FDC presents "The Bloody Tower"
(with apologies to James Robinson)
"This is Colin Clark with the BBC," said the mild-mannered reporter into the headset, as he stood aside the cameraman. "In response to the government's call for registration of all superhumans operating in the country, dozens of costumed adventurers have come to the fore." The camera swung around to reveal the parade of grinning, gleaming figures as they waved the crowd, en route to the Tower of London, where the registrations were being held. "And under the offers of amnesty, even some of the country's supervillains have joined them, the most famous being Jarvis Poker, the so-called British Joker."
As if on cue, the middle-aged gentleman with the purple hair and the paper-white skin walked over Clark's assistant holding a microphone. "I would like to reassure my public that if they think the British Joker isn't going to be dealing them a different hand, the joke's going to be on them." He raised his left hand which exploded into a burst of patriotically-coloured confetti.
An elderly priest sat at the entranceway to the main hall, taking names and identifications. Some had whispered that prior to the Second World War the Reverend Armitage Hawsley had fought corruption in high places under the insignia of The Cannon, but that was of course only rumour.
Despite her time with London's Guardians and the Seven Soldiers, Beefeater still felt ill at ease in this august company, and she missed her old compatriot Lee Kelsey. She wandered about the crowd, nursing her drink and catching fragments of conversations.
Mirror Master: "Who invited Looking Glass? He is such a killjoy."
Bowman: "I use an ethanol mixture. It doesn't burn as hot."
The Spider: "No, I am just a legacy of sorts. It was my traitorous namesake that died."
Godiva: "Touch me there again, and they'll be picking scraps of your 'love glove' out of the ceiling for a month!"
The Hood: "Seriously, you used to call yourself the Hovering Baker?"
Jerry Cornelius: "You just know a fight's going to break out. Back when I was in the Vendetta V's, we couldn't go a week without a tedious battle of some sort, and there were just five of us!"
Jack O'Lantern: "So then she says 'well I can shoot green fire from my nose' so I go 'yeah well maybe you should save up and buy the power of shooting water from your fingertips.'"
The curtains parted behind the impromptu stage, and Beefeater felt her guts clench as she saw Lord Marmaduke Ffogg her former sponsor as a member of London's Guardians take the podium, TNT Tina at his side. She noted the young woman looked worn about the edges, her expression strained, and she wondered what worries haunted the powerful girl.
"Welcome, my friends, welcome to our gathering of heroes.
"Our nation has always given birth to men who have inspired others the world over to don the mantle of heroism from the days of King Arthur and the Silent Knight, through Robin Hood and the Black Pirate, and to this country's champions who guarded our shores during the darkest days of the Blitz, such as John Bull and the original Shining Knight.
"But over the course of the last decade, Britain's pre-eminence as an inspiration for the world's heroes had waned with the arrival of Superman and others from our former colonies.
"But, I am prepared to offer a new champion for a new era, one that will lead our nation back into the position it deserves and forward into the future " He drew aside the curtain to reveal a tall masked figure clad in red, his chest emblazoned with a blue and white lightning bolt, who strode forward assuredly: "Thunderbolt the Avenger!"
Thunderbolt soared upwards into the sky, slamming his fists together with an impact like an atomic blast. He descended back to the podium, the dazed audience rallying into wild cheers.
"Thank you," he said into the microphone. "I am privileged to have been offered these opportunities by Lord Ffogg, and I hope to prove worthy of them. Too much of this country has fallen into cynicism and self-doubt, even amongst its costumed crimefighters. But I offer you a new way, a new leadership to leave aside our individual weaknesses and, for some of you, the mistakes made in our pasts, to bind us together into something immeasurably greater than anything any of you have imagined a new Camelot!"
As he continued to speak, Scarlet Hawk furrowed his brow. He wound his way through the crown and sat before the priest. "Reverend Hawsley?"
The man smiled. "Please, just call me Bagsy. I'm too old to worry about titles, especially amongst such an august company,"
"He talks differently from the young man I last saw weeks ago. His voice I know his voice from long ago. Where from?"
Bagsy tilted his head and closed his eyes, listening to Thunderbolt's inspiring lecture. "He sounds like a natural leader, certainly."
"A natural oh my god. It's impossible." Scarlet Hawk's face turned pale beneath his helmet. He ran up to the podium and swept down the microphone from the surprised speaker. "Listen to me this is not whom he appears to be I dont know how or why but that is not the young man many of us knew as TNT Tom it's Oswald Mosley!"
Lord Ffogg pushed him away, "This is absurd, you need to "
He was interrupted by a cry from TNT Tina, who seemed to have been snapped out of some hypnotic spell. "Don't listen to him! He's not Lord Ffogg at all and that isnt my cousin he's Cyris Smythe! Cyris Smythe the living brain!" Thunderbolt grabbed her by the lapel and swept her up into the air, an explosive punch sending her flying into the horizon. The man with the face of Lord Ffogg reached into the pocket of his jacket and swallowed the contents of a small vial, causing his body to increase in size.
It did not take the assembled crimefighters long to move into action, several of them soaring skywards against the Thunderbolt, the rest taking up arms or fists against the now-towering Cyris Smythe.
Cyris Smythe's brobdingnagian proportions made him a target and he found himself assailed by fists and claws, bullets and swords and psychic blasts. Jack O'Lantern and Godiva worked as a team with practised ease, binding Thunderbolt's wrists in powerful tendrils of hair and emerald bands of glowing magic; Scarlet Hawk and Beefeater moved in unison, a barrage of bullets and energy blasts assailing the reincarnated fascist leader.
Mirror Master stepped aside as an immense wolf joined the fray, attacking Lord Ffogg's rampaging form. He eyed the battle sourly, and looked through his utility pockets for just the right mirror. He drew one out, aiming it at the sun to angle the light into the giant's eyes, when the heroine known as Boudica she who had been called 'the Briton Wonder Woman' went careening into him. He fell to the ground and dropped the mirror, watching in a daze as it cracked on the ground. "By the War-Goddess Morrigan of Many Names!" she exclaimed as she picked herself up off the ground, "are you all right?"
Thunderbolt's fists crackled with explosive energy, feedback lashing out at the Global Guardians who had him trapped. Shielding his eyes, he grabbed hold of Beefeater's Rod of the Stuarts, sending another pulse of energy down his fist which caused the weapon to shatter. Terri Gorvett screamed and began to plummet downwards, a shocked Scarlet Hawk swooping after her in his Hoverer in a desperate rescue attempt.
Bowman, the Hood, and the Spider tried to immobilise Cyris Smythe in steel-strong cords, while Frankenstein and Lady Vic fired multiple rounds at their target. The bullets bruised his skin and he shouted, "Away with thee, pests! I had not survived three hundred years of entombment to yield to such wan afflictions!" He struggled mightily, breaking free of his bonds. An enormous hand swept through the combatants, knocking the Spider, Sleepwalk, and Love Glove out of the battle; the Spider's exoskeleton allowed him to land effortlessly on his feet, although the Love Glove's skull struck concrete and his body lay crumpled and still.
Looking Glass reflected Thunderbolt's energy back at him, knocking the man nearly out of the sky. Nightrider in mistlike form hovered over to their opponent, his hypnotic gaze catching the man's eyes as he leaned in to feed. Thunderbolt growled, "We dealt with your kind in my time the same way we did the Commies and the darkies and the nancy boys." He seized Nightrider by the throat, attempting to decapitate him. A beam of green light from Jack O'Lantern slashed into his arm, causing him to release his victim. Thunderbolt swivelled mid-air and his hands began to crackle once again. Looking Glass intercepted, but Thunderbolt slammed both fists into him, and the hero shattered into a thousand shards.
There was a blinding flash of light, and the Bowman groaned in frustration, trying desperately to strategize his weakened forces for a three-tiered attack, when the light resolved into the reflection of sunlight off gleaming armour. "I see time was on our side," said Cyril Sheldrake, as he appeared from his distant future tourney. He gestured, sending Ystina and Lionheart skywards to face the Thunderbolt, while he directed the Squire and the Crusader to join in a renewed battle against Cyris Smythe.
"Oh, it's that girl Shining Knight," Thunderbolt said. "I knew the real Shining Knight, missy, and you're not him. I'm going to toast that horse of yours." He readied a blow, when the magically sharp blade she carried sliced through the front of his uniform, drawing blood. He gasped and recoiled in shock, and Lionheart's energy sword was added to the attack. The pair of them continued on, forcing him into a defensive pose through sheer savagery.
The Knight's squadron of miniaturized Spitfires and the Crusader's energy-smiting stick bedeviled the giant, and he began to direct the remaining combatants. Mirror Master watched from the sideline, then scowled. "Templar," he hissed. The occasional member of the Conglomerate tilted his head. "What do you want, McCulloch?" The rogue removed another mirror from his belt, and unfolded it as if he were unmaking a piece of origami. "You're a tk, right? Can you don't look into it but position this mirror so that it catches that thing's eye?" Templar looked back and forth between his tentative ally and the giant who seemed to be wrecking chaos amongst the other established heroes. "If the Knight's planes don't blow it out of the sky," he said. The mirror slid up, angling between the planes and bullets and arrows, appearing directly before Cyris Smythe's face. "What new foolishness is this?" the giant said, and Mirror Master inserted two fingers in his mouth and gave a piercing whistle. The mirror suddenly folded in on itself, and Cyris Smithe did, too, Finally, Lord Ffogg's body stood in quite normal size, and the mirror fell to the ground as a compact at his feet. "Mother may I?" Squire said, and vaulted into action, both feet landing on Ffogg's chin.
Thunderbolt backed away from his armoured attackers. "Enough!" he cried out, and slammed his fists together. The resulting impact rippled through the area like an atomic blast, tumbling his foes to the ground. He descended finally, the heroes of the day strewn at his feet. "The streets are still, the final struggle's ended," he began to sing. "Flushed with the fight we proudly hail the dawn!"
The Knight opened his protective visor. "Not by half," he said. He unspooled a cord from the ankle of his armour, and attached it to a nearby socket. Lights all across London dimmed as he channelled the energy into himself, and charged against Thunderbolt.
The pair battled, fist to fist, the strength of an entire city pit against the living personification of fascism of the atomic age. But the otherworldly power, amplified from TNT Tom's own, began to prove the superior, and the Knght's armour began to crack from the repeated impacts.
"This will not be a good death," Thunderbolt sneered at the Knight's unconscious body as the man finally fell to the ground. He raised his fists to deliver a killing blow, barely hearing the rush of air behind him. Like a bolt of lightning, TNT Tine swooped out from the horizon, scooping up the shattered base of Beefeater's power rod and impaling him on it. The man emitted a horrible, gurgling groan, finally falling to the ground.
TNT Tina crawled across the ground, taking the fallen body into her lap. She pressed her lips against his, the face now looking once more innocent in the final repose. "You always were my favourite cousin," she whispered, and began to weep.