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Mighty MLJ
Mighty MLJ
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Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 4:36 am


Post by Brad » Mon Jan 24, 2005 12:11 am

Setting: The last we saw Steel Sterling, he was on his way across the country to promote a new movie of which he was to star. It never happened. Since then, he's resumed his private detective business, and faded reluctantly from the national spotlight. The events in tis story take place after the final issue of Steel Sterling (#7, for those interested). Steel Sterling is tm and copyright Archie Comics. No infringement is intended. This is a work of fiction, and no profit is being made from this story. All other characters in this story are based upon actual people who live in Marion, IL.



Of all the places I could be right now... why here??? the man thought to himself as he drove through the torrential downpour.

He exited his vehicle and quickly ran through the parking lot to the entrance of Walt's Pizza.

As he stepped in, he took off his sunglasses and wiped away the gathering moisture from the lenses with a handkerchief. He began to remove his trenchcoat when a man called out his name.

"Mr. Sterling!"

Steel looked up and walked to the table closest to the salad bar. "Dog Connell, it really has been too long!" Steel shook his hand and pretended to cringe.

Robert "Dog" Connell was getting overweight. The seat by the salad bar was only for looks. He'd only eaten a salad once, and he hated it. The life of a political party chairman was not that physically straining.

"So, you hero types have no secret identity anymore?" Dog asked as he smiled sarcastically at Steel.

Steel was a bit confused at his friend's meaning, which was evident as only one eyebrow was raised in response to the question.

Dog shook his head and said, "I mean, you got the black derby, the black trenchcoat, and the black shades; yet you still have that gaudy red and yellow outfit on under it. Take my advice, if you're gonna go incognito, scrap the yellow boots."

"Well, I always try to be ready for action," Steel said as he tried to outdo his old friend.

"Well, normally, I'd say there's never a need for action in Marion, Illinois... well, unless you work for the prison."

Steel nodded. "Marion is a very boring little 'burb, with the exception of all this rain and flooding!"

"No kidding."

"So, if there's no need for action, why'd you call me down here, Dog?" Steel softened his voice, "You sounded worried."

Dog looked around nervously left and right before continuing, "...Well, here's the deal..."


Steel and Dog finished off the double-decker pizza and a few Pepsi-Free's before they finally got up from the table.

As they exited the building, they saw that the rain was coming down even harder and faster than before. The drops were as large as golf balls, and was coming down hard, fast, and thick. It was as if God had a giant bucket and decided to pour it all out at once on the city of Marion.

They both ran to Dog's vehicle, a 1983 Chevy Scottsdale before they realized that there was no way of getting out of the parking lot. The rain had come so fast that the streets were completely flooded, and not even the 4X4 could make it through the rivers that flowed down Court street.

"Oh well," Steel mused, "Let's just go back inside and wait this thing out."

They began their trek across the parking lot as the first lightning bolt crashed. The men turned to see Dog's truck seemingly levitate from the bolt hitting so close to it.

The truck went up a foot, and came back down harmlessly, but oh did it ever creak. It sounded like a vehicle twenty years older.

If Steel hadn't been distracted by the bouncing truck, he would have heard the gunfire.

Dog Connell fell to the ground, clutching his shoulder. The bullet had gone all the way through him, and then bounced harmlessly off of Steel.

The Crusader turned around and watched the two Marion police officers draw their guns at him.

The first officer to speak pulled out his badge and screamed, "Officer Cannon, Marion PD. Put your hands up now and you won't get hurt!"

Steel looked at Connell, who was laying on the pavement shaking, holding his shoulder. His eyes were bulging as he looked to the two law-enforcement officials. "It's them!" he half-screamed, half-whispered. "It's them!"

Dog started to say something else, but a second bullet silenced him... for good.

Sterling looked up at the gunman and his eyes flashed. "That, my poor little friend, was the last mistake you'll ever make!"

Both officers pelted Steel with bullets as he ran towards them, ripping off his trenchcoat as he got closer and closer to the murderers of his friend.

The bullets had no effect on him. As a general rule, they never did... not since the day he got his sometimes burdensome powers.

Steel was only four feet from the officers when the lightning struck again.

The force from the bolt of electricity from the heavens sent Steel flying through the air, and into the late Dog Connell's truck, totalling it. The cops landed harmlessly in the flooded street.

Sterling got up slowly, removing the fender that had wrapped around his body, and reached for the hubcap sitting on the ground next to him.

He concentrated and saw movement in the water ahead of him. He twisted and threw the hubcap like a frisbee towards the water.

Cannon was the first to emerge from the watery road, and as he opened his eyes, he viewed the last moment of his life, right before the hubcap took his life.

Steel was about to run after the other cop, who had fled, but then he stopped. He stood silently for a moment, sniffing the air.

He then turned towards the pizzeria and saw the flames coming from the roof.


John Sterling -- Steel to his friends -- rested in the hard bed at the Motel Marion. He'd gone through enough for the day, and he needed rest.

Fifteen years earlier, Steel Sterling and Dog Connell had befriended one another while Steel was working on a case in Indianapolis. The case was going nowhere, and there were no leads, no suspects, and no body.

Connell, then a state representative in Indiana, had brought some information to Steel's attention, and blew the case wide open.

Over the years, they had kept in touch. Connell retired from political office, and became the party chairman in Williamson County, Illinois. Steel hated politicians, but for some reason Dog was different. He was actually an honest politician -- an oxy-moron if there ever was one.

When Connell told Steel he needed his help, the hero dropped everything and flew to Marion. Connell told him that he had stumbled upon some information, and that he thought he was going to be assassinated.

Connell had confided in no one else, fearing that the corruption may have been deeper than he had heard. He called Steel because he feared for his life... and as it turned out, he had good reason.


Steel Sterling was no longer a household name. It used to be. But now, no one knew him. He wasn't the Shield, he wasn't the Fly, heck, more people probably remembered Red Rube than Steel Sterling.

His movie career ended before it even began when the movie company he was to make a film for went under before shooting one frame.

Not since the 60's, when he was a member of the world-famous Crusaders, was he really a marqee name to the nation.

A private investigator's life was fun, but he missed the action and the challenges that being a real-life super-hero brought. But he was content. Well, that was until he got the rush of being back in action with the newly re-formed Crusaders. He felt the adrenaline once again and he was ready to take on the world.

Steel yawned as he slowly opened his eyes. It was a bit blurry at first, but then he saw clearly the six men surrounding him with lazer-pistols.


The man looked down at him and said, "Mr. Sterling..."

"That's me, gents," Steel interrupted.

The man was not thrilled with the rudeness. "Mr. Sterling, my name is Police Commisioner Robert Butler. You are under arrest for the murder of Robert 'Dog' Connell and of Marion Police Officer Steve Cannon."

"Run that by me again?!" Steel was a bit skeptical of their competency at this point.

"We have an eyewitness report that says you shot Mr. Connell twice, and then proceeded to kill officer Cannon with a hubcap. And to top it all off, you then set fire to Walt's Pizzaria!"

Sterling started to get out of his bed.

"I'd recommend against any thoughts of fighting us, Mr. Sterling. We have top of the line lazer pistols, and you are unarmed. Come quietly and we won't have to hurt you." The Police Commisioner was enjoying himself. He had his scapegoat.

Steel Sterling smirked as the adrenaline coarsed through his body. Then he thought to himself, This might prove interesting.


The clock tower rang 4:00 AM, even though is was barely even 3:42. It had a bad habit of running very quickly. Once a month, some poor unlucky city worker had to climb the stairs to the top of the tower and hang over the edge to re-set it.

"I'm telling you -- number one, I didn't shoot 'Dog', Cannon did. And number two, I acted in self defense when he shot at me! It's his own fault he's dead now, not mine!" Sterling knew he could take them all, but he played along. It added to his ego to play them for fools before he made them look like fools.

"And I told you, Mister Sterling, that Officer Cannon was the best marksman ever to serve as a Marion Police officer. If he had shot at you, you would be dead!"

Steel frowned. They really had no idea who he was. But knowing they soon would know made him happy.


"Do you know who I am?" Steel asked the Commish in a tone that made it sound like he was asking for special treatment.

"Yes, you are John Sterling, private investigator. Soon to be the late John Sterling if you even blink wrong."

Steel looked around the room in his best nervous expression. Each man surrounding him had top-of-the-line body armor on, with 27X1L Laser guns aimed at his head.

"I'm hungry, anyone got a Snickers?" Steel said to the crowd of won't-be assassins. All the men exchanged confused looks with eachother over Steel's reaction to his certain doom.

That was the moment he was waiting for. A swift kick caught the Commish between the legs, and Steel quickly grabbed the groaning Commish and held him in between him and the guns.

It was at that point that one of the guards realized his gun was missing, and in the hands of the man they were sent to arrest. The barrel of the gun rested against Mr. Butler's adam's apple.

The flash of light from the gun lit up the whole room, as the laser ripped through flesh.


With the dead man on the floor, and the Commish being held hostage, Steel only had four more men to deal with.

Steel Sterling shook his head. Ricocheting lasers are a messy thing. The brave one tried to be the "hero" and kill Sterling with a shot between the eyes. Instead, it bounced back at him.

The men were not sure what to make of what had just happened... well, all but one. "It really is him..."

The captive Commisioner looked at the officer. "What are you babbling about?" he demanded.

"It's Steel Sterling... the Crusader..."

"The what?" the Commish screamed, as a look of realization began to cross his face.

"Steel Sterling... the Man of Steel... the Mighty Crusader..." the man said, lowering his gun.

"Kill him!" Butler demanded, "Kill him now!"

The officer looked at his superior and said, "This is wrong." He dropped his gun and looked into the eyes of Steel.

Sterling said, "It's okay, man. Put the gun down and go ahead and leave. I won't stop you."

The young man did as he was told, and when he reached the door of the hotel room, turned and said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Sterling."

The remaining cops weren't sure what to do. They also didn't realize that while they were confused over their departed comrade, the Commish had been choked to sleep.

Steel threw Butler to the ground and then stood up, lazer gun in hand. "Here's the way it's gonna be, girls. You're gonna drop the guns and you're gonna leave this town and never come back!" Even though Steel knew there was no way they'd do it, he said it anyway. He liked toying with the bad guys before he made them look helpless.

A few seconds of silence passed. A few more. And then...

"Forget you!" The cry came from the shortest and scrawniest of the group.

It was over in twelve seconds... twelve seconds, only because Steel tripped over the body of the Commissioner. The remaining cops were out cold, laying flat on the floor when the door came crashing open.


The policeman that had left earlier, along with Steel Sterling, dragged the bodies out of the shattered doorway. Six police cars, and a squad of twenty cops were there to greet them. Steel and the officer were escorted to the back of one of the squad cars, and taken into custody.

While in the back of the car, Sterling looked over at the young officer. "What's your name, son?"

The young cop looked into his hero's eyes and said, "Nathan, sir."

"You got a last name, Nate?" Sterling asked.

"Cray, sir. Nate Cray."


After giving his testimony, along with that of other eye-witnesses, Sterling was released, with all charges against him dropped.

His befriended cop, however, had a lot more to answer for. He admitted to his role in a corruption that went all the way to the Commisioner's office. He told stories of briberies, murders, kidnappings, and extortions. He told how he was approached by Commisioner Butler on the first day he joined the force, and the money he was offered if certain people were left alone.

In exchange for his testimony, along with a good word from Steel Sterling, Cray was given leniency, and only charged with accesory to extort money. His sentence was thirty days in jail, and two years probation.

The other members of "Butler's Bunch" as the newspaper called them, tried to deny the charges against them, but when evidence showed up from the late Dog Connell's office, they were all out of luck.

Butler tried to escape the law by calling in some of his favors. Only problem was, some of the favors were part of a sting by FBI agents investigating the bribery scandal.

Steel Sterling had to testify in all the trials, and therefore had to stay in Marion for a few weeks more.

As Nate Cray was leaving the courtroom to be escorted off to jail, Sterling looked at him and said, "I've got a job waiting for you when you get out, if you're interested."

Cray looked up, and for the first time in a long time, he smiled. "Thank you Mr. Sterling."

Sterling waved and said, "See-ya round, Nate."

The thought ran through his head, Gee whiz I'm glad to get out of this place.

He never expected he'd be coming back so soon.



Sterling drove away, sad that his friend, Dog Connell had died. But he also knew that justice had been served.

All the members of "Butler's Bunch" had been given life sentences without parole, except for Nate Cray.

Not only that, but his exploits made front-page news all across the country. He was becoming a marquee star again. And because of that, Steel Sterling was happy.

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