^ Imagine me jumping out of the phone…surprise!
Matilda Walther P. Mathau!
You’re not gonna believe this! I know it’s usually a week or sometimes two between confessions but I’ve had more excitement in the last twenty-four hours than I’ve had in the last six months since I moved! Remember that guy I told you about? The mysterious one with the dark glasses? Well he invited me back to his place after our coffee date went so well. I mean, I told him I wasn’t that kind of girl but he insisted. Hah! Just kidding. He hasn’t even seen the “real” me yet and I’m trying to keep Dark Hazel under wraps. I should be able to do-gooder and save the day without letting her out…too soon.
Anyway, work was the usual — mind-numbing and eye-squinting boredom. On a lark I shot Matt — that’s Spirit, by the way, in case you forgot already. I shot Matt a quick email telling him I would stop by the Tomorrow Legion Headquarters somewhere in Kilgore in the Midtown district. He gave me an address that wasn’t legit. Maybe it was too new to be registered with Goggle Maps. I sent him a follow-up text from my cell and told him just to give me directions. He started to explain it to me and within a few sentences my head was swimming with the possibilities of public transit. The metro, rail, buses, and trolley are woefully inadequate for the number of commuters. This is a metropolis! Not like the ‘burbs back home. You’d think Century Station would invest a little more money in its “working class.” We pay taxes here too! Well, don’t we?
Whoa! Sorry, you know how I can get tangential when I’m excited. Spirit’s directions aside I asked him for the main land-line at the headquarters. And, Matty, lemme tell ya — to his credit, he didn’t even bat an eyelash. I was coming from work so I didn’t have the luxury of riding my bike. I very casually made my way down into the basement where Mike the Janitor lets me use one of the staff lockers. He was a great guy to befriend, by the way, good call! (High-five!) So I disappeared into the Telcom room with the Exchange and hitched a ride on the little lines of fiber-optics! It’s always a little unnerving when I do it because I can’t seem to work the magic without Dark Hazel’s help. When she’s around I can Ride the Lightning like nobody’s business! I’m still a little self-conscious about that which is why I do most of my “telecommuting” (Thanks MikeyD) from home.
Where was I? Oh yeah, so you know how Gerhardt always told us to knock first and wait until you’re actually invited in — to enter? Well I was meeting The Tomorrow Team for the first time and I didn’t want them to think I was some homeless manner-less hobo-slut who just shows up unannounced and flits about in a shower of sparks and…oh yeah, wears a mask and Gandalf’s robe to cover up the fact that her body is glowing with blood-red runes and inscriptions. It’s great for parties but…yeah, not the kind of first-impression I’m comfortable making…yet. So I did what any ol’ girl would do and politely waited for someone to answer the phoney-fone. Ring! Rrrrring ring! Ring!
Buzz! Buzz buzz whirrr…! Beep beep! Like maybe they had a Roadrunner phone or something? All I know is the secretary took a really late lunch break and I was just hangin’ out in fiber-space crackling away all abuzz with my sparkly self. It’s a terrible cryin’ shame I can’t twiddle my sparkly thumbs while I’m in the lines. Oh well! After what felt like an eternity an ogre answered the phone all befuddled when I materialzed. And Matty, when I say ogre, I mean — this guy was gi-normous! He was so wide he couldn’t even fit into the back seat of the police car with us! He even had to turn side-ways to fit through the doorways! Mmm…belay that, he wasn’t all toady and warty like an ogre — he was kinda cute but…built like a…ahhh…football player I guess. Or maybe a steroid jock-monkey?
He introduced himself to me as Virgil and he was a little taken aback at my initial appearance. You know when I first materialize from out of the lines Dark Hazel’s facade is all you see. It might have been unnerving but I assuaged him and assured the mountain of a man that I had, indeed, been invited by Matt…
….who, as if on cue, arrived only a moment later DECKED OUT in a shiny battle suit armor robot…um, thing; it looked like something out of that Gibson novel Gerhardt got me for my 14th birthday, Neuromancer. He claimed to be investigating a disturbance in the Force but I have a funny feeling my electrical entrance did NOT go unnoticed. Matt, Spirit, was polite, perfunctorily pleasant and gave me the grand tour with Virgil while we made our introductions. The headquarters seemed awfully big for only two people but they assured me the other ten were out fighting crime and warding off the Boogey Man. They say Iron Man is working very hard to establish a permanent presence and take over his own little portion of Century Station. But who trusts the news anyway? The papers are all bullshit and the programs are all canned and regurgitated. I’ll believe it when I see it. His little section of town is a shithole and as long as he stays there let him have what’s coming to him. The BIG BOYS and REAL HEROES are too busy to mess with the likes of that small-time crook.
Sorry, got lost on a tangent again. So we ran into this woman named Diane during the tour and she seemed pretty nice but our introductions got interrupted by the police! They were carrying on in the front lobby reception area about needing some heroes. I wonder why they didn’t just call. Were the phones down? They offered to give us a lift to the precinct and that’s when the sheer massive size of Virgil really hit home. He actually had to squeeze himself into the back of another patrol car because we didn’t fit together. LOL! I know, I know…it’s not nice to poke fun. Sheesh! But, I wonder how big his…y’know, thing, is. Geew! Scary thought.
But not as scary as what awaited us in the holding cell block of the precinct. We literally walked into the scene of a butcher shop — it was a bloodbath. Utter carnage had torn nine perps life and limb and dismembered and eviscerated them with unadulterated vivisection. The amount of gore and viscera that limned the walls and lined the halls cemented in my mind that we were actually witnessing a labor of love. This was artwork. The murderer was not engaging in this behavior merely for higher purpose or motive — there could be that as well — but for this person killing was an art of self-expression — it was his passion. This was a bloody canvas of flesh with the glint of sharp objects for paintbrushes. I shuddered and Diane couldn’t help but yack. I probably would have lost my lunch too if I had eaten any. My stomach growled. Virgil kept cool, calm, and collected and radioed back to Spirit to inform him of the devastation. He would be on his way.
Wow! This was a real mystery-solving crime-scene investigating HERO police and detective case! It was my first REAL dose of the stuff and, while it was gruesome and macabre, I really felt like I was in my element. Virgil wanted to review the video after noticing some surveillance cameras. Diane and I went with him, deciding not to split up, although we would visit the evidence locker next. The video showed a shadowy figure blot out all the lights with some kind of darkness and liquidy viscous goo stuff. I could still see the man as he stepped out of the shadows and began slaying the blind gang members. Diane transformed into the vision of a goddess and declared that she could see the murderer too! For some reason Virgil said the whole tape was blank for him and the cop who was showing us confirmed that. The cop wanted to fast-forward it to the scene when the lights turn back on but Diane and I firmly prohibited it. We picked up a few details from the video — liquid darkness, shadowy sharp weapons appearing in his hands then disappearing and reappearing again, short range teleports kind of like Nightstalker from the old comic books. While this whole thing was going on the cops who barged into the cell block were stymied by some kind of wall of darkness. It was like they couldn’t enter the room or pass through the immaterial blackness. That’s some serious magic…or super-powers. That’s one bad-ass combination of abilities.
This Shadow Man was a whirling dervish of savage combat and he would be hell to fight one-on-one if he took you unawares or unprepared. The advantage of darkness is that he was always in his element. He would always have the element of surprise or the initiative. The fight was always on his terms on his turf. We sent an officer to the evidence locker immediately for the silver case with a sinking feeling in the pits of our stomachs. This guy — this Shadow Man — he was good. By the time he returned with the bad news, the case was missing, we had seen the villain shred all nine kids and draw what appeared to be a magical circle on the floor in the pool of their collected blood. He knelt to pray or make some symbols or something. Who knows? Maybe he was Muslim. But we all reached the same conclusion. We had to find out more about him from S.H.A.R.D.. Spirit was most familiar with their operation and could probably get us access to their super-human registry and databases. Maybe this Shadow Guy had a record or maybe he had already been cataloged. That would be a really good lead and a great place to start tracking him down.
Virgil, Diane, and I made our way to the cell to make some observations of our own. It became immediately apparent that I was going to ruin my nice new shoes if I didn’t do some Quick Thinking and come up with a Clever and Useful idea. They’re leather and I bought them right before my interview only 6 months ago. They’re not getting sacrificed in the line of duty. Not for a couple of street thugs who won’t even get proper burials. Speaking of which, we asked the cops for a record of their personal effects — contacts, next-of-kin, clues, etc. There was only one cell phone in the bunch. Can you believe that Matty? Nine guys sharing one cell phone? Sheesh! It’s like a frat house thing or some nonsense. “Uh, hello? Uh, no this is Dino. I’ll go get Trey for you. Uh, hello? Uh, no this is Trey. Scooter is um, I dunno. He’s not here. Uh, hello? Uh, no this is…GETTING OLD?!?!” See Matty, it just wouldn’t work. Can you imagine having to share a bathroom with all those people? I guess there in two different gangs but still. It seems like a real clusterfuck. Oh yeah, and what’s the deal with their funeral rites? They probably can’t afford closed caskets. And, at this point, does it even matter? The coroner probably passed it off to the Janitor. He’d have better luck with a shop-vac than a stretcher. Eeew…that’s so gross! Can you imagine all their bits and pieces getting stuck inside the vacuum? Where was I going with this?
Maybe those thugs weren’t productive members of society. But even they deserved better than what they got.
Float in the Air allowed me and Diane to avoid the worst of the “muck” and we practiced our Zero-Gravity maneuvers while inspecting the cell. She had some pretty plain loafers on when we met but somewhere in the mix of metamorphoses and transformation she donned this absolutely stunning pair of hiking boots. Bleargh! I don’t know what happened but she got a whole new outfit and a cosmetic surgery makeover madness! She was like a character right out of Robin Hood or Tom Bombadil’s lost gorgeous cousin. Hiking boots and skin-tight hunting leathers kinda stand out in the city…but maybe not on the subway; it was like, all of a sudden, she had been going to the gym every day of her life since she was born. Sigh…why couldn’t Dark Hazel be like that? She really looked the heroine part of Heroes Unlimited. Dark Hazel just looks scary.
So I got a closer look at the magical circle but even with Decipher Magic couldn’t deduce more than I already had. There wasn’t much more to find in the cell besides the random limb or severed digit. At that point Virgil took the confiscated cell phone and had an epiphany. The hospital! We had to get there STAT! We were rushing out of the building when we literally ran headlong into Spirit. He concurred that the only thug left alive, albeit in a coma, but left alive nonetheless was the LAST LOOSE END!!! His life was in jeopardy and we were the only ones who could save him.
We raced the hospital and Diane and Virgil showed me just how much slower I am than them. And I’m no slouch — but they really blew me outta the water. I hung back so we didn’t leave Spirit alone while he fed the meter and joined up a moment later. When we arrived on the hospital room floor the air was thick with darkness and we could see a wall of it clouding the hallway leading up to the room. It looked like it had snared Virgil and Diane and, while they were strong enough to pass through it, they didn’t appear to do so at terribly quick pace. Spirit grabbed my hand and pulled me intangibly along behind him and through the walls of the adjacent room. From there we were able to penetrate the wall of the comatose boy’s room — a victim, they told me, of Virgil’s Dumpster Diving Days. Y’know being intangible is purrrrdy kewl! It’s not “quite” as kewl as invisibility but it’s still pretty kewl, nonetheless. Matt, Spirit, has it down-pat!
When we entered the room it was filled with a tangible cloud of blackness as if the shadows were actually roiling and bubbling and oozing with viscous liquid darkness. I immediately espied the shadowy figure amid the black cloud and it looked like Virgil and Diane timed it perfectly to get there as well. Diane got the jump on the shadow dude. His attention was on carving up the comatose boy’s face. See! I told you guy was an artist! Diane loosed an arrow from her magical bow that got the Shadow Man’s attention. I wish I could’ve see the look on his face when an arrow literally pierced him through the heart! LOL! I guess I shouldn’t laugh. Man, the “heart” though? I thought we were heroes. Remind me to stay on Diane’s good side. I successfully cast a Sticky Rug under shadow-dude’s feet and adhered him to the floor. Going somewhere? Thankfully the Tomorrow Legion was mostly focused on the shadow guy or completely blind or they DEFINITELY would have seen the abject shock and complete and utter disbelief that one of my spells actually went off, um, without doing something really funky. Hah! It must be the company! I mean, it’s like 8 times out of 10 the spell goes casts normally but the actual effect is something unexpected or unintended or um, really inconvenient. Like that time Invisibility: Basic only affected my clothes. Or what about that time See Aura gave me the equivalent of a psychedelic acid trip? Ugh! Oh wait! How about that time that I cast Float in Air on Gerhardt as a prank while he was sleeping and…um…well he just kept floating…and floating, up up and away — like a sleeping hot air balloon! Hahaha! It was short-lived and the beating I caught for it left me bruised for weeks. But it was totally worth it!
Oh, so Virgil charged into the room and broke free of Diane but it looked like he was fighting blind. He and Spirit seemed to be having a terrible time maneuvering in the darkness and Spirit said his sensors were all kinds of clogged. Doh! The shadow guy turned to address us but discovered he was stuck. Hah! Diane then loosed a second arrow — this one missing the dude’s heart but skewering him nonetheless. It was then that I noticed her quiver didn’t appear to be missing the two arrows. Were they replenishing themselves? Wow! That’s so kewl!!! The shadow dude held his chest where she struck him again and looked like he was doubled over — maybe he was just bending down trying to make himself a smaller target. Yowch! I could have shot him with my Mystic Seine (you remember that one, right? It’s a net that’s made of magic and held in place by pixies) but I announced to the group, "Wait! Don’t kill him! Due process and the penal system will make this villain pay for his crimes! We mustn’t take the law into our own hands! I swear, I thought Diane was going to kill him! But just as I shouted, injured as he was, he bent over, untied his shoes, and melded into the darkness. I ran after him with Diane but this cockroach knows how to scurry. He hopped from shadow to shadow and all I could follow were the screams of unsuspecting bystanders and the trail of blood. It hopscotched haphazardly across the hospital floors and even intangible Spirit tried to surveil the outlying city blocks to no avail. The rat had fled his sinking ship. But he left behind a few really important clues: Virgil found the silver case under the boy’s hospital bed, the comatose boy was alive, and now we knew about him and we knew first-hand what his abilities were.
The wrap-up was pretty painless. Virgil wanted to use the case as a trap – devising an area surrounded by motion-sensors and floodlights. The alien weapon inside of it demanded further inspection before we did so. The boy would live and the cell phone was fair game. Now is the time for all the nitty-gritty detective work. I came home absolutely CHARGED on adrenaline and it was all I could do to sit here and jot it all down. But, I think I’m gonna crash. I don’t have any sick days yet but maybe I’ll catch a nap before yoga.