Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Episode 33 - Ashes to Ashley, Tusk to Tusk

The funeral of Jack "Flash" Summerhall was not much different from any other small private funeral. Grieving family, friends and coworkers there to show their respects, an ex-lover there for one last look. But this funeral WAS quite different.
During the ceremony what appeared to be some former acquaintance seemed unusually moved for someone who claimed only to be "an old girlfriend from college." She made two rounds to the coffin and shed many tears over the wooden casket.
Also present, not unexpectedly, but perhaps unfortunately, William Thompson, a.k.a "Hephaestus" clearly intoxicated, and stumbling. Mystery Man didn't recognize him, out of costume, and helped him to the ceremony, keeping him upright.
The ceremony went much as one expects these things to go. Marduk noticed the woman (above) glaring at him with an accusing look, and was about to speak with her, when something behind her caught his eye. Not wanting to alarm anyone, he signaled to the other team members to sit tight and let him check it out. He strode into the part of the graveyard occupied by large marble crypts, there, hiding behind one of the larger such crypts was the unmistakable form of Tusk, the Human-Elephant. Tusk tried to grab the god of War, but even caught off guards, Marduk's reflexes were too quick. He easily eluded the pachyderm's grasp. Wondering what brought the elephant man to the funeral, Marduk tried reasoning with the man-beast. He found himself staring into the deep eyes of the villain, and suddenly 'falling into them' as though he was racing down a waterslide. Moments later he found himself, once more inside the body of Tusk. And once more his own body addressed him with impunity. A fight broke out and Marduk in Tusk's body found himself struggling against the superior foe inside his own body. The rest of the team, noticing the combat, came to his aide, but seeing only their friend engaged with a known villain, they helped knock out the body of Tusk. Strangely when that happened Tusk didn't stay down. Apparently freed from Marduk's control the "real" Tusk was able to once again assert control over his body, and seeing four super heroes surrounding Tusk decided to flee. He didn't get far before Banshee and Mystery Man brought him down. Sadly for Dragon Fly, this left him alone with the villain in Marduk's body, who summarily dispatched him with a single blow.
Eventually the team got up and found 'Marduk' holding Jack's mother tightly to him. Dragonfly challenged him to release the frightened woman, but Marduk held her tight and began moving her to a car. With Marduk's strength he could snap her like a twig.
Eventually, Mystery Man was able to liberate Mrs. Summerhall, and the team was able to face Marduk without a hostage. By name the real Marduk had once again gained control of Tusk and entered the fray. Seeing his best friend's mother held hostage, seeing the villain use his own body for the crime put him into a rage. And like a rogue elephant, Marduk gored the villain, in his own body with his sharp tusks. His body fell bloody and dying from a mortal blow. If not for the quick actions of his team, his body might have died. Then through force of will Marduk once again traded placed with the villain sending him into the body of poor Tusk.

As all this was happening, something else was happening as well. Whether it was a coincidence of time. A preternatural sense of his mother in danger, the tears of his tragic lover falling on the coffin, Jack woke up. He was without movement or sensation except for his ears to the near silence of the tomb, his eyes to the blackness of the coffin. Somehow he knew he was buried, he knew he had to get out, but he couldn't move. Then the pain came. His nerves rapidly regenerating, but for a man who experienced time 500 times faster than a normal man, that regeneration was agonizingly slow. He recalled the claims of physicists that death in a black hole, though certain, would take an eternity as the very fabric of time stretch on to infinity at the same time as space itself. For Jack Flash the pain was excruciating and seemingly unending. But beneath the pain, beneath the dread and fear, was the heart of a hero. Through inhuman fortitude and endurance Jack persevered and survived. Eventually his body regenerated to the point no physical damage remained. The scars of his torture would linger a while longer.
Trying to recreate the trick that saved him from the fate of C4, Jack vibrated his newly reconstituted body to the frequency of the wood and soil above him and pushed his way out of the grave.
Those still in attendance stood shocked to catch of glimpse of him. They saw the very air about him charged with St. Elmo's fire as he literally rose, like the phoenix, from his own ashes. Seeing the oddity of his situation Jack sent a simple signal "catch you back at the ranch" and he was gone. His mother turned to see him only for a moment, before Jack moved so quickly he could not be seen. As suddenly as he appeared, he was gone, only a small cloud of smoke stood where he was, and that quickly dispersed.

The team secured Tusk, or whoever it was, but that did not end the drama. As soon as the immediate danger was over Dragon Fly turned on Thompson and knocked him down. He began to pummel the helpless man until Mystery Man pulled him off their erstwhile teammate. Dragon Fly lit into the sodden Thompson with condemnation and accusations. He blamed Hephaestus for Jack's death and the escape of the dangerous villains because of his drunkeness and his failures to be a hero. He insisted that Thompson could not be trusted with the powered armor, and insisted it be removed from him. Although mostly passive during this, Thompson defended his possession of the suit and refused its surrender. Eventually, through the cool-headedness of Mystery Man, they all returned to the Academy and discussed the matter.

Jack explained his experience as best he could, and cautioned the team from revealing his coming back to life before he could figure out whether he could spare his family from future danger by allowing the world to believe him dead. He told the team to, for now, call him 'Phoenix.'
Marduk's wounds were treated and by morning he was fit and ready for action. His godlike constitution accounting for his remarkable recovery. No longer needing sleep, Phoenix was startled in the late morning just before dawn by the doorbell. When he went to check it, he saw a figure flying off into the dawn, and a Conch Bouquet of flowers. In Ashley's (Tiamat's) handwriting was the note:
Welcome back to the land of the living.
You can thank me when you have a chance.
Be seeing you. -A

The Immortals having defeated death itself, now faced a more intractable foe. They agreed to debate the status and role of Hephaestus in the team, given his obvious alcoholism.
Everyone gets 1XP.


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