Monday, October 5, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 13 - Iconoclasts

In which many questions are answered, and many more raised.

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 13 - Iconoclasts

I. Reconstruction

When we last left Freedom Ops, their team had been ravaged by the seemingly indefatigable Exodesian Deomond. Their latest member Solus, along with Dr. E's help, managed to destroy Deomond – and himself – utterly. Dr. E, however, went comatose, and most of the team was catatonic, missing limbs, or both. It was decided to use Roger Greer's “Freedom Squad” as the most necessary human guinea pigs yet. REACT used tech purloined from Skull, in turn lifted from Omega Ceti I. This was the powerful regenerative tech – part medical science, part pure alchemy – that REACT perfected for military use, starting with Greer's outfit, decades before it began helping the US citizenry in any appreciable way. Euphrates Straw wished what his brother Emerson had wished – to pilfer the tech, and perfect it for Aggregate use. If Freedom Ops was going to be on the front line, being blasted and shot and blown apart and being mended to be sent out for more, Straw felt the Aggregate had the same duty – albeit for diametrically polar opposite political rationales.

Still, the team, asked, just who was Solus? Solus was nothing short of a new form of life, extrapolating and splicing genes from Omega, Pisces, Exodesia, and humanity, and grown in a tube. He had no parents save Rykards and Caleb, and was a combination of genetic material harvested from the aforementioned species, bolstered cybernetically, and bombarded with TSD treatments. His mind was programmed to be that of the ultimate agent for Freedom Ops, and now, REACT was furious that he was destroyed on his first real mission. So they scrapped the envisioned Solus line for now, and concentrated on rebuilding and enhancing their current lineup, and subtly implanting them with a deep-seated loyalty to REACT and to the USA. Thus the men who had been friends and partners of Aggregate members might surprise their erstwhile acquaintances, as there would be something just a bit amiss.

The only Freedom Squad (henceforth, FS) members not to be mildly reprogrammed were Ursulin (his mind resisted any probing) and The Wrath, who astonishingly had sustained little injuries in the Libanian fracas. Wrath was offered a genetic “tune-up” and acquiesced to a point; he resisted being a part of the mind trials. REACT took note and considered him a low level risk.

After the dust settled, much of 1977 had been spent sorting through just what to do with FS Ops. Roger Greer, Jim April, Ben Renova, Oregon Powell, and Brandon ver Dorn all had limbs replaced and awoke from their lengthy comas ready to resume their status. Dr. E's mind (and suit) were now more malleable. Ursulin announced, after 25 + years, he and his brother Anaximander would be leaving Earth, to return to the races that conceived them and proffer themselves as a great success. Their parents were gone; it was time to fulfill their mission. And so REACT was stymied once again. SkullCorp saw this as a great thing, however. They were never pleased that Ursulin “defected” to REACT.

The “new” FS Ops welcomed two new members, who REACT had secured as further “tokens” to compete with the Aggregate's multi-ethnic makeup. These were the black vigilante Dane Torrance, aka The Troubleshooter (his story shall unfold shortly); and the  second draftee, not only FS Ops' first female member, but also Asian as well. She called herself Lumena, but she was really Kono Nashida (b. 1956), daughter of Kai Nashida (b. 1933), herself the daughter of the brilliant Professor Kenji Nashida, whose experiments with Omegan tech and cybernetics created Konchuman and Go Demon. Kono's father, she claimed, was Kong the Claimer! She swore she wished to atone in some small part for her father's evil by joining FS Ops. For his part, not only did Ben Renova believe her most sincerely, he was utterly smitten by Lumena.

It is worth noting that no sooner had FS Ops returned to active status than the serial killings in Augensburg began again with a vengeance. The killings were even more ferocious and appalling than before. The reconstructed team turned their attention to this mystery in late 1977. Fortunately, so did a hero with no affiliation with the Squadron.

II. Proof

Before leaving Earth, Ursulin and Anaximander visited the Aggregate. But a few months before this, the group was faced with an offer of membership from Alec Duarte aka Cowan. Duarte had managed to break into Bradcroft Manor. Alarms were ringing as he identified himself as Cowan, and claimed he was the best thing that ever happened to the team. Shadow Baron bid them hear him out, though Thomas Ledge's hair-trigger sense of outrage and Cotton Suede's cynicism did little to create an atmosphere conducive to understanding. Though actually, between her immense pulchritude and streetwise attitude, Alec took to Cotton right away. She was very familiar to him.

Bradcroft invited Duarte to speak out and explain himself and how he could benefit the team. Cowan related a brief autobiography, including his true identity. He felt he was taking an awful risk, but if Marchessa felt these were his “true peers”, then so be it. Ledge had no confidence in Cowan's abilities despite the fact that he'd taken the team unawares. Ledge challenged him to “mix it up” with him for awhile to gauge his skills. Despite their 20 year age difference, Cowan held his own. But when Ledge connected, it was thunderous. He should've been pulling his punches but he wasn't. Cowan felt everyone there was messing with his mind.

He matched martial arts with Konchuman (also much stronger than Alec), Cotton, and Straw. He savored the time with Cotton. The solitary Lykos was impressed with and liked Duarte. As did Cary Bradcroft, who offered him a spot training with the team. It was at this point that Go Demon announced his return to Japan for a time. It seems his brother was in trouble and he wanted to help out. Bradcroft wished him well.

Cowan was constantly butting heads with Ledge, Straw, or Suede. At least Straw respected him, if not his many off-the-wall views and ways of tackling an issue. Cowan and Lykos bonded nicely however, and Konchuman could see the good in his new teammate. But Cowan vowed he'd wear down Ledge eventually; he felt a right-leaning radical like Ledge was weighing the group down, and if it was him or Ledge leaving, baby, it'd be Ledge.

Ursulin's and Anaximander's visit went well. They had a special dinner at Bradcroft Manor; Ben Renova and Kono Nashida attended. Ben and Kono were getting very close very fast, but she was most intrigued by Ursulin, who'd been suffering a severe cold front in the romance department for years. On a flimsy pretext, she got Ursulin to take her to Mt. Mosaic. Renova was insanely jealous, but propriety won out. At Mt. Mosaic, Lumena and her “Captain Omega” made love for days, basking in each other's company. He asked her to come away with him and his brother and she agreed. Breaking it to Ben was difficult. He challenged Ursulin to a duel, and then realized how foolish he was. He realized how his time with FS Ops had eroded his social skills and his fortune, and so he retired from active duty and devoted himself to his financial empire and began dating again. He was especially interested in his first wife Samantha's sister, Vanessa Mac Art (Samantha gave Ben one child, a son, John Philip "JP" Renova II, b. 1976). Lumena left with the sons of Shun Ti, and in a short time, gave birth to Ursulin's son, whom she named Benjamin Nashida. He went by “Benny”.

Thus the so-called Freedom Squad lost three members in one fell swoop. And their losses in 1977 didn't end there. As the year waned, the killings in Augensburg became a major side case for Cowan. And what – and who – he uncovered – was quite shocking. One night in late October, Cowan, acting on an outlandish hunch, amazingly finally spied the killer dismembering a young girl's body. Cowan didn't realize he was also being followed – by one of FS Ops' newest, eager to make a name for himself: Dane Torrance, aka the Troubleshooter. He and Cowan struggled. Cowan whispered, “Don't ruin this for all of us, man. Do you see who that is?” And indeed, Torrance gasped when he realized the man who committed acts against nature in a seedy flophouse was none other than his own trainer in Freedom Squad Ops - Oregon Powell! Troubleshooter rattled off his feelings. Sullying the heroic name of the Duellist was enough; what the man was doing was too much; and betraying the Squad was beyond the pale. “Your priorities are seriously fucked, man, but you get the gist of it. Good. Let's take him.”

The two men rushed in on Powell, who calmly explained that he'd been waiting for them. Torrance attacked Powell, who outfought him. Cowan called the police and the Aggregate for back-up. By the time the latter had arrived, Dane Torrance had been beaten down by Powell and Alec was facing off with him. When the police entered, Dane was charged with the murder of the young girl, among other preposterous charges. The police attempted to subdue Cowan but he crashed through an upstairs window and hid out until he saw the cops taking Torrance and Powell in. Then, with his rifle, he assassinated Powell – a clean head shot, then fled. The cops fired, once hitting Alec in the leg.

The Aggregate arrived and told the police they'd made a terrible mistake, that Dane Torrance was a government agent on the trail of the Augensburg Slayer. The Augensburg police were hardly sympathetic; all they knew is they saw a black man home invading a middle class white and killing the home owner's neighbor's daughter. The Negro – as they referred to him – had one white male accomplice now wanted for first degree murder. And, their argument went, wasn't Powell a higher ranking cover agent than “the Negro”? Professional jealousy perhaps? Cotton nearly decked the officer in charge but Konchuman held her back.

Alec had collected a file of evidence linking Powell to the murders circumstantially but hadn't wanted to go there, so to speak. He realized he had been a fool to go it alone. Powell had been connected in town and all the police in Augensburg were in his family's pocket – his adopted family, the Powells, that is. Oregon was really the grandson of Biazel Karollus himself, and beneath the charm and chivalry beat a heart pumping with the stench of purest evil.

So Alec was on the run, wounded, and trying to collect himself. Cary Bradcroft paid a personal visit to “Freedom Central”, the fancy new headquarters of FSO,as they colloquially called themselves now (it changed weekly it seemed; 'the Squadron' was another recent favorite). Bradcroft attempted reason with Greer and a REACT liaison called Howard Unsworth. REACT and Freedom Central had issued a formal statement, which was reiterated to Cary: “It saddens us to report that agent Torrance will soon stand trial as the Augensburg Slayer. He apparently had an accomplice, a man identified as petty criminal turned vigilante Alec Duarte, who attacked agent Powell as Powell was attempting to save their captive. Duarte will be tried for first degree murder when apprehended. REACT will assist local police in any way they can to stop this highly dangerous felon.”

Cary then did something he swore not to do unless absolutely necessary: he mystically mindwiped all of the FSO, the REACT agents involved, and the Augensburg police. He reached out astrally until he found Alec, and sent some of the team to retrieve him and procure medical attention. He had had enough of feeling helpless when such power was at his disposal; Nocturno always told him he was over-cautious about utilizing his gifts.

And so the case dropped. Alec's file made its way to Hallmark PD, who declared Powell to be the Slayer but his murder remained unsolved. Torrance shook off his few days in jail, not quite sure what really happened. He returned to the FSO. And Alec overcame a grave fear: prison. In his teens, while an abused errand boy for his father, Alec was pinched once and served a year in prison. He was 14 and was assaulted twice, until he came under the platonic protection of a fellow inmate, Junius G. Hand, known on the outside as Black Torpedo Ray (b. 1935). Ironically, there is a connection between Ray and the Troubleshooter to be explored in the near future, which ties in with the late Hiawatha Hand. As Cary's spell did not affect the Aggregate, Alec retained his memories of the fateful night he felt sure he might land back in stir.

III. Readings in Astrology

Brother Zodiac (Trevor November) became an outspoken nemesis of Freedom Central and all it stood for. No one could discern quite where his loyalties lie or his origins. But one man was intent on tracking them: Cowan. Zodiac called Orphee deLander's Red Oasis commune home, and wandered Flicker Street as he'd always had, though not quite with his youthful fervor. While Graven Idyll was still preaching from a fiery bull pulpit at times, BZ's approach was smooth. The police and REACT still kept a current file on him. All they could find was that he looked to be in his late 20s, had no real criminal record, and was raised in New Orleans as Trevor November. He first arrived in Flicker Street in 1968, and looked and acted almost exactly the same in 1978. He felt the hope of '68 was draining from the world, that violence saturated society and that society was becoming a police state whose repression in turn fed the brutality: a twisted Ourobouros or Midgard Serpent greedily devouring its own tail.

Many women were attracted to him; many men for that matter. But the first to fall under his wing openly was a haunting young lady of mixed race called Kicia Blessing. While Trevor November frequented Bradcroft Ltd's curio shoppe with Kicia in 1978, Alec was much further south – Libania, where he finally gave his full report to the Marchessa. She was pleased. She was just beginning a physical descent into middle age, but was as voluptuous and charismatic as ever before. Alec felt it was a now or never situation, and so he took the biggest risk of his life. He may as well have inserted his phallus under the chopping block.

He nervously propositioned his mentor, mother, sensei – was it really so twisted after all? Alec was not prepared for the response he received. The Marchessa took him in her soft arms and kissed him passionately. They ended up sharing a mind-blowing sexual experience, one might say transcendental. The Marchessa knew tantric techniques as well, and so Alec learned quite a lot that fateful day. After a deep sleep, Alec awoke and asked the Marchessa, “What now?”

She answered, “the night belonged to us – it always will. But I cannot belong to you, not in the way you want.” Alec understood, and also inquired when Reva would be returning. She'd be 18 now and he wouldn't even recognize her. “No”, declared Marchessa, “ you wouldn't recognize her. And not just in the physical sense. She left here, not a week ago, with some money, and a wagon full of idiots armed to the teeth. And they had quite a pharmacopia. It saddens me.”

Reva's gotten into drugs and just rides off with arms merchants?? Couldn't you stop them?" “Could you have stopped them? We may be slightly more than merely human, but how many bullets before we fall?”
Point taken”, said Duarte. “I'm – I'm sorry mistress. I forget myself after what happened between us. I won't again”.
The Marchessa stated, “She is a woman now. I cannot fathom the workings of her young mind. My training has made her feel liberated, more empowered than the other girls in the villages. She has a brilliant mind. I'd hate to see it turned to sordid ends, but it is beyond me now. My only consolation is that she will not be the pawn of men with guns and drugs – she will be the one in control. And with what I've taught her – the last thing I said when I called out to her as they drove away was, 'be blessed, Reva'. She replied, 'Reva? Who's that?' She giggled and screamed, 'Now they call me the Magdalene!'”

With so much to absorb, and feeling helplessly frustrated, Alec took his leave of the most important woman of his life. “I'll try to sneak by every year or so. And – thanks again – for the night”. And he departed, leaving the proud Marchessa wracked with sobbing. Tears held back a hundred years can't help but be a flood when finally they come.

In Hallmark, Kicia and Trevor were deliriously happy. But there was a naysayer among the audience they drew on Flicker Street. It was Cotton Suede, and as the saying in Flicker Street goes, “Miss Cotton Suede is not to be messed with”. Cotton confronted Brother Zodiac and his young mistress one afternoon in Flicker Street outside the infamous Lucifer Club, most recently done up as a disco by longtime owner Black Torpedo Ray. “What's your bag, man?' she asked Zodiac. “you come off all righteous about the evils of 'The Man' and the joys of 'Cosmic Awakening' - but where are you when folks like me and mine or the Tentacle and his are fighting, with our minds and our bodies, to be free. Truly free.”

I'm in no cult lady. I am free – a truly free agent out on these streets. Orphee is simply letting me crash at the Red Oasis. You don't dig my setup, that's alright – but I harm none, as the epithet goes, and if I declare a 'side' – be it yours, or the Tentacle's, or even the Pig Squadron – you will be among the first to know. Seems like we should've had this talk ten years ago. But back then, you weren't a part of a group with a gobstopper of a name and a bonafide integrated cast of characters.”

Cotton grabbed the slim Trevor by his left arm and yanked him up to her. “I'm not making a dent in that pretty head, but so help me I will... Flicker Street belongs to the people, and you've been out there – doin' your moves, turning on some cats and chicks, pulling some Pied Piper shit just like deLander. Except he has the guts to admit it. They call you the 'Grey Messiah', these kids. Like her - “ Cotton points at Kicia, who hasn't said a word. “What happened to the bosomy biker broad you were doin' before her? She get tired of you ridin' her hog?” Cotton laughs loudly. “Well, I've known this beautiful moonchild her whole life, and you're not just gonna step in and crash Kicia's good thing.”

Kicia replied indignantly, "I'm happy with where I am now, and with who I am, Miss Cotton. You've been like a big sister to me an' I loves you, but frankly, you in my business, an' I don't like it. Just back off an' let us be, okay? You might find I'm not as ignorant about all this as you think I am. If Trevor hurts me, he's gone. An' he knows that. Right?”

Yes indeed. And that's not going to change”, answered Zodiac.
Uh huh”, responded Cotton. “Fascinating. Well I'd best be going... and, 'Trevor'?”
I've got my eye on you.”

Cotton was short, but her hips were wide, and they swayed madly, as she jogged away, soon lost in the bustle of Flicker Street. The woman formerly known as Pauline Cutler had more pressing business with the Aggregate. They were to await Alec's return to Hallmark and then hold a 'membership drive'. The idea was ostensibly Ledge's, though Cary had been pondering it for months, since Cowan first crashed their meeting in January 1977. Straw thought it could be massively entertaining. “Make them come to us for once. Groovy”, he laughed. Konchuman hoped more Asians or Indians would join. He missed Go Demon, now back in Japan, and his fallen friend, Hiawatha Hand.

IV. Alec's Return Home

As everyone got situated for the membership drive meeting on October 5, 1978, Cotton and Alec got to talking. She broached the subject of Brother Zodiac and Kicia Blessing. He was visibly rattled by hearing her name. As he nervously smoked, he asked her how Kicia was, and informed Cotton that he hadn't seen her in some time but thought about her. “Well I'd rather her be with you any day than that arrogant - “

Thomas Ledge interrupted, as he was wont to do. “With Cowan? He's a two-bit loner. Hell, he might not even like chicks for all we know.”
Well”, interrupted Straw, “ for all we know, the same could be said for you. I never see this Susan you're so mad about. An invention of your closeted psychosis Ledge?”
Konchuman and Lykos remained silent, and, as usual, uncomfortable when Ledge trotted out his homophobic assertions. And Straw was insistent on playing right into it.
Ya know what, Miss Suede? Let's talk about Kicia for real sometime. This conversation hardly dignifies her.”
Straw, impatient, bellowed, “Now you know why we need new blood so badly. A good transfusion could keep us going for years to come, right Ledge?”
Might need to ditch the bad blood all in one fell swoop I say. Some of which – Straw – has been curdling since before my time here”.
Straw raised a fist and said, “Regarding old, tired, bad blood, I say, 'Let it bleed...'”
Indeed Straw?” said Cary, taking everyone off guard with his entrance and his upbeat countenance. “Well, since my sanguine friends are crying out for the new blood, let me pacify them, as a good host. Bloodthirsty ghouls, meet... the Serpent's Tooth!”

Who or what is the Serpent's Tooth? Who is the proverbial 'new blood' and will they make the cut? What's the mystery of Kicia Blessing? What is the Lucifer Club? And why the hell does the Aggregate put up with Thomas Ledge anyway? All this and more will hopefully be answered in the next episode of Flicker Street....

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
October 6, 2015

Copyright 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Dedicated to my friends on Google + and on Facebook who have read and shared this work, especially my friend and collaborator Ivan R. Schablotski.

Flicker Street, all characters, images, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 12 - Deviations

What seemed like ephemera turned out to be a key chapter. Enjoy!

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 12 – Deviations

I. The Pod As Womb

The Omegan and Piscean penchant for “soft conquest” culminated in their vying for Earth. The Omegan Terminus was not a downed alien vessel or a crashed starship. It was however truly a “mothership” in that it contained an Omegan Birthing chamber. It was an extradimensional vessel traveling alchemically; it emerged inside Mt Mosaic based on the mountain's karmic ley lines. Tephiris was not the first, but the first known, Omegan scout and was extremely long lived. He came through the Terminus in a birthing pod, i.e. he was born incarnate on earth. He traveled his homeworld but North America remained his base of operations. He communed with Native Americans and settlers and slaves alike, always assuming a race's form and co-mingling with them all, spreading his seed far. Tephiris was the first newly born Exodesian in centuries – an Exodesian by virtue of the fact that he was the genetic product of pure Omegan seed and Piscean ovum. Tephiris thus was himself an experiment in keeping the peace between the coldly warring races.

Tephiris was the father of the druid Brithemain, born c. 12,000 BCE. Tephiris was born c. 13, 000 BCE and died sometime before Shun Ti's and Asenath-Zayan's births (c. 1500 AD). No Exodesians and few Omegans or Pisceans were as long-lived, i.e. over 14,000 years old. Only the hybrid priests Mordechai and his nephew Gammadion lived nearly as long. In addition to his genetic gifts, Tephiris used many alchemical life extension formulas, to varying degrees of success.

Mt Mosaic was the nexus point aka the “Terminal Pointe” of the truce if you will between the quietly warring races. Tephiris periodically used the pod tech at Terminal Pointe to travel to Omega and to Pisces to report as a scout for both races. The pods he utilized were the basis of the modern tech of the tellax pod that revolutionized human transport, though it only became used commercially in the early 21st century. It was plundered by SkullCorp from the tech Ursulin shared in the 1950s, and by the close of the century REACT and the Aggregate (and some of their foes) had access to this incredible teleportation technology.

To some Exodesians Tephiris claimed to be wholly one of them, and mated with some of their women. In his very old age Tephiris mated with a Frenchwoman named Dominique Chanel. Their daughter, Francoise Chanel, married into the Mercer family. This infused Cromwell's line with stronger Exodesian genes, as Francoise's son Leopold Mercer was also the grandson of the Carnifex. Leopold was also the grandfather of the gunfighter Mercy. Many of the descendants of Cromwell (himself Tephiris' great-grandson) and the great envoy Tephiris had extraordinary abilities; most, however, appeared and lived as human, save for a predilection for unnatural longevity.

When Ish of Omega and Asenath of Pisces were engineered to be the official infiltrators of Earth, Tephiris felt his time had come. He gently slipped away, imbibing moonbrew and ruminating on his thousands of adventures and many descendants on Earth. We shall now examine some of the foremost ones.

II. For A Few Digressions More...

The legendary gunfighter Mercy began life in 1843 as Nero Mercer, the son of Napoleon Mercer (the great-grandson of Ewen Cromwell) and Lily Runningwater, a mostly Pawnee Indian and herself a granddaughter of Cromwell's. Besides this, Nero was the great-great-grandson of Tephiris. Mercy was blessed with a retarded aging process, a strong healing factor, and an unerring marksmanship, his favored weapon being a portable Gatling gun. Most though him insane, but few dared square off against this titan of the Old West. Once his hands were crushed; he defeated his enemy regardless but lost his woman. His hands healed fully over a matter of weeks.

Shortly after this, he encountered Shanedo Nakemura, a deciding factor in his life. Nakemura (b. 1823) was known in Japan as the 'Demon Dog' (translated) and was a wandering ronin who took along his young daughter Meiko on his journeys, teaching her all he knew along the way. Shanedo was the deadliest ronin to emerge from Japan in the waning days of the Tokugawa shogunate. He had run afoul of the Pan-Asian fanatical sect, the Hei Naodai, and wished to shatter them into a million pieces. Shun Ti at Feng Qi thought a truce could be arrived at; Kith M'Nali, the “Black Tamerlane”, did not concur and bedeviled Shanedo for a number of years. Shanedo was contracted to come to America in the mid 1860s and retrieve certain stolen Nakemura family artifacts. Shanedo had the feeling Kith had stolen them. Kith had a secret base in America, from which he plotted the end of the then-current US government, as he saw millions of his countrymen still in bondage. M'Nali was a busy man...

Shanedo faced off with Kith over the artifacts and won. M'Nali begged for his life, the first time he'd done so (though he was very insincere). Then Mercy appeared and shot Kith a number of times. Kith was taken totally unawares, an odd and uncomfortable feeling for him. Shanedo bid him go. M'Nali headed to his base and medical attention. Mercy and Shanedo forged a mutual respect of sorts over this odd incident. Shanedo's daughter Meiko (b. 1850) was immediately taken with Mercy, and he with her. In time, Shanedo came to grips with this. The two men fought together as partners a number of times (including on the steppes of the Ziggurat in 1868), and Shanedo now felt an outcast from Japan. Mercy proposed marriage, and soon he was Shanedo's son-in-law; now family. In 1878, the child Nero Nakemura was born to Mercy and Meiko.

Shanedo had one last mission he wished to fight alone. He returned to Asia, while his daughter, now known only as the Lady Ronin, became Mercy's partner in his increasingly outre adventures. In 1890, word reached Meiko that her father was slain in battle with Kith. Mercy and the Lady Ronin embarked on one last grand adventure, one with a bittersweet climax. After failing to route M'Nali, Meiko announced that she'd be staying in Asia, sometimes at Feng Qi. Her goals were two-fold: to avenge her father, and to further train, and, hopefully, to teach at Feng Qi. She would raise young Nero as a Japanese but would tell him all about his legendary father.

Mercy was devastated. He wandered Europe, alighting in France, where his daughter, La Comtesse de Marangias, held court. La Comtesse had wed one Armand Tressilian and had one infant daughter, Edith, b. 1890, and a son already on the way (This son would grow up to be the legendary Richter). But Mercy was drawn back to the United States and his family there, which essentially amounted to his brother and his brother's family.

III. Marisol's Odyssey

Mercy's half-brother was the much-discussed Sorrow, who married the wild Libanian gunfighter Carmelita Rodriguez. She gave him three daughters: twins Luna and Solita are covered elsewhere, but now we turn our attention to Mariposa Marisol Corvo, b. 1877. Marisol inherited Sorrow's unnatural longevity and many of his skills (Sorrow was the grandson of Exodesian Arch-Priest Urias, as established in past chapters, as well as the great-gradson of Ewen Cromwell). Marisol, as she chose to be called then, was a shapely stunner of a girl, but was something of a tomboy. She craved action and excitement. She was proud to come from a family of long-lived gunfighters, and wanted to learn the arts of combat herself, something that did not interest her older sisters.

When she met Mercy's bride, Meiko Nakemura, as a small child, she was staggered by her fighting prowess. A female samurai! Thought Marisol (though Meiko was technically a ronin, i.e. a masterless samurai). She asked Meiko to train her. The Lady Ronin agreed, but it had to be their secret. And so, furtively, they held a number of sessions. This ended in 1890, when Meiko was called away to Asia and never returned. Marisol vowed she'd find her one day and conclude her training with Meiko. Sorrow took good care of his daughter in the meantime. She reached adulthood, a buxom, athletic young woman with a razor-keen mind, and she decided to move to Libania, despite the risk and strife there. Carmelita warned her about Libania and Serafinia, but Marisol claimed she was to become a nun.

Marisol actually made her way to Asia with a cache of gold her father gave her. She struggled, and fought, but she finally reached Feng Qi, based on all she'd been told by Meiko. This was in 1900. She was reunited with Meiko Nakemura, who, as promised all those years ago, resumed training beside her. They trained together for 35 years, neither of them aging appreciably, just getting stronger and more finely honed in their arts. But then Kith M'Nali returned after a time away from Feng Qi. He had been assembling various criminal and revolutionary elements to fall under the Black Skull Society rubric. Marisol and her master encountered Kith one day and they soon began hurling curses at each other. This erupted into a full-fledged duel. Shun Ti, worried, came to watch. She knew by now that nothing could tear them apart. In their pitched combat, the Lady Ronin, sliced off one of the Black Tamerlane's legs. He fought on, hopping, crawling, and spurting blood all about the dojo. In an amazing reversal, he leapt on his single foot and hacked off Meiko's right arm (her sword-wielding one), and, as they both fell and crawled about the floor slick with their blood, he impaled Meiko on his blade.

Marisol was aghast and felt like running up to M'Nali and slitting his arrogant throat. He and his detached limb were spirited away, though. Much later, she learned that certain mystic allies of Kith's were able to re-attach his leg. Another rumor later flotaed about was that Ish used Omegan tech to restore it. This was several years before Ursulin arrived on Earth and began disseminating regeneration tech to a chosen few; of course today it is widely used and has revolutionized medicine.

Shun Ti took over Mariposa Marisol's training (she had ceased going by her surname). Marisol “graduated” to the highest level that Shun Ti could grant her in 1950. Marisol was still a stunning young woman. She wondered if she would age as well as her father, who died at 98 in 1938, but only appeared middle-aged.

IV. The Marchessa Unbound – and Her Wayward Pupil

After Mariposa Marisol attained the highest honors Shun Ti could bestow upon her, she gave herself the title “The Marchessa”. It had only taken her 73 years to attain this total mastery of the mystic and martial arts. And this time, she really was determined to return to Libania. There, she founded her own Solacium, patterned after the one Shun Ti would retreat to (and which was an Omegan creation). She gathered agents over the decades and created her own temple. did not establish any particular order for those interested to join. She didn't want to foment another cult in a region reviled for them. She simply taught her eclectic blend of alchemy and martial arts. FOPA raided her on occasion, but they finally ruled that she did indeed fit into their “Freedom of the People' mantra.

Her goal was to train others and to pass on the knowledge she'd received, but so few had what it took. The Marchessa lived a long, lonely life. She yearned to be a lover and an adventurer, not a monk, but such, she felt, was her lot. All of that changed in 1965, when the 88 year old Marchessa, who looked and felt no older than a human woman of 35, found a new purpose.

We must derail our attention from the Marchessa at this point, and return to a character from a past installment. His name was Alec Nicholas Duarte, b. 1948 in Hallmark. He was born a fraternal twin, his brother Julius Antony Duarte born minutes before him. It seemed the two hated each other from birth. Certainly their parents hated them both from their births. The twins' mother, Roxanne Cooper Duarte, was the maternal granddaughter of Hallmark co-founder Ananias de Ruyter. She was also a stripper, a prostitute, and a heavy drinker. Roxanne's mother Eliza severed ties with the de Ruyters when she married Axel Cooper, an attorney for the mob (who, ironically, had married her for her money and family name; now he was supporting her by defending infamous mobsters such as Boston Haverty).

Roxanne's brother, Elias, was also an attorney, and though a rabid right-winger, he was no criminal. He was rather ugly to Roxanne, and distanced himself from her. Elias had two daughters with Gwyneth Shaw: Susan Cooper (b.1950) and Selena Cooper (b. 1960). Both figure prominently in future narratives. These women were the first cousins of Alec and Julius Duarte, whose father, Antonio “Tony” Duarte (b. 1918), took over organized crime and racketeering in Hallmark by the 1940s, filling the gap left by Boston Haverty's defeat at the hands of the Silent Seven.

Tony Duarte was the worst of the worst: a wife-beating pederast/ pimp/ killer. He gladly prostituted Roxanne while he chased young men new to the mob, his favorite being Marco Allegretti, who just happened to be Roxanne's long-time pimp. She tried to escape numerous times before Marco finally plugged her in the street (Paige Street, to be exact) in 1959. Tony told his boys that their mother was mentally disturbed, and had finally committed suicide.

Everything changed in 1965, the year Alec Duarte met the Marchessa. Tony had arranged a major drug deal in Libania. He loved doing business with the Libanians. He sent one of his up-and-comers, a 25 year old errand boy named Reve Raphael the great-grandson of Hallmark co-founder Guillermo Renova. He assigned Alec and Julius, 17 years old, to accompany Reve. Tony also asked Reve to take Reva, his 5 year old daughter. Reve and Alec were filled with dread; was Tony going to sell the girl into “white slavery” or “kiddie porn”? With Tony Duarte nothing was too low. Julius was amused by it all – and sailing on cocaine.

Tony had heard a rumor that there was a place called the Solacium where all four of these youths could be trained into fighting machines for the drug enforcement arm of Tony's Libanian operation. Julius opted out of the training; he was far too fey for much physical exertion. Reve oversaw the operation, and watched helplessly, Julius' gun trained on him, as he handed over his daughter and Alec to the Solacium. When the drug transaction was completed, Reve flipped out about Reva and Julius shot him to death. Julius and Tony's men left Libania, leaving Alec and Reva with the Marchessa. She thought Tony a fool, as she'd never paid him anything; Duarte simply assumed the Marchessa would train the children for a few years til they could take their places as mob enforcers. Julius was happy, feeling he was finally rid of Alec; Alec's feelings were more than mutual.

The woman once called “Marisol” had no intention to prostitute the children or anything else – except the training part. She became a mother figure to the two youths, though Alec hid well his deep-seated sexual desire for his new mentor. Alec, being older, took far quicker to the more rigorous training. In 1971, after Alec has been with the Marchessa for six years, the Marchessa laid out three mandates for Alec to achieve to prove his worthiness to “graduate” from the Solacium. Reva Raphael's fate shall unfold shortly.

V. The Three Mandates

The mandates were odd at first to Alec Duarte. But he soon became excited by the challenge. Here were three opportunities to find catharsis, gain revenge, and right the karma in his own life for the sake of the Marchessa's plans for him. He humbly thanked her, and began planning his take on the mandates. And he wanted her more than ever.

The three mandates were, in order: 1. Draw first blood. 2. Infiltrate and foment chaos. 3. Present yourself before your true peers. These mandates were reminiscent of what Alec had read about the Freemasons and the Knights Templar. Thus he devised a disguise with which he could carry out the mandates.

Late in 1971, Alec Duarte returned to Hallmark. Masked and armed, he broke into Tony's house. Taking out Tony's goons, he made his way to Tony's master bedroom, where Tony and Marco were engaged in some rather bizarre sex acts. Alec slit Marco's throat and smothered Tony with a pillow as he struggled for a gun. He gained the proverbial upper hand, and shot Tony to death through the pillow. Alec took one item from beneath his father's bed and lugged it with him. He calmly, discreetly made his way out the way he came in, just as more of Tony's men arrived. Alec rode away, flooring it just as Hades broke loose at the Duarte stronghold.

Duarte returned to Marchessa. She encouraged him to return to Hallmark, to see what was going on in the streets with people his own age. This disinterested him, but he saw her logic. After the Duarte/ Allegretti killings, Alec waited a good while, continuing his training and using the money in his father's box to buy arms in Libania. He knew he must be well-equipped, even though buying the arms there was something of a contentious conflict of interest for Duarte.

Alec returned to Hallmark in 1973. While hiding out in a dive in nearby Augensburg, Duarte caught a poster advertising a meeting of the Order of Cosmic Emptiness, an obvious takeoff on the Order of Cosmic Awakening. The meeting was to take place in the town of Gossingham, not terribly far from Hallmark. Alec planned to go as a man called simply Cowan. A cowan is an outsider in Masonic and similar traditions. Infiltrating an occult group – pretending to be one of them but actually not – was an amusing irony to Duarte.

Leading the meeting was a cryptic gentleman called Javier. Javier appeared to be a nice fellow – the kind of man a loner like Alec actually wouldn't mind befriending. The absurdist, almost dada, approach to the occult and spirituality empluyed amused Alec beneath his Cowan cowl. No one seemed to find Alec's dress odd; several other attendees wore masks. Towards the end of the meeting, the “special guest” was unveiled – a self-proclaimed sorcerer named Antioch Moldor, flanked by two large bodyguards. Moldor used his time in the spotlight broke out into a rant about the Abstruse, losing Alec completely. And so he took this opportunity to get up, pretend to fall, and as Javier reached out to help him, he used a kung fu move on Javier, flipping him through the air. He pulled a gun, cautioning all to stay back “or you'll all be meeting Abraxas way ahead 'a' schedule!!"

He laughed, backing his way out, as Moldor's guards approached. Alec swiftly shot them both, each in the head (Tony Duarte made sure Alec was a top flight marksman through years handling guns before the fateful mission to Libania). Alec hurled himself down a flight of stairs, knocked out a window, and made it to his car. Only Javier seemed to be following him. There was something about Javier, an energy of some kind, that rattled Alec a bit when he flipped the spokesman for Cosmic Emptiness.

The incident made the sometimes irreverent paper The Flicker Street Dispatch, but not the straight-laced major Hallmark rag The Occidental. As for Cowan, he returned to Libania. He continued his regimen having passed the first two mandates. He was glad to see Reva, who was like a sister to him, still serving the Marchessa. He was not glad to see FOPA thugs ogling the 14 year old when she went to market. The Marchessa said it would be roughly three years before Alec, as the Cowan, was ready to present himself to his peers. 

In mid 1976, Alec returned to Hallmark. He took a room in the poorest section of town and kept a low profile. Occasionally, reporters would pester him for info on his father and family and their criminal activities. Alec deflected skillfully albeit with little patience. Eventually, his minor celebrity eroded, and he was left alone. He landed a job with Zenith Cab and worked as many hours as he could stand. 

He had a brief alcohol-soaked rendezvous with a fellow cabbie, an older Frenchwoman named Renee Pointier that left Renee heartbroken and cynical. She left town, and, we have seen with the uber-fertile "Flicker Street Family", predictably she was pregnant. Alec had mistreated her and felt badly, but crime was rampant in the parts of town he most frequented and it obsessed him, as his own family was much to blame, in those days especially Julius Duarte and his lover/master Milo Majestyk, who strove to unite organized crime in Hallmark. What happened to that fuckin' Aggregate? Alec thought, not knowing the government had fractured the group. He decided it was time for the third mandate to play out...

VI. 1977

It was a routine meeting for the Aggregate. They recently lost some members (and some friends on another team); some to death, some to coma, some to defection to Orphee deLander's camp. Only seven remained: Shadow Baron, Thomas Ledge, Euphrates Straw, Cedric Lykos, Cotton Suede, Konchuman, and Go Demon, who was himself debating returning to Japan. Suddenly, alarms went off, and the group mobilized. But it was all for naught. “It's just me, man. I ain't a threat to you. I'm Cowan, and I could just be the best thing that ever happened to this not-so-sensational seven”.

To Be Continued...........

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
October 1, 2015

Copyright 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Dedicated to Philip Jose Farmer, my favorite author. RIP.
Special thanx to Jason V Brock. He knows why.

Flicker Street, all characters, images, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Monday, September 28, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 11 - Liberation

This chapter covers most of the 1970s, as the Aggregate splinters into various factions. Enjoy!
FLICKER STREET Treatment # 11 – Liberation

I. The Aggregate Revisited

In a way, the years 1970-1975 constituted a second golden age of sorts for modern heroism, with an international, interracial team who took part in a vast array of fantastic adventures (some to be detailed in future accounts), battling the machinations of SkullCorp, especially those of the “Black Tamerlane” Kith M'Nali (who Thomas Ledge tastelessly called “Black Manchu”) and Phileas Caleb. Urias and Carnifex became partners in the late 70s and especially had problems with Ben Renova. The wicked arch-mage Biazel Karollus and his group the Abstruse, or the Order of the Thaumaturge, encountered the Bradcrofts via the sorcerer Antioch Moldor.

As the curtain fell on 1972, the following individuals' activities fell under the rubric of the Aggregate: Shadow Baron, Nocturno, Snow Archer, Dr. E, Ursulin, Emerson Trent, Euphrates Straw, Thomas Ledge, Cedric Lykos, Hiawatha Hand, Gulliver, The Wrath, and the Blue Dahlia. At the end of the year, revolutionary Arliss Gordon Cope (aka Graven Idyll) came to the group for help in rescuing several of his militant group, including one Cotton Suede (b. Pauline Cutler). The group made it out, except for Emerson Trent, who they were informed had been kidnapped. Shadow Baron offered Graven Idyll a spot on the team, and he acquiesced. Cotton was not invited to join but invited herself along on their adventures several times.

1973 was a year of upheaval and many battles fought; a number of them lost. Trent's captors traded him with Phileas Caleb. Trent finally confronted Caleb mano a mano; In the midst of fisticuffs, which Caleb was losing, Caleb shot up Trent with a massive dose of what Donal Rykards laughingly called “Skull Wine”, a TSD-derived, lethal concoction. It mutated cells as TSD did, but at an uncontrollable rate. Trent did not explode like Dr. E; he merely imploded, and crumbled away. The loss in terms of genius and brotherhood to the Aggregate was inestimable. Euphrates Straw swore his family would personally destroy Caleb. Trent left behind a 14 year old son in Jamaica, Roman Torrance “Oblidiah” Trent, who was determined to learn the truth about why his father left Kingston. Oblidiah was already making music, and would soon record as, and permanently assume the persona of, Ras Free Man.

Carnifex returned after three years to menace the Aggregate, leading a unit against the Aggregate: The Damnation Brigade, which included Pallor (an undead creature, born Lasse Pallor, 1920, d. 1943; resurrected 1943), L'Argent (Claude Mercer, 4x great-grandson of Ewen Cromwell and of Tephiris; an unerring thief and pickpocket; the richest solo criminal in France; and possessed of uncanny resilience and reflexes), Tormenter (Solomon Vossius; covered elsewhere), Vigil and Parrish (“Elijah Pike” and Price Parminter, two religious fanatics with mysterious pasts who received TSD enhancement while in prison; incredibly powerful), and Zhey (master martial artist Zhey Liao; half-brother of Archimedes Ko and descendant of Shun Ti). The brainchild of Antioch Moldor, a powerful sorcerer and disciple of Biazel, the Damnation Brigade plagued the Bradcrofts' “superteam” on and off for four years, and slew Gulliver in their very first attack on the Aggregate.

II. New Blood

In 1974, Dr. E's containment suit began to unravel in the midst of fighting Parrish and he exploded; Parrish was destroyed; Blue Dahlia was believed to be dead as a result. Lykos was badly injured but healed. REACT declared Dr E too dangerous and now under their purview; he was taken away. Paige learned the truth she had long suspected – that E was Evan Eloy Queeq, her ex-lover and Kyle Fabricand's father. Kyle sat on the board at Skull at this point. Paige tried to see Queeq to no avail, angering the Bradcrofts. Cary confronted Kyle, and they soon fought, a quite uneven match, with Cary's parting words stating he'd spare Kyle's life “only because you are Paige's son”. In January 1975, Nocturno went to the man who masterminded the wife and child-swapping Paige endured – Artemus Thorne. Their confrontation escalated, until Nocturno wiped out Thorne utterly.

Cary told Ashton that Nocturno's powers, and those of Dr. E, were out of control, and that the Aggregate needed to keep a lower profile in order to persevere. REACT and the government were seemingly aware of everything they did, despite the Bradcroft's mystic safeguards. With this, Nocturno left - left Cary, the group, America... everything, and was gone until 1982. He was working on a project – a magickal working that was to be his crowning achievement, and thus left the Aggregate to Cary to lead (with the aid of his field commanders, Brandon ver Dorn and Euphrates Straw).

Cary immediately began securing new allies. In early 1975, The multi-powered martial-arts motorcyclist Konchuman (Ishiro Nakamura) and his 19 year old cousin, known as Go Demon, joined. Go Demon (Jiro Nashida, b. 1955) was the child of the brilliant professor Kenji Nashida, who began working with SkullCorp in the 1950s. His daughter Kai Nashida caught the eye of Kong and they had a child, known as Lumena, who plagued the Aggregate in the late 70s. Konchuman's father was Shiro Nakamura, half-brother of Kenji Nashida. The brothers were the grandsons of the legendary gunfighter Mercy and his passionate lover, the “Lady Ronin”, Meiko Nakamura. Kenji had been a colleague of Trent's and offered his son and nephew (both of whom had been participants in TSD trials) to work for the Aggregate, much to Skull's, Caleb's, and Rykards' chagrin. Cary swore he would safeguard the cousins.

Shadow Baron approached Deacon Thrush (born Bishop Mercer, a cocaine dealer and martial artist who was yet another descendant of Carnifex), who came up under Graven Idyll's wing, to round out the team. Thrush had just scored big, and then moved to Europe for a time, leaving behind Cotton Suede, not knowing that she was pregnant with their son. Cotton swore if Bradcroft could wait for her to give birth, and for her to find family to help raise the child, she would fight for the Aggregate for as long as they needed her – or unto death. Shadow Baron gladly agreed to these terms.

III. Lords of Liberty

In 1975, President Ford and REACT unveiled Freedom Ops. Ford was famously quoted as saying, “Our long national nightmare is over.... Now we are wide awake – and the American dream has a bright new lease on life”. It was announced that REACT and other agencies would be “employing a highly trained team of exceptional individuals to curtail threats foreign and domestic that regular intelligence agencies can't touch.” REACT “drafts” almost half of the Aggregate: Snow Archer (whom they rechristen the White Archer, to Brandon's chagrin), Dr. E (somewhat recovered), Wurm, The Wrath, and Ursulin (who they wish to keep the closest tabs on). Thomas Ledge, surprisingly, was not selected but was told that his REACT insider status in the Aggregate was invaluable.

The US rounded out their “sensational seven” (President Ford's epithet) with Jim April, the Flare (a token black member), and millionaire Roger Greer, otherwise known as Liberty Lord. They were trained intensively on working together and nicknamed the “Freedom Squad”, though only the wealthy, super-powered but daft conservative Greer took a shine to the name.

Roger Anthony Greer was a very wealthy man whose positions had been handed to him with little sweat. He was what we would call a “legacy hero”, i.e. someone carrying on the name and persona and symbology of a deceased or retired hero before them. The original Liberty Lord was actually a failed, deeply flawed hero who nonetheless tried to do the right thing. He was Clarke Ledge (son of Kong [though he knew it not] and brother of Thomas Ledge, who was aghast that he wasn't chosen for Freedom Ops), a closeted homosexual teacher who was born in 1934 in Lincoln, Nebraska – not the place nor era to be outwardly gay. Clarke Ledge suffered at the hands of his father, brother, and peers, and remained very closeted as a gay man for many years. In the early 1960s, inspired by the Silent Seven's exploits, he moved to Hallmark, complete with teen sidekick “Pronto” (Luis Esteban, the son of Clarke's gardener and a boy thrown out of his house when his homosexuality was discovered), whom he had trained rigorously. Clarke had served in the Korean War with his brother Thomas, though he detested institutionalized slaughter. Clarke boasted superhuman strength and agility, as did Thomas. Kong's genes were strong in Clarke as well.

The two fought crime, rather sloppily, in the early 1960s in Hallmark as Lord Liberty (as opposed to Lady Liberty, obviously) and Pronto. Pronto was often injured in battle, and Clarke tended to him as best he could. Their family doctor was suspicious of the two young men living together, even with Luis ostensibly Ledge's live-in stable boy and gardener. Clarke decided to move to nearby, quieter Gossingham and buy a generous spread. Alas, he counted not on the plethora of rednecks in Gossingham. Clarke decided he should be married and have a child. Pronto was extremely jealous.

In 1964, LL and Pronto were approached by Cary Bradcroft about being charter members of the Aggregate. Bradcroft divined their situation and told them they would be under protection for their homosexual relationship. Clarke blew up and he and Pronto denied being gay, and informed Bradcroft that they would handle crime as a duo, as they'd always done. Bradcroft admonished them that their days could be numbered...

And indeed, in 1965, Pronto was killed in a vicious scrap with four raging homophobes while Clarke was at work one day. Luis Esteban was barely 19. Clarke hunted down the scum that had slain his lover and with his immense strength killed all four. He left Gossingham when suspicion began to turn in his direction. He moved back to Hallmark and wed Sadie Palmer, a well-off wallflower of a girl (and the first cousin of Brandon ver Dorn). He again turned down Cary's offer to team up. Instead, he debuted as Liberty Lord with a brand new costume, and brutally dispatched criminals at night, usually beating them just short of killing them. He and Sadie raised a foster child for a few years, Damon Carroll (from 1965-1969), and Clarke encouraged him to be a chiropractor, which Damon ultimately did. Damon never learned that Clarke was gay, though Sadie found out in the early 70s and began seeing a psychotherapist.

But what fascinated Clarke Ledge the most was the company he'd gotten a job with – SkullCorp, where he worked in entertainment advertising. As the years went by, and his marriage began to dissolve, he became obsessed with tracing every aspect of Skull's operations. In 1974, he accidentally unlocked a computer code to a computer far more advanced than what he was accustomed to. This machine, extrapolated from Omegan technology years earlier, laid out the inner circle of Skull. The program was filled with disinformation in case someone cracked it, as had happened once before (to be covered in future chapters), but the basic structure was accurate, enough for Liberty Lord to take the info to Shadow Baron.

And then he was shot point blank in the back of the head and left for dead. Fortunately, he had been followed by Roger Greer, also highly distrustful of Skull, though still trafficking with them. Greer found the dying Ledge, who murmured some indecipherable verbiage, as well as, “Now you can be Liberty Lord. They know about me...Don't let them...”

Much transpired over the next year. Roger Greer was of genetic prime stock; he was a 3x great-grandson of Carnifex through the Paiges. He wasn't as strong as Clarke, but he trained himself mercilessly for months. Still ostensibly on good terms with Skull, he asked if he could volunteer for TSD. TSD experimentation was at an all-time low, Skull having gathered as much info for now that they felt germane. So Roger bought his way in. His procedure was very safe and streamlined; not like the days of Queeq and deLander.

He emerged, physically a man of Olympian proportions. He was also smarter, though his septic political leanings mitigated much of his intellect. He decided the only way to stop Skull was through REACT. He never thought twice about approaching the Aggregate. Greer left his wife Angela and young daughter Kelsey (b. 1972), setting them up for life financially, and offered his services to REACT. He scored the highest on the team training tests (Ursulin held back; he had no desire to lead) and was nominated the first chairman of Freedom Ops. A few more months of training together and 1976 – the nation's bicentennial – would herald the first mission of what Roger Greer called “Liberty Lord and the Freedom Squad”. And, to clarify, at this point, Greer's companies still worked with SkullCorp. Conflicting interests indeed...

IV. Shifting Paradigms

Around the time Cotton Suede took her place with the Aggregate, another female member signed up. This was Silent Indigo, Nocturno's “alchemical child”. Cary knew Ashton did not want his daughter in the team, but she was in a torrid, intermittent affair with Orphee deLander, the Absurd Tentacle, who persuaded her to be his “inside woman” in the Aggregate. Cary hoped that eventually he could make a firm alliance with the Tentacle.

Cary trained the mute Indigo in the mystic arts, honing and refining her talents over the following months. Then, the team was confronted by Brother Zodiac, who now seemed more a nemesis than an ally. It was learned that Zodiac was raised in New Orleans as Trevor November. It was unknown what his place and date of birth were.

Graven Idyll and Cotton Suede were making headway in their war on the mob, often clashing with the urbane Milo Majestyk, the head of the mob in Hallmark. Majestyk succeeded as "godfather" the sadistic Tony Duarte, who had twin sons: Julius and Alec. Julius Duarte was content to live a decadent life, merely waiting for Milo to be executed by the law or by his rivals. Alec ran away as a teenager, having had enough of his gangster father and prostitute mother, Roxanne Cooper Duarte. Alec Duarte's story will be expanded upon in future chapters.

In 1976, while a few of the Aggregate were dealing with a kidnapping case of appalling proportions, an attempt was made on the life of Thomas Ledge. The would-be assassin was not found out. The “kidnappings” turned out to be a voluntary exodus of Flicker Street youths to a bizarre commune which engaged in “happenings” designed to purge oneself of accrued psychic trauma and to begin to heal psionic scar tissue. These performance art like rituals were filmed by the ringleader, Kranz Mueller, who turned out to be the seemingly late Dahlia Mueller's father. Kranz was raising his granddaughter Kappy McCleary in this highly charged environment. Konchuman was instrumental in rescuing Kappy, and Ledge helped reunite her with Dahlia's ex-husband Keefer McCleary. Kranz was held on charges, along with his daughter Eva Mueller (Dahlia's sister) and Eva's lovers Nels Vorchett and Elrod “Fenris” Sebastian. During the trial, another attempt on Thomas' life was carried out; again he survived, albeit badly wounded this time.

The mistake made was in thinking that the assailant was tied in with Kranz Mueller's Psycho-Situationist Theatre “cult”. In reality, the threat to Ledge was of a much more personal nature. Ledge was stalked and baited with notes upon his release from the hospital. One note was empty save for a photograph of a woman, Adora White, who Thomas had a teenage affair with. Adora was dead, the last he'd heard. But she left a widower, Desmond Daltrey, and a son, Jericho.Thomas flew to the Mid-West to confront Desmond. Desmond explained that his son had been killed in Vietnam and he couldn't help Ledge any further.

Jericho Daltrey was, in fact, a black ops agents for REACT since 'Nam and was indeed alive – after a fashion. A landmine had nearly killed him, but REACT rebuilt him with highly advanced cybernetic technology cribbed from SkullCorp, as well as Omegan regenerative tech that they now possessed. Jericho Daltrey learned while at REACT that he was the biological son of Thomas Ledge. Jericho himself was divorced and his son by Jamice Albrecht was named Desmond “Dez” Daltrey II (b. 1965).

The members of the Aggregate broke up Kranz Mueller's group and returned the minors involved to their homes. Cary found it ironic given how young the members of the Aggregate were when they began their respective careers. An explosion rigged to kill Ledge caught the Aggregate unaware. Hiawatha Hand was killed. Euphrates Straw and Cotton Suede were badly injured. Konchuman was partially dismembered, but his TSD Recombinant mutation has utilized some cybernetics and he was able, much like Jericho, to be reconstructed and healed. Go Demon pursued a man Lykos spied on an adjacent rooftop. Lykos climbed on the back of Jiro Nashida's motorcycle and the two were hot on the saboteur's heels when Silent Indigo appeared. She had homed in on his body energy and trailed it unfalteringly. She knocked the startled man off a rooftop and he suffered a nasty fall that would've killed a normal human.

But Jericho Daltrey was no longer a “normal human”. He feigned unconsciousness, and was taken away by a hospital, followed by REACT vehicles. The REACT agents on the street obfuscated everything that happened. When Thomas Ledge arrived, with credentials, the REACT men identified Jericho Daltrey as Ledge's stalker – and told Thomas that he was Daltrey's father. They also claimed Jericho was dead, and informed Ledge that the crimes against him and the others were solved, and that the case was closed. Ledge was forced to believe the story, as he still trusted REACT, but Shadow Baron and Silent Indigo knew that Jericho was alive, though they could only trace him so far. Daltrey was alive, but the hero Hiawatha Hand was deceased, and Cotton, Straw, and Ishiro were nearly so.

V. Kong's Last Claim?

No sooner had the Aggregate recovered from the Daltrey incident than Kong the Claimer issued to them a bold decree: he invited them to Castle Kong, his fortress in Germany, to hold a twisted New Years ceremony. There, he swore, the final battle between them would transpire. The year 1976 was waning, Jimmy Carter had won the presidency of the United States, and the so-called “Freedom Squad” was entrenched in foreign affairs. They spent much time ostensibly sabotaging the efforts of FOPA in Libania, while Skull was filling Libanian coffers with enough money to commit terrorist acts all across South America. Serafinia was finally conquered by FOPA, with the help of drug and arms money supplied by Skull's business end. Though to the average American, Skull was largely an entertainment conglomerate.

Freedom Ops planned to deal with two major threats in 1977 and were “too busy” to loan any help to the Aggregate against Kong. As for the Aggregate, they were now boasting their most eclectic lineup (even after Hand's death): Shadow Baron, Thomas Ledge, Euphrates Straw, Graven Idyll, Cotton Suede, Konchuman, Go Demon, Cedric Lykos, and Silent Indigo. Cary Bradcroft felt it was time to recruit for the scenario with Kong, but there was no time to adequately train new members.

Freedom Ops had acquired two new members: one was The Duellist, a “legacy” hero. The original Duellist had been, of course, a woman, Sidonie van Kant Vossius. This new Duellist was a man named Oregon Powell, who had toyed with names such as Cavalier and Rapier but decided to honor the celebrated pulp era heroine. Oregon Powell had a deep, dark secret in his past; he was raised by Duke Powell as his own son, but Oregon was actually the child of the inscrutable Clarissa Rushmore, who was another offspring of Biazel Karollus. Powell's true father was Lawrence Rubinstein, a Jewish scientist and authority on Omegan technology, who Clarissa seduced while he was in college. So the new Duellist had a sliver of the demonic in him, which we will explicate upon shortly.

The second new member was known as Solus. Solus had spent his life as a virtual human guinea pig. He was bred carefully; his parents selected with much deliberation. He was born in 1947, name unknown, parents classified. As a child, he began the TSD treatments (at the same time as the experiments conducted on Evan Eloy Queeq). Urias oversaw Caleb's and Rykards' experiments on him (Rykards was even inspired by the project to perform TSD on his own children). By 1977, he was the most powerful TSD “graduate”, with power beyond that of Dr. E or the Absurd Tentacle. Could he be controlled? was the burning question for REACT, now that they had acquired him from Skull. In return, REACT was to be hands off in Skull's global interests. REACT, of course, broke the deal.

Returning to the Aggregate.... Shadow Baron led his team on New Years 1977 to Castle Kong, totally unsure what to expect. As it turns out the surviving inner circle of Skull was waiting: Urias, Kyle Fabricand, Kith M'Nali, Phileas Caleb, and Donal Rykards. This was the first time the Aggregate had actually met Donal Rykards face to face. Bradcroft's team defeated all of them, except Urias, who they managed to keep at bay until Thomas Ledge could make his way to Kong.

In Kong's inner chamber, he was clad in elaborate armor and awaiting Ledge. Ledge smashed his armor and in a blood rage hurled him from the highest parapet of Castle Kong. His body washed ashore as the Aggregate made their way to the coastline. The Skull inner circle buried Kong and held an elaborate ritual as a kind of wake; the aggregate was not invited. They were assured, however, that Kong the Claimer was, indeed, in fact, at long last deceased. He was buried next to his half-brother Coyle. Thomas Ledge was still unaware that Kong was his father.

VI. The Plunder of Libania

Forced into a temporary “ceasefire” with SkullCorp, the frustrated, wounded, and frankly depressed team returned to America. Kong's death was bittersweet – a pyrrhic victory it felt like to the team. Then, once home, Silent Indigo announced her departure to go and live with Orphee at his Red Oasis (his chateau based on his that of his grandfather Richter). Graven Idyll also bowed out of the team, after giving it his all for five years. He was also swayed by deLander, as well as by his on and off affair with Fiora Charme. Cary Bradcroft began actively seeking out new blood for the team; he also decided that the team was too structured. He felt if members had more freedom they would be more likely to stay around longer. He decided that Bradcroft Manor was too limiting an HQ, and, sizewise, began thinking more along the lines of Freedom Central, where Freedom Ops hung their cowls – save that Cary never intended such a militaristic milieu.

And where was Freedom Ops while all this was going down? They were battling for their lives against the being called Deomond, the Exodesian uncle of Urias and physically the most powerful of all Exodesians. Dark alchemy had fortified him through his long life, and he was a veritable force of nature. Freedom Ops found him at the Ziggurat in Libania, where he declared himself king and defied the Libanian and Serafinian armies. What caused him to make such a move is simple: Urias requested it.

The Squad” had been investigating a rash of murders in Augensburg (just outside Hallmark County). They were apparently politically motivated in some twisted way, almost like the infamous Maddox Family slayings of 1969 in California. In the midst of this case, they were called to South America to stop Deomond.

The battle was swiftly joined. Deomond attacked Dr E, who detonated, killing a number of Libanians and Serafinians. 21 years old Corporal Diaz Montaldo of FOPA witnessed this, and, as we shall see, the carnage visited on his people by the battles between “heroes” and “villains” left a deep and abiding impression on Montaldo. For one of the Serafinians was his lover Concepcion. Deomond grievously injured Wrath, the Duellist, the White Archer, and Liberty Lord, who refused to back down despite missing an arm. Only Dr E and Solus could stand against Deomond, and, as noted, Dr E's bid backfired – quite literally.

Solus brought to bear all he had against Deomond, blasting him again and again with his solar radiation bursts and engaging him in hand to hand combat. Solus created a containment bubble around the two of them and he and Deomond fought a long, bloody fight. In the end, Solus released all of his energy on Deomond, incinerating him. The bubble barely lasted but just long enough for a quite literally burnt-out Solus to collapse.

REACT back-up was everywhere all at once, spiriting away the wounded and dying “Freedom Squad”. Dr. E was contained and recovered swiftly. The man called Solus expired, his inert body next to the ashes of Exodesia's greatest warrior.

Coming soon on these pages: The Aggregate: the Next Generation? Who lives and who dies in Freedom Ops? Who is the serial killer of Augensburg? Who was Solus really? All this and more will be answered in the upcoming treatment “Extrapolations”.

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
September 28, 2015

Copyright 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

To my blood brothers Sean Lee Levin, Michael T Jones, Scott Moseley, Mark Baranowski, Tim McLain, Bill White, and Gary Sondergaard.
To all my buddies in the Wold Newton community: it couldn't happen without you guys.

In loving memory:
Thomas S. Davis 1966-2004
Christopher A. Pack 1968-2013

Flicker Street: all characters, images, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 10 - Thaumaturgy

And so we come to a key chapter in our ongoing narrative....

Flicker Street Treatment 10 – Thaumaturgy

I. Dark Roots

Now we take a sharp turn to the left – the Left Hand Path, as it were. This attempt to document the tangled genealogies and fantastic exploits of those who practice magick in this world we are building will hopefully clarify rather than obfuscate. This can be done by tracing the lineage of our thaumaturgical tree, and describing the strange fruit it bears.

At the topmost branch (or deepest root depending on one's perspective) are the Presences, those beings worshiped by the Pisceans as dark gods. There are only a handful of these beings glimpsed in certain accounts. The most powerful of these are “brothers” Abraxas and Vaikuntha, offspring of the abstruse Presence whose name can only approximately be rendered as Xhuquaqua-Quoeln (the Tamerlane line in recent centuries supposedly adopted “Qua” as a family name in obeisance to this abstract being). This fearsome Presence gave birth through parthenogensis.

Vaikuntha has no known true offspring (though in an avatar form he impregnated a woman once, then jumped consciousness into the soulless infant body, was born, and swiftly aged the child's body back to a facsimile of the older Vaikuntha). Despite his general lack of emotional of sexual ties to other beings, the malevolent Being has spent more time on Earth than any other Presence, and is especially fond of Earth. When Vaikuntha is glad, Earth is his dominion. When the multi-limbed Presence – a diety among many men – is in sour disposition, the Earth quakes beneath his fury. He is sworn enemy of all humans and Exodesians alike. Vaikuntha draws his name from the Heavenly abode of Lord Vishnu in Hindu religion; his true appellation has been forgotten by his own design.

Abraxas is a fearsome and oblique Presence. He takes his name from an ancient Greek Gnostic prinicle or entity. Abraxas has a number of descendants through his three known offspring: the Presences Caprice, Thrall, and Demiurge. These issue of Abraxas and one of his mates, Shahava, number among the eldest living beings in the known realities. Who knows how many issue sprung from these three over the millenia? We shall examine a handful shortly.

We know from previous accounts that the earliest contact with long-lived alien, or extradimensional beings, on Earth took place c. 20,000 years ago, or 18,000 BCE. The Omegans and and Pisceans converged on Earth at that time at the place known as Terminal Pointe in English, on Mt. Mosaic on the North American continent. Thence, they began their alchemical mating experiments in Africa, which in several generations yielded the hybrid race the Exodesians. The Omegans, under the direction of pilot Ph'nath, also emerged on Earth nearly as long ago, at a Ziggurat in South America – in a territory whose “ownership” has been fought over by the indigenous peoples of Libania and Serafinia for centuries. Shortly after Ph'nath's arrival, a Piscean envoy appeared to keep the peace, as it were. And so the balance of Earth's fate was struck.

The Presences (except Vaikuntha as noted above) on occasion mated with humans and Exodesians (pardon if the information given hence is repetitive; it merely stands to set the bloodlines in a greater context). The earliest such mating occurred in relatively modern times, i.e. in the CE period as we measure time in the West. The eldest of Abraxas' terrible litter was the Demiurge, a frightful being invoked only sparingly in the Piscean clusters. Demiurge mated with an Exodesian princess consecrated to him, Ayazela of the house of the priest Tyrlus. and their offspring was a being called Tyrlus Drexus, another entity sworn to make those of Earth bend the knee or pay the ultimate price. Drexus is called on and worshiped as was his father by Exodesians and human magi alike.

The next two matings of the children of Abraxas the Abstruse (as he came to be called by modern occult scribes, who also dubbed Abaraxas' cult followers as simply 'The Abstruse' or 'the Order of the Thaumaturge'; alternately 'The Order of the Cosmic Awakening') occurred significantly later than the birthing of the fearsome Tyrlus Drexus. Abraxas' daughter, known as Caprice, was what some men might dub a succubus, though she was far from that. She seduced and was bonded to a man born of a human father, Izaiah Karollus (a Jewish kabbalist, b.c. 1314) and an Exodesian maiden Tarish (b.c. 999) This man, Lucius Karollus, b. 1353) impregnated Caprice, and their only offspring was called Biazel Karollus (born 1387), a prime mover in magickal events on Earth – some might say the prime mover .

It's difficult to determine how many offspring Biazell may have fathered in his seven centuries on Earth, but three, all by different mothers, figure definitively in our larger narrative. Biazel had settled in Hallmark in 1898, bent on accessing its mystic ley lines and Mt. Mosaic (he had tried in the past but been defeated). He appeared to be an elderly Victorian dress-clad dandy. He founded the cults and covens collectively known as 'The Abstruse' and churned out many scholarly and some rather light-hearted tomes on ritual magick and thaumaturgy. He kept his background prior to Hallmark shrouded in rumor and legend.

In 1899, he wed the headstrong intellectual Alanna ver Dorn (b. 1869; the “old maid” daughter of Hallmark co-founder Ambrosius ver Dorn, himself half-Exodesian), who gave birth to Biazel's wickedly beloved daughter, Velupsa Karollus, in April of 1900. The child, however, was declared still born and Alanna sued successfully for divorce from the unflappable Biazel. Biazel simply raised his child in secret, with a succession of surrogate mothers, molding her into a thaumaturgical weapon.

II. The Fabricands and the Avrils

The perennially youthful and seductive Velupsa Karollus had only a handful of known partners, but that was enough to secure the mystical dynasties of the Avrils and the Fabricands. In 1928 Velupsa wed Smith Fabricand (1906-1956) offspring of Hercule Fabricand, b. 1881; and Artemisia Smith). In 1930 Smith and Velupsa begat their elder son John Paul Fabricand, who married Paige Bradcroft (another descendant of Cormac Llewyn Paige and his son Miles, co-founders of Hallmark). They had no issue of their own but raised Kyle , Paige's son by Evan Eloy Queeq, as theirs (much to the boy's ultimate detriment).

In 1936, Velupsa and Smith had Anatole Fabricand, a man much less mystically inclined towards the mystic arts. Anatole actually became a psychoanalyst and spent years as an analyst to the so-called “mystery men”. He encouraged his daughter, Tabitha, b. 1967, to follow suit in the field of mental health. Tabitha's mother, Edwidge Avril, also hailed from a mystical background, her parents being the mage Keegan Avril (1900-1956), descendant of Exodesians. Tabitha did indeed become a clinical psychologist, against the urging of her stepfather Rudolph Dawes (Edwidge divorced Anatole shortly after the birth of their second child and married Dawes, with whom she had a tempestuous relationship). Tabitha's sister Urania, born in 1974, the gifted offspring of an Avril and a Fabricand, is among the most precocious and awe-inspiring of young magickal talents. Velupsa's blood certainly courses in her veins. As it does strongly in her uncle, the man born Damon Karollus in 1956, but most commonly known as Dr. Damon Carroll, or, in certain circles, as “The Serpent's Tooth”.

The divorced Velupsa welcomed a man she was deeply attracted to, the Skull executive Bromley Chamberlain, into her coven of the Abstruse and into her bed in 1956. At this point only a handful knew Chamberlain's true ID as Kong, notably the Exodesian arch-priest Urias. By 1956, Velupsa had driven Kong near madness with her lust, her demands, her overpowering persona – but she gave birth to Damon, his son. Only Urias knew the truth for decades; Kong did not, nor did his son. Damon Carroll ended up in a foster home and Velupsa took her own life (in 1958) on a twisted dare from Kong, who distanced himself as much as possible from Biazel and his cult for many years. Damon went on to play a key role in the history of the Aggregate, and finally learned the identity of his true father.

Regarding the Avrils, their line in America began with the French Raoul Avril (b. 1872) and his Scottish wife Martine Keegan, whose line could be traced back to much Pictish breeding with Exodesians. Their son Keegan (1900-1956) wed Astrid Janssen, Astrid was the daughter of Bjorn Janssen, child of Cormac Llewyn Paige (though only Ewen Cromwell knew this) and Cormac's other Indian lover Mary Cloud. Bjorn was passed off as Mary 's husband Stole's son. Astrid's mother was also mostly American Indian; her name was Hester Hand, and her relative, Hiawatha Hand, joined the Aggregate in 1971. And so Astrid Janssen was the great-granddaughter of Ewen Cromwell.

Keegan had a brother Quint Avril, b. 1910, who was a persistent foe and rival of Vance Orlison. Keegan himself, with Astrid, had Raoul Avril II, b. 1934; Egon Avril, b. 1938; Charmain Avril, b. 1942; and, lastly, Edwidge Avril, b. 1947. Raoul wed Wanda Jimenez, the half-Latino, half-African-American daughter of the Avrils' servant Betty Jimenez. They married very young, and their interracial union scandalized a number of Hallmark's blue bloods, but they remained together for many years. They had a son, James Avril, born 1952, who became an Air Force test pilot. James, however, distanced himself slightly from his parents and identified himself as “Jim April”. April became a trial subject for REACT-subsidized TSD experimentation in the 1970s. SkullCorp had struck a deal to share some of their technology with REACT, who added its benefits to America's ever-growing arms race. The TSD gave Jim April what he called “the Flare” (which he also took to calling himself), an ability to control flame. He was conscripted to duty for REACT in 1976, at the launch of their “Liberation Ops” program (also known as “Freedom Ops”, a name preferred by its nominal leader Roger Greer). This program was intended to birth a government-owned and sanctioned group along the general lines of the Aggregate. More information on Freedom Ops will be detailed in upcoming treatments.

Raoul and Wanda Avril tried unsuccessfully to have more children over the years, while Raoul's brother Egon married archaeologist Stephanie Ransom. They had two sons, Karl Raoul Avril, b. 1964, and Jesputh Ransom Avril, b. 1967. Stephanie was a partner in Randell Coventry's Coventry Expeditions, which merged with Bradcroft Ltd. In 1982. Keegan Avril's first daughter, buxom beauty Charmain Avril, was an exotic dancer, and was quite a superstar in the 1960s and 1970s. She remained single until 1982, when she retired and married Dr. Lawrence Rubinstien. Keegan's youngest daughter Edwidge's marriage and offspring have been discussed above.

Keegan Avril and Smith Fabricand met their demise together in 1956 at the hands of Nocturno. They had been plotting against Cary Bradcroft since his move to Hallmark early that year. They wished to garner the attention of the Exodesian ruling religious sect, the Obscuros (from which the Abstruse gains much of their knowledge, passed down from Piscean principles) by slaying the “one that got away”, Cary Bradcroft. They offered to sacrifice Cary to the Obscuros, actually. The Arch-Priest and Grand Necromancer, Urias (discussed elsewhere in this chronicle), was all in favor of the idea. When Avril and Fabricand tried to capture Cary, Nocturno appeared and simply destroyed them with a powerful working he had been preparing for the dangerous duo for some time. Cary was stunned at Nocturno's first use of his undead power to take human lives, and girded himself for a war with other mages that never came. For Nocturno's actions served as an unequivocal statement that the Shadow Baron was not to be trifled with. Thus a magickal cold war of sorts began that lasted for some years, until Exodesian priests craving power caught the attention of the brothers Bradcroft.

Before his demise, Smith had remarried, to Patricia Paige, daughter of Miles Paige II and Blanche Westin. Their daughter, Milicent Sherrad Fabricand, born 1954, grew up to be a very kind, maternal woman who ultimately helped the Aggregate immensely and tried more than once to settle down with two of its most prominent members.  

III. The Disraelis and the Van Jusses

The Bradcrofts have been much-discussed up until now, but their many notable offspring and extended families have yet to be covered. To understand the roots of these families, we must consider one Janos Disraeli. Disraeli's origins are uncertain. It is known that he is European, of an indeterminate age, and the father of two children by two different wives. What is certain is that for a time, he was possibly Earth's most fearsome sorcerer, with power to rival or exceed that of the Bradcrofts, Biazel Karollus, or any Exodesian. He surely carries the blood of Exodesia, Omega, or Pisces or is of some descent from one of the Presences.

Disraeli led the Order of Gammadion, an ancient secret society founded by a man said to be descended from the eldest known Exodesians. Gammadion was a priest who lived at least 10,000 years ago and was the maternal grandson of the druid Brithemain, who at one point guarded the Ziggurat in South America. Brithemain was the son of a human tribeswoman, Salvara, a Serafinian, and the ancient Exodesian explorer named Tephiris, who criss-crossed our planet in his Pod in antediluvian times and spread his seed far. He waged war, but yearned for peace, with the Exodesians. Gammadion's uncle, Mordechai, was a member of Gammadion's order, a warrior priest who may have been the longest lived man ever born on Earth. In 1498 CE, Mordechai had his last known dalliance with a mortal woman – a barmaid called Finn Cromwell. From this union sprang Ewen Cromwell.

Gammadion disappeared from his order well before the founding of Hallmark, some said to find a means to extend his already preternaturally long life. Some have whispered that Gammadion is willing the order to his heirs, for they believe Janos Disraeli is Gammadion's true son. It is unknown just when Janos Disraeli stepped in to lead the sect, though what is known is that Janos took the sect in a somewhat different direction. Gammadion's taste ran more towards Omegan alchemy; Disraeli preserved this, but injected some arcane rights from the Pisceans. Disraeli called his group at times the “true Exodesia”, and claimed to have a more balanced outlook than Exodesians, whom he saw as sycophants to Pisces and its dark Presences. Exodesia's obsession with infiltrating and eventually displacing humanity held no charm for Disraeli. The Obscuros and Biazel Karollus alike scoffed at Janos.

Disraeli's major accomplice in his occult activities was Griffin Van Juss (b. 1890), the son of Enoch Van Juss, one of the Dutch settlers who founded Hallmark. It is unknown if Enoch, like several of the settlers, carried Exodesian blood, though it seems likely. Griffin Van Juss had three children: twins Remuel and Katherine, b. 1923; and Rachael, b. 1927. The three siblings met Cary and Ashton Bradcroft in 1945, while in college at Oxford. The five of them formed a coven, along with Cary's lover, the half-Indian Jerusha Dharma, and, later, the duplicitous young Myrus T Fellbane.

Katherine and Ashton soon began an affair; unfortunately Rachael was also in love with Ashton. The coven studied through the late 1940s and into the 1950s. During their studies, Janos Disraeli himself taught them much, but they wrongly felt that the Order of Gammadion was an evil path. The Bradcrofts were good men, but filled, alas, with hubris. In 1954, Remuel and Katherine quit the coven to join their father in Disraeli's order, while Rachael remained with the Bradcrofts. Katherine discovered she was pregnant with Ashton's child. Disraeli knew the twin brothers were bound for Exodesia, and he did not wish to encroach on the hidden land. The Bradcroft twins did just that, but Rachael stayed behind. Jerusha and Fellbane both insisted on coming.

The details of the Bradcroft expedition can be found in treatment #1: Backstory. Suffice to say, only Cary penetrated Exodesia and survived to tell of it. Ashton was destroyed but resurrected as an undead homonculous in the Obscuros' birthing chamber. Cary lived, and gained extraordinary mystical knowledge at a staggering rate inside the chamber. He felt his brain would explode.

By 1955, Cary had regrouped in Europe, traveling and sorting through his newfoundc knowledge. In the meantime, Fellbane took Jerusha to London, where his cousin employed them. She had a son that year, a boy she named Vincent Cliven Dharma, or Clive. She gave Clive an amulet his father, Cary Bradcroft, had given her. Clive grew up hating his father and wondering why he abandoned Jerusha. Fellbane made sure this belief was fostered. Clive Dharma will be discussed extensively in future installments but for now we turn to his extended family.

While Cary made his way across Europe, his brother had found Rachael Van Juss and told her the shocking truth of his new existence. After she digested the horrid news, she agreed, out of a love she still felt for Ashton, to take part in a magickal working with him. Now known only as Nocturno, the man who was Ashton Bradcroft used alchemy - ancient, complex, possibly deadly - alchemy to infuse his essence into Rachael van Juss, thus entering into an alchemical wedding with her, and, even more startling, an alchemical pregnancy resulted.

Nocturno learned that Katherine had given birth to his child. She named the boy Ashton van Juss and was not shy about his parentage. Nocturno refused to come for her or the child, though, and Rachael lied to her family about the source of her own pregnancy. When her odd-looking daughter was born in late 1955, she named her Silent Indigo (for she was dark of skin and mute) and agreed to raise her. She kept Nocturno's secrets, and Griffin van Juss was outraged, demanding to know what sort of inhuman being fathered Silent Indigo. The van Jusses were living in Holland when Rachael returned to them, so, in 1959 Griffin summoned Cary Bradcroft to his Dutch manor, and he confronted the Shadow Baron. Remuel demanded his father slay Cary Bradcroft. Katherine, however, yearned for Cary as she had his brother, and they consummated their desire for each other. Cary fought Griffin, slaying him in the process. Remuel and Katherine attacked Cary, but he escaped and returned to Hallmark. He was distressed that he had to kill Griffin; he was even more distressed when he learned the darkest family secret: that Remuel and Katherine were engaged in an incestuous affair. Unsure of her baby's father, Katherine nonetheless kept it and it was a daughter she named Sarah Janos van Juss, b. 1960.

As for Janos Disraeli, he was attracted to a number of women in the 1960s, among them Katherine. The two wed in 1963, and he agreed to raise Justin and Sarah (he was already the girl's godfather). He put a permanent stop to Remuel's and Katherine's affair by basically frightening Remuel into leaving Holland. Remuel headed to America; his first stop was Hallmark, where he challenged Cary. Cary defeated him handily, and Remuel slunk away, ending up in New York City, where he opened a small occult bookshop.

In 1965, Katherine gave birth to Janos' first known child: Griffin Disraeli. But there was already a rift developing between Katherine and Janos. They divorced the following year. Janos sought out Remuel in New York and was amused by his bookshop. He was also a bit taken by a young woman who hung out at the shop: an aspiring poet/ chanteuse named Sophie Pavlinchak (b. 1947). Within a year Janos had charmed the young woman with promises to bankroll her creative endeavors. She impulsively wed the magician, and was soon expecting his child. In 1967, their daughter Tana Disraeli was born. Sophie began traveling with her band, and Janos allowed her this freedom and returned to Europe for a short time. In that time, Sophie lit on Hallmark for a show, and was immediately enamored of Flicker Street. She met a mysterious gentleman, an older man called Bram Vallard. As sharp readers might recall, Bram Vallard is the favored pseudonym of James Vallard Tressilian, the Apparition (also known as Lambert Christensen, Royal Hoxworth, and Saturnine). Vallard wooed the impetuous young musician, to no avail.

IV. Sophie

In 1969, Vallard, who was still infatuated with Sophie, invited the Disraelis to his retreat in China. They were hosted by Vallard's young son Archimedes Ko. Disraeli was no stranger in China. He had visited Feng Qi on one previous occasion and met with its mistress, Shun Ti. Vallard had trained in the Orient all through the 1920s and periodically returned to his resort there. Unfortunately for all, Biazel had plans for Sophie Pavlinchak as well. He decreed that she would serve as fodder for one of the Presences, who would destroy Disraeli and Vallard, two of the many figures Biazel saw as potential threats to him. He and Janos had a centuries-long rivalry, and Biazel foretold that this was to be the perfect time to end it once and for all.

Biazel summoned the Presence known only as Thrall, who destroyed Janos Disraeli and ravished his wife after drugging Vallard, who dreamt he was making love with Sophie. She was in a delirious state the entire time. She dreamt she was with Bram and was unaware of Thrall's violation. Thrall disappeared into its own plane. Ko managed to get his father, Sophie, and little Tana to safety and to medical attention. Sophie went to Europe and attended Disraeli's funeral. Vallard invited her to convalesce at his chateau, to which she agreed. She soon found she was pregnant; she skaed Vallard to give the child his name as he likely the father. Vallard honestly did not recall his time in a drugged state, except that it was possible he and Sophie made love. So he agreed to wed her at the chateau. She did not wish to be married again so soon, but Vallard insisted; he was old-fashioned that way. But he soon had to return to Hallmark and help with the final confrontation with Kanabal. He was away for weeks, and later that year (1970), Sophie had a son she named Devon Vallard. Devon was the first child born of a human and one of the Presences since Biazel's birth, and he swore he would one day claim the child for the Order of the Thaumaturge.

In 1973, Vallard went on what he deemed one last mission as the Apparition, with Shadow Baron and some of the Aggregate. Vallard's ultimate purpose was to assassinate Biazel. This mission will be detailed in future treatments; the word after the mission though was that the Apparition had not made it back alive. Archimedes Ko took over the Apparition's retreat, and was soon recruited to help train Ko's nephew, Liao Jun Kim (or June Kim Liao, b. 1967), who figures prominently in the future of Flicker Street.

Twice widowed, with two young children, Sophie Pavlinchak had returned to New York to advance her career. She suffered from deep depression and nightmares for years, and eventually slid into drug addiction. She had two notable affairs in the 1970s. In 1973, she slept with Remuel van Juss one night at his bookshop. She was soon pregnant again, though she wished no further contact with van Juss and regretted the entire sordid incident. She strongly considered an abortion, but ultimately decided to bear the child. She would raise it herself, she decided. The child was born in 1974. She named him Iain Pavlinchak; Iain after her own father, Ian Rhys McGregor. And thus we see another reason Biazel targeted Sophie; she was not merely a wayward and troubled young intellectual with dreams of fame as a rock star poet. She also had a genetic destiny, since her father was not only a great hero but also the bastard son of Exodesian Arch-Priest Urias. Her mother, Silvana Pavlinchak, had met McGregor during World War II and had a passionate affair, which resulted in Sophie.

Sophie had a mentor in New York, Matthias Creed, who was an underground filmmaker of some repute, having directed such provocative films as Awakening in Hell and was working throughout the 70s on his magnum opus Abraxas Rising. Matthias, though gay, had married a woman briefly in the 1940s and had a son, Emeril Creed. Emeril and his father had a strained relationship, but Emeril was essentially good-natured, not dark at all like Sophie's previous lovers. She had vowed never to be wed again, but relented to see if the “nice guy” was her cup of tea. She soon decided he was not, but by this time had given him a daughter, Kirillian Creed, born in November 1977.

Sophie did something bold and, some would say, cruel at this point. She sought out Bram Vallard with the help of her best friend from Flicker Street – Orphee de Lander, whom she also saw as a mentor of sorts. Orphee contacted Archimedes Ko, and soon realized Vallard was not truly dead. Ko contacted Sophie and agreed to take her to his father. Ko believed that Devon Vallard was not really his half-brother but declined to theorize exactly why he speculated this. Sophie flew to meet with Vallard. She took along her first three children but left Kirillian with Emeril.

Upon seeing Bram again and conferring with him, she agreed with him that there was much more to Devon's conception than they realized. Vallard, detective that he was, was convinced his own son Ko was in on Janos Disraeli's death and the drugging of Sophie and Vallard. Sophie implored Vallard to help her fake her own death; she was burnt out on her lifestyle, wished to get clean, and, rather callously, wished to detach herself from the Creed family for good. Vallard declined to help her, but Ko stepped in and acquiesced. It was only a matter of time before word reached Emeril Creed that his wife and mother of his infant daughter had died in a plane crash coming home to them.

Sophie's descent into darkness continued, and she eventually abandoned Devon, wishing no more reminders of the mysterious incident. As for Emeril Creed, he quickly remarried and Thelma Bruce, his new wife, adopted Kirillian Creed. The Creeds agreed to do what they could to expunge the child's memory of any trace of Sophie, though Matthias Creed, who loved his granddaughter dearly, was opposed to this. As fate would have it, Emeril took a job in Hallmark in 1980, and Thelma passed away of cancer in 1988. From then on, Kirillian took a liking to hiking to escape her blues, and told her father often that one day she'd scale Mt. Mosaic and learn its secrets. She had an instinctive intuition that Mt. Mosaic was of importance to all humanity. It would be some years, but she would come to learn how correct she was.

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
September 20, 2015

Copyright 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Special thanx to Scott “Vesbius Flestrin” Moseley, a true brother and Flicker Street enthusiast.
Extra special thanx to Win Scott Eckert, a mentor when I really needed one, for years of friendship, patience, and creative mythography. Win inspired me to write comix and stories in earnest again, and thanx is not enough for this gift.

Flicker Street, all images, characters, and story elements are Copyright 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.