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Feb 18th, The Fens


In the morning...


It happened practically outside Bonfire's door. 


At some ungodly hour in the morning, when everyone should, rightly, be asleep or nursing a hang over after partying to hard the night before. Or at the very least, pounding alertness back in to their head with a strong coffee. 


On the streets in the Fens, where the paucity of wealth and opportunity oft forced the youth into nefarious and dangerous pastimes. 


A gang of thugs was engaging in mindless vandalism. Baseball bats and clubs, sticks, and stones. These wonderful devices, and more, were being used to splendid effect in the ignoble pursuit of window smashing and car wrecking. There was the growl and scream of angry dogs, for this gang was armed with what looked to be rabid and viscous dogs. 


And now, a patrol car arrived. 


"Halt! Put your hands up!"


Then screaming. 


A shot. Two shots. 


And more screaming. 


The two police officers were pinned to the floor by the thugs and the dogs, and looked, verily, to be in danger of imminent loss of limb. Or quite possibly life. 



Edited by Supercape
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It had been a long night for Cassidy Bauer. A recent …accident… by one of his clients forced him into a fair bit of (likely unpaid) overtime. It was mainly damage control, making sure said client didn’t do anything else that would worsen the situation, and then crafting some sort of statement of apology. And then convincing the guy to actually be sorry. At 2 AM, Cass decided enough was enough, and decided to move the entire mess to tomorrow, his mood was already terrible enough.


He’d finally managed to shut down enough to sleep, when it got loud outside. As good as the rent was, he really had to consider moving. This place was becoming more and more of a pain. Still, that also had to wait until tomorrow, for now he had to spring to action. Maybe it’d help him blow off some steam, he’d not gotten involved in any sort of crimefighting for some time.  So, within a few seconds he’d turned to smoke, turned invisible, and slipped through the window of his apartment.


From there, floating above the street, he had a nice vantage position. Perhaps he could figure out just what was going on…

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This gang didn't seem part of any local crew Bonfire had seen. Freedom City had seen a lot of new gangs spring up recently, from the Beastly Boys to the Leap Froggers. Even the mysterious cheesegraters, who nobody had actually ever seen, but everybody seemed to talk about in hushed tones. 


These guys looked like an assortment of street trash who just got caught in the wake of some frenzy. Leathers, knives, clubs, rabid dogs.


And at their head, a large, strong man, full of sweat and muscles. He was wearing a mask. 


One would hope it was a mask, anyway. 


It looked like a skull mask. The skull of some giant snake. 


He was gurgling and laughing. "Pull their teeth. I want a necklace of teeth!" he screamed at the top of his voice, referring to the two policemen pinned down by dogs and thugs. 


One other thug, armed with a pair of pliers, laughing in a most cruel manner, started approaching the teeth that, for now, looked like they belonged to the police....


To one side, Bonfire caught sight of...


Someone with the cheek to film this horror! A short thin man with dyed red hair, goatee, and camera, intent on capturing the whole thing. 

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Judging by the looks of it, whatever it was it wasn’t terribly well organized. There was a clear leader that they seemed to listen to, but unless they were a super-new group, they probably didn’t have a lot in terms of potential backup. Or connections, for that matter. Probably just a matter of cleaning up after the FCPD.


Who were to blame at least partially for this situation, for actually sending a patrol into this area. That hadn’t gone well previously, so it was no surprise it didn’t this time. And then, there was the guy deciding to film all of it. Cass had to applause his style, it was one that looked good most of the time. And that just meant that instead of it being a quick clean up, he had to actually make a good impression.


One push of smoke outwards, with some flames added in to reveal himself. That would draw attention to him. And then, he followed it up by talking, louder than was necessary. But after a gunshot, that didn’t matter much, everybody had already been woken up.


“Guys, guys. It’s way too late at night, people are trying to sleep and you’re being loud. Can we like, move this to 9 AM tomorrow? Or some other time, just not the middle of the night. Firefights mean cranky neighbours, and I really can’t use that right now. “


Perhaps that’d serve as enough of a distraction to give the officers time to call in backup or get a better position…

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The fire and the fury startled the thugs, a few of whom turned heel and ran. 


But the leader, and some of the more rabid thugs, did not. 


"Wait! I know you...Bonfire!" he screamed, full of fire of a different sort. One could not see his eyes, just the black sockets of the snake skull that covered his head. 


The leader jumped off the police car he was sitting on, with considerable agility. He writhed around, contorting his body with great flexibility and muscles that slid around his skeleton with force and twitch. 


"I think you need a fight. Man on man. A stinking, bloody fight. Fists and boots. Or are you a coward? Just a coward, hiding in his smoke, trembling in his fire, with no heart or will?" he taunted. 


"Come on then, loser! Show me what you are made of!"



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“A fan, eh? Well, I can’t deny an admirer’s request, can I?” With that, the cloud of smoke hovering in the air above the street disappeared. After a few seconds, Bonfire reappeared, now standing roughly 30ft. down the road, dressed in a judo gi, his head made of smoke as was the norm.


He paced around the street a bit, as he put on his best PT Barnum impression. “Come one, Come all! Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages! Try your luck against Freedom’s Hottest, try your luck against Booooooonfire.”


A thought crossed Bonfire’s mind: What if this was exactly what they wanted? What if they’d tracked him down somehow, and set up this entire thing just to get him into this position? It wasn’t impossible. But, for now, that didn’t matter. He was actually enjoying himself. And maybe a fight was just what he needed. Plus, there wasn’t really any chance of them actually being able to hit him.

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The thug came close, cracking his knuckles. Bonfire felt something crawl up and down his sixth sense. That bone skull mask had a horrible, almost Eldritch feel to it. A sense of dread dripped off every crack in the bone. 


"Lets see what ya got then. All show. That's a sign you have no fire to your belly. No sweat. No toil. Nothing that makes a man a man. Everything special about you is just fortune, not will...." snarled the sickly strong voice through the mask. 


A tongue, about fifteen inches long and forked, swept out of the mouth, serpentine and certainly not human - at least not without some exceptionally radical surgery. 


The Thug had some skill, sure. A swing left, a swing right, and a dirty kick to the knees. But nothing that Bonfire could not back free from...

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Bonfire didn’t move as the thug approached. He didn’t have to. He stood there, casually waiting for him to make his move. There was no need for Cass to actually dodge, but it helped keep up the illusion these thugs had sometimes. If they didn’t hit you they continued to try. A few steps back, and he’d avoided all attacks without breaking much of a sweat. So far so good.


And there were the alarm bells. So much for the good ol’ “make them wear themselves out”. Clearly whatever was going on with this guy was a few levels above the usual street gang leader. Which meant Bonfire had to do a bit more than just stand there. Every attack was now a potential threat, which was good enough of a reason to end this entire thing quickly.


“Okay, let’s show you how this is done…”


Following that, he launched forward into an elbow strike. He still was made purely of smoke, but by coating parts of his body in a more powerful version of the field of heat he used to protect himself, he could also do a fair bit of damage, especially if he used the heat further.

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This time, the skull man backed away. Quick and effective, but somehow chaotic in his movements. 


"Weakling! Coward! Having to fight with fire and smoke! Impure deception!" he cackled and laughed. "A hero, a warrior. They fight with blood and steel. With the power that comes from within, no granted by some twist of fate...for within comes strength! Strength that is earned!"


The Thug roared to the skies, his veins popping out so much one might fear they would burst. He turned around and picked up the control car. 


That's right, he picked up a patrol car, readers!


And more than that, he swung it, intending to smash Bonfire's head in. But alas, Bonfire was but smoke, and then furious thug almost lost his balance with the unchecked swing. 


"Coward! You are nothing! Nothing! Shame on you!" screamed the enraged man. 


"This is awesome...ok...get ready.....!" came a voice in the background. The man filming the entire spectacle. 

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He’d hit the attack a bit short. He’d started taking classes but that had been a recent development. He wasn’t operating at the level he could be whenever he was this close to somebody. Still, putting on some pressure would probably help tire out the skull man. Not that that had started yet, considering the pace of the counter-attack.


Bonfire didn’t have time to dodge. Not that he needed to, as he realized what was about to happen. He let the force of the wind carry him, and then reformed where he’d stood previously, still feeling and looking like he was in pristine condition. He didn’t need to respond to his attacker. To the onlooker, however?


As Cass heard what the man had said, he didn’t need to think about his next action. He pointed at the camera, made his smoke-head wink at it, and the filled the area surrounding him in an explosion of smoke, pushing it outwards as far as he could. Melee hadn’t worked, but these were techniques he’d trained for much, much longer.

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"What? By all the blazing hells! Smoke!!!! AAAAgh!" screamed the cameraman in fury. 


"The artist's worst enemy! So much for improvisation! The cut is useless! All dashed!" he complained, just with Bonfire's earshot. "We'll have to wait for it to clear and try to salvage something with Chill Pill afterwards. I can't believe it!"


"What? You filming this?" grunted the Skull who, oddly, seemed nonplussed by the smoke, able to see right through it. 


"What's going on?" he demanded of Bonfire, advancing once again with fist smashing into palm. 

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So now the cameraman was complaining. About smoke. Because apparently, getting a cool show for free wasn’t enough. Sure, smoke wasn’t a great thing to see, but this man was getting footage of Bonfire fighting somebody, without having to even risk anything or spend money. That alone meant that he could deal with a bit of smoke, right?


The cloud disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, all of it gathering at a spot where Bonfire then appeared, between the cameraman and the thug. He was turned towards the stylish man with the camera, and sounded just slightly irritated. “Dude, you’re filming Bonfire, of course you’re gonna get some smoke. That’s just what you’re getting into, so don’t complain about me actually showing off what I can do. “


With that done, he turned around to face the thug again, sounding more frustrated than before. “Can’t ever do it right when it comes to filmmakers. Anyways, where were we? Ah yes. “ This time, he was a bit more cautious, readying himself to strike once his opponent charged in.


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The Cameraman didn't miss a beat, and retorted straight away. "Ego! Two words! E! GO!"


"I didn't come here to film you, Mr. Vanity! I came here to film...well....see for yourself! CHILL PILL! YOU ARE ON!"


With a very loud Swish! sound of falling ice, enter stage left, came Chill Pill. He was a vigorous man with a vigorous physique shown off in a blue spandex number. His hair was white, his eyes so blue they almost shone. He was tanned and heroic looking. As if, perhaps, by design. 


"Halt Evil-Doer! Today, you face the merely magnificent might of Chill Pill! For I...ah....err...PROMPT!" he called in faux Shakespearian manner to the air. 


"I come to save the day..." sighed the Cameraman. 


"I COME TO SAVE THE DAY! Wait...what's with all this smoke, I can't see anything!" replied Chill Pill, for it that was the name of the icy blue spandex wearing man. 

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Okay, so it was an actual marketing gag, and not a paparazzi. Which, considering the situation, wasn’t exactly a good thing. Because it implied at least part of this all was set-up. The middle of the night, a patrol car where it shouldn’t be, and a marketing-video ready team. Whatever this was, it was off. And then there was the part about the cameraman and his nickname. That totally wasn’t true. Totally.


“Hooookay! Timeout! “ He looked over at the police officers, still pinned down, as well as all the thugs. “Everybody that’s being paid to do this raise your hands. Seriously. “ Cass wasn’t entirely sure what was happening right now, but if this was in some way staged that was … troubling. If it wasn’t, then this was a major issue. Because this had the potential to go so, so wrong.



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The Cameraman put up his hand. "Zyte Guyst! King of Multimedia!" he yelled, happily. "I can shine up your image, mister! Enough with the smoke, we want some serious pyrotechnics! I can work on your colour scheme and give you multi-media penetration. PEN - ERR- TRAY - SHON!!!" he said, pumping the air with a fist. 


Chill Pill looked confused. "I...arrr....I paid for this!" he said, bamboozled. 


"What? This is a media gig? I'll tear that camera in half and shove each part up each hole, you jumped up guttersnipe!" yelled the Skull wearing thug, who proceeded to charge towards Zyte Guyst, the cameraman. 


"Oh dear...." muttered an alarmed Zyte, who still had the presence to keep filming. 


"What do I do? What do I do?" asked Chill Pill, pleading for direction. 

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Direct competition, then. But not staged. That was … not amazing but not terrible either. A nice level of mediocrity that Cass could deal with. But first, he had to deal with the matter at hand. Namely, a civilian about to get hurt. Not an uninvolved one, and he probably deserved it, but he still needed to be heroic.



Not that there was much he could do with his own set of powers. If there was one thing it really couldn’t do, it was interact with the physical world. And just then, a thought crossed his mind. He gathered some of the resident smoke in the area, amassing it between Guyst and the Thug. And then, with the snap of a finger, he created a brick wall between them. It was purely smoke, of course, and if he ran though it wouldn’t matter much. But perhaps his reflexes would kick in.



“You … charge at the big guy and fight him. Or just distract him, I’ll take care of the little guys. Just run towards him! And look cool doing it, I guess.“

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"Charge? Yes...!" concluded Chill Pill.


"Yes! Save my damn backside! No Zyte, no image!" yelled Zyte, getting slightly very terrified at the site of the skull clad thug tearing at him. 


Chill Pill exploded forth, trailing icy sparkles, and proceeded to collide with the thug in a further explosion if icy droplets into the sky. 


"Go get him! Its all on camera!" said Zyte, grinning as he saw the two men tussle. There was no doubt that the skull wearing thug was strong, fiendishly strong. But Chill Pill was stronger, and the icy chill around him seemed to slow down the thug. Soon, Chill Pill had got the thug in a bearhug and was slowly freezing his bones...

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Chill Pill (horrible name, Cass wondered what PR Agency had come up with that one), seemed to be able to handle his own, so Bonfire turned his attention towards the other thugs that hadn’t fled before. Not much more than cleanup, he could probably handle them without too much effort.


Various pillars of smoke rose up from the ground where they stood, enveloping them before bursting outwards. “Guys, at this point you might just wanna run, you’re clearly outgunned.” It would probably take a bit to knock all of them outwards if they didn’t agree to his offer, but such was life. And unless there was a scream or anything, he probably didn’t have to keep an eye out on the other guy.


Just to be safe, Bonfire turned around in between attacks. And … that didn’t look too great. “Hey, hey. Make sure you don’t kill the guy! I don’t wanna deal with even more court dates.” Just saying that would probably also help deal with the remaining thugs, so that was two birds, one stone.

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The smoke was clearing, both literally and figuratively. The gang of thugs started to run, their morale well and truly broken now that Chill Pill had done his work. The two cops started picking themselves up from the floor and nursing their bruises and egos, muttering about damn thugs and damn capes. 


And Zyte was zooming in, filming everything. 


"Hey, turn that off?" yelled one cop. 


"You must be joking! This is golden!" replied Zyte. 


"Officers, I have made an arrest on this perpetrator of violence!" said Chill Pill, having caught the decidedly cold looking thug in a bear hug. "May I hand him over to you for further action?" he asked. 


"Just get that damn mask of him!" muttered the policeman. "And what are you doing here, smokehead?" he asked Bonfire. "Not that we aren't grateful, its just...well....this is a bit...."


"Awesome!" yelled Zyte. "Hey, can I get a group shot?"

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Well, he seemed to be able to handle his own. So, at the very least, this wasn’t some wannabe who tried to buy his way in. Which totally was doable, Cass had to admit, but required something slightly different. Either way, that was that situation dealt with. He did actually feel a tiny bit less irritated thinking about what he’d have to deal with tomorrow. Mainly because he was irritated about what was happening right now, but in a way it meant he’d accomplished his original goal.


Bonfire turned to face the officers and just shrugged, sounding a bit defeated. “Just go along with it. You guys arrest that guy and go on with doing your job, I’ll take over with the rest of the situation. “ Then, he walked up to Zyte. With Cass no longer focused on combat, he could also dig into his memory. Maybe he’d heard something about these two before and just not realized it properly?

“Oookay. So you’re clearly doing some PR for the guy. Fair, fair. But like this? Is this really the best way to do it? Professionally recorded footage of an actual fight?”

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"More than merely professional!" replied Zyte, hand on his chest indignant. "I am ZYTE GUYST! Multi media art - eest!" he declared to infinity and beyond. 


"Chill Pill, here. He is new on the scene" he explained to Bonfire "and his head moves as fast as a glacier" he explained in hushed tones. "He needed a proper entrance. You know, something to set him on the road to the stars. And Zyte, well Zyte is the rocket ship to the stars, my friend!"


"Say, I do know you! Bonfire, right? You run some blog? Blew up some nuclear power stations? Thats slightly not cool, man. You could do with my services!" he said, spotting an opportunity. 


"Along with Ice and Fire!" he said, framing the event in the ethereal with a wave of his hand. "The adventures of Bonfire and Chill Pill! Down on the streets of Freedom City! A reality show! What do you say?"

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“Yeah, I remember reading as much. Nice to meet you in person. “ Multimedia Artist? Sure he had the credentials, but that sounded just a bit pretentious. But maybe it was the fact Cass was dealing with actual, for real, competition right now. This guy was in his business. But either way, there was no need for that to make the entire situation turn south. Cass closed his eyes for a second, breathed in and out, and then, having relaxed a bit, replied.


“And of all the ways you decided to accomplish that you chose … this? You decided waking up all of the people living in the nearby buildings was worth it? And then recorded it professionally? If any of them heard him announce himself, as a complete rookie, that’s trouble. Plus, professional recordings are worth way less than bystander video. “ Which him announcing himself lightly may have done, Cass had to concede as much, at least to himself.


“Run a few dozen blogs and own my own company which specializes in … well, exactly what you’re trying to do here. And so far, it’s worked. So I think the question is who needs whose help, heh?”


“A reality show does sound intriguing, though… I imagine you have something lined up if you start talking about it completely out of the blue?”

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"Lined up? Why, of course not. True art is not planned, no! It merely is, in all its glory!" replied Zyte, giving some serious jazz hands to his expression. 


"One must seize opportunity! And opportunity is everywhere, as long as one seizes it! All you need is a seizure!" he added, flicking jazz hands around so much that it did look very much like he was in fact having a seizure. 


"I see a reality TV show! Why, let me follow you mentoring Chill Pill as you track down the horror of...The Skull Mask of Ultimate Evil!" he said dramatically, giving a faux horrified face and pointing to the Skull mask now removed from the Thug and looking at them on the bonnet of the patrol car. 


"Well it does need looking into" conceded the cop bundling the thug into his car. 


"Hmmm...well we could do with a better name, too" conceded Zyte, muted but not deflated. 

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Oh, so that was how this guy did it, then. No plans, just whatever he came across. On one hand Cass could appreciate that, being spontaneous was great in a lot of situations. On the other, this was matters of business. And some planning was a good thing when it came to that. And then there was the theatrics…


“Alright, alright. Let’s take this slow. Me mentoring somebody as part of a reality TV show, I can agree to that. I’m not sure it’ll be worth it unless you have some idea of how we can get that to a wider audience, though. “


“Plus, we might want to work on the name of the entire thing. Unwieldy names don’t cut it anymore nowadays, that stuff has to be hashtaggable. And Chill Pill … yeah, I’m not sold on that name either. Implies some sort of substance use. “ He turned over to face the man in question. “Hey, just to be clear, you don’t get your powers from some sort of Pill, do you?” Then, back to Zyte. “Terrible with the parent demographic. Then again, if we’re doing actual footage, we’ll probably hit a high rating anyways. “

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Chill Pill had strolled up to Zyte and Bonfire and interjected. 


"Whoa...hold on. I don't want my drug use part of my image! What's this?"


"Medical drug use, my cool friend! Medical! You have to use your head, here. This is about image!" smiled Zyte, cleared annoyed at dealing with Chill Pill. 


"He has some kind of condition. Using experimental transmetabolic medication. Gave some side effects...some of them useful" he explained to Bonfire, pointing at Chill Pill. 


"Thats right. I need my drugs!" said Chill Pill, proudly. 


Zyte slapped his forehead. "IM-AGE! IM-AGE! " he yelled at Chill Pill. "Gods the treatment has slowed down your brain to the speed of a Glacier!" he screamed. 


Chill Pill reddened and looked pitifully ashamed of himself. 


"Oh dear gods" sighed Zyte. "Anyway, if I can handle the image, this could be something awesome! And you guys have a mystery of the skull of ultimate evil to solve!"

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