Doctor Dynasty felt the hollow point bullets stab at the front of his Kevlar jacket like a thousand angry wasps. One broke through, piercing his skin, and he cried out in pain as the force of the bullet onslaught drove him back against the wall.

Tecton stared at him, his lank ocean blue hair stuck to his face as the rain poured down. The Dark City only knew rain and clouds and night. Nothing else.

His mercenaries kept firing as the man was pinned against the crumbled wall and brickwork and plaster crumbled onto him.

He fell face down into a gigantic puddle, the bullets pressing further into his Kevlar. Two more broke through, and he felt himself begin to bleed heavily.

The men surrounded him, raising their M15s at his head. Dynasty lifted his head from the ground and stared up at the mercenaries with a smile from underneath polymer mask. He put a hand to his chest and pullet out the bullets in a single flourish and flung his hand out.

The bullets lodged in the mercenaries and they cried out, grabbing at legs and arms and groins. One misfired, emptying his magazine into the wall.

Tecton screamed and raised his pistol at the man in the dark cloak.

Dynasty looked back at him from behind the mask. Two wet black circles glistened behind the mask.

“Your little game is over Tecton. I—“


Dynasty looked up with a slight surprise as he dropped the smoke bomb and disappeared into the mists. Tecton kept firing into the smoke until his gun clicked. When the smoke cleared, Doctor Dynasty was gone.

A sudden stretch of fierce wind hit his side and the water was knocked out of his lank blue hair.

The man in purple spandex with black lightning bolts as irises drew up to him.

“Tecton, what the hell are you doing!?”

“Uh, I was shooting at Dynasty. That’s what we do, Swiftlord.”

The man in purple spandex gestured to the groaning mercenaries lying in the rain. One had curled around a selection of wet cardboard sheeting in a dumpster, using the soggy detritus to stem his bloodflow.

“Your men, Tecton! Your men! Tell Dynasty that you’ll see him another time and that he’ll rue this day! You don’t just fire at him in the middle of him speaking!”

“But, uh, we’re trying to kill him. Aren’t we, Swiftlord?”

Swiftlord sighed and Tecton felt another gust of wind as he disappeared and he looked down to see his men nursing bandaged limbs.

Swiftlord stopped at the entrance of the alleyway and turned back.

“We just don’t work like that. You know that.”

Another gust of wind barrelled down the alleyway and then he was gone in a flash of bright purple that seemed to hover in the glint of the burning streetlamps.

The mercenaries growled and made their way out of the alleyway. And Tecton was lift, abandoned. He stood in the rain for a while and thought over his options.

Something was wrong. He was to kill Doctor Dynasty, Caped Hero and Masked Crusader. That had always been the drill. It just didn’t make sense.

As he left the alleyway, he felt a chill in the night air. The rain turned to hail as he sat down in a local cafè, open all night. The owner was polishing glassware, ignoring the noise outside as shards of hail rained down. The road itself frosted over and several cars skidded on the road as they shot by, headlights flashing and horns blaring. The glass itself began to frost over and Tecton let out a long sigh. Another one.

The bell above the door dinged and Tecton looked up from his coffee.

“I am to understand you fired upon Dynasty with intent to kill. Is this true, Tecton?”

“Hey man, I don’t want any trouble here. If you could just leave then I won’t have to call the cops on-”

A flurry of white followed by screaming and then nothing.

Snowstorm took off his circular shades revealing eyes as blue as duck eggs. He ditched his ancient fur robe on the counter along with his massive Frostgun, easily the size of a toddler, illuminated with hundreds of blue LED’s. The poor cashier stood behind the counter, his arms comically outstretched with a look of fear on his face. His body was encased in an inch of incredibly thick ice.

“I do not think your actions have been wise, friend. Would you not agree?”

“Snowstorm, I talked to Swiftlord about this. We’ve been trying to stop Dynasty for…”

Tecton lowered his coffee mug. The coffee itself had frozen into an icy brown slurry in the presence of Snowstorm, who radiated cold from his aged body. Tecton looked down at the cup and thought for a moment. How long had they been trying to kill Dynasty for? Wait…kill?

That sounded wrong to Tecton. Stop; that was the word he remembered. Stop Dynasty.

“I suppose I didn’t need to shoot at him.”

Snowstorm nodded and collected his coat and slung his gigantic gun over his shoulder. He put on his circular shades and headed towards the door. The bell chimed again.

Tecton got to his feet and left. He pressed two dollars onto the table and wandered out. The cafè just felt too cold.

As he was walking back to his apartment, his phone chimed.

He looked down at his message.

DH: Crouch

Tecton ducked and the two gold-plated shuriken flew over his head, burying themselves into the wall.

“What the—“

He covered his air as a strange beeping noise blared out, covering up his curse word.

Golden Crane stared at him in confusion. His gold plated skin glowed in the streetlights and he tapped his golden cane twice on the pavement.

“What did you say?”

“You could have got me killed, Crane! Why the…why did you do that?”

He shrugged. “It was just a joke, it wasn’t going to hurt you or anything. Watch.”

He threw another two, which sailed past his head and buried into the wall. And another two. And another. Even as Tecton flinched away, he got the idea that the projectiles couldn’t harm him.

The Golden Crane dipped a hand into the pocket of his ghee and pulled out two dollars.

“You left these in the cafè.” said The Golden Crane. “Paying for things? You’re a criminal, Tecton? I didn’t believe Swiftlord and Snowstorm when they told me you’d gone loopy, but this all but proves it!”

Tecton opened his mouth to respond, but the Golden Crane had already dropped a smoke bomb in the shape of a Lucky Cat and disappeared in a cloud of golden smoke.

The rain continued to fall as Tecton saw something on the rooftops, silhouetted against the blackest night.

He shook his head.

“The blackest night? What?”

His head hurt. Something was off, and something was wrong with the city. Something was wrong with…with the…

“Where am I?” Tecton muttered to himself. He grimaced. He thought to himself for a while.

‘It’s dark and it’s a city. But the Dark City? What kind of a name is that? It should be called something like Darktown. Or Blackcity. Or G-AUGH!”

His head lit up in agony and he fell to the ground. Something about that word. He tried to remember the word.

He tried thinking of the word again. “G. G-something. Goh-AUGH!”

He felt his vision blur. He felt sick. There was some sort of force trying to stop him. He swayed through the rainy city, moving through mist-cloaked streets. Three arrows fired at his feet and a man standing atop an abandoned jeep front-flipped off and readied his longbow.

Dusthawk called after him. “Where are you going? Come back! We have a meeting!”

He fired another arrow that missed Tecton by a hair.

Are you working for Doctor Dynasty, you rogue!?” yelled Dusthawk.

Tecton turned back to him.

“No,” he replied. “I’m going to go and kill him.”

Dusthawk lowered his bow. His face became fearful, childlike.

“Um. We don’t do that.”


“No, he comes and stops us. We don’t go to his lair.”


Dusthawk looked at him sheepishly. The red, blue and green pulsing light from the wire of his longbow, Palasis, flickered.

“We… Uh. We don’t think that’s fair. I think.”

Dusthawk touched the bridge of his nose and then shook his head, as if dislodging a particularly bad thought or memory.

“Come back to our Evil Empire Headquarters. We’ll talk to Godslayer and he’ll find a weakness in one of the walls of Dynasty Manor and smash his way in, you’ll follow with your guns. Then Snowstorm will drop his Snowbombs down the chimney and I’ll drop down and fire some arrows at his butler, Winfred and-

“What are you talking about?” said Tecton. “I’m just going to round and kill him.”

Dusthawk rubbed his left shoulder and winced. “We don’t really do that. It’s just, you know it’s not what we do, right?”

“But we’re trying to stop him, right?”

“Yeah but you can’t just kill him,” Dusthawk replied. “Where are your guns anyway?”

Tecton reached into the inside of his jacket and pulled out a banana that was also a pipe wrench and a ruler and a pen and—

Dusthawk and Tecton gripped their heads as the headaches wracked them. Tecton pocketed the pen just as he noticed it was also simultaneously a pair of sunglasses and a flashlight.

Dusthawk staggered back and then ran back down the street, a look of horror on his face. The multicoloured string of his bow glinted in the puddles and car windows as he ran.

Tecton was about to call out to him, but thought better of it, turned back, and headed through the rain towards Dynasty Manor.

Tecton blinked. He blinked again. Dynasty Manor rose up in front him, all 18 stories of crumbling gothic architecture in the winking twilight.

Tecton squinted. Hadn’t it been a raining night only a minute ago? And how had he got to Dynasty Manor so fast?

He headed towards Dynasty Manor and noticed that gigantic gargoyles were carved on the side of the building, their faces strange facsimiles of Doctor Dynasty’s face.

Tecton shook off the weird gargoyles and headed towards the floor, but there was no need. The man in the cape was rushing towards him. His biceps rippled as he ran and his mask was askew. There was a slight look of terror on his face as Tecton reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out his spatula that was also a carrot that was also a—

He shot Doctor Dynasty in the face three times and he felt to the ground. He gripped his mask and tugged. As he did so, the entire world seemed to slip like a curtain with a faulty rail. It wobbled like gelatin and then slid like oil and dripped the water. The trees and flowers in the dusk flickered and Tecton could see the concrete walls behind them. Behind them? In front of them? Where did everything go? The last lights of the day flickered and Tecton realised it was simply a lightbulb, far above him. He reach for his own polymer mask and tugged it off. His hands suddenly felt weaker. Limper.

As the mask came off, he noticed that his arms were wrinkled and covered in liver spots. He saw his reflection in the mirror that swam into his view and saw that he was old. Very old.

And then he realised it wasn’t a mirror. He was looking at his reflection in a large vat filled with blue liquid.

“Snowstorm’s not really functioning,” mumbled a voice from the ground. “He’s alive inside the Escape, but his physical body is dead. Soon even his brain will die and his synapses will wither away. I expected that contingency. I did not expect you.”

Tecton looked down at a bespectacled man holding his hands across his face. He was four foot tall, curled into his knees, tears rolling down his face. He looked like an infinitely old child.

He pointed up at a computer screen above that seemed to have folded out of the sky. Tecton stared at the glowing green letters displayed.

Empire of Evil.

Swiftlord = Evil[FAST LIGHTNING MAN].b.console; dress{PURPLE}

Godslayer = Evil[GREEN ANGRY SUPERHERO].b.console; colourskin{RED} add{bloHAIR}* add{xLONG}*

Golden Crane = function(Evil)[THE/ONE].b.console; colourskin{GOLD} addweaponattack {SHURIKEN}

Duskhawk = function(Evil)[CROSSBOW SUPERHERO].b.console; weaponattack {longbow}

Snowstorm = function(Evil)[MISTERF].b.console; dress{OLD ROBE} add{xAGE}

Tecton = function(Evil)[M̵̡̘̣̿Í̷͙͙̭̰͂͊̊S̷̲̹̦͑S̶̖͍̹̫̃I̸̙̐̇́͗Ṉ̸̋̌͆G̶̹͍͇̋̈́̄N̶̞̙̍Ȏ̶̝].b.console; hair{BLUE} and e̵͓͖̐̄̉r̴̦̐̕r̷̫̤͌̚ỏ̸̧̧̹̩̃̈́ṛ̶͕̋͜


Tecton rubbed his eyes and the room seemed to swim into focus. He looked behind him and saw a broken vat, translucent fluid soaking into the floor.

“You were safe in there,” the man on the floor whispered.

“My name is Tecton. What is your name, foe?”

“Ralph,” he said. Tired. Going. Gone. “And your name isn’t Tecton. It’s Joe. Joe, Sydney, Neville, Sam, Tom and Ryan.

Tecton looked at the other vats. In each one, a different colour fluid floated. Blue, green, orange, red, purple and yellow.

“Which one is which?”

“Was. And it doesn’t matter, now.”

“Look, I need to stop Doctor Dynasty. Do you know where he is?”

Ralph chuckled, weakly. He coughed blood that splattered on the dirt as Tecton realised it was hard concrete floor and realised that his name was Joe Briggs.

“We all chose characters, you know? And we all agreed I was the baddie and you six were the goodies. Ryan said not to submerge you in clear fluid. Causes confusion after a while.”

“A while?” said Joe. He felt his head spinning. Could remember bits, not much. A way to keep his family safe. To keep everyone safe. Something like that.

Ralph grinned through bloodstained teeth. “You broke your containment unit, hit me, and pulled me out of the synaptic aureus.”

He pointed up a strange glowing piece of headgear attached to hundreds of glowing wires that snaked off into the gigantic concrete room, attaching to the other vats.

“I don’t think you can even comprehend what’s going on right now.”

Joe turned.

“How long have we been down here for?”

“70,000 years.”

Joe looked up at the headset. He felt sick.


“A while ago.”

“And why the fuck are we in these pods?”

Ralph shrugged. “People like stories. Superhero stories. Marvel and DC and all that. They need a few things to be entertained whilst they’re down here, otherwise they go mad.”

“I think six people need a little bit more than that.”

Ralph stared at him. He reached up for the strange object that looked like a bike helmet made out of living and pulsing marshmallows, lights and blinking noises, and pulled it down onto his head.

“Lights up on the Hatchery,” he said.

Lights slammed on.

Joe walked to the edge of the concrete platform and looked below him. Vats were visible as far as the eye could see, horizons full of shining glass dots the size of garden peas.

“Civilians, living in the Escape,” said Ralph. He coughed again. More blood spattered against the concrete. “The delightful, untouchable escape. Five billion of them.”

He lowered his voice. “And we were 30,000 years off surface re-entry. Before you turned this into a shitshow. Do you not remember any of this? Our agreement and pact to keep these people safe?”

He put a hand into a pocket and pulled out a photograph. It was crumpled and the colour had faded, but Joe could see seven men in suits stood around a large plaque, smiling. Each wore a bright gold badge in a different shape. A human smile. A tick. A capitalised M. An Apple. The other three wore emblems that Joe couldn’t recognise. He couldn’t even recognise his own, though it was certainly his face in the grainy picture that was staring back at him.

Ralph threw the photo over the side where it glided soundlessly into the abyss. He coughed three more times and curled over, close to death.


Ralph looked up at him, expectant, with glistening doe eyes.

“What happened up there?”

Ralph smiled a smile of blood and gore.

“Does it even matter?”

He closed his eyes and then he was gone, the smile still frozen on his face, droplets of blood pooling around his lips and dripping, steadily.

The computer changed it’s message.


The tanks behind him filled with coloured water began to drain and Joe could hear clawing breaths and gasps behind them. He tried not to look back, but it was too late. Dead eyes in sockets so sunken they were nothing more than shrivelled skulls glared out at him, their coughing screams echoing the room as they spasmed in paralysing movement.

He looked up at the helmet, still pulsing light. Was it his turn to play Doctor Dynasty? He reached his hands up. And then he thought, for a second, if it would help.

Growing up, he had never much liked superheroes. And good guys. And happy endings.

The spluttering behind him grew stronger.

He leapt and grabbed at the computer screen, hanging off of it with his decrepit weight. He tugged and tugged and the lights began to flash and the words on the screen garbled. He gave one more tug and the massive monitor came away. He laughed as he fell. He laughed as the rest of the machinery came down, crushing the containment units around him. Crushing him.

The men died and the lights above them died.


In the rainy city where it was always night, a man walked into a cafè and saw a woman in a red dress, sitting by herself.

It was strange. On some level, he felt as if he’d walked into this cafè every day. But that was impossible. He’d never even seen her.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” she replied.

He sat down next to her and looked at her for a while. She didn’t seem to mind, and smiled back at him.

Mike Jones and Sharon Jones smiled in their flickering pods, each distanced roughly 20,000 containment units away from each other. Most of them were shutting off. Some were still midway through powering down. A lot of the people inside didn’t realise they’d drowned until they were dead.

“May I hold your hand for a little while?” asked the man in the cafè.

The woman in the red dress looked at him and smiled.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

The two held hands as they felt the cafè begin to slowly darken.

On the counter, a glass bowl of bananas flickered into a bowl of pens and then back again.