Kings Row : hour 3

The heroes held position at the Independence Port tunnel's exit into Kings Row, entrenched behind turned over cars, trucks and busses. Everyone that made it out of the district found refuge there, Red Cross units and police personnel were tending to the wounded, military reserves were armed and given a weapons free permission to keep the makeshift stronghold safe.

Cavalier and Darklightning were directing operations in unison, keeping the Ghost Army at bay. But they both knew that in a matter of hours, their position would be overrun if they didn't come up with a solution. All in all, there were about three thousand fighters here to oppose what had been evaluated as almost one hundred thousand. The long, grim faces of the people present here, told the very same truth, they needed a turn of events in their favour.

Each assault from the Circle of Thorns army in the last hour, had taken its toll in human lives. Cavalier had gathered almost four hundred blasters that were positioned at the back, ranging the enemy without mercy, some of them were even taking bets on who would snipe the most enemies in a row. So far, Electrobolt held the record with fifty-three, followed closely by Chromium Man at forty-eight, but in his defence, he had gotten there late. Two hundred and fifty tankers were holding the frontline, along with twice that much scrappers, names like Hammerhand, Sun Kil Moon, Nether Spirit, Cain Marco and X-Executioner were present. Holding the middle ground were the defenders and controllers, led by Moon Heat and the ever wise Mase Lokrin.

But what made the most difference, were the people that answered the calling. Soon after the news broadcasted the event, they came to the tunnel, armed with a first aid kit or with a weapon. Heroes of this city had never let them down, and they were now returning the favour. The "Ghostbuster Army", as the news had called it, grew from three thousand heroes, to eight thousand in less than an hour. Even members of famous crime syndicates came to help, be it Family, Tsoos, Sky Raiders or all the others, they all recognized the danger here.

Meanwhile, inside the perimeter and in less than three hours, eleven thousand civilians had been slaughtered without mercy. Those lucky enough to have made it out, told frightening stories of human sacrifices and captured heroes being taken back to Ghost Starr, to suffer death at his hand. The Circle of Thorns was in control of Kings Row, and of four tunnels leading out of the battle zone, they held three, which they closely guarded against any intrusion. The reason for the massacre had yet to be known by Cavalier, but the butcher's bill ran high and mighty.

"Tell me a sad story." Said the Skull, who had just cocked his shotgun and was aiming it straight at the stranger who had walked in on him. Until an hour ago, he was king of the world, running an underground superadyne facility in Kings Garment. He was now the last surviving member of his gang, the many bodies littered all over the ground in the factory, told of a bloody battle between the Skulls and a lot of acolytes.

"Sad story?" Asked the man who raised his hands in the air. "I don't know any sad stories, are you ok?"

"My homies are dead, man, and over there, see that girl, she was my girl, and they ripped her apart." The Skull was pointing his shotgun towards a mangled human body that was missing an arm and a head. "They came at us while we were partying man, most of my men never had a chance." He went on, with an obvious slur in the voice, the one that comes from too much drinking.

"Listen man, I ain't your enemy, I only want to find a safe place so I don't have to go out there again, for a while. Just until the insanity that's going on, passes. If you can't let me stay here, then let me leave, I won't bother you again." He answered

"Tell me a sad story or die right fucking now." The Skull was drunk and who knows what would happen if he went trigger happy.

"All right, all right... A sad story, let's see..." The stranger backed up a bit, bringing down his hands slowly. "How about a sad love story?" He asked.

"Love is pain, it's sad and merciless, your story better good man." Replied the gang member as he lowered his gun. He took out a flask of alcohol from his jeans jacket, and brought it to his lips to take a long gulp from it. Swiping his mouth with the back if his hand, he stepped back a bit from the stranger that had come unannounced.

"Got anymore of that juice for me?" Asked the man, who was now a bit more relaxed since the Skull had stopped aiming at him.

"Yeah, crate behind ya, it's filled with liquor." He was pointing to a wooden crate, which top was slid a bit to the side. Searching in it with a hand, the stranger brought out a bottle with a white and black label.

"Calling Doctor Daniel's, Doctor Jack Daniel's" He whispered to himself, as he unscrewed the bottle, and took a long drink of the light brown whiskey.

"Ok, sad story... Let me tell you of how I met the woman of my life then..." He burped the vapours of the alcohol, then took another gulp from the bottle. It felt good going down, relaxing his tense senses. "She was everything a man could want, beautiful, smart and deadly." He sat down against the wooden crate, resting his head on the "FRAGILE" insignia painted red on it.

"When I met her, I was undergoing a very rough third day of torture in a Tsoo hideout. They had been trying to slowly kill me, saying I had betrayed them by not killing children. Kids are innocent man, no one has the right to arm them, no one, not even me." He drank again, letting the liquor do its trick.

"They were afraid that when they would grow up, they would seek them out, and take revenge of the murder of their parents. But that's beside the point, they were young ones, and that's where I draw the line, even as an assassin." One more gulp, the bottle was already one quarter down.

"They had been using me for targeting practice with ninja stars, while I was tied and helpless, they tested the sharpness of their blades by cutting my flesh, they shot me with arrows to practice their aim, three days it went on, three days of the purest pain I had ever known." The Skull sat down on the ground too, also drinking, while absorbed by the story of this stranger.

"That's when she came in, by a sewer's entrance, moving like a cat. She came to stand in front of me, my hands were tied up to the ceiling by a rope, and I looked like a bloody mess. She must've thought I was dead, for when I opened my eyes, she looked surprised. Anyways, when I showed signs of life, she cut the rope, and held me down to the ground." He took a long drink from the bottle, while his other hand was following a deep scar line that crossed his chest from the upper right of the shoulder, to the bottom left of his hip.

"But the Tsoos are good, you know, and they knew she was there. Mister Po, that was my boss by the way, came in with seven ninjas and a fight followed. She fought like the wind, her moves didn't fool me, she was Tsoo trained. But my ex boss and seven fighters is more than anyone can handle on their own, and she was taking quite a beating. She did take down four of them, but Po was the best there was at the time. Anyhow, he was beating the crap out of her, while I, I was crawling to a sword that had fallen from one of the ninjas. She put up a great fight, but in the end, he had her down and beaten." He raised the Jack Daniel's bottle in a toast, which the Skull member returned in kind. They both drank long and hard.

"While Po was busy boasting his victory over her fallen shape, I had finally gotten to the sword, and was about to attempt to stand up. But the boss felt me move, and turned around smiling at me. He asked me what it was I was trying to do, challenge him to a duel or something? He laughed at me, and that's when I moved. I didn't get up, didn't attempt to rush him or anything, no sir, I looked at him, and took the only chance I had left to kill him. I threw the sword at him in a last ditch effort, and clean through his chest it went. I tell ya, the look on his face when he saw it stuck there, almost in to the hilt, was worth it." The two of them were sitting there in the dark, quietly drinking amongst dozens of dead bodies.

"We both helped each other out of there, through the sewers, and made it back to a hospital, where we were both healed and sent home. We became quick friends, and soon lovers, hunting down criminals and sharing the same bed at night. Those days were the most peaceful I had known in years, man, the best days of my life."

"Then what happened?" Asked the Skull

"Then... Then she found out, that before she met me, I was a Tsoo assassin. She had taken a vow of vengeance, as a young girl, to kill every Tsoo she met, to eradicate them from the surface of the earth. And from her point of view, I was a Tsoo, and nothing could forgive that."

The Skull stared in the distance, then took a very long swallow from his bottle, to empty it and throw it away with a backwards throw. He stood, staggered next to the stranger to sit down besides him, grabbing the Jack Daniel's and drinking.

"She said she was heart broken, and her tears that day told the truth. But what hurt me the most, was right before she walked away, right before we became enemies. She told me the one thing someone in love should never hear, spoken of in the past. "

You, made my heart smile.

"Then she vanished from my life, only to reappear a few months later."

"So, it has a good ending then?" Asked the gang member

"No, she arrested me, and I got sentenced for twenty years in the Ziggurat." Replied the stranger, who then proceeded to empty the bottle.

"That is sad, true love can be unforgiving when it turns on ya. Well, you get to live man, your story was sad enough." The Skull staggered up, using the crate to hold himself upright.

"What's your name, Tsoo assassin?" He asked

"Shadow-Step, yours?"

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