Posts Tagged ‘A to Z Blogging Challenge’

Noelle – A The Crow Story

April 16, 2022

Noelle Carver had had a pretty great Christmas for once. She had a great phone call with her parents who she had not talked with for a long time. She had also gotten back together with her girlfriend, Cara. Even with all of the coziness of the holidays, Cara had seemed a little off. Whenever Noelle had asked her about it, Cara had told her that she did not want to ruin the holiday and would tell her later. She kept pushing things off and Noelle let her do it so they could get along. She loved Cara with her whole being and she wanted this second chance to work out.

Unfortunately, it did not work out. On the 26th, several thugs had kicked open the door to their apartment. Cara had seemed to know some of them. Noelle did not have a long time to think about that because she and Cara were gunned down. Noelle had been hit with a shotgun which had caused her to fall ten stories into the alley behind their apartment building. Everything had been bright but it had gone very dark in a matter of moments.

Noelle had woken up with a start sometime later. At first, she had thought it was all a dream until she realized that she had woken up in the cemetery covered in snow. Strangely, she did not feel cold at all. She stumbled to her feet and, after a few uneasy moments, she stood straight. It was as if her body was brand new. It felt foreign to her but at the same time correct. The skin of her hands was pale. She was so confused.

“Oh good,” a creaky voice said from behind her. “You’re finally awake. I was beginning to worry that the power would not take.”

Noelle whirled around but only saw a crow perched on a tombstone.

“Who’s there?” Noelle called out. “This is not the night to eff with me!” She shook her head, trying to break free of the mental cobwebs. She knew something terrible had happened but she could not remember it. She struggled to think about it but nothing came. Her mind was racing and she could feel fear welling up inside of her.

“Names are not important,” the crow said. “What’s important is that you once again walk in the land of the living. My gift to you.”

“What are you talking about?” Noelle asked. “Why are you talking in riddles?” She squinted at the bird. “Why are you a talking crow?” Her fear had given way to confusion and that was strangely a comfort.

“I’m not merely a crow but I feel you understand that on some level already,” the bird said. “I am talking plainly but what I say is beyond mortal understanding. You were dead and now you are not dead.” She could tell that this crow was important. She could tell that there was a great power emanating from it.

“I’m alive?” Noelle asked. 

“You are not that either,” the crow said. “You are a soul caught between life and death like so many before you. You are being given a chance to achieve justice.”

“Justice for what?” Noelle asked. “Why can’t I remember?”

“You don’t remember what happened with Cara?” the crow asked.

The words hit Noelle like a runaway truck and the floodgates of her memory burst open. She remembered her bright and happy holiday. She also remembered those thugs bursting in and murdering Cara right in front of her. She remembered being blasted by buckshot. She remembered falling through the air. She remembered the immense pain of slamming into the ground. Her eyes were wide.

“Cara died,” Noelle said. “I died. Oh god, what am I?” She pulled out a makeup compact and saw her face. It was undamaged but it was painted pale with jagged black lines drawn vertically across her eyes. She looked like a psychopath.

“The markings are traditional,” the crow said. “To strike fear into the hearts of your enemies.”

“My enemies?” Noelle asked. “Those guys who killed me and Cara. They should pay.”

“They were sent to kill Cara,” the crow said. “You were collateral damage as was the baby growing in Cara’s womb.”

“What!?” Noelle asked. “I’ll kill them all!”

“That’s how it goes,” the crow said. “I will help you. We have to find out who sent them so they can never hurt anybody else.”

Noelle stood in the snow without feeling cold. An undead abomination talking to a bird. She thought of Cara, she thought of her parents, and she thought of Cara’s parents and sister. She clenched her fists.

“For Cara and all of her loved ones,” Noelle said. “I’ll make them pay. I’ll make it rain blood and fire on them before New Year’s Day.

“So it shall be,” the crow said.

My Brother’s Keeper – A My Time In Portia Story

April 15, 2022

Aadit had traveled a long way. His new home in Portia was well behind him and he already missed it. He had had to leave suddenly. He was sure that the townsfolk would not understand his disappearance and he did not expect them to. He had grown to love Portia but he did not know if he could ever return. He wanted to be there to help rebuild after the epic fight he had witnessed from the trail to the church. He had wanted to go down and help but he had been frozen to the spot. He knew the masked man who had attacked Portia and, at least in that moment, he could not bring himself to stop it.

When Aadit had seen the Rogue Knight and the All Source defeated by Paige, The Civil Corps, and Django, he knew he was done. He watched the Knight run off and he had to give chase. He had run for what felt like weeks but was only a few days. Finally, his quarry was in sight. He saw the knight sitting at the campfire. His sword and helmet resting on a nearby rock. The knight looked exhausted and beat up. Aadit approached with his hands up. He looked into the eyes of his brother Veer.

“I come in peace,” Aadit said. Which was genuine as Aadit had sworn himself to be a pacifist. He never even participated in the town’s tradition of friendly sparring,

Veer the Rogue Knight flinched and started to reach for his sword but stopped when he saw Aadit. He smirked. “Like you could ever hurt a fly,” he said. “What do you want?”

“What do I want, Veer?” Aadit asked. “You attacked the town that I live in. You ruined everything.”

“It was worth it for what I might have gained,” Veer said. “The All Source would have given me the power that I needed.”

“Why would you need power?” Aadit asked. “You could have come and lived with me. You could have helped work the tree farm or better yet you could have worked in the lab.”

“You’re thinking too small, Aadit,” Veer said. “The All Source was so powerful. I could have done anything with it. I could have gone back and rebuilt our home. I could have ended the war between Duvos and Ethea. I could have done so many things.”

“You could have,” Aadit said. “But you went about it all wrong. When you went off and studied under that old knight, she should have taught you that fighting isn’t always the answer. You went in swinging that sword instead of  using your words.”

“I never intended to fight your friends,” Veer said with a sigh. “They just kept coming. They were relentless in their search for what should have been mine. I worked hard for it. I sacrificed for it. Sure I used a sword but I never intended to kill anybody. I just wanted to scare them away. But then it was five against one and I had to lash out.”

“You could have thrown down your sword at that point,” Aadit said. “You could have done anything but fight the Civil Corps. They’re good people. Instead, you teamed up with The Flying Shark Pirates.”

Veer grimaced at that. “I never intended to team up with them,” he said. “They were there trying to get the All Source at the same time as I was. Then the Civil Corps and Paige ran in and assumed the worst. I fought back to back with their leader by necessity.”

“More excuses,” Aadit said. “I’m glad that my friends defeated you. They left you alive, at least.”

“Very nice,” Veer said. “You’re my brother. You’re supposed to be on my side.”

“Stepbrother,” Aadit corrected him. “And I am on your side when you’re on the right side. I’m not on your side when you’re running around and acting like a criminal.”

Veer grunted and turned away back toward his campfire. “Then leave me alone,” he said. “I got beat up enough by your friends. I don’t need any more lectures. It’s all words and no actions with you.”

“I won’t raise a fist against you,” Aadit said. “That’s true. I couldn’t bring myself to hurt you even now. I’m just going to sit here. In the morning, I’ll find a new home and try to start again.”

“You’re not even going to turn me in?” Veer asked incredulously.

“No,” Aadit said. “I just have to hope you learned your lesson.”

“I have the strangest stepbrother,” Veer said.

Aadit sighed. “So do I,” he said.

Ladies Night – An Evil Dead Story

April 14, 2022

Kelly Maxwell brought the chainsaw down into the deadite at her feet and felt it slice through easily with little effort. It was a satisfying feeling that made Kelly smile although she had to turn her head to avoid getting a wave of gore to the face. There were only so many times that one could have that happen before figuring out when to turn your head and close your eyes. She idly wondered if she should not get a plastic face mask or something to protect her. It was not a horrible idea if she could maintain her vision and edge in battle.

She looked over to check on Brandy Barr who was busy bringing an axe down in an overhead swing and burying it in a deadite’s skull. She watched as Brandy raised the axe and brought it down again into the deadite, sending its head bouncing across the floor. Kelly actually felt a bit of pride watching the girl releasing the beast on her target. She walked over and put a hand on Brandy’s arm.

“Relax, Brandy,” Kelly said. “I think you got that one. I think we got them all.”

The two of them looked around at the gore-splattered Club Ruby with satisfaction. The place had been lively when they walked in, full of dancers, customers, and loud music. It felt like Kelly and Brandy’s arrival had triggered a rapid transformation of everybody into deadites. It was very sudden but the ladies had been ready to fight.

Brandy smiled. “This strip club is clean,” she said and looked around. “Well, in a spiritual sense, I guess. It was never clean physically.”

“True that,” Kelly said. “You did really well in the fight, by the way. Special thanks for shooting the DJ station first. I couldn’t hear myself think.” 

“Same,” Brandy said. “Not that deadite screaming is any better but we made it work.”

“You really do have some of your dad’s fighting intuition but without the boneheadedness,” Kelly said. “No offense.”

“No that’s alright,” Brandy said with a smile. “I’ll take that compliment. I know who my dad was.”

“Who he is,” Kelly said. “There’s still a chance that we could get him back.”

“I mean, he’s been missing since the battle with Kandar but you’re right,” Brandy said. “He’s come back from bad stuff before.”

“Yeah, I’ve read his diaries too,” Kelly said.

“Journals,” Brandy said in the same tone that Ash would have. “Whatever. That chainsaw is really working for you. I’m so jealous.”

“Oh? Yeah, it’s great. It’s got a hardcore engine, sturdy steel frame, and diamond chains,” Kelly said, holding up the chainsaw. “We’ll have to get you one too. It’s a custom job but I think we can swing it.”

“Cool!” Brandy said. “Chainsaw sisters.”

“Exactly,” Kelly said with a smile. It felt good hanging out with Brandy. Her own family was long dead and Ash was gone. She had Pablo but relying on one person was never a solid plan. Training and partnering with Brandy felt a little like family. “Shall we grab our guest of honor and do what we came here to do?”

“Yeah, let’s do that,” Brandy said. “I need a shower.”

They walked back out to their truck and opened up the back. There was a safe bolted to the bed of the pickup truck. Kelly jumped up into the truck bed and manipulated the two combination dials on it and opened the door. She reached in and grabbed two lockboxes. She handed the heavier yet smaller one to Brandy and they walked back inside.

Kelly set her lockbox down on a table and pulled out a key and unlocked the box. She pulled out a stuffed puppet that had obviously been destroyed and put back together with duct tape and staples. It still looked quite a bit like Ashley Williams complete with a little stuffed chainsaw. The puppet looked around slowly and settled its beady eyes on Kelly.

“Finally!” the thing said as it started to move around. Thankfully, it was restrained by a strong steel cable. “You could at least put me in a bigger box!”

“Quiet, Ashy,” Brandy said.

“Yeah, you’re lucky I put you back together at all,” Kelly said. “You tried to kill Pablo and me. I guess you also indirectly tried to destroy the world.”

“I had my orders,” Ashy Slashy said. “I liked Ash but a puppet’s gotta do what a puppet’s gotta do.”

“Not exactly a winning defense,” Kelly said. “You know the drill. Do your thing and you get a little beer and maybe a buffalo wing.”

“Mmm,” Ashy said. “Deal. It’s over there in that guy’s right pocket. The one bent over the bar.”

“Gross,” Brandy said. “I’ll get it.” She walked over and slowly put her hand in the dead man’s pocket. His jeans were soaked with blood so it was not at all a pleasant experience. “There’s nothing here!”

Ashy laughed uproariously. “My bad,” it said. “It’s in a case behind the bar. The taxidermied finch is perched on it.”

“That trick just lost you a buffalo wing,” Kelly said.

“Aww man,” Ashy said and he slumped a bit in his bindings.

Brandy broke the glass of the case in question and extracted the finch’s perch. It was a bit of bone that Brandy handled carefully.

“It’s here!” she called out.

Kelly put Ashy back in his lockbox and cracked open a beer. She poured the entire beer onto Ashy and got most of it into the puppet’s mouth. She slammed the lid shut and locked it. Only after the puppet was safely locked away did Brandy come over and unlock the other lockbox. She dropped the piece of bone in and she and Kelly watched it animate and attach itself to what was approximately half of the Kandarian dagger. Satisfied, Brandy closed the lockbox and locked it again.

“Another piece down,” Kelly said. “I think we definitely earned hot showers and room service.”

Knight’s Dilemma – An MCU Eternals Story

April 13, 2022

Dane Whitman paced back and forth in his living room. Sersi had been snatched away from him out of nowhere and he had no idea where she could be. He had watched her leave twice now and he was going to make sure that he found her again. Of course, he had no idea how to do that. He looked down again and there it was. The Sword. The Ebony Blade. The legend that had been lost over the years so few people remembered it. That was how he could rescue her if she needed rescuing.

“Am I ready?” Dane asked. “I don’t know but if I don’t take up the sword now I may never take it up. If I don’t take it up, I may not be able to save the woman I love.”

Blade shrugged in the corner of the room. He contrasted so much with the room between his attire and his complexion that he was almost like an impossibly still black hole. “But what about the curse?” he asked.

“You mean the blood curse?” Dane asked. “The Whitman line curse? The curse that says that sometimes a Whitman picks up the blade and goes mad. The curse that caused my uncle to go crazy?”

“Yes,” Blade said simply in that deep voice of his. “That curse. I know you want to do something about this. I mean, I want to do something about this. It’s not exactly my wheelhouse but I still want to help. What I don’t want to do is have to take you out because you become some sort of supervillain.”

“Believe me, I don’t want that either,” Dane said. “But what if it’s just the opposite? What if I become a hero? Like the Avengers? Like Spider-Man? Like Sersi and her friends?”

“Blade shrugged again. “That doesn’t exactly sound like a good thing to me but if that’s what you want,” he said. “It’s a possibility. I’m just saying as somebody who lives with a curse daily, I don’t want you going off half-cocked.”

“I know,” Dane said. “And I wished that I had done more. I pushed this thing deep in the closet in the pursuit of a normal life. Then I fell in love with a woman with actual magic powers. Maybe I’m not meant for normal. I wish I had gotten a call back from Stephen Strange. I’ve heard he knows about these sorts of things.”

“Strange is a no-show,” Blade said. “Forget him. He doesn’t have time for us. We don’t have time for him. This is your decision. You choose one way or the other. Shit or get off the pot.”

“Classy,” Dane said. “But you’re right again. We’re on our own here. You, me, and the sword. If I take it up, I may never put it down. But if I don’t, I might regret it until my deathbed.”

“Yeah,” Blade said. “Those are the two choices. We keep going around and around. We’re not getting anywhere.”

“We’re getting closer to a decision,” Dane said. “Without this power, I may never find her.”

“This sword is not all of you,” Blade said. “Aren’t you an inventor or something?” It was a little surprising to hear Blade say something so empathetic. That did not make it untrue.

“Yeah,” Dane said. “I have several degrees.” He did not like to brag but it was true. He had taken so many engineering, biology, metallurgy, and computer systems classes.

“So you could just use that science to get her back,” Blade said. 

“I fear that it won’t be enough,” Dane said.

The doorbell rang and it took Dane a moment to realize what that meant. He headed toward the door and opened it. Sprite was standing there.

“Sprite?” Dane asked. “What are you doing here?”

“I can’t find Sersi,” she said. “I can’t find anybody. Something feels wrong.”

“Come in,” Dane said. He led Sprite back to the living room where Blade stood as still as the grave.

“Who is she?” Blade asked bluntly.

“This is Sersi’s friend,” Dane said. “Or family. I’m not quite sure.”

“A little of both,” Sprite said. “My name is Sprite.”

“Like the soda,” Blade said.

“Like the mythical creature,” Sprite said.

“We’re going to find Sersi,” Dane said. “I promise you.”

“I want to help,” Sprite said. “I may not be an eternal anymore but I still have my powers.”

There was something on Sprite’s face that could have been shame and it could have been guilt but Dane could tell the girl was genuine. He knew that Sprite had doted on Sersi when the two had lived in London. He knew that Sersi cared a good deal for Sprite. If Sprite could handle herself in a fight, she would be good to have along.

“Your help would be welcome,” Dane said.

“The more the merrier,” Blade said. His sarcasm was thicker than fog.

“How did you know where I was?” Dane asked.

“Something led me here,” Sprite said. “Like magic.”

“I hate magic,” Blade said.

Dane looked over at the sword again. “Let’s hope it likes us,” he said. He reached for the sword.

Jade Keyblade – A Kingdom Hearts Story

April 12, 2022

Ventus was waiting in a clearing when Aqua showed up on her keyblade glider. As she touched down, the glider disappeared and reappeared strapped to her back. She took a look around before approaching Ventus. The world they were in was covered in lush jungle foliage and it felt warm. It was kind of nice considering how inhospitable some worlds could be. After spending so much time in the Dark World, pretty much anything was pleasant but she was starting to be discerning again. It was humid and that might slow them down in the long term but she was prepared for the mission. 

“Hey Aqua,” Ventus said with a smile. “Thanks for coming so quickly.”

Aqua smiled. “Of course, Ven,” she said. “You know I’ll always come running if you need me.”

They had been sent out by Yen Sid to scout alone. Sora had disappeared and although Riku was on his own mission, it was decided that it would not hurt for the others to roam the worlds and check things out. Things had changed after Sora’s final battle with Master Xehanort and his Organization XIII. It felt like there would always be a new threat around the corner but things seemed relatively calm for now. It was a good feeling but they could not let down their guard too much..

“So, situation report, I guess,” Ventus said. “This world was recently recovered from darkness probably as a result of the big battle.”

“There are a lot of worlds like that out there,” Aqua said. “Why did you bring me here?”

“I got a reading on a keyblade here,” Ventus said. “The signature was not exactly like Sora’s but it was kinda similar.”

“Are you kidding?” Aqua asked. “Why didn’t you lead with that?”

“I didn’t want to get anybody’s hopes up,” Ventus said. “I decided to call you or Terra and Terra was way farther away.”

“Alright, slightly less flattered that you sent for me,” Aqua said. “Have you made contact yet?”

Ventus shook his head. “Not yet,” he said. “We should do it together. A keyblade doesn’t automatically mean a good guy.”

Aqua thought back to the Xehanorts, Ansem, Vanitas, Dark Riku, possessed Terra, and her own brief descent into darkness and nodded. “You’re right,” Aqua said. “Let’s hope that this is a good thing.”

“That’s the spirit,” Ventus said with that sunny smile of his. “We’re close. Just through here.”

The two of them walked through the trees until they heard what was the unmistakable sound of battle. They ran faster and burst from the foliage onto what looked to be a boat dock. There were Heartless all around them and in the center of them was a young woman with short dark hair that was longer on one side. She was fighting like a cornered animal as she swung a wicked-looking keyblade with a jade chain. She was obviously an expert fighter but she was definitely outnumbered.

Aqua and Ventus jumped into the fight with their own keyblades. The woman spotted the two and accepted their help and the three fought together. With three instead of one the tide of the battle turned and soon the Heartless were all destroyed. The three looked around to make sure that the coast was actually clear and nothing else slithered out of nowhere. All three of them stood there catching their breath.

“Who are you?” the woman asked.

“We come in peace,” Aqua said.

“We’re keyblade wielders,” Ventus said. “We came here to see if this world needed help.”

“This world?” the woman asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Never mind that,” Aqua said, elbowing Ventus in the ribs. He was rushing things. “We’re here to help is the main point. I’m Aqua and this is Ventus. Where did you get that keyblade?”

“I’m Namaari,” the woman said. “You guys don’t look like you’re from around here. Are you from Tail or something?” She had the look of somebody who had been through a lot.

“Something like that,” Aqua said. “What about that keyblade?”

Namaari grunted. “Whatever,” she said. “I don’t really know about this thing. Raya disappeared and those things swarmed me and my swords just passed right through them. Before I knew it, I was holding this thing.” She held up the keyblade. The way she had said the name Raya had a lot of weight to it. It was the same way that Sora talked about Kairi or Riku. It was the same way that Mickey and Minnie spoke to each other. So many worlds and so many loves.

“It’s got less power than Sora’s,” Ventus said.

“But it has a similar power to change forms based on new friends he made,” Aqua said.

“You guys are weird,” Namaari said. “I’ve got to go find Raya, Sisu, and the rest. We’ve got to solve this new threat.”

“We can help,” Ventus said.

“Yeah we’re in,” Aqua said. “We want to help.”

“Fine,” Namaari said. “Let’s go.”

In the Pass to Dunharrow – A Lord of the Rings Story

April 11, 2022

Eowyn, daughter of Éomund and Théodwyn and Shieldmaiden of Rohan climbed down from her horse on the path to Dunharrow. She had led her people along as ordered by her uncle, King Theoden. She had been reluctant to follow his orders but she would never disobey him. She knew that her uncle had meant well but Eowyn was a fighter and champion of her people deep down. She wanted to be at Hornsburg at Helm’s Deep to help defeat the treacherous Saruman’s evil army. Instead, she was there protecting the kingdom’s weak and elderly.

She thought of Aragorn out there on the battlements not too far away and her cheeks flushed a bit. She felt suddenly warm against the winds sweeping through the pass. Aragorn and his friends were so inspiring. They had swept in and exorcised the evil that had clutched the King’s heart. They had expelled Grima Wormtongue and awoken the Rohirrim. Aragorn had brought this all about and Eowyn was so thankful. She admired him very much.

“Eowyn,” Atherol said, breaking her reverie. “Are you well?”

Eowyn stood up straight. “Yes,” she said. “I’m alright. I was just thinking about my uncle and my brother. The last of our people have passed. Proceed to Dunharrow and make sure everybody settles in. Make sure the doors are ready to be closed if need be.”

Atherol looked confused. “Are you not riding along with me?” he asked.

Eowyn shook her head. “I will circle back and check and make sure that nobody accidentally fell behind,” she said. “You have your orders. I will join you shortly.” She rode off back down the trail, trusting her air of authority to send Atherol onward. She needed a few more moments alone to think. Besides that, it was not a horrible idea to double-check for any stragglers. The wilderness could be dangerous.

She rode back down the trail lost in thoughts of what it might be like if Aragorn stayed in Rohan and they got to know each other a little better. Perhaps he would make a good husband if she could tame his wild ranger ways a bit. He had spent too much time among the Grey Company of the Dúnedain. He had gone a little feral but she sensed nobility in him. He could fit in well as a Rider of the Mark and maybe he could help Eowyn become one herself. Eowyn sighed and turned her horse back toward 

It was at this point that Eowyn heard the rustle in the vegetation nearest the path. She turned her head just in time to see the orc leaping from a tree to tackle her. She had already drawn her knife and shoved it between her assailant’s ribs. Still, she lost her balance. As she started to fall, she twisted in mid-air to put the dead orc between her and the ground. She got to her feet and she was surrounded but she was not about to surrender without a fight.

One of the orcs closed in but she pulled her sword and made him regret it, taking two of his fingers and making him drop his sword. Still, the others drew close. It was at this point that a black-haired woman ran out of the woods and plunged a sword through the chest of the largest orc. Eowyn could see that it was an elven blade. This was an elf woman. Eowyn was astonished but she knew how to take advantage of a turning tide. She was back to back with the newcomer in an instant. They fought together well and Eowyn was impressed by the woman’s swordsmanship. They made short and very bloody work of the orcs.

“Are you uninjured?” the woman asked.

“Nothing but a few bruises and scrapes,” Eowyn said. “Thanks to you. I am Eowyn of the Rohirrim. Who do I owe my life to?”

The woman smiled warmly. “My name is Arwen of Rivendell,” the woman said. “I came with a contingent to provide aid to your people in the battle. My father made me promise that I would not actually engage in the battle.”

“So you were sent away too,” Eowyn said. “It is really frustrating is it not?”

“A little bit,” Eowyn said. “I trust that Aragorn will carry the matter through.”

Eowyn was taken aback. “You know Aragorn? Personally?” she asked.

Arwen regarded Eowyn for a moment. “The two of us were raised alongside each other in Rivendell,” she said. “We have known each other a very long time.”

“Oh,” Eowyn said. “He didn’t mention Rivendell but I’ve only known him a few days since he saved my family and my kingdom along with Gandalf the wizard.”

“He keeps interesting company,” Arwen said with a nod. “He always has. He always will.”

“Well, thank you for the rescue, Lady Arwen,” Eowyn said. “I suppose I should go about my duty at Dunharrow. Will you come along?”

“No,” Arwen said but smiled. “It was nice meeting you. I am expected back in Rivendell and so I must go.”

“Farewell, Lady Arwen,” Eowyn said with a smile.

“Farewell, Eowyn,” Arwen said.

The two parted amicably but both of their heads swam with such interesting thoughts.

Huntress and Spoiler – A DC Comics Story

April 9, 2022
Art from Huntress/Spoiler: Blunt Trauma. Credits here.

Helena Bertinelli sat on the rooftop in her dark purple costume, holed up in the shadows. She was cleaning and repairing one of her crossbows but her eyes were always checking her surroundings. She had learned that from her father’s bodyguards, from Richard Dragon and Vic Sage, but most importantly from her own experience. She had learned a lot of things. She had learned how to fight crime and, although she had had her setbacks that needed correction, she thought she was pretty good at it. Clear of her own cry for vengeance, she needed a fresh new start. Things had not exactly gone well in Gotham and there were too many bad memories mixed in with the good to stick around. She was still in contact with Barbara and the Birds of Prey but their missions were far enough apart for her to do her own thing.

The police scanner in her ear was pretty quiet but sooner or later somebody would need saving and somebody would need to catch a beating. Until then, keeping her gear in working order gave her hands something to do. Her inheritance had paid for the move to Midway City and was still helping with upkeep on her crimefighting gear. Her motorcycle was hidden in the alley below and needed her biometrics to run. She was not worried about it. She was only worried about defending the victims now.

“Friendly incoming, so don’t shoot me,” A woman’s voice called out from somewhere. “You’re Huntress, right?”

Helena instantly had her crossbow up and was scanning the dark roof. “Identify yourself,” she called out. “Civilians shouldn’t be up here.”

A masked and purple-clad figure peeked their head over the edge of the roof and did not even flinch when Helena pointed the crossbow at her. “I said don’t shoot me,” she said. “I probably should have said please.” 

“That mask looks familiar,” Helena said. “I remember you. You hung out with the Bat too, right? You’re Spoiler.”

“I do go by Spoiler,” the young woman said. “I was when you tried to kill my dad, remember?”

“Your dad?” Helena asked and then her eyes went wide. She was suddenly embarrassed and hoped the mask covered most of it. “Oh damn. That’s right your dad’s The Cluemaster. I remember that. You talked me down during a dark time in my life.”

“Yeah, and you inspired me to keep going even with all of my baggage,” Spoiler said.

“Me? Inspiring?” Helena asked. “Look to Barbara Gordon for that.”

“Barbara was great but her dad’s a cop,” Spoiler said. “You were the closest to my experience followed maybe by Jason but he’s really weird and intense.”

“I’m weird and intense,” Helena said softly.

“Not as much as you were when we met,” Spoiler said. “Although there was that time you tried to kill me.”

“Kill you?!” Helena almost shouted. “I don’t remember that one at all.”

“You were under the control of The Calculator,” Spoiler said. “You were after Barbara and me back when I was batgirl.”

“Oh, you were Batgirl?” Helena asked. “Me too until Barbara Gordon took the costume back. Well, I kind of quit. Right to Batman’s face.”

“You quit?” Spoiler asked with a soft laugh. “I was fired by Batman. I mean, that was when I was Robin. I quit being Batgirl later.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t suggest taking up that mantle,” Helena said. “It’s bad luck. For the record, if it looks like Batman might want to fire you from something, quit before he gets the chance. It feels a little better.”

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Spoiler said. “I’m not going back to Gotham. Things got too complicated.”

“With Batman?” Helena asked.

“No,” Spoiler said. “Well yes but really with Red Robin.”

“Oh,” Helena said and let the silence in for a moment. “We’ll just leave that there. That explains why you’re not in Gotham anymore. So why are you here?”

“I heard you had set up shop here,” Spoiler said. “I thought I would come out here. I transferred to Midway College and I moved here.”

“That’s a crazy thing to do,” Helena said. “You did this for me?”

“Partly,” Spoiler said. “I needed somewhere to go and I needed somebody I knew to be nearby. I figured if you didn’t want to team up with me then I would just work on my own. It’s a big enough city that we wouldn’t step on each other’s toes.”

“You thought you’d team up with me?” Helena asked.

“Well, I mean it helps to have a partner,” Spoiler said. “It works for Batman and Robin. It kind of worked for Red Hood and Scarlet. I was thinking that we could work together like that.”

“I don’t really work well with others, kiddo,” Helena said. “I quit being Batgirl because I couldn’t take orders. I quit the Justice League. I quit The Outsiders.”

“What about the Birds?” Spoiler asked.

“That’s different,” Helena said. “Totally different.”

“Or maybe you’re just better at teamwork when Batman and maybe Nightwing are out of the picture?” Spoiler asked. “Maybe you just need the right people to be with. You and I have trauma that vibrates on the same wavelength.”

“Hmm,” Helena grunted. “You’re a pretty smart kid but you’re not going to be my sidekick.”

“Well, I tried,” Spoiler said.

“But you might be my partner,” Helena said. “Let’s talk.”

G-g-ghost! – A Scooby-Doo Story

April 8, 2022

The funeral had been two weeks ago and Shaggy and Scooby still had not gotten much sleep. What was more, they had barely eaten which was so unlike them. Shaggy somehow looked even skinnier and everybody around him was getting really worried. His parents had no idea what to do especially since their Norville would not even hear of going to therapy. He and Scooby just moped around and went on long walks. The sleep they did get was interrupted by nightmares.  

Mystery Incorporated had always been in the business of solving mysteries.. Their first mysteries had been nothing but real estate scams dressed up as the supernatural. They always ended with some jerk getting their mask pulled off and handed over to the cops. Then they had finally unearthed the supernatural and things had never been the same. Werecats, zombies, witch’s ghosts, bodysnatchers, Cerberus, and so many ghosts. 

The incident, as the police were calling it, occurred when the gang had been investigating a real honest to goodness vampire. They had split up as usual while hunting for the creature of the night and everything seemed to be going alright. Well, really they were chaotic but that was par for the course for a Mystery Incorporated mission. As Napoleon said, no plan survives after the first shot. They usually stumbled about and used sheer determination, clever instincts, and dumb luck to save the day. This time, they had fallen short. The gang had arrived in the mansion’s study just as the vampire finished drinking Velma dry. 

The gang had fought in a rage and had killed the vampire. Nothing was left when the sun rose so it was hard to explain to the police. The authorities had eventually bought into the story that Velma had been killed by a desperate criminal that the gang had been investigating. Mystery Incorporated was known at this point for investigating and closing dozens of fraud cases. It was just a matter of time before one of those desperate souls lashed out. The police were still searching for somebody that the gang knew was already dead twice over. They let the cops believe what they wanted as long as they were off the hook and free to grieve.

Shaggy and Scooby wandered over toward Daphne and Fred’s place while they were out for another walk. Fred had the garage door open and the Mystery Machine was partially out in the afternoon sun. Fred had the hood up and was bent over and tinkering with the engine which was definitely a familiar sight. It had been a sight that used to fill Shaggy and Scooby with dread. Engine troubles and flat tires were often omens of spookiness. Really, they were a sign of the gang’s low finances. Fred had replaced so many parts of the Mystery Machine that it was hard to call it the same vehicle they had started with.

“Hey Fred,” Scooby said in his usual mush-mouthed accent.

Fred almost hit his head on the car’s hood as he stood up.

“Like, careful Fred,” Shaggy said. “You ok?”

Fred smiled softly and hugged Shaggy close for a moment and Shaggy had to admit to himself that it felt good. Fred had not been much of a hugger before but now he was all about it. Fred leaned down and petted Scooby for a moment.

“I’m fine,” Fred said. “Can I get you guys something to eat?”

“No we’re good,” Scooby said firmly.

“Like, what he said,” Shaggy said. “We’re not hungry.”

“You look hungry,” Fred said. “You guys need to eat something. It might help you sleep too.” Fred’s eyes showed the worry that Shaggy had seen in so many people he had run into.

“We’re fine,” Shaggy said. 

“Okay,” Fred said, letting it go for now. “It’s good to see you. It’s always good to see you.”

Shaggy nodded. The garage’s interior door opened and Daphne stepped out into the open air.

“I thought I heard talking out here,” Daphne said. “It’s good to see you guys.”

“It’s good to see you,” Shaggy said.

“Can I go back in and get you something?” Daphne asked.

“I offered and they said no,” Fred said. “They know they can always change their minds.”

“Are you here to help fix up the Machine?” Daphne asked. “We need it in tip-top shape before we put it on the market.”

“On the market?” Scooby asked with surprise.

Fred grimaced. “I hadn’t really decided yet but I was thinking of selling it,” Fred said. “I don’t really know what we’re supposed to do now.”

“You’re just going to give up?” Shaggy asked, a little anger rising in his voice. It surprised everybody including himself.

“I’m surprised,” Daphne said. “I would have thought you two would be relieved. You were always the least willing to go on our missions. No offense. I mean, we were all scared but now I think you two might have had the most sense of us.”

“I don’t know,” Shaggy said. “We did a lot of good things. I was always scared but I trusted you guys.”

“Trusted?” Fred asked, looking a bit hurt by the phrasing.

“”I still trust you,” Shaggy said. “We both do.” Scooby nodded. “I don’t want to lose you guys too.”

“We’re right here,” Daphne said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

There was suddenly a buzzing sound from within the van. Everybody looked at each other and then circled around to poke their heads into the interior. There was a tablet computer vibrating under the passenger seat. Daphne reached in and pulled it out.

“The cops really didn’t search thoroughly, did they?” Daphne asked. She pressed the power button and there was an unearthly glow from the screen. Daphne nearly dropped the tablet and Shaggy caught it. Velma’s face formed on the screen as they watched.

“Finally,” the image said in Velma’s voice. “I got your attention.”

“Zoinks!” Shaggy said. “It’s Velma!”

Velma smiled. “It sure is,” she said.

“Or really good footage,” Fred said. 

“I’m not footage,” Velma said.

“Say jinkies three times,” Daphne said.

“Jinkies jinkies jinkies,” Velma said. “That feels weird to say when I’m not startled.”

“How is this real?” Shaggy asked.

“When I died, I kind of drifted for a while,” Velma said. “Vincent Van Ghoul found me and taught me a few things. It’s good to see you guys again.”

“It’s good to see you too,” Scooby said. Everybody was on the verge of tears.

“I’m glad you feel that way,” Velma said. “Because I have a mystery to solve.”

For Chippewa – An Addams Family Story

April 7, 2022

Wednesday Addams was slowly going through the shelves of the Deep Shadows Bookstore, meticulously running her fingers along the spines of the books. She had been to the store many times before but she liked visiting often just in case they got new stock in. It was the only shop with an occult section within walking distance of the campus. The aisles were almost always quiet and it was a great place to get away from the noisiness of the dorms. The dorms were fine for the most part but sometimes filled up with the happy chatter of people she did not really connect with. She had finally found a friend group in college and that had alleviated her loneliness from high school when she had few allies to turn to other than her brother, Pugsley.

She had grown a lot in college so far and in her Sophomore year, she felt her world opening up. The little girl who wanted to burn the world down was still inside of her but she was learning all sorts of new things. She was becoming a little nicer and a little wiser. She worried about losing her edge but then she thought about all of the things she could do. She had decided to be a film major after falling in love with Shakespeare and Poe as a kid. She had then embraced the works of John Waters, Darren Aronovsky, and endless horror films. She felt she had a unique perspective that she could share with the world. Maybe bring more people over to her side. Maybe they would feel less lonely.

She suddenly felt like she was being watched. It took her a moment to realize that there was a pair of blue eyes staring a hole in her from the other side of the bookcase through a gap in the books. She narrowed her own eyes, not really one to get scared. She walked toward the end of the aisle. She was going to get eyes on whoever was watching her. She knew her style was not the norm outside of her family but that was no excuse to gawk at her. When she rounded the corner, she stopped short and her eyes widened.

“You!” Wednesday said. “I knew you’d come for me one day.”

“So it is you!” Amanda Buckman said. “Wait, come for you? Like revenge? That wasn’t the plan. This is just a coincidence.”

It was Amanda Buckman, her rival from that fateful summer at Camp Chippewa. That summer had been hell to get through but Wednesday still remembered her revenge fondly. A little over the top but she did have a taste for theatricality. Amanda had changed. She was no longer the fresh-faced Stepford wife-in-training, a poster child for WASPs everywhere. Now she was sporting shorter hair. Not as short as Wednesday’s shaved head but Amanda had an undercut that was interesting. Her ears had several piercings instead of just one each. Her jeans were torn. Maybe this was not the same girl that Wednesday had known. 

“If you’re not here for me then why are you here?” Wednesday asked doubtfully. She had studied enough true crime to know what people were capable of.

“I go to Blackburn College,” Amanda said. “I thought I’d check out this shop since it’s raining out.”

“You go to Blackburn?” Wednesday asked, full of doubt again. “How come I’ve never seen you before?”

“It’s a big school, Wednesday,” Amanda said. “You’re pretty paranoid, huh?”

“Most of my life,” Wednesday said. “Out of necessity. I’ve usually been right.”

“You get a lot of people looking to get revenge on you?” Amanda asked.

“Not really,” Wednesday said. “Most of them are dead or family.”

“Do you want to get a coffee next door?” Amanda asked.

“With you?” Wednesday asked. “I guess so.”

The two of them went to the coffee shop next door and sat down with their drinks.

“Look,” Amanda said. “I’m not looking for revenge because I realized a long time ago that I was mean to you too. I mean, I damaged you emotionally not physically but I was guilty too. I really reflected on that summer afterward. I realized that I was being an actress. I was playing a part that I was expected to play, being somebody that my parents wanted me to be. When everything went down, I realized that that was not who I wanted to be. I wanted to be somebody who had real friends and did whatever she felt like doing. I’m still figuring that out but I feel way better so maybe I should thank you in a way.”

Wednesday was taken aback. “I guess I did act like a psychopath,” Wednesday said. “I mean violence like that was always normal in my family but I came to realize that maybe that’s not appropriate for the rest of the world. I’m sorry, Amanda. I shouldn’t have tried to drown you or burn you alive.”

“Yeah, probably not,” Amanda said. “But as I said, I forgave you a while ago. Apology accepted. Hey, are you still with that Glickman kid?”

Wednesday almost blushed which surprised her. “Joel? No,” Wednesday said. “I mean it was fun for a while but long-distance sucked. Also, I think I was trying too hard to make it like what my parents have. Like that’s the only way love can be. I’ve moved on. I want to go my own way.”

“We should hang out again sometime then,” Amanda said.

“I think I’d like that,” Wednesday said.

(This is a prequel to a story I told last year found here)

Elmo Needs Help – A Sesame Street/Muppets Story

April 6, 2022

Kermit sat at the hotel bar and slowly sipped his glass of scotch and read his book. He would always order a Mosquito Mojito wherever he went but nobody seemed to want to make it. He understood, most establishments outside of Rowlf’s bar were designed and marketed to humans. There was not much call for insect-based cocktails in these sorts of establishments. He could go to Rowlf’s or places more frequented by Muppets but he enjoyed these quiet moments away from the Muppets’ various shenanigans. Long ago they seemed to have elected him leader which was flattering but it came with all sorts of stress. He just needed to step away now and then. I was healthy. He had to keep telling himself that.

The bar was out of the way so it was usually pretty empty so he could usually get away with only signing a few autographs and then he could relax. It was the most calming thing outside of a visit back to the swamp but those trips took up a lot of time and had to be reserved for special occasions. A ball game was playing on a television in the corner but it was not loud enough to distract Kermit from his book. It was a Grisham, something not too challenging that he could just zone out and read. What did distract him from his book was when the stool next to his started to wiggle and shake. That was certainly strange.

Kermit looked down and saw a familiar red and furry monster struggling to climb the stool. Kermit watched for a few moments, somewhat amused at the attempt of the small creature to climb the tall stool. He took another sip of scotch and then set his book down on the bar.

“Elmo?” Kermit asked. “What are you doing here?”

“Elmo came to talk to you,” Elmo said and then continued to struggle, making slow progress.

“Uh-huh,” Kermit said and watched a bit more. “How did you find me?”

“Elmo is very good at finding people,” Elmo said as he kept climbing.

“That really doesn’t answer my question,” Kermit said. “But I guess it doesn’t really matter. Do you need some help?”

“No thank you. Elmo is very good at climbing,” Elmo said. He kept climbing slowly, grunting as he ascended. After a bit more of this, Elmo spoke up again. “Maybe Elmo could use a little help.”

Kermit reached his flipper down and Elmo grabbed a hold of it. Kermit helped Elmo by pulling him up onto the stool. Elmo panted heavily as he settled onto the stool. Kermit sipped his scotch again.

“Can I get you something to drink, Elmo?” Kermit asked.

“Elmo would like that very much, Kermit the Frog,” Elmo said. “Thank you.”

Kermit flagged down the bartender. “Could you get the kid a root beer? Emphasis on ‘root’,” he said before glancing at Elmo and remembering. “Please.”

The bartender brought the drink and Elmo took a long sip. They sat in silence for a bit.

“Now what can I do for you, Elmo?” Kermit asked. “You’re a long way from Sesame Street.”

“Elmo had to come to see Kermit because Elmo knows that Kermit is very smart,” Elmo said. “And Elmo needs to talk to somebody outside of Sesame Street.”

“And I really don’t spend much time in Sesame Street anymore,” Kermit said with a nod. “I guess I should be flattered. What’s your problem?”

“Rocko,” Elmo said. “Rocko is Elmo’s problem.”

Kermit blinked and waited for a moment. “Who is Rocko?” Kermit asked.

“Rocko is Zoe’s friend,” Elmo said. “And a rock.”

“I guess I have been gone for a while,” Kermit said. “Who’s Zoe?”

“Zoe is Elmo’s friend,” Elmo said.

“That tracks,” Kermit said. “What is your problem with Rocko?”

“Rocko and Zoe make Elmo angry,” Elmo said. “Elmo tries to do things but Rocko and Zoe outnumber Elmo. And Elmo thinks Rocko is not real.”

Kermit took a long sip of his scotch and signaled for a refill. He put a tip down on the bar. “Wow, there’s a lot to unpack there but I think I understand,” Kermit said. He thought about bringing up how nobody believed Big Bird that  Snuffy was real but that seemed like a lost cause. He also thought about how he had seen Muppets in all shapes and sizes and a sentient rock was not entirely out of the question. He dismissed that thought as well. It was best to keep it simple. “Elmo, we don’t always get along and it’s OK to get angry but Zoe is your friend. My friends can make me upset sometimes too.”

“What does Kermit do when he is upset?” Elmo asked.

“Kermit tries to walk away and take a moment for himself,” Kermit said. “Oh you’ve got me doing it now.”

“Doing what?” Elmo asked, staring at Kermit.

“Nevermind,” Kermit said. “If you can, step away from the situation and calm down. If you can’t get away, take a deep breath and remember the good times. Try to understand that a true friend doesn’t really want to hurt you. Try to be patient.”

“Elmo will try,” Elmo said with a sigh. “Thank you, Kermit.”

“You’re welcome, Elmo,” Kermit said.

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