All right people, let's get something straight. This is, as of right now, spur-of-the-moment. I have two other stories I need to work on, so this is a Writer's Block Outlet. Free-write. Whatever you wanna call it. But don't think I won't follow up if it gets popular/reviews. Let's just see how things play out, shall we?

Listen to: "Psychotic Girl" by The Black Keys

Rain spattered against the water and filth-stained windows of the motel. Every other second the trickling, bubbling currents against the window were lit bright yellow by the flashing neon sign outside. The inside reeked of cigarette smoke and slightly stale clothing, as well as an underlying aroma of cat litter. A lamp was flickering next to an unmade bed next to which a young woman was pacing. She was mostly shadowed in the room. The two shades of yellow light flashed off her features as she walked briskly back and forth. Her face was sharp, almost too sharp to be attractive. Fingers with nails trimmed dangerously short drummed restlessly against her arm. Cheekbones sat high and gaunt on her face. Her pupils were dilated against the low light, pushing her irises into thin rings.

A campy costume was tucked away, below the bed, waiting to be worn. She, along with a number of others, had been swept up in the costumed hero craze. There was some sort of unofficial meeting scheduled to happen, but she wasn't sure whether she wanted to go. Social situations were never a guarantee of success for her—in fact, very much the opposite. Somehow, however, she felt obliged.

For a long time, she had been torn on what name she should choose, at the same time feeling quite foolish. There was something romantic, however, in the idea of fighting crime behind a mask; so she swallowed her pride and thought. Eventually she settled on something simple: Phalanx. Her costume was simple and black, the only distinguishing feature being a belt from which to hang knives or other things. Her mask covered everything but her eyes and resembled an old china doll or Renaissance mask, forever frozen with pursed lips. It was attached to stretchy material that pulled over her whole head.

Donning her close-fitted, soft costume, she slid open the window of the motel. She was sprayed with rain, and she squinted against the bright neon sign as she clambered out the window, crawling down the building and starting off down the street below.

"Well, firstly, let me just say I'm pleased to see so many of you here. Very pleased." She had seen him in the papers over the past few weeks. She couldn't recall his name. Despite his—and he others'—somewhat odd appearance, the guy was right about one thing; there was a surprising amount of people attending. Part of her had wondered if she would be the only one coming. There almost wasn't room to stand close to the obnoxious poster the man had stuck up.

The array of crime fighters stretched to either end of the spectrum. Across from her, the man she recalled as being the Comedian was reading the paper and smoking a cigar. On the other end of the room, a dark-haired woman was clinging possessively to muscular man with blue skin, the latter of whom seemed to be very indifferent. Some costumes were gaudier than others—one man was dressed all in shining gold and a purple cape, and another was in a simple trench coat and fedora. The last man caught her eye—his mask, at least from she was standing, looked like one half of one of those Rorschach tests psychologists used. As she watched, the ink blots seemed to shift and change to make a completely different pattern seconds later. It was mesmerizing to her, like a lava lamp; she found herself ignoring the host's words of greeting. She was snapped out of her reverie when the Comedian spoke up.

"Bullshit." He grumbled, still chewing on the cigar.

"What?" The first man asked.

"I said bullshit. This whole idea, this whole Crimebusters shtick, it stinks."

"Th-that isn't true . . ."

"Uh, listen, let's not throw the idea out right away." She recognized that one immediately—Nite Owl. He was something of a celebrity at this point. "Me and Rorschach have made headway into the gang problem by pooling our efforts . . ."

She was surprised to learn that his name was Rorschach. Hit the nail on the head, apparently. "Obviously, I agree." Rorschach said. "But a group this size seems more like a publicity exercise somehow. Too big and unwieldy."

She didn't bother paying attention to words beyond that point. She was interested in seeing how the rest of the meeting played out. Tensions grew, arguments broke out, and the Comedian burned the poster display. People left after that, trickling out as the failure of the meeting became too painfully clear to ignore. She followed, not exactly knowing where to go. She ended up falling into step next to a girl a little younger than her with brown hair the dangled to her back.

"What now?" She muttered.

"I'm going to go on patrol." The girl answered. "We don't always go in groups, so if you want to go by yourself that's fine too, I think." The brunette followed her gaze to Rorschach, who was almost literally melting back into the shadows.

"What's his problem?" She asked, but she received no response.

"Hey, what can I call you?"


"You know. Your costume name. Or your actual name, I won't tell."

"Oh. Just call me Phalanx."

The girl held out her hand. Phalanx shook it. "You can just call me Laurie. Hey, that name is pretty catchy."

"Old military strategy. I like to study them."

"Huh." Laurie smiled a bit. "I suppose I'll see you around, then?"

"Yeah." Phalanx was already walking up to the nearest building. "See you around." She jumped slightly, getting a good handhold before pulling herself up the building's side to the roof, heaving herself from windows and misplaced bricks in the mortar. When she reached the top, she stopped and looked up. There was too much light pollution and too many clouds to see any real stars.

Jumping between buildings, it wasn't too hard to find some gang activity below. Depending on how many thugs there were, it could be a challenge. But that was okay. She liked challenges. Hours passed, mostly in boredom. Towards the end of the night, she ended up on the top of some building in the city, she wasn't sure where, just sitting against a chimney and looking down at the street below. The rain had let up, but it was still coming down with no sign of stopping. The water was soaking through her mask and pooling in the bony area between her shoulders and neck in a very irritating way.

She sighed and from her belt pulled her most used knife and a small stone. Sharpening the little knives was monotonous work that was a good way of passing the time. The rhythmic scraping, the satisfyingly sharp edge afterward. A most rewarding experience, in her opinion. As she worked, she noticed a most peculiar stinging on her arm. Glancing down, she muttered in annoyance at the sight of a shallow cut on the outside of her forearm. She put away her knife and clenched her hand around the wound, hissing and cursing the thugs.

She walked to the edge of the building and looked down, clenched her teeth and jumped down to the fire escape on the building opposite. She swung down and landed hard on the ground below, splashing into a puddle of filth. Only when she straightened up again did she realize the folly of her actions. At the end of the alley, the shadows of more knot-tops were flickering over the graffiti-covered brick. She started off to the other end, wincing at a pain in her ankle. She had landed badly off the fire escape. The footsteps behind her increased in speed, as did the catcalls and certainly drunken hollering. She could make out at least five. Knowing she would not be able to avoid a fight at this point, Phalanx stopped, pulling out a couple tiny knives made exclusively to throw.

She stopped walking. The thugs did not. She waited until she could hear individual words before quickly turning and hurling the knives as hard as she could muster. One slammed home, almost directly in one man's collarbone. He let loose a gurgling choke and crumpled. The other knife narrowly missed another thug and instead of injuring him, simply clattered past to bang against the alley walls.

The same man jumped forward, his own short blade glinting, but was stopped short by a palm to his face. She could feel the bones breaking under her hand. The man cried out and stopped, stumbling. She struck him hard across the temple, and he crashed against the brick wall. She stumbled as a fist drove deep into her gut, but reciprocated with a sharp gash across his face. Phalanx, now spattered in fresh blood, held her newly sharpened knife in one hand, keeping her face to her attackers.

"Come on . . ." She hissed. In response to her taunt, another of the five men leapt forward foolishly, clumsily, leaving himself wide open. Almost like she was watching him move in slow motion, she easily stepped forward and pushed the knife into his stomach. He gasped, his mouth open in a wide oval of bad teeth. She swept him to the side as the last man took his place, swinging wildly. She ducked to either side and waited until he got tired before drawing the blade quickly across his cheek, then grabbing his shoulders and driving a knee straight up into his chin.

Tossing the thug aside, she counted the bodies. Three, four. She frowned. She could distinctly that there were five men in the alley—

Her thought was cut off as a trail of fire roared across her back from shoulder to hip. She yelled out in pain and fury and spun, seeing that it was in fact the last thug. She raised her knife, ready to end his miserable life, when he froze suddenly. A puzzled expression crossed his face, and they both looked down to see a dull metal point sticking out of his middle. They met gazes again in time for the thug to cough a sharp spray of blood and saliva in her face before he tottered around and collapsed. A few feet behind him, Rorschach was reeling in the grappling hook almost nonchalantly.

"I don't need saving." Phalanx spat, annoyed.

"Hurm. Did not seem like it." Rorschach tucked the grappling hook away in his trench coat.

"I would have had him in a second." She walked past him, blinking away the pain from her back.

"You are injured."

"Excellent deduction, Sherlock." She sneered. "Just back off, I'll be fine." When she glanced over her shoulder, Rorschach was gone. Phalanx walked a few more blocks, taking the most roundabout routes she could find, before reaching the dilapidated motel. Not using the front door for obvious reasons, she climbed up the windows to reach hers and tumbled inside, grimacing. Tearing off her torn costume, she snatched rolls of bandaging from her bedside drawer and began furiously wrapping herself in them. When both her arm and back were covered, she pushed the costume under the bed and crawled on top of the sheets, asleep before her head hit the pillow.