We arrived at the Met too late for the fight and the chase, thank God. As we passed through the police cordon, I saw the whole crew of this oddball caper handcuffed and prostrate on the pavement. In particular I noticed the weirdo that Roundtable mentioned: a petite girl with long, braided, green hair and a big red hand print on her puffy face. Four men were carrying a battered crate containing an ostentatious suit of armor back into the museum.
“Beaten by the local help,” I murmured to the Promethean.
“Actually, no.” A sourpussed, gray-haired policeman walked over to us. He was accompanied by a lovely little thing in tight bicycle shorts, seashell bikini, and a glittery half-mask. The cop was dressed like one of those monkeys that march in bands, with the gold braids and the little gold rope over his shoulder. I recalled seeing him before, but I had no idea about the strumpet in the mermaid roller derby outfit.
“Captain Reeves,” the Promethean greeted him, and they shook hands.
“The robbers were blindsided by a construction worker near the new addition. Never even got to the end of the block,” Reeves explained. “They had to run for it because their getaway van—wouldn’t you know it!— got T-boned by an inattentive driver and blah blah blah blah.”
He said something else, but I don’t remember what; I was busy admiring the cleavage on his masked companion. She had grace enough to pretend to blush, but then half-turned so I could get a better view of her profile. She smiled at me, her rouged lips wet and open.
Reeves finally introduced her. “This is the West Side Siren . The ‘local help’.”
They all had stupid names like that, these New York City talents. West Side Siren, the Harlem Hammer, the Bronx Bomber, Battering Bill the Bowery Brawler, ad nauseum. God only knows why.
“You three gentlemen need no introduction, of course,” she said, but I stared at her in horror, because what it sounded like was: “You tree gennelmen need no innaduckshun, ‘a course.”
“Especially you, Amp. The Ace of Acoustics,” she continued in low, awe-struck tones. “I’ve seen you in concert twice, but never this close-up. It’s been a little dream of mine to meet you in person.”
“You flatter me,” I said, but of course I had already lost all interest in her on account of her hideous accent. I couldn’t bear the thought of that nasally voice moaning my name.
“Excuse me, Captain Reeves, but we were told that several bystanders had been turned to stone. Is that right?” Matt interjected. He always gets annoyed when someone fawns over me.
“By God, they have, and it’s the damndest thing I’ve ever seen! This is utterly out of my element. I was hoping you could give me some good news. They used some sort of aerosol. Do you know what it was? Is there an antidote?”
“I won’t know until I perform a thorough investigation. I trust they’ve not been touched?”
“Of course! I ordered the whole gallery sealed off. Please, follow me.”
“Amazing.” The Promethean’s jaw muscles fairly quivered with excitement beneath his sunken cheeks. He was squinting at one of these accidental sculptures through his aetheric goggles, the lenses continually refocusing and clicking on new filters as he examined a different body part.
Even without the benefit of his fancy spectacles I had to agree with his assessment. The statues were extraordinarily lifelike, as if a human being of flesh and blood had in one moment been turned completely to white marble, which, as I said, is exactly what happened. There was something beautiful about them too, despite their often horror-stricken faces. The area around the heart gave off a wan, amber glow, and pale blue lines fluoresced throughout their limbs, rather like networks of blood vessels. I was at once appalled and enthralled.
“What if we tried the Dexter Medusa?” I asked. Dexter Medusa was a precious fluid of the Promethean’s own invention that could revive the recently deceased, so named because of the alleged properties of blood from the right side of the mythical gorgon. A too appropriate name considering the situation, I thought.
“These people are not dead. At least, I don’t think so.” the Promethean answered. “I don’t think it would do any good, and I don’t dare waste any.”
“How is this possible, turning someone to stone?” I asked. Irritation at this apparent disregard for rationality leaked into my voice.
“I’m not sure. Yet.” He went on with his examination.
The West Side Siren accompanied us, not that she had any insight to offer. She stuck close to me, attempting small talk and not-so-subtle flirtations while I made a concerted effort to brush her off. Unmercifully, she didn’t pick up on it. Matt tossed her a question.
“Siren, what do you know about this gang of robbers and that green-haired woman out there?”
“Nothing except that they called her Medusa. I’ve never heard of any of them before,” she replied.
“And the Prince’s Emblazoned?”
“I never heard of that before, either. She won’t say what she wanted with it.”
The Promethean hummed thoughtfully, tapping his thumb on the point of his chin. “I deem it unlikely that Medusa concocted this formula herself. Likewise, I doubt that she stole the suit of armor for her own interests.” Without elaborating further, he walked away to examine another of the human statues, leaving me alone with the West Side Siren.
“You know,” she whispered, close to my ear, “I own all your albums, every composition. I may just be your biggest fan.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose in frustration. “Of course you are, honey. No one’s ever told me that before. Listen, I’ll be happy to autograph your ass cheeks when we’re done here, but right now professionals are working!”
She jumped back, stricken with that expression common to every conceited woman who gets rebuffed. Her narrowed eyes said: ‘How dare you, you worthless bastard?’ but her trembling lips asked ‘Why don’t you want me?’
I made a studied effort of looking away from her, and let out a contented sigh when I heard the click of her boots trailing away from the gallery.
“Now that she’s gone, how about a little background music?” I rubbed my fingers together as the soft strains of my Concerto for Strings filled the gallery.
“Silence! I need to concentrate!” barked the Promethean.
I ceased my psionic strumming. “Philistine.”
The Promethean continued his examination for another ten minutes in absolute silence. Eventually, he threw up his hands.
“Maybe it’s elemental transmutation,” the Atomic Ranger offered, always reliable to couch phenomena in terms of his own experience.
“Why bother stealing anything if you can do that, on this scale, that quickly?” I asked.
The Promethean nodded in agreement, and pushed up his aetheric goggles so that they rested on his salt and pepper hair. “Indeed, that would be unprecedented, far beyond any incidence of transmutation I’ve ever seen. Also,” he added in the manner of an afterthought, and in a tone I thought subtly sarcastic, “the released energy would have flattened half the city.”
Range and I looked at each other and around the room at the two dozen petrified people, many of them toppled over in comical positions. We felt pretty useless.
“Have you ever heard of Boris Yvain?” the Promethean asked, suddenly.
“Can’t say I have,” the Atomic Ranger answered.
The Promethean turned to me. “Cameron, enlighten our uncultured friend.”
I coughed. “Uh…Boris…yeah.”
The old bastard whacked me in the shin with his ostentatious walking stick. As I hopped off cursing him, the Promethean told his tale.
“You call yourself an aesthete? Hrmph! Boris Yvain was a brilliant young sculptor, an avant-garde type just like Cameron here used to be. In fact, he was a contemporary of one of your favorites, Erich Zann. I first met him during the Eastertide of 1909, more than a century ago, now. He was American by birth, but he moved to France, having inherited a house and money from his father’s brother, where he could practice his art in leisure. He created a sensation not long after the defeat of the Invaders with his sculpture of the Madonna, by which he is said to have used his young lover as a model—in a manner of speaking. Only a few months after that success, and still at the height of his popularity and powers, he committed suicide.”
“Is this just another one of your, ‘by the way’ stories?” I asked. My swollen and tender shin made me impatient.
“Quiet, boy,” the Promethean rebuked me. “I am coming to the point.
“Boris was said to have developed something like the sculptor’s equivalent of photography, an incredibly fast acting aqueous solution that fossilized organic tissue on contact. Supposedly, this formula and substance were lost after his death.”
“Good God! Are you saying he turned his own girlfriend into a statue and then killed himself in remorse? That is art!” I exclaimed, only half-facetiously.
“Some have said as much,” answered the Promethean.
Copper Knights & Granite Men
A tale of super-powered adventure and occult suspense that draws from The King in Yellow mythos and taps the secret occult history of North America.
An illustrated novelette by Michael and Shell DiBaggio.$2.99 – Buy Book
The Last King Has Come!
A brazen band of robbers raids the New York Metropolitan Museum. Their target? The Prince's Emblazoned, an elaborate suit of armor rumored to be of surpassing occult significance. To ensure their escape, the thieves release an unprecedented weapon: a mist that turns men to stone.
Meet the Characters
A renaissance man who predates the Renaissance, Matteo Mancini is a 900-year-old alchemist who discovered the secret to biological immortality. His exploits inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein, which in turn inspired his heroic identity as the Promethean when he revealed himself to the world at large during the Martian invasion. Called "The Dean of Superheroes" and "The Man Who Invented the Future," he leads the Challenger Foundation.
Called "the Ace of Acoustics" by millions of adoring fans (and some even more colorful names by jilted ex-lovers and promoters alike), Cameron DeLeon is the world's most popular musician. Born with the power to psionically create sound, this adopted son of the Promethean still sometimes returns to his superheroic roots when life as a celebrity becomes too much of a trainwreck.
Mutilated in an explosion, air force officer Allen Adams was duped by the transhuman subversive group PATH into entering their experimental super-soldier program with the promise of restoring his lost limbs. Implanted with a nuclear battery and bonded with Selenite and Mi-Go tissue, Adams' organs began to fail from the transformation. Escaping PATH's kill teams, he sought the one man that he thought could help him: the Promethean.
The enigmatic woman called Medusa claims to have reproduced the fossilization formula of the famed sculptor Boris Yvain and has a museum full of petrified bystanders to prove it. But why is she stealing an antique suit of armor in the first place? And is she the mastermind she claims to be, or merely the pawn of a more sinister power?
What the Readers Say
"Not your daddy's superhero story"
"This isn't your standard superhero fair--but nor is it the deconstructionist drivel that plagues most independent presses... there isn't anything else quite like this out there."
-Richard Rohlin, author of Archers and Ronin
"If you like your history mixed with the fantastic and bizarre, look no further." -Five star Amazon.com review
"I couldn’t stop reading"
"The story is fast-paced, action-packed, and non-stop hilarious...Any adults who are fans of superhero stories or comics would love this book." -OnlineBookClub.org
Perfect For Fans Of...
Superheroes and Gothic Horror
Like a dysfunctional, Stan Lee/Jack Kirby-era Fantastic Four caught up in a Hammer Horror movie, the Challenger Foundation is a super-family that exposes ancient secrets and confronts bizarre threats from beyond.
Classic Weird Fiction
The story is a sequel of sorts to The King in Yellow, with the weird locales and creatures of Bierce, Lovecraft, and Wellman lurking in the background.
Sprawling backstories of supernatural struggle at the intersection of myth and history.
Arthur Conan Doyle
Fans of the Professor Challenger stories will love the dry humor and clashing, larger-than-life personalities of the Challenger Foundation.