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About mike_oxlong

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  1. Takedown Prospects were starting to look positive. Felicia and Dr. Morse’s introduction had gone smoothly and the two had begun training the very next day. Bobbi had agreed with Carol that martial arts training would teach Felicia the clarity of mind and focus needed to gain fine control over her powers. The hope was that Felicia would eventually become a hero in her own right. Curves ahead brought Carol back from her musing and she pushed her powerful sports car hard into the turns. The hands-free system rang and Carol quickly glanced at the caller ID on the console. It read, “The Snitch.” Bear Cattoni was his actual name. He’d once been a stunt man and had fallen in with some shady characters as his opportunities had dried up. He’d broken down in tears when Carol busted the operation he’d been a part of, begging her to help him get out. In spite of the previous ambush at Hunters Warehouse, she agreed to give him a chance. To his credit, he’d proven himself to be a valuable source of inside information. She thumbed the button to answer the call, “Hello Bear, how’s my favourite narc?” “Oh, you’re hilarious,” came Bear’s gravel-voiced reply, “I got what ya wanted.” “Hang on Bear. I need to pull over.” The call couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. There was a rest stop exit coming up immediately and Carol swung the Lamborghini off the highway to park. Had the call come a minute later, she would have been deep inside a tunnel. She retrieved her tablet, telling Bear to continue. “He’s at the Eureka Tower on the 90th floor, Suite 9008. Dial 5155 on the access panel.” “Seriously? The one with the gold-plated windows? Figures…” Carol rolled her eyes as she typed, “How credible is this intel?” “I was there last night. It’s his place all right. Had a bunch of girls come by to entertain us too, if you know what I mean. Look, if you get in there, you can’t pin it on me, ok? I helped you out like I promised. I want out of that life. I want to be around for my daughter.” “Don’t worry Bear. I won’t say any more than I have to.” Carol ended the call and pulled the car back out onto the highway. She mashed the accelerator hard, smoking her tires and heading back towards the city. “Looks like I’ve got a date tonight after all,” she grinned. Hours later, a lone figure sashayed up to the Eureka Tower and entered the secured foyer. She punched in a code on the security panel and a moment later Hammerhead’s gruesome face appeared on the display. “What?” he spat, clearly annoyed by the interruption. “Hi, it’s Stacey from last night. Remember me? I was kinda hoping that maybe you might want to see me again.” “Stacey… yeah, sure. I remember you. Leave ya coat and bag wit da door guy. I can’t remember his &%@$# name. You know da apartment, right?” “Yes, 9008. I can’t wait!” The display went blank as Hammerhead buzzed her in. Carol almost laughed, it was so easy. “Appeal to his ego and he’ll do whatever I want,” she thought to herself as she headed straight to the elevator and up to the 90th floor. A knock at the door to 9008 was answered quickly by Hammerhead himself. “Come on in, toots.” With a coy smile, she cocked her head to one side, “Is it just you and me tonight?” He nodded smugly, opened the door and stood aside to let her in. As she passed, Carol wound up and punched him hard in the side before he could react. She felt the bone crunch with the impact and Hammerhead dropped to the ground, groaning. She’d almost yelled out, “Right to the Getsuei,” and had to stifle a laugh. “My ribs,” he gasped, clutching his side, “What the #&@%, you broke my #&@%ing ribs!” Carol made a mental note to thank Mockingbird and closed the door behind her. “Who else is here?” A string of curses was the only response. Apparently he intended to impregnate Carol’s mother..? She caught him reaching feebly into the blazer he wore and mercilessly put her knee into his chest. He gasped in pain as she grabbed the pistol he was trying to retrieve. “Nice Sig,” she remarked, a comment on his Sig Sauer P227. She took a moment to admire the heft of it in her palm. It was nicely weighted, and fit her grasp comfortably. She cleared the chamber and popped out the magazine to reveal .45 calibre hollow points. Satisfied, she clapped the magazine back into place and reloaded the chamber. She looked down at the incapacitated gangster with a scowl. “What… are ya… gonna do? Shoot me?” he wheezed. Ignoring him, she checked the safety and shoved the Sig in the back of her waistband. Carol then roughly flipped him over, eliciting another agonized gasp. With a knee in the small of his back, she drew out a pair of handcuffs and wrenched his arms behind his back. He cried out in pain and Carol looked to ensure there was no one coming to his aid. “Unreal. A pretty girl comes on to you and you let her up here. You, all alone with no backup. I have no idea how you got this far in life, you’re so #&@%ing dumb. But you’re through. Hammerhead, you’re under arrest.” Carol dragged him to his feet and marched him out the door and off to meet his fate before the courts. Not so far away from the action, another scenario was coming to a conclusion. In a well-appointed office, a large wall-mounted TV displayed Hammerhead’s downfall live. A single click on the red ‘X’ terminated the video feed from a well-positioned drone. A very large man stood up and waved at two well-dressed men across from him, who had their guns trained on a third. “You’ve done well, Bear. You’re free to go,” he nodded to the guards and they holstered their weapons. Bear fairly leapt to his feet, “And that’s it? You aren’t going to come after me, right?” “You have my word. You’ve done me a great service today. While I wouldn’t quite say that I’m in your debt, I’ll allow that you’ve earned your discharge. This woman has removed my only real opposition. Perhaps I should send her some flowers! Are you certain you don’t want to share her name?” Bear’s panicked expression was answer enough. “A shame,” the big man sighed, “My erstwhile rival will find to his chagrin, that our justice system will offer no leniency to a man of his ‘numerous transgressions’. Quite unfortunate that any request for bail will be similarly rejected,” He shook his head in mock sympathy, continuing, “and once Don Rigoletto ‘retires,’ Wilson Fisk will be the head of the Maggia. The Kingpin, if you will.” Fisk paused a moment, “Yes, I like that.” “The Kingpin.” Bear turned and fled the office, wondering helplessly if playing both sides had been such a clever ploy after all. The only response was laughter behind him. To be continued... @korver Thanks! I really appreciate your support! @Ln X I've been talking up this mosaic for ages. The highway image is the one you've inspired and I thank you so much for the examples you've provided.
  2. Glorious! Love the Aston Martins. Nice work!
  3. Incredible work as usual! Love it!
  4. N.B. - Apologies for the low quality and scarcity of in-game images as I'm dealing with some befuddling and unresolved CTD issues. I'm using Data Node to try and uncover conflicts but coming up empty. Also trying the old "remove all plugins and slowly put them back in", without success. It's hideously frustrating but I'll make due for now... Revelations “Irrashaimase!” the staff called out as Felicia entered the restaurant. She smiled and nodded in response before turning to the hostess. “Hello, I’m here to meet someone…” she began. The hostess, a pretty, young woman named Mariko, bowed to her and smiled, “Yes, please follow me,” and led Felicia upstairs, away from the main dining area. Shogun Sushi was beautifully appointed with Japanese décor and access to the upper VIP area was gained through a Torii-style gate. Though the gate was typically found only at the entrance to a shrine or other sacred place, its presence here was clearly symbolic. A shallow Koi pond fed by an artificial waterfall on the far end made up much of the busy upper level. A single, large bonsai tree and Japanese lantern adorned an island in the middle of the pond and two bronze herons stood like sentries off to one side. A small arched bridge provided access to the island, though the bridge itself was roped off. The VIP area was filled to capacity and several private rooms ringed the area. The private rooms had a modern version of the Shoji, a wooden lattice door with translucent paper panels. Instead of paper, these were lined with frosted white glass for privacy. Mariko led her to one of the rooms and slid the door silently open. Bowing gracefully, she ushered Felicia in and closed the door behind her. Two women were in the room who stood as she entered. One wore dark sunglasses and wisps of blonde hair peeked out from beneath her hood. A bulky silk scarf seemingly concealed her features but Felicia couldn’t escape the feeling that she was somehow familiar. The other was dressed somewhat more formally in a burgundy silk dress, her straight blond hair spilling elegantly around her shoulders. “Hello Miss Hardy, I understand you’ve been looking for me. I’m Ms. Marvel,” she welcomed Felicia with a firm handshake. “I’m sorry for all the mystery but discretion is extremely important where my identity is concerned. I hope you’ll understand.” She turned to the woman at her side, “May I introduce you to Dr. Bobbi Morse?” She rubbed at her scarf briefly, the voice synthesizer concealed beneath that Bobbi had lent her was a bit uncomfortable. Not nearly as uncomfortable, she reflected, as the layers of makeup and contouring she had applied in an effort to somewhat disguise herself. Felicia shook Bobbi's hand with a confused smile. Ms. Marvel continued, “Mariko knew to expect you, please have a seat,” she motioned to the cushion in front of the low table opposite her own seat. Felicia’s eyes began to well with tears in overwhelming relief as she seated herself. She had no idea where to begin and was grateful when Ms. Marvel spoke again, “May I tell you about myself and how I came about my abilities?” Felicia nodded assent as she held nothing back, save her true identity. Felicia was quiet throughout and remained so after Ms. Marvel had finished speaking. Finally, with a furrowed brow she shook her head and said, “I’m sorry but, aliens? That makes about as much sense as…” “Superpowers?” “Yeah. Good point,” Felicia allowed. “Felicia, like it or not, you have powers too. You seem to be able to influence peoples’ fortune. Problem is, you don’t have control.” To demonstrate her point, Ms. Marvel held up a single finger that began to glow with contained energy. She touched the wick of the unlit candle on the table and it flickered to life. “I couldn’t do that without a hell of a lot of practice.” Silent up until this point, Bobbi asked “Felicia, do you ever feel a strange sensation when something is about to happen?” She pondered a moment and nodded, “Yeah, kind of a creepy feeling sometimes. Like goosebumps, now that you mention. Almost like I know something’s about to go down but I can’t shake it.” As if on cue, the door slid open and Felicia began to rub her arm in discomfort. It was Mariko with a pot of tea. Ms. Marvel held out her cup and saucer for Mariko when they suddenly slipped from her grasp as the tea began to pour. Felicia’s hand shot out and with a deft twirl, flipped them right-side up catching the cup perfectly in the stream of hot tea. Not a drop was spilled. The others were speechless as Felicia placed the saucer in front of Ms. Marvel, then looked up. “What?” she asked in confused reply to their amazed expressions. Mariko quickly looked down and bowed low, offering apologies and carefully filled Felicia’s and Bobbi’s tea cups before quietly departing. “How did you do that?” Bobbi whispered incredulously. Felicia shrugged, “I just caught the cup. What’s the big deal?” “You didn’t even look and you’d caught it. You moved like lightning! Could you always do that?” Felicia shook her head, no, as Ms. Marvel leaned back and appraised her again. “This may be even better than I expected. Dr. Morse is the reason I asked you to meet me here tonight.” Bobbi explained to Felicia about S.W.O.R.D.’s mandate and her own role within the organization, training those with "special abilities." She also touched upon the failed effort at recruiting Ms. Marvel. Felicia was leery, “So if that's what your boss is like, what makes you think I’d be willing to put myself in that position?” She shook her head, a little miffed at the suggestion. Ms. Marvel sat quietly with a smug grin as Bobbi sighed. “Over the past several days, Ms. Marvel has been negotiating a service contract with me. The long and the short of it is that it deals with some particulars regarding the development of your powers. Your demonstration tonight with the tea cup shows that there are some aspects of your abilities that are only just beginning to manifest and I can help you with that as well. Most importantly,” she grimaced and sighed again, “S.W.O.R.D. is bound by the terms of the contract to allow no interaction between you and Mr. Stark that you, yourself, do not initiate. The contract has been approved and signed by Director Brand and is absolutely, irrevocably binding.” Ms. Marvel snickered softly, knowing that a woman as naturally beautiful as Felicia would have been a prime target for Tony #$%@ing Stark. No chance of that happening now. She leaned forward, “So what do you say Felicia?” Felicia looked up, her gaze full of hope, “Yes! God, yes. If she can help me, I’ll do whatever it takes.” Ms. Marvel took Felicia’s hands in her own and squeezed reassuringly, “Good, now let’s eat,” she turned her attention to the tablet device mounted on the table and began to enter their order. “Have you ever tried Unagi? It’s my favorite.” To be continued...
  5. Thanks very much!
  6. Lovely Euro-themed city! Could you tell me what the building in picture #16 is?
  7. Thanks @korver! Your support and kind words mean a lot to me.
  8. Hammered Part IV Don Rigoletto was the true head of the Maggia family. The machinations he’d put into play to protect his interests had cost him several valuable assets. His Lieutenant now stood before him to inform him that it had been for naught. Hammerhead ran his fingers through his thinning hair, feeling the flattened surface of his reconstructed head. Knowing the fate of those who’d previously failed the Don set him further on edge. He’d been summoned to the Don’s yacht to account for his failure to capture Ms. Marvel. The analysis was brief and to the point as the one thing you didn’t do with Don Rigoletto was beat around the bush. “…and when we went back in to find out what was takin’ so long, da dame was gone an’ my guys was busted up.” There was a long silence and Hammerhead fidgeted nervously. He eyed the capo standing guard a few feet away, a gun sitting within easy reach in its holster. Glancing down, he was somewhat relieved that there was no drop cloth at his feet. No drop cloth means no blood spatter - perhaps he’d be treated leniently. Finally the Don looked up from the table where he’d been receiving a massage. Grunting appreciatively at a knot being worked out of his shoulders, he waved dismissively to the attractive woman at his side. Recognizing the need for privacy she swiftly went below deck. He spoke softly, in a voice like crushed gravel and tinged with a heavy Italian accent, “So, you’re telling me that after all that planning, you let that puttana get away? Do you have any idea how much she’s costing me? 40 years I’ve been building this famiglia and in 6 months she’s taken out over twenty percent of my business!!!” His voice rose in fury, “6 months!!! A quarter of a billion dollars!!! And you let her get away. Stronso!” He shook his head angrily, “Get me Fisk.” “Fisk? You can’t be serious boss, dat guy’s got no respect. He can’t be trusted!” Don Rigoletto pointed a finger at Hammerhead, “Basta! He’s got no respect for you! I said get me Fisk and count yourself lucky that you’re not sleeping with the fishes tonight. Now get off my boat.” He lay back down muttering, “Where the hell is Carla?” Hammerhead left without another word. It wasn’t a long walk back down the pier to his limousine but it felt like one of the longest walks of his life. Wilson Fisk was one of the rising stars of the Maggia, providing valuable business acumen and ruthless action when necessary. Hammerhead had recognized the threat Fisk posed to his own position and had manoeuvered him into several difficult situations. To his frustration, Fisk always seemed to escape those traps unscathed. Worse, it had forced the Don to take notice. And now Fisk had been gifted an opportunity to succeed in the wake of Hammerhead’s own failure. His driver held the door open for him and hurried to start the car. “Boss?” “Take me to da #@%$& tower,” he snarled. Across town, Felicia Hardy had just retrieved her mail and trudged wearily up the stairs to her apartment. Keeping positive had become a struggle. It seemed of late that all of her friends and family were avoiding her, apparently for good reason with all the bad luck following her around. The latch unlocked with reluctance as she had to jiggle the keys to make it turn. One of these days the landlord might actually respond to her complaints and fix it. Then again, she also may win the lottery, she mused with a derisive grin. “This loneliness is really starting to get to me,” she thought as she placed her cell phone and mail on the kitchen counter and reached into her liquor cabinet above the fridge. The lack of contents forced her to recall last night’s binge that had ended with her passed out on the sofa and a large booze stain on the carpet. A buzzing from the kitchen counter brought her back into the present. She retrieved the phone and unlocked it to find a waiting text. Her hope for a friendly chat was dashed by the unknown number on the screen. With a sigh she opened the message in anticipation of spam and was surprised by what she read. She quickly keyed in a reply and got a response soon afterwards. “Well, why not? I’ve always wanted to try sushi and it’s not like anyone else is asking me out.” To be continued...
  9. You make it sound so easy!
  10. Another amazing entry! How did you manage those mountains? They look absolutely life-like and my mind is blown.
  11. Thanks, @korver! Glad you're enjoying the story.
  12. -Sorry for the long wait between chapters, folks! I went in for knee surgery and it's knocked me on my rear a little. 6 weeks off of work will give me a little time to get caught up! Now, without further ado, here we go with... Hammered Part III The meeting with Stark had, predictably, not gone well. The accusatory dissection of her tactics had perhaps been warranted, but his condescending tone had led her to not-so-politely suggest he could “proceed to engage in intimate relations with himself.” Further and much to her disgust, he’d continually failed to maintain eye contact. She’d finally had fantasies of forcibly wiping the smug look from his face as he’d casually informed her that she’d now be working for S.W.O.R.D. and she ended up storming out. Dr. Morse caught up to her, imploring her to stay but Carol refused. “He’s an insufferable egomaniac. Who does he think he is, busting my chops and then basically telling me I’m joining your little gang?” “Well, you’re not wrong.” Bobbi agreed, “The thing is that what we do here is so much more than taking any orders from him. But I do think there’s a lot more similarity between us than you realize. Aside from my training, there’s nothing special about me. I don’t have your abilities or any kind of super-powers. However, I’ve found a few others that do and have helped to recruit them into S.W.O.R.D. Like you, our goal is to help those that can't help themselves. There have been a number of disturbing incidents over the past few years that point to a coordinated effort to destabilize governments around the world. Unfortunately we have few leads and we're desperate for someone as powerful as you to join with us.” “It’s a hell of a recruitment process you have here.” “It’s not always like what you had to put up with. However, you’re the first one Mr. Stark has personally taken an interest in.” “With the way he was leering at me, I could never have guessed he was interested,” Carol snorted. Bobbi held her gaze, frowning and Carol was silent. “Yes, he’s pretty confident in his approach and is used to having women flocking to his side. I’m not making excuses for him or condoning that behaviour. There’s no excusing his disrespect. Truthfully, we're not even his primary focus. Stark industries is a military contractor and he's too busy with advanced weapons research to bother with managing us, let alone, being here to practice his particular brand of 'charm'.” Carol was mollified, “Has he ever tried that crap with you?” “Only once.” “What happened?” “I used a shime-waza on him. Specifically a hadaka-jime.” Bobbi noted the confused look on Carol’s face and explained, “A hadake-jime is a Judo rear choke hold. You should’ve seen the look on his face! I wrapped him up so fast, I’m sure he thought he was about to get lucky! At least until he blacked out,” she laughed. Carol couldn’t help but to laugh along, her mood broken. “So, I take it you’re good?” Bobbi nodded, “That’s the other reason I’m here. I’m hachidan, an eighth-level Kodokan judoka. Not the highest-ranked, by any means, but I teach Judo to our team. Tactical combat and martial arts are an incredible supplement to their abilities. Stark provided me with additional resources that help to make up for what I lack in super abilities.” “What, like guns?” Bobbi shook her head, no, and asked Carol to come with her. They got into an elevator and descended several floors. Bobbi brought her into a gymnasium space, lined with mirrors on the far end and an array of weapons on racks on the adjacent wall. There was a padded area in the middle of the room and sparse oriental-themed decorations adorning the space. Several mannequins were located at various points in the room along with what looked like speed bags and punching bags. In the weapon racks were several Japanese swords, spears and club-like objects. Some looked familiar, others Carol had seen before only in movies. “These all yours?” Carol asked, admiring one of the fine Katanas in its rack. “No, they are for practicing Kenjutsu and other weapon fighting. I use these,” she said reaching for two non-descript metal bars, each around 3 feet long. Bobbi turned and bowed solemnly to Carol, then began to practice her craft. Vaulting into the center of the padded area, she struck three targets almost simultaneously. Her attacks were fluid and the bars were wielded as an extension of herself. At times she would join the two halves into a single six-foot bar and attack the mannequins in a blur of motion. Just as quickly the bar would be separated again for a close-in attack on a pair of targets. She combined her weapon attacks fluidly with judo strikes, throwing roundhouse kicks and targeting vital spots on the mannequins. She instructed Carol to pay particular attention to those vitals as she demonstrated a Gammen-tsuki strike in the Getsuei. “For a right-handed attack, a hard blow to the left floating rib, “the Getsuei”, can cause a dislocation and cripple your opponent. Though competitive judo forbids the use of striking techniques, in a real fight you would definitely need to know these kinds of moves.” Bobbi wound down her demonstration and bowed again to Carol, who felt obligated to bow in return. She passed the bars to Carol who accepted them with as much respect as she could muster. The mechanism to connect the two was readily apparent, needing only a simple twist to click together. They were lightweight but inexplicably sturdy. The bars were handed gently back to Bobbi who then replaced them on the rack. To Carol’s shock, Bobbi then began to remove her top. “I also wanted to show you this,” she explained as Carol began to protest, her unease showing. Bobbi laughed, “No, no! This is what I want to show you,” and she pointed to the material underneath her t-shirt. “It’s one of the other perks of working for a weapons manufacturer. This is an advanced material called graphete. It’s stronger than solid steel, with less than half-a-percent of its density yet it’s as soft and pliable as cotton. It’s like a high-tech suit of armor, far better than Kevlar.” “Well, I’m impressed. I really am. And you’re amazing, Dr. Morse, but I really don’t see a future for myself here under the control of a raging narcissist like Tony Stark.” She held out her hand to thank Bobbi. With a grimace, she accepted and ushered Carol to an exit near the top of the building. Watching her fly off, Bobbi held her palm to her forehead and muttered, “Ugh Tony. You really screwed this one up.” To be continued...
  13. You continue to amaze! I'm going to have to start googling in an effort to find more adjectives with which to praise your work! At present, my vocabulary is being exhausted at a rapid pace.
  14. Srsly! I don't even know what else I can add. Between you and LnX, you guys are crushing the CJ section.
  15. @lolo69ol01 Thanks! That's the Halles Baltard by Porkissimo.