by Starsky Hutch 76
“Father Lucien?” the youth said fearfully as he walked into the spartan room carrying a tray of food. His body language said he was terrified to approach the frightening-looking creature on the other side that stood by the cathedral window.
“Come in, Brother,” Father Lucien sighed in his incredibly deep voice. “You have nothing to fear from me. I am still the same man you knew before my transformation. I am still a servant of god, though my appearance would now have you believe otherwise.”
“Y-yes, Father,” the young man sighed, setting the tray down. From the way he quickly scurried out, he didn’t appear to believe the transformed priest.
Turning to look at the tray, the priest let out a groan at the sight of the delicate teacup that had been set on the tray, then looked at his own enormous, clawed fingers. “Tabernac! When will they learn? At least they left me the pitcher this time.” He walked across the room to where the tray was and lifted it delicately. The first time he had tried to lift a silver food tray after his transformation, he had accidentally crumbled it in his hands. Now he was more careful.
Choosing to ignore the teacup, he drank straight from the pitcher, which was practically a teacup in his massive hand, anyway. He walked over to the window again, being careful not to knock any furniture over with his tail. He’d never get used to having to look out for that. Leaning his head back, he poured the tea between his two massive jutting lower canines, careful not to spill any on the rug. As he gazed back out onto the chaotic streets of Paris, he returned to his morbid thoughts.
Since being returned to Earth by his Psion abductors, his emotions had become as twisted as his new form. After years spent convincing members of his flock that God still loved them despite hardships in their lives, he, too, was having doubts. He had always told them God had a plan and that everything happened for a reason. But now, when he couldn’t even bear to look at his new demonic-looking reflection in the mirror, he had to wonder what that plan was. If only he could get some sort of sign to reaffirm his faith.
Just then, an angel flew by his window. He was a twenty-something-looking young man with broad, white-feathered wings, golden armor, and close-cropped violet hair. He was going at the alien invaders with all he had, swinging a broadsword in one hand and rescuing innocent Parisians caught in the skirmish with the other. He was a magnificent sight to behold.
Father Lucien had received his sign.
His new path in life was clear. Father Lucien jumped to the windowsill and then climbed out onto the ledge, looking for all the world like one of the Notre Dame Cathedral’s many gargoyles. From there, he leapt to the street to join the fray.
The streets of Paris were in chaos. Even the seedier parts of the city were in turmoil as the invading troops on leave enjoyed themselves at the expense of the populace. Louis d’Oile was one such unfortunate soul. He had managed to offend three drunken Khunds in Quartier Pigalle and now found himself the fox in a hunt down the back alleys of the worst parts of Paris.
“Haw! Look at him run!” one of the Khunds exclaimed, firing drunkenly. The laser struck the old brickwork, sending shards flying.
“You always were a lousy shot, Narg,” another Khund said, lifting a bottle of wine up to his mouth and taking a swig. “Now watch the master at work. The other two Khunds guffawed as the beam struck a garbage can, and the Frenchman let out a panicked cry.
“It’s this wine,” the second Khund grumbled. “It’s throwing off my aim.”
“Then it’s a good thing we’re not on duty,” the third Khund laughed. “I say we go find some more. There must be another wine cellar around here we could raid.”
“Not until we deal with this worm,” the second Khund said, firing again. “How dare he insult soldiers of the Khundish Army?”
“Well, in all fairness, you did leave that whore in pretty bad condition and then refused to make recompense,” the first Khund said.
“It’s not my fault these Earth women are so frail,” he snarled. “And he should be honored to have had one of his women to have served the pleasure of a hero of Khundia!” This sent the other two Khunds into fits of laughter.
“Ah, frag the both of you,” he snorted, then lifted his pistol and fired again. Again he missed. Louis let out a horrified squeak as he tripped over his feet in panic and then continued running.
“Nice work, Brag,” Narg snickered. “That cat will never trouble us no more.”
“Gah! This Earth dog has the luck of Auron!” the second Khund cursed. An evil grin suddenly crossed Brag’s face. “It looks like his luck has suddenly run out.”
Louis let out a horrified wail as he came face to face with a brick wall and realized he was cornered. “Non!” the pimp exclaimed, dropping to his knees. “Please have mercy! I beg this of you!”
“Mercy is for the weak,” Brag said, raising his pistol.
“I couldn’t agree more,” a voice said from behind him. A look of outrage and pain crossed Brag’s face as a black arrow tore through his forearm, causing him to drop the pistol. Two more struck the hands of his companions.
They all turned in shock as a man wearing a black beret, black bodysuit, and black trenchcoat approached. In his hand was a crossbow that he slung over his shoulder. His eyes were covered with a black domino mask, and a thin mustache covered his upper lip. The beard upon his chin came to a point. “Time to call it a night, non?”
“Le Fantom!” Louis gasped. “I thought you were dead.”
“Rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated,” the man in black said. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Between Sea and Sky, Chapter 2: War of the Worlds 1986.]
“Not for long,” Brag said, jerking the crossbow arrow from his arm. Reaching to his side, he grabbed his ceremonial battle axe and let out a fierce cry, charging for the man known around the world as the Phantom of France.
The Khund’s cry was caught in his throat as a throwing knife struck him between the eyes. He fell forward, unmoving. Seeing this, the other two drunken Khunds panicked and jumped the wooden fence to the side of them to flee.
“I thought they were supposed to be warriors,” he smirked, and extended a hand to Louis to help him up. “Perhaps the vine makes these aliens sensible, unlike us, n’est pas?”
“M-maybe,” Louis stammered.
“You are lucky your girls actually seem to care about you, my friend,” le Fantom said. “If I thought you were abusing them or exploiting them, I might have left you to their tender mercies.”
“I take good care of all my girls,” Louis said.
“Good,” le Fantom said, reaching for the pack of cigarettes in the pimp’s front shirt pocket. Taking two out, he lit one for each of them before putting the pack back. “See that you continue to do so.” He handed Louis a wad of colorful bills. “For her care. I will be back to check on her care, so every franc had better go to her recovery.”
“It will!” Louis exclaimed as the mysterious figure departed, seeming to fade into the night. “You have my word! Merci beaucoup, le Fantom! Merci beaucoup!”