A lonely man walks the night away down city streets.

Eugene Judd, recently single, occasionally low on self-esteem... a feeling that, despite his soaring spirit, finds its way into his psyche once in a while. I suppose that makes him normal...

She ended it. Not because of looks, or because he's a dwarf. It was a mild clash of personalities that made her believe that they were better off just being friends.

In a day or two, maybe even a week since she had a certain laugh that he loved, Judd will shake off the malaise and move on. Tonight's his night to wallow, though, and since it happens so rarely, he subsumes it, treating these emotions like they're exotic foreigners who have interesting stories to tell.

Eugene Judd has known such tremendous pain in his life that such frivolous dramas do little to affect him in any significant way.

Physically, his body has been twisted into dwarfism by, first, a sinister magic, and then by a noble guardianship of that beast. It wracks him with knifelike spasms most days, but it's his special burden to bear.

Psychologically, images of lost friends creep out of the corners in his mind and haunt him, the sight of their tearful blood cradled on battlefields and back alleys.

Emotionally, the unrequited love of the one woman he's ever pined for still, to this day, plucks that sorrowful chord deep down, it's sad note resonating throughout his soul. Heather... married to a great friend of his and forever bound to THAT love.

So... A sweet girl from Thunder Bay's "Dear John" phone call can hardly scratch the surface of Eugene Judd's pain threshold.

He walks, though, and each step pumps an ounce of life back into his deflated spirit. It's become dark out, the time slipping past smoothly. Having lived in Toronto since last Spring, Judd's familiar enough with the city to notice when something's amiss. And here on Crammer Street half the small time storefronts are dark. A sense of uneasiness seems to pour from it's alleys. Judd pauses at a corner.

Intuitively he simply watches...

Nothing too bad, but still, there is a problem here, and, seeking answers, he enters one of the few open establishments.

Judd: Evening. Glad to see you're open, eh.
Clerk: (his bad mood apparent through his professional response) Evening. What can I do for you?
Judd: Well... let's see... you're a hardware store. I mean, THIS is a hardware store. You're a clerk, eh. (He grins coyly hoping to elicit a response)
Clerk: (blandly) Yep.
Judd: Say, pal... Can't help but notice... things'r kinda quiet around here tonight. On the street, I mean. Did someone die? (Immediately Eugene cringes at his thoughtless remark! Of course... the best bet is exactly that. Someone from the neighborhood has passed away and he just glibly danced on their grave).

Clerk: (not eager to play along) Look... I got alot to do. You need to buy something, buy something. 'Don't need browsers here tonight, friend.
Judd: Hey, I'm sorry, pal. Didn't mean any harm.

Outside, down the street a ways, glass shatters. Hustling over to the doorway, both Eugene and the clerk peer out. Thirty feet away three men walk off in the night, leaving a bewildered shop owner to tend to the damage scattered on the sidewalk.

Judd: Well I'll be damned. You're being PINCHED. That right? Some tough guy leaning on you folks?
Clerks: I paid my share... I get to stay open tonight. Me, and a few others. Marty over there... ain't so lucky.
Judd: Oh, I don't know about that. What can you tell me about them?
Clerk: (incredulous) Are you nuts? How about nothin'.
Judd: Ah.. is that part of the agreement then? They steal your cash and you get to sit pretty and take it, eh? Doesn't sound like a fair shake.
Clerk: What's fair got to do with it? Can't afford to relocate, can't afford to retire. Cops don't care. Mayor's probably on the take. Most of us, we have to make do with what we got. We ain't like you "superheroes".
Judd: (surprised) Super--? Hahaha. That's good. You watch the news, eh. Well, you probably heard that we're out of the superhero racket these days. Doesn't mean we still can't make a difference. Tell you what, you tell me what you know and I swear... I'll make a difference. (his smile is infectious, genuine)

The clerk, incredulous still, takes a chance on Puck, and spills the beans...


In that "bad part of town" that every major metropolis seems to have, Eugene Judd has finally caught up to his quarry.

Two nights ago he took up a cause to rid at least one neighborhood of their bad apples, and there bellow him, on the sidewalk, passing under streetlights, three thugs make their way back to their den.

Those men, thieves of the timid, had a pretty good score this evening. The former Alphan could've stopped them before they started but better to let them walk a broad trail to the ones who call the shots.

Tracking them was hard in the big city, for Puck didn't want the bustling winter crowd to see him. A cold front from the North helped clear the streets though, and a few rooftop subway car rides later avenues of solitude offer him more substantial hiding places.

A warehouse. "Typical", he thought. He wondered what other mobster clichés these clowns were good for. Puck scales the corrugated steel riddled with rust in order to gain the high ground, as it were. From above, he creeps along the heights until an opening can be convinced to squeeze him through. Tucking his trench coat into the crawlspace, Puck finished suiting up for action. Outfitted in black kevlar, accentuated with his trademark orange "P" along the front, he ambles downward until he lands softly on the second floor loft. Voices from nearby tell him that there are about five men in a room down the hall. Learning long ago never to leap before he looked, Judd searches for a way to better assess the situation.

To climb on top of it would be too risky. Old buildings like this enjoyed creaking at every opportunity, and so, instead he continues to probe for an opening, getting closer and closer to the door with each failed survey. He glances again toward the railing that opens the main part of the warehouse up from floor to ceiling and sees no threats from outside the busy, well lit room. He was about to peer through the tiny keyhole when a shift in the planks, slight as it was, warns him that someone from inside was about to exit. No other options present, Puck flattens himself in the corner as the door flies open, in effect, hiding him from view. A surge of comic relief strikes him at that moment and he turns to look through the door jam near his face. Six men had been in the room. One just left while the others mill around an accountant's table. Crumpled bills are spread out, but Puck sees no weapons... undoubtedly all concealed on the goons.

Stan the Goon: (looking up) Close the damn door, you horse's ass!
Roger the Crook: (walking away down the hall, over his shoulder) Aw, get bent!
Stan the Goon: Jimmy, get the door.

Seizing the moment, Puck slams the sturdy oak ingress closed on poor Jimmy's face. Just as quickly as he shut it though, the Alphan whips it open again, barrelling aggressively into the stunned room. Bounding over Jimmy's writhing body, Puck escorts three others from consciousness before anyone else can even spit out their expletives. One of the casualties of his assault, a broken chair offers up a detached leg for use against the remaining criminals. Five powerful strokes later the last two join the others on the floor.

Working quickly, Puck begins to stuff scattered money into a black pouch. He hears shouting from outside the room and silently curses. Too many new voices and thumping footsteps for this to be a cakewalk. Though he detests guns, Judd grabs one off a fallen thug and fires five shots into the open air outside the room. This will buy him time, as the reinforcements have to halt for fear of being hit... a good bluff. Puck prefers subduing his opponents the OLD, old fashioned way. In a flash, he's gathered up everything of value the room has to offer, including money, wallets and firearms and sets off through the doorway. Bullets zip past him, nipping at his fightsuit but taking no real bites into flesh.

Bounding up and into the shadowy rafters, Eugene has just struck a first blow against this small time pack of wolves. Escaping into the frigid night Puck delights in the rush.

A block away now, he watches the commotion surrounding the warehouse, taking mental notes and calculating forces. The operation's slightly larger than he'd hoped, but with the right plan, shouldn't be a problem. What he's most concerned about is how deep this thing runs. If police and politicians are involved it could escalate beyond his hopes and fears. All he wants is to do good by the honest folks carving out their living... nobody should have to wage a war just so they can break even.

On cue, a squad car pulls up without it's reds and blues flashing. A sure sign that they're there to secretly lend support to the enterprise, not to answer a distress call. A garage door opens greeting the officers with bloodied noses and angry body language. The cold weather captures their breath in steamy fits, and they all go inside.

Indignation rises, and the thought of innocent store owners fan flames inside Eugene Judd. This was supposed to be a probing mission. Gather info, knock a few heads together, take some guns off the streets, recoup some of the lost money... but something's changed. It's not enough. Puck removes the loaded pouch that's a part of his outfit, drops it on the rooftop and steps forward toward the ledge. In the background, Toronto's bright lights gleam in the frosty air. Directly before him, the warehouse taunts him, and he remembers, with a wide grin, that he's left his trench coat inside...

Part 3

He's crept along the dirty streets of Toronto's underbelly, making his way smoothly to the police car parked outside the dingy den of thieves, and now Puck prepares for the confrontation soon to follow. Pulling a small blade from his fightsuit, the skilled slugger relieves all four tires of their air, and, wheezing out in pathetic hisses they fall flat, disabling the vehicle.

Puck shuffles up to the warehouse and revisits the path he took to the roof minutes ago so as to gain entry once again. Other spots offered easier access to the high ground, but this way gave the tactician an escape were the enemy lucky enough to spot him. A mere moment later he completes a tricky tumble and is securely in place up above.

Squeezing through an opening, Puck recovers the trench coat he had placed in the crawl space and delicately crawls into position for reconnaissance.

Nineteen men in all... a few of them bloody & woozy, all of them agitated, buzz around the main area of the building like hornets who just had their hive TPed. It takes him 22 seconds to choreograph the impending fight, and if it goes right... well, it'll go right.

Two thugs lean against the second floor rail not far from the infamous room. They're the first act, the dance has just begun.

From the shadowy rafters Puck's ghostly image rides gravity's tug down hard onto the shoulders of the two unsuspecting men, sending all three crashing through the wooden railing, down into the light. Holding their collars, Puck ensures a non fatal landing on top of the nearest car's rooftop... Pain, followed by unconsciousness, is the preferred result, and with tremendous dexterity objective number one is met.

Without a wasted movement Puck launches from the car, letting momentum toss him through the air into the dumbfounded band of criminals. Like an adept bullfighter, his trench coat flapping grandly at his side, Puck flies over the next closest victim, lassoing his terrified face in the cotton jacket, while he moves on to greater threats. By now guns are being drawn, but, already seeing five moves into the brawl, Puck's began mopping up the floor with the clumsy creeps. His barrel roll sends two bouncing chin first, their legs taken out from under them, awkwardly to the cement, and squeezing every drop he can from the second floor thrust, Puck ricochet's off the garage door and back toward the trench coat. Poor Jimmy had just freed himself of the snare when the lightning fast Alphan returned to his corner of the universe. His finale isn't scripted until later, though... eight moves from now, in fact, and so Puck takes what miniscule time he has with each action to snare the falling coat and fling it toward a dangerously close gun wielder. That man's balance upset just enough, Puck first dispatches another oaf with a flying jump kick, then rolls up for a debilitating uppercut to the gun toter's nether region.

Had the remaining wannabe mobsters stayed awake in the following seconds, they would no doubt sympathize with Stan the Goon as he slumped to the floor. Instead, catching his gun Puck hurls it into the crooked cop's face across the room, buying precious seconds before any one of the remaining cons could fire a shot.

It all came down to this, though, the trickiest part of his preplanned dance. It's inevitable, that with upwards of nineteen opponents, that sooner or later they will draw guns, and they will get a bead. And for as skilled, and as quick as Eugene Judd is, dodging bullets can only happen in short, LUCKY spurts... and this setup isn't geared toward that scenario. He must get in close, draw them into a bear-your-soul, back alley slugfest.

The pistol that smashed Copper number one's nose into a dozen different angles clinks to the deck as Puck slams meaty knuckles into the second fuzzball's right cheek. His hat sails happily off while he greets his colleague on the other side of consciousness.

Judd's best hopes came true as two men with pistols aimed held their fire for fear of striking their Police buddies. There'll be more guns drawn soon enough unless he can get the last eleven to commit to close quarters fighting. Without pause Puck hurls himself at the gunmen, eyes tight, straining to sense their tendons flex in the firing motion. Two bullets from two separate angles eject from their muzzles, sending the Alphan desperately into the air. Contact is avoided, as planned, and he crashes sidelong into both perpetrators. The impact isn't enough to knock them out, but the all important grappling phase has, thankfully come.

A tangle of arms twist for dominance to the tune of eleven to one and Puck grins. The coy smile turns into an malevolent snarl as the Diminutive Destroyer shifts it into overdrive.

His size works to his advantage, causing the others to adjust their styles and stances. Puck, on the otherhand...

Within eight seconds four thugs lay holding bruised faces, drifting in and out of consciousness. Another two hear and feel their knees pop painfully out of joint. They could've charged admission, for the show Puck put on would've brought in more money than a month's worth of shakedowns.

Finished now, and admittedly slightly out of breath, the Hero secured the site, assuring himself of prolonged advantage by gathering guns and knives and, truth be told, willpower from the tattered enclosure. Those who were awake wanted no more. They wanted medical treatment more than anything. And, most certainly they recognized their righteous assailant... confirmed it really... as a member of the recently defunct Alpha Flight.

Gathered neatly, in relative terms, nineteen defeated goons groan in the center of the spacious room like a dysfunctional triage unit, moaning and taking inventory of teeth while Puck prepares for tonight's finale'.

He needs to know how deep this ring goes and his first interviewee is an obvious choice. Grabbing the more groggy of the two bad Cops, Puck pulls him by the collar roughly to his scowling face. The groggy among us are usually the more truthful... their rattled skulls typically forget about the necessity of lying in certain situations. Ripping the cop's badge off his chest, Puck holds it an inch in front of the man's battered face.

Puck: (spittle flying) Tell me what I wanna know or I'll take this worthless tin and shove it down yer damn throat! See this? Hey! Look at me! Who's callin' the shots here?

Groggy Fuzzball: M'uh... m'uh teef. Y'uh knukt-- (eyes roll back and he slips further into incoherence)

Puck: (inwardly) Ehh, maybe alittle TOO groggy...

Stan the Goon: Save your breath, chump. You got nothing on us.
Puck: Ah! The Accountant! I'll tell ya what I got on you. I know what you creeps do, and YOU know what you creeps do. THAT's what I have on you. And so I'm gonna shake YOU down now, every day, every week... until you beg me to stop. An' I can see it in yer eyes, pal, that you ain't the beggin' kind. So this is gonna be for the long haul. You think you have friends in high places? Think they're pretty scary. Wait 'til you meet MINE. Don't care about cops, don't care about lawyers. You and your boys against me and mine. How does that sound, chump?

From outside, a quick succession of chirps indicate the arrival of Toronto's finest on the scene. A bang at the door, followed by a commanding shout ushers in the last act with a gleam in Puck's eye.

Puck: (winks) Too bad... (over his shoulder) It's open!

Tentatively, and with professional precision, half a dozen police officers file in, guns drawn, faces stern.

Officer Maxwell: Everyone keep your hands where we can see them! Do it! Do it now! Got reports of shots in the area. Saw the cruiser outside with the flat-- what the hell's happening here?

Puck: What's it look like, eh? (thumbs to himself with his left) Superhero... (points to the mess of men on the floor) bad guys... (big grin)


Hours later, Eugene Judd walks the streets again, this time heading home to his downtown flat, flurries landing softly around him. His trenchcoat and cap keep him warm from the late night chill, and his mind loses itself in post-battle analysis, step after step.

He's certain that the fight could've ended 40 seconds sooner had he zigged here rather than zagged there, but he's not going to beat himself up over it. In the end, a budding, small time pack of wolves were taken down, along with their two policemates.

It doesn't look like this ring had much might, yet, but given time it would've expanded from mere thugery to drugrunning, prostitution and general all around misery to the meek.

It feels rewarding... still, he misses the greater good accomplished alongside Michael, and Mac, and Walt... and Heather. He smiles slightly at the the memory of it all. The days Alpha Flight mattered. And he hopes, that eventually he'll get that phonecall, whether from friends or Department H, that Canada needs it's heroes again.


(*this fanfiction story takes place just prior to the events of Alpha Flight, volume 2, circa 1997)