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Maximus Grey

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Razor flicked his cards on the table.

“Best call Danny Tanner, I got a Full House!â€Â

Groans issued from around the card table, as the other members of the “west side kings,†a small time gang that hung out in the Westside industrial area, threw down their hands.

They sat in the abandoned warehouse that they called their turf, a place that used to be owned by Franklin shipping before they went out of business. Now the crates that used to have destinations just sit wasting away, until the kings found them.

“Okay deal em out, Bones.†The kid that looked like he was wasting away started to deal out the second hand.

“Hey Baby! You want in?†Razor called to a girl who was sifting through the boxes that lined the warehouse, pulling out old electronics and bottles of strange chemicals. On the word baby she threw a large box of supplies at the card table, it smashed into a shipping crate nearby. “I told you not to call me Baby!â€Â

“I guess that means no.†The boys around the table laughed

“What about you, Madman Sure you don’t want in?†A man sat among the crates, slowly shaving his head with a combat knife. He stopped, looked Razor in the eye, and shook his head. He went back to his diligent work.

“Jeeze†said a kid with glasses, “are you sure we should keep him around, Razor? He’s nuts. I mean look at im.â€Â

“He’s useful, Goggles, besides, you want to tell him to get out.â€Â

“He’s family,†said the younger kid at the table.

“What the heck do you know about family Shortstuff? You been alone since you were born!†Said a large meaty kid. The others started to laugh around the table. Shortstuff was on the table in a second,

“You take that back Fatso! You take it back!†His little fists smacking against the big kid’s face. The boys all jumped into action to try to pull Shortstuff off of Fatso, even Baby joined in. When they finally pulled him off Fatso had a fat lip, a bad eye, and an even worse demeanor. “I’m gonna kill that kid!†Fatso reached out a big meaty paw and smacked Shortstuff with a hard back hand sending the little kid sprawling.

The punch came quick and hard. Razor laid one across Fatso’s chin. “You’re new here Fatso. So I’m gonna tell you once. Shortstuff out ranks you here, you’re not even one of us yet, so unless you want to deal with Madman, you best back off.â€Â

Mad man looked up from his head shaving, brandishing the large shiny knife. Fatso backed off, scowling at the small gang.

“Screw you Razor! You and your Kin…â€Â

He was cut off mid sentence by the front doors of the warehouse opening. The cold night wind blew into the warehouse dousing the heated tempers within. Quickly the gang members hid among the boxes. Razor clenched his fists in rage. The other gang in the area, the Black Fangs, had a long history of bad blood. Razor wanted nothing more than to rip them apart, but now they seemed to have come here.

But walking in through the door was not a Black Fang. It looked like the renaissance fair had come to town and decided to walk in their front door. Coming in from the dark night was a man dressed in grey armor accompanied by some wild haired old dude dressed in a lab coat. This had to be some joke.

The man in grey armor looked around the room and showed no emotion; his wild haired companion however, was disgusted.

“Couldn’t we find more suitable arrangements… for one of your caliber I mean,†said the wild haired man with distain in his voice and a soft German accent.

“To want is to invite pain, for wanting creates pain. You should read the teachings of your Siddhartha. No, this will do for my purposes.†Responded the man in Grey armor. He spoke with a smooth Baritone that held within it a hidden power.

Babe crawled along the floor to Razor, hidden by the crates. “Are they supers Razor?â€Â

“Supers or no, this is my turf, and no round table reject is taking my turf.â€Â

With that Razor stood and walked forward. The rest of the Kings followed brandishing weapons of all kinds, from chains to knives to baseball bats, but Razor pulled his pride and joy, a nine millimeter.

"HEY! Clown! This is our turf, and if you and your friend don’t want to end up dead, I suggest you take a hike!â€Â

The Man with wild Hair smiled and backed away. “New recruits?â€Â

Grey nodded and faced the gang. With an almost monotone he said “If I’m invading your home, perhaps you should stop me? Or perhaps you are weak?â€Â

Razor shook with rage. No one. No one “calls me weak! Kings get that freak!â€Â

They Kings leapt at grey. First was Shortstuff brandishing a bat. Badly aimed the boy swung at Grey. With profound ease Grey sidestepped the poorly swung bat and knocked the boy upside the head with his metal gauntlet, knocking the boy to the floor. Next came Bones swinging at grey with a butterfly knife. Grey grabbed his hand and twisted breaking the teen’s forearm. Madman jumped at grey from behind, latched around grey’s neck, and with a mad gleam in his eye buried his knife into grey’s shoulder. Without reaction, grey bashed Madman in the face with his gauntlet, bloodying him and sending him sprawling to the floor. Suddenly a chain wrapped itself around his wrist as Babe tried to pull him off balance, but instead Grey pulled back throwing Babe to the ground and disarming her. Grey turned toward Fatso who was carrying a large cleaver. Without flinching Grey reached over and removed the blade from his shoulder and let it clatter to the ground. Fatso dropped his weapon.

Bang!

A shot rang out through the warehouse. Razor stood pointing the gun at grey, the barrel smoking. Grey turned toward him, eyes narrowing and advanced on him.

Bang!

Razor fired again, but to his horror, Grey kept coming.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Razor terrified dropped his gun and turned to run, but Grey was on him and lifted him from the floor. He fixed his steel eyes upon the boy and looked into his soul.

“What manner of magician are you that can call fire and steel from his hands?†Grey asked in his cool monotone.

“W-W-What?†Razor looked franticaly for a way to remove himself from that gaze.

Grey shook him violently, but emotion didn’t creep into his voice. “Answer me.â€Â

“It’s just a gun, dudeâ€Â

Grey threw the kid into the pile with the rest of the West Side Kings and reached down to pick up the gun that had fallen to the floor. He looked at it carefully. It was indeed a new world.

“What are you gonna do to us?†Asked Fatso nervously.

Grey slowly turned toward the gang, sending his steel glare to chill their heats. “That depends upon you. I Offer a …proposition. Serve me now, instead of your selves.â€Â

Razor struggled against the cold stare of the imposing figure, but managed to speak, he was the leader after all. “W…W…What d..d…do we get i..in re… return?â€Â

Grey slowly walked across the room toward the cowering gang. “Tell me what your heart desires, and I will do all in my power to make it happen.â€Â

Razor’s life flashed before his eyes. He saw himself beaten by his father, running away, finding Goggles and Babe, forming the gang, scratching out a living, only to have it taken away again by the police, or a bigger badder guy. Always on the short end of the stick. The bigger gangs running them off; thinking that they were so powerful. He wanted to show the world what power meant; that he was worth something too. And now this man was asking what he wanted, he had only one response.

“Power… The power to get anything I want, to crush the Black fangs!â€Â

“You have found it. Just take my hand.†Grey reached down to help him up, and drew him from the earth.

Grey turned his eyes to Babe. “What do you desire?â€Â

“Respect.â€Â

“Then pull yourself up, the Grey Order respects that.†Babe pushed against the floor, and rose from the ground.

“What about you?†Grey said as he turned to Madman.

Madman stood silently and stared at Grey, A glint in the back of his mad eyes. “Just to kill againâ€Â

Grey stared back emotionless. “You’ll get it.â€Â

Madman smiled.

Grey turned his eyes toward Fatso. “And what do you want.â€Â

Fatso stood, cleared his throat, and spat in Grey’s face. “I want you, and all your crazy friends to go screw off! I can’t believe what I’m seeing here, this guy is crazy and you’re just…â€Â

No one saw the blade drawn, or the stroke fall. But Fatso, his real name forgotten, fell to the earth, his soul gone, and the crackling black energy of the sword dripping quiet malice. There were no more objections to Grey’s proposals.

Grey turned to the door, his conversion of the gang complete, but so many more to find. “You are all now the brothers and sisters of the Grey Order, family to the last.â€Â

Shortstuff pulled himself from the ground. Tears poured from his cheeks. With all his might he thrust his fist into the air, and his voice rang true. “For the Grey Order!â€Â

He was joined by his brothers and sisters. The forgotten remained silent.

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Darn cassette

It was hot. The sweltering heat did not help Francis Steinman, as he sat in his Volkswagen Jetta trying to merge on to route 6 where some new super battle had knocked out the right two lanes. The steady clicking of the right turn signal seemed to drown out the honking and car engines inching along the highway. He pushed the Cassette in again.

Sweat rolled down his face. His wife had told him to fix the air. 500$ the repairman had said. Suddenly it didn’t seem like that much.

Steinman looked at the papers that were occupying his passenger seat. They weren’t that important. Nothing Steinman did was that important. He looked out his front window. A huge chunk had been taken out of the highway. A supper was helping them repair the damage. Moving the earth itself. Steinman sighed.

Steinman had joined the feds to get excitement. To work with heroes, like that one. Not to sit at a desk, filling reports day after day, for years at a time. What had happened? Was it the denial by the federal agency for his request to be put on a task force? His experience with numbers and years in middle class collage? The constant financial strain of a son and wife? An ageing and fattening body?

Steinman pulled over a little, but traffic was backed up and all he managed to do was make the truck driver next to him irate.

At least he got to carry a gun. Steinman pulled the gun out of its holster and starred at the glittering black steel. Pure fear contained in the device in his hands. He loved how it made him feel. Strong powerful, the life of another in his hands. Steinman pointed his gun at the dash and pushed in the cassette tape with it.

Steinmans eyes furrowed as he stared out the front window. The blinking construction lights. The red and white traffic barriers. The police. Emergency vehicles. School bus. Smiling hero. Broken construction lines. And there. Way, way, off in the distance. The bright blue sky, flying birds, sunlight and … freedom. True and unconstrained.

click click click

Steinman felt the walls of the Jetta closing in on him. The traffic cutting him off. The flashing lights laughing and taunting as the monstrous figments pointed and laughed at the failed, balding, fat, monkey in the cage. His past, his future, his life laid bare in front of him. An unloving wife, a distant son, an uncaring workplace. So many great works left undone. And the cage tightening around him, the noose drawing closed…

– whrrrr – kerchu…>

Steinman pulled the trigger.

The world degraded into swirling chaos. The cassette burst into a thousand glittering fragments of plastic. The exposition of shining sparks filled his vision as they danced. and Steinman smiled.

A few policemen turned to look at where the sound had come from, knowing it too well, especially in this city. But the jailers wouldn’t catch this criminal, not today.

Steinman hit the gas. He made for freedom. In the back of his mind he thought that maybe this was crazy, to think about his wife and kid, to think about his job. Maybe latter. But right now he had to kill this crappy car.

Later, when the cops reported the suicide, all of them noticed two things. First, they all heard, as the car drove through the police barriers and straight off the bridge into the river, laughing, and the only thing they saw, was a trail flittering federal papers let fly from the driver side window.

But this was not the end of Francis Steinman.

Rat watched from the banks of riverside. It had been a busy day. Super fight, car falling into the river, search vessels, and STAR officers had come around to talk to him. Luckily he hadn’t washed and he could hide among the other homeless under the bridge. But something caught his eye, a body along the shore. Maybe he had money, good untraceable money that the chip heads wouldn’t be able to track. Better poke it with a stick.

As Rat got closer he noticed two things. One that the man was wearing a suit and tie, and second that he was still breathing.

Steinman awoke to yelling and frantic jabbing with a stick. He remembered vaguely hitting the water, swimming out of the windshield, and swimming franticly for the surface before it all went blank. It was night. Had he been here all day? Anyway, he was starving.

Ignoring the beggar, who continued to yell something about chip headed men, or something, he pulled himself to his feet and walked into the suburbia of Riverside. It was Hell. Little cages, where pigs connected to machines lived their daily lives. He shuddered when he thought that that was what he used to be. Worse, he delt with their money.

Ignoring the screeching tires and honking traffic, Steinman walked across a main thoroughfare and walked into a Freedom Burger. Ha! Freedom. Like this city knew anything about freedom! The patrons looked up from their individually wrapped carcasses to stare at the soaking wet, muddy, business man, with shredded clothes and face that still had bit of glass in it. Steinman ignored the line and walked straight up to the counter.

“I’ll have a Freedom meal.â€Â

“Sir. Do you need a doctor?†Asked the scared attendant.

Steinman Narrowed his eyes. “No, I need a Freedom Burger.â€Â

The attendant just stared at the disheveled man.

“NOW!â€Â

The attendant started, and started to wring it up. The next man in line shifted uncomfortably.

“With Fries and a Soda. How much is that?â€Â

“Um… that’s… uh…†The attendant stumbled around filling the order.

“Yea?†Steinman asked menacingly, as he took out his soaking wallet.

“that’s …. $7.50†The attendant said finaly gaining composer.

Steinman stopped dead. Looking straight into the attendant’s eyes. “what?â€Â

“that’s … 7.50..?â€Â

“Son. How old are you?â€Â

“what?†Asked the attendant suddenly caught off guard.

“HOW OLD ARE YOU?†Steinman yelled at him. Several people got up to leave, and did so quickly.

“uh...18?â€Â

“Did you know when I was a kid; Hamburger and fries cost a $1.05. 1.05! So that’s what I’m going to pay. 1.05.†Steinman said as he slapped the soggy money on the counter.

“But Sir… it… it costs…†The attendant seems thrown by the abusive customer. The next guy in line however gets annoyed.

“look Jack, just pay the g..†Steinman pulls his gun on the stranger. Theres a scream and the patrons make for the exits, all except for one. Steinman twitches in anger. “This is a conversation between me and the boy, so butt out!†The stranger nods and gulps. Steinman retrains his gun on the cashier.

“Look just take the money! Don’t hurt me!†The cashier says as he puts his hands in the air.

Steinman turns irate. “I don’t want your money! I want to pay a 1.05 for my burger!â€Â

“ok ,ok here.†The boy hands him his order shakily, trying to keep his hands in the air.

Steinman smiles as he takes his food, then frowns. “Where’s my drink?â€Â

The kid nearly spills it as he puts it on the counter. Steinman holsters the gun and grabs his food. “Thanks, your all right kid.†He walks quietly into the common room and sits to enjoy his meal.

Steinman took a big bite out of his burger, juice dribbling down his chin. The Man makes a krappy burger, but he was hungry. Driving off a bridge can do that to you. Steinman sat enjoying his meal when he started to notice he wasn’t alone. Their was a kid in the corner. A Gang member type with black hair. And he was watching him.

“What do you want?â€Â

The kid smiled. “To help.â€Â

Steinman snorted. “I don’t need help.â€Â

“No, but maybe you will when the cops get here.â€Â

Steinman hadn’t thought about police. They might take away his sandwich. “What do you suggest?â€Â

“A change of scenery… and company.†The kid smiled. “Names Razor.â€Â

“Steinman.â€Â

“Well Steinman, I think you should meet Mr. Grey.â€Â

They managed to evade the police by crossing town on foot, through back alleys and down street banks. Steinman soon lost his sense of direction, not that Steinman really cared where they were going. Before long they entered the train yards and came upon an old warehouse. Steinman was unimpressed.

Entering through the back door, they entered into a large cavernous space. It was dark inside and suddenly Razor disappeared into the darkness.

“Hey, what’s going on?â€Â

Out of the darkness a smooth baritone voice wafted from the cavernous space, seeming to reach into Steinman drawing forth his greatest desires.

“What do you want?†Asked the voice.

Steinman thought of his life before and his life now. He considered the voice and where he was, and he answered truthfully.

“Freedom and excitement.â€Â

Suddenly the light turned on. Right in front of him was a figure unlike any he had encountered before, and his eyes, his cold steel, grey eyes, drilled into him. “Work for me, and you’ll receive this desire.â€Â

In the Back of his mind a voice told him to run, to go back to his life, back to the cage. But it was too late for that now. He had tasted freedom, and now he wanted more.

Steinman nodded.

“Welcome to the Grey Order, Steinman.â€Â

Steinman Smiled.

He had come home.

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“Here’s the information you required. It took me a while, but I got it.†Herr Doktor opened the door to the spartan room. A simple mat lay on the floor. In the corner a wooden stand was dressed in flat grey armor, a menacing sword at its feet. By a small window that overlooks the warehouse, a simple desk sits bearing a meager meal of bread, dried meat, and water. And sitting at the desk, in what appears to be quiet prayer, is Maximus Grey.

“Steinman’s information was very useful.†Herr Doktor says, as he lays the papers on Grey’s desk.

Grey finishes his prayer. Takes the papers and begins to read them.

“Why do you pray? I thought you hated the gods.†Herr Doktor asked.

“I like to remind them I’m still here.†Grey finishes the reports and hands them back to the Doktor. “Burn those.â€Â

“But…†The Doktor starts incredulously.

Grey fixes him with his eyes and the Doktor backs off.

“I’ve memorized them. We don’t need it anymore.â€Â

Doktor nods his head. “Your orders?â€Â

Grey returns to his meal. “Contact the ghost.â€Â

He looks to his armor; his eyes linger on the sword.

“Begin phase one.â€Â

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