The room was 30 feet wide and 60 feet long, open to the second floor balcony above. The middle of the chapel looked much like a traditional one, lined with even rows of pews, but the dais at the far wall was festooned with statues of roosters and a large painting of a rooster on the back wall behind the podium.
Between the remaining heroes and the podium, behind their current last opponent, were ten more men, standing in a half-circle before them, sleeves rolled up and ready to brawl with fists and knives. Behind them, standing on the near end of the dais 40 feet away, was a man in a white suit with a rooster-like mask over his head. He took the mask off and held it under his arm. "Such an entrance is to be admired," the man said loudly, "but your cause is hopeless."
The Mountain Man looked at the Daoist ever so briefly - and though The Mountain Man was a vaguely human cliff face and the Daoist was a snake - something passed between them.
The Daoist was beginning to think this whole enterprise might have been a mistake. America was turning out to be a fantastically dangerous place. Perhaps he should have stayed in China and followed in the path of his fathers. No, he would not succumb to despair. After lashing out at the remaining mobster near them, he transformed back into his human guise and spoke to the Mountain Man. "It is time to go, I ‘sink, yes?"
The Mountain Man and the Daoist seemed to surprise everyone by backing up and then high tailing it for the exit.
"Stop them!" the man on the dais shouted a moment later.
The two heroes had a good five-pace lead on their foes behind them, but two of the mobsters by the front doors stepped over Sewer Rat and Captain Liberty and blocked the exit. One of them had a truncheon and the other had a pistol. The two sides plow into each other, with the Daoist doing a jump kick and taking down the truncheon-wielder who went down swinging.
The Mountain Man was less fortunate, having a better-armed mobster in front of him. He waved his hatchet viciously, succeeding only in keeping the mobster from being able to shoot him.
Still behind them, Captain Liberty felt the pressure off him with just one foe left attacking him and a second foe, who had just come down the ladder and tried to tell him something. His fist finally connected in a powerful haymaker against the attacking foe, knocked him off his feet, and laid him low. The new arrival backed away, not wanting to get in the fight.
Behind them, the mobsters from the nave of the chapel were coming fast and two by two.
The Daoist transformed himself into the visage of a rhinoceros that he had once seen at the zoo and stormed his way through the last mobster and out of the chapel. The Mountain Man lowered his shoulder and smashed past the mobster with the pistol as he moved past.
Captain Liberty, too, decided to retreat with the others. The remaining mobster lunged to tackle him as he ran past, but the mobster fell on his chin instead.
Unnoticed by all, one of the ‘mobsters’ slipped away through a side door. Alpha-Woman, in disguise, continued exploring the temple.
The Mountain Man, the Daoist, and Captain Liberty ran outside and found their companions still lying in the courtyard. A quick headcount reminded them that they left Sewer Rat behind, making two heroes lost, counting Alpha-Woman!
Other than heroes, the courtyard surrounding the temple seemed to be empty. The way back to the gardens was clear. Going over or through the 10-foot fence surrounding the courtyard was also an option.
The Mountain Man liked that last option. He grabbed Dice Morgan, tossed him over his shoulder, and charged toward the wooden fence. As he ran his rocky body shifted to a more solid mass. He hoped to go straight through that fence, but only succeeded in cracking the wood in his weakened state.
Captain Liberty grabbed Silver Scorpion and assisted the Mountain Man in breaking through the wall. "We must get away and regroup! Next time they will be ready for us, but we shall be even more ready!"
The Daoist was left with little choice but to follow. Transforming back into his human shape, he scooped up Silver Scorpion and waited to flee behind the others.
Working together, the two superheroes were able to crash a hole through the west side of the fence big enough for everyone to step through. They each did and made good their escape into the woods. The temple seemed unusually quiet behind them.
A short while later, they returned to the camp they had made – and left less than 30 minutes earlier – deep in the woods south of the pond. Their prisoner, Chuck, was still tied up there. He looked groggy, but awake. If only they could say that for Dice Morgan, Gandor the Great, and Silver Scorpion.
Watches were posted, as lights could be seen moving back and forth through Roostertown and closer to the temple, but none of them reached as far as their camp.
Time passed and, just after midnight, Gandor the Great woke up. Gandor blinked a lot and slowly lifted his head to look around. Recognizing his companions -- and relieved not to see captors -- he asked in a weak voice, "Did we win?"
No sooner had Gandor been filled in, but Silver Scorpion woke up.
Man Thing by Jim Cheung
19 hours ago