There are some who think of Superheroes as individuals, loners who fight a lonely battle against injustice, upholding what's right. In some ways, that's true the day to day job of a hero requires some time alone. Yet, no man is an island, and neither is a superman.
It's hard to remember the origins of the Rooftop Society, it probably started in the Mid-80's, during the worst of the Moore years, when superheroes had to fight crime and corruption clandestinely. Heroes would gather in hidden safe-houses and rooftops to discuss the evils happening in their territory, to pool resources where possible. In any case, long after the Moore years were over the tradition stuck, and an ever rotating roster of heroes would gather on a monthly basis to discuss problems they would be unable to face alone.
"Nanotech laboratories," Dash uttered, "a lot of interesting tech has been stolen, and up to now I still have no leads. So if you see any villains using nanotech just let me know." Dash's blue and yellow costume stood out on the rooftop, in the glow of the Pyramid Plaza spotlight. His belt whirring like a miniature dynamo.
"I wonder if it has anything to do with the assassination attempts on government employees?" Fade wondered aloud, the face covering costume made it difficult to know the man's intent, and his unnerving ablity to permeate through solid objects often made it so he would come from out of nowhere. "Um, did joo guys see that? Was he here before?" Obscura asked, the rookie hero was still learning the ropes and still a little star struck by her heroic companions. Sentinel, the most experienced of the group didn't seem to be paying much attention at all. "Does that helicopter look like it's coming a little low to you?" Sentinel pointed to a rapidly descending set of lights not far from the hero's rooftop vantage.
Dash didn't even let Sentinel finish the sentence before he was off, zipping through the city streets. Whirring his arms as quickly as possible Dash slowed the helicopter's fall, not enough to prevent the crash, but enough it stopped a monorail strut from collapsing outright.
The other heroes were hot on his tail, Fade flying over head, Sentinel leaping from building to building and Obscura trying to keep up with her mad parkour skills. Assessing the danger, Dash left the helicopter to his friends and bolted for the nearest Monorail station.
"Youhavetostopthemonorail!" He exclaimed, forgetting to power down his speed belt before talking.
"Huh? Honey, I don't think I'm allowed to do that," responded the hapless ticket woman.
"There's a collapsing strut down the line, if the monorail leaves here people will die."
"... Let me call my manager."
Meanwhile the heroes arrived on a scene of burning wreckage and a collapsing monorail strut. Fade used his ability to create an Ectoplasmic strut to hold the monorail up, meanwhile Obscura smothered the flames with a blanket of solid shadow. Sentinel leaped on the ruined helicopter and tore open the doors, inside were a pair of trapped prison guards wearing "Blackstone Penitentiary" uniforms, and a gaping hole in the helicopter's side where it appeared someone had blown it out.
Dash didn't have time to wait for the bureaucratic process and leapt onto the monorail track, holding his arm out. The ticket woman's eyes widened.
"I'll call you back!" Hanging up the phone she dialled the monorail conductor. "You gotta stop the monorail some nut has jumped onto the track!" She said, just as the Metrorail rounded the corner for the station's stretch.
With little time to spare, Sentinel hoisted the guards over his shoulder and leapt away from the wreckage. With the fires taken care of Obscura used her solid shadow in an attempt to seal over the cracks in the strut, but time was running out.
Dash stood resolute, but midlly terrified. He was a speedster, he had no way of stopping a determined monorail.
The rail screeched its breaks and Dash moved back step by step until the vehicle stopped mere inches from his hand. "There's a collapse up the line. You have to wait here until it's fixed!" Dash said, before zipping off to see if he could help his allies some more.
"Who was that masked nut?" Asked the bewildered conductor.
Dash could hear distant sirens once reunited with his friends, but didn't stay long as one of the guards had wreckage in his gut, so he zipped the man off to hospital. Meanwhile the other heroes woke the remaining guard and questioned him. "We were transporting some old villains, they should have been harmless. Doctor Null, Mad Maple and Stoneface, heading from Blackstone to the Maximum Security prison in North Freedom. Then we were over the city, and BOOM! The side of the chopper blows out, and all of a sudden it's lights out. Lucky thing you guys came when you did."
With three escapees from Blackstone the party decided to track down what they could. Dash discovered a strange residue on some of the helicopter and bagged it for testing. Obscura realizing how late it was decided to go home. Unfortunately the other weren't too lucky in discovering the fugitive's whereabouts.
Interlude - Obscura
South Freedom's a tough neighbourhood, and not for the faint of heart. Having changed into her civvies in a nearby alleyway, Perla Vargas approached her apartment block. Unfortunately, a group of Street Demonz were loitering outside her apartment.
"Hey chica! What joo doing out so late? You come to party?"
"B,back off!" Her stuttering warning seemed to amuse the gangers.
"C'mon girl, don't joo want to dance?" Focusing on her mystical connection to the Shadow Realm, Obscura seemed to fade from their vision.
"What the heeell man, where'd she go?"
Socking one of the Street Demonz in the jaw, Obscura bolted to a nearby alleyway. Leaping for the nearby fire escape proved futile when covered in some kind of urban goo she slipped and landed on her back with an audible yelp.
"Hey, I think she went thataway mang!" From the safety of the alley Obscura created a veil of pure darkness, the likes of which only her mystically attuned eyes could see through. Running between the gangers she disappeared into her front door, up the fire stairs, into her apartment. Her sleeping mother, brother and sister none-the-wiser.
Interlude - Fade
As science advisor for the Freedom City government, Rick Mason would often overhear things in those hallowed halls. "This is an embarrasment Commissioner, I need those fugitives found and quickly. We can't have the public know Dr Null is at large. The hysteria alone would be an embarrasment."
"Don't ye be worryin' Mayor O'Connor, the FCPD will have those brigands back in irons before ye know it."
"I appreciate that Pat."
Interlude - Dash
David Peters or Mr. Peters as he was known to his students was almost as bored as they were in his explanation of arctic adaptation. Still he didn't particularly appreciate the pair of disruptive students yucking it up in the corner. Quick as lightning he popped into the staff kitchen and borrowed a pitcher of ice water.
"The thing about polar adaptation is that most creatures have a thick layer of insulating fur or blubber to keep them warm."
"People only have a thin skin."
"''EY! ESSE! What joo think joo're doin'. Do joo know who I am? Joo don' wanna mess with me yo."
"Sit down, and calm down Donald."
"'Ey! Joo don't call me that. Joo call me by my street name. D-bag hombre!"
"Cool off in the principle's office D-Bag." The laughter of the class drove the young miscreant out of the room.
"Joo gonna pay for that Mr. Teacher man..."
Interlude - Sentinel
The normally quiet antique store was as good a place as any to do some internet research on the escapees from the chopper crash. "
The Death of Doctor Null - Terminus Retrospective Part 3 - By Sally Struthers."
A tingle at the door drew William's attention. A heavily built older gentleman stepped into the room, the words bull in a chinashop seemed to feel appropriate.
"Can I help you?" William asked.
"Perhaps, I have a trinket I'm looking to sell. I was perhaps wondering if you could tell me what it's worth?"
The small stone amulet resembled nothing less than a stylized demon's head affixed to a small leather strap to be worn around the neck. Made of normal stone and what appeared to be red glass beads for eyes.
"Really? The man who gave it to me, as a gift mind you, said it was an ancient artifact recovered from Peru, or Aztec-land or whatever."
"A lot of these so called artifacts are mostly junk, it's got okay craftsmanship, and I can sell it as a curio. Twenty, take it or leave it."
"Thirty, and you got a deal."
"Eh, what the hell. I just need some details Mr..."
"Zorelli, just call me Zorelli." The bell tingled one more time as the man left.
"I think... I just bought some junk from Stone-Face."
Pyramid Plaza - Later that Night
"Guys, I need some help," Obscura started the meeting.
"I think I have a lead on Stone-Face, his brother Jimmy "The Weasel" turned him in years ago, apparently he owns a bar on the West Side. I... need someone over 21 to help me investigate." The group, chuckled that the rookie's problem. "It's okay, Westside is my stomping ground. What's the place?" Sentinel asked.
"Weasel's Warren. I'd like to tag along if you don't mind," Obscura grinned.
"By all means, what are you too going to do?" Sentinel asked Fade and Dash.
Fade looked out over the horizon in the direction of Blackstone Penitentiary.
"Talk to Director Powers, I think there's more to this than we realise."
Few places on Earth are as imposing as Blackstone Prison, with massive stone walls on an Island off Freedom City's coast, it is full of the meanest most powerful villains this side of the Terminus. Run by a group of highly trained, dedicated guards and controlled by Director Harry Powers.
"Welcome to my office gentlemen, have a seat," Harry greeted the heroes warmly. He was always glad to see citizens willing to stand up and do what needed to be done to protect a city, but still there was always something that he wondered about.
"Before we start, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," Dash replied. "When you guys sit in an office and conduct conversations with regular people in those get ups, do you ever feel silly."
"A little," replied Fade.
The place was hardly hopping, and a bored bouncer seemed to be more interested in his cell-phone than his job. Sentinel decided that a subtle approach was needed to infiltrate the bar, and wearing his civilian outfit he approached the bouncer. The closer he got the more details fit together, the pallid complection, the lack of warm breath in the cool night air. This bouncer was most definitely a vampire. He just hoped Obscura was close-by with his ancestral helmet if trouble broke out.
"I vill need ID if you vant to come inside bar," the bouncer said.
"Ah, I seem to have left my ID in my other pants."
"Ha, very funny, but is law friend. I can not let you in without ID."
"C'mon man, it's not even that busy inside. I'm just here to meet a friend, Zorelli is his name."
"Sounds Italian, Italians know better than to come to Veasel's Varren."
William was running out of ideas, he was becoming convinced that there was something inside he'd need to see.
"Well, fancy seeing you here," For a large man, "Zorelli" seemed to have a light step, "What brings you to this hell hole?" His gravelly voice bearing a thick Italian accent.
"Ah, a friend recommended it to me?"
"Ha! Come on then, let's get a drink."
"I vill need to see his ID *glk*" The bouncer was interrupted when Zorelli held him up by his face.
"No. You don't." Flinging the bouncer across pavement like a rag-doll the pair stepped inside, with Obscura slipping in just after.
"Budget cuts. I feel so stupid now, but it was a perfect storm of stupid that let those three out. With the GFC looming Blackstone can't afford to keep unpowered prisoners in the cells. So I had to make a decision, weird thing was these three were model prisoners for years!" Fade and Dash were amazed at what they were hearing.
"Doctor Null, a model prisoner? Didn't he once enslave the entire nation of Eskandria?" Fade asked incredulously.
"No doubt, but when The Centurion died, all the fight went out of him. Hell, the reason he got pinched was for holding up a bank with a pistol of all things. Stoneface wasn't as bad as people would make him out to be in the crime books either. His entire life he was looking out for his family, until his brother ratted him out to the cops. Nowadays he just spends most of his time reading. From what I understand he's a buddhist now."
"And the Maple?" Dash asked.
"The Mad Maple, okay so he was hardly a model prisoner, but he was easy to handle. Just keep him away from refrigeration equipment and he was just a man like anybody else."
"Was there anything unsual that occurred recently?" Fade asked. "Perhaps, something that would build a connection between these three?" Dash added.
"No connection that I could tell, and believe me I just spent the last day in the surveillance archives. Those three barely said twenty words to each other their entire stay here. I will say this though, Dr Null is the one that really surprises me. Especially after finding out about his cancer, I assumed he would be dead soon and that would be the end of one particularly tragic figure in this city's history."
"Dr Null has cancer?"
"It's tragic really, the way family can betray a man. But at the end of the day family, is family. Barkeep, another scotch and leave the bottle this time."
"That's $800 scotch sir."
"I got $30, take it or leave it," Stoneface left the crumpled notes on the bench, "where was I?"
"Family," prompted the incognito Sentinel. "Right! Family i-" Obscura wasn't paying much attention to Stoneface, she decided to search the bar for any sign of Jimmy the Weasel, to warn him away.
"Jimmy, boss. You have to come here, it's your brother he's here now!" Obscura gave a sigh of relief, at least Jimmy wasn't here, there was time to capture Stoneface before things got bloody. She returned to the bar to see the room filled with about twenty vampires.
"Oh crap," Obscura cursed.
"Hey, Antique man, you take the ten on the left, I'll take the ten on the right."
Can I take on this many vampires without my helmet? Sentinel wondered. One way to find out...
Dash reviewed the medical records.
"It's legit, stage 3 lymphoma, it's in the lymph nodes. Even with top notch chemotherapy Null's looking at a few months of life on the outside."
"So the prisoners recieved no visitors whatsoever?"
"Nah, Mad Maple's grandson wants nothing to do with the old geezer, Stoneface's family betrayed him and Dr Null has no known family. Heck we don't even know if his real name is Null. Wait... there was a reporter. She was here to interview Dr Null, on some retrospective: "The Terminus Invasion 20 years on". That was a few weeks back. Maybe she knows something."
Dash and Fade looked at each other.
"This is something to go on at least," Dash shrugged.
Sentinel smashed a stool and using a single chair leg started beating up on his Vampire foes, alongside Stoneface. The duo were doing well taking Vampires down left and right, the undead abominations unable to pierce Stoneface's impervious skin. Obscura's Shadow meanwhile was having a hell of a time giving Vampire wedgies, while the girl herself created a swarm of shadow baseball bats to knock out the vampiric vermin. Seeing his opening Sentinel dashed across the room grabbing his pack from Obscura's hand, and slid into the bathroom. C'mon, c'mon... Pulling the helmet out of the pack he donned the Sentinel helm, kicking open the door.
"Closing time." Breaking his stake in half he threw it directly into the hearts of a pair of vampires reducing them to dust. "Heh, fancy seeing you again after all these years."
"Wha-" oh! He must think I'm my father! "Of course, it was only a matter of time before I would track you down Stoneface."
"Well look, I'll come peacefully. I thought I'd get some closure, but I think my brother's too much of a coward to see me again. Even if I did come to forgive him."
"...so we fought off the vampires, and Stoneface was taken back into custody," finished Obscura.
"What'd you guys do?"
"Uh, had a conversation with Harry Powers. Dr Null is dying of cancer," Fade said matter of factly, "We have a lead on Mad Maple though, he's got a grandson in Freedom City. So that's something we can research."
"Already did," Grinned Dash holding up some paperwork,"Staying at the Hanover Institute of Technology. Scholarship."
"Wha- when did you do that?" Fade asked incredulously.
"While Obscura was telling that boring story."
"Anyway, I thought Obscura and I could go check out the Campus, what are you guys going to do?" Dash laughed.
"I get the feeling that Doctor Null isn't happy about dying, he's got something big planned and I want to know what it is. We're going to ask Struthers if she learned anything useful."
Hanover Institute of Technology (HIT)
Alpha Beta Kappa house is famous the city over for it's insane keggers. Tonight was no exception, a toga party filled with beautiful young students letting off steam for Mid-Semester break.
"Ugh, what is it with supervillains and alcohol?" Asked Obscura.
"Beats me," Dash replied.
"What are you wearing?"
"Toga, here take this," he handed Obscura a bed sheet and a photograph, "Adam Jury, he's the guy we're looking for. Play it cool and pretend like you're 21."
The pair walked into the party, a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than the vampire bar. If my mother finds out I was at a kegger, dressed in a Toga she's going to kill me, thought Perla. There he is. Coming down from an upside-down keg-stand was none other than Adam Jury Jnr, grandson of the Mad Maple.
"That was a hoot, ey!" Spotting the pretty young Perla watching him, he sauntered (well, stumbled over).
"So uh, what's a pretty girl like you doin' in a place like this ey?"
"Uh, yoor from Canada too? That's awesome ey! I'm from... Quebec." Obscura improvised a terrible french canadian accent.
"Oh wow! Hey it's been ages since I spoke to a fellow canuck! You want to come upstairs and see my hockey jerseys ey?"
"Totally... eh?" The pair headed upstairs, to the privacy of Adam's room.
The Freedom City Ledger Offices
Sentinel and Fade entered the grandiose lobby of the Freedom City Ledger.
"Wow! Bona fide superheroes!" Exclaimed the security guard, "What brings you here?"
"Well citizen," responded Sentinel, "We're here to see Sally Struthers."
"Oh wow! I bet she'd be super glad to meet you, I'll buzz you up."
"Oh yeah, I miss Canada a lot ey. I mean, my family is messed up, but I got some great friends up there ey."
"Oh yeah, my Grandpop's a crazy Supervillain. Calls hisself the Mad Maple, ey!"
"No kidding," Obscura said rolling her eyes. Suddenly the door burst open and there was Dash in his full uniform.
"Hey kid, your Grandfather's escaped prison, and he might be headed here."
"Wha- Who are you? Captain Cockblock or something?" Adam exclaimed.
"No, I'm Dash, and the virtue of an underage woman is everyone's responsibility."
"You have gotta be kiddi- wait.. did you hear that?" The sounds of the party downstairs were definitely getting louder, it was starting to sound like screams.
"Oh crap, he's here already isn't he ey?"
Freedom City Ledger
Squeezed into the elevator with a cleaning lady and her trolley of supplies Sentinel and Fade silently rode to the 23rd floor. Musac playing over the speakers.
"Eh, Misser superhero."
"Please, call me Fade."
"Ah, Misser Fade, I am wondering. When you stand in little elevator dressed in costume. Do joo ever feeel seelly?"
"Where is that good for nothing grandson of mine?!" The Maple's Costume was haphazardly put together, and worse he was wearing a small bar fridge on his back attached via vacuum tubes and jerry rigged wiring as a makeshift freeze ray. Maple punctuated his sentences with blasts from his freeze ray, encasing nearby partygoers in tombs of ice.
"He's a little busy right now, maybe I can take your call?" Dash zoomed into the room socking the Mad Maple. The villain was a pro and rolled with the punch.
"Another damn superhero ey! Well I'll show you!" A frozen blast from Maple's makeshift freeze ray smacked the speedster directly in the chest. Turning his speed up to 11 he he vibrated out of the frozen shell leaving nothing but snowflakes in his wake.
"It'll be a cold day in hell before you stop me in my tracks Maple!"
Freedom City Ledger
"Can I get you guys on record?" Sally asked putting down a tape-recorder.
"Uh, not this time, we just have some questions," Fade replied.
"Oh.. okay. What did you want to know?"
"You interviewed Dr Null recently?" Sentinel asked.
"Oh yeah, that story. I had to edit out so much. The man really loves a monologue. Spoke about how some of his greatest plans fell apart only because of The Centurion's intervention. Couldn't go five minutes without talking about the guy. Talked about plans he never put into practice. One of them was really nuts. World domination through recycling! Crazy right?" "Was there anything else unusual about the interview?" Fade prompted.
"Well, when I spoke about a world without Dr Null, he got real quiet. It was a marked difference you know. He called for a guard not long after."
"Oh man, my Grandpa's here, we should go ey?"
When Adam turned around Obscura was already gone. Running down the stairs she rapidly changed costume. Dash meanwhile was having trouble fighting Maple through the crowd of panicked people, getting dragged away by them in the excitement.
Obscura found her way into the chaos, seeing Mad Maple firing at her fellow Rooftop Socialite she used her own Shadow to disarm the man of his weapon, and animated some nearby shadows to cover his face in a ball of darkness. Providing Dash with an opening to knock the old coot on his rear end. With Maple down Obscura used her shadow powers to bind him.
A cold wind blew above the streets of the city.
"Two out of three isn't bad?" Obscura said to the team.
"Maybe, but the biggest threat is still out there. For a man who loved to monologue Null played it pretty close to the chest," Fade brooded. "Well, after his capture, Maple mentioned something about an underwater base, so we still have something to go on," Dash said.
"I just hope it's not too late."
"Uh guys? Where's Sentinel?"
Epilogue (Galloway Antiques)
There had to be some significance to the amulet Stoneface had sold. William's eyes weren't enough for this, he would need all of his ancestors to take a look.
Demonicus, Demonicus, Demonicus.
The echo of generations of Sentinels reverberated in his head.
This was a name he knew, a name William Galloway feared.
Demonicus, Slayer of Sentinels, Archnemesis of the Galloway Tradition, The Prince of Secrets. What was Stoneface doing with a conduit to one of the Abyss' most powerful demonlords? And now that William had the Amulet what could he do about it?
In Issue #2: The Battle of Centery Bridge!
"What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!" -H.P. Lovecraft