureau of Superhuman Affairs safe
house. The pain took her back to when she was in high school and the
bullies picked on her. They made fun of her hair and her eyes and her
skin and her clothes. She had made most of them pay.
Then there was that jackass Thunderclap, who had haunted her dreams
since she fought him in Pinnacle City. His eyes were burned into her
mind, even after she stared at them through the icy cocoon she had
placed him in. Even though Athena and her fat sidekick Clusterbomb
had scared her off before she could finish the job, she was haunted by
him. It wasn't something she could place, either. Was it the way he
talked back to her, egging her on, like he had no fear of her? Or was
it something deeper, something more?
The Ice Queen shook her head and looked at the Playboy, who was
pacing around, swearing under his breath. She was amused by his
constant complaining about the building they were in. She didn't like
the heat, but her ability to cool herself off with her powers allowed
the Ice Queen to be at least comfortable. But the Playboy insisted on
wearing his suit at all times. Maybe there was something to the suit,
but she doubted it. âMasochistic bastard,â she muttered to herself.
âWhat was that, dear?â the Playboy asked as he turned around.
âNothing,â she lied. The Playboy grunted and turned back around,
staring out a window at the city of Montecaivo below. The little city
state had survived years of torture under rotating governments until a
decade ago when General Echevarria and his superhuman army had taken
over. Things were a bit better now, but mostly as a haven for
criminals. Those who didn't escape to Santa Maria were virtually
slaves of the state now.
Hovels and tenements stretched far below the castle they were in,
stretching towards the massive concrete wall separating Montecaivo
from the world outside. The Playboy found the constant upheaval
fascinating, but was unsure of whether or not he agreed with the
tactics that General Echevarria and his mercenary leader Thrust
employed. Again, the Playboy sighed, and pondered the ethics
question. He himself was employed by Thrust to assist General
Echevarria in furthering his plans for Montecaivo's civic
improvements. But it was whether or not he agreed with those
decisions that impacted his thoughts.
The slavery issue bothered him the most. While he did believe that
good service oftentimes required hired help, the Playboy felt himself
above the notion that one needs to force someone to do his bidding.
It's not sporting, he told himself, nor is it human. We shouldn't be
forcing these people to do our bidding just because we are more
powerful then them.
Now, the ethics part continued to bother him. But as he started to
ponder the different paths that he and his brother had taken years
before, the speaker phone on the table chirped. The Playboy looked at
the Ice Queen, who looked like she didn't care to hit the âANSWERâ
button. âNo, no, let me get it, madam,â the Playboy grumbled.
âYes,â he said after hitting the key.
The tinny voice that was all either the Playboy or the Ice Queen knew
of Thrust come from the speaker phone, âOne half the ransom has
âOne half? Which?â the Playboy responded, sitting down at the table
across from his cold-hearted colleague.
âUnfortunately, not the one we wanted more,â Thrust's voice
answered. âThe American Ranger is in Santa Maria, at the US Embassy.
There has yet to be a sighting of the Ancient that our guest was
hounding. However, I do have a present for you.â
âLook at the television,â Thrust instructed them right before an
image appeared on the flat-screen.
I turned over, grimacing as the bump on my head touched the hard
stone floor. I groaned and try to open my eyes. Sunlight streamed in
from a window into my face. I clamped them shut and tried to block
out the pain. It all felt like a hangover was starting.
Trying to stand up was a problem. I tried pushing myself up onto my
elbows, but the pain was too much and I fell back with an exasperated
sigh. The air was humid and stuffy and breathing wasn't something
easily accomplished. As I laid on the dirty floor of where ever I
was, I ran the back of my hand across my brow, wicking away the sweat,
but streaking dirt across my forehead.
âHe looks familiar,â the Ice Queen said, her eyes not moving from the
screen. âWho is he?â
âThunderclap,â the metallic voice informed her.
The Playboy sniffed at the name. He had had run-ins with the
previous Thunderclap in Pinnacle City years before. Seeing the
superhuman in the cell brought a smile to his face â too often he had
ended up in the opposite position.
The Ice Queen silently sat there, her expression not changing. Her
mind whirled at the image of Thunderclap without his mask on. He was
cute, she thought, but then the Ice Queen remembered his biting
comments at the park in Pinnacle City. How could she think we was
attractive? He was just like the jocks and their cheerleader
girlfriends in high school.
âCan I kill him?â she asked without emotion.
Both the Ice Queen and the Playboy sat there for a moment, listening
the voice breathing mechanically through the speaker. âFine,â he
finally stated. âMaybe that will bring the American Ranger across the
I eventually was able to sit up in my cell and then shook my head.
The cobwebs were slow to lift. I know I was stupid, and I shouldn't
have volunteered for this. Suzie was a friend, sure, but then again,
she had betrayed Tommy by lying to him about her true nature. But she
was a friend, and that's why I guess I volunteered.
âWhy did I agree to this?â I grumbled to myself.
The flight down to Santa Maria had been relatively smooth. Ace, the
American Ranger and I had changed out of our spandex and masks and
into 'civilian' clothes. That way, it wouldn't be too obvious who we
were, or at least that was the Ranger's idea. I'm not sure, but it's
pretty obvious about who would be leaving the Protectors Gulfstream.
We were picked up by an unmarked black sedan that I soon figured out
was again, way out of place in Santa Maria. It was a big Lincoln
deal, driven by a guy in a navy golf shirt and khaki pants. And
sunglasses; big, dark, supposedly imposing sunglasses. He looked like
a reject from central casting for a Secret Service role in an action
movie about the President. If we had really wanted to sneak into the
country as to not let Suzie's captors know we were here, the three of
us would have failed many times over by now.
The United States Embassy in Santa Maria was a large, Spanish-style
building set inside large walls topped with razor wire. Again, if we
were sneaking in...enough, I told myself, it's not like the Protectors
are used to be silent. After all, when you have an immortal woman, an
alien warrior, a bunch of people who can fly, and a patriotic-dressed
guy covered in cybernetics, you can't exactly be quiet. Me, I
probably would have preferred a quieter approach. But that's the
company I keep.
I'd never been in an Embassy, but I really wasn't that impressed. It
was fairly well-appointed, but not like a major hotel, more likely a
stately manor that some rich guy owned, maybe like Kellogg Bakker's
old man. Pictures of the sitting President, and a number of major
cabinet members and diplomats. The sitting ambassador was a woman,
but according to the staffer we were working with, she was back in
Washington for a meeting. âProbably for the best,â the American
We ended up in a conference room that looked down a wide, trash
strewn boulevard to the wall separating Santa Maria from Montecaivo.
Refugees were living in shanties and little cabins that built up in
the alleyways between the large, more established houses in the city
state. Hygiene seemed to be a huge issue throughout the city, and the
air conditioner in the conference room didn't do a great job of
covering the smells that wafted down the boulevard.
âSirs, I am Agent Weatherly, this is Agent Nakata,â a tall, athletic
man stated as he walked into the conference room. I recognized him as
the Secret Service-looking guy from the car ride from the airport. He
had blond hair that was cut short, with blue eyes that seemed to
gather in a lot of information. Weatherly was a bit larger than me,
and looked like he had played football in college, too.
Nakata was shorter, but solidly filled out his tight-fitting collared
shirt. His dark hair was spiky, with frosted tips that made him look
fairly young. I could make out the holes on his ears where earrings
used to be. He probably gave them up when he joined the BSA, I told
After the introductions had been made â the Protectors and I gave our
'superhero' names, not our real ones â the Bureau of Superhuman
Affairs guys sat down. We sat down across from them and listened to
the updated information on the political status not only within
Montecaivo, but with Santa Maria, and the United States as well. It
was interesting information, if I fully cared about it. What they
weren't really touching on was what I needed to know â where was
âSo, which one of you is going to do into Montecaivo?â Weatherly
I didn't give Ace or Ranger a chance to state their case, âI'm
going,â I announced. I then felt the need to add, âShe knows me.
It'll be a lot easier.â The other two were silent, almost like they
had planned for it to happen this way.
âYou're going to meet a contact we've got in their underground,â
Nakata explained. âHe's just known as Sombra. That's all we know,
unfortunately, but he seems to be a key player in their underground
âAnd we need your pin,â Weatherly bluntly stated. I looked at him as
if he's lost his mind, then I tried relaxing, but I needed the pin.
Hell, what was he thinking?
âUm, I'm not sure that's a great idea,â I responded. A slight smile
flashed on Weatherly's face. I narrowed my eyes and tried to look
menacing, but I'm doubting it had any effect on him.
The Ranger looked over at me, âJust give him the pin, Thunderclap,â
he stated slowly and calmly. âYou'll be fine.â It felt reassuring, I
guess, but at the same time, I started wondering if I could complete
this little mission without my powers. I was, after all, about to go
into a country nearly entirely populated by superhumans. Maybe no
problem for someone like the Ranger, who was used to being a lower-
powered superhuman fighting much more powerful opponents. Me, on the
other hand? Oh boy.
So I dutifully took off the pin and tossed it across the table.
âCrap,â I muttered under my breath.
âWhat's that?â Nakata asked. My reply was a simple shake of the
* * *
Gretchen stared out the apartment windows as the clouds began to roll
into Pinnacle Bay. She sighed and tried to put on a happy face. It
was tough, but with her father coming soon, Gretchen knew that she had
to at least look fine.
Inside, though, it was tough. She knowingly had latched onto what
Clay had told her on the way back from her humiliation at Kelly
Bakker's party. Gretchen knew it was complicated, but it kept
hounding her. While it wasn't the 'real' her or the 'real' Clay, at
least in some world, in some plane of reality, she and Clay were
together. Were happy. Of course, she ended up dead, but at least it
seemed she died happy.
Since she was in high school, Gretchen had gone through a seemingly
endless parade of boyfriends as she tried to find Mr. Right. Her
friend Amanda had called her a âserial monogamousâ, almost like it was
the same as calling her a âserial slutâ. Amanda had gone to high
school with Gretchen, and Tommy, and Clay and Kenny. They had all
been friends of some sort or another.
Gretchen smiled a bit at memories of Amanda chasing Clay. It always
seemed that Clay had some girl or another chasing him. He was, after
all, a superstar at that school; the best football player, a great
basketball player, and a pro prospect at short on the baseball team.
Clay Hunter was Mr. All-American. But until he became Thunderclap,
Gretchen and the rest of their friends had never known the secrets
that Clay held from all of them.
Leaning forward, Gretchen ignored the rain as it started to drip
against the window and pressed her forehead to the cool glass. âWhy
didn't Clay ever show any feelings towards me?â she thought out loud.
âBut why do jerks and losers?â
She groaned and walked away from the window and sat down on the
couch. Where the hell was her father? At least he could let her
forget Clay and Kelly. That way, she could focus on what was going on
in his life. Gretchen's dad was a construction worker, and had raised
her as a single father after her mother's death during one of the many
superhuman battles that tore apart Pinnacle City. In her mother's
case, Gretchen had to watch as Plutonium blew apart her mother's car
right in front of their home before the Cougar could him.
Most people had only cared that the Cougar had died fighting
Plutonium, however. Gretchen's mom had been stuck later on, just in
the notes as one of a handful of people Plutonium had killed. The
whole incident haunted Gretchen to the day, and still made her
question why Clay would even be a good choice. He would have to give
up being a superhuman, she had decided. But what if that other
dimension was true?
Gretchen's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the buzzer. Her dad
had arrived. âFinally,â Gretchen sighed as she pushed Clay and Kelly
and her mom out of her thoughts, at least for now.
As he watched Gretchen grab her coat and head out the door, the
Fedora leaned away from the edge of the building he was sitting on.
Rain water dripped off the edge of his beloved hat, obscuring his
vision. Fall was starting to roll into Pinnacle City, and the trees
were already starting to color. But the Fedora's dark vision didn't
take in the colors or observe the cold.
The man behind the mask shook his head and pondered his life. Was it
all a mistake? Was it all for not? Was his real identity suffering
in spite of his successes behind the mask? Again, the Fedora shook
his head and then turned his attention away from Gretchen's apartment
and back over towards the East Shore.
Fresh smoke from a fire wafted up from a few miles away. The Fedora
grimaced. The gang war that had started with the deaths of the
leaders of the Hood Street Gang. It had gotten worse when other gang
leaders had been knocked off. Now, there was open warfare for control
of the East Shore. Refugees, they had been termed by the media, were
flooding into the other areas of the city. This in turn, was pushing
the city closer and closer to total war.
The Protectors were standing by, monitoring the situation. The
Fedora sneered at the thought. Some of the 'lesser' heroes were on
the ground, fighting the gangs and trying to get to the middle of the
whole situation. They were fighting a losing battle, the Fedora
admitted to himself. When Athena and Clusterbomb are your most
powerful people, it's going to be a long fight. He was trying to find
a way to get more super powered people onto his side, but it was going
to be an awful task.
Turning his attention from the smoke, the Fedora looked down to see
Gretchen clasping her father's arm under an umbrella as the rain
picked up. The Fedora let out an exasperated sigh and turned back to
the smoke. Maybe there's another choice, he thought, although I might
have to sell my soul to do it.
* * *
I had managed to get into Montecaivo without a hitch. The Embassy
and the resistance had set up a nice system of tunnels to get people
in and out of the superhuman police state. I guess that made things
easier. Now was the trouble.
There were guards walking the walls high above the city. The intel
from Nakata and Weatherly made it clear that at least one guard, if
not them all, had some sort of superhuman ability to see clearly in
the dark. I grumbled something under my breath about being stupid and
going into a superhuman city state without powers. Man, what would
the Fedora do right now?
I stopped myself from continuing that line of thought, largely
because it would probably involve lots of dead people; myself
included. Okay, maybe I'd cross that line if necessary. But
something tells me I wouldn't. Or maybe that was me telling myself
that I wouldn't cross the line. Never mind, I said, trying to clear
my mind. I've just got to stay focused on staying alive before I
cross any self-designed line.
Montecaivo was a slum, at least, that's the only way I could describe
it. Low-slung buildings, covered n chipped, peeling, yellowed paint
seemed to be lined up everywhere. The streets were all the same â a
mix of dirt and fractured asphalt. Some of the streetlights were
working, but most were burned out or broken by rocks, bottles or
Walking through the streets, I heeded the agents' advice. The
shadows seemed to be the safest route, but it still creeped me out.
Maybe it was the knowledge that some of the guards could probably see
me in the dark. I wondered if they had, would they immediately raise
the alarm like in the movies, or would they take their time and
carefully encircle me?
âWhere the hell is my contact?â I wondered just before I was grabbed
from the shadows and roughly pulled into a building. I laid on the
ground, staring up at the dark shadows before one of them shimmered
and slowly became solid. It had human features; I could see deeply
tanned skin and long straight black hair. He was wearing black boots,
dark jeans and long-sleeved black shirt.
âSo they sent you?â the man asked in halting English. He was
probably wondering why they sent such a dashing, blond-haired, blue
eyed All-American kid. Yeah, in other words, the worst possible
candidate to send on a mission such as this one.
I nodded in response to his question. âAnd you are?â
âSombra,â my contact stated as he put out his hand. âI've been the
contact here for a while. I'm the chief of your government-supported
âSi,â Sombra replied, âGeneral Echevarria and his super army has
turned Montecaivo into the slum you see here. Before, it was
beautiful, even if we couldn't keep a government together, we at least
allowed the people to be free. For me and the rest of the resistance,
it was a life of servitude, or escape, or resist. And that is what I
âI came to rescue someone,â I stated, rather bluntly. I did feel bad
â it was obvious to me that Sombra's assistance in helping me save
Suzie was just a small part in the larger scope of saving his
âI understand that,â Sombra responded. âBut you must realize what I
need help in.â
I knew this was going to be too good to be true. I had to think of
something fast, or else I was going to be in deep trouble. âHelp me
save my friend,â I began and then froze. Was this a bargaining chip I
was ready to use? Shit, it had to be. âHelp me save my friend and
I'll help you take down the General,â I bargained.
Sombra looked at me, his eyes tearing into my soul it felt. If this
guy could walk in the shadows, I wondered what else he could do.
âThunderclap,â I responded, finally shaking his head.
Before we could continue on, the door behind Sombra shattered. He
turned back into a shadow and I immediately felt betrayed. I knew my
entrance into Montecaivo was too easy. A large man, his face and arms
covered in scars walking into the room. He was huge, in fact, scarily
huge. His muscles had muscles. Veins seemed to be everything.
I raised my hands, and prayed for a peaceful resolution to this. All
I remember was his fist heading towards my head.
* * *
The clicking of boots woke me from my dreaming. The sun was going
down and light was fading within the cell. Deep down, I was waiting
for this. I had no idea at that point who was coming, but I knew I
had to do something. God dammit, I was Thunderclap for crying out
Pin or no pin, I wasn't going to let someone take me down. No way
was I going to let Playboy or the Ice Queen or even this Thrust
character get Tommy. The American Ranger could take care of himself,
but Tommy needed me in some way.
The heels stopped clicking outside my door. I crouched to get ready
for whatever was coming. It dawned on me briefly that if it was the
Ice Queen, I'd have problems. Something about her tore at my insides
â my imprisonment and eventual death in that ice tomb had been averted
by Mordecai Holmquist. I doubted that he would be able to come to my
Hopefully it was the Playboy. That jackass in a suit may have been
Ace's brother, but I could take him.
The door swung inwards, revealing the dark hall. I peered out,
trying to let the light in the cell improve the images in the
darkness. Breathing deeply, I slowly shifted forward. Immediately, I
heard something and ducked and rolled to the left.
I cursed my lack of premonition and stood back up. The next thing I
knew, a blast of silver and white erupted from the hallway. I did the
same move from before to the right and shot up to my feet. The Ice
Queen was standing in the hallway.
She cackled menacingly, âCome now, Thunderclap, it's time to die!â
To be continued in the second part of âThe Revolutionâ: 'Thrust'
A bit more history is revealed here, I'm quite happy about the
storyline I'm building here. Some of it might be resolved in the
short term, but some of it might take a year or so to unveil itself.
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