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Summer 2023

Bedlam City, WI


Stone Ridge is one of the newest parts of Bedlam; and certainly one of its wealthiest. When the city descended into squalor and crime, the wealthiest fled here, bringing old money and new problems with them. Stone Ridge is not technically part of Bedlam; not even an incorporated community. That means that Bedlam PD doesn't patrol here, just a few underfunded county sheriff's deputies. The law around here is set by Iron Talon, an armed private security company that used to hire its contractors fresh off the planes returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - and now tends to go recruiting in veterans' hospitals and shelters and find men and women who don't quite fit into civilian life anymore for whatever reason. 


There's not very much street crime in Stone Ridge - the Iron Talon crew is infamous for brutality beyond even what the Bedlam PD dishes out, and anyone from outside the (almost all white) neighborhood is liable to get into a lot of trouble even if they're just there to look at a new house or deliver a package. They tend to go in guns blazing when they see a superhero; which has kept many of Bedlam's erstwhile costumed defenders out. Not because they're in danger - but because everyone else is when they're there. 


Pete Moss has been working for Iron Talon for a couple of years now; even since he got clean. He's a veteran who didn't come back quite right from Afghanistan, even if the most dangerous thing he did was fix cars in an Army motor pool in Kabul - war will do that to people sometimes. He doesn't do any head-breaking; he just works on their private impound lot. He and Rev were an item back when he drank but he's closed off since, taking the firm position that he needed to leave behind everything from his old life if he was going to get better. 


The shop has been closed for hours when Rev's phone rings with Pete's cell number, but she's still working on a car - funny how that works out. 


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Pete Moss...


Maybe they had never been right for one another. He was army. She was a punk. They had cars in common, maybe that was it. Maybe that shared interested had drifted them together. 


Rev pressed her forehead with her finger, trying to drill some sense into her skull. 


The thing was - maybe they hadn't been right for one another to begin with, but when Pete Moss came back from Afghan, they were even less right for each other. They had drifted apart faster than she would have liked. She had broken it off. That came with a bit serving of guilt. Rev didn't like feeling guilty, and if there was something she could do to diminish that feeling, then hell yeah, she would. 


Some would try to forget about it with cheap beer or cheaper moonshine. But not Rev. 


She threw down her spanner - harder than was reasonable. Frustration - that was it. Frustrated at herself. But that didn't sit well with her. She became frustrated at her frustration. 


Still greasy, still oily, still smeared with dirt of every kind, Rev picked up the phone and answered it. 




She didn't know what else to say. She left it at that - waiting for Pete to speak. 

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"Hey grrl," said Pete tiredly, rolling the rrrs in the old nickname. "Sorry if I woke you up." 

He exhaled, and then said, "Hey, there's some - there's some trouble at work, grrl, and I didn't know who else to call. I know what you're thinking and I swear, honey, I swear, I am not drinking again." Another pause and the definite sound of rain behind him. "I, uh, I handed in my resignation, which meant I can't use the company bus pass and I was technically trespassing at headquarters, which meant - listen, I'm at the Stone Ridge gatehouse now but they said they might come looking for me anyway. Can you come pick me up? I swear I'll pay for gas, I won't owe a thing - not a new thing, anyway." 

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Grrrl - that didn't sound right. Maybe it was because it used to sound right when they were together. There were better times, right? she tried to remind herself. But it wasn't easy. Those memories were buried behind the wall of the war. Am I kidding myself? Were there good times?


"I got ya back, Pete. Always."


That much was true. She couldn't rewrite the past. But she could write the future. Or at least try to. 


"I'll be right there..."


She hung up.


Took a deep breath. 


Whatever the past, she wasn't going to stand by and let a bad situation get worse. Besides, what was life for, if not for some action? Better a day as a Lion....


She pumped some fuel into her net ports. Belched. The smell of methane mixed in with the ubiqutous smell of engine oil that pervaded the chop shop. She felt the rumble of her internal mechanics start to refine the fuel. More methane. Well, it's not like I smell of roses and perfume normally...


She fired up the engine of the Dune buggy. Open topped, but what the hell. Wind and rain didn't bother her, quite the reverse - it ripped through her hair and made her feel alive. The Dune buggy rumbled, powerful motors, thick tyres. 


She would drive fast. Hell, break a few speed restrictions. Who cared? This was Bedlam. Police had bigger fish to fry than traffic violations. 


The Dune Buggy ripped out of the Chop Shop, fire and smoke from its exhaust. She put her foot to the accelerator and streaked through the streets of Bedlam City...


...to Stone Ridge. 


It wasn't the Police that worried her. No. It was the Iron Talon. At least the Police had to pretend to stay within the law. The Iron Talon didn't even seem to bother with pretence. 



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The Stone Ridge gatehouse was built to look like a stone farmhouse from another era - well, if you didn't know anything about architecture, anyway. There was a red and white bar across the private road, two armed guards in a drive-up window on one side. Even in a city like Bedlam, that much armed security wasn't really necessary, but it certainly sent a message. Pulling into the building's small parking lot, Rev couldn't see any sign of Pete outside; though given what was brewing into a real storm outside, maybe he'd taken shelter inside the building. 


Through the glass doors of the "HELP DESK", Rev could make out two more bored-looking guards, their attention on their computers, sitting at desks behind heavily-reinforced glass. 

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Stepping out of a car - any car, let alone her Dune Buggy - was always acompanied by a drop of lamentation. The smells of the engine, the vibration rippling through the body, the sound... like a storm wrapped in silk. It was still a thrill. She hoped it always would be. 


Rev hoped the guards wont so trigger happy to fire bullets just for the hell of it - but this was the Talon, and you never knew. Rev was armoured, Rev was metal - bullets would spark off her body, but not forever. Fire enough bullets and she would look like a pepper pot, and be just as alive. 


She knocked. It was polite. 


"Taxi for Pete Moss. Taxi for pete Moss! Hello?"


It was the beginning of  rain, but worse was surely to come. 


"Hey guys, taxi for Pete Moss. Don't want to get stuck in the rain..."


The Dune Buggy didn't look anything like a taxi, unless you were in the Gobi desert. But what the hell... Talon guards were there to keep people out, not keep people in. 



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A loud buzzer rang, admitting Rev into the waiting area. The faces of the guards behind the glass were obscured until a panel slid open, just wide enough for her to make out a peering narrow face and two bright blue eyes. The voice was old and gritty, as if the androgynous speaker had smoked a long time. Rev could hear the tap-tapping of keys behind the translucent partition. "They already took him back to headquarters. Sorry, honey, you missed your tip." For an Iron Talon guard at this hour, this was practically the height of civility. "You wanna dry off before you go back out there?" they asked, gesturing to the nearby facilities. 

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"Shoot" cussed Rev. 


Then she remembered the Iron Talon. Shoot was not a wise or prudent thing to say. From what she had heard, these goons had a tendency to do that first, ask questions later - if at all. 


What the hell, she asked herself. Maybe she should dry off. And see if she could spy the HQ. Sounded like Pete was in trouble. What kind of trouble? She didn't know, but she guessed it wasn't the good type. This kind of trouble smelled like a dark room with a single raw bulb, a ragged dentist chair, and a selection of tongs. 


"Sure. Thanks," she said, giving a thumbs up. She tried to walk slow enough to be noncholant, fast enough to be fast. 


Once inside the facilities, it would be time to snoop. Any graffiti on the walls? Any cracks? Any windows she could peer through?


Or would she have to do this the hard way, and smash through the walls with her mighty mechanised fists?!

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The unisex washroom was clean and tidy, albeit cramped. say what you will for the Iron Talon people, but they kept a tight ship. Everything looked very clean, in fact; the trash cans were empty, the soap newly-filled, as if the cleaning crew had just now come through. That didn't necessarily mean every clue was gone, however. Peering out into the short hallway where she'd been guided to the bathroom, Rev could make out the door to the small office where the two front guards worked, their voices semi-audible from the bathroom door, as well as the way back outside. Headquarters were probably the Iron Talon 'police station' near the heart of Stone Ridge; but of course she wouldn't be able to drive there without the security guards knowing about it. Unless... 

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Hey, maybe the Iron Talon ain't so bad? This toilet is cleaner than a Carburetor straight out of the factory! All shiny and chrome!


Rev put a hand on her hip and stopped to think for a moment. The fingers of her drummed. Maybe she should have cleaned up - she was still grimy from a day of working on engines. But Rev liked the dirt - nobody was clean, not in Bedlam - it felt kind of deceptive to present otherwise. 


She looked around the toilet again. 


Nobody's that clean, are they?


The clock was ticking and Pete was in trouble. She didn't have the time for a full blown investigation. Something was up, but she couldn't put her dang finger on it. It wasn't enough to start throwing fireballs at the security guards - they were just mooks, doing their job. 


She crept out of the toilet, seeing if she could sneak past the guards....


Grrrrnnnnth.... a grinding metal noise stabbed through the air. The rain on her limbs had washed of the lubricating oil. Yeah, it did that sometimes. Had to be now, didn't it?

Edited by Supercape
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Say what you will for the Iron Talon guys, they were efficient. Rev could hear "What the hell?", see the door open, and then one of the guards stepped out to look at her. The woman looked to be in her late thirties, greying brown hair cut short; stocky and tough-looking, with a broken nose and scar across her forehead. She looked closer, saw the eyes, and realized this was her 'friend' who'd told her where to find the bathroom. "You lost, honey?" MARTHA (by the nametag stitched on her uniform) said, her voice considerably frostier than it had been before. Her left hand hovered low, near the .45 strapped to her waist. 

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"Lost as an Emiskimo in a desert. As loast as a Camel in a snowstorm. As lost as a...


Rev paused, running out of things to say. 


"As lost as a taxi driver in a lavatory. Yeah, I got lost. Sorry...."


It was a weak bluff, and she knew it. 


"Look, I came here to pick up a ride and I kinda got to pick him up. Pete Moss. Do you think you could help me out? I mean, I dont want to cause a mess. Hell, I know the sound of brown matter hitting a rotatory air circulation device. I really dont want a mess. But if I can't pick up Pete, I'm in a whole soup of trouble. And not a nice pumpkin soup either. More like a soup made from a Silage Farm. Really messy..."


She might have blabbed better, but the grinding sound her limbs made when she gesticulated was like nails through her pretence. 


Not good. 


She really didn't want to get shot. She really didn't want to punch the lights out of this guard. I mean, guys (and girls) who keep toilets so sparkling clean couldn't be all bad, right?


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Martha frowned, gave Rev a look, and then said, "Ohhh, I get it." She smiled thinly, assuming a sympathetic manner. "Honey, my ex-boyfriend was the same way. You don't have to pretend with me." She moved her hand away from her gun and said, "Listen, he was really tweaking when they took him out of here. If you drive up into Stone Ridge, maybe the night crew up at HQ will sign him out to you if he's not violent anymore. I'll buzz you through, just between us girls." She hesitated a moment, then said, "Listen. Let me give you something that'll help the both of you out." She stepped away for a moment, then came back with a small pamphlet that asked the question WHEN IS THE PARTY OVER? "Read that together, it'll help. And don't go sneaking around up there," she added in an almost sisterly fashion, "you're lucky I didn't draw down on you." 

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Alcoholic? Was Pete hitting the booze? or worse?




She just had to hope he had enough guts left in him to pull himself out of the gutter. He was a gutty man. But booze, drugs... they were guttier than many gutty men. 


She took the pamplet. "Thank. I better gut, I mean I better get going."


She saluted the guard with the pamphlet. It was probably tripe, full of vapid statements. But she was out her depth, and pretty sure she would do no better - and quite possibly even worse. 


Rev turned heel and strode back to her buggy, firing up the engine and making for Stone Ridge. The storm was coming, and rain was falling. 


Damn, I'm going to seize up...


She forgot to put lubricating oil in the Buggy. How kicked herself now, feeling stupid, but... even she had, the rain was going to wash it off in moments once the storm properly hit. She was going to be grinding like a wailing banshee until she got back to the chop shop and took an oil bath...



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The pamphlet turned out to be an extended invitation to attend the non-denominational church in Stone Ridge; the one in the new building that looked like a warehouse with the charismatic pastor who'd been involved in the sex scandal. It was probably not Pete's thing unless he had changed a lot since Rev had last seen him. As she got on the road, she could tell one thing for sure - It was definitely starting to rain. 


Stone Ridge was, as usual, a slightly off-putting place to be an outsider. The luxury homes were all just a little too big for their lots, towering over green lawns cut so short and kept so small they might not have been there at all. Maybe they looked different in terms of architecture, but in their own ways they were all the same. Rev had heard that this was good ground to work if you were a tradesman, though - the hastily-built McMansions of Stone Ridge generally had at least one major thing wrong with them. 


The Iron Talon Stone Ridge headquarters was located in one of the few buildings that had actually existed out here before the development had been built; a sturdy two-story brick building that had once been the regional high school seventy or eighty years earlier. It was an imposing-looking place with its barbed wire perimeter and armed guards, especially at night with glowing searchlights and spots that made it look like it was ready for a war. Martha's call got Rev in past the front gate, where a pale-faced guard raised the candy-striped arm and let her inside the parking lot, which was mostly filled with the white Humvees marked Iron Talon. 

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God... has Pete found God?


Rev was a complete agnostic; she just hadnt had the inclination to ever consider if there was a God enough. As far as she was concerned, you just tried your best to be good, and maybe you got a reward when you died, maybe you didn't. If she ever even though that deeply. 




Well, she had seen plenty of broken men and broken women found something in the Church. A bit of something - who knew what? - that healed them. Made them a little less broken. Maybe it was a sense of purpose, maybe it was divine love. Maybe it was tea and biscuits. Quite possibly it was all of the above. 


She parked, unable to resist giving the buggy a bit of a Rev as she did. Rain - it was a nice sound, but not as nice a V8 engine pouring thruogh the biggest tyres you could get. 


She hoped her buggy could outrun the Humvee's if need be. Perhaps she could ramp up her buggy with a boost from her non organic virus. But that wasn't always reliable. She could break her vehicle. 


Instead she got out, limbs starting to creak more. Where was Pete, and what had he gotten himself into?


She was grinding too badly to take any stealthy approach, and that wasn't her style anyhow. Instead bold as brass, as slick as engine oil, she strode into the Headquarters. 


Grab the devil by the horns!

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In the beginning, anyway; nobody picked up on what was happening - maybe it was the thunder, maybe it was the sheer oddity of a mechanical grinding and clanking noise accompanying Rev as she headed into the brightly-lit lobby. It was a little perverse to see such a clean, well-manicured place lit by an industrial florescent glow of yellow and white but dead empty, with a lone guard sitting behind a desk on the opposite side of the room. He looked up as she approached, walkie-talkie in his hand, and sounded like he was calling staff elsewhere in the complex about "what the hell was making that terrible @I#(Eing racket outside?" There was no one manning the metal detector in front of the entrance but she could see the green light that meant it was activated. 

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Ooops! Metal Detector!


That wasn't good. Because Rev was aproximately 48.197634% metal.




"Singing Telegram for Mr. Pete Moss!"


Singing Telegram? Where the hell did that come from? I should have been delivering Pizza. Singing Telegram? I would have been better off pretending to be selling underwater candles. 


It was the first thing that had come into her head, and Lexa Venn tended to go with the first thing that came into her head. 


"That's right!" she proclaimed. After all, if she had one foot in the silage, she may as well put the other in. "I know its a bit old fashioned, but singing telegram it is! Could you please get Mr. Pete Moss? Someone paid a lot of money for a...uh...sexy mechanic singing telegram!" she said with a smile that was too smiley to be a smile. 


In the meantime, she started working out what the lyrics would be... happy birthday? Merry Christmas? I love you?


Alternatively, she could throw a fireball and hope for the best. But this place had camera's, and she didn't want to be on the bad side of the Iron Talon. Well, maybe she did. But it wasn't wise to be on the bad side of the Iron Talon. Rev was at least wise enough to know when she was being unwise, but not enough to stop herself. 



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For a moment, it seemed like everything had gone wrong. The pale-faced guard walked up to her, looking deeply skeptical, and stood on one side of the metal detector as she went into her song. Lexa was not by nature a singer but she put her heart and soul into this one (whatever a mechanical woman could be said to have, anyway) - and by the time she was finished, the Iron Talon guy was smiling. "Never mind, Charlie, I've got this one." He reached up and flipped a switch on the metal detector, winking at Lexa as he waved her in. 


"Hey babydoll," he said with a wink, "sure, I'll show you right in. Somebody sent you for ol' Pete, huh?" he asked chummily as he put his arm around Lexa, leading her towards the rear of the lobby. Up close, RICK the Iron Talon guy smelled a little bit like copper as he put his arm around her. "You're some kind of night angel!" he added with a toothy grin. "Just follow me and I'll take you where you want to go," he told her with all the assurance of a bad car salesman. 

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"...And the tweets of the birds go twitty twit twoo!"


Rev finished her cute song with a smile. She couldn't quite believe it. Where the hell had that song come from?


By luck rather than judgement every note had been on point. Adrenaline had given birth to inspiration. 


The only down down side was that she would have the song And the tweets of the birds go twitty twit twoo in her head for days. Possibly longer. She shuddered. 


She gave a thumbs up to Rick. He seemed like a decent sort. The kinda decent sort you wouldn't trust. Hell, she had been around enough crooked car salesmen to know the type when she saw one. She spent half her life piecing together heaps ouf junk that distraught owners had been sold. 


"I need to see Pete. Pete Moss" she said. "Somebody wants him to hear the tweet song. Thought it might cheer him up. Or perhaps mock him. I dunno. But that's what I'm paid to do!"

Edited by Supercape
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"Sure sure, I'll take you right to him, we just need to make one little stop first..." 


Rick led Lexa into what was evidently the breakroom for the men and women who worked out front. It was deserted at this late hour but lit brightly by yellowed florescent lights. Lexa could see SOLDIER OF FORTUNE and occult magazines on the tables, a lovingly-maintained foosball table, a television playing a soccer game on silent, and a refrigerator with a stern NO SNACKING hand-written note taped to the front. The trashcan was full and had attracted at least one buzzing fly, the vending machine was unplugged and dark - and Rick was getting in her space. 


"Listen," he told her, his breath smelling like copper as he leaned close, "I am really not supposed to do this, but you are so damn beautiful and you sing like an angel..." 

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Guns... and Sorcery. What does that mean? Ghost Rifles? Spectre Shotguns? Witch muskets? Rev didn't really know what it meant, other than she was rather disturbed (albeit unsurprised) by a Merc devouring Gun statistics like a fethish. It was all well and good until a bullet ripped through flesh, shattering bones, severing tendons and nerves, blowing arteries...


...she stopped her train of thought. If she wanted to go down that road she would have trained to be a trauma surgeon, not a mechanic. 


Why does he smell of copper?


You didn't meet many merc's who smelled of copper. Well, you didn't meet many mercs. Not unless you were a merc yourself. 


"I'm no beauty" she answered honestly. "You want a beauty, go to the Tancing Ditties bar."


She had never been to the Tancing Ditties bar, but she guessed it beauties in it. Well, not beauties, but something that this copper man was looking for. 


"What are we stopping for? You gonna get me a Cherrypop! ?"


Rev loved Cherrypop! Lollipops. She could do with chewing one right now. It would clear her palate for what she expected was a spot of upcoming violence. And she knew just where to stick that guns magazine....



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"Kind of," said Rick, smiling with all his teeth - even the long, canine-like incisors that Lexa could see in his mouth. "Except it's you, baby." Lexa took in the medical waste bags in the trashcan, the dark and unplugged vending machine; the way she could see herself but not Rick reflected in the glass - and realized he was definitely going in for a bite. He looked into her eyes and suddenly his seemed like bottomless pools of coppery crimson that she could fall into forever. 

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"Yes my master... I am yours to...."




"Hold on, this isn't a B-movie! Screw you, buster! Are those teeth real? Because I'm going to be punching you so hard, you will be passing their shattered remains out of yer backside for the next week!"


Some part of her brain realised this was a Vampire, or at least someone doing a very good job of pretending to be one. Were Vampires real? It seemed so... she racked her brain for what she knew about vampires.


What was it... Garlic? Running Water? Crosses? Sunlight? Silver... no wait, was that Werewolves? Or was it both?


Never mind!


For now, her mighty fist would have to do! BAM!!!! She threw a might haymaker aimed right at the ?Vampire's mouth. 


She looked away, covering her eyes, trying to remember more about Vampires. Hypnotism? Yeah... hypnotism. What else...aha! FIRE!!!!


Well if the punch didn't do it, she hand plenty of fire to dish out...

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Rev threw the punch, pitting the finest Detroit iron against unholy power from another place and time - and came out the winner! 


She heard a distinct crack as she made contact with Rick's head and felt the decidedly unusual sensations of bones and dry dead flesh giving way before her mighty blow. 


The head (which looked very startled) rocketed upward like the ringer at a carnival test of strength and hit the ceiling, landing back on its own neck as Rick slumped to his knees. He looked up at her with his eyes already turning red and hissed "You dirty stinking b-" but never had a chance to finish. Within seconds of the death blow, the vampire was falling apart; not helpfully turning to dust like in horror movies Lexa had seen, not remaining human either, but visibly rotting before her eyes, as if whatever time he'd stolen was being forcibly reclaimed on his corpse, aging months in the span of seconds. 


For a moment at least, there was no sound but the wriggling mass of decay at her feet and the drip-drip-drip of rotting blood from her fist. 

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