Tuesday, June 23, 2015
FLICKER STREET Treatment # 4 - Apogee & Perigee
Continuing the convoluted FLICKER STREET backstory. Prepare for a savage pulp holocaust, as our beleagured heroes (and villains) face certain death in a South American jungle where life as we know it began for some .... and may end for all! The entrancing beauty pictured here doesn't appear in the story, alas... well, obliquely she does.... Enjoy!
FLICKER STREET Treatment # 4 – Apogee & Perigee
I. Gleaning the Ziggurat
With basically all of Vossius Metalwerks as collateral, and generous contributions from ORDER Enterprises, Renova Inc., and the Paige Foundation, the Silent Seven (plus their eighth “silent partner”, Captain Caliban, who also brought back Sword and Richter for this mission of missions) embarked on their massive expedition to Libania in 1939. This was no horse and buggy poor mans' army as was the case in 1818 and 1868. The Libanian government gave their full cooperation, though the Serafinians did not.
The Serafinians had a long cultural memory. They knew the cover story for the real founding of Hallmark: Dutch and South Africans (with Jerissen posing as one) led by the Cromwell Party supposedly struck riches at Mt. Mosaic . This they did, but it was not their true purpose. The Serafinians were a deeply spiritual people, primitive by Libanian standards. Some ghoulish pundits even speculated that Serafinians still practiced tribal cannibalism.
Thus the Serafinians disputed the ostensible purpose for the Ziggurat expedition: that it was simply an archaeological exploration and unearthing of riches and natural resources (And indeed Vance was, among many other things, an archaeologist, and Gerhardt a metallurgist and anthropologist). The Seven enlisted two guides: the Libanian who colorfully called himself “Felix Tequila” (born Jorge Maroto Jr), and a Serafinian, Mokae. Feliz was the grandson of the legendary couple Carmelita Rodriquez and her husband the master gunfighter Sorrow (grandson of Urias and great-grandson of Carnifex). Vance Orlison felt guilt at deceiving their guides and the Libanians that followed them, but he had to be sure who he could trust with the Piscean secrets. He dreaded that his father Jerissen or Urias would make an appearance at such a well-publicized expedition.
What the party did not know is that they were being stalked – predictably – by Carnifex, who, months early in anticipation, had set himself up as a godlike chieftain to a primitive tribe that neighbored the Serafinians. This tribe, the Yashaharo, did indeed practice cannibalism and other brutal rites. Carnifex was fascinated by artifacts he found with the Yashaharo. After mastering somewhat their language Cromwell discerned that the objects had belonged to another white man they adopted and who also became their leader - Kanabal.
Chastened by the loyalty of his tribe, and feeling he was closer to Kanabal's roots than Vance ever was, Carnifex planned an elaborate attack – to strafe and raze to the ground Serafinia and attack the Seven head on, alone. Perhaps he was a bit mad by this time. But Cromwell had no notion that he himself was the prey this time. The Yashaharo betrayed him, and their real leader revealed himself – a tall, impossibly muscled golden skinned man with long dreaded copper hair and emerald green eyes. As he sank beneath the weight of Yashaharo bodies, he cried, “Kanabal???”. The imposing figure, silhouetted in the flame of Cromwell's throne of human bones, merely shook his head and smiled. And then was gone. For a few moments at least. As he turned, Ewen recognized an Exodesian symbol on the cloak of the golden man. Carnifex passed out then, the first time in centuries.
When he awoke, Cromwell was in a narrow and deep pit. He could almost leap to the aperture above with his formidable strength but … not quite. The golden man, crouched at the pit's orifice, taunted Carnifex. He knew far too much about Ewen for Ewen's liking. Finally, Carnifex dug his bleeding hands into the stony walls and crawled out. He rolled over, prepared to battle, though his weapons had been confiscated. He knew he was a match for this Exodesian cur. But in one blinding swoop, the “cur” caught Cromwell in a half nelson, and snapped Cromwell's back so loudly the Yashaharo stilled their tribal drumming for a few seconds, then resumed their war dirge.
Ewen's body was hurled away like useless flotsam; he landed atop a huge felled tree and lay paralyzed,spitting up mass amounts of blood and gore. “You've never felt what your victims feel... I hope you're taking all this in,” smirked Ewen's conqueror. “Shall I call over some of the tribe to gang sodomize you so you'll feel an inkling of the anguish you've plied on the victims of your lust over the centuries??” He laughed. “Even I haven't the stomach for that I'm afraid but you do – if I let you keep your stomach...”
“You're as much monster as I – a cannibal that devours their victims while they yet live... I know all about you Kanabal..”
“You think me Kanabal? You are amusing... cur. Kanabal is a rogue, a transgressor... he has no more place among the Yashaharo than among Exodesians.”
“So you are an – Exodesian?” Ewen could scarcely breath and his throat was filled with coagulating plasma.
“Of course – Deomond, the most powerful but who remains wisely in shadow save when needed. My brother is High Priest of the Obscuros – Alataris; my father Priest Lord Praven of Exodesia.”
“So Jer- Jer-”
“No need to struggle with the math as you heal, poor human. Jerissen and Urias are my nephews, yes, hence the two leaders of this expedition are my great-nephews. You might even have encountered Urias' long-lived grandson Alexei Corvo – had you made it that far.”
Without ceremony, Deomond hefted Ewen's massive frame off the tree and to the ground, then stated, “I know you Carnifex. Once I was - almost – like you. But I know you are no Exodesian. Your father was half-Exodesian; you are mostly human. But extremely long lived and with amazing regenerative abilities – even beyond some Exodesians. That is your gift. This - “, he tore Ewen's right hand from the socket and discarded it. “ - mine. My strength cannot be equaled, not that I don't crave the challenge. Perhaps the Yashaharo will enjoy a snack. What next? An eye? Your endlessly bragging tongue?”
Deomond stood to his full eight feet. “Now go, I weary of you. You're a hard conquest but not hard enough”.
Ewen spat blood at Deomond, and curses as well. “I'll – I'll -”
“I know. A familiar mantra. I think you're in shock. Now – GO”.
“I can't – walk, you... steaming pile of excrement”.
“Then …. and let me say this no more – lest that sodomy threat becomes all too real – then CRAWL!!”
And for the first time in centuries, Ewen Cromwell crawled, his body slowly, agonizingly knitting itself back together. He crawled through the woods of Serafina, making sure to avoid the sounds of the people of the village. He feared the cannibals he'd lorded it over devouring him in his current state.
II. Pulp Apocalypse
Over the next weeks the Seven (or ten) toiled to finish their expedition. Deep in the caverns, at last, they found him – the legendary Piscean pilot PH'NATH. He was buried, as if a king, with animals sacred to the Serafinians and the Yashaharo. The furthest the 1868 expedition got was a chamber above the antechamber adjoining PH'NATH's burial palace. When Orlison and Vossius smashed into the antechamber, Felix Tequila hugged tightly Mokae. These two supposed enemies began crying and, in Felix's case, swigging back his namesake beverage. “What's going on here?' Richter demanded. Mokae answered, “I'm not Mokae, fellas. Matter of fact, I'm family. Your cousin as a matter of fact. And this mystery's been rattlin' me for some 60 years.” The middle aged man pulled off his long grey wig and hat and scarf. “Name's Sorrow... when it needs to be”.
After all the fantastic adventures of the twenties and thirties, in a world on the brink of war, seemingly all of the Silent Seven (number be damned) felt a sense of wonder, of true discovery. They were the fruit of another race, but now they confronted those who planted the seeds. Even in death, this tableaux held immense awe for these very special individuals.
Suddenly, from above, gunshots were heard. The group scrambled to the top. Crimson Velvet and Felix, the lookouts, claimed a huge man was shambling towards them, crushing Libanian soldiers and resisting bullets due to a heavy armor. “Cromwell!” cried Sword. The group swiftly made their way topside, which was exhausting but just as well as Cromwell was barely standing when they set eyes on him. Delusional, he screamed, “You want to eat me... sodomize me.... what? Here's my other hand... oh, it's full at the moment.” He was holding Felix Tequila by the throat. He'd also managed to strap on a gun belt and two daggers prior to the Libanians firing on him.
Sorrow spoke loudly over the chaos, “Let's do this right, great-grandpa... me an' you, a duel at dawn... near PH'NATH's grave... Ain't it perfect?”
“You... idiot”, mumbled Ewen Cromwell as he crushed Felix Tequila's windpipe. The once always animated Libanian fell to the ground, another pile of rubbish beneath Carnifex's bloodstained boots. Ewen yammered, as shock rippled through the Seven, “Look at this.... a stub!! How can I be a proper-like gunfighter with this??”
Sorrow answered, “One on one, Cromwell...me and you. Now.”
Ian Rhys McGregor shouted, “I can take him now; don't do this Corvo!”
"Grandfather!" implored Richter.
“Sorrow”, said Alexei as he easily outdrew and pumped six bullets into the already gore-soaked Carnifex. They were exploding bullets as well, so Cromwell was bit twice by the same vermin as Sorrow was fond of saying.
Before anyone could react, the one-handed Carnifex drew and shot Sorrow in the heart three times. As his blood painted the air, he gasped, “98 years... not.. tooo.. bad a … ru...”
By this time McGregor was on Cromwell with his blades, further carving the already ravaged man whose blood he wished he'd not share. But he'd spill as much as he could this day. Cromwell punched Sword once in the gut and Ian flew into a nearby jeep. Crimson Velvet caught his legs with her whip while Richter emptied several rounds into him. Cromwell toppled and didn't move. Gerhardt oddly held back but Vance grabbed Cromwell by the face and punched him so hard his own hand broke. But Cromwell fell.
“Anyone for torture”, joked a misty-eyed Gadgeteer V as Sidonie screamed, “Get Up... get up!!!!” To all's amazement, Ewen stirred. Andreas stabbed him in the side with a very long needle that emitted a very deadly electrical display. Everything was foggy for Ewen Cromwell then. His body was struggling to heal . He began to stagger towards the jeep where Ian was out cold. “NOOOO!!” Screamed Sidonie, and she never screamed in vain or for cheap histrionics. She leaped in the way of Ewen and his sword-swinging descendant and recalled for a brief second when Ian first called her the Duellist and gave her the cutlas carved from a meteorite.
Off came Cromwell's “good” arm. He dove face down to the mud, his blood pooling around him. Felicia was deeply shaken, as were they all to varying degrees. “What do we do now?”
Vance answered, “we bury our dead, we make arrangements to take the burial chamber back, and we wow the world... at what cost though. Lord...”
“We leave him here. The Serafinians are coming. The Yashaharo have been roused. Maybe they'll eat him... what's left anyway.”
A clean cut lad of perhaps 25 whose only evidence he'd made his way to the Libanian holy village was a drop or two of mud on his pristine slacks appeared. “We've got it chief. This was a REACT sanctioned operation – not the private expedition you blue bloods thought. You can bury your friends; they're natives, but the Ziggurat and everything inside – and what's left of this man here – are ours. Any resistance will be seen as an act of treason against Allied forces – and we are on the cusp of war from the swords – pardon – I hear rattling”.
It took all Doc had to not splatter this dandy's face across the tundra. He had to contain the throbbing in his temples. Almost as an aside, Gerhardt caught the man's eye. “Mr. Vossius – you do great work for our troops. Keep grindin' 'em out. By the way, I love that little necklace you have on. Familiar somehow.”
“Hmm. Don't see how. It's older than your grandfather I'm sure”. And that was about as animated as the “new reformed Captain Caliban” behaved from the time Cromwell appeared, much to Vance's chagrin. Perhaps his brother hadn't changed...
The chaos resolved itself, the REACT team took it all and two heroic men – Felix Tequila, and his grandfather, the seemingly immortal Sorrow, were given funerals worthy of the greatest Libanian heroes. And so, the Seven had been stalked after all, not by Jerissen or Urias, but by Carnifex and (fortunately) Deomond, and, with incredible stealth, by a nascent US government organization that we will revisit many a time in this narrative – REACT.
REACT (originally “Reaction Enforcement Alliance for Counter-Threats”; as of 1968 “REactionary Agency for Counter-Terrorism”) was created, originally, as a high alert intelligence gathering/ information clearing house in anticipation of the Allied forces' entry into WWII. The events in Libania completely altered the scope of the organization. While an organization such as OSS was a wartime intelligence apparatus that morphed after World War II into the CIA, REACT's goals crystallized rather quickly. Intelligence on the alleged presence of non-human races and tech on Earth had been gathered for several years, however crudely. But the very publicly reported Libanian expedition forced facts into the light that begged corroboration. And the most perplexing item was that FDR himself ordered the Seven to retire their vigilantism and concentrate on the domestic war effort, or, were they so inclined, to enlist in the armed forces. As any such organization with a shred of integrity and who espoused the freedoms the war was ostensibly being fought for, they nearly all retired their masked personae.
Sword and Richter returned to their native countries. Isaak Vossius formally adopted Sidonie, and she and her half-brother Andreas bonded. She knew the torment he was going through being a closeted gay man in the macho US political clime. Gerhardt saw the losses he suffered as a result of the expedition easily reverse themselves. War is big business, and someone's blood is always pumping those iron cannon shells that Vossius made its millions off of in the first war. Felicia McGee retired; she ended up as an “exotic dancer”. Anton Gamble became a controversial author and his brother Eryk Stenbrau enlisted in the military, where he endured much anti-German sentiment.
Only “Doc Vance” and the man born James Vallard Tressilian remained engaged in the war effort but on their own terms. REACT “deputized” Vance Orlison, and he fought saboteurs and axis madmen all through the war. The mysterious Tressilian embarked on black ops missions for the Allies, though occasionally would find himself working the other team, as it were. Much more mercurial than his brother, who was a tremendous aid to the French resistance, the Apparition was his own man, first and foremost, and took orders from no one. Only occasionally did the Saturnine emerge and dispense his sense of justice, though usually in urban settings and not so much in America. Bram Vallard, as he most preferred to be called, may've been insane, so he jested, but he was no fool...
To close on REACT for now, it will become apparent that REACT and its most denounced foes after the war were inextricably linked; ostensibly enemies but deeply in bed together. This echoes the OSS' use of Nazi fugitives to help build the CIA, or Werner von Braun being the head honcho of American rocket technology. But not all heroes subscribed to this “necessary evil”, and fought to cease the pandemic of duelling ideologies being really just a Janus coin...
Welcome to Flicker Street!
June 23, 2015
Flicker Street, all images, characters, and story elements are Copyright 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.