The Man Death Fears

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I was going to work on this a bit more, the text is a little rough, but since it’s Barry Reese’s birthday…

…I’m going to just go with it.

Let’s see who’s next on the DOUBLE DARE list?

Ahhhh…

…the Super Human.

This guy and I have been occupying head space forever…

I came up with CITIZEN SILVER after being exposed to JUSTICE, INC. in paperbacks. Yes he looks like The Avenger but that’s because he’s albino not freaked out with nerve damage and pigmentation issues related to shock. Samir “Samuel” Silver is your standard pulp hero: demented scientist/biologist parents who tried to “cure” his albinism which was something that had more physical issues involving light sensitivity and sun exposure. Between experiments and a physical and mental regimen suggested to them by other scientists doing similar experiments they got a kid whose skin and hair turned chalk white…

So he did what most guys in the 1930s with odd skin conditions did in a pulp setting…

Now, let’s see exactly what that was…

Oh, Barry Reese connection?

He’s a big fan of JUSTICE INC. and THE AVENGER…

Don’t believe me?

Then you obviously haven’t kept up with THE ADVENTURES OF LAZARUS GRAY…

If you really want to show Barry some love, you’ll buy all of those now.

You won’t regret it.

Now, on with the show…

*****

The world may have changed, but he was changeless. His life, his mission also remained unchanged in all the years he had lived. He answered to many names in his life: to parents he was Sam, to heads of business and state he was Mr. Silver, the press dubbed him Citizen Silver when he began adventuring, but the name he earned in his many escapades was the one he admittedly enjoyed more than any other…

…The Man Death Fears.

The last title was actually one his parents had made closer to the truth when, in trying to make him “normal” a quirk in their genetic tampering not only bleached his skin and hair white as snow, somehow his physical and mental aging had slowed to a crawl. By the time his assistants were slowing down and retiring from the life, he continued on as vital and youthful as ever. Eventually the Silver Circle went from a team, to a firm, to an organization to a global security entity that long ago exceeded his expectations in his war against crime. Long ago he put patents on his equipment and began to mass produce equipment for law enforcement that reduced lethal engagements in the field and aided in the fields of investigation and forensics. It also allowed for Silver to continue his work and disappear for extended periods of time.

Tonight though, his first night back from the Fold and the war that had once again returned to his home world, Citizen Silver was revisiting old haunts of one of those who they had chased here, one of his old foes who had taken advantage of the gifts of La’sua C’nu and the Fold to keep himself young and vital. As he raced across the muddy rail yards, the moist earth and sludge sucking at the soles of his feet, Silver recalled a different land and a different war all those years ago; battlefields and trenches and Death raining down from every direction, her cool hand stroking the cheeks of boys, barely men, screaming in the night as their innocence died and the blood of that innocence seeped deeply into the few feet of mud that was meaningless except for that moment in time.

He earned his title then, long before the world and underworld were aware that Samir Silver ever existed. His foes like his allies in those long forgotten trenches weren’t more than boys either which didn’t stop Silver from delivering the death that avoided him to others. When he walked out of that purgatory back into the world, he began to develop weapons that would curtail or disable but not kill. War had brought him his fill of killing. At least that’s what he believed and told himself at the beginning.

He hadn’t realized then that he was thinking as a boy still.

There would always be evils that might force a re-evaluation of what one held as a solid belief.

Though this reverie was a momentary distraction, it nearly put to the test wether or not Death still feared Silver after all these years. Reflex, more than conscious thought, had him in motion as a pair of giant circular saws blossomed from the ground where he stood, their metallic whine interrupted by the cough of long unused motors choking on some of the silt that spattered into them as the saws broke ground. Rolling to a crouch, Silver had only now begun to process that the vibration of the ground beneath his feet as the saws began to spin triggered his reflexes. The teachings and training in the Method, begun by his parents, had once again saved him from harm. He knew what would probably come next and palmed a pair of spheres that looked like slightly larger than average marbles. He closed his fist tight and shook the spheres like a pair of dice, letting the warmth of his hand and the kinetic force of the spheres activate a reaction before tossing the spheres at the saws. Silver dove for cover behind a storage car on a side track, as the spheres flew across the distance. The saws had cleared their housing and were rotating on extended metal arms towards Silver’s general direction; the high pitched whine of the blades gnashing through the air with their banshee cries. The spheres struck at the base of the extended arm of the nearest saw with two small pops lost beneath the roar of the saws. Silver didn’t have long to wait, the metal of the base began to change from a dull gray to a rust like color and in seconds the whine of the saws were drowned out by a scream of creaking metal as the weight of the saw collapsed its weakened support, both blades cutting into one another making a cacophony that got the attention of workers in the active parts of the rail yard. Silver, in the meantime, moved around the dueling metallic mess towards the small shack that used to be an operations office.

Silver didn’t bother with ceremony, he laid a solid foot into the door and it snapped open the ancient lock succumbing easily. He was about to plunge through when the Method touched his senses once again as he realized he wasn’t alone.

“Step out” Silver said without looking up. “I will not repeat the request.”

“Mr. Silver. It’s been a while.”

Silver whirled, certain the for the first time ever the Method had misled him. A nearby shadow tore itself away from a rusting passenger car and assumed the shape of a man. Not any man though, because the voice and Silver’s senses told him it was a man who, by all rights, should be dead.

“Peregrine,” Silver said.

Max Davies extended a hand. “You seem as surprised to see me as I am to see you.”

“I am,” Silver replied taking and shaking the gloved hand that was offered. “Good to see you’re still in the fight.”

It was Max’s turn to be surprised. “So you accept that it’s me just like that?”

“I could ask the same, Peregrine”, Silver replied. “You know my abilities. If you weren’t you, regardless of the improbability of the circumstances, I would know and have reacted accordingly. I also presume since we aren’t locked in combat with me trying to convince you I am who I am, I assume you’re aware of some of my story.”

Max smiled. “If I wasn’t certain, that’s the convincer. Who’s downstairs?”

“The Deathsmith”, Silver answered. Max’s expression must have betrayed his disbelief. Silver added, “It’s a long story.”

Max checked his pistol. “I expect to hear all about it at Donovan’s when we have time.”

“Donovan’s?” Silver asked lifting a trapdoor at the rear of the shack. The pit below was pitch black but the cool air rising from it suggested some kind of tunnel was below. “They’re still around?”

“You’d be amazed what’s managed to survive.” Max made sure his weapons were in reach and followed Silver who had already found a ladder and began to descend.

“No, Peregrine”, Silver said softly. “I wouldn’t be surprised by the things that managed to survive at all.”

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The Return of Thunderfoot Jenkins

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You guys want another glimpse at the characters in DOUBLE DARE?

I’m gonna pretend like you said yeah, okay?

Earlier you got a glimpse of THE SECRET from the story that wasn’t: THE ARMAGEDDON AGENDA and while they may not show up any place any time soon, they’re my kids and I hope you don’t mind my showing them off just a little.

First up, if I follow the list, the spaceman: THUNDERFOOT JENKINS…

Yeah, I know. The name is intentional.

Theodore “Thunderfoot” Jenkins is my nod to the most influential space hero ever…

…Larry “Buster” Crabbe. Anyone who grew up in my generation got to see Crabbe in the role he’s chiefly remembered by: Flash Gordon, but he was also Buck Rogers so dude was really the first major sci-fi movie star. Of course Thunderfoot is based on Crabbe’s Flash Gordon character, but he’s also an Olympic level athlete who had aspirations of acting despite the times and attitudes dealing with race as a part of his backstory. He also draws nods to Lando Calrissian (thanks, Billy Dee Williams) and he was lounging around, content being a half formed idea when Tommy Hancock showed up…

Yeah, you know Tommy as the EIC, boy publisher, and urbane man-about-town now, but back in day he would grind out these stories over in fan-fic land with these great concepts and occasionally he’d do independent characters trying to find an audience which is where I met up with his take on Flash Gordon: Johnny Crimson.

I tell you now, it was only one chapter. Never saw a follow up. Had a couple of tries to get back on the horse, but Johnny hasn’t hit the comeback trail. But Johnny C?

Oh yeah, dude was the spark that took nameless space serial guy and made him a thing: a title!

Hey, baby steps – which isn’t the title, this is:

“Whatever Happened to Lightningfoot Jenkins?”

I know, the name got changed recently. I’ve got my reasons.

Changed everything. Instead of being a clean cut, well known athlete who was probably well off in the mid 1930s, he wasn’t. He was an athlete, he was well known, but he was black too. That just made him interesting enough to keep going. And of all these kids, Thunderfoot Jenkins probably has my attention the most.

But for the purposes of the non story plot, I worked out some of the hows and whys of what he was going through, how he got to be a space opera hero…

…and why he looks like he hasn’t aged a day over nearly 90 years.

It’s such a strange trip, I thought, for kicks, it might be kind of fun to see how he sees it…

Though I guess it should be noted things may get graphic if the telling of the journey is going to be accurate to the time and place from whence our hero came…

***

“So you ran?” Dillon asked. His voice seemed to half echo through the corridors of this… ship, though the word seemed an understatement of vessel’s purpose. It wasn’t some craft built of cold metals and dead plastics; the ship seemed to breathe and thrum with a pulse. There was a gentle, rhythmic hum coursing throughout the thing that vaguely reminded Dillon of his mother humming some unnamed melody that brought a wistful smile to her face. An unconscious action yielding unnoticed happiness and warmth. The hum was like that: a touchstone to someone who symbolizes warmth, love and protection from everything that would dare to presume to harm you.

“Son,” his host replied, “I was the prettiest negro God ever put into Creation caught buck naked and ass deep in a single white woman’s bedroom in the heart of Louisiana, in the spring of 1932 by a bunch of good ol’ boys dragging a Johnny Reb on the back of their truck: Y’goddamn right I ran.” Theodore “Thunderfoot” Jenkins smiled. “At the time I counted myself lucky because I was able to grab my clothes as I lit out the window.”

“So you found someplace to get dressed then.” Somehow this wasn’t what he was expecting from this contradictory youthful ancient who had apparently traveled the stars and seen things that even Dillon, with all his experiences, could only imagine.

“They called me ‘Thunderfoot’, young man, not ‘Thunderpants’” Jenkins replied.

Despite himself, the situation and their current surroundings, Dillon erupted into roaring belly laugh. Jenkins chuckled as well. “I felt the same way, friend.

That is until they caught up to me and lynched me and murdered me.” Jenkins stopped before what looked like a blank wall and made a gesture. A floating command panel made of light formed and Jenkins consulted it.

As he did that Dillon’s mouth snapped shut with an audible click of teeth coming together that cut the air out from the laughter’s slow subsiding to an immediate silence brought on by surprise of Jenkins’ last statement. “Wait, say what now?”

Jenkins tried suppress a shudder that caused his shoulders to bunch just so. It was a small motion but Dillon noted that whatever memory flickered to the surface of Jenkins’ mind, it was one that was still intensely fresh. Jenkins fixed a practiced calm to his features and nodded. “Oh yeah, son, a negro driving around in the altogether gets noticed and those white boys put the word out and had me caught in under an hour with the sheriff himself leading the mob, rope in hand.

“Quick as Kodak, they snatched me out my car, beat my ass serious and well, blew off both my kneecaps, with a sawed-off shotgun and broke an eye socket.

“Then they got mean about things, stripped naked and cut off my johnson.”

“Say what?” It was rare that Dillon allowed himself to be stricken, but Jenkins casual, breezy description of what had to be torture beyond endurance threw him. What threw him more was the man before him seemed whole.

Jenkins seemed to nod at the unasked question. “Trust me, son, you don’t forget something like that. They were cooking it when those good ol’ boys chopped open my guts because I wasn’t screaming enough. Mid hell they tossed the noose over my neck and I’m kicking my own intestines. That’s when I saw the light I heard would come and died.”

Dillon was familiar with history as it pertained to the African American experience, including lynching. Somehow though, Jenkins’ casual delivery was still disorienting. “So you died” Dillon said. “And…?”

“At least that’s what I thought until I opened my eyes and found myself in La’sua C’nu whole and everything thankfully in place.” Jenkins checked a monitor that appeared from a wall. “Looks like we found the masked man you ran into earlier.”

“The Peregrine.” Dillon stared at the screen but couldn’t decipher the glyphs. “LahsueaCenu?”

Jenkins’ expression loosened some and he smiled again. “La’sua C’nu. Think of it more like breathing instead phonetically. Trust me even then you and I are both butchering the way it’s pronounced. If you hear it there from the originals it’s almost singing. Before you ask it’s located in something that’s called the Fold. It’s space and time and energy and a bunch of other things I couldn’t describe no matter how many tools you give me: it just is.

And around the time I was being murdered, they were pulling me to them.”

“Okay,” Dillon said. “But for what exactly?”

“To lead a fight.” Jenkins replied. “Though they didn’t know it at the time, they needed me to help win a revolution.”

“I’m assuming this is part of it.” Dillon had dozens of questions but he was used to the arcane not aliens. Monsters, curses, talismans, madmen were all in Dillon’s purview but a man who really has gone where no else has was legitimately outside his experience.

“No”, Jenkins said. “That fight came and went and came again a few times over. This is unfinished business from an invasion from the Fold to Earth.”

“And that’s why you and the others came together?” Dillon asked. “You guys formed a group to fight these others from your Fold?”

Jenkins reached forward and a panel of light appeared before him. His fingers passed over the panels and lights rotated and changed colors before the panel folded in on itself and vanished. “There, we’re on our way to the Peregrine and one of my people.” Jenkins turned and paced towards the end of the corridor. “And no son, we didn’t get together to stop the Fold…

…they got together to stop me. I was the guy leading the invasion.”

Dillon tensed and unconsciously assumed a fighting stance.

“I told you things were complicated, son.”

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DOUBLE DARE ADVENTURES: Concept and proposal by Sean E. Ali

So, I promised you guys… something.

Oh, you think I won’t do this?

Go ahead: dare me.

In fact: DOUBLE DARE me.

Before we go there, here’s how we got here.

I have a lot of mulch sitting my head. There are a bunch of images that pass through and occasionally there’s an image or two…

…or several hundred…

…that politely ask me to find some time to make them a thing. One of my favorite sections of mulch in the mind cave involves a standard of the Silver Age of Comics: Team-Ups. When they were around, I was that kid that picked up those books. The Brave and the Bold, Marvel Two-In-One, Marvel Team-Up, DC Comics Presents, World’s Finest and Super-Team Family to name more than a few. You grab at least a pair of heroes, present them a problem and set them off on a case to find an answer to said problem. One of my favorite team ups involved two pulp heroes who always struggled to take a foothold in that medium, but hit all the right notes in this instance: The Shadow and Doc Savage in “ The Conflagration Man”. The Shadow and Doc approach a case from separate avenues, cross swords and personnel, and then work the case together (sort of) to its conclusion. Good stuff.

There are others, but I recently found myself rereading that adventure which pushed one of those images from the polite asking to a demand involving Pro Se characters and Dillon that kicked in before the International Instigator hopped on board. In fact, the idea just sort of hopped in my head while I was working on a DILLON AND THE VOICE OF ODIN and an edition of THE PEREGRINE OMNIBUS, featuring Barry Reese’s creation Max Davies (among others) aka The Peregrine, that showed up in the same production cycle. I thought then “wouldn’t it be fun if…?”

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Today’s free Fun Fact: Did you know if you look at the back of most REESE UNLIMITED books that Barry puts out there’s a handy dandy timeline? For readers (and I’m sure for the author) it keeps things straight and keeps Barry honest. If you don’t see it on the timeline, it hasn’t happened yet. And because Barry is obsessively updating that bad boy it’s easy to find a slot and slip in a point where you can do the fan thing and say “here’s what I think Max was doing in…”, but it also lets you say “hey, nothing happened here of note” and speculate on the possibilities. For me, I said to myself, “it’s a damn shame what went down in 1975 when so-and-so found a discarded Peregrine mask and had to stop a riot with…”

And that thought came with a visual. Unfortunately for me, I took my pretend Peregrine out of her epic Pam Grier Afro and recycled mask updated her and sent her off to find another mask belonging to some guy named Amiri under the name Coco Brown. The visual stuck though and eventually someone else stepped in from an old fan-fic idea and auditioned for the role. I told character there wasn’t a story involved, just a visual and they were cool with that. Then a bunch of other guys stepped in begging for a slot, so I gave them time and said what the hell.

I was left with a cast for a story that didn’t exist: a spaceman, a superhuman, a spy, a street crusader, and a science hero. I also had a sleuth, a scoundrel and a soldier, but ran out of real estate. But in case I was asked, I gave these guys a situation just so my rounding up a bunch of random characters to practice my skills in Adobe Illustrator and get some mulch out had a reason for being together. Plus, if you team up two guys, they need something to work on.

So while the stuff below reads like I put thought into it: I didn’t. This is off the cuff, mostly written while I was working out this morning. Any shortcomings in the passage are due to my apparent need for complicating the simple with unnecessary words to accompany what are hopefully pretty pictures.

As to the inspiration of why I did a nonexistent team up cover (okay, COVERS, I’ll give you that much freely) strictly for kicks?

Derrick Ferguson kept posting all those home brews from that guy who does all those crazy Super Team Family fantasy covers.

I mean I could do that.

And, no, this is not going to be a thing afterwards…

…unless you want to know who these guys are. In that case I’ll invite you back to see the same cover…

…but different.

How’s that for leaving them asking for more?

Oh yeah, welcome to DOUBLE DARE ADVENTURES, the best adventure fiction magazine never!

And now, we join our non story, already in progress…

***

For a quietly typical morning in the park: it was unusual. “It” being a piece of personal mail, addressed to him, with a photograph enclosed. The sheet of paper the photo was wrapped in only had one word, typewritten, near the top of the sheet.

“Remember.”

He said the word aloud, as if doing so would initiate… something: a memory, a remnant… a vision. He was waiting for some kind of extraordinary circumstance to come to him as he sat in on a park bench, in the middle of a quiet morning, staring at an old Polaroid showing a record of the impossible. So he did the only thing he could do barring some dramatic sign from the beyond.

He sipped his coffee and examined the clues to hand.

The photo was a thick card. Faded color showing the slight overexposure of the early instant cameras from the 1970s. Without meaning to he smiled. He remembered operating cameras in his childhood with flash powder that fired off a small explosion as a photograph was taken. His memories of sliding heavy plates around evolving to a darkroom full of chemicals evolving, in his lifetime, to the waxy plastic card he stared down at now being the pinnacle of technology.

These days, getting a physical photo sent through the post was an unusual occurrence in an age where technology speeds words, data and images across the globe practically in the moment they’re taken. The speed of life these days was blazing fast and gaining momentum with every second. He hadn’t grown up in this age despite his outward appearance, but he had managed to wrestle the way things worked to his advantage. But this image, this solid piece of hard copy, sent by “snail mail”, defied and thwarted his efforts to apply modern methods to his forensic examination. The photo had no corroborating data. Internet searches, Wikipedia, his backdoors into law enforcement databases – none of them gave him any information to prove this image was genuine. The only identification on the image itself was written in blue ink, he presumed from a ballpoint, a name: Outcast, California, and a date: 1975.

It shouldn’t be, and yet… here it was.

A woman, dressed in what appeared to be a black leather outfit, fighting her way through a mob filled sea of chaos.

And she was wearing a mask.

His mask.

The mask of the Peregrine.

And what he saw going on behind her…

Max Davies took another pull from his morning coffee and turned his attention to the postmark on the envelope. It bore the mark of Outcast, California.

And when he checked for the fifth time last night no such place existed.

Armed with that knowledge this morning, he was surprised to find the state of California had somehow gained twenty miles it didn’t have yesterday.

And in that sudden expansion that no one seemed to notice was a city named Outcast.

So as the sun warmed the morning, Max stared once more at a woman who shouldn’t exist, wearing a mask she shouldn’t have had operating on the West Coast in 1975, in a city that didn’t exist until this morning, fighting…

Good God, was the rest of it even possible?

Max pulled out his phone and chartered a flight to California.

***

“Outcast, California?” Dillon repeated. “No, never heard of it.”

Ambrose Bannon was an agent of ECHO, the Extraordinary Crisis and Hazard Objective, an organization Dillon had encountered in an incident involving a stolen mask that came a little too close to home for him. While he was on friendly terms with one of their contractors, the lovely and talented adventurer Coco Brown, his meeting today was his first with an actual operative with the clandestine agency. Bannon was typical of the agents he had encountered from other organizations in the shadowy alphabet soup of government sponsored intelligence agencies. He was big man and obviously fit, but used to disguising the potential under a nondescript business casual pose. He smiled and easily enough; the manner being casual without being memorable enough to stick with you, but Dillon observed that the pose was just that. While he distracted you with chatter, Bannon was actually sizing a person up. His eyes were actively probing, dissecting, and analyzing every movement and expression. They took in the surrounding area as a matter of habit, leading Dillon to believe the well appointed office they were meeting in didn’t actually belong to Bannon. What was missing, or different at least, was his attitude wasn’t combative. Dillon has gotten used to a certain amount of posturing from these organization types in some hamfisted attempt to establish themselves as alpha dog even when he was being called on willingly to put his talents to work, but Bannon approached Dillon as an equal and a beneficial asset. Despite himself, he concluded that he liked the change and the man behind the desk enough to work with him.

As that realization hit him, Dillon wondered if Bannon was somehow playing his role so well that Dillon was mistaking tradecraft for sincerity. Dillon wondered, for just a second, if he were being played by Bannon.

Bannon slid a manila folder across the desk which derailed the train of thought Dillon was on.

“Well, up until last night, no one else had either because it didn’t exist yesterday.” Bannon tapped the folder in front of Dillon, who picked it up and opened it. “Now, it does. California suddenly gained twenty miles with people to populate it ready made. And in the heart of it…”

“A city called Outcast” Dillon finished, as he flipped through the contents of the folder.

“A city called Outcast”, Bannon repeated as he settled back, with slight uncertainty Dillon noted, into the leather chair that came with the office.

“So how the hell is that possible?” Dillon asked. “And all of this stuff is archival material, most of it from 1975, centered on Outcast and another place, Los Puerta?”

“The city of the gate if I blow the dust off of my high school Spanish,” Bannon replied. “It’s there too along with a bay and a thriving local economy, great arts scene, and a history that didn’t exist until this morning.” Bannon slid a large business envelope across the desk next. “Now, Dillon, take a look at these.”

Dillon exchanged the folder for the envelope which contained photographs. Dillon’s eyes grew wide at the first one and as he flipped through them, they grew wider still at what he saw.

“Is this…?” Dillon asked looking up from an image that by all rights shouldn’t exist.

Bannon nodded.

“Are these…?”

Bannon nodded again.

“Wait, is this guy…?” Dillon handed Bannon the glossy oversized photo he was looking at.

“We think so, yeah.” Bannon answered.

“You realize that’s impossible.”

“The impossible is what we deal in at ECHO, but we know when we’re out of our depth,” Bannon said. “That’s why I asked to see you.”

Dillon filed through the rest of the images. “So who are these folks exactly?”

“You have what we have. Outcast exists but if you go online, it’s always been here; it’s just hard to find anything other than basic information. Strangely, no one outside of agencies like ours seems to notice this has occurred.” Bannon tapped the photo Dillon gave him earlier. “And that guy? He’s the only one of the bunch that you can find by name online anywhere because he’s an unsolved missing person’s case from the 1930s.”

Dillon frowned at that.

“As to who these folks are, the notes you’re reading identify them to a degree. But the basics are: a spaceman, a superhuman, a spy, a street crusader, and a science hero. Beyond that is a mystery with a huge secret at the heart of it,” Bannon said. “Those people and Outcast are at the center of it.”

“And you want me to drop by and bring back postcards from El Dorado.”

“That or answers; we’re not picky, Dillon.” Dillon saw the mask slip slightly and Brannon’s expression betrayed the unmistakable mark of a man who had been up a lot hours working this before Dillon was called. “We’ll meet your fee and expenses, sight unseen, and call upon whatever resources you need and bring in whoever you need for this.”

“What’s Coco Brown up to?” Dillon asked.

“She’s on a job, but aware of the situation,” Bannon replied. “She’s trying to wrap things up and wants in if you need her.”

“Then I guess I should go pack a bag and rent a car and bring you back some answers.” Dillon extended a hand, “Okay, Bannon, I’m in.”

***

Aaaannnnd, end scene.

If you’d like to meet our heroes beyond our heroes, I know a guy who knows a guy who has art and answers.

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Dillon Annual Collection 2018!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW PULP’S MOST EXCITING HERO FINDS A NEW HOME-
DERRICK FERGUSON’S ‘DILLON’ MAKES PRO SE DEBUT WITH 2018 ANNUAL!

When fans of modern Pulp Fiction discuss characters that have made their mark, Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon tops the list. While hitting all the expectations a hero should, Dillon also stands out as a unique character, thanks largely to Ferguson’s skill as a writer. And now, in a showcase of great stories, Pro Se marks Dillon’s first appearance under its banner with DILLON ANNUAL COLLECTION 2018, now available in trade paperback, hardcover, and digital formats.

A soldier of fortune gifted with an astonishing range of remarkable talents and skills that make him respected and feared in the secret world of mercenaries, spies and adventurers. A world inhabited by amazing men and women of fabulous abilities that most of us are unaware even exists. Fueled by a taste for excitement, driven by an overpowering desire to protect the innocent, see that wrongs are righted and assisted by a worldwide network of extraordinary men and women, all experts in their fields, DILLON spans the globe in a never-ending quest for the wildest and most breathtaking adventures of all. 

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In this oversized omnibus of past adventures, Dillon faces new enemies, battles a phantom buccaneer on the shores of Xonira, runs a deadly jungle race against a criminal overlord, battles dangerous agents on a speeding train in an attempt to prevent a kidnapping and spends an unexpected wild night out with celebrity rocker SLY GANTLET, whose life offstage holds some surprising secrets. Pro Se proudly presents its debut of Derrick Ferguson’s International Instigator in some of his wildest adventures in the first ever DILLON ANNUAL COLLECTION!

With an exciting cover, logo design, and print formatting by Sean Ali, DILLON ANNUAL COLLECTION 2018 is available now at Amazon athttps://www.amazon.com/Dillon-Annual-Collection-Derrick-Ferguson/dp/172244357X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1531318009&sr=8-2&keywords=dillon+annual+collection+2018 for 18.00.

This book is also available for $35.99 in hardcover athttp://www.lulu.com/content/hardcover-book/dillon-annual-2018/23102381

Dillon’s Pro Se debut is also available as an Ebook, designed and formatted by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina for only $3.99 for the Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Dillon-Annual-Collection-Derrick-Ferguson-ebook/dp/B07FDHVXVD/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1531321825&sr=1-1&keywords=dillon+annual+collection+2018+kindle. Kindle Unlimited Members can read for free.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies to review this book, contact Pro Se Productions’ Director of Corporate Operations, Kristi King-Morgan at directorofcorporateoperations@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

 

Dillon and The Big Ass Book by Sean E. Ali

To start: I’m okay if I don’t have to work on a DILLON book for bit.

Now I’m saying this in a “Daniel Craig bitching about Bond, but he’s coming back” sort of way, but a few days off from the International Instigator will be nice in the aftermath of my completing the latest book that will be showing up under the Pro Se Press banner. This was a long, mean, ugly slugfest and I for one am glad this particular proof is in the can.

Okay, you’re not used to that level of grousing. Let me explain…

Once upon a time, your partner-in-crime and mine, Derrick Ferguson, tells me he’s mulling over an offer to take Dillon over to Pro Se. He asks my opinion and my response was simple: “So I’m still doing covers and layouts, right?”

Be careful what you wish for, friends and neighbors, because you will probably get it…

…usually between the eyes if you’re not careful.

So fast forward, then stop, then fast forward again and Tommy is looking for a cover for the up coming DILLON book which is being called an annual. So I’m laboring away on that and we already covered the saga of Derrick shooting down the initial idea, so I design a new cover. Derrick approves, Tommy lets out a sigh of relief, I get text and a green light to lay out the book and…

…well this is where it gets a little tricky.

In the interim on the cover art and the redo of same for the annual, Derrick is kicking around another DILLON book idea and discusses it with me in such a way that I run off and do what is the Annual but thinking it’s the other thing Derrick and I were talking about…

So basically I lay out the entire book under the wrong concept and title. To make matters worse, the cover I designed is basically earmarked for a book that’s more or less not written…

…oh and the book I am working on is too thick to work as a standard DILLON or Pro Se book.

So not only do I have to re-set the text of the book (which would eventually take five different attempts and an emergency consult with Derrick to get a solution), I also have to rebrand the book…

…oh and create yet another cover because the cover I have can’t be used yet.

So Derrick suggests the “lost cover” I already discussed in another post…

…but you folks have seen that.

I mean the goal of a cover reveal when the time comes is to have you folks see something new. I’m not saying that cover won’t show up in some form (I’m looking at you DILLON AND THE PROPHECY OF FIRE), but that can’t be here after I’ve already revealed it as invalid.

It would be like hyping an event then pulling the rug out from under folks by not delivering.

So Tommy tells me we had to get the book in by July 4th. I had a completed book, an altered title logo, the guts all worked out and all of that was good to go on July 2nd…

…but no cover.

And I’ll be damned if I’m responsible for Tommy having a heart attack that close to a holiday.

So I started to go with the back up idea based on DILLON AND THE PIRATES OF XONIRA…

…which, by odd coincidence, was the first DILLON book I worked on as a cover artist, and inspired a revamped animated concept you may have seen bits of from me under the header of DILLON AND THE MASK OF AMIRI EZANA…

On paper, that should’ve worked. I had an image already set for the back cover, I’d just drag that puppy to the front and done, right?

Oh man, no, WRONG!

It’s great on the back, stinks on the front. So I spent the 3rd of July creating an all new cover based on PIRATES…

…and I am pleased to say it’s so much better than the other three covers that will never be on this book that I’m almost not exasperated about it.

…almost.

So after all this skin of the teeth designer action…

…I’m kind of glad I’ve got this one in the rear view.

Dillon, my man, I’ll leave the last minute saves to you.

…I need a nap and a vacation.

So coming at some point soon, the DILLON ANNUAL COLLECTION will hit the stands…

…and it’ll be under 500 pages with a damn fine cover.

Okay, if you think it isn’t, keep it to yourself, I’m already seeking counseling for my PDSD (Post DILLON Stress Drama).

So until we do the cover reveal…

Be good to yourselves and each other.

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The Lost Dillon Cover That Wasn’t by Sean E. Ali

So yesterday, Derrick Ferguson and I finally got around to a reveal and his blessing on the cover for Dillon’s first run as a Pro Se Press product…

…no this is the rejected version, I’ve blown the doors off and went in a whole different direction since this first attempt.

But I just had to shout D out for not only having faith in waiting for a final, but giving me some necessary time to deal with matters off camera in the real world which stretched this out longer than intended…

…and before you ask, “personal stuff” is my default answer on the real world stuff I had to deal with…

With a little luck, we’ll have a book to wrap my new bad boy cover around in short order. In the meantime, I’ve got an order to fill for another job I was contracted on just last week which I’m not at liberty to divulge…

So keep your eyes peeled for a DILLON update as soon as I’ve got one for you.

After I clear my plate, I’ll get a taste of Derrick’s side of labor and begin to do a loose framework for DILLON AND THE MASK OF AMIRI EZANA, so he can prop up my own humble efforts of something I wrote for kicks that most of you didn’t see…

So enjoy the lost DILLON cover that wasn’t until we show off the one that is…

…I think you’ll like it.

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Glenn Walker Is Gone And I Really Don’t Know What To Say About That

Maybe it’s because I knew Glenn but then again, I didn’t know him. Like so many of you reading this, I only have become friends with you because we’ve exchanged stories, anecdotes, ideas, life experiences, jokes and tragedies via The Internet. Yes, there’s a shared intimacy on a certain level but most of you I’ll never meet. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t want to. I hope to do so as so many people I’ve met online are some of the most fascinating and interesting people I’ve ever met in my life. Glenn was one of those.

glenn

Glenn wrote for the Biff!Bam!Pop! entertainment website and that was one of the maybe six or seven websites that I would visit every single day while having that most important first cuppa joe in the morning. Thanks to Glenn, I got turned onto a lot of excellent writing and media information via that site and I can’t recommend it enough. Glenn wrote reviews, think pieces, what could be considered op-ed pieces and I would frequently read what he wrote and email him my thoughts and we’d go back and forth for a bit. Not arguing, mind you. But the email discussions were stimulating and Glenn always made me THINK, something I truly value in all my friendships, be they Real or Electronic. You want to be my bosom buddy? Then challenge me and make me THINK.

One of the highest compliments I’ve ever been paid as both a writer and as a human being is when Glenn said in his review of “Dillon and The Legend of The Golden Bell” is that when he was trying to write a story in a pulp style he wrote on a sign “I want to be Derrick Ferguson when I grow up” and taped it on the wall above his desk. He was an enthusiastic Dillon fan and wrote several reviews of two of my Dillon books. We spent many hours online discussing pulp both Classic and New, movies, comics and I always came away both amazed and enriched. I always came away from a conversation with Glenn Walker having learned something new. Because Glenn had more ideas in a hour than most of us have in a week and it came out in his writing, his podcasts and his blog.

Apparently, Glenn was in poor health for a while, something I didn’t know but that was like Glenn and something I suspect we had in common; he wasn’t a complainer so his death took me totally by surprise and affected me in ways I’m sure won’t hit me until later. I’ve lost a few people this year and while they all were deeply affecting, on a whole different level, losing Glenn hurts. I had planned on making it a point on meeting him the next time I went down to Florida and now I’ll never get the opportunity and that is yet another reason to mourn.

But I did know him and that is reason to rejoice. And it gives me more incentive to meet more of my friends who I’ve only known online. So if for no other reason than I can touch them, hug them, share laughs and stories while actually in their company and connect. I think Glenn would approve.

Here’s a link to Glenn’s personal blog; Welcome To Hell. He wrote about movies, television, pop culture…the whole bloody business and he did it with style and grace. You want to honor the memory of the man? Then go read what he wrote.

And here’s a link to a wonderful elegy written by Andy Burns.

And here are links to the reviews Glenn wrote of two Dillon novels. Review that I will always treasure:

Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon and The Legend of The Golden Bell 

Origins of Dillon

The Griot of The Lost Refuge!

I bet you thought we forgot, but we honestly were way too busy at the time to bring you this the penultimate episode of the best animated cartoon miniseries never!

But here it is, the Episode Five of Derrick Ferguson‘s DILLON AND THE MASK OF AMIRI EZANA!

In today’s episode Dillon, Coco Brown, Fortune McCall and the Golden Lady are reunited in time to hear a strange tale from THE GRIOT OF THE LOST REFUGE!

We join our story already in progress…

Dillon and Coco were herded into courtyard. the ground was smoothed and paved in stone that displayed images of ancient warriors in battle with creatures beyond description, an apparent record of the history of the men and women who had surprised them when they approached the hidden city. Dillon was fairly sure that the city, this legendary “Lost Refuge”, had been hidden by something more than natural camouflage. He had spent too much time out in the wild tracking and discovering hidden temples and buried civilizations and there was always something – a marker of some sort, remnants or artifacts… something to indicate that people actively occupying or recently passing through an area had been there in fact as much as fable. The way the ancient structures they entered suddenly appeared was so sudden that it couldn’t be just a trick of light and landscape.

In the center of a circular courtyard, sat a heap of gray cloth, that took the form of a man as they came closer. It was hard to gauge his size and a grim hood obscured his features. From the stiffness of his movements, Dillon presumed the man was quite old. The head beneath the hood craned up but the face was still hidden in gloom despite the small fire blazing before him.

“Do they have it?” The hooded man’s voice was a rasp of sandpaper slowly scraping wood.

The soldier or guard in charge who brought them here nodded. “They do. It led them to us and through the gate without incident.”

“Good, good.” The gray hood nodded slowly. “Bring them closer.”

Dillon and Coco crossed the circle. Dillon’s gaze scanned the courtyard, taking in details and filing them away. Like the weapons his captors carried, the city wasn’t what it seemed to be. The buildings were smooth carved white stone and the architecture resembled what one would find on ancient mosques, but some of the windows were lit from a modern source of illumination despite there being no obvious power generation system that he had been able to determine. The place was a paradox of the ancient and some sort of hidden advanced technology. The “gate” that was referred to wasn’t something that could be seen – one moment, he and Coco were following Fortune McCall’s trail had been blazed an hour or two earlier through a thickly covered jungle, the next they found themselves on a cleared out plain, surrounded by soldiers, with the Lost Refuge laid out before them and no sign of the veldt anywhere near them. Before Dillon or Coco could react, the leader fired off an energy beam from the tip of his spear to discourage any resistance. The soldiers didn’t disarm them, which told Dillon they didn’t feel the weapons the pair had available to them weren’t a viable threat, so they went along quietly. As they stood in front of the hooded man, Dillon was beginning to think maybe he and Coco should’ve taken their chances at the clearing.

“Please, sit. Sit!” The hooded man motioned to several cushions set nearby, some in stone bench frames, but most piled high on the polished pavement near the fire. Dillon settled on those making certain that if the need arose, he could move quickly. Coco followed suit and Dillon could see she was sizing up their host and scanning the area around them. If the hooded man noticed or cared, he made no sign of it outwardly. As they sat, one of the soldiers stepped into an alcove and emerged a few minutes later with a plate of fruit and a pot of tea with three earthen cups. He poured, the drinks, the hooded man took a cup from the tray and sipped gingerly. “You may feel free to join me or not. I do not waste excellent tea and handpicked fruit from my gardens with poison or drugs. You are my guests and your presence is welcome.”

Dillon picked up one of forks on the serving tray, speared a slice of melon, studied it for a moment, and took a bite. The sweetness almost made his toes curl. He waited for the bite to go down and after a few seconds passed with no ill affect, he took another.

“Okay, so we’re welcome guests here,” Dillon said finishing the first slice and spearing a second with his fork. “Just guests that require twenty armed men with laser weapons to stand around while we make nice.” Dillon’s fork made an arc, taking in the soldiers standing alert and ready. “I sure feel cozy.”

The hooded man nodded at the lead guard who made a gesture to his men who promptly melted away into the corridors that led to the greater city beyond the courtyard. Besides Dillon, Coco, and the hooded man; the lead guard and three of his men remained in the courtyard but far enough back to be considered a respectful distance for conversation. “Good. Good. Now before we begin, I have one last loose end to tie up with you. Bring them.” The head guard nodded and disappeared for a few moments. When he returned, the Golden Lady and Fortune McCall were in tow.

“I return your friends to you,” the hooded man said. “They have served their purpose by getting you here.”

McCall and the Golden Lady crossed over to Dillon and Coco. “They got the drop on me, Dillon,” McCall began.

“Don’t sweat it,” Dillon said cutting him off. “They jumped us too, probably the same way.”

“Is that better for you, Mr. Dillon?”

Dillon started to ask how the hooded man knew him, but considering everything that had gotten him to this point, he simply assumed that his name had preceded his actual presence for a bit. “That’s fine. Thanks.”

“I presume you have questions,” the hooded man plucked a slice of mango from the plate. “I probably have answers to most if not all of them. However I have one first: Where is the mask of Amiri Ezana?”

Dillon knew, they knew he had it. He slid the pack he was wearing from his shoulders, fished around inside and pulled up the bag he had secured the mask in when he and Coco recovered it in Kaizaro. Dillon loosened the drawstring and pulled the opening loose.

The mask of Amiri Ezana was glowing for the first time since that night he first encountered it in the Golden Lady’s tower. It gently rose out of the bag and hovered obediently between Dillon and the hooded man. The fire was almost directly below the mask and the light of the flames cast shadows on the mask making it seem like a living thing.

“At last!” The hooded man exhaled heavily as if he had been holding that particular breath for several eternities with infinities to go.

“You didn’t say the mask did tricks, Dillon,” Coco said sitting next to him. She seemed mesmerized by the floating mask which held her attention, Coco’s focus went from the mask to Dillon. “What the hell is going on? What’s this about?”

“That, young lady, is why we are gathered here” the hooded man said. “It is a relic finally returned to its rightful home and it is time to fulfill the destiny it was created for.”

“And that is?” Coco asked.

“A story I’m about to share”, the hooded man replied.

“Great”, said Dillon, “You can start with who you are, what this place is and maybe explain why the mask is doing…” Dillon waved a hand in the direction of the floating, glowing mask, “…whatever the hell you call that.”

The hooded man chuckled softly. “The mask is doing what it normally does when it’s near one who has plumbed its secrets. I? I wear many names, Mr. Dillon, but for the next few moments, I am merely a griot with a story to tell. I trust you will grant me time to tell it since it is necessary you understand what has come before in order to understand what will follow.” Coco began to say something, but a look from Dillon made her pause. She was about to ask about what was following what, but Dillon’s look seemed to say that he wanted this self-appointed griot to spin his story uninterrupted. “As to the name of this place, it, like me has many names. Some call it the “Quiet Place”, others the “Palace of Whispers”, most know it as the “Lost Refuge” – but its proper name to us who live here is Chigaro cheMambo.”

Dillon thought he recognized the words, but couldn’t place the language exactly. He ran through a few phrases, things one picks up crisscrossing the globe over the years. No it wasn’t Kissi, or Maasai, or Jalaa… Shona, it was Shona. Something to do with kings…

“So ‘Land of the King’?” Dillon asked.

“Seat, Mr. Dillon, Seat of the King to be exact.” The griot nodded beneath is hood. “You are as advertised and as expected, Mr. Dillon. Very good.”

Dillon looked surprised. “Seat of the King? That’s —“

“Correct again, Mr. Dillon. That is a story from your childhood, is it not?” The hooded man took another sip of tea. “I trust I have your full attention now?”

It was Coco’s turn to look at Dillon in surprise. “The Seat of the King? What are you two talking about?”

Dillon spoke, but did not take his eyes off the griot as he answered. “The Seat of the King is part of a legend of a wandering warrior king who was considered to be one of the greatest protectors of Shamballah and was the first true Warmaster of Liguria. But…” Dillon’s expression was intense, like he was trying to pull a detail from his memory that refused to budge. “…no, there’s something else. The details are right, but they’re not right at the same time.”

“Considering the last time you heard the story, you were probably a boy, that is astoundingly good, Mr. Dillon.” The griot was staring right at Dillon and yet the glow of the firelight couldn’t penetrate the shadow the hood cast to clearly make out the man’s features. “The part you missed was the warrior’s original home before he began his travels and why he was wandering the world in the first place.”

“A castaway warrior king,” Dillon said absently. It was obvious he was trying to pull together the details of the legend he recognized. “He caged a demon, but his people cast him out because he became the monster he defeated.”

“Their belief was the warrior king became the evil he fought. The truth was he finally found clarity. He became both the light and the dark,” the griot said. “He became sure of his purpose and that purpose was to lead. To rule. To eradicate the darkness with light and if that wasn’t possible, with a greater darkness than what his foes could muster.” Coco started. She was fairly sure that the griot’s voice was changing, becoming richer and less raspy. “He, and his followers, were cast out of their lost paradise into the world outside by those who feared the power he discovered. To insure that he was never able to return, they locked away his access to their realm by hiding their land from human eyes as well as his own.”

“But not before draining away some of the power he gained.” Dillon’s eyes seemed to focus on some distant marker in his past that no longer existed, but nonetheless foretold of a hazard to come. “It was said they took the very heart of his power as he was exiled. That energy was locked away in a totem and…”

“Patience, Dillon,” the griot said. “There is more to tell. For a time the warrior king wandered the world until he and his followers found Shamballah. They fought, and even ruled there. They formed the core of what would eventually become the Warmasters of Liguria and were also the source for many of the martial arts found throughout what you call Asia and Africa. Their battles were glorious! The Pale Colossus of Shanto, The Night Lords of the Bygone Land, the Deathwalker, the Fourth Child of Doom – so many foes and each one that was defeated restored some of the power the Castaway King.

As they journeyed through the outside world, their fame brought them followers. Warriors who thought that they could become part of the legendary band, but at best could serve as vassals. Pieces to employ as agents among the peoples of the outside world.”

“Like the Azure Dragons,” Coco said.

“Yes, child.” The griot’s hood dipped slightly in her direction. “The Dragons were probably the greatest and most loyal of those outside the Castaway King’s circle of true warriors. Their enthusiasm at being considered the elite among their peers made them the perfect arm into the outside world while the Castaway King and his people looked for a place to settle and wait until they found the means to return to their homeland. Eventually they found an area that was lush, green and full and this place was built as a home to those who served the Castaway King.”

“So this ‘Castaway King’ is dead and gone by now, right?“ Coco’s sentence trailed off as she saw the stricken expression on Dillon’s face. “Dillon?”

“I don’t think so, Coco…” Dillon stared hard at the mask as the light it radiated intensified. He frowned and started to reach for his gun.

The Golden Lady took in a sharp breath. “Dillon the mask!”

“Ah,” the griot rose from his sitting position to his full height and towered over Dillon who rose at the same time. “You’ve figured it out, but you’re too late!” With a savage jerk, the griot tore away his hooded robes to reveal a powerfully built black man with a well groomed goatee covering strong features. He snatched the mask from the air and placed it over his face. As he did so the mask seemed to melt into the flesh it touched and as the man took his hands away from his face, Dillon and Coco saw that the two had somehow merged. The markings on the mask; the gold and pearl crown were now blended into his features.

“And I have you to thank for reuniting me with the totem that held the last of my power. I am Amiri Ezana, the Castaway King, and the one true Warrior Lord of —“

“Usimi Dero,” Dillon said with a whisper.

Amiri Ezana smiled and the aspect of the mask that conformed to his features stretched them into something hideous – an expression that bore the mark of evil and madness behind the pools of molten gold his eyes had become.

Coco placed a hand on Dillon’s shoulder as she looked up at Amiri Ezana. “So how exactly does the legend end?”

Dillon looked at her and pulled his Jericho. “Doesn’t matter, C. We’re gonna have to do a rewrite.”

“I was really hoping you weren’t going to say that.”

Amiri Ezana laughed. “I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you, the children of Usimi Dero are going home. It is a truth that is out of your hands.

“Don’t think so,” Dillon replied. “You just melded with a mask from a time when you were bat-shit crazy,” Dillon took aim. “I think the last thing I’m about to do is let you go on a field trip to the old neighborhood and see what goes down next.”

“Pity,” Amiri Ezana said with the hint of a sigh. “I’ll just have to destroy the world without an audience.”

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We Join Our Story, Already In Progress…

And the greatest cartoon miniseries never is BACK!

Today, Dillon finally gets a line on the Mask of Amiri Ezana and is in the middle of trying to recover it in Kaizaro in the African nation Orlorei. Riding shotgun with him is Agent Brown a freelance investigator working for a spy agency Dillon’s never even heard of called ECHO in today’s episode of Derrick Ferguson‘s DILLON AND THE MASK OF AMIRI EZANA: SHOWDOWN IN THE SILVER SPHERE!

We join our story, already in progress.

As he fell in behind Agent Brown, Dillon was still being surprised by her. She was a deceptive package: gorgeous, funny, and a seasoned pro that he’d easily rank up there with any of the operators he’d encountered in his adventures. Right now though, he was glad she was with him as they ascended the last level of the building below the distinctive globe that took up. They’d been fighting Azure Dragons since they set foot across the lobby and it was a running battle that had cost them time as whatever the hell the mask of Amiri Ezana was needed for was coming to a head. Brown, stopped short, placing her hand on Dillon’s chest. The wicked looking jet black modified Pepperbox pistol she carried seemed to just appear from thin air.

“We’ve got company,” she said softly. She threw back her hair and slipped on a pair of wraparound black sunglasses. She tapped the frame with a delicate finger. “I’m picking up three, maybe four heat signatures nearby. We’ve got a few minutes though, they may still be waiting on a call from that guy with the radio downstairs.”

“Okay,” Dillon nodded at Brown’s glasses, “how do those work?”

“Standard ECHO tech – the glasses have multiple functions built in. The heat signature thing is meant to be used in night vision situations, but I use it like limited radar through the HUD.”

“And I didn’t get those before we came here because —“

“You didn’t ask?” Brown chuckled as she replied. “They just handed me a pair because I said I needed a way to get data updates on the fly.”

“Seriously?”

“A closed mouth, don’t get fed, Dillon.”

“Seems like a small bunch,” Dillon said steering the conversation back to the current situation. “You’d think with all the Dragons we’ve put down so far, there’d be a bigger bunch protecting the mask.” Dillon pulled his Jericho, “In fact I’m surprised the local law hasn’t dropped by to investigate why a couple of those Dragons wound up high diving into the sidewalk outside.”

“Past them is the elevator to the exclusive floors in the Silver Sphere. I think this bunch is a patrol. As to the fallen Dragons, if there’s one thing they do well in Kaizaro, it’s cater to the whims of the wealthy.” Agent Brown expelled a sigh, “Public Works will mop them up and pretend the whole thing was a performance art piece with digitally altered footage for the news.”

“Well I figure we can handle this,” Dillon said.

Agent Brown flashed Dillon another one of those damn smiles that made him forget they were in a situation where a building full of assassins were trying to kill them. “Baby, we had this before we showed up. If it gets too heavy, You get to the elevator and I’ll hold things down here.”

“You sure about that?”

“If I wasn’t, it doesn’t matter,” Agent Brown responded. “This is the job.”

Dillon smiled “When this is over, we’re going out.”

“You think so?” Brown said absently.

“A closed mouth, don’t get fed, Brown.”

“Um-hmm,” Brown replied, Dillon was rewarded with a smirk that seemed to promise that if they did make it, she just might let him take her out.

“Okay, it’s almost showtime,” Brown said, her voice dropping to a whisper.

“One last thing though,” Dillon said.

“What’s that?”

“I’m not calling you “Agent Brown” on date night.”

“Coco.”

If Dillon had been drinking water, he knew that was a spit take. “Come again?”

Brown sighed and grinned, “Here we go…”

“You’re joking with me though, right? Who names their kid ‘Coco Brown’?”

“My Pops thought ‘Constance Corrine’ was beautiful at the hospital, it was ‘Coco’ by the time Momma got home from the hospital,” Brown said.

Dillon nodded, “Okay, Coco Brown, let’s get ready to mash on these last Dragons.”

Coco, heard Dillon stifling a snicker, “Well laugh it up, big man, but do me a favor.”

“What’s that?”

“Be careful with the jokes if you ever meet my aunt. She don’t play that.”

“And her name is?”

“Later. Here we go!”

Three Azure Dragons emerged from the corridor near the elevator bank and Dillon’s eye flashed gold as soon as he saw the man at point: Xuanzhuan Siwang.

“Man I am getting tired of that little bastard!”

Coco checked her Pepperbox a last time. “Well handle your business, I can hold down the other two.”

“Bet. Just don’t kill them, we still need to locate the mask.”

Coco sprang from their cover gun blazing. She fired wide to scatter them and choose her target. She was a crimson and black blur as she went for the Dragon to the left of Xuanzhuan Siwang. She went from a full run to a slide that dropped her below the blade swung at her. She let her momentum carry her between the blade and knee, of the Dragon and Coco hammered both fists into the man’s groin. The Dragon groaned sucked in air and his eyes bugged out like an old Warner Brothers cartoon wolf, and Coco came up from her slide, pivoted and hammered the Dragon in the back of the neck where the base of the skull met up with the spinal cord. Already dazed, the Dragon was slammed face first into the unyielding floor.

She was already in motion for the next man as Xuanzhuan Siwang and Dillon began to square off. They had encountered one another enough over the last couple of weeks to know what they were dealing with. Dillon knew the second he saw his opening, he had to roll on Xuanzhuan Siwang hard and fast. He had already holstered his gun so he wouldn’t give in to the urge to let off a shot that could go astray. The last thing he needed was to be distracted against a man who showed he was more than capable of taking Dillon down.

So, of course, that’s when the whole damn situation went sideways as the elevator bells dinged across the row of elevators going up to the Silver Sphere and vomited a squadron of Azure Dragons. Dillon and Coco were easily outnumbered twenty to one.

“I shall be the one to bury you, dead man.” Xuanzhuan Siwang smiled. “But I will take my time, make you beg for death and deny you that death for as long as I possibly can. You will…”

“Dillon, is this guy going to talk us to death or what?” Coco Brown had her gun up and was sweeping the circle of Dragons who were apparently waiting for the order to take them.

Dillon played along. “He’s like that, Coco. The man is a damn chatterbox.”

Xuanzhuan Siwang went from smug to confused. He opened his mouth to speak when from the floor below came a tide of ECHO agents and a battle royale nobody asked for took off on its own. Xuanzhuan Siwang didn’t wait, the Dragons had turned their attention to the ECHO agents, while he exercised the better part of valor and scrambled for the elevator.

“Oh HELL no!” Dillon bellowed as he smashed through combatants on both sides, bulling his way through the melee in pursuit. Xuanzhuan Siwang had reached the car and slapped the button to the floors above. The doors had nearly closed when Dillon squeezed through like a man late for an interview. Xuanzhuan Siwang flattened against the wall of the car. “Not possible!”

“Okay, Siwang,” Dillon’s gold flecked eyes narrowed, “let’s see who’s burying who today.”

With a snarl, Xuanzhuan Siwang sprung towards Dillon.

Dillon smiled. “You know, I think I’m gonna miss your crazy ass when this is all over.”

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Now Before We Begin The Next Episode…

Now before we begin the next episode…

This is a bit of conjecture on my part because I was having fun with visuals which means I ignored Dillon’s continuity a bit when mixing the mess together…

…so any resemblance to characters already wandering in Dillon’s universe are purely coincidental…

…and kinda sorta intentional as you’re about to see…

Also parts 4, 5, and 6 were in various stages of production before the muse took a nap. They’ll appear as completed. But thanks for allowing me to indulge myself and then be a public exhibitionist gluing words together for a story that doesn’t exist…

…yet.

To be continued….

And now, episode three of Derrick Ferguson‘s DILLON AND THE MASK OF AMIRI EZANA, already in progress…

The gambling room exploded into chaos.

Dillon and Xuanzhuan Siwang crashed through the doors from the deck in a tangle of limbs. The little man still held on to his massive bagua dao, and Dillon was doing his best to keep it out of play by shifting his weight so his left arm pinned down Siwang’s sword hand. Dillon’s right kept busy by delivering three sharp rabbit punches that collided with the side of Siwang’s head enough to rock him. Dillon was a little startled that his blows didn’t have a greater effect. He once decked a sailor who was twice the size in a bar in Casablanca with two blows of similar force – Siwang just looked mildly annoyed. Dillon felt the little man squirm away from under him, he was trying adjust himself to regain his advantage when he felt something graze his chest before his chin caught a blow so hard that his teeth slammed together with an audible clack.

The crowd didn’t need much more incentive than that, the room became a madhouse of screaming and panicked patrons crowding the exits in their frenzy to get out of the path of giant sword as it arced up into Siwang’s left hand. Dillon’s floundering around had temporarily numbed his favored arm. Unlike their earlier encounters though, it was obvious to Dillon that Siwang wasn’t expecting him to be on board this particular gambling ship, especially one in waters off the African coast so very far from the shores of Xonira. As Dillon sidestepped a heavyset woman in a shimmering sequin gown who wore so much perfume it made his eyes water, he saw Siwang’s glare taking in the room.

“I am not here for you, dead man,” Siwang said coldly. “If you try to hinder me, your death will occur far more painfully than the one I’ve consigned you to.”

Dillon’s eyes flared their molten gold fury back, “Look, are we gonna fight or are you gonna haiku me to death?”

They were both looking for an opening when a door opened from behind Dillon and the dapper man who owned the vessel cum fight club stormed into the room.

“Trevor, what the hell is going on?!”

Dillon didn’t have a chance to respond to his host who until now, assumed that the man calling himself “Trevor St. Simon” was just a guy trying to work his passage off after being caught as a stowaway after they left Xonira last week. Siwang’s expression changed with the entrance of the new arrival.

“He is here,” Siwang said calmly. “STRIKE!”

And the gambling room exploded into chaos yet again as men stormed in from the galley and from below decks. Dillon counted six, maybe seven some carrying guns, some carrying deadly looking blades much like the one Siwang just shifted over to his right hand. From the grin on his face, Dillon didn’t bother to wait, he was already in motion and airborne, tackling his host hard enough that the momentum pushed them both behind the the marble bar that he knew was reinforced with a steel core for situations like this. Siwang’s Azure Dragon brothers also performed on instinct, cutting lose with a hail of bullets.

“Trevor, what the hell —“

“Not Trevor”, Dillon said pulling his back up gun from the ankle holster he wore, “my name is Dillon.”

“Trev- wait, did you say ‘Dillon’?”

“Yep.” Dillon popped up from behind the bar, let lose three shots, then dropped down in time to miss the next volley of bullets twanging off the imported marble which seemed to be protesting the indignity.

“Dillon the wanted terrorist Dillon?”

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” Dillon popped up again got off another four shots and was rewarded with two men dropping as he dropped down to reload.

“So wait a minute, these guys are here trying to capture you?!”

“Nope.” Another volley cut into the bar. Dillon had managed to reload, but once he emptied this clip, things got dicey. “I think they’re out to get you.”

“For what?” Dillon caught the exasperated surprise from his companion.

“You tell me, man,” Dillon replied, “I’m a stranger here, myself.”

Dillon popped up, got off four more rounds and dropped at least one more man. He also noted the knives were at the ready. As he dropped down he heard his companion hiss, “Aw, HELL, no!”

Dillon wasn’t expecting what happened next. The man next to him smacked a panel and an old fashioned tommy gun slid out from a concealed panel. His host caught it smoothly cocked it and came up blasting. The Dragons who were behind the remaining gunmen started to scramble, the gunmen were trying to sight, and return fire while running. The tommy, was too busy redefining the meaning of spitting lead to be concerned. When his host dropped back behind the bar, he looked at Dillon who seemed to have a question, but wasn’t quite sure how to phrase it. the smaller man reached across to another panel and slammed it open. He leaned in grabbed a smooth black case and opened it.

“Okay,” he yelled over the counter. “If anyone’s still left out there breathing and in a fighting mood, I’m not having it. You’ve obviously gotten the rest of the crew out the way, so here’s how this goes: I’m armed, I’m pissed I’m gonna have to close this room off for the rest the damn voyage plus renovate when we put in which is going to cost me time and money, and I just got my uzis out of cold storage. I don’t give a rat’s ass why you’re here, but if you’re not out when I come up, I’m sending everyone home in some of the best goddamned Tupperware money can buy.”

They heard some grunting and movement that sounded like bodies being dragged away.

“I see, I now have two dead men to contend with.” Dillon sighed. Siwang was still among the living.

“Whatever, punk,” Dillon’s companion roared. “Just get the hell off my boat before I have to get rowdy. You ain’t ready to see that kind of ugly, son.”

More dragging came to their ears along with the opening and closing of doors.

From farther away than the last time he spoke, Siwang said, “This is not over.”

“Oh it’s over,” Dillon’s companion yelled back. “Our next conversation starts with a bullet in your behind as our ice breaker. Now get to gettin’!”

They heard the sound of the door opening and closing a final time. Both men sat behind the bar an extra minute listening to bits of marble giving up the effort to hang on to the whole.

“So,” Dillon’s host said absently.

“So,” Dillon replied.

“They say you killed a lot of good people back in Xonira.”

Dillon sighed and shook his head. “Wasn’t me.”

“The little dude with the giant butterknife?”

“Yep.”

“Figured.”

Dillon leaned around the bar. “No one’s waiting to kill us.”

“Day’s looking up.”

“Yep.”

“Well, I don’t know about you, but as soon as I check on the crew —“

Dillon raised a finger. “Down in the hold. I stumbled on them when you sent me downstairs for more champagne. My good friend “Whirling Death” turned up before I could get them loose.”

“Ah,” his host reached for his hat which he had put on a shelf under the bar earlier. He plopped the gray fedora on his head and rose. “I guess I’ll go straight to the having a drink portion of the rescue then.” He sorted through the mess that was once an impressive array of spirits, grimaced, and reached under the counter. “Well, I guess it really is your lucky day, Mr. Dillon. It’s Demerara.”

“Works for me.” Dillon rose and looked at the open case. He laughed and shook his head.

“What?”

“Nothing, man. Pour.” Dillon watched as his host gave up a generous portion of the bottle, Dillon could afford to nurse his favorite rum for a moment. “I think I figured out why the Azure Dragons were so hot to do whatever they planned to do to you.”

Dillon’s host took a sip of his drink and tipped back the fedora. “Do tell.”

“You’re linked to Khusra royalty aren’t you?”

Dillon’s companion burst out laughing, “Man, no! I’ve enjoyed a quiet life of exile from there for the last few decades. If I’m connected to anything, it’s a bunch of folks still mad that I’m running a literal floating crap game and own my own island with a casino resort that’ll put any house on Star Island or Vegas to shame.”

Dillon frowned. The man before him had a history of being evasive, but he let it lie. “What about what’s in the case here?”

His host smiled realizing why Dillon laughed a few minutes ago. he dipped his hand into the case and took out a gray duster overcoat. He slid into it easily, and checked himself in the one mirrored pane that remained intact.

“Well if I was going to die today, I was going to look my best.”

“You told the man you had uzis.”

“I did.”

“What under the coat?” Dillon looked back at the case but didn’t see anything obvious in its construction to presume there were a pair of uzis hidden away.

“Nope.” Dillon’s companion walked over to a spot in the middle of the room. He reached over the roulette table and flipped a hidden switch. A drawer sprung out and Dillon could see the familiar squat shape of two uzis and enough ammo to hold off a few dozen men if necessary.

“So you’re saying…”

“They were under our friends out here,” Dillon’s host said. “Good thing we weren’t in the billiard room, I’ve got two old school bazooka launchers behind the cue rack.”

“So you bluffed them.”

“I’m a gambler, Mr. Dillon. Now, let’s get the crew out of the hold and the passengers back to Fortune’s Cove and then try to figure out why the Azure Dragons are looking to eliminate the wrong man, not to mention the wrong generation of Fortune McCall.”

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