"Damnit, Medik, pickup!" The
phone rang for the fifth time. Fixit hadnít seen or heard from either
Red Sniper or Medik in weeks. A loner by nature, he didnít usually
mind taking on a project by himself, but every so often, he knew heíd
need help. This mission was one of those. The help he had enlisted
thus far was less than satisfactory.
"Put that away, you know he wonít
answer. He hasnít all day." A voice like gravel hissed, then added
smugly, "Iím glad my friends are more reliable than yours." . "Besides.."
"Shut up." Fixitís stern response caused the offender to back off
in mock offense. "You know what happened last time we met. I mopped
the floor with ya." Fixit eyed the offender from behind his sun glasses.
"You got lucky, besides, I got away didnít I?" Emplate stood before
Fixit, his eyes begging for a rematch. Fixit looked him up and down,
dressed head to toe, literally, in black. His right eye was missing,
left uncovered, exposing a deep set of scars that ran from his forehead
to his right cheek. His mask was open for his face and for a long
top knot of golden hair. On his shoulders were rust colored pads,
which matched the slashed ĎYí shape running the length of his chest.
"You never did tell me how you lost that eye." Fixit remarked casually,
dialing another number.
"Poker game." Emplate quipped in return. "How
about you? Why donít you go get a real hero suit?"
"ĎCause then Iíd
look as ridiculous as you." Fixit returned harshly, hanging up the
phone when no one answered again. Dropping the phone in his jacket
pocket, he asked, "Ready?"
"Do I have a choice? Your company is better
than none on a job like this."
Is it? Fixit thought to himself, stomping
out a cigar. What kind of desperate times have I hit that Iím about
to jump into a manhole in the Rogue Isles with nothing but a card
carrying villain at my back? Fixit remembered how difficult it was
to fight a man who manipulated gravitational fields. Maybe it would
prove beneficial to have that kind of help, just this once.
"Fixit, my name is Jason Edwards. Most people know me by my reservist
name, Kringle." The young man who approached John Fix wore a suit
and carried a black leather briefcase.
"Youíre longbow?" Fixit eyed
the man, lighting a cigar. Red hair, freckles, just a kid. "And why
the hell are you interrupting my lunch?"
The young man took a seat
across from Fixit at his bistro table. The few people at the side
walk cafť seemed not to notice either man.
"I have an assignment for
you and your supergroup."
"Wouldnít we come to you if we wanted an
assignment?" Fixit took no effort to hide his annoyance at having
his lunch interrupted.
"Normally, yes. But according to our files,
your team seems to have had very little action of late. We though
maybe you could use a hand."
"Did you say your name is Kringle? Donít
you know Santaís dead?" Fixit snarled.
"Ice powers." Was all Jason
replied, waving his hand as Fixit took a gulp of his coffee. Immediately,
he spit it back out onto the street.
"Who the hell interrupts a man
on his lunch and then makes his coffee cold?!"
"Who drinks coffee
at one-thirty in the afternoon?" Kringle smiled, proud of himself.
Jason ĎKringleí Edwards could see that this man had
little or no interest in real hero work, and got up from his chair.
He took two steps when he heard Fixitís voice.
"That case," Fixitís
voice made Jason turn, "itís got the mission profile?" He nodded,
yes. "Leave it."
"Why does a man like you eat here?" Jason asked,
a hint of disdain in his voice. "Wouldnít you be more comfortable
in a bar?"
"I like the view." Fixit pointed at the waitress.
* * *
Fixit splashed down next to Emplate. The smell in the sewers
here was even worse than in Paragon. The sludge was more soupy too.
At least it was only ankle deep.
"Yuck, why does everything important
seem to lead to the sewers around here?" Emplate gave no response
and simply stalked to the ledge at the side wall.
"You want to survive?"
Emplate whispered, his hissing voice even more strained, "you follow
my lead. No talking. Weíre taking a back route. We shouldnít run into
any trouble until we reach the lab." With that, Emplate turned and
began slinking his way down the sewer tunnel. Fixit put an unlit cigar
in his mouth, a tradition he had begun as a rookie hero. When the
mission was over, for better or for worse, he would light it. As of
yet, he had had only lit cigars in victory.
The two traveled in silence,
the farther they went into the sewers, the stronger the smell got.
Fixit noticed that the water wasnít running anywhere, it seemed that
as well as being dirtier, it was also stagnant. No wonder everyone
was avoiding his calls, no one wanted in on this kind of action. Fixit
was beginning to wish he hadn't taken the case. He didn't really want
it anyway, besides, making a living was beginning to be a problem
that needed resolving, and quick.
* * *
John Fix returned to his business, Fixit Autobody in Kings Row.
Business was slow, as usual. Non-existent to be honest. At least that
meant no one would notice if he disappeared for a while. As he entered
the office closet, he thought about the super heroes who could afford
shiny hideouts with huge generators and expensive scientific equipment.
Opening a false wall and descending a set of narrow stairs, Fixit
entered his meager secret base. He knew of at least one group with
one of those huge communication screens like what you would see in
a James Bond movie. Though admittedly, he had little use for these
things, it would be nice to have them. He wagered, if he did have
them, he could find a use for them.
The room he entered was large
and open. Decorated and appointed in the style of a dojo, with the
modern amenities of a seating area with black leather couches and
a wet bar. Fixing himself a drink, a white russian, he then sat on
a couch as he opened the briefcase on the coffee table . In it was
file upon file laying out technical jargon and readouts on a highly
secretive project of some kind.
There was information on a Dr. Munroe
and something he had been working on. Had Medik been present, he may
have been able to decipher some of the techno babble. Fixit, on the
other hand, knew he was better at hitting things.
There was also a
location, in the rogue isle, where it was believed that the good doctor
and his research had been taken by a villain known only as Arachnosís
"Now that, I can handle." Fixit said to himself and swallowed
the last of his drink.
* * *
"Youíre not going to light that are you?" Emplate whispered,
turning to Fixit for the first time since they had began their sewer
"I thought we werenít supposed to talk." Fixit answered in a
"Itís a dirty habit," Emplate shot back, "thatís all."
"Shut up." Fixit was thinking about adding more when Emplate turned
to the wall.
"Here." he whispered, touching a single brick in the
wall. He pulled it out, and a small number pad was exposed underneath.
Emplate punched in a code confidently, but nothing happened. He tried
again, but received the same result.
"I donít have time for this."
Fixit pushed the man aside and grabbed at the edges of the crude security
pad. He managed to pull the face off the device and pulled out a few
thin cables. Using his teeth to remove the plastic coating, he then
crossed the exposed wires. The door slid open.
Fixit had spent the better part of a day looking for a fellow
hero or two who might have been able to help out. His first thoughts
were of his wayward supergroup, but that well had proven as dry as
ever. Next, he tried to contact a couple of new heroes who had fought
under his banner until they decided to form their own charter, Infinity
corp. The two of them, Acebreaker and Griffon, though less experienced,
could prove useful. They too proved to be unavailable, something about
new recruits. Even a post at the registrar in city hall gave no results.
Ready to throw in the towel and take on yet one more dangerous mission
alone, he received a message on his phone.
"I know what you are planning to do. I want to help. Meet me in Pocket
D, by the red bar. Midnight"
"Whatever," Fixit said to no one, "this
city is too full of cloak and dagger crap."
That night Fixit made
his way to the appointed spot. One thing he had to say about olí Pocket,
that guy could get a good lookiní group of women together. Ignoring
the leers of the villains who were insulted by a hero drinking at
their bar, Fixit waited for his man to make his move. An especially
sultry villainess slunk by and he had to wonder why the heroines didnít
dress like that, but his thoughts were interrupted by a hand reaching
out and pulling the cigar from his mouth.
"What the..." Fixit turned
to give his full wrath to the fiend with the gall to touch his smoke,
but stopped when he had to raise his head to look the seven foot tall
man in the eyes.
"Smoking is not allowed in bars." the man dressed
all in black with orange shoulder pads and a golden top knot stared
down at Fixit. At five foot seven, it was difficult for him to stare
down so tall an offender, so he improvised.
"Soíre bad guys." Fixit
grabbed his cigar now somewhat bent, but still good from the offenders
hand, placing it back in his jaws. "Whatíre you doing outta the hole
I sent you to?"
"Iím going to show you how to get where you need to
go." The manís voice was like dragging a rake in gravel.
"Letís just say that unlike you hero types, we donít always
see eye to eye."
* * *
The clangor of an alarm rang out as the two entered through
the hot-wired door.
"Well damn." Fixit stated plainly.
your impatience has done!" Emplate complained.
"Move faster then."
Happy to have some action, Fixit took off down the corridor. Emplate
hurried to catch up. Re-taking the lead, Emplate navigated the halls,
now running to attempt to beat any security to their target. It occurred
to Fixit that this man was awfully familiar with the layout of this
hidden lair, but he didnít have much choice in who he could trust.
The two men came ripping around a corner into a laboratory, they crashed
to a halt at the sight of a room covered in plant life.
Emplate remarked upon seeing the room. Computer terminals, large control
consoles, piles of scattered research papers, everything was covered
in strangling vines. "Heís here."
Suddenly the plants became animated.
Vines tangled, giant fly-traps grabbed at the two men, there was hardly
time to put up a fight before they were tangled up in greenery.
who decided to return. Bringing help henry?" A cruel voice mocked.
The voice belonged to a man in black, buckled leather with a red velvet
lined cape and a helmet that covered all but his jaw. He spoke as
he emerged from the shadows. With him, he had an elder man, wrapped
in vines. There was also a contraption, a large machine about the
size of a mans torso. He stepped forward, confidently, into the center
of the room. Bending over he picked up the cigar, dropped by Fixit
when he was snatched up by the vines. He approached the hero and placing
the cigar in Fixitís mouth, lit it.
"Every man should get one last,
eh?" Smugly, the man chuckled to himself. "And as for you, Henry,"
Arachnosís hand spoke Emplate's true name with distain clear in his
voice, "I have a special fate in store for those who betray me." He
gave Emplate a knowing look. But his words were lost on the two prisoners.
When Fixit was snatched up, he had filled his lungs as deep as he
could. He also flexed every muscle in his body as tense as possible.
"Be ready." He whispered to his fellow captive. With no further warning,
Fixit expelled the air from his lungs and released the tension from
his body, and the fight was on.
The first thing Fixit did was grab
the vines around Emplate and fling them as hard as he could at Arachnosís
hand. Caught off guard, there was no response immediately, which was
all Emplate needed. Using his power over gravity, he threw his captor
up into the air, causing him to hit the celing, then return crashing
to the floor. The room erupted into chaos, man against plant; Arachnosís
hand against both hero and fellow villain.
The machinery in the room
was smashed by heavy plant life and bodies crashing into it. Exposed
wires snapped and popped, setting the scattered papers in the room
ablaze. Fixit was hard pressed fighting both plant and man while Emplate
had a plan of his own. Releasing the aging scientist and his device,
he interrupted the fighting with a piercing laugh.
"I couldnít have
done it without you Fixit." He cackled madly. And with that he blinked
out of existence with Dr. Munroe and his contraption in tow.
room around him burned and his former combatant turned his attention
to the flames, Fixit stood and stared blankly at where his erstwhile
companion had been mere moments before. He hardly noticed when the
vines crept back up and took hold of him once again, he was too lost
in the reality of what had just happened.
"Iíve never failed before."