Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Yester-Year Pulp Fiction



Yester-Year Pulp Fiction

or should that be....

Superheroes in a Timeless Suspension?


Hi guys, I thought for one of our first HeroClix topics it would be really nice to start a couple of new {parallel running} campaigns: showing its conception from the foundations upwards; a semi timeless pulp era table top skirmish and rpg. I say timeless because all Superheroes and Villains seems to exist within a non defined almost semi linear era, even a non defined genre sometimes – pretty much depending on the slant of the author doing the work at the time.
Similarly, the Heroes exist within a timeless fiction-scape of never ending `cat and mouse` game of superheroes, side-kicks, villains and hoodlums. Starting way back in 1911 you have John Carter From Mars: Zoro appeared as a comic book action Hero back in 1919: Buck Rogers in 1929: The Lone Ranger and Flash Gordon 1933 and 1934: The Avenger in 1938/39: Batman also made his debut grand entrance in 1939: Aquaman and Wonder Woman both appeared in 1941, and so on and so on... and you start to see a picture emerge.
As 20th century technology advanced, so too did many of the Heroes of the times, becoming more and more fantastical as we the human race became more and more aware of the wonders of the world (or sometimes even worlds) around us. Of course, now we have modern day big budget films, and so our Heroes tend very often to be set in modern day and the near futuristic landscapes of our half-imagined tomorrows, and of course our lovely sexy Cat Woman aged 25 back in 1940, when bought up to date for a 2016 audience would nowadays, technically, be one hundred and one years old, if we followed the natural laws of physics. But comic books, Superhero films/movies don`t follow such mundane laws or common day science; they follow the growth of our aspiring imaginations; and the changing whims of each generation of fans, who (for the most part) view the world though eyes of current day society and new era technological level of advancement. Show a modern day audience at the cinema a version of Buck Rogers as our parents and grandparents would have viewed it, and half the audience would walk out, the other half would throw rotten tomatoes at the screen and stamp the movie a total failure and a let down.
But from the table top gamers point of view, all this timeless quality does, is open up a whole host of possibilities to make our gaming worlds the stuff of fantastical legend. We can literally mix and match old school pulp of yester-year (like World War 2 “Winter Soldier” for example), alongside modern day “Nick Fury” and “Captain America”. Hence why I say Superhero genre is only semi linear, and is endlessly leaping back and forward in time... sometimes literally within the same movie, or comic book story arc.
What I am saying is, it’s all usable. None of it should be dismissible. As a gamer, it’s your world: it’s your game: use what you can and what you want to grab from the wealth of material available out there, and put the rest on the shelf for later on.
You just never know when that whacky idea for a Tonto and the Lone Ranger in modern times Metropolis may one day come in useful to you. Might not float your boat today, but next year, maybe when a new film hits the screen or is released on DVD, it will inspire you to want to `have a go` yourself, on the table with your lovely HeroClix collection, and you will be glad you saved those old graphic novels your girlfriend bought you a few Christmases back, but which you never got round to reading (because she got it wrong and it was not the superhero you like and read).... until now!
I'd like to tell you a little bit about myself as a hobbyist. Always helps to know a little about the person writing the words you are reading I always think.
I'm a lifelong gamer... so old (and so maturing, you could market me as a pedigree fine wine.... okay maybe that’s more like a vintage cheddar). Yeah, I can remember quite clearly the first Moon landings. I can remember when every town and village street still had a corner shop on it, and a penny bought you a whole bag of sweets. Maybe this was a gentler age (quick, where's my white stick), maybe it's just nostalgia talking. But I can remember a time long before Playstations and X-Boxes, when the most advanced 'toys' out there were the speaking Action Man, electric powered trains and Scalextrix motor car racing sets. Most kids still played with Lego, and Meccano, and Mouse-Trap was still state of the art. Most houses only had black and white TV's, and depending where you lived (in England) you had the choice of two or three channels at most to chose from.
The playing fields and go-cart side streets would empty when the weekly matinee would come on around tea time on Saturday evenings, and the whole family would sit around and watch the telly: War of the Worlds, The Twilight Zone, or endless sequels of Dr. Fu Manchu. Aaaah blissful times. Of course, we also had endless invasions of John Wayne and Richard Widmark style Westerns.. where the wives always looked like they had come straight out of the hairdressers and make up salons, and the cowboys wore squeaky clean, stainless outfits, with ironed creases down their Levi`s.
Out of School hours, if you were fortunate enough to live near a Cinema; there were the Saturday Morning Kids' Penny Matinees: Adventures of the River Boat, The Jungle of Mystery, Dick Tracey, and of course, Tarzan & Jane... mostly all just junk and pulp fiction, borrowed from America's fifties and sixties 'cheap flicks' era. Yeesh!!! These movies were terrible... and I get the distinct impression that all these churned out 'talkies' were probably each made on a slightly smaller budget than an average modern day wage packet.

But weren't they wonderful days? And looking back on the Amazing Tales, and Boys Own days of "tuppence a go" comic books... the dire over acting of talentless heroes and femme fatales of star and screen, were legend and all part of the addictive attraction.
Is it hardly surprising that these simpler and more innocent times still hold such intense appeal - especially for the table top gamer and role play gamer?
My passion for the hobby overall has, until now, always taken me in completely different directions, and I never thought my desire to pick up comic book Superheroes as a gaming genre would ever amount to anything more than ooo-ing and aaa-ing over the wonderful photos in some of the on line blogs and sites. Pulp and Superhero gaming seems to be a relatively new phenomena of the hobby in general; but over the last decade or so, I have noticing an increased general shift in interest towards this era as a whole.
Whereas before, you might catch a rare glimpse in an easily forgotten wargame magazine article about Dinosaur Hunting, Tarzan of the Jungle, Daredevil and Elektra, Mobster Wars, or such like, the general gaming public had no real knowledge or interest in the subject as a whole.

Maybe it's a reaction to the endless churned out of same-y games systems and sets of rules which have flooded the market over the last few years, but certainly, hobbyists seem to be looking elsewhere to get their kicks nowadays; and suddenly a host of similar divergent subjects seem to be gracing many games tables of late (as is really apparent if you regularly visit game conventions and look at the table top games on display there); and more and more Pulp-y type Superhero gaming miniatures suppliers are popping up every few months.

.... And so, caught up in this new wave of fervour, I finally decided I wasn't getting any younger, and before my eyes completely fail me with late middle age, it was now or never (Thanks to people like Bryan, for his infectious enthusiasm.... it's all your fault you know). So I have taken the big plunge into the larger world of what I like to call Superhero Action Adventure Pulp Fiction.

So, where to start?

First I rather cheekily asked Bryan Scott in an email “Mate, I know you have some of the old HeroClix minis, do you have a few spares, duplicates you don’t want?” My original thinking was not even to do HeroClix at all, but to `lop` the pieces off their bases to add to my other more normal 28mm figures, to create a sort of hybrid cross-over Pulp and Hero world for me to dabble about in, probably in some form of sandbox mini campaign. I imagined the kindly and always obliging Bryan might reply that he had two or maybe three pieces I could have, and that would be that. But no, this is Bryan we are talking about after all. “yeah sure” he replied: “give me a few days and I`ll send you something.” Cool, I thought. He proceeded to send me four big parcels (and apparently he hasn’t finished yet). Contained within these lovingly wrapped parcels were literally dozens and dozens, and dozens... okay easier just to say hundreds... of HeroClix miniatures, and an almost equally large number of HorrorClix for Hil (and myself) to enjoy as well. On top of this, the guy had also gone and got us three, unopened, starter (and Fast Force) sets - in addition to everything else!
The nucleus of a new collection maybe? Oh hell yeah!!!

Next, I did the obvious thing: I started scouring the local clubs for gamers willing to do swapsies for things I had which they might want... while I focused on looked for Clix things they might have in their collections, yet be prepared to let go of. Slowly, figure at a time, I started to flesh out the collection with prime catches. Important key individual characters I really needed to bring the game alive for me: Maria Hill, Lois Lane, Max Luther, Bruce Wayne (not in Batmen costume), Alfred (Bruce`s butler) Barbara Gordon, and bla bla. Then of course, the iconic characters no self respecting Superhero gamer could be without: Poison Ivy, Black Widow, Spider Girl, Harley Quinn, Emma Frost, Professor Xavior, Magneto, members of the Hellfire Club, and so on.

Skirmish wargaming brings something to the table that larger big battle games seem often to miss out on... theme, storyline, and that all important one on one character interaction.

HeroClix fits the bill perfectly I think, as being a skirmish level table top game. And having limited space to play most my games, I find myself drawn to the aesthetic symmetry of being able to field two opposing forces in a very small area. HeroClix battles can be played on a single tiny map that would fit onto a breakfast tray, all the way up to large maps and playing areas the size of a table tennis table.  However, if I was ever to achieve my fait accompli, I was going to have to be very imaginative in what I was prepared to collect.


My collection is thus rather eclectic: comprising themes as diverse as: Conan, John Carter for Mars, Tarzan, Chinese Fu Man Chu Cultists, American Mobsters and Gangsters, Shoe-Shines, Gumshoes, Private Dicks, The Boys in Blue, Metal Metallic Robots, Mad Scientists, Femme Fatales, and Screaming Maidens in distress.


But how many of the things I am talking about now are Clix minis? Well... none.

However, HeroClix and Horror Clix both use something which makes my collection of non Clix pieces completely usable alongside the Clix stuff, which is – Tokens!


Bystanders, NPC counters, and even secondary back up characters are often depicted in Hero/Horror Clix by use of these round shaped card tokens and counters. All I do is use my non Clix miniatures alongside my Clix stuff, and use them the same way I would if I were using card Tokens.... just they look a bit nicer is all.

Personally I have absolutely nothing against using tokens alongside miniatures, and don`t think they detract at all from the fun of a game. Although I do know some people really aren`t too keen on them, for me however, it`s all perfectly in keeping with the theme.



But having said that, using my lovely Pulp-y models and nicely rendered suitably scaled vehicles in 3D does enhance the games I play, quite considerably sometimes. But at a push, I`ll just as likely to get out my tokens as I am to pull out and set up a full game using real miniatures to replace the perfectly usable tokens.




I mentioned at the start, that we were going to be running two parallel campaigns. Actually its one game, just divided (for the most part) by an invisible `theme` line. One side of that is Pulp Action Superheroes, and the other side of that is Pulp and Modern Day Horror and Gore. Resting between them is a fine line where the macabre meets and the un-crazy can oh so very quickly turn to total crazy. An example of this might be the Quentin Torantino film “Dusk Till Dawn” Which starts out as a high action suspense thriller, as a pair of dangerous bank robbers escape from prison, capture some hostages, and make their way to the Mexican border, where they attempt to cross to safety on the other side. Half way through the film, it somehow turns very cleverly into a vampire, werewolf, and demon fest, as the whole thing takes on a violent and total unexpected horror twist that sends the viewer wheeling into the insane world of the disturbingly dark macabre.

Well, we intend to do the same thing by taking the Superhero theme and injecting it with occasional bursts of extreme horror. Stepping sometime this side and sometimes the other side of that invisible but terrifying veil.


 Some of my non Clix figs (which I use to stand in as NPC Tokens


The Initial Campaign: The Terrain, The Figures.



As for the terrain (or film sets as we like to call them): ideally, I'd like to have placed one of my core games in the typical Film Noir townscape locale of either Florida Keys (Key Largo area) or some large semi-imaginary town in New Orleans. Why here? Basically because I'm fascinated with the idea of having some completely out of place pin striped or white suited thugs and hoods rubbing shoulders with country hicks, amidst the steamy, sweaty heat of the tropics for eight months of the year; then dealing with the contrast of heavy storms and monsoons for the remaining four.

New Orleans, on the other hand would allow me to include my voodoo zombie masters and dark tribal magic - aka Black Panther.



There's something intensely macabre and utterly terrifying about the vision of zombies walking the streets at night after the sun goes down, controlled by the 'bokor' masters to perform whatever dark bidding is required. My mind's eyes sees the seedy streets emptying of life at night, as people rush to get indoors and bar the doors before the swamp demons begin to wake up and walk amongst them. Hmmm, just thinking, this could be prime annual vocation time for Bruce Wayne and Alfred... a favoured summer time holiday haunt.



Naturally this would suit the gangsters and hoodlums perfectly, allowing them to conduct their nefarious criminal activities practically unchecked by the local law enforcements who would be almost as afraid of the night horrors as the rest of the civilian populace. And if a few hoods went missing from time to time, no doubt caught and dragged back into the swamps by the zombies - well then, it was a small price for the rod wielding dressed up thugs to have to pay, to keep their pandered and paranoid egos in check... by providing a cocoon of loose women, cigarettes, Columbian cigars, and cheap whisky... all provided by the indulgent crime lords.

...Enter the heroes; the only individuals tall enough to stand up to the Kingpins of the world and take them on, on their own home turf.

But it soon dawned on me, I needed terrain to make it `come alive`. And the plain and simple fact is, I don`t have all I need. Not by half.

So what do you do when the wonderful things you half imagine in your head don't quite fit the reality of the situation? Well, with gaming especially skirmish type gaming, I tend to fudge and twist things that don't sit well in my mind until they do work the way I want them to.

The less exotic surrounding: the streets of my quasi real/half made up cities of the Heroes themselves, maybe: Mega City 1, Gotham, Arkham, Kingsport, or the eclectic harbour fronts of imaginary New York? These can be created either from purchases such as Battle Systems Urban Terrain sets. Or just use the rather lovely nicely rendered 2D maps that come with the various HeroClix sets, and sold in packs or individually or in bundles on eBay. You can of course just make up your own maps, hand drawing them in lavish detail like those created by “Asper the Bard” and displayed in his home made battle reports on You Tube.

But of course, the place to start all this is on paper. Like a D&D Dungeon Master creating his dungeons, sewers (yes I plan to use these for my dark underworld, subterranean Mutant Turtle adventures.. with not an obnoxious “cowabunga” or pizza in sight), whole cities and continents: creating the landscape using coloured pen and pencil, is highly conducive to getting in the mood and setting the tone even more intensely with richness and depth.

Hilary and I eventually decided to compromise and build our game in a generic, totally fictitious urban sprawl... set in a semi undefined part of real life America (after the climatic events of 28 Days and 28 Weeks Later, when millions of carefully vetted Europeans made the desperate worldwide exodus from their own overrun lands, and sought sanctuary in the Land of the Free. This entirely made up Mega Metropolis could be dropped into just about any Pulp-y type action setting the imaginative gamer could possibly desire. For me, I envisage a sort of huge urban sprawled conglomerate, covering hundreds of miles of the Eastern Sea Board Coast, like some vast Star Wars “Coruscant”. Not unlike the setting for Judge Dredd: only with a decidedly culturally Anglo euro/yankie cosmopolitan feel to it all.

.... And just like that, our very own imaginary Angel City was first conceived and born.



For this campaign, we have decided to base AC fairly close to the real life Los Angeles; as a sort of down town urban sprawl and poor relative to its more grandiose and larger LA cousin (But which eventually swallowed up Los Angeles entirely, in the ever hungry refugee sprawl of the newer, more decadent Angel). This also allows me to design my very own city from the ground up, using its rich historical counterpart as a model and an architectural example of style. But with European Gothic influence added to the mix (I want a decidedly Gothic Gothum feel, like the one depicted in the Michael Keaton/Jack Nickolson Batman & Joker movie).

Hil decided to place our second self contained Pulp venture in a mythical region somewhere along the jungle park locales of “The Tarot”, An Asian-esque settlement situated far inland of Angel City, built sprawled upon the banks of the newly self named Yhung Yu river. This would allow us to create an isolated (and lawless) hotbed of conflict and adventure which could remain completely divorced from real life external events; ideal territory for nefarious villains to hatch impossibly complex plans for world domination and indulge in general mindless megalomania.

I know for many people, when they think of this genre, it summons up images of The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Batman, and Superman. It does for us too. But in addition to this, when Hils and I look at this type of thing, we also see Lost Amazon Treasures of the Jungle. Sky Captain: World of Tomorrow, John Carter from Mars, Underworld, Middle Earth “Hobbit” crossover Clix games, Mutant Ninja Turtles (but NO pizza, and NO crass juvenile street speech “hey dude” or “ninja power” crap talk anywhere in sight). But we also need to create a stable infrastructure for our imaginary world; a fairly low fantasy setting we can branch out from when we desire to add the more fantastical elements into the game.

For this I can take the game to Tibet, India, The Nepalese jungles of Tarai, and the Tong filled streets of China. My "Angel City" has a vast harbour front area, and a fantastically large airport... and from these my ships and planes can go anywhere.

Naturally there are also space ports too, so I can fly my cast of bad guys and heroes just about anywhere I desire.

But I do intend to maintain a strong tone throughout of Gangland Justice and an intense feeling of Cultural Depression Blues brought on by mass unemployment, New Prohibition, and the social slide of society... as the survivors of global viral apocalypse and post nuclear fallout... struggle to survive, and recover.

Our world of the future will be a culturally paranoid era, seemingly ever poised on the brink of conflict from various real and some only half imagined foes. Naturally, with a few tweaks, these dangerous individuals and groups could be used to expand the game in all sorts of interesting directions... especially as eclectic assortments of spies would almost definitely be in fairly close contact with the Underworld and its various nefarious crime bosses, through a mutual beneficial interest in one another. For example, the new rise to power of Hydra can be moved forward a bit, taken it a new direction , and turned into a real dark vampy fest of iniquity: and suddenly you have invented a new tyrannical cult and occult magic to slip into your games - linked to the Hellfire Club perhaps?

We both greatly look forward to sharing the rest of our endeavours with you, and hopefully, we will be able to bring the game to life with continuing articles and battle reports, in ways that are both interesting and enlightening for everyone.


Thank you for reading. Now on with the game.....


-------------------------



Intro


What is it the Ancient Romans used to say: “Let the Games Begin”. I`d just like to set the scene a little bit and explain what I`m doing.


Basically, when I start something new, I always like to start pretty much from the moment I crack open the first box of miniatures. There is nothing quite so much fun as at the beginning of a new venture.. when that first box might in fact be the only thing you have to get starter with, like in the case of a Starter Set, for example. A mistake I see made by many collectors in the hobby, seems to lie in the hobbyist tendency to - collect first... play later!  


The end result of this is that you collect this box of minis, and that box of minis, then some single special characters, then a brick of boosters, and... well, no games get played, and the `collector` ends up just buying more and more and more but never actually gets down to doing much, if at all. Breaking out your pieces and playing once in a blue moon is no good to anyone: frustrates you the collector, and certainly doesn’t feel fulfilling, fails to nourish the gaming urge, and is anything but satisfying.


Maybe you like one off games.. unlinked to anything special? Maybe you mean to link that one off game to another one day, perhaps have a mini campaign.. but it probably doesn’t actually happen. Why is that? Actually its simple, most gamers think TOO BIG. They can`t help it, it’s in the nature of people to want to create that grand magnum opus of grand.. huge proportions, but we over size ourselves, and so nothing even comes of it. And collecting is always easier than getting the stuff out and actually putting in the energy to construct and play a game or six. So gamers collect .They dream of all the games they will one day play with their growing collections, and they add more and more to it, as their minds vaguely `play` with the notion of playing, but sadly, it often just never happens as it should.


The key is to start small. Crack open a starter set, sit and read the rules, go on line and look up You Tube Tutorials to help you learn the fiddly bits. In the case of Hero or Horror Clix, get out the map that comes with the starter and flatten it out on a table (the day before you intend to play). The creases in the folds will make it hard to play a satisfactory game unless you get rid of those creases. For this, I suggest a hot iron.. but be careful to put a plain pillow case or a thin towel on top of the map so you don’t do any damage to it. The carefully iron out all those offending creases. Do both sides, and leave the map on the table over night, turning it over a few times  and maybe repeating the ironing process on the each side a few more times, to get it really nice and flat for you to play on.


The first few games you WILL make mistakes. I`d like to say that Hero/HorrorClix isnt complicated, but the truth is, there are a lot of rules to remember, plus exceptions to rules; and even advanced play rules you will eventually need to learn to play the game properly. None of the rules are hard, but there are a lot of them to remember. So yes, you will make mistakes, possibly a lot of mistakes on those early attempts. Take it slow, don’t be afraid to pause the game while you re-read specific rules sections: and perhaps play solo for the first few times while you get used to how everything works. I think this applies even if you have played the game many years ago but have forgotten how everything is done. The new (2013, 2014 and 2016) rules have a few successive changes which WILL alter the game enough that you will have to make yourself familiar with those changes, subtle though they are. But stick with it, and you will end up with a fantastic game well worth the effort of time you took to learn.

I like to think of long term when I start collecting a new game. Like the start of a new story, or in this case, a new comic adventure. I usually don’t collect the figures ex masse first THEN think about playing. I`m usually content to start enjoying my figures the second I have enough actually to start playing. In the case of Clix games, that means I am ready to start play the moment I get my hands on a Starter Set, and if I have a few special cherry picked Clix singles to add to that as well, then I feel I am in a very good place to put together my initial adventures.


A HorrorClix Starter Set



The footprint of this story was begun last week with the initial, tentative first steps (“School for Bad Girls”). This week we will advance this adventure a little further with a story of  (pre-Commissioner) Captain Jim Gordon and his daughter Barbara Gordon.

"Father and Daughter"

Jim sat uncomfortably in the driving seat, leaning his weight with both hands firmly placed upon the smooth, heavy hardwood steering wheel... and peered ahead intensely through the greasy, dirt smudged window at the empty road ahead of him. Together with his drowsy daughter... who was drifting in and out of sleep as the muddy, bumpy track attempted to rock her first into then out of uneasy slumber; an endless display of torture as they ground their way along a trail rapidly disintegrated into little more than flooded rocks and potholes.

It was only an hour ago they had been cruising along Fifth Street among the throng of busy pedestrians, all hurrying hither and thither along the inner city corridors and endless streets. 'They look like black beetles with shining white and yellow eyes'. Jim remembered thinking to himself. The gloom had this effect on his mind, which always ran in macabre overdrive once the lights clocked out from the daily routine of shift workers, which the city Dockland Cogs produced like sinful automatons. A reminder of true drudgery: pain etched upon their faces from toil and misery, was a constant reminder that hell truly did exist.

He inhaled deeply on his ju-ju stick, sucking in the noxious substance like it was a meal, and a delicious sedative rolled into one. Perhaps it was. Part of him felt nourished by the addictive oils of the illegal substance... another part of his mind enjoyed the thought numbing coldness of the muggle, anesthetizing his worries into oblivion for that oh so brief a time.

Through the gloom and the light of car headlamps, Jim noticed the distance between himself and the life outside. How many of those cars contained dutiful husbands returning home after a hard day's work in the office, to their wives and children? Jim stared down Central Pass at a tram moving with its pre-ordained regularity, sounding it's beetle horn to warn the marionette shoppers of the next approaching stop... tired, contented women returning home to their domestic felicity, laden with arm loads of parcels... returning to make their perfect men their perfect dinners, to end yet another oh so perfect day in happysville. The Outworld Depression obviously was only a word to such people!

The rain has started its pitter-patter tap dance upon the roof of the car, and the brickwork streets took on the street lamp glow of sparkling neon, masked by the buff mantle of smog and steady shimmering grey precipitation. And time winked another turn and by and by the city fell away, and was replaced by urban outskirts and eventually by thick green tree line, as the car and its occupants raced along Highway 9, up and onwards through the Shuttes Forest and still further onwards towards Amityville Hill (West) and their eventual destination. A visit to Grandmother... the lake, alone time with his daughter, for a week end of fishing. A mini vacation, long overdue: a chance of some quality time with Barbara.


The Bambi Blacks River fell away on their left, and soon they were swallowed up completely on both sides by the thick unfriendly forest, the night, and by the oh so constant and unrelenting rain. Occasional streaks of lighting raced across the sky, momentarily lighting the heavens with deadly pyrotechnic displays of violent malice. But as the rolling sheets would dissipate, the black mantle would smother them again and plunge everything once again into stygian gloom. Jim wake up from his thought, and for a moment wasn’t sure where they were. His auto pilot senses that had driven them both this far, took a few moments of coaxing before awakening from the slumber. Looking down at his sat-nav, Jim frowned in frustration... the weather must have knocked it out, for the screen was a blank page of muted grey. But winding down his window and feeling the rain hit his face, stinging, lids half closed to protect his eyes: he caught sight of the Bambi Mast rising sentinel over the river far way below. Although he couldn’t see it, he caught the flash of the tower`s satellite lighting array on his right as he looked out, and by this he knew they were approaching Thirty Mile Point. “uuugh, shit,” he muttered. This meant they were on the wrong road. He must have somehow missed the turning back at Pipers Pool, and instead of turning inland towards Amityville Hill, they were now climbing in a slow spiral trail towards The Strip and Spiney Point. Cutway Path would lead eventually back down from The Upper Reaches of Hellion Spit and back down along North Way. Damn this road was dangerous by day, when it was dry. At night, in this rain....? Jim took a tighter grip on the wheel, looking over his shoulder to Barbara, but she was still dozing in and out of troubled sleep, her forehead knocking slightly off the cold wet window pane from time to time as the car would hit a bump. He turned to peering back out of the window, straight ahead, fixedly. The screen wipers were whining in distress, but Jim flipped the switch to highest setting, and the wipers whirled asthmatically, even faster: trying desperately to break a gap in the incessant rain collecting on the glass. He would spin around and head back to the proper turning, the next chance they got. Can`t be more than ten miles back!



But the road was narrow, too narrow for two car to pass, not in this dark, not this high up with the drop away on the right, into the murky river hundreds of meters below. The trees pressing in.. clinging to the sheer cliff face overlooking the heights, were dangerously deceptive. Jim wasn’t even sure he could remember if there were any safety barriers on that side, now he came to think about it. Yeah he would turn the car around first chance he could.


Jim was reaching into the glove compartment for a cigarette, when the car gave a violent lurch and veered crazily across the road. There was a sudden BANG! From the front passenger side of the vehicle as the tyre tore out. Fortunately for the passengers of the Black Cat saloon, the blown tyre has pulled the car to the left... away from the precipice, but Jim still found himself desperately trying to steer the car to a standstill, trying with all his skill to avoid the dark shapes of sentinel trees all around them. Barbara screamed, woken from her sleep: “Dad?” she yelled. Grabbing hold of the wooden dash board and pushing against it as though force of will could bring the car to a stop. Outside Jim could hear the sound of rubber skidding on loose stone, but all at once, the Black Cat came to a grinding halt.


Hot steam caused by the rain made the engine hood seem like it was on fire. But all was still and calm. The slight hiss and clink of cooling metal was the only sound around them. One wheel spun slowly in the ditch. Barbara reached for the packet of cigarette, fallen between the seats. Momentarily forgetting her Father hated her smoking. She lit one anyway, and allowed the relieving balm to reach into her veins and sooth her nerves.


“You okay Barbara?” Jim looked concernedly at his daughter. Checking her with his eyes to make sure she was unharmed. “I`m okay Dad, just shook up.”


He nodded once: “Good girl.” And he climbed out of the car, but not before taking the ju-ju out from between her lips and flicking it into the wet night. “Not clever, Sweetie.” He said over his shoulder as he scrambled to check the damage outside. As the rain and cold night air hit his senses, he felt a momentary rush of light headedness. But also in the distance, through the trees, he thought for a moment he heard a high sounding mechanical whir! Sounding a little like.... like a chainsaw?


Barbara had also gotten out of the car. It was stuck about three meters off the road and rested at a slight angle, in between a thicket avenue of forest trees. One wheel sat in the ditch, and a shredded tyre hung limply to the hub like an ugly burst balloon. The smell of rubber still lay in the air, and the rain ridden mud was churned up all around where the car had lost control and gone careering off the road.
Barbara wrapped her arms around herself and peered off into the trees.
Back behind... off the road, but back the direction they had climbed up the steep hillside track,  she thought she saw flickering light... lights in fact, like a building, perhaps?
Jim was still peering ahead and into the tree line on the same side his daughter was also looking. But where she was looking back down-a-ways, he was looking further up the way, to where he thought he had heard that harsh noise in the darkness.
To his left... deeper into the tree, illuminated by the light of the car`s head-beams, he could discern leading straight into the forest, some way off in the distance, a narrow path, no larger than an animal trail.  At the extreme edge of vision, Jim thought he could make out an old rickety looking barn: mostly hidden from sight.

What do you think they should do next?
A)    Check out the sounds coming from the forest ahead.. sounded like a chainsaw?
B)    Check the path to the left, and the barn, hidden among the trees off the road?
C)    Check the lights that Barbara sported in the distance... could be a house?
D)    Split up and check 2 options at once?
E)     Barbara sit in the car while her Dad goes and finds help?
F)     Both leave the car and walk on foot back down the steep road?
G)     Both sit in the car and wait for the rain to stop, night to end, and help to come?
H)    Have Dad sit in the car in case any helpers pass by, while Barbara climb to the top of Spiney Point and try get a signal on her cell phone, and dial for help?



 
 

Captain James Gordon GCPD, and his daughter Barbara Gordon.
 
 
© 2016, Stephen A Gilbert.




Also: next Wednesday..... an in depth HeroClix review

of the amazing Uncanny X-Men Set miniature:


"Emma Frost"