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Avenger Assembled

The Chain and the Lightning

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Jack was not at all sure that Da Bomb was a legal establishment, for all that they'd been fairly open in their advertisements posted in the Theater District. The club was underground near the edge of the city alongside Lonely Point, built out of an old Navy bomb shelter sold off to developers during budget cutbacks in the early Nineties. A massive sound machine and flashing laser lights kept the underground open space from feeling claustrophobic, and the thick walls and underground locale allowed for some truly wicked music.

He was feeling a little buzzed himself, having gotten something more than blood from the hottie in the really short skirt he'd picked up in one of the darker corridors off the main body of the dance floor. The E in her system meant that he'd made sure she went home (with a little suggestion about her drug habits) as soon as they'd finished, but by then he'd already fed. The colors were interesting, certainly, but feeding off drug-users always made him feel bad, both for the wasted potential (that he knew only too well) and what it meant for himself. Was he really such a louse that he was reduced to picking up women who were too high to know any better?

Next time, he promised himself, I'll be more careful. Some people didn't show the signs of chemicals in their system until you actually tasted their system. Drinkless at the bar as techno music pumped down to his very bones, he looked around, checking out a clientele that looked to be surprisingly upscale for an establishment like this. Of course; the base. The sailors, kids really, at the naval base, could come here to drink and party, maybe scoring a little weed or more on the side, and the college kids could get outside the jurisdiction for more of the same.

They've got money coming in from somewhere, he thought. You know, I wonder if this is one of Melinda's joints... The high-class atmosphere mixed with the carefully concealed sleaze certainly fit the queen vampire's M.O., and it would explain all the dark corners around here. He'd need to investigate. Maybe then he wouldn't feel so bad about the kid he'd fed from that night. This is why it's easier to beat up criminals. A lot less morally complicated that way.

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If you want to be an A-Lister, you have to act like an A-Lister. You're seen at the Right Places with the Right People, by the Right People. Failing that, you keep your goings on discrete. Pompadour's agent laid down the new reality of his lifestyle pretty firmly. The weaselly lawyer she had retained on his behalf had been eager to supply the address of a 'hot club with max hush-factor.' The man had been eager to impress Pompadour with his 'cred' and street savvy. Pompadour didn't feel ready for the Millennium, so he headed for the supplied address. Given Mandy's plans for a media campaign, his days of relative obscurity were numbered.

He parked his car a few blocks away, and walked a few blocks to check out the neighbourhood. The club might be discrete, according to the lawyer, but the streets surrounding the club were plastered with hand-bills advertising it. He took note of a man loitering on the street -too well dressed to be a vagrant, sober so he's not party-people, and he was watching the street like a hawk... but he wasn't lurking in the shadows, so probably not a mugger. Interesting... On a hunch, Pompadour walked a circuit around the club, and spied similar men keeping a watchful eye out on the corners and streets around the club. Police stake-out? That would be a very bad beginning. Frowning, he approached the club's doorman anyways. Glancing down the street, "Don't look now man, but someone's watching your club" he told him. "Tha's right bro. We be watchin' our club. Our guests like they privacy." Pompadour smiled at the man, "Yes. Yes we do." He palmed the bouncer a pair of 20s and stepped into the club.

Pompadour looked around the dark club, his eyes were already adjusted from his walk around the block. He realized that he didn't really have a lot of experience with clubs. His first impression was that it wasn't really his kind of place, but then he realized that... really, he wasn't really sure what 'his kind of place' was. Pompadour couldn't imagine Mandy's lawyer in here, either. He also had an odd notion that maybe the club should be more crowded. The place was busy, but not the hip-to-hip packed he remembered college clubs being. On the other hand, he couldn't complain about the scenery. There were plenty of attractive young women wearing an assortment of predatory costumes. The first girl he passed, wearing a skirt that might be more accurately described as a scarf, paused briefly to brush against him and boldly suck on his earlobe -hardly breaking her stride. He admired her candid brevity, and the rear view, as she slinked away. He continued his exploration of the club.

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As the drugs began to fade from his system, Jack took notice for the first time of the small knot of women passing back and forth near the sharply-dressed young man who'd recently entered. He didn't see anything strange about the other guy, not really. But the women around him certainly seemed interested, raising their heads like so many gazelle as a lion passed by. Not a vampire, Jack thought, noticing that the man was breathing. Strange. Young enough to feel just a little threatened by the competition, Jack rose to his feet and slowly walked over to greet the new arrival, strutting his stuff as he went. "Don't think I've seen you around here before," he said with a shark's smile. "Jack Faretti."

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Pompadour made his way through the club, checking out the layout and the talent. He was starting to acquire something of a following. When he finally headed towards the bar, he actually found that he couldn't reach it because of the entourage that had encircled him, possessively. At his slightly perplexed frown, several of encircling women procured and offered him an assortment of beverages.

He started to try and talk to the women.. but he was having issues with focus. He tried to talk to one, three others jumped in with interruptions. I should be enjoying this. A year ago, not one of these women would have looked twice at me, and now look at them degrading themselves for a chance to be the girl I probably won't call 'afterwords.' A blonde in french braids pushed a pair of panties into his jacket pocket; her eyes smoldered and her nostrils flared. Oh my, my. I think... yes. Yes I am going to enjoy this. Pompadour arbitrarily decided that french braids meant she was uptight. He pulled the garment from his pocket, and tossed it back at her with a show of indifference. The woman let the briefs fall to the ground, her face flamed with shame. She pushed her way out of the enclosure... allowing a darkly handsome man a path into it.

"Don't think I've seen you around here before," he said with a shark's smile. "Jack Faretti."
Pompadour paused in the act of shaking the man's hand. How exactly do I introduce myself? I don't really envision bothering with a Secret ID, and... he was drawing a blank on the normal name his Agent had picked out for him. Might as well jump in with both feet... His hand finally closed around the other man's, in a firm shake. "Pompadour." He was actually kind of glad for the interruption, that had been a rather cruel thing to do to the girl, and he was wondering, again, if he should feel badly for the flock of women clamouring for a chance to be callously discarded by him.

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As the small cloud of women milled around, Jack got more and more suspicious. What's this guy got? He hadn't felt any of the psychic twinges that he'd sometimes felt around Elena, nor any of the marks of vampire domination in the room. But this guy was...Wait a minute! He'd have seen it faster if so many of his friends didn't wear their hair or style their clothes in an out-of-date style. He vaguely remembered the Sinister Pompadour and the stories about the man's clash with the Raven, and he couldn't think of anyone else these days who'd wear their hair like that.

"So what brings you to this establishment?" he asked with a significant look at the nearby ladies.

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Pompadour eyed the man cooly for a few moments, before smoothly unholstering a Blackberry. He checked the display for messages, before tucking it back in its case. "Perhaps I just came in to use the phone." He glanced at the red head to his left, that was currently rubbing her enormous bosom against his arm, and then allowed his gaze to pass over the other women carousing nearby -his gaze lingering on the pair who were writhing against each other, their tongues flickering like snakes. "Perhaps I'm a Missionary, hoping to convert the Heathen Natives." He took a sip of the drink in his hand, a Zombie apparently, and allowed his gaze to shift to the ceiling. "Perhaps I'm concerned about World War Three, and sought the cities only public bomb shelter." He took another sip of his drink.

With a slight shrug, Pompadour returns his gaze to Jack, looking him right in the eye. "Perhaps you'd like to ask me... what you actually want to ask me. Or you'll get lost. I'm good either way."

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Superhero or not, vampire or not, Jack was still a young male seeing his territory threatened. Wars had started for less. "Or maybe," he added with a dangerous whisper, leaning close to Pompadour's ear, "the ladies here will decide they want a real man..." He was just about to put his hand on Pompadour's shoulder as a 'friendly' show of strength when suddenly his head came up, the smell of ozone sharp in the air in the instant before the lights went out. In the next moment, Jack was gone.

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In the back of his mind, Pompadour heard his counselor's voice... When you feel the urge to hit, take a minute to remind yourself that you're a Super Strong person in a world filled with Fragile people. Nevertheless, Pompadour shifted on his stool, ready to get to his feet, one hand already moving to block his rival's attempt to put a hand on his shoulder. Right... let's not get arrested on our first day as a free man. One of these chicks is probably this guy's girlfriend. I can diffuse this...

...and then the lights went out. Pompadour's eyes were adjusted to the club lights, and he couldn't see in the near pitch black. Holding his drink steady in one hand, he patted himself down and fished out the mag-light his agent had left in his suite as a gift. Handy, this... now, if only there are batteries in it... A beam of light sprang from his hand, and Pompadour surveyed his immediate surroundings, he frowned and swept the nearby ground with the beam to make sure that Jack hadn't fallen and was being trampled. No sign of him... Pompadour looked around the club.

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The club was lit only by its emergency lights for a moment, the bouncers reacting quickly to the disaster as they moved to escort the most VI Ps out of the club before the authorities arrived. A moment later, though, the situation changed for the most dire. An enormous flash of lightning split the air in the underground room, a massive thunderbolt tearing its way through the heavy wall of the bomb shelter and blasting into the stage that shattered in a sudden eruption of pure white light, debris flying everywhere into the suddenly screaming crowd. Where the lightning struck, the figure of a man formed in a flash of light nearly blinding in the formerly pitch-black confines of the club. Clad in a blue and white armored costume reminiscent of the kings of old, a massive hammer clenched in one hugely muscular fist, the armored man raised his fist and shouted "I AM DONAR! LORD OF THUNDER AND LIGHTNING! I CLAIM THIS LAND FOR ASGARD! WILL ANY CHAMPIONS RISE TO CHALLENGE ME?"

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Pompadour stared at the lightning wreathed figure like a deer caught in the headlights. His drink slowly slid out of his hands, exploding on the floor... the sound lost in the cacophony, but a spray of cold liquid slashed against his calf.

He wants a Champion to oppose him? That doesn't have to be me. I'm just a guy in a bar having a drink. I can walk out of here with the rest of the patrons, and leave this to someone else. Continuing to stare at the hulking, self proclaimed Lightning Lord, Pompadour switched off his mag-light, and tucked it back into his jacket. He realized he hadn't moved. This guy could be someone else' problem... but I'm here now, and I have powers, if I have the guts to use them.

Pompadour stands where he is, frozen with indecision, staring at the room which seems preternaturally bright and moving in slow motion.

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"Captain Thunder's face," came a new growling, malevolent voice from the darkness. The words were enough to send a chill up the spine of any normal man, but the blue-clad warped figure of Earth's greatest living champion seemed unmoved by the voice from the darkness. "Not him." Donar replied by raising his hammer high and sending waves upon waves of electrical energy crackling through the room, lightning now crackling from every lightbulb in the place, filling everything with a nearly-blinding blue-white glow. Pompadour was just able to see a black-clad figure near the edge of stage, nearly invisible in the glow, one fast enough that it had to be another superhero.

"WHO DARES CHALLENGE ME!" Donar boomed in reply, the voice of Captain Thunder now unmistakable. "I AM RAYMOND GARDENER! I AM DONAR OF ASGARD!" His eyes roaming around the room as civilians fled screaming in terror, the raw power of a pagan god burning the air around him and crackling from his massive hammer, Donar's eyes fell on one figure not running from his awesome power. He pointed his massive hammer straight at Pompadour, his eyes widening with dawning rage. "KNEEL BEFORE YOUR GOD!"

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"Hey! Hey!"

His fear washed away by confusion and outrage, Pompadour advanced on the self proclaimed lightning god. "He's right! I recognize you, Captain Thunder! What the hell, man?! Blowing stuff up! Scaring people! You should be ashamed of yourself!"

Broken glass scattered from around Pompadour's feet as he moved into the open floor of the club. As he advanced, his hair seemed to get... larger. A Rockabilly fan will proudly tell you how tall his coif is... but Pompadour's namesake feature was now a bristling tower of menace, nearly two feet tall... and inky black tendrils snaked out from it. "Now, drop that hammer and quit being a jerk!"

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Donar smiled malevolently as Pompadour's extended hair just missed his hammer, whipping past the thunder god as he lifted his hammer high. "If you want my hammer, boy, by all means, have it!" He raised the hammer high and threw it straight and true, the divine weapon of power tearing through the air with fantastic speed directly for Pompadour's face. A moment later, something black and fast slammed into Pompadour's side, knocking the hirsute hero out of the way as the hammer of Donar blasted through the space where Pompadour had just been. The hammer went on, too, blasting into the concrete floor as if a bomb had gone off. The impact shook the underground room with tremendous force, sending huge chunks of concrete falling from the ceiling down onto the fleeing patrons below, their screams reaching a new pitch as innocent people fell before the hunks of debris.

"Listen." On the floor behind the table where he'd knocked him, Avenger pointed at Pompadour, the white-masked vigilante's eyes glowing with reflected light. Jack didn't bother with an introduction, having assessed the individual he was dealing with quickly. "Found emergency stairs behind the bar. Get civilians out. Donar will collapse room and kill everyone here. Will hold him off."

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" Holy! That [words obscured by falling rubble] tried to kill me!" Pompadour shifted and scrambled to his feet. "Right... emergency exit. I can handle that."

Moving with purpose now, strands of Pompadour's hair pressed up against the roof, supporting the damaged structure. Moving towards the milling patrons, he began sorting out the fallen and tangled mass of humanity with his hands, words, and even more tendrils of hair. With confident tones and encouraging words, Pompadour directed the club goers towards the emergency exit.

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Pompadour's charismatic leadership and heroic hair-slinging easily protected the civilians from the falling debris, his efforts visibly saving dozens of lives as they turned and fled up the emergency stairs behind the bar rather than towards the emergency exit on the other side of the club that was already collapsing. Never had an underground room seemed so blasted claustrophobic. On the other side of the room, it was all Avenger could do to distract the living god before him.

"Miserable failure. Attacking the helpless to show your power. Pathetic. You are the god of thunder?" Avenger was blindingly fast, moving with a speed and stealth far beyond the abilities of the god of thunder to detect. There was something terribly thrilling in all of this, the knowledge that his skills were superior to the powers of the being before him. But he knew it couldn't last long.

"FOOL!" Donar shrugged off a chunk of debris as it shattered against his back, the debris sizzling as it bounced off his hammer. "YOUR WORLD WILL FALL BEFORE OUR MIGHT!" And with that, he smashed his hammer into the ground, sending waves of electricity through the floor that burned the carpet, scorched the hair, and reached out hungrily to grab at everyone still in the room! Avenger dodged by the skin of his teeth, feeling part of his costume catch fire briefly as he vaulted the stream of energy.

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With his hair stretched out to the emergency exit on one side, and to maximum capacity towards the last of the stragglers, Pompadour was acting like a human tow-rope, giving the still-frightened club goers stable footing as he continued to usher them towards the exit. Three other tendrils of hair formed a tripod to brace against the roof, with the weight of the damaged structure pressed firmly down on the novice hero's spine.

"Keep it moving, and don't stop when you're out. Watch for stragglers, don't step on anyone. Everyone look after everyone, and we'll live to party another day." And as soon as these people are clear, I'm going to take another shot at blue-pants...

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"So many have said," Avenger taunted, showing a confidence he didn't necessarily feel at the sight of this awesome demigod. "And yet here we are. Don't even need the Freedom League to take you on. Knights'll beat you like the tinpot god you are." Avenger's fast movement and stealth were all that was saving him from Donar. A good thing, too, as Donar was showing remarkable aim with that incredible weapon of his!Still, he didn't quite hit Avenger, who was invisible even to Pompadour as he taunted and moved, keeping the shadows between himself and Donar.

The room had survived the initial devastation done by Donar's attack, but his repeated lightning bolts were ripping through the foundation and making the steel beams inside the central concrete core groan and strain. A little more punishment like this and the whole room would come collapsing down on all of them. But not on the civilians; between the two of them, Avenger and Pompadour had gotten them all out!

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Pompadour ushered the last of the bar patrons, out and glanced back at the fight. Hmm... Donar's back is to me... I wonder if... "Alright Avenger! We're clear!" he allowed the emergency door to close behind the last club thing, but did not follow himself. Glancing up at the roof, he decided it was stable enough, for the moment, and ceased to support it with his hair.

Stalking up behind Donar, Pompadour stared murderously at the faux-god's back, as his hair twisted together to form a single, massive coil... which continued to swell into a smashing surface the size of an oil drum. Pomp did his best to stay behind Donar, hoping to sacrifice precision for power. Once in range, he unleashed his anger and his hair!

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Pompadour missed Donar again, but his attempted strike was enough to get the attention of the Lord of Thunder! Just as Donar wheeled on Pompadour, his hammer glowing with another energy discharge, suddenly Donar's head cocked. With a look of fury on his face, he pointed right at Pompadour and boomed, "When He comes, you and your friend will be the first to fall before my might!" With another sudden eruption of glowing energy, Donar vanished in a spectacular burst of light! This time, though, his departure was spectacular enough to completely unbalance the room! Huge chunks of masonry, then earth, began to fall as Da Bomb began completely collapsing. "RUN!" Avenger called to Pompadour, heading for the door himself. "HIT THE STAIRS!"

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Pompadour's hair that had just crushed out a crater next to where Donar stood, reflexively shifted into a shield from the god's thunderous departure. He straightened from his half crouch, and shot a glance to the general location of Avenger's warning voice and then up at the roof.

In the eerie half-light of the sparking emergency lights, Pompadour seemed to be moving in slow motion, but in reality he was moving faster than he had ever moved before. A lash of his hair wrapped around the railing of the stairs, with the sound-barrier breaking crack of a whip. He pulled himself across the intervening distance with a beautiful aerial roll and landed next to the fire door. Pompadour didn't open the door so much as tear the (already damaged) door off it's hinges, tossing it to the floor of the club below. He stood in the doorway a moment, silhouetted against the street lights outside, looking back, to see if Avenger was going to make it out ok...

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A gravelly voice spoke not six inches from Pompadour's ear. "Appreciate the concern." Avenger had contrived to get behind Pompadour in the confusion, the big-haired Lothario now between him and the sinkhole in the street nearby. "Glad you came through." Avenger and Pompadour were getting a lot of positive attention from the crowd...well, Pompadour was absorbing much of it. Between one thing and another, Avenger was hard to love. "Should do this for a living."

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Startled, Pompadour whirled to face Avenger. "Jeez, you move fa-" he started to say, before the roof of Da Bomb decided to give in once and for all. The shockwave of a few dozen tons of reinforced concrete caving in blasted him out of the doorway, and onto his knees in the street. Despite the blast, Avenger seemed to be beside him still... completely non-plussed. Meanwhile, Pompadour grit his teeth, and pressed his hands into the small of his back. "Do this for a living, eh? Funny... my agent told me the same thing this morning..."

The gaggle of club girls Pompadour had helped rescue were beginning to rally, clearly intending to show their appreciation, and the wail of sirens approaching was growing louder.

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Avenger disappeared after that, leaving Pompadour to enjoy his victory. It had been a good night in some ways; no innocent lives had been lost and Pompadour had done a good deed where everyone could see it. But Avenger was troubled; deeply troubled. What on Earth had that...man been? Shapeshifting villians was one thing, but Jack had watched enough television that he knew full well that Donar had been Ray Gardener. What was going on here?

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