Category Archives: Order of the Sword

Stranded, Part Six

Continued from Part Five

Ian Buckell sat on a metal folding chair in the FBI field office in Boston, after the SIB agents dropped him off.

Ian had confessed. Sort of. He told them  he fabricated a rendezvous of the world’s worst criminal minds in Jamaica, sabotaged the plane and the parachutes, and ejected into the sea. In truth, he’d trusted Jalzabel’s word, and the demon betrayed him along with the rest of the Guild of Heroes.

The FBI Agent said, “Okay, Buckell, why did you do this?”

The truth would land him in an insane asylum. “I don’t know.”

Half the agent’s unibrow raised. “You killed thirty-two of your friends and you can’t even explain why?”

Ian sighed. “Would you believe the devil made me do it?”

The agent grimaced. “Cute. You’re one sick puppy, Buckell.”

The door opened and a balding man in his forties entered. “I’m Special Agent Markum. The suspect is coming with me. We have a few questions for him in DC.” He handed the interrogator a folder.

The Interrogator nodded. “He’ll be ready for transport within the hour.”

Jalzabel laughed within him.

“No!” screamed Ian. “I won’t go!”

The interrogator sneered. “You’re sure in a  position to be making demands.”


Jalzabel took control and cried out, “He’s in league with the devil!”

Jalzabel whispered in his ear, “Not quite what you were going for, was it?”

Markum and the Interrogator exchanged glances. Markum said, “Of course I am, and the devil doesn’t have jurisdiction over you, does he, Emperor Napoleon?”

The interrogator chuckled. “Be sure and get him a psych evaluation.”

Ian sat down and sighed. No friend or ally could bail him out. He’d killed them all.


Slumped in the rear of his captor’s car, Ian scowled at the back of Markum’s head. “You’re heading the wrong way.”

Markum laughed. “Professor, you know we’re not going to the airport.”

“Where are we going? I don’t understand why you’re doing this. I was going to take myself out of the picture. I’d have done it already, if not for those SIB Agents.”

“Oh, believe me, that was part of the plan. But, we’ve actually got work that requires you breathing. You see, you didn’t quite finish the job on your friends.”

Ian blinked. “What do you mean? They never reached Miami, and I doubt they crashed into the ocean.”

“They missed their target. With one exception, they’re all alive.”

Ian’s face lifted. Yes!

Markum chuckled. “But Jalzabel will take care of that.”

Jalzabel’s voice came out of Ian’s mouth. “Yes. What have they been able to get done in the past three days?”

Markum snorted. “Try two hours. For every day there, a month goes by here.”

“Have they any idea where they are?”

“Last I heard, no.”

“Excellent. Let’s insure they don’t find out until it’s too late.”

Continued…Next Monday

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Stranded, Part Five


Continued from Part Four

Professor Ian Buckell shuddered as the cab pulled up to his lair in suburban Boston.

The cabby popped Nicorette gum. “That’ll be $23.74, mac.”

Ian pulled his money from his wallet and handed it over. “Here.”

The cabby counted the money and stared. “Pal, there’s more than $200 here.”

Ian sighed. “I’m a good tipper.” Plus money didn’t do you any good in Hell.

He watched the cab leave. For only a few moments had Dark Mystic lost control to the demonic spirit on which his power relied, but it had been enough: enough to fasten an inter-spacial teleportation beam to the front of the plane. Enough to press the button. Enough to abandon ship and send Earth’s greatest to their doom.

Ian stared at his Gothic door. Behind there he could depart Earth with dignity.

A note would close the loose ends, so the world would know how its superheroes had perished. Perhaps it would dissuade someone from underestimating the demonic realm as he had.

Then the method of execution: he had quite a collection of poisons to choose from.

Two gloved masculine hands grasped his throat and pulled him to the maple tree outside his house and held him up a foot in the air. He stared down at his captor: a youthful Supernatural Intelligence Bureau agent dressed in a black trench coat.

From the shadows stepped Carden Geneseve, dressed to match. “Prof. Buckell, we meet again, and as I feared, under far less pleasant circumstances.”

The younger agent said, “You filed a flight plan with a passenger list boasting of every costumed hero on Earth. The plane never made it to Jamaica, but here we have you flying in from Miami to Boston and driving home like nothing happened.”

Carden came close to Ian. “Buckell, where is the Sword?”

What he’d done, he couldn’t explain, but he could make them understand. “The Sword is no more.”

Carden’s face fell. The younger agent lowered Ian as if he no longer had the strength to deny gravity it’s hold on him. “Oh God, have mercy on us.”

Carden said, “We have to take you in. You’re officially out of our jurisdiction. The FBI will handle this from here. I only wish you’d listened to us earlier.”

Ian lowered his head. There’d be no easy way out. He’d get what he deserved. A trial and execution by the American government, or eternal solitude in Super Max. Or as much solitude as he ever had with Jalzabel.

Then again, they might also extradite him to China, Mexico, Australia, the UK, Russia, Kenya, Israel, Egypt, Japan, Greece, India, and the Solomon Islands . . . .

Continued…Next Monday

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Stranded, Part Four

Continued from Part Three

Revelator turned.

Skyscraper, having expanded to a full sixty feet tall, held Payday up in the air and shook the mentally imbalanced vigilante. Gun after gun fell from Payday’s black leather overcoat and plunked to the ground.

Champion raised a boxing-gloved fist. “Hey, stop it!”

From his perch fifty feet up, Small Packages shouted, “Stay out of this, it ain’t none of your business!”

Captain Revolution yelled, “Put him down!”

Skyscraper kicked Captain Revolution three hundred yards away.

Champion went over and whispered to Elephant Woman, India’s strongest woman. They charged Skyscraper. Elephant Woman tossed Champion in the air and Champion latched onto Skyscraper’s right knee cap. Holding on with his ungloved hand, he used his power punch, a rapid series of quick powerful blows to Skyscraper’s knee.

Elephant Woman climbed to the other knee and used her armored Elephant suit’s mammoth strength against Skyscraper.

The giant tried to shake off his attackers,  but the two held on, and continued to pummel him. Skyscraper fell.

Right before being squished, Small Packages jumped free from Skyscraper’s overalls pocket, somersaulted, and landed on his brother’s giant rear end. Skyscraper howled.

Payday snatched up his .38 semi-automatic and stood. “Hold still, I think I can take you both at once.”

An energy beam hit Payday’s hand. The gun ricocheted off his green shirt’s golden dollar sign and skid across the ground.

Payday cursed.

Jesse said, “No one’s killing anyone.”

Finally, he steps in. What was he waiting for? An engraved invitation? Revelator glared at Chicago’s two not-so-finest. “Leaving Payday to the villains was an awful idea, but this is murder. You could go to jail.”

Small Packages hooked his thumbs in his overall straps and laughed. “You don’t get it, Einstein. Would you care for me to enlighten you?”

Revelator zeroed in on the dwarf’s pattern and blocked it again. No wonder he looked so smug. Small Packages had realized the one thing missing that he hadn’t even noticed.

Revelator gasped. “My God. You’re right, there’s no sun.”

Small Package said, “Wait, I didn’t-will you cut that out!”

Every hero looked up in the sky.

A warning shot through Revelator from his implant’s unconscious scan for danger, a visual of Captain Revolution beaten to death. He traced the pattern. The Empress.

He turned her way just as she reached for her electric whip. “Revolution, look out!”

Captain Revolution turned. The Empress pulled out her electric whip. She threw her arm forward, with malice in her eyes.

Captain Revolution laughed. “Perhaps you forgot to charge the battery.”

The whip had produced no string of electricity. The Empress continued to flail the useless handle and finally threw it at Captain Revolution.

He caught it with his red-gloved hand. “That hurt very much.”

“I do not understand.” The Empress shook her head. “I charged the battery. It was fine.”

Captain Revolution looked at the watch just above the yellow stars on his wrist and frowned. “My watch isn’t working.”

Revelator swallowed. Uh-oh. “Would it be digital, perchance?”


“Then wherever we’re at must have an Electromagnetic Pulse.”

“But your implant is working, no?”

Revelator shook his head. “I built it with nanobiotics. EMP has no effect on it.”

A cry came from behind him and a heavy clunk. Everyone turned.

Texas Ranger lay gasping on the ground. “Aw guess ‘ats why Aw feel so weird.”

Jesse ran over. “I can use my blade to-”

Texas Ranger laughed. “To what? Git sixty different machines inside me to work? Tain’t gonna work.”

The Mexican healing hero ran over in his tonksium scrubs. “This is a job for Curador. Where does the problem lie, Amigo?”

“An accident shoulda killed me, some say it did. They had to replace parts of my heart, my brain, an eye, and an arm with electronics.”

Curador cursed. “I’d need to be able to fix the computer.”

Texas Ranger sent Curador a weak, pained half-smile as the metal half of his face refused to cooperate. “Much obliged to yew for tryin’.”

Texas Ranger turned his head slowly to Highland Guardian. “Got yewr pipes?”

Highland Guardian nodded. “Aye, but without the electronics, they don’t do much other than play music.”

“That’s all I need. Play me Amazin’ Grace.”

Highland Guardian fetched his pipes from their bag and began to play. Texas Ranger smiled peacefully, and his natural eye closed for the last time. His electronic eye stared up at the heroes.

Payday walked by Texas Ranger’s body. He pulled a gun from his coat that he must have picked up while they were distracted by the Empress and Texas Ranger.

Everyone gasped.

Payday pointed the gun into the air and began to fire. Once emptying the gun, thus giving Texas Ranger a 15-round salute, he holstered the gun back inside his coat. “You fought for justice and if I ever get a hold of that Dark Mystic . . . ”

Payday pulled another gun from his coat. ” . . . I’ll direct deposit a few slugs in his chest and then rip out his heart.”

Payday stepped away. Small Packages said, “Touching eulogy.”

All eyes shifted to Small Packages.

“For my part,” said Small Packages. “Tex was someone I could really respect. He’s been doing this years longer than we have. I really looked up to him.”

Several nervous chuckles went through the heroes. Revelator bit his lip. This is no time to laugh, but if you put Small Packages in charge of the eulogies, what can you expect?

Commander Justice came up and placed a hand over the courthouse emblem on his brick red costume’s chest. Tears filled his eyes and spilled down his cheeks.

After the sideshow beginning, an impromptu funeral got under way in earnest. The Americans all testified of Texas Rangers’ bravery. Except for Captain Revolution and Highland Guardian, none of the foreign heroes had worked with him, but were respectful nonetheless.

Revelator looked around for Jesse, but didn’t see him. He focused on Jesse’s brainwave pattern. Throwing a pity party in the plane’s cockpit.

Revelator climbed up back inside the plane and through the empty passenger compartment, to the cockpit.

Jesse sat staring out across the sunless blue horizon with his arms folded tight against his black uniform. “Here to gloat?”

“You know it’s not like that.”

“Oh, you ought to. Tex was one of the best. I might as well have shot him myself. I killed him. I should have listened to you. There’s no excuse. It’s all my fault.”

Revelator sat in the co-pilot seat. “You’re right, it is your fault. I’m not going to candy coat it. The question is: What are you going to do about it?”

Jesse grunted. “What am I supposed to do about it? I’ve stranded these people who knows where, and shown myself a complete failure as a leader. Maybe what I should do is step down.”

Revelator shook his head. “You step aside, and those guys will be at each other’s throats. There’s no one out there who doesn’t look up to you and believe in you. Tex didn’t blame you. Other than me, no one here blames you at all.” Though the Defender’s hero-worship had been brutally shattered. “They blame Dark Mystic and, yeah, you should have checked his story better.”

Jesse sighed. “You’re doing it again.”

“Sorry. I know you feel bad, but you’ll have to work this out later. Right now, we need you. Throwing a pity party is selfish.”

Jesse nodded. “You’re right. I also have a feeling this EMP situation will make things worse for more than just Tex.” Jesse got up. “Come on, we have to get to work.”

Continued…Next Monday

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Stranded, Part Three

Continued from Part Two

The plane slowed to a stop.

Lord History said, “A tail hook and arresting wires appeared to be in order.”

Revelator smiled. It was an old set up used with military planes on aircraft carriers. As the plane landed, the tail hook caught on the arresting wires, slowing the momentum of the plane and then stopping it.

Jesse staggered into the cockpit using his bronze age sword like a cane. “Okay, now can you tell me what happened?”

Revelator sneered. “Sure, partner. Your pal Dark Mystic betrayed us, abandoned the plane, cut all the parachutes, and created an evil anomaly in the sky. Defender did the best he could, and though we still ended up flying into this thing, I think I’m comfortable saying he saved our lives.

“Wasn’t I saying something about the Mystic an hour ago? Yes, I do believe I said that this guy would turn on you. But, why bother listening to the ‘sidekick.'”

Jesse’s face fell. Revelator grunted. His words had cut through his friend like Jesse’s sword cut through steel. He’d apologize to Jesse later-if they got out alive.

Texas Ranger came up and patted Jesse on the shoulder. “It’s gonna be all right.”

Revelator cleared his throat. “Let’s get off.” He and Highland Guardian put down the emergency exit slide.

In two minutes, everyone was off the plane, and into stagnant air that smelled faintly of active volcanoes and rotten eggs.

Revelator peered at the sky: Broad daylight. “That’s not right.”

Jesse asked him, “What isn’t, Laban?”

“The sky. Look up. When we left, it was eleven o’clock at night.” Revelator looked down at his analog watch. “According to my watch it’s 1:25 AM.”

“It looks like noon,” said Jesse.

Revelator went back to the cargo area. “Help me with these bags.”

Jesse and Revelator pulled Revelator’s luggage off the plane. He opened one, pulled out his World Almanac, and flipped to the maps section. “Take a look, to be this late in the day, we’d have to be in Russia or India.”

Jesse shook his head. “It’s too warm for Russia this time of year.”

And why, or how, Dark Mystic would send them to India was beyond Revelator. He pulled out a pair of binoculars and peered through them. He zoomed several miles out until he spotted deciduous trees in green leaf with gnarled, orange-streaked, black trunks. “Jesse, take a look.”

Jesse grabbed the binoculars. “At least there’s some vegetation.”

“I’m not sure if we should be relieved. I’m not a botanist, but that tree looks weird. I’ve never seen a tree quite like it on Earth.”

A shout burst through the air.

Continued…Next Monday

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Stranded, Part Two

Continued from Part One

Once again, the anomaly appeared.

The Defender bowed his head and said a prayer in Russian. Revelator focused in on Defender’s pattern. Isn’t there a hero who can make things appear from the past?

“Lord History,” said Revelator.

The Defender said, “All right, we may need his help.”

Revelator gasped. The Defender’s actually going to fly towards the anomaly! “Are you crazy? We don’t want to go in there.”

The Defender grunted. “Do you ever have conversations or do you just read minds?”

Revelator sighed and blocked out the Defender’s pattern. “Sorry, nervous habit.”

“It’s the only way. I want to fly towards it and then pull up over it, as fast as we can. We might outrun it that way.”

“It’s your show, pal.” Revelator shouted back, “Lord History, switch places with Speed Skater and listen for my command.”

The Defender turned the engine on full bore and flew towards the anomaly.

Who or what was in there? Revelator focused in on the anomaly.

He screamed, having blocked it again before even conscious he’d done so. The pain and anguish was nigh infinite. He’d rather yank the Defender out of the pilot’s seat, or jump from the plane into the depths of the Ocean, than face what was in there.

He unblocked the other heroes, thereby unleashing a cacophony of fear. He began singling out patterns.

Captain Revolution: We have to get out of this, or the criminal scum will wreak havoc on China in my absence . . .

Blue Gorilla: picturing his wife and two children totally frantic back in Africa, and, alternately, weeping at his funeral.

The Empress: This is what I have come to? Dying surrounded by handsome, eligible men, without ever having a man in my life?

Despite his orders, Data Bank and the Mime had made their way to the front of the plane. There they, Highland Guardian, and the Texas Ranger were holding a mini-prayer meeting, led by the eloquent Scotsman. In the back of the plane, Champion prayed the rosary while Captain Zion and the Pharaoh said Jewish and Islamic prayers, respectively. The rest simply put on a brave front, doing what heroes do: not letting their fear rule.

Revelator turned to Defender and tuned out everyone else. The fear waves vanished, unveiling . . . peace. The pilot was at peace.

Inexplicable. Somehow, the shy guy who let the Sword walk all over him was the most confident hero on the plane. Defender actually thought they would survive. He pulled back on the stick, trying to pull up over the anomaly.

The anomaly moved slightly upward, so they still hit it. Yellow dirt surrounded the plane, but it burst through the dirt upwards into the sky.

The engine died. Defender reached for the landing gear button, but that wouldn’t work with the engine dead.

Revelator tuned the Defender out, too, and glanced back. “History, landing gear!”

Lord History closed his eyes. “Done.”

Revelator said, “We’re going down, brace for impact!” He turned around again and looked down. Below them lay a barren yellow desert. Of all places to go down, this was probably the best.

They hit the ground with a gigantic thud and a huge bump that would pull anyone not properly strapped in out of their seats, but Lord History’s landing gear held.

Jesse made a waking-up snort. “Are we there yet?”

Revelator laughed dryly. “Just not quite where we expected to land. I’ll explain in a bit.” If the plane’s inertia didn’t carry itself over a cliff.

Continued here.

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Stranded, Part One

Continued from the Devil’s Fool

Held in place by an expandable thirty-five foot, red-haired giant in overalls, the cyborg, half metal lawman from Texas fired at the cockpit door. It burst open. The cabin depressurized as Dark Mystic bailed out.

Oxygen masks dropped in the cabin. Revelator put his on and then removed the Sword’s bronze age battle helmet to put a mask on the unconscious Jesse Miller, who had drooled all over the shoulder of his black tonksium-Kevlar costume.

Revelator folded his arms over the mid-section of the lighting bolt jutting from the left shoulder to the right ankle of his blue and black costume. It would seem the story their demon-possessed “ally” gave about a convocation of villains in Jamaica had been a lie spun to lure them into a trap.

Man, he hated being right. Not like he hadn’t warned Jesse, but for some reason, Jesse ignored him. “Why didn’t you listen?”

Skyscraper grew a little bigger and shut the cockpit door. The cabin pressure began returning to normal. Revelator headed towards the cockpit, along with every other hero on the plane. From Skyscraper’s overalls pocket, his eighteen inch tall twin, Small Packages, shouted, “Anyone know how to fly this thing?”

Good question.

With his nanobiotic implant, Revelator focused on the brainwaves bouncing around the cabin, zeroing in one at a time on the patterns of his fellow passengers.

Payday: I planned on learning to fly . . . .

Not quite good enough. Quite a few of them would need to visit fly schools, if they got out of this alive.

Speed Skater: Hey, maybe all those hours playing flight sims weren’t a waste of time . . . .

Revelator shook his head. She could work as a last resort.

The Defender: Hmm. The plane is a custom model, but I’ll give it a try if no one else can.

Getting warmer. But, unfortunately, the verbalized thought had attached to it the knowledge that Bogdan Sagunov wasn’t instrument rated. In this storm, that could fly them to their doom.

A beam of light burst in the cockpit, and three hundred yards away, a fiery inferno appeared in the sky. Revelator sighed. This just wasn’t his day.

He grabbed the Defender by his white trench coat, worn over tonksium white dress shirt and pants. “Fly the plane.”

Speed Skater said, “Hey-“

“I know, Skater,” said Revelator. “Take my seat by the Sword. I’ll call you if you’re needed. Everybody else, back to their seats.”

The Texas Ranger said, “Rev, Aw think we may need to abandon plane. Yew want me to hand out the parachutes?”

Revelator nodded. “Yeah, thanks, Tex.”

Speed Skater lurched in the wrong direction. “I’ll help!”

Thankfully she didn’t have her skates on, Revelator shoved past her and took the co-pilot seat she’d been gunning for. He wanted to oversee this and doubted Flight Simulator girl would be a whole lot of help.

The Defender took his seat and turned the plane 180 degrees until it was heading away from the anomaly.

A chill went through Revelator’s body. His bionic implant went crazy for a moment and then returned to normal.

And 150 yards ahead, the fiery anomaly appeared again. The Defender turned the plane at a ninety degree angle.

Again, a sharp disruption in Revelator’s bionic implant, then normal.

And seventy-five yards ahead was the anomaly.

The Defender began a slow 180 degree turn. Texas Ranger and Speed Skater came back with dour expressions on their faces.

“We’ll need to jump,” said Revelator. “This thing is following us. And it keeps getting closer.”

“Bad news, partner,” said Texas Ranger.

Revelator grimaced. Did he even want to know? He caught Speed Skater’s brainwave pattern, and got flooded with the stunned memories reverbing in her mind.

He shoved the pattern away. The extreme sports expert had insisted she check the parachutes before distributing them and found they’d all been cut. Dark Mystic could write a book on treachery. “Thanks for your efforts. Get back to your seats.”

Speed Skater put a hand on the hip of her green and yellow Lycra unitard. “But we didn’t even tell you what happened!”

Texas Ranger put his robotic hand on her shoulder. “Darlin’, Rev kin read our minds.”

Recognition hit her face. “Oh.”

The two returned to their seats.


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The Devil’s Fool, Part Thirteen

Continued from Part Twelve

The Defender piled into the aisle along with Highland Guardian, the Texas Ranger, and Skyscraper. The heroes headed for the steel cockpit door. Highland Guardian knocked on the cockpit door. “Mystic, we’d like a word with ye.”

A deep voice rumbled from behind the door. “I bet you would. Didn’t I tell you to remain seated, due to air turbulence?”

The plane turned straight up and the five heroes tumbled backwards. The Defender flailed helplessly against the impending head-on collision with the rear of the plane.

Captain Revolution shot a hand out and stopped his fall. Lucky for you I was here.”

Thank you.” I think.

Revolution laughed. “Don’t thank me. I want the privilege of killing you myself when the occasion presents itself. That was simply too pathetic a death, even for you.”

The Defender reached across the aisle and latched onto an armrest. “Revelator! The Sword needs to do something.”

Negative,” said Revelator. “The Sword hit his head. He’s out cold.”

The Texas Ranger, being held by Blue Gorilla along with Skyscraper, said, “I need to get up there.”

Gravity is against you,” said Highland Guardian. “With all your metal, you’re far too heavy to climb up.”

Gravity is no obstacle,” said Small Packages. “We’ll get you up there, Tex. Skyscraper, wrap your arms around him.”

Skyscraper put his arms around the Texas Ranger.

Now,” said Small Packages. “Grow!”

Skyscraper’s seven-foot frame expanded to thirty-five feet, stretching the gargantuan across the plane.

At the same time, the plane began to right itself. It was still at a slight angle when the Texas Ranger arrived outside the cockpit door. “Much obliged, son.”

The Texas Ranger pulled his laser pistol from his holster and fired at the door.

The Defender, along with the other heroes, dashed forward.

A whoosh of air from outside the plane filled the empty cockpit. Oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Skyscraper grew a little further and pulled closed the door that Dark Mystic had jumped out of.

The cabin began to re-pressurize.

Small Packages shouted, “Does anyone know how to fly this thing?”

The Defender touched his chin. Hmm. The plane was a custom model, but he’d give it a try if no one else could.

A beam of light burst in the cockpit windshield. Three hundred yards ahead, a fiery inferno appeared in the sky.

Continued in…Stranded

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The Devil’s Fool, Part Twelve

Continued from Part Eleven

Revelator turned back towards the Defender. “Where was I? There’s a real mix on this plane. Freud would have a field day. We got bi-polars, schizophrenics, folks who are controlling, manipulative, trying to live out childhood fantasies.”

Which are we, lad?” asked a Scot behind the Defender.

The Defender turned. Behind him sat a man with a rough beard, a funny plaid cap on his head, and a lace-up white puffy shirt. Next to the Scot was the half-metal face of western justice in the twenty-first century, the Texas Ranger.

The Ranger laughed. “Aw think we got too many psychosises for ‘im to count.”

I say,” said a Brit behind Revelator. “With you having already diagnosed us all, it doesn’t seem Freud has much to do.”

Revelator glanced back. “Lord History, I wasn’t talking about you. It’s the folks at the back of the plane.”

The Scot said, “Tell me, lad, what would you say if ya were overheard at the other end of the plane?”

I’d say it was the people at the front of the plane.”

Everyone in earshot laughed.

Revelator said, “Seriously, you know some folks here are not quite right.”

Oh, like Payday.” A red-haired leprechaun dressed in overalls climbed atop the back of Revelator’s seat. The miniature man with a full-sized voice couldn’t measure more than eighteen inches tall.

Revelator grimaced. “Small Packages, let’s not name names.”

Small Packages smirked. “Because you’re afraid of him?”

I’d rather not have the cabin pumped full of lead.”

Look, I talked about it with Skyscraper, and we agree we should let the villains have Payday at first opportunity.”

Revelator threw back his head. “Earth’s noblest heroes come together, and you’re already planning treachery. Oh, what I’d do to get this in the comics.”

He’s a murderer. A vigilante nut. He’s caused a lot of problems for us in Chicago and he’s killed more than a few innocents in the process.”

Yeah, but it’s not exactly sporting to double-cross an ally.”

I won’t stand for any treachery,” said Lord History.

The Defender piped up. “Nor will I!” Unless, of course, the “treachery” involved eliminating a certain Red devil who had no business even being in a superhero guild.

Nor will I,” said the Scot.

And I ain’t a double-dealin’, coward,” said the Texas Ranger. “Sorry, little hombre, you been outvoted.”

And I’d keep those thoughts to yourself.” Revelator’s glance swept wide to include the Defender. “Or the boss will make some changes to your comic book-might even shelve it.”

Defender sniffed. Revelator might just get wearisome. But point taken.

Small Packages nodded.

Don’t think about causing trouble,” said Revelator. “‘Cause I’ll know about it.”

Uppity mind readers,” Small Packages grumbled and climbed back down into the front pocket of Skyscraper’s overalls.

I gathered we will be facing quite the rogue’s gallery,” said Lord History.

Revelator reached into the Sword’s carry-on bag and pulled out the roster and handed it back to Lord History.

Lord History whistled. “I say, Highland Guardian, you’ll recognize one of these chaps. It’s your old foe, Shamus Macduff.”

The Scot arched his eyebrow. “Macduff is in a coma; has been for a month.”

“Perhaps he was included by mistake.”

What is this?” asked Small Packages. “I’ve never had a villain send a roster.”

Revelator grimaced like he’d sucked on a lemon. Dark Mystic got it from his ‘sources.'”

Defender gulped. Why do I have a bad feeling about this?Who are his sources?”

Demonic spirits supposedly shared the information with the demonic spirit that ‘shares’ our dark friend’s body.”

The Defender gasped in unison with the Texas Ranger and Highland Guardian.

What? “I would have never come if I’d known what was leading us. Does the Sword know?”

Knows and he’s been warned.” Revelator shook his head. “But he won’t listen.”

Defender stared, mouth agape. How could the Sword have knowingly put their lives-and consequently the lives of the people who depended upon them-in the hands of a demon?

Well,” said Highland Guardian. “I think I’ll have a word with this Mystic.”

Defender stood. “And I!”

I’m in,” said the Texas Ranger.

Skyscraper and I will come along. I’d like to know what the devil is going on.” Small Packages and Skyscraper laughed.

The Defender and the others just looked at them.

Small Packages sighed. “Foreigners have no sense of humor.”

The Texas Ranger smiled. “I don’t get it, and I’m from Texas.”

Exactly. The Republic of Texas.”


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The Devil’s Fool, Part Eleven

Continued from Part Ten

At takeoff, the Defender buckled into his aisle seat next to the Empress. He glanced towards Captain Revolution’s seat at the rear. A hairy blue hulk obscured his view.

He looked across aisle to Revelator and the Sword. Was this some kind of trap? One thing for sure, the Sword had better have a really good explanation for Captain Revolution’s presence on this plane.

The Empress growled beside him. “I wish I knew what that Red scoundrel was thinking.”

Revelator leaned over. “Lady, he’s thinking, ‘Is this some type of trap?’ and is wondering what you guys are doing here.”

The Defender laughed. “I guess he did not come looking for trouble.”

The Empress snorted. “Humph. He brings more than enough trouble with him wherever he goes. You are Revelator?”

Revelator smiled. “Indeed. But when we’re in private, please, call me Laban.”

Should you really give away your secret identity?”

Revelator shrugged. “Only fair not to keep secrets from the team. After all, the team doesn’t have any secrets with me.”

The Empress sent a piercing glare at Revelator. “So you’re telling me that while we’ve been on this plane, you’ve scanned our innermost thoughts and feelings to find our secret identities.”

Revelator laughed. “I help Jesse maintain the roster and keep your identities secret. I have to know them.”

Oh,” said the Empress.

Revelator leaned towards the Defender. “But one thing I must say, man. You are way too worried about impressing the Sword. Stop being a doormat. You didn’t become Russia’s greatest hero by acting like a fan boy.”

The Defender’s face fell. It was hard enough feeling more like an awkward fan than a real hero without someone else knowing his thoughts.

The Revelator smiled. “Jesse didn’t make you great. You were great already, which is why he wanted you on the team. Now, Jesse’s like a brother to me, but he’s not God. If you aren’t careful, he’ll walk all over you. Want to be a second-rate sidekick? Keep this up. Want respected as an equal? Act like one.”

The Defender blushed. Revelator had a point, but was now the time? Particularly with a beautiful woman by his side. “Do you always publicly rebuke people on your first meeting, or am I just special?”

Revelator laughed. “Since you let Jesse walk all over you, I figured you enjoyed being a doormat.”

He deserved that, but the Sword’s sidekick sure was one to lecture him. Time to change the subject.

“Oh, I’m not the Sword’s sidekick, but we have been crime-fighting partners six years, since you ask.”

Revelator paused. “Oh, you didn’t ask. Sorry, but you were going to, so I’ll tell. We’ve been through a lot together. The Sword got me to live again, and I’ll always owe him for that.”

What’s it like?” asked the Defender.

If you’d asked me four years ago, I’d have told you it was just like a comic book. We were out all hours of the night, hauling in criminal scum, and breaking up terror cells. We even went overseas to haul in terrorist scum. I can’t tell you how many lives we saved. During those years, the Sword made his money going to garage sales and selling stuff on eBay.”

Wow, real inside information right from the big guy’s sidekick. “Did you ever join forces with any others?”

“Again, I’m an equal, not a sidekick. But we have teamed up with Champion and Commander Justice a time or two. We joined forces with Payday a couple times and fought him once when he went too far. Overseas, we’ve gotten help from Pharaoh and Captain Zion, though not at the same time. The Sword had heard of others, but he didn’t have time to track them down.”

What changed things?”

The movie, the comic book company, becoming a family man. I don’t think it’s made him worse, but he’s different. The Sword’s subcontracted out defense of Philadelphia to a team of elite heroes. The Sword works 8-5, Monday-Friday, on call while tending to minimal duties at the comic book company. During the evenings, he’s on call for absolute emergencies that assigned heroes can’t handle.”

People change,” said the Empress.

Yeah, I just didn’t expect it in this business. When I was a kid, comic book heroes didn’t change. I just thought somehow it’d be the same in real life. But this stage has had its advantages. I’ve had less uniforms ruined and gotten to meet nearly every superhero on Earth.”

The Defender sighed. To be the Sword’s sidekick-er associate-was a great job, but he wouldn’t want to leave Russia. Maybe he could team up with other heroes occasionally. What are the others like?”

Revelator smiled. “Some are great folks. Others are arrogant. And some-“

The plane rocked. The lights flickered.

A deep voice rumbled over the intercom. “Attention! Everyone, especially sidekicks, remain in your seats as we’re experiencing turbulence.”

-and some I’d like to smack upside the head!” finished Revelator.

The Sword stirred. He pulled an earbud from his left ear. “We there yet, Laban?”

Nah; just turbulence.”

Oh.” The Sword replaced the earbud and turned back towards the window.


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The Devil’s Fool, Part Ten

Continued from the Devil’s Fool, Part Nine

A small plane landed bearing the star of the People’s Republic of China. Out of it jumped Captain Revolution.

Dark Mystic ran to Captain Revolution and grabbed his overnight bag. “Come, Captain, let’s board the plane.”

Captain Revolution grunted. “I’ve been on a plane eight hours straight. I need to stand up awhile and get some fresh air if I’m going to be any good in battle.”

Dark Mystic tugged on his arm. “No, you should board now.”

The Sword waved. The last thing he needed was for Mystic to get uptight. “Oh, let him relax. It’s been quite a flight.”

A helicopter’s whirling blades cut through the night air.

Dark Mystic laughed. “Fine, Sword, then you get to clean up.”

The Sword arched his right eyebrow. “Clean up?”

Dark Mystic backed towards the plane. “I’ll taxi the plane and be back.” He ducked inside and closed the door. The plane moved down the runway.

The helicopter landed a moment later. From it emerged the Defender in the escort of the Empress. With her eloquent white duster gown, his white trench coat over the new tonksium dress shirt and pants, and their matching black bandanna masks, they looked like a superhero wedding party. And from the shy smiles, it had been Bogdan’s great pleasure to get to meet his Japanese counterpart.

Captain Revolution stared at them and snarled. “Defender, you will die!” He threw three fire darts at the Defender.

The Empress pulled the energy whip from the side of her duster and intercepted. No, Captain Revolution, you’ve spied on my country for the last time.”

Captain Revolution jumped up and landed on top of the helicopter. The Defender threw his bola at Revolution’s legs. Revolution jumped in mid-air, only to be hit by the Empress’s electric whip. He winced and grunted.

The Defender lunged at Revolution, knocking them both to the ground.

Fool, you cannot overpower me!” Revolution threw the Defender off as easily as he would a blanket when getting up in the morning. The Empress lashed him with her electric whip.

Her face glowed in the light of the runway. “One more strike, and you’ll be gone, Red Fool.”

Uh-oh, this was going too far. The Sword raised his blade. “Stop! All of you, what’s the meaning of this?”

Captain Revolution pointed at the Defender. “This dog is trying to overthrow the government of China and subvert it through counter-revolutionary dogma.”

The Defender jogged to the Sword. “He lies. All I ever did was assist Christians in spreading the Gospel.”

Not Christians. We have religious freedom in China. They meet in state-sanctioned churches in our largest cities. He aids the cultists spreading like cancer across China.”

Your state churches are nothing more than propaganda machines. You imprison millions of innocent men, women, and children. You kill your prisoners and sell their organs on the open market to Westerners willing to pay.”

Another lie for which you will die!” Captain Revolution scrambled to his feet.

The Sword extended his blade towards Revolution. “Hold it. This is America. We debate with words, not fists. Empress, what do you have to say?”

The Empress picked a fine black hair off her duster. “I had a very pleasant trip with the Defender, only to arrive to see this Red dog still breathing. I thought I’d finished him off during our last encounter. He was trying to escape with national secrets to give to his aggressive masters in Beijing, who are plotting to conquer us all.”

Captain Revolution raised a fist in the air. “She lies! It was a routine mission, and it is her government that is trying to overpower us through economic imperialism.”

The Empress’s dark brown eyes narrowed to slits that pierced the Sword. “In Jamaica, are we going to talk the villains there to death as well? He’s a villain. Let’s dispose of him.”

Oh boy. “He’s not a villain. He’s the national superhero of China.”

In Japan, he’s a villain.”

That’s why we don’t sell his comic book in Japan.”

The Empress frowned still deeper. “I’ll not be part of an organization he’s in.”

Captain Revolution scowled. “Nor do I want anything to do with an organization featuring a cultist crusader.”

“Enough.” The Sword put his blade on the ground and stood on it. “Blade, expand, magnetize, and upwards.”

He rose six feet above them with only his Olympic-level sense of balance keeping him right side up. “Look, I understand you have legitimate issues, and you’ve all raised good points. But the gathering of the World’s greatest villains in Jamaica could endanger everyone. Let’s join forces for now and then see about the future.”

The Defender sighed wearily. “Is Chang Ka there?”

The Sword pulled out the manifest of villains and found him on there. “Yes.”

The Empress gasped. “He almost destroyed Tokyo!”

Captain Revolution frowned. “Worse, he almost blew up Shanghai. I’ll come.”

The Empress grunted. “Me too, but for only this mission. Then we’ll have to re-negotiate the nature of this enterprise.”

The Sword turned to the Defender. “What about you?”

If it’s as serious as you say, I’ll go.”

The Sword smiled. He owed Defender for keeping them on board—for now.

Upon boarding the plane, the Sword entered the cockpit.

Dark Mystic glanced up from the controls. “Everyone on board all right?”

“No thanks to you. You sure were a big help out there.”

Dark Mystic laughed. “You could have easily taken all three out. Besides, if the plane had been there, our more feisty members would have wanted to join the fight. It’d turn into a melee.”

Why did you suggest we draft mortal enemies? How were you planning on having them on the same mission?”

“I expected Captain Revolution to be early. His seat is in the back by the window, next to Blue Gorilla. The Defender and the Empress are seated up front, across from you and Revelator. They would not know that they were each on the plane and then I’d split up the groups in such a way that they wouldn’t run into each other.”

Sounds like a recipe for friendly fire to take out Captain Revolution.”

Dark Mystic pursed together his painted-black lips. “Okay, maybe it wasn’t as well-thought out as I believed. But regardless, it’s important we bring people together. Nationality, politics, religion, race, none of it matters. We need to put it all aside and work for the good of humanity.”

The Sword nodded. As long as we kill the terrorists. Sure, whatever.


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