Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Marvel 52-Title Relaunch - pt. 3

The final titles. Would these all work, with the right creative teams involved? I think so...

Uncanny X-Men. A 26-page adventure serial featuring the X-Men in 1990. Six years after the other series, Wolverine, Pyslocke, Banshee, Forge, Polaris, Legion, and Amanda Sefton form a new X-Men after the rest of the team disappeared through the Siege Perilous. The new team has to deal with the Crusher, the Genoshans, and Fenris.
Power Man and Iron Fist. A 26-page adventure serial featuring Heroes for Hire in 1991. Power Man and Iron Fist have joined forces with the Daughters of the Dragon in more ways than one, as Luke and Colleen and Daniel and Misty have been married couples for five years. Between mortgage worries and just wanting to get away from the kids every so often, the four decide to team-up and relaunch their work-for-hire business, just in time for the return of Chiantang, the Black Dragon, in human form, and Master Khan.
Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. A 21-page adventure serial featuring Spider-Man in 1992. Peter and Mary Jane Parker are in their 40s. Peter is a police captain who still moonlights as Spider-Man. Mary Jane is a successful TV actress. Their adult daughter has been the new Spider-Woman for the last three years. Father and daughter fight crime together, with Peter hanging back and mentoring more. The Spider Family tackles the likes of the Punisher, the Hobgoblin, and the Rose. A 5-page back-up feature rotates between Medusa, Quicksilver, and the Black Widow and what they're doing these days.
Marvel Super Special. A 26-page anthology with two 13-page stories spotlighting different characters each issue, set in 1993.
New Mutants. A 26-page adventure serial featuring a team of would-be X-Men, recruiting young mutants to train to fight, in 1994. The main roster is Cable, Shatterstar, Siryn, Warpath, and Rictor and they will fight villains like Arcade, Black Tom Cassidy, and the Grandmaster.
Marvel Age. A 22-page $1 comic featuring news about the various titles and clues as to how they will all fit together into one continuity.
Alpha Flight. A 26-page adventure serial featuring Canada's team of superheroes in 1996. The roster is Wildheart, Windshear, Talisman, Persuasion, Witchfire, Box, and Diamond Lil, tackling the likes of Hardliner, Carcass, and Dreamqueen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 15

"I suggest that we can go through the barbed wire fence,” Alpha-Woman said. “It should make less noise than the other two choices."

"I agree, Alpha-Woman,” the Mountain Man said, “and if you wouldn't mind helping me gather some heavier branches, we should be able to use them to weigh the barbed wire down enough or to make a mat so we can safely climb over it." The Mountain Man started looking about for branches, particularly ones that still had a good amount of leaves and smaller branches attached. Once he had a good number he started bundling them together to make a sort of mat that was light enough to carry.

"Don't forget, they're likely to be ready for us too." Silver Scorpion advised. However, for lack of a better plan herself, she helped Mountain Man gather branches.

Everyone tried to ignore their gurgling stomachs as they set to work. Though no one said anything, many secretly wished the Daoist would sneak into the town and steal them something to eat. Captain Liberty, in particular, needed sustenance to replenish his strength after his gunshot wound.

Since they were in a forest, finding branches was easy. Soon they had more than enough to fashion a crude mat or ramp to lie over the barbed wire fence. It was an elegant plan, not even relying on anyone's special powers other than some heavy lifting abilities.

Then came the wait. As dusk fell over the town, bonfires were lit through the town to provide light. Men and women gathered around the bonfires, drinking and carousing in an increasingly raunchy manner, inversely proportional to the amount of attention they were paying to the temple and the gardens.

In the gardens, the people tending it left and soon even the guards seemed to have all left the gardens for the night.

At nine o’clock, the heroes decided it was dark enough to strike out. They managed to cross the clearing right up to the watchtower without being seen. The ramp was laid onto the fence with minimal noise. One by one, they climbed over it and hopped down into the gardens. Sewer Rat and Gandor the Great had earlier told of their plan to remain here, though, and keep the ramp safe in case it was necessary for a fast retreat.

The remaining six heroes snuck through the garden towards the temple. The garden was dark, lit only by the moon and the dim glow of distant bonfires. The middle of the gardens was mostly vegetable garden, broken up only by low hedges. The trees were all along the outside of the gardens and were all fruit- or nut-bearing trees. Interestingly, they observed apple and orange trees growing side by side, even though this clime should not have been conducive to orange growing.

Dice Morgan muttered to himself, "Y'know, I could’a just cut the barbed wire wit' my knife. Dese super-types always gotta’ make things more complicated."

They had not progressed more than 40 feet north of the pond when they spotted the first of them. Just 20 feet ahead of them was a rooster -- a three-foot tall rooster. It looked at them with its head turned and its eye towards them. Then they spotted another. And another. A moment later, a pack of five of these large roosters were charging them. As they drew closer, they opened their beaks and the heroes could see by the moonlight rows of sharp teeth!

Alpha-Woman took out her brass knuckles and readied to strike a rooster in the face. She was the closest to a charging rooster. She lashed out with her fist, but the rooster was fast and turned its head to the side to dodge her lunge. The rooster lunged too, its beak opened wide to bite, but she managed to shove it back out of reach.

The Mountain Man stepped forward and dug his feet in, pulling the power of the earth up through his boots and into his body. The others could see his body shift, becoming angular, like a rock face. He readied to meet the charge of those giant roosters with his hatchet. They would have to come to the mountain. As the nearest one charged him, he swung his hatchet with the power of the Earth behind it and nearly cut the rooster in half. Though dying, the rooster completed its lunge and tore into the Mountain Man with its razor-sharp teeth as its last act.

Upon seeing the roosters Dice stopped short. "Well if that don't beat all. Roosters got teeth!" He slipped on his brass knuckles and readied his knife. As an afterthought, he said, "Hey, if we can take ‘dese birds alive we could make a killin' on the cockfightin' circuit over in Mexico!" Dice Morgan handily slipped his knife between the eyes of the rooster charging him, grimacing when he thought of the fortune he just killed. The rooster fell dead before it could bite.

Silver Scorpion drew two knives. She was ready to hurl one at the nearest rooster, or kick it in the neck if it reached her first. Since no rooster was charging her directly, she threw a knife at the rooster charging Captain Liberty. The wily rooster was moving too quickly, the lighting was too poor, and there was no time to aim -- cumulatively leading up to her knife flying wild and landing in a hedge.

Captain Liberty got ready to wreck some rooster! He attacked the closest one he could get to. Captain Liberty was ready for a patriotic punch and his fist shone with the light of freedom as it glanced off the charging rooster's beak. There was a crunching sound that turned out to be the death knell for the rooster, that collapsed before biting.

The Daoist flung himself at one of the roosters, transforming into a snake in mid-air and biting at the creature. The Daoist-snake landed on the remaining rooster and wrapped around it, while sinking fangs into the rooster's neck. The rooster went down.

There was only one rooster left alive after a minute of fighting, as the fastest of the bunch was eluding Alpha-Woman's punches. Just as everyone converged to aid her, two more roosters came charging from the far end of the gardens. They were 50 feet away and closing, passing the south end of the pond.

Alpha-Woman was getting mad that she could not hit a stupid three-foot rooster. She threw angry punches at the freakish thing and was determined to take down her rooster, but all she got was a face full of feathered wing that disoriented her and made her punches miss.

Silver Scorpion readied another knife, but as the new roosters were still quite far away she moved to Alpha-Woman's foe to fell it with a roundhouse kick. However, the vicious bird was a flurry of beak, teeth, and claws and she could not get near it. Instead, attracted to the new target, this apparent super-rooster bit Silver Scorpion, putting a big tear in her silver jumpsuit.

Dice Morgan moved to throttle an approaching rooster, but knew that he would not be able to do it without making an extremely off-color remark. Figuring the super-types had it well in hand, he took a step back and surveyed the area, looking to see if the roosters had alerted any human sentries.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Marvel 52-Title Relaunch - pt. 2

This entry continues a project I began last October and was difficult to write because it leaves out so many other worthy titles. And it was harder because I’m closer to this history than DC’s history, having grown up with Marvel characters. Ultimately, though, I feel the same about Marvel’s continuity as I do about DC’s. Continuity is not a handicap, it is the best thing that ever happened to comics. It gives them the spirit of an ongoing saga, with time passing and organic growth, and discards the status quo for progress and change. It’s also important to mention that my interpretation of how that growth should occur is informed by my own fanfiction.

Millie the Model. A 26-page romance/comedy anthology with two 13-page stories featuring Millie in 1960. Millie is 31, the world’s first supermodel, married to her photographer, ‘Clicker’. They tour the world for photo shoots and help people with their problems wherever they go.
Modeling with Millie. A 26-page romance/comedy anthology with two 13-page stories set in 1967. Millie, now 38, runs a modeling agency and uses it to help change girls’/young women’s lives. The stories tend to be one-shots focused on the people Millie helps, with less involvement from her than in Millie the Model.
Fantastic Four. A 22-page adventure/science fiction/romance serial, featuring the Fantastic Four in 1972. With Reed and Sue retiring, the Thing and the Human Torch are joined by the Sub-Mariner and Crystal to form the new team. The Thing and the Human Torch finally get engaged to Alicia and Crystal respectively. The FF decide to leave NY for a new HQ in NJ, just in time for an invasion of the Lizard Men of Tok in Subterranea and the introduction of Thundra into a new Frightful Four. Each issue has a 4-page back-up of domestic/science fiction comedy featuring the retired Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Girl.
The Mighty Thor. A 21/26-page adventure/romance serial, featuring Thor and the Norse gods of Asgard in 1975. While warring against the Egyptian gods or the Time-Twisters as they ravage time, Thor discovers part of Don Blake still lives within him and loves Jane Foster so strongly that Thor cannot give all his heart to Sif. Jane returns to make it a love triangle. The Warriors Three alternate between having a 5-page independent back-up story or figure prominently in the main story.
The Amazing Spider-Man. A 21-page adventure/romance serial, featuring Spider-Man in 1976. Peter Parker changes his major to forensic science as he continues college part-time and becomes engaged to Mary Jane Watson, between battles with the Punisher, the Kingpin, and Stegron the Dinosaur-Man. A 5-page adventure serial back-up features the Prowler on an adventure, sometimes peripherally connected to Spider-Man’s own.
Dr. Strange. A 21-page adventure/supernatural suspense serial, featuring Dr. Strange in 1977. Dr. Strange has been the official Sorcerer Supreme of Earth for a year now. He has been married to Clea for three years and she is pregnant with their first child. They have an extended family of four of Strange’s disciples/apprentices and the always-unhappy and scheming father-in-law of Dormammu, deadly rematches with the wizard Stygyro, and the celestial politics of the Ancient One, the In-Betweener, and the cosmic balance. A 5-page back-up serial focuses on Clea’s solo outings in learning what it means to be human, or the more familiar paranormal.
The Incredible Hulk. A 21-page adventure/romance serial, featuring the Hulk in 1978. The Hulk currently has the intelligence of Bruce Banner at age 16. Both Banner and Hulk can control their transformations into each other now, doing so based on if strength or intelligence is needed. Bruce and Betty have been married for a year. Gamma Base has been turned from a military base into a scientific laboratory. Doc Sampson is on staff at Gamma Base, helping Banner and the Hulk cope with their split personality, and occasionally aiding in dealing with threats like Moonstone, a villainous who plays mind games with men. A 5-page back-up feature deals with Doc Sampson, either commenting on the Hulk’s adventures, doing something peripheral to the Hulk’s adventures, or doing something interesting of his own.
Captain America. A 21-page adventure/romance serial, featuring Captain America in 1979. Steve Rogers is aging fast and half-retired, mostly retired, the identity of Capt. America all but officially handed off to his chosen successor, Rick Jones. Rick is fighting The Corporation, which has infiltrated SHIELD. SHIELD agent Sharon Carter finds herself torn between attraction to both Caps. A 5-page back-up feature follows the Falcon, Rick’s part-time partner, in some peripheral adventure.
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. A 26-page action/war serial featuring Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos in 1956, as the experienced war vets perform covert missions in Southeast Asia.
Avengers. A 26-page adventure serial featuring the Avengers in 1981. The roster is Black Knight, Black Panther, Beast, Vision, Mantis, Falcon, and Jocasta as the U.N. charges them with handling threats like Pyron the Thermal Man, the Shadow Lord, and the Beserker.
Two-Gun Kid. An 18-page cowboy/superhero serial featuring Two-Gun Kid in 1881. Moreso than the other cowboy heroes, Two-Gun tends to fight colorful, supervillain-like foes. An 8-page back-up adventure has Two-Gun performing more traditional cowboy fare.
Daredevil. A 21-page adventure serial featuring a new Daredevil in 1983. Matt Murdock dies, trading his life force to bring Elektra back from the dead. Elektra seeks to take up the mantle of Daredevil, but the Hand rejects her, saying they already have another choice, blind ex-cop and ex-soldier Willie Lincoln. Elektra is forced to train him as Willie-Daredevil takes on the war against Bullseye and the Kingpin. A 5-page back-up feature rotates between another “street level” hero doing something peripheral to whatever Daredevil’s current adventure is.
X-Men. A 26-page adventure serial featuring the X-Men in 1984. Wolverine, Rogue, Cyclops, Ariel, Colossus, Storm, and Nightcrawler are the current team as they tackle the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Morlocks, and the H---fire Club.
Iron Man. A 21-page adventure serial featuring Iron Man in 1985. Stark’s new company, Circuits Maximus, is successful enough that Obadiah Stane offers him a deal he can’t refuse – Stane International will absorb his company and Tony will be half in charge of both. With access to his old resources, Stark builds a new, bulkier, 7’ tall suit of armor that can lift/press 20 tons and takes over being Iron Man again from Jim Rhodes, just in time to take on the Termite, Vibro, and Dr. Demonicus. Tony rejoins the West Coast Avengers. Obadiah, meanwhile, works behind the scenes to back the bad guys. In a 5-page back-up feature, Jim Rhodes continues to be Iron Man in the old suit, for-hire.
Marvel’s Greatest Comics. A 34-page reprint volume with 2-3 reprinted stories from the company’s history, rotating between characters.
Marvel Team-Up. A 21-page adventure serial featuring Spider-Man and another rotating superhero (such as the Human Torch, the Thing, or Ms. Marvel) in 1987. Peter Parker is now a forensic scientist for the NYPD. He and Mary Jane are married. Their daughter is five years old. A 5-page back-up feature follows one of those heroes past the adventure, to give you a glimpse into what their life in 1987 was like.
The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu. A 21-page adventure serial featuring Shang-Chi in 1988. Shang Chi, endowed with a mysterious mystical power, finds he is now able to impart Kung-Fu skill to others. Building up a team of disciples, Shang-Chi decides to tour the world and right wrongs. A 5-page back-up feature rotates between Shang-Chi’s old supporting cast and shows what they are doing these days.
Defenders. A 26-page adventure serial featuring the current team in 1989. An aging Dr. Strange finds the Defenders who died back in ’86 went with Valkyrie to Valhalla and can be summoned back temporarily as Einherjar. In this way Gargoyle, Valkyrie, and Andromeda come back to help Dr. Strange in times of need. Gargoyle and Andromeda, in particular, need to adjust to their new life of only being “alive” when adventure calls. A 5-page back-up feature spotlights one of the other former Defenders and shows what they’re doing in 1989.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 14

The journey continued through the dense Minnesota pine forest. They trekked by foot for miles through the forest until, around 4 o’clock, they came at last to a huge clearing. Someone shimmied up a tree for a better sense of the layout and reported the details to the others.

The majority of the clearing would seem to be what Chuck referred to as Roostertown. The shacks mostly appeared to have been thrown together from chunks of aluminum siding, though log cabins were scattered amongst them. On the west side of the clearing were about two dozen shacks. On the east side were 20 shacks and cabins, with a fenced-off area behind them containing more cabins. Between these two sides was the temple itself. It was a two-story stone building set within a 10-foot high metal fence. The fence was then surrounded by a moat about eight to ten feet wide. The only entrance to the fenced enclosure seemed to be a wooden bridge leading through a brick gatehouse and leading into the gardens. The gardens were also enclosed in a high fence that ran down the length of the clearing all the way to a pair of three-story tall watchtowers. The watchtowers were on the shore of a large pond right in front of them, at the edge of the clearing. The pond was about 60 feet in diameter and could be walked around in either direction.

The whole clearing could be circled around, so long as they stayed in the forest, but as soon as they stepped into the clearing, they were likely to be seen.

Alpha-Woman was stumped at what to do...Step out too far, be seen; stay here, wonder what to do... "So, Chuck,” she said at last, “how are we going to make it through?"

The Mountain Man had long since tucked his bulletproof vest like a trophy into his pack. "Why are you asking Chuck what to do?” he retorted. “These guys sent him to capture you and bring you back here for who knows what. I wouldn't ask him to tie my shoe if I were you," the Mountain Man commented. "Say, ‘Goodnight’, Chuck." He added as he knocked Chuck out with a good punch to the jaw.

No one but Alpha-Woman seems concerned. Oh, I am surprised, as I thought we were going to use him to get into town," she said.

The Mountain Man started tying up Chuck with Chuck’s own shirt, since no one had rope on hand. "We can't take on all these people up front. It's already late. Let's wait until after dark and sneak in. Giant roosters should be easy enough to distract with some chicken feed," he said as he tied a good knot.

Captain Liberty had been trailing behind, having realized that his suit would stand out in the wilderness. He also remembered he had vast military training, but just as the image of some military base came to him, his memory faded away. Could I be some government experiment? He thought to himself. From behind Silver Scorpion, he whispered, “So what's the plan of attack? We could go in, fists blazing? Or I could try and intimidate them with a display of strength, allowing one of you to sneak in and find out what's going on. On the other hand, we could slowly draw them out a few at a time and whittle down their forces." He glanced around and waited for the group to respond.

Silver Scorpion paused, somewhat stunned by the sight before her. The 'Temple' seemed in fact to be a fortress! "One thing is for sure, we won't be able to fight our way through if all the townsfolk come out against us. As much as I think it's a crazy idea, I think I have to agree with Mountain Man. We've probably got our best chance to make it in after dark. Still, let us scout around the entire Temple Area from the safety of the woods. Maybe there will be an easier way in, or at least we may see somewhere we can scale the fence undetected at night."

They had four hours until twilight, so they circled the clearing and observed from a safe distance, making sure that Captain Liberty’s costume did not announce their presence. In fact, even Silver Scorpion’s shiny silver jumpsuit proved not hiding-friendly, requiring extra care and keeping deeper in the forest while others monitored the clearing for them.

Life in Roostertown seemed relatively idyllic from here, with idle men out throwing horseshoes or heading down to the pond to fish. Kids were running around chasing cats and dogs and throwing rocks at each other. There were women around, but they spent most of their time indoors. Later in the afternoon, a group of them came together outside to throw lawn darts, but soon wound up supervising the wild children so much that the lawn dart game was broken up.

The watchtowers each had two guards in them at all times. The heroes observed only one shift change. The guards had binoculars, but were not always using them. It looked like they had spotlights up there too. They were probably armed, but there were no weapons visible.

The gardens were surprisingly busy, with at least ten people tending to or patrolling the gardens at any time. They saw a few patrollers carrying rifles.

The temple could be seen, from closer up, to have a five-foot tall bust of a rooster -- and a pretty angry-looking rooster at that -- perched up on the roof over the entrance. The temple had narrow, high windows on the ground floor and larger windows on the upper floor.

The gatehouses that controlled entrance to the garden and from the garden to the temple courtyard were also manned, though the guards there varied from two to four at any given time. Though the fence around the temple and the gardens was 10 feet tall uniformly along its length, only a shorter four-foot barbed wire fence ran under the watchtowers to the shore of the pond.

Dice Morgan had been sitting around for hours, wracking his brain as to how to proceed. "Y'know, if we still had that lion here..." He suddenly remembered. "Oh yeah, ‘dat was the Chinaman, wasn't it?" Suddenly he stops and sits bolt upright. "Hey, why don't the Chinaman turn into a squirrel or rabbit or sumpthin' and go into town and look around. Who's gonna’ pay a second's worth of attention to some mangy critter?"

"Ah, it is not so easy," the Daoist said after Dice's suggestion. "The transformation is vewy’ taxing. I cannot stay in any form for ‘rong."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 13

"My name is Alpha-Woman,” she said by way of answering both who she was and why she had a big “A” on her shirt. “The men outside in my car attacked me and my friends. If you don't believe me, come outside. You can even come with me back to Highland Township if you want to see what's going on there."

Everyone has a good laugh at Alpha-Woman's expense and she was almost ready to start roughing up cops when a patrolman came up to her, looking serious, and said to the others, "No, hey -- hey! I get it. Alpha-Woman. Don't you get it? It's like Superman. She must be one of them crime fighters you hear about on the radio or the newspapers. Now," he said, turning back to Alpha-Woman, "who do you have in your car?"

He followed Alpha-Woman outside. Since no one else had volunteered to drive back to Duluth with her, she had one prisoner in the trunk, one in the front passenger seat, and one lying in the back seat on top of three more men pressed together. The officer whistled. "You beat up six guys and drove them here? What did they do? They attacked you?" The officer paused and gave Alpha-Woman a more skeptical look before saying, "Are you going to stay and file a complaint against them? Because I need something to hold them on."

"Well, these guys were trying to kill us. They were sent by somebody." She tapped her chin, looked the officer over, then added, "If you were wondering what my real name is, it is Cleo Evans."

"Wow..." the officer said, taken aback. "I thought costumed crimefighters went for being anonymous. Not that I'm complaining -- you just made my job a whole lot easier!" With that, he offered to shake Alpha-Woman's hand. "My name's James. James Claybrooke. Let's get these guys put away first and then we can fill out a complaint form. Hey!" he announced once they were back inside the station house. "She's right -- I've got six perps out here and need some extra handcuffs!"

Some other officers went outside to see, looking at Alpha-Woman incredulously as they left and with wonder or admiration when they came back in with one of her prisoners in tow. "You're going to be a hero around here in no time," Officer Claybrooke joked as he sat down at his desk. He pulled out a form and fed it into his typewriter. "Okay, have a seat, um, Alpha-Woman. You don't have to share any more with me about you than you feel comfortable, but I'm going to need your story as to how you wound up slugging it out with these guys in the middle of the night."

"Well, hmmm... All I can say is they were sent to kill us and we don't know who sent them. The others are busy trying to figure that out."

"Others?" Claybrooke asked. "Sounds like there's a lot more to this. Highland Township is outside our jurisdiction, so there's nothing I can do but hold these guys overnight and contact the township sheriff in the morning. Though, if things are really so out of hand up there, I don't see why he hasn't called the state police already. Anyway, is that all you can tell me for the report?"

As Alpha-Woman looked at Claybrooke, she could not help but notice the beat cop had a passing resemblance to actor John Payne and that he was very handsome. "I can't really tell you much more. I just need to get these guys off my hands and put somewhere where they can't run loose. I need to get back there and help the others." She flirted with her eyes and added, "So, do you have anymore questions for me?"

Office Claybrooke looked into Alpha-Woman's flirting eyes, was lost for a moment, and then said, "Er, no, but..." and he wrote down a number on a scrap of paper. "If you need anything, maybe you me," he said, looking slightly flushed and embarrassed.

"I will most certainly call you if there is... any trouble." She winked at him. "Well, I've got to go thanks for helping!" Then she got back into her empty car and headed back to Highland Township.

About two hours later, Alpha-Woman's Chevy came rumbling down the dirt road and Silver Scorpion flagged her down. The two women caught each other up to speed and then rejoined the others. Alpha-Woman then set up her two-man tent and shared the other side with Silver Scorpion. There were watches throughout the night, but everyone got enough sleep that they were not fatigued in the morning.

Dawn. Friday, May 3, 1940.

It's was a cool 45 degrees out the next morning. Pretty windy too, with the wind gusting up to 21 MPH from the west. The dew was thick on the ground.

Alpha-Woman got up and looked around. She stretched and yawned after her much-needed beauty sleep. She heard a noise and it was her stomach. She mumbled to herself, "Uhhmmm…I am hungry..." Her next waking thought was that she kinda’ wished that dreamy cop was here to take her out to breakfast. Less groggy, she snapped awake and went to her car to see had any packed snacks left in it. "I can't work on an empty stomach..." she mumbled to herself.

Chuck was pretty annoyed by the time he was untied back at the motel in the morning. "I didn't think you were going to leave me tied up there all night!" he complained in his thick Scandinavian accent. After his grousing, however, he had little choice but to lead the Heroes to the temple.

The first leg of the journey followed Barleycorn Creek upstream to Lake Misty. They were still surrounded by farmland, though the land was not being maintained as it ought. By now it was mid-morning. After skirting the lake, they headed into some wooded hills. Visibility, which had been seven miles before, dropped to half a mile in the hills. By noon, the hills seemed to be behind them -- and stomachs were rumbling. The last leg of the journey looked like it would be through a dense forest of 70 to 90-foot evergreens.

The Mountain Man, meanwhile, was already splitting up provisions he had brought with. He knew his skills in the outdoors would help them get more food if it became necessary. He and Alpha-Woman had already picked some berries for a midday snack on the way this far.

En route, Dice Morgan had complained about the bugs, the cold, the dirt, and most of all the lack of a good cup of Joe. He muttered that the beauty of Nature would be greatly enhanced by pavement, skyscrapers, and a few gin joints.

Also en route, the Mountain Man found his magic gorget and his bulletproof vest somehow…incompatible. As if wearing one made the other one too uncomfortable to wear. By afternoon he had realized he would have to settle for wearing either one or the other.

Although it is much easier finding the temple with a guide, it would have been possible to find it without Chuck. There is a trail that is perfectly visible in the daytime and infrequent signs that there had, within recent years, been a road here. Elaborate steps had been taken to conceal the presence of the road and trail, even so far as to plant saplings in the middle of it.

Silver Scorpion eyed the thick trees. She thanked the Mountain Man for his offered provisions. Never did she think she would be camping out in a forest last night, but there was a first time for everything, she guessed. "Are there any guards or patrols around?" she asked Chuck, figuring it could not hurt to inquire.

"Oh, not so much around Roostertown, you know,” Chuck said with a shrug, “but right around the temple and the gardens around it, the fence is patrolled. And at night...well, you don't want to be in the temple gardens at night..."

Chuck was asked to elaborate. "Well, Roostertown is what we call the shacks St. Stephen and the other saints have us holed up in when we're not needed for temple duties. I've never seen the things they let out in the gardens at night, but I've heard some other guys who aren't crazy that it's giant roosters!"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Comic Books in Real Time

I was looking at the new releases of DC and Marvel earlier today and was struck again by the sheer amount of revisionism that supposedly keep their "big money" heroes new and fresh, but really keeps them from ever growing and changing as characters. The following is paraphrased from recent press releases, but adjusted to reflect the passage of real time for these superheroes, as they experience in my fanfiction.

Justice League – Green Lantern (John Stewart), Flash (Jesse Quick), Hawkman (2nd Carter Hall), Batwoman (Helena Wayne), Hawkgirl (2nd Shiera Hall), Superman (Superboy clone), Supergirl (other-universe matrix), Challenger of the Unknown (June Robbins), Aquaman (Arthur Jr.), Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond), Wonder Woman (Cassandra Sandhurst) are working their way through a schedule of Earth invasions to stop. Today is Mantis of Apokalips’ turn to try again!

Batman - Bruce Wayne Jr. (age 42), Robin (Jason Todd, age 36), Batwoman (Helena Wayne, age 44), and Huntress (Helena Bertenelli, age 35, Jason’s wife) deal with the Court of Owls as they try to take over New York City. Bruce married Julia Pennyworth and they have a 7-year old son.

Batgirl – Cassandra Cain (age 23) goes on the hunt for the terrifying killer Gretel, whose eerie and violent power over the men of Gotham City leaves no one safe – not even guest star Bruce Wayne, Jr!

Birds of Prey – Batgirl (Cassandra Cain), Huntress (Helena Bertenelli), and Lady Blackhawk (Natalie Reed, age 65, was first a Jr. Blackhawk in ‘66) realize that Gotham City is still in grave danger. And the key to unmasking the villain known as "Choke" may lie in the mystery of a man who one day just walked out on his family and life…and into a world of mind-control and murder.

Blue Beetle – Jaime Reyes is now 21 and has had the Blue Beetle armor for six years. As an experienced superhero, the sorceress La Dama has her hands trying to win the armor from him.

Wonder Woman – Cassie, age 24, has returned home to London…but leaving Paradise Island doesn't mean leaving the gods behind. With Jupiter dead, Mars and Neptune come to Earth – and neither of them is leaving without being crowned King of the gods!

Ray – Ray Terrill, age 26, has been The Ray for 10 years now, but between giant monsters attacking his new home town of San Diego and meeting his new girlfriend's strict parents, things are not going so well. Luckily, it won’t take a veteran superhero long to track down the master villain behind the monster attacks.

Alpha Flight – Vindicator, Talisman, Box, Madison Jeffries, Diamond Lil, Wild Child, Persuasion, Manikin, Goblyn, and Manbot find out that the Dreamqueen is the sinister figure behind the Unity Party threatening Canadian politics.

Avengers: Solo – The Black Widow, Yelena Barton, comes out of retirement to investigate a murder being pinned on the Avengers by Hydra.

Captain America and Bucky – Jack Monroe, the current Cap (age 59, but effectively 30), and his partner Bucky (his 22-year old adopted daughter) face off against an android made to look like the Golden Age Bucky – and it wants to kill them both!

Avenging Spider-Man – The son of Peter and Mary Jane, age 33, thwarts a moloid invasion of Manhattan, along with his older sister Spider-Woman (the daughter of Peter and Gwen).

Daredevil – The current Daredevil, Eugene Patilio (formerly Frog-Man, now age 35) and Spider-Man meet the new Black Cat (age 26), claiming to be the daughter of the original.

Defenders –Iron Fist, Nova, Quasar, Captain Ultra, Jack of Hearts, Torpedo, and White Tiger continue to explore the secrets of Wundagore Mountain.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 12

Dice turned on his heel and walked back outside, studiously ignoring the panda that appeared from out of nowhere. He reached into his pocket for his flask of moonshine and tossed it into a garbage can.

Silver Scorpion was ready to transport prisoners to Duluth, but could not do it alone on her motorcycle and had no other volunteers.

"I say we should find their secret base and attack," said Captain Liberty. “We can tie up the prisoners and then find their base of foul evil.” He stood in a heroic pose with his arms folded and his cape flowing behind him (having opened a window for a breeze to accomplish that).

Inwardly, Capt. Liberty began to reflect on the fact that he did not even know who he was. He got a bit choked up, but then caught himself. Then he noticed how beautiful Silver Scorpion was, but caught himself yet again -- knowing that all else must be ignored in his duty to fight evil and to protect the USA. Sigh…It was a lonely life being a hero.

Just outside the window, Captain Liberty thought he saw a mysterious figure in a black cloak before the figured vanished.

"I'm not going back to Duluth,” the Mountain Man said inside. “We're here. They may be warned but we were going to bash in the door anyway. We tie these folks up, call the state police and get to work. That's what I say." He then stripped off Jason Tenner’s shirt, found the bulletproof vest he had suspected was underneath, and worked to take it off of Jason by force.

At first Jason looked like he was going to try to fight his way out rather than give it up, but he wound up giving in. "Sure, why not? It makes me itch anyway," Jason said.

After putting the vest on, the Mountain Man continued his interrogation, asking where the temple was.

"Don't tell them anything!" Mrs. Tenner said, still struggling as the panda bear put her in a chair and Silver Scorpion tied her up with a bed sheet.

"Aw, pipe down," Jason said, smiling. "What should we care if they want to get themselves killed? Be my guest. The temple is 18 miles northwest of here. You'll never find it at night, but by daylight you should be able to spot it after a good hike."

"Yeah, maybe we couldn't find it at night,” Dice said, “but I'm bettin' you could find it just fine. Maybe we should take you with us to show us the way." Dice contemplated the idea a moment longer. "Or we could just kill ya’ and leave yer’ body here to stink up the place."

Silver Scorpion had taken a moment to not-so-subtly 'disable' the radio so that it could no longer be used to radio the temple, or anywhere else for that matter, ever. She returned to the front room in time to hear Dice’s comment and looked shocked at his suggestion, but then figured he was just threatening Jason. "Well, if we're not taking his wife too, perhaps we'd better discuss this outside, where everything we say won't be relayed back to the temple once reinforcements arrive?" she advised.

"I cannot abide the killing of a prisoner unless he has been tried by the laws of the United States of America," said Captain Liberty. "Foul and un-Americian as they may be, they will not be murdered!" At that last part, Captain Liberty began glowing. He then suggested, "We can imprison them as we can put them in a windowless room and I can put something heavy in front of the door. As for heading out of town and getting some rest -- good idea!"

It was decided that, even if they could not find the temple that night, they should at least vacate the town before reinforcements from the temple arrived. Everyone was running on a half-hour of sleep or less and everyone was fatigued.

"Wait, what about Alpha-Woman?" Gandor the Great asked. "We can't leave without leaving her some clue as to where we went. Something she would find, but the cultists will not."

"Maybe if we head a short ways back down the road to Duluth we can flag down Alpha-Woman when she returns,” Silver Scorpion volunteered. “Then we can hike out towards the Temple and rest up until tomorrow? Or we could head back to one of the small townships down the road and get another motel?"

"I have a tent and have no problem camping out,” the Mountain Man said. “We don't need Jason to lead us there, that other goon already agreed to do it. I say we head out of town a ways and camp somewhere out of the way."

And so, the Tenners are made prisoners in their own home. The Heroes agreed to backtrack out of town the way they had come and set up a campsite off the main road. Most everyone was sleeping under the stars, except for The Mountain Man. Silver Scorpion stood guard by the road and watched for Alpha-Woman's return.


Alpha-Woman kept a close eye on her prisoners, all still a combination of groggy or unconscious. She drove as fast as she could on the dirt roads, relying on her headlights to illuminate the inky blackness before her until, at last, the lights of Duluth come into view. She knew the city well, being her stomping grounds for the past year, so she found the police station quickly.

Inside, her good looks elicited stares and whistles from the policemen on duty and, when she informed the sergeant on duty that she had prisoners under citizens’ arrest in her car, he seemed not to believe her. "Who are you, and what's with the shirt?" he asked suspiciously.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Jungle Ruins of Madaro-Shanti Reviews

I thought I would collocate in one accessible place all the reviews I've seen so far for my published adventure, Jungle Ruins of Madaro-Shanti. (first out of the gate and the most negative review to date) (scroll down to the bottom for four) (the second review is a repost) (my personal favorite)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums - pt. 11

Silver Scorpion continued to cut at Jason with her silver knife, still hoping that she could disarm him, but Jason just pushed her knife-arm away.

Dice had heard the sound of combat and barreled into the room like a house on fire. "Somebody hold his gun down!" he yelled as he charged at Jason. He wanted to get his brass knuckles within punching range of the cultist's jaw, but instead he wound up jostling Captain Liberty so much to get past him that neither of them managed to land a blow on the motel caretaker.

Looking forward to when he was as good at this as The Shadow, The Mountain Man brought his fist around in a brutal uppercut swing at Jason's mid-section. Luckily, Jason must have felt how much strength was behind that punch, even though it had been pulled.

"Okay, I surrender," Jason said, dropping his weapon. “I don't have enough bullets left for all four of you and your pet lion there. Maybe you'll at least tell me who you people are. You sure don't look like the cops."

The Mountain Man kicked Jason's gun over for one of the others to pick up. "Someone make sure his wife hasn't run off," The Mountain Man said while he put Jason down in a chair, hard. "Tell us what you know about the temple."

Silver Scorpion snatched up the gun, unloading it of its remaining rounds before tossing it back to the ground. She then took up the search for the wife and the radio. The Daoist, as well, took the Mountain Man's suggestion and trotted off stalking after the wife.

Before Silver Scorpion and the Daoist could get very far, though, Jason shouted, "Wait! I'll tell you what you want to know," The Scandinavian accent common to Minnesotans melted away and he sounded like a Chicagoan now. Dice had to wonder if he had ever worked with this thug, though the face was not ringing a bell. "Just...just leave my wife alone, okay? Leave her out of this."

Silver Scorpion paused, but The Mountain Man and The Daoist were quicker to see through his charade. Since Captain Liberty burst through the front door, Jason had bought his wife three minutes of time for radioing the temple and alerting them. The Daoist, still as a mountain lion, came into the next room of the house and found the wife, scrambling dials on a radio transmitter.

Silver Scorpion lunged into the room after the Daoist, clapped her hand over the wife's mouth, and pulled her away from the radio. She then handed the wife over to one of the other heroes and turned her attention back to the radio.

Silver picked up the microphone, hoping that the static would be enough that they no one would be able to distinguish two female voices apart. "Oh, good. Yeah, everything is clear here now. Jason took care of those meddlers, they weren't so tough after all. Now we've just got to find someplace to bury them." She mentally crosses her fingers as she awaited a reply.

While they awaited the reply, Captain Liberty, his arm bleeding from where the bullet winged him, found a bathroom and some bandages.

Outside, Sewer Rat was still lurking about when he was approached by Gandor the Great, smoking another cigarette. "How are things going in there?" Gandor asked him.

Back inside, Captain Liberty decided to look around the place, after tending to his wounds, to try and get any clue about what this cult was about. He figured that it is something definitely un-American, whatever it was! He searched through the office and behind every book shelf, searching for secret doors and hidden passages.

Silver Scorpion found that no reply was forthcoming on the radio, since it was transmitting to no one. It took her a minute to realize that Mrs. Tenner was not still trying to contact the temple after three minutes; she was scrambling the dials so they would not be able to easily find the frequency she had just used to contact...someone.

Dice Morgan shook his head, silently regretting that the fight between the two women did not involve clothes-tearing and rolling around on the floor. Getting antsy again now that the action is over, Dice looked for something to do. While the others were keeping busy, he went outside and checked around the perimeter. He also looked for any lights in the distance that might indicate vehicles coming their way. Then, once outside, he stopped in mid-stride and said out loud, “Hey, where did that dang lion come from anyway?"

Dice was able to confirm from Sewer Rat and Gandor the Great that neither of them had seen any sign of reinforcements coming. When Dice asked what they had been up to all this time, Sewer Rat just shrugged and Gandor said, "But, my dear friends, I was involved, in my own way. I barricaded the back door of the house so no one would be able to escape that way."

Back inside, the lion vanished, or at least turned into something else. With no one else around to take charge of the wife, the Daoist transformed from the mountain lion to a giant panda, startling Silver Scorpion and Captain Liberty who had yet to witness the Daoist transform and assumed the mountain lion had been someone’s pet. Mrs. Tenner shrieked in surprise and tried to dodge, resisting one try, but then falling victim to a second bear hug that kept her restrained.

The Mountain Man continued to lean on Jason, getting little more than Jason Tenner’s full name out of him. It was clear that Jason was not really scared of any of them, though he did glance nervously to the other room after hearing his wife scream. Jason kept verbally dodging and talking in circles to stall.

Captain Liberty did not find much in the house, other than a rooster figurine, whittled from wood, in a shoebox in a closet. The lack of clues might itself be a clue, as this pair did not seem to be enthusiastic cultists. He also found $62 in loot stashed about the house.

Silver Scorpion attempted to calm herself when the Daoist transformed into a Panda and thought she did rather a good job of not leaping six feet up and striking her head on the ceiling. She eyed the panda carefully as she made her way out of the office/radio room.

Back in the front room, Silver found the Mountain Man and Captain Liberty together. "Well, it seems the cat's out of the bag,” she told them. “The temple is going to know we're coming now. We'd best leave the area right away; they are sure to send reinforcements. I suggest we head back to Duluth with Jason and his wife and turn them over to the authorities, as Alpha-Woman did with the others. Then we can decide how we want to tackle the temple."

Dice Morgan had returned to the front doorway in time to hear half of that. He stood there, rubbing his chin. "How far does this Rooster thing go? What if the cops are in on...” his voice trailed off. Through the doorway to the office, he could see a giant panda bear. "Hey, why is there a pan-- Nevermind. Don't wanna know."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 10

Dice impatiently threw in his question. "Where's the temple?"

The two living room prisoners, eager to be more useful a prisoner than the other one, spilled all they could. The temple was 18 miles to the northeast. There was no road leading there, only a trail, and it was so rough that none of their cars would be able to take it. Most of the townsfolk had relocated to the temple, setting up a makeshift village around it.

The Mountain Man, with slyer methods, got his willing prisoner to reveal -- no, gloat -- "I've heard that all we have to do is make the temple an attractive enough hideout and master criminals are going to be drawn to it. They'll probably bring a lot of their own muscle, but hire local too," Chuck said. "There's also a rumor floating around that some master criminal is coming sometime this week to check the place out."

Alpha-Woman's prisoners too were desperate to think of something else to tell her to pacify her. "The clerk at town hall is in on it too!" they squealed.

Alpha-Woman spoke to her crew. "I don't think we should just leave these men here,” she said. “I suggest that we can drive them back to Duluth to the prison there. I have a car that can fit four of the men in."

"Tell you what,” the Mountain Man said to Chuck. “I'm going to have to tie you up for a second to figure out what the others are going to want to do with you. I'd be right happy if maybe you could guide us to the temple tomorrow morning." The Mountain Man then set to tying Chuck up with some rope he found in a bin on the back porch.

He then went inside and spoke quietly to the others so Chuck could not hear him. "I have one of the prisoners convinced this was a misunderstanding. I think he'll also lead us to the temple tomorrow morning if we ask him to. We should also deal with the motel clerk and the town clerk before any more word about what's happening here to the temple."

Captain Liberty walked to the front porch and then outside, looking around the yard for anyone else lurking about, or another surprise attack from vile evildoers. Finding no one but a figure watching from the window of a darkened room in the small house next door, he returned inside, his cape flowing as he spun around.

Silver Scorpion was satisfied with the answers she got from her prisoner and let off on the arm-twisting. "Alright, you done good... for now! But if I find out any of you haven't been straight with me..." She eyed each of the prisoners in turn menacingly, letting their imaginations fill in the rest of the sentence. Then she turned to the other vigilantes and said, “Seems like this whole town is under control of this Temple. They are sure to know we're coming, even if we manage to stop Jason from letting them know what happened..." Suddenly realizing what she has just said, she pushed her prisoner to the floor and rushed to the private apartment of the motel owner.

Alpha-Woman loaded up four of their prisoners in her car two at a time, one over each shoulder as Silver Scorpion sprinted past her. Captain Liberty related how he saw someone watching from the home next door and the Mountain Man stepped out front to check things out.

Silver Scorpion found herself stopped by a locked door as Alpha-Woman drove away, bound for Duluth for the next couple of hours. Behind her, Captain Liberty came up to assist and threw himself into the locked front door of the motel owner’s house and barely managed to wreck it down. He was greeted by the loud static of a radio in another room and the sound of Jason yelling, “Calm down and keep trying to reach the temple!” Then the thuggish motel proprietor appeared in a doorway, revolver in hand blazing.

Jason emptied his first chamber and winged Captain Liberty before the star-spangled hero was even halfway across the front room. Silver Scorpion dashed in past him to flank Jason on the left, Capt. Liberty on the right, and the Mountain Man charging up the middle. The Mountain Man, not wanting to get shot in the face, wasted time pushing the gun up in the air so Jason’s next shot hit ceiling instead of Mountain Man. Captain Liberty tried to get in a knockout punch as the four closed into a tight melee, but got an elbow in his fresh wound instead and winced in pain. Silver Scorpion slashed with one of her silver knives, but only scraped something under Jason’s shirt, presumedly a bulletproof vest.

The Daoist, who had been resting, curled up in a ball on the porch, shot up at the sound of gunfire. Bounding toward the small house, he raced to aide his new friends.

Silver Scorpion continued her assault upon Jason, attempting to disarm him by cutting his hand with her knife so he would drop the gun.

"Nice shooting! Maybe a poke in the eye will improve your aim!" The Mountain Man mockingly roared as he took another swing at the motel clerk with his boulder-like fists.

The Daoist, still in mountain lion form, bounded into the front room of the small house. Jason had backed into a corner, trying to limit their ability to come at him all at once. Captain Liberty kicked a couch out of his way so three of them could still continue their melee with Jason, leaving the Daoist forced to perch on a chair for now and waiting for an opening to strike.

"I don't know who you crazy people are, but I'll take you all down with me!" Jason roared with a savage snarl as he emptied more chambers of his gun. A dark halo of gunpowder smoke formed over his head. The Mountain Man was right there in his face, though, pushing his gun aside.

The flash of the muzzle and the deafening clap of the gunshots were too disorienting for Captain Liberty and The Mountain Man, who failed to land solid blows against their hulking foe. Silver Scorpion barely managed to scrape the back of Jason's hand with her silver knife, but the big thug was too tough to drop his gun from the light wound.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 9

As the action wound down, the heroes were finally joined by Gandor the Great who flipped the lights back on and asked, “Have you got enough rope?” as he pulled a length of rope, hand over hand, out of his sleeve.

The Daoist, still in mountain lion form, sat perched on a gunman's back, keeping him subdued for the time being.

Alpha-Woman waited impatiently for signs of the men to wake up from her bashing them.

Sewer Rat, who had watched what he could of the battle from an outside window, surveyed the final scene as soon as the lights came back on and smacked his forehead. This was not how you did covert operations, he was certain. He came up with a plan on the spot and tried to share it with his comrades through the closed window, but no one could hear him. Giving up, he came around to the front door.

The Mountain Man was not sure what to do now. He could have used Sewer Rat’s plan but could not hear it from the back porch. "What were you sent out here for? I was expecting to get a good night's sleep. What's the story?" the Mountain Man asked his prisoner.

Dice Morgan and Captain Liberty, who had just met for the first time now, shook hands. "Greetings, I am Captain Liberty!” said Capt. Liberty. “You seem to be a patriotic American! Nice to meet you!” Then he turned to where a mountain lion sat on their one conscious prisoner and glared at the prisoner. He also began glowing with patriotic might in order to intimidate.

Dice stared at the Captain. "Uh... Yeah." He shook his head and muttered under his breath, "An' I thought the Chinaman an' Ol' Stinkaroo were screwy." Then he muttered, "Why don't we just slep’ ‘dese yahoos around until they tell us where their buddies are? Dat's eight less we'll have ta’ take out later."

Silver Scorpion left the prisoners for the others and practically flew through the house at a breakneck speed, doing a quick search of the ground floor room-by-room for any more foes to pummel.

And just as Silver Scorpion ran past, Sewer Rat kicked in the front door. "Behold! I am the Rat! Harbinger of the Rooster God!" he shouted in a theatrical tone, making sure the prisoners could hear. I just hope my team gets it, he thought.

Dice Morgan shook his head at Sewer Rat's posturings, clearly not getting what he was trying to do. "Lil' guy's been sniffin' his own fumes too long." Dice got too itchy just standing there and doing nothing. He reached under the mountain lion and grabbed the prisoner by the scruff of the neck. "Alright already. Talk!"

After a few minutes of Dice threatening violence, Captain Liberty intimidatingly glowing, and Sewer Rat sounding crazy, their prisoner broke down. "Alright, alright!" cried their prisoner. "I'll tell you anything you want to know if you just lay off!"

Alpha-Woman, wanting her own prisoner to interrogate, was ready to slap one of her guys if they didn’t wake up soon.

Meanwhile, Silver Scorpion finished her sweep of the house in the living room and actually found the eighth man hiding behind the couch, where he had been most of the time.

Silver Scorpion grabbed the man hiding behind the couch by his arm and twisted it behind him. "Come on, you, out there with the rest of 'em!" she said as she pulled him out into the open.

No one else to this point had given a second glance at the mountain lion sitting amongst them, but Silver Scorpion noticed it now for the first time and did a double-take. But, as no one else seemed to be paying it any mind, she shrugged inwardly and continued as if nothing was amiss.

"Is that all of them? If any got away they may be back with more soon," Silver Scorpion said to her fellow vigilantes. Then she turned to the already talking prisoner and added, "How many of you came here? Who ordered you? Why are you after me?" With each question she twisted the arm of her held prisoner.

"When Jason, the guy who owns this place, radioed the temple to tell us of the new people they radioed back word to us to come fetch them and take them straight back to the temple,” the prisoner said, his words just spilling out of his mouth. “It's just the eight of us still in town.”

“Milo headed back to the temple already. That's all we know!" Silver's prisoner added.

Outside, The Mountain Man had engaged in his own conversation with his prisoner. Only, using guile and subtlety instead of violence, he had learned that the man’s name was Chuck and that this had all been a big misunderstanding. The man, Chuck, was fascinated by what life must be like for a big city mobster (thinking of St. Louis as a big city) and listened attentively as the Mountain Man spun a tall tale for him.

Meanwhile, Alpha-Woman had managed to rouse one of her prisoners without smacking him too hard and got much the same answers out of him as Silver had. Alpha-Woman shook her fist, saying, "I bet you know information you aren't saying. Don't lie to me! I hate liars!" But then, calming down, she added, “Well, you two are lucky, I won't hit either of you. I’ll just put you with the others." And then she proceeded to move all the prisoners into one big pile.

Back outside, the Mountain Man asked Chuck, “So, I guess you guys pretty much own this town, huh? What's the point of that? How can you be making any money that way?"