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Payback -- A Prologue


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The streets of Lincoln have always been known as a dangerous place to walk at night. Gangs mark their territories like dogs. Though there are good people that live in the area, those numbers have steadily decreased once the gang-busting Black Avenger retired from his nightly patrol. Some say that he was killed while in his secret identity while others believe that the hero simply realized just how hopeless his fight against the gangs truely were. Regardless of the truth, the gangs were quick to take advantage of the heroe's absence from the streets.

Only in recent years has a new hero come upon the scene to protect the inocents of Lincoln. Sonic, a teenaged hero, has begun to take up the mantle that the Black Avenger had set aside. Slowly, he has gained some respect from the various gangs, but he is still only one in an area plagued with various problems.

Tonight, one such problem has just reached a boiling point. At the corner of 36th and K street, the Southside C's were begining their intitiation ritual. A young boy held a small pistol in his hand, taking comfort from the cold steel. He looked over at the small grocery store and ran the instructions in his head again.

"You wanna be a Southside C's? Man, you's got ta prove yous can hang with us. Gon' over to that little grocery story on 36th and K and pop that old Spic behind the counter. You do that and you're in, LaShun."

Lashun watched as the owner of the shop, Javier Cruz, moved about the store, cleaning the floor and restocking shelves for the next day. LaShun was supposed to do the deed before Javier went home. Again, LaShun took comfort in the weapon in his hand before moving across the street.

Javier Cruz was a long time resident of Lincoln. He had opened his store back in the early seventies, when the Black Avenger was still patrolling the streets. The presence of the masked crime fighter was the only reason that Javier was able to keep his shop open during those gang infested days. Now, with the hero gone, Javier was finding it difficult to keep his shop outside of the grip of the neighborhood gangs. In the past month alone, he was robbed five times.

The police could do nothing for him even though they knew exactly who was behind the robbings. Everyone in Lincoln knew who was behind the crime, yet no one was brave enough to confront the Southside C's. It took all of Javier's strength to seek out Sonic and ask the teenaged hero to intercede on his behalf.

Javier smiled as he remembered reading about the results of Sonic's visit on the gang. A good number of them were arrested and Javier felt safer at night. Little did he know that words had quickly spread that it was he that had gotten Sonic invovled with the gang's dealings.

Now it was time for some payback.

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Arthur rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. It had been a hard day at his day job, and soon he was going to have a long night in his more secretive night job. But first he had to stop for supplies, if he was going to make it through the night, he would need coffee. Lots of it, and black as night.

With a yawn he entered the shop. He smiled at the shopkeeper washing the floors as he passed him and made his way through the aisles to his intended target. He started browsing the different brands.

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Javier smiled as his late night customer entered the shop. The storeclerk had seen him come in on numerous occasions, always wondering what the man did for a living that would bring him out just when the store was about to close up.

"You just caught me, Arthur. I was going to close up in the next ten minutes or so. One of these days you're gonna have to tell me what you do. If you came in on a regular schedule, I would think you were a night watchman or something, but with the irregular visits you do put in, I would think differently."

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When Javier talks to him, Arthur shifts uncomfortably. He really didn't like discussing his life, or even idle chit chat. "I work here and there. For anyone willing to hire a high school drop out. Mostly at the docks, there's ships coming in at all hours," Arthur said, which he guessed was technically true. "Screws up my internal clock."

He pauses and looks over the brands of coffee again before settling for a cheap one. "That's also why I need some of Colombian's finest." He looks at the package. "Though I suspect it's far from finest, or even Colombian."

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Javier laughs as he hears the gest. "You're about right about that. I think they try to sell everything from the home land that way."

Javier moves behind the counter when the bell by the door rings a young boy comes in. The boy moves quickly to the counter, his back to Arthur, he quickly brandishes a pistol. "Hey old man! Give me everything in the register!" His hand shakes as he demands the money.

Javier seems surprised by the gun and freezes in panic.

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Of course, just going to the store for some coffee and a robbery... typical, Arthur thinks as he steps towards the gunner. "Kid, I really wouldn't want to do that if I was you."

If it wasn't for the gun and the threat of imminent violence, he'd find the way he called a boy just a few years younger than him kid funny. As it was he just wanted the kid to focus on and face him, if the gun was to go off, at least it wouldn't be pointing at Javier.

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At the sound of Arthur's voice, the boy turns, swinging the gun around to face him. His face shows his surprise at seeing Arthur there but he quickly swings his gun back towards Javier while stepping back slightly to keep both in his sight.

"Yo, get on the floor, man! Give me your money!"

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"That would imply I had any money," Arthur sighed as he moved out on the floor.

"Just put down the gun, and no one will be hurt," Arthur said as ice formed over his skin, turning him to a living icicle. "Or we could do this the hard way." Arthur hoped this threat would be enough to get the kid out of here.

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Arthur could recognize the gang member's color, one of the Southside C's. He had busted a few of them lately. This was an initiate though, probably nervous. Easy for him to mess up, do something he'd later regret. Arthur remembered his own initiation, he was nervous and sure he'd slip up. To many variables, too many things could go wrong. Arthur would have to end this soon, before it ended badly.

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Arthur's sudden change from normal to ice covered does more than his words to unnerve the boy. His eyes goes wide and he takes a quick shot at Javier which goes wide. Even before he sees where the shot went, the boy begins running for the exit, away from the ice covered super.

Javier, already in the motion when Arthur began his change, raised his weapon above the counter and fired into the fleeing boy's back. The blast is enough to drop the poor boy to the ground unconcious.

With the boy knocked out, Javier turns his eyes upon the transformed Arthur. "So that's what you do at night, huh? Question is, which side are you on?" Javier keeps the shotgun in hand, unsure as to how Arthur is going to react.

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"Are you crazy!" is Arthur's first reaction. "A shotgun?! I could have subdued him without any harm."

He runs over to the kid to check for vital signs, his icy armor disappearing for each step. "I'm not with a rival gang or anything if that's what you think. And while I may moonlight as a vigilante, but I don't wish 'em dead. You have somethin' I can stop the bleeding with?"

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When Arthur reaches the boy, he sees that the body was breathing normally. Near his body was a large rubber pellet.

"He isn't dead," Javier said as he came around the corner empty handed. "I use rubber pellets. Hits with a bang and stings, but doesn't kill them. BLack Avenger turned me on to them back in the day. Told me this was the only way to give these kids a chance to get their lives back in order."

The shop owner hands Arthur a towel to use to cushion the boy's head. "The real question is why would he want to rob me?"

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Javier shook his head slowly showoing his ignorance of the reason. "No, not that I know of," he began but stopped suddenly as a thought hit him. "Unless it has something to do with that group I got arrested the other day!"

Javier's voice grew in intensity as he realized that he was most likely on the right track. "About three days ago, I busted up some fellas hanging out near my shop. Hear them talking about the Lincoln Youth Center over on G St. They mentioned something about a gathering happening. I think they said it was going to happen sometime this week."

Javier looked at Arthur, "Think that could be why they sent this boy here?"

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Arthur listened to the shopkeeper, while keeping one eye on the unconscious ganger. "Could be. Word on the street is that gang members don't appreciate being arrested."

He didn't like what he was hearing though, and joking wouldn't help. "That sounds bad. Whenever these jokers decide to gather for something, it means trouble. You didn't catch anything else did you? Or know of someone who knows more?"

Arthur didn't expect an answer, and was already preparing to check out the youth center. First though, he needed to find a place to stash his civilian clothes.

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Javier shook his head. "No, I didn't. Are you planning on heading over there? I don't know anyone that might have information. "

Javier looks down at the unconcious kid. "I can make sure the cops pick him up so that you can do your thing."

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"Great. See you around," Arthur says as he runs outside. Crossing the street, and running the three blocks down to his apartments.

Cursing the broken elevator again, he runs up the stairs and into his apartments. A quick change later, Arthur finds himself sneaking onto the fire escape and tries to take the rooftop road to the youth center.

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