Web of Ruin: Chapter 2

A van crept slowly down the street. It seemed innocuous enough, it was grey and had no windows. It was the long, nondescript model that was often used by contractors, only instead of being full of tools, this was filled with armed gang members. They were armed to the teeth with all manner of submachine guns, pistols and shotguns, and were ready for a fight. The night before, someone had set fire to one of their meth labs and killed the man they were going to buy a stockpile of assault rifles from.


They figured they knew who was responsible, and they were going to settle the turf war once and for all. Trying to maintain a low profile, they obeyed the traffic laws. As fortune would have it, they stopped at a particular traffic light, one with people anticipating their arrival.


An elderly woman crossed the street shortly before the light turned green, and the driver impatiently slapped his palm on the steering wheel, impatient to get moving, but not wanting to draw attention. He glanced around at the skyscrapers that surrounded the intersection, not sure why, but suddenly feeling paranoid. As she passed the vam he started to inch forward. A quarter of the way across the intersection, there was a loud CRASH and the van stopped suddenly, everyone was tossed forward. A giant, white shape was in front of the van and had stopped it in its tracks.


Before anyone could register what had happened, the white giant was gone. A second later, there was the terrible sound of ripping metal as large white fingers smashed through the windshield and pulled the roof of the van open like a sardine can. One gang member at the back of the van recognized the shape of the creature ripping it apart. “It’s Crater! Run!” the back door flew open and three gang members ran; the others were too dumbfounded to react at first.


The three that ran heard a loud wooshing sound. One turned to look up and was grabbed forcefully by the front of the shirt and dragged into the sky. His gun clattered to the ground and he screamed as the sidewalk rapidly moved away from him. He knew he was in trouble; he’d been captured by Cavalier. “Prepare for some Justice, punk!” the flying man shouted, then punched the man in the mouth. He went limp, and Cavalier flew over and propped him on a light post, before flying after the others.


Cavalier considered himself the ultimate protector of the city. He was virtually indestructable, fast, amazingly strong, and could fly. He wore a white suit with a stylized bronze knight’s helmet to complete his White Knight image. He swooped past Crater to grab the other two armed men, flying at great speed. Crater busied himself with the people in the van. People scrambled out of the way and abandoned their cars as the huge man looked into the giant hole he’d torn in the vehicle’s roof.


While Cavalier and Crater were known as heroes, they were also known for tremendous collateral damage when they fought. Crater was ten feet tall, with disproportionately large arms and shoulders; they seemed more to belong on a man even twice his size. His head was large and round and seemed more like a minimalist sculpture than a human face. He was head-to-toe stark white. Despite his bulk, he was relatively agile, which was evidenced a second later as one of the gang members fired a shotgun at his face in a panic. Crater leaned back to avoid the blast; he was not invincible and a shot to the face could very well put him out of commission.

In response, he kicked the side of the van, sending it sliding across the street into the opposite curb, which caused it to tilt and fall on its side. He leaped high into the air, balled his fist, then dropped a tremendous punch into the front of the vehicle, then ripped the engine block out with one hand. He then swung around and used the weight of it to turn his backhand into a wrecking ball. The van buckled in half, spilling several of its occupants onto the sidewalk, dazed.


Across the street, the two running gang members began firing their weapons over their shoulders trying to hit the flying superhero they knew was bearing down on them. Cavalier grinned as the bullets pinged off his shoulders and helmet; it would take something as large as a naval cannon to even slow him down. A second later, he had both men by the backs of their shirts. After a few violent shakes, they dropped their guns, dazed. Cavalier hovered in the sky several stories off the ground and smacked the two men’s heads together; they went limp.


He flew over to the man he’s left on the light post and using some rope from a truck that was abandoned in the fray, he tied them together and left them dangling from the post. Crater had picked up the van and slammed it down several times, then ran around it to the shaken and unconscious men falling out of it. “Stay put!” he shouted. Cavalier flew down to hover beside him. “And hand over your weapons, unless you would like to fly.” Crater growled. The gang members hastily tossed their guns at their feet, the conscious ones doing the same for their unconscious cohorts.


Crater corralled them into the wrecked van, then folded the broken roof back down and ruined the doors so they would not open. He piled the guns and stomped on them until they were little more than a pile of broken wood and flattened metal. “Wait here, the police will be here shortly to get you out, for Justice!” Cavalier said, then looked over at a street camera near the traffic lights, winked and then flew off. With practiced coordination, Crater leaped away after him.


Half a world away, in a ship that skimmed the surface of the ocean at incredible speed but effectively invisible in the failing sun, paced Golem. From the outside, he was a lumbering machine; eight feet of polished steel sculpted to look like a stylized man with a monstrous face. Inside was a diminutive man of Czech descent, thinking about the coming meeting with the mysterious Arachne.


He’d never met the woman before, but no one with ties to the black market or various mafias of the world hadn’t heard of her. She was a real life Keyser Soze; pulling strings behind the scenes, rumored to exist but never seen, and very dangerous to cross. The he received a request to go to her lair in Colorado to discuss a plan, a plan that involved him and many others like him; profiteers, mad scientists, mutant criminals, insane warlords… “Villains” as that idiot Cavalier liked to call them.


If realizing his ambitions required him to be labeled a villain, he thought, so be it. Golem was a technological genius with a gift for planning. He could see how small incremental short-term victories could affect the overall arc of a plan. A few lost battles were often necessary to win a war, and he had no problem sacrificing soldiers to reach victory.


Belowdecks he had a small army of robotic warriors, prototypes to show off to the exotic mastermind he was travelling to meet. Golem’s genius was in designing machines, and because of his small stature and sickly nature, he needed machines to help him build them. His armor was a gift to himself; a means to not only build his inventions but as a means of travel, strength and speed. Everything he could not be on his own, he could be with his armor.


His robotic platoon had been built by the ship he was now riding in, a mobile factory that allowed him to design robots in 3D, and then built them to his exacting specifications. His plan was to build a scaled up version to create a battalion of his warriors. Each was seven feet tall, armed guns, missiles and grenades, able to fly, run or swim. They could use normal weapons in addition to their built in arsenal, and featured several hardpoints for expansions like missile racks or miniguns.


In fact, the dozen he carried on his ship were plenty to level an average sized town in under a day with heavy resistance. They were hardened against electromagnetic pulses, so even normal counter-measures would not shut them down. Each one was strong enough to lift a car, and made of carbon fibers and titanium over a steel frame; They shrugged off shots from small cannons.


Additionally, they were built with high-functioning artificial intelligence, so if the command center were ever damaged, they would not shut down, a popular pitfall and deus ex machina in pop culture. Golem was not one to take chances with failure. The ‘bots even featured antivirus software; an incident with the United States’ Reaper drones highlighted that deficiency in robotic design.


But showing off his designs wasn’t what had him nervously pacing back and forth as he skimmed the Atlantic at supersonic speeds, it was that Arachne wanted him to architect a war. Since the first despots and ambitious Sumerians conceived the idea to conquer, there had been men and women who sought to seize control of the world, even if the entire world to them was a single valley. That was the ultimate power, and in the modern world, the valley was a planet. Arachne’s idea was simple, yet profoundly giant in its scope. She wanted nothing short of complete domination of the Earth.


And what they couldn’t control, they would destroy. Her vision: a global apocalypse, with a cadre of like-minded people ruling what survived. The idea terrified the small man, but even more it excited him. To coordinate a massive worldwide conflict? Design machines and schemes to kill and subjugate billions? His nervous pacing was quickly becoming impatient anticipation. He would use everything he could think of; nuclear weapons, weather control, natural disasters, disease! Famine! Armies marching to the attack!


He realised his plans would require knowing exactly who was going to be involved. He had ideas of  men and women whose talents he could harness, but would wait to see what hand Arachne dealt before revealing anything beyond his warbots.


Though he’d never met her face to face, Golem was beginning to think he was going to be very fond of the South African Spider Queen. A crazed giggle trickled in over the ship’s PA system. Golem groaned. His passenger would no doubt prove useful, but he doubted if he could possibly hate another being more.


In a far off chamber of the ship, a hunched, disgusting creature of a man was playing with some small animals. Of average height, but emaciated and losing his hair, he went by the name Carrion, and it fit. he held no illusions that Golem kept him around because he had a useful ability, and he abused that position often, doing things simply to get a rise out of the armored man.


Carrion was infected with a disease his own body produced, a virus that killed quickly then reanimated the dead with a terrible hunger for flesh. Golem had tested him and his body clearly manufactured the contagion. He was infected with himself, and while his body deteriorated, he seemed to get stronger as a result. His mind was a fractured mess, but he’d always been unhinged so that was no real change.


He giggled as a rat battled a mouse he had infected. The larger animal was being torn apart by the zombified mouse. The mouse was missing an ear and an eye, one leg was dangling by a scrap of skin, and its tail was broken in a ninety degree angle, but still it attacked. The rat would die of the bites soon, and would also rise up. However, if the rat were to then infect something else, it would simply die.


Carrion lamented this fact; he dreamed of a day that his disease would spread like a pandemic, killing millions who would then rise and feed off of millions more. He dreamed that very thing every night.


He found himself giggling again, so he hit the PA button again, knowing he was bothering Golem with every laugh.


Detective Gutierrez listened from the other room about the calamity that Cavalier and Crater had caused downtown and shook her head in disgust. If she was a scalpel carefully carving out the more dangerous elements of society, those two were a surgical shotgun, blasting holes in the patient and calling the procedure a success despite the gaping wounds they left in their wake. The heroes of the city and surrounding region had a loose organization where they discussed tactics and impending/emerging threats, and she had repeatedly explained that their methods did more harm than good, but they typically waved her feedback away, she was “emotional” according to Cavalier.


She’d been following their record, and almost no one they had “caught” was ever prosecuted. In this case, while there was clear intent to commit a crime, the gang members had not even broken the law yet when the two idiots destroyed a city block. Every last one of them was being viewed as assault victims rather than thwarted criminals. Even an inept public defender would get them off without so much as a slap on the wrist, if they were charged with anything in the first place, which was highly unlikely.


She stalked off down the hallway, her fists balled up by her sides and her teeth clenched in anger. She had been tempted in the past to simply off both of them, but unfortunately that was little more than a pipe dream. While their hearts were in the right place, both actually worked against justice ever actually being served since many of the people they stopped often had not yet committed any crime and the damage they caused was outrageous. They were borderline threats to the city themselves.


Breanne headed toward the kitchen to make some coffee. She needed to convene the rest of the “heroes” to figure out what to do with “Dynamic duo” before they caused real and lasting damage.

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