Bel braces herself against the cold. Winters tend toward the mild side in the Pacific Northwest, but every once in a while, a massive snowstorm will dump a world ending amount of powder and ice on unsuspecting heads. Jet City was getting it’s fair share of snow this year. Even its world class emergency services couldn’t keep up with it.
She looks up through teary eyes at the dilapidated brick building. An old sign out front is the only clue to what this place used to be. She tests the front door. Locked. She knocks a secret knock. When nothing happens, she looks over her shoulder, then bashes the door in. An empty lobby greets her on the other side.
“Home sweet home,” she says, warming her hands as the wind kicks in snowflakes.
The room is filled with spaces on the floor and walls where things used to be. Ghosts of pictures, paintings, furniture, an ornate grandfather clock and grand piano. She makes her way deeper inside, hoping to unlock the past’s hidden secrets.
It is winter in New York City.
The night is cold. Breath hangs in the air, neither rising nor falling. People pull their coats closer, hoping to keep the chill out. It rarely works.
A man exits a car in front of a brownstone building. The man, the car and the building are all non-descript. When one declares war on the mob it pays to be so. The man knocks a secret knock and the door opens of its own accord. Once inside, the door shuts and the building is sealed once again.
In the main study, warmed by a cozy fireplace and surrounded by books and lounging chairs are two men and one woman. In their private lives, they are spouses, friends, neighbors, good Americans. Now, they are dressed for war. Their names are splashed on newspapers across the country.
Spirit Wolf! Jade Empress! Serpent Lord!
And the one who brought them together; the one now entering the room, the man known as Right Cross! The first superhero. The first of a new breed of crimefighter.
He hangs up his coat, hat, and jacket, revealing his uniform; a bright red, blue and gold number he made himself. After four years of crimefighting, he’s gotten good at patching it up.
“Happy New Year, gentlemen. Lady,” Right Cross greets them.
“‘Bout time,” Spirit Wolf intones. “I thought you’d gotten lost on the way here.”
“Only lost in thought, old chum,” Right Cross replies.
“Iss the wolf getting impatient?” Serpent Lord asks. “I thought you could lie in wait for dayss while on the hunt.”
“Yes. In the mud. In the trees. Half buried in snow. But among you two and your non-stop chattering? I would rather sleep in poison oak than endure another hour of this.”
“What you need is an education in more civilized pursuits,” Jade Empress says, lounging in her chair like, well, an empress. “Experience the finer things and you will not miss the savage life.”
“The city is more savage than anything I knew back home,” Spirit Wolf snaps.
“Hmm. In that way, we are not so different,” Jade Empress says, smiling a mysterious smile.
“Well, if we’re done chit-chatting, I think it’s time to call this meeting to order,” Right Cross says. “Pro Veritate,” he calls.
“Et Libertate,” the others respond.
“What news?” Right Cross asks.
“It’ss official,” Serpent Lord says. “I just got word from my friendss in D.C. The United Sstatess, the Britss, the Ssovietss, and the Chinesse, have all ssigned the treaty. We are now Alliess to the bitter end.”
“They’ll need the help,” Jade Empress says. “For all intents and purposes, the Pacific belongs to the Empire of Japan now.”
“Hmm. A war on two fronts,” Right Cross says, rubbing his chin.
“Three,” Spirit Wolf corrects him. “While the men prepare to ship out, the home front becomes vulnerable.”
“You think while the country is distracted, the crime families will take advantage?” Right Cross asks.
“Not just them,” Jade Empress says, one delicate hand on her chin.
“The enemy iss already here,” Serpent Lord says cryptically. “Sspiess. Ssaboteurss.”
“So what do we do?” Spirit Wolf asks. “Do we stay and fight these hidden foes? Do we continue to take down the mob? Or do we make our way to war to fight the ultimate battle against evil?”
“The government iss already recruiting ssuper-people to fight oversseass,” Serpent Lord says. “Sshould one or all of uss get the call, what then becomess of our little group?”
“Maybe it’s time we talk about expanding our charter,” Right Cross says.
“You mean… a recruitment drive?” Spirit Wolf asks.
“Exactly,” Right Cross says enthusiastically, like a school boy. “One new member selected by each of us. We can double our numbers instantly. Then after that we-“
“That will have to wait,” Jade Empress says, holding her head in a mystical fashion.
“What is it, Empressss?” Serpent Lord asks.
“I see… death. Two. Another injured. Not a minute ago.”
“Where?” Right Cross asks.
“Jewelry store. Three blocks west. The killers are gone.”
“Not for long,” Spirit Wolf says, grabbing his gear.
“Never a dull moment iss there?” Serpent Lord says, cracking his knuckles.
The four of them leave through a secret tunnel, popping up in a nearby alley. The streets are dead empty. Only the sounds of barking dogs and police sirens echoing through the city met their ears.