The Dark Star

‘Are you here?’ the hulking youngster whispered the words of greeting toward the unmoving shadows of Pulp City’s chimneys.

A female silhouette emerged from the darkness without a single sound. The wind coming from the sea brushed the microfiber cloak that hugged her frail body.

‘I’d  hoped we’d never meet again,’ said the woman in a voice that hinted her alien origins.

‘Good to see you too,’ snarled the giant, ‘Did you make it back with no trouble?’

‘It was close this time. I think they planted the tracking device in my ship, found it only after a couple of days and had to lay low. They sent the big guns this time, I almost find it pleasing to see I cause so much trouble to the warlord.’

‘You made your mark but it’s not like you started the movement. This race is not ready for a chain reaction yet, observe how the humans topple every obstacle in their way, there is lots to learn from them.’

‘I don’t find it inspiring. That is not what I am here for. Take a look at those crowds, suddenly filled with the need to go out in that cold darkness, light up some trees, sing a few sickeningly sentimental songs, and forget how bloodthirsty they are every other day of the year.’

‘We call it Christmas.’

‘“We?” Are you still serious about that? Tritonious, they treat you like a monster, a freak even without knowing the monster your father is. How can you be still pretending you’re a part of this?’

‘None of your problem anyway. Your problem is there,’  Tritonious pointed towards the night sky. The stars were bright but one of them shone brighter than the others.

‘Believe it or not, two thousand years ago they assumed the fleet was a comet. They were right about one thing – this thing in the sky always means changes. Chaos.’

‘And that is why it will get dirty and bloody soon. Did you find any allies?’

‘Not many. Some didn’t believe me when I said I am more than a mutant.  Some laughed.  But some took it seriously and we’ll be ready for them.’

‘Good. Here’re the estimated numbers. We’ll be seeing more scout activity in the coming days,’ the female said as she handed Tritonious a glowing disk.

‘One more thing – will I ever learn your true name?’ The woman stopped and looked back.

‘Not this time. Call me your sister, call me Virgo, but my true name would mean it’s personal. It’s not. I just want those bastards dead. All of them.’

ABC of Pulp City

Hi, my name is June Summers and I am a Channel 4 reporter. Recently I’ve been asked by Pulp City Planet to brief readers on all-things-Supreme going on in our city. So here it is, my Pulp City Alphabet. Don’t come to Pulp City without reading it!

Ape Revolution Committee. Ideals of freedom and equality for all apes and monkeys in the world are one thing, but Apes know how to make sure the cash flows to support their goals. In the steel grip of Guerilla’s leadership, the mercenaries have evolved into a highly specialized team able to cope with any situation. Whatever problem can’t be solved by Guerilla’s and Howler’s massed gunfire, the answer might be a couple of Dr. Red’s specialty grenades, Apebot’s steel fists, Chimp-Chi’s blades, or the pure computer genius of Virus.

So what’s hot with the monkeys these days? It seems like they are after something big. I do believe even Guerilla is intrigued with the possibility that one other shuttle full of apes and monkeys might have been launched after the failure of the initial phase of the Soviet project. Are the passengers of that shuttle still alive?

Blood Watch. These guys are dark. All the goth kids adore them. Though maybe not as spectacular as other teams (you know, not much spandex and cape stuff), Blood Watch does a great job of keeping us safe from the Necroplane threat. They don’t do interviews, but hey, what do you expect from guys that have a teenage werewolf and a nine foot giant on the payroll? Their leader, V.H. (which is supposedly his initials, standing for Victor Helsing, see the ties?), managed to gather a truly unique bunch of Supremes that get in the way of MANY Villains. First and foremost, Necroplane . Blood Watch’s HQ is located just outside of the city, next to the only known active gate to Necroplane, so rarely do any Necro Supremes makes it past the welcoming party!

The Coven. See, I got this problem with The Coven. Every time I do a story on their Strike Team’s infamous exploits, they sue Channel 4. And man, they can afford good lawyers. The Coven’s influence over politics, media, and business has a long and bloody history. There is no written evidence about how a group of white people from the South, mostly slavers and plantation owners, has managed to turn into Coven Enterprises. Look around. I’m pretty sure you will find at least one of their products.
Their Strike Team is an extension of their politics. They love to recruit the best. It is said that Papa Zombie, a guy that looks like Rob Zombie’s cheap imitation (or maybe it is the other way round), was a faithful servant of one of the founders. 200 years old? Come on, even voodoo can’t be that good! If I’d have to describe their team’s methods in a couple of words, I’d say: well aimed bullets from nowhere backed up with a few voodoo gimmicks.

Diplomacy. It is becoming a common practice to open diplomatic facilities and Chambers of Commerce in Pulp City. Why? The movie industry, more Supremes per capita than anywhere in the world, and politics.

Excalibur. I interviewed this guy, Arthur Black, for the weekly reality show Who Wants to Be a Supreme? He was British, tall, handsome, and insane. See, talking about the mission, the prophecy, the magical sword, the assembly of the Dark Round Table, and that sort of crap is nothing unusual. Most of the contestants do that. The problem proved to be real when this guy showed up at the City Hall, wielding a sword that was crackling with lightning and started severing heads before Heroes stopped him. And what’s wrong with his sidekicks, Lancelot the Dark and Shadow Percival?

The Forgotten. It all started with a teenage cheerleader exacting revenge on another teenage cheerleader who supposedly stole her boyfriend. Enter the long forgotten manuscripts, a bloody ritual, and voila, we have the first long forgotten evil deity awakened in the middle of Pulp City, who proceeded to devour most of the neighborhood. It’s a chain reaction; I guess these guys feel misunderstood and lonely so instead of going to a shrink, they resurrect their kin.
See, fallen gods get off on emotions. And since there’s not much love for those bloodthirsty murdering beasts, they usually pump up their strength by drawing on fear and terror. There is much more of it coming in the future.

Grimm Under Empire. Grimms are SO photogenic. Love them! They make the loveliest of invasions. First, a hole in the city center opens, cars fall in, people scream, then hordes of biped humanoids burst out and pursue their current agenda. Robbing, pillaging, and food hunting are the most common. After a couple of minutes, all that is left is a gaping hole.
Grimms are controlled by smarter Grimms, called Alphas. Sometimes they bring a beast or two with them, just to create some distraction for the Supremes. There is a hive mind structure to Grimm activities and behavior; some claim that it is actually a human that pulls the strings.

Heavy Metal. Shiny knights in shiny armor. Immaculate. They are more than celebrities, more than role models for children. The C.O.R.E sends its Heroes to battle for everything that common people care for. They are some of the few Supremes that use their power to help the city deal with mundane tasks like building bridges, fire fighting, and such. Heavy Metal are great ambassadors for many causes: Iron Train is an honorary president of city Unions, Androida is a feminist, Dr. Mercury researches alternative power supplies and is an UN expert, while Chronin is strongly involved in Little Asia’s promotion. Good folks, I’m telling you.

Invasions. Bread and butter of our lives, we love to watch them from afar. Ulthar aliens, Grimm, Necroplane, sea monsters. Yep, we got it all.

June Summers. I had to mention myself. Duh! Specializing exclusively in Supreme affairs.

Kodo Island. This small island used to be a favorite location for sunny holidays, just two hours southwest of Pulp City Harbor. The tourist traffic stopped after something went awfully wrong in a biological facility dedicated to restoring endangered and lost species. I hope I can get there one day to investigate, but the only way to do so is on the board of a military plane or on the back of a flying Supreme!

Little Asia. This cozy little touristy district turns into a battlefield when night falls. It is a constant conflict of various ethnicities fighting for supremacy.

Mysterious Man or Hooded Man. Is he really the infamous Doctor Van Der Beek coming back from beyond the grave? Or just a guy that wants us to think so? Just let me name several things that he might be involved in: Nuke, military facility raids, quantum holes to 1940’s, Kodo Island. That makes him a major player.

Necroplane. Don’t want to go into the scientific speculations, so in a nutshell: there is a parallel plane of existence where the dead rule, and these dead need life essence to thrive. Since they are sort of low on it these days, their government, the dreaded Lords of Necroplane, developed a new policy: punch a hole in the fabric of reality and sip on our energy. Yes, that requires killing us. Of course, there will be always a couple of traitors willing to work for Necroplane. With their help and the back-up of Scourge, the Necroplane’s Supreme team, these guys are getting more and more dangerous.

Oppahua Tribe. Used to dwell in these lands, now just a handful of them run a casino northeast of the city. Supposedly Pulp City was built on their burial grounds and, as Ace of Wraiths claims, this makes it a whole lot easier for the Lords of Necroplane to tear reality and open gates. Angry spirits don’t rest easy.

Pulp City. We are hotter than Miami and more dangerous than New York. We are more beautiful than SoCal and weirder than Portland. Come and visit us on the West Coast!

Quantum Holes. Instant time and space travel is possible for a few lucky Supremes. Chronin for instance is able to slow time around her for seconds thanks to Quantum Holes. Twilight travels short distances by punching Quantum Holes in reality. Neat, huh? Now think about somebody vile enough to travel back to 1940’s and support the Nazis. Or assassinate the father of a business competitor. I hope Quantum Holes won’t be the future trend in business and politics.

Royal Investments. The major business player, just next to Coven Enterprises. Quite frankly I love to watch the big bad guys bleed out combating each other. Guilamme Sanguine, the owner and the CEO, is one bloodsucker. And that is literally beyond the early capitalism cartoons depicting businessmen as vampires. He is a vampire. Just forget that garlic and mirror crap. Being an extremely smart player, he is on very good terms with Lords of Necroplane and The Forgotten.
He gets off by resolving most of the issues personally. Either as a tough negotiator or… as a cold blooded combat monster.

Stygian. Since her hairdo is made mostly made of hissing snakes, she will not win a beauty pageant any time soon. The petite, olive skinned lady is a bitch from hell and probably the most powerful Villain ever to walk the streets of Pulp City. A goddess revered in ancient Stygia (where the heck is that?), Stygian is dead keen on awaking an army of gods. To avoid suspicions, she mostly hires mercenaries to do the dirty work.

Trinity Inc. are mercenaries. High end, that is. If you can afford them, they will deliver the punch. Don’t mess with them. There are no late payments with these guys. And they have a couple of Supremes to boot.

Ulthars. They are a warlike race of aliens travelling to Earth through Quantum Holes. Yes, they do have the technology. It’s funny because they do embody every damn stereotype of an alien we had before: green, funny language, high pitched voices. Even their ships look like flying saucers! Ulthars come to Pulp City quite often, I guess it is the old grudges and unsettled debts; since so far they’ve been beaten badly every time.

Villains. Supreme Villains are so funny. They are so narcissistic that they demand to be interviewed. It happened to me twice this week, a Villain boasts about his future plans only to be immediately knocked down in front of the camera and carried away to the prison cells for Supremes located under Heavy Metal’s HQ.

The Weird Well. This bottomless pit just right out of the city leads to… oh well (lol), we truly don’t know where. What we know is that twice a year, on the night of the solstice, a beam of light shoots out of the Well and turns the night into the day. Some believe that if you immerse yourself in the light, weird things may happen. There is at least one Supreme I know who claims his power comes from the Weird Well.

Xen is a new generation enhancement drug. Hot with rich kids, very expensive, but for that money you get a glimpse of what it is to be a Supreme. Xen augments the senses and enhances strength and speed. The problem is that it is highly addictive and there is no going back after the first dose.

Y. There is nothing interesting going on in Pulp City that starts with “Y”.

Zen Studios. Famous film studio, on the top in 70’s, now struggling to survive the competition. But their celebrities still believe they’re the best!

Origins: Heavy Metal Part 2

In the first part, the secret military project codenamed O.R.B.C. spawns a mysterious being who assembles his physical body from various metal parts. It becomes a warfare strategist and a remote leader for the US troops. Killing fields of Vietnam are to become its first true battlefield test.

The O.R.B.C. presence inspired US troopers and spawned fear among the Vietcong troops. In the blazing fire of the battlefield, O.R.B.C. would build up his body to gargantuan size from the bits of shot down choppers, resembling a huge knight armed with the rotor-built sword, wading through the running guerillas, crushing their bodies to bloody pulp. On other times, it would command the troops from behind the lines, after having infiltrated enemy bases as a swarm of tiny mechanical spiders.

O.R.B.C.’s abilities seemed limitless so the military commanders pushed it more and more until one day they reached the boundary that, to their absolute surprise, the mechanical wonder would not cross.

The creature was assigned to carry prototype micro-nuke bombs and plant them in one of the villages. As O.R.B.C. processed its resources, hopelessly searching for any similar pattern, the general in command tried a convenient lie: those are just vaccinations. The math all suddenly became so simple: the war was over for O.R.B.C. as its Omnipotent part realized the abuse of the Battlefield Commander part. In a flash of scintillating chips and metal shards, O.R.B.C. disappeared from the face of Earth to begin his space voyage that was meant to shape his programming to a new level. Returning to Earth in the early 80’s, the cosmic wanderer was nothing like the creature that left humankind. Taking over all major broadcasting stations, the creature spoke in a fiery expose that had every emotion calculated and measured, declaring war on villains and corrupted politicians, cruel military officers and warmonging invaders alike. Anything that violated O.R.B.C.’s core programming values and its newfound human traits of compassion and conscience would be deemed as an enemy.

The being formerly known as O.R.B.C. changed its name to C.O.R.E.: Conscious Omnipotent Replicated Entity. Suddenly this absolutely alien and inhuman being topped all of the popularity rankings, cheered in the streets by Vietnam vets and aging hippies alike. Its pursuit of a new lawful and compassionate order attracted a lot of following and when more and more of Supremes pledged their allegiance to C.O.R.E.’s crusade against all-things-evil, the birth of Heavy Metal team was imminent. One of the most brilliant scientists, Androida, the powerful Iron Train and tragic Dr. Mercury were the first ones to join the ranks of the newly formed dream team, making them a solid strike force in the war on crime.

Unlike all other teams, Heavy Metal had all it takes to take the fight away from the streets and wage information wars, reaching places that were run by juntas, evil tyrants and corrupted governments. Establishing education, financially supporting righteous young lawyers and lobbying for just political solutions was the behind-scenes way of Heavy Metal’s war.

The biggest true battlefield trial came for the dream team with the first major Necroplane invasion, right after Dr. Tenebrous, established as the ambassador to Earth, broke the diplomatic pacts and the shadows of the huge harvest ships cast on Pulp City. Every Supreme, hero and villain alike, stood by C.O.R.E.’s side that day.

A bitter struggle that claimed the lives of many would have been lost if not for the Heavy Metal’s leader epic feat that almost cost it its life. C.O.R.E., summoning all his strength and feedbacked by millions of computers users who clogged up internet with searches for mythical protectors, transformed himself into a massive steel dragon, nicknamed Byte Dragon as its thick hide was pulsating with streaming data transfers.

It took to the sky, with its gargantuan tail knocking harvest ships from the sky. Even the combined might of three Necroplane Lords was not enough to stop the raging beast. Gunfire from thousands of deck cannons tore its body but C.O.R.E. kept fighting like there was no tomorrow. The allies from Blood Watch planted the holy sigils in the Twilight Hills, blowing up the gate to Necroplane in a violent, firey blast, as Byte Dragon used its all effort to push the last of the ships back through. As the gate crashed, the rip in the reality cut the beast’s body in two, fortunately C.O.R.E. was able to download his essence into one of the partially destroyed sentry bots.

With every passing day, C.O.R.E. is becoming more and more human. It is linked to the internet and all the databases of the world, shaping its personality with every bit of news. There is a legend that C.O.R.E. adopts his physical battle form based on the number of online searches for heroic personas, for instance, its current armored form resembles King Arthur. One day, somebody with ill intentions may abuse it for his own purposes.

Origins: Heavy Metal Part 1

Even though words “Heavy Metal” bring to the minds of every Pulp City dwellers images of the most modern technologies and almost sci-fi heroes, the origins of the team date back to the 40’s. As the US military worked on super soldier projects, a small group of scientists researched the possibilities of introducing a mechanical command unit that would enhance the battlefield decisions made by the officers. The project failed as the impending D-Day drew all financial support to creating a handful of metahumans to lead the assault on the beaches of Normandy.

The project codenamed O.R.B.C. (as in Omnipotent Replicated Battlefield Commander) existed in the annals of the US military more as a mechanical version of the alchemists’ dream to create gold from lead. Even though the support had been reduced, the research continued with diminishing returns falling father and father short of the high expectations. The breakthrough came in late 60’s as the military was switching to a new intercommunication system and O.R.B.C.’s computer accidentally got connected to all of the databases, creating massive feedback that fried the circuitry and resulted in a massive explosion of the computers.

When the smoke cleared, the scientists could not believe what has happened. The parts and pieces of the broken machinery hovered in the air, swirling and circling as if an invisible child’s hand was trying to assemble the scattered puzzles. Circuit to wire, wire to chip, chip to the mainframe, slowly a human-like being shaped itself, the blood of streaming data chains binding the metal armor. The newly assembled entity hovered almost motionless, like a giant steel hummingbird, only the silent clicking of the data processing hinted at its life and effort to analyze the situation. When the MP burst into the room, the creature instantly shifted its left arm into a round shield and the right into a short pike, adopting a battle stance of a disciplined Spartan warrior. The human staff of the base slowly left the room, leaving the strange visitor by itself and retreating to a location where they could watch through the eyes of the industrial camera.

The child of O.R.B.C. almost instantly started to rebuild or rather re-shape the room.

Over the next few days, the scientists were amazed to discover that it was able to adapt its body to any new situation, once in a while dispersing the body and retreating to the safety of the now repaired computers as if recharging itself.

The arrival of the strange creature became instantly a project of its own, with scientists cautiously approaching it and trying to communicate. If the being was able to process situational humor it probably would have been amused by the human first attempts: they adopted the methods described in Tarzan. So the being, as expected from something that possessed knowledge and processing ability of thousand linked computers, approached them and clearly laid out its goals: to research tactics and behavior patterns beyond the ones already found in the military databases it has devoured. Months later, tireless and emotionless, the being supported hundreds military and police operations, supporting the troops from the confines of the underground base. O.R.B.C. was eager to learn and modify itself even though it had adapted the tactics and strategies of countless masters of warfare, starting from Sun Tse to General Patton.

Everything seemed to be back in order and the steady flow of cash revitalized the project as the yet unnamed entity seemed to be the ultimate fulfillment of the project’s hopes. Until the day when one of the politicians behind the financial support of O.R.B.C. decided to move the testing the one of the most bloodthirsty theaters of war of this era – Vietnam…