The Defenders #1

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The Defenders #1

Post  Paul E. Schultz on Fri Jun 01, 2012 10:37 pm

Defenders #1
"The Best Offense"
By Paul E. Schultz

"Pa! Pa!" cried Billy Westfall, the screen door slamming abruptly behind him.

"Slow down, boy!" called his mother as the pint-sized child rushed through the kitchen, sneakers squeaking on the tiled floor.

"Boy!" cried his father, jumping from his easy chair. "Listen to your mother!"

By this time, Billy was in the dimly-lit living room, the television's glow casting a pale aura over his already fear-whitened face. "Pa!" he gasped, undaunted. "Come quick!"

"This better be good, son!" warned the father. "American Idol's about to come back on. I swear I only watch this show for the auditions. How do folks know they can't sing? I mean--"

"Pa," said Billy frankly, "you'd best bring the shotgun."

"Is it the chickens again?" asked his father, pulling the double-barreled shotgun from it's resting spot over the flatscreen television. "Is that fox back?"

"Worse!" cried Billy. "I think we got ourselves a tee rex!"

"A what?" the man said laughing.

"Just come! You gotta see this!"

Against his better judgement, the man let his son lead him by the suspenders back through the kitchen and out the screen door.

"What is it?" asked his mother, laughing.

"A tee rex!" laughed her husband, taking her hand..

Outside, the moon shone brightly upon the Westfall's small Evansville farm. Billy hastily lead his parents past their S-10, behind the barn where they kept the tractor, to the spot where the chicken coop once stood. In its place was a massive, winged shadow. Grayish-purple scales shown furtively under the cover of the trees that shrouded the shattered chicken coop. Chickens scattered frantically as the creature's tail thrashed absently as it attempted to capture one of the fleeing hens in its enormous hand-like claws. At the Westfalls' sudden appearance, the beast leveled a red-eyed gaze upon them, dropping the chicken. It turned and took flight on massive, leathery wings. The sudden rush of air knocked both father and son's caps from their heads. Within seconds, it had darted into the night sky, passing quickly before the moon.

"See, Pa! A tee rex!"

***

Beyond the castle courtyard, the city lights of Chicago twinkled in the night, a placid mirror of the ocean of stars above. The moon was a silver coin amidst the deep black sea of infinite space. How strange it seemed to her to be standing on the balcony of a castle, even a small one such as this one, while the metropolis of Chicago stretched about the stone walls. But then, her life had been nothing short of strange. Even her youthful appearance defied description.

"Excuse me, Lady Farnsworth," came a mechanical voice from behind her. The platinum blonde turned to see the automaton that passed for a man standing in the balcony's door. "He will see you now."

Jacqueline Farnsworth regarded the mechanical man contemptuously. "Oh, he will, will he? Well, it's about bloody time."

"This way, madam."

"So tell me," she said, heading for the doorway. "Just what should I call you then?"

"I am Z2P45-9-X-51 and I am at your service, madam," he said with a slight bow. "Or X-51 for short, if you'd rather."

The two entered a long stoney hallway.

"This castle is quite the replica," she said, her voice echoing around them.

"It is no replica, madam. It is a five century old castle. It was brought overseas brick by brick ten years ago and reassembled to near perfect detail. It has all the human comforts, of course, electricity, running water, wireless communications."

"Unbelievable!" she declared, stepping into what appeared to be a private study lined with walls of books, paintings and stained glass windows that stretched to the ceiling.

"When an English Dane, especially one as attractive as yourself," came a man's voice as she entered the room, "comments on one of my life's greater achievements, I know I have done well."

The high-backed leather chair at the desk spun around and a young man with short black hair and an immaculately tailored black suit stood up.

"I must say," he added with a smile, "you are even more radiant than in your pictures, Lady Farnsworth."

"Please, call me Jacqueline."

"Do you prefer Jacqueline? Or perhaps Spitfire?"

"Just Jacqueline for now, mister...mister...?"

"You may call me Michael Hayes."

"A made up name if ever there was one," she said. "Tell me, Mr. Hayes, you're trying a little too hard to force a Chicago accent. Do I detect something else? Something...older perhaps?"

"MI-13 has trained you well. I'm afraid we all have our secrets, do we not?"

"Some are necessary," she said.

"I could not agree more."

"Excuse me, Mr. Hayes," interrupted the mechanical man, "Will there be anything else?"

"No, X-51. You may leave us for now."

With that, they were alone.

She asked, "Is it just me, or does he sound like Anthony Daniels?"

Hayes laughed. "It's my fault, I'm afraid. I couldn't resist."

"Well, while we're on the subject of secrets, how about we get to the bottom of the mystery at hand, Mr. Hayes? You've obviously spent a whole lot of money trying to impress me, so how about you explain just why you brought me here. You obviously know who I am, but I've never even heard of you. Can we please get down to business?"

Michael Hayes studied his guest a moment, then said, "Put simply? Humanity needs defending, Lady Farnsworth."

She did not speak for a moment, weighing the words, then: "Against whom exactly?"

"Monsters, my Lady."

"Monsters?" she replied, not sure she had heard him correctly.

"The world is full of them, Jacqueline. Those who would feed on and enslave humanity."

"Is this the part where you give me the 'now, more than ever, the world needs heroes,' speach, Hayes? Because I've heard it before. I even volunteered for it once. I--"

"Not heroes, Jacqueline. Defenders. Come with me. There are others I'd like you to meet."

***

For the second time that night, Jacqueline found herself speechless. The drawing room, rich with exquisite woodwork, walls of books, expansive oil paintings and a huge, crackling fireplace, could only hold her attention momentarily as Michael Hayes held the door for her. Three brightly-clad individuals milled about the pleasant room as casually as she might have expected they would at a small social engagement. A fourth member, a striking black woman, wore a finely-tailored business suit. They all looked up as she entered the room, some even rising from the lavish, leather seating.

"Lady Farnsworth," announced Michael Hayes, "I would like to introduce a few exceptional people who also share my sentiments."

A man in blue and gold armor that shimmered in the firelight moved in and kissed the hand of Lady Farnsworth. " Buenas noches, la Señora Farnsworth. Diego Ramon Dantes Sepulveda is ever at your service," he said, his Spanish accent as warm as the firelight that played across his conquistador-like armor.

Hayes explained, "Diego is the younger brother of the original Defensor."

"It is an honor to continue my brother's good name."

Dennis Dunphy closed the copy of Solzhenitsyn he was reading and offered the young woman a broad, warm smile. He was a mountain of a man, his head shaved, his eyes sparkling amiably. "Hiya, your ladyship. I ain't got the fancy words of my Spanish-speakin' pal, but Demolition Man is at your service as well. You need a pickle jar open, I'm your huckleberry."

"But--"

"It's a long story, Jacqueline," interrupted Hayes knowingly.

"This castle seems full of long stories tonight," she declared.

"The woman in red," said Hayes, "Is--"

"Starlight," announced Jacqueline. "Formerly Russia's second Red Guardian, presumed lost in Limbo along with the queen of the Dire Wraiths sometime ago."

"MI-13 has an impressive Intelligence division, Lady Farnsworth," said the red-clad woman, "but after my return from Limbo, I have returned to my Red Guardian identity. It would seem this team has something on an international...theme and while I do not support my country's governmental views, I am still Russian."

"Claire Temple," said the black woman, extending a hand to Jacqueline.

"The widow of William Foster?" asked Jacqueline.

"Well, it's a bit...complicated, but yes," replied Claire. "I love your accent, by the way."

"What accent?" replied Jacqueline, smiling.

The two women laughed briefly, before the mechanical man burst into the drawing room, catching everyone's attention. He seemed as if he may fly apart in his haste.

"Mister Hayes!" he cried out in a tone Jacqueline might have associated with elation were he human and not some machine man.

"Yes, X-51?"

"We have found him! He's in Indiana!"

"Hot damn!" whooped Demolition Man. "Finally! Some action!"

Jacqueline watched in confusion as the four strangers hustled from the room on the heels of X-51. Michael Hayes headed after them all, pausing at the door. He turned to Jacqueline and asked, "Want to see something really cool?"

***

"Aren't you glad you brought your uniform?"

The question snapped Jacqueline from her trance. From the portal where she sat, she had been watching the fiery comet-like figure of Red Guardian blazing a trail alongside the small aircraft. She turned to see Hayes, seated across the aisle from her. He wore the blue, yellow and red costume of another man. She herself wore the golden and red outfit of a persona she had once thought she left behind. There had been modifications to it over the decades, but she still preferred this original look.

"Well," she said, "when in Rome, right?"

"It suits you...Spitfire," said Hayes. "How do you like my little aircraft? Not quite S.H.I.E.L.D. or Quinjet caliber, but my people do okay, no?"

"The vertical lift-off is a bit shaky, but I've flown in worse. Namor's Flagship was no luxury vehicle."

Dunphy groaned, "Just let me know when it's over!"

Jacqueline regarded Demotion Man's yellow and red outfit, an enormous "D" emblazoned upon his massive chest. He wore no mask and his skin looked unusually pale. Almost green.

"A fan of Daredevil, are we?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am," Dunphy managed to groan.

"But no fan of flying, eh, amigo?" laughed Defensor, patting Dunphy's meaty shoulder.

"It's not the flyin' that bothers me so much as the crashing," Dunphy replied.

"I must admit," said Jacqueline to Hayes, "when you invited me to your home to discuss my particular...problem, I had no idea this was what you were speaking of."

"All things in due time, Jacqueline," he replied.

"Time," she explained, "is something I am running out of. Quite literally, I'm afraid."

"How much do you know of me?" asked Hayes.

"Honestly?" said Jacqueline. "Nothing. MI-13 has no information on Michael Hayes."

"And that is how I prefer it," said Hayes. "Like yourself, my youthful appearance is not the result of cosmetic surgery or a healthy lifestyle."

"Exactly how old are you?"

"Old enough," said Hayes. "Some would say too old. But in my time, I have learned the secrets to many things."

"I can do without the Hamlet cliche, Mr. Hayes."

"I've watched your eyes since we first met, Jacqueline. They hold many questions."

"That's an understatement."

"Had this...situation not arose, I would have answered them all. All things in due time. I promise to--"

From overhead speakers, Claire Temple's voice washed over them, saying, "Nighthawk, I'm going to dismantle your little science project up here if he doesn't stop giving me flying lessons!"

"Nighthawk?" asked Jacqueline, surprised at herself for not recognizing it sooner. "Does Kyle Richmond know you raided his wardrobe?"

"I'd ask him," said Hayes with a slight smirk, "if I didn't already own the copyright."

"You...bought his secret identity?" asked Jacqueline, amazed such a thing was even possible.

"Why not? It's not like he was using it much these days."

"I'm merely suggesting," came the disjointed voice of X-51, "that it would be in your best interest to--"

"And it would be in your best interest," retorted Claire, "to let me--"

"Attention, Nighthawk!" came Red Guardian's voice over the sound system. "I've found him! I've found Dragon Man!"
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Re: The Defenders #1

Post  Craig DeBoard on Sat Jun 02, 2012 2:06 am

That was soooo good! I have a feeling this is going to be the sleeper hit that blows us all away!
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Re: The Defenders #1

Post  Erik Dee Fullmer on Sat Jun 02, 2012 2:54 am

I agree Craig. I haven't read the origional Defenders in years but had always liked them. This is something fresh and I can see this going a looooong way. Killer work Paul!
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Re: The Defenders #1

Post  Paul E. Schultz on Sat Jun 02, 2012 5:21 pm

Thanks, guys! There's just a whole bunch of fringe characters in the Marvel Universe that I just love. The story is something I've wanted to do for awhile, just never knew where to apply it. Glad you like it.
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Re: The Defenders #1

Post  killerx615 on Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:12 am

I have never once picked up a Defenders Comic, but I think I am already hooked. I really enjoyed the way this was written, and how easy it flows. There are several lines that I really like:


A man in blue and gold armor that shimmered in the firelight moved in and kissed the hand of Lady Farnsworth. " Buenas noches, la Señora Farnsworth. Diego Ramon Dantes Sepulveda is ever at your service," he said, his Spanish accent as warm as the firelight that played across his conquistador-like armor.

Impressive work with getting the syntax of the Spanish language down. Using Buenas instead of Buenos because Buenas is used when referring to a female.

Dennis Dunphy closed the copy of Solzhenitsyn he was reading and offered the young woman a broad, warm smile. He was a mountain of a man, his head shaved, his eyes sparkling amiably. "Hiya, your ladyship. I ain't got the fancy words of my Spanish-speakin' pal, but Demolition Man is at your service as well. You need a pickle jar open, I'm your huckleberry."

Words can not describe the confusion this excerpt causes. It has the same effect if the hillbilly's under your apartment held this book, or if someone had uttered the phrase, "If it wasn't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college." Please don't let my words be misconstrued, I like the vast difference between stereotype and reality you have placed with this character, Paul.


"Exactly how old are you?"

"Old enough," said Hayes. "Some would say too old. But in my time, I have learned the secrets to many things."

I feel only the clever and the crafty can live to be too old. I love and envy characters who have lived for longer than the normal human lifespan. I have a secret desire to live for centuries and possess the mind to hold information that vastly outnumbers the storage of a normal human brain. In other words, and because I am the only young person here and its my turn to make others do some research, I connect with Orichimaru on the thirst for knowledge. Razz


"Attention, Nighthawk!" came Red Guardian's voice over the sound system. "I've found him! I've found Dragon Man!"

BAM! My new favorite super hero/villain. I don't know whether he's friend or foe, but I already like him. Anything to do with dragons go down in my books as awesome.

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Re Defenders 1#

Post  Eric Nyman on Thu Jun 07, 2012 8:12 am

Paul as a fan of Marvel books like the Defenders, The Invaders and of obscure characters like Machine Man as a kid all I can say is. You got me hooked. The new Nighthawk especially has my attention where did you get the idea for him. Awesome job.

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DM!

Post  Nik Havert on Thu Jun 07, 2012 10:25 am

You had me when Dragon Man was behind the barn trying to play with chickens.

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Re: The Defenders #1

Post  Paul E. Schultz on Thu Jun 07, 2012 5:46 pm

Thanks for readin' and enjoyin, guys. Hope I can keep you all entertained. And, James, next time you're over, i'll give you crash course in the Marvel Universe.
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