Den Of Thieves

Chapter 24: Meet The New Boss.

The gun would have to go first.

For the first time in recent history, Raptor's lethal skill and perfectly trained body wasn't the most dangerous weapon in the room. As Newcastle and Raptor stood before Reed, each radiating hatred and aggression towards him in a fashion that made even someone of his vast experience with raw violence and cold-hearted killing bristle at their approach, he realized that the gun, especially at close range, would easily blow him in half. The frenzied stare in Gregory Newcastle's eyes, especially, made Oliver's skin crawl, though the fact that Raptor's eyes were hidden from view by opaque lenses made his stare disconcerting as well.

"You boys have been waiting for me all this time? It looks like you've been practically living together. I'm impressed. Have you been wiping each other's asses, too?"

Reed could only hope to rile the pair and pray that they grew careless as they fought in anger, but it was a long shot at best. Newcastle might fall for it, but Raptor seemed unlikely to. He'd waited patiently for this long to get his hands on his most hated foe. The caped hero wasn't going to grow careless now, not after waiting so long for his chance to avenge the original Raptor. Despite Raptor's nearly inhuman skill at combat and razor-sharp claws, the Eagle-Wing IV was clearly the most imminent threat.

"You were too cowardly to face me during our clash at Cabal headquarters, so I thought it best to bide my time and let my hatred stew inside me, fuelling me. I knew the day would come when I'd have my chance to unleash it upon you."

Reed snorted. "You talk just like your predecessor, jackass, and you know what happened to him."

Raptor inclined his head. "Yes, I saw the damage full well. You liquefied parts of his skull. You fought and he won… until you cheated."

Reed held up a hand. "Wrong. I lived. He died. In the real world that means I won. He lost. You guys just can't handle that little fact, can you? You can't handle the fact that you lost to me because the bad guys aren't supposed to ever win. Well what does that tell you about yourselves, you hypocritical fascists? That maybe I'm not the worst villain in the room here?"

"Are you daring to judge us, you deviant?" Newcastle hissed.

"Hell yes!" Oliver shouted back defiantly. "Someone has to! Do you know who killed your beloved President Cutler? I did! And do you know what he was doing just before I stabbed him in the throat? He was getting a goddamn blowjob from three Outlands whores! One of them was Asian, for Christ's sake! He liked Asians just fine when they were sucking his dick!"

Raptor's head snapped back almost as if he'd been punched. "You lie!"

"Why in the hell would I lie?"

"Because you're trying to demoralize us!"

"Even if I showed you a videotape of it you wouldn't believe me, because you pricks are so far gone you think that short little Hitler wannabe was a walking god!"

A long moment of silence passed between the trio. Clearly, Reed wasn't going to make them see his point of view any more than he was likely to take up their cause. Finally, a wicked and cruel smile blossomed on Newcastle's otherwise handsome features.

"The only thing that matters is: you just confessed to the assassination of President Cutler. We have just captured the world's most wanted criminal."

"You haven't captured shit, pal," Reed spat.

"Capturing you will prove that difficult for the both of us. For someone who now rules the Cabal, you actually came here yourself… alone. Not very smart… not very smart at all. Malevolence would have sent his best assassin to do the job for him."

Reed smiled. "I was his best assassin. I'm still the best."

"Then it's amazing he lasted as long as he did."

"I came here tonight looking to settle a personal debt and I settle debts myself… personally… not through some third party. I've got the balls to do things myself. That's why I rule the Cabal now."

As he spoke, Reed's fingers slowly but surely wrapped themselves around the handle of his only remaining Sai. He'd have to be quicker than a finger on a trigger and even faster than Raptor, a man who'd trained himself to the pinnacle of human development.

His muscles tensed as he readied himself for action. Even after all the battles he'd been through that led to his overtaking of the Cabal, this could prove to be the one fight he didn't walk away from if he wasn't careful, and he'd come too far and fought too hard to be defeated now. He fixed his gaze on Raptor. Some mockery of him wouldn't hurt, either.

"You're that kid, aren't you, the one that used to hang around with Raptor years ago? 'Talon', wasn't it?"

Raptor II nodded ever so slightly.

"God, I remember you!" He said as if greeting an old friend. "You were so cute in that red and yellow uniform with that sweet little domino mask! You were barely toilet trained when you first started out. Do you know what they used to say about you and your 'dad'? Any man that would hang out with a young boy as much as he did… well, let's just say the rumors ran rampant in our little society. Tell me, did he like all little boys or was it just you he had a crush on? Was he the pitcher all the time or did he take a turn as the catcher every so often?"

Before Raptor could even begin to register the rage that plumed within him like a raging inferno, Oliver was on the move. He gripped the Sai and extended his arm, a millisecond from hurling it at Newcastle in hopes that it would, at most, kill him, or at the very least, disarm him.

It was not to be.

As fast and practiced as Reed was with the weapon, Raptor was just a hair faster, even though he was completely overwhelmed with righteous fury, or perhaps because of it. The caped hero's claws tore through the air, ripping through the material of Reed's stealth suit and tearing three red, jagged, slashes in his forearm, sending the Sai hurtling off course and into the far wall where it embedded itself. Surely, if the weapon had connected, it would have impaled Newcastle through the heart and ended his threat then and there.

Instead, Reed was sent backward several feet as Raptor continued to claw at him, and once again he connected, this time slashing Oliver's upper left pectoral muscles. Again, Reed's chest grew slick with his own blood and the suit was torn. Reed swore that if he got out of this, he wouldn't let Ulysses leave for South America until he fixed the stealth-suit once and for all.

Newcastle took aim at Reed, his finger tightening as he began to pull the trigger, but his aim was foiled as Raptor leapt into his line of fire and lunged at his enemy. Reed, taken by surprise, could only grip Raptor's wrists as tightly as possible in an attempt to fend off the razor sharp claws that had tasted first blood.

Raptor struggled mightily, wiry and powerful as he was, but he was, for the moment, unable to use his hands. No matter, he was equally deadly with his feet. To that end, he began to unleash a torrent of Savate and Capoeira attacks at Reed, kicking him repeatedly in the shins, knees and chest. One kick even made it as high as Reed's upper chest and impacted with his bleeding wound, causing even greater pain to lance through his upper body. Breathing was already difficult and the agony lancing through his chest only made that task more complicated.

"You're going for a ride, asshole!" Reed shouted as he fell backward and rolled, all the while holding onto Raptor's wrists. Reed extended his booted foot into Raptor's stomach and pushed with all his might as he rolled, sending Raptor head over heels into the air.

Oliver leapt to his feet as Raptor crashed into a dining room table. He would have mere seconds to regain the initiative before someone as tough and formidable as Raptor was once again on his feet and on the attack. Unfortunately for Reed, his other opponent now had a clear shot at him. Newcastle took aim, his finger whitening on the trigger as he squeezed it in a kind of cinematic slow motion. Reed knew he couldn't reach a flash-bang grenade in time. That left him with one option.

He leapt through the air and landed behind the nearby coffee table, flipping it on its side and using it for a shield. Newcastle fired indiscriminately and the explosive round detonated on the face of the coffee table, splintering it instantly. Reed shielded his eyes as the wood slashed his face in several places, particularly along the left cheek and across his forehead. He'd no doubt have a scar across his cheek and under his eye when all was said and done.

With all possible haste, he brought a flash-bang grenade to bear and leapt to his feet, arcing his arm back as he was about to throw it in Newcastle's direction and hopefully blind him long enough to make a killing stroke.

His attack was once again aborted as Raptor, now fully recovered from being tossed into a pile of furniture, grabbed Reed from behind. Reed's only hope from being shot was to shift his weight and turn, fixing it so that Newcastle was suddenly presented with Raptor's back rather than Reed's front.

"Turn around, you caped idiot! I had a clear shot!"

"Easier said than done, motherfucker!" Raptor grunted in exertion.

Reed unleashed a powerful mule kick to Raptor's groin area, but the attack was blunted as Raptor was wearing a kind of reinforced codpiece to protect that vital area.

"You're a dirty fighter, you bastard!" Raptor hissed in Reed's ear as they grappled.

"I'm the guy that killed Malevolence and Ultra! You ain't seen nothing, yet!" Reed shot back.

Reed shifted his weight to his left foot and reached up to grab Raptor's strong right arm, which was clamped down around his throat. He pivoted and pulled on Raptor's arm, sending the caped hero flying through the air and crashing through the remains of the coffee table. Unfortunately for Reed, Raptor refused to let go of him and pulled Oliver down to the floor as well. The two men landed in a clumsy heap, but Raptor still maintained the upper hand as his right arm cemented its hold and he began to choke his hated enemy.

"Pucker up, asshole! It's time to die!" Raptor hissed yet again in Reed's ear, his voice harsh like sandpaper.

As he felt his airway close off, Reed could only watch as Newcastle ran into view in front of him, aiming the explosive weapon directly at his head. Unable to speak, Reed merely lashed out with a kick, ruining Newcastle's aim once more as the explosive round detonated well to their left, reducing a reading chair to splinters of wood in a crack of manmade thunder and lightening.

Reed kicked again and again, trashing wildly as his eyes began to bulge. Again and again his boots impacted with Newcastle's face and chest, sending the DOD agent careening backward, at least momentarily, into the drapes, in which he soon became entangled.

Now temporarily safe from Newcastle's gun, Reed was still left with the little problem of choking to death at Raptor's hands. He struggled to be free of his foe's iron grip, but to no avail. To add to his advantage, Raptor entwined his legs around Reed's chest, holding him tight. There was no way he could struggle free from the caped hero's clutches now.

Left with no other option, Reed snapped his head back as hard and fast as possible. The back of his shaven head impacted with one of the only areas on Raptor's body that wasn't completely encased in body armor, his lower face, his jaw to be precise. Reed could tell Raptor was stunned by the blow to the face, but not enough to release his grip. Reed continued to suffocate and gasp for air.

Again Reed snapped his head back. Raptor's grip began to weaken. Once, twice, thrice more he head-butted his foe as desperation began to overwhelm him. Finally, on the third attack, Raptor released Oliver, who immediately rolled away to safety as he gulped down precious air. Raptor rolled to his side and began to spit up blood and broken teeth, his fighting edge momentarily blunted.

The two pronged attack was unrelenting, however, as Newcastle again approached Reed, barreling forward with his gun now tucked into his waistband as he swung his metallic arms. Unable to catch his breath quickly enough, Reed felt the air driven from his body once more as the metal fists pounded relentlessly on his chest, concentrating particularly on the deep cuts left by Raptor. Oliver reeled backward, his arms flailing in an attempt to ward off the blows. He was nowhere near the top of his game at this point, however, and several of Newcastle's punches connected.

As his blood poured forth from the gaping chest wound he bore, Reed yelped in pain and sucked down air desperately as the rain of punches broke several ribs, ribs that had just finished healing from his battle at Cabal headquarters not two months ago.

"Don't let up," Raptor shouted through broken teeth and blood as he got to his feet. "If we let him get some distance between us he'll just disappear in a cloud of black smoke!"

"No problem!" Newcastle shouted back, his face a mask of arrogance and cruelty.

In fact, all seemed lost for Oliver as he was backed up against a wall and Gregory Newcastle reached out and gripped him by the throat, lifting Reed off the floor by several inches and pinning him completely.

"Now get over here and gut this bastard!" Newcastle shouted.

Just at that moment, a new voice cried out through the din of battle, one both Reed and Newcastle recognized.

"What's going on out here?" All three men paused as they looked to the bedroom door to see Catherine Garcia in her red nightdress, looking on in awe at the violent scene playing out before her. Her gaze locked onto Reed's as time seemed to stop for both of them. Both were reminders of their fallen loved one, Jesse Webb.

"Get back in the bedroom, bitch!" Newcastle hollered as he held Reed up against the wall.

Flailing about for some kind of advantage, Oliver eyed the gun in Newcastle's waistband.

"Jesse Webb, asshole," Reed choked out between blue lips. "My best friend's name was Jesse Webb. You killed him… and that's why you don't have a dick any more."

Acting in desperation, Reed reached out and gripped the handle, pulling the trigger. The resultant explosion in Gregory Newcastle's boxer shorts blew the lower half of his body to pieces, sending a wave of blood, bones and flesh washing over Raptor, who flinched in disgust as the mostly intact upper half of his colleague's body flew by and landed with a wet 'plop' in the corner. Was it Raptor's imagination, or was that a look of complete shock on Newcastle's face as he only now realized what had happened to him? It didn't matter any more.

Reed dropped to one knee, the Eagle-Wing IV still in hand, and took aim at Raptor, who, upon realizing this, was immediately galvanized into action even as Catherine Garcia ducked back into the bedroom for cover. The man Raptor knew as The Wraith pulled the trigger repeatedly, reducing the living room to pieces, as Raptor ducked and dodged with nearly inhuman speed and agility.

Oliver was fine with that, however. The gun was merely a distraction, a means of putting distance between himself and his foe. Once he was certain Raptor was well away from him on the other side of the room, Reed removed the clip from the gun and tossed it in one direction and the gun in the other.

"Now… we see who's the better man."

Reed furrowed his brow and set his chin as he summoned the darkness. It began as a roiling cloud of black fog that at first enveloped him, and then spread out across the room, cloaking them all in an all-consuming blackness.

"That won't work," Raptor called out. "I can still find you."

"Maybe," Reed's voice called back. "But the odds are even now."

"We'll see about that."

Raptor touched a hidden control stud on his gauntlet and activated the acoustic sensors built into his mask, cranking the volume to maximum. He then touched another control stud and activated his infra-red vision, also cranking that to its highest level of sensitivity. Now, the two men began to circle one another, each wary of every step that they took, certain that if they were not careful it could be their last.

Raptor stopped short at a harsh metallic sound and waited for the mini-computer in his mask to triangulate the location. Seconds later, his helmet, utilizing similar but less sophisticated software created by the armor clad hero known as Paladin, displayed a set of coordinates, zeroing in on the location of the strange sound.

He coiled his leg muscles and leapt through the air. Raptor landed in a crouch, slashing the entire area around him, but to no avail. Wraith was nowhere to be found. Raptor examined the area where he'd landed. There was nothing unusual, except for the fact that this was where his enemy's Sai was knocked from his hand and embedded in the wall. He examined the wall, running his gloved fingertips over the area. Sure enough, there was a hole where the Sai used to be, but no bladed weapon itself.

The Wraith was armed once more.

"Heard that, did you?" Came Oliver's voice from the darkness. "I expect you've got some kind of enhanced hearing built into that helmet of yours. You can probably hear me if I breathe too hard."

Again, the software in Raptor's helmet analyzed the sound, triangulating the location as a bat would with its sonar. Once more, he leapt, claws at the ready, only to find… nothing when he landed.

"Can you see me?" Reed called out from across the room. "I guess not, or you'd be all over me right now… slashing and hacking. I bet you've got vision enhancers built into that helmet, too. I bet they're turned all the way up to 11, aren't they?"

Growing more and more frustrated, Raptor swore and darted across the room in the direction he'd heard Wraith's voice emanating from. Again, he found nothing and swiped impotently at open air.

"Well, you have no idea how glad I am that your equipment is turned up to maximum, Raptor."

This time, Raptor decided to remain where he was rather than try and chase a ghost.

"You know why?" Came the voice from the darkness.

"No, why?" Raptor called back. He was busy analyzing the source of Reed's voice, triangulating the location. As the readout was displayed in a holographic format inside his helmet, he realized that his foe was always on the move… and was even now charging straight toward him. Raptor readied his claws.

"Because that means it'll hurt as much as possible when I do… this."

At Reed's mental command, the black fog that enveloped the room dissipated instantly as if it never was, revealing Reed charging forward, but what Raptor didn't spy until it was too late, was the flash-bang grenade in his opponent's hand.

Reed pulled the pin as he hurled the grenade.

Raptor's eyes grew wide as saucers in terror.

The flash-bang grenade exploded in Raptor's face. With his audio and video receptors cranked to the absolute maximum input, the sound and flash of the flash-bang as it exploded in his face was magnified tenfold or more, blinding him instantly and possibly permanently deafening him, as well.

Closing his eyes, Reed leapt through the air, Sai at the ready as the grenade exploded in his face as well. He ignored it and followed through with his arc, stabbing Raptor through the mouth and the back of his throat even as he himself was partially impaled through the stomach by two of his opponent's claws.

Raptor flailed about much as his predecessor once did on the rooftop of the Quantum Technologies Tower, gasping for air as his arterial blood spray coated his foe, which was also bleeding profusely from the claws that ran him through. As Raptor fell to the ground, Oliver fell with him, connected as he was by his foe's sharp weapons.

As his sight and hearing returned, Reed placed his boot on Raptor's chest and pushed away, extricating himself from his fallen enemy's claws. He was bleeding heavily as Catherine Garcia ran to his side. Despite the pain he was in, Reed whirled about at her approach with his Sai at the ready.

Trust no one.

Garcia held up her hands in a gesture of placation. "Are you going to kill me too, Ollie?"

Reed dropped the Sai.

"No. I know you did what you had to do. That's life for people like us in the Outlands. Jesse probably realized that too, before the end."

She nodded, her head heavy with sorrow.

"Were you with him… when he died?" She asked, tears welling up in her eyes.

"I was, yeah. I never had a chance to tell him…" He paused, still barely able to embrace the thought of friendship.

"What?" She prodded.

"I never told him… I never thanked him for being my friend."

She placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder and squeezed.

"He knew. Believe me, he knew."

"I'll make you a deal, Catherine," Reed said as he struggled to his feet and held his hands to the wounds on his stomach and chest. "You help me bind these wounds and I'll leave you in peace. I have no quarrel with you and there's no reason to harm you."

"I'll make a counter offer, Oliver," She said as she stood by his side, tearing off the arm of her nightdress and holding it to his wound. "I'll patch you up and you take me back to the Outlands with you. I can't survive here. I don't belong here. The only reason I'm tolerated is because I was on Newcastle's arm. They'll just kill me now."

Reed nodded. "It's a deal. Now, patch me up and I'll get us the hell out of here." He stared coldly at his fallen opponent's bodies and spared but a moment to spit on both of them.

"I've done what I came here to do."

They parked at a checkpoint on the interstate highway, heading north to what was once known as Canada, through Maine into New Brunswick. The man in black, the thief who rescued her from the Realignment Center, was correct. Lorna Jacobs' brother Derek did, in fact, keep a getaway stash of money hidden in a secret compartment underneath his filing cabinet in their home. Lorna was quick to pack up every document she found there in Derek's study and the deed he'd left for a small but comfortable home in a coastal area in Nova Scotia, not far from Halifax.

Even though Derek's wife and children were at a loss to explain their sudden need for an escape, Lorna promised to explain it all to them once they were safely away from New York. As the seemingly endless skyline eventually receded in their rear view mirror, Lorna took the time to explain what Derek really did and who he really was to her sister-in-law while the children slept in the back seat.

Needless to say, she didn't take to the news kindly. She cried for hours until her sadness turned to despair and her despair, eventually, to rage. She wanted revenge, revenge on the government that turned her husband into a monster and then abandoned him, and most especially, on the man that killed him and took Derek away from her.

Lorna explained to her sister that she herself didn't even know about Derek's alter-ego until recently and that she also desired nothing more than the sweet taste of revenge on the man that killed her brother, whom she considered a hero for saving her from a realignment center and for standing up to President Cutler and his fascist ways, but how to go about it?

There was no doubt that revenge would take a long time coming. The man behind her brother's callous murder would not be easy to kill. He was cold, calculating and powerful, not to mention the fact that he was now in control of Derek's old organization, the Cabal, and all the power that came with it.

So, what to do?

The best they could manage for the time being was to get out of the city and bide their time. Their timing was fortuitous, as black ops teams descended on their brownstone minutes after they hit the interstate without looking back.

No matter.

They had the rest of their lives to gain their desired vengeance. It wasn't until they climbed back into the car and readied their false identity papers for the checkpoint that the answer presented itself to Lorna in a rather innocent and yet inspired manner.

She watched with great interest as Derek Jacobs' eldest child, a daughter named Lilly, managed to make her soft drink cup dance in the air over her lap by giving it mild shocks… with energy bolts from her fingertips. Her brother, Mark, soon joined in on the fun. Both of the children were seemingly unaware that their abilities were completely out of the ordinary.

The epiphany struck both Lorna and her sister-in-law, Margie, at the exact same moment. Even as they instructed the children to keep from displaying their newly emerging abilities in public, the women decided that Derek's children would one day inherit the mantle of Malevolence, utilizing the powers bequeathed to them by their father.

To most of the world at large, Malevolence was the world's greatest villain, but to Lorna and her family, especially the children, Derek Jacobs would be revered as a great man who was betrayed by both his government and those he would call allies. In fact, his allies were the most treacherous, for they were the ones that ultimately caused his demise.

When the time was right the children of Malevolence, 'Malice' and 'Vengeance', would return to New York and have their retribution.

The Wraith would be the first to feel their combined fury.

Oliver Reed sat behind a large glass table he'd found while rummaging through the skyboxes at Madison Square Garden. As he caught a glimpse of himself in the highly polished glass, the resemblance to his old employer, Malevolence, didn't fail to make an impression on him. Even his face now bore a scar from battle, just as the former leader of the organization once sported.

They were all waiting outside. The first formal board meeting of the new Cabal was about to begin. As they filed in to take their seats around his desk it finally dawned on him.

Now it was official.

Reed was the head of the Cabal.

He had achieved all his goals.

He ruled the criminal fraternity. He ruled The Outlands. No one would hold any power over him any longer, just as his mother had instructed him with her dying breath. He should be proud. He should be relaxed. He should get a massage and buy a new identity and a nice house in the city. Instead, he remained here, in the Outlands. He hadn't returned to the city since his battle with Raptor and Gregory Newcastle, a little over three weeks ago.

The various members of the Cabal gave reports as he listened with a kind of detached interest. Cutthroat was busy recruiting the best thieves in the city and the Outlands and training them, paving the way for a new kind of thieves' guild. Scythe would act as his full time bodyguard when necessary and Trauma would act as his second in command.

Cerberus would collect protection money and keep the pimps and gangs in line. Oliver even promised that the whores themselves would be treated with a semblance of human decency, which would only increase their willingness to work and thus their profits. Overkill was promoted to fill the space left behind by Widowmaker, who was killed in the battle at Cabal headquarters. He would handle any assassinations (especially long range assassinations) and weapons smuggling. The remainder of Nosferatu's 'Children Of The Night' gang would handle the enforcement of their will throughout the Outlands, brining a kind of order to the ghetto, and answer only to Trauma.

Ulysses Everett and Allan Sheppard were busy preparing the technological infrastructure. Ulysses was incredibly busy preparing Allan to take over his role as technical guru (whether he was ready for it or not) as he was soon set to leave for South America via a kind of Underground Railroad that he'd established.

Even Shannon Moore sat at Reed's side, taking notes on a pad and paper, like a secretary of all things. She still fawned over him with a kind of schoolgirl fascination and he was content to use her for his own sexual release. He still didn't trust her completely, nor was he likely to any time soon after the debacle with Victoria, but she served a purpose, and she seemed incredibly content in her new role as the aide to a true villain.

He sat in his chair, his right hand supporting his chin as he stared off lazily into space. The actual running of the organization proved to be not nearly as interesting as he'd imagined it would be.

Suddenly, a realization struck Oliver like an epiphany.

He was bored.

He had been living a life on the razor's edge for so long, telling lies and stabbing people in the back for so long, that sitting and listening to status reports and taking notes in meetings seem pale by comparison.

That is to say, he was bored until a statement from Overkill caught his ear.

"I'm sorry, what did you just say?" Reed asked.

All eyes turned to Reed, and then to Overkill as silence reigned.

Overkill cleared his throat as he repeated his last statement. "I said I came into contact with some groups the other day that want to take advantage of Cutler's death. His sons are struggling to maintain their grip and really only Balder is left from the original Freedom Force. They think their time is right. They're freedom fighters, or rebels, I guess you'd call them, and they want to stir up trouble for the government. They wanted to know if we could sell them weapons."

Reed thought about this for a moment. He'd be involving himself in a political struggle, but there was no doubt good money to be made in the sale of arms, especially to rebels with no one left to turn to. Not only that, but the weapons, once sold, would certainly be used for a cause he believed in, bringing the hypocritical rulers and their blindly obedient followers into a full on state of chaos. War, especially a war for freedom, would prove endlessly profitable… and exciting. Oliver Reed nodded slowly as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

"Yes. Tell them I think we can definitely do business."

The End.

Author's Notes: Whew! I'm done! I can't believe it. Looking back, I started this novel in 2006. It is now 2008. Man, am I slow. Still, at least I finished it. It's not like I was being paid to write, so I was doing this in my spare time, as a hobby of sorts. I hope, after all this time, the conclusion is satisfying for you, the reader.

Thanks also to my parents, who are solely responsible for inspiring the imagination of an only child, and to Rod Davila, who was instrumental in helping me come up with the final looks for Oliver Reed, Malevolence and Ultra. To see his character sketches (and even a 'Wraith' wallpaper for your desktop) please join my mailing list (which features other stories I'm working on as well). The address for the mailing list can be found on my profile/bio page here at fictionpress.

And now, a few notes on the story I just finished, mainly about the heroes, their inspirations, and the villains as well.

Oliver Reed is a master thief highly inspired by the character of Garrett, from the video game series 'Thief'. The entire novel is very much indebted to the series, which I consider to be the greatest of all time. If you're into stealth games, forget Splinter Cell and play 'Thief', especially 'Thief II: The Metal Age' and 'Thief: Deadly Shadows'. Oliver's physical appearance is based on the now deceased actor Yul Brynner, known for such films as "The Magnificent 7" and "The King And I".

His actual name is borrowed from the famous deceased actor, Oliver Reed, best known as an actor who played 'tough guy' roles, according to Wikipedia, including such films as 'Oliver!', 'The Trap', 'Women in Love', 'Hannibal Brooks', 'The Triple Echo', 'Sitting Target', 'The Devils', 'The Three Musketeers', 'Tommy', 'The Prince And The Pauper', 'Castaway' and as Proximo in my all time favorite film, 'Gladiator'.

Other influences on this series include: Mark Waid's 'Empire', Ed Brubaker's 'Sleeper', Allan Moore's 'V For Vendetta' and 'Watchmen', 'Batman' and 'The X-Men' (thus, the mutant powers). Non comic book influences include the video game series 'Hitman', George Orwell's '1984', 'Sun Tzu' and 'A Fistful Of Dollars'. Hopefully, I added all these disparate elements, a pinch of Marvel and a dash of DC with a splash of 1984, to create a somewhat unique stew you enjoyed.

Most of the 'heroes' in the story are amalgams of DC/Marvel archetypes. Here's a rundown of what I was envisioning:

Ultra: Is an amalgam of Superman and Captain America (his first name is the same as Superman's last name: Kent). He's even solar powered like Superman.

Raptor I: An amalgam of Batman and Wolverine (He mainly utilizes 'claws' that go 'snik' like Wolverine's, but in every other aspect he is basically a Batman archetype). His first name is also the same as Batman's last name: Wayne.

Raptor II: Based on Dick Grayson AKA Robin/Nightwing (notice the name: Richard Geary/Dick (aka Richard) Grayson. He takes up the mantle when his mentor is killed.

Valkyrie: A Wonder Woman archetype.

Balder: A Thor archetype.

Paladin: An Iron Man archetype.

Shock Trooper: A Punisher archetype

Mammoth: A Giant-Man archetype

Cipher: An ode to DC's female character, Oracle

The villains, such as Malevolence, Nosferatu, Widowmaker (LOVE that name), Trauma and the rest, aren't really based on anyone and are (hopefully) my own imagination at work. Trauma (AKA Ky Logan) is a tribute to an online pal named Ky who also goes by the screen name 'Trauma'. Hey, dude! In an initial draft, Trauma was to be killed off, but I liked him so much I thought he should stick around and look at him now, second in command of the Cabal. You've come a long way, baby!

There's also a lot of Easter eggs to be found in this novel, including a paraphrase of a Nixon speech (delivered by Cutler), and celebrities from modern day (including Wayne Powell's wife, the former Miss Britney Spears), but really, there's far too many for me to list here, not to mention far too many to remember. See if you can spot them all (and if you do, please email me with a list because I've forgotten most of them).

Will Oliver Reed return? Well, I've certainly set up enough story points for a sequel, but it won't be coming for a while, at least. I am currently working on another superhero story entitled "Centurion" and have another upcoming work as well, but eventually, when the muse returns, Oliver Reed will return, I have no doubt about that.

Many heartfelt thanks to all who read and reviewed this story. It meant a lot to me and often it kept me going when inspiration was waning. I've tried to give you my absolute best work and despite this, glitches in logic, spelling and grammar errors and some downright lazy writing still managed to make its way onto the page, but I thank you for overlooking that and seeing the spirit behind the story, rather than concentrating on the errors (which, hopefully, weren't THAT many or THAT distracting from the story). I know my writing is not perfect or at a professional level, but I hope to make it so one day soon. I will, as always, learn by doing.

On a final note, yes, I know, I didn't write a strong role for any of the women in this novel (as reviewer 'Blute' quite rightly pointed out) and I wholeheartedly apologize. It's something I have to work on, no doubt about it. I'll try to do better in future stories, to be sure. The fairer sex deserves a more realistic and well-rounded portrayal. Where would we be without them, after all?

Finally, a piece of random advice: The old adage "Fight fire with fire" does not apply to non-metaphorical fires. I just thought you'd like to know that.

Okay, last one out please turn off the lights…


John Westcott is a Canadian by birth, but don't hold that against him. Born in 1653 B.C. in a log hospital, John is well known as the inventor of organized religion, the childhood chum of Genghis Khan, and the driving force behind the fall of communism.

John is a brain surgeon by day that moonlights as the Prime Minister of Iceland in his spare time. John is also a quadruped who can jettison the lower half of his body at night, and excrete noxious fumes when attacked by a predator in the wild (and after eating too many nachos).

Known to millions of television fans everywhere as 'the young Winston Churchill' on the FOX sitcom "Don't Go There, Girlfriend", John is credited with being the first person to 'snap a Z'.

Other notable achievements by John include curing all known diseases, inventing the number 6, molesting chocolate cake when it's not looking, perfecting his fake Irish accent, drinking Coca-Cola for breakfast (Pepsi sucks!), drinking Corona for lunch and splitting the atom for dinner.

The author would also like to voice his appreciation for the following products, without which, no writing would be done:


Zesty Cheese Doritos

Terry's Chocolate Orange

Corona Beer (with lime)

Jose Cuervo Tequila


Riley is a two year old cat who enjoys gnawing on my toes when I'm IM'ing with good friends on the net to remind me to feed his bottomless stomach and he's especially good at divining exactly when I have some great writing inspiration so that he can... what else... lie down over the keyboard so I can't type a damn thing. What better way to show that he loves me?

Riley, we salute you and I hope you're around to see me get my first work published, though knowing the odds against it, I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you!

Riley's feud with the rapper 50 Cent is nowhere near over, and we're pretty sure he's the real father of Britney's children. He is the one true P.I.M.P.

Like all cats before him, Riley jumps around like yoda on crack when I shake a bag of Whiska's brand TEMPATIONS kitty treats, which is basically like crack for cats anyway.

And now a word from our sponsors:

Please buy Whiskas brand TEMPTATIONS kitty treats. They're scrump-diddly-umptious.

What are you doing still here? That wasn't a request. GO BUY SOME! ;)

- An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with, insists on boring future generations. -