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February 10, 2020, 11:49 pm

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Watch Free Movies & TV Shows Online, Popcornflix Watch free movies and TV shows online at Popcornflix. CH1 Daylight. Freedom, or a chance at it. He pushed through the double doors leading out onto the street, fingerless gloves leaving handprints on the grimy glass. He tripped, his combat boots not properly laced up in his haste to escape. He turned his head and flicked his matted hair out of his eyeline, looking frantically behind him for any signs of pursuit. There appeared to be none, but he knew better than to relax. He could hear them screaming, harsh guttural cries from the upper floor windows. Desperate and hungry, they knew that had just lost a feast, that theyll have to trap some other poor unfortunate sou. Hed been blessed that they didnt have the strength to tie proper knots in their malnourished state. The experience hed gained before the fall meant that he was better fed than most of the ones who were left. And so he was healthier, he had no shakes that rattled the emaciated bones of the other survivors.  Which is why the creatures had taken him. Ever since the unprotected shops had been cleared out, and the spoils used up, people had become more desperate. There had been a lull, almost a return to some semblance of normal society about six weeks after.  That had vanished as the supplies ran out. Jays years in the Army reserve had served him well. His time working in the bars and restaurants around Dublin before humanity fell meant he knew where to find supplies, even now. He was able to stay strong and sharp. While this was a good thing for obvious reasons, it also made him a target for gangs like those he had just escaped, seeing as the cannibals nearly cut him on the spot, and only kept him alive so that he would be fresh for longer. He ducked into the alley he had tried to hide in the night before. His rucksack was where he had stashed it behind the overflowing recycling bin. The bins were one of the first warning signs for Jay, the big flashing neon that read get ready.  The end is nigh. When the people start getting sick on as big a scale as it was, they stop turning up for work. Jay never worked in an office, but did realise that no-one would notice if no one turned up to their office jobs. Not for a while anyway. The first things to go was the general upkeep, the stuff that's never noticed by the 9-5ers who drove everywhere and spent little time in alleyways. In fact the only time they spent in the lower locations of society was to empty their bladders or stomachs, depending on what stage of the night it was. Every day Jay had seen the early morning cleaners descending on the streets around temple bar and harcourt street, sweeping the broken bottles from the night before. Then, one day they weren't there and the broken glass got crunched underfoot by the dress shoes and high heels of the office workers, who joked that it must have been a crazy night. Then, the bins started to fill… When people stopped showing up to work en masse, the government naturally became concerned. No workforce meant no work, which meant no commerce, no revenue to fill their fat coffers. October the 15th 2025 was the day with the highest recorded number of sick days in the history of the Republic, almost all reporting moderate flu-like symptoms that confined them to bed. October the 25th was the lowest… not a single person called in sick, because there was not a single person in work that day to answer a phone. The ten days in between were filled with confusion, growing steadily to fear and outright panic as the looting began. The people who braved the hostile atmosphere and  tried to go to work found the petrol pumps empty, the bus drivers absent, the train stations silent and unmanned.  The country ground to a halt as martial law was declared due to the national emergency, people being advised to stay indoors and avoid excessive contact with any family members who showed signs of infection. The government issued a national broadcast to the effect that this debilitating virus would be short lived, that 80% of the population would recover fully within a week and those still affected would be administered an anti-virus that was currently being developed. That was Day Ten. By Day Fifteen, they issued another broadcast, advising the use of protective masks that were being sent to each home when burning the bodies of whichever family member who had succumbed and to quarantine those who lingered. By Day Thirty, there were few left to heed these announcements.  Jay was one of the remaining. The ending of civilisation had happened so long ago he could remember only vague snippets of who he was before the fall.  So much that was commonplace in a functioning society had been cast aside, he struggled to remember his actual name any more. He just knew it had started with a “J” All the survivors clung to parts of their life before, but discarded others.  Most people went by nicknames now, names derived from physical features or skills they had.  Jays friend Fixer had earned his moniker from being able to fix peoples bones, but his skills didnt extend to fevers and Jay had paid him a visit once to find Fixer staring up at him through sightless eyes, a sickness had taken him during the night. Jay had mourned for his friend, closing fixers eyes and mopping the coughed up blood from his lips as best he could and then left, taking his friends most valuable possessions before he did, leaving his body for the scavengers.   Ch2    During his two years living in the city centre, Jason Young had become pretty good at avoiding the dregs of inner-city society, the drunks, the hobos, the crazies, the junkies. Everyone who lives in a major city for any length of time will learn the same skill. The young man had certainly encountered a lot of was probably said something about him, he mused sardonically. Certainly his habit of attracting the crazy ones was mirrored in his love life. On this particular morning, he was heading home from a rather awkward rendezvous with an ex. His foul mood was not improved by the weather, nor by the alcohol induced headache. At this stage, he was oblivious to the many prone forms littering the pavements of Dublin, some fortunate enough to be  wrapped in old sodden sleeping bags, others making do with newspapers or simply huddling together;some four or five in one cold doorway.  It was just part of the 2019 landscape. He was mostly immune to the pangs of pity that he had once felt when seeing someone so down on their luck. In a twisted way, he was grateful to the homeless.  They were a reminder. A reminder to work, to pay taxes, to keep a lid on the drinking.  To not become like them.  Jason made regular promises to himself that he would quit his job and pursue his dream of becoming a songwriter. But every time he left the tourist bar he worked in, exhausted, drenched in sweat and stinking of beer and gravy, his route home would take him past some of the worst parts of the city. The hapenny bridge, one of the most recognisable landmarks of Dublin would never be free of those pitiful forms, clutching battered paper coffee cups. (any spare change, bud. He passed these every day, and every day he went to work.  He stopped off in a Londis to pick up breakfast. A chicken fillet roll would have to do. No mayo, extra bacon please. On an impulse, he picked up a Lucosade sport on his way to the till. Maybe the glucose would help with the hangover. The total came to 7. 25 and Jason fished the coins out of his wallet. It took a while for him to sort through all the change and count out the correct amount, but he didnt want to risk using his card. Last night had been a costly affair. Especially considering where he eventually spent the night.  He headed south.  He was facing a long walk home in last night's clothes. Although it was february, and so still dark, he decided to take a shortcut home.  He turned right off the main thoroughfare onto brewers lane. Not the most inviting of lanes at the best of times, brewers lane had a hard-earned reputation for separating unsuspecting people from their hard earn money, with a little help from local thugs. It was dark, it was I littered with empty beer cans, it stank. Nonetheless, it was either that or an extra twenty five minutes walk home. Jason decided to risk it. As habit formed by big-city living dictated, he had a cautious look down the alley before venturing in. All seemed good and safe. He was only a few steps down when a hobo emerged ragged from a shadowy doorway and started flailing about himself with what looked like an empty wine bottle. Prudently, Jason swiftly  retraced his steps and was soon passing one of Dublins landmarks, the spire on his (slightly longer) way home. Oconnell street was busy for a monday morning and he was forced to sidestep more than one oblivious texter, head buried in the latest iphone, thumbs a blur. He came to a halt in the throng.  The traffic on the road made the traffic on the pavement wait, cars speeding by with no room to dodge between them. It was probably for the best that Jason didnt have a chance to duck between cars. In his hungover state, hed probably end up being scraped off the tarmac. As he walked past the Molly malone statue, burnished brass breasts shining in the weak spring sun, a sense of something going on entered his alcohol-fogged brain. Sluggishly, he took the turn down onto south William street and headed towards Rathmines. Or at least he tried to… A garda officer in a high-vis jacket, similarly shining in the morning sun, stopped him with an outstretched hand like the bouncer at the club the night before.  “Ye cant go this way, son. The roads closed off. Nutjob on the roof”  Light grey eyes rolled skyward under a rainproof blue cap. Jason raised his head, with a squint he could just about make out a figure standing atop the georgian building that housed the clothing shop of choice of young upper-middle class dubliners. Filled with a morbid curiosity, Jason pushed his way through the crowd to the edge of the cordon established by the Gardai with yellow tape. He craned his neck, wincing as the newly emerged sun set off the slumbering headache with a vengeance. The encroaching sirens added fuel to the eager snapchatters, overlarge phones in the air like lighters at an old school concert.  The crowd felt tense with a sort of anticipation. It felt like a movie theatre watching the AWKWARD/SCARY SCENE IN A MOVIE WHERE THEY WANT TO LOOK AWAY BUT CAN'T] Jason looked up under furrowed brows, the thick brown hair barely obscuring the pitiful view, soon to be trending on the various social media platforms. The lone figure stood unsteadily on the edge of the georgian building, the tattered rug thrown over his shoulders flapping in the spring breeze. His worn, windbitten face turned away from the men in high vis jackets reaching out to help him. His streaming eyes seeing something else. He swayed and the crowd let out a collective “ooohhhh” drawing back slightly but not turning away. Jasons protesting stomach, already embattled let out a groan and he started to make his way out of the crowd, back towards the molly malone statue. His pace gradually got quicker and quicker, til he was almost jogging away from the scene. Hungover or no, he knew he didnt want to see the potential fatal outcome of the situation. He wondered how the people pressed up against the Garda cordon could think the risk was worth it. They seemed more concerned with getting some online notoriety than having the image of a falling man seared into their memory, like grim, grainy images from that day in early september all those years ago.  Another groan rose from the crowd, due to what Jason neither knew nor wanted to find out. He reached the bus-stop and leaned gratefully against the thin red lump of hard plastic that passed for a seat below the exposed bus shelter. He had always wondered about the pitiful lack of comfort a bus-stop actually provided, as a child questioning his father during one of their many cold waits. He was gruffly told the lack of shelter was to stop homeless people sleeping there. This was one of Jasons first memories of his father, the grizzled grey man who always seemed ready to reveal the harsher side of life to his only son. Such was his way. The reason they were waiting in the cold air for an hourly, hour-long bus journey to see Jasons granmother was partly why his father was the way he was, Jason had come to realise as he got older. Forced out of his job, inventors ideas stolen by companies too big to touch, Thomas could no longer afford a car. The old but proud DiHatsu had an ignoble end, Jason remembered, as the car essentially broke in half when the tow truck tried to winch it onto the trucks flatbed. The repo man had scratched his balding head with a grubby paw and called for a second truck to collect the pieces left behind. After that, the family had moved to a dingy, rented terraced house where they learned to rely on public transport. As Jason had grown up, moved out and entered the workforce himself he began to understand how something like that could make a man grow bitter and cold towards the world. At that younger age, he was just happy he didnt have to sleep in a bus shelter, on a seat designed to deter  the kind of people who were most in need of it. Older now, a functional adult in his own right. he had grown so used to public transport that he eschewed the car in its favour. One thing he had certainly noticed was how the actual cover offered by bus shelters seemed to shrink with each new design introduced.  He was certainly noticing it now, wearing last night's shirt and a light jacket that was intended for taxi journeys and cloak room stowage, not keeping him warm on a chill february morning.  He shifted on the hard plastic seat and rubbed a hand across his face, pushing against his shut eyes making fireworks dance gleefully across his vision. His hands still stank of last nights energy drinks, causing him to grit his teeth against the post-session vomiting that his stomach had been threatening since he woke in his Exs bedroom.  Jason shook his head wearily when Danielles face rose to the forefront of his consciousness.  The real-time bus planner told him a 15B was due in four minutes, the red digital display similar to the one on his bedroom alarm clock, the one he should really be looking at right now.  He recoiled in distaste as the middle-aged woman who had just sat beside him succumbed to a fit of coughing, hacking rasps that cut into his sore head. The bus peeked cautiously around the corner of Dame street, as though gauging the traffic to see if it would be worth continuing on. Slowly, it inched its way towards Jason and his sick companion; finally groaning to a halt and allowing him an unobstructed view of a sour faced busdriver as the doors opened. As he gratefully sank into a seat on the bus, he was nearly pitched headfirst into the old woman in the seat in front as the bus jerked to a halt suddenly.  The reason was clear fairly soon, a wailing siren heralding the speeding ambulance that made the passengers on the bus wince as the screeching alarm pierced their eardrums for a long second before fading as the white van sped off ahead.  Jason sighed and sat down, keeping one hand on the rail in front of him for support. He settled in for the journey. Ch 3 Lungs heaving, Jay cautiously peered around the corner of the industrial-sized rubbish bin. The wheels on the bin creaked in protest as his considerable bulk added its weight to overflowing black plastic. He winced, but he seemed to have no pursuers that would hear. The alley seemed clear but Jay knew better than to relax. The rubbish underfoot could easily conceal a trap laid by the ravenous. Too many of his friends had succumbed to the poisonous shards they laid out, waiting for the thin soles of a survivor's shoe to pierce. All they had to do then was wait for their victim to slow and sicken. They knew all too well that the remaining survivors dared not go near the few remaining medic centres, rumoured to be nothing short of death camps where the now totalitarian regime experimented on the patient's, trying any desperate means to develop a cure.  Jay had spent many a cold nights vigil over a dying friend, the extra layers he gave them doing little to stave off the chill that had set in their bones. Once the poison set in, the only thing that kept the cold at bay, at least for a little while was more poison. This came in many forms to the desperate survivors, but was mainly harsh spirits, bottles of vodka or wine looted from the abandoned shops and dark, empty nightclubs. In the morning, the sun warmed the pavements but his friends remained cold, not to move again. Every time this happened, he swore hed stay on his own from then on. Leaving the stiff thing that was once his companion in this cruel new world for the dogs and crows took a toll on him, knowing the best course of action would be to wrap the body and deposit it in the river Liffey. The first time he did that, the hazmat suits nearly caught him before he fled into the alleys he knew best.  Now, he knew to leave the body, that it would be gone by the time he could bring himself to return to the place again.  Every time he told himself, and yet every time without fail he found himself seeking out any survivors as yet untouched by the Sickness or the insanity that came with that horrible plague.  It was harder every time, with the Hazmats of the new regime sweeping the city day and night for suitable candidates for their drug trials, and the cannibals for their next meal.  But seek he did, because there was comfort in life, hope that one day someone would actually cure the world of its current evils.  He didnt feel much comfort that day, having just escaped the clutches of one such group of cannibals, this particular gathering holing themselves up in an old psychiatric hospital. They even covered their scarred, emaciated bodies in the old hospital gowns they found in the wardrobes.   For the few remaining, life became a constant cycle of pursuit by the fluorescent bio suits of the failed government or harrassment, threat and sometimes real danger from the fallen survivors, the ones whose brains were affected by the plague to the point where it was only a matter of time before they were taken by the bio suits in one of their sweeps for test subjects, or by the increasingly more common cannibal gang, for a feast.  The government had roamed the now empty streets, sweeping for those healthy enough to press into service or the weak ones they would do trials on.  Lost in thought, he nearly didnt notice the govenrment goons clad in reflective suits until it wass too late, their harsh voices muffled by their masks as they chased him.  He pushed his way into an abandoned building, the dummies sporting dated fashion looming at him out of the shadows. He stumbled over piles of unworn clothes and found himself at the base of a set of stairs. Voices behind him told him he hadnt lost his pursuers and he started climbing.  CH4 The pillow below Jasons head defied his need for sleep, rebelliously swaying from side to side as the hangover claimed him, body and spirit. He groaned, cursing his workmates for suggesting post-work drinks. He promised himself he would avoid nights like those for some time, but knowing deep down it was an empty pledge. All it would take would be one more stressful overworked day full of drunken idiots and hungry children baying for drink or food. He anticipated, even in his current state that hed be tempted back to the late night bar next week. He only hoped he wouldnt see Danielle there. As he thought of her, his phone buzzed. Somehow, he knew it would be her and he wearily pushed himself up onto one elbow, grasping for the offending piece of technology.  He squinted, the bright screen making it hard to make out the message. He gave up and sunk back beneath the covers. Whatever drama she wanted to stir up could wait until he felt vaguely human again. He sighed, closing his eyes and willing sleep take him. What felt like a moment later they snapped open, indignant. Jasons least favourite roommate and dubstep afficanado; Chris had obviously returned from his holiday festival in Spain.  He was heralding his triumphant return with wall-pounding bass that drilled through Jasons fragile skull.  “Fuck sake. ” Jason heaved himself upright, a momentous effort. The text message was still waiting for him, the little notification light flashing insistently. It wasnt from his ex-girlfriend, but was troubling enough anyway. It was from his manager Damian, who had put a message into the group chat. Apparently, Damian had received a call from the alarm company who monitored the security at the bar. Someone had broken in and stole some bottles of spirits and thrashed the cold room where food was stored. After the daily chaos that took place in his bar, Jason was no longer surprised by anything that happenned there. Thankfully, he had switched off his internet to conserve battery before he viewed the message, as Damian was asking everyone to come in and help clean up.  He carefully exited the group chat, ensuring the message would stay “unread” and swung his legs onto the bedroom floor.  Today was his only day off, and he was determined to enjoy it hungover though he was.  The sounds that could barely be described as music increased in intensity, threatening to knock the mold off the thin walls typical of cheap dublin accommodation.  After a brief shower and an even briefer breakfast, Jason left. He was careful to shoot a venomous look at his roommate before he did, and slammed the front door as hard as he could. Years of customer service had thought him to take joy in small victories. The harsh light of the outside world made him don knockoff designer sunglasses, bought after more haggling than they were worth from a shady man in a Lisbon subway station. He revelled in the feel of his own clothes, the crispy black work shirts always dehumanising were often jokingly referred to as prison overalls when out of earshot of the managers.  He found his second wind, weaving through the throng with the confidence of someone who held the general public in quite low regard.  He was well used to pushing his way through crowds, usually protectively clutching valuable bottles of spirits to restock the bar.  A man leaned out of the melee of people, facing him expectantly with the intention of stopping him. Jasons eyes narrowed, the hostile unapproachable look well-practised by any city dweller firmly upon his face as he prepared to walk past this man, who no doubt wanted to stop him to ask for money. Dublin was rank with beggars and scam-artists, although there was little art involved in harassing innocent tourists for whatever change they had. The mans innocent smile dropped somewhat as Jason brushed past him with a shake of the head. It occurred to him too late that the man maybe just wanted directions. He looked back but the tourist was already being pointed in the right direction by a less suspicious Dubliner. With a mental shrug, Jason continued on.  He turned onto a quieter street, escaping the madness of the overpacked thoroughfare of central Dublin. He stopped outside his friends apartment block on Gardiner street, letting Siobhan know he was outside. He shuffled his feet as he waited, taking care not to tread in the rubbish piled beside the bin. A seagull pecked at one of the bags, suggesting it was the culprit responsible for the mess.  A head poked out a second floor window, evidently wet hair telling him before she even spoke that hed have to wait a while before shed be ready.  “Come up! Im nearly ready. ” He snorted at that, knowing how long she could take and pushed the door as it buzzed. The sound startled the big sea bird and it took flight.  Half an hour later, they came back down the stairs and out onto the street. Jason noticed almost immediately a shiny red apple sitting pretty on the road, about a foot from the curb.  It stood out from the rubbish around it, perfectly unspoilt and somehow untouched by the seagull. In his job, he saw perfectly good food being thrown out every day. Something about this apple bothered him, the knowledge that it had been thrown away by some careless person with too much. There was nothing wrong with it, but it would go to waste because it had touched the floor. It was food for the seagulls now. “What are you looking at? ” teased Siobhan “Im surprised you can see anything with those shitty sunglasses” His attention taken from the fruit, he indignantly replied. “Excuse me darling, these are designer” Their banter continued down the street as they made their way towards the local coffee shop, the apple remaining where it was.  CH5 Jays viewpoint He held his breath as best he could, the numbing drugs they were trying to pump into him through the mask making his eyelids heavy.  The van thundered on, swerving between the abandoned cars on the road. His captor swayed with the van, but those terrifying red eyes never leaving Jay as he fought sleep. If he slept there would be a chance hed never wake up, but if he remained conscious he could look for an opportunity to escape. The terrifying figure leaned sideways and muttered something to the driver, the reflective suit crackling with static and playing tricks with Jays eyes. The drugs must have been potent indeed, as the captors face faded from terrible and alien to almost normal and human, and back again.  Jay blinked, shaking his head and moaning.  The thing reached out to him, clamping him to the bench with an impossibly strong hand. They screeched to a halt, and a babble of conversation told Jay they had reached their terrible destination. The dreaded Morgue, where the dictators practised their torture. The survivors had spoken of this place in hushed tones, and each of them had known someone who was dragged into the Morgue, never to be seen again. Jay had met one man who said there was a furnace at the back that burned night and day, crisping the bones of those who met their terrible ends at the hands of the Morgues twisted scientists.  He lay still, heart pounding in spite of the sedative they were feeding him. He knew if he allowed himself to be wheeled through those doors, thered be no hope for him.  He played dead, rolling his eyes back into his skull and letting his body go limp.  He sensed rather than felt rough hands unbuckling his restraints. They thought he was drugged enough to walk willingly to his death. Not so! As soon as he was free, his eyes shot open and he struck hard, feeling bone crack as his captor stumbled backward. He sprang upright and bolted from the van. His stuff was still with thr driver, but he could find more.  His life was worth more than any item and so he ran, bare feet pounding the cold pavement. He heard shouts behind him but didnt dare look back. After a while he slowed, legs shivering from the effort. He was sure he hadnt been pursued and leant gratefully up against a wall. His flight had served to remind him how hungry he was. His stomach rumbled in protest and it struck him that he hadnt eaten since before his earlier escape from the cannibal hotel. His legs suddenly giving out, the adrenaline that had fueled him up to this point was gone and he slid to the damp, cracked concrete.  The drugs they had given him were taking hold and he sat there for what seemed like an age, shadows passing him by like the ghosts of his departed friends. He was paralysed, only able to let out a whimper of fear as one ghost stopped in front of him. It leered down at him, screeching.  If it had a question of him, Jay didnt know.  The shadow retreated and seemed to reach behind itself.  In what could have been its hand glistened a coin, bright as the sun. The coin glowed, blinding Jay. He heard it bounce off the ground beside him, each time it hit the ground was like an earthquake. It was impossibly heavy and shifted gravity as he shut his eyes tight and willed the shadow to go away.  After another deafening screech it did, and it seemed the token had given him the strength to stand.  He opened an eye, his vision returning to normal. The shadows were gone but the coin remained.  With the loss of his backpack, he felt compelled to keep it. The weight of it in his pocket was reassuring, he found.  Even though the concept of money had died out with humanity, he decided it had some value to him. He would use it as a good luck charm. It seemed to be working its magic already, as he spied what could be food in front of him. CH6 Full of caffeine and cake, Jason and Siobhan headed back to her apartment.  They stopped outside the graffitied door to her apartment block. He noticed the apple had been harried by something, looking less than perfect now but still somehow maintaining its dignity, if fruit could be dignified. There was a pregnant pause, broken by Shiobhan. “Well…” she was somewhat shy “do you want to come up? ” “For more coffee? ” he cheekily replied, grinning his wolfish grin. She laughed, a delightful sound. “Shut up, you messer” and grabbed his hand, leading him up the stairs. Later, he pushed his way out onto the dark street.  Something moved in the shadows by the bin, making him suddenly cautious. CH 7 The hunger making him clumsy, Jay staggered towards his salvation. His eyes were locked on the food, and he was too hungry to care if this was a trap. An apple waited for him, even with its battered appearance it was perfect to him. He reached out, stumbling. He tripped and fell outstretched hand inches from the food he was too weak to grasp.  Jay heard something to his left. He was too tired and hungry to be scared. If this was to be his time, then so be it. He was tired of running. He looked up and saw clearly a human, a survivor with concern in his dark eyes. CH8 Jason looked down at the homeless man, shivering on the pavement at his feet.  Self preservation be dammed, he reached out a hand. “Are you alright mate? ”.

[Names have been changed to protect the innocent:P] Link to part 1 here It was New Years Eve, and I was back in my hometown again. I had plans to go out with some old friends to ring in 2020, and after my recent break-up, a night out was exactly what I needed. I was sitting on the floor in front of the full-length mirror in my old bedroom in my parents house. As I swept on some black eyeliner, I was starting to feel excited at the prospect of meeting someone new. It had been years since my last casual hookup, and I was reveling in my renewed sexual freedom. With my makeup complete, there was only one thing left to do—put on my favorite black dress. I slid it on and looked in the mirror. The tight fabric clung to my body, leaving nothing to the imagination. My breasts were rounded and perky, my waist was tight, and my ass was firm and full. The hem was only a couple inches lower than the bottom crease of my butt cheek. Underneath I wore a matching black lace bra and thong…just in case someone might see them later. My long blond hair fell in curls down to my butt, and I wore black heels. When my friends arrived to pick me up, I was greeted with a flurry of compliments and squeals. “You. Look. HOT! ” Amanda said as I slid into the backseat. “I almost wish I was the guy sleeping with you tonight. ” “Yeah, sure, ” I said, but I couldnt hold back my smile as Nicole and Jasmine added their sentiments of agreement. When we pulled into the parking lot behind our favorite local bar, it was already packed. Inside there was a sea of people holding drinks, dancing, and talking loudly in each others ears over the blaring music. It was an unusual scene for this normally quiet venue. It seemed like everyone in town had shown up. As we approached the bar, I checked out a few guys whose eyes I could see traveling up and down my body. I smiled at a guy in a flannel shirt, jeans, and baseball cap. I blushed at a guy in a black button-down that smiled at me with perfect teeth. I even made eyes at the cute bartender that made me a whiskey sour. My friends and I found a semi-vacant corner to stand in while we scoped out the place. “Ooh, look, ” Jasmine yelled over the blaring music. “Guy at the bar with the red shirt. ” “Maybe…” I said, still looking around. “Or him, ” Amanda gestured with a nod toward a tall guy with dark hair and stubble. “Hes cute, ” I said, feeling a little shy that I would have to talk to cute guys I didnt know. I started drinking faster, needing that first buzz to give me a little courage. My friends were in top form looking for a rebound for me. Just as I was finishing my first drink, a group of men near the bar caught my attention. I made eye contact with one of them, and recognition washed over me. My knees went weak, and my stomach leapt into my throat as I realized who I was looking at. Craig. I averted my gaze and pretended not to recognize him, but it was too late. When I snuck another glance at him, he was still looking at me. All at once I was too hot, and I felt my face turning red. “Are you okay? ” Nicole said, looking at me with concern. “Yeah, I just need another drink. Anyone else? ” I took their drink orders and pushed through the crowd to the bar. I was nervous, but I wanted to be near him. I needed to be near him. I ended up at the bar directly behind his group, and that was no accident. I ordered my drinks and tried to appear casual while I waited. I looked up when I felt someone beside me, and there he was. I had only just seen him around Thanksgiving, but seeing him again still rendered me breathless. His dark hair had more gray in it than the first time we met, and his face was more weathered, but his blue eyes hadnt changed. He leaned down onto the bar so that he was eye-level with me. I felt like I couldnt move or breathe. “Hello, Holly, ” he said. I could barely hear him over the music and the loud conversations, but I watched his lips form my name. Those lips that had touched the most intimate parts of my body. I stifled a shudder and managed a shy smile. “Hi, Craig. ” I tried to gauge what he was feeling—whether he was also having trouble controlling himself, but my gaze was only met with cool collectedness on his part. Except…there it was. A glance downward at my dress, my legs, and back up again to my eyes. There was a millisecond where I could see desire flashing back at me through his eyes before he regained control. He leaned in and spoke into my ear so no one else could hear. “You look fucking fantastic, ” he said. I couldnt stifle the shudder this time as his breath brushed past my ear. One smell of his cologne, and I could almost feel him over me again, my legs wrapped around him. I was already starting to get wet just being in his presence. “Thank you, ” I blushed and began collecting the drinks that the bartender placed before me. Craig paid him before I had a chance to object. “Are those all for you? ” he said through a smile while I tried to run away. “Hey, whats your hurry? Let me help you. ” He put one hand on my waist to keep me from leaving, and it had the desired effect. I froze in my tracks. When I looked at him again, I mustered up all the confidence I had—the same confidence I had used when I first touched him seven years ago—and I leaned in to whisper in his ear. “Do you want me? ” I had asked him the same question when I was only 19 years old. Without pulling away, he tightened his grip on my waist and whispered back in my ear. “Oh baby, you have no idea. ” His response made me dizzy. I looked around and saw that his friends were watching with half confusion and half admiration on their faces. “Well have to get rid of our friends first, ” I said. He grinned at me and I turned to walk back toward my friends, knowing that there were multiple sets of eyes fixed on my ass. When I returned to my friends, they were all waiting with excitement. They all, of course, knew about my previous encounter with Craig, and they had seen me with him at the bar. “Hollyyyyy. ” Amanda screeched as I tried not to show too much excitement. “You need to go for it with him again. ” “You think so? ” I asked them all, even though I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to have sex with him again. “YES! ” They all screamed as they crowded around me. “I dont know. Its early. Shouldnt I give it a minute? ” Really, I didnt want to appear too desperate or eager, but I was indeed both. “Its been years, Holly. You both cant wait another minute, ” Amanda said. Our sage and sober designated driver, I knew Amanda was the most trustworthy, so I downed my drink, took one last look at my friends, and headed back to the bar. I could feel them cheering me on as I approached him. Then I remembered his friends; we couldnt be seen together anymore tonight. It would be far too suspicious, and everyone in town knew me and my parents. I didnt want to broadcast our affair to the whole bar. News would get back to my parents before morning. Instead of walking straight to him, I walked past him into the long hall leading to the back exit. I made deliberate eye contact and tilted my head, silently beckoning him to follow me. I stood at the end of the hall. A few minutes later, when I saw him coming, I slipped outside. It was dark, and a light snow was falling. I heard the door open, and we smiled at each other as he walked toward me. He stood in front of me with snowflakes melting on his hair and jacket. I stepped forward and felt his arms wrap around me as he pressed his lips to mine. In an instant, I felt a thousand fantasies from over the years become realized. I had longed for this exact moment for so long, and I felt myself coming undone. I slipped my arms into his unzipped jacket and wrapped them around his waist. At first it was slow and tentative. Both of us were out of breath, and the nerves were palpable, but so was the desire. I pressed my body against him, feeling his warmth. His hands smoothed over my back and butt while his kiss became more urgent. The taste of bourbon on his tongue mingled with the taste of whiskey on my own. “Ive missed you, ” he breathed into my mouth. I responded by deepening our kiss, pressing my breasts against him. It was silent outside, but the sound of my blood rushing through my ears was deafening. That wasnt the only place blood was rushing, either. I felt a familiar warmth between my legs, and it was throbbing and urgent. “Please, take me home with you, ” I begged between kisses. “Gladly, ” he said, breaking our kiss and putting his coat over my shoulders. On the way to his house, I sat close to him on the truck seat. His hand was on my leg, fingers brushing the inside of my thigh in the most tempting way. I spread my legs so he could feel my wetness through my panties. I looked over at him while he concentrated on the road. His mouth was slightly open, and his breath was ragged. I placed my hand over the bulge in his pants and gently squeezed. He shifted in his seat and let out a large sigh. “Youre going to kill me, ” he said through his teeth with a look of agonizing pleasure on his face. “Sorry, not trying to, ” I said, putting my hands in the air. I couldnt keep my hands off him, though. I was soon kissing his neck and rubbing his cock through his jeans again. His scent was intoxicating, and I was relieved when we pulled into his driveway. He put the truck in park and grabbed me as soon as we stopped. There were a few moments of hurried kissing before he pulled away and got out of the truck. He picked me up off his running board and carried me to his house, me kissing his neck the whole time. Once inside, there was a bit of a time-out, as we had to give some attention to his very affectionate golden retriever, Jack. “Damnit, Jack, youre not a very good wingman, ” Craig said while I crouched down to pet his very excited dog. “Aww, he just wants a little attention, ” I said in my especially-for-dogs voice. “Hes not the only one, ” Craig said, looking down at me with admiration that was turning into lustful need. “Kennel, Jack, ” he said, and Jack plodded away to his bed. I bit my lip and stood back up. Craig placed several gentle kisses in a line from my earlobe to my collarbone while unzipping my dress in the back. I stood as still as I could manage, letting him do with me as he wished. He slipped the dress off my shoulders and pulled it down until it fell around my feet. “Fuck, youre even more beautiful than I remember, ” He said before taking me in his arms again. I slipped my hands under his shirt and felt his warm skin and his heart pounding underneath. I slipped the shirt over his head and pressed up against him to feel his skin on mine. I put my hands on the back of his head and kissed him again. With one finger he pulled my bra down and let my breast get pushed up on top of the underwire. He grazed his palm over my nipple before squeezing my breast, then he repeated his process with the other one. I was whimpering now, with my head tilted back but my hands still grasping his shoulders. He leaned down to run his lips over my collarbone before giving each nipple a small brush of his lips too. My panties were soaking wet, and I was squirming under his thorough and gentle touch. I fumbled with his belt buckle, my hands shaking with anticipation. He stood straight and watched as I unfastened his belt and the button on his jeans. Looking in his eyes, I slid his pants down over his hips. His underwear slid partially down with them, revealing the base of his cock. I bit my lip before sliding my hand down his lower abdomen and inside his underwear. He tilted his head back and his breathing quickened. “Do you like that? ” I asked, watching him struggle to stand as I began stroking him. “Yes, more baby, please, ” he said between gasps. I tightened my grip and quickened my pace so that he had to lean back against the door. I realized we had barely made it inside the house, so I took both of his hands and led him to the couch. I pushed down on his shoulders until he sat, and I slid out of my bra and panties while he watched. He pulled his underwear down the rest of the way before I straddled his lap. He gazed at my body while I ran my fingers through his hair. It was like he was trying to burn the image into his memory. His hands smoothed over every inch of my skin, then pulled me forward so he could suck on my nipples again. I was arching my back and bucking under his skilled mouth. He slipped one finger between my legs and groaned when he felt that I was dripping down the inside of my thighs. He pulled me forward on his lap until his cock was pinned between us, and I began to grind my clit on him. I leaned back as he watched me rotate my hips. My legs began to shake, and I was having trouble maintaining a steady rhythm. His hands were guiding my hips, and I had to keep telling myself that it wasnt a dream. It was really happening. I snuck a glance at his face, and when our eyes met, I felt my pussy pour out over him, dripping down his cock and onto his balls. “Baby, youre so wet for me, ” he said, his voice full of need. I stopped grinding and tilted my hips up so he could slide into me. “Please, ” I begged. “Please, what? ” he smiled and rubbed himself up and down my lips, watching me whimper and shake. “Please fuck me Craig. I cant take it anymore! ” “Condom? ” “No, I want to feel you. Just you. ” “Okay, baby. But first, Im going to take you nice and slow. I waited a long time for this, and I want to enjoy every second. ” I felt his hands guiding my hips down onto him, and I sighed as I slid down onto his thick cock. I felt myself clench around him, and he moaned in response. “You feel so good, ” I said, panting as my pussy clenched even tighter. “Not as good as you, ” he said, pushing me down onto his last few inches. I leaned forward and put my hands on his shoulders so I could ride him. I tried to be slow, but the fullness of him inside me was too much to bear. I tried to pick up speed, but he grabbed my hips and stopped me. “Not so fast, baby, ” he whispered in my ear. My pussy tightened again, and he grunted in my ear, which only made me tighter. “Mmm, that feels good, ” he said, “but let me. ” He held me close to his body and I wrapped myself around him while he stood and laid me down on the couch. Still inside me, he was now on top of me. I opened my legs wider and succumbed to him. He began sliding in and out of me in a slow, luxurious rhythm. I could hear my wetness as each glorious inch of him pushed inside me, then pulled slowly and completely out. Each time he entered me, I felt the resistance of my swollen pussy, and each time he pulled out, I felt myself tightening, trying to keep him inside. Each thrust was slow, deliberate, and left me shaking and wanting more. He was on his knees, holding my hips up at an angle and watching the place where our bodies were joined. I was watching the muscles in his arms and abs flexing and relaxing with each thrust. After a few minutes, he licked the tips of his fingers and began rubbing circles around my clitoris while he continued his slow thrusting. I arched my back and tried to grind harder into his touch, but he kept his light pressure consistent. It wasnt until he spoke that I realized he was having a hard time maintaining his control. “Baby, I cant last much longer, even this slow, ” he said, his breath coming in gasps that matched mine. I pulled his hands down so that we were face-to-face, and I grabbed the back of his neck and kissed him. I moaned into his mouth as he began to thrust harder and faster. He had one hand on my lower back underneath me, pulling me into him, while the other hand supported his weight over me. With each thrust, I pushed into him and ground my clit on him for the brief moment before he pulled out again. Soon there was no thrusting, just grinding and rocking back and forth while we stole kisses between sharp breaths and moans. I felt an orgasm building, but Craig was slightly ahead of me. “Fuck, Holly, ” he groaned as his hips rammed into me, and I felt his cum hitting my cervix before filling me up. That was more than enough to bring me over the edge too, and I felt my pussy contracting around his cock over and over again. My orgasm deepened his, and he continued pushing against me, even though he was already fully inside me. He moaned and gasped with each new wave of my orgasm, and I was convulsing underneath him, digging my nails into his back. Even when his orgasm calmed, I was still writhing under him. He held me and gently thrust a few more times until we were both just lying there, sweaty and gasping in each others arms. [You didn't think it was over, did you. Part 3.

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DC Next Proudly Presents: Issue Two: Second Wind Written by AdamantAce & JPM11S Edited by ChillFlameSix & VengeanceKnight Next Issue > Coming Soon “Incursion” - Recommended Reading: Mister Miracle #7 Gotham Knights #9 Wonder Women #8 The Flash #9 Infinity Inc. #9 Booster Gold #7 Martian Manhunter #1 Incursion #1 Cassandra Sandsmark hung her head in shame after she lowered the lifeless body of yet another prisoner from their restraints. Another innocent person lost to the so-called ‘Apokoliptan scourge. Another life lost. As they moved chamber to chamber, they freed the all prisoners they could find that had not already been transformed into the horrifying abominations. Unfortunately, they found many who did not survive the metamorphosis. The former Wonder Girl examined the mans face. His skin was withered, jaundiced by the partial transformation. His muscles were atrophied and misshapen, the bones beneath them forced into excruciating positions. But it was the mans eyes that bothered Cassandra the most: Bloodshot and bulging forward, the fear of his impending death was preserved in them, a testament to Cassandras failure. The weight of that failure hung on Cassandras shoulders as she dragged herself from the enclosed, shadowy chamber and back into the cavernous hall. There, she rejoined Barry Allen - the new Flash - and Scott Free - otherwise known as the impossible Mister Miracle, who both similarly moved door to door, searching for survivors. Behind them, they pulled along a two dozen civilians, witless and terrified, each caked in dirt and their own sweat. Barry kept watch, scanning each and every turn for Parademons and Apokoliptan hounds. So far, they had been fortunate enough to avoid any more trouble. “No luck, ” Cassandra seethed, moving along to the next door. Scotts face soured more and more as each new casualty was confirmed. He couldnt help but feel personally responsible for all the hurt wrought by the Apokoliptan incursion, for reasons he was yet to share. He only knew they had to keep moving, that they didnt have long, that Steppenwolf - the tyrant leading the incursion - was likely predisposed defending the remaining terraformers, and that as soon as he was done hed come crashing down on any rescue attempt the heroes were still forging. Advancing along the next corner, the speedster Barry pulled Scott to one side. “I count sixteen. How are Dick and Superman doing? ” “Better than us, ” Scott replied, hopeful. “I gave Superman a Motherbox to keep in contact with me, and hes confirmed at least thirty rescuees. But theyve almost swept their floor, so we should be reconvening soon enough. ” Barrys ear twigged beneath his tight-fitting red cowl. “Motherbox? ” Scott realised his mistakes. “Its an advanced sentient computer unit capable of all sorts of tasks. Communications, interfacing, Boom Tubing. Thats how I entered the Fathership in the first place. ” “Boom Tubing? ” Barry persisted. A wry grin came over Scotts face, “Ill explain later. ” Then, Cassandra rushed out from the next chamber at the sound of an ear piercing roar. As the three heroes ushered the rescued civilians behind them, they assembled to stare down a familiar, yet seemingly more ferocious threat. A monstrous knight stood before them, looming eight feet tall, his bronze fur matted and rough and his plated armour a shimmering bright platinum. From behind his featureless helmet bored the intense red lights of his piercing eyes. And his claws. It was impossible to tell for sure in the darkness, but it truly seemed as if dregs of fresh blood clung to the glimmering blades at the ends of the beasts large, contorted hands. At his feet, three of the same familiar, grotesque hounds snarled and circled, ready for their command. “Didnt we already send you packing, Padfoot? ” Barry spat, feigning as much confidence as he could muster. In a moment, the beastly warrior lumbered forward, his heavy armour clattering and shifting as he moved. He let out a mocking laugh, more of a low, sustained growl. “Canis Minor, my son, was a coward to flee from you, ” he spat. “He was executed for that weakness. But I, Canis Major of Apokolips, harbor no such weakness. ” ⌁ ⌁ 💥 ⌁ ⌁ Across the expanse of the twisting, maze-like Fathership, Dick Grayson kept his eyes trained behind him. They were in a hostile environment, the spaceship of an alien race fabled as gods - and as destroyers of worlds - and for that, he knew he had to maintain the utmost vigilance as they traversed the halls leading five dozen terrified prisoners to freedom. But, to his admiration, Dicks ally showed no such fear. In his Titans days, Dick was known as the dependable, level-headed leader, but as Superman strode through the Apokoliptan halls, completely undeterred even by the all-consuming black surroundings sapping the upper potential of his power, he was nothing but hopeful. Unlike Dick, Clark - as he had the pleasure of knowing him - looked forward, beckoning the fearful escapees to safety, his head held high, and his blue, gold and red attire still bright and bold in the darkness. “Lets go! ” Dick gestured from behind, pushing the escapees along towards the nearing junction in the corridors. “Dont slow down! ” Clark called out, gripping Mister Miracles Motherbox tightly in his hand, “Once we meet up with the others, we can all get out of here and get back to our families. Not much further to go now! ” “I wouldnt be so sure, ” an unknown, bassy voice rang out, one so distorted it was as if he were gargling glass. Dick, Clark and each of the sixty-odd escapees looked every which way, searching their surroundings for the source of the all-encompassing voice, but found nothing. Then, out from the turn they had already taken slowly lumbered a massive figure draped in shadow. His jet black and crimson armor was ornate, his horned helmet broad and sharp. But unlike the wolf-like knight that had confronted them before, this man bore his face proudly. Despite his gargantuan form, he had the face of a man. His skin was tan, rugged and leathery, sporting what must have been a fresh, though scorched, cut across his cheek. Along with his bladed helmet, a neatly trimmed goatee graced his face, forming his gaunt and devilish visage. He moved with zero urgency, instead slowly dragging his oversized battle axe along the surface of the cracked, ebony floor. As the warrior approached, the old Dick - Robin - would have made some quippy remark about the clichéd nature of the unseen bad guy making a snippy comment before revealing himself, but the present day Detective Grayson was too stunned and concerned about the safety of the prisoners to really act. Seconds later, the towering behemoth came to a stop, remaining several feet away from the escaping prisoners. Planting himself and the butt of his axe on the ground, he spoke politely and simply in his ravaged tone. “Im afraid I cannot let the fodder leave the Fathership, ” he boomed, “They are the lifeblood of our war effort and by the grace of Darkseid they shall not be taken from us. ” Just then, Clark lurched forward, moving between the civilians and deftly approaching the front of the hurried procession, standing by Dicks side. “You kidnap, and pillage, and mutilate, all to build an army and pit them against their own planet? ” Superman exclaimed. “Why! ” “Why waste the lives of our own people conquering such a worthless armpit of a planet? ” “You dont believe that, ” Superman called back, “Youve seen something in humanity, in Earth, and you want it for yourself. But you cant have it. ” “I would say the same for you, Kal-El, ” the warrior grinned back, “The last son of Krypton deluding himself into believing he could possibly die a son of Earth. But no, I care less for this pile of rocks than you clearly realise. ” “You dont know anything about me or my planet! ” Clark spat back defiantly, his chest aching. “Well then, lets start over. I am Steppenwolf, of Darkseids Elite. And I have risen to lay waste to your planet and remake it in the image of Apokolips to send a message to Scott Free. ” “Scott? ” said Dick. “The self proclaimed Miracle is a coward. He refused to meet me in combat and - for that - the world he has come to love will be forfeit. ” Realising exactly how dire things were, Clark turned immediately to Dick Grayson and pressed the rectangular Motherbox into his chest, entrusting it to him. “Take this, find the others and get everyone out of here. You need to lead them to safety. ” “But we need you! ” Dick insisted. “Ill be there, Red, ” Clark replied, “Now, go! ” Beat. “Okay. ” ⌁ ⌁ 💥 ⌁ ⌁ Guardian staggered to his feet, knees wobbling from fatigue, and glanced at the top of the beam of energy pouring down from the ceiling. “Looks like its all on me now. Fate of the world and all. ” As quick as he could manage, the hero moved towards the terminal Robin had been trying to hack. First, he checked on his friend who, despite barely being able to stand, had managed to hold his own in a fight against a group of Parademons. He was hurt badly, but there was nothing more he could do to help him. Second, he resumed Robins attempt at hacking the machine, but Guardian quickly realized just how true Robins previous comment of “this is complicated” was. An exasperated sigh escaped his lips as he tossed the hacking device to the side. “I t-told you…” Robin moaned, “You have to… to brute f-force it. ” Once more, Guardian looked to the source of the energy. Robin was right, there was only one thing left to do now: Smash. His stride full of a purpose it had previously lacked, Guardian prepared himself for the task at hand. He had no idea just what he was walking into… quite literally as a matter of fact, because his plan was to jump up the beam and destroy it that way, but he would not let that stop him. Gingerly, he reached into the thundering tower of light and quickly felt immense heat sear over his skin. Guardian gritted his teeth, willing away the pain as he decided to plunge right in. The pain that was once contained to his hand erupted all across his body, and the hero let out an agonizing scream. For several seconds, he anguished, paralysed. Pain was a funny thing like that. Slowly though, he began to push back, knees trembling as he took one step forward, then another, and another, and soon enough, Guardian had made his way to the center of the beam. He was in position, now there was only the small matter of getting to the top. ‘Okay, you can do this. he chanted to himself in his head. Guardian fumbled around for a second to find the best position to leap from. ‘You can do this. He felt the muscles tense in his legs just waiting to be released in a mighty burst of strength. He took a deep breath, then released that tension. Instantly, he shot upwards with a force so few beings could muster. As he approached the peak of his arc, the heat only grew more intense, and very quickly he began to panic as he realised he was being forced back down by gravity. With a loud thud, he smacked right against from where he leapt. Maybe he couldnt do this. Battling against a sense of vertigo, blazing heat, and just plain fatigue, slowly, Guardian dragged himself to his feet, his breathing labored. One more time. He wiped the sweat that dripped from his brow. The energy beam was getting to be too much for him. If he didnt destroy the machine soon, it would destroy him. With that thought in mind, Guardian took a deep breath, steadying himself. One last shot. With the last vestiges of his strength, he leapt once more into the air, which instantly shook with a sonic boom. As Guardian erupted upwards, a familiar heat burned once more against his face, accompanied by the same feeling of being pushed down. But this time, in his determination, Guardian felt that not even gravity could stop him now. The source of the beam inched ever closer to his flushed face, sparking the slightest glimmer of hope. Seemingly, the world has slowed down around him, seconds dragging on into an eternity. Nerves. Nerves that would not subside until he had either succeeded or failed. He waited for his answer. Finally, the tension was cut when he came to within an arm's reach of the beam. Realizing this was his moment, Guardian thrusted his arm forward, metal bursting open around his hand. A cry of joy escaped the heros lips as the beam fizzled out around him, though that feeling of elation quickly subsided once he again began to plummet down to the ground, and everything around him began to explode. Instead of just splatting against the ground as he had previously done, Guardian took care to roll with his momentum this time around. As he lumbered upright, he quickly ran to where Robin was and threw him over his shoulder, wasting no time in making use of his super speed to race to where Lobo and Maxima had went: What they believed to be the armory. The strange looking guns that the Parademons used lined up in racks against two of the four walls, the other two being reserved for what appeared to be the equivalent of bombs and artillery. In the center of the room, a large pile of the demons themselves laid, each and everyone broken and bloodied by the man who stood atop it: Lobo. The Czarnian was rather beaten up himself, his body marred with deep gashes and various things sticking out his back. The most grievous injury he sported had to be his missing hand, though not that he let it stop him from using the stump to punch back down one of the creatures in the pile that tried to struggle back up. In his other hand, he held his hooked chain, though not for long since he decided to break off the hook and shove it into his stump, effectively giving himself a hook-hand. Beside Lobo was Maxima, who had been grievously wounded during their several fights with the Parademons that had continued to stream into the room, and more than likely would have continued to if the ceiling had not begun to cave in. Quickly, Lobo moved to protect his fallen companion, knocking aside a piece of falling debris then positioning himself over her so he could catch a support beam tumbling down. While it he may have caught it effortlessly, it did put him in a rather interesting position due to how the beam had fallen: He couldnt move. Because most of the beam was still attached to its proper place, he couldnt merely toss it aside, and if tried to break off that section of the beam, the rest would surely come crashing down. To his luck, Guardian, with Robin slung over his shoulder, came charging into the room. “Lobo! We need to get out of here! ” “What the frag is happening? ” he shouted. “The charges aint planted! ” “Long story short, I made a big laser explode and now its taking this place with it! ” “Ya fragging dumbass! ” “Come ‘on; we need to get going! ” “Cant! ” Lobo motioned with his hook hand to Maxima. “If I let go, the roof will drop! ” A ball of flame burst through one of the walls, licking the finish on one of the bombs. Seeing this and realizing it was only a matter of time before those bombs would explode, Guardian raced over to the pile of bodies, climbed atop it, and threw Maxima over his other shoulder. Now with not one, but two on his shoulders, he made his way out the door, stopping at the threshold to look back at Lobo, who was eyeing him intently. “Are you leaving or what? ” shouted Guardian. Lobo dropped the beam then made a dead sprint for the door, the ceiling caving in behind him like it was some sort of action movie. “Just waitin fer ya to get out of here! ” Shards of metal nipped at the Czarians heels, egging him into moving faster than he already was. Just as the room completely collapsed, Lobo managed to escape, fleeing with Robin to where Steel was while dodging explosions along the way. As they came upon the location where Steel was supposed to have planted his charges, the distinct sound of human moans met their ears, causing Guardian to run faster than he already was. Steel had been sent to one of the rooms in the higher levels, the purpose of said room being unknown, but as the hero came to where his ally supposedly was, he found only a mass chunks of metal strewn with a sickly, alien blood piled up to block what was more than likely an archway of sorts. Setting Maxima and Robin against a wall, he climbed up the mound and peered over. He only found that the inside was in a similar state of disrepair. Suddenly, another explosion rocked the terraformer, this was one bigger than the last, that sent Guardian tumbling over into the inside of the room. “You alright, kid? ” shouted Lobo from the other side, having finally caught up. “Im fine. ” groaned Guardian. “Lobo, you start clearing out the debris. Ill look for Steel. ” With the terraformer still crashing down around them, the pair worked fast to accomplish their respective tasks. Following the sound of an ever weakening moan, Guardian ripped through scraps of metal desperately racing to find his fallen friend, ever aware that time was of the utmost importance in a situation such as this. Eventually, a glimmer of a metal unlike the rest caught his eye, causing the hero to paw at that area with wanton abandon. It had to be him. Who else could it be? As that glimmer slowly grew and grew, it became apparent that it was in fact Steel, or at least, what was left of him. While he was still alive, it was just barely. Alone against an army of Parademons, he had not fared well, his armor clearly having been clawed at and torn apart by the creatures claws. They didnt stop at the armor, though; no, they had sunk into his flesh as well, leaving his body littered with deep, bloody gashes. It was a miracle he hadnt bled out already. They must have looked worse than they actually were. Atop his chest, which was thankfully still covered in his armor, a support beam had fallen, crushing down on him with enough force to kill a man, which Guardian quickly sought to relive. With one arm, Guardian pulled the beam off Steel and cleared the remaining debris. Steel was still conscious, but his helmet had been broken, leaving him vulnerable to head trauma that he was clearly suffering from. A small groan escaped Guardians lips as he picked up Steel bridal style and carried him away to safety. Lobo picked up Maxima and Robin. Everyone was now accounted for, leaving only the small problem of actually escaping. Yet another explosion blasted through the terraformer, this time ripping itself across the space between Guardian and Lobo, causing them both to flinch as they braced themselves. Time was running out; they had already spent a minute of their time fetching their compatriots and if the pair had to guess, they had no more than fifteen seconds left. Fifteen seconds to escape an alien machine falling out of the sky. What could go wrong? Lobo brought his fingers to his lips and made a shrill whistling sound, his way of summoning his bike. Over the cacophony that filled the air though, one could only wonder if the signal would be heard. That question became all the more prevalent when Lobo commanded that they jump out through one of the many holes that had formed along the walls of the terraformer. “Itll be fine! ” Lobo promised. “The main man has done this thing countless times. ” “I have a hard time believing that! ” shouted Guardian. Lobo shot him a devilish grin, then leapt out the terraformer. Guardian hurried to the edge himself, pushing out every rational thought that crossed his mind that screamed at him not to do this. It was ludicrous, but then again, some many things if his life were. Right now, all he needed to do was take a leap of faith. And so he did. Wind rushing past his face, Guardian gripped Steel as hard as he could manage, eyes squished shut. If this went wrong, he didnt want to see it. Luckily, his faith was rewarded once he felt something come up underneath him, prompting the hero to open his eyes. It was Lobo, sporting that same grin he had given him not seconds before. Piled high on the SpazFragz666, the Metropolis gang rode off into the sunset. ⌁ ⌁ 💥 ⌁ ⌁ Canis Major's immense weight collided with the pitch wall with crunch, his plate armor clanging together as he bounced, deftly maneuvering to just about land on his feet. With a shake of his head to gather his wits, he dug into the ground before springing forward, bounding through the air, claws first, right for his opponent. Cassandra stood her ground in the seconds the beastman hurtled towards her. Her priority was ensuring the escape of the innocent civilians, who fled as fast as they could along the corridor behind her, aided by the lightning-quick Barry. It was in times like these that the former Wonder Girl wished she hadn't dumped her old regalia in the bay, certain her silvered bracers would have been perfect for deflecting Canis Major's savage attacks. But as Olympos, the masked fiend of Gateway City, all Cassandra could rely on were her instincts, a borrowed enchanted lariat, and her demigod physiology. She only had to pray it would be enough. So, as Canis Major inched closer and closer by the instant, his bladed mitts ready to tear her to shreds, she launched herself into the air, closing the gap rapidly to deliver a deft kick to the centre of the creature's breastplate. And while the impact sent the Apokoliptan reeling back, he had more than enough time to rake his claws across Cassandra's leg, tearing through denim and flesh in one. She was hit. She was vulnerable. But before she could hit the ground, her thigh already searing in anguish, crimson lightning enveloped her, and Cassandra found herself placed upright several paces along the corridor by Barry. Then, while Canis Major burst into a charge, unable to strike out at any of the prisoners lagging behind thanks to the Flash's intervention, the front of the fleeing civilians had other problems. Using advanced tech, or perhaps just magic, Mister Miracle danced up and along the winding walls of the expanding hall, frantically scrambling to protect the civilians from Canis Major's three fiendish hounds. As they pounced and clawed out at the defenseless people, Scott threw his hands forward, streaking volleys of golden force through the air to knock the beasts off course whenever needed. Even for an alien; an impossible man; a god, he was exhausted, but he had to keep fighting. He leapt from the leftmost wall, striking one hound in the skull with the flat of his boot before effortlessly landing back on the rightmost wall and continuing his sprint onto the ceiling. Barry struggled to keep his thoughts in check as he rushed to protect all he could. He felt as if he was moving so fast, so frantically, that he never stayed in the same place long enough to piece together what he was doing. It was as if he was acting entirely on instinct. He had already tried grabbing the hounds and dragging them as far away as he could, but they seemed supernaturally bound to their general, summoned back just out of view an instant later, every time. Cassandra was hit, and while he had pulled her out of harm's way immediately after, Barry couldn't help but feel responsible for her injury. As he ran, it was with absolute fear, knowing that - as fast as he was - anyone hurt, or killed, in the chase would be so on his watch. He wasn't ready for that guilt. The Flash cried out, narrowly dodging the animalistic swipe of Canis Major's claws as he plucked a slower civilian from the Apokoliptan's grasp. "Where's Superman. “Not here, ” Cassandra called back as she pushed through the pain emanating from her slashed leg and barreled back towards the pursuing Canis Major. They wouldnt outrun him, she knew that, and if Superman wasnt here they had to handle him themselves. Though as Cassandra and her opponent leapt towards each other once more, it became instantly clear that the brutish knight was done playing with his food. Instead of exchanging blows with the young woman, Canis Major simply beat her out of the way with his oversized fists, clearing a path for him to rapidly bound along the hall on all fours like the dog he was. Scott and Barry were already plenty occupied keeping the Apokoliptan animals busy to possibly keep Canis Major back, and in those moments, Cassandra too realised that the time for games was over. Canis Major was mere strides away from eviscerating one unfortunate escapee there and then when Cassandra lunged forward, propelling her golden lasso through the air. Then, as she did, Barry screeched into Flashtime. It was a state he could best describe as when he was moving so fast the world around him seemed to grind to a halt, or near enough. Sweat poured off of the fledgling hero, he was almost completely spent. Barry could feel his consciousness begin to wane with every moment spent at this speed, but he couldnt ignore Cassandras attack. He watched the shimmering rope unfurl through the air at a crawl, cutting through the air towards Canis Major. He pushed himself, seeing how close the Apokoliptan was to killing one of the civilians. All he had to do was get them out of harms way. But as he moved through Flashtime with as little energy as he had remaining, it was like trying to push through butter that slowly thickened around him, slowing him more and more. Canis Major inched closer and closer to the helpless prisoner, but even more rapidly, Cassandras looped lasso neared its target. Then, as the rope ensnared Canis Major, pulled tight around his throat, it was clear what Cassandras plan was. Barry shook his head. Could he really just let another hero kill someone? Even an alien warlord. No, he rejected it completely. All life was sacred to him. But as his time in Flashtime was running short, he knew that trying to move the prisoner free would only allow Cassandra to exact her kill, and stopping Cassandra would only doom Canis Majors prey to certain death. Though it broke him to do so, he had to admit to himself that he wasnt fast enough. The world resumed around him, Barry tumbled forward, struggling to see straight, and with one heave of her magical lariat, Cassandra snapped Canis Majors neck. And with their tamer dead, the spectral hounds seemed to fade from existence with a fiery whimper. As the dust settled, the prisoners - and Scott, Cassandra and Barry along with them - were safe. “You…” Barry panted. “You shouldnt have done that…” He stood by Canis Majors lifeless body as Scott slowly ushered the fleeing prisoners back to the group. “You didnt have to do that. I could have saved him without- ” “There wasnt a choice, ” Cassandra stood firm. “We couldnt be sure. One day youll understand. ” Silently, Barry thought to himself. He sure hoped hed never understand how such an awful compromise could be seen as so reasonable. A second later, a familiar face came sprinting down the adjacent corridor. Dick Grayson, leading thirty-odd hurried prisoners. “Are you guys okay? ” “Wheres Superman? ” Scott interjected, straight to business. “We ran into trouble. Big guy called Steppenwolf, ” Dick relayed, a dour look on his face. “Superman stayed behind to buy us time to escape. ” Scott nodded warily. This wasnt good news. “Right. Well, Ive heard plenty about your planets Man of Steel, and after seeing him in action… all I can offer is that if anyone could go toe-to-toe with Steppenwolf, itd be him. ” Cassandra pushed over to Dick, taking him by the arm. Dick couldnt help but notice her limp, despite her best efforts to hide it. “Are you alright? ” “Yes, ” Dick held her at arms length and smiled. “I might not have a demigod healing factor, but Ive got a few tricks. Miracle, I have your… Mother-thing. ” “Motherbox, ” Scott replied. “Give it here, I can use it to open a Boom Tube to take us all out of here. Then we can regroup with your allies and take the fight to Steppenwolfs forces. ” Dick held the small, rectangular computer in his off-hand. It was like a circuit board found on Earth, but several times thicker, a deep scarlet colour much like Scotts own outfit, with vibrant gold wiring that seemed to glimmer even in the light-eclipsing halls of the Fathership. Dick held it out to Scott before hesitating for a moment, inching it back slightly. “Is something the matter, Grayson? ” Scott asked. Dick took a deep breath. He had a hundred urgent questions to pose the impossible man, but he knew they had to wait til they were all safe. He looked Scott dead in the eye, sober and simple. “I give you this, you… ‘Boom Tube us to safety, and then you tell us all exactly what these ‘Apocalypse guys are doing here. ” Scott nodded. He was going to have to be honest eventually. He took the Motherbox in his gloved hands, and much unlike how Dick clung to it like a took, embraced it as a friend. He held it out at arms reach and prepared to use it. “Wait! ” Barry stopped him. The rest all turned to him. “We cant just leave Superman. Even if he is… Superman. ” Beat. “Scott, ” said Cassandra, acutely aware that yet another wolf knight could emerge from the shadows at any moment. “Get everyone off the ship, Ill go find Superman. ” “No, ” Scott shook his head. He knew his responsibility. He pressed his finger against the flat edge of the Motherbox, and with a explosive clap of thunder - perhaps a boom - a glittering golden warp in space appeared ahead of him, a twisting, contorting tunnel to freedom. The wind roared through the portal, as a warmth returned to the corridor that the lot of them had long since forgotten to miss. Over the surging winds, Scott cried “You should all go. Get these people to safety and gather your allies. Ill help your Superman and return him to you for the final fight. ” “What? No…” Barry replied limply. But Dick took charge. “Lets go, ” Dick grabbed Barry by the shoulder and pushed him along. He looked back to the terrified prisoners, now seconds from freedom. “Follow my lead. ” And with a sprint, Dick vanished into the golden gateway. One by one, the escapees went after him, then Barry. Then, Cassandra stopped, turning back to Scott. “Miracle, ” she said. “Yes? ” he replied, tired but determined. “Good luck. ” See Superman take on the forces of Apokolips in Superman #9, Then, the story concludes in INCURSION #3.

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