Love in Tights
Written by Randy Lander
The shot is of a cave mouth, seen from the inside looking out. The panel is filled mostly with darkness, but a sliver of light in the middle shows where the sunlight is shining in. Standing in this sliver is the silhouette of a man, with large wings spreading out from his back. He has a bit of a conical helmet, like Bulletman. (Reference available on request.) This is CONDOR.
1 CONDOR: Apex? Michael? You in there?
CONDOR moves into the cave, which is still dimly lit...there is a lantern at the end casting light and shadows onto the wall. Shattered bottles of alcohol (Jim Beam or Jack Daniels, for their distinctive shapes) line the floor. We can see CONDOR's costume in more detail now, his face covered in a domino mask that extends up to his conical helmet. His wings are natural, feathered things extending from his back. He wears the symbol of the Protectorate, the superhero group, on his shoulder pads, and a metallic armor plate (look at DC's Hawkworld for what I have in mind...reference available on request) covers his chest. I don't have anything in mind for the symbol, do what you will. The Protectorate is this world's version of the JLA, Avengers, etc. except that at this point they're the only heroes left, so they're also a bit like the superhuman army at this point.
2 CONDOR: Michael...the war isn't going well. The aliens have taken most of the East Coast...the Protectorate won't last much...
CONDOR ducks to the side as a bullet slams into the wall next to him, chipping stone off the side. Even if he hadn't ducked, it would have missed by a mile, but it was clearly aimed at him nonetheless.
SFX: BLAM! KRAK!
CONDOR rushes deeper into the cave, now worried by the gunshot.
3 CONDOR (THOUGHT): What does Apex need with a handgun?
Close-up on CONDOR's face, as he has reached the light source. He looks disgusted and very sad at the same time. As if he has been severely disappointed by what he is seeing. He speaks a word, softly.
4 CONDOR: michael...
There is a man lying on the floor, sprawled out in a drunken mess. His left hand, raised up on a small rock, holds a smoking gun, a huge automatic (.45 or .44 caliber). His right, a half-drunk bottle of Jack Daniels. His costume, though dirty and torn in the chest, is obviously that of a hero...originally bright white, with an emblem on the front that looks like a stylized A. His mask is off, lying on top of one of the other bottles broken next to him (there should be at least ten, scattered all around). His short hair is frayed and matted with dirt. He has two week's worth of beard growth, and a surly expression on his face. There is an electric lantern sitting next to him, and a cooler that is closed and contains some food and more alcohol. There is also various debris scattered around. Something in the debris will be very important later on, but we shouldn't be able to see it now. There should be about five or six flattened bullets in the debris that CONDOR will notice later. This sad sack of humanity is APEX. CONDOR looks on, with the same expression of sadness, as the disgust starts to leach away.
1 APEX: I can't help you, Condor. My powers are gone. Julia's gone. Just leave me alone.
2 CONDOR: Michael...it wasn't your fault...
APEX throws the bottle of Jack Daniels at CONDOR, screaming at the top of his lungs. His eyes hold a glint of madness, and his expression is one of pure rage.
3 APEX: IT IS MY FAULT! If I hadn't been defending the damn Statue from the aliens, if I hadn't been drawn away, I could have protected her! I could have stopped them from destroying those precincts! I could have saved all those policemen too!
APEX calms down, laying his head on his chest and closing his eyes as he almost whispers the rest.
4 APEX (QUIETLY, SMALLER FONT): i could have saved my wife.
CONDOR sits down next to his friend and looks at him with sympathy.
5 CONDOR: Michael...I know you miss Julia...but we need your powers...the aliens are winning.
APEX gives a half-smile as he shakes his head, speaking to CONDOR.
1 APEX: Jeremy, you don't get it...my powers are gone.
2 APEX: They came from Cupid, and they were based on the power of my love. With Julia gone, that love is gone. The power went with it.
CONDOR stares incredulously at his friend, and APEX gives him a look of impatience as he glares at him.
3 CONDOR: Cupid?
4 APEX: You can believe Norse Gods fighting for good, but not the idea of Cupid granting power?
5 CONDOR: Point taken.
CONDOR looks around at the ground, spotting the flattened bullets. The reader shouldn't easily be able to see what it is he's seen, but there should be a look on his face of surprise and understanding, like a light bulb has just gone off in his head.
CONDOR grabs the gun out of APEX's hand, as APEX gives a look of surprise and starts to tumble off-balance, still drunk.
6 APEX: Wha--?!
CONDOR points the gun at APEX's chest. On CONDOR's face is a look of determination, easily mistakable for anger. APEX gives a confused, frightened look at his friend.
7 APEX: Jeremy?
CONDOR fires the gun, the muzzle flashing as the bullet strikes APEX in the chest.
APEX is unharmed, saved for a bullet mark that scars the chest of his already tattered costume. CONDOR is standing there with the smoking gun, his face a mask of anger as he shouts at APEX.
1 CONDOR: I knew it! There are flattened bullets all over the ground, Michael! Your powers aren't gone! You just want to believe they're gone so you don't have to deal with the world anymore! You even tried to kill yourself, didn't you?
2 CONDOR: You coward!
APEX leaps to his feet, yelling in return as CONDOR's voice dies down. It is clear from his face that his anger has not. APEX, meanwhile is shouting more from frustration than anger, and perhaps even has tears on his cheeks.
3 APEX: You little bastard! I trained you! When you first joined the Protectorate, I taught you how to fight, how to be a team player! Now you call me a coward? How dare you? You haven't just lost the only woman in the world who meant anything to you!
CONDOR retaliates, yelling in return and sticking his finger into APEX's chest. The look on APEX's face is one that could melt steel.
4 CONDOR: No, I haven't! But I've watched people die because I couldn't protect them, because the aliens are stronger than we are. I've heard children crying because we had to leave their parents behind as we retreated from battle.
5 CONDOR: Think, Michael! Your powers came from your love for Julia? Has that love gone away because she's dead?
There is silence as the two men glare at each other. APEX's right fist has begun glowing with power.
APEX slumps against the wall, all anger draining from his face. Instead, he returns to the melancholy expression he had as he nearly whispers...
6 APEX: No. I wish it had. I still love her as much as I did when she was here, and it hurts like hell, Jeremy.
APEX slumps back to the ground, defeated. CONDOR has now found his anger replaced not with pity or disgust, but with sadness and compassion for his friend. He has taken a step forward to be closer to him.
CONDOR speaks softly to his friend, beginning to kneel down next to him. APEX looks up and snaps angrily at CONDOR in response.
1 CONDOR: Michael...Julia knew the risks...
This panel features APEX speaking in voiceover, as we get a memory of what he is describing. Perhaps the side of the panel has his head, a little fuzzy, as he speaks and describes the memory, or this blends a little into panel one, so that his voiceover is actually coming from his face in that panel? The memory is a shot of a New York City police precinct, which looks like a typical brownstone 2-level building except that it has a number of cop cars parked out front and "Precinct 14" on a plate mounted over the door. There are two or three alien machines of war (perhaps combat walkers, two legged beasties like HG Well's War of the Worlds or Star Wars: Return of the Jedi? Just a suggestion, feel free to design whatever you want) which are firing numerous energy blasts at the already damaged building.
2 APEX: No she didn't! She wasn't some cop, she just worked for them! She was a secretary, a non-combatant, and the aliens slaughtered her because she was in the wrong building.
Once again, the anger fades as APEX lays his head on his chest and closes his eyes. CONDOR puts a hand on APEX's shoulder.
3 APEX: And I could have stopped it, but I was too busy defending the Statue of Liberty. Too worried about morale to think about real strategy and goals. Too stupid to realize their attack on the Statue was a diversion.
4 CONDOR: Michael, you're not a strategist...
Once again, APEX looks up, this time with weary eyes. CONDOR still has his hand on his friend's shoulder, and is still trying to talk with him.
5 APEX: No? Then what am I?
6 CONDOR: You're a hero. One of the best. You taught me and plenty of others how to be heroes. You led the Protectorate into so many fights I can't remember. How many kids looked up to you? How many adults? How many other heroes?
7 APEX: Just get out of here, Condor...I can't help you.
CONDOR pushes himself to his feet, spitting out harsh accusations.
8 CONDOR: "Can't" help? You mean won't help. The world's got about two more weeks of freedom, and you're going to sit here and wallow in self-pity even though you're probably the only one who could do anything about it.
CONDOR has walked to the edge of the lantern's light, heading out of the cave once again. He turns his head to look back, sadness in his eyes and expression.
9 CONDOR: You know...it's a good thing Julia is dead...so she doesn't have to see you like this.
The exterior of the Citadel, base of operations for the Protectorate. The Citadel is an architectural wonder, steel and girders looking like a cross between the Seattle Space Needle and the Eiffel Tower. Various gun turrets and missile racks decorate it's exterior, but many of them have been turned to slag or are emptied of all their ammunition. A few of them still fire hopelessly at the horde of alien aircraft and ground troops that are moving in on it. Should be about twenty or thirty ships and combat walkers. The city around the Citadel (Denver, although it doesn't matter really) has been flattened, with only burnt husks of buildings surrounding it.
1 CAPTION: Two weeks later. The Citadel, Protectorate Headquarters.
Inside the Citadel, watching the battle scene through a large picture (and bullet/laserproof glass) window, are CONDOR and two other members of the Protectorate. ROSE, a woman wearing a black spandex set of tights and a purple short jacket, holds her steel fighting sticks and looks apprehensively out on the combat. QUETZAL, a man in Aztec-inspired brown and green power armor, just looks out impassively, no expression reflected in the full-face mask and glowing green eyes.
2 CONDOR: This is it. You guys ready to go down fighting?
3 QUETZAL: It can't end this way. It's not fair.
4 ROSE: Life isn't fair, Quetzal.
A blur streaks past the window. They can't tell what it is, and neither can the readers, but as it streaks past, it tears five of the airships apart in mid-air. All three react with surprise.
5 ROSE, QUETZAL AND CONDOR: What--?!
Cut back to the inside, where the three members of the PROTECTORATE are now staring at the door that leads into the room they are in. They are all apprehensive, still ready for a fight. The sliding steel door begins to open.
APEX stands in the door, a lopsided smile on his face. Oil and machine wreckage drip from his clothing, as he's just been plowing through aircraft bodily.
6 APEX: I decided that I didn't want to live in a world where it was a "good thing" that Julia was dead.