The Game

Caught in the Webb

“Sometimes I hate this town,” Fixit snarled as he, Medik and Red Sniper took another look around the house of a once dead inventor. “I mean, in L.A. you have gang shootings, muggings, riots, but no crazy men bent on world domination. If someone commits a crime out there, you know who to catch.”

“C’mon man, you know that’s not true.” Medik returned while he looked under the designer couch for the third time, hoping he may have missed something. He found nothing, not even dust bunnies, which seemed odd to him. “Are we sure this guy is connected to Gamester?” Fed up with fruitless searches, Medik turned his attention to his wavering conviction. “I mean, just because he has nice things doesn’t mean he’s crooked.”

“I’m with Medik,” Red Sniper chimed in from behind his micromesh, “I don’t think we’re in the right place. Look,” he turned to Fixit, “there are several, more organized super groups out there. Let them do the heavy lifting like we always have. People out there being tromped on by those winterlords and that’s something we have the power to help with. I know you’ve been all about us becoming more serious ever since your run in with Arachnos’s Hand, but maybe this just isn’t in our cards.” Both Fixit and Medik were stricken speechless. Red Sniper had never said more than a few words about wanting action around either of them; he was not known to be so eloquent. Fixit wanted to finish this investigation, even if he had to go it alone. The choice was taken out of his hands.

“You are correct, it is not in your cards; living is not in your cards.” The three turned to see several figures clad in red jackets with black and white stripes, each with a different pattern, and black masks over their eyes. The one who spoke held a card to her head. She was flanked by a man who twirled knives nonchalantly, and another, juggling balls of energy. A third, large man stood behind them.

The sight caught the heroes off guard; they barely had time to make a confused face before the lady spoke again.

“I predict Death!” She hurled the card at the three heroes, laughing. The card impacted on the floor between the three and exploded. Flames poured from the explosion, heat, pressure and impact flung the men from where they stood. Medik was flung into the kitchen, Red sniper landed in the hallway and Fixit went through the wall; each was knocked senseless.

Fixit was only down for a few seconds. He gathered himself as quickly as possible and dove from the interior wall back towards the fray. He appeared closest to the energy juggler, and gave him a hard side kick that threw the man out the door.

“Naughty naughty, you were supposed to stay down like your friends.” The man with the knives taunted as he jabbed Fixit once, twice, three times in the stomach; each wound pouring out more blood than the last. Before Fixit could recover, the large man stood over him and gave him a blow that nearly took his head off. Again Fixit was airborne and again he crashed into a wall. Struggling to maintain consciousness, Fixit heard the leader speak one more time.

“That should do it, we have bigger fish to fry.” Darkness then washed over Fixit.

“… at all of this.” Voices filtered in through the black fog. He couldn’t see, and the voices sounded far away, he struggled to hear more.

“Quit messing around, get that put away and help me pull him out.”

“Ah, just leave him there, with all this, we could buy a new Fixit.” The voices got closer, the darkness paler, and a cold light filtered through his vision. Warmth returned to his bones, his stomach hurt; bring a hand to his stomach he felt it, no holes.

“Welcome back.” Medik smiled over him, “You have very selective healing powers you know that?” The healer helped his friend up, “Not long ago, I found you clinging to a payphone in the rouge isles so close to dead I could smell it and yet you were conscious. Today, you had a few stab wounds and you curl up ready to die.”

“A guy punched me too.” Fixit grumbled in response. He was going to spout more about his friends going down over a playing card, but the sight before his eyes silenced him.

Red Sniper was on his hands and knees scooping up diamonds and placing them in a bag. Fixit had landed in a compartment in the wall full of cash and a rather large sack of precious stones.

“That’s…” Fixit attempted to find the words. “That’s a lot of ice. Just one or two of those would go a long way towards a real HQ.”

“We can’t keep ‘em.” Medik didn’t sound convinced. “They have to be from the heist, you know that right?”

“Think of all the guns and beer we could buy.” Red Sniper chirped, sounding like an excited child. He continued scooping handfuls of diamonds into the sack.

“Medik’s right,” Fixit returned to his senses, “we have to give it back.” He looked at Red Sniper, “All of it.” Fixit removed a fresh cigar from his jacket pocket and lit it. “We have to take it back to city hall, to Hero Corp.”

The streets were beginning to be overrun by winterlords. Just the trek from Skyway to City hall took hours to traverse. Between Red Snipers enthusiasm for action, Fixit’s call to be heroic and Medik’s helping nature, there had to have been thirty stops along the way to fight off abominable snowmen.

When they did reach city hall, it was a riot-house. There were usually super-types all over the place; be it signing up as a new hero or bringing in leads and accomplished tasks. Today City Hall was three times as crowded as the busiest day any of the heroes had ever seen. The three heroes decided that any department was as good as the other for this caper and barged in the office of Susan Davies, department head of E.L.I.T.E.

“We think these came from Van Briesbock’s.” Fixit stated plainly as Red Sniper dropped the bag on her desk, spilling diamonds over the desk.

“Oh, my…” Susan stammered in surprise. “I’ll call you call you back.” She snapped at the person on the other end of her phone, hanging it up. “Where did these come from?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Fixit stepped in, putting his knuckles on her desk and looking her square in the eye, “you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. All I need to know is if you can tell me they are Van B’s.”

Davies matched Fixits glower and responded,

“I need to know where they came from.”

“Brian Webb.” Fixit grumbled. Susan sat slack jawed for a moment, “I said you wouldn’t believe.” He dropped a card on her desk as he turned around to leave. “Send those to a lab or whatever you to find out where they came from; call us on that number when you know. C’mon guys, we’re gonna need some help tracking this guy down.”

Medik, Red Sniper and Fixit sat on the steps to city hall. They had all been trying to reach any contact who might be able to help them. It seemed that the whole super hero world was already mobilized. Everyone who answered was already following their own leads, most didn’t even answer.

“Solanum, this is Medik, we met earlier. It looks like we found some of the Van Briesbock diamonds. The stones are being tested right now and we are trying to track down the man who was holding them. Brian Webb is his name, he may or may not be the same web who invented the portals. Call me when you get this, we could sure use a hand.” Medik disconnected the call, shoulders slumped.

“The hottie’s not answerin’ huh?” Mock sympathy dripped from behind Red Sniper’s mask.

“You do know I’m married right?” Medik snapped at his partner, “We need any help we can get, that’s my interest. I want to stop this craziness. Those damn winter lords are getting ever more numerous as more idiots open packages instead of turning them in. I seems like they’re getting stronger too, even your flame thrower is becoming less and less effective against them.”

“Alright guys,” Fixit interrupted, “here’s the plan. I just got off the phone with Lindsay, she’s looking into it, but it appears that a couple years ago Mr. Webb got a divorce. The lady had most the money and left Brian nearly broke. I’ve got an address, but it’s clear on the other side of town. We definitely need a hand and it sounds like none of us are having any luck. We have one choice,” fixing both his teammates with his gaze he told them his plan, “we’re bustin’ Emplate out, and he’s gonna help us.”

“You do realize that this is illegal and it could get out hero privileges revoked and could put us in the Zig?” Medik asked one more time before they entered the hospital.

“If you’re afraid, you could wait here.” Red Sniper teased his teammate.

“No he can’t, we need him to get Emplate mobile, otherwise we could never get him out.” Fixit broke in. “Let’s get our villain out of there.”

As the group headed into the hospital, Fixit actually extinguished his cigar, not wanting to draw any attention before they broke any laws.

Red Sniper entered the hospital room first. The two officers guarding the man in the bed turned toward the intruder just in time to be blasted with rubber slugs. Taken out quickly and with as little fuss as possible, the officers were moved to a corner and tied up. Medik and Fixit entered and woke Emplate. His eyes opened wide when he saw Fixit standing over his bed once again.

“I’m here to get you out of this bed and into your ridiculous suit.” Fixit told the villain, “If you agree to help us, we’ll heal you up enough so that you aren’t using a bedpan anymore.”

Emplate nodded an agreement and Medik quickly got to work. It only took the healer a few minutes to get Emplate out of the bed and in good enough condition to leave the hospital. The villain finished donning his costume just in time for several officers to storm the third story room. Emplate grabbed Red Sniper and Medik by their shirts and pulled them to the window.

“Can you pour energy into me on the way down?” He asked Medik just before he leapt from the window. Fixit turned towards the police storming the room just in time to hear breaking glass. Whirling around, he saw the others had vacated the premises already.

“Shit.” He muttered under his breath as he leapt out the window following his fellow teammates and the villain they had released.

Once he was in freefall, Fixit realized that this fall was likely to hurt. Flinching as he watched the pavement get closer, and bracing himself for impact, Fixit was astounded to find his descent slowed as he reached the ground.

“Better get scarce,” Emplate hissed, “those guys don’t look too happy about our escape.”

The four men ran into an alley and quickly headed towards another part of town. Fixit hoped their anonymity would work in their favor for once and that no one would be able to recognize them. The phone ringing brought his thoughts away from these concerns.

“Fixit, listen; Brian Webb was divorced from his wife and they share custody of their child, Jack. It appears that this boy has been in Juvenile a couple of times. Even more interesting, Eva Webb was the breadwinner and when she left her dear husband, she took the money with her; the cash and diamonds you found are definitely suspect.”

“Thanks Lindsay,” Fixit said in a hushed voice, “do you have anything else on ‘em?”

“I have an address for Eva.” Fixit could hear the smile in Lindsay’s voice.

“We know where someone linked to our inventor is,” Emplate pressed his opinion again as they headed toward Eva’s house, “I say we break in and take what we need. Done and done.”

“How about we try to reason with her first?” Medik glowered in response.

Eva Carlin-Webb answered the door of her Founders Falls home to find four men inquiring about her child. When they introduced themselves as heroes, her demeanor turned even colder. She told them that yes, he was home, but no they could not talk to him and quickly slammed the door in their faces.

“This is how we do it where I come from.” Emplate smiled, turned back toward the door and blew it in with a blast of gravitational force. Before the woman residing within knew what was happening, there was a nearly seven foot tall man grabbing her and informing her that these men were going to have words with her son. Jack Carlin-Webb heard noises in his mother’s home and entered the scene asking what was happening. He didn’t even finish his sentence before he was locked down with a strong gravity well.

“Jack,” Emplate’s voice came in a screeching, teasing sing song tone, “these nice men want to have a few words with you. If you take them to another room and play nice, I won’t kill your mommy.” His scarred face was made even more horrible by the mocking sweet smile he wore. Lifting the boy off his feet, he floated him into another room. Giving sideways glances to each other, the three heroes, not feeling so heroic, followed.

Young Jack was less than helpful about anything to do with the gamester. He refused to spill the beans on where they could find his father. After several minutes of telling the boy that they knew he had been in trouble and his lack of cooperation was likely to get his mother hurt against anyone’s will, Fixit told his partners to go keep an eye on their questionable partner. The boy was still being held in place by a gravity well; Fixit used that to his advantage and walked circles around the boy while he talked.

“I sent those two away because they are better people than I am kid.” Fixit spoke low and calm as he lit a fresh cigar. “I’m a mutant kid, I can do amazing things.” He puffed a few times on his cigar, pulling a large pungent cloud of smoke. Fixit got right in Jack’s face and stabbed the cigar out on his own forehead. The smell of burning flesh made Jack think he would be sick. Fixit closed his eyes, pain clearly visible on his face. Within seconds the wound closed, scarred and healed over.

“Now, I can deal with that kid, but what bout you?” Fixit re-lit his cigar. “I can stand here and put this out all over your body. You may be a tough guy for a kid your age, but I have seen much tougher men cave in when a lit cigar touched their eyes.” Fixit blew smoke in the boy’s face. “Or you could tell me where I can find your father now. I promise you he won’t get hurt.” Suddenly his voice softened, Fixit’s voice seemed to be asking forgiveness for what he had just said. “I need your father to find the gamester, the man who kidnapped you and your schoolmates. I don’t want to hurt your mother or anyone else. Help me out kid.”

Fixit emerged from the room, looking disappointed.

“Let’s go guys, I got what I need.”

The men left the home and headed towards Kings Row, where the lad of Dr. Brian Webb was hidden away. Emplate was practically laughing while they headed toward what they hoped was the justified culmination of their misdeeds.

“What happened in there?” Medik whispered to his friend.

“I threatened to burn out a kid’s eyes.” Fixit looked up at Medik, a look was in his eyes that the healer had never seen before, regret. “I don’t feel like much of a hero right now.”

“I’m telling ya Fix,” Medik turned to his friend as they readied to enter the ‘secret lab’ of Brian Webb, “this had better pay off, I’ve felt like a villain too often in this caper.”

“Me too man.” Fixit agreed. “Ready?” The group opened the doors and entered into a nearly silent room. The buzz of electronic machinery thrummed down the hall, but the entry was unremarkable. Once deeper inside, the walls gave way to scientific machinery, computer consoles and lab spaces big enough for several men to work.

“This looks like ill gotten goods to me my friends.” Emplate’s voice cackled through the empty rooms.

“No friend of mine.” Red Sniper’s voice reflected the thoughts of his teammates.

The room farthest back in the complex housed the quarry of the four man expedition, Dr. Brian Webb.

“Web!” Fixit’s voice broke through the hum of machinery and gadgetry. The scientist looked up from his work; without hesitation he threw several devices towards them. When each device hit the floor, it exploded into several winter lords. Three became six, became twelve, became twenty-four. The temperature dropped sharply in the room due to the presence of the snow monsters. Three heroes and a villain have never fought together with such efficiency.

Fixit kicked, punched, head butted and even bit the wintry foes. Emplate did more than his share of damage; snowmen fell before the onslaught, torn in half, thrown into the air, locked to the ground and blown to pieces. Red Sniper joined the fray with the same enthusiasm; bullets tore them apart, fire melted them down and grenades blew them to bits of slush and snow. When one man hit the floor, Medik was there to warm his body with a bit well placed thermal radiation. Between healing his companions, Medik threw blasts of the radiant energy at the winter lords, weakening the snow men.

Emplate used his powers in concert with Fixit, sending him into the air, then bringing him down with immense power, turning the mutant into a living wrecking ball. Medik and Red Sniper worked together, weakening the snowmen and then riddling them with machinegun fire and the rubber slugs.

The battle was brutal, but brief. Soon, Webb’s summoned help was reduced to melting slush.

“Doctor Webb,” Fixit panted between breaths, “you’re under arrest.” During the process of apprehending Brian Webb, the scientist couldn’t help but flinch whenever he locked eyes with Emplate.

“Why does he do that?” Medik asked the gravity manipulator as they neared City Hall. Emplate’s response was mocking laughter. He stopped walking and threw his head up in laughter. Blue light began to form around and within the body of the villain. With an implosion of air, he was gone. The heroes turned to the scientist.

“He was a client. He threatened my family if I ever reported him, but I guess it’s too late for that now.” He hung his head, “I’ll cooperate, take me to D.A.T.A. I’ll tell them what I know.”

Fixit stood on the steps of City Hall in Atlas Park, cell phone to his ear. Rick Davies explained Dr. Webb’s confession to the exhausted hero. Rick explained how Brian Webb was from another dimension, came to our world and liked it better than home, how he married a wealthy Lawyer named Eva Carlin. Webb confessed to using money from his wife to further his experiments in secret, and eventually used his son to steal equipment for him. Davies Explained that Webb had been coerced into helping the Gamester, that if he hadn’t created teleportation devices for the Gamester, he would blow the whistle on the experiments he was conducting.

“I think he may be sugar coating the story a bit,” Fixit suggested, “we did find nearly a million dollars in diamonds at his place, and cash too. I don’t completely believe his sob story. Thanks Davies.” Fixit closed the line.

“We’d better get out there and find Emplate.” Medik let his friends know his feelings.

“We’ll get to that,” Fixit offered, “first, we’ve got word to spread about the Gamester and how his devices work.” Fixit looked at his teammates, “We did good today guys, call our friends spread the word. Let’s lock down this Gamester creep, then we’ll get Emplate.”

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