New threats have arisen. Beyond the confines of the United Kingdom, in Pulp City, Supremes soar through skies that have witnessed the spearhead of invasions, from the dark of space and from places beyond the veil of reality. Yet Pulp City is not alone in facing these threats, and in recent times across the world more and more empowered champions have emerged anew. From an ancient temple in Latin America the might of Solar is unleashed. In Poland an ancient power raises the force of storms. And in the United Kingdom, Sovereign, her greatest champion – a figure of legend for so long – has returned to defend his beloved nation once more, even if that means once more facing rising threats on distant shores.
30th April, in the ruins of Berlin, a once-great city reduced to a shadow of its former self. The last days of the Greater German Reich and bedlam reigned over the failing forces of that crumbling would-be empire. Near to the Reichhstag, where Soviet soldiers advanced, two men were locked in desperate battle, one on the ground, his enemy the ace of the sky.
No quarter was asked and none was given. There was a strange respect within the enmity between Sovereign and the Red Baron. Many would claim in later years to have witnessed their terrible battle, but few truly did so.
Time and again the Red Baron strafed the ground where Sovereign stood, flying low in his Ghostly Tri-plane. As shots ploughed up the ground around him and then ripped wounds into his body, the British Supreme simply would not fall.
At last, Sovereign returned fire with the ray-gun he had acquired the year before from an unearthly visitor, his shot one of extreme brilliance, smashing the ethereal plane to the ground. The leering skull-faced Red Baron rose from the dissolving plane-wreck to face his foe. A quiet descended as they stared at one another before unleashing a torrent of fire. Those few true witnesses retreated at the overwhelming fusillade, but afterwards it was clear that the Red Baron was broken, his remains spirited into the night. And of Sovereign there was as with every other time he had appeared, simply no trace.
July 1st – dispatches record the worst single day of combat losses ever suffered by the British Army. With 60, 000 casualties, mayhem descended upon brave men who strode forth towards enemy positions and guns, bullets and bombs blasting all around, seeking to take territory inch by bloody inch.
Amid the carnage there were snatched reports of a red-coated soldier – red perhaps from blood some suggest – hit with felling wounds only to rise, again and again. Those bewildered missives recorded this man’s unrelenting progress.
The road to Contalmaison beyond La Boisselle was vital, and it was here that the legends told from fathers to sons in later generations would spring strongest. Of a soldier in a red military coat, sword in one hand, sidearm in the other. The man raged forwards against the artillery that rained down, mown down only to stand time after time, pressing his advance until he was finally lost to sight among billowing clouds of smoke and debris. They had witnessed the impossible, a man so unbending that it took hundreds, maybe thousands of guns to cease his inexorable advance.
His indomitability inspired them all.
A fog of fear swathed the streets of London in chilly late November, and with the coming of each night that terror struck into the heart of the citizens of the great metropolis. But within the overcrowded warrens of small dark streets branching like blood vessels through the district, the greatest suffering, filth and danger was to be found. And amid that suffering borne by the poverty-stricken and those struck low, a predator crept, deadly blade in hand.
Five times he had struck, and five lives were snuffed out with gruesome end. As Sovereign walked those deprived and depraved streets he sternly vowed that this beast – this Ripper – would take no more lives.
Drawn to his quarry through grimy back-streets, seemingly through nothing more than the force of his own determination, Sovereign finally happened upon his foe. Dressed in black garments, this Ripper was a shadowy figure, indistinct but awash in palpable cruelty. The Ripper towered over a terrified street-walker, his arm rose to deliver a final flourishing slash with which to take another life. Wasting no time, Sovereign drew his sidearm and blasted the blade from the monster’s hand. As the poor, frightened young woman fled that scene which could have marked her own death, she saw the grim-set countenance of her red-coated savior as he stalked towards London’s most infamous criminal as the bloody-handed Ripper drew another blade and thrust at her savior. She ran then, she ran for her life.
The young woman would tell her tale the next day, dragging a local constable to the spot where she said she was attacked. However, of the brave red-coated soldier who rescued her and the man who would have butchered her there was no trace, save a pool of blood that trickled into the shabby gutter.
Deep beneath the War Office on Horse Guards Avenue, three men met in a dimly lit room. One wore the vestments and insignia of a British Army General. Beside the general there stood a civilian man, wiry–framed and clearly nervous. The third man appeared the oldest of the three. He was bearded and he wore simple robes and a golden sigil hung from a chain around his neck.
“Has Captain Cornwell agreed to this?” asked the robed man. His tone was enquiring, but betrayed that he strongly anticipated the answer.
“Yes, he has,” replied the general with a nod. The civilian next to him tugged at his own collar as the general spoke.
“And he gives of himself willingly? He understands what it is that you ask of him?” continued the enquiring man in the robes, emphasizing the word ‘you’ as he stared first at the civilian and then at the general. His gaze was dark and piercing.
“And the Shadow Chamber supports this? The Government supports this?” the robed man continued, allowing a pause before asking his most telling question “The King supports this?”
“We are to proceed,” replied the nervous civilian, careful to not directly answer the questions. Ever a civil servant, the man knew how to deftly choose his words.
“Be sure, General Bean and Mr. Armitage, that this will be a most terrible sacrifice,” as he spoke the robed man enunciated clearly and firmly the word ‘sacrifice’ before continuing “And that Captain Cornwell, if he survives and the ritual succeeds, will have suffered a terrible three-fold death. He will experience the pain of three deaths most horrid, as he is drowned, hanged and finally burned within a wicker man, and when he is reborn he will never be able to be destroyed. Each time from then on that he dies anew he will suffer each death again, and again be reborn. And in doing this, you will have created an instrument that may be more powerful than you are able to control.”
At this General Bean leaned forwards. He knew of sacrifice, of sending men to certain death. He had done it many times and he would do so again. This druid’s pronouncements were on the life of one man. The General looked to save many more in a grinding attritional war against the armies of Napoleon, and the life of one man to save many more was a sacrifice worth making. Captain Cornwell had been selected for his independence and courage, and he was giving himself willingly, even if the details of what was truly to follow had been spared from him. To the general it was a price that could be met.
“So be it.”
And with three words, an unyielding legend began.