CCC #26 - Voting Thread

Lady in Red, by Cintia

Well, folks, here we are, another contest come and gone. The rules were simple- write the picture, and use the line "I wish you could remember this as much as I will" in the story.

We got a few entries, and once again, I found myself posting at the very last minute. It was great to see Delphic enter this time! A regular to the Fan-Fic forum, but new to the CCC, Delphic came in with a strong entry. He's going to give us all a run for our money!

I'm anxious to see how the vote goes, because win, lose or draw, someone else is hosting CCC #27! lol I'm excited! (And I'm ready for the break!)

So without further ado, please read over the four entries, and vote for the one you liked best. Deadline for votes is one week this time- June 9th @4pm GMT (so 12pm EST for my own reference). Two weeks really dragged out last time. One vote per voter. Remember: if you wrote, you should vote! But no voting for yourself. ;)


Here's the entries, in order posted:


Danika Sedova: Bounty Hunter Babe

Thaliana Broadcasting Studios, Los Angeles, California

“I wish you could remember this as much as I will…” The platinum blonde holding the revolver purred, “…but I'm afraid that you be doing all your thinking in Country for the next ten to life.” She stated as her sidekick, a short man with a fish hook through his lip handcuffed the blonde man lying unconscious on the floor.

“Turn that off will you.” A voice groaned as the credits rolled over the image of the blonde escorting the man outside to the waiting police car. Turning to look down the table, the scrawny man wearing aviators with purple lenses and a business suit removed a cigar from his jacket pocket, lit it and took a deep breath. “Danika darling I love the show but your ratings are down, people like when you're hunting down criminals but you make it look too easy.”

“What do you mean?” The blonde haired woman at the end of the table asked in a Ukrainian accent as she smoothed out the crop-top she wore, the front emblazoned with the logo ‘Danika Sedova: Bounty Hunter Babe’. “You told me ratings were good Mr. Mc Kellum yes?”

“They have been better, have you thought about appealing to the ‘Avengers Generation?” Mc Kellum suggested as he looked over the assorted people sitting at the table.

“I am not wearing anything more skimpy then I already do on air.” Danika hissed. “And I’m not going to start call myself something like Huntress or Blond Bombshell.”

“I don't know I like the sound of Fishook.” The man with the hook in his lip stated as he ran thick fingers over his bald head. “And Tabby could be Gimble while Maurice could be Chaser.”

“No Brian I will not be some kind of show pony for the teenage demographic. I started this show to reassure the public that somebody could reach the criminals the law couldn’t. You now have me chasing after bail jumpers and jaywalkers, I need a challenge.”

“Babe listen your big now, plus you're good looking. “ Mc Kellum told her. “We're not going to risk sending you after the bad guys, there is a certain profit we get from you looking like a supermodel.” As he finished his words were met by the scrape of chair legs as Danika and her film crew got to their feet. “Where are you going babe?”

“We've just decided to go independent.” Danika purred. “You remember my escape clause in the contract I signed for Thaliana Broadcasting, well I'm invoking it unless you can find me a better class of criminal to hunt.”

“Not going to happen babe. Without us your revenue dries up. I give it a week and you'll be crawling back to old Mckellum for your spotlight back.” Mckellum snorted as Danika left the office. “Dames all alike.” He said as he coughed on the cigar before turning the TV back on. “Nice rack though.” He commented as Danika turned and blew a kiss to the camera at the end of the credits.


Casa Sedova, Beverly Hills, California

Danika poured herself an iced tea as she sat by the side of the pool at her Beverly Hills estate. While she loved the house she hated what it represented, and while she had no idea what the rest of her crew felt about what had happened she was glad they had gone with her. Between Brian ‘the Hook’ Baldwin, her underworld contact, Tabitha Taylor, her camera woman, and Maurice Cartier, her expert getaway and pursuit driver, they were a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately Hollywood didn't see it that way.

“Hey Danika you've got a visitor.” Tabby yelled from the kitchen. “It’s the man from Texas we met a while back.” She added as a well built man wearing a pair of jeans and a leather jerkin walked in.

“Well if it isn't the little girl from the frontier.” The man sneered.

“Huh takes a walking scarecrow to know one.” Danika hissed as she got to her feet and met the man half way across the floor, the pair of them bumping fists. “You look awful Kenneth.”

“And you look like you've been enjoying the weather too much.” Ken replied as the pair sat at the ornate metal work table beside the pool. “Been catching up on the re-runs by the way. Don't tell me you're happy being eye candy for some studio executive.”

“I never was but up until recently I thought I was doing a public good.” Danika sighed. “Still what have you been up to? Still the nightmare of the cartels down on the border?”

“No, I’ve been in a chemically induced coma for the last few weeks.” Ken answered before removing a box and sliding it across the table to Danika. “Take a look at this; they pulled it out of me. Apparently everyone else died from the toxicity of the weapon but you know what they say.”

“You can't bulls**t a bulls****r.” Danika purred. “What does this have to do with me?”

“I need help; I'm man enough to admit it especially after being out of the game for a while.” Ken answered. “And you, despite what the jealous types are saying, are the best in the business.”

“What’s the profit margin?” Danika asked. “And what do we know about this guy?”

“Girl, the shooter is female.” Ken announced. “We don't know much, but from the E-Fit El Paso Police Department is circulating we know she’s Asian and in her mid to late twenties. As for the reward; the Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Aviation Authority. EPPD, FBI and Homeland Security are offering a million each, either for her capture or corpse.”

“And you’re really chasing down this woman?” Danika asked as she removed a black crossbow bolt from the book Ken had given her. “This is crazy even for you Zimmermann.”

“I know what that means.” Ken said with a wide smile as he took

Remove his hip flask from his belt “To partnership.” He toasted as Danika broke the bolt in two.

“And to breaking the woman whose death is our next pay check.” Danika added as she clinked her glass against Ken’s flask. “Now let’s go hunting.”


Larry looked at the placard. His face said what words couldn’t express. “I don’t get it?”

“What’s not to get?” Darren crossed his arms defensively; face contracting like he’d just eaten a chilli lemon. “It’s pretty self explanatory.”

Larry’s eye shifted from the picture to his designer and back again as if it was a ping pong match. “You’ll need legal to clear it.”


“Because,” Larry rubbed his moustache “She looks like Jessica Rabbit. Either that or Betty Boo?”

“She does not?” Darren huffed.

“If I say she looks like Betty Rabbit, then she LOOKS LIKE BETTY RABBIT!”

Darren paused, step forward gingerly “It’s Jessica Rabbit, not…”

“I DON’T CARE!” roared Larry making the office shake. “Now explain it to me.”

Darren adjusted his tie and gestured for his boss to take a seat. He’d been working for Larry for eight years now and nearly every presentation had the same circus attached; it was like a game but one Darren had grown tired of very quickly. He grabbed the placard and set it back on the easel.

“This is for our client Hubel & Wiesel trying to increase market share in…”

“Neurotic plasticine” Larry added looking pleased with himself.

Darren groaned, if this was a sitcom the canned laughter would’ve erupted…but it wasn’t a sitcom. “Neuroplasticity.”

“That’s what I said, neuro-plastic-city.”

Darren often wondered how Larry was a partner in the firm with his name on the door, probably because McMann was a very hands off partner. “Neuroplasticity. They have invented a game that helps with brain training, like a workout.”

Larry smiled “And you have a woman with a gun because…”

“Sex sells. A desirable woman of mixed origin to catch the widest demographic of males but holding a gun showing women a capable of doing men things so hits a wide area on gender and ethnicity.”

“Okay, but the slogan?”

“I wish you remember this moment as much as I will.” Darren tapped the speech bubble “Written in red, like the dress to catch the eye inspires and signifies passion. A longer phrase than some of the snappier fast food phrases…”

“I’m loving it!” chuckled Larry.

“But market research indicates products with red in their logos sell better. Because it’s also an educational game you’ll notice the swirl in the bottom corner.” Darren pointed to it, “It’s actually a stylised QR Code that’ll launch smart phones directly to their website.”

“You’re a wizard!”

“You’re thinking of my wife,” Darren smiled cheekily “The woman, who is named Avabella, which were two of the top names in 08 mashed to create a new name which tested through the roof with focus groups of teens who will be naming their kids that especially in the African-American and Latino communities.”

Larry stood up applauding “Great job!”

“I haven’t finished,” said Darren as Larry slowly stopped his ovation before slinking back into his seat. Darren waited until he was seated and then a few seconds longer before continuing “We’re also working with Stella McCartney who’ll produce a range of Avabella dresses because smart girls need to dress smart and be sexy, a portion of sale going to some animal sanctuary she likes along with a sizeable donation to John Hopkins Neurology which raises their karma credit in the eyes of the public.”

“Good things,” said Larry not with any insight just because he felt he need to say something as Darren steamrolled along.

“We’ve started a Twitter account for Avabella run by the PR department of Hubel & Wiesel and she’s killing it and on target to being in the top 100 of most followed people by Christmas.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about but I LOVE IT!” Larry exclaimed as he got up from his chair. “I’ll bring them in. Do what you did just now for them.”

Larry bolted from the room. Darren rubbed his forehead and looked up to the corner of the room to see an old woman in flowing purple and green looking down on him.

“Derwood,” she sneered as she floated to the floor.

“What do you want, you old witch?” he snarled as his hand went to his pocket.

“To see my daughter and grandchildren!”

Darren sneered as he pulled out a locket from his jacket pocket and dangled it watching her recoil in horror. “You can see them when I say you can see them,” he sneered “Now get out of here before I do to you what I did to that idiot Bombay.”

In a puff of smoke accompanied by the sound of a kicked harp, she was gone. Darren smiled and put the locket back safely.

“You $%#^d with the wrong mortal Endora.”



Life was such a peculiar thing. No matter where you go people always seem to look at it differently. Some see life through rose colored glasses, where everything is made up of sunshine and rainbows. Others see life through the grime colored spyglass of cynicism, always itching for that next horrible thing to happen. What about about a man who saw life completely different from every other human being on the planet? A man who had always lived his life seeing things that others could not. Feeling what they could not. There was once such a man, and his name was Jack Spade.

It was a hot day, and despite all the open windows, and the electric fan blowing in the corner of the room it seemed like there was no rest from the hellish heat of the summer. Jack sat behind his desk, loosened his tie, and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. Sweat poured from his brow, so Jack took the already damp handkerchief he held in his hand and dabbed around his forehead. He sighed praying for some sort of relief to come soon, perhaps it was late in the day, and before long that damnable sun would set. He looked at his watch and groaned when he saw the hands seemingly forever perched on 1:45 PM. It was turning out to be a long day.

Jack looked up in time to see a silhouette appear on the other side of the window of his office door, and straightened his tie. His office was on the fourth floor of the building, and the only people who had any reason to be up here where potential clients, or at least that was what he hoped. It could be some fool that had managed to get themselves lost on the way to the accounting offices on the floor below him. When he heard a knock at the door he smiled.

“Come on in. It’s open.” Jack called out feeling almost as happy as a kid at christmas. It had been a slow month, and for a private eye to pay rent you needed clients. What Jack had expected from what he had seen through the window was someone’s old lady. Another poor dame that had suspected her husband of having a mistress. Work like that was usually boring, but a broad’s money was just as good as any other schnook that walked in his door, but what walked in caused Jack to sit up straight and lean forward, eyeing the spectacle before him like a dog that had just been presented to a prime rib.

The dame was a knockout from head to toe, and where most broads would cover themselves up to hide their purpose when visiting his little abode, this lady held no shame. The heels made a distinctive click as she took each step into his office, and the scarlet dress that came halfway down her thigh showed enough leg that would have made any school boy fall to his knees to beg for just a moment of her time.

“Is this Jack Spade’s office?” She asked with a voice that sent chills up his spine, and he couldn’t help but notice how her dress clung to her curves leaving little to his imagination. “Is everything all right?”

Suddenly Jack looked up realizing that he had just been gawking at the woman like a putz. He shook his head to bring himself back to his senses, and stood up quickly, nearly knocking everything on his desk over, causing the woman to chuckle. Damn, she was cute when she laughed too, this woman had already shaken him more than he liked, and his gut told him he better quit acting like schlub, and do his job.

“You’re in the right place ma’am. Please have a seat.” Jack smiled and motioned toward the chair in front of his desk. When she sat down and crossed her legs Jack had to force himself not to look down. Dresses like that didn’t like keep things to themselves, and it was obvious to him that this woman, whoever she was, was really trying him. Instead he did his best to keep eye contact, and conduct himself in a business-like manner.

“I’m Jack Spade, what can I do you for Mrs?” Jack asked reaching his hand across the desk to shake her hand.

“It’s Miss.” the woman replied as she returned the handshake, “Miss Cordelia Brown.”

“Well Ms. Brown. It’s nice to meet you, so what brings you to me?”

“I’m looking for a man.” She replied, looking down at her purse.

“You’ve got a name?”

“No, but I have a picture.” She said as she opened her purse and pulled out the photo. She looked up directly into Jack’s eyes, as she slid the photo across the table. Suddenly Jack started to get an uneasy feeling in his gut, and when he grabbed the photo he felt even more uneasy.

“This is Bob Peters. He was my partner back when I was a cop.” Jack said looking at a family photo of an overweight balding man, his wife, and two kids. “Where did you get this photo? It looks like the same one Bob’s wife keeps in his living room?”

“It is?” Cordelia replied followed by the sound of the hammer of a revolver being pulled back. Jack looked up to see Cordelia standing over him the gun aimed right at his head.

“Hey now wait a minute!?” Jack raised his hands up, “What’s the meaning of this?”

“Ten years ago, two little girls were victims to a kid raper. One of the girls was my sister, and I guess you can figure who the other was.” She said as she grimaced at him never once moving the gun. “You’re buddy Bob he took care of the sicko, but he saw me, and just couldn’t help himself. He had his way with me, and my she tried to stop him, but your partner put two in her chest, and you just watched.”

“What are you talking about!? I’ve never saw Bob hurt any kids.”

“No, you sat in the car, and watched the front door of the house. Even when the gunshots went off, you just sat there and watched, and now you get to watch again, as I do to you what I did to Bob Peters.”

“What did you do to Bob!?”

“You can ask him, when you see him in hell, though you might not recognize him.” Cordelia grinned. Jack sat there unable to move. Not sure of what to do. If he attempted to grab the gun he would die, and if he waited too long he would die.

“I wish you could remember this moment as much as I will.” Cordelia grinned as she pulled the trigger. Time seemed to slow down for Jack, as he heard the cylinder turned, and saw the bright light appear down the dark tunnel of the barrel. It was in that brief moment Jack went back to the time that he was looking out the window of a car. The world series was on, and it was the bottom of the ninth. When he heard a loud noise he looked up just long enough to see a girl’s face through the basement window of the house she had been crying, her face full of fear. How did he forget that? Why didn’t he get out of the car?

There was a loud bang. It was funny how dying never seemed to hurt.

Cordelia lowered the smoking gun, and breathed a sigh of relief. Years of long awaited revenge had finally been finished. Bob Peters and his whole family was dead. Including the kids. Nothing good could have came from that man, so she had done the world of favor by slicing little Jimmy and Susan’s throats. Also that joke of a wife, a belly full of buckshot had finished her off, but as for Bob she took her dear sweet time with him. She made him feel the pain he had been feeling for years.

Jack Spade had been the last part of the tale that she had so long desired to see to it’s conclusion, and now she looked at too lifeless eyes and a gaping hole right between the sicko’s eyes. Cordelia put the gun back in her purse and took one last look at the man who liked to watch. His eyes were still open, still watching her. She wanted nothing more than to just cut them out, but she didn’t have time. The cops would be here soon, and she had plans to be out of town before dark. She looked down at the corpse of Jack Spade one last time, and remembered how she had seen him out in the car that day. The day her sister died. The day that man raped her. The day Jack Spade had just sat by and watched.

Cordelia spit on Jack’s corpse before turning around, and heading toward the door. She took two steps when suddenly something grabbed her shoulder. She stood frozen to the spot, cold chills running all over her body. The only thing that was behind her was a dead man. Nothing should have been able to sneak up behind her. Then tears rolled down her cheeks as she heard the voice of Jack Spade saying:

“I wish you could remember this moment as much as I will.”


Benjamin "Benny" Factor is not a nice man. He's been a gangster since he was old enough to make his own bad decisions. He began as muscle for pushers, then started dealing himself, and eventually went into moving all kinds of merchandise- chiefly, guns. He was one of the originals to refer to himself as being in "import/ export." That soon became a legitimate claim, just to cover his illegal activities. Underlings wound up running the illegal stuff for him, so he couldn't be connected to anything, and before he knew it, he was a respected businessman, and the cops weren't able to prove jack.

That doesn't mean that his hands were clean. Far from it. His organization- the illegal one- started being harassed by a vigilante known as The Blue Crab. She broke up a handful of important deals with a blue spotlight of a crab claw and a lot of fighting. She dropped off the radar for awhile, but was finally caught by Horace and Harry Fly, when she tried to bust up a weapons deal. They called Mr. Factor in, and Benny put the cap in her himself.


Horace Crabb was shocked when the police showed up at his door, and devastated when they told him that Merilyn was dead. He knew that she was The Blue Crab, but a gunshot? After all the crime she had stopped over the years? After all the things she had seen with The Statesmen? He wondered numbly who they would get to represent Maryland now. Then the weight of realization crashed in on him, and he wondered what the hell he was going to tell the girls. They were only four and five. How do you tell children that their mommy is gone? What was she even doing back in costume? She had only been in remission a few months. He slumped into a chair and buried his face in his hands. The detectives made their condolences and departed.


Merilyn's death ate at Horace for a year. The police were no closer to answers than they were when she was killed, and the girls were only starting to approach normal again. He was fed up. He dragged a footlocker from the closet, fished a key from the top drawer of Merilyn's dresser, and opened it up. He couldn't fit into her costume of course, but he could make use of her spotlight and her mask. He pulled leather motorcycle pants from the closet, along with a bomber jacket with his Zodiac sign on it. A pair of steel toed boots, his riding gloves, and the gun from his nightstand drawer. It was time for some answers. And this is how Cancer was born.

Horace made more waves and did more damage than his wife had done, in a short amount of time, because he was willing to use more violent methods. He rattled Benny's crew. They knew Cancer was someone out for revenge, because he was using The Blue Crab's old spotlight, and he made it known he was looking for her killer. No one dared give Benny Factor up though.

Anger makes a person careless though. He hadn't been at it a year when Cancer was caught and taken to Benny Factor at one of his dockside warehouses. They got on a boat, motored out past the three mile limit, and unmasked the vigilante. Benny capped Horace with his own gun, and tossed both over the side. Police found him washed up on the beach a day later.


Later that night, police showed up at the door, and whisked Annie and Sandy Crabb off to Child Protective Services. A social worker named Terrie, appalled that the officers hadn't told the girls what was going on, found that she now had the unpleasant task of telling these children that their father was dead. Sandy cried, but Annie was numb. She called her sister a crybaby and became angry with the social worker. Terrie let them cry and scream for two hours before they were worn out, and then they were taken to a state orphanage while authorities tried to find next of kin.

The girls were made wards of the state when no relatives were found. This lasted for a couple of years, until a janitor named Jim yelled at Annie for walking across his wet floor with muddy shoes. She scuffed her shoes all over the floor, then kicked the janitor in the shin. He grabbed for her, but she pulled away and kicked him in the other shin. Jim lunged forward, but slipped on the wet floor and fell. On the way down, he hit his head on the corner of the metal wringer of the mop bucket. His neck twisted on the way to the floor, and he didn't move.

Annie grabbed Sandy's hand and ran, and they left the orphanage. Sandy protested, saying they could tell the headmistress that it was an accident, but Annie insisted they had to run. She said they would separate her and Sandy if they knew what happened. So they ran. When they couldn't run anymore, they hid in an alleyway, and at eight and nine years old, this was the beginning of them living on the streets.


They had been living on the streets for four years when Benny caught Sandy trying to lift his wallet. When she tossed Annie his watch he was surprised and impressed, because he hadn't felt it come off of his wrist. Harry caught Annie before she could get away. Benny took his watch and wallet back, but instead of getting angry with the girls, he offered them a meal. Figuring it was better than getting arrested, they nervously accepted.

Benny talked to them while they ate. Like any gangster worth his chops, he had cops on his payroll. He knew that Cancer and The Blue Crab were Horace and Merilyn Crabb. So when he learned Annie and Sandy's names, he connected them as the orphaned children immediately, and had an idea. He offered to take them in, promising they'd never have to live on the streets again, and that they could even learn his business if they wanted. Benny figured it would be sweet revenge to turn his enemies' kids into gangsters. When the girls accepted, he smiled to himself. They'd be turning over in their graves.

Annie knew who Benny was too though. And she also had an idea.


Benny was true to his word, as it served his revenge. He taught the girls everything about his illegal businesses, and they came up much the same way he did. They started as runners for various things, mostly drugs, and they reported to Horace Fly. Although Benny kept a close eye on what he considered his personal project of corrupting these girls.

Annie didn't like Horace Fly. He had the same name as her dad, but he was a jerk. She called him Horse Fly, which he didn't much care for. His brother, Harry, she liked. He was called Harry the House, because he was so big. Sandy pointed out that this would make him House Fly, and Harry thought that was funny. Harry taught the girls how to fight, and Horace taught them how to shoot.

Annie played Benny's game, and she and Sandy kept him close. All the while, Annie kept focused on the memory of her father talking about Benny Factor and his involvement in her mom's death. Sandy still woke up crying over it sometimes, and Annie had called her crybaby so much that the term had become affectionate between them. So much so that Crybaby had become her nickname. She cried at everything- happy moments, sad movies, and even when she was angry. So Annie kept her eyes and ears open, looking for any information she could to prove that her dad was right. She wanted to give her sister a reason to stop crying.

They were not completely unaffected though. Sandy kind of fell into a bodyguard role for Benny, and Annie became one of his most trusted enforcers. Benny considered their corruption complete when they started killing for him. Sandy only killed to defend Benny from attack, but Annie actually carried out hits for him. She became known as The Orphan.

They worked for Benny for ten years before Annie finally ran across the information she had been looking for. Actually, she didn't find it herself. One of Benny's enemies had sent an enforcer of their own named The Mute to steal the contents of his safe. Sandy was stalking her through the halls of the office when The Mute got the drop on her.

Before she could fire, Annie cocked a gun to her head and said, "I've been made an orphan once. I didn't care for it much. Drop the gun." Taking The Mute's weapon and taking back Benny's documents, Annie leafed through them, and found the proof she had been looking for- pictures. The sick son of a... he took pictures. She let The Mute go.


Benny was throwing a party- a charity function for his legitimate businesses. He had to keep up appearances, after all. This was a New Year's Eve party that he hosted every year in his penthouse. It was tradition that he personally set off the fireworks from the roof of the neighboring building. It was there that Annie and Sandy confronted him.

Annie cracked him across the jaw with her gun, and threw the pictures down in front of him. Sandy held him at gunpoint so he didn't try anything. He pleaded. He begged. He bargained. And when none of that worked he became angry. "I've been like a father to you!" he shouted.

Annie looked at him coldly and said, "A father, Benny? I'm an orphan, remember?"

The hope left Benny's face as Annie turned away. He looked up at Sandy again. With fat tears streaming down her face, she looked at him coldly and said, "I wish you could remember this moment as much as I will."

And that was when Benny Factor died.

Thanks for reading, and for voting! Don't forget: voting ends June 9th @4pm GMT (12pm EST). :)


Grandma's Instinct

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I ran across this video on Facebook a couple of days ago. I guess I'm a bit more sensitive to these types of stories now, since grandma had dementia before she passed, but I was truly struck by the last line in this video:

"Amazing what's possible, when love becomes an instinct."

And by what the wife said just before that:

"...I just broke inside. I just said, 'Thank you, thank you,' because I saw his heart."

I was struck by that, because I have experienced that. I've mentioned before how I got to hear "I love you" from my grandma again, not long before she died. I can't overstate how important that was to me. In the midst of everything else, there it was. From Grieving For Grandma:

If I did any bargaining, it was brief, just before the end, when I was sitting at grandma's bedside. It wasn't for "one more day" though. I just wanted her to acknowledge me. I just wanted to hear her say she loved me. I just wanted some sign that she hadn't forgotten me completely. And I got it. When everything else was painful to the touch, bringing about a weak, "ow. ow. ow. ow. ow..." she held my hand. I held one of her hands in both of mine, very carefully, so that she didn't "ow. ow. ow.," and then she put her other hand on top of mine, just patting it a little, or maybe her hand was just shaking. She did that for awhile.

When she was even weaker, eyes not even open, about to fall asleep, we went to leave, and I told her, "I love you, grandma."

She didn't open her eyes. She just said, "I love you too, sweetheart." I got to hear that two more times before she died, and...I think ...I'm pretty sure... that was the last thing I ever heard her say. Not a bad memory.

To say how very heartbreaking that was doesn't really do it justice. You can sympathize with what I'm saying, but unless you've actually experienced it, you just won't really understand. You might think you do, but trust me, you don't. I can say this authoritatively, having been on both sides of that understanding. But anyway, yes, very heartbreaking.

I will carry that "I love you too, sweatheart" with me throughout the rest of my life. Why? Because when she was lost to me... when I once had to introduce myself to her seven different times in an hour, and she responded like she didn't know me... when I had seen the strongest woman I knew deteriorating before my eyes... when her mind was retracing old memories in a neverending loop... I still got "I love you too, sweetheart." Because love was her instinct, just like the man in the video.

I think something else that struck me about that video was just how much I was struck by it. Obviously, I'm not done grieving grandma. Maybe I never will be. Maybe I just need more time. Damn I miss her.

I think it's just because the more I think about it, the more I realize how much she really did love me. I've said in previous blogs that I realized grandma was really the only one who ever supported my love of comics. She loved some of 'em too. She would pop in on me just to go to lunch or dinner somewhere. She even went to the movies with me several times. She let me live with her twice, and let me stay in a house she had sitting unoccupied, when I needed it. If I stopped by to see her, she was going to fix me dinner before I left... There's just so many little things that compound the fact to me that my grandmother loved me... Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn I miss her.

...I want love to be an instinct for me. I don't want to go through dementia, Alzheimer's, or anything that will take my mental faculties away- I really don't think I'm strong enough for that. But I want love to be an instinct. I want the people in my life to know that I love them. I want people to talk about how much I loved them, after I pass away. Assuming I ever get married and have kids, I want them to be able to look back and say that I supported them in the things they loved to do. ...It's not like grandma didn't have flaws, but mostly, she loved me...and I want to be at least that loving for someone else. And I want someone to love me at least as much as I loved her.

Dammit, I miss her.


Character Creation Contest #26

Simple contest this time around. Here's your picture:

Lady in Red, by Cintia

No word limit, and there's only two rules this time:

  1. Name your characters!
  2. You have to use the line from the picture somewhere in your story.

Deadline is Monday, June 2nd @4pm GMT (so 12pm EST, for my own reference).


CCC #25 - A Villain For Raven Diablo: Agent of Kali - Voting Thread

This was CCC #25, folks:

This was the pitch:

Raven Diablo: Agent of Kali...Convicted for running over a kidnapper...and then backing up and doing it again...a sympathetic judge sends Raven to a very special "nursing home" in the desert outside of Las Vegas, where she serves the residents, and learns from them as well. She's schooled in everything a good hero needs, and what emerges on the other side of her sentence is Raven Diablo: Agent of Kali.

This is the 25th contest folks, and I wanted it to be special. It seems like everyone has been itching to write a bad@ss villain the last few contests, so that's what this contest is about- creating a villain for Raven Diablo.

I realize you probably don't know the character, but for this contest, that's okay. Here's some links to, where you can find out the minimum on the characters:

...I've been telling Miko that Raven Diablo is full of potential. What I'm asking you to do is find some of that potential. Don't worry about what the characters are like in the books. Just read the information and run with it.

These were the rules:


  • Of course, Raven Diablo has to be in the story.
  • You have to create an OC villain for Raven Diablo.
  • It's not required that you use the other characters shown on the website, but supporting cast is always a plus.
  • No word limit.
  • It is currently April 17th at 11:44am GMT. Deadline is two weeks (and a little): May 1st, 11:59pm GMT [yes, PM] (so 7:59pm EST, for my own reference).

Miko Montgomery is a friend of mine, y'all, and seeing his dream get published has been the inspiration that keeps me pushing towards my own dreams. Help me give a little back to the man, and show his characters some love. (It won't be exactly what you created, Miko, so don't freak out.)

And these were the entries, in order posted to the contest thread:


As the smell hit NSA Agent William Posters nostrils he promptly threw up his bagel and coffee from breakfast down the wall of the hotel room. The crime scene technician in their head to toe white suit shook their head in frustration.

“Someone cordon off the rookie,” came the muffled unisex voice “Before he ruins the whole site.”

“Sorry,” muttered Posters as he wiped his mouth. The smell that clung to the air like an unwanted hug was if someone filled a four day old hamburger with sulphur, onions, baby vomit and parmesan cheese, force fed it to a cancerous dying cow and then made an aerosol spray out of the subsequent faecal matter. He was trained but this smell wasn’t in the manual. Posters took his glasses off and wiped his eyes and saw the room thankful that he’d already emptied his stomach.

The pristine alabaster walls of the suite in the Mandarin Oriental were splattered with yellowish congealed pus as if a gigantic sneeze had occurred in the room. Lying in the centre of the room was the headless, armless torso of a large man with a bent machete embedded in his chest.

“So…” Posters said gingerly as he edged forward to the technician.

“Do you have clearance to be here,” the tech looked up and read his badge “Agent Posters.”

Posters scoffed “I’m with the NSA.”


Another white suited person bolted upright like a lemur and quickly crossed the room “Yes?”

“Verify Posters clearance for me. If he doesn’t check out, feel free to toss him out a window.”

Posters hand instinctively went to his sidearm under his left arm as he tried to peer into the visor to work out if he was talking to a male or female or a…

“All clear!”

The technician shook their head and turned to the Agent. “You’ve already contaminated my site. Try not to be a further pain in my ass.”

“So what ha…”

The technician tapped him on the chest “Don’t ask stupid questions would be my first piece of advice. How about y…”

“How about you show me a little bit of respect?” Posters growled “We’re on the same side trying to find out who did this! I don’t need you treating me like a child.”

The technician muttered something inaudible and wandered off to the body “Put a suit on and try to keep up.”


“Male, homo demonicus, Kaviani muscle, approximately thirty five in appearance but a cellular analysis will probably place him around the one twenty to two fifty year range…” The technician looking at Posters waiting for a response.

“I’m familiar with the hybrid of humans and demons,” replied Posters as he took notes “Go on.”

“The deceased was surprised as the door was kicked in but any clues or DNA from the attacker was lost due to…” A gloved hand pointed at Posters vomit. “Judging by the cut, the left arm was amputated first then the right but it doesn’t overly matter as the decapitation killed him.”

“Is that sword the murder weapon?” Posters asked.

“Actually no, it’s a khukri or Gurkha blade,” replied the technician derisively “But no, it’s a calling card.”

“Of the Agents of Kali.”

The technician stopped “How do you know about them?”

“We’re the NSA, we know everything.” Posters smiled smugly.

“Really?” The room went awkwardly silent. When it almost became beyond painful the technician continued “Yes the Agents of Kali. But how it all ties together, well that’s your job. I just process the scene.”

Posters strolled around the room when he spied an ornate black rectangle just under the couch. He crouched to get a better look. “Do you have an evidence bag?”

“What did you find?”

“I don’t know,” Posters said “It’s…”

“Mine.” The voice rumbled through the room. Posters drew his gun and pointed it at the pale man in an electric blue suit, black hair in a crew cut wearing sunglasses standing in the centre of the room.

“NSA put your hands up now!” barked Posters.

The man looked over the top of his sunglasses, his red eyes meeting Posters’ gaze. “Oh no, it’s the feds.” He mocked.

“Last warning!”

“As for the Agents of Kali,” he said pointing at the technicians “You will…”


The man moved as if the world was molasses. He drew a khukri of his own from his sleeve and slapped the bullet back at Posters which hit him in the shoulder and sent him to the ground.

“Need to do better than that,” he snarled as he jumped at the closest technician who was shedding their suit. The khukri caught sailed through their neck like butter. He turned to the other three who disrobed revealing three female agents.

“Ladies, you will all join your bitch god today!” he snarled as he set upon them like a cat amongst pigeons. Posters shuddered on the ground as he fumbled for his phone and hit record.


Raven Diablo stood next to Xandra as they watched the phone footage Posters had captured. The man in electric blue slaughtered the three remaining agents before turning to Posters.

“You will give the bitches a message little man,” he snarled “Mafdet does not forgive. Mafdet does not forget.”

The screen went red as the screaming began.

“Who is Mafdet?” asked Raven as she paused the film. “And what does he want with us?”

“That isn’t Mafdet,” said Kim Desmond via the video link up “That’s Haze, he works for Mafdet.”

“Care to enlighten us Kim?” Xandra took a seat.

“Mafdet is a sect who worships the cheetah goddess Mafdet,” Kim replied “They tried to steal some artefacts from the British museum a few years ago and…”

“Let me guess, some of the girls stopped them?”

Kim nodded “Spot on Raven. Seems they’re back from revenge.”

“Do you have any idea what this is?” Xandra held up the black rectangle for Kim to see.

“Looks to be possibly a Norn stone,” Kim shrugged “I’d need to see it in person to tell you properly.”

“Mafdet. Bad enough we have to deal with Janus, The Kaviani and every other thing from a netherhell,” stated Raven “Now a cat cult out for revenge.”

“I prefer to call it justice!” stated Haze as he materialised in the room. “Mafdet does not forgive. Mafdet does not forget.”

“CLEAR THE ROOM!” yelled Raven as she leapt the table at him. Haze leapfrogged over her and ran up the table, khukri drawn heading for Xandra. Raven grabbed the table and flipped it making Haze somersault off.

“How did you get in here?” barked Xandra as she drew a large calibre hand gun and trained it on him.

Haze glanced at her then at Raven who was stalking closer. “I go where I please. And your secret society may as well be an open tent.” He lunged at Xandra who fired. He smiled as he batted the bullet towards Raven who in return hit the bullet into the roof.

“Is that the best you have?” Raven laughed which soon changed as the khukri came hurtling towards her face. With supreme skill she caught the blade in the clap mere millimetres from her face. “Again yo…”

Raven stopped as she watched Haze sink his teeth into Xandra’s neck. Blood squirted everywhere as he chewed on her neck as dog would a bone.

“NO!” Raven crossed the room and belted Haze in the face sending him flying into a wall. Xandra clasped her neck trying to stem the tide. Raven looked at her boss who nodded emphatically. Raven charged towards Haze, he met her attack parrying her arms. Every attack she made was countered but only just. Raven was amazed at how fast he was whilst he was impressed by her skill.

“You will die by my hand!” Raven stated as she pressed her attack.

“If I had a dollar for every time someone said that,” chuckled Haze as he rolled out of harm’s way and snatched up the rectangle from Xandra’s hand. “I’ll take that.”

Raven kicked up his khukri into her hand and threw it at him with a mighty grunt. Haze smiled and caught it by the handle “Thank you.”

Raven drew her pistol as Haze positioned himself in front of the bleeding Xandra. “Go ahead, shoot me!” He waved her on. “Because when you miss, you’ll kill the bitch!”

Raven’s eyes narrowed. She knew she was deadly accurate but this guy was good, real good. An errant shot and Xandra would get a face full of lead. Raven holstered the pistol with a smile.

“Giving up so easy.” Haze chuckled.

“No,” snarled Xandra as she rammed a piece of broken glass into his back “Just letting me get in position!”

“BITCH!” roared Haze as he backhanded her across the room with a sickening crack. Raven did a jump kick hitting him square in the sternum and sending him flying across the room. She raced to Xandra’s side. It was eerie seeing her so pale, so still.

““Mafdet does not forgive. Mafdet does not forget!” He barked as he staggered to his feet.

“Oh shut up!” Raven quick drew her gun and opened fire, the bullets passed through him as he faded away chuckling like a sick clown.

Raven scooped her boss up into her arms “C’mon you old cow, don’t die on me.”


Raven paced the floor as the onsite doctors operated on Xandra behind the glass. She replayed the fight over and over again in her head.

“Agent Diablo.”

Raven stopped to see Agent Sappho with a worried expression on her face.


Sappho snapped back to reality “Gaspar.”

“I am in no mood for guessing games Sappho,” Raven said dismissively.

“He’s here.”



Raven marched to the vault like doors the led into the Agents of Kali’s headquarters flanked by forty other agents armed to the teeth. She waved her hand and slowly the doors hissed and unlocked. Standing there was Gaspar Kaviani, one of the heads of the Kaviani criminal network. His piercing eyes clocked the weapons trained on him but he could hardly care less.

“You have seven seconds before I kill you.” Raven spun her weapon in her hand. “Seven…”

Gaspar slowly bowed his head “Have you ever heard the phrase the enemy of my enemy is my friend? We have a mutual problem.”

Raven knew the answer before she asked it “Mafdet.”

“Mafdet.” replied the demon.

The end…for now


The Raising of Phorcys

Whack City

“What do you know of the Elder Beings?” The tanned and incredibly beautiful woman asked the equally good looking man as he reclined in the ornate throne carved of bone and mummified skin.

“The Elders are the forerunners of the modern gods and the sires of the demonic hordes including our partners the Dalkhu.” The man answered. “Why do you ask Sholeh?”

“We swore an alliance with the Dalkhu, but as we have experienced that ‘loss prevention specialist’ could be a threat to our plans.” Sholeh stated. “We need a creature that can defeat her and pave the way to victory.”

“Summoning an Elder would take more power then bringing the Dalkhu into this world.” The man answered. “And then the emerging creature would be too powerful to control. We are talking about the primal forces of nature here Sholeh. To consort with such beings is folly.”

“Oh Gaspah you forget that some remnant of the Elder’s power remains on Earth. The one known as Phorcys had his daughter Medusa turn him to stone on the eve of the New Gods awakening.” Sholeh lectured. “That stone just needs to be broken and the primordial lord of the ocean will raise from the depths.”

“And you plan to do this how? I remember the myth of the King of the Abyss, the he could only be released by the splitting of the island that formed on top of him.” Gaspah hissed. “I can think of only one person who could do such a thing and she doesn’t work for anything less then a king’s ransom.”

“You speak of the Scarab.” Sholeh stated. “True she demands a high fee but there is another way to win her services. I have already taken steps to ensure her loyalty; all we need to do is be on site when Phorcys awakens from his slumber.


Insula ex Fumma, Mediterranean Sea

Raven stood stock still under the makeshift jetty as the two soldiers walked towards the massive Zubr Hovercraft that took up a large portion of the bay. All the personnel she had seen wore the same rag-tag uniform of loose fitting armoured plates over grey combat trousers, light weight Kevlar tops and a helmet with a golden scarab emblazoned on the side. Silently she went over Xandra’s briefing on what she would find on the ‘Island of Smoke’. The small spit of rock, at just over twelve miles wide had been taken over by a mercenary engineer known as the Scarab a few days ago. Born Zara Hussein, the Scarab had immigrated to England when she was just a child and trained alongside the Royal Engineers before going mercenary alongside a selection of loyal followers.

As bad as the army guarding her was, what the Scarab planned to release was worse. Raven had seen pictures of Phorcys and by all accounts he would be a potent threat if unleashed, one that rivalled the power of Kali flowing through her body, one that if left unchecked may even be greater then her guardian goddess. Phorcys had been ancient when Kali had been born, and while she and the other new gods had imprisoned most of the Elder Beings, it had been a long hard struggle. Now there was a plan to release Phorcys, one that Raven would stop even if it took her last breath. Silently she reached over the edge of the jetty, pulled herself up onto the decking, and slashed out at the soldiers backs, the blows killing them instantly.

Continuing up the path pounded into the rock Raven saw the main work station suspended on cables that ran across the island, a trail of steam emerging from the chasm already cut into the rock. Attached to the work station were four massive solar panels that fed energy to the solar cutter boring through the stone. The whole platform was crawling with guards and engineers but Raven knew from reports of her reputation, that the Scarab would be leading her men in the field, and not relaxing in some office. Silently Raven dropped into the chasm and edged along the side, thick drafts of steam enveloping her. Most would contribute it to volcanism but she knew it was really Phorcys taking his first breaths in over a millennium.

“Stop right there.” An accented voice ordered above her. Raven looked up to see a sleek woman dressed in thick protective work-clothes standing above her, armed with a long handled spade and a quiver of thick metal spears. “You can’t go near the Solar Cutter while it’s activated.” She added turning away from the chasm. “You may hold all the cards but I won’t risk the safety of my men, not because you refuse to follow proper safety protocol.”

“Your protocol is flawed Ms Hussein,” The familiar voice of Gaspah Kaviani replied. “As we speak the families of you and your workers are undergoing a metamorphosis. We are taking particular interest in your daughter; children are such interesting subjects when infused with demonic energies. Unlike adults their entire body changes, right now she’s pleasuring a business man back home with her new lease of life.”

“You’re a monster.” Hussein hissed. “I had come to terms with my daughter’s disease until your sister gave me hope, but it was a false hope. I would rather see my beloved Allison dead, then a filthy creature shaped by Lucifer himself.”

“Lucifer? Lucifer!!” Gaspah cackled. “A new god that was consumed by shadow, what I serve is the reason he fell from grace. And what we unleash today is older and darker still. Now tell me how long will it be before the cutting is complete?”

“Two days, the Solar Cutter is a delicate and unique piece of machinery. If we push it to hard it will break, and then we’ll have to resort to hand tools, something that will extend the demolition to an entire life time.”

“Funny you mentioned pushing hard.” Gaspah hissed. “I imagine that’s what your daughter is doing now. Finish the job by nightfall or I’ll tell Sholeh to make the change permanent.” He added before walking away towards the nearest ladder up to the platform. With a sigh Hussein slammed her spade into the ground, the force sending shockwaves spiralling out across the island. With a gasp Raven began to slip before pulling herself up straight next to where the Scarab stood.

“Who are you meant to be?” Hussein asked as she eyed Raven’s kukri and moved her spade into a defensive position.

“I’m here to stop this operation.” Raven answered. “Surrender or be destroyed alongside your equipment.” She added as several red targeting lasers danced over her head.

“Put down your weapons.” Hussein called to the guards, her words followed by the clack of dropped rifles.

“That was sensible of…whoa.” Raven begun to say, only for Hussein to lash out with her spade, the blade whizzing over her targets head as she ducked at the last moment.

“I can’t let you interfere.” Hussein spat as she swung the spade down again, only for Raven to slash through the shaft with her kukri.

“You’d sacrifice the entire planet for one person?” Raven snarled as she followed up her cut with a kick, only for Hussein to block it and pull out a spike from her quiver. “How can you be so selfish?” She asked as Hussein slammed the spike towards her, only for the weapon to miss and strike the ground, the rock vaporising as it made contact.

“Allison is everything to me.” Hussein spat as she drew another spear to block Raven’s counter attack. “I would die to save her!!” She screamed as she parried the blow, only for her lithe opponent to slip under her guard and slash the strap holding the quiver. Standing up insider her guard Raven delivered a vicious head butt to the Scarab, stunning her for a second, just long enough to throw the spike away and knock Hussein to the ground.

“You are not my enemy and I will not continue this fight.” Raven told Hussein as she picked up the spike and twirled it in her hand, before turning to face the platform, the guards looking on in horror. Seconds later they were swarming towards the exits like vermin fleeing a sinking ship, as they realised what Raven was going to do. As the last one leapt clear she threw the spear, the tip embedding above the Solar Cutter before detonating, the entire structure vaporising in an amber flash and a rain of molten steel.

“You b***h!!” Hussein screamed as she got to her feet, a pair of carpenters hammers in her hands, “You heartless b***h!!” She snarled before banging the hammers together, a shockwave radiating out from the tools and throwing Raven into the chasm. “I am the vessel of Path, forge god of Egypt and I will have vengeance on you and the Kaviani Demons. Go tell Xandra that I am coming for her as well!!”


Agent of Kali Safehouse, Czech Republic

“Zara Hussein.” Raven stated as Xandra’s face swam into view on the flat screen computer monitor. “You didn’t mention that she was like me.”

“She isn’t.” Xandra answered. “She serves the God of Technology Path. Or did before she became a servant to greed.”

“She’s still the avatar of a New God!” Raven yelled her hands clutched around her kukri. “Can I expect to run into Thor or Athena on another mission, will they be working for the enemy as well?”

“No only the most vain of gods put power into mortal flesh.” Xandra explained. “Kali focused on her need to slay evil, but as a god she couldn’t act on her own, so transferred power to a mortal to quench her addiction. Path was obsessed with steel, but when the gods transcended he could no longer feel the bite of iron and the smell of the forge, so he created a vessel to siphon those feelings to him.”

“So we’re bongs or cigarettes then?” Raven stated. “Way to make a woman feel good about herself.”

“You misunderstand.” Xandra stated. “You were created out of vanity, but maintained out of a sense of honour and duty. Whatever your origin was it’s nothing compared to the good you will do and the lives you will save. Raven Diablo the fate of the world rests with you and you alone.”


Raven Diablo: Agent of Kali

Sorrow of Happiness

“Raven pleas come here.”

Xandra was sitting on her turning chair sipping on her green tea in front of her desk.

Raven walked towards her holding her sword.

“Yes Xandra? Any demons?”

The elder woman looked worried.

“No even worst! I know your degree in demonologies is phenomenal but there is one thing you did not learn about, since I thought it would never happen.”

The demon hunter rubbed her neck.

“What do you mean?”

“Mmmh well I am talking about the union of an Angel and a Demon, an Asura! They are created when an Angel and a Demon agree to share their powers and host it to an unborn baby. That child must have been made when the mother felt negative emotions and positive emotions at the same time. Asuras are really powerful that even the Zavada brothers could not kill them!”

Raven looked quite surprised

“And what am I supposed to do against something like that?”

“Well Raven we located the pregnant woman and you have to go and kill her before she gives birth!”

“Are you sure?”

“It is the only way! Or we are doomed.”


She walked off.


Two hours later the agent was on the roof of a building in front of a dirty building far away from the shining party life of Las Vegas. She looked threw a window in the fifth floor, a young pregnant woman was curled in to a ball next to a dead body. She knew that a jump would take her directly in the room. Then she just did it, she was crashing threw the window protecting her face with her arms. The young woman didn’t seem to care a lot. But she looked up with glassy eyes petting the mans dead face, his eyes were missing.

“Who are you..? Are you coming for my baby..?

“Yes, how do you know about it?”

“Well I always knew that she would be special!”

Raven looked at the young woman, she was not older then eighteen or seventeen, with long fair hair, blue eyes wearing a dirty light blue dress.

“Who is this man?”

“What is your name?”

Raven was surprised by that question. Normally she would not answer this question but since the girl would die…

“Raven Diablo”

“Raven?! Like the bird?”

“Yes like the bird”

“It’s beautiful! I will call my baby Dove then to make a contrast with your name.”

The girl was smiling. Her smile was sincere but some thing made Raven sad about it.

“Eh… Thank you.”

“Call me Maria. And this” she pointed her stomach “Dove.”

She laughed out loud. Diablo was concerned about the girls mental state she felt pity.

“And who is this?” The agent pointed the dead body.

Maria’s cheerful voice turned down and sounded really serious.

“Oh… This is my uncle… “

“Why is he…dead?”

“Well a few years ago uncle Julian took me away from mommy and daddy… I was sad and angry but kind of happy since I love my uncle even tho he did strange games to me that I really hated. But since it made him happy I let him continue. He told me never to go out of here since outside are bad monsters! And one day when we were playing he told me that he wanted to make a baby, this game was really brutal and violent and uncle kept on hitting me… But it made him happy and me to since he gave me Dove.” She rubbed her big belly. “To day he came home he smelt a lot like beer, he started to say mean things and hit me... and Dove that made me cry and angry! Dove in my belly started to glow red and uncle’s eyes popped out… then he felt down. I’m really sad he is gone but at the same time I miss him…”

She started to cry. Raven kneeled down and told her.

“I am sorry Maria but I have to kill you.”

The young woman looked up at her with her sad eyes.


“Dove is dangerous. I am really sorry…”

“Dove?! Dove?! Dove is not dangerous! Stop saying silly stuff! Don’t say that! DON’T!!!”

Her belly started to glow red and blue her left eye turned blue the other one red. With some kind of magical choc she pushed Raven against the wall net to the broken window. The girl started to float slowly at her way.

The agent took out her gun pointing it at the girl’s stomach, she took a deep breath but Maria started to tremble and talking in a weird mixed language between English the angelic language and devilish language. The words in English she could catch were “Stop it! Dove no! And!”

Maria started to cry blood and she seemed to gain control of herself.

“Raven… Doves can fly right?...”

Before Raven could do anything Maria jumped out of the window.


Raven was standing next to the dead girl. A small tear was rolling down her cheek.

She turned the dead body around just to see her face but she realized that the dress at the downer part of her body was full with blood. She looked at her stomach; it was flat.

The baby was gone.

Raven got a call.

“So did you finish your mission?”

“I am sorry Xandra…”

She turned her device off and kneeled down to Maria and whispered in her ear.

“Yes Maria, Doves really can fly. Sadly.”

The End!


"Oh I'll kill her, I just need to know why?"

Sholeh Kaviani tossed her black hair over her shoulder as she looked at the dark skinned man who sat awkwardly in his chair. "Because I'm paying you to."

"Good enough for me lady," replied the dark skinned man with a variety of guns, knives and trinkets hanging from his belt. He jingled when he breathed.

"Can you kill her?" She muttered into her wine glass as she drunk the remnants.

"Lady, you've hired Boko!" He smiled broadly "I killed the werewolf of Devon. I impaled the vampire of Prague. I blinded the minotaur of Nicosia."


"It's what the client wanted." He chuckled "It had taken his grandfather's years ago, so a bit of recipricity."

"Reciprocity," corrected Sholeh as she raised an eyebrow over her hazel eye "Your target isn't a monster per se."

"Monster, zombie, human, angel, demon; don't matter to me." Boko pulled out a large machete and began cleaning his fingernails "You hit them hard enough, often enough, they die."

Sholeh was beginning to have her doubts. "Really? That is your strategy?"

"Do I tell you your job?" he said as he scrapped the black muck from his nails off the blade onto the table edge. "I got an enchanted machete from the Volcano Prince which can cut through solid stone like butter. Used it to circumcise a gnat once, long story don't ask. Besides she's one of them Agents of Kali."

"Yes, yes she is."

"Meaning I put a bunch of kids or women in harm's way and when she comes to rescue them, WHACK!" He slammed the machete down which split the table in two and embedded in the floor "Headless Raven."

Sholeh ran her tongue over her teeth, the plan was devilishly simple, ingenious almost. Slowly she got up from the mess Boko had created and handed over a black velvet pouch. "Inside is a quarter of the payment. The rest when you deliver her head."

Boko snatched up the pouch with glee and peered inside, giggling like a naughty schoolboy. Sholeh shook her head and snapped her fingers, activating the teleport glyph sending her back to her stronghold. Boko looked up to see he was alone in the empty restaurant and smiled.

"Xandra, what am I looking at?"

“Xandra, what am I looking at?” asked Raven.

Xandra’s eyes never left the screen, her brow furrowed deeply with concern. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were looking at your own handiwork, but you’ve never been to the area this happened in. Just look though. This woman was strangled with the yellow scarf you see around her neck, and sliced open with a khukuri.” She pointed to a small blade on the floor, at the bottom of the screen and added, “We know that was the weapon used because the killer lost his Karda in the struggle.” Xandra bit her lip briefly. “Raven, this could be a Gurkha.”

“No,” Raven answered. “Gurkhas would never be so sloppy. They’re stealthy like leopards, and agile like mountain goats.” Xandra looked at her strangely. “What? You’ve never read the Nepalese Khukuri House website? Point is, they’d have left with all their weapons. And besides, they don’t bother with strangulation.”

“Then who...”

“My impulse would be Thug, but this is something else,” said Raven. “This is someone trying to get my attention.”

“What? Why would you say that?” Xandra asked in surprise.

“The Thugee used scarves called ‘Rumal,’ which means roughly ‘yellow scarf.’ The real color was closer to cream or khaki, but I chose actual yellow because it stands out more. It doesn’t match anything the victim is wearing. So whoever left this yellow scarf around her neck was leaving a message for me. Who is this?” she asked, pointing at the picture.

“That’s Anita Child,” Raven’s friend answered. “She deals in human trafficking, but has never been caught until now. Her specialty is…was kids.”

Raven smiled. “So good riddance.”

“The world’s a better place,” agreed Xandra, “but there’s a problem. We were already in the process of tracking her down, because she was suspected to have two missing children with her. A girl and a boy- Wanda Auf and Willie Cumbach. When we found the body, the kids weren’t with her.”

Now this guy has my attention. He’s not going to enjoy it though.” Raven smiled diabolically.

“Yeah. I figured that’s what you’d say. You’re going to need some help though. Someone from outside.”

“Who?” asked Raven, and as if in answer, there was a small explosion at the end of the room and a thick puff of black smoke. Raven immediately unsheathed a knife and threw it across the room.

"I... am Miko the Magnificent."

“WHOA!” shouted a voice from the smoke. As it dissipated, there stood revealed an African-American man in a black trenchcoat and tophat, leaning a bit backwards, and still holding Raven’s knife where he caught it in midair. He looked at the women with a raised eyebrow and with slight exasperation in his voice said, “I come in peace.”

Xandra put a hand on Raven’s shoulder. “Raven, this…”

“Oh please,” interjected the man as he crossed the room. “Allow me to introduce myself.” Holding Raven’s knife by the tip and resting the hilt across his other wrist, he offered her knife back to her. Once she took it, he continued, “I am the cat in the hat. I am the technodelic jazz magician. I am the Shaman of the Vegas Vibe. I am…”

“…Completely full of yourself?” finished Raven.

The man drew his head back a bit and put his hand to his chest in mock umbrage. His thumb and forefinger stroked the silver skull hung around his neck, then he continued, “To quote the late great Nicol Williamson in Excalibur, I am ‘a dream to some…’” then he threw his hands in the air and declared, “‘…a nightmare to others!’” His voice reverberated through the room like thunder, taking even Raven by surprise. He then took a bow, swept the hat from his head to reveal a salt and pepper afro, and standing, added, “I…am Miko the Magnificent.” Nodding to Xandra, he said, “My close friends call me High Hat. You,” he said, looking pointedly at Raven, “can call me Mister Magnificent.”

Never going to happen,” countered Raven. “Nice trick though,” she conceded.

Trick?!” Miko gasped, the umbrage real this time. With pursed lips, he pulled the tophat back down over his hair, flicked an eye up and down Raven’s form, snapped the lapels of his coat sharply to settle it back onto his frame properly, and silently turned to the monitor with the picture of the dead abductor.

Over Miko’s shoulder, Xandra looked at Raven with wide eyes and shook her head slightly. Raven shrugged apologetically in return, then put her hands up in front of her, telling Xandra both to be calm and that she would behave. Xandra said, "Miko helped us with the Milwaukee Torso Killer awhile back." She then turned to the monitor and asked, “What can you tell us about this, High Hat?”

His voice all business now, Miko said, “I can tell you that nobody will mourn the departure of this blight on humanity.” Raven smiled at that. “But what’s festered up in her place might make them reconsider.”

Raven’s smile disappeared. “What do you mean,” she asked.

Miko’s eyes flicked to his peripheral for a second, but he didn’t turn to look at her. He answered, “You see that half circle just above the edge of the scarf? Xandra, did your people take any other pictures?”

“Yes,” she answered. Three pictures came up on the screen, revealing the full mark below the scarf. “But we haven’t made heads or tails of them yet.”

“Appropriate phrasing,” offered Miko as he touched the screen to enlarge one of the pictures, “because this…” he spread his fingers from the center of the mark, enlarging that portion of the picture, “is from a coin. Or more accurately, a medallion.” The picture showed the profile of a man, with words to either side, following the edges of the medallion, and a date at the bottom: 1757-1822.

“Medallion?” asked Xandra.

Continuing to stare at the picture, Miko answered, “Yes, the Canova Medallion.”

The Canova Medallion?” asked Raven.

Miko looked at her this time. “What do you know of it?”

“The Thuggee were rumored to be worshippers of Kali, so I’ve done some reading,” she offered. Miko nodded slightly and waved a hand towards the screen, telling Raven to continue. As she did, he brought up other pictures on the screen, showing what she was telling.

"The Thuggee were killers, and perhaps the earliest version of 'organized crime.' ..."
"The captured Thug Behram was one of the most notorious..."

Raven continued, “The Thuggee were killers, and perhaps the earliest version of ‘organized crime.’ A group would disperse along trade routes, sometimes for hundreds of miles, and join bands of travellers a little at a time, until they outnumbered their victims. Once they reached a spot along the route of their own choosing, they’d kill their victims, often by strangulation, hide the bodies, and plunder the spoils. The captured Thug Behram was one of the most notorious, claiming to have been present at nine hundred thirty-one killings. He was quite proficient with his Rumal. He could throw it so that a medallion sewn in its lining would land over the victim’s adams apple, making it easier to strangle them. That medallion was the Canova Medallion. It had the face of the artist – Antonio Canova – on one side, and an image of his statue, The Three Graces, on the other.” She looked at the image on the screen. “This is the side with Canova’s image. Someone wanted us to be sure this was from the Canova Medallion. But is it the original or a copy?”

"The real Canova Medallion is in the collection of a private museum..."

The magician answered, “It’s impossible to tell, but you’re right. This mark was burned into the flesh. So someone heated the medallion and branded the victim with it. That had to be done after she was killed. So he moved the scarf, branded her, and then put the scarf back in place. Someone wants to point you in a specific direction, but where?”

“I think I have the answer to that,” cut in Xandra. She was working the screen at an adjoining station, and as she tapped keys and images, she said, “The real Canova Medallion is in the collection of a private museum, bought from the family of Thug Behram.”

“So this is a copy then,” concluded Raven. “It could have come from anywhere then.”

“Maybe not,” countered Xandra. “The real medallion has done some travelling, and is currently in a touring exhibit of famous serial killers.”

“And that exhibit is here, in Vegas,” guessed Raven.

"Why is it always Simon Janus?"

“Bingo,” said Xandra, “and no bets on where,” she said as she tapped the screen again. Miko and Raven joined her at the console.

Raven shook her head, “Damn. Sanctum Tartarus. Why is it always Simon Janus?” she complained.

“It might be more than that,” answered Miko.

“More?” Raven looked puzzled.

“I’ll meet you at the exhibit. You take my hat,” he said as he tossed the tophat on her head. He disappeared in another black puff of smoke, and his voice echoed through the room, “Enjoy the ride.”

“Ride?” asked Raven, and then she felt the hat shift on her head. She raised her eyes towards the brim, and before she could say anything else, the hat got wider and bigger, and fell over her head, resting on her shoulders. She grabbed the rim, but it got wider and bigger again, causing her to lose her grip, and it fell to her waist. It shifted once again, got wider and bigger, and fell to the floor.

Xandra hollered, “Raven!” Her eyes got bigger as the hat shrunk down to normal size, then seemed to fold in on itself and disappear. “Raven!” shouted Xandra.

Inside the hat, Raven tumbled over backwards into a dimension of strange images and sounds. Lights flashed, music played, and she felt herself slipping, no longer knowing which direction was which, which way she fell, or if she was even falling at all. A shadow that might have been a man passed close by to her, and she heard a whisper. “Still think it’s just a ‘trick?’

She was about to scream when a bright light shined through a seeming tear in reality itself, and she landed in a sprawl on the exhibit floor. She took a second to catch her breath, braced her hands on the floor as much to make sure it was real as to push herself up, and then saw a pair of black boots in front of her face. She followed the boots upward to the black jacket, and all the way up to the face of the magician. He reached down with one hand to claim his hat from her head, then offered his other hand to Raven, which she took, and helped her up.

"You can call me High Hat."

They looked at each other for several moments, before Raven said, “M-Mister Magnificent.”

Miko nodded appreciatively at her, leaned towards her and said, “You can call me High Hat,” before placing the tophat back on his head.

Raven gave an appreciative nod back. “Raven, then. You said something about this being more than Simon Janus?”

“Yes. It’s the owner of the Medallion- the one who normally holds it in a private museum. His name is Ali Indigo.”

“Why does that sound familiar?” asked Raven.

“Probably from your reading,” offered Miko. “The British used the son of Behram to pressure him into becoming a King’s Approver against the Thuggee. The son’s name was Ali, and the East India Company ‘gifted’ him the position of running an Indigo factory, hoping they could pressure him into disclosing the locations of his father’s hidden hordes of plundered treasures.”

“So you think that Ali Indigo has something to do with… High Hat!” Raven was interrupted by a yellow scarf being slung around the magician’s neck. Miko barely had time to throw one hand up in front of the Medallion sewn inside, keeping it from putting the full pressure on his throat.

"Thug Behram, at your service!"

From behind him, he heard, “Thug Behram, at your service!” The killer pulled tighter on the Rumal, determined to strangle Miko. Raven unsheathed her kukhuri, but Behram warned, “Don’t try it, girl! I will kill him!”

Raven backed off, but Miko reached backwards suddenly and poked his attacker in the eye. The thug screamed and grabbed for his eye, enabling High Hat to get free. The magician immediately ducked, grabbed the edge of his jacket, and swooped it in an arc towards Behram, like a cape. The killer was swallowed completely by the coat just before it dropped back into place. Miko looked pissed. He seemed to stare into nothing as he pulled the scarf from his neck and shoved it in his pocket. Then he spun, flaring the jacket again, and as the coat snapped forward, Behram was ejected from its folds and thrown across the room into a display.

Raven Diablo looked at the magician fearfully. The things she could learn from this man. She then crossed the distance between her and the killer swiftly, putting her kukhuri to his neck and demanding, “Who are you? And don’t say ‘Behram,’ because that’s not possible! You would be…”

"Sholeh Kaviani sends her regards."

“Almost two hundred fifty years old,” answered the Thug. Raven looked shocked. “Yes, it’s true. If you can’t believe who I say I am though, you may simply call me Phansigar. I took a vow of silence when British justice betrayed me, but not before I made a deal with a devil I knew from Persia.” His eyes narrowed cruelly as he looked into Raven’s eyes. “Sholeh Kaviani sends her regards.”

Raven wasn’t expecting to hear that name, but she was startled enough that she jerked backwards from the Thug a few steps. He did not miss the opportunity. Although he had been resting on his elbows, from his fallen position, his powerful arms pushed off of the ground, and he lunged forward, a kick to Raven’s gut sending her sprawling backwards. Jumping to his feet, he laughed. “She was right! This is a thrill!”

High Hat took a step towards the killer, but stopped when he saw what the killer took from his pocket. It was his Rumal. It was Miko’s turn to be startled. How had he gotten that from his pocket, while he was in the coat?

“Don’t look so bewildered, mage! I told you I made a deal with a devil! And she has powerful magicks of her own! Besides, I am Thug! As much thief as murderer! Pickpocketing is easy for one such as I- even from one such as you. Bah-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!” With that, he unfurled his Rumal, spun it around his head and let it fall around him. As it did so, he disappeared completely, just in time to avoid Raven’s khukuri, which embedded in the display case behind where he had been standing. Only the echo of his laughter remained, and the fading words of a warning. “You will hear from Phansigar again, Raven Diablo!”

Raven looked at the pile of debris that was the ruined display case, and exhaled sharply. “This…is not good,” she said finally.

The End...for now

“You’re telling me,” said High Hat. “I hope he didn’t get anything else from my pockets!” Raven looked at him quizzically. Miko just said, “That…would not be good. Tell Xandra I’ll be in touch.”

“Wait!” called Raven, but Miko had already flared his jacket, spun, and disappeared in a cloud of black smoke.

A voice echoed, “It was good meeting you, Raven,” and then faded from the room.

Raven smiled at nothing, but answered, “You too, High Hat.” She took one more look around, and headed for the exit. She needed to go see Sholeh Kaviani about two children.

Voting Rules:
  • Please read the entries and vote for the story/villain you liked best.
  • One vote per voter.
  • No voting for yourself (it just isn't sporting, chaps).
  • Once again, the entries are kind of long, and last time, we had some procrastinators on the vote that missed or nearly missed the deadline. I also want to try to get Miko himself involved in commenting on the entries, and he's hard to pin down via e-mail. So I'm giving two weeks for this vote. Deadline is May 15th, 11:59pm GMT (so 7:59pm EST for my own reminder).

Thanks for showing my friend's characters some love folks! -cb

Picture/Character Credits:
There are multiple uses of images from the Raven Diablo and Miko Montgomery websites, both here and in the CCC #25 Contest Thread. Those are copyright and owned by Miko Montgomery, and were only used here to add a little pizzazz to the contest entries. Ditto for any characters used from those sites. -cb

Character Creation Contest #25: Villain for Raven Diablo: Agent of Kali

I know what you're thinking: "Cbishop! Who the hell is Raven Diablo?" Well, she sure ain't Batman!

<<<This is Miko Montgomery. So's this >>>

He's a lover of movies, magic, music, and the inventor of technodelic jazz! (With the CD to prove it!) He's also a friend, and the creator of our modern wuxia warrior- Raven Diablo: Agent of Kali...

...Convicted for running over a kidnapper...and then backing up and doing it again...a sympathetic judge sends Raven to a very special "nursing home" in the desert outside of Las Vegas, where she serves the residents, and learns from them as well. She's schooled in everything a good hero needs, and what emerges on the other side of her sentence is this:

Raven Diablo: Agent of Kali

Look, this beeotch is so bad, she even has her own theme music!

This is the 25th contest folks, and I wanted it to be special. It seems like everyone has been itching to write a bad@ss villain the last few contests, so that's what this contest is about- creating a villain for Raven Diablo.

I realize you probably don't know the character, but for this contest, that's okay (after the contest is a whole other story though! Buy Miko's book, dangit! ...Or the e-book- he's not picky). Here's some links to, where you can find out the minimum on the characters:

Like I said, I wanted this contest to be special. For me, it is. I've been telling Miko that Raven Diablo is full of potential. What I'm asking you to do is find some of that potential. Don't worry about what the characters are like in the books. Just read the information and run with it.


  • Of course, Raven Diablo has to be in the story.
  • You have to create an OC villain for Raven Diablo.
  • It's not required that you use the other characters shown on the website, but supporting cast is always a plus.
  • No word limit.
  • It is currently April 17th at 11:44am GMT. Deadline is two weeks (and a little): May 1st, 11:59pm GMT [yes, PM] (so 7:59pm EST, for my own reference).

Miko Montgomery is a friend of mine, y'all, and seeing his dream get published has been the inspiration that keeps me pushing towards my own dreams. Help me give a little back to the man, and show his characters some love. (It won't be exactly what you created, Miko, so don't freak out.)

Okay, I'm off to tell Miko about the contest. ;) -cb

Symbol of Kali


CCC #24 Voting Thread

That was the theme, and these were the rules:

  • The Gunfighter!
  • The Villain!
  • It has to be Weird West!
  • It has to be ALL ORIGINAL!

Without further ado, here are the entries, in order posted to the contest:


Santo Barker

“I’ve been to Hollow Mountain, Tiny Town, Tombstone and Gallowwalker County,” declared the man at the bar loudly “And I aint never seen a town full of pitiful drunken inbred scum than you lot!”

The piano player in the corner abruptly stopped and the Trigun Taverna went quiet. All eyes turned to the man with long black hair in his brown coat who smoked at the bar. He looked around for any credible threat but there was none. He puckered his lips and spat a glob of saliva onto the floor.

“That’s what I thought.” He spun and slapped a hand on the bar “Bar keep!”

The pudgy man with the bow tie and the chequered rag glided down the bar like he was on wheels, which he was being a cyborg from the waist down. “Yessir?”


The bartender pulled up a bottle, spun it for effect and placed it down in front of him “How many glasses?”

The man sneered “You think I’m gonna share that?” He threw a handful of gold bitcoins onto the bar as he snatched up the bottle yanking the cork out with his teeth spitting it with great accuracy onto a table where they were playing cards before he’d started flapping his gums.

“Deal me in!”

Slowly the tavern resumed normal noise and the piano player cranked out a lively tune.

“It’s five card sabbac,” said the dealer as he shuffled the seventy-six cards between his cybernetic fingers at blinding speed. “Closes…”

“I know how to play you varmint!” he snarled as he threw into the pot in the middle and took a swig from his bottle.

“My name is Br…” The gun was out of the holster and jammed into the players mouth at light speed

“Didn’t ask!” Smiled the man looking deep into the player on his lefts eyes “Don’t care neither! Only words I want to hear from any of you nerf herders is call, shift, draw, fold or sabbac. Y’hear?”

The player whimpered yes with a mouthful of cold steel and the other five players grunted in agreement. The dealer flicked out the cards and the game began.


Joe Manco-Blondie got off his horse at the edge of town. It was just what he did, as he’d been told by Sister Sara at the orphanage where he grew up, a man walks into town. Now parts of him weren’t quite human anymore, and he’d done things that would take something demonic to think them up but he always walked into town.

“Come on Coogan.” He tugged the reins and led his pale horse, the corpses of six headless cannibals slung over its back. Wasn’t a good day but the bounty should pay for a few drinks at Trigun.

The sound of glass breaking followed by gunfire as a man flew out of the Taverna window, followed by another man firing shot after shot into him, finally bringing down the jetpacking fugitive.

“CALL ME A CHEAT WILL YA!” Several more rounds went into the man.

Joe shook his head as he approached the scene.

“What you looking at?” snarled the man.

Joe stopped. “Are you talking to me?”

“Nobody else out here, ya damn fool!”

Joe looked at the man noting his choice of weapon; a DL-44 heavy blaster. “Son…calling me names will only get yourself killed.”

“I aint your son!” growled the man as he moved towards Joe “I got a prick of a father already!”

Joe’s hand shot up and smashed the man’s nose across his face. He quickly grabbed the weapon hand as he kicked the feet out from under him. In an eye blink the man was looking up at his own weapon.

“Name!” said Joe as he cocked the blaster.

“Richard.” Panted the man “Richard Lansdale”

Joe lowered the blaster “You’re Joe Lansdale’s son?”

The man smiled “Yup. You wait til I tell my father about this.”


“He might be waiting awhile.” Joe tossed the pistol onto the corpse of Richard, a large bore hole through his forehead leaking blood and brains into the dirt and manure. Joe tugged on Coogan’s reins and headed towards the sheriff’s office.


Joe Manco-Blondie looked at the sheriff in disbelief “Three hundred?”

“Word came in from Sirius that the price on cannibals is now fifty bits, effective as of yesterday,” said Sheriff Gladewater as he rocked in his pleather rocker, feet on the desk. “Sorry Joe.”

Joe shook his head “Hardly worth the effort.”

“But still a great service,” said Gladewater as he tossed a sack to Joe “Now I heard some shots and terse words in the street…”

“Lansdale’s boy mouthed off at me,” replied Joe weight the sack in his hand “Put him in his rightful place?”

Sheriff Gladewater nearly fell out of his chair “You didn’t?!?”

Joe nodded “Warned him, but you know the Lansdale’s.”


“Then he’ll have somewhere to bury his kid.” Joe tipped his hat and left.


“Richard done got himself killed”

“WHAT?” roared Joe Lansdale with a mouthful of spaghetti as he sat with his gang of brigands in the valley of Gwangi. He looked at the young cyber-apache who relayed the news. “Where?”

“Santo Barker”

Joe tossed his plate into the fire as he stood, his gang following suit. He wiped his mouth and then slapped it on the back of the young man who told him the news. “You’ve done well son. What is your name?”


“IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!” screamed Joe as he grabbed the boy with his hands and snapped his neck with a sickening crack. The cyber-apache lay convulsing on the ground, incapacitated but not dead. “I hate bad news.”

“What shall we do with him boss?” asked Guapo, Lansdale’s right hand hybrid lizardman.

“Maybe a stir fry,” suggested Lansdale.


“You can’t leave!” pleaded Sheriff Gladewater “You caused the mess, you clean it up!”

“It’s been three days,” said Joe as he walked towards the edge of town, Coogan in tow. “If Lansdale actually cared about…” Joe stopped as he saw a cloud on the horizon heading their way “Speak of the devil. Sheriff, best you make tracks.”


Joe Lansdale and his Sundowners rode into Santo Barker like a tornado. Guns blazing, yelling and screaming.


“You looking for me?”

Lansdale turned his horse to the voice to see Joe Manco-Blondie standing in the street, poncho flapping in the breeze.

“You killed my son.”

“Your son called me names, disrespected me. Warned him, like I’ll warn you; calling me names will get you killed.”

“Is that so?” remarked Lansdale “Sundowners! Kills this yellow bellied mother f...”


Lansdale’ head exploded. Joe blew the smoke off the end of the barrel. “Warned you. Now, I got no quarrel with any of you…yet.”

The shocked group of thieves and bandits didn’t know what to do. Guapo drew his gun “KILL HIM! KILL HIM DEAD!”

Bullets and lasers erupted at Joe who calmly stood there. After a solid minute of certain death they stopped firing. Joe looked at all of them, sneered and pulled his poncho aside.

“A McGrew force field generator!” gasped Guapo looking at the bulky contraption strapped to the gunfighter.

Joe nodded in acknowledgement and returned fire. Each shot was deadly. An eye exploding here, jugular puncture there. And when he rang out of bullets he drew his second pistol and fired left handed until that was empty too. The main street of Santo Barker resembled an abattoir. Joe surveyed the scene making sure they were all dead before holstering his guns. Sheriff Gladewater emerged from his hiding hole to survey the scene.

“I quit!” he plucked the badge off his shirt and thrust it towards Joe. Joe eyed the badge and pushed it back towards the nervous sheriff.

“I aint no lawman. I’m a gunfighter who don’t take to name calling is all.” And with that he unclipped the generator cords that led to Coogan who carried the force field battery and headed towards the Taverna.

“Sonofabitch!” muttered Gladewater kicking the dirt.


Gladewater looked up to see Joe pointing a gun right at him. The Sheriff gulped as a puddle appeared in the front of his white pants.

“Hope that wasn’t directed at me Sheriff.”

The end



Xeno wandered through the ranch with his trademark look of silent arrogance. It was a look he perfected long ago to go with his character. smug, confident, smart. Xeno.

His long black cloak billowed with every step he took giving the illusion that he was bigger than he really was. The red cross fastened around his neck could suggest many things, perhaps he was religious? Or perhaps the red signified that he opposed religion? The effect was just what Xeno wanted; yet more mystique to shroud around his person. No definite answer made him seem even more frightening.

He was recovering from the malicious adrenaline that had seconds ago surged through his body. He enjoyed the fleeting moments of elation, it reinforced the idea he could do anything. It kept his passion alive.

He felt no guilt in the fact that he was far too calm to say he had just killed twenty men, the type of calm only a self titled psychopath could be. Xeno had no illusions about his mental state in fact he welcomed the title of psycho it gave him a sense of horror and above all it made people afraid. Very afraid.

Xeno sniffed at the stench that lingered in the air. Contrary to popular belief he didn’t enjoy the smell of corpses in fact it repelled him like everyone else. He encouraged the rumors nevertheless, it wasn’t in his ethos to be viewed as normal. It never was, and it never will be.

The scene around him was another matter, he truly did enjoy that. The horror stricken looks on the faces of the redneck cowboys delighted Xeno like a small child at Christmas. He enjoyed the way the bodies were bent unnaturally out of shape and skewed around as if they had been mashed together and then hastily reassembled. He loved the way black blood slowly trickled of the bar and tables to form small puddles in the cracks of the floor panels. He found real beauty in the way the furniture was completely destroyed and dotted all over the room as if an invisible hand had swept it aside with a flick of its wrist. These were the sort of things Xeno enjoyed. Creating chaotic scenes was one of his favourite pastimes.

He’d been lingering on the scene of his massacre for at least fifteen minutes lost in the beauty of destruction when his train of thought was abruptly shattered by the saloon doors being rudely kicked open. Xeno’s face became a mask of fury, he hated being interrupted; especially by gunfighters. Xeno despised the idea of guns, they were in his eyes a very boring unimaginative way to kill a man. What Xeno lacked in morality he made up for in imagination.

“Get out of there now or I’ll shoot, you filthy charlatan!” Screamed the angry cowboy.

“My dear boy, where are your manners, if you aim to kill me, challenge me to a duel. to shoot me in the back would be a cowardly way to kill a charlatan. For surely a charlatan has no real powers and therefore you have nothing to fear?” Xeno spoke in his quiet British tone putting contempt into into every word.

“You’ll do as I ask you, come out with your hands up!” His stupid southern american accent had a slight quaver to it which led Xeno to believe the cowboy doubted whether he was really devoid of power.

“Ah you see I have no intention of going anywhere with you and I am fine with where my hands currently are. Your only alternative is to overpower me, and drag me to your petty sheriff I urge you try” Xeno crowed, injecting all the mocking he could muster into his voice.

"I'm not gonna drag you; you're gonna come willingly" stuttered the vagabond in a last ditch attempt at intimidation.

"My dear boy, I grow tired of this game; you know as well as I do that I am not going to come with you unless the ocean dries up. So why must we entertain the notion at all?" Xeno enjoyed toying with the simple folk. He liked to watch their outer exterior crumble like bread. It was like tearing down a boring work of art.

"Look...maybe I'm not gonna do anything, but if Cassidy comes down here you're dead meat, so I suggest you leave now!" Xeno was not afraid of any cowboy this attempt at scaring him failed dismally. The boy seemed to know it.

"Look here, the whole town is gonna blow you apart if you don't leave now" blurted out the scared youth.

"Oh you underestimate my abilities" smirked Xeno.

"What the hell is wrong with you! Do you seriously think you can win a hundred to one fight when we've got guns and you're unarmed?" The cowboy was not only frightened, he was now perplexed.

"Oh my dear boy" whispered Xeno "I'm anything but unarmed"


A blinding flash of light illuminated the saloon for a split second coupled with a deafening bang and the sound of the late cowboy's screams. Tables flew through the air to land twenty meters away with a crunch. And the saloon doors blew away to crash through the opposite buildings windows. The thatched roof tore away from the walls of the complex and toppled backwards into the beer garden. The walls caved inwards demolishing any evidence of a bar. The bear bottles smashed on the floor providing fuel for a fire that had sprung up on one of the corpses. The debris lit alight with the flame in seconds causing complete and utter destruction of the building.

Xeno stood in the heart of the fire enjoying the chaos he'd created. He did not feel the immense heat or cough from the thick black smoke. He just opened his arms wide and laughed as the flames roared around him. Xeno danced in the middle of his creation. He reveled in the feeling of immense power. And thanked the gods for letting him discover wormholes. Especially this one.


The Compass of Souls

1938 - Hunter’s Bluff, Nevada, USA

Laird Angelman. the lovable town drunk stumbled out of the Eastward Arrow Salon humming a tune and waving the half full bottle of whiskey around wildly. Not that anyone minded Laird wasn't dangerous, during the day he was known for being a dentist, amazingly a sober one at that too, and one of the friendliest men in town and perhaps the only one not to own a pistol. Reaching the scrub at the edge of the frontier town of Hunter’s Bluff he stopped and felt the wind begin to whip up as the sound of thunder filled the sky.

“Thar’s not a cloud a round in the sky.” He spluttered. Whilst drunk Laird was right and what he saw next would have made him swear of liquor for life if he’d been left with any after that night. Descending from the sky was what looked like a massive metal dragon, wind whipping around its immobile wings and light beaming from its burning eyes. Laird hadn’t read in the paper about Professor Heinrich Focke’s recent unveiling of his magnificent flying machine known as the helicopter and with the reputation of Hunter's Bluff such an assumption wasn't that far fetched. And he wouldn't find out either as a man descended out of the ‘dragon’s belly’ dressed in a leather jerkin reinforced by steel, trousers with a woven steel underlay and a broad razor edged metal hat. “You…came outta dragon?” Laird asked. “You a knight or something?”

“Don't be preposterous I am to be a god.” The man snorted as he waved for the helicopter to depart. “Are you a tracker?”

“Nah I'm a dentist.” Laird hiccupped. “You want Kara and Evan Carter, oh god you're Vo…” Before he could finish the man grabbed Laird by the throat and removed his pistol, an Apache Revolver equipped with a black blade, and slashed open the skin on Laird’s lower jaw down to the throat.

“Nothing personal it’s just my employer wants me to make haste. Something about a war coming and my work being mighty useful to his campaign.” The murder stated coldly as he removed the blade and whipped it before heading off to the other end of town.


Evan woke from his slumber as the sun rose over the hill only to find that he had once again been handcuffed to the bed. “Kara you have to stop doing this.” He groaned before looking over the edge of the bed to see a key inserted blade down into the floorboards. Moving as far as the cuffs would allow he leant over and grabbed the key in his mouth only to choke and spit it out. “Chili Powder on the key. You're getting devious.” He sighed before sitting back in the bed and banging his head on the backboard. For a few seconds there was nothing before a crash of a man falling out of bed sounded next door, the door creaking open a minute later as a bespectacled Mexican man wearing nothing but thick socks walked in his hands rubbing his head. “Hey Pedro do you mind.” Evan asked as he rattled the hand cuffs.

“You will learn one day. You’re wife needs to be caged or she'll run off with strange men in the night.” Pedro groaned as he went back into the other room and returned with an apron, hammer and chisel. Sitting on the bed he got to work and quickly removed the handcuffs shaking his head at every strike. “You know this counts as cheating as set out by the terms of your marriage.”

“Nah she said any resource in the house. By offering the town’s locksmith board you are in the house and perfectly viable to use.” Evan stated. “Besides I'm not a trained escapologist like she is.” He groaned as he pulled on a pair of buckskin trousers, vest and a wide brimmed sexton. “I’m the gunslinger. So tell me who did she run off with this time?”

“He came late at night while you slept. Had an accent, European I think.” Pedro replied. “She left a note in the one place you wouldn't look.”

“Right I know where that is.” Evan sighed before heading into the closet and removing a box. Inside was a skull with a pentacle carved into the cranium. Crossing himself Evan removed the bones and picked up a scrap of paper. “Why she had to keep my mother in law with us I don't know.”

“You know I can hear you? Grandmother Spider hears all the unclean things you do to my beautiful Karla” The skull chattered as Evan dropped the bones back in the box and kicked it into the closet. “Ever since that Necromancer came to town and cursed me she’s never shut up.” He added coyly. “Oh Karla no.”

“What’s wrong?” Pedro asked.

“She’s taking Baron Wolfric von Malus to the City of Stone.” Evan hissed. “You remember him.”

“Yeah I do.” Pedro snarled as the pair of them walked to the window and looked over at the rotten forest of gallows each supporting a decomposed body from the yard arms.


‘Stone City’ Anasi Ruins

The light was fading as Evan reached the ruins of the cliff dweller city. While majestic the place was cursed land and guarded by creatures known as Formers, Men and Women transformed by contagious living fluid into wretched creatures caught between life and death. Evan and Karla had been here before searching for the fabled sun dagger and had been partially transformed themselves. It was only the blade's healing powers that had offset the final mutations leaving both of them with a valid dislike for the place. Evan couldn't imagine what Malus had offered Karla to return but it was clear from the butchered remains of their horses that the Formers had been waiting for them. Crossing himself once again Evan walked up to the ruins and climbed the wooden ladder to the first stage of the city. Ducking inside the building he followed the smell of decomposing flesh into the heart of the cliff before emerging into one of the fabled treasure rooms, evident from the archaeological loot piled up into mounds, each one claimed by a Former before they turned. Tipping his hat in respect Evan crossed the room only to hear the sound of claws on stone and turned to see a mottled grey skinned figure limp towards him, its eyes glowing like fire as did the Anasi Curse of Unlife etched onto it’s arms and chest. Drawing his pistol Evan fired a shot into the Former’s skull, the bullet sending it thudding to the floor only to get to it’s feet again and spasm and twist into a hideous beast.

“Forgot about that ‘Death makes you Stronger’ Clause.” Evan spat as the Former’s fingers became hooked talons and its body grew a thin layer of armour plating over the face and arms. It’s metamorphosis finished the Former cocked his head and sprinted off deeper into the cave as if called by an unknown master. Cocking his head Evan followed and after what seemed like an age moving through a maze of tunnels and galleries, his repulsive guide emerged in a large room with a stone circle engraved on the floor. Arranged around the perimeter were eight second stage Formers, their bodies convulsing as beams of amber energy streamed into the centre of the circle and climbing up a golden arrow. “The Compass of Souls.” Evan whispered as he saw Malus drag a blonde woman dressed in nothing but a leather bra and thong into the middle and chained her to the arrow. “Karla!!” Evan yelled as he dropped down into the room.

“Evan?!” Karla answered, “Evan stop please.” She pleaded as Malus turned and drew his Apache pistol. “No blood can be spilled here.”

“The old legend. The Compass of Soul’s will change a man into a god when encircled by eight.” Evan hissed. “So Malus I know why your back? But why my wife?”

“Because Evan my old friend. I have learned so much from the Thule Society back in Germany about ‘the clean’.” Malus answered. “Only an Aryan, one whose genetics are pure can become benevolent. It is as my employer says; only the worthy can be free.”

“You're insane.” Karla hissed. “You are being led astray by the words of a madman!!”

“There was nothing to lead astray, the townspeople still remember the construction of Hangman’s Forest when you and Dead Alice tried to activate the Eye of the West.” Evan snarled. “How you sacrificed hundreds to bring about the dust-storm of the century and plunge America into famine. There are no allies here.” He added as the spire glowed and Karla’s body became wracked with golden energy. “Now release my wife."

“Your wife is no longer here.” Malus stated. “She is ascending, becoming the vanguard of my employer’s army. She is proof of concept that my employers dream is true.” He added as Karla was released from the arrow, no change apparent to her body. “What why hasn't it worked. What did you do?”

“Nothing.” Evan stated as Karla ran to where her pile of discarded clothing lay. “Nothing’s stopping me from pulling the trigger now Baron!” He spat before firing a shot at Malus only to see the bullet bounce off his chest-plate and strike one of the Formers standing sentinel around the edge.

“Too bad.” Malus stated. “Still the Thule Society has other projects in ‘the West’. Such as…” He stopped as all eight of the formers disintegrated save for their skulls, each one changing to gold with a compass etched into the cranium. “Of course, the points were the ones who supplied the energy.” The Baron gasped as he picked up the nearest skull. “They are the souls.” He added as he looked into the eye sockets at the golden spark that lay within. “Yes I feel stronger, this is where the power is!!” He yelled before seeing his own body wither away leaving his skull behind. “I am a God! I know everything, see everything; people will bow at my feet and worship me!!”

“One problem.” Karla yelled at the floating skull as she pulled on a pair of cotton trousers. “You have no feet.” Picking up her own gun she shot at Malus’s skull only to see it bounce off with no apparent effect,

“Idiot I can’t be slain!!” Malus roared before charging at Evan only for the skull to phase through him and shatter on the wall before reforming by the arrow. “What devilry is this?” He asked as Evan levelled his own pistol at the floating head.

“Not devilry, witchcraft. The golden council would be locked in here to guide the Anasi. According to the legend they couldn't leave this room for any reason and no normal weapon could kill them. And while they were capable of imagining evil they couldn't do any physical harm.” Evan explained as Karla buttoned up her blouse and slipped her own hat on. “Have fun being redundant.” He added.

“You'll pay gunslinger, the west will burn at the hands of Herr Hitler and his righteous armies!!” Malus bellowed causing Evan to turn around and fire a bullet into Malus’s head, the round exploding on impact and stabbing tiny amber darts of light into the bone.

“Sun Dagger shard bullet.” Evan stated as Malus burned to ash and the light of the compass arrow went out. “You had it coming.”


Mindlessly wandering through the eerily abandoned Western Town with a sombre expression decorating his worn features, the lone gunslinger was horribly drenched in a thick, oozy red puss which had been the gory remains of one of Snarly Martyrs alien-like cronies. Mr Martyrs being the world’s foremost intellectually gifted Gunslinger gone rogue, having somehow created beasts which resembled a human/gorilla type animal which spewed red puss once fired upon.

Anton, the towns devote sheriff had personally opted to tackling Mr Martyrs antics once and for all. “Howdy,” the fearless gunslinger exclaimed, tipping his dirty hat towards a stray dog which gloated past with a defeated expression, “You won’t try and kill me, will ya pal?” he smiled before bending over and stroking the dog’s fuzzy head, “Ah…” he sighed, gloomily looking into the distance as his dark green eyes portrayed sadness, regret, and a wistful longing for a drink.

“Why’d I chose to defend this sh!t ass town? Barely anybody lives here” looking around at the almost forsaken saloon with an annoyed face, knowing the population of this “town” hung somewhere around five.

“At least I killed a few of Snarly cronies…Huh?” gazing downwards to the dog, he shook his head, “You don’t even know what I’m saying do you?” a weary tut escaped his parched lips as his golden-brown revolver was removed from his dark holster, playing with the gun as he continued to amble through the streets.

“Uh?” the gunslinger chortled, turning around as the sound of a faint whistle was heard in the not too far distance, “Shit!” diving towards the side as a aimlessly fired bullet rocketed past his dusty figure, managing to return (and miss) a few shots as he clambered back onto his feet, “you made a mistake following me back,” he angrily glared towards the villain of his life, pointing his golden-brown revolver in the man’s direction.

“You won’t win” interjecting before his villain could speak any wicked words; the gunslinger fired three shots in quick repetition towards the chest. “Huh?” the gunslinger’s emerald eyes widened in shock, his opponent managing to tank the bullets and pace forward.

“Anton Anton Anton, the world’s heroic gunslinger, finally coming to rest here, in his hometown?” the devious villain quipped as he stepped forwards, clutching at the bullet holes in his chest, “I’m thee smartest man alive, do you really think bulllets…Will kill meee!?” a hysteric laugh escaped his lips as another three bullets pounded into his chest, “In this story, my friend, the hero won’t win” raising his own darkened revolver before firing a single bullet into Anton’s heroic face, the hero buckled forwards and crashed onto the ground as crimson blood poured from the open wound. “I’m sorry Anton, but you were fun…For a while” wickedly chuckling as he sauntered off, back to his personal abode.


Uranus Gulch Bar & Grill

The gunfighter eyeballed the villain over the hovertable, the two pints of squid lager bobbing gently up and down like on the tide. Neither said a word though it spoke volumes in body language. What was also apparent was that each thought the other was the villain.



The exchange was a gambit, a stratagem. The other creatures in the bar tried to be nonchalant but they rubbernecked to watch this.

A hand went below the table line, prompting an eyebrow and a similar hand gesture. The tension was palpable.


"Born ready?"

"We'll see."

Hands went for blasters, chairs flung away as the gunfighter and the villain, or the villain and the gunfighter, drew and began blasting. Sizzling blasts of plasma burnt the air. The squid lagers exploded in a shower of glass. There were screams and then, then there was silence. When the air cleared both lay dead. But oddly enough from blaster wounds to the side of their heads. The gunfighter on the right, the villain on the left. The bar patrons looked towards the bar as the bartender blew the ionised steam off his gun.

"Sign says no gunplay," he said as he poured himself a shot "Some folks don't read, nor listen."


The Legend of Johnny Smokers: The Beginning

The Appaloosa meandered slowly along the trail, its rider sitting straight in the saddle. He had his hat pulled low over his eyes to shade from the setting sun, and was slowly rolling a cigarette for the end of a long day. The last few nights, something had been tearing the cattle apart, eight or nine heads at a time. They’d heard wolves from that general direction, but the animals were gone by the time they got there, and the tracks they found were nothing they could explain.

His men had quit on him earlier in the week over bogus pay disputes, so each night he had moved the small herd closer and closer to the ranch. His wife’s brothers had been helping him out, but they went home just before sundown. Or they went, anyway. They were good men, but he had never really been sure of their ways.

He tamped the cigarette on the saddle horn a few times, then lit up and took a long drag. He held it for a moment, savoring the taste, then exhaled slowly. The smoke hung heavy with the lack of wind, hugging the curve of his face to the back of his head, then sinking along the line of his duster until it seemed to blend with the gray-and-white coat of his horse, seeping around the black, leopard-like spots like water around rocks. He reached down and rubbed the horse’s neck lightly. “Almost home, Graycloud.”

The horse tossed its head and snorted lightly. Then it stopped dead still and pricked its ears up. “What is it, boy?” The horse snorted again and pawed the ground uneasily. The rider said, “Ho, Graycloud, calm down.” He reached to pat the horse again, but then a scream rang out. Horse and rider both tensed, and the rider said, “Maria?” He heard the snarl of wolves and then another scream. “Maria!” he shouted, and Graycloud was running before he could get spurs into the horse’s sides.

The wind kicked up as they rode, and by the time they covered the short distance to the ranch, it was pushing a full blown dust storm ahead of them, making it hard to see the house from the road in. He could just make out the porch ahead of them, the silhouette of his wife struggling with someone much bigger than her, and…were there more? Was that a man walking towards the house, from across the field? Where were the children? He wasn’t sure, for the storm. Then Maria screamed again, and he didn’t have time to worry about it.

Graycloud charged the house, ran alongside the porch, and the rider leapt from the saddle, losing his hat and hooking Maria’s attacker around the neck, throwing both of them to the porch floor. The rider hit the porch on his back, taking the brunt of the fall, but the attacker snarled and rolled with the fall, rolling off the end of the porch. “Johnny!” Maria shouted, terror in her voice. Johnny looked up at his wife, then his eyes got wide, and he drew a pistol and fired just beyond her, catching an attacker in the shoulder at the other end of the porch, spinning it backwards, out into the dust storm.

“What the hell is that thing?” he shouted, drawing his other pistol. Maria didn’t have time to answer before another crashed through the roof of the porch, landing between them. It looked down on Johnny, who was still on his back, and all Johnny could do was stare. This creature stood like a man, but its body was covered in fur, its hands and feet ended in claws, it had the head of a wolf, and something hung from its neck that looked like Indian beadwork. It breathed heavily as it growled, and when it took a step towards Johnny, Maria screamed. The creature moved swiftly, swinging backwards without looking, knocking Maria away. She bounced off of the cabin wall and fell forward, landing hard on the porch, her long black hair falling over her face.

“Maria!” shouted Johnny, and he unloaded several shots into the gut of the creature, knocking it backwards until it stumbled over Maria and fell backwards off of the porch, one leg still propped on the porch. Johnny moved then, starting to scramble towards Maria, when something snarled and grabbed his ankle. He was startled, but he twisted quickly and put two bullets in the head of the wolf that had rolled off his end of the porch, knocking it into the obscurity of the dust storm again. He got to his feet, and took two steps before the front door exploded outwards, and he found himself just a few feet from another creature. It was snarling, fangs and fur dripping with blood, and then he saw something that chilled his blood. It was holding a leg… and an arm… and they weren’t from the same child. Johnny sobbed involuntarily, frozen in place by the horror of it.

He didn’t move when the wolf gripped the doorframe and began to crouch. His breath caught in his chest as he stared at the growling beast, the blood of his children running from its chin. They locked eyes for a long moment, until the beast’s ears laid back on its head. When it’s lips curled, Johnny snapped back to himself with a scream, and he shot the beast again and again, backing it into the house with each shot, until he was standing in the doorway, pulling the triggers on empty chambers, still screaming as much in anger as in horror. Once his breath ran out, his scream died down. Slowly, he lowered his guns, focusing only on the fallen wolf, because he was afraid to look into the cabin.

He trembled as he took a step backwards, back out onto the porch, and then another. He reached to his belt for a bullet, and began reloading. He had one reloaded and three in the chambers of the second gun when he heard a low growl. He looked to his left and saw the first wolf he had tackled, bleeding from the head, hoisting itself back up onto the porch. He heard two more growls from his right, and the two near Maria were climbing back up also, one holding its shoulder, the other holding it’s gut. They all wore the same beadwork around their necks. He snapped the half loaded barrel back into the pistol and pointed a gun in each direction. The wolves growled a little louder and suddenly a voice from the yard yelled, “NO!”

Johnny spun quickly, swinging his guns towards the voice as it said, “He’s mine.” The voice walked calmly through the dust storm, and took the form of a man as it got closer. An Indian actually, with long black hair, a duster, and a knife sheathed on his hip. He was smoking a cigarette, and he wore the same necklace as these creatures around him. The dust storm died abruptly. Just then, Johnny heard a growl at his back, and felt hot breath on his ear. The wolf from the cabin, still standing? He forgot the man in the yard as he turned slowly towards the creature, its teeth only inches from his face. He instinctively shuffled one foot to attempt to back away, and the beast lashed out, slamming a backhand into Johnny’s chest that sent him flying out into the yard. He landed on his back, his head at the stranger’s feet, looking up into his face. When he realized he had not let go of his guns, he pointed them up at the man.

The Indian did not look impressed. “Do you know why I carry this knife instead of a gun, stranger?”

‘Stranger?’ thought Johnny. They did all of this, and they don’t even know who I am? Johnny breathed hard and shook with rage. Through gritted teeth, he responded, “Deathwish?”

The man bent down so his face was inches from the barrels, smiled, and said, “To make it a fair challenge.” Johnny went to pull a trigger, but the Indian moved faster, snatching the guns from his hands and tossing them aside.

Then one of the wolves leapt from the porch. The Indian reacted instantly. He whipped a gleaming blade from its sheath, caught the wolf in the belly as it came down, and then slammed him into the ground. Straddling the creature, the Indian ripped the knife from his belly, held the bloody blade to the wolf’s throat and yelled, “I told you: he is mine!” He then slashed the wolf’s throat, tearing the necklace from its neck in the process. The wolf died instantly. The other wolves howled as the Indian wiped the blade in the beast’s fur. He stood, returned the blade to the sheath on his hip, turned towards the other wolves on the porch and roared, “HE’S MINE!” The wolves all stooped and whined, ears laid back on their heads as they backed up and tried to hide behind each other. The Indian’s eyes narrowed, and then he pointed at Maria and said, “But I don’t want her.”

The wolves perked back up at that, and Johnny screamed as they fell upon his wife and ripped her to pieces. The Indian watched the wolves impassively as Johnny rolled back-and-forth on the ground, sobbing for his wife. The Indian looked on the man with disgust as he lay face down in the dirt, crying over his woman. He strode over, grabbed Johnny by the hair and jerked his head upwards as he said, “Time to die, boy.”

Johnny came up with his guns in his hands, which he had rolled over on while the Indian wasn’t looking. “I don’t think so,” he raged, as he jammed a gun into the Indian’s face.

The Indian smiled. “Why? Because you have a gun? I’ve already shown you I can take it before you pull the trigger.”

Johnny backed away a step, gun still pointing at the Indian, and he said, “No, not because I have a gun. Because you want me for something.” He backed away out of arm’s reach, but still didn’t feel safe, despite the guns.

The Indian smiled like he could sense Johnny’s fear. “Yes I do,” he stated, as he took a step forward. “I want you for sport,” and then he turned into a wolf and advanced on Johnny who was now backing up rapidly. Johnny was in a full backwards run when the wolf leapt at him, and he was surprised when he heard a loud neigh and Graycloud slammed into the wolf at a full run.

The wolf snarled and slashed at the horse’s neck as he fell to the ground. Graycloud reared up and came down on the wolf with his front hooves, causing him to howl in pain. He reared up again, and Johnny shot the wolf a few times, which caused the horse to turn away. Johnny wondered why he hadn’t shot before, but wasted no time running to his horse and swinging into the saddle. “Go, Graycloud!” The Appaloosa chafed at the rein brushing the claw marks on its neck, but it took off at a run.

Behind them, Johnny heard, “You’re mine! You’rrre miiine! YOU’RE MIIINNNNEE!” and then he felt a hot pain in his left shoulder as the Indian’s knife found its mark, and he tumbled roughly from the saddle, digging the blade in further as he rolled.

The Indian wolf smiled, but before he could advance, an arrow pierced his leg, and he howled. More arrows zipped through the air and the other wolves howled too, as the arrows found back, shoulder, and heart. The one hit in the heart fell dead. More arrows hit the porch columns, the cabin, and the Indian wolf, now just an Indian again, took another in the arm. He snarled when he was hit, and it still sounded like a wolf. He looked at the two remaining wolves, and they all bolted for the woods on the far side of the field.

Johnny watched all of this from where he lay in the road as he faded to unconsciousness. Just before passing out, he saw more Indians advancing on him, and he felt no relief. Maria’s brothers, he thought, and then everything went black.


He woke with a start in the teepee, but a hand, old but firm, rested on his good shoulder before he could attempt to sit up. Johnny looked at the hand and followed the arm up to the face of its owner, the shaman Two Rivers- so called because his people say two rivers run through him: his own spirit, and the Great Spirit. Right or wrong, he was one of the wisest men Johnny knew. Right now though, he had a stony look of pain, calm, and angry contemplation that only Indians seem able to master. The old man pressed Johnny’s shoulder one more time, silently telling him to lie still, then said, “It has been many moons, Johnny Smokers.”

Johnny winced, then smiled lightly. His last name was Smuckers, but the old Indian had always said it “Smokers,” and Johnny loved the man’s daughter too much to insult him by correcting him. He could barely look at him now, sure that Maria’s brothers had told him how she died. Johnny expected death, and had no doubt that this man could deliver it. Eyes closed, he started carefully, “Two Rivers…I…”

“I told you that death would find my daughter Running Rivers if you took her as your wife, and here we are,” the shaman said simply, in a voice that rasped like dry leaves. “I gave her up to the Great Spirit when she accepted you as her husband anyway,” he continued. “My anger over her death was spent many winters ago. You need not fear for your life here, Johnny Smokers,” he said knowingly, “for how can I kill you when all that is left of Running Rivers now runs in you alone?” Pressing two fingers over Johnny’s heart, Two Rivers said, “Bound together by the Great Spirit, the river of her spirit now runs in you.”

Now it was Johnny’s turn to look pained. He squeezed his eyes shut tight, and placed his right hand over Two Rivers’. The old man did not flinch from his touch, and after a minute, Johnny said, “Thank you, Two Rivers.”

The old shaman smiled. “You are welcome, Johnny Smokers. Now rest. We shall talk more when you wake.”

“Tomorrow then,” replied Johnny.

“I did not say tomorrow,” answered Two Rivers. Johnny worried at that, but soon closed his eyes to sleep. He dreamed terrible dreams of wolves that stood like men, his wife screaming, and a river in which he found peace and safety, because the wolves could not cross it.


When Johnny woke, his shoulder felt better, but he was stiff as a board, and his mouth was dry. Two Rivers still sat beside him. The shaman held a small bowl of water to his lips, he drank, and once the pain from swallowing subsided, he asked, “How long was I sleeping?”

“The fever from your wound took you, and you slept a sleep like death for a moon.”

Johnny thought for a second, repeating, “A moon,” then started with shock as he said, “A month? I’ve been asleep for a month?” He tried to sit up, but Two Rivers put a hand to his shoulder, just as he had done a month ago, and he laid back.

“Yes, and while you slept, Coyote came looking for his knife,” answered Two Rivers. He held the gleaming blade up for Johnny to see and smiled. “We did not let him have it.”

Johnny studied the blad and asked, “Why does that and the arrows of Maria’s bro…” He caught Two Rivers’ scowl and corrected himself, “Running Rivers’ brothers killed a wolf man with arrows, but I emptied my guns into them, and they just got back up.”

Two Rivers turned the blade over in his palm, and holding it up again, he said, “Silver can kill them. I do not know why, but we found much of it in the cave at the foot of the mountain, and we use it to make our arrowheads, our knives, and to tip our javelins. We ran Coyote off with them, as we have done many times.” The shaman studied the knife for a moment before placing it on the ground before him. Johnny could tell that something else was coming, so he waited. Two Rivers rocked a bit, his hands raised palms up before him. He then clasped his hands together, shook them slightly, and plopped them in his lap as he looked to the sky through the top of the wigwam. The stone left his face as he searched for the right words, but finally just said, “Graycloud was a great help in fighting Coyote, this time.” For once, it was Two Rivers that didn’t meet Johnny’s gaze.

“My horse?” asked Johnny. “He saved me back at the cabin, but he was injured. How did he help you here?”

The shaman raised his eyebrows as he stared out the opening of the teepee, and he said, “Graycloud has much changed since he was a colt.”

Johnny had never seen Two Rivers be evasive before. It would have been funny, if it weren’t so frustrating. “Two Rivers! What happened to my horse?”

“You will see…in time,” answered the shaman. Then clearly changing the subject, he held up the broken necklace from the wolf man that was slain by Coyote. “Do you know what this is?”

“I was hoping someone could tell me,” Johnny answered honestly. “All of them wore one, including this Coyote.” He looked at it laid over Two Rivers’ hands, and noticed its crescent design in the middle, curving downwards with the curve of the beads.

“It is the eye of the wolf,” answered Two Rivers.

“It looks like the moon,” said Johnny.

“Are they not the same?” asked the shaman.

Johnny furrowed his brow, but answered, “Sure, I guess.” He was actually a little aggravated with the wise man bit at the moment, but he figured that was because he hadn’t eaten a decent meal in a month, so he tried not to let it show further. Realizing how hungry he was, he decided to change the subject himself, and he asked, “What’s the possibility of getting some grub?” Two Rivers smiled.


A couple of weeks later, Johnny was up and around, moving easily. He had been practicing at throwing Coyote’s knife, and was getting pretty good. He’d shown a remarkable talent for the javelin as well, but almost none for the bow and arrow, but that was probably because he was so much weaker than usual from having lain around for a month. Or maybe it just wasn’t his weapon.

He put the knife back in its sheath, and for the first time, it occurred to him to wonder where the sheath had come from. He hadn’t gotten a good look at it that night, but he was fairly certain this was the same one worn by the Indian wolf man. He looked at it closely. It did carry Coyote’s half moon mark. He strode purposefully to the center of the village, where Two Rivers sat on a log. A couple of braves had followed closely behind when they saw Johnny heading for the shaman with a knife, but they were waved off by Two Rivers. He pulled the knife from the sheath and jammed the blade into the dirt before him. Holding out the sheath, he demanded, “How did I get this, and where are my guns?

Two Rivers only glanced at the sheath, but nodded to the braves behind Johnny, one of whom ran off. The old man pulled one of Johnny’s pistols from under his blanket, and handed it to him butt first. The butt had a half moon carved in it. “We were not able to simply turn him away, while you slept. The knife was not ours to return, so we told him that he must return for it when you awaken. But Coyote is the trickster, so he does not trust easily. He asked for something in return, in case you did not wish to give it back. We gave him one of your guns.” Just then, the brave returned with Johnny’s gunbelt.

Johnny took it, looked it over briefly, and said, “And one of my holsters?”

“And he gave you the sheath for his knife,” answered Two Rivers, “in good faith. He is a trickster, but often fair in his dealings.”

FAIR?” shouted Johnny. “He took my family, Two Rivers!”

Two Rivers shook his head lightly. “You took his first.”

Johnny was stunned. He stared at the shaman in disbelief.

“Running Rivers was promised to Coyote by her grandfather, my father,” continued Two Rivers. He raised his eyebrows and shrugged, “What do you think Running Rivers was running from? All rivers run from something and to something else.” He fixed Johnny with a look, and said, “Coyote is often fair.”

Johnny hung his head low and whispered, “Of course. That’s why she was willing to change her name. She was hiding.” Johnny was silent for a minute, and the village waited for his silence to be over. Finally, he breathed deeply, jammed the pistol into its holster, and strapped on his gun. He picked up the knife, sheathed it, and placed it on his other hip.

“You will return that to Coyote?” asked Two Rivers.

“If he wants it, he can come and get it,” answered Johnny, and he turned to leave. A squaw met him with Graycloud, and he took the reins and began walking out of the village.

Two Rivers called after him, “Take heed, Johnny Smokers! You must return that blade to Coyote! But as long as you carry your guns, death and smoke will follow.”

Johnny turned back to the shaman and answered, “They can follow. They just need to stay out of my way.” Then he turned again to leave the village.

That's all of the entries! Here's the lowdown on the votin', ya varmints:

If you will, please read the entries, decide who best met the rules, and from those, vote for your favorite.

Some of these entries are particularly long (<ahem> mine), and I realize Western (even Weird Western) may not be everyone's favorite theme, so I'm giving ten days for the voting process. Voting closes at HIGH NOON GMT, aka 12pm GMT (so 8am EST, he says to himself).

Thanks for reading, and thanks for voting! -cb


Character Creation Contest #24

I've been telling myself that if I ever won one of these contests again, I was going to do vampires, because we haven't officially covered them yet, and I thought it would be cool to get it out of the way. But along came the last contest, wanting a P.I. Horror story, and the vampire I'd had in mind just happened to be a P.I., so it fit too perfectly for that request. So you don't get vampires this time. Instead, you get the...

^^^That's your main character^^^

And a gunfighter needs a foe, right? So...

^^^That's your badguy^^^

We can never play this straight though, right? Why should this be any exception? So...

^^^That's your theme^^^

Yeah, I could have given you much cooler pictures for something Weird West, but I didn't want to fixate anyone (me) on the picture given. If you're not sure what Weird West is, do a Google search and check out the wikipedia entry.

No word limit.

The only rules are:

  • The Gunfighter!
  • The Villain!
  • It has to be Weird West!
  • It has to be ALL ORIGINAL!

The time is currently 7:07am GMT, March 19th. The deadline is April 2nd (no April foolin'), 8am GMT.

If you need to check the GMT, do a Google search for "what is gmt now," and it'll pop right up.

I hope you folks like it, and I hope to see some cool stuff. See you in two weeks. -cb


Grandma's Birthday

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4903/03/14Grandma's Birthday(Blog) (Forum)Off-Topic(Back) (Next)
"88" by Ashley Mackenzie

Today is my grandma's birthday. Of course, it's the first one she's not around for, and yeah, I'm feeling a little knotted up about that. She would have been eighty-eight today.

On my grandmother's eighty-fifth birthday, she was living in an assisted living facility, and I went to visit her. I was trepidatious about it, because I already knew that my grandmother didn't really remember me. I had had several conversations with her over the phone where she had spoken to me in generalizations and stand-offish terms, obviously not really knowing who I was, but still being too polite to risk hurting my feelings by telling me so. I didn't really want to experience this with her face-to-face, because my grandmother was one of my favorite people on this planet.

One of the facility's coordinators took me to the area where she was sitting- a vinyl bench outside of the dining area. Another couple of ladies sat in nearby wing chairs. He had to tell her who I was, and she basically greeted me like a stranger, but at least commented that I was "a good lookin' fella" and didn't object to me sitting with her and talking. There were a few awkward minutes, during which one of the other ladies left, and then grandma told me a remarkably lucid story about her first days on her own in the city.

Inwardly, I was overjoyed that I might get to actually spend some time with my grandmother, and not the remarkably grandma-like shell that had been walking around without her memories and personality. But then grandma excused herself to go the restroom. Just after she disappeared around the curve of the hallway, the last remaining lady got up from her wing chair, and came over to sit next to me on the bench. She thanked me for visiting my grandmother, and then proceeded to tell me that grandma hadn't been doing so well- that every day, she told the same story about her early days in the city. I was completely crestfallen at this news. Apparently, I wasn't going to get to speak to the grandma that knew me after all.

When grandma returned to the sitting area, she was a bit distracted. She kept peering into the dining area, seemingly at the ceiling, and she seemed confused by what she was seeing. She'd lean to one side to get a better look, scowl a little, sit back up, and then repeat the process. She did this a few times before I asked her what she was looking at. She informed me she was counting the bulbs in the chandeliers, and something didn't seem quite right. She didn't tell me what that something was, but it distracted her for a few more minutes.

We talked a little more, but it was nothing of consequence. Mostly, she didn't have answers for anything I said to her. Finally, grasping for something she might respond to, I asked her how it felt to be eighty-five. I found myself very curious to hear her answer. If she'd been lost daily to the memories of her late teens or early twenties, then did she even know she was eighty-five? I mean, she used a walker to get to the restroom. Did that register with her, or was it something she did because her subconscious told her to? Was she completely lost to that time, thinking herself a healthy young woman? Or was she only remembering that time, but confused by the old woman she saw in the mirror, and perhaps wondering where the aches and pains of age had come from? I waited intently for her answer, but was to be disappointed again by a minor mumbling that gave no answer one way or the other.

I sat back for a second, took stock of the lack of communication, and smiled lightly, knowing this was going to be all that I got. My hands resting at my sides on the bench, I rolled one hand over, barely brushed against grandma with my thumb, and said, "Well, I'm glad you're here."

I was completely shocked when grandma sprang to life, drew back her fist and said, "Are we going to have a problem?"

I craned my neck back in shock. "'Problem?' What are you talking about? What's the matter?"

Her fist still cocked back, she threatened, "You keep your hands to yourself, or we're going to have a problem! You hear me? Now are we going to have a problem?"

I was dumbfounded. I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or scream, but I kind of wanted to do all three at the same time. I mean, imagine the gross absurdity- my own grandmother thought I was making a pass at her! I think I let out a couple of disbelieving gasps before I said, "No, there's no problem." I was seriously trying not to laugh at my grandmother with her fist cocked back, and I'm sure my tone was one of those that said, "Are you kidding me?" She was oblivious to it though. She did lower her fist once I answered her though.

The other lady, who was still sitting on the other side of me on the bench, and had been helping the conversation along, chided grandma for her behavior and told her she should be thankful that I visited her. That actually made me feel worse. This was the first time I had visited grandma since I had moved back to the state. It was just something I couldn't take seeing- the strongest woman I knew reduced by the ravages of dementia and old age. It was something that just tore at me.

"Red Lips" by Nika Akin

Shortly thereafter, I couldn't bear the awkwardness anymore and made my excuses to leave. Standing, I held my arms open to give grandma a hug, and dang if she didn't surprise me again. Smiling big, she grabbed me suddenly, hugging my neck, and then playfully kissing my neck four quick times before I knew what to do. It was somewhere between the way you'd play with a child, planting kisses on them as you tell them you're "stealing kisses," and the way a teenage girl might flirt with a guy. Either way, it was surprising and a little disturbing. There wasn't anything I could do but laugh awkwardly though, so I did, made my goodbyes, and departed.

Overall, the experience was painful. I wanted my grandmother to remember me and she didn't. As I stated in earlier blogs, I did eventually get that acknowledgment from her, shortly before she died, and I'll treasure that forever. It helped too that at the funeral, a lady from grandma's retiree group stopped and spoke to me and mom, and told me that grandma always talked about me, and "My, how she really loved [me]." I don't think I can ever adequately convey just how much I needed to hear that just then.

Before her passing though, her eighty-sixth and eighty-seventh birthdays came and went, and I couldn't bring myself to go visit her again. I suppose that's terrible, but it had just gotten to be too damned painful. And then we got to the end, where mom spent the last few months being there almost every day. I was torn up over those constant updates, a little more torn up with the pain it was causing mom, sometimes sorry for my aunt too, other times pissed with her, and a little aggravated that my mom kept asking me to visit grandma with her. Couldn't she see that it was tearing me up? Damn. ...<sigh> Probably not.

I eventually went to see her, and visited several times before the end. There's not much to that. She was beyond talking, and only eating sometimes. Those times were more times for me to sit with grandma, or maybe mom and my aunt, if they were there. Times to make peace with the fact that we were about to lose her. And of course for that final affirmation that yes, somewhere in there, grandma remembered her grandson.

...And then we had the funeral, and things degenerated into navigating the machinations of my aunt, which were pretty much detailed in Grandma's Sword, Grandma's Bible, and the rest of the Grandma's Legacy blogs. Now, here we are just over three months since the last blog entry about grandma, and things have kind of stagnated.

The cold weather kicked in, and that has kept anyone from going through the storage sheds with my grandma's stuff. So nothing else has been sold (that I know of) and neither have any of the things I've asked for turned up. My aunt is kind of holding that up too. Besides the fact that she's a hoarder and doesn't want to entrust the stuff to anyone she knows (selling it to strangers is okay, apparently) she seems to have some personal grievance against giving me the things that I have asked for...even though it was she that specifically asked me what I wanted. She has been so deceitful about it that I now consider her a liar and a thief, and I don't see that changing.

Part of that thievery is that she used the power of attorney to cut me out of the money grandma had set aside for me. Honestly, I wouldn't so much mind this, except that she acts as if she didn't do that. Because she was able to coax my grandmother (in her demented state) to say the things she needed her to say, and to sign what she needed her to sign, my aunt claims "It was what mama wanted." Well bull**** to that. My aunt found a legal way to be a thief and disregard her mother's wishes, and so she stole and disregarded. Hell is hot.

She didn't get all the money though- she split it with my mom. That's the reason I don't so much mind it- I honestly could have used the money, but my mom could use it more. My only problem with that is that what I'm seeing now that mom has the money, is that rather than save it to provide for her in case something happens to her, like she said she wanted to do, she's instead spending it. A new phone and laptop here, her own apartment (or maybe renting a house) there. Other things that concern me that are sort of enabled by the money, but I guess we'll see how that goes. Whatever the case, I've said and done all I can say and do, so at this point, if mom is moving, then whatever, I'm tired of fighting about it and worrying over it. She'll just have to move and those chips will land where they may. I will try to hold onto my apartment for the rest of the lease, and enjoy having it to myself again.

And then there's me. In the last three months since the previous Grandma's Legacy blog, I've just kind of coasted.

My aunt pissed me off over the sword and gun, I threatened to look into suing her (and mom) and have been too pissed to deal with her at all since then. I don't have the patience for liars, especially if they're lies affect me. By cutting me out of the money, my aunt has slowed my economic recovery, but like I said, that doesn't so much bother me. It is my firm belief that if the money is meant for me, she can't keep it from me. It will come to me- if not from her, then some other way. I believe this is true of anything, not just money.

"There's Always Money" by Julia Sonmi Heglund

Case in point: in the last month, I received an unexpected check from a class action lawsuit against the lender that foreclosed on my house. It's one of those lawsuits I had no idea I was part of until I got the notice saying my foreclosure met the criteria for the case and so was included, and if I wanted to...blahblahblah. I got a notice about two months ago I think, saying I had a payment coming, and I shrugged. I've gotten notices like that before, from class action suits against credit cards, saying I and 1.2 million other people were going to get $1.35, and I never saw it. I figured this was just another buck-and-change I'd never actually see. Well, it turned out to be $1,250. That's real nice.

On top of that, a new employee didn't work out, and my manager needed someone to work third shift for thirty days. She allowed me to do it, and that means a higher shift differential that equals an extra forty hours a month from the base pay. Would an extra week's paycheck in a month help anyone else out? It'll sure help me! And...and... there's a chance (I'm calling it a very, very slight chance) that I may get to keep the position permanently, which I'm not going to lie, I'd love. I'm not counting on it, but yes, I'm hoping.

That's just two things to happen in the last month. Who knows what else could happen? Could be nothing, could be everything, but it will always be what I need when I need it. God is good to me that way. ...But yeah, all that is just to convey why the money doesn't bother me so all, really. It's actually the lies. Those bother me a lot.

"Alone (snow)" by Cosmosnail A.B.

Back to coasting though. I haven't done much the last three months. I've sifted through my comics, and I've been trying to get them into storage and out of my apartment. It's just too many danged boxes (as you can see in my CV lists). The danged rain and snow keeps slowing me up- snow is piling up today, actually.

I've piddled with getting some old stories posted to Comic Vine. I've kind of halfheartedly gotten back into the Character Creation Contests (and the halfheartedness shows in the votes). I've been trying to get stuff straight. I need to pare the comic collection down to something that's not taking over my living room. I need to fix some tax issues stemming back to the foreclosure. I really, really have the urge to get my stuff down to something minimum-ish. I don't really want to become a minimalist, but I don't want all the crap I've got now lol. I'd really like to date again at some point, but honestly, not right now... maybe that's me still grieving, maybe it's depression, maybe it's just me getting comfortable with me.

Overall, I don't know, maybe I'm just waiting for winter to pass. Or maybe I'm waiting to see how things shake out at work. Or maybe I'm just waiting on an undefinable something to click into place. ...Or maybe I'm just a chronic procrastinator. lol It's open to judgment, I suppose.

I don't really know that I had a point to all of that. Maybe I was just taking stock. I certainly didn't expect grandma's birthday to touch me like this. I guess it's just something you don't really know how you're going to handle until it comes. So grandma's birthday made me a little sad, it made me miss her more, and it made me reflect even more than, um, sorry if this blog seems super long to anyone. Happy birthday, grandma. I love you.



Note: All of the pictures that aren't of grandma are from

Comic History: Rocky Balboa Was a G.I. Joe?!

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4802/20/14Comic History: Rocky Balboa Was a G.I. Joe?!(Blog) (Forum)Rocky Balboa(Back) (Next)

Who knows what was on Larry Hama's mind when he wrote Rocky Balboa (Code Name: Rocky) into the January, 1987 G.I. Joe Order of Battle #2? It had been a year since the November, 1985 release of Rocky IV (remember that comics are written and drawn about two to three months ahead of their release date), and about a year-and-a-half since the May, 1985 release of First Blood Part II. That's new enough that people were still buzzing about the movies, and they were probably out on VHS at that point, so maybe he was just obsessed with Stallone in those two movies.

I mean in one, Stallone is a Vietnam vet on a covert mission back to Vietnam, and in the other he's a boxer representing America in a fight against the Russian fighter Drago. After having Rocky IV pull at your patriotic strings, what could be more American than making Rocky a G.I. Joe? When you factor in First Blood Part II, and seeing Stallone as a soldier, it had to seem natural.

Whatever the case, outside of an intercompany crossover, Rocky as a Joe is about as close as we're ever likely to come to fan-fiction making it into a comic! I'd quote the text for you, but I'd rather just post the picture. Have a look:

"Yo Adrian?" Try "Yo Joe!"

How awesome is that?! Doesn't it make you just want to marathon the Rocky movies right now? I love it! However, someone got their knickers in a twist over this, and Marvel was forced to print a retraction in G.I. Joe Order of Battle #3. Just so they don't get all sweaty and hyperventilate about it, here's that too, from the last page:

Marvel actually ran this blurb right smack in the middle of an empty page, but I figured you probably wouldn't want to look at all of that empty yellow space.

I like G.I. Joe and Rocky, but I'm not a die-hard nut about them. Still, I think this is one of the coolest things in the history of comics. Much like the epic way Erik Larsen helped Steve Gerber "take back" Howard the Duck from Marvel, whether they acknowledge it or not, I still count it. So for one glorious month in 1987, Rocky Balboa was a G.I. Joe.

As always, thanks for stopping in, and thanks for reading. -cb


The Star Doesn't Die: Red Shirts vs. Generational Continuity

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4701/22/14The Star Doesn't Die: Red Shirts vs. Generational Continuity(Blog) (Forum)Star Trek(Back) (Next)
This blog was inspired by pondering RazzaTazz's excellent blog, Red People Red Shirts. Go read it now! -cb

"Red Shirt" is just a more common reference for "the star doesn't die." If the star dies, you lose your show (or book). Unless you make it a generational tale, like Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon, where there's a character that can fill the lead role when the current lead is dead or retired.

So if you're going to show that the situation is serious and life threatening, you have to take some incidental characters along that you can sacrifice for the story. The idea is to build the illusion that the star could die, without actually killing your star.

The problem with Star Trek is that they never made you feel like the stars were really in danger. They were always going to get out. The Red Shirt became a recognizable pattern as victim, and what that allowed was for the crew to react to the danger, and yell, "Beam us up!"

Next Generation tried to amp up the feel of danger by constantly having something that interfered with their (supposedly more technologically advanced) transporters, so that they were constantly having to set up devices that would boost the strength of the transporter signal.

With Deep Space Nine, the idea of the (mostly) stationary space station somehow clued the writers into something they didn't utilize that much with the ships- the concept of a rotating cast. Yes, we can kill one of the stars, because she's a Trill. We can kill off the host, but transfer the Trill to another host that will gain all of her memories, even though he's a man. We can kill off or demote the Bajoran liaison to the station, because the planet will send us another. And while this strengthened the illusion of danger for the stars, they still weren't going to do any permanent damage to the captain, the doctor, the chief engineer, or Quark and Odo.

I think Voyager did the best job, because they gave themselves the least to work with. They were trapped in a quadrant so far out that it was going to take them seventy-five years to return to Federation space. So whatever humans are aboard now would probably not live to see the Federation again, unless they found something to return them home sooner. There were no Federation allies here, everything was an unknown, and many of them were more powerful and had reinforcements. The core of the crew still remained intact, but I think there was at least one star death along the way (I think). To me, their situation always felt bleak, so everything put them in danger.

"The star doesn't die" is a necessary function of most stories. The hero has to live through whatever happens, because it's what makes them seem more-than-mortal or manly-man or whatever term for hero/heroine you want to label it with. In a one-time story, you don't notice "the star doesn't die" very much, because you can buy into the danger and believe that they could have died. In an ongoing story though, danger gets to be "ho-hum" to the reader, because they know that the hero has to live for the next story.

That's why "deaths don't matter" in comics. The star will always live, and if they don't, they're somebody's favorite, so they'll come back. It's gotten so ridiculous that even incidental characters could return from supposed death, somehow changed and amped to make them a threat.

All of this is why I constantly champion the generational continuity. Make it so Batman can die, or just get too old to carry on, and every story becomes a threat. At some point, Dick Grayson will take over the cowl, Tim might take over from him, Terry McGinnis might take over from him, etc. Superman might be killed by Bizarro, Billy Batson might take over for him, Freddy Freeman might take over for him, etc. Donna Troy might take over for Diana, Cassie might take over for Donna, etc. Just like Bart took over for Wally, who took over for Barry, who (sort of) took over for Jay. Green Lantern probably carries the most believable level of danger, because anyone can be a GL, as long as they are fearless and wearing the ring. So yes, we can kill off the star.

If continuity was truly generational though, then danger would seem real for all of those characters, and we wouldn't have the ridiculous situation where the JLA never ages or dies, but the sidekicks do, even though they can never quite take their mentors' places on the JLA for more than a commercial-hype moment. But then we need more sidekicks, so we bring up another generation in Young Justice, but that's a crud name, so let's make them the new Teen Titans! Which forces our original Titans into literally becoming Outsiders, effectively ruining the marketability of an entire team of characters.

The only unintentional benefit the generational backlog of DC characters has is that as characters are forced into "outsider" status, their popularity wanes, and they eventually drop into "incidental character" status. Which means now we can kill them, and their deaths will be a shock to readers who assumed they would be around forever...even though they will probably return from the dead at a later date, because their death will make them instantly popular again.

Going back to Red Shirts for a minute though, what made them a problem was that their deaths didn't matter. They were completely incidental, even to the stars of the crew. "They died, okay? Just beam us up!" Very rarely was anything done to make you feel the death of that character. Very rarely were they set up with any kind of backstory to make them a person to the viewer or reader. And very rarely did one of the stars say something like, "Ensign So-n-So was a good man. He had a wife, three children, and a family Tribble farm on Rigel VII. He'll be missed. ...So too will we miss the free Tribble meat." Their deaths didn't matter, so of course they became a joke.

RazzaTazz responds! Read Micro/Macro Death! Go now! -cb