#1 Posted by .Longshot. (5264 posts) - - Show Bio

A screen was stretched across the wall of a black, featureless room. The enormous screen was the sole source of light in the room. A man stood basking in the glow of it. He took a long, slow breath through his nostrils before calling out, "Open training facility surveillance tapes 7993, 8410, 8561, and 9218. Subject file: Longshot."

Upon his command, the screen split into four displays, each playing a recording from the Horizon compound's state-of-the-art training area. Each showed a young man with wavy blonde hair running through the rigorous exercises every assassin had to endure, the same exercises that prepared every inch of their bodies to be the greatest killers in the world. In the top left played a recording of the student running the obstacle course, beset on all sides with danger. He vaulted over a steal beam just as the electricity running through it was switched off, weaving through the dozens of heavy rubber balls that shot through the air fast enough to break bone. Across from that, there was a video of him displaying his gymnastic prowess, flinging himself effortlessly from one bar to the next. It was a level of skill that rivaled the greatest Olympic gymnast. In the bottom right, the assassin in training stood on a circular blue mat, arms at his sides as a dozen sparring partners, each clad entirely in white, closed in around him. For a moment, they paused, then they were upon him. He kept his eyes closed throughout the entire exercise, parrying attacks and shattering the bones of his opponents with his own blows. Within moments, he stood stoic amidst a pile of writhing enemies. Two of them were dead. Finally, in the bottom left, the boy took up a bow and slung a quiver over his shoulder. He drew an arrow and stared down the shaft, letting the arrow fly from his calloused fingers. The arrow burst through a target ninety yards down range, dead center. Finally, in the center was a photograph taken of a man in a red and black suit, gray mask with a glowing red eyepiece. The face had changed, the man had changed, but the name was the same... Longshot.

"He's good." called out a voice in the darkness.

The man simply kept his eyes locked on his old runaway. "Yes." he said plainly, "Yes, he was." He straightened his tie and turned to his guest. "Apologies for making you wear the hood. I trust the ride was comfortable?"

"Oh, yes." said the guest, stepping into the aura of the screen and revealing the handsome face of Victor Ross, "Although I must say, I wish we'd spoken in person sooner."

"I'm a very private man, Victor." his enigmatic host stated in a very slithering tone, "I do all my business with an unseen hand." Out of the ground beside him rose a small column with a crystalline bottle of amber liquid and a glass of the same quality. "Brandy?" asked the man.

"Sure." Victor replied, taking the glass poured for him. "You want one?"

"Oh, no..." the main replied, "Things like this aren't meant for a man my age. But let's not get in to that. How's your wife, Raven?"

"She's fine. Do you have any family, Mr... uh..."

"Brixby." the man interrupted, "It's just... Brixby. And no, I don't have any blood ties. Horizon is my family."

"That's where you and I differ, Brixby." said Victor, taking a sip of his drink, "The Facility is an extension of Ross Corp. It's just business. And as a businessman, I don't take kindly to stolen property." Suddenly, footage taken from from the hood of a Facility assassin was stretched across the screen. It captured Longshot running down a hall and bowing out of the way just as another archer sent an arrow straight toward the viewer, striking the assassin in the forehead.

"Your runaway cut one of mine loose." said Victor in a not so pleased tone of voice, "That's never happened in the history of the Facility, and I plan to nip this in the bud before it becomes a trend."

"Longshot was the first defector in Horizon's history as well." Bricby replied. It was eerie how the shadows always fell upon his face. No matter where he stood, no matter how much light there was in the room, his face always seemed draped in darkness. "We instilled lifetimes of training and resources into them, gave them power, rescued them from the enslavement of a normal life, and they have repaid us with rebellion."

"They have to die, Brixby. We have to shut them down before things get any worse. You've had Longshot running around for over four years now. No matter how good your assassins are-"

"They're the best."

"No matter how good they are, it's obvious that you can't kill him alone. And after the fiasco in Bandari with 1147, it's becoming apparent that I can't put Abel down either. I shouldn't need to tell you that this is bad for business."

"No, you don't." Brixby answered calmly, "But before 1146 became involved, the situation was manageable. His betrayal united the others in hatred. Only in the last few weeks has the risk truly become prominent. But my boy made you desperate, and desperation... is VERY good for business." He glared back at the screen before asking, "Were Ace and Dragonbane satisfactory?"

"Yes. They didn't manage to kill Abel, but I think the message was clear."

"They weren't told to kill Abel." Brixby explained, "If they had been instructed to, they would have. They were only assigned to send a message... to tell them that there is nowhere left to run." He glared up at the screen as it was overtaken by two large photos, one of Longshot and one of Abel, "We. Are. Coming."

CHICAGO

Longshot stood tall against the unrelenting wind. He reached out his hand and felt the heat rising from the city streets far below. Flags flapped in the wind at either side of him and the sound of wafting fabric was oddly soothing to him. He was still trying to cope with the news, to piece together some sort of plan to protect himself, to protect Abel. The warning shot had been fired. He knew exactly what would come next.

In all his years on the run from his old life, Longshot had only ever been encountered by a maximum of three Horizon assassins at a time. In those situations, he usually had help, and even when he did have someone to back him up, he barely escaped with his life. Now, every last one of them was coming for him and Abel. Death was no longer debatable. It was guaranteed. But even then, the day grew darker. Horizon had somehow forged an alliance with the Facility, the group that created Abel. Longshot was still recovering from the injuries inflicted on him by a pack of clone murderers who had attacked him several nights ago. When he tried to figure out how these two could join forces, he only came up with one reason. Him. He was the one who saved Abel from deactivation, who helped him turn his life around. He was what bridged the gap between two competitors in the business of blood and now, this insurmountable wrath was descending on them because of him.

Now, with the darkness closing in, there was only one thing left to do. The archer jumped from the rooftop and fell through the air with rigidity and grace. He had to act fast. He had to find allies.

#2 Posted by 1146Abel (461 posts) - - Show Bio

Pain. When the clone sat up, there was a sudden needle of pain that shot through his back. Slowly breathing out, he gripped the table beneath him. If there was anything he missed from being a Facility assassin.. it was the psychological immunity to pain. Getting shot was a completely different experience without it. Standing up, his eyes half-closed, another tinge of pain shooting through him. Looking around, he found his bow and quiver sitting on a counter. He walked over to it, picking the weapon up. Its black polymer makeup shined in the light, the bowstring still taut and strong.

Looking in the direction of the teleporters, he exhaled through his mouth. He hadn't told Longshot, but he'd developed a way to.. manage the Facility programming, in a way. Even turn it into an advantage for him. He also hadn't told him for a good reason. Closing his eyes, they re-opened, his irises rimmed with black. Closing his eyes again, they went back to their normal grey. No, Longshot would not like it at all. Looking back to his weapon, he paused for several moments. That weapon had killed so many innocents. But he still used it, for a reason he couldn't figure out. Was it a symbol of the Facility keeping a hold over him? Or did he just was to make sure he wouldn't be able to forget?

The sheer size of what was about to happen finally came down on him. It locked up his limbs, made him fall silent. The Facility and Horizon. Snapshots of his fight with Adam flashed through his mind, followed by flashbacks of his fights in training. Facility clones were terrifying in their skill, even to one of their own. The fact that all of them would be coming down on his head made the archer's bones chill. At least Longshot had allies to call on. Abel didn't know any of them.

Picking up the quiver, he slid it over his shoulder, grabbing the bow and walking towards the teleporter. If he was going to die, he might as well get it over with instead of sitting around waiting.

#3 Posted by Akube (846 posts) - - Show Bio

The Atlantic Ocean, one mile off the coast of Bandari

The man called Brixby sat comfortably on a couch in the living room of a pristine and upscale yacht. Every light was turned off. Only the pale moonlight falling in on his shoulders illuminated the room, casting strange and malevolent shadows. He reached down and picked a cellphone up off the glass coffee table, dialing a number and holding the phone to his ear.

"Yes..." he said smoothly, "As predicted, Longshot is running to his friends for help. I've done some talent scouting of my own." He paused. "Yes, I've got a files on a few of our premiere candidates right here." He reached to the opposite side of the couch, drawing two files. He opened the first, revealing a photograph of a tall, grim man with scraggly dark hair and an intimidating demeanor. "Cain O'Panell..." he read from the file, "An old adversary of Longshot. An assassin. Under regular circumstances, I'd have him strangled and get rid of the competition, but he's talented and he obviously knows how to hit one of our targets where it hurts. He won't survive the final encounter anyway, so it will all work out for the best." He set aside the folder and opened the next, this one being far more sparse on information. There was only a brief collection of facts and a single grainy photo of a dark haired girl robed in black. "This other one is only called Jade." he said, "I haven't been able to piece together why yet, but she also harbors resentment for Longshot, even greater than the Irishman... Yes. I'll send you the rest of the files for you to make your own decision. Don't worry about the girl... you can leave her to me. Goodbye." He hung up the phone and rose from his seat, straightening his tie. He had to look presentable for what would come next.

The man of shadows looked over his shoulder at the man with short blonde hair standing in the doorway, clad in a blue jumpsuit and black denim jacket, hands wrapped in thick, insulated gloves. "Send the message." he commanded, "Give our guest his invitation." The lumbering man slipped his dark goggles over his eyes and turned to face the sky. He reached inside his jacket and drew a gun, a flare gun of his own design that carried eight shots and delivered far more impact. He pointed it to the stars and fired a shimmering red flare into the sky.

Akube Mahatu patrolled the skies, glaring down on every village and town that passed below. People were lighting bonfires on the beach, playing in the fields, and settling down for a well deserved rest. He smiled beneath his mask. It was a peaceful night in Bandari. He only had to return to Ushundi and make one last patrol of the city before he could finally go to bed like the rest of his country. Of course, fate had something else in store for him. He spied the flare glowing in the night sky and sighed. He veered his hover cycle off its course, towards the source of the flare. Perhaps it was a sinking ship. The coast guard would no doubt be deployed, but he could get there faster, and if his involvement was the difference between life and death, he would not hesitate.

The bodyguard jumped from his cycle just as it passed over the ship, landing silently on the bow. He was perplexed. The yacht seemed to be in fine condition. Why had the flare been fired? He walked down the side of the boat, coming to the cabin door. It was wide open. No one appeared to be inside. He set one foot inside, when suddenly, a heavy arm crashed down on his back. He went with the force of the blow and rolled along the floor, crouching and turning to face his enemy. The big man cracked his knuckles under shock-proof gloves and drew a long black coil from his belt. He pressed a button on the handle and the whip buzzed with electric current. Akube shuffled back and pressed the buttons built into his gloves at the base of the palm, three golden claws springing from each hand. He rasied his fist, ready to fight. He was taken off guard by the clicking of a lever action rifle. He spun around to see a tall, slender man standing on the deck, dark blue coat waving in the breeze. His face was concealed in the shadow of a preacher hat. He pointed his Winchester rifle down through the open window, right at Akube's head.

"Lower your gun, Lone." ordered a man in the dark corner, "Blitzkrieg, stand down." Lone put away his rifle, vanishing inside his cloak. Blitzkrieg switched off his whip and hung it back on his belt. The bodyguard rose to his feet and looked to where the man was hiding. "Hello, Mr. President." said the man. Akube's eyes went bloodshot.

"Yes..." the man whispered hauntingly, "I know who you are. I keep tabs on everyone my little runaway hold dear. I must say, for a man of your fame, you keep your secret well." The chilling voice took shape as the man stepped into the faint light of the moon and what remained of the flare. "I' am called--"

"Brixby." Akube interrupted with a resenting snarl, "I know who you are as well. Paxton told me everything about you."

"Paxton..." Brixby muttered, almost laughing, "You act as if that's his real name. As if calling him by that name will somehow make him human. In truth, he is so much more." he gestured to the two assassins that stood at attention, "They are all so much more. And no, he didn't tell you everything about me. There is so much he has left to discover."

"I know enough." Akube replied, "You're a wicked, greedy businessman who thinks that he can own people, that he can force children to kill for his own gain."

"No. I'm not a businessman. My associate is a businessman." Brixby's eyes burned through the darkness as he stared intensely into Akube, "I am a father dealing with an ungrateful son."

The man of shadows began circling Akube, arms folded behind his back. Akube kept his eyes locked on Brixby as he spoke, "In order to maintain my truce with my associate, I've come to make you a deal. By now, you've no doubt heard of the assassin that Longshot freed from a perdicament not unliike his own. The student has become the teacher."

"I've heard of Abel." Akube answered, "I granted him asylum within my borders. I don't know where he is now."

"Good." Brixby said, "Than I don't have to bring you up to speed. I've come to make a deal with you... kill Abel, and I'll let Longshot live."

Akube processed for a moment what had just been offered to him. "You say that if I kill the archer... you will not harm Longshot?" Brixby nodded. "But... you made no such promise of your 'associate'."

Brixby continued circling the bodyguard as he made what could almost be mistaken for a smile. "So you're not an imbecile." he coaxed, "Very well. No use in pretense now. No matter what you do, Longshot will die. If you agree to kill Abel, I promise I will make it painless. And if you refuse... then I go public with your secret identity."

Akube's eyes narrowed on the man of shadows. His fists clenched and his teeth ground. "You may not be familiar with this, outsider..." he said sternly, "But in Bandari... we stand by our friends."

Brixby sighed. "I'm sorry we couldn't reach an agreement Mr. Mahatu." he said, signalling to his men. He passed the bodyguard and joined the assassins on the deck. Suddenly, the sputtering of helicopter blades could be heard and a ladder descended down before them. Brixby climbed up after Lone. "A pity..." he said, taking one last look at Akube, "You had so much potential." He continued climbing and the helicopter lifted higher into the sky. Blitzkrieg took hold as the helicopter left and secured his footing on the bottom rung. With a sadistic grin and a stare that penetrated his goggles, he raised his hand. Akube could just barely spy a detonator beneath his thumb. The bodyguard ran out of the cabin and dove over the side, slicing into the water just as the yacht was consumed in a fireball explosion. Moments later, he resurfaced, floating on the waves rippling through the water around the burning wreckage of the ship. The helicopter was far off now. Blitzkrieg gave a mocking salute to Akube as he climbed the ladder.

Akube wiped the water from his eyes and watched as the smoldering remnants of the yacht descended into the deep. The coast guard quickly arrived on the scene. "Mr. President!" they called out over the ship's loudspeaker, "Are you alright?"

"Yes..." Akube replied after a long pause, "Yes, I am alright." His hover cycle descended from the sky and dropped into the water. He climbed aboard and shook himself dry before taking to the skies once again. The air of his peaceful country had already begun to wreak of war.

#4 Posted by _Cain_ (23670 posts) - - Show Bio

The dusty bar was coated by the aroma of cigarette smoke, Cain sat in it looking at the bartender. His movements were sluggish, His breath was completely filled with the stench of whiskey. He was dressed in black as usual, He was slightly less ready for a battle, But he still had weapons on him. It wasn't until about five minutes later he would have to use them.

"Gimme another you fat f*cking dumb f*ck!" He shouted out the bartender. The bartender looked at him with a bit of a scorn. "Cain I Think you had en-" He was interrupted as A CZ75 Pistol was raised towards him. The business end was pointing towards him, And he said sighing "...Well, Since the amount of money you've spent here tonight is enough to pay my rent for a year..." He began to pour another glass of Guinness when a man bumped into him "HEY! Yeah You! You chipmunk molesting, Nazi Loving, Dumb f*cking teddy bear ass...I Luuuuuuuuuvvvvvve you! YER MY BUDDY!" The stranger raised his eyebrow "And you are?..." Cain said in his drunken rage, His beer goggles obscuring not only his vision, But his thoughts "I'M DUKE F*CKING WAYNE!" The man was beginning to become annoyed "Or Maybe you're a drunk..." Cain was beginning to get violent with that, He drew his Bowie Knife from his holster. The Black rubber grip fit into the palm of his hand like a glove as the bar room lights gleamed in the cold steel serrated blade. He thrust forward as the sharpened end of the blade pierced through the skin, The sound of the cold blade slashing through the warm flesh was a satisfying one. He grinned in Malicious, Yet Idiotic satisfaction. "Now what'did'ja say?" The man went out running out the door in panic. His Blood racing, His thoughts were left with one final primal instinct to flee as Cain pulled the knife out. He chased the man out into the streets until...

"OW! F*CKIN' DAMMIT!" Cain yelled out in pain, His left hand was pierced by the tip of a custom arrow, Shot by none other then the crimson archer himself. He saw Cain as he leaped from rooftop to rooftop with utter and absolute grace. He noticed Cain harassing him and took action, As Cain noticed his arch nemesis he grabbed his CZ75, The Pistol's sights had Longshot lined up in them. He focused for a second and it began. Cain had developed a skill where his perception of time slowed to fractions, Birds would sing slower, Men would walk faster and more importantly, It gave him more time to aim. Longshot readied another arrow from his quiver as Cain pulled somewhat of a trickshot, Firing a bullet and shattering it to pieces. Longshot leaped further towards him and prepared to fire an arrow before Cain unleashed a series of shots towards his foe, The bullets smashed into his carbon fiber body armor, Throwing him off of the the building. He was worried, He could suffer some serious injury if he went to far down, But in the nick of time he grabbed a rain gutter, Leaving him hanging so he could have just a bit of time to plot.

He had his gloved hands grasped with whatever strength he could muster, Holding on just barely as Cain prepared to finish him. That was until it began, His Drunkenness obscured his vision greatly. He began twisting and turning, Firing almost completely inaccurate shots compared to his previous. Longshot used this as a turning point, Setting up his arm mounted cable, He fired it into the ground with a loud metallic sound following. He put his feet out as they knocked him into the hard pavement he was left unconscious. Longshot reached out to get a pair of metal hand cuffs, Hoping to finally be rid of his opponent.

Man it felt so good for him, To know all the crimes he had done, All the people who died were not dead in vain.

He was interrupted though by a bullet firing off towards him. There they were. Three men armed with SMGs and Assault rifles stood before him, Readying to blow him to chunks with there weapons. They were Assassins sent from the newly formed facility-horizon alliance. They had been searching for him, Just as he had been searching for allies to aid him. The men were identical to each other, Wearing light weight armor provided by the facility. They readied the weapons they each possess. Fighting them would not be easy, But Longshot had a chance.

#5 Posted by .Longshot. (5264 posts) - - Show Bio

Longshot was tempted. He felt the urge to pick Cain up and throw him through a window, and that was the most tame thought he had. No matter what, whenever he looked upon the Irish militant, he still saw Olivia's blood on his hands. And by letting him live, whether or not it was the right thing to do, he saw it on his own hands as well, mingled with the blood of countless others. He slapped a pair of riot cuffs on Cain and froze in place as he noticed a presence behind him. He turned, only to see three Facility assassins, faceless soldiers clad in dark uniforms and armed to the teeth with the finest equipment in the business of murder.

Without a moment's delay, the archer cast three small steel disks at the assassins, each planting itself in one of their right shoulders. Of course, this would only stall them for a moment. They had a talent for shutting out pain that surpassed even Horizon endurance training. They promptly took up their guns in their left hands and opened fire, completely disregarding the onlookers who stood in shock at what was playing before their eyes on the streets of Chicago.

Longshot crouched down and took the first couple shots in his quiver, absorbing the otherwise lethal hail of hot lead. He rolled behind a car, dragging Cain's unconscious body along with him. The assassins ceased fire and began flanking the archer. One went around either side of the car, and one took up the center, stepping up on the back bumped of the car and walking over the roof. As he set foot on the hood, Longshot flung his legs up, wrapping them around the assassin's ankles and forcing him to the ground. The archer jumped up onto the hood and put an arrow in the second assassin before his feet landed on the car. He turned and swung his bow, shattering the third assassin's jaw like glass. Still, she grabbed his leg and pulled it out from under him. She pounced up onto the hood and drew a pair of throwing knives from a bandoleer across her chest.

The assassin lunged both daggers straight at Longshot's chest, but he grabbed hold of her wrists, struggling for life. She was bred with enhanced strength. The only thing that saved him was the fact that he had his elbows propped against the hood. She applied a few pounds more force, the last of her strength by the way she burned behind those hollow glass eyes. Without warning, Longshot flung his arms out to the sides and let go, allowing her to plunge her knives into the windshield on either side of his head. Before this registered with her, he shot up and plowed his forehead straight into her nose. Globs of blood flooded her mask and leaked from the air holes in the cracked plastic mouthpiece. He pulled his legs in and planted his feet on her chest, catapulting her off the car and onto the harsh asphalt.

Ran began trickling down as Longshot rolled over the side of the car, landing on the first assassin's ribcage as he walked around to the front bumper. He threw Cain's hefty frame over his shoulder and ran into a nearby alley. It wouldn't be long before the assassins recovered. It would still be long enough to get the answers he needed. After his first encounter with the Facility, there was no way their handlers would think only three would take him down. This was a preliminary team, and in all likelihood, they were getting help from someone who knew Longshot, and more importantly, knew how to hurt him.

The sound of wet garbage filled Longshot's nostrils as the rain began pouring harder. He forced Cain's unconscious body against the cold brick wall and shook him around to wake him up. Rain water gathered on the fire escape above them and a steady stream of icy water trickled down on each of their heads. "What have you done, Cain?" Longshot snarled, ignoring the water that pelted his head, drops running down his glowing red eyepiece, "TELL ME WHAT YOU'VE DONE!"

#6 Edited by Crowman (435 posts) - - Show Bio

"The Factory. The Federation. The Faculty."

A pause.

"The Frankfurter?"

Benjamin Mugs gave an exasperated sigh and rested his face in his hands. He had been awake for hours now, and had still not managed to piece any information together. He ripped off his headphones, flinging them across the room in frustration. Due to his loss of sight, the man had used his genius to create a program that converted any visual information into sound for his research. These headphones had been blaring in his ears for the entire day, and despite vigorous, unrelenting research, he had still discovered nothing of the mysterious organization of deadly assassins that had become so active across the world all of a sudden. Regarded as one of the best detectives in the world, he had been sure that he, out of all people as the formidable Crowman, could crack this case. But it seemed even he could not discover everything. Some forces in the world just would not budge. He had interrogated witnesses, street rats, muggers, murderers, he'd even infiltrated numerous maximum security facilities under super-criminal aliases; hoping to uncover information on the organization from other prisoners. His efforts had left him with nothing but a few supposed names for the group of assassins. He knew they could not be true as each person had an alternate moniker for them. There was a pattern though, and that was that every supposed alias he had received had begun with the letter "F". Satisfied with this lead, he had worked feverishly with all of the given names, rearranging letters, inserting them into the system, accessing files from law enforcement agencies such as the CIA. And now here he was, hunched over in disappointment after hours of iron-hard work.

"Vicky, search for similarities with any recently arrested convicts' crimes and the assassinations taking place."

The super-computer, nicknamed Vicky, complied, searching through databases all over the world. Mere seconds later she replied in a voice draped in monotone,

"No results accumulated."

The costumed man sat back in his chair, the only part of his vigilante attire currently not upon his figure was his cowl, resting on the smooth surface of the tabletop that he was seated at, and his utility belt, resting beside it. He stretched, giving a great yawn. It wasn't that he was exhausted, no, he had been awake for up to days on end with not a second of rest. He was just bored, as strange as it might sound for a man of his intellectual ability. In truth he was beginning to feel that this was all a wild goose chase, that the alliance of assassins did not exist and he had just gathered the wrong information from the strange activities taking place. He begun to agree with this train of thought when a single siren sang out across his small Chicago bunker, alerting him to an altercation taking place nearby. He got out of his seat, grabbing his cowl from the tabletop and clipping his utility belt around his waist. He tapped the communication device embedded within the cowl, situated near his ear, and instantly Vicky came online, relaying information about the crime taking place.

"A bar, down town, has made a call to the police, claiming to have witnessed the mercenary Shadow Knight assault a patron with a Bowie knife."

Cain O'Panell, a filthy scumbag soldier-of fortune intent on reaping all of life's luxuries in the easiest ways possible. His ledger was entirely drenched in crimson red, and gushed with the blood of innocents and criminals alike. Police databases had recorded more than one thousand arrests on the man, and yet he managed to escape every time. Despite his blunt, hooligan exterior, the man was of undeniably high-intelligence. He was dangerous, no doubt.

"The bartender also mentioned something about arrows."

Crowman nestled down onto the seat of the Crow-Cycle, starting up the engine and slowly inching forward as his super-computer spoke from the small wind shield. A circular section of the sleek, ebony wall slowly began to slide away, revealing a lengthy alleyway, traffic-congealed roads ahead on the other end. He confirmed the location of the bar, having Vicky insert it into the Cycle's GPS. And with a frightening roar of the mighty engine, the pitch-black vehicle sped across the alley, sliding into the main roads and dodging numerous other cars as it drove towards the altercation.

--

The deep booming of gunshots tore the night apart, civilians leaning out of their car windows to make sure they were not hallucinating. And sure enough, the steady fire continued regardless. There was a large traffic-jam a few blocks away from the scene, a sleek black motorcycle overturned in the middle of the road, holding all of the cars back. Eventually a few men had to get out to move it. Further away, atop the low rooftops lining the city's sky, sped a figure mottled in shadows, leaping across gaps between buildings and soaring over intersections. His footsteps were so silent it seemed they did not exist, and his self blended in perfectly with the unforgiving darkness of the night. Nobody noticed the Crowman.

--

"<He ran down there with the Shadow Knight. I will attack directly, you two come around and ambush him whilst we are engaged in battle. Remember, there is no failure!>"

The assassins nodded at their ally, watching him sneak into the alleyway, a thin but deadly katana in his hands. As soon as he stepped into the shadows, he disappeared. The only thing that marked his invisible figure was the moonlight that glinted from his cold blade. The remaining Facility agents gave each other a look that signified compliance and leaped at the wall of the building that sandwiched the alley. They rolled across the rooftop, coming up in stealthy crouches, every single one of their senses at it's peak. Steadily they inched their way towards the ledge overlooking Longshot, their footsteps mute.

"Stop."

The assassins spun around, weapons instantly readied and aimed towards the sound of the voice. A demonic figure was crouched on the other side of the rooftop, it's horns the only visible item from it's shadowy self, which seemed comprised of pure night, darkness flowing from it's edges. One of the killers tilted their heads, slowly reaching up and tapping the side of the goggles that framed their masks, activating the night-vision. Through the heavy rain she could instantly make out the outlines of the demon's body, and she raised her weapon swiftly and pulled the trigger, her partner swiftly following suit. There was a sudden rush of wind and a small clinking sound, and they felt their weapons shake in their hands. They pulled the triggers again, and again, eventually looking at the nozzle of the gun to find a metallic projectile of some sort that had somehow disabled the functionality of the weapon. They sneered, dropping the guns simultaneously and lunging at their mysterious foe, legs spinning lethally. The Crowman leapt from his patch of darkness, rolling underneath their attacks, twirling his enormous cape in his hands, disorientating them with the flapping, mottled sight of the billowing material. He realized he had underestimated them, he heard their feet hit the ground as they rebounded off of the surface of the rooftop where he had been moments before, flipping backwards, four pairs of feet striking the Aviator Avenger in his large chest, sending him skidding backwards. They followed up on their attack, the nearest agent lashing out with a palm thrust aimed at his forehead, her partner sliding low, going to sweep his legs. The Vice of Vengeance felt the air shift and part, and despite his blind eyes, he knew exactly where they were by the displacement of air, made harder to locate due to the rainfall. Grunting with effort as swatted the palm thrust from out of the air with the back of his hand, grabbing her arm and using the momentum of her movement to swing himself around her body, narrowly evading the legsweep. He planted his feet upon the ground the tough sole managing to keep him from slipping in the ankle deep rain, her hand still in his grasp across his back. He pulled down aggressively, satisfied with the sickening crack of her arm's bone structure. To his surprise, she made no sound of pain, instead rolling over his back and giving him a solid uppercut, landing him on his back with a splash. He had never faced such fighters, shifting his body away moments before a pair of katana's struck his cape, pinning him down to that area of the rooftop. His mobility was limited now, and so instead of trying to tear himself away, he rushed at the assassins, clotheslining them both at once, managing to emit grunts from their felled figures. He tore his crowarangs from his utility belt, spinning around as they came back up, swiping the blades across their throats, hoping to behead them. The nearest assassin's throat was torn apart, blood spraying like a water feature, mixing with the thin pool of rain covering the rooftop like a blanket. She dropped to her face, writhing silently upon the ground. The other assassin had evaded the crowarangs by inches, grabbing the vigilante's arm and twisting hard, throwing him onto his side again. The agent then leaped upon him, pounding upon his face with steel-encased fists. It only managed to get three solid strikes in before Crowman wrapped his legs around the Facility killer's neck and tore him away. This time he did not hesitate, and grabbed the hilts of both katana's pinning his cape to the rooftop, ripping the blade's out and leaping over the crouching figure of the assassin, cleaving his torso apart as he was directly above him, landing in a crouch of his own, huffing in exertion, body ringing in pain.

"Two down."

--

The lone assassin was mere meters away from Longshot now, katana above his head, ready to come down and slice the hero in half. The Shadow Knight could not see the Facility agent, as he was directly behind the archer, poised to maim. He could not be heard, as the rain assaulted the alleyway with such ferocity that it seemed the alley would flood should this carry on. He clenched his jaw underneath the plastic mouthpiece, muscles tensing in that perfect moment before the kill.

"Heads up, archer."

The Crowman dropped out of the sky behind the assassin, making a perfectly timed entrance as he landed on top of a dumpster behind them. His dark costume blended in perfectly with the long shadows of the alley, and along with the pouring rain, all that was visible from his mottled figure were the pair of white slits that signified his eyes. They were just for display, as he could obviously not see through them. Crowman knew that they had the assassin surrounded. He extracted a series of crowarangs from his utility belt, ready to set them straight at the assassin's throat. He scowled, muscles tensed, body ready to pounce.

This would be over swiftly.
#7 Edited by Tombstone. (287 posts) - - Show Bio

Being perhaps the only non-villified undead in existence had it's perks. He had no need to distract himself from public duty with concerns such as eating, sleeping, or heck, even breathing. Fresh from giving a speech at a college, the spectral crusader was already on rooftop patrol, looking around the area with his enhanced senses that served him well in the Spanish Civil War, the second World War, and the Korean war. He had no need to crouch or kneel to get a closer look, and indeed he wanted to be as high as possible to be able to see as much of the area as possible.

Chicago was a city that had seen much, including a direct nuclear strike, near complete leveling from a decepticon invasion followed by an attack by the Black Hand and then Dathron. It did get off better than Ontario, but considering that Ontario was no longer habitable, that was not saying much. But the wonders of nanotechnology were certainly great, already the city had been scrubbed clean of dark glass, radiation, and had been rebuilt from the ground up. But almost as quickly as people began moving back in, so did the criminal element.

He sweeped his vision around and spotted a car driving away from the police at breakneck speed. Automatic weapons fire was blaring out from the car as the two groups engaged in a drive by shoot out. "Well...looks like I'm going to be having a busy night." The ghostly hero remarked as he spun out his twin lightning pistols before jumping off the skyscraper he was on, plummeting towards the ground and making minute adjustments to his flight path with his cape to make sure he aimed himself right at the hood of the SUV.

Landing on the SUV, his body impacted the hood of the car and the horrible sound of metal crunching up filled the air as the rear end of the car jolted up and the front end began crumpling up like tinfoil in the hands of a brute. The criminals in the car were jolted forward, then were pulled back by their seatbelts before tombstone grabbed the top of their car and yanked upwards, ripping open the metal until it was lifted completely off, at which point he let it off gently to the side.

As the criminals began to shoot at him, he simply went intangilable, his form becoming transluscent as the bullets passed through his no longer solid body harmlessly. With a tinge of amusement, he reached for the throats of the two crooks closest to him, yanking them towards them and then clonking their heads together to knock them out before aiming his pistols with a twirl and firing continuous streams of lightning from them at taser settings, shocking the criminals who went convulsing down on their seats in pain.

"Justice has been served." Tombstone said as the police arrived to cuff them. "Wow...Tombstone...sir, it's an honour to be in the presence of one of America's national heroes...I j-joined the force because I wa-wanted to be like you! I m...mean I even watched your cartoon when I was a kid! 'Why do crooks fear the grave? Cause they know Tombstone's gonna get them! What do monsters check under their bed for, Tombstone!" He said, briefly repeating the lines to the Cartoon theme song made of Tombstone in the late eighties before he appraoched him.

"C...can I have your autograph?" Said one of the younger police officers, who offered out his notepad and a pen. The Spectral Avenger holstered his pistols and nodded as he took the pen. "I'm only serving my country, and I'm glad to know I inspire people..." He responded in his self-echoing, deep, and quite fittingly; gravely voice, if he had a mouth to do it, he would have smiled as he signed the paper before handing it back to the police officer. The officer smiled as he was handed back the signed sheet of paper as the police brought the criminals back to their squad cars.

Turning incorporeal once again, Tombstone took to the skies before landing himself at another building to continue his patrol of the city streets, driving winds not even bothering him as he went over to land at a building. But as he did, a sniper bullet phased through him by a clearly startled sniper whom tombstone had seen aiming downwards not a few moments ago. "Alright buster...you can either put that gun down...or I can take it from you." He bluntly told the sniper who threw a grenade at him. The explosive detonated in a blooming fireball and a spray of shrapnel and concussive force at his feet, but when the smoke cleared, Tombstone was still there, having turned incorporeal.

"Let me tell you something, if you're intending to hurt me, don't use something that gives me as much time to prepare as a grenade." Graves responded bluntly before taking out one of his lightning pistols and firing off a lightning ovoid at the man's gun, the electricity slamming into the gun and then electrifying it to the point where the sniper dropped her gun in sudden pain before Tombstone leapt at him and then punched herim straight in the jaw, sending him for a spin before, he grabbed the woman by the thorax and threw her into the dumpster below.

As he vaulted down onto the ground, Nathan lifted the body suit clad woman from the dumpster by her collar and gave her a good look. "Alright, what's the meaning of this? Who were you trying to kill? Speak now! The power of the grave compels you!" He shouted angrily as he began to use his otherwordly abilities to force her to speak the truth and nothing but the truth. She pointed at arm at a man down the alley wearing a red shirt, a grey mask, and a red eyepiece, who was already accompanied by quite a few people. One who looked rather suspicious. Taking aim with one of his pistols, he fired off a lightning bolt that sent the man behind longshot crumpling to the ground convulsing as electricity coursed through him after getting in the right angle for it.

Narrowing his empty eye sockets at the woman, he knocked her out by coursing electricity and dragged the facility sniper along with him to the group before throwing her on the ground. "Well...You must be Longshot...I've heard quite a lot about you..and I have to say...I'm impressed...and it seems you've bagged...him...again" Tombstone said as he offered out a hand to shake before glancing over at Cain. "Now...mind telling me what all this crap is about? Or are you in the dark on this too?" He said, gesturing to the knocked out Facility assassins.

#8 Edited by 1146Abel (461 posts) - - Show Bio

After some time, the clone had found himself in Chicago. A city that he cared very little for, but was all too familiar with. Many a person had died at his hands here. Breathing out, his legs compressed downwards, then extended up again. The force behind it sent him flying through the air onto another rooftop. His boots landed on the cement with a wet thud. Within seconds, he was in motion again. For a few moments, he isolated the sounds directly behind him, picking out the sound of four pairs of boots running towards him. Tilting his body forwards, he planted his hands on the ground and maneuvered his body into an upwards position. Pushing up, his body sprung into the air, then flipped horizontally mid-flight. Grabbing his bow from his back, as well as four arrows.

Ending the process, his boots landed on the rooftop. One leg was extended outwards towards his pursuers, and outstretched. The other was tilted off to the right, and bent at the knee. His torso was lowered close to the ground, and the weapon was held horizontal in front of him. "You'd think they'd send something better to take me down." The projectiles flew from the weapon, hitting the edge of the roof. When his new enemies hit a certain point, the explosives on the arrows beeped, then detonated. Predictably, each of them avoided it with a flip. A front flip that let Abel take out another volley, place them on the bow, and simultaneously hit each of them in the gut. Upon penetration, it secreted a slow-acting neurotoxin. A precaution.

Sliding the bow onto his back, his eyes started to become rimmed with red. Regaining his stance, he turned around, both arms rising into a combat stance. A punch was flung at his head, to which he dodged and returned with a jab to the faceplate. Reinforced glass smashed open, and an eye was gouged out. Flipping around, his foot cracked against the poor bastard's head. Not relenting, his hand grabbed the man by the throat mid-fall, and lifted him up. Forming a single fist, Abel slammed it into the killer's neck. There was a sickening crunch as his windpipe completely collapsed, severing his airflow. Grabbing him by the neck, he twisted up and to the side, snapping the spinal chord. 6 seconds had passed.

Letting the body drop, he pivoted and sped at the next one. A set of eight jabs cracked the rib-cage in succession, breaking it wide open. A punch to the chest ruptured both lungs. As blood began to pour in, his fist went upwards, cracking the jaw in two at the center. Bringing his other fist down on the killer's head, it smashed down onto the skull, cracking it. A second blow obliterated the brain. 10 seconds.

Somersaulting right, his legs wrapped around the third's neck. In one clean motion, Abel snapped the spine and flipped his lower body backwards, releasing the body onto the pavement. 11 seconds.

Completing the flip, Abel pulled out a knife. The blade was long and curved on one side, serrated on the other. Flipping it around, he held it downwards, then charged at the last man. His opponent barely had time to pull out his own knife and block a blow with his armguard. Abel deliberately let a slice cut across his arm, drawing blood. Following that, he let himself get stabbed in the side. A non-lethal blow, but a noticeable one. Moving his arm down, he jabbed once, then twice, and finally four more times. Each hit punctured through weak points in the armor, prying it open. Repeating the strikes, he took out four vital organs, leaving only the brain untouched. As his body began to shut down, Abel slipped the knife through the man's neck, cutting the jugular and slipping through the spinal chord. Moving to the side, he dodged the arterial spray. Ripping the knife out, he placed it in the assassin's free hand. 20 seconds.

Stopping for a moment, he made sure that he was clean of any blood but his own. He was. His eyes returned to their normal coloring.

Listening off in the distance, he heard gunshots nearby. Looking, he spotted a familiar face. Longshot. There were four others, and several unconscious Facility assassins, but he at least had found Longshot. Turning around, he took out his bow, as well as an arrow. Fitting on a special tip, he fired it across the street to a taller building. Jumping off, he let it pull him upwards. About half way, he extended the line, descending down at a slow pace. He gradually moved his body to the right, then let the line go when it was safe. Flipping so that his feet were pointed downwards, he landed on a dumpster next to their group. Dropping onto the ground, he nodded over to Longshot. "Sorry I'm late. Took down a group on my way here."

No, Longshot would not like his method at all.

#9 Posted by .Longshot. (5264 posts) - - Show Bio

Longshot heard the man approaching him, his heartbeat steady as the tide despite the battle he had just endured. He slowly turned to see Crowman standing at a menacing stature as the rain pelted his shoulders. The cold gray light of day could nearly be confused for night, especially in the overlapping shadows of the narrow alleyway. He could smell blood in the air, new blood, and over the deafening clash of water against stone, he did not hear the repetitive, clockwork heartbeats of the Facility assassins. "You... killed them." Longshot muttered.

Suddenly, from behind the shroud of falling rain appeared the legendary Tombstone, his heart and face as still as the grave for which he was named. Longshot wanted to tell him he had no business here, but he couldn't be so disrespectful to someone like this, and in truth, he needed all the help he could get. Moments later, Abel fell from the sky and landed beside him. "Sorry I'm late." he said, "Took down a group on my way here."

Longshot knew what that meant. He knew that he hadn't taken everything of the Facility out of Abel. He knew he never could. It was an unending battle of conviction and self-control to prevent himself from falling back on old instincts, from killing anyone who crossed his path. He couldn't force reformation on Abel. He would have to let things unfold for his fellow archer on their own.

"Abel..." said Longshot, turning to the escaped clone, "I have a safe house about a mile back. You passed it on the way here. It's the boarded up parking complex. I leave a panel loose on the top level. Take these two and lay low. We'll sort things out there.... when I'm finished here." His eyes turned to stone as they fell upon Cain once again. "I know you can here me, Cain." he snarled, "What have you done?"

ACROSS TOWN

The clouds seemed to part around the tower, glass shimmering and beaming its reflective light into the grim world that surrounded it. It glistened like a beacon of hope in a dark world, an all too misleading facade. Kroll sat on the white leather couch in the center of a luxurious penthouse near the top floor of the tower. Two dozen blades of varying size and style were laid out on the coffee table before him. He picked up his rapier, hilt to tip shimmering silver. He began sharpening it, a redundant task seeing as that his blades hardly ever dulled, but it settled him. It cleared the fog around his thoughts and filled him with one simple thought, the thought he shared with all his brethren, revenge.

Ox's heavy boot heel struck the tile floors for every other Horizon assassin scattered throughout the penthouse to hear. He walked into a small room set up as a gym. There were three punching bags along the bag wall, each bolted and hung on heavy duty chain to accommodate his strength. He taped a picture of Longshot to the middle bag and began striking it with only a fraction of his strength, already swinging the bag into the wall with each blow. He heard a toll from outside and moved into the living room along with all the others. They gathered around as Brixby's shadowed face appeared on the flat screen in front of them.

"Hello, children." their leader said coolly, "This building will serve as your base of operations throughout the procedure. You will be sharing these facilities with the other assassins, all at my expense. Now, you should all remember why you are here. Why you are all working together on one assignment. We were betrayed. We were forsaken by a selfish child who saw fit to abandon us. He has hurt each of you. We bleed because of his treachery. Horizon is a family. When a brother in blood betrays our family, what do we do?"

"Make him pay." the assassins responded in ominous unison.

"Yes." Brixby whispered, "Now, prepare yourselves, children. Train and eat and rest while you can. We're going to war."

#10 Posted by Akube (846 posts) - - Show Bio

Akube strode the long hallway, plain white walls and blinding lights clashing against his dark uniform. Amala and Koba, the chief of the Bandari Security Force, followed closely behind him. He wore all of his outfit aside from the mask. "You can't do this, Akube!" Koba said forcefully.

"I must, Koba." replied the leader of the African nation, not even turning to face Koba.

"I'm afraid he's right, Akube." Amala joined in, "You have urgent business here. Your double life has forced you to put most of it off for months. You can't stall anymore. You need to take off the costume and remember the other half of your job. It can't be postponed for another mission."

"This is no ordinary mission." Akube responded, "If I do not go now, chaos will reign, lives will be lost, and evil men will get away unpunished." He came to a door at the very end of the hall, leaning with his hand propped against the door, closed his eyes, and whispered, "If I do not go, then Longshot will die."

"Let the rat fend for himself." Koba blurted out, "He can fight. And if he dies, what does it matter? You can't just go running off whenever your pet project needs you. You have to remember your duties here. If I was President--"

He was cut short as Akube lunged at him, forcing him against the wall and holding him tight by the collar of his bulletproof vest. "You are NOT the President!" Akube snarled, "I owe my life to that man just as he owes his to me. I will not abandon him on the dusk of his darkest night. Do you understand me? DO YOU?!" Koba nodded and Akube's grip loosened as he backed away from the soldier, calming himself. "Good..." Akube sighed. He pressed an invisible pressure sensor on the wall and the wall slid open. Before he stepped through the threshold, he turned back and peered at Koba, a steely gaze frozen on his tired, sunken in eyes. "You would be wise to remember your place, Koba."

Akube walked into the dark, arid room. The lights came on around him. There were four steel tables lined up in rows of two, each containing extensive equipment, weaponry that he rarely used and tools designed for specific scenarios, along with spare suits and trunks full of spare parts for his cycle. At the very end of the room was a risen platform, displaying the sharp, pristine frame of his hover cycle. There were more green supply trunks along the back wall. Akube walked to one of the table and loaded his belt, clipping on extra equipment and pouches. He slung three bandoleers of weapons and tools lazily over his right shoulder and looked down at the piece of dark fabric laid face down on the table. He picked it up, turning it over to embrace his old tradition of looking the demon in the eyes before he wore its skin. However, something was different. His face twisted into an expression of shock. On his mask, inscribed in bold, white letters, were the words that could only have been from one man, "I WARNED YOU"

The bodyguard wiped the greasy ink from the mask with his thumb and pulled it over his face. He backed away a few more feet and pressed the automatic start switch on his belt. The engines of the hover cycle rumbled and roared to life and the tension in his jaw unwound. "Of course..." he whispered, "No sport in killing me with sabotage."

Akube jumped up onto his cycle, dropped the bandoleers into a steel compartment, and flew down a dark narrow corridor, bursting into the Bandarian sunlight as he soared out of the capitol building, civilians looking up and cheering his name.

The bodyguard soared through the air, flying at breakneck speed over until all he could see in any direction was the ocean. It would be at least another four hours' flight toe the American coast, and another two to the city where Paxton made ready his last stand. He forced his tired eyes open against the relentless wind. Even through his mask, the icy cold gusts bit into his cheeks. He did not slow. He did not relent, for he knew what hung in the balance, and what catastrophe would unfold if he was not by his old student's side in the coming battle. The man of peace gave no pretense... this was war.

#11 Edited by Lady Loveless (722 posts) - - Show Bio

Chicago

The windy city...most outsiders would assume it was called this because of some erratic weather pattern that attracted harsh winds here. Lorna knew better though, the city of Chicago had always been a political powder keg. In fact, the coinage of being the "windy city" came from the newspapers claiming there was too much hot air here. From government officials and candidates arguing and bickering until their faces turned blue. Lorna was done with talking, done with arguing, and done with being civil. She knew there was going to be a battle between different factions of assassins. And frankly she couldn't give a d@mn. She was a hero, sworn to protect those that were unable to protect themselves. If this war entered the streets of Chicago then they would be hearing from her. And the last time she through a punch, knocked a guy through two whole building. Being the good girl she is though, she healed him...well enough so that the doctors could do the rest without him dying.

"Oh Chicago...I remember you well." She sighed to herself as she gently soared the skies of the magical city. She soared low enough to hear the jazz band playing in the house of blues, the clouds had also gathered undoubtedly for the sound of jazz. As she was caught between the two worlds of jazz below and static charges above she couldn't help but here what sounded to be a gun fight a few streets up. She rolled her eyes as her fantasy of drifting off on a thunder cloud listening to the sound of jazz with the accompaniment of rain drops would have to wake. A bolt of lightening struck down in front of her eyes. The thunder followed soon after and acted as a buzzer. Signaling for her time to go to work.

She arrived to one of the men wearing a white cloaked mask and a quiver on his back, Longshot. The other a drunken mess that had three other men called upon to help in his dirty work. This drunken mess was known as Cain and Lorna didn't have time for whatever squabble they had. Longshot was one that could hit a target from a mile off, with one hand behind his back, and a million other things going on. The opponent he had targeted though on his good days would use heavy fire arms and explosives if he had to. Today was not a good day though and he made the alley way they started their duel in look more like the buildings were made of swiss cheese than brick. She glided down to meet the two. She stood in the middle, and marked the line that was being drawn. "Gentlemen....I am not sure what has sparked this fight. But if you must do it in a public domain where innocent lives can be harmed. Then I will have no choice but to put you down, and bring you in." She clenched her fists and gritted her teeth as she awaited their replies.

#12 Posted by Surefire (109 posts) - - Show Bio

A teenage boy groaned. His hands reached up and shoved a pillow over his head, but the relentless snoring of his classmate crept through the fabric. Stupid hotel pillows. Couldn't absorb anything worth a damn. Sitting up, he flung the covers off of him. Bending down over the side of the bed, he retrieved his suit-case and opened it up. Pulling out two black bags, he got up and ran into the bathroom. Barely a moment later, he was clad in a red-and-black jumpsuit, with a quiver over his shoulder and a bow in his hand. Opening the window, he stealthily crept out of the building, and shot a grappling hook across to another roof.

Swinging and landing with a roll, he came to a stand on a roof-top. The cold British air made the teen vigilante shiver. His breath came out in chilled fog as he silently cursed himself for not having some kind of cold weather suit or something. The leather outfit he wore really wasn't designed for cold temperatures. Looking around, he boredly waited for something to happen. Sitting around at the hotel was too boring, and getting to sleep was impossible. He'd been put in a room with the one kid in his class that happened to snore. After nothing popped up that the police didn't handle, he went off on a run.

Running seemed to offer a bit of solace to him. It made him relax and got the tension out. Planting his hands on the roof edge, he executed a front-flip. Hurtling through the air, he landed feet-first on the next roof-top and immediately launched into a sprint. Pushing off with his legs, he leaped through the air, landing with a roll on the next roof. He was about to keep moving, but he heard a noise. Foot-steps. Whipping the bow out, he drew an arrow and pointed it in the direction of the noise. "Normal people tend to not go running about on roof-tops. So you're either a deranged stalker, in which case.. I'm flattered, but dude.. that's creepy. Or, alternatively, you're like me. Third option would be an assassin, but last time I checked I haven't done anything to piss off the Injustice League." His muscles tensed, waiting for this mysterious person to make a move.

#13 Posted by .Longshot. (5264 posts) - - Show Bio

Longshot ran as fast as his legs could carry him away from Cain. He wasn't sure exactly what he was trying to escape, he just knew he had to get away. He was brought to a halt as a shadow descended over him. He could already make out who it was, the woman known to him only as Lady Loveless. She called out to him with a booming voice that Cain could no doubt here from such a distance away.

"It doesn't matter." Longshot replied, "Fight's over..." he turned his head to better hear over the rain, "But there's somebody down there who was hit by a stray bullet. Sounds like it struck a main artery. The ambulence is at least ten minutes away. He won't make it that long. You have a better chance of saving him than I do. If you want to help save a lot more lives, you know how to find me." With that, he passed her by and dove over the edge, firing a grapple line from his gauntlet and swinging off. Rain struck his face as he flew through the city. The cold water beaded on his eyepiece as he ran off to the safehouse.

He pried open the plywood cover of the top level and stepped in, his footseps echoing through the desolate old parking complex. He called out in the darkness with a commanding, authoritative tone, "Recognize: Longshot." The moment he spoke, numerous screens and monitors flickered to life. The center dividing wall, and the outer wall to his right, were both lined with monitors and lamps, enough to cast some light in this dark place. "Now then," he said to his guests, "I have a history, a history which I'm not about to share with any of you. The long and short of it is that there's a group of people out there who want me dead. Everything I can do, they can do, some even better. I've managed to survive their attacks, but now, they've thrown all their cards on the table. This man over here is named Abel. He's a clone created by a group called the Facility. A few months ago, I managed to help him break free of their control and find his own way. He's been hiding out in Bandari since then. A few days ago, he was attacked by a a number of the assassins who've been hunting me. It's evident that these two organizations are working together. I could never survive an attack from all of the assassins at once, and the Facility has nearly killed me more than once. Now, their forces are combined. Me and Abel stand no chance. All I can hope to do is steer the fight away from civilians. Today's debacle was only a fraction of the hell coming. If anybody wants out, you'll have no judgement from me. If you stay, know that you might not be walking away when this is over."

#14 Posted by Madam_Jade (434 posts) - - Show Bio

"Normal people tend to not go running about on roof-tops." said the archer. It was hard not to look at him in her peripheral vision and see her tormentor instead. This one, at least, did not have blood on his hands. He was nothing like Longshot, but he had never known loss. He was nothing like her, either. Perhaps, that was for the best. He was his own man, a man who still had a lot of growing up to do, "So you're either a deranged stalker, in which case, I'm flattered, but dude... that's creepy. Or, alternatively, you're like me. Third option would be an assassin, but last time I checked I haven't done anything to piss off the Injustice League." She wasn't quite sure how to answer. In a way, she was all three. She decided to let him draw his own conclusion and stepped into the light.

"You should be more cautious with your movements, Surefire." Jade said passively. She stood before him, her red eyepiec catching the light of the roaring London streets below. Her other eye seemed to reflect no light at all, simply swallowing it and replacing it with an aura of unrelenting darkness. In many ways, this was the only expression she knew. Her face had been contorted into this grim facade that fateful day when she was young, and it had never changed since. Despite her unrelenting gaze, this was perhaps one of the few people on the planet she had no immediate cause to distrust, "Your body language would give you away even if you were careful with your secret... Zachary."

#15 Edited by Surefire (109 posts) - - Show Bio

"Caution and I are mutually exclusive. Either that has a restraining order out on me. Can never tell, really." He lowered the weapon, but kept the arrow drawn. Despite the fact that his weapon was ready to shoot, his stance was relaxed. There was little, if anything, that could faze the fire-haired vigilante. Like so many other things, he handled the situation with a casual ease. There was a brief look of surprise on his face when she said his name, but it quickly faded.

"Lovely. A brooding vigilante knows my direst secret, whatever will I do?" Like usual, he didn't give much care to how rude his sarcasm could sound. It was more or less impossible for him to not be like this. A popular theory among his family was that the doctor had hit some kind of switch on him when he was a baby, and no one had been able to turn it back off since. "So, does that make you Tim Drake? And if it does, can I be Batman? Wait, no, I shouldn't be Batman. I'm not broody enough. Try as I may, I could never hope to brood as hard as the caped crusader." There was also a popular opinion that he'd suffered brain damage as a child, and therefore couldn't shut up. "So, what're ya doing up on the rooftops of ye old Britian, lass?" He faked an exaggerated Irish accent, then dropped it. "You don't seem like the type to go to another country for a spa treatment, let alone the type to get spa treatments period." The rate at which his mouth moved was almost disturbing. But his tone was at least semi-serious. "I know you ain't here for me. I'm annoying, so no one in their right mind would seek me out. Which suggests that you're here for something else."

"Only question is.. what?"

#16 Posted by Madam_Jade (434 posts) - - Show Bio

"There are some men here who owe me a favor." Jade answered, "I am here to see it repaid. I see that you've come for a change of scenery." She put her foot up on the ledge and peered down at the city streets. "No one seems to be in desperate need." she said, "You should go back to your hotel and rest. After all, you may very well be the only Vigilante who can."

Jade paused, staring out to the river in the distance, shimmering in the night, the mirror opposite of the surrounding city. "Perhaps... you deserve a better answer than that." she sighed.

The serpent reached into the black sash around her waist and drew a throwing knife, a single straight blade with only the rounded end and a ring through the reflective steel to form a handle. Tied around the ring was a long, slender strip of white cloth with a message written in dark ink, 'London'.

"This was thrown into the wall beside my head three days ago in Russia," she explained, pulling the black cloth down just far enough for him to see the thin red line on her right cheek, "It did not miss entirely."

#17 Edited by Surefire (109 posts) - - Show Bio

"Wish I could. I've got a roommate in my hotel room that won't quit snoring. So sleep ain't happening. And.. yeah, let's go with change of scenery." He didn't buy the answer she gave him, and finally let his bow drop to a more casual position, his body leaning against a wall. "Tell the truth, I'd rather be home. London's nice, but home's better."

"Up to you. Not like we're very close, really." He shrugged, and couldn't help but see himself taking a glance at her. She drew a throwing knife, to which his eyes locked onto. Pushing off of the wall, he took it from her hands and looked it over. After a few moments, he handed it back. "Looks to me like someone wanted us to meet here. Or it's just a freaky coincidence that we're in London at the same time, and someone gave you an ominous message attached to a throwing knife. Oh.. man, this is starting to sound a lot like a bad spy movie." Zach took note of the cut on her cheek. "Deliberate, from the looks of it. If they wanted to kill you, they wouldn't of attached the paper."

One of the pouches on his belt vibrated, breaking the silence that followed his comments. Reaching down, he turned the device off. "Ignore that." Leaning to the side, he propped himself up against a wall using his arm. "So, what now? We go our separate ways, I go be charming and handsome, you go be dark and brooding?"

#18 Posted by Madam_Jade (434 posts) - - Show Bio

Jade looked out over the city, crossing her arms and drawing a long, slow sigh. If there was one thing she could accept about Surefire, it was his refusal to stay out of danger's way. It was a trait that she admired in people like herself, but not in a boy with so much at stake, so much left to lose. She did not push him away because he was obnoxious, although that was certainly a contributing factor. She did it because she couldn't stand to see him end up liker her.

"We should split up and do a lateral sweep of the city. After that, we--" she was interrupted by the vibrating of a device tucked into the cuff of her boot. She drew her Vigilantes communicator and flipped open the screen, met with a screen capture of a shootout earlier that day in Chicago. As she read the sparse gathering of facts on the situation, her eyes went bloodshot. "Perhaps you should turn that back on." she whispered.

#19 Posted by Akube (846 posts) - - Show Bio

Akube looked down to see New York City passing by far below. He skipped along the skies on his flying machine, soaring at breakneck speed toward Chicago. But something was wrong. Some nefarious plan was coming into play. White gas spewed from the front of his hover cycle, the wind carrying it directly into his face. Immediately, his lungs went raw and he began to cough, covering his mouth and nose with his arm. He steered the vehicle down to the nearest rooftop and landed as silently as possible, staggering off and away from the deadly fumes as they ran their course. There was no doubt in the bodyguard's mind that this was a plan by the Horizon assassins to slow him down. They would never expect this to kill him. They knew him too well. They knew everyone who had a hand in Paxton's escape, and the time had come to make them pay. Brixby already had enough dirt on Akube to force a sensible man into surrender, but when lives were on the line, especially those he cared for, Akube was not known for being sensible.

As the poisonous smoke gave its final hiss and dissipated in the air, Akube was struck with a new danger. The ground rumbled beneath his feet. A deafening boom rang in his ears, which he immediately assumed was the sound Paxton heard whenever someone clapped their hands. He stumbled toward the ledge and saw fire slithering up the walls, out from shattered windows. Without hesitation, he ran back to his hover cycle and pulled the winch from the back, diving over the ledge and swinging through a window, into the fire. His lungs were still recovering from the malicious gas, so the smoke was a nigh-unbearable obstacle, but he forced his way through it. He could hear people fleeing out onto the street below, and he could already recognize the charred remnants of people he couldn't save. Perhaps, there were some still trapped inside, some who it was not too late to help. The fire was spreading quickly. He would have to hurry. He searched, throwing aside rubble and peering through blinding smoke until he found one, a little boy. He lifted the child up and whispered calming words, but as he turned back around, he was silenced.

There, standing far across the room, towering in stoic darkness against the roaring fire that encompassed him, was the Horizon assassin who had been there on the yacht the night before, Blitzkrieg. He wore a respirator, and his goggles were pulled down around his eyes, reflecting the flames in their obsidian gaze. His fists were clenched, and in one was the coil of black cord studded with threatening metal bolts. "Come on," Akube whispered to the child, averting his gaze and carrying him to the windowsill, "Let's get you out of here." He set the boy on the winsowsill and clipped the steel cable to his belt. "Just hold on to this cable and stay perfectly still. If you start to drift towards the wall, just push off with your feet. Okay?" The boy nodded. "Good man. You'll do great."

"Aren't you coming?" asked the boy, ash-coated face streaked in tears.

"I have something to take care of up here. Don't worry about me. Go on, now." He eased the child off the ledge and steadied him as he began his slow descent toward the street.

With the boy out of the way, Akube turned and walked back into the midst of the fire. Blitzkrieg was waiting for him. He had not moved an inch, despite the vicious flames lapping at his legs. Akube looked around at the fire, at the burnt bodies in the crumbling structure. "All this... all these lives destroyed, and for what? To hurt me? Why? Because I helped a man attain freedom? Is your vendetta on Paxton truly worth the blood of these people?"

"His name... is Longshot." Blitzkrieg whispered, unfurling his whip and letting it fall to the floor, "And they... are inconsequential. They're expendable. Because you..." He flicked the switch on the handle, "Are the TARGET!" With a single, fluid motion, he slashed the air with his lightning whip. Akube dove out of the path and backed away as Blitzkrieg charged forward, his every thundering footstep shaking the deteriorating ground. Another lash and Akube rolled across the floor, putting a flaming pillar between himself and the assassin.

Blitzkrieg spun on his heel and the whip slashed through the column with ease. Ash and plaster rained down between them, and Blitzkrieg dove headlong through the falling debris. Akube dropped on his back and drove his feet into the assassin's chest, using his own momentum to fling him into the wall. He strained to press himself deeper into floor as the crackling whip grazed just barely over him. Before Blitzkrieg could recover, Akube flung himself upright and delivered a precise kick into the killer's chest, following with a spin that brought his elbow to Blitzkrieg's cheek in a brutal collision. He twisted the giant's arm until the whip tumbled from his unresponsive fingers, then forced him back into a vulnerable position with his chest toward the sky and slammed his forearm into his throat.

Akube's heel crashed down on the handle of the whip, shattering it and rendering the weapon powerless. Before Blitzkrieg regained coherence, Akube was already out the window. He vaulted up onto the rooftop and started up his cycle once again. "I'm coming, Paxton." he whispered as he took off, "They can't stop me. No matter what nightmares they unleash, they cannot stop me!"

#20 Posted by Surefire (109 posts) - - Show Bio

Zach was thankful that he'd shut the device off. Call him paranoid, but he didn't want to risk the signal being traced or some other CIA-techno-wizardry. Last thing he wanted was some creep dropping in to pay Ashley a visit. Not a day didn't go where he worried that this'd come back home. But, each time that came up, he subsequently reminded himself that the chances of that were minimal. Or.. were they? Jade hadn't had much trouble finding out his name. "Before we do.. I need to know. How'd you find out?" He was actually serious, for once. Or at least that's the tone his voice reflected.

Shaking his head a little, he pulled the communicator out. "Not the device that went off, but.. okay, shiny communicator thing it is." He opened it, noticing a picture of Chicago, then flipped through a few pages of information. "Well, looks like we got a problem." Putting the communicator away, he pulled out what looked like a remote. His fingers flipped across the buttons and dials, stopping after a couple seconds. "Well, I can get us there quick. Downside is.. I've never tested it with two people. Might be some.. eh, side-effects.." The teenage boy grimaced for a second, withholding the fact that it made him a little nauseous using it on his own.

#21 Posted by Madam_Jade (434 posts) - - Show Bio

"Before we do, I need to know... how'd you find out?" asked Surefire. The boy's general sense of levity and nonchalance had fallen away. He was genuinely concerned how she had seen through his disguise, knowing that if she could figure it out, someone even less trustworthy could do the same.

"I have my methods." she replied, "If you want to protect those you care about, mask more than your face. I suggest you make the change while you still have someone left to protect."

Zachary pulled out a device and offered her a quick route to Chicago. He didn't know what this meant to her. He didn't know about the demon. When he looked up from the controls of her device, he would realize that Jade was gone. He would be whisked away to the debacle in Chicago without her. She had some questions to be answered here in London.

Later in the night, Jade broke her run and came to a stop on the roof of a hospital. She had to stop and breathe. She wasn't like him. She couldn't run forever, or hear a whisper from a block away. She was only human. It was all that was left to remind her that she hadn't become him.

Jade gazed up at the stars, silently studying every magnificent, shimmering light in the otherwise dismal sky. She was pulled out of her silent awe as she heard a dozen canisters burst all around her. Gas crept in from all sides. Her mask was made of a special fabric that could filter the air to an extent, but it couldn't protect her forever. She had to escape the encroaching gas, but every way she turned, a bullet struck the ground at her feet. A knife sailed through the air, slicing the thick cloud of gas. The archer instinctively threw up her bow and swatted the blade out of its path. She was about to switch on thermal imaging when her attackers made themselves visible. Two dark figures emerged from the smoke, stopping just deep enough to remain featureless apparitions to her. The soft fletchings of an arrow brushed her fingers, but Jade did not see the third figure drop from above and raced towards her. A staff glowed through the thick smoke and a swift thrash brought it crashing into Jade's back.

Jade rolled with the blow and sprang back up, ready to face her attacker, but she was gone. Jade felt a foot clash the side of her knee and she toppled, but immediately rose on the other leg and swung her arm back, striking the attacker in the jaw with her elbow. She kicked low to swipe her opponent's feet from under her, but they were no long er there. She looked up and saw the dark figure standing directly over her. She rolled out of the way of that malicious staff and rose to her feet once again. Already, the attacker was upon her. Jade did everything she could, used every ounce of her training to fight this enemy, but it was all a useless effort.

All the serpent could manage was the occasional block or parry. The attacker was far superior to her. She couldn't land a single blow, and almost every one of her opponent's landed with ease. Finally, she threw one last, desperate punch... and it struck only smoke. She looked around, but the attacker was gone. Only the other two, stoic and unflinching, remained. Suddenly, the figure returned. She raised her staff and it was as if Jade had become encased in stone, frozen in place as the staff collided with her forehead.

The archer sprawled to the ground, unconscious. She was helpless as the smoke cleared and the three assassins closed in around her. One wore a sharp blue and white uniform, regal and clean, layered with blades of all sizes. Another wore a dark purple, orange and black full-body suit, a mask with two bulbous, reflective eyes, and a filter built into the mouth. The third, the one wielding that vicious staff, was clad in red, seams of silver running up the length of her body, except for her mouth and the top of her head, where a tail of silken black hair cascaded down. Her forearms and hands were wrapped in layers of steel. The six-foot staff collapsed to half its size and she placed it in its sheath on her back. Another descended from her perch on the far side of the rooftop, wrapped in a thick bulletproof vest with a white ace of spades symbol spray painted to the back in white. Her unkempt red hair brushed the shoulders of her vest. Her dark red fatigues were tucked neatly into her black combat boots. She wielded a custom automatic pistol in each hand, giving a faint smile at the beaten and helpless archer. She wore an eyepiece just like Longshot's. It made a montage of delightful images of his death to the front of her mind.

A communicator crackled and Brixby's chilling monotone called out, "Ace, Kroll, Nikuya, Drangonbane. Come in."

The woman in red answered, "This is Drangonbane. We have her."

"Are you certain?" Brixby asked.

"Yes. There's no mistaking her. Target is neutralized."

"Good. Bring her." Brixby replied, a low, malevolent rumble rising in his voice, "We have so much catching up to do."

#22 Posted by Crowman (435 posts) - - Show Bio

Shadows smeared themselves across the walls, darkness seeming to flow into the narrow alley like a torrent of rapid water, catering to the needs of the jet-black clad warrior garbed in cape and cowl, swirling back and forth fiercely parrying and blocking strikes from a group of ruthless lackey assassins, each one wielding an array of deadly weapons ranging from katana to sub machine gun. The sun didn't dare slip it's fingers into this passage way of the city, allowing the shadowed figure as much leverage as possible. Whether it would help, was uncertain yet.

--

The Crowman's torso swerved out of the way of lightning fast downward katana slice, barely evading the clutches of death, the edge whistling past his abdomen, inches from disembowelling the Vice of Vengeance. A fatal spring kick to the back of his left knee took him down whilst he was suspended, a strike to the jaw from a rock hard bó staff following in quick succession. Blood tainted his stubbled chin, his raspy breathing spraying more of the crimson liquid as he struggled to his feet, receiving another vicious blow to his jaw, this time from the left, the hit inflicted by a brass-knuckled assailant. He staggered out of the throng of bloodthirsty killers, falling back into a wall, fighting to retain consciousness as the onslaught continued, blows raining down on him from every direction. He barely managed to keep his arms up so as to defend against any more head shots. He wasn't a superhuman, he wouldn't last much longer.

"Hey uh.. Freeze..."

A quivering voice rang out down the darkened alley, a wiry police officer quaking in his shoes at the end of it, his pistol trembling in his anxious hands. The assassins stopped, as one, straightening up and staring curiously at the man, momentarily dismissing the beaten figure of the Crowman. They looked at each other, unsure whether this was some sort of joke. The moment seemed to drag on, and the biggest agent nodded at the rest of the group, pulling out his sub machine gun and without another moments hesitation opening fire on the diminutive cop, sweating with fear. The man had had enough sense to jump out of the way seconds before the bullets passed through the air where he had just been standing. He scrambled to his feet, courageously raising his pistol and firing off a few shots at the large killer. They struck him squarely in the chest, but he barely flinched, blood spurting from his wounds yet failing to faze him. He aimed his sub machine gun at the officer once more, silent as night as he pulled back on the trigger again.

"No."

A single word pierced the consciousness of the assassin, causing him to pause momentarily, his head turning in the direction of the icy voice. A jet black fist met his face, tearing his head from his shoulders from the force of the punch. His large body toppled over, spilling a rain of bullets as it fell, his gargantuan fingers still wrapped around the trigger of his weapon. A pair of his allies, surprised by the sudden activity, were unable to evade the torrent of lead, their bodies torn apart by the vicious gun-fire.

The remaining assassin had been so interested in the cop that it had also been startled by the supposedly defeated Crowman's sudden assault, but had managed to roll away fast enough before the berserker had dropped to the ground, involuntarily taking two of his fellow agents along with him. Now she crouched opposite the scene, thrown by the instantaneous decline of the situation. A mere few seconds ago she had been pummelling the Aviator Avenger to a terrible death, and now he towered over her, his ragged breaths tainted by bloodlust. She knew what she had to do.

True to her nature, her muscles contracted tightly and she bared her sharpened teeth, her domino mask revealing crimson eyes. She lunged at the Crowman, pushing off of the ground with the tips of her toes, spinning forwards through the air in a reverse backflip, both feet grazing the Brooding Bird's chest, sending him skidding backwards through the gravel. He grunted, spreading his arms out in the air theatrically, a pair of tonfu batons appearing in his gloved hands, shining with darkness in the shadowed alley. He spat a glob of blood at the floor, gritting his teeth aggressively at his opponent.

"Come. Again."

She sped towards him, whipping out twin tantó's, bringing them down in a swift arc towards the Crowman's head. He swiped at the air before him, trying to deflect the blades before they struck his cranium. But it was a feint. Cold steel pierced his abdomen, tearing through the muscle between his ribs. She twisted the blades once, then twice, savouring her moment of victory. Her vicious eyes bore into his blind ones, eagerly searching for tell-tale signs of his demise. They were indeed lifeless. She smirked smugly, tensing her arms to tear the blades out of his diaphragm so that she may walk away the survivor of this fight.

"My eyes have been dead... For a long time."

His harsh, raspy whisper struck her like a bag of bricks, her hesitation allowing him to bring his batons down on her forearms with monumental force, shattering the marrow in her wrists instantaneously. Her head jerked upwards and then downwards, bewilderment painted cruelly across her delicate features. Crowman lifted his knee, kicking out at her stomach with ruthless might, sending her careening into the wall, the momentum sending her straight through the structure, bricks raining down on her fallen figure. The Enigmatic Enforcer dropped to his knees, hacking up streams of crimson, bracing his sternum with a single arm, desperately trying to keep the wounds flowing of blood at a minimum. He reached up weakly, tapping his com-link with quivering fingers before using the same hand to support his doubled over body. He had sent out a distress signal, available to any attuned frequencies. He didn't need any cops coming around. The broadcast would be picked up by both assassins and allies, but it was a chance he had to take. He required assistance. Direly.

"Damn it... Longshot where the hell... Did you go..."

#23 Posted by Madam_Jade (434 posts) - - Show Bio

Jade's eyes drifted open and she could already tell that her eyepiece was gone, her face exposed. The felling crept back into her body and she fetal metal cuffs digging into her wrists behind her. Her ankles and waist were secured to the chair as well. The lock picking tools beneath the wraps on her left hand were gone. She had been cleared out, no way to escape. She could hear someone stirring behind her, maybe more than one. Antiseptics burned in her nostrils. Her pulse pounded as a slow, rhythmic chain of footsteps brought itself to her place in the center of the room.

A surgical lamp beamed down on her shoulders, and on the edge of the light stood the man of shadows. "You're a fighter. Good." he said, mocking her with his arrogance.

She lashed forward, nearly ripping the chair from the ground. Her body could be chained, but her ferocity could not. Were she able to get any closer, she would have bitten him. He simply stared down at her, barely amused by her attempts at rebellion.

"I only accept fighters. I raise fighters. Any who cannot keep up... die. But I have no use for renegades." he explained.

Jade's eyes burned inside her skull as she peered up at the stranger with all of her hate. "What do you want from me?" she asked, showing that she did not suffer fools and kidnappers.

She got her answer as a screen on the wall behind the man flicked on, playing footage of her, taking on numerous attackers. She shattered bones, drew blood, took limbs, all with the masterful movements of her hands. "I want that." Brixby explained. The screen switched off and her returned his cold, paralyzing gaze to his captive, "I want you to use it... on the one who wronged you. The one who wronged US."

Jade's eyes narrowed in contemplation. "Then... then he killed your families as well?" she asked.

"Not quite. He betrayed our family. He took what we had to give and rejected us. The day that he ran away, the archer stopped being their brother... my son... and he became the enemy. He is an enemy that we share." Brixby held his hand out to Jade, keeping a fair distance as he said, "And now, I offer you the chance to fulfill your vendetta, and destroy him... with us."

Jade fixated on his hand, not quite sure whether to take it, or take it off. "Family?" she asked, head spinning from both this new information and her recent return to the conscious world, "Family... you... you were the people who attacked me... assassins! Murderers! You are just like him!" The began thrashing in her chair, blood dripping on the cold tiles behind her as her wrists pulled at the cuffs. A strong pair of hands seized her and she felt a needle pierce her neck, a strange fluid charging into her veins. Her furious cries subsided and she went slack in her bonds.

"The sedative is your warning. If you do not accept our offer, the next thing that enters you will be far less gentle. I would hate to waste a fighter like you, Jade. Such an interesting name... Jade. What might the significance of that be?" Brixby asked.

"You have no right to know, monster!" Jade retaliated, trying to retain her defiance despite the drugs dulling her mind and weakening her body.

"Well, it makes no difference." Brixby shrugged, "After all, I hold the records of every target Horizon has ever taken on. It was obvious from the very start that you were one of Longshot's victims. It was only a matter of narrowing it down. I know who he took from you. I know what he did. And, most of all..." he leaned in and whispered, "I know your real name."

Jades eyes went bloodshot as his words registered with her. She lay back in her chair and stared wearily at the ageless face of the Horizon patriarch.

"Now, then," he said calmly, "Will you finally bring your dreams into the light of day? Stain your hands with his blood? Savor the sweet sound of his screams? Or will you throw it all away now, after how far you've come?"

Jade paused. Her mind was racing, stirring frantically to move her lips and form words, an answer, "You... you created him. You are the one who turned him into the man who destroyed my family."

"Yes." Brixby replied plainly.

"Then... I will kill him..." she said, bowing her head. She could practically feel the smiles of the assassins radiating behind her, but the vanished as she looked back up and continued, "...but I will kill you all first."

Brixby straightened himself and looked down on Jade, not with resentment, but with admiration. "Such raw anger," he whispered, "Such passion for bloodshed. Perhaps I should have taken you... instead of him. You would have made a far more reliable soldier."

Despite the sedative, Jade flung herself at him once again, teeth gnashing and chains rattling as she begged for just one free hand, something sharp, something to make him scream.

"Oh, well," Brixby sighed, straightening his tie, "I came prepared. Dragonbane. Show her the way." With that, he turned and walked for the door. Before she could howl for him to be a man and face her, an assassin's arm clutched her throat. She could feel bony, calloused fingers brush a lock of her dark hair behind her ear. A patch was flattened against her temple, and a dozen tiny needles burrowed into her skin. A button in the center of the silver and black patch was pressed, and it began to glow red. She fought. She fought against her bonds, against the arm that held her in place, against the drugs that weakened her, and now, against this device which crept its way into her mind. She could sense the patch's influence, an unseen force inside her head, rewriting her thoughts. One last scream, and she was lost. She lurched forward in her chair, still, lifeless, blank.

Dragonbane's hands caressed the tamed serpent's shoulders. Jade slowly raised her head at the assassin's touch. "Jade? Can you hear me?" she whispered in her ear.

Jade answered in a voice devoid of emotion, her wide-eyed stare focused on the emptiness in front of her, "Yes."

"Are you ready?" Dragonbane asked.

Again, the archer replied, "Yes."

"Good. Welcome to Horizon."

#24 Edited by 1146Abel (461 posts) - - Show Bio

Abel waited through the entire speech Longshot gave. The entire time, his hood was pulled over his face, his muscles tensed up. Every word that the other archer said was drowned out by the sound of his own heartbeat in his ears. Then, Longshot finished talking, and Abel pushed off of the wall he was leaned against. Turning to face the darkness behind the two men, he slowly started to walk away. "Abel." The clone stopped at the sound of the vigilante's voice. The slight movement of his head tilting up a fraction signified that he was listening. "What?" His voice was about as tempered as a voice could get. It was almost flat, but still had faint traces of the emotions coursing through the former assassin's mind. "Where are you going?" Abel didn't reply, his head tilting back to face the exit. He resumed walking. Longshot remained where he was for several moments. His clone counterpart didn't wait. Not until Abel was nearly to the exit did the vigilante catch up with him. Just as Abel pushed open the makeshift plywood entrance, he felt Longshot's gloved hand grasp his shoulder. "Abel, where the hell are you going?" There was the beginnings of concern in his voice.

Abel did not indulge it. With a small jerk of his shoulder, he forced the hand off of him, walking out into the rain. Just as he did, he managed the courtesy of replying to the archer's question. "On offense."

By the time Longshot made it outside, Abel was gone.

45 minutes later, after a trip to one of Abel's own safehouses.

Finding his attackers would be impossible. Instead, he waited to be attacked.

Reaching over to his belt, he pulled out a metallic facemask. It didn’t take long to secure it to his face. His covered eyes examined the environment around him, and then noted a parking garage nearby. Flicking through vision filters, he didn’t see anything. However, upon returning to the standard vision setting, he noticed something. A glint of metal. Suddenly, his head adjusted to the right, and just in time. A bullet flew by his head. Bringing his bow up, he let an arrow loose. It jammed the barrel of his attacker’s rifle. With that, he was in motion.

There was the sound of boots landing behind him. Immediately, he whirled around and let an arrow fly in the direction it came from. His projectile was promptly sliced in half mid-flight. Abel stopped for a brief moment to take in the details of his attacker. A bald man stood in front of him, clad in black military gear. Of particular note was the katana in his hands. Abel’s bow was across his back in a second, his hands reaching to his sides to pull out a pair of blades. One, a falcata. The other, one of his many knives.

“So you’re the clone, then? The one who got away, eh?” The arrogance in his tone of voice was overwhelming. Abel remained silent, taking a step forwards. “Ah.. you’re one of the silent types? Never did get why-“ His speech was interrupted mid-sentence by a blade swinging at his head, forcing him to block with the lengthy blade in his hands. “Man, at least Longshot talks. He’s way too serious, but Christ, least say somethin’.” Abel’s attack was pushed back without much effort, and he was put on defense, blocking a series of slashes and cuts. Bending his body backwards, he narrowly avoided having the top of his head sliced clean off. The clone rebounded, deciding to wait it out for a few more attacks, getting a gauge on his skill level. Unfortunately, that entailed listening to the idiot boast and taunt him, seemingly unable to keep his mouth completely shut.

He’d had enough. Suddenly his body launched into motion at an amazing rate of speed. His arms unleashed a relentless assault of steel upon the assassin’s weapon, swiftly changing the course of the fight. The amount of obnoxious retorts was cut down to a minimum, and there even appeared to be a look of surprise on his face. Within moments, he had Abel on defense again. Then, Abel was back on offense. It settled into a steady exchange of blocked blows. Superficial cuts began to crop up on each man’s body.

Abel dodged backwards, and in mid-somersault, he noticed the familiar glint of metal from the parking garage. He had seconds to make a decision. Dodging would be easy, but would prolong this fight. But the only way to capitalize on the incoming gunshot was going to require him getting shot. Twisting his body around, he maneuvered so that his shoulder was in the bullet’s trajectory. The sniper, having failed to stop himself in time, let his bullet fly. Abel felt the sensation of a bullet tearing through his skin, but none of the pain.

It went clean through, travelling through the air and sinking home in the gut of the clone’s blade-wielding adversary. Wasting no time, Abel landed on his feet and took off at a sprint. An arm shot out to stop him, but landed home in the clone’s wounded shoulder. It didn’t slow him down. Instead, his free arm came up and latched onto his opponent’s head. A katana sailed up to greet Abel’s flesh, but was stopped when its wielder’s head was smashed into a brick wall. Pulling back, Abel smashed the head against the wall a few more times for good measure. His arrogant foe was out like a rock. The sharpshooter was next.

Pulling out his bow, he aimed at the parking garage level above the sniper’s position, then pulled out a grapple arrow and let it fly. Within moments he was flying towards the structure. A bullet cut his line at just the right moment, and he was forced to swing his body inwards, landing in a roll behind his attacker. Bullets immediately put him into motion, forcing him to run in a wide arc. As he did, he slid his bow to his back, and then pulled a pair of .45’s from his mid-section.

Swinging his arms (and face) in the direction of the bullets, he got a good look at his attacker. He sported a primarily black combat suit, with a full-helmet, a red visor concealing his facial features. Pulling his guns up, he let off a series of well-placed shots, barely taking note of the bullets slamming into his body armor. The accuracy of his shots were just as dead-on as that of his gun-wielding enemy’s. Enough so that after the first few moments of the firefight, both men had stopped moving entirely. Bullets had stopped bouncing off of their body armor.

Instead, a strange sight took place. They were timing the pulls of their triggers at exactly the same moments. As a result, a line of crumpled bullets began to form on the ground between them. However, Able wasn’t patient enough to let the exchange continue. The line of bullets slowly advanced towards the man with the visor. If he’d been able to see beneath the visor, Abel might have seen the beginning of worry as the clone got close.

When he finally did, the guns dropped, and his fist swung out. A bullet whizzed by his head, and Abel heard an expletive. Another, more swears. Then, he made the connection. Whenever this guy missed, he got angry. Abel slammed his fist into the man’s stomach, but kept it light, wanting to bait the man into indulging his rage.

When another round missed, he did. His guns dropped and his fist swung in a precise strike at Abel’s head. Abel sprung his trap. Underneath his black, reflective eyepieces, his piercing gray eyes became rimmed with a bright red. With minimal effort, his head ducked underneath the fist, and he cracked his fist against the exact spot he’d hit before, breaking his rib-cage wide open. The body armor was designed to absorb bullets and standard blows. Its creators obviously hadn’t expected a 1-ton punch to the mid-section.

Abel’s torso bent backwards, and then snapped back up as soon as another well-timed strike glided through empty air. Arcing his foot in a horizontal semi-circle, he swept it up at an angle within the last few moments of his strike. His boot collided against the side of the helmet, denting it inwards, the force behind the kick sending the clone’s adversary to the floor.

Within seconds, Abel felt a pair of legs wrap around his ankle, then twist sideways. Momentarily put off-balance, his hand shot out and kept himself up at a diagonal angle. In a combined motion, he yanked his foot free, whipped out a knife, and stood. Stepping back, he hurled the knife just as the marksman got to his feet. It sailed through the air and landed directly where Abel had aimed. Steel punctured kneecap, and when the clone’s accurate foe looked down, there was a knife handle protruding from his knee. And with an amazing speed, he whipped out a gun and fired off two rounds at Abel. One whizzed through the clone’s hood, tearing a clean hole in the fabric. The other, due to Abel’s own movements, missed its target and punched through inches away from where the sniper round had.

For both men, time seemed to slow to a crawling pace. Previously fast twitches of the fingers moved slow enough that the creases in their gloves could be seen changing inch by inch. Abel’s hand reached for his gun at the same time his foe went to reload. The clone was faster by a microsecond. Time sped up right as the first gunshot went off. A round pushed through the sharpshooter’s hand, forcing him to drop his weapon.

Launching himself into motion, Abel stopped right next to him, then pivoted in a fluid procession of deadly physical grace. Jutting two fingers out, he slammed them up behind the helmet, hitting the occipital ridge dead-on. The assassin was out within moments.

Grabbing the body as it fell, Abel propped it up against a cement pillar, then stepped back, aiming at a weak-spot in the body armor. His finger pulled back on the trigger, and his message for the monsters behind this was lodged into the assassin’s body.

Defense wouldn’t work anymore. The clone, a mistake that had escaped, now intended to bring the fight directly back to the filth that brought him into this world.

#25 Posted by .Longshot. (5264 posts) - - Show Bio

"Closer than you might think." the archer replied, materializing from the darkness, landing silently on a rickety fire escape. "I could smell the blood from a mile away," he said, casting a harsh gaze down on Crowman, "We're leaving. Now."

The bowman aimed and fired his arm-mounted grapple to the neighboring rooftop. He stalled before reeling the line and looked back down on the blood-stained vigilante. He saw what he could become if he had chosen to take the lives of criminals, if he had chosen to let vengeance take priority over justice and allow the training burned into his brain take control entirely. He also saw what he once was, what he could still be had he not run away, lying dead in the cold with their blood staining the walls. It hurt to see, and it hurt to know that there were some people he couldn't save from the life he himself had escaped.

"MOVE!" he growled, swinging up into the Chicago sky, cutting a direct course back to the safe house. The Facility wouldn't sacrifice any more of their assassins today, and he knew that Horizon was holding all their cards, biding their time until the opportune moment. He had to get everyone back to the safe house, because when that time came, Longshot intended to be ready.

#26 Posted by Akube (846 posts) - - Show Bio

"NO!" a voice boomed through the cement corridors. The roaring of the hover cycle came into range as Akube leaped off, ready to tackle the hooded shooter to the ground. He had gone out searching for Longshot after he had failed to find him at the safe house. Instead, he came across what appeared to be another in a long line of shootouts in Chicago today. He recognized the assassins. Longshot had once placed cameras on the walls of an alley and recorded an attack by his former allies. The two who came for him that day were called Bullet and Sting, range and stealth. They made a deadly combination, almost as lethal together as they were solo. These assassins proved time and time again their unity, fighting with a terrifying symmetry, a fusion of skills that could not be defined or recreated.

The golden claws sprung from Akube's knuckles, an idle threat to the hooded man, but he let them catch the light of the outside world to make his intentions clear. Bullet, a man whose stubbornness outmatched anyone else in the closely knit band of murderers, could no longer stand. His unconscious body was crumpled on the ground with his back against the column. He had stopped to examine Sting on the opposite building before he flew across to stop the madness. He was breathing. That was all Akube was concerned about. Despite his sympathy for these poor children, stolen from their beds in the night and forced to kill, his concern for Paxton came first, and to see this blade master draw his blood with such relish -even though it had been programmed into him by years of torture and brutality- lessened the mercy in Akube's soul.

Akube boar down on the shooter, the last man standing, who had somehow overcome the onslaughts of these two expert killers, and snarled in the voice that had given merciless warlords pause, "This bloodshed ends now!"

#27 Edited by 1146Abel (461 posts) - - Show Bio

Abel's eyes looked up to the skies, noticing a particular sight that was out of the ordinary. A hover-cycle. From a distance, the man was none of his concern. However, when he bared the golden claws and came up close, Abel was forced to roll his body to the side. Standing before him was a man clad in black, bearing those golden claws he'd seen barely seconds ago. The man spoke with a voice that attempted to unnerve the clone, or make him feel threatened. He felt neither of those sensations. "Calm down, they're alive. Banged up pretty bad, but they'll live to kill a couple more dozen families." The clone pulled his body into a stance that appeared casual at a first glance. However, upon closer examination, one would notice that his muscles were actually tensed up. He was prepared for a fight.

"As much as I'd like to put them out of their misery, it's Longshot's past. Whether they live or die is his call, not mine." He slipped his guns back into their holsters. "Figured the bullets added a sense of irony, considering he's got a gun fetish." Abel kept getting the feeling that he'd seen this man before. From where, he couldn't quite place. "Now, if you don't mind, this city's got a full-blown assassin infestation. I'd like to get back to taking care of that." Abel turned slightly to the left, unintentionally exposing the highly sophisticated bow across his back. "Or did you have plans to slap the cuffs on me, as if I'm one of the bad guys?"

#28 Edited by Surefire (109 posts) - - Show Bio

“Ominous, love-“ He turned around, then let out a heavy sigh. “Really? The Batman routine?” The vigilante shook his head and went to activate the teleporter. Just as his finger went to press the confirmation button, his phone buzzed in his pocket. Slipping it out, he checked it and read the message aloud to himself. “Zach, need you to come home.. trouble..” It immediately set off a red flag in his head, his normally pre-cautious mind immediately disregarding the possibility of a trap. His fingers dashed across the teleporter’s interface, changing the coordinates to his house. A soon as his finger jammed down onto the final button, he vanished.

Baltimore, Maryland.

When he appeared, he immediately noticed that something was wrong. He wasn’t in his closet. Instead, he was in the middle of a grass field, which his memory instantly recalled to be the field a couple hundred yards from his house. Turning to his left, a sight froze him where he stood. In the place of his house was a raging fire. He felt himself go numb with fear, his mind gripped with dozens of thoughts. And, for once, not a single word left his mouth.

The sound of his feet pounding against the grass didn’t reach his ears, blocked out by the thundering noise of his heart pounding in his ears. His hands didn’t feel the metal as he vaulted over the small gate barring his path from the blazing building.

His feet carried him straight into the house, running through the burning door-way. Instinctively, he fixed a ventilator mask to his face, covering his features from the nose down. Running straight, he stopped at the living room door. He wanted to look away. Every inch of his body willed him to close his eyes and not look. But he couldn’t. The only thing he could do was stare at the horrifying sight of two bodies, sitting upright on the burning couch. Each one had a bullet-hole in between their eyes. Normally, he would have noticed the precision it must of took to pull off such a shot, but his mind was processing far too much to pick out details.

He did, however, hear a sound behind him. The sound of a clip sliding into a hand-gun. Grabbing the bow from his back with one hand, his other hand grabbing a set of arrows, he whirled around. What little light there was left in his pained gaze died out. Standing before him was his girlfriend, Ashley. The addition of a nine-millimeter pistol in one hand and a gas can in the other made the scene surreal. “Ashley, why-“ A shot fired at him, hitting him square in the chest. The body armor in his suit prevented him from taking any damage, but the force still sent him staggering backwards. Physical pain didn’t even register. What did, however, was the crushing realization that dawned upon his mind. Even in its disconcerted state, it connected the facts.

As soon as his back hit the floor, arrows shot out across the hallway. The girl dropped her gun as an arrowhead pierced her shooting hand.. but she didn’t cry out in pain. It should have been agonizing, but she didn’t utter a sound. The second arrow pierced through her shirt and dug into the wall. The third arrow pierced her opposite shoulder, pinning her to the wall.

Consumed with a vitriolic fury, he got to his feet and crossed the hallway without a few paces. For the first time since he’d seen the building in flames, he felt something. Felt the distinct satisfaction of his hands wrapping around the girl’s throat. She didn’t react. Or, for that matter, resist. “Why?” His voice somehow roared over the din of the fire blazing around them. “Why the hell did you do it?” Yet again, not a word. Fury still rising in him, he tightened his already strong grip on her throat. “Say something, goddamnit!” Suffocation had already begun to set in moments ago. By the time she finally spoke, her voice was barely audible, having already been strained by the acrid smoke in the air.

“I.. following.. o-“ She went limp in his hands. The realization that he may of just killed her struck him, bringing yet another weight down upon his already burdened shoulders. He stood there for what felt like ages, just staring at her. Why would this happen? Why would his girlfriend of three years, who’d showed nothing but love for him, suddenly commit such a horrific act?

A sound snapped him out of it. It was a sound that inspired an inkling of hope within him. The sound of his brother Ryan’s voice, coming from behind him. Turning around on his heel, he rushed back into the living room, following the sound of the crying boy. It brought him to the television stand. Bending down, he found his brother hidden behind the stand. A wave of relief washed over Zach, who extended his hand. “C’mon, we need to go.” Ryan recognized the sound of his older brother’s voice, and immediately grabbed his hand. Before long, he was latched onto the teenager’s shoulder.

The next few minutes flashed by. All Zach could recall doing was running. One moment, he was using a shoulder to knock a door open. The next, he was sprinting through the garden. Finally, he found himself standing in the field.

That night, he couldn’t remember when he stopped running.

#29 Posted by Akube (846 posts) - - Show Bio

"You know Longshot..." Akube looked at the bow on the man's person, reconsidered the subtle resentment in his voice on the word 'assassin', and it was clear to him, "You're Abel, aren't you?" The man Paxton had saved, the one who set in motion the next step in Longshot's redemption. At last, the two of them met. He only wished it could be under better circumstances, but as each of them was evidence to, the world did not always play out for the best.

Akube turned to the streets far below. The police were on their way. No doubt, they were stretched thin by this morning's developments. Akube bent down and tied Bullet's hands with a pair of riot cuffs. Neither he nor Bullet would be detained for long by these bonds, but if they regained consciousness, it would hold them for long enough that the police could do their work. Akube turned back to Abel as he mounted his hover cycle. "We need to regroup at the safe house. Climb on."

Meanwhile, in a dimly lit chamber somewhere in the world, the man of shadows sat alone, eyes piercing the black. Jade materialized from the darkness, standing tall and attentive behind him.

"Do you know what I intend to do with our two little renegades?" Brixby asked, not even bothering to look Jade in the eye.

The device attached to her temple forced the archer to answer, "We plan to kill them."

"No." he replied with a dismissive wave, "We're far past that. Longshot had his chance to die a long time ago. Years of running and rebellion have forced me to take more drastic measures. Now, I need to take something away from him. Something that has allowed him to evade us for so long, something that he takes great pride in, something that, once it has been taken away, can never be replaced. You see... I'm going to lobotomize him."

Jade was unflinching as he spoke.

"His mind, more than his fists or his arrows or his technology, has saved him. It is what makes him who he is. Unfortunately, I cannot allow the man he is to live. So, the solution is obvious. I shall cut out a piece of his brain and leave him, a drooling, empty-eyed shell of his former self. He will sit in a wheelchair in a corner in the Horizon compound, his face exposed to remind all of my children what happens when they stray, rotting away forever. And the other, this... Abel. I've already discussed it with his creator, and I personally advocate the Prometheus punishment. Every day, we remove a piece of him until there is nothing left. One of my children is a testament to how few human remnants technology can sustain. And their friends, well..." he pressed a neatly concealed button on his armrest and a tube across the room was flooded with light, the body of a teenage girl floating in the water, "We have no shortage of ideas." He rubbed the bags beneath his eyes and waved to the girl in black behind him, "Dismissed."

With an obligatory bow, Jade turned and exited through a door in the back, leaving Brixby alone with his thoughts, and with the girl. He reached to his left, snatching the black king from his chess board. "Yes..." he whispered, rolling the piece in his hand, "Everything is falling into place as it should. Our masterwork is taking shape."

#30 Posted by Crowman (435 posts) - - Show Bio

"That'll do."

A bloodied Crowman wrapped the last bit of his specialized bandage around his torso, preventing any further blood loss whilst simultaneously beginning a healing process due to the variety of medicinal properties that the fabric contained. In addition, it's dark colour would keep his form a mottled patch of black, therefore enabling him to utilize the art of misdirection and stealth with fluidity.

The Vice of Vengeance had followed the legendary archer all the way to his safe house, the raw discipline with which he shrugged off his injuries a testament to his determination and will. The Crowman had suffered far, far worse.

He turned his head towards Longshot, silently considering him for a moment. He had discerned the man's figure from the air that his body had displaced, and could tell that it was lined with steely muscle. The Aviator Avenger remained still for a few more seconds before he decided to slice apart the quietness between the two formidable vigilante's. The others had not arrived yet, but were mere moments away.

"Thanks for the save."

His voice was cold and hard, but possessed true sincerity as to his ally's aid in getting the Crowman up and at 'em.

"Mind telling me what the hell's happening?"

It wasn't often that the Brooding Bird asked such questions. But it seemed this was far beyond any of his detection abilities.

#31 Posted by The_Roman (3297 posts) - - Show Bio

Italy

"I am no mercenary. I cannot be bought like some money hungry dog, mortal." Proelio snarled in a voice summoned from the depths of Hades. His red eyes were fixed upon the individual before him.

"That I don't doubt, mister...uh..." The man gestured to someone near him. The man stepped forth from the shadows and whispered in his ear. "Um, Proelio." The man gulped. "But it is customary, that when one requests a service, one offers payment for said service."

"If all wealth could be counted in gold, everyone would be rich." Proelio stood up, and the men touched their weapons. "I don't want money. However, I will do this thing. In the future, I will approach this 'Horizon' with a favour of my own. I will not be refused." It was a command.

There was a kind of silence in the room that provides an affirmation. The transport waited outside.

Chicago

Proelio sniffed the air. The hunt was incredibly exhilarating. He had knowledge of the marks, including photographs that he had committed to memory. His hands were bare, but he raised them high over his blonde head, and let out a breath. A greyish smoke climbed from his shoulders, past his elbows, and poured into his hands. He closed his fingers as the rain began to fall. Varnished wood appeared in his hand, carved intricately to hold the images of a dozen gods and goddesses. It was an exact copy of Minerva's hunting bow, which he had spent months looking at and hours trying to draw in his childhood. The mysterious smoky substance also poured onto his back, creating a smooth leather quiver which held long thin slender arrows fletched with grey eagle feathers. These were Bellona's famous war arrows, and they, too, had been flawlessly imitated. "Longshot. Abel." His quiet whisper was a sort of warning. Slowly, he began to stride along the rooftop, and quickly broke into a sprint. The next roof was twenty feet away. His foot touched the edge of the roof he was on. Easy. He made the distance, landing lightly, and without breaking stride, pulled an arrow and nocked it to the string, which was itself too thin to see.

#32 Posted by .Longshot. (5264 posts) - - Show Bio

"I was about to ask the same thing of you." the archer whispered scornfully, turning from the Crow, placing his hands against the cold cement wall. "There were people behind those masks. Do you realize that?"

Longshot turned and stared down the darkly clad vigilante. "Did you even THINK about what you were doing when you spilled their blood? Do you even care?!"

He stepped closer, eyes burning beneath his mask, his voice a low rumble as he spoke, "You aren't ready to deal with the storm that's coming. We have a hundred murderers coming for us. We don't need one more." He walked around the cement column, descending to the next level of the parking complex. He came to a stop at a group of folding tables where all of his extra equipment was laid out. He picked up an arrow and a flint and began fiercely sharpening the head. He had to be ready. They all had to be ready. But the bowman was no longer certain what kind of company he kept. He was no longer certain that he would survive.

#33 Posted by Tombstone. (287 posts) - - Show Bio

Tombstone had broken off the main group a while ago, thinking that they'd be able to handle things without him while he decided to conduct his own investigation. Nearly a century of active duty as a superhero was paying off quite well as he flitted through the windswept streets of chicago, phasing in and out of a material status in keeping with his ghostly nature. He was following a suspicious looking individual, always keeping out of sight with the same practiced ease that he used to stalk Nazis back in the second world war. Phasing through the floor, outright turning invisible, and passing into objects amongst others were all the kinds of tricks he used to get around.

As he followed the individual, he came across a clandestine meeting, which he observed from just within a wall. He heard whispers of a plan to eliminate the main group who was already making gains against this secretive organization. Almost as soon as they received their orders, the squad of maybe ten men broke up into two fireteams of five. A standard military procedure, Graves noted as he decided to reveal himself to get answers out of one of the groups. Flying downwards, Tombstone went down into the ground and passed through the earth so that he would come up directly in front of the first fireteam. "And just where do you think you're going?" The spectral avenger asked in his chilling voice. Once again the soldiers opened fire upon him, having long ago hardened themselves against sights such as Tombstone.

Already the ghostly guardian was aware that these were no mere street thugs he was going up against, but a trained and disciplined force of commandos, spec ops soldiers, and assassins. But clearly they weren't trained for dealing with someone who could go intangilable. "That'll be quite enough of that." Graves growled as he floated towards the closest one, turning his fist solid as he clocked him right in the jaw, sending the man spinning to the ground and collapsing in a heap before he turned around, grabbed one by the collar and tossed her into one of her compatriots to send them both crumpling to the ground. Then, turning fully solid, he took them both by the scruff of their necks and clonked their heads together to knock them out before picking up a radio to inform the police to come to his location and make some arrests.

Going onwards, Tombstone phased through an apartment building, startling a family that was watching a late night monster movie briefly, but he gave them a reassuring nod before moving along. "Don't worry, I'm not here to haunt anyone but the wicked." The ghostly guardian assured the family before passing through the building to ambush the other fireteam. Taking out his two pistols, he shot two bolts that slammed into the sides of two of the commandoes, sending them crumpling to the ground in spasms before he leaped upon one, knocking the wind out of him as he stood up and uppercutted the other in the chin, sending her to the ground in a heap before he finally grabbed the last one and pulled him face to face.

"Alright, we can do this two ways. You can either give me the answers I want, or I can show you just what kind of hell is waiting for you on the other side." He intoned, almost snarling in his self echoing voice, the assassin remaining silent. "Alright...if that's the way you want...The power of the grave compels you to speak, tell me what do you have planned and what do you have to accomplish it?" Tombstone said, his voice becoming deeper as he started to force the power of the dead to make the soldier speak. "Alright, alright, I'll talk! Ackkk! We're supposed to...nnnrggg....help ambush Longbow and his compatriots...got a hundred of us coming...y-you won't stand a chance...hahaha...we know your weakness...got a problem with stat-static discharges right? We-we're packin' electric weapons and...gack! Ghost-touch batons in case you show up. Rest of them? Haha, let's see them...be heroic when...they're full of high explosives and lead, maybe even a few...metas...hahahaha, got their hidey hole spotted...parking complex...coordinates...5...nine...alpha zero....you w-won't win...not e-even with your f...fancy powers...y-y-you...don't got the...dr-drop on us, anymore...heh...you only did so well...cause you surprised us...yo-you're dead meat now..." The commando said, her voice struggling, trying to resist the compulsion effect. Tombstone snarled and then threw her against the wall, knocking her out cold and leaving her falling to the ground as he once again informed the police to deal with the criminals.

In a matter of moments Tombstone was searching for the group again, combing across the city, trying to follow the grid pattern established in Chicago until he finally came across the Parking complex, descending through some levels in ghostly form before he finally came across Longshot once again, rematerializing, his cape billowing softly in the wind of the city of mobsters. "Sorry about that...I thought I would conduct my own investigation. But it seems that this is too big for me to handle alone. While I'm not exactly sure as to the nature of this conflict, from what I can gather, yours is the side that I would definitely rather see coming out on top." Graves intoned, holstering his skull faced pistols in his belt, looking out over the complex. "I assume we have a plan?" He asked, bringing his cape around him like a mantle, covering his body.

#34 Posted by Crowman (435 posts) - - Show Bio

"People? People?"

Benjamin could feel his blood begin to boil. For the first time in months, he lost his cool. His fingers curled inwards, forming two sturdy fists, garbed in black kevlar. He clenched his jaw, an icy fury rising up within him, like terrible bile. He drew a quick, agitated breath, preparing to launch a string of self-righteous words at the vigilante bowman.

"Did you even THINK about what you were doing when you spilled their blood? Do you even care?!"

He was cut off just as his mouth opened, and the force from Longshot's words struck him like a sledgehammer to the solar-plexus. His jaw hung for a moment longer before he clamped it shut, narrowing his scarred eyes as an indignant rage overtook him. He fought to suppress it.

"You aren't ready to deal with the storm that's coming. We have a hundred murderers coming for us. We don't need one more."

Crowman snarled furiously, like an animal. He took a great step forwards and lashed out with his arm, his fist driving through the cement wall with a loud, reverberating smash. He lowered his head in silent anger for a few seconds, attempting to clear his mind. So many emotions rushed through his being, and he could feel himself quivering, blood pumping through him, fuelling him with adrenaline. He listened to Longshot's descending footsteps, holding himself back before he tore the man's throat out. Clearly, the archer didn't understand justice.

He came to a stop across the table, Longshot's lone figure illuminated dimly by an overhead light that flickered weakly every few seconds, blind eyes narrowed in the direction of the vigilante. He reached up with the cement debris caked hand, grabbing at the front of his cowl and tearing it from his head, revealing the rugged face of Benjamin Mugs. He bore his teeth angrily at the hero, widening his mutilated eyes at him by way of display. He pointed at them with his free gloved hand.

"You see that, bowman? That's what people like them did to me."

He took another step forwards, slamming his fist with the cowl against the table top, the room shaking with sudden sound and vibrations. With his teeth grit in feral nature, he leaned forwards more, so that the light would illuminate his entire face. His disfigured eyeballs were covered in hideous burn marks and scars, leaving his irises an assortment of disturbing colours. He snarled again, shoving his finger right up into his cheek, almost shouting.

"People like them, killed everything I held dear, and left me with a shattered mind, a relentless pang for revenge!"

He paused, taking in a deep breath, voice strained by anger and sorrow.

"Do you have any idea what it's like to wake up in the morning with the smell of your burnt parents in your nostrils? The echoing of their pained screams, reverberating through your mind?!"

He struck the table with his other fist, a single tear forming on the corner of his right eye. His scowl delved deeper than before as he struggled to keep his emotions bottled up, as he had his entire life.

"I will bring justice to this putrid world! I will cleanse this disgusting realm of every last piece of unrighteous scum out there!"

The tear rolled down his cheek slowly, every last muscle in his body rippling with concerted effort. He spoke once more, each word a harsh, unforgiving whisper.

"And I will do it, my way."

#35 Posted by .Longshot. (5264 posts) - - Show Bio

"Do you have any idea what it's like to wake up in the morning with the smell of your burnt parents in your nostrils? The echoing of their pained screams, reverberating through your mind?!"

He knew. All too well, the archer knew. Too many times, he had taken freshly orphaned children in his arms and trying to bring himself to tell them it would be alright, even though he knew it was a lie. He didn't have time to concern himself with his own pain. He had caused to much misery in his life to wallow in his own. Every second was dedicated to protecting others, to setting right their pain. A life of servitude was the price for the blood he had spilled.

"I will bring justice to this putrid world! I will cleanse this disgusting realm of every last piece of unrighteous scum out there!" Crowman roared, leaning in close as he snarled coldly, "And I will do it my way."

He wanted to tell Crowman that justice was not the destruction of the guilty. It wasn't purging the world of undesirables, and he pitied the man who took that task upon himself. The archer knew all too well that the man who assumed the power to decide who lives and who dies becomes a monster. But he knew that his words would crash upon the cloaked executioner's mind like waves upon a rock.

When he looked at Crowman, he didn't see a stalwart avenger seeking justice with unmitigated obsession. He saw a child who he was to late to save. He saw the end product of a hero's failure, a victim going down his own creator's path, a road that would lead him beyond redemption. He was urged onward by the unending pain in his heart. He was not a man who could be turned around with a lecture on the definition of justice.

"And what if they didn't have a choice?" the archer asked, discarding his arrow on the table. He drew closer to the raptor of retribution, speaking aloud as he circled him, "What if they were made that way by someone else, and given no other option than to kill? What if one of those pieces of 'unrighteous scum' you murdered had gone on to save countless lives, and all they needed was a chance to prove that they could be more than what they were created to be?" He paused and gazed into the darkness. "Well, it doesn't matter anymore..." he said, "Because you never gave them a chance."

#36 Posted by Midknighter (305 posts) - - Show Bio

Albert shuffled past rushing figures, reaching up and pulling down hard on his cap, doing his best to obscure his face. His shifty eyes watched every fleeing civilian with intrigue and agitation. They were obviously running from something, or someone. He clenched his jaw, tightening his grip on his backpack's strap, the small item slung loosely over one shoulder, stuffed with his sparse belongings. He had decided to finally travel a bit after clearing his head within the confines of Dark Legacy's inviting mansion. He wanted to atone for the vile thoughts that crossed his head every day, induced by the unholy demon nestled at the back of his consciousness.

He sighed softly to himself and trudged on forwards, in the direction of panic with a combination of faded jeans and a loose-fitting tank-top cradling his rather lanky figure. He barely ate these days. At least his sinewy muscles remained, allowing him one last shred of aesthetic appeal, as his grimy red hair and sharp nose failed to do. He readjusted his baseball cap again, shouldering past a street rat that had been muttering something about an archer of some sort. Albert didn't make much of it, and continued onwards. He had originally planned on squatting in a few abandoned buildings and cleaning up the city a bit as a vigilante of sorts. But here he was, diving straight into the thick of things, acting on the heat of the moment.

"There ain't no rest for the wicked."

---

Tear his throat out Daxx. Do it, you pathetic little-

Shut up.

The Midknighter dropped the unconscious assassin and spun around upon supernatural instinct, sensing movement behind him. It was another of the Facility's incorrigible weapons, launching his massive frame at the scarlet spectre. Albert's hands moved by themselves, deflecting a vicious series of tiger-palm strikes, using the monstrous being's momentum to send his forehead into the parking lot's ground, feeling the demon within him giggle in glee at the blood that spurted from the assassin's face mask. He suppressed the satisfaction and knelt down to make sure he hadn't murdered the killer. The lack of a pulse left him with mixed emotions, one half sending volts of disappointment through him, and the other; not his own, a combination of raw happiness and spite.

Fck off. I don't need your sick bullshit right now. Let me do my stuff.

Aw Alby, don't be like that! Heheheheh!

The Midknighter straightened up, brushing the tips of his red-skinned fingers over his unfortunate assailant's eyelids, closing them respectfully before he gifted the man's soul with a curt but sincere prayer. His head turned in the direction of the other assassin, and as he moved to check his condition, he felt the ground rumble, and the stalled vehicles around him vibrate unnaturally.

"What the hell is that soun-"

The darkening sky lining the edges of the rooftop's above and around him turned shade darker, hundreds of lithe murderers stepping out into the evening, their blades and other assorted weapons glinting threateningly in the dying sunlight. He lifted his scarlet face to the skyline, stepping around himself slowly, astounded by the sheer numbers.

"This... What... What is this...?"

Then, as one, they answered, leaping into the sky and descending upon his form, faces twisted by evil snarls and maniacal smirks. They stormed on downwards like a tsunami from each direction, encompassing the sparsely populated parking lot, traversing any obstacles in their way, beating a path straight towards their new enemy, the Midknighter. He remained stalled for a moment longer, petrified suddenly.

That's enough. My turn to play.

Albert realized too late what his moment of indecision had allowed, and with a reluctant cry of protest, the demon slipped into the driver's seat and applied his foot to the accelerator.

#37 Posted by Crowman (435 posts) - - Show Bio

"Because you never gave them a chance."

Benjamin winced, the stray tear rolling down his cheek soon accompanied by another. His fingers uncurled from fists and his hands trembled weakly as he used the table top for a support, feeling his knees shaking too. He squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his jaw morosely a moment before he released a soft sob, and collapsed to the ground on his knees, his shoulders slumped uselessly, hands laid out on each side of his body, uselessly. He lowered his chin onto his chest and cried quietly, all of the emotions he had bottled up since the murder of his parents spilling out suddenly and reducing him to a sobbing wreck. He tried to speak, his characteristically cold voice strangely turned malleable and soft.

"All these years."

His senses were obscured violently by the unfimiliar conditions of his sorrow and he could barely make out the room around him.

"I've tried to.. I've tried my best to replace my sadness with anger. And although I started off with an end goal in mind, I, I have to admit that with each drop of blood I have spilt... Each life, I have taken in my quest to purge this world... None of it has numbed the pain. Nothing."

For the first time in what felt like centuries, the blind man was blind again. Darkness descended upon him, and he indulged in his moment of insecurity.

"My mother always told me to be gracious."

He paused, feeling the blood of his enemies plastered across his knuckles.

"I'm sorry."

The Crowman raised his head to the heavens and whispered tragically to both himself and whatever lay out there.

"I'm sorry mother."