The American Hero Society (3)

January 2012.

Bel climbs the rickety stairs. She turns the rusted door knob. She peers inside the empty room. But it is not empty. There are signs of life here. Recent. Footprints in the dust. An old lamp switched on. Tea, freshly brewed, steaming on a windowsill.

A shuffle of feet, and then a voice.

“Who’s there? Who are you?” it calls.

“I’m a friend,” Bel replies.

The voice laughs a bitter laugh, it’s owner swaddled in the shadows beyond the flickering lamp light.

“No friend of mine would seek me out here.”

“Why?”

“If you have to ask, you’re neither ally nor enemy. Just a stranger. And you need to leave.”

“My name is Belphanie Winters.”

The woman in the shadows turns her head. A glint catches in her eyes.

“Winters, you say?”

“Yes.”

“Hmm. Maybe you’re not a stranger after all,” the woman says, though Bel notices she doesn’t clarify if that means Bel is an ally or an enemy.

January 1942.

Right Cross doesn’t feel cold, most of the time. His physiology is no longer strictly human. But he feels it now. Something in the warehouse. Something dark and cold and empty. Jade Empress is surprised to see it affect him.

“I didn’t think you had any mystic senses,” she says, preparing a spell for the coming fight, her jade lamp floating at her side.

“I don’t,” Right Cross replies. “But I can feel it all the same. It’s a prickly sort of feeling. Like someone’s rolling a hedgehog all over me.”

“That is close to what I’m feeling as well, darling.”

“This may not be the same Murder Inc. we fought before, Empress.”

“Certainly not. Common crooks may have stumbled upon this power by accident, but this is not the same sensation. The dark forces that gather here are filled with intention and focus.”

“Then we know what we hafta do,” Right Cross says, cracking his knuckles.

“Our thoughts exactly,” Spirit Wolf says as he and Serpent Lord rejoin the group.

“How do we get in?” Right Cross asks.

“There are a few ways in. It depends on how quiet you want to be,” Spirit Wolf replies.

“Time runss sshort. We musst move now,” Serpent Lord says.

“Matters this delicate take time, my impetuous friend,” Jade Empress says.

“Not everyone hass the luxury of ssitting back,” Serpent Lord fires back.

“It’s your call,” Spirit Wolf says to Right Cross.

“Everyone has an equal say in this society, Spirit Wolf,” Right Cross replies.

“Democraciess are hard to run with an equal number of votess,” Serpent Lord observes.

“An astute observation, Serpent Lord. Hmm. Well, if it’s all the same to you three, I have an idea,” Right Cross says with a sly grin.

Within the warehouse, the goons try to come up with a plan. With a damaged amulet, more arcane power would be needed to complete the ritual. Meanwhile, the beast which slumbered beneath the tarp begins to stir. Something is rousing it from sleep and the goons take notice.

“We’re fucked, boss,” one of the goons declares.

“Not yet we’re not. We still have time,” the one in charge says.

“So what’s the plan?” the right-hand man asks.

“Just give me a minute!”

“I don’t know if we even have that long,” another goon says.

“Shut the fuck up, Charlie!” the leader says.

“What? It’s true.”

“We need another item of power,” the leader says, working through his thoughts out loud. “Something with enough juice to sustain the ritual.”

One of the goons in the back blinks, scratches his nose. An ethereal green butterfly that no one else can see flutters around his head. His eyes are drawn to it. It flies toward the back of the warehouse, leading him between rows and rows of boxes filled with stolen artifacts. A sudden strike to the temple and he’s down. His limp body is dragged into the shadows.

“Can’t we just get more sacrifices?” one of the goons asks.

“Sure, Harry. You wanna step up and volunteer?” the leader asks. Harry swallows his words and hangs his head a little lower.

Another goon sees a figure peeking out from the rows of shelves. It’s one of their own. He beckons the confused goon over. The goon doesn’t notice the slight green haze surrounding the figure. He gets his lights punched out too.

“We’re out of time,” the leader says, looking at his pocket watch. “This is happening now or never.”

The door to the warehouse gets kicked in, knocking out three of the goons at once.

“I vote for never!” Right Cross exclaims as he steps inside.

“Supers!” the right-hand man yells.

“Ice them!” the leader screams.

The few goons that are left pull their pieces and open fire. Right Cross laughs as the bullets bounce off him. Their guns glow bright green. Some jam, others spark and misfire. Serpent Lord and Spirit Wolf run into the fray, knocking out baddies left and right. The right-hand man pulls a jagged dagger from his coat and lunges at Serpent Lord. Right Cross sees this, picks up a wooden crate, and launches it at the man. With pinpoint accuracy it crashes into him, laying him out flat.

The leader curses and makes a run for it. A green chain materializes and wraps around his legs, tripping him.

“Leaving so soon, my dear?” Jade Empress asks from her perch atop an empty shelf.

“No no no. This can’t happen,” the leader says.

“Odd choice of words there, buster,” Right Cross says, wiping his hands of dust. “Considering it is happening.”

“The ritual, you fools. The ritual is incomplete! Without an anchor, it will go off like a bomb!” the leader spits.

Right Cross looks to Jade Empress.

“He is correct,” Jade Empress says, weaving mystic lines of power in the air around her.

“Can you stop it?”

“The answer depends on a few things, darling.”

“Care to be more sspecific?” Serpent Lord asks.

“Can I prevent it? Possibly,” Jade Empress posits. “I need time to enact a counter-ritual. Without certain spell components it’ll prove difficult. Can I stop it once it begins? That is another matter entirely.”

“Once what begins?” Spirit Wolf asks.

“The end, of course,” the right-hand man says, dusting himself off.

“Konrad? What are you doing?” the leader asks. The right-hand man ignores him.

“What are you talking about?” Right Cross asks.

“So naive. You have no idea the mess you’ve stumbled into,” Konrad says.

“Try me!” Right Cross says, decking him in the face.

The man takes the blow on the chin. He is like a statue. He doesn’t register the attack at all. Right Cross pulls back an aching fist.

“He’s powered,” Spirit Wolf declares.

Konrad smiles, revealing a set of wicked fangs. His eyes flash red. His skin is pallid and pale where the make-up has smeared off.

“Yes. In a manner of speaking.” He removes his coat so as not to ruin it further. “Your lives will make a fitting sacrifice to awaken my Lord. Though I have to say, it is the taste of superhuman blood that fills me with the most anticipation.”

Two other goons rise up, eyes red, fangs sharp and hungry for blood.

“Well, I certainly wassn’t expecting thiss.”

2 responses to “The American Hero Society (3)”

  1. Okay, this is a great supe-series episode as always, but I noticed Jade Empress literally carries around a Green Lantern on the second reread and I’m currently laughing my face off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the read! But it is in fact a legally distinct Jade Lamp that the Empress uses. Legally. Distinct. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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