Since that time, the White Knight has been seen occasionally, lending a hand where it was needed, and he seemed bent on establishing himself as a hero in Port Alexander.
Reports as to his powers and abilities vary, but everyone seems to agree that he is superhumanly strong and people swear they've seen bullets bounce off his armoured form.
His effectiveness is above question though, as he has stopped a few muggings and other low level street crimes with blasts of extreme heat from his hands.
Whatever the reason, a gala reception is being held at Proust Aerospace's Commerce City research labs to celebrate the establishment of the fund. Many of Port Alexander's and Port Alexander College's dignitaries will be in attendance: the Mayor, the Police Chief, members of their staffs, the President of the College, Professors, and so on. Of course, the big names at Proust Aerospace will be there, too: Department Heads, Project Leaders, etc.
Catering is provided by Le Lyonesque, one of the finest restaurants in the city and the party looks to be a major social event. It being a social event of this magnitude means that the social butterflies will also be flitting about rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous.
As the speeches began, a few spectators noticed a very slight shaking, and some folk were heard to comment that the claims discounting any threat of earthquake were obviously wrong.
A few moments later, the skeptics seemed proved right -- a huge tremor shook the area, and a large portion of the wall of the secure research lab on the right side of the map collapsed. (Indicated by the zig-zag line.) The gap, some 8 meters wide, ran all the way up the top of the four story lab building.
Visible in the opening, and falling out of it in the wreckage were several figures, even though no one was supposed to be in the laboratory at the time; Proust had just finished saying that all the staff was on holiday today to celebrate the gala.
(I'm just going to use names for the people I'm placing on the map, even though you won't know them neccessarily until the banter begins:-). Skylark, riding twin plumes of jet exhaust from her belt tumbled back out the gap and righted herself at an altitude of perhaps 9 meters. The giant figure of Panzer, four and 1/2 meters tall (perhaps 14 feet), tumbled down from the second floor and landed on his back. Blockbuster managed a more gracefull fall and landed on his feet. Jumping Jack also managed to land on his feet; Jack appeared to be a normal human type in a flashy costume. Visible inside the wreckage of the lab was a strange creature -- standing about 9' tall, the being had an earthy reddish skin tone. The skin was smooth with a marbled sort of look to it. There was no hair, and the eyes (as those close enough to see could tell) looked to be made of obsidian. The figure carried a large chain-mace with some kind of huge crystal on the end. It appeared almost to have erupted from the Earth.
A stunned tableau was set ... as five figures regarded each other and the crowd began to panic. Someone cried out that several people had been trapped under falling rubble, and the spell was broken.
A look of stunned surprise crossed the stranger's face, quickly followed by elation. "It worked," he said, "it worked." The stranger looked around at the devastation caused by his entrance to this place, a look of concern crossing his face. "Tis' true," he thought as he observed the five individuals gathered in front of him, "they do dress in a most strange manner here."
When the people began shouting that there were others trapped in the rubble, the stranger was snapped from his reverie. "I must help them," he said in a voice that resembled an avalanche. With those words, he began to move toward one of the piles of rubble that had trapped some of these people.
The stranger moved to the pile of rubble nearest him and began digging through the rubble. His chain-mace was tossed across his shoulder, with the huge gem glinting in the sunlight. He easily lifted the slab of masonry from off the woman who was pinned by it. He lifted the woman to her feet. She looked at him with awe for a moment, then turned to flee with conflicting emotions on her face.
The crowd was, by now, surging away from the site of the collapse. A lone figure, could be seen fighting the tide and moving towards the rubble. Clad in a form-fitting red, white and blue outfit, a lithe and wiry young woman moved through the crowd, offering a hand now and then to one of the fleeing people as they stumbled. Her hair was long and she carried a long quarterstaff.
Jumping Jack looked over at the giant stone man and saw the woman moving in. "Skylark," he shouted at the flying woman, "I thought you said there shouldn't be any problem."
"I said I thought there wouldn't be any problem, Jumping Jack," she replied. "If I knew there wouldn't be a problem, I wouldn't have needed you. Everything would have been fine if that hadn't showed up," she pointed at the giant.
Panzer stood up, "It's been accomplished, though, right? Let's get out of here."
The woman who had been freed by the giant, limped away, and the woman in the patriotic colors raced towards her, leapt onto a piece of fallen masonry, executed a perfect full gainer, and landed in a slight crouch between the woman and the assembled costumed persons and stone men. She gave the woman a little help to move her along.
Entering from the back of the courtyard, a new figure joined the ruined party. The figure, dressed in a crimson and white skin tight suit, leaped up onto the podium. The charcoal appearance of his skin was all that was needed for those familiar with Port Alexander's hottest hero, Fervor, to identify him.
"Leaving so soon? But you just got here and I hope you weren't planning on leaving with out cleaning up." Fervor replied to Panzer, announcing the hero's presence. "Skylark, Is it? How about you and I start this dance?"
With the offer, Fervor raised his hands and let out with a blast of heat at the flying woman. The mirage-like front of heat lanced out, narrowly missing the flying woman.
"What is this, a convention?" queried Panzer.
The stranger looked at the others and said, "You caused this destruction? You are going nowhere!" With that, he walked toward the giant one and stood in front of him.
From the house right side of the platform, another figure sprinted into view. The newcomer wore a dark grey bodysuit with black gloves and thigh high boots, with a black hooded cloak and a mask that completely covered his face -- no mouth hole. He sprinted towards the developing melee and took up a position a little behind Skylark.
Panzer began to move and the stone giant swung the chunk of masonry. Panzer sidestepped and the unwieldly chunk slammed into the ground and shattered.
"I am to be known as Core," spoke the stranger. "These people are under my protection." As he said this, the stranger glanced toward the gathered crowd. "Do not resist. I have been trained to deal with your kind." Despite his motion, Core's mace remained fixed in position on his shoulder. In the same motion as his first attack, Core brought his fist back up and around connecting solidly with Panzer. The impact was massive, the 14 foot Panzer was driven back a step or two and fell on his butt.
"Wait a moment," replied Panzer, "Your arrival caused this, not us!"
By now, most of the crowd had moved far enough away to give a clear field for the combatants. A notable exception was a young redhead who was with the reporters. She had dropped to one knee extracted a camera and was madly snapping pictures of the fracas.
The woman in red, white and blue (let's call her, say, Glory) rolled her eyes and sighed angrily. Great, she thought, another reporter determined to get herself killed. Glory sprinted toward a large upended slab of concrete, leapt toward it and began to roll in mid jump. She landed on her hands, cartwheeled twice and backflipped until she landed gracefully next to the reporter.
"Get out of here," Glory commanded. "You're going to get yourself killed." It was clear from her posture she would accept no challenge.
"Freedom of the press, lady," snapped the young reporter, "Jenny Peters, PA Times ... and I'm staying put."
Glory shrugged and reached out and, over the protestations of the woman, she threw Jenny over her shoulder and looked for a good place to drop her off out of the line of fire.
Panzer got to his feet again, as he did so he seemed to notice for the first time the man pinned in the rubble. "Damn it," he cursed and with a few long strides stepped to where the victim lay. He quickly shifted some rubble clear, and muttered, "Get out of here, this could get ugly." The man scrambled to comply.
As if to prove Panzer's words, Blockbuster shouted, "I don't care if you are made out of stone, freak, I'm going to cut you down to size!" Blades popped out of forearm housings on his armor and he drove his right fist/blade at Core. With such a large target, it would be hard to miss ...
Skylark, meanwhile, returned fire at Fervor. From the wristband on her right arm a beam of energy arced across the courtyard. It came nowhere near the Superheated Superhero, though, and a second shot went equally wide of the mark.
Jumping Jack seemed to be taken by suprise as Panzer ran across the courtyard. He shook his head ruefully, "You'll never change will you, Paul?" he asked as he gave a short hop and landed some 20 foot closer to Panzer. "I'll cover you," he continued and raised his arms. Noticing Nightshade, he asked "Who the hell are you? Well, you aint with us, so you're agin us." A bolt of plasma shot out of his arms towards the Grey-Garbed Guardian (-:). Unfortunately for JJ, as he braced to fire, his foot slipped on some rubble, and, rather comically, shot out from underneath him. "Bloody hell," he exclaimed as he went ass over teakettle to the ground. Needless to say, the plasma bolt had no effect except to blow a small piece of brick out of the wall high above Nightshade.
After looking at the confusion of who is helping whom Fervor stated more to himself than anyone else, "I guess we'll have to sort this out later," and headed for his opponent.
Core reached out out to slap aside Blockbuster's blades with his own hands. "What do you mean, I caused this?" rumbled Core. "Who are you?" he asked, the question being cut off short as Blockbuster drove the blade past the block and into the giant.
Blockbuster obviously possesses a great deal of strength, because the blow sent the giant flying back six meters sliding along the wall despite his being braced for the attack.
"Remember this well, you chose to use weapons in combat." The stone giant rumbled, then grasped the chain attached to the huge gem and swung the weapon free from his shoulder. "I have fought demons who have fallen to my mace."
"Yeah, right, I'll remember who drew first," replied Blockbuster, as he charged after Core, then drew back his arm and slammed the blade down again. Core swung the mace and deflected the blade.
Once more, Blockbuster raised his blades, again they came down and again Core's mace deflected them.
Jumping Jack stood and surveyed the situation.
Carrying the squirming reporter, Glory raced out of the line of fire and dumped the woman behind a concrete planter. "Stay put," she snapped and turned back to the fight.
The man that we are calling Nightshade turned to face Panzer, reached out and tried to get Panzer's attention by slapping him. "Your friends have betrayed you, big guy. It's _them_ you want to fight," he shouted after slapping the giant.
Panzer shook himself and an expression of fear and horror crossed his face.
Core stood up and looked over his opponent. The stone man brushed off the dust on his skin, and smiled at Blockbuster. "You are a strong opponent, and fast. But, do not forget, you will fall to me, little man," said Core.
Fervor continued his path towards the jetpack villian. "Skylark, before it get's too hot in here, you want to tell me what this is all about? Right now it looks like only a few people were injured, We continue this battle and you and your friends might have murder over your head."
Skylark replied, "Us? You attacked us first!" She raised her wrist-band and aimed it at Fervor, who promptly let off a quick blast at her. The woman in the air proved an elusive target. Skylark's counter blast looked to be on target!
It struck Fervor jarring the hero, and another blast also landed.
Suddenly another player made his appearence, from off to one side the White Knight charged into the courtyard.
Blockbuster kept slashing at Core, but now that the giant was up and swinging his mace, openings were harder to find.
Jumping Jack stepped in towards Nightshade. "What are you trying to do, eh?" he asked as he swung a pair of half-hearted punches at Nightshade, neither of which came close to the man in grey.
Panzer let out a cry, and stepped towards JJ in a hesitant manner, darting glances to all sides. Using a style of which the Marquis of Queensbury could not but approve, he swung a massive fist at the smaller man, and landed a solid thump on JJ. Who rocked back in surprise, "What the hell?"
Outraged by the effrontery of Jumping Jack, and taking advantage of JJ's surprise at being punched by Panzer, Nightshade fired off a quick jab that also looked like it owed a debt to Queensbury. JJ leaned clear of the punch, despite his surprise.
Nightshade continued his pugilistic attack, narrowly missing Jumping Jack with a short jab and a roundhouse left.
Jack returned the favor with an enthusiastic if less stylish series of jabs of his own. A high feint caught Nightshade flatfooted, and grey-clad hero was unable to dodge clear. The blow knocked him back a couple of steps, where he fell.
Glory launched herself forward, using the planter in front of her to gain some altitude and flipped forward landing in a crouch and continuing in towards the fray.
Jack pursued Nightshade, and kicked the downed man, hitting again and sending Nightshade sliding along the wall. Before Jack could follow him, a wild-eyed Panzer swung at him. The punch went wide.
"What's got into you, lad?" cried Jack. "I won't fight you, old son." Jack instead hopped after Nightshade, jumping easily over to where his victim lay.
Panzer looked around him, with fear and other emotions warring on his face, then took off with long strides away from the fray.
Blockbuster continued his assault on Core, and Core continued to deflect the attacks away with his twirling mace.
Fervor shook off the multiple blows dealt to him by Skylark as he continued the conversation.
"Well I don't know who brought who. I just saw the disaster and all of you together. So stop the blasting or your going to find yourself grounded and caged." Fervor stated with a tinge of Fury entering his voice.
Skylark shrugged, smiled and raised her arm again. Fervor raised his and snapped off two shots in quick succession, one with each arm. The one from his left went wide, but distracted Skylark and the right hand blast roared toward its target. Skylark quickly interposed her shield in the heat ray's path and deflected it away.
"Nice try, but I don't think I'm ready to give up quite yet," she replied before firing back and nicking Fervor once more.
Jenny Peters crouched down behind the concrete planter and continued madly snapping photos.
Glory caught Nightshade's fall from the corner of her eye as she rolled. She used an outstretched hand to change the direction of her roll and executed a handstand into a backflip to move her toward the now fallen Nightshade. She landed behind him. With a deft pivot, she wheeled around and struck at Nightshade with her quarterstaff just as he was rising to his feet. The quarterstaff whistled on its way in. Glory's staff struck Nightshade a firm blow, but he managed to keep his feet.
Responding to Skylarks remarks, Fervor allowed himself to be distracted "Well, From our point of view it does look like you caused a big mess," he said before the energy blast struck him in the chest. He staggered slightly but seemed relatively unhurt.
Skylark replied, "We didn't drag him here, he came on his own!" and pointed at Core, before firing again. This blast, too, seemed to be on target.
The White Knight assessed the situation then continued charging into the fray.
Core swatted aside an attack of Blockbuster's with his mace, then lashed out with his left fist. The blow glanced off of Blockbuster's armor.
Fervor continued his chat with Skylark, "I did try to give you a chance. I guess it's time to turn up the heat."
Jumping Jack seemd a bit suprised at the arrival of Glory, but he was not loath to accept her help. However, Nightshades's shock back from Glory's attack took him clear of Jack's punch.
Core roared, "Enough of this!" With that, he whipped his mace back over his shoulder and lunged to grab Blockbuster. Blockbuster fired out with another jab with his blades and stopped Core cold and even sent him back about four meters and dropped him to his knees.
Core roared again, scooped up a slab of masonry, stepped in and swung it at Blockbuster. Blockbuster tried to brace from the impact but still slammed into the wall and lost his footing. Core swung again, but missed and shattered his piece of rubble against the wall.
"You say that you are not the villains here. And you say the same. Yet you," Core said as he pointed at Skylark, "said that I am the cause of all of this trauma. We must cease fighting, before these people get hurt. Stop fighting, and let us settle this like civilized peoples."
Nightshade reached out toward Glory, but Glory saw the movement in Nightshade's shoulder and began to twist. She planted the quarterstaff on the ground and leapt upward, her legs pinoning out and twisting out of the way of Nightshade's strike. She landed lightly, her quarterstaff aimed at Nightshade accusingly.
Nightshade swung again, and Glory rolled lithely backwards away from the blow, rolling up into a handstand and springing lightly from there to her feet, keeping the staff interposed between her and Nightshade.
Fervor seemed fed up with the response he was getting from Skylark, and snapped off another blast at her. It missed and Skylark returned fire, missing herself. Her second shot looked to be better aimed, but Fervor was able to roll clear of most of the impact.
The White Knight kept racing across the courtyard to where Blockbuster was down. He passed by Core and charged in swinging, landing a solid blow on Blockbuster. "Surrender now, and it will go much easier for you," he said.
Core offered his hand to Blockbuster, saying "Let me help you. We must settle this, rather than destroy this place and hurt these people. I will not trick you." Core stood with his hand outstretched, waiting for Blockbuster's reaction.
Blockbuster reached out for Core's hand, and used it to aid him to his feet. "Thanks," he said, "sucker!" He yanked Core to the side and threw him away to the side. "I got some here for you, too," he said to the White Knight, swinging his blade in a fast, vicious arc.
Nightshade made another grab for Glory, who danced clear again. Another swing and another acrobatic dodge, and Nightshade had turned until his back was open to Jumping Jack, forgotten in the byplay. Jack took his sweet time setting up his punch. So long, in fact, that Nightshade was able to react before it could land.
Panzer continued his headlong flight.
Glory maneuvered clear of Nightshade, waiting for the right opportunity to strike. A strong defense was good, but this was getting ridiculous. However, with the civilians out of the way there didn't appear to be anything putting pressure on her to end the fight quickly. The more Nightshade attacked, the more she could probe his strengths and weaknesses.
Jumping Jack continued to take advantge of Nightshade's distraction and punched again, then once more.
Jumping Jack swung once more at Nightshade, "Stand still ya' rabbit."
Blockbuster punched his blade at the White Knight, who dodged to one side. Blockbuster turned the punch into a roundhouse and caught the Knight a glancing blow that still knocked him back about 5 feet, where the Knight landed on his feet and looked more than ready to continue the fight.
Core stood up, and a look of disgust crossed his face. "You have no honor," he said in a whisper. Core stepped in and grabbed Blockbuster with his right hand, spinning him around and reaching for him with his left.
Fervor continued to blaze(:-) away at Skylark, who dodged his first blast easily. Fervor was just setting her up for the second shot, though, and even though she tried to get shield in the way with inhuman speed, she missed blocking the shot. Fervor's heat blast melted one of the two jet-pods on her belt completely away, sending a spray of molten metal off to spatter the wall behind her.
Skylark immediately spun out of control, plummeting 5 meters (down to 4 meters altitude and sailing back through the gap in the building before regaining control.
As Jumping Jack lashed out at Nightshade, Glory took the opportunity of the distraction to crouch down and spin on the ball of one foot, the other used as both counterweight and counterbalance. The quarterstaff reached out for the back of Nightshade's legs ...
Glory's staff whistled by inches in front of Nightshade's leg as the quick man (or lucky, she didn't know which) maneuvered clear of her blow. She kept her swing going, using her own momentum to carry through, continuing the motion with her legs and much like a ballet dancer, danced clear of Nightshade's possible counter-strike.
Nightshade turned his attention to Jumping Jack, then, and reached out to slap him. Jack didn't dodge out of the way, and Nightshade slapped him lightly on the arm with the comment, "Look out, your friends have turned against you!"
A wild look came over Jumping Jack's face and he looked around madly.
Skylark switched off the jetbelt and landed on the second story just next to the rubble. With inhuman speed she worked her way down the rubble to ground floor.
Panzer continued his headlong flight around the corner of the building and was lost to sight.
Taking advantage of the fact that Core had a grip on Blockbuster, the White Knight stepped back in to and punched, but his swing went wide.
Core grabbed at Blockbuster again, as the villian writhed to avoid the White Knight's blow. Blockbuster tried to sweep Core's hand away, but missed and Core grabbed him, bringing both arms around him in a bear hug. "Let us see what the pressures of the earth will do to your little iron suit," Core spoke as he strained and squeezed Blockbuster.
Blockbuster gasped as the armour of his suit creaked. "Let ... me ... go," he gasped, working his arms inside of Core's and straining. For a moment, nothing happened, then Core's arms began to move, with a final surge Blockbuster pushed the arms wide and dropped to the ground.
Jumping Jack suddenly let out a yell and swung his hands wildly at Nightshade and Glory. Glory was caught a glancing blow, and Nightshade was able to lean away.
Skylark shouted, "We're done here, forget them and get out of here!" Suiting action to word, Skylark took off running.
"Dammit", said Blockbuster, then took off running along the building and around the corner.
The White Knight was hot on his heels, catching him and grabbing both his arms in an attempt to immobilize him.
Glory was puzzled over what the melee had devolved into and she thought that Nightshade might just be a force behind it. She didn't really know who Jumping Jack was, but just after Nightshade touched him (and it didn't even look like a powerful blow), something had come over Jumping Jack.... She really couldn't afford to let him lay a hand on her now!
Glory leapt at Nightshade, her quarterstaff poised to strike a two-handed blow. Glory followed through after landing her strike against Nightshade's shoulders, pirouetting behind him and taking a defensive stance, her quarterstaff keeping the distance between them.
Core looked at those assembled around the disaster area. He placed his hands on his hips and surveyed the damage and the locals. Seeing the villains well handled by these local 'heroes', Core smiled. His grin panned across the crowd, as he strode toward the podium. "Greetings! I am to be known as Core. I am a guardian of this planet."
Core just stood there, with a big smile stretched across his face and his hands on his hips, looking at the assembled humans. When nobody replied to him, and the silence stretched on, Core spoke again. "Greetings. I said my name is Core. I am a guardian of this planet." Then he stood there with a smile on his face and his hands on his hips again.
Glory kept her distance from Nightshade. She yelled toward Core: "_A_ guardian? There's more of you?!"
Core turned and looked at Glory, "Just as your race is plentiful, so is mine. We have been kept away a short time, but we have returned. Once again, humans will dominate this world." Core's eyes sparkled in the light like a star sapphire.
Nightshade looked over at Jumping Jack and, somewhat surprisingly, shouted, "Boo!"
That was enough for Jack, who took off running along the same general path that Panzer had taken.
Nightshade turned back to Glory, who studied him, ready to avoid him if he made a move, but also denying him the option for escape. She was prepared to strike, if necessary, but she was more concerned with his intentions now that she was his only target of opportunity.
"You're under arrest," Glory said simply enough.
"No," Nightshade countered. "_You're_ under arrest for damage to public property and for aiding a known criminal. Now.... will you come quietly..... or not? I would just as soon prefer not."
Glory kept the quarterstaff between the two of them. "Oh?" she said mockingly. "And what are your credentials?"
Hmm, she thought, could be a misunderstanding. But he's itching for a fight, and this whole thing doesn't sit right with me. "Looks like we're not going anywhere...."
Skylark continued her flight, racing away towards the far side of the courtyard.
Around the corner, Blockbuster flexed his arms and forced the White Knight's arms apart. "Nice try, bub."
Fervor hotfooted (get it?) past Jenny Peters after the fleeing Skylark.
Skylark kept running rounding the corner of the building vanishing from sight. Jumping Jack ran in the same direction, but more slowly.
Blockbuster took a quick jab at the White Knight with his blades, missing with his left, then connecting with his right. The Knight managed to slide clear of some of the blow. "Sit still, damn it," cursed Blockbuster swinging again and again. A powerhouse right landed solidly, and sparks flew as the White Knight also flew -- he sailed back about 20 feet. He turned the impact into a backflip and landed on his feet.
The White Knight leapt forward towards Blockbuster, "You'll never get away with it! I'll bring you in if it's the last thing I do!" He barrelled into the armoured villian, and landed a boot solidly to Blockbuster's head. Blockbuster's head snapped around, and when he twisted it back to face The White Knight, there was a glazed look in his eyes.
Core turned and looked at Glory, "Just as your race is plentiful, so is mine. We have been kept away a short time, but we have returned. Once again, humans will dominate this world." Core's eyes sparkled in the light like a star sapphire.
"What are you talking about? Humans already dominate the world," Glory called to Core keeping her eyes on Nightshade.
Glory and Nightshade watched each other carefully, but neither one seemed inclined to attack. Core observed them both from the platform.
Seeing his chances of catching Skylark dwindling, Fervor turned his attention to a closer opponent. He sent a quick blast after Jumping Jack and plunged after him.
The heat blast caught Jumping Jack full on, and the villian looked around in confusion.
The White Knight was a whirlwind of pugilistic fury! He punched right and Blockbuster deflected it with his blade. WK punched left, and Blockbuster blocked that too, but only just just. WK punched right again, and his fist slipped past BB's guard and landed cleanly on the villian's jaw. BB's head rocked back, as WK commented, "Knight-Knight BB!" Slowly BB's eyes closed and he sank down to the ground.
Core said, " ... It was quite difficult to clearly see the activities of this world."
"You sure do leap to conclusions, big boy," replied Glory.
Looking at Glory, Core said, "You mean humans have populated the world? Have they overthrown the underworld, then? Surely, unless the dead be released, there are not enough humans to populate the world. I have many things to learn, I do believe. Who is the Emperor?"
"What's that make me, then?" Glory called out to Core. "Maybe even this little boy at the end of my stick might be human...maybe. But we might have to do some tests to be sure." She snickered, then shook her head.
Emperor? she wondered. Who was this clown and how long had been gone from reality?
"Emperor? Were you dropped on your head when you were little? This is America and we don't have emperors here! This is a democracy!"
Meanwhile, the White Knight, satisfied that BlockBuster was not going anyplace for a while, turned and ran to help fervor.
Suddenly, he pulled up short as a group of six men appeared from between the buildings and took up positions.