Night Watch is Lonely Business

I suppose it's best to explain the purpose of this before you read further and get all muddled by confusing and sometimes conflicting accounts. Perhaps it would be more dramatic if I said I didn't have a name, or had keep my private identity a secret, but there are too many in my profession that try high drama and come off worse for the attempt. The point about needing to keep my personal life to myself, however, is still valid; so call me Max. Itís not my birth name, but it is the name I have always used when Iím working.

I don't like being called a superhero, or masked avenger, or any number of the colorful terms that people in my line of work have been stuck with over the decades. Having said that, yes I can jump Really High, bend and break things most normal people canít, and in general shooting at me will be more of an annoyance than an actual problem. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of people like me. Each have their own unique talents, skills, and abilities, and most manage the trick of holding down a solid job and a Ďcivilianí identity. It is unfortunate that Iím not one of these, and though I do have a normal home and social life I tend to when I hang my metaphorical cape up, this seems to be the one job I seem well suited for. What follows is my attempt at sharing portions of my life, opinions, and tidbits in the news I feel are worth commenting on. Please keep any cringing to yourself.


Where do I start here? OK fine. I'm sure nobody's ever heard of Bugtussle. Small town I hadn't heard of either and probably wouldn't have ever known about except for the fact I rode through on top of a trailer load of stolen goods. Team of anywhere between six and ten guys come through with a Semi, park in front of Two Rivers Mall, and leave with- Actually I'm not sure how much was actually in the trailer. I showed up because I was closer than the police.

That actually oversimplifies things by not taking into account that although technically I have legal authority and jurisdiction there are several in the traditional chain of command that my activities encourage, rather than discourage, criminal activity. These same people also feel that in those instances where I succeed I somehow hurt department credibility and undercut the need for Winston's Finest. Can't really say I blame the thought there. After all what if I stop going after cases where it's pretty easy to tell who's on which side of the law and start going into things that need a more delicate approach to finding enough proof to make the arrest stick.

As interesting as that thought might be to some of you we're getting off on a tangent.

I'd shown up right when they were leaving. At first Iíd taken them for either cleaning or re-stocking or something. No masks, calm I-Belong-Here attitude, and appropriate looking clothes. Still, alarm inside tripped and if these people were legit they would have probably made arrangements to have someone from their employer handle that all important detail. So while they were leaving I hopped on the top of their trailer to see what I could see. I left a noticeable dent in the top of the thing, and if something less questionable showed up I'd be unavailable to lend a hand. Plus I was in a pretty exposed spot if their response to strange noises involved automatic gunfire.

I held on while they drove by a pair of really handy magnetic grapples. OK they're stupidly strong rare earth magnets that most people would have trouble lugging about, much less reposition once they've clamped on. I carry them in my, well it's been dubbed everything from the Justice-Mobile, WarWagon, SpookSter, and all sorts of other names besides. It's mine; me and a few friends built it for my special needs, and unlike all those gaudy comic book cars it actually blends in with day to day traffic, and it has room for most of my stuff so I can have handy things like magnets strong enough to grip an aluminum walled trailer while going at highway speeds.

We rode like that for, well, I'm not sure except it was awhile. I saw 'Now Entering Bugtussle' on the way so I guess we were still there when the truck stopped. By legal agreements I cannot quote anything anyone has said, because while I have the authority to make arrests and anything said after that point automatically goes on record and yea... I know I know. It can be a bit of a headache. The driver spoke with somebody else and they pulled further into the storage lot, presumably to the units they'd rented to put this stuff in.

I was just thankful they hadn't noticed me yet; because while I could have taken them all there it adds to credibility if they can't turn around and say 'This guy jumped us out of the blue. we were just moving inventory around.' Granted I'm not sure if they would have thought that far ahead, but they had savvy enough to pull this off so I didn't want to risk their having faked work orders and delivery papers. I suppose one would wonder why they didn't just rent space in a traditional warehouse to complete the illusion if that were the case, but the thought hadn't crossed my mind till just now.

Once they'd parked and started unloading I pulled a GPS unit off my belt. This was one of those expensive ruggedized models that not only could take abuse, but could also, if connected to either an Internet connection or cell phone, transmit its current location. Handy if you don't want to speak, but you want someone else to know where you are. I'd done this trick a few times before so was pretty confident I could manage it under these conditions. While the trailer was being unloaded I'd taped a phone, pre-paid so there wouldn't be any sort of bill leading back to me, to the back then made a gentle underhand toss so the bundle would land on the unit block's roof. That would tip off a few friends I have with Winston PD that they might want to start looking here for missing goods.

I could have taken them right then, but I didn't see anything parked nearby, so if they didn't scatter on foot I had to work under the assumption they'd pile in the truck and either meet with others from their crew/set/whatever, or they'd return the truck to whatever rental place they'd gotten it from THEN scatter. I tend to carry two or three of those GPS gizmos and I keep a few phones. Look, I know. I could probably have gotten something that does what my McGuyvered homing devices do without involving duct tape. I just like using as many commonly available gadgets as possible. Never know when I'll come up against a bright bulb that can figure out who's buying all the customized swag.

Right. Good Guys know where the stolen goods are. I've put another tracking thingy on the truck itself, and if they're going somewhere private rather than a rental lot I would see just who else was involved. Pity that last part didn't work out so well. I was too busy trying to get a look at incoming traffic and got a face full of decorative gating and the last I saw of that truck or the people in it that night was of their taillights going down the road while I was peeling myself off the pavement.

Eh well. One of the many reasons I deal with the homing thingies is in case I get thrown off the trail and the boys in blue will have a few facts to string together. Itís just embarrassing when the throwing off is this literal.

After dusting myself off I took my phone out and called dad. He wanted to know how my first night out on my own went, good or bad. He'll give me merry hell about not paying attention, but not nearly the level of grief that my granddad might.

Not easy being the grandson of a legend, but itís the only life I know. I suppose as a consolation things havenít been a total wash, and in the event my judgment was off there would only be a minor embarrassment rather than a major fiasco.

Gotta love these new do-everything phones. Iím truck surfing while typing all this. Grateful I pulled my magnets off the truck when I got clonked, it made the process of getting back as easy as hopping on something headed the way I wanted to go and keep an eye out for my exit.


I've just met with a friend in Winston PD, whom I will refer to as M to preserve their identity, and gotten back the Jerry-rigged tracking devices I'd left for them to find. While my assistance had given them leads to follow, and returned the stolen items, they've requested that my involvement remain indirect in the matter because of some visiting high ranking muckamuck's kid from out of state somehow being involved. Irritating they want me to use kid gloves, but I understand. Kid gets popped he's going to have Daddy Morebucks call in the high powered legal team that could get Freddy Felon or Marley Misdemeanor off on a technicality caused by me throwing him through a wall before hauling him in.

I've actually done that before to somebody that pulled a shotgun on me. It's actually quite therapeutic, and if done right you don't break nearly many bones in the perp as you would think.

M gave me what they came up with on both who rented the storage units and the truck. Winston's Finest had been explicitly told to Stay Away otherwise Bad Things will happen to their budget. However if they got tipped off by a dependable informant that has no official affiliation with the department followed up by a subtle but not too subtle hint that if nothing further is done an expose piece will be put through the late night circuit well, I'm sure Bad Things are still more likely than not, but at least this way it'll get delayed until after a solid case has been built and arrests made.

I got home from last night's doings about the time most people go to work in the morning. Right now it's close to what most people thing is lunch time. A friend of the family is going to show up tonight for some as-yet-not-known reason, and the people M wants me to check in on are from out of town.

What I need is time.

Thankfully I've got hours before Comrade Peter, yes That Comrade Peter, shows. I know it's more than most are willing to believe that my family's on good terms with the former Red Menace. Like I said before, to me it's just how things were. He's a nice guy, and even when he and granddad stood on opposing sides of the Iron Curtain they had self imposed rules and more than a little respect for each other. He helped train me when granddad got sick, taught me the simple joys that can help offset the heartache being 'unique' can bring, and he helped convince myfather that it was in my best interests to let me follow the path he least liked. I won't slight the man by being late in picking him up, especially since I'm pretty sure even though he's in his seventies he could probably knock me into next week.

First stop on my quick check through things is going to be at Lucyís Bar and Grill. I'm hungry, and the guy that runs the place might be able to give me a better go-to on these people. I don't advise anyone else try the man. In his prime he probably could take me in a straight up fight. Just glad that he, granddad, his wife, and I had a long heart to heart over dinner one night. Not sure if he actually knows anything, and if not I'll have to suss these people out on my own. Don't like it because I just don't see any gang, especially a purely local one, stealing that much stuff without some sort of deal with one of the bigger fish. Then again I'll admit I'm new at this so probably don't quite understand how the criminal mind works.


Granddadís Dead.


Breath. Inhale. Hold. Exhale.

Peter told me he wanted to give me the news personally instead of over the phone. The Funeralís going to be next Friday after a week of national mourning. Heís asked me if I wanted to speak when they bring him to Washington for public services.

Iíve gotten calls from a few friends that know all those little details about my life I donít generally share. Iím not fine. Dadís told me itís better off for everyone that the Old Manís gone. He said people shouldnít look to any single person as their savior.

We argued. Canít think straight. Sorry.

If anyone needs me Iíll be beating up pimps and drug pushers. Maybe Mr. Patterson will start hitting his wife again. He does it tonight and Iím not sure if I can keep myself from killing him.


Nobody died because of me, though more than a few have broken bones and probably will have nightmares of what I did to them for the next decade. On the whole though things were slow. Maybe this is one of those moments where the whole nation stops and realizes just what happened is deeply historic and has to take a few moments to catch itís collective breath. Maybe even if they donít realize Iím the manís grandson Iíd more likely than not look up to him and as a result would be unpredictable if provoked right now.

Case in point I see a Slurp ní Shop getting held up and one of the thugs sees me. He motions to the door and the guy holding up the register pushes the money theyíd just stolen back to the kid working there, and dropped their guns before finding somewhere else to be. Usually they either put up some sort of fight, or try taking the money with them.

Peter showed up around midnight, in full uniform no less.

ĎCome. We will celebrate your Grandfatherís life by doing what he loved.í

Iím pretty sure the thick accent was a put-on, but even though the manís old enough to retire to a quiet life wherever he pleases he still cuts an impressive figure, and heís kept his Colors in pristine condition.

The night was slow, but there were places the two of us proved useful in keeping the peace. Underground fighting. Normally I turn a blind eye, especially when I know the people running the things enforce rules to limit how bloody they get. Itís the ones like we saw that involve weapons or Ďto the deathí that get my attention. No really I try a calm rational approach before things get messy to see if at least a few people will see sense and find somewhere else to be. There that night though weíd told them to either leave, or they would be made to leave, and we didnít care which. Even with the sort of extraordinary healing, tolerances, strength, and such taking on a room full of testosterone junkies in a confined space isnít what either of us would consider smart fighting.

Between the two of us we had the room cleared in maybe five minutes, possibly less. Normally Iíd feel bad for anyone who I actually hurt. Itís generally better if I can incapacitate without permanently laming or otherwise compromising someone, but nobody would die because of our untidiness. Peter made calls both to Winston PD and to a few of the closer hospitals. Canít be sure but I think Mercer Medical was closest, or maybe Julie Ann Memorial. Both were called before we left.

Before the night was over we hit a burning building, working with Winstonís Bravest so they could focus on the fire while we looked for anyone trapped inside. Of the people we helped direct out only one needed more than a quick pointer on which way was out and I let Peter carry him out while I made sure it hadnít spread. Bless whoever invented those oxygen masks. That would have been far more difficult with people dying in the process if they hadnít lent us a pair.

We called it a night after that. I was tired, Peter was exhausted, and we both had a flight to catch in a couple hours. M knows Iíll be gone, and though they and the rest of the department will miss me they understand.

Typing all this while on the way to the airport. Police escort, people lining the streets. Thereís a good number of homemade banners and signs. Youíd think Iíd done something to deserve the attention. Not sure who told them, or why. Things wonít be quite the same when I get back, but I left my gear in good hands.


It was all over pretty much every network. I will spare you with details youíre already familiar with. Perhaps he would have said heíd rather the national attention to the causes he championed and his want for people to come together on this grand a scale to have happened before he died, but Iím sure he would have been happy with the memorial service. All in all I feel it was done tastefully. Was actually somewhat caught off guard that so many from his old unit are gone.

The words I said were not quite the ones I wanted to say. They were true words spoken from the heart, but it was only part of what I wanted to say. So here goes with the rest of it.

His life has touched so many for so long that itís hard to believe heís gone. I grew up with this man and saw the flaws and failings that he tried to keep from the public eye and, I believe, everyone has tried to quietly dismiss as hearsay and black propaganda.

When I started dating he took me off to one side to give me The Talk. I suppose everyone gets this talk when they first figure out girls arenít icky. Hold open doors and such. His Talk also went into things he Never Ever wanted me to do. One of these was dating Ďthose kinds of people.í I can already hear the uproar this will cause and ask everyone to just settle down. He had the greatest respect for people of any creed or color, far more than many from his generation were brought up to have. That upbringing was bigoted, backward, and even though he often rose above it there were some things that had been so ingrained in him that they were a part of him.

Skip ahead to my Senior Prom. I was scared out of my mind because my date, a wonderful and intelligent woman who is still in my life, broke one of these Unbreakable Rules. I couldnít lie to the man, and had gotten away with things up until that point both by luck and not bringing the matter to his attention. Unfortunately he was going to be our escort that night and at first when he saw her I thought he was going to scream, shout, throw things, or even try hurting either of us. What he did was worse. He broke down and cried. Until that point I bought into the idea nothing could hurt him and seeing this big immovable and supposedly unbreakable man torn in half by my hands hurts, and will always hurt. He wouldnít have anything to do with me months after, and even when we were on speaking terms again he refused to acknowledge that my relationship had ever happened or anything about that night.

He was flawed. Even though he was physically so much more than the rest of us that made him more than the legend that has grown around him. It made him Human.

He used to bring doughnuts every Saturday when I was little, enough for me and the gaggle of kids from the neighborhood. It was one of those things that always happened and it was before I found out about who he was and what heíd done. Years later after Iíd found out about my own gifts and was still trying to come up with a way to cope. I asked him how he had managed to not crack under the strain. He looked at me, I will always remember that moment, and grinned. ďItís the little things really. Remember those doughnuts I used to get?Ē I nodded, but he never finished. At the time I was puzzled, but it was one of those things that really didnít need to be said. Those small acts of normalcy will be what I remember most when I try thinking of the bright spots in his life.

To me he wasnít just Commander Justice. Heís my grandfather, and I miss him.

What else needs to be added to that? What more needs saying? This is the last time I will bring the matter up in this place. my grief is my own. Just glad theyíll honor his wishes and scatter his ashes through Arlington. He had always considered the ground there sacred beyond anything he could either add to or take away from and he wanted no single monument there, no one spot that would be favored above those that already are or will be buried there. There is talk of putting a monument to him in the Washington Mall. That is something I will oppose at every step if it becomes more than rumor on the winds. He accepted becoming a national symbol only in the dark days of World War Two. After that he tried to differ much of his fame, deserved or otherwise, to those that didnít have his... gifts ...yet still jumped headlong into harmís way. I think if the War hadnít happen he would have done everything he could to remain little more than a local fixture.

Because my father refused to attend they gave me the flag they draped over his coffin.


Well, Iím not back to normal. It will be a long time before that happens, but the world does not stop, and sadly neither does crime. M and several others from Winstonís Finest met me at the gate when I returned. After the small talk was done they had my van waiting for me. They wanted me to meet at the usual place after the press conference. It seemed now that the rest of the country knew who I was related to, somebody had already sent out a death threat.

Few things cut through grief like anger, and Iím not going to stand for people wanting to kill me on account of a grudge they might have had with my granddad. Worse, thereís talk, when they think Iím not listening, of trying to get me to leave town Ďfor the safety and welfare of the general public.í The sentiment is understandable, especially if this threatís from someone that thinks they can take me. Itís often joked that the Air Force measured just how destructive their bombs were by seeing how much they could make my granddad flinch. Sure Iím tough, but Iíll be the first one to admit Iím not that tough.

I will tell the world now what I told it an hour ago. I Will Not Bow Down. To run and hide now means whoeverís behind this will always have some sort of handle on me they can twist to make me step aside whenever they please. I donít like the idea that just being somewhere might endanger people, so Iím going to remove that danger now by finding whoever this is and make them go away. To that end Iím working with several agents the FBI are going to send to asses the threat and do the sorts of detailed work that Iím just not trained for.

It will take time for that to happen, and since all work with no play makes Max Go Crazy Iím calling my lady friend for a quiet night of movies and maybe weíll slide into Worlds of Wonder a bit to finally finish out my Necromancerís Staff of Vile Deeds. Donít give me that look. I have a stressful job; Iím allowed to goof off now and then.

Iím not, for the record, the only ĎMaskí that uses that place to blow off steam. In fact It could almost be thought of as an online gathering spot for those from my generation. I will neither confirm nor deny the rumors concerning who controls which characters. Generally though itís my experience that most of my peers do the same stunt I do; get billing details routed through NSA and have them act as a designated go-between like any other matter that leaves a paper trail anyone with the brains and time to follow.

After all why not? Iím not a big fan of the national registry, but my granddad endorsed the idea even after heíd become bitterly opposed to everything else Government related. My dad and several others that have interests in keeping the thing from abuse is on the committee that has direct oversight of the thing. Itís not the best solution, and if anyone wants to discuss the matter further leave comments or email me. To sum up though it acts as a layer of protection when someoneís trying to figure out which costume belongs to which person.

Back to what I was saying about Worlds of Wonder. Iím actually in a Guild that only allows known Masks to join. Everythingís on the up and up and I trust the group, mostly because Iím one of the founding members and we make it a point to check to make sure people are who they claim they are before letting them join. Why? The place gives us somewhere we can relax, talk shop, and get to know each other a little better without having to go gather at some weekend retreat in Middle of Nowhere USA.

Mostly because I feel like it, and because I cleared this one with everyone ahead of time Iíll let you in on a little something. The founding members are Lucky Quickdraw, Sarah Speed, Black Hornet, Billy Brick, Zeus, Hiro, Mister Miracle, and Anvil. After that first batch Iíd have to look at the rolls to make sure I havenít left anyone out, and Iím not going to claim everyone whoís a fe llow Mask goes there to pal around, but I like to think just those eight names, plus myself, should give the wider world some idea of how far flung we are. Sure thereís Social networking, and Iím not the only Mask to keep a blog, but the place gives us a chance to meet more or less face to face on matters.

Between one quest or another Zeus brought up the fact Iíd never let them in on who I was related to. I brushed it off, I mean why bother? I am not my grandfather and I wanted to make my own identity without benefit or burden of his shadow hanging over me. Sarah stepped in after Zeus went quiet and tried saying they werenít mad, that even with the similarities in what the two of us could do it just blew everyoneís heads wide open that one of their own was related to The_Legend. Maybe I could have gotten him to speak to everyone from our generation to try giving us some advice and perspective. So I had to tell them, and the rest of the guild that was there, that he hadnít really done public or even privet appearances in years. Either because of age or his declining health had made him afraid that if anyone had seen him so reduced might have crushed whatever credibility he had built up.

As a consolation I told everyone Iíd see if I could get Comrade Peter to open up a few days on his calendar. That seemed to brighten the mood back up enough that we blew through Anvilís request to hunt Loremaster. Hard run to make even with a full party, but we managed it. Pity he didnít drop the Occult Amulet of Mechanical Control. That was the main reason weíd gone to the trouble of going, but at least Anvil managed to get another level on his summoner.

After that everyone was burned out and ready to call it a night, or in some cases Day. Several of them messaged me to let me know that theyíd heard about the hit thatíd been called out on me through a general bulletin sent to everyone on The Registry. Each promised theyíd let me know if they found out anything relevant to the matter before leaving. Strange, mine must still be in my inbox.


After leaving my lady friendís home I started to follow up on a few things from Lucyís. Why not? Police are still Ďencouragedí to make it a low priority, and I canít let somebody that wants to go head hunting keep me from doing my job. First on my list is Enrique Entitlementís home. Pity I canít outright say who the guy is, but people like that tend to get all lawsuit happy when people like me try telling the world what theyíve been up to. I know theyíre watching my blog so Iíll make my feelings plain. You People Disgust Me. Making a mockery of how the justice system works does not make me very sympathetic to any sort of genuine problems you might be facing. Ah well. Innocent until proven Guilty has itís flaws, but itís our system and Iíll back it for all Iíve got.

Now, with that out of the way back to the nightís doings. Prettyboy Pete likes his house. In fact he likes it so much he regularly invites hundreds of his friends over to party. Canít exactly blame him really, what with security being better than going out, and it being less likely his face will end up in the papers. People like him generally donít let just anyone into their parties, but Iím sure heíll make an exception for me

Time to break out the fresh suit, one that doesnít have all the little nicks scratches, claw marks, burned spots, and other unsightly things. Cape or no cape? Usually I donít, because they snag and get caught on all sorts of things. Even the break-away clasps donít help all that much. Yet I figure why not, it goes with the outfit and all.

After the drive there, and calling M to reassure him all Iím doing is looking around, I pretty well made everyoneís eyebrows shoot up eight notches. They let me in. What, you thought those pictures in the paper were doctored? I declined drinks but decided that I liked the music enough to mingle with the crowd. Pretty sure the videos all through the Internet donít convey just how wierded out everyone was of me, in full uniform, dancing.

Roughly an hour into my stay I was approached by two very large, and probably very drunk, people trying to make me pick a fight with both of them. I like to think Iím pretty restrained and calm. Yet both decided to hit below the belt and kept going on about how Iím only allowed to work because my granddad pulled strings. Their words were more colorful and more detailed, but thatís what it all amounted to. I told them to go sleep it off, they didnít know what they were trying to do, and finally I just started walking off. I wasnít there for a fight, and Iím we ll aware at how bad it would look if the morning news showed clips of me busting the place up.

They followed me, and then started making trouble for other people. Finally I just couldnít ignore them anymore so I let both of them hit me. I donít like it when people do that, because even though it didnít hurt I donít want to have to stop for every boozed up tough guy wanting to make a name for himself by breaking my nose.

Only after they started swinging did security show. I waved them away and while the two were nursing sore (and possibly broken) knuckles I grabbed both of them and walked them out the door. I told them if they wanted Iíd call a cab. Their replies were incoherent, likely vulgar, and I called anyway just to keep them from stinking up the rest of the evening.

When I got back inside Mr. Moneybags greeted me at the door, complimented me on handing what might have otherwise been a rough situation, and apologized for how his friends treated me. I waved the compliment off and we got to the business of small talk. This ended up leading to my family and the obligatory condolences on his part and my steering to somewhat safer or at least more relevant matters of my work. Bit of a risk to tip my hand and let the man know that his name had sprung up in connection to a few thefts a couple weeks back, but I couched it in terms of trying to figure out if he was a victim of identity theft, or if he had any enemies that wanted to remove him from the publicís good will.

Come to think of it that very well could be whatís going on here. I asked Benny BigBucks to start looking through his expenses, phone records, Everything. Because the Police are somewhat hampered in the matter I couldnít ask him to hand over copies, but I did hint that it might be easier on him if he let me have a looksee. Believe it or not he agreed, under the condition that this remain strictly off the record, no media or police involvement. Very hush hush and all. We shook on it and I told him I would be back around lunch for these documents.

Maybe a bit naive on my part to trust him, but I canít blindly follow my gut when matters arenít clear cut with somebodyís hand in the proverbial piggy bank. Better to show a little caution than to end up with my name in the headlines along with the words Ďdisgracedí Ďfalse accusationsí or Ďunder investigation.í My gut says thereís more going and even if Danny Dollarsigns is being scammed his hands arenít entirely clean.

When I got within sight of my van I saw somebody there waiting for me. He was Big, Green, and he was carrying, of all things, an ax. Said ax had been, from what I could tell, used to cut through the engine and cab of my van. Fine. I suppose this meant Iíve come face to face with the guy that wanted to kill me. He turned from my van and sprung at me. What. no witty banter? No denouncement for what Iíd done to him? Sorry Charlie. None of that. I had something or someone bounding at me with apparent violent intent.

I wonít bother describing the fight, both because I donít rightly remember most of the details, and my head still hurts from where I got hit with a phone pole. Heís at least as strong and tough as I am. I gave as good as I got, I think, and he ended up running for it when the sun started coming up. Strange. Donít know if heíd turn to stone if hit by stray sunbeams or if heís merely really sensitive to light, but Iím just going to call him Troll from now on.

When Iím done posting this I have to get in touch with different people to try getting fixed what I couldnít clear away, a police report to file, and Iíve got to get in touch with those agents what are supposed to be my go-to people on Mr. Troll.

Twenty says itís some egghead that wanted to try copying the sort of genetics package granddad had and screwed up. Hope itís reversible, because Troll didnít seem too big on the brains department. Most of what he used on me was raw strength and little in the way of finessing.


Iím not at home. Never went home today, since Iím pretty sure Troll has a handler of some sort, or at least I have to go under the assumption it wasnít just a lone bruiser shoving his way through town to get to my neck. My name and face off hours isnít much, but itís my business and I donít like the idea of having to wade through cameras just to get to my front door. It would probably piss off my landlord too.

So. What did I do today? I went out of town for a bit. I promise Iím not running. Think of it as gathering information. While I was away I met with those agents that were working my case and explained what happened the night before, or is it this morning, not sure. They told me my assumption was partially correct. Mad Science afoot, but a minion turned monster instead of the man that made the formula.

Why FBI instead of NSA? Actually now that Ďweí are pretty sure it isnít just some guy in a costume or a hired gun they might get involved. Until then this is being treated much like any other crime, investigate, interview, go over and over what facts are available, and try building a list of suspects from all that information. Great. Getting interviewed by two agents while at the same time being told off for tampering with the crime scene.

Look. Iíll let you folks in on something since youí re being such good sports about all this. Sure I get the occasional reward, but the money isnít steady or a sure thing. Plus anytime something gets broke, like say a building or cars or whatever, I have to somehow cover costs. So Iíve been trying to keep collateral damage as low as I can and Iíve tried making it a habit to clean up after myself. Both of these things I had taken along with lessons on subduing armed and desperate men, the best way to punch a car to make it stop without hurting anyone inside, how best to take an explosion, and so on.

In spite of the ĎOMG the sun is about to explode!í moments, and clichť villains I could almost wish life were like the comics. None of them ever have to fill out claims forms or accident reports. Then again generally their romantic lives are in the toilet and theyíre too wound up about keeping their precious secret identity from the people closest to them.

So not a good day. Not a very productive day. Iím cranky, tired, and if tall, green, and stupid shows up again Iím probably going to try ramming a tree down itís throat.


Stopped a bank robbery. Two guys with automatic weapons and body armor. Iíd heard about something like this going down in LA a few years ago, and as soon as I heard what was going on I told Agents Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum to shut up, let me work, and help keep everyone else clear.

Quite happy to report they didnít argue with me and by the time I got there a blockade had been formed. People were hit and the two gunmen could have hostages but this is the kind of thing I was born to do. Iíll update when this is over.


One dead, the other in intensive care. For the record I think the guy bit down on a cyanide pill when I grabbed him. Kinda shows when heís foaming at the mouth and such. Other guy tried taking a hostage, so I broke his hand. Got shot in the process and I probably could have been a little gentler when grabbing the guy, but theyíre sure heíll live. The only other injuries, thankfully, are relatively minor. At least everyone else will be alright save for a few scars. Sure I could have stayed when the news vans started showing up, but why bother? I donít want the glory, and I sure as hell donít want to take anything away from Winstonís Finest. I just stepped up so good men and women wouldnít get hurt.

Though if you look close enough you can see me in the background waving to the camera.

Iím going to have to send Sergeant Laurie something nice when I get the money. She kept a clear head and if she hadnít been as quick there might have been more people in there than the ones in the bank. Also gonna need to send something to the tellers at First and Union. Calm, didnít budge or give in. They kept their heads about them.

Dadís one question to me, when he called, was Ďwhy did you let one of them kill themselves on national TV.í Figures. We love each other, and the man busts himself to try keeping me and everyone else in my business safe. It just seems like thereís no making the man happy sometimes.

To take matters from wishy washy to Fail for the day I come home to find somebody waiting for me. Thankfully I already changed out and such. Itís just annoying when Spooks show up, no sense of courtesy sometimes. He had out the bottle of whiskey Iíd been saving since... well it was a gift for busting a couple of would-be-thieves that tried getting into some rich guyís house. I donít like bartering, but itís good whiskey, and the bottle alone is a work of art. It felt insulting to have some stranger show up out of the blue pouring himself a glass and otherwise acting like he owned the place.

We talked. He was blunt and to the point. People wanted me to try coming in one way or another on the political mudball that was going on in DC. Yíknow, try getting me in somebodyís corner to try getting their bloc ahead. I told the man, calmly, I donít do politics and if he didnít get out of my home I was well within my right to shove him face first through the door.

I know, a bit harsh since Iím sure he was just doing his job, but I wanted to make it clear that I will not be bought and bartered like so many others in the past. I donít want to end up like poor Bill.

History lesson: Not sure how many people studied Masks from the Cold War era. For awhile it seemed like any town of any real size had some sort of masked avenger. The bigger the town the more inflated the Maskís reputation. Bill was DCís in-town Mask, and he was actually pretty good at what he did. Trouble is he tried getting political, thought he could use the system to make positive changes if he played things right. He ended up on McCarthyís lists for some reason or another, and even though the commie hunt ended up backfiring Bill was an early and dramatic casualty. Ended up feeling alienated by everybody heíd worked decades to defend and killed himself after years of soaking in cheap booze.

I donít want to end up like him, so thatís why I was so blunt about telling the guy to buzz off. Probably not a politically savvy move, but I donít care what goes on with The Hill. Iím already up to my neck in trouble without adding that kind of mess to my life.

No leads from the Feds on where Troll came from, so I decided to vent by putting my suit on and see what could be seen.

No Murders (thank God.)

Two Robberies (both surrendered peacefully.)

One Rape (I caught the guy in the act. He no longer has those parts of his body anymore. Iím sure heíll sue, but itís not funny. Itís not a laughing matter. I catch anyone pulling that crap and I will gladly rip their jewels off to keep it from ever happening again, and thatís when Iím in a good mood.)

FIVE domestic abuse calls (two ended peacefully. I ended up punching one guy in the face (gently!) after he kicked me in the sweets. Another guy tried stabbing me and I hauled him out for the cops to sort out after I left face sized holes in one of his walls. Fifth case ended up with the wife Macing me then trying to stab me in the neck with an ice pick while I down. I was raised to not ever hit a woman, but I sure as hell will if they want to start something.)

Look. I know tempers flare up but please, címon people. If I show up that means showís over. Stop trying to kill each other, and donít try taking it out on me. I donít like getting maced, stabbed, kicked in the danglies, or bit. It makes me irritable, and Iím not above breaking furniture with your face before the boys in blue get there. I am generally well within my rights to subdue aggressive persons while making arrests, and I have enough training to do so without killing you but make you wish I had.


Iím goiní to bed.


I have five names. Five people that the government knows of that are theoretically smart enough to have been behind Troll. Iím going to go question these people myself. I want to see how they react personally. Unless anyone tries anything I will be polite and nice. no sense in making more enemies than I probably already have.

Me and my lady friend are keeping in touch via VoIP, webcam, and gaming sessions. It boggles my mind at the number of people that leave their wireless unsecured. Even basic WEP protection and not broadcasting your ID would offer a small measure of protection from casual passers by leaching off your bandwidth. Iím not guilty of this. Just imagine the headlines now. No, really. Leaching is illegal. Iím just pointing something out that the wider public might not be aware of. Thank you Sarah for pointing that one out to me. So, Iím going cross country to try flushing out whoever could send genetically engineered thugs after me, or at least supplied the concoction that got used in the process. Iím going to have to assume whoever this is could very well be a victim themselves, so no busting doors down or threatening to make all their shiny equipment go kaboom.

How do I even begin to approach this? I was told it would be better if a professional handle matters, but something in my gut disagrees. Whoever this is will probably be prepared for a trained by the book sort of questioning. If this is someone that has disfigured someone to make them a weapon against me I want to be able to look them in the eyes when they try denying involvement. If whoever this person is has been used I still want to look them in the eye. My instincts have been wrong in the past, but I still trust them enough to point me in the right direction most days.

Besides, thereís the practical considerations to take into mind. Whoever this is, if theyíre violent, they might have lain traps out. Iím not invulnerable, but I can take far more than any normal person, even wrapped in layers of ceramics and bulletproof fabrics. I will go in and ask my questions, and I will give the recordings of these conversations to the agents accompanying me.

Want a summary of what being on the road is like? Agents Toot and Tweet flip to see who drives first.We do a little work with what new material comes in, hit a rest stop around lunch, then back on the road with the agent that hadnít been driving before now in the hot seat for another four hours. Check in at wherever and get in touch with the rest of the investigation, keep tabs on what Winston PD is facing while Iím gone, and pass the time until morning.

I hear people out there wondering why we donít just fly. Turns out being known internationally has the downside of making me a high profile person, enough so that me showing up at an airport could not only clog the place with gawkers, but turn the place into a giant blazing target for whoever wants my head. Sure me on the road with just two agents sounds like an even bigger risk, especially considering the amount of time it takes to get from Here to There, but we agreed itís safer to be a single face amongst millions instead of risking airports or train terminals.

The positive of having all this time on the road means I get to catch up on a bit of reading. Right now plowing my way through Tripod Invasion: Fact or Fiction? and after that Iíve got World War Z on my to read list. Not a bit fan of the whole Zombie thing in general, but I hear good things from all sorts of people about that book, so I figure why not.

Beats yet another nutcase trying to convince the world that the Tripod Invasion at the turn of the century was intentionally covered up. Everyone whoís looked into the matter agrees that what wreckage was recovered from the two known invasions was so far beyond even what we have today that we canít make sense of any of it, much less figure out how to reproduce the technology. Hell, the Germans tried with one of their wonder weapons and look where it got them.

Sorry. Bit of a sore spot. Believe what you will on the matter. I had the misfortune of having family involved, so I got a bit of a crash course on the whole tripod bit when I was still small enough to sit in momís lap. So why read the obvious conspiracy nut book about them? I lost a bet and have to do a ten page writeup explaining why I think the book is stupid.

By the way. Both Agents are fans of Dungeon Runners. Whoíd have thought eh?


This is me wondering if theyíll let me do a walk-on cameo in one of the back lots in LA. Bah. Donít think Hollywood is close enough to where weíre headed to make that one work. Headed to some middle of nowhere place thatís home to the first name on our list. Old Japanese guy. Mustíve moved here after the end of World War 2. By what the reports suggest heís something of a community fixture, so best to be gentle.

This is one time Iím glad Granddad isnít here. He saw how the Japanese treated their prisoners. It... left marks on him. Iíll say no more on the matter.

Beth, odd name for a place, but no worse than Hell, Tombstone, or Bugtussle. Might want to pick up a few things while Iím here. Hey might as well. My lady love would be a bit irritated if I didnít manage to bring something back with me and all. That and if they sell those Navajo inspired rugs I might want one for my living room. Anyone have any advice on what sorts of patterns to look for? Iíd rather avoid anything looking too ceremonial. I remember some documentary about how many of the weavers would start incorporating stuff into their designs that traditionally would never have been allowed in something so permanent because thatís what the customers kept demanding. Could be wrong or remembering wrong. Sooo guys. Help?

Agent Toot has been tutoring me on the best ways to approach the old man. pity I donít know Japanese, hope he knows English because otherwise this is going to get odd in a hurry.


I shouldnít believe what this man has told me. Both agents seem suspicious and thing his mind has gone, but they didnít see the man. His eyes are clear and focused. He holds down a job, volunteers to read to the sick and infirm. He grows his own herbs, teaches cooking classes on a weekly basis. Ye Gods, for someone thatís got the oldest recorded person beat by a good thirty years this manís active. Scratch that. The guyís active for men in their seventies.

I tried showing as much humility as someone wearing bright colors and layers of Kevlar can. He listened as I explained to him that I had been attacked sometime before by someone that had undergone such a dramatic and, at the same time, apparently effective, alteration that there were only a handful of people that could have managed it without killing the subject. I made it quite clear that right now I was fishing for information and had not come with my mind already made up on whoís guilty of what. We talked back and forth a bit, him feeding me little bits of his collected wisdom, and me explaining how it feels to be in my grandfatherís shadow while we worked his herb garden.

He stood from picking some kind of stumpy leafy plant and he smiled at me before telling me he was the reason my grandfather was the man he was. He was of a sound mind when he said this. He told me the things he and five others did in the beginning of the last century are the reasons so many Masks are around today. Slowly, on aged and likely arthritic joints, he knelt and asked me to forgive him. In hindsight I have all sorts of explanations for his behavior, old man thatís getting on in years but still exceedingly brilliant wanting to unburden himself about things done way back when. Iíve heard stories of WW2 vets on all sides that had this kind of thing.

At the time though I couldnít believe he was anything but of sound mind and judgment. So I told him, with the sort of voice appropriate to the situation, that he owed no debts and that what was in the past should remain there. He smiled and thanked me for humoring him.

After that we talked business. He couldnít completely dismiss the idea that a student of his might have come up with something that would work, but apparently making changes to an adult anything (fish, ant, plant, or human) was orders of magnitude more complicated than starting with a newly fertilized egg. The added advantage, apparently, of starting from the beginning was that if a working alteration the cell cluster could be split any number of times before they had a chance to start forming the different parts of whatever youíre growing. Have to admit even if the ideaís repulsive and disturbing, the man knows what heís talking about.

This led our conversation to trying to figure out several things:

If Dr. Muckamuck grew Troll from a test tube how long would it reasonably have taken to grow up? We both had to guess that it was at least a teenager if not a full blown adult. Too aggressive to be a child, but it could have matured in as little as a couple years. Sure thatís awhile to try housing feeding and hiding something, but it also gives whoeverís behind this time to train and condition it.

If all our guessing was right. How long would these things live? Elephants live, if left on their own, a Really Long Time. Humans, with good diet and such, also live a Really Long Time. Most other land critters... donít . Generally thirty to forty years is the longest an active mammal can expect to live, and thatís with better than average food, medical care, and such.

So. Likely dealing with something bred, raised, and trained to hunt me, or at the very least people like me. Groovy, I wonít be able to reason with it and Mr. Kabu said if it was grown to take me on it likely had the same sort of package I had grown into, only altered by drugs, training, and likely with no care for by-standards. All that would have been needed to work off of would be a blood sample, and my granddad gave blood twice a year for about forty years. Peachy.

I know other Masks read this. You see something anywhere from seven to twelve feet tall, green, looks pissed off, and such. It hits at least as hard as I can, and it wonít care one bit about human life. Watch yourselves. Agents Doink and Dink are already passing the word along. Iím going to go pass the word along in Worlds after I get this posted.

Even if the man might be slipping I believe his mind to have been sound enough to be on the level with me. I also believe he has nothing to do with this other than possibly being a former teacher to whoever might be. Heís refused any sort of government protection, so Iím asking if anybody from the area would be willing to drop by now and then. Iíd consider it a personal favor.


Sarah and Hiro found and engaged two of these... creatures. Hiro got more than a bit banged up and Sarah had to break off her fight when it threw a car at a Slurp ní Shop. That puts these things in the Midwest. Anvil reported a possible sitting but whatever he saw ran for it.

Weíre on the way to the next name on our list. Canít say who, because unlike Mr. Kabu this guyís got a legal team at beck and call. I will say heís been in the news in the past about some stuff involving hamsters. Anything else could probably get me into trouble.

Feds are trying to work the money angle, see whoís able to afford things needed for research, growth, training, and all that. Makes sense, and Iíll leave them to ferret it out. Stars and Bars guys, this is the freakiní IRS weíre talking about getting involved, or near enough anyway. Guys that could get stones bleeding with the kind of pressure they can exert. It might take awhile, since itís a big list of possible backers, but theyíll make good on their end. Guy breaks all kinds of laws doing what heís done, not sure which but Meep n Moop assure me thereís stuff on the books that got passed right after the whole Sheep thing awhile back.

Downside to following the money is how long it will take. Sure weíve gotten lucky and so far itís only been property damage, but it wonít stop at that. Frak, somebody grew their very own thugs to take me and everyone like me. If theyíre willing to go that far I doubt human lives mean much to them.


My second meeting didnít go nearly as well as the first. I suppose getting told at the lobby that Iím not allowed in because I have no ID, in spite of having two federal agents with credentials flanking me, should have been a sign. I tell the guy on duty if he wants proof I am who I say I am heís more than willing to shoot me. Thereís guys with badges right there in the room able to testify I told him to do it if somehow he managed to kill me.

The look on peopleís faces when I spit bullet shreds out is always priceless. Bit of a headache and the taste in the back of my throat isnít going away for awhile, but it sure beats the paperwork shuffle.

Guy was there, we knew he was there, but his secretary kept insisting he was out of the country and she would be more than happy to send one of his legal advisers up to speak with us. I could have broken the guyís door in and strolled in like I owned the place. There wouldnít have been a thing he or his staff could have done to stop me from beating answers out of him.

Thatís not how I work, because if I started abusing what power I have what is there, short of letting Bombs drop, to stop me? Stan Lee put it best. With great power comes great responsibility. Moving On.

The statements prepared were to the point, in plain language, and contained all the right words. I told the man, off the record, that if his boss had wanted me to trust that he isnít somehow involved he should have met with me instead of hide behind minions. Told him it wasnít anything personal, and that I hoped he doesnít lose his job if he decided, at some later point after people are dying, to come to us with anything relevant. All that strictly off the record and between one civilian to another while Agents Squee and Squick were out of the room.

Were this a movie the man would have been unpleasant, or at least lacking personality. Were this a comic heíd be the creepy little loyal minion that would stand by his boss because Thatís His Job. I actually sympathized with the guy. Got a job where they were hiring and heís tried staying true to his principles, which kept him out of the insurance business and away from celebrities. Guyís got family with special needs, so while heís got a nice suit and looks like heís swimming in money heís doing good just to tread water. I know this because the government knows this, and they were willing to share. I try making friends where I can, and you never know right?

Still, the guy that writes his checks might see this entry and do the math before bouncing him out on his head. Iíll feel bad about that, but I wasnít going to mention him at all unless I was pretty sure heíd be taken care of.

An unpleasant meeting, but not completely unproductive.


Weíre going over notes and other tidbits that look credible. The guy we left, while up to some shady dealings, likely isnít it. His main focus, so our sources tell us, is in trying to get bacteria and other simple life that makes the sorts of stuff that gives heroin its buzz. Bit of a grey area legally speaking, but not my problem right now.

Wordís gotten Ďround about my Troll Hunt. Iím guessing thatís why sightings and scuffles are getting more common. Two people hospitalized and a couple others that lost their homes. Midnight and Songbird are down, but they managed to kill one of the ugly buggers. Forensics are going to have a field day with the body, and hopefully having samples will give us a better idea on where theyíve come from.

I donít like being away from Winston. It opens a hole up that people can exploit and my lady friend can only do so much on her own. Still, somebodyís got to be there when the G-Men find this guy. I doubt heíll be willing to send up the white flag and hand himself over if they ask pretty please with sugar on top with sprinkles.


I am going on the record for the whole world to see. I will not now or ever agree to anybody copyrighting my likeness so competitors canít make their own stuff with my face on it. As I told Hasbro if they want to make little plastic people and give them my face go right ahead. Anyone with half a brain in their head knows I donít control or even really care about merch. Iím sure I could make a bundle if I signed in for appearances and stuff, but how long will it be before Iím just a useless poster boy thatís so busy with public outings that I canít do my blasted job?

Also for the record I like Hasbroís work. I also like Mattel. If anyone tries comparing me to that manga... comic... thing from Japan Iím going to be sick. Thatís unpaid Ďfaní work. I have no connection to anything in any book, comic, or whatever.


Road Trip on hold while I help sort out a sixteen car pileup. Looks like a tanker of.... beer.

Lots wounded, no deaths (Thank God) and lots of time spent trying to clear the road out. It feels good to have helped, and I managed to get a couple lanes opened before wreckers showed up.


We have a name and address. Weíre going on a privet jet so I can hopefully get there before anything else happens. Didnít think theyíd find anything this fas t, but you wonít hear me complain, even though the terminal we land at is probably going to be packed solid.

Got word from Joe (friend of mine in NSA. No thatís not his real name.) Started asking questions about my lady friend. What I knew about her, what I didnít. I know sheís... different his news about her ripping one of these Trolls to pieces didnít really catch me like he thought it might. Iíve never SEEN her when sheís like that other than a few, ahem, personal moments, but I know sheís able to think and reason no matter how out of control she looks and Iíve vouched for her willingness to step up while Iím gone in case more show up. Donít like her doing that though, from what sheís told me it takes a good chunk out of her if she pushes too hard. Suppose thatís no different from anyone else but like I said. Iíve never seen her work.


We went from the airport by car to the address we were given. Middle of Nowhere. Donít get me wrong, Iím glad it was well away from anyone that might get hurt, but my gut was telling me we were walking into a trap, and I ended up being proven right. Had a few friends on standby, thanks to your friendly grapevine feeding little details here and there about whoís needed where.

When the trap sprung it wasnít me and two ordinary Agents verses six Trolls and ten.... Iím not sure what they were. They were armed, looked kinda squarish build, all had bluish skin with white hair, and later weíd see they had blue-green cat-like eyes. These things commanded the Trolls around. We had others in the field waiting for whoever these guys were to show their hand. Sure at first I was afraid. Even with backup it was going to be me meeting these guys more or less alone, but this is my job.

Anybody ever dive out a moving car? Even with quick healing and being able to take a beating it doesnít feel good. I donít recommend anyone try it at home. Didnít help, I guess, that when I jumped it was right in front of a truck being driven by one of those Blue People.

I canít describe action to save my life, but I got the guy (I guess it was a guy) to stop the truck and turn back around. Ended up ramming one of the Trolls doing sixty. Sure it had a stupidly huge axe that cut the cab in two, but that was only after it got back up. Iíve taken beatings, but three of these guys slinging me around sucked giant ones. I got a few good shots in, but the only time Iíve gotten worse was when I stopped a train with my face.

I already had a bruised ego over getting my teeth kicked in but I guess on the bright side they were so focused on me they didnít notice the rest of the fight. Anvil was using one of the Blue People like a club. Hiro and Sarah seemed to be everywhere. Not sure how they manage going that fast without killing themselves, but the real kicker was seeing my lady love loping over the hill to save my armor plated hide.

She was all teeth and claws, and she tore into them like that cartoon Tasmanian Devil. I didnít care how weak I looked, or how hurt I was. The odds had been tipped in the good guys favor.

After the dust settled we checked each other, and my Lady Fury turned back so Hiro could give her a once over. Nobody was hurt at that point other than me getting a too intimate understanding of what a curbstomping felt like.

Zeus, Shadow, Mimic, Greyhawk, and a few others were ahead of us clearing the road. Hiro Sarah and Fury (I refuse to call her Blackbird. Christ on a Crutch people, thatís the most overused name in the book) were sent to collect me before we had our big throw down with the head oogie boogie.

The complex itself was actually pretty well put together from what little I saw. Logical layout that led to the obligatory Sanctum Sanctorum, Evil Lair, or whatever you want to call it.

The man that had grown and trained these things was short, dark hair and red eyes. He was dressed like something out of the dark ages, and he... smiled when he saw us. Iím sure that w as because he was making his escape and we wouldnít be able to get through the barriers heíd put between us and him before he got away, but he said something that Iím still trying to figure out.

ďYou are worthy.Ē

As exit lines and foreshadowing goes I have to give the guy credit for going with something creepy, but not so over the top that it loses its punch.


So. Lab found and data expunged. Equipment is being divvied up to cover costs.

Trolls all had to be killed. The people involved want it called Ďputting downí but it was killing no matter what you call it.

The Blue People surrendered. I have hopes that their lot in life will improve, but with how people in general treat anything Different I fear for them. They at least have been willing to talk and reason, they should be given a chance.

A few of the others are tossing around the idea of making this into our personal command center, hall of heroes, or something along those lines. I only heard about that from Fury because I was too busy recovering from the Troll Stomp. I dunno. Seems like an interesting idea. Have a skeleton crew man the place and have different Masks rotate through depending on whoís available when.

Trouble with that idea is Iím one of the few that donít bother with a day job. Sure there are a few others, but Iím the only one out of the batch thatís out of sch ool, and I donít want people dropping out of their lives on something theyíll want out of a year down the road. Still, itís furnished, has a good bit of privacy already. I dunno. NSA's considering moving their Human-Metahuman department here, and if I moved here theyíd be willing to foot any sort of transportation to get me where Iím needed. I dunno though. In cases that arenít as clear cut as guys holding sacks of money or driving a van full of stolen stuff Iím just not sure. Still, this place represents a central location that might be good for coordination, or even a boot camp.


Tesla and Hodd above thatís a brilliant idea. Gonna go see if the suits are willing to back turning this place into a training center. Could even have the Blue Folk work as staff here. I donít like the idea of them being servants, but itís a familiar place and maybe that will help. Iíl l keep everyone posted on how things shake out.


Table of Contents

Main Fiction Index

Go Home