Thor Slaymaster hated after-action reports, the way that he hated light beer and heavy body armor. But they were a necessary part of his profession. More than once, he had made it through a narrow scrape because of some piece of information that had been written down in an after-action report. So the first thing that Thor Slaymaster did after he got back to Team Slaymaster headquarters was to ask Andy to bring the recording equipment for the AAR. Then he asked Charlie to bring disinfectant and bandages.
“You’re a mess,” Charlie said. Thor Slaymaster’s alien girlfriend examined the mass of scratches and scrapes that covered Thor Slaymaster’s upper body. “And here I thought that you were out there on business. What was her name?”
“I do not know,” Thor Slaymaster said. “But I am going to find out.”
“I was teasing you, sweetheart,” Charlie said.
“You misunderstand,” Thor Slaymaster said.
The city was rebuilding the ancient subway system, which was good news for commuters but bad news for the mutants. The city had offered to relocate all mutants affected by the expansion to Baltimore, but quite a few of them refused, for the obvious reason. The city contracted Team Slaymaster to remove the remaining mutants with as little bloodshed as possible. “As little bloodshed as possible” wasn’t really in Thor Slaymaster’s wheelhouse, but it was a good opportunity to try diplomacy for a change.
Thor Slaymaster asked the subway conductor to hold the train for him at the end of the line, and when you’re a subway conductor on a subway line populated by rebellious mutants, and Thor Slaymaster asks you to wait for him, you wait for him. Thor walked down the tracks to the largest of the mutant settlements. There, he met with the mutant leadership, and explained the (admittedly, relative) advantages of moving to Baltimore, and the disadvantages of facing Team Slaymaster in a small, enclosed space.
“We will discuss what you have said, Thor Slaymaster, and give you our answer tomorrow,” the mutant spokesman said, out of one of his three mouths. Thor Slaymaster shook the less scaly of the mutant’s hands and headed back to the subway, confident that he had done a good day’s work and had earned a big plate of General Tso’s chicken, two or three cold beers, and a deep-tissue tentacle massage from Charlie.
There was one other person on the subway, and she was waiting for Thor Slaymaster. She was tall. That’s the first thing that Thor Slaymaster noticed, because he didn’t notice it all that often. She was tall, and she was wearing a dead-white mask, high black-leather boots, and a long, black dress with huge bat wings at the back.
“How did it go?” she asked.
Thor Slaymaster didn’t answer random questions from strangers on public transportation conveyances.
“Are you going to slaughter the mutants?” she asked.
Thor Slaymaster shrugged.
“Is that supposed to be an answer?”
“Yes,” Thor Slaymaster said.
The winged woman with the white mask whipped out a whip, which wrapped around Thor Slaymaster’s chest.
“That was uncalled for,” Thor Slaymaster said.
“So is the senseless murder of innocent victims,” the woman said. “Now, tell me, what are you going to do?”
“Nothing,” Thor Slaymaster said. “They must choose. If they will live, they will live. If they will die, they will be killed. All men choose their own path.”
“What path will you choose?”
“The one that gets you to take your whip back, before I wrap it around your neck.”
“You disappoint me, Thor Slaymaster. I did not think that you were given to idle threats.”
“You will find out if it’s an idle threat,” Thor Slaymaster said.
The subway car went around an unexpected curve, which threw Thor Slaymaster’s balance off, just enough that the winged woman was able to push Thor Slaymaster back a step. “You’ve been riding high for a long time, Thor Slaymaster,” she said. “But you’ve made some powerful enemies.”
“Like who?” Thor Slaymaster asked.
She didn’t answer. Thor Slaymaster looked at her eyes, behind her mask, and saw a deep, bright well of anger, and then a flash of radiant energy which flooded the car. The force of the energy shattered the door, and pushed Thor Slaymaster back towards the edge.
“You’re no match for me, Thor Slaymaster,” she said.
“I haven’t laid a finger on you,” Thor Slaymaster said. “That can change.”
The winged woman laid a finger on Thor Slaymaster, and it felt like a hammer blow. Thor fell out of the back of the subway. He was dragged along the tracks by the whip.
“What happened next?” Andy asked.
“She let go,” Thor Slaymaster said. “A full-grown Slaymaster is a hard thing to tow. I unwrapped the whip, walked to the next station, and took a cab over here.”
“You poor baby,” Charlie said. “I think you may have a broken rib or two. What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” Thor Slaymaster said. “I have never been defeated before.”
“You weren’t defeated,” Charlie said. “You were caught off guard. If you had been properly armed, you would have destroyed her. It could have happened to anyone.”
“It has never happened to me before,” Thor Slaymaster said. “Up until today, the only reason I was still alive was that I had never been caught off guard. Now, the only reason I am still alive was because the dark angel did not kill me. I don’t know what to do with that knowledge.”
“Don’t you?” Charlie asked.
Thor Slaymaster thought for a long moment, and then realized that he was feeling something that he never had before, a desire, a deep-seated yearning for one thing.
“Revenge,” he said.
Charlie’s long, alien tongue darted over Thor’s naked chest, dabbling at the bright red blood that was still seeping from his wounds. “Bet your ass. Nobody does this to my boyfriend and gets away with it.”
“Andy?” Thor Slaymaster asked.
“Leaving now, Mr. Slaymaster.””