Thursday, October 16, 2008

New content over at the Meekrat Entertainment Group.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CYOB is going on a brief hiatus. The adventures of Charleston Charge will continue shortly.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

050: Siege of the Torture Chamber


Freeing the captives would give them some extra manpower, so Charleston decided to that first. He wished he knew exactly how many super-villains in lab-coats there were, but figured they were scientists. What threat could they pose? He made his intentions known, and the team went through the doors carefully and began freeing the captives. Player One and Player Two were the first to be freed, followed by Shrugs. They were all placed in the main room, while Santos waited with them to make sure nothing happened to them.

The next two to be freed were Captain Depresso and the Forgiver. Charleston carefully opened the door, and was hit in the back of the head. He fell to the ground and received a vicious kick to the side.

"Wait, this is that Charleston Charge guy," said Captain Depresso, "He's on our side."

"Looks like I'm the one seeking forgiveness this time, old chum," said the Forgiver, helping Charleston up, "We thought you might be one of the Gemini Twin Troopers, or even worse, one of the actual super-villains."

"It's fine," said Charleston, "Good to see you two up and going. Want to help us take this place down?"

"Yes," said Captain Depresso, "Yes, I do."

"Same here," said the Forgiver.

They went to the next room, but both Fadeaway and Charleston made sure no one opened the door: it contained the patchwork men. The closet was quickly opened, and Benji and Pilate were freed. They were mildly sluggish, but seemed happier out of their cages. Both animals went to their masters, who greeted them warmly.

The final room continued the elongated Slink-E. Charleston opened the door and wondered how the heck he was going to do this. He was saved from making a decision when Double O came in and scoffed.

"Hanging around while I do all the work? This is why you'll always be a sidekick, Slink," he said, walking over to the device which held the sidekick's feet in place. Double O wore battle-armor, lacking any powers of his own, and he lowered his gauntlet at the device and blasted it. Slink-E whipped around the room, eventually going through the wall due to the momentum he obtained.

"So much for stealth," said Fadeaway.

The doors at the end of the hall opened, revealing a trio of Gemini Twin Troopers. They lowered their guns, but Slink-E whipped his closed fist at them, striking each of them. Three more took their place. Fadeaway turned intangible and flew directly at them, their bullets whizzing through his body and hitting Double O's battle armor without harming anyone. Fadeaway solidified his hands and threw two of the troopers against the walls, knocking them out. He picked up the third and heaved it at their ranks. The Forgiver and Meerkat began using some sort of martial art on their ranks, while Fadeaway, Double O, and Slink-E simply began punching things. Captain Depresso and Land Captain were fighting back to back, and the animals were running around doing whatever they could.

Charleston, meanwhile, pushed his way past the melee and tried to find the super-villains and their captives. They were nowhere to be found. Suddenly, energy surged through the air, and all the Gemini Twin Troopers were gone. At this point, Charleston noticed that the room was slowly growing shorter.

"Clever," he said, as everyone else looked up, "Everyone clear out!"

Unfortunately, the doors shut at this point. The Meerkat went over to open them and was shocked for his trouble. Double O's ordinances were useless, and Fadeaway couldn't pass through it. A drone with a video screen dropped from a small hole in the ceiling, and floated over to them. The Red Scare's face appeared on the screen.

"So many little rats, all caught in my trap! How gleeful! You have ten minutes to live. I suggest using this time to make peace with whatever deities you have. Fare thee well."

The drone vanished into the ceiling.

"People with super-strength, do your best to keep the ceiling from crushing us," said Charleston, eyeing the doorknob, "I think I've got an idea!" He ran over to the door and lifted up his bionic leg, and savagely kicked the doorknob. Each time, he was mildly shocked, but on the seventh kick, the doorknob came loose and fell off the door, leaving a small hole. Double O, Fadeaway, and Slink-E all sprang into action.

"Good job," said Double O, doing his best to help hold up the ceiling effortlessly, "If any of us could shrink, we could escape."

"Meerkat," said Charleston, ignoring Double O, "You think Pilate can squeeze through the hole?"

"He'll get shocked," said the Meerkat. Pilate perched on his shoulder.

Charleston took off his coat and slipped his sleeve through the hole, "That should provide him with enough insulation."

"I suppose he'll have to try. Won't you, buddy?" said the Meerkat. Pilate chittered, and scrambled down his master. He climbed up the coat, and with some effort, he made it through the hole.

"Now what?" said Captain Depresso.

"Fadeaway, can you get through the ceiling?" said Charleston.

"No, it's an ultra-dense material. I can't get my molecules through it," said Fadeaway, doing his part in keeping the room from crushing them.

"Then we wait," said Charleston. The ceiling slowly made its way down, until everyone was nearly bent double. At that point, however, a smashing noise started coming from the door. With each smash, the door bent inwards a bit, until they were torn from their hinges.

"Hola, friends!" said Santos, squeezing underneath the sinking room. Pilate scrambled over to his master. Santos steadied himself and hefted the room up, and there was a metallic crunch. The room had stopped moving, and the heroes quickly exited.

"You see what I did there?" said Double O, "Classic nick of time rescue. This is why I'm the best of us."

Charleston ignored him, and stared at the room which was now resting slightly below the top of the doorway. "Can you guys pull the room down?"

The super-strong heroes stood side by side by side by side, with Santos in the center, and gripped the floor of the elevator room. Fadeaway counted down, and all the heroes began to strain once again. Within minutes, there was another metallic crunch, and the room dropped to their level, knocking all within the room to the ground.

Charleston picked up a piece of pipe which had no doubt played a part in their initial freedom from the room and stepped purposefully into the room. He held the pipe like a baseball bat, and intended to use it as such. The Meerkat, Captain Depresso, the Forgiver, and Land Captain filed in behind him, allowing the super-strong heroes to catch their breath.

The green scientist was the first to his feet, being a plant/man hybrid who called himself Doctor Greenthumb. He shot tendrils at the heroes, but these were sliced to ribbons by the Meerkat's claws.

"Captain Depresso, he's a plant guy. If I smash his head, will he live through it?" said Charleston, remembering that Captain Depresso was a walking encyclopedia of super-heroes and villains. He would have to find out why, some day.

"Yeah, but he'll be down for a while," said Captain Depresso.

"Good," said Charleston, bringing the pipe around in an arc and smashing Greenthumb's head in. He made a noise half like a sigh and half like a yelp and slumped to the ground.

The little blobby thing was next, now wearing a lab-coat. He had, indeed, once been a man, but genetic experiments had left him a blob of protoplasm. He was called Doctor Degenerate. Benji cornered him and barked at him continuously. There was not a whole lot Degenerate could do in a fight.

Suddenly, the room filled with freak-fish.

"Energy blasts!" shouting Charleston, swinging his pipe madly, "Does anyone have them?"

"I have the best!" shouted Double O, and energy arced through the air, taking out the fish. Liana Koleyna stood in the corner, wearing a bloody lab-coat over her super-outfit.

"I've got this one," said Land Captain, striding over to the Witchyologist. Charleston couldn't hear what was said over the next few minutes as the pair shared a hushed conversation. It ended with Liana on her knees, crying. Land Captain walked back over to Charleston and placed his hand on the young man's shoulder. "She'll be giving us no more trouble tonight."

"Aren't there more?" said Charleston.

"They're lab-coat super-villains," said Captain Depresso, "Unless they have a battle-suit or something, they'll mostly try to hide behind others. These are the only ones with actual super-powers."

Charleston nodded. He walked over to Doctor Degenerate, and said, "Where are the prisoners that were in this room?"

"The other scientists took them away!" whined Degenerate, "You'll never find them now!"

"Yes I will," said Charleston, holding the pipe purposefully, "I will find them, and find out where they took Edolie, and if anything untoward has happened to her, I'm holding you responsible."

"I'll never talk!"

"Whatever," said Charleston, turning towards the door. He stopped, and wondered for a moment. There was a chance Edolie was still somewhere in the asylum, and if so, he should go with the super-heroes and clear it out. Even now, CAST agents were coming in and leading the lab-coat super-villains away. Greenthumb's face had already begun growing back. However, if she wasn't still here, then time may be of the essence and he should set out to find her immediately. She was, after all, the only partner he had who hadn't died yet. He wanted to keep it that way.
What should Charleston do?
-Accompany the heroes in clearing out the rest of the asylum
-Leave to try and find Edolie

Monday, October 6, 2008

049: Hallway to Hades

It seemed obvious which path Charleston should take. He turned to the Meerkat, Graves, and Clarence and motioned for them to take the left hallway. When no one made a move, he said, "Let's go left. I don't think they should have torture rooms."

"It might be some crazy turn of the century asylum," said Graves, "They tortured people all the time."

"Unless we went back in time, I doubt that it's a turn of the century asylum," said Charleston.

"No, you retard, I mean it could be run like one. Isn't a super-villain running it? Aren't they usually crazy as hell?"

Charleston pondered this for a moment, and had to concede that yes, it was entirely possible that the super-villain in charge was running it like a turn of the century asylum. "However, what if he's not, and he's just torturing people? Your friend Player One could be getting tortured right now."

"The gamer fag? Eh, no skin off my nose."

Charleston debated bringing up the priest's colorful language, but realized it would be a lost cause. Instead, he pursued going down the left hallway, "Still, if someone is being tortured, we have to help them. What if the sidekicks are in there?"

"If Pilate is down that hallway, then things are going to get pretty ugly," said the Meerkat.

"Sidekicks are worthless piles of crap," said Graves, "Besides, I'd be more worried about the freaking radiology wing. What sort of asylum has radiology? That's x-rays and stuff, right? You don't need x-rays to tell if someone is crazy. Besides, look at the signs."

Everyone did so. There was a small placard above the middle doors, telling what was on the upper floor. The radiology lab also had a placard. The left hallway's sign, proclaiming it to lead to torture rooms, was hastily written on a piece of cardboard with glitter glue. Someone had gone through the trouble of drawing several flowers on the sign as well, for no apparent reason. It was wedged in the door-frame, covering another placard.

"We're going left anyway, but perhaps we should take down the sign and see what it's covering," said Charleston, reaching up and taking down the sign. The placard underneath said "Recreation Room". He stared at it for a moment, and turned to Graves, "You're the asylum expert. Do they usually have rec rooms?"

"I guess so," said Graves.

"I mean, my only real experience with asylums is from that one 'Nightmare on Elm Street' movie. You know, the one that took place in an asylum," ended Charleston, sheepishly.

"The thing I don't get about 'Nightmare on Elm Street'," said Clarence, who had been doing things which would not be very polite to repeat, "is why they went all the way across the country to play video games."

Charleston and the Meerkat looked at him blankly, and Graves merely dismissed Clarence's idiocy with a wave of his hand. "Don't bother correcting him," said Graves, "You'll just start a loop of stupid."

The quartet stood in silence for a moment, until Charleston said, "Well, we're going left, then."

"It's probably a trap," said Graves.

"It's also entirely possible that they converted the rec room to a torture chamber, isn't it?" said Charleston, exasperated, "Isn't it?"

"Whatever. Let's go get ourselves killed because you're too stupid to know when you're walking right into a trap."

"Listen, I'll go first. If it's a trap, then you'll hear me screaming. If it's not, I will calmly walk back here and let you know. Deal?"

"Yeah, I guess."

Charleston slowly opened the double doors, and slid into the hallway. There was damaged medical equipment strewn about, and the fluorescent lighting flickered on and off. He breathed deeply, and immediately regretted it: the air on this side of the door was putrid. He picked up a length of pipe, and walked carefully down the hallway, half-expecting to see something appear suddenly in the flickering lights and dash towards him.

He made his way down the hallway to the first side door without incident, and slowly opened the door and looked inside. Player One and Player Two were inside, their wrists tied together and their mouths sharing the same gag. They appeared to be unconscious, but otherwise unscathed and therefore moderately safe. He went across the hallway and peeked into the adjacent door, finding Shrugs strapped to a bed. There was a hand-drill covered in green goo on a table next to him, but Shrugs looked unhurt despite this. In any case, it would probably do to continue this search with a bit more haste.

The room next to Shrugs' held the Forgiver and Captain Depresso, both heavily bruised and hanging from their ankles. Charleston carefully walked to the device holding the two heroes up, and lowered them. They were both unconscious, which was probably just as well. He carefully laid them on the floor, and continued to the adjacent room. It had several CAST agents, a few of whom had worked for TYRIS. Someone had apparently decided to take them apart like puzzles and sew the limbs back on wherever, and therefore the agents looked like mismatched children's puzzles. Charleston quickly closed the door and continued down the hallway. The next door was a broom closet, in which Fadeaway's Benji and the Meerkat's Pilate were stored in cages. Both were asleep, but otherwise looked fine.

The next room contained Double O's Slink-E, stretched to his maximum length with a ball-gag in his mouth. He filled the entire room, and Charleston had no idea how to help him, despite the pleading in the sidekick's eyes. He quickly closed the door, and tried not to vomit. The next door contained more CAST agents. They were in jars, and Charleston immediately closed the door and failed not vomiting, and he suddenly felt heavier. There was one more room, behind double doors at the end of the hall, and Charleston slowly made his way towards it. He didn't want to open the door just yet, but unlike all the other rooms which were dead-bolted, this one had a keyhole. Charleston knelt down and made use of it.

Liana Koleyna, the Witchyologist, was sitting on a stool by a table with various surgical implements upon it, studying them. Edolie DePrit was strapped to a mildly inclined table in a hospital gown. There were several more CAST agents about as well, most of them still whole, if not unscathed. There was another man in a lab-coat about as well, standing in front of a table where electricity sporadically blazed through the air. Charleston could not see who was on the table, and was quite glad for that. The final person was a green gentleman in a lab-coat, with a bandage on his arm. Charleston guess that this explained the green goo-covered hand-drill. He stood up and turned around, and walked quickly to the end of the hall and through the double-doors.

Land Captain and the Neo-Bassets had arrived.

"Well, I've found the strike force everyone's sidekicks!" said Charleston, leaning on the doors.

Fadeaway, the Meerkat, and Land Captain looked at him expectantly. Double O stared indifferently at the back of his own hand.

"Well, the good news is that Benji and Pilate look like they're just fine, just drugged. Either they weren't planning on doing anything to them, or they haven't gotten around to it yet. Slink-E is stretched out, and I didn't want to free him yet. The strike force looks okay, for the most part. They do have some people in a room at the end of the hall, though," he said, hoping Land Captain wouldn't ask about Liana.

He did.

"Uh, well, she's in the room."

"Then we have to go rescue her!" said Land Captain.

"I don't think she needs rescuing," said Charleston, slowly.

"What do you mean? Is she dead?"

"No, she's-"

"She's doing some torturing, isn't she?" Charleston nodded, and the blood drained from Land Captain's face. The superhero continued, "I sort of figured it would be something like this. I always hoped it would end up differently, but I guess once you start genetically engineering flying freak fish you can't really go back."

Santos began trying to comfort the distraught Land Captain, but Fadeaway pointed to Charleston and said, "Did you have that thing on your coat outside?"

"What thing?" said Charleston.

"The red thing on your back," said the Meerkat, "The thing you didn't have when you went down that hallway, but have now."

Charleston quickly removed his coat and threw it on the ground, hoping it wasn't ruined. There was a giant translucent red blob on it. It sprouted two eyes, a mustache, and a mouth.

"I was once a man!" it warbled deeply, "And I'll not tolerate your interference with our experiments!" It slid off Charleston's coat cleanly and slipped under the double-doors leading to the end of the hallway.

"I'll follow it!" said Fadeaway, vanishing. A few minutes later, he reappeared, white as a ghost. "You could have warned us about all the sick stuff back there."

"Sorry," said Charleston.

"Anyway, that room at the end of the hall? Pretty much every super-villain ever to don a lab-coat is in there, with a bunch of Gemini Twin Troopers. They were about to do something to that poor girl, but I stopped them sneakily."

"Thank god," said Charleston, hoping to God that this wasn't going to turn out to be another incident like the one that occurred in South Carolina, "Any supernatural people?"

"Not really."

"Graves and Clarence, you guys go let Agent Villain know what's going on. The way should be clear, right?"

Santos nodded, and said, "Si."

"Okay," he said, as the priest and the fat man exited through the tunnel, "Now, should we free the captives first or go right for the end of the hall?" When no one else answered, Charleston knew it was up to him to decide.
What should Charleston do first?
-Free the captives
-Head for the end of the hall

Thursday, October 2, 2008

048: Agent Villain

It would probably be better for Charleston to get some rest, he realized, and so he closed his eyes and went to sleep. After a few minutes, Land Captain looked back at him, his face becoming one wrought with guilt.

"Ishmael, drive for a while. Liana and I have to have a talk," he said.

"Aye aye, Land Captain," said Ishmael.

"Why do I have to lie to him, Liana? Out of all the people in this universe, he's the only one who hasn't actively tried to do me in," said Land Captain.

"As members of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate, we have to keep some of our secrets," said Liana. She was wearing a traditional witch's costume, save that it was made of black scales.

"He already knows our secrets, and besides, I didn't have to lie to him at the courthouse."

"You rushed off without telling anyone where you were going, sweetheart. If you had checked out with the Embryonic Man like you were supposed to, then you would have been told that loose lips sink ships."

"That's another thing I don't like."

"Outdated expressions?"

"No, the other members of this team, if you can call it that. We're not a superhero syndicate, we're Mark King's personal army-for-hire. He says jump, we say how high. Am I the only one who gets that?"

"You have to realize that most of our teammates have less than astounding powers, and the ones that could strike out by themselves have ties to Mister King. This is the only chance they have to do some good."

"What about you and me, then? I've been a solo act for most of my career, and you certainly don't have any ties to King."

"If you want us to be a dynamic duo, honey, then you're going to play by my rules. If I can make some money doing this superhero thing, I'm going to, and the Syndicate by-laws state that no super-hero can have non-civilian romantic entanglements outside the Syndicate."

"It still stinks like rotten fish. Besides, Charleston is probably going to think he's going insane. One minute, Ishmael is sentient and the next he's just a souped-up car?"

"There are ways of dealing with Charleston, my dear."

"We're not dealing with him. He's my friend."

Liana sighed, "I knew you wouldn't see it my way." She took out a syringe and, before Land Captain could react, injected him with its contents. He instantly fell asleep. "Thank you so much for putting Ishmael in autopilot before taking your nap, dear."

Hours later, Land Captain and Charleston awoke, still inside Ishmael. They were in a heavily wooded area, and there were noises on the edge of hearing. Dangerous sounding noises.

Charleston yawned, "I thought we had to meet at a warehouse or something."

Land Captain rubbed his neck, "Apparently someone altered our course. We've been out for hours."

"You went to sleep, too? How could you do that and keep driving?"

A battle raged in Land Captain's mind. In the end, he decided to ignore Charleston's question, "I wonder where we are. Let me pull up the GPS system. Ah, we're in Ohio, outside Cleveland. I'm guessing the asylum is close by, and those are the noises we're hearing."

"Well then, let's get over there and see what we can do to help. Hey, where's Liana?"

"A very good question," said Land Captain, starting Ishmael. Moments later, they pulled up to a group of individuals in blue jumpsuits adorned with gadgets. A priest, a fat man, and a thin man with a boxing glove were standing off to the side seemingly doing their best to ignore everything. The Meerkat and the Neo-Bassets were standing on the other side of the blue jumpsuit-adorned group, looking worried. Various headlights lit up a barricade while screams floated over from the asylum.

A man in a suit looked up at Charleston and Land Captain as they exited Ishmael. He had an eye-patch and was missing a tooth, and was scarred. Charleston recognized him as Agent Villain.

"About time you got here," he said, "I'm running out of bodies to throw at these people. They've taken down the strike force and, surprise surprise, captured everyone's significant others and sidekicks. This includes one of my agents, so I’m a bit pissed off at the moment. No one kills my agents but me."

Charleston assumed he was being metaphorical or something, and said, "What should we do?"

"Charleston Charge, isn't it? For starters, you can do something about those robots," said Agent Villain, pointing to several drones floating outside the asylum.

"Robots would fall under superhero jurisdiction as well, wouldn't they?" asked Land Captain.

"I'm not sending any of my people in there until those robots are taken care of, but if you want your group of costumed nothings to go after them, go right ahead."

Charleston and Land Captain walked over to the Meerkat and the Neo-Bassets. All of them looked quite distraught.

"We're going to try and take care of those robots," said Charleston, "We'd appreciate your help."

The Meerkat exhaled, and smiled, "Finally! I was wondering when he was going to let us do something. They've got our sidekicks, you know. My Pilate, Fadeaway's Benji, Double O's Slink-E. They took the Witchyologist, as well, and some CAST agent with funky hair."

"Edolie!" said Charleston, angrily, "Okay, so what's the plan? Do we know what the robots can do?"

"Basic drone robot stuff," said the Meerkat, "Lasers, mostly. Lasers and pinchers."

"The Neo-Bassets can take care of the robots," said Fadeaway.

"Okay, then I can take you two and tunnel into the asylum while they're distracted. Go get the Paci Custodis. The CAST agents are refusing to go in until Villain gives the order, and he says he won't do that until the robots are dealt with. They can be cavalry."

Fadeaway took flight, grabbing Santos before he confronted the robots. Double O waited a moment, and followed bellowing something about the day being saved due solely to his efforts. Charleston went over to the Paci Custodis, and was greeted with cold indifference.

"Hey, priest," he said, remembering the harsh treatment Land Captain had received, "We're going in. Are you going to stand around all day, or are you going to help us?"

"Yeah, we were just waiting for you to show up. Come on."

The Meerkat had already started digging. Land Captain tactfully ignored Father Graves, and Clarence bounced along happily. Ben kept staring at Charleston with rapt fascination, which Charleston tried to ignore. They entered the tunnel, and emerged in a room full of Melonheads.

"Mutant freak things!" shouted the Meerkat, "Who gets these?"

"Fair game!" shouted Graves, pulling out a gun and shooting one, its bulbous head splattering against the wall. Clarence followed suit, while Ben pulled out a lighter and lit his oily-rag covered boxing glove on fire.

"KITSUNE FISTO!" he shouted, punching a melonhead and setting it on fire. It screeched. While the Paci Custodis carefully slaughtered many of the melonheads, the Meerkat skillfully wove between them, taking them out with careful nerve-pinches. Land Captain utilized a variety of fighting techniques, and Charleston made a note to ask him where he learned such things. For his part, Charleston lashed out with whatever limb was available.

Minutes later, any melonhead that was not dead or unconscious had run away, which left Charleston and his group with a difficult decision. The room had three ways out, not counting the tunnel. Ben had also just realized his hand was on fire, and was screaming. Charleston took a deep breath.

"Land Captain, take Ben outside and see how the Neo-Bassets are doing and meet up with us as soon as possible." Land Captain fired off a salute and helped Ben back into the tunnel. Charleston turned to the rest of his group, and opened his mouth to speak, but closed it immediately. The middle way led to stairs, and was presumably the way the melonheads had gone. The right way said it went to radiology, and Charleston was unsure if asylums were supposed to have radiology labs. He was sure, however, that they should not have torture rooms. This is what the left way proclaimed itself to be. Before he gave his orders, done based solely on the fact that people seemed to be listening to him, he needed to choose a path...
Which way should Charleston go?
-Up the middle
-Left
-Right

Monday, September 29, 2008

047: The Mystery of the Land Captain

A bit of meta before we begin:
This is the 50th Choose Your Own Blogventure post! Hooray! More excitement when we hit the fiftieth actual story installment. Now, your paltry dose of prose:Charleston came to a decision.

"Hey, I'm going to talk to your car," he said.

Land Captain chuckled. "Why would you talk to ol' Ishmael? He's not a talking car, not like Friday. That was my old car."

Charleston looked at Land Captain's reflection the rear-view mirror, awe-struck, "What?"

"This car is pretty fast and all, but nothing compared to Friday. Poor Friday got destroyed bringing me to this universe, though, and then I got a new car."

"From who?"

"I'm not sure," said Land Captain, "I don't actually remember."

The rest of the ride was spent in silence. Charleston stared out the window, and made a mental note to track down Mister Lucky as soon as he was able. Either the mass memory-change was having some adverse effects, or something much more sinister was going on. Besides, he had heard Land Captain refer to Ishmael as a sentient car after the trial. He would have to keep a close eye on his friend to make sure that his mind didn't deteriorate any more. Besides, he knew nothing of Land Captain's history save that he fought aliens frequently. He would have to get to the bottom of this mystery that was the Land Captain eventually. For now, he had to prove himself to CAST so that he could possibly join them.

"Do you know who's going to be there?" said Charleston.

Liana handed him a print-out, and gave him a sad sort of smile. He knew how she felt: how long would it be until Land Captain forgot about her, or about Charleston? When would he stop reverting? A problem to think about, but for another time. He looked at the print-out:

Shrugs, Player One, and Player Two would be representing the Paci Custodis in the strike force. Clarence Claybourne, Father Graves (no first name was given for him), and Ben Johansen would be there to provide back-up if back-up was needed. Charleston remembered all of them but Ben, and they had seemed professional enough about things when they rescued him from the False Prophet. He made a quick mental note to find the False Prophet, preferably with a few members of the Paci Custodis, and kick his pointy teeth in.

In addition to Land Captain, the superhero community would send the Forgiver and Captain Depresso. These four would make up the strike force. Back-up would be there in the form of the Meerkat and the members of the Neo-Bassets: Fadeaway, Santos, and Double O. Their sidekicks would not be included in any part of this mission. Charleston assumed this included Liana Koleyna, who may just be there for moral support.

There was not a list of CAST members. Well, there was, but every name was blacked out.

"Where are we going, by the way?" said Charleston, "I mean, are we going straight to this asylum or do we have to meet up with everyone beforehand?"

"They gave me coordinates," said Land Captain, "So I'm following those."

"How long?"

"Nearly an hour, it looks like."

Charleston nodded, and wondered if he should take a nap before they got there, so he could be well-rested for the trials ahead.
Should Charleston take a nap?
-Yes
-No

Thursday, September 25, 2008

046: CAST Away

Which path should Charleston take?
Paci Custodis - 1 vote
CAST - 4 votes
Superhero - 0 votes
While he was a natural for super-heroics, having attributes beyond that of a mortal man, he wasn't sure that's what he wanted at the moment. After all, with super-heroics you get super-villains, and he didn't feel like gaining an archenemy. Joining the Paci Custodis would allow him to do something he had some experience with: fighting the supernatural. However, he knew how hard it was to find out how to do so and, if Jimmy Swift was a Paci Custodis, then they obviously weren't that picky. He would like to be in an organization with a little more prestige than that. An organization like CAST, the Clandestine Alliance of Stealth Tactics. He was surprised they were still around, however, and he would have to find out more about them if he wanted to join. Well, there was only one thing for that. To the library!

He called down to the front desk to get directions, and was met with ignorance. Not only did they not know where the nearest library was, but they had no idea why he would want to go there. Was the hotel's wireless connection not enough for him? When Charleston replied that he had no computer, they laughed at him and hung up. Charleston sighed, both for the concierge's lack of professionalism but also for the state of the library in today's culture. Well, there was only one thing to do: acquire a computer. He once again called down to the concierge and requested a computer. This was met with less derision, and several hours later, Charleston was the owner of a brand new laptop, and began to struggle with it.

In the past, he did have a personal computer. However, it was sent over by the now-defunct TYRIS and set up by their technicians, including the internet connection which was the current cause of Charleston's distress. He clicked on the help button, cursing the touchpad while he did so, and was given a list of things he may need help with. Eventually, he managed to establish a wireless connection, and the first thing he did was find the nearest library. As it turned out, there was one down the street, but it was closed now. No matter. He went to the CAST web site and found that there wasn't one. It dawned on him that a clandestine spy organization wouldn't have a web site, and decided to try Wikipedia instead. This yielded the following information:

"CAST, or Clandestine Alliance of Stealth Tactics, was founded in the 1970s to combat the menace of Zodiac and other unconventional international threats. CAST had many agents at its disposal, though they received retroactive fame from the memoirs of Nate Houlihan, the former agent Seven-in-One, which detailed the missions of an elite squad. Other notable agents include Agent Big Fish, Agent Man-in-Charge, Agent Pheromone, and Agent Villain."

There was no mention of the recent reformation of CAST, however, which seemed like something which would be important. He wondered if being able to join CAST was something you worked up to, and he rather hoped it wasn't. Then again, if he could somehow get the word out to them, perhaps they would allow him to join them. He simply had to do something really spectacular and preferably legal. It would also help if it was something he could accomplish within the space of one day, as he was impatient. In fact, he was so impatient that he shut down his laptop and hit the streets looking for something to make himself known. Thirteen labors rolled into one, more or less.

Hold on, hold on. He recalled Player One or the Forgiver saying something about an asylum in Ohio where a super-villain was assembling an army of super-villains and other psychopaths in order to take over the world or something. That was an unconventional threat if he ever heard one, and if the new CAST was anything like the old one, it wasn't something they would take lightly. He went back to his hotel room and dialed 911.

"911. What's your emergency?"

"I have news of an imminent threat to national security! I need to speak to CAST!"

"What's your emergency, sir? Also, I have no knowledge of any organization of that name."

"There's a super-villain in Ohio who has taken over an asylum and he's going to use the super-villains and psychopaths there to take over the world!"

"We need to patch you into someone who'll actually know what you're talking, sir," said the operator, and moments later another voice replied:

"Agent Operator speaking. What's the imminent threat to national security?"

Charleston repeated himself.

"Gotcha. Thank-"

"I want in on this."

"What? You can't just say you want in on this. That's not how it works."

"I used to work for TYRIS!"

"You and everyone else, buddy!"

"My name is Charleston Charge!"

"Yeah, sure. You're the fifth guy who has tried that. Hold on, we know to deal with you."

Charleston was put on hold, and was quite unamused by Agent Operator's attitude. It would seem politeness was dead. The other end clicked back to life, and the voice made Charleston's heart flutter.

"'Ello?"

"Edolie?" said Charleston.

"Charleston!" said Edolie.

He could hear a brief scuffle on the other end, and the next voice was Agent Operator's: "Well, that and the confirmation I received from the voice recognition software I booted up is good enough for now. We'll send someone to pick you up. We'll want you here for the planning."

Charleston hung up, quite pleased with himself. He put his laptop into a pillowcase so that it wouldn't get damaged, and slung it over his shoulder. He put on his hat and went to the lobby of the hotel. Two hours later, a familiar car pulled up. Charleston walked out the door calmly and made his way to the car.

"Ahoy there, buddy!" said Land Captain, rolling down Ishmael's window, "You'll have to get in the back this time. Liana's come along for the ride." Liana waved politely from behind Land Captain.

Charleston sat down, and after greeting Land Captain and Liana, asked a question which had plagued him for the past several minutes: "I thought you guys were with the Astounding Superhero Syndicate, not CAST. What gives?"

"We're working in conjunction for this case, along with a few of those Paci Custodis. They've got word that there's all sorts up at that asylum, and they want to make sure we follow that Agreement of theirs."

Charleston nodded, but another older question arose in his mind: Ishmael was not an ordinary car, and may have been immune to the memory block instated by Mister Lucky. He had to find out somehow, and the easiest way to do this was ask. He wondered if he should ask Ishmael before or after they took down the asylum...
When should Charleston ask?
-Before
-After

Monday, September 22, 2008

045: Menace of the Manakeet

Should he eat before he leaves?
Yes - 5 votes
No - 1 vote
Charleston entered the waffle house, the sweet aroma of his favorite food wafting through the air. How long had it been since he had delicious waffles? Drenched in syrup, covered in butter, the occasional berry bringing itself to the forefront of his taste buds to let him know that yes, despite all of life's ups and downs, there would always eventually be waffles. Nearly lifted off his feet by the heavenly smell of fresh waffles and real maple syrup, he sat down at a counter and ordered the waffle house's signature Waffle Family Buffet: his choice of any four varieties of waffles, brought to him as he finished each four-waffle portion, and an amount of toppings bordering on the obscene.
How should Charleston get to Detroit?
Plane - 0 votes
Train - 4 votes
Automobile - 1 vote
Bus - 1 vote
Several hours later, Charleston emerged from the Waffle Family Buffet, filled with waffle-y goodness and slightly sticky. Now, he had to turn his mind to other matters. Namely, how to get to Detroit? As far as he knew, the planes were still delayed. Besides, he was reasonably certain one of the security guards had seen him. He could always use his money to rent a car, or even buy a car, but there was the slight snag that Charleston had never gotten his driver's license. While this was usually not a problem, as he was a careful if somewhat nervous driver, he thought that a man who had so recently been arrested and tried in the Supreme Court should not be driving without a license. He could also take a bus, but he had heard stories from Edolie and Player One about the sort of crazy people who drive those buses. He was sure it was an isolated incident, but he really didn't want to take any chances. That left the train. Charleston marched through the streets of town, right to a traffic cop, and only paused a moment when he heard him holler stop. A moment was all the traffic cop needed, and he tackled Charleston before he was hit by a semi-truck.

"Are you mad?" said the traffic cop, helping Charleston up, "You have to pay attention. This is a serious city, and I am a serious cop."

"All right," said the mildly-confused Charleston, going to brush some dirt off his hobo-clothes and deciding the effort would be futile. He continued through the streets of town, paying close attention to traffic signals and on-coming traffic. As he got closer to the train station, he toyed with the idea of resuming his march, but decided against it. They may think he was some sort of terrorist. He walked up to the ticket booth, only to be greeted with a door being slammed in his face. A smaller door opened in the center of the larger door, and a long nose poked out. It was shaking with either anger or fear, and really looked quite comical.

"What do you think you're doing, hobo?" said the nose.

Charleston began to think that, perhaps, he should have bought new clothes. He would keep a note of it in his... he had no notebook, or little tape recorder. They had been taken from him. He was hit with a wave of remorse, a biting sense of longing for his former life. Things had not been simple then, of course, but he did not want simplicity. If he did, he would remain a hobo. No, he wanted problems to solve. Adventures to choose. A little tape recorder he could say things into. A fedora-like hat, like the one which had just been stolen off his head by some punk kid while Charleston was thinking of how good things used to be. Well, he would get them in Detroit, and by hook or by crook, he would get there. No nose was going to stand in his way! He turned to face his nasal nemesis, and was taken slightly aback by the nose's disappearance. He tapped lightly on the tiny door, and the nose once again poked out.

"Why did you do that?" asked Charleston, hurt.

"I don't got time to stand around while you daydream. Now, what do you think you're doing, hobo?"

"I'm no hobo. I'm a man who's down on his luck and freshly innocent, filled to my non-existent gills with waffle-y goodness. I, sir, am a paying customer who wishes to purchase a ticket to Detroit!" A little old lady applauded him politely.

"You look like a hobo, and everyone knows hobos don't ride in with all the non-hobos. The whole system would break down if we let you do that."

"I'm paying for a ticket, you aural antagonist!"

"Aural's ears, dim-bulb, and I don't care if you're buying the whole damn train, as long as you look like that you ain't riding with the decent folk! Good day!" The tiny door slammed, leaving Charleston brimming with rage and feeling wounded. He hoped the nose suffered heavily this allergy season, and he stomped off to try and think of what to do.

What did hobos do? Why, they rode the rails, of course. Except as far as Charleston was aware, they never really had a destination in mind. Then again, he knew very little about the traditions of hobos. No doubt he would have eventually learned them, but now he was merely a transitory hobo/non-hobo hybrid. What he did know was how to break into a train station and find out when the next train to Detroit was coming. He did so, Charleston stood by the tracks and waited for his train. In the wee hours of the night, it came, and he leapt onto it. Holding himself up with one hand, he opened the door of what he hoped was a nice, dry car and swung himself in.

He was not alone.

Motley Shakespeare had set up a desk in the car, with a candle burning in an old tin can. He was writing on a piece of old washed-out newspaper with a pigeon's feather as a quill. He looked up from his writings.

"Who, pray tell, are you?" said Motley Shakespeare.

Charleston wondered what he would do in the presence of the actual Shakespeare, and applied this knowledge to his current situation: "Charleston Charge, at your service."

"Oh, what foolish youth, to think that one such as him could provide a service to one such as I. What laughter is to be had. A-ha. Ah, but perhaps he can be of some assistance, at that. A man comes, he who guards the train, and it is beyond the prowess of even my words to stop him from creating trouble for me. Perhaps if this Charleston Charge could use his strength where my wits have proved lacking, then he may ride this train to his destination with my blessing."

"I guess I could do that."

"You bring me great cheer. Go wait atop by mobile domicile, for he arrives shortly."

With a shrug, Charleston climbed on top of the car. A few cars down, silhouetted in the moonlight, he saw a man checking the cars and prepared himself. Nothing could prepare himself for when the man looked directly at him, and charged bellowing a bird-like squawk. As the man drew closer, Charleston saw that he was no man at all, but rather a man/parakeet hybrid with a face full of feathers and a beak, and wings for arms. His feet were bare, and taloned. So perplexed was Charleston that he barely had a chance to dodge the man-parakeet, this manakeet.

The manakeet chortled at the moon, turned to face Charleston, and began warily circling him. Charleston poked his head back into Motley Shakespeare's car.

"You didn't tell me he was some sort of man-bird!" shouted Charleston.

Motley Shakespeare shrugged, "Having known no other guards, I simply assumed all of them had his characteristics. I shall take care in the future not to make such rash assumptions."

Charleston quickly pulled his head out of the hole as the man-bird pecked. The wind made Charleston's coat flutter and he struck a pose. The manakeet got into a defensive position and chortled. Knowing absolutely nothing about this manakeet save the fact that he had somehow been employed as a guard, Charleston decided to trust his instincts. They told him to hit it. As the manakeet crouched down, Charleston kicked it in the face with his bionic leg and it flipped itself into the air. It flapped its wing-arms madly, and other than slowing its descent, nothing happened.

Charleston loved his coat. It had been with him through thick and thin, and while it was showing its age now, it was still a very good coat. He may have lost his hat, his tape recorder, and all sorts of dignity, but he still had his coat. However, if he wanted to get to Detroit and possibly get a new coat, sacrifices had to be made. After all, it wasn't like he could sacrifice his hat. He pulled off his coat and sprang at the manakeet, who leapt backwards. Reflexively, it went at him with its talons raised, but Charleston was too quick and too lucky for it. He grabbed its ankle and threw his coat over the creature's head, and while it struggled madly against its make-shift trap, Charleston wrapped his arms around it and walked to the edge of the car. In one swift movement, he launched the manakeet off the train. It flapped its wings madly and landed safely, but a bit dazed, and Charleston watched it disappear into the distance. He fired off a quick salute, and went back to Motley Shakespeare.

"Is he dealt with?" asked Motley Shakespeare.

"I threw him off the train."

"Well done."

Motley Shakespeare continued writing, occasionally dipping his quill in an inkpot. It was the only thing in the boxcar that was new.

"How long until we get to Detroit?" he asked, lying down in the hay.

"Less than a fortnight, more than a night."

"Sensational."

It took three days to get to Detroit, most of which Charleston spent wishing that Motley Shakespeare was much less haughty. He had no idea what Motley Shakespeare thought of him, but a quick look at one of Motley Shakespeare's manuscripts hinted at a character of great strength but little intelligence that guarded a genius playwright. When they reached Detroit, Charleston simply left the boxcar without a word to or from Motley Shakespeare.

The first thing he had to do was set up a base of operations from which he could re-equip himself and ponder his next action. Ah, and shower several times. Life as a hobo was a dirty one. He found his base in a moderately nice hotel which asked no questions when he paid in cash. He had them bring up a new outfit to his room, as well as some other necessities. As he emerged from his seventh shower, there was a knock on the door and the bellboy dropped off some fresh laundry and a package. Charleston tipped him, and laid the clothes out on the bed. Other than the undergarments and shirt, everything was tan. He put his new especially long coat and fedora-like hat in the closet, just for a little while, and put on the rest of the clothes. The shoes were a sort of hard-wearing dress shoe, almost a boot. The tie had red stripes with dark green spots on it, and it made Charleston's eyes water if he looked at it for too long.

Charleston stared at the closet, and stepped towards it, each step a step towards destiny. He reached in and pulled out his especially long coat, relishing the act of putting it on. Then, with breath held, he reached up and pulled out the fedora-like hat. With a certain amount of reverence he placed it on his head. Only one thing was missing, but he had not yet opened the package. He did this quickly, and pulled out an MP3 player.

This was not what he wanted. Who the heck gave him an MP3 player when all he wanted was a tape recorder? He angrily cycled through its options, and came upon once called "voice". Cautiously, he selected it, and it brought up a menu, one of which was "record voice". He selected it, and brought the MP3 player up to his mouth.

"Hello hello hello, this is Charleston Charge," he said. He stopped the MP3 player, and selected the recording. He could hear nothing, and then realized he should put the tiny headphones into the MP3 player. He did so, and tried listening again. This time, he heard his own voice playing back to him. He nodded, and put the MP3 player in his coat's interior pocket. Watch out world, Charleston Charge was on the case!

Er... the only question was what that case was. Despite all his downtime, he was still no further along with deciding which path he wanted to go down. Once again, he pondered his options. He decided that being a super-hero was sort of like being a private investigator, and so he rolled those two options into one. So he had three options: trying to join CAST, trying to become a Paci Custodis, or trying to become a superhero. Each one was fraught with excitement and danger, and this suited Charleston just fine.
Which path should Charleston take?
-Paci Custodis (Supernatural hunting)
-CAST (Espionage)
-Superhero

Thursday, September 18, 2008

044: New-Found Wealth

Which should Charleston choose?
Choice A: Continue running towards the plane (0 votes)
Choice B: Try to get them to wait for him (2 votes)
Choice C: An elaborate third option which would somehow stop all planes from taking off, allowing him to easily get on the plane. (6 votes)
Instead of going with one of his easy options, Charleston chose to pull an elaborate trick to stop all the planes from taking off. He had seen a movie once where two young men pulled down an air traffic radio tower, but they had the aid of a car. While Charleston was strong, he doubted he was as strong as a car. If he had access to a phone and a willingness to be incarcerated, he could call a bomb threat into the airport. Perhaps he had some sort of previously unseen and unmentioned power which could aid him in this?

No. He did not.

Hold on! While he may not be as strong as a car, he was still stronger than the average person. He was sure that the air traffic radio tower had some sort of delicate piece of equipment on it which he could dislodge with a well-aimed rock. He turned on his heel and made a mad dash for the tower, keeping an eye out for largish rocks. Finding only a few, he decided to make the most of what he had, and when he reached the tower, he began hurling the rocks at anything that looked delicate. He had four rocks.

The first rock missed the tower entirely, comically knocking out a pedestrian. The second rock hit a satellite dish, causing it to hang limply. A third rock hit an antenna, which fell onto the satellite dish and knocked them both down.

Charleston had one more rock.

He was about to throw it at another bit of the tower, but then realized it could do more good by being thrown at Anderson's plane. Charleston turned and did so, hitting something on the plane's tail.

All across the airport, planes stopped. On the edge of sight, Charleston saw some security guards and mechanics coming out of the building, no doubt to see what was up with the tower. He walked away from it nonchalantly, and headed towards Anderson's plane. No one was leaving it, and so Charleston started pelting the door with pebbles. Eventually, this solicited a response.

The door open and Player One looked down upon Charleston. After a moment, he said, "What do you want?"

"I need to talk with Anderson Smith!" shouted Charleston.

"Why?"

"It's about something important!"

Player One disappeared, and was replaced with Anderson Smith.

"What?" he said.

"You owe me! You and King and Lucky!"

"What are you talking about? We already saved you from those vampires. What more do you want?"

"You know. What with..." Charleston suddenly remembered something vital. Namely, the fact that Anderson had been in the thrall of someone else during the crucial moments of the battle. He was unlikely to remember anything, and was therefore a dead end. Or was he? The man was in a private jet, after all. "I'm sort of down on my luck right now. I could use maybe a place to stay. Can I sleep on your couch or something?"

"If we let every homeless guy we save sleep on our couch, we would need more than one couch. So no. Sorry."

"How about some money, then? Please?"

Anderson sighed. While he was financially well-off, he hadn't gotten that way giving money to random hobos. In the deepest recesses of his mind, however, something told him he should probably do so, at least this time. He took out his billfold, extracted several bills, rolled them up into a wad, and tossed it down to Charleston. "If you ever come to Detroit, you might as well look us up." The door closed.

Charleston counted his money, and was pleased. He was once again a naturalized citizen, and he had enough money to do pretty much whatever he wanted to. Life was suddenly filled with options, his eyes having been opened to a wealth of things he could do.

Perhaps he could become a private investigator? Maybe a member of the Paci Custodis, if he could find out how? Then again, he did possess powers beyond those of most mortal men, a prime characteristic of a superhero. There was also the return of CAST, which Charleston could probably join.

Hold on one second. Why choose between them? With a bit of effort, he could become all of them. At least, he probably could. It was a distinct possibility, and Charleston knew where it all happened: a city called Detroit. Only two questions remained: how he should get there, and if he should get something to eat before he embarked on his journey. Life was looking up.
QUESTION ONE: How should Charleston get to Detroit?
-Plane
-Train
-Automobile
-Bus

QUESTION TWO: Should he eat before he leaves?
-Yes
-No

Monday, September 15, 2008

043: Land Captain's Lament

Should Charleston go celebrate?
Yes: 6 votes
No: 2 votes
Charleston decided to go to the celebration, if only to get some free food. Living on the streets, even for such a short time, had shown him the importance of never passing up a free meal. Jimmy Swift instructed Charleston to follow him, though Jimmy immediately got into a car and left him standing in front of the courthouse. He stood there, watching the car drive away, when another car pulled up. The window rolled down, and Land Captain told Charleston to get in.

After a few moments, it became clear that Land Captain was doing the speed limit. This baffled Charleston.

"Since I joined the Astounding Superhero Syndicate, I've had to limit the use of Ishmael's speed to times of emergency. They're also working on getting me situated in my secret identity."

"You have a secret identity?" asked Charleston.

"You don't think I was born with a captain's hat and a love of justice, do you?"

"What is it?"

"I trust you, Charleston, so I'll tell you."

Land Captain did so, and Charleston nodded. It was a normal sounding name, but had a certain rightness to it. After a few moments of somewhat awkward silence, Charleston decided to ask a big question.

"Land Captain, do you remember when that picture of us was taken? The one Swift showed you."

"I assumed someone was trying to pull a fast one. Is it real?"

"No, of course not."

The pair drove on, gradually closing in on Swift's car. Ishmael was deftly dodging obstacles, and another thought struck Charleston.

"Does Ishmael remember that picture?" he said.

"Well, it's a fake, isn't it?" replied Land Captain.

"Well, yes, but if we can find out more about the picture, perhaps we can track down who took it?"

"Ah, we can't do that. Ishmael and I thought that telling the Superhero Syndicate that he's a sentient car was a bad idea."

More silence. Charleston leaned over and whispered "we need to talk" into Ishmael's air vent. As the low-speed chase continued, something became increasingly apparent. Either Jimmy Swift was half-heartedly trying to lose them, or he had no idea where he was going. Lacking any way of communicating with him, Land Captain and Charleston chose to simply continue following him. In fact, they followed him right to the airport where he and five other people exited the car. It had obviously been cramped, and judging from the droopiness of one passenger, not a very pleasant ride. Charleston turned to Land Captain.

"Pull in front of them dramatically," said Charleston.

Land Captain nodded, and did so, swerving to a stop in front of the sextet. Land Captain then emerged from his car with a stylized step while Charleston merely opened the door.

Player One, the droopy passenger, looked at Land Captain with a bemused expression. "You totally stole that from Speed Racer."

"It's homage," said Land Captain, leaning against Ishmael.

Player One shrugged as Jimmy Swift, Clarence Claybourne, Father Graves, Anderson Smith, and Morrey Roberts stopped around him. Morrey, suffering from motion blindness, ran into Clarence who took no notice.

"I thought we were supposed to be doing some sort of celebration, Mister Swift," said Charleston, walking around Ishmael.

"You did?" said Jimmy, adjusting his tie, "You did. Well, yeah, we're going to celebrate here. At the airport. On a plane. With hookers and blow?" Jimmy turned to Anderson hopefully, who grimly shook his head. "Okay, no hookers and no blow. Plenty of booze, though. You like booze, don't you?"

"Not really," said Charleston.

"I don't either," said Land Captain.

Swift turned to him belligerently and looked him up and down, "You're the guy. The lying superhero guy. No one invited you, sailor boy, so why don't you pack up your tights and drive off into the ocean or whatever it is you do?"

"Yeah. Go sodomize some other sailors, you salty seaman," said Father Graves.

Land Captain looked at him, mouth agape. Charleston was about to say something comforting, but Land Captain raised a single hand. He looked at Charleston, eyes brimming with tears, "It's all right, Charleston. I know when I'm not wanted. I'll find some way to get a hold of you once you get settled in. It shouldn't be too hard. It's time I should be shoving off, anyway. Liana is probably worried about me, and I have some superhero duties to perform up north."

"Give my regards to Liana," said Charleston as Land Captain closed Ishmael's door.

"Give mine to Edolie," said Land Captain, as he drove off.

This remark confused Charleston, but there were more important things at hand. He remembered why he had been arrested in the first place: he was looking for Anderson Smith who was now right here in front of him.

Or, at least, he had been. Anderson and his group were boarding a private jet. Charleston ran after them, but as he did so, his bionic leg began to malfunction. He had to get on that plane in order to talk to Anderson Smith, which would somehow ease all his troubles. He would also punch Jimmy Swift in the face as soon as he could manage.

He had seconds to decide a course of action: he could continue running, hopefully catching the plane before it left and his leg gave out entirely. He could try to shout to them over the din of the airport, hoping that they would wait for him to board. The third option was an elaborate plan that suddenly spawned into Charleston's head, which was to somehow delay all flights at once, allowing him to easily catch the flight.

What to do, what to do...
Which should Charleston choose?
-CHOICE A: Continue running towards the plane
-CHOICE B: Try to get them to wait for him
-CHOICE C: An elaborate third option which would somehow stop all planes from taking off, allowing him to easily get on the plane.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

042: The People of the United States V. Charleston Charge

Breaking the fourth wall: I tried to do something different with today's segment. I think it turned out all right.

How should Charleston plead?
Guilty: o votes
Not guilty: 3 votes
Insanity: 0 votes
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES,
Petitioner
v.
CHARLESTON CHARGE

Washington, DC
(Date removed)

The above-entitled matter came on for oral argument before the Supreme Court of the United States at 11:14 a.m.

APPEARANCES:
DHARMA H. LAWSON, ESQ., Washington, DC; on behalf of the Petitioner.
JAMES SWIFT III, ESQ., Detroit, MI; on behalf of the Respondent.

PROCEEDINGS
(11:14 a.m.)

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: We'll hear... who are you? You, the second stenographer.

PLAYER ONE: I'm typing this for the Internet!

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: I'm afraid that's not allowed, son. Bailiff, take away his computer.

(I am going to use sneakily Anderson's phone to text the trial to myself, and I will transcribe it later. I apologize if it's not courty enough for you, but I suck at texting.)

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: Ms. Lawson.

MS. LAWSON: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: Charleston Charge is--

CHARLESTON: Don't I have to say what I plead?

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: Order! Order! This whole case is highly irregular, and so you will have to bear with us as I attempt to make sure this farce of a trial continues apace. The only things Mister Charge are actually charged with are illegally emigrating from the lost city of Uhld and gross vagrancy. Mister Charge, how do you plead?

CHARLESTON: Not guilty. I may have been a vagrant, but I was a clean vagrant.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: Fair enough. Miss Lawson, the floor is yours.

MS. LAWSON: All of my arguments are for the other things Mister Charge was charged with. If it pleases the court, I shall continue acting as if he was still charged with these things.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: Highly irregular, but I'll grant it.

MS. LAWSON: Thank you. First and foremost, how do you explain the fact that you are in these photos?

CHARLESTON: I have no idea why I am in those photos, and if I'm not charged with this--

MS. LAWSON: Just answer the question, Mister Charge.

CHARLESTON: I don't know. Wasn't I supposed to take an oath?

MS. LAWSON: I'll ask the questions here. The photos, Mister Charge. Explain them.

CHARLESTON: I told you, I don't know anything about the photos. It's obvious they were faked, since look, that guy? The one who's been torn in half? He's standing right there. Oh my god, that one is my lawyer. I knew I had seen him before.

MR. SWIFT: I object!

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: What do you object to?

MR. SWIFT: The other lawyer is woman! Lawyering is a man's job! Her job is to get under this desk and--

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: Mister Swift, I will not have such sexist behavior in my courtroom.

MR. SWIFT: How about this sexist behavior?

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: Mister Swift, please step off of your desk and pull your pants back up. No one wants to see that, and was this not already a farce of a trial, I would have you escorted from the courtroom. Miss Lawson?

MS. LAWSON: Thank you, your honor. I call Joseph "Scoop" Griswald to the stand. Mister Griswald, how do you explain these pictures?

MR. GRISWALD: The darnedest thing. One minute, I was on my way to South Carolina, following my pal the Moonman Marauder, and the next I was back in Detroit with a camera full of pictures. No one else seems to know anything about where I took the pictures or anything.

MR. SWIFT: I object!

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: Mister Swift, please. There is nothing in Mister Griswald's statement to object to.

MR. SWIFT: He's lying.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: How is he lying?

MR. SWIFT: I think it's staged. Rehearsed. Besides, I want to call my witness.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: Go ahead.

MR. SWIFT: I call Land Captain to the stand! That's right, everyone gasp! All right, you Communist bastard, what do you know about these photos?

LAND CAPTAIN: I'm not a Communist, sir. I know nothing about the photos.

MR. SWIFT: I know you're lying. A man might hang if you don't tell the truth.

LAND CAPTAIN: I'm not lying.

MR. SWIFT: So you're putting Charleston Charge up a creek without a paddle. That's all, your honor.

F'HAAT TOHTOA: Hold everything! I have come with damning evidence!

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: I was expecting this. Hello, Mister Tohtoa. What do you have?

MISTER TOHTOA: I have here a signed certificate of naturalized citizenship belonging to one Charleston Charge, and signed testimonials from several people detailing that he was a model homeless citizen.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: I'll allow it. Jury, go make your deliberations.

JURY FOREMAN: We're pretty sure he's not guilty, your honor.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOKAVICH: Wonderful. This court rules in favor of Charleston Charge.

--

Swift came up to Charleston after the trial amid the media circus that had surrounded the newly-innocent man. It was a very unorthodox trial, and had succeeded in making Charleston an instant media darling. Swift invited Charleston out for a celebration. Charleston pondered this for a moment, and wondered if he should go.
Should Charleston go celebrate?
-Yes
-No

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

041: Not Without My Lawyer

Which lawyer should Charleston choose?
Gil Ardo: 0 votes
F'haat Tohtoa: 0 votes
Jimmy Swift the Third: 4 votes
Charleston sat in a nondescript little room, unfurnished save for a table, chair, and desk lamp. There was a large window on the west wall, which he assumed people were watching him through as he doubted anyone would let an exterior window get that dirty. There was also the obligatory door, which was not so much a furnishing but a door. He had been given three files to look at, to further help him choose a lawyer. A federal agent had assured him that it was basically a formality, and there was already a labor camp in a third world nation awaiting him.

"What are the charges against me, again?" said Charleston, looking at the lawyer files.

"Are you sure you want to discuss this without your lawyer present?" said a man in a severe suit and sunglasses. A wire ran from a device in his ear into his suit coat.

"I don't really care. You've already assured me that it's futile."

The man slammed his hands on the table, and pointed at Charleston, "Let me make this clear. We want to do this as by-the-book as possible, Mister Charge, and so you have to choose a lawyer before we tell you anything."

"Fine. I choose this one. The one from Earth," said Charleston, holding up the file on James Swift the Third.

The agent took the file and held it up to the window. A few moments later, a thin, arrogant looking man was shoved into the room. He had an ill-fitting gray suit on, and was carrying a briefcase. Charleston could have sworn he had seen him before.

"Did you have all three of them just waiting outside?" asked Charleston.

The agent laughed malevolently, "Are you dense? Why would we do that?"

"Yeah, I suppose-"

"We already had Ardo and Swifty here to try them for incompetence. You made the wrong choice, boyo. Now, you want the evidence we have against you? Exhibit A, you worked for TYRIS and were an instrumental part of its operations, it would seem. You had six times as many missions as any other insurance agent."

"I liked my work."

"Nice try. No one likes their job. Exhibit B," said the agent, pulling a tabloid out of his coat, "Go ahead. Take a gander."

Charleston stared at the front of the tabloid, which bore the headline: "SUPER BATTLE IN SOUTH CAROLINA"

The story, with photographic accompaniment, detailed the battle in horrific detail. There were pictures of everything: the dead, the return of the Paragon Platform (which was actually in every newspaper), the army of villains, and one of Charleston himself sitting with Land Captain with a less-than-flattering caption below it.

How could this be? The whole event was wiped from everyone's memories, and he was darn sure no one took any pictures or anything. Except for Photogra-She, though Charleston recalled that her photos had been primarily of the amazing Serial Hang-Man. He was only in one of the tabloid photos. Ah, but that was the thing. Photos had to be credited to someone, and Charleston looked at the name.

Scoop Griswald?

"Who the hell is Scoop Griswald?" said Charleston.

"Oh god," said Swift, "Don't get me started on that bastard. He's some guy who works for a newspaper up in Detroit. Not a real one, a college one. He claims that real newspapers dilute the news, or something. Now, Mister whatever your name is, I think you should plead guilty. I mean, they have a picture of you at whatever this thing was."

"What would I be guilty of?" said Charleston.

"Counts of insurance fraud, conspiracy, vagrancy, indecent composure, and who knows what else. I don't really care. They tell me you're guilty as hell, so it's really up to how much time you want to spend in jail."

Charleston was continuing to regret his choice of lawyer. "Can't I plead insanity? Or, I don't know, NOT GUILTY?"

Swift laughed, "Yeah, if you actually want to try. I've seen the evidence. It's airtight. You're screwed."

Charleston sighed, "They have a picture of me, and I bet you that Land Captain won't even remember it being taken."

Swift stared at him, and began mouthing random words at him, and eventually smiled a devilish smile. Charleston looked at him quizzically. Swift sighed heavily, "You may have just bought yourself something. Land Captain... that's a superhero, right? I read about him in the paper. Yeah, if you can get a superhero to lie about you, then you might actually have a case! So I guess it's up to you what you plead."

"Shouldn't you give me advice? And shouldn't that agent have left at the beginning of this conversation?"

The federal agent was standing in the corner with his arms crossed. He slowly shook his head, and made obscure hand gestures. Swift returned them, and the pair seemed to reach some sort of agreement. What it was would forever remain a mystery to Charleston.

"Nope. So I guess it's guilty, not guilty, or insanity. I guess the trial is in half an hour, so you better choose pretty quick. I’d still suggest guilty, so we can get the whole thing over with."

Charleston sighed, and began to think.
How should Charleston plead?
-Guilty
-Not guilty
-Insane

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

040: Objective Detroit

Whom should Charleston seek aid from?
Mark King: 1 vote
Anderson Smith: 3 votes
Mister Lucky: 2 votes
Charleston stood outside the library, staring at a stone lion. Mister Lucky obviously found you if he needed you, and it might be hard to get a meeting with Mark King. Anderson Smith, on the other hand, was basically a normal guy. A normal guy who seemed to be able to act as the conduit for powerful beings, but a normal guy nonetheless. Therefore, he would be the easiest to find. The only thing was getting to Detroit. A week ago, he could have simply contacted TYRIS and they would have sent Land Captain, but Land Captain was already in Detroit and Charleston had no idea how he could reach him. Therefore, this would take some ingenuity, which was pretty much the only thing Charleston had left.

Hold on just a second. Anderson Smith was a member of the Paci Custodis. Perhaps Charleston could find some of them in South Carolina, and they could help him go north. It was worth a shot, at least. The only thing was finding some, as they were quite secretive.

Hold on another second. Charleston was unsure of how it happened, but maybe he could become a Paci Custodis and learn all of their secrets and how to contact other members. He was sure they had some sort of hidden network, since so many had been at the battle. The only question was how to become one. He could ask Anderson...

Oh wait. He was engaging in paradoxical thinking again.

Then again, was he even eligible? He was born in a far-off mystical country and was already imbued with super-human powers and a weird sort of mysticism. Perhaps this rendered him ineligible to receive the special powers of a Paci Custodis. He sighed, and walked off to find a homeless shelter for the night. Barring that, he could find a church. They were supposed to give people shelter, right?

Eureka! A church! If there was anywhere that might know about the Paci Custodis, it would be a church! He sprinted off to find out, and eventually happened upon a relatively small Roman Catholic Church. The nightly service was letting out, and he let himself in after the few church-goers left. He made his way to the alter, tipping over candlesticks as he did so. A priest came out when Charleston was looking inside the organ.

The priest coughed loudly, causing Charleston to startle and hit his head. He muffled a curse, and pulled himself out of the organ.

"What do you think you're doing?" asked the priest.

"I'm looking for something about the Paci Custodis. They're a group of people who hunt things like vampires and werewolves."

The priest stared at him for a moment and then nodded, backing slowly away. "Ah, yes. One moment, please. I'll go get what you require."

As the priest went into a back room, Charleston sat down on a pew and smiled. This was going great!

A half hour later, the priest had not emerged from the back room but Charleston didn't notice this. He had fallen asleep. He also didn't notice two burly policemen come into the church, and he stirred only slightly when they put him in handcuffs. He finally woke up when they stood him up to walk him out of the church, but was too groggy to do anything. He fell asleep in the squad car, and woke up when they reached the police station. Mild confusion turned to horrified shock as Charleston realized he had been arrested, but what for? He asked.

"Sleeping beauty is finally awake. That's a shame, I bet some of our other pals would love to see if their kiss woke you up," said one of the cops.

"That was in very poor taste," said the other.

"I'm just being funny."

"No, you're being offensive. Now read him his rights."

The first officer did so.

"You can't arrest me for messing around in a church," said Charleston, trying to remain calm, "Can you?"

"This isn't about messing about in a church. The government is pretty darn sure you had something to do with that whole Paragon Platform thing a week or so back. There's a bunch of reports of a bunch of super-villains and super-heroes and God knows who else coming here, and then just vanishing. The government smells a conspiracy."

"Why didn't the FBI or CIA come arrest me, then?"

"We're turning you over to them ASAP, sleeping beauty. We already know you're going on trial. There are only three lawyers in the entire country who would take your case."

"Is it that hopeless?"

"Not only is it that hopeless, but you're a homeless guy. These three are the only ones stupid enough to do a hopeless case pro bono."

"Who are they?"

"Well, the first one is some electric squirrel guy from some planet that exploded. He's named Gil Ardo, and I don't think he ever won a case. The second one is a dog-man named F'haat Tohtoa from some planet that didn't explode. The third one is pretty much human, his name is Jimmy Swift the III. I guess they're all pretty good lawyers, despite everything."

Charleston went into deep thought. Electric squirrel, man-dog, or human? He wished they had told him which one
Which lawyer should Charleston choose?
-Gil Ardo
-F'haat Tohtoa
-Jimmy Swift the III

Sunday, August 31, 2008

039: Charleston Charge, Hobo at Large

The week after the battle... or, as the world at large knew it, the return of the Paragon People... was not a good week for Charleston Charge. He had woken up the day after the battle to find himself unemployed and under investigation by several government agencies. By noon, he was also homeless, all of his assets seized. Lacking anything else to do, he attempted to travel to the city of his birth, the Lost City of Uhld. This was hard to do when you were under investigation by the government, however, and he eventually decided to go out for some delicious waffles. This is also surprisingly hard to do when you are under investigation, with your assets seized.

By the end of the day, he was unemployed, homeless, hungry, thirsty, and penniless. He found fifty cents to use at a payphone, but was unable to find a payphone, and so he bought a bag of chips which only served to make him thirsty and moderately less hungry. Since he had no means to contact his friends, he could also be considered friendless. In the span of one day, he had become a virtual nobody, forced off the grid.

The rest of the week had been a continuation of this state of events. Eventually, he was able to find a soup kitchen and a trash can with a fire in it. He wondered if he was ahead of the game, as far as being a member of the hobo community was concerned. After finding a clean piece of cardboard and a permanent marker, he was sure of it. After pondering it for a bit, he decided to write down "Will work for food", which was a very clich├ęd thing to write, certainly, but concise. Towards the end of the day, he made plans to find a park and learn a talent he could put to good use. After all, he had a hat which money could be thrown into.

The next morning, exactly one week after Charleston had become homeless, he found a newspaper on the bus. He had begun using the public transportation system several days earlier, and each day he saw new bits of the city from his mobile headquarters. To his surprise, there was a minor article about the dismantling of TYRIS from which he learned that most of the agents were being absorbed into the new CAST, an endeavor supported by many people whom Charleston recognized from the battle. Several more gifted agents - the reporter's description - had been accepted into the Astounding Superhero Syndicate. Charleston noticed that he was not mentioned at all, and slowly realized that of all the agents of TYRIS, he was the only one who got screwed. Well, he and Robin Banks, but Robin was also being cared for in one of the city's top hospitals for an extreme bipolar disorder. Charleston was out on the streets reading discarded newspapers.

He had been shown an entire world he had not known, and it had been snatched away from him with ease.

He would have cried out angrily against Fate at this point, but did not want to get kicked off the bus. Not until he got to the public library, in order to use its Internet. Once he was at his stop, he departed the bus and screamed at Fate. Then, he went into the library to use its Internet.

The first thing he did was look up the current roster of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate. He had a hunch he knew whom would be added, a hunch which was quickly verified. Land Captain and the Witchyologist were the two newest members, alongside such luminaries as the Forgiver, Serial Hang-Man, and Mark King. He nodded quietly to himself, and continued to surf the web. He looked up Anderson Smith, and found that he worked for the Detroit branch of a major television channel. Coincidentally, the headquarters of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate was also in Detroit.

Mister Lucky was not on the Internet, except in some anecdotes about the Basset Hound Brigade and reported sightings over the years. Obviously, you only found Mister Lucky if he wanted to be found. Charleston had a lot of time and a lot of experience with finding people.

Charleston logged off, and stepped outside. Someone was going to help him get out of this situation, whether they wanted to or not.
Whom should Charleston seek aid from?
-Mark King
-Anderson Smith
-Mister Lucky

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

038: Always Remember, Never Forget

Continued from 037: Here Comes Mister Lucky
"How did you get here?" said Charleston.

"I flew us here," said Vinny Fitzgerald, "Eh yo, there's our plane." Vinny had crashed it on top of the bear machine, meaning that the amount of bears would not increase. This was fortunate.

Mister Lucky nodded. "My name is Mister Lucky, and today's your lucky day! I'm going to fix all this right up. But wait, there's more! Someone's gonna pay! All right, Frinky! You're up!"

Mister Frink looked like John Rhys-Davies to a point where the resemblance went from uncanny to just plain creepy. "I shall kill you one day, Mister Lucky. Depend upon that."

"Just do it, Frinky! Work your special brand of magic!"

"It's impossible for the fighting to stop!" said Frink, and the fighting stopped rather quickly. Dick Douglas, the Basset Hound Brigade's detective, looked over at his manservant Jojo Jenkins and punched him. "See? I'm right! Violence is eternal."

"Now I need Edolie DePrit. If she'd get out of the car's back seat, we could fix things up," said Mister Lucky.

Edolie peeked out of the back seat sheepishly. "How did you know?"

"Just lucky, I guess! Now, I need you to hold hands with Frinky here while we get things back to normal! You'll lose your powers, though, but not your messed up hair. Also, I don't care if you're okay with it because this is bigger than you!"

"Oui, monsieur," said Edolie, slipping back into her accent.

She and Mister Frink held hands. They both began to glow, much to Frink's dismay.

"Say, is it possible for Clarence Claybourne to be alive again," asked Mister Lucky.

"It's impossible!" said Frink.

Clarence's body regained some measure of vitality and trotted over to Frink and Edolie.

"All three of you hold hands. Mark, you hold hands, too. Good. Now, is it possible for everything to go back to how it was before this whole fight started?" said Mister Lucky, "I think it's witchcraft!"

"It is impossible!" said Frink.

"Yeah, this fight was witchcraft," said Clarence.

Mister Lucky stood next to Charleston, and began to explain: "Both Mister Frink and Clarence Claybourne have this sort of field around them that allows them some measure of reality manipulation. I think it's because Frinky is so stubborn and Clarence has the imagination of a brick. This power, coupled with Edolie's ability to warp reality gained from that machine she destroyed, should get us back to how it was. Only thing is, everyone will remember it for a little while. You, me, Mark King, and that Anderson Smith fella have to have ourselves a talk."

"Do you know if it'll work?" said Charleston.

"If I'm lucky!" said Mister Lucky with a wink.

A small orb of power manifested between Frink, Clarence, Edolie, and Mark King. It expanded until it engulfed the entire area. Not everything went back to normal. While the multitude of bears, monkeys, pyramids, and dogs vanished the Paragon Platform did not. All who died returned to life, with the curious exception of Tal Andreos. Later, it would be discovered that she had been horribly mutilated and sexually abused by a robot. The Spork Avenger once again became the Spork. Plasticine Cube, Metallic Spheroid, and their friends were sent home. The nursing home was rebuilt, as well, though the house the False Prophet lived in was still destroyed. However, this was still the problem of so many heroes and villains in one place. Mister Lucky had a plan for that, too, and he snapped his fingers.

"What do you want," said yet another Double O.

"Right now, I just need you to get all these heroes and villains back to where they belong," said Mister Lucky.

"Fine, whatever," said Double O, and moments later, the only people left in the area were Charleston, Mark King, Mister Lucky, and Anderson Smith.

"If things worked out how they should have, then everyone should remember something big happened here today," said Mister Lucky, "If we're lucky, then they'll just think it was the return of the Paragon People. Anderson, I need you to get to work on that. We can blame the house on Bad Higgins, I guess."

"Right-o, Mister Lucky," said Anderson.

"I still need you here for now, though. We have to talk to Charleston here. Not you, though, but your two bosses."

Anderson sighed, and let his mind wander.

"Now then, a few decades ago me, Mark, and another guy met up and discussed the whole supernatural and superhero problem. We decided that the super-naturals would leave the super-people alone, while the civilians should be just that. Innocent bystanders at most. It would seem, though, that there's a thing that's sort of undermining everything. A little thing called TYRIS. Well, Charge, what's it all about?"

"They sell insurance," said Mark King, "In fact, the Astounding Superhero Syndicate buys their insurance directly from TYRIS."

"Most Paci Custodis do as well," said a voice through Anderson Smith.

"I had no idea," said Charleston.

"I believe you," said Mister Lucky, "However, who was it that sent the Paci Custodis off to fight vampires and pretty much started this whole thing?"

"Robin Banks? He's just my manager, though. I doubt he'd do anything evil," said Charleston.

"Check the name, kid. He's bred for trouble. I bet if we investigate enough, we can bust this whole TYRIS scam wide open and get things back to how they were, more or less."

"If you think that's best."

"I do, kid. I do."

-

The investigation turned up several disturbing facts. One, Robin Banks had been the Dispatcher for several years after disclosing the Dispatcher's secret location to the Mafia. He used his connections to scam people into buying insurance, and to use TYRIS as his own personal army. The case of the giant frog, in fact, was merely an attempt to blackmail a herpetologist who lived nearby. In the end, Robin Banks was jailed for dozens of counts of insurance fraud and hundreds of conspiracies. TYRIS was shut down, leaving Charleston, Edolie, Land Captain, Liana Koleyna, and countless others out of jobs.

While most people who were present had only the vaguest idea that something big had happened that day, Anderson made sure they thought it was the return of the Paragon People. A few people were given the task of never forgetting what happened: Mister Lucky, Mark King, Anderson Smith's bosses, and Charleston Charge.

One person was given the task of always remembering all the lives that had been lost that day, all the senseless violence, and to never stop remembering.

That person was Robin Banks.

Choose Your Own Blogventure is going to be taking a short break while I polish up what we have so far. Stay tuned for the future adventures of Charleston Charge, though! It should be fairly soon.

037: Here Comes Mister Lucky

Continued from 036: The Battle Erupts
The heroes were outnumbered and suffering heavy losses. Dry-Man, Fadeaway, Captain Depresso, Solar, Dismembro, Serial Hang-Man, Photogra-She, Player One, Player Three, and many others had fallen in battle. Breakneck was doing her best to whisk her fallen comrades to the medical tent where several doctors had set up. Unfortunately, only a few were actually competent. Doctor Bob Smith, who may be a centaur, was one of them. The other was El Scientist Magnifico. The other doctors were Steve the Wanna-Be Doctor and Doctor Marth, who had a degree but got it because his roommates kept dying. Needless to say, things were looking grim.

Charleston sat on the hood of Ishmael with Land Captain by the tent.

"Where's your girlfriend?" he said, sipping cocoa.

"She's out there with her fish."

"My goodness. Hey, you're a superhero. Why aren't you out there?"

"I'm not good at these all-out brawls. I may pop in, in case they need me."

"I think they do."

"I hate to interrupt," said Ishmael, "But I'm receiving a list of the fallen."

"Say it," said Charleston, who had become quite pale.

"Captain Depresso, deceased. Player One, deceased. Shrugs, deceased. The Forgiver, deceased. Player Two, deceased. Fadeaway, deceased. Shizamablock, deceased. Papery Pyramid, deceased. Clyde the Embryonic Man, deceased. Dismembro the Dismembered Man, deceased. Serial Hang-Man, deceased. Photogra-She, deceased. Dry-Man, deceased. Solar, deceased. Benji, deceased. Vehigirl, deceased. Clarence Claybourne, deceased. Tal Andreos, deceased. Jimmy Swift III, deceased. Ben Johansen, deceased. Liana Koleyna, deceased. Shall I continue?"

"No," whispered Land Captain, "That won't be necessary."

"We didn't have that many people to begin with," said Charleston, "Then they got those armies. We never stood a chance."

"I need to get out there. If I don't make it back, take care of Ishmael for me. You've been a good friend, Charleston."

Charleston nodded, but was silent as Land Captain ran into the fray. Minutes later, Ishmael began to drone on again:

"Land Captain. Deceased."

"Ishmael. Shut the hell up," said Charleston softly.

Charleston sat in silence, and waited for the fighting to be over. He guessed, though, that even if the villains won they would continue. When they won, he should say. He decided that he would have to do something, and he hopped off the car and began to stride off into the battle.

A firm but friendly hand on his shoulder stopped him. Charleston turned, and came face-to-face with two men in suits, one of them a battered Anderson Smith.

"Are you Charleston Charge?" said the one who was not Anderson.

"Yes. I need to get out there. Better to die now than wait for death to find me," said Charleston.

"My name is Mark King, and I speak on behalf of a select group of individuals when I say I can't let you do that. We're the good guys, after all. We'll win out in the end."

"I just listened to a good friend die, and many others besides."

"I know, and I'll be Mark King it down in my report. Get it?"

"Now is not the time for puns!" shouted Charleston, "You bastard! You utter bastard, standing here and making puns while men and women risk lay down their lives!"

"I know what I'm doing, son. Now watch. See that, up in the sky?" said Mark King, pointing.

Charleston strained his eyes, and saw a tiny dot become gradually larger.

"Is that a gyrocopter?"

"Indeed. It's the European branch of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate, and just the first wave of reinforcements."

The gyrocopter crashed into the giant Nazi mech, taking it out. Several figures erupted from the remains of it, taking the fight to the villains. A man in a sphere flew into battle and began shooting balls at the armies of bears and monkeys.

A Scotsman with a box leapt in front of Watt, and bellowed, "Do ye want to see what's in me box?" He opened it and pulled out a large rubber hammer which should not have fit into the box. He hit Watt with it, but was cut down from behind by a Middle Eastern man in a robe. Before anyone could react, he exploded.

"Llwellyn, deceased. Scottish Box Man, deceased. Kinetosphere, deceased. Scooter, deceased. Englishman, deceased. Captain Monocle, deceased. Britain Sandy, deceased," said Ishmael, unbidden.

The Middle Eastern man emerged unscathed. Charleston turned to Mark King again, who simply put his forefinger to his lip. Charleston watched as the good guys were pummeled.

Elsewhere, Wyandotte Thompson, who had helped Player One and Shrugs begin their quest, arrived being ridden by a full-sized brachiosaur. This was Brachiosaur B. Brachiosaur.

"Please, Brachiosaur, I can't carry you much farther!" whined Wyandotte.

"Brachiosaur!" said Brachiosaur.

Before they could reach the battlefield, a monkey with the head of a tyrannosaurus rex blocked their path.

"Brachi!"

It was a stalemate.

Back at the battlefield, everyone had mysteriously stopped. A robot shaped like an ass was walking through, singing a song, followed by a marching band. The band was whining about not eating in months, but the Ass-Bot paid them no heed. Hero and villain alike watched as Ass-Bot marched his way through the battlefield, but once he was gone, the battle raged on.

Plasticine Cube and Metallic Spheroid were having a difficult time of it. While they were adept at fighting pyramids, other things were beyond them.

"For once, I wish the Flesh-Pod and Ostrypus were here!" said Metallic Spheroid as he rammed a bear.

"I do as well!" said Plasticine Cube as another bear slashed him, "PAIN!"

Spheroid rushed over to him. "Are you all right, my friend?"

"I am damaged. I fear I shall not make it."

"No! I shall not lose you as well on this day!"

"It is too late. I... am... off..." Plasticine Cube said no more.

Metallic Spheroid turned to the bear and rammed it as hard as he could, screaming while he did so.

"You have taken all my friends!" he screamed, running in a circle, "I shall have no more of this tom-foolery!"

"Not all of them!" said a bean-shaped green creature with a golden energy-filled hat.

"The Mikep!"

"I brought some friends, too! In fact, one of them sort of brought me here because I had no idea what was going on, but now I'm here!"

"Hey, I'm going to go hang out with Doctor Derangemo instead," said a bird-thing named Cruton, "See you later."

Mikep was too busy to notice. Elsewhere, a vampire who looked vaguely like Willy Wonka had gone into a blood rage.

"BANGLES!" he cried, savagely attacking the dogs, even as one devoured an Asian member of the Bicycle Pozze.

"Oh, hey!" said Graves, who was nearby, "You'll just be hungry an hour later!"

"Instead of the Asian eating the dog, it's the dog eating the Asian!" replied Ethan.

Ethan and Graves' eyes met, filled with rage.

"Mine was better," said Graves.

A gnome in a pointy hat stood on a dish high above the battle and he incanted spells. Below, another Double O fought valiantly with a sword. There were a lot of Double Os.

Motley Shakespeare had gathered several members of the Pozze and converted them into a theater troop, which was performing for several hobos around a trash-can.

"Sammiches?" said one, who was heavily armed. This was Baggy Brigadier.

"Sammiches," said the other, who was Baggy Johnson.

The nefarious Baggy Satan was also there, deciding some time ago he liked this better than doing any actual work.

The battle stopped again, as three figures ran onto the battlefield singing a song:

"Napkin Man, and the Spork! Fighting crime, and doing stuff! When they get home, they'll eat pie! It is called Hero Pie, and it is made with cherries or apples! The Spork likes cherries, but Napkin Man does not!"

More loudly than the first bit of song, they shouted, "It's innuendo!"

Napkin Man wore a flannel shirt and a napkin mask, while the Spork merely used Sporks to fight with. The third member of the team, the Napkin Vixen, wore three napkins. One on her face, the other two covering her chest. Napkin Man was an enigma to most people there, and when the fighting raged on and he gave his life for Napkin Vixen's, no one really cared but the Spork and Napkin Vixen. The Spork screamed with rage, and declared himself to be the Spork Avenger.

Charleston stood on the sidelines with Mark King, who was still holding him back.

"It's working itself backwards," said Mark King.

Charleston knew he would get no answer if he asked what.

The next person to arrive was a young man with a large sword. He punched out Shoshy Raphael and vanished.

After him, however, a plane appeared in the sky and several people sky-dived into the fray to take care of the Zodiac. Leo Leopolous declared his intention to kill agents, and the fight was on. Fighting most valiantly was Agent Villain, a brilliant double agent. He even made it look like he was attacking his own allies, he was so dedicated. In the sky, the Paragon People returned on their platform and joined the fight.

"Is that what we were waiting for?" asked Charleston, awed by what he was seeing.

"No."

It was then that Charleston noticed a single man in the middle of the battlefied, dancing the Charleston. He was slightly amused by this, but he also felt a supreme amount of hate. The battle stopped, and he could hear the man singing:

"Charleston, Charleston, Cha-cha-cha-cha-Charlie Charleston. Da da da, I'm better than you!" sang the man.

An imp materialized, and the man tried to dance away from the imp. He did not succeed, and vanished when the imp touched him. Everyone applauded, and then continued to fight.

"Thank God!" said a voice from behind Charleston, "I hate that guy! Now what's all the trouble?"

Charleston turned to find himself face-to-face with Mister Lucky and the original Basset Hound Brigade.

"Is this what we were waiting for?" said Charleston.

"Yes," said Mark King, "This is it."

To be concluded in 038: Always Remember, Never Forget