World Hero Federation – Part Four

World Hero Federation – Part Four

Interlude

In the cold of the night in the Himalayas, there is a particularly big mountain that is remarkably like all of the other mountains, with one small difference. Near the peak of it is a large door. If you had superhuman strength (like AngleMan) or lacking that, the key, you could open that door and find an impressively large steel tunnel sloping slightly downwards into the interior of the mountain, where, for lack of a better term, the secret lair of Paul Levesque is concealed.

Now, you may wonder where Levesque got the money to hollow out the mountain and build an impressively evil array of machinery, and believe me if the IRS ever found out about it they’d be pretty curious, too.

In fact, so would Levesque.

You see, being an evil genius who was bathed in deadly radiation DOES have a downside: In Levesque’s case, blackouts lasting for up to days at a time where he has no idea who he is or what he’s doing. Being the zen sort of person that he is, after a while he simply stopped worrying about those blackouts because, he reasoned, as long as he kept returning alive he was fine, and his employees didn’t ask too many questions anyway.

One time, following a blackout that lasted for nearly three weeks, he received a phone call from an independent contractor in Nepal who informed him that his project in the Himalayas was going “swimmingly” and would be finished in 1-2 years.

Well, if there was one thing that Paul hated more than an employee running around behind his back, it was HIMSELF running around behind his OWN back. This he could not abide, especially when (according to conservative estimates from his accountants) he was costing himself more than 8 million dollars a month on the so-called “Himalayan Project”. What kind of a dumb bastard was this guy, anyway, to be spending that kind of money?

So he decided to do the only logical thing in this situation: Hire someone to watch himself. If you think that sounds silly, just think how the poor guy hired to do the job felt. So, righteously pissed off at himself and armed with a truckload of money, he hired noted private eye Barry Buchanan, who was not only an exacting professional who didn’t ask stupid questions, but also had zero sense of humor and wouldn’t think Paul’s bizarre request was a sick joke.

Storm hung around the office 24/7, taking pictures and making recordings at all times, because Levesque never quite knew when the blackouts would hit.

In fact, one day after a year of no blackouts and steady work from his associates on the “Himalaya Project”, he came into his office in LA with Buchanan in tow, sat down for a cup of coffee, and suddenly woke up in a very cold and miserable stainless steel-filled laboratory that was about the size of an airplane hanger.

A terrified-looking Buchanan was strapped to a large metal slab, needles and tubes sticking out of him while his head seemed to be reforming into that of a rather impressive bull. His mouth was becoming malformed, and this annoyed Levesque to no end, because it decreased the chances of getting any useful information out of him. Instead, all he was getting was a terrifying non-stop scream of pain and anguish out of the rapidly-devolving Buchanan, who didn’t look to be long for this world.

That, clearly, was no good to Levesque, and indeed he realized that he must have been standing in the top-secret “Himalaya Project”, which was a large experimentation facility. But why was his other self trying to build it without alerting him?

He noticed just then, on a desk sitting in the middle of the floor, a pile of photos and tape recordings marked “Private”, which he presumed were for him.

He opened up one of the envelopes with the photos taken by Buchanan, gazed at what he became during the blackouts, and nearly fell over in horror.

For he was staring at himself, a foot taller, 50 pounds heavier, with jet black hair and a hideously deformed face that was thankfully covered up in most of the photos by an imposing-looking red mask the creature dubbed by his very own sensationalistic media outlets as “Kane”.

Levesque had the photos burned and Buchanan’s remains bronzed and turned into an award-winning statue that resides to this very day in his atrium at the main offices in LA.

Also, upon seeing the photos, his staff were given strict instructions that, if the monster Kane should appear at any of his offices, he was to be treated with all due courtesy and respect, as though he was Levsque himself.

You can imagine Paul’s surprise when it turned out that Kane, using Paul’s own name, had already given the staff the same instructions about Levesque, many years earlier

Elsewhere

Doing his first mugging in a few years, Vince Russo was a little nervous, but thought that it was reasonable to assume that the underlying principles behind the whole thing probably hadn’t changed much. Pull the gun, make the threat, collect the money. With medical bills for his bad back getting more expensive and his obnoxious wife and kids bugging him more and more every day, he just couldn’t make ends meet as a video store owner, and jobs as henchmen for supervillains were becoming too specialized for a more generally skilled thug such as himself. So it was back to the basics again, like he preferred.

However, the guy in the alley, currently being held up by him seemed to be taking things entirely too calmly, and that bugged him.

“Don’t friggin’ move!” he yelled again, to really emphasize the point that he was good and mad.

“Hey, man, be cool”, the victim said, while casually leaning up against the wall with his hands in the air, as though he intended to do just that and Russo was simply joining in on his original plan. “You think I’d do anything stupid?”

“Why the hell are you pointing at yourself?”

“Huh? I don’t know, I guess I’m just really self-centered.”

“Well, knock it off! And give me the money or ”

He was cut off as a shadowy figure dressed all in black dropped from a balcony above him, kicked him square in the face with a shot that felt like being kissed by a cinder block, and then spit some sort of acidic powder right in his eyes, leaving him blinded and screaming in pain.

“Geez,” the guy against the wall said in a whiny voice, “It’s about time you got here! You think I was signalling to you guys to exercise my arms or something? I was about to start yelling ‘My name is Rob Van Dam!’ like a moron so you would take the hint and come deal with this jerk.” As if to emphasize, Rob went over and knocked Russo on his ass with one shot to the jaw.

Another person stepped out of the shadows, dressed in a ratty leather jacket and jeans, covered in tattoos.

“Why didn’t you just handle it yourself?” he asked sarcastically.

“Because, Raven, that’s not the point of why we’re out here tonight. You guys are supposed to be trying out for Extreme Justice, not me. I’m one of the founders, remember? I mean, I’m giving young Buzzsaw there a shot because his dad, Muta, was another of the founding members and an awesome ninja, but your slacker attitude is becoming a problem. I know life has been hard ever since you were kidnapped and altered by Dr. Levesque, but for now none of the authorities actually believe that kind of thing is going on, so you’ve got to work with me to find revenge outside of the system.”

“Fine.” Raven said, and walked over to the screaming form of Vince Russo. Placing his hands on Russo’s head, he intoned “Quoth the Raven, nevermore.” And Russo suddenly sparkled into non-existance. “Better?”

“Did you have to kill him?”

“No.” And that was that from Raven’s end of the conversation.

Walking out of the alley, Rob couldn’t help but notice that Undertaker was standing in the middle of the street, ignoring the traffic that was passing right through him.

“American Ninja.” He said by way of greeting to Rob.

“No, I don’t go by that name anymore. I gave up the superhero life a few years ago when the Justice Legion broke up. Now I’m just plain Rob Van Dam, training recruits privately.”

“Your name is of no concern to me. Your students are needed for a greater cause.”

“Really? Like when you walked out on the Justice Legion 10 years ago for your own ‘greater cause’?”

“Do not presume to question me.”

“Or like when you dragged a poor 13-year old kid out of school because you saw a ‘gift’ in him, trained him to be a junior member of the Justice Legion and then made him watch all his best friends cut down by some maniac supervillain who got his jollies from blowing up schools?”

“It was for the greater good.”

“IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME IN THAT SCHOOL, WITH MY FRIENDS, DAMN YOU!”

Undertaker drifted over to Van Dam, stared a cold look in his eyes, and suddenly stopped the righteous indignation in Rob before it got started again.

“I offer you the chance to avenge your friends, and avenge the other members of the Justice Legion who perished 10 years ago. I offer you but one chance, here and now. Take it or leave it.”

“Get out of here.” Was Rob’s only answer.

“So be it. But your anger will not bring your father back from the dead.”

“But you could have, and you didn’t.”

Undertaker had no answer for that one, and left into the darkness from which he came.

“Did you track him last time?” Rob asked into thin air.

“Yeah.” Came the reply, as the mysterious Dreamer faded into view again. “I followed him in my dream-form to the Grand Canyon, where he met with The Rock and took him off somewhere to meet AngleMan. I’m not sure what’s going on, he didn’t say.”

“Well, then, recruits,” Rob said to all three, “it looks like Extreme Justice has its first case to solve! To the Extreme-Mobile!”

“That’s just a pickup truck.” Raven pointed out.

Rob knew it was going to be a LONG ride back to headquarters

To be continued