Apr 14 2014

Zephyr 15.1 “Into The Quietening Day”

THREE MONTHS LATER. Yeah, I shit you not. That’s how long it takes us to work our way out of Titan’s nightmare Dreamtime pocket universe and back to our home parallel. Might even tell you about it some time once I can get the words to describe it or the craw out of the back of my throat.

It’s Autumn. Late Autumn.

Atlantic Cityis a grey frieze in a chilly rain. We materialise courtesy of the Orb in New Central Park, transplanted sycamores shrouding us from a kindergarten group in full-body puffer suits being walked on leashes by underpaid, disgruntled-looking young madams with a craving for their next brace of freshly caught cronuts.

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Apr 6 2014

Zephyr 14.15 (Coda)

There is no gravity in the chamber, yet there’s an undeniable sense of tipping that has me looking back in panic at the vast curvature of space beyond the destroyed wall of the main atrium. One quick glance confirms the other members of my erstwhile posse hanging tough, Raveness clutching onto some protruding cabinet and glaring at me with her face red with her own blood, knowing if the edge-of-destruction moment eased off even the slightest iota she would be back to trying to kill me regardless of the greater risks. I cannot for the life of you tell me why we still even have oxygen, but it barely rates a question amid the more immediate likelihood of death.

“Is he down?” Negator yells above the din which I realise is the noise of a space station dying, the metal restraints, every part of it succumbing to Earth’s gravity well.

We’re being sucked in. In other words, we’re falling. In other words: we’re screwed.

My mouth is dry. I can’t form a proper reply. “He’s out,” I manage to squeak.

“Nobody do anything foolish,” Tragedian says.

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Apr 3 2014

Zephyr 14.14 “Cold Darkness”

THE SENSATION OF dislocating space-time is worse over longer distances, and coming out of the fuggy Atlantic City atmosphere and into the compressed clinical treated air of the international space station doesn’t improve things. We are in a foil-lined corridor, no visits from Kevin McCloud out here in the cold darkness of space, just a view out an unsurprisingly rare pressurised porthole at a sight that might make a lesser man crap his pants, our watery blue globe peeking out the edge, a few thousand miles of airless space in between us.

Taking a moment to swallow on the zero gravity, I turn and clasp the Pal-mart Punisher’s shoulders to stop the guy shaking himself to bits, then I hand him over to Negator with practised ease like we’ve been doing this good cop, bad cop routine for much longer than we actually have.

“Keep an out eye for him,” I tell Negator. Then to the kid: “Just hang back and don’t get yourself killed. You’re here for the PR and to earn me a pay check, got it?”

“You’re earning . . . money . . . for –”

“It really doesn’t bear thinking about,” I say and turn, striding along the cramped corridor to where the others wait.

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Apr 3 2014

Zephyr 14.13 “Rogues Gallery”

IT’S ONLY WHEN the four of them are kitted out once more in their garish costumes that I stop for a moment to really question what the fuck I’m doing. You know, for a guy with the power of x-number of light bulbs or whatever it is, that doesn’t mean I always have the brightest ideas.

Ill Centurion’s armour adds six inches on him and that doesn’t include the ceremetal coxcomb that adorns his stylised Greco-Roman powered plate. The dusk-coloured cloak – so reminiscent of the Crimson Cowl that I often wondered if they had the same tailor – sways gently with each step from his pneumatic boots as he hefts the fey-bladed power spear unearthed from the White Nine catacombs in a move that makes even me question whether they should really store the bad guys’ gear in the same place they entomb the villains themselves.

Raveness wears a fetching skin-tight blood-red body stocking, hands bare, feet clad in someone’s black leather fuck-me boots looted from an employee locker. Tragedian wears his ragged cloak and moth-eaten, dust-covered theatre costume, out of storage from when he was interred, and Crescendo as seemingly happy to be back in his reddish costume as he is to be following the Ill Centurion’s orders. I trust him about as much as I trust a Doberman on LSD.

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Apr 3 2014

Zephyr 14.12 “Faster Than A Speeding Bullet”

THERE IS A bank of equipment that wouldn’t look out of place on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and the doc works the controls like Stevie Wonder, monitors flicking on to life with the spirit of Frankenstein, the high-talking nurse scooting in and calmly assisting like Tchaikorvski’s going to start operating on a patient instead of liberating one.

Negator hangs back. There’s past trauma here I’m not even going to get into. But I edge close to one of the monitors as the code goes in to call up the inventory of White Nine inmates, bad guys in deep sleep to keep the rest of us having sweet dreams. It’s fair to say my eyes bulge at the human who’s who, options like a fantasy footballer’s dream trade list.

“Hang on, you’ve still got Crescendo in here?”

“Uh, yeah,” the director replies, going back to his switching and flicking.

“Alright. Hold on,” I say. “G-g-give me a second here.”

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Mar 2 2014

Zephyr 14.11 “Animosity Flowers”

NEGATOR EXPLAINS HE was with a few ex-villain pals, the sort of sad-arsed characters who gather for card nights and to drink themselves into unconsciousness while reliving their glory days, comparing prison sentences and yellowing headlines like some kind of dick-measuring contest. And like the losers they once were, when the shit hit the fan and they realised our city was under attack, they went underground and hid like roaches.

But not Negator. Or not now, anyway.

“I could only lay low so long, you know?” he says.

We’re still hovering. A bank of fog curls around us like a moist blanket, not entirely unpleasant. I nod sympathetically, but I’m no guidance counsellor.

“You want to help kick some ass?” I ask.

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Jan 28 2014

Zephyr 14.10 “Killjoy”

SO I’M BACK to square one.

Outside Twilight’s digs the Atlantic breeze picks up and I find myself all solitary and brooding and shit as the gulls ease out overhead, hanging over me like weird Chinese lanterns or Halloween decorations or more like some cosmic child’s mobile that is meant to pacify me as I cogitate on this latest mess of mine, alone in a thankless universe without even the sympathy of Twilight’s hard-bitten security minders as they swap anecdotes and cigarette smoke sotto voce and eye me nervelessly, waiting for me to get the hell out of there and leave them to their empty intertextual gangsterism, the sky glowering with lambent rainfall I have little urge to push aside as I angle back, twisting to look along the distant blinking coast and the road back to the seaboard-sprawling city that is my prison as much as my home and I fear will one day become my tomb.

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Jan 14 2014

Zephyr 14.9 “The Ghosts Of Hindsight”

THE HARD FLOOR of my old loft is no refuge, but a man, even one with the power of six bazillion light bulbs or whatever it is, he’s got to sleep some time. Besides, the floor of the roach-infested warehouse loft is more appealing than the bed I remember from happier times, back before someone lit a fire in the middle of where I used to fuck. I know I could make a bad pun about that, especially with my habit of sometimes igniting bed sheets while asleep, but it’s one of the bleakest moments in my life to wake in the shell of my fleetingly brief former life, a veritable cavalcade of the ghosts of hindsight tramping across the bare, trash-littered boards to remind me of how low I have sunk. Loren is gone along with a moment’s chance for happiness I suspect I squandered bitching and cussing and looking to a future that just hasn’t unfolded anyway close to how I imagined, though that’s the universal condition to be sure.

Daylight brings back the crowds. As I sip a mildewed glass of water, I eye the street from the broken doorway, a couple of the pawn shops open for business, tentative movement from the corner boys and the girls who know its too early to sell their pussies, just killing time, the beat of the day out of rhythm thanks to the events of the night.

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Jan 6 2014

Zephyr 14.8 “Naming The Devil”

DEEPER IN THE abyss that is the dimensional travellers’ old lair, Titan shows me the abandoned control room in which the Prime briefed his hand-picked elite on their strategy for taking overAmericaand later the world.

Feeling every inch the reject he appears to be, the big guy stands in the door of the sewage-stinking bunker, moving aside to let me enter, my eyes drinking in the diagrams and maps drawn directly upon the cinderblock with pieces of broken charcoal that litter the floor from another time when the city’s homeless used the place for sleepovers.

I look back to express my surprise and gratitude to Titan only to see he’s gone.

And at once I realise the clock is ticking.

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Dec 30 2013

Zephyr 14.7 “Byzantium”

I JUMP THE fence, literally, brazen in my shiny new jacket as I approach the gigantic factory complex-cum-industrial crypt.

I am relieved at the same time as unnerved to sense a weird, distorted, hair-raising hum that seems to be emanating from deeper within the ruins, whispering dark sweet nothings to my underlying senses. Within the cavernous space, the day finally dies, leaving me to my thoughts as I tread carefully over a landscape of broken plate glass and shattered tiles, the collective output of the old factory, it seems, buried in the dust ever since its workers must’ve fled in mad terror at the Kirlians’ approach.

The tinkling stutter of my footfalls echo inside the cathedral-like space. Scurrying as if to answer, rats and other feral creatures invisible to the naked eye make their presences known.

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