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Chapter 5 (Armageddon)

PREVIOUSLY THAT DAY:

‘Yeah, for the guy who saved my kid sister, sure we can find something nice and legal’, Big Jim says with a laugh. These Skull punks in my neighborhood concern me. I don’t like them moving in on my territory. Why don’t I hook you up with a couple of my guys and you start canvassing the area looking for more Skulls. If you find any, give them a message that it’d be healthier for them to be elsewhere.’

‘Yeah, sure, I can help out with that’, I reply with a shrug.

‘Great, go see Tony at the front desk and he’ll give you a couple of bucks, an address and some names to ask for when you get there.’

Big Jim sticks out his hand and I shake it, sealing the deal, before I turn toward the door. Just then Kate coughs from the corner she’s been watching from.

‘Talk about a third wheel! I felt like you guys forgot all about me!’, she says with a laugh. She comes over and takes my hand and looks me deeply in the eye. ‘I just wanted to say thanks again for helping me out. I really don’t want to think about how bad it could’ve been if you hadn’t come along’

Her hand is warm and soft in mine and I can smell her perfume now that we are close in Big Jim’s office. It smells like jasmine and springtime. For just a moment, I forget that she is the sister of a crime lord who I have sworn to bring down. In that second, she is just a beautiful girl who smells like jasmine and I am a klutz who cannot think of anything to say. I give her a quick nod, not trusting my command of English at the moment, and quickly retreat through the door. Gang members? Mercenaries? Super villains? Bring them on! I’m ready for anything. But a 5 foot, 115 lb, red haired, green-eyed girl and I am useless.

Safely out the door, I walk over to the man sitting at a desk outside Big Jim’s office.

‘I was told to see you about an address and some names.’

‘Yeah sure, Big Jim just called on the intercom. Here ya go’, he says as he hands me a scrap of paper. ‘Go to this address and ask for Frankie. He’ll show you around and then you and his boys can get to work.’

‘Okay’, I say as I take the paper and turn toward the front door.

‘Hey bud, ain’t you forgetting the most important part?’ Tony asks with a raised eyebrow.

At my vacant look he says, ‘Your pay.’ He then hands me 2 one hundred dollar bills.

‘Oh, right. Thanks’, I say as I take the money and head outside.

The morning chill is beginning to burn off; it looks like it might turn out to be an okay
day after all. The only place I can think of with colder February mornings than Rhode
Island is New Jersey.

I look at the address I was given and see it is a street that separates
High Park and The Gish; the line between Hellion and Skull territories. I head south and after a brisk walk, I arrive at the address. It is an old brownstone that looks like it’s seen better days. I knock at the front door and stand in the chill waiting for someone to answer.

A greasy looking guy, with a bad complexion, opens the door and says, ‘You must be Mike. Tony called and said you were headed over. I’m Frankie, welcome to the outfit. Come inside and have a cup of coffee and warm up.’

I follow Frankie inside and see three other gang members sitting around the front room drinking coffee. ‘This is Alan, Loco, Yoshi and Sticks’, he says as he introduces the other men. They all give a wave or nod, but continue to drink their coffees.

‘Tony said we were suppose to go Skull Hunting. Sounds like good times to me’, Frankie jokes. ‘No time like the present. Lets go boys.’ Frankie grabs his coat and is followed outside by his troops. We all pile into a rusted out early 80’s LTD parked out front on the street. What’s more surprising that this hunk of junk runs, is it even starts in the first place.

We spend the next five hours cruising around Kings Row looking for Skulls. Honestly, I don’t think these clowns would have noticed a Skull if we’d have run one over. They would rather whistle at girls and harass citizens. Our joyride is briefly interrupted when Frankie gets a call on his cell.

Beep. Beep.

‘This is Frankie.’
‘Heya Tony. How’s it hanging?’
‘Really? No Joke? Wow, something big is going down!’
‘Kate? How’s Big Jim taking it?’
‘That bad huh? We’ll be right there.’

He flips the phone closed and puts it back into his jacket pocket. ‘Well boys, the field trip has been canceled. Big Jim is calling in everyone for a big hit on the Skulls. They have kidnapped Kate and the boss wants her back.’

As Frankie turns the rusted out LTD back toward the office. I try not to let my concern over Kate show. I’ve got to find out where they are hiding her and get her out before Big Jim and his boys go in guns blazing. Just then Frankie’s cell rings again.

‘This is Frankie.’
‘Hey Tony. We are on our way back now.’
‘He called it off? I would never have believed that.’
‘Oh well, he’s the boss and he calls the shots.’
‘See ya later bro.’

Frankie puts up his phone and turns toward us. ‘Okay, new change of plans. Big Jim has called off the hit. So I guess we keep Skull hunting.’

The rest of the guys in the car act like they could care less one way or the other. But this latest news makes me worry even more. I have to get back to the office and find out where Kate is being held.

‘Hey, I’m starving. You guys up for some hotdogs? I know a street vendor that makes a great dog. He’s usually around here somewhere.’ Frankie says.

He parks the car and we all get out. Sure enough we find the street vendor and his cart right where Frankie says he’ll be.

‘Hey old man. How’s business today?’ Loco asks as we walk up. I can see that the man is frightened and he moves to the far side of the cart.

‘I don’t want any trouble’, the vendor stammers.

‘There won’t be any old man. We’re hungry and want some food’, explains Yoshi.

‘Okay’, the vendor replies meekly and begins opening packages of buns. ‘Will you be paying?’

‘Paying?’ Frankie asks with a sneer, while the rest of his troops begin to laugh. ‘Did I pay the last time?’ The vendor drops his head and quietly says, ‘No’.

‘Then what in the hell makes you think we are paying now?’

Up until now, I have not said a thing. I have just stood there and watched. But this poor old man being preyed upon is more than I can stand. I reach over and pick up a lid off a nearby garbage can. The rest of the Hellions are all grinning at me and waiting to see what I am going to do to the old man. Whatever it is, they think it will be good because I will be proving how tough I am.

Frankie only has a second of confusion as I turn and bash him over the head with the lid. His eyes roll back and he hits the ground like a ton of bricks. His troops just stand there with a perplexed look on their faces. Like they are seeing what happened but just can’t believe it.

Yoshi is the first to come to his senses and launches a front kick at my stomach. I move off to my right at a 45-degree angle and scoop block his kick with my left arm. I take his kicking leg up and as his balance shifts backwards, he falls flat on his back. A quick stomp to the groin takes him out of the fight.

Loco comes at me next, from my left, with a knife in his right hand lunging at my chest. I respond with a left open-hand block to the wrist of his knife hand. That block turns into a wrist grab and now I have his hand under control. I shoot a Wing Chun sun fist punch, with my right hand, into his throat. This stuns him and causes him to drop the knife. Reaching over the top of his left hand with my right, I now have both hands on his wrist. I rotate his hand clockwise, ending with his fingers pointing up and transition into an armbar, driving Yoshi to the ground. A few pounds of downward force on his arm and his elbow snaps like a dry twig. Three down, two to go.

Alan is being pelted by hotdogs, buns, bottles of mustard and steaming hot chili by the vendor, so I turn my attention to Sticks. It is then that I learn why he has that name. Sticks has produced two collapsible batons from his pockets and extended them to their full length. He then engages in a whirling figure eight Kali attack. This is going to be painful.

His first strike makes contact with my blocking left forearm. I feel the bones break as the steel baton strikes. However, just as quickly, I feel my mutant regeneration ability kick in and repair the damage. It still hurts like hell though. His left baton is a blur of motion as it streaks toward my right temple. I only escape injury by leaning back out of range. Even so, I feel the tip of the baton nick the bridge of my nose as it whooshes past. Just as quickly, Sticks reverses his swing and brings the left baton back in a backhand attack. All I can do to counter his attacks is move inside them. I step in toward his chest and duck under the left backhand attack. His arm passes over my head and it opens up his torso for a strike. I deliver a right palm heel strike to his solar plexus. I can hear the air rush out of his lungs and his left baton flies from his hand. It continues it’s arc of movement and goes skidding off into an alley. I follow that palm strike with a right upward elbow strike to his chin. The force of the strike compresses the temporal mandibular nerve at the hinge of his jaw and he is knocked out before he hits the ground. One to go.

I turn to where I last saw Alan dodging mustard and ketchup bottles and I see him turning my direction. The vendor is nowhere in sight and must have beat a hasty retreat. The thing that draws my attention though, is the nickel plated Colt Python .357 magnum revolver in Alan’s hand. He is raising it toward me, hammer cocked. This is really going to hurt. But as I’m trying to decide which way to dodge, a shadow from the alley, behind Allan, detaches itself from the wall. This shadow materializes into a large man, a large man holding an equally large sword. A sword he swiftly brings down upon the back of Alan’s head. Alan and the Colt Python fall to the ground in a heap. Not certain who this man is or what is going on, I maintain my fighting posture.

‘Hello friend. Looks like you could use a hand. Hope you don’t mind I took that guy out.’ The swordsman replaces his sword in the sheath across his back and sticks out his hand. ‘My name is Wolfram.’

Now that the action is over and I can see he is not a threat, I get a better look at him. He is dressed in red and white ballistic armor with a white wolf’s head on his chest. A fellow hero.

‘No, I don’t mind at all. Thank you for the assistance. My name is Havoc’, I reply.

‘Pleasure to meet you Havoc. Always nice to run into another hero cleaning up some of the trash on the streets.’

‘Actually, I was undercover inside the High Park Hellions; but I think that might be blown now.’ I explain.

‘No worries.’ Wolfram says. ‘I’ll take this lot over to Freedom Plaza. You go back and tell them I jumped you on the street and only you were able to escape. Maybe that’ll help maintain your cover.’

‘You know, that just might work and it will free me up to look for Kate.’

‘Look for Kate? Is someone missing?’ asks Wolfram.

I explain about the kidnapping and how it’s very important that I find Kate before the Skulls injure her.

‘Here is my phone number. When you find out where she is being held, if you’d like a helping hand, give me a call.’ Wolfram offers.

‘Great! I sure will; and thanks again for your help. By the way, noticing the lack of blood around Alan over there, I have to ask. Did you kill him with that sword stroke?’

With a laugh, Wolfram responds, ‘No, I hit him with the flat of the blade. But I bet he wakes up with one hell of a headache though.’

I hustle back to the office and expect to find mass chaos; however, everything is quiet. I approach Tony to find out all I can about what is going on.

‘Hello Tony.’

‘Hiya Mike. How goes the Skull hunt?’

‘Was going good until we were jumped by a cape.’

‘Really? It’s getting where a crook can’t even walk the streets anymore. What happened to Frankie and the boys?’

‘They were stretched out on the sidewalk last I saw them.’

‘Ouch, that sucks. But at least you got away.’

‘Yeah, lucky me. So what’s the word around here? I heard Kate was kidnapped.’

‘She was grabbed by the Skulls sure enough. Mr. DeMarco, that’s him over there on the couch, found a note in her apartment. It said for Big Jim to meet them at midnight at the old Marx warehouse.’

‘What is he going to do?’

‘At first, he was going to take in the troops and fight it out. But later he decided it would be safer for Kate, if he went in alone.’

‘Wow. I hope everything works out.’

‘Yeah, me too. Kate is a sweet kid, but everyone knows Big Jim is walking into a trap. I hope they both make it out.’

I left the office and returned to my apartment. I had a couple of hours before midnight and I wanted to get my gear together. My plan was to call Wolfram and the two of us raid the warehouse to free Kate while the Skulls were busy with Big Jim.

After notifying Wolfram, and arranging a meeting place and time, I spent sometime sharpening my claws. I have never gone out of my way to injure or kill a criminal or villain. However, I cannot say that it has never happened. Just because doctors sometimes have to remove limbs to save the patient, does not make them butchers. Likewise, when a hero has to remove someone from society, it does not make them villains. It’s unpleasant, many things in life are, but it still has to be done. Back at the Institute, a teacher who was concerned about my aggressiveness once told me, “Heroes do not kill people, they help them.” While that may be somewhat true, the best way I can help the most people is by removing the problem…..permanently.

MEANWHILE BACK AT BIG JIM’S OFFICE:

‘Boss are you sure about this? I’m really concerned you are walking into a trap.’ Tony confided.

‘Of course it’s a trap Tony. All I can do is walk into it with my eyes and ears open. Hand me those two .45’s would ya.’

Big Jim continues to stash weapons about his person and worry about Kate.

‘Tony, I’m going to need you to drive me over to the Marx warehouse. All you have to do is drop me off and get out as fast as you can.’

‘Sure boss, but I’d feel a lot better if me and the boys were going in with ya.’

‘I know Tony. I would too, but we can’t risk it. If we come in hot, the first thing they’ll do is kill Kate.’

‘Whatever you say boss.’


11:45 PM (Vacant Building Across From The Marx Warehouse)

It’s cold and damp lying on the roof of this vacant building. Fifteen minutes until Big Jim is scheduled to arrive. So far, I’ve counted at least ten Skulls around the outside of the Marx warehouse. Lord knows how many more are inside. I’m dressed in the dark blue and gray ballistic armor that I wear as Havoc. The costume includes a mask and a pair of razor sharp claws that I wield in combat. Lying next to me in his red and white costume is Wolfram. As always, his huge sword is strapped across his back.

‘Is it time to go Havoc?’, he asks in a whisper.

‘Yes, I think it is. Lets get to the roof of the warehouse and enter through a skylight.’

I use my mutant ability of flight to quickly and quietly move across the street and land on the roof of the abandoned warehouse. After a moments delay, Wolfram steps from the shadows next to me.

Through the skylight, I can see several skulls moving around inside the warehouse. I also see the man who I was told is Mr. DeMarco and another man who I do not know. This mystery man appears to be in charge. I ease the skylight open and can hear their conversation as it echoes inside the empty warehouse.

‘Alex, are you quite ready to play your part?’

‘Yes Mr. Kole. I know what is expected of me and I am ready.’

‘Wonderful. For your service, you will be rewarded with the leadership of the High Park Hellions and Ms. Kate Sullivan, as you asked. Of course, you can not keep the beautiful Ms. Sullivan. Afterwards, you will be required to dispose of her. No loose ends you understand.’

‘I understand Mr. Kole.’

So Kate is still alive! I need to wait until they are busy with Big Jim and then we can enter, dispose of any guards and get her out safely. Now all I have to do is wait for Big Jim.

11:50 (Front Entrance To Marx Warehouse)

Tony’s headlights sweep the parking lot and I see at least five Skulls hiding among the crates and boxes around the front of the warehouse.

‘Are you certain about this Boss?’ Tony asks one last time from the driver’s seat.

‘As sure as I’ve ever been about anything. I’m going to get Kate back.’ I reply through gritted teeth. ‘Stop here Tony. This is good. When I get out of the car, you leave as quickly as possible.’

‘Okay boss. Good luck.’

My hand is sweaty as I open the passenger-side car door. I know that if they are going to kill me, this will be the easiest place and time. I exit Tony’s car and start walking toward the warehouse door. No shots ring out and I am still alive. Both are pretty good signs that I might make it through the night after all. When I reach the door, a Skull steps out holding an automatic rifle leveled at me.

‘Mr. Sullivan. I’m to escort you inside. But first I need you to remove your weapons and throw them on the ground.’

I remove the two .45’s from my shoulder holsters and throw them to the ground. Then the .380 from the small of my back joins the pile. The Skull gives me a quick pat down and declares me clean.

‘This way Mr. Sullivan.’

He opens the door and we both enter the old abandoned warehouse. There is trash in the corners and a layer of dust on everything. I can see footprints in the dust. A lot of footprints. This is not looking very good. We continue down the hallway and enter a large storage area. The moon is shining through several skylights scattered across the ceiling. Over to the left under a walkway, I see Kate. She has her mouth taped and her hands bound, but other than that, appears fine. Standing on either side of her are shotgun wielding Skulls.

‘Hello Mr. Sullivan. Thank you for joining us. I have so very much wanted to meet you.’ comes a voice from the shadowns.

Arnold Kole, leader of The Gish Skulls, steps into the light.

‘I bet you are very concerned about your sister. Let me assure you Mr. Sullivan, she is perfectly safe…for now.’

‘Kole, what the hell is this all about? You want to come after me, fine. But leave my family out of it!’ I yell.

‘But why would I overlook such an obvious weakness? I knew there was no way you could pass up the opportunity to save you dear sister.’ Kole says with an evil laugh. ‘Aren’t you even the least bit curious why I have brought you here tonight Mr. Sullivan? I want to talk about the future. A future where there are no Skulls or Hellions. No Outcasts or Freakshow. Just one inclusive gang. An all powerful gang that could stand up to the Paragon Police, Longbow and even the capes.’

‘You mean you did all of this just to ask me to join forces with you? Damn man, a phone call would’ve been a lot easier don’t you think?’ I ask with a laugh.

‘Oh no Mr. Sullivan. You misunderstand my intent. Your replacement has already been selected. Here, would you like to meet him? Well actually, I think you already know him quite well. Alex will you join us?’

It takes a minute for my brain to understand what my eyes are seeing. Alex DeMarco, my chief lieutenant, walks out of the shadows and stands beside Kole.

‘What the hell are you doing Alex!?, I ask incredulously.

‘I’m taking care of me Jimmy. I’m getting all the things I deserve. All the things I was passed over for. The power, the money, the prestige. I’m getting it all. And you know what else Jimmy? I’m getting Kate too! At least for as long as she can stay alive. And all I have to do is kill you.’

One of the first things I learned when I got into the gangs, was when you search a guy for weapons, you never look in the obvious places. You’ve got to look where you’d never expect ‘cause that’s where the smart guys keep their guns.

A flex of my shoulders and an extension of my arms and I have a Sig Sauer P229 .357 in each hand from the holsters up the sleeves of my coat. My first round takes Alex in the throat. He flies backward, hands at his throat, blood spurting bright red in the moonlight. I hope the bastard takes along time dying. Kole dives for the shadows, so my next shot misses him.

‘KILL HIM! KILL HIM!’ Kole screams to his men as he makes a run for it.

At this point, I don’t care if I live or die. I just have to save Kate. Skulls are rushing in from all over and though bullets zip around me like angry hornets, I am untouched.

It was right about then that it seems like the world explodes.

11:58 PM (Roof Of The Marx Warehouse)

As I lay watching through the skylight, my claws scoring the tin of the roof, I can see Big Jim being escorted into the main room. He and another man are engaged in conversation and then they are joined by DeMarco. DeMarco and Big Jim begin screaming at one another and in the blink of an eye; Big Jim has two pistols out and is shooting everyone in sight. DeMarco goes down spurting blood and Kole dives for the shadows screaming, “Kill Him!”. Now it has broken down into a full-fledged firefight between Big Jim and the Skulls. Just want I wanted to avoid for Kate’s sake.

Wolfram and I prepare to crash through the skylight when the front of a raised office inside the interior of the warehouse explodes. Lighting arcs across the rubble and climbs up the sides of the walls. From inside the dark office, an enormous shadowy figure begins to emerge, becoming more distinct as he enters the moonlight. With lightning playing across his body and cybernetic devices implanted on his face, chest and arms, the huge unknown man hovers down from the office to land on the floor of the warehouse.

The lightning arcing around him continues to spread as it jumps from object to object. Both Big Jim and the Skulls are forced to stop their battle and retreat to safety or risk being trapped in the lightning. It is truly an amazing display of power.

The unknown man looks around his surrounding in contempt. He then raises his massively muscled arms and declares in a booming voice.

‘BEHOLD YOUR DOOM! FOR I AM LORD ARMAGEDDON!’


    TO CHAPTER 6 >


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