Resurrected, Reborn, and Returned

I can't remember when I stopped smiling.

It was a gradual thing, I suppose. The deeper I traversed into this life, the further I pushed my self, risking both my body and mind in the process, the more I opened myself up to it's reflexively unforgiving vices. I was little more than a child when I first donned the Assault armour, and it was peeled off of me by an alter-ego I'd created at the very base of my consciousness. A madman, bent on taking everything I had and using it to satiate his homicidal cravings, justifying it with the old, "If you're not killing 'em, you're not stopping 'em."

True? Maybe. Then again, maybe it wasn't.

I'd spent months afterwards trying to find myself again, rotating back to society once in a little while to drop in on my brother Anthony and Gothic City, a place I'd come to call home during my time as armourless vigilante. Then I was gone again. Studying, learning, meditating. Clearing both my physique and my psyche of all impurities and working to find ways to strengthen and utilize the uncanny chemicals in my genes that had gifted me with incredible above human capabilities, the God Virus.

I wonder how that Andres Knightfall figure is doing. I'm still in his debt, last I checked.

Jacob Stark didn't exist anymore. English, my native language, fluttered away and a host of other tongues became my own. Mandarin and French, almost predominantly. I spent time with warmongers, prophets, monks, serial killers, simple police officers and at one point, a Japanese school teacher. I hadn't just experienced every walk of life, I'd jogged. I matured centuries in weeks, my mind became sharper than most in months, and in less than two years, I'd honed my physical form to it's peak. As far as my tutors were concerned... I was ready.

The world wasn't the same when I got back.

A war between man and mutant was looming, it's ugly eyes just over the horizon, my brother had been in all sorts of trouble and Gothic City had gone to the dogs. Even Dark Vengeance, one of the psychotic dystopia's most treasured heroes, had become little more than a murderous tyrant.

I almost didn't want to return.

But I did. I have. And as I stand here staring the dark-clad figure in the mirror I wonder whether I'll be able to make a difference this time. I wonder what making a difference will take. The first few answers that bounce around the inside of my purified cranium shake me a little. Perhaps more than a little.

But I am Assault, and this isn't the first time I've had to wear conflict over my shoulders.

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Calm Within The Storm

"What are you doing, Jacob?"

The 22 year old sat on the ledge of one of Gothic City's more secluded skyscrapers, his slender figure clad in garb akin to his psyche. Dark, black and complete with a single streak of crimson across his chest.

The walking symbol.

"You're going to ask me that? I get it. We've been down this road. I can't atone for my sins, whatever."

A minuscule pause by the young masked mismatch.

"There's more to it though, man. This is life now. Jacob Stark? Kid brother of the now deceased Anthony Stark? Old news. He died three years ago, and the bare amount of fame he had accumulated by spending years leeching off of his older sibling, with him."

The sky was as empty as the once titanium-clad crusader's soul, the precise opposite of white and wearing an expression of such menace, it almost made Jacob flinch. Almost. The ex-playboy could take whatever the night threw at him and return it tenfold without as much as a one liner. His domino masked face was dark, a reflection of the scum infested city below his dangling feet. The being beside him chuckled, clapping his hands theatrically.

"That's very dramatic little man. What good's it going to do you? You left the Trinity, clean dropped off the map. They were the only friends you had. Had ever had. Don't tell me this has something to do with the ever vivacious Zicarra Liafador? Or wait, maybe it's Pyrogram? You enjoyed the time we spent with that goody goody two shoes kid?"

Harsh laughter ensued, the man slapping Jacob on the back numerous times for good measure.

"Maybe, maybe you wanna take another shot at the White Knight? Go 'eliminate' Andres Knightfall like you so hastily said? C'mon little Jacob, you're killing me with the suspense."

The estranged Trinity Force leader allowed his counterpart a moment of indignant silence before he replied, voice comprised of steel.

"Enough fcking games. You know exactly why I'm doing this."

Jacob Stark got to his feet, casting one more unsatisfied glare at Gothic City before he faced the figure beside him. Assault was as unstable as ever, a manifestation of shattered psyche and a vital component to his refreshed, nigh-soulless approach to life. His reflection smirked, grabbing the young avenger by his shoulders and nodding his head excitedly.

"Till death do us part, kiddie."

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Ashes to Ashes

Really, this whole captive deal isn't as shitty as little Jacob made it out to be. Poor nut.

Mister kung-fu guy, Tranquil, I think his name is, has more or less released me. But he managed to persuade me into clocking a few more hours in this dirty house of sins, on account of a nifty piece of action he's handed me on a platter. Lookin' forward to it.

Little Jacob's mind was fried by that little shock he experienced from the White Knight's attack, and I guess that's how I was born. Or rather, that's how I was awoken. See, I've always been here. Been caught in a bit of a slumber, thanks to that unfortunate accident little Jacob had all those months ago.

Fckin' aviation.

I was locked away. Can you believe he thought he could forget me? Forget who ran the show around here? Heh. You can only pretend for so long before the curtains roll in and the audience leaves. Putting on a suit of armour and punching a few super villains wouldn't redeem us. It was a pill, metaphorically speaking. Little Jacob would feel me stirring, all my emotions and the truths that I stored, and he'd go out looking for some Tyrannosaurus man to fire nukes at. It'd null the pain and knock me down for a while, but I was inevitable.

And here I am. Back in the driver's seat, my fckin' hand on the throttle, propelling this weapon down the highway at breakneck speeds. I am Assault. I'll do little Jacob's job, and I'll do it ten times better. Thought you could hold back kiddo? Thought you could hold me back? Nah. Ditched the armour, ditched the little artificial voice in the back of my fckin' head, ditched the goody-goody two shoes. Doing this my way.

And just to make sure people don't recognize me for that pathetic chump, I've dyed my hair crimson. After all, it does sort'a go with my eyes.

Sleep tight, little Jacob.

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Voices of Violence

"I said, WAKE UP!"

A fist with knuckles like stone coursed into and past Jacob's now fully healed face, failing to inflict any momentum upon the hovering, imprisoned form of the young Stark. It dealt him a brutal blow nonetheless and he spat blood, groaning without any conviction. The days had turned to weeks and still his team hadn't rescued him. The once armour-clad hero had experienced anger at their incompetence first, then sorrow at their lack of compassion for the man, and now shifted through stages of depression, heartbroken. He wondered whether they had even tried looking for him. Did they think he was dead? Where were the Trinity?

His team.

His friends.

"Let me know when you're done feeling sorry for yourself, chump."

The captive Stark's eyes flew open and his entire form buckled, the sheer impossibility of the image before him resounding through his entirety. It was him. Jacob Stark stood before Jacob Stark, arms folded across his chest and quiff combed perfectly, as it always had been before the donning of the Assault armour. A moment passed between the two, and just as it seemed the silence would never cease to thicken, the replica smirked, shaking his head arrogantly at his imprisoned self.

"Look at yourself. Jacob Stark. The Jacob Stark. A great up and coming hero, reduced to a worthless pile of self-loathing shit. It was that easy, huh? They just break a few bones in your body and hook you up to some weird hover machine for a few weeks and you decide it's over? Pathetic. You're a joke!"

He took a step backwards, throwing both arms out theatrically and howling with laughter. His initial shock now having subsided, Jacob's head lowered once more, eyes dispassionate and dark. He spoke, his voice weak.

"What is this? You're me?"

The replica stopped laughing immediately, delivering a brutal spring kick to the prisoner's abdomen and earning a helpless wail of pain from the boy. He grabbed Jacob by the throat and spat in his face, imbuing another strike to the defeated Stark's torso. Without more than a few inches separating their visages, the clone screamed at Jake, his voice as unyielding as his grip upon the young man's larynx.

"YOU ARE ME! I AM NOT YOU! UNDERSTAND? YOU ARE A FCKIING DISGRACE! YOU - ARE - ME!"

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The Summit of Fate: Finale

After finding the mangled, pulverized being of young Jacob Stark among the wreckage of one of his older brother Anthony's Peak jets along the coast of Japan, medics were dealt the single most miraculous feat they would ever witness in their lives, let alone their careers. Despite suffering some of the worst possible injuries they had ever studied, the man was alive and hadn't lost a single limb, even after falling hundreds of feet and crashing along with the plane. Nobody was able to explain it. It was an anomaly, a work of fate.

Reports of the accident were reported internationally and the Stark disappeared from his hospital bed over-night, security cameras displaying another strange occurrence. A figure had popped into the room, a green cloak obscuring his features. He'd lain a single, delicate hand upon Jacob's chest and they'd both popped into nothingness. News headlines read things like, "Death comes to claim the broken playboy" and, "Stark stolen".

The media was in uproar, asking the same question.

How?

Anthony Stark's Personal Lab - 4 Days ago.

"Those idiots spent so much time marvelling over his survival... Do you think they realized he would have died within 48 hours? Every. Single. Bone in his body is shattered. His lungs have nearly collapsed and he's got enough internal bleeding to bathe a small child."

Anthony Stark paused, leaning forward on a counter and closing his eyes tightly, simultaneously taking a large breath. Horizon remained silent, opting to leave his sarcasm out of this situation. He sensed Tony's immense sorrow and recognized that it clouded his judgement but felt commenting on it would not do much to change things.

"His skull. H-His brain... Eviscerated."

The billionaire hesitated before he continued. But he knew that his AI companion had already detected his thought process and his decision.

"Sir. The Peak Serum would not be enough to save him."

Tony slammed his fist down on the counter-top, speaking slowly and deliberately, his face stone.

"Not at a regular dosage, no, Horizon. But that's why I'm one of the smartest men in the world. And where there's a Stark - there's a solution."

There was a moment of terse, thick silence in the air before Horizon spoke again.

"There is a 93% chance increasing the dosage would lead to complete disintegration, sir."

Now, Tony smiled. A tragic, yet determined smile.

"Cremation, Horizon."

--

"Magnified Peak Serum synthesis complete, sir."

"Here goes."

--

"Wake up, sir. Your vitals are at 70% and your body has been sufficiently repaired. Sir. Si-"

Jacob's eyes opened and the world flowed back into him. A few moments passed, and he let them. Images flashed through his mind.

The jet. His reflection. The alcohol. The hangover. The explosion. The blonde. The fire. The cockpit. The wind shield.

"Yes sir, the events leading up to your coma were reasonably traumatic. There is no further recollection after the impact with the jet's wind shield due to a loss of consciousness."

Jacob furrowed his brow. It felt weird. His muscles felt brand new, as if they had been sown onto his face. He flexed his jaw a little, then he tried to speak. His voice came out perfectly, his smooth tone still there.

"What?"

He said it again. And again. He smiled, and then he cringed as flares of pain fired through his face.

"Sir, please be careful with your movement, I reiterate, your body has only been sufficiently repaired."

Jacob couldn't stand it any longer. He tried to sit up, and succeeded. He looked at himself and almost fell off of his bed, managing to catch his breath just in time. His skin was a dark gold, glinting fiercely in the dim light. He recognized it immediately as his older brother's Peak undersheath, the one he stored in his bones. The 19 year old caught himself. Surely...

"Your genetic structure has bonded with an extremely high modification of the Peak Serum, sir. It was the only way to save your body and regenerate lost organs, primarily your brain. That, I believe, is where I come in. My name is Summit, sir. Mr. Stark referred to me as his AI Horizon's 'kid brother'. I have been implanted within your brain. We are now one, sir."

Jacob remained silent, taking it all in, his face straight but his heart... Perfectly normal? He glanced down, eyes growing wide upon noticing a luminescent blue circular device inserted within the very centre of his muscular chest.

"That is an arc reactor. It was designed by Mr. Stark to support your heart, which was only minimally healed by the serum, despite it's concentration. It is a near infinite source of power, thanks to Mr. Stark's intellect and studies regarding the arc reactors."

Jacob touched it lightly with a gold finger, fascinated. Finally, the young Stark spoke.

"Summit..."

"Sir?"

"...How?"

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The Summit of Fate: Part 2

A Peak Jet - One Week Ago.

"Jakey, what's taking you so looong?"

The girl's playful question was followed by giggles from the others and Jacob chuckled quietly to himself, refusing to take his eyes off of his face in the pristine mirror, the perfectly crafted bathroom around him gleaming beautifully. The toilet itself bore the appearance of something a King would use as a chair, nevermind a place to drop your load. He ran his favourite comb through his hair a few more times, making sure his quiff stood perfectly.

The jet lurched suddenly and he was thrown at the mirror, managing to correct his collision course with a single foot on the wall just before he split the delicate glass with his forehead. He smirked at his reflection; few men had reflexes like he did.

"I'm back, ladies! Phoebe, what are you doing? Put your top back on, we've barely been flying for ten minutes!"

They joined in with his laughter and he fell in with them on the sofa, soaking himself with the attention they were giving him. But then again, he was ridiculously good looking, rich, and famous - so why wouldn't they be completely awestruck by him? One of them couldn't resist but run their palm across his astoundingly chiselled abs, and Jacob swatted the hand away playfully, winking at the blonde.

An old man came through the door from the kitchen, pushing a cart with assorted liquor and loads of sweets. The younger Stark had always possessed an incredible sweet-tooth. The group helped themselves with the alcohol, not bothering to give the man a second glance. He waited patiently for them to sweep everything up before he trundled the ravaged cart out, followed by the cries of jubilation behind him.

--

The Stark's eyes snapped open and he instantly regretted it, moaning quietly with one hand over his face. All of his female companions lay about the compartment, sleeping soundly after hours upon hours of fun with the young playboy. The sun shone directly through the small windows on each side and Jacob's hungover being couldn't bare it's glare. He stumbled about, lowering every shutter across the glass, leaving the luxurious space clothed in darkness. Just as he was about to fall down upon the sofa again he felt a tuft of hair touch his eyebrow. He sighed, stumbling back towards the bathroom to fix his hair for the umpteenth time today.

"Damn Corona, damn hangover, damn quiff -"

His fingers curled around the edge of the door handle but he never got to turning it, suddenly launched backwards across the passage. He struck the other side of the small corridor and, drastically disorientated by his post-alcohol induced stupor, groaned, not realizing that the jet was slowly falling to one side, and not in the natural manner. He was propelled forwards this time, crashing through the bathroom door and flying into his beloved reflection, shards of glassing bursting from the mirror and floating around the room. Jacob's leather jacket had defended him from the impact and now he snapped wide awake, suddenly aware of the situation. He swivelled his head around looking for some way to get up out of the room when the jet turned itself upside down and he struck the ceiling with a painful smack. He groaned again, but his sound of affliction was drowned out by a sudden explosion that shook the entire plane and -

He passed through a cloud of pitch black smoke and fell into fire, feeling the flames latch onto his being and sear away at his skin he howled, tearing off his clothing and throwing himself to one side, managing to escape the inferno before any serious damage was done to his figure. Relieved, he almost didn't see the object fly at him from the corner of his vision. He ducked in mid-air and just made out the form of the blonde fly through the air and take the brunt of another explosion, bits of her body spraying through the compartment. He froze at that and almost fell back into the flames but another lurch sent him straight into the cockpit, where he had a split-second of hang time to notice that there was no pilot before he plunged through the bulletproof windshield, shattered every bone in his being and

Start the Conversation

The Summit of Fate: Part 1

One Week Ago.

"Patch me through to Tony. What? No, I don't care if he's in an appointment, and I assure you he probably doesn't care much either. Patch me through now. What did you just say? Are you thick? I'm his brother, Jake. That's right. Yes, you have made a mistake."

The 19 year old Stark sighed and rolled his eyes at his reflection in the mirror, simultaneously combing his jet black hair back with one hand. He blew himself a kiss before he turned and left the bathroom, ignoring the three sleeping females in his bed and shrugging on his leather jacket with an effortless cool, completing his outfit, which also consisted of black chinos and a pair of crimson All-Stars. He almost never wore a shirt underneath his signature leather jacket, opting rather to reveal his finely sculpted physique to the world. He caught his reflection in another mirror and winked cheekily.

To say that Jacob Stark was a little vain would be such an understatement it would probably be considered illegal in a few countries.

"Something wrong Jake?"

The young adult passed by the trio of girls again, but this time he acknowledged their unconscious forms with a mischievous smile. He dropped a few dollars on the bedside table, enough to pay for the luxurious hotel's overnight fee. Then he got on his Harley-Davidson and gunned it, tearing out of the car park.

"No no. No problems, was just letting you know I'm taking one of the jets out to Kyoto. Apparently there's a monastery there with some monks that have been cultivating a fighting style for hundreds of years now. It's actually pretty sick, they use the strength in your - "

"Okay okay okay! Although I appreciate the sentiment, you don't need to let me know when you take out a jet for one of your kung-fu expeditions. Travelling alone?"

Jacob laughed, the sun glinting off of his darkly tinted shades. His quiff faced terrible wind resistance as he rode but he didn't mind much. Anything could be fixed with some gel and a good comb.

"Good one Tony. I'm taking five."

There was a chuckle on the other end from his older brother. They were both playboys. But Tony knew that his sibling was sometimes excessive in his choice of company. Jacob was a big target for feminism organisations, and he'd already been the poster child for numerous campaigns against his and the accused rest of male kind's low regard of women's worth. Jacob strongly denied these claims. "I love women!" He would respond when interviewed, often coupled with a cheeky grin.

Allowed a reasonably large amount of access to his brother's funds, the boy had been travelling the world since his high school graduation and had been mastering every different fighting technique he could find. Sometimes even ones he couldn't.

"Be safe little brother."

Jacob said goodbye in between good natured cackling and pulled into one of Anthony Starks numerous airbases, coming to a stop beside a hangar. One of Starks on-field employees, put there to collect the young man's Harley whenever he came by, started towards the boy. Jake exchanged a knowing nod with the man and went to meet the five young beauties he had invited along, whistling jovially as he strode, coolly fixing his defeated quiff.

Jacob Stark had no idea that that day would be the first and last of his life.

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The Five Animals : Tiger

Introduction.

A group of equally fatal martial arts derived from centuries past, the sheer excellence of these combat techniques are virtually unparalleled and have spawned a variety of other fighting styles and manoeuvres throughout history, the secrets of the Arts' intricacies slowly fading away as time passed and others replaced the five original kung-fu masters, doing their best to retain their legacy but ultimately failing.

One day a child was born, destined to bring about the rebirth of the Five Animals and restore it's power unto the world. The child's name was Akio, and he had been chosen to continue the arts by the five masters themselves. Resting peacefully in their afterlives, the men had split paths and gone on their own ways across Nirvana, enjoying their spiritual retirement, forgetting the hardships of earth.

After many a decade, a reunion of sorts was arranged by a mysterious being set in Nirvana, and each of the kung-fu legends met again, all of the memories from their previous lives falling upon their consciousness once more. An argument broke out between the masters, the question as to who calling them from their retirement being flung back and forth between the men. Finally, they regained their composure and discovered a message inscribed upon the temple wall, relaying the state of their legacy back on earth, pleading for them to restore it to it's old self.

The monks settled upon a truce. They would decide on a mortal to pass on each of the Shaolin Arts' secrets upon, so that he may resurrect their legend.

They constructed a single body with their chi, designed to travel to the human world and serve as a vessel for each of their souls, as they set out to find the chosen and instil their ways within his very spirit. They discovered the child heart-broken and unhinged from the massacring of his village and family, and although aware that his soul was tainted, they continued, a faith that their purity could rehabilitate his spirit proving futile in the end.

The boy possessed metahuman abilities, which only amplified the efficiency of his training. They taught him everything about each respective martial art, from the basics to the most otherworldly techniques one could imagine, and he mastered every last bit. They had grown to love Akio over the years as one might love a son, and when upon uncovering the true extent of his shattered soul, they felt their own hearts break. They had failed. Upon setting out to restore the prestige of their arts, they had only created a weapon, one driven by a carnal sense of vengeance.

They abandoned the boy and their quest after a century of tutelage, leaving nothing but mystical gauntlets and a skin-tight suit constructed from the heights of Nirvana behind, as gifts to their apprentice. The masters returned to their after lives and split once more, forever, so that they might never cross each other's paths again, each shamed, and heart broken.

-----

Tiger

The Immense Fist.

Hand to Hand.

A fearsome art based off of the cultivation of chi. Some of it's most essential factors include excessive stance training, primarily the Horse Stance, and powerful strong hand techniques such as Bridge Hand and the Tiger Claw. This style is composed of extreme strength and might, which is derived from internal energies such as mind and spirit rather than external ability, and focuses attacks on explosive movement and sheer force.

Endurance plays a large role in the Tiger style, and Akio spent hours on end in the Horse Stance, developing the proper composure and footing required in the techniques, often fitted with weights to add pressure unto his being as he practise the stance, strengthening his ability and discipline involving the style. Flexibility is also of the essence and strength is increased by adding iron weights around the student's arms and having them practise empty hand (karate), Bridge Hand, and Tiger Claw techniques, amplifying their physical ability tenfold.

Using the principles of Baguazhang, Akio was able to learn how to weave in and out of his opponent's attacks and use his fingers, palms, elbows as weapons in battle. The martial art uses energy from the core and distributes it to the rest of the body, which allows the combatant to use a mixture of coiling and uncoiling the muscles, evasive footwork, and throws.

Akio had to be fitted with buckets of stone, his superhuman strength easily belittling any iron rings around his figure. Qiqong, the aligning of breath and movement was the art of meditation and would enlighten the boy to uncover the secret crevices of Akio's true mind. He often struggled to settle his mind due to a short-temper and internal conflicts, but upon doing so he was able to enter deeply meditative states that lasted for days without halt.

Weapons.

The Butterfly Sword - A single-edged short blade easily incorporated into hand to hand combat due to it's length and weight.

(Gonna do a few more of these, maybe. I dunno, I gotta wiki all this stuff and it's hard as f_ck O_O But I did my best to apply it to the character. This isn't everything on the Tiger style, but there's so much surrounding it that I would have to write a book about it. So here's an outline, hope you homies dig.)

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