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 (known years later as Rory Sabbath). 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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

FLICKER STREET - Treatment # 9 - Aggregate

This was a tough one to finish. So much information to impart... but it's done at last. Enjoy! 

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 9 – Aggregate

I. The Bradcroft Legacy

Bear with us as we go back over facts presented in treatment # 1 – Backstory. In 1956 Cary Bradcroft arrived in Hallmark MA (apparently alone). His uncle Malcolm had lived in Hallmark for several years and owned and managed a curio shoppe there. Malcolm willed the shoppe to Cary, whose twin brother Ashton had reportedly been killed during an expedition to Africa.

When Cary took the title of baronet, his presumed dead brother dubbed him the Shadow Baron. As ever-fickle fate would have it, Ashton was indeed dead as we perceive the state. But he was in fact undead, and karmically attached to his brother. One could say he was now his brother's magickal familiar (that is, a mediator between the magician and the spirit world, and an aide in performing magickal workings) although Ashton, now calling himself simply Nocturno, was potentially more powerful than Cary.

The brothers decided to keep a low profile in Hallmark for several years, but the festering evil in the city and in the world around them spurred Cary to gather various extraordinary individuals who had been operating as vigilantes over the years, mainly the “pulp era” heroes loosely allied under the moniker The Silent Seven. With malefic forces such as Carnifex, Kanabal, and criminal organizations such as SkullCorp (ostensibly a reputable conglomerate but the Bradcrofts knew better) numbered among the threats to humanity's safety and freedom, the Shadow Baron resolved to organize a group, called simply the Aggregate, to deal with these menaces.

The final straw, as it were, was the murder of the heroic half-Exodesian polymath Vance Ewen “Doc Vance” Orlison at the hands of Carnifex and Kanabal, abetted by Kanabal's bloodthirsty offspring Solomon Vossius, soon to be known as the Tormenter. After Orlison's funeral, during which Cary was accosted by REACT agent Thomas Ledge, he began formulating a solid plan to put the Aggregate into play and encompass an even broader range of talent as the Silent Seven.

By March 1964, the proverbial die was cast. Under the sign of Pisces, as unveiled to Cary during a vision, or premonition, he received as he was dangling tortured in the inner chamber of the Obscuros sect in Exodesia a decade before, the Shadow Baron made his move. Cary had spent several years befriending the Omegan Ursulin, and Dr. E was born Evan Eloy Queeq and was at one time a lover of the Bradcrofts' beloved cousin Paige. Dr. E wanted Paige to go on thinking him dead from the TSD-related accident that changed him into E. Her torment was doubled by the fact that her son, Kyle Fabricand, was really Evan's. Shadow Baron and Nocturno agreed to keep each party's secret, though they felt it foolish.

The Aggregate was funded by Bradcroft Ltd, in association with the Vossius company now run by Sidonie and Andreas. Later, Renova, Inc. became a partner and the entity became known as The Zed Foundation. The bulk of the Aggregate consisted of members imported from the Silent Seven. Saturnine, Richter, Sword, Kraken, Anton Gamble, and Gadgeteer V were all co-founders of the Aggregate. The final co-founder was 26-year old Brandon ver Dorn, who lived a double life as the Snow Archer; some might say he lived a triple life in actuality, an observation to be clarified shortly.

II. The White Archer?

Brandon was the great-grandson of Ambrosius ver Dorn (b. 1837), who largely bankrolled the Cromwell Party that led to Hallmark's founding. Ambrosius was the bastard son of a Dutch miner, Cesar ver Dorn, who hit it rich, and of the woman known only as Seripha, an Exodesian refugee. More than one of the descendants of the Dutch founders of Hallmark were named for Seripha. Ambrosius benefited from his mother's genes and he lived 105 years (and even then he was killed in a car accident).

Brandon ver Dorn was Dr. E's closest friend, and worked for the brilliant Emerson Trent and his polymath half-brother Euphrates Aquinas Straw. Ver Dorn was always cryptic about his early life back then, and sowed some distrust among the team at times but eventually revealed his story. We will digress for a time to discuss the secrets of the Snow Archer.

Ambrosius ver Dorns' son Christian fell in love with Seripha de Ruyter (named for Ambrosius' mother, as alluded to above), stunning daughter of the great adventurer Ananias de Ruyter and Inocencia Renova. They had a son with copper skin and grey eyes, who was given the appellation Hendrik van Hoke II. This was due to the fact that Seripha de Ruyter was wed to Christian's best friend, Jost van Hoke, who claimed the child as his own. But Hendrik was truly a ver Dorn. Seripha and Jost had a daughter of their own, Matilda van Hoke, whose son, Dugas van Hoke, aka Locke, was a musician (he played bass in the band the Sacred Mirrors for a time) and a SkullCorp operative in the 1960s (he reported directly to Phileas Caleb). Hendrik van Hoke II changed his surname to ver Dorn as an adult married into the heretofore undiscussed Palmer clan. His wife, Esther Palmer (daughter of first cousins Randolph and Ruth Palmer, whose sale of their grocery store chain in 1947 to the Harness family assured the Palmer's place in Hallmark society), bore him Brandon Palmer ver Dorn. The entire family were scandalized by Hendrik and found his son an impetuous (if goodhearted) youth and were not terribly dismayed when they embarked in 1947 on what appeared to be a fatal flight to the arctic.

Hendrik ver Dorn's renowned flight skills, honed in World War II, did not save him, and he was killed when his plane hit an icecap in the midst of a “freak storm”. Young Brandon was believed killed as well. Amazingly, so the story goes, he was found by a tribe of Inuits and raised by them as their own. Exactly what transpired in the life of Brandon ver Dorn from his 10th to his 17th year is largely unknown, but by his own account, he became the greatest hunter, archer, and scout in the tribe – save for one man that ver Dorn referred to simply as “Aguila”. Aguila called Brandon “The White Archer” and despised him as a blood rival.

The account is a familiar one, one possibly embroidered by Brandon over the years. Simply, the chief of the tribe, Silver Eyes, adopted the ten-year old ver Dorn and the chief's natural son, Aguila, was bitter and resentful. In this archetypal situation, the two “brothers” finally duelled, and, as to be expected, when the time came for Brandon to settle the matter with Aguila's life, he spared Aguila and merely humbled him. It is known with some certainty that in 1955, Ursulin, in his travels about the world he was born, but not raised, on, found Brandon and ver Dorn was spirited back to SkullCorp HQ. This was when Ursulin was still cooperating with Skull's scientists, before he decamped and became a free agent, albeit one hotly sought out by REACT.

Ver Dorn suffered a massive culture shock, having been partially raised by what some saw as a “primitive” culture and then rescued by an alien benefactor and exposed to technology far ahead of the society he left behind. In 1957, Esther Palmer ver Dorn passed away, leaving her only child her portion of the ver Dorn and Palmer fortunes. Ver Dorn was now free to travel and decide his fate. In 1959, ver Dorn was approached by REACT and recruited by them, though he questioned their motives. However, he decided that Skull's path was the wrong one for him, and for humanity, and so went to work for the ostensible “good guys”, who already had accrued quite a file on ver Dorn.

The file was labeled “Snow Archer” as REACT, frankly, even in those days before political correctness was codified, felt “White Archer” was patronizing to the tribe Brandon joined, and the group didn't want a stigma of white supremacy attached to the son of a man who fought the Nazis. They also didn't feel like competing with Skull's progressive ethnic hiring policies. Ver Dorn decided to become a double agent, ostensibly working for REACT but reporting his information to Cary Bradcroft, who Ursulin introduced him to. On top of all this, the perpetually busy, seemingly sleepless Snow Archer operated as a part-time vigilante on the streets of Hallmark inspired by the Silent Seven, though it wasn't long before he was outed as Brandon ver Dorn, wealthy but definitely not a stereotypical playboy. His years as the son of Silver Eyes gave him a rather zen and good-natured outlook, despite the darkness in his life.

The Archer's first mission for REACT involved going undercover in the lower echelons of SkullCorp under the name Sigmund Bartholemew. Ver Dorn saw this as a way out of his brushes with the law as a vigilante and so he faked his own death and sunk himself into becoming Bartholemew. Brandon ver Dorn had been too long without any meaningful female companionship, and embarked on a passionate affair with co-worker Medea Strasser. To foster his disguise, “Sigmund” married the young German girl, and she was soon pregnant. The catch to all this was that Skull didn't want Bartholemew working as a mere office flunkie but as a soldier attached to FOPA in Libania. This was because they had researched Bartholemew and learned his true ID and that he was a REACT agent. Their test for him was a mission in Libania. They threatened to murder Medea and their infant Stephen if he refused to comply.

The spy called Sigmund Bartholemew was put in charge of a FOPA unit in Libania. They were raiding their long-time enemies the Serafinians. “Bartholemew” was told if the mission went well he could be promoted to the rank of a top political assassin and eventually reach the inner circle of Skull. He was warned that at this point there was no turning back. But he was in contact with Ursulin, who, with Dr E and the Shadow Baron, rescued the Archer and defeated the Libanian raid on Serafinia. This mission could be said to be the seed from which the Aggregate grew. No longer just a concept in Cary Bradcroft's mystical visions, but a core group of four men who had no legal identities in society – Nocturno; the believed dead ver Dorn and Queeq; and Ursulin (or “Captain Omega”).

It should be noted before returning to the genesis of the Aggregate in 1964 that in 1961, when the Libanian raid was foiled, Sigmund Bartholemew was declared deceased, and SkullCorp cut loose Medea Strasser Bartholemew with a modest severance package, and she and her son had to go on welfare until they met Angelo Blatanski, a man of questionable integrity who married Medea and raised young Stephen Bartholemew, about whom much more will be related in future accounts.

III. The Sixties

As noted elsewhere, in 1964, the mystery men called Sword and the Kraken were slain by the barbarous Carnifex. Existentialist crusader Anton Gamble retired and pursued his passion for Dawn Cheshire Vossius Clancey. Lined up to fill the void were Trent and Straw, both welcomed into the group. Two black men in such a position in 1965 was seemingly unthinkable, but the Bradcrofts could care less. The entire enterprise was like a secret society anyway, with the public not privy to its workings. Though African-Americans (really Jamaican-Americans) were entrenched in the group, the Aggregate was void of distaff membership for a time, and was roundly criticized within the group itself for it. This would change dramatically by the end of the decade.

In 1966, The Absurd Tentacle was invited but declined. He scoffed at the operation for his own abstruse reasons. Thomas Ledge, however, joined up that year, as a liaison to REACT. The Shadow Baron felt it better to follow the maxim of keeping one's enemies closer. Ledge caused no end of controversy in the group. In combat with the team's foes, Ledge lent a great deal to the proceedings. He was well-trained, fearless, agile, superhumanly strong, and healed very quickly. He aged slowly and was rarely ill. Kong's genes were strong in him.

In 1968, the problem of no women in the group was resolved with a vengeance, as the group drafted in three female members (or was it four? More on that shortly). Hyacinthe and Fiora Charme were hippie hangers-on to Orphee de Lander, and both had been administered doses of TSD. Hyacinthe believed her powers lie in her ability to affect others' mood for the better. Her best friend Emily Duncan claimed to ply the same talents under the name Fiora Charme. Marcella Motto was a young Libanian drfated into illicit TSD trials who emerged as Princesa Verde (“The Emerald Princess”), who boasted green skin, gossamer jade wings, and the ability to control vegetation. Orphee de Lander took immediate interest in recruiting her, but Shadow Baron beat him to it.

Soon after this femme contingent signed up, a man called Hieronymous followed suit. Hieronymous though unknown to many at first was also a woman – Dahlia Mueller, who disguised as a man, with a costume festooned with mystic symbols and topped by assymetrical goggles and a cowl covering her entire face. Hieronymous was a mystical artist, able to transcribe mystic symbols with ease and vivify them.

In 1969, Richter and Saturnine were on the cusp of retirement, and missed many meetings. Thus Shadow Baron and Nocturno sought out two new members to replace the literally irreplaceable. The superhumanly strong and tough Wurm, adorned with Spanish conquistador and dragon imagery, became the next official recruit. He was really Benjamin “Ben” Renova, heir to the vast Renova fortune first struck when his great-grandfather Guillermo Renova staked his claim with the Cromwell Party at Mt Mosaic in 1887. Ben was also descended from the Van Hokes and the Exodesian Elodie. He owned Van Hoke General Hospital, Renova Bank & Loan, and Renova Plaza. He was a major benefactor to the fledgling Zed Foundation (built on the original Bradcroft Foundation). Renova was nearly as much a right wing idealogue as Thomas Ledge (they became lifelong best friends) though Ben was by far the easier to take.

Gulliver joined in late 1969, and was still in training when the group went up against Kanabal for the final round. Gulliver was Enos McClegg, a Scottish alcoholic who stood a menacing 10 feet tall – another TSD experiment. From 1967-1969, the ever-changing team found themselves battling the likes of Exodesian Xeronixia; gangsters Tony Duarte, Marco Allegretti, and Milo Majestyk; the deadly Kith M'Nali, or the 'Black Tamerlane' (discussed at length previously); the Exodesian Arch-Priest Urias; and, at long last, Kong the Claimer in person (or so they believed). Fiora Charme left the team in 1970 to marry and tour with Sacred Mirrors keyboardist (and brother of the Absurd Tentacle) Bertrand Rojiczek. Over the next few years they had two children: Collette and RD.

In May 1970 the final battle with longtime foe Kanabal was joined. Gadgeteer V was killed, and Anton Gamble presumed dead. Hieronymous was on leave during this battle (She was giving birth to her daughter by the Absurd Tentacle and put the child up for adoption. It was adopted, and christened Espasia Felts). Saturnine and Richter went into retirement. An era had ended. The gauntlet had truly passed forevermore from Vance Orlison's Silent Seven to Cary Bradcroft's Aggregate.

IV. The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius/ Horus?

1971 was an eventful time for the world's only full-fledged “superhero” team, albeit one still operating beneath the public's radar. Comings and goings were hard to track; there were odd visitations; and the threats investigated became more varied – and deadly.

Hieronymous returned, after her time away struggling with the decision to give up her daughter. She dropped the he-drag and became known as the Blue Dahlia, with the same esoteric abilities as Hieronymous. Hyacinthe followed her best friend's lead and departed the team to spend her time as part of Orphee de Lander's emergent “Terminal Culture” movement. He was invited once more to join the group, by emissaries Dr E and Snow Archer, and was so enraged that he attacked them and seriously injured the Archer, thus sidelining him from battle for weeks.

Shortly thereafter, Princesa Verde became involved with a dusky-skinned, green-eyed man called Cedric Lykos, and Cary Bradcroft harbored his suspicions about this stranger to Hallmark. Another man to provoke the interest of the Aggregate was the bohemian who called himself only Brother Zodiac. He was grey-brown of skin, had grey eyes with incandescent swirls like pools of gold which he perpetually hid behind round purple shades. His long thick cascading hair was usually tied back and he was ever barechested save for an open vest adorned with scales, sequins, and locks of hair. He wore a round medallion emblazoned with the zodiac wheel. Brother Zodiac was truly inscrutable; he befriended both Cary Bradcroft and Orphee de Lander but neither seemed able to pierce his veil of mystery. One thing was sure; he exuded power; yet he declined a commitment to either Cary or Orphee to lend them that power.

Meanwhile, Dannish Bacon, lead singer for the Sacred Mirrors, died in France of a drug overdose. Fiora Charm reluctantly took the slot as their lead vocalist. She had her hands full with RD, her son by Mirrors keyboardist Bertrand Rojiczek, who she recently wed. Bertrand was intrigued by Brother Zodiac's charisma and high standing in the Flicker Street scene with his aura of hallucinogenic mystery and dimestore Zen homilies. The Brother anticipated this and turned down Bertrand's off to “jam”, claiming he (Zodiac) was no musician; he merely “dug” Flicker Street and all it symbolized. By mid 1972 much of the Sacred Mirrors crisis was a mute point (about which more further along); Fiora became pregnant again and in early 1973 had a daughter Collette Rojiczek. She retired from music and from the Aggregate permanently.

As for Cedric Lykos, his secrets came to the fore when he and Princesa were visiting Cary at the Bradcroft Ltd curio shoppe in late 1971. Cary was training a new clerk at the shoppe, an American Indian named Hiawatha Hand who had petitioned Bradcroft for membership in the Aggregate and only recently been accepted. Hand had been in prison when he was forced to be subjected to the TSD trials. They left him with tremendous strength and endurance and a “second sight” of sorts – a form of clairvoyance and danger signal, a feel for the “vibes” of those around him. And those vibes were running rampant the first day Hiawatha Hand met Cedric Lykos in the curio shoppe.

No sooner had the small group had a chance for introductions than a mystic portal opened, spilling out a many-eyed, mutlt-tentacled eldritch monstrosity which bound Cary's face and hands left he perform any magick. One mighty tentacle swatted Princesa Verde away; another Hiawatha Hand. But Cedric Lykos had lept on the creature almost immediately. Cedric began savagely biting and clawing at the creature until Lykos' own flesh began to fall way, revealing a bipedal wolfen creature. The tenacious man-wolf used all his strength to roll over the undulating thing – just enough for Cary to free a hand and murmur a spell. With that the mass of eyes and lampreys was sucked into the air itself, like a film played backwards.

Cary quickly explained what he'd done, but more urgently, he questioned Cedric Lykos, whose surname had been a clue to Cary when they met that Cedric was other than he appeared. Cedric Lykos was a true lycanthrope. Cary said that he had heard rumors of Cedric's race, the umbra lupa (“shadow wolves”) when he was in Exodesia in 1954, but never saw a real werewolf. Cedric explained, “My people were once humans in Egypt – kidnapped, enslaved, raped, and experimented on magically... merged with wolves and interbred with Exodesians. Word of our our lives spread in whispers through the world over centuries – til we were legend.

Some of escaped and roamed Earth through the millenia, but not my family. The house of Lykos were the chosen dogs of the sect ruled by the vile High Priest Praven the First. His contemporary namesake ruled my immediate family. My brother, Vulpis, became a hunter for ancient Praven; I was sent by Priest Urias for his own purposes to infiltrate the Zed Foundation. I am sorry, Baron Bradcroft.”

I am not a full baron, Cedric. Your people were not just slaves per se, if I am correct but...”
Hand finished, “Familiars to the sorcerous clergy of Exodesia, correct?”
Yes”, said Lykos. “But I wish to be your familiar, O Shadow Baron. I oppose the Exodesians and loathe the place of my birth. Make me one of you.”

Cary agreed, as Lykos had saved his life from the Thzhugua beast. He prepared a spell with Nocturno to crack the spell placed over Cedric and shield him from detection by the Exodesians. After the spell was successfully cast, Cedric found Princesa Verde had left the mansion, but did leave a note for him. She claimed the deception Cedric perpetrated was too much; that he had simply used her; and other harsh accusations. For Cedric's part, he was deeply in love with her, and he was crestfallen to say the least. But the Aggregate did accept him. He and Hand became fast friends, and he was the perfect familiar for Cary, who did not want Cedric to feel enslaved in his new station as in his old.

As noted earlier, Flicker Street's premiere psychedelic band, the Sacred Mirrors, was falling apart by mid 1972. It was in that year that not only did Fiora Charme abdicate her spot as the Mirrors' chanteuse, but also crimefighting P.I. The Wrath, a new and unknown quantity on the Hallmark scene, came into play. The Wrath soon discovered that the Mirrors' guitarist Zane Whiteside D'Azai and bassist Locke were actually SkullCorp spies attempting to subvert Orphee deLander's Flicker Street scene. Zane and Locke were spies for Phileas Caleb and Donal Rykard and had been for some time.

It's worth noting that Locke was born Dugas van Hoke, half-1st cousin of the Snow Archer. They shared a grandmother, Seripha de Ruyter, named for the Exodesian Seripha (b. 1700; the mother of Ambrosius ver Dorn and ancestor of Locke and the Archer), whose ancestor Arch-Priestess Serafinia the First the country of Serafinia was named for. The Serafinians were originally pagans who worshiped the Exodesians.

Neither Zane nor Locke were heard from again. Zane, repentant, was given a new ID: Daniel “DJ Dan” Carson by the Wrath and moved to a trailer park in nearby Gossingham. He continued to see his on and off married girlfriend Chloris Pendred (Kong's granddaughter, about which more in future installments). Locke was slain in a gunfight by Wrath. Wrath's heroism inspired Cary to dispatch the unlikely duo of Thomas Ledge and Euphrates Straw to seek his services in the Aggregate. The Wrath agreed, as long as he could keep his PI office.

Wrath's roots in the fabric of our larger tale run deep. He was really John Gauvin (b. 1943), and had been a P.I. Since 1967. He took the costumed identity of The Wrath in 1970. He was a master of weaponry and collected it avidly. He was a fierce fighter and first rate detective. He had exceptional genes that nurtured these talents. His father Danel Gauvin, an insurance salesman with a fiery temper was the son of one Peter Gauvin and Rachel ver Dorn, the great-granddaughter of Ambrosius ver Dorn, making John a cousin of Locke and the Snow Archer. Ambrosius, of course, daughter of the Exodesian Seripha, was descended maternally through the line of the notorious priestess Phallasma and, ultimately, the Arch-Priestess Serafinia (all of which has been covered at some length).

The black-haired John Gauvin has much Hispanic blood. His mother was Pilar Llosa, making him the nephew of Emilio Florenza (born Vargas Llosa, 1930), one of the 'Four Outsiders' who pilfered SkullCorp cash, tech, and documents and fled from Skull in the 1950s. Thus John is first cousin of Florenza's children, one of whom, Juliana Florenza (b. 1967), will be discussed at much length in the modern portion of our account. Pilar Llosa was the daughter of Carolina Fuentes (granddaughter of the ill-fated Libanian guide Jacinto Fuentes) and Tomas Llosa, who boasts quite a pedigree.

Through Tomas Llosa, John Gauvin is the great-great-grandson of the long-lived gunfighter Sorrow; the fourth great-grandson of Urias (not to mention Urias' long-lived ancestors); and the fifth great-grandchild of Ewen Cromwell the Carnifex. Much proud heroic and villainous blood alike coursed through the veins of the man called Wrath, and the Shadow Baron saw grand potential for good in John Gauvin. When next we convene, we'll examine in depth the radical changes ahead for the Aggregate as the 1970s wane.

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
September 16, 2015

Copyright 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

In Memory of Thomas Shackleford Davis, 1966-2004. RIP. You taught me how to build a world.
Special thanx to my blood brother Sean Lee Levin, for belief, cameraderie, and collaboration. 

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