The Defenders #4

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The Defenders #4

Post  Paul E. Schultz on Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:58 pm

The Defenders #4
"Men & Monsters!"
By Paul E.Schultz

MRAWW!!

Rob Takiguchi awoke, sitting up instantly at the inhuman roar that had haunted his dreams for years, his heart in his throat. Dawn's light broke through the window blinds, casting eerie yellow horizontal prison bars across the darkened bedroom. His face drenched in a sheen of cold sweat, he glanced about the darkness in a panic.

MRAWW!!

There it was again! Coming from outside. He had not heard it in years, since that last time as he stood, eyes full of tears, upon the deck of the hovering S.H.I.E.L.D. transport vessel.

The young man pulled himself from bed, racing to the window. He jerked so hard on the line of the blinds that the whole rig came down upon him. In a flurry of curses, he tossed the blinds aside, throwing open the window. He squinted against the morning sun as it spread itself across the smoggy scape of New York City.

His attention was immediately pulled away from the man-made buttes and canyons of the Greatest City on Earth, to the dingy valley of the alleyway behind his apartment building. The garbage truck below was slowly, loudly lowering the empty dumpster back down upon the filth-ridden asphalt.

MRAWW!!

His heart sunk and he sat down upon the floor, defeated. "I could have sworn..."

The alarm beside his bed went off, beeping away, unheeded by its master.

He would be late for class today.

***

"Mornin', Turner."

Detective Turner looked up from his half-drained cup of coffee to see the gray-haired, barrel-chested man standing in his doorway, smiling knowingly. Like himself, Turner's visitor had a silvery badge hanging from the pocket of his jacket.

"What's so good about it, Charlie?"

"Hell, I just said mornin', buddy," said Detective Napier. "Didn't say there was anything good about it. Actually, though, got somethin' here you might want to see."

Turner reluctantly accepted the file Napier handed him. "What's this? Better not be naked Snooki pictures again. My wife found the ones you emailed me last week and it took me an hour to calm her down!"

Napier laughed, sitting down in front of Turner's cluttered desk. "Sadly, no, but it looks like we caught a break in the Buscema case."

"Refresh my memory again?"

"Sarah Buscema was the nurse on call a few years ago, the night Jennifer Walters--"

"Walters? You mean She-Hulk?"

Napier nodded, pointing at the unopened file Turner held. "The same. The night after Walters...She-Hulk terrorized Mercy General, Sarah Buscema turned up missing. Her apartment was a wreck, her...significant other had her throat slashed."

"I remember now," said Turner. "We figured Trask's goons got to her, but could never prove it."

Napier shrugged, hands in the air. "Well, it made sense at the time. Walters was trying to put Trask behind bars. The guy was a real dirt bag."

"So what's this?" asked Turner, opening the file.

"Sarah Buscema," said Napier. "Or what's left of her."

"Good God!" gasped Turner.

"Coroner can't say how long she's been dead. Hudson River's where they found her yesterday. But, check out that last picture."

Turner leafed through the collection, pulling out the final photograph. His eyes went wide.

"Is that--? What the hell are those?"

Napier smiled again, wickedly this time. Turner sometimes questioned his partner's sense of humor. Napier said, "Coroner won't say it, but, you ask me, that's a vampire bite."

***

Diego Ramon Dantes Sepulveda took a long, thoughtful drag from his cigarette as he stared blankly down upon the small, man-made pond in the courtyard three stories below. He was naked, like the beautiful, dark-haired Russian woman still slumbering in the bed behind him. The warm morning was upon him, chasing away the shadows of his private quarters.

He looked back at the young woman.

"Prolonged exposure may be hazardous to my health," he spoke softly, his words heavy. "I am on borrowed time as it is."

"Hey, buddy!" came the cheerful, booming voice of Dennis Dunphy. "Whoah! Sorry!"

The woman on the bed stirred at the entrance of the giant, muscle-bound Dunphy. She quickly covered herself, snapping, "What's the meaning of this?"

Unlike the two of them, Dunphy was already dressed, jeans, engineer boots and a black Hank Williams Jr. t-shirt straining against his massive frame. He held the copy of Shelly's "Frankenstein" he had been reading earlier that morning before his eyes.

"What is it, Dennis?" asked Diego.

"Sorry! Uh, I was hungry and wanted to know if you wanted to make a run with me to I-Hop," said Dennis.

"I could go for some pancakes," Diego declared. He looked longingly to Tania Belinskaya, who after a moment, nodded.

"I'll meet you downstairs, amigo."

***

Jacqueline Farnsworth watched as orange juice poured in a steady stream from X-51's left "pinky" finger into the glass on the kitchen island.

"I honestly don't know if I'm impressed or disturbed by this," she said.

"Just be glad it's not his laser torch this time," said Claire Temple.

The trio sat about the island, a package of bagels opened between them, along with tub of cream cheese and what were now two glasses of orange juice.

"The first time he tried that stunt," Claire explained, "he sliced the entire island in half."

"Regretably," said X-51, "there were a few glitches in my system early on."

The two women laughed.

"So, tell me about...Dragon Woman," said Jacgueline, sipping the juice tentatively, surprised by it's taste. "She;s an...android, correct?"

"More than that," replied Claire. "X-51 is an android. She is an artificial life form and as far removed from an android as X-51 is from our toaster. No offense."

"None taken, Dr. Temple."

"But, where did she come from?" asked Jaqueline.

"Well, Dragon Man was created by Professor Gregson Gilbert at Empire State University in New York a few years ago, but it was Esteban Corazón de Ablo--"

"The infamous alchemist and self-proclaimed immortal known as El Diablo," interrupted X-51.

"--who it is said gave him true life through his skills as a chemist and biologist. Some would call El Diablo an alchemist, but he's clearly a brilliant chemist. I think it was the combination of Gilbert's and Esteban's genius that turned Dragon Man from what he was, into what he is."

"So, you don't believe in the supernatural?" asked Jacqueline.

"I didn't say that. I live in a castle in the middle of Chicago that is home to a vampire. I can make myself eighteen feet tall with a chemical process developed by Dr. Hank Pym. And I go to church on Sunday. I spend less time giving something a name and more time figuring out how it works. That's how i get things done."

"This Esteban Corazón de Ablo..." said X-51. "Is he still at large?"

"Why?" asked Jacqueline, giving the machine man a playful smile, "looking for a heart, Tin Man?"

***

"The results of my death were...greatly exhadurated, I'm happy to report."

"Spare me the Mark Twain. But, then you never were one to have an original thought, were you?"

"This coming from a man whose current I.Q. is equal to the weight of a common house cat. And men would call me 'mad.' Do you want my help, or not, Sterns?"

Samuel Sterns was about to speak, when a burst of uproarious laughter caught his attention. Sterns glared momentarily at the gigantic, bald man laughing several booths away from them. The big man's breakfast companion, a much smaller, darker complected man, seemed to be unsuccessfully attempting to quiet him.

"Always it is the muscle-bound clods who plague me," Sterns murmured.

"What was that?" asked the other man.

Turning his attention from the big buffoon, Sterns swallowed his pride, muttering, "Very well."

"As much as it pains me to admit to it," said the other man, his fingers moving rapidly across the keyboard of his laptop, "chemistry was never my strongest discipline. I can provide you with the formula and it's application, breaking it down for someone of your somewhat...limited capacity. But the synthesizing and administering of the catalyst is something altogether beyond me."

"Don't worry about that," said Sterns. "I know someone who can help me. I have prepared for just this situation years ago."

A moment later and a small disk ejected from the laptop. Sterns grudgingly accepted it from his breakfast companion.

"How much do I owe you?" asked Sterns.

"For breakfast? It's on me. How much does a janitor make these days, anyway?"

"You know what I mean." Sterns pocketed the disk.

"Nothing," said the other man, "for now. Let's just say that, when you're your old self again, I may need your...aptitude for a special project."

***

Diego reached across the table of the booth he shared with Dunphy and put a hand upon the bigger man's in attempt to quiet his laughing. The motion brought a raised eyebrow from Dunphy.

"Don't look now, amigo, but we may have trouble brewing," whispered Diego.

"At an I-Hop?" retorted Dunphy, drinking down the last of his coffee.

"I'm serious," Diego continued. "A few tables behind us, near the door, I have seen that man before somewhere."

"Which one?" asked Dunphy, looking over his shoulder. "I don't--"

"I said don't look!" hissed Diego.

"Wait a second!" declared Dunphy. "I recognise that guy from files Cap made me memorize when we were partners. He's the Mad Hatter or somethin'. Cap ran into his big robot somewhere in Ohio once."

"Wait!" said Diego, trying desperately to keep his companion seated. "Don't--"

"To heck with that noise," insisted Dunphy, getting to his feet. "I'm gonna have a talk with him."

As Dunphy lumbered off, Diego pulled out his cell phone and quickly dialed. A moment later, someone picked up on the other end. "X-51? Of course, why would it not be you? Listen, you need to inform the others of a possible situation brewing at the I-Hop...Yes, that's right! The I-Hop!"

By this time, Dunphy was upon the two other diners, their voices were heated, though Diego could not make out the exact words. Pocketing his cell phone, Diego pulled the miniaturized suit of his armor from his jacket pocket and quickly leaped from the booth.

"Perdone, pierda. Dónde está el cuarto de baño?" he asked, grappling a waitress by the arm. She nearly spilled the pot of coffee she held, giving him a startled, confused look. Cursing under his breath, he asked, "The men's room! Where is the men's room?"

Before she could speak, a chorus of shrill screams swept over the restaurant, followed by the high-pitched explosion of breaking glass. Diego dove for the floor, shielding the stunned waitress and dropping the miniaturized suit of armor. It rolled under a nearby booth as Diego turned to see what had happened behind him. His eyes went wide at the awesome sight he beheld. The fifteen-foot-tall, gray, faceless giant had apparently brought the wall of the restaurant down with it as it burst inside. The smaller, hooded man Diego had seen dining with the Mad Thinker had apparently scurried off in the confusion. Dunphy dangled from the giant's massive fists like a rag doll, struggling against the inhumanly strong grip about his bull's neck.

"I told him not to look!" moaned Diego
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Paul E. Schultz

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Re-Defenders 4#

Post  Eric Nyman on Sat Jun 16, 2012 11:13 pm

Paul as somebody who grew up on Marvel Comics I love your Defenders. Diego is quickly becoming a favorite. I think you write incredible dialogue and Samuel Sterns does that mean we may see somebody big and green appear. Awesome work

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Re: The Defenders #4

Post  Paul E. Schultz on Sat Jun 16, 2012 11:33 pm

I grew up a Marvel Zombie, so I'm glad you like it so far. You're on the right track with the "big and green" comment, but think "bigger and greener."
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Re: The Defenders #4

Post  Craig DeBoard on Thu Jun 21, 2012 2:49 am

LMAO!!!! Mad Hatter. HA!!
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Re: The Defenders #4

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