Shadow Knight: The Dark Avenger: Book Two: "Villains Unleashed!"

Written By Maskedhero100

Cover-art done by MidnightOwl07

Shadow Knight: The Crooked House

By Maskedhero100

Chapter 1: Driving Mr. Agent Schroeder

Central Lunar, Plaza Tower: January 16th, 2021: 10:00 PM

Detective Rene Alvarez and her partner Simon Peterson stepped out of the elevator, and after flashing their badges to the LCPD officers standing outside of the crime scene, stepped through the cordoned off apartment door and into the apartment they had been called into by the chief to investigate.

The apartment belonged to a low-class family, nobody of any importance.

The father worked at a gas station down the street, the mother worked at a daycare, and their daughter was in high school.

They were just a normal, average family, with not even a single blemish on their permanent records.

"So…" Renee' thought to herself, "Why did he go after them? I know this is his handiwork. It has his fingerprints all over it."

She looked around the apartment with her eyes and noticed that nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary…save for a laptop computer on the coffee table in front of a sofa couch.

The laptop belonged to the daughter, it was online, and its screen was displaying what at first glance looked to be some kind of strange screensaver.

But being the keen and experienced Detective she was, Renee' knew that was no screensaver displayed on the laptop.

"I'm sorry, what were we called here for?" Detective Simon Peterson asked as he looked around at the scene.

"We're here to investigate a crime Rookie…" Detective Renee' Alvarez responded.

"What crime?" Simon Peterson asked confused, "A TV set starts acting strange, the lights go nuts and the man's daughter's laptop starts detailing a series of numbers on its screen? Sounds more like a hacker pulling a weird prank. I've had that happen once before back in Seattle. A basement dweller who hated his girlfriend's father forbidding her from seeing him and with help from a fellow hacker he rigged the guy's smart house to release it's fire sprinklers and the home P.A system to blare 'Ode to Joy' throughout the house."

"Your still new to the city Rookie…" Detective Renee' Alvarez explained, "this may seem like a hacker pulling a prank, and I hope it really is…but this has the mark of The Mastermind all over it."

"The Mastermind?" Detective Simon Peterson asked surprised, "Why would you think it's him?"

"The hacked computer is showing a repeating line of code…an invitation to whatever he has planned next, another one of his games." Detective Renee' Alvarez, "And the father called the station twice… but only remembered calling the second time. The family also remembers that they noticed that the TV screen had been flashing the words 'Pick up the phone, call this number, listen and obey' once the strange flashing started before everything went blank…and they soon found that fourteen minutes had passed by when it felt like fourteen seconds."

"Huh…" Detective Peterson said looking around the house, "So where is the family now?"

"That's the interesting part." Detective Renee' Alvarez continued, "When the father made both calls, both when he was aware and when he was under the influence of Mastermind's signal…he was calling from his cellphone, with his family beside him, awake and aware…from the elevated train station on Bleaker Street."

"That's on the other side of the city" Detective Peterson declared, and then he thought about it "Wait…I've done my reading up on this guy. His hypnotic signals only keep people hypnotized so long as they are online and people have direct eye contact with them to be affected. How did he hypnotize a family to take an L-Train trip across the island?"

"He must have improved his design somehow, like with his swordstick cane that he used on Beatrice Fuller. Now he can hypnotize anyone affected by the new signal to follow post-hypnotic suggestions or commands without needing further stimulus from the devices. I'll bet he rigged the lights somehow to hypnotize them and that TV to give the commands, we'll have to start checking the building maintenance schedule to see if the family living here had anyone come into work on their home while they were gone. I bet he was playing 'technician' or 'renovations' again…unless he had people do it for him." Detective Renee' Alvarez picked up the hacked laptop carefully to examine it with her gloved hands for anything that might be out of the ordinary.

"He improved the signal device?" Detective Simon Peterson said concerned, looking at the rigged TV which was being carted off by their fellow officers to evidence, "Jeeze…Let's hope he never figures out how to put that signal into a phone, or worse…turn the lights of the city or an entire building into a giant version of his hypnotic devices."

"He won't Rookie because this time we're going to find him and take him down." Detective Renee' Alvarez assured him.

"Will you now?" a voice familiar to Detective Renee' Alvarez said, coming from all around the room from what Detective Renee' Alvarez figured was a series of hidden speakers.

She, Detective Peterson and the other LCPD SCU officers drew their guns and looked around defensively, trying to find out where The Mastermind was broadcasting from since the audio feed was so clear that it sounded like he was standing with them in the room.

"Sorry Detective, but you won't be my downfall…but you will be a great contestant in my latest game. You and your new partner. My, my, what a nice couple you make. Also, would you mind turning around Detective, I'd rather see your face than your ass. I may be a 'super-villain'…but I am a super-villain of decorum and etiquette. Especially when it comes to women." The Mastermind's voice spoke to her, and Renee' realized that he was watching them from the laptop which was on the coffee table behind where she and Simon were standing with their guns drawn.

She turned around to look at the camera on the laptop, where she figured was where The Mastermind was looking at her from the laptop.

"So I was right, it was you. What do you want now professor? You gonna try and make the city hate me for supposedly pissing all over protocol and callously killing criminals and innocents you have locked up in your games again?" she asked curtly.

"Oh don't be mad about the Tower game Detective, it wasn't personal. It was just a point I had to make clear…but you bounced back from it all. I'm impressed and I congratulate you for your return to the force. Not many stand back on their feet after being ripped apart by the rabid wolves of the city's populace like that." The Mastermind's voice said through the hacked laptop, "Don't worry, your not part of the endgame of this particular game's lesson. Just one of its contestants."

"What game would that be Professor?" Detective Peterson asked.

"Ah, the new partner. My don't you two make a great couple. It was said that it's a foolish man who built his house's foundation upon the sand. Wonderful tale and it rings so true. For a foundation to be able to stand up and survive it must be built with strong materials. The law and the justice system are such a foundation. For them to do good for the people who they are built for they must have strength. They must have a solid and sound structure. This structure comes from dedication to the oath to serve and protect, to uphold the law. Truth, honor, commitment, and honesty… these are the foundation stones from which the proverbial house stands."

On the laptop screen, an image of a demolished building tumbling down into a cloud of dust and debris appeared on the screen.

No doubt as a visual aid to The Mastermind's monologue.

"Without them, the whole house comes crashing down. But an even worse foundation than one built on the unstable ground like sand is the kind that has both structural weakness and foundational weakness, a system that passes itself of as a working system instead of a broken one. A foundation of Sand and of rock…you cant have both and expect the house to stand against the test of the tide or the storm of disaster, corruption and crime that plagues this Gomorrah of a city. Only a foolish person puts faith in such a shoddy building design when a house is built upon the uneven and unstable ground and expects positive results from it. So the same can be said for the entire city placing their trust and protection in a crooked foundation such as the house you two serve. The LCPD whose foundations are placed on the backs of not only strong backs of honest cops like yourselves...but there are some in your rank that isn't so morally strong. They are weak, corrupt, a cause of decay to the foundation of the law and justice system you hold so dearly. The same kind of cops who looked the other way into investigating my innocence during my case when a little green was sent their way…and have continued to do so for others in the underworld ever since. Profiting off of innocent people's pain, even their fellow officers. They think they can play both sides, deal under the table, and not get caught because they wear a badge. They're untouchable…Not anymore. " The Mastermind's face then appeared on the screen of the laptop.

He was still wearing that bizarre body paint job which made his skin black as an eightball, with a golden spiral spinning out from the center of his chest barely hidden away by the emerald green cloak he wore which covered his lower face.

Detective Renee' Alvarez knew that painted face well.

She had managed to track down the very tattoo parlor where The Mastermind had gotten his body paint job from, as it turned out, it was the same place that the Night Skulls gang liked to frequent. She had taken samples of the paint and symbol back to the SCU for their brightest techies…and even the Shadow Knight…to examine in order to find a way to track him down.

Especially since this was to blame for them not being able to track him via the cameras on every corner of the city's streets.

This same body paint and chest spiral symbol pattern that made Professor Mordechai stand out like a sour thumb ironically also made it hard for the city's CCTV tracking system to get a lock on him since it was designed to detect people based on distinguishing body features…not strange body marks or tattoos such as The Mastermind's visage.

Unfortunately, even with these clues, they hadn't been able to make much headway in tracking him down than before.

That didn't matter now, he had come out of his hole to play again.

They had been looking for him, but in the end, he found them instead.

"This game is for you cops and law keepers to play Detectives, I'm going to attack the biggest offenders of the LCPD's corruption. I'm going to place them all in a house upon the sand, and watch and see if their sins will get them out alive, will the strong moral character of the players be enough to save them and keep the house standing…or will they sink into the deadly pit of their own making? This is the game I want to play, I call it…The Crooked House. I want you two detectives to play it…alongside my other favorite player."

"And let me guess, to start the game and save people you've placed in deathtraps from your latest game, we have to solve the code on this laptop your using to broadcast this message to us and win, or people that you have placed in your game to be judged by fate are going to die…right?" Renee' Alvarez scowled.

That was when the lights in that apartment came alive and began flashing…in a familiar pattern.

Detective Renee' Alvarez realized what the lights were doing, but not fast enough that she couldn't stop herself from being swept up into the alluring pulsing lights hypnotic pattern.

"Your mistaken Detective…" The Mastermind's voice rang in her ears as she stared into the flashing lights like a fly to a bug zapper, "The laptop code is not for YOU to decipher, but for your other partner. The Dark Avenger…Let the games begin!"

Meanwhile, on the other end of the city…

Highway 13, West Lunar: January 16th, 2021: 10:30 PM

In the back of his taxi limo that was taking him away to the airport, Agent Schroder looked out the window with a cold beer from the Limo's mini-fridge in his hand.

How had this happened?

He had expected to nab and tag the Vigilante known as The Shadow Knight before the end of the previous year.

Now he was out of time and had to return to leave the city to return to the office in order to avoid this whole thing with the hunt for the Shadow Knight, the Metahuman Crime Division he had set up's constant failure to capture him along with the utter lack of metahuman crime in the city which had warranted their continued existence as an asset to the city law enforcement, spiraling out of control finding its way back to him.

Luckily, although he had played the wrong cards this time in his pursuit of the vigilante, he hadn't been stupid when setting up this extrajudicial unsanctioned plan of his.

He had a backup for this scenario, but he had to leave the city in order to solidify his alibi.

Which is why he was being driven to the Crescent Cove Airport outside of the city to take a plane back to Washington, it was the little victories one had to treasure and treasure the small victory he had won he would.

When he next returned to the city, he would be ready.

The Shadow Knight would be behind bars, and all the promotions and reputational bonuses that came with such an accomplishment he would relish in with gleeful abandon.

He took a sip of his beer and looked out the window.

Any minute now he should be seeing the lights of the sub-urban town known as Crescent cove due to the town being built on the lower tip of the 'crescent moon' shape that Lunar Bay resembled.

That was when he noticed something odd as the limousine turned a corner.

The ocean was on the left when it should have been on the right side of the vehicle.

The limo wasn't going to the crescent cove airport; it was traveling down the wrong road to Crescent Cove airport.

This was the highway that ran across some high Oceanside cliffs before turning north into Canada towards Vancouver.

Agent Schroder realizing this, and figuring that something was up since a competent driver would know that the airport was in the opposite direction, leaned up to tap on the glass window separating the limo's back with the front.

"Hey, you dumbass!" Agent Schroder yelled as he wrapped his fist against the tinted window, "You're going the wrong way, and if you think I'm paying you for this little detour you have another thing coming!"

That was when the glass partition lowered, and Agent Schroder got a good look at the driver of the limousine.

It wasn't hard to get a good look at him or her, because there was no driver.

No one was driving the car at all …it looked like the car was driving itself!?

"What the hell?" Agent Schroder declared.

He had heard of self-driving cars, but this was something else.

That was when the limousine sped up and tore down the highway, dodging cars left and right.

Agent Schroder was sent back into his seat roughly by the lurch of the Limousine as it sped off down the highway.

"Agent Schroder…I hope you're enjoying the ride. I went to a lot of trouble arranging this limousine just for you." a voice said to him.

He then saw that the limousine's TV screen was online, and there was the image of an outlandish looking figure on it.

Wearing an emerald green scarf around his face, and skin black as coal…the man on the screen looked like something from a TV show or a viral video.

"What, who are you?" Agent Schroder asked, unnerved by the sight of the strange man on the TV screen.

"I am…The Mastermind." The man on the TV screen responded, "And I'm here to play a game with you…we'll actually, I'm here to set up a game between you and fate…to decide your fate."

"Let me go, you are committing a large scale kidnapping felony here. I'm a federal agent of the American government!" Agent Schroder said pompously.

The Mastermind laughed, "An unsanctioned rogue FBI agent you mean."

"What?" Agent Schroder said in shocked surprise.

"You government types, you all think your little castles and databanks full of secrets are secure. Nothing is secure if you have the right key…especially in this electronic age. Your a liar and a fraud Agent Schroder...and this isn't the first time you've done this either. I took notice of the fact that no reprisals were ever given to you for that stunt you pulled when you claimed that an innocent man…" The Mastermind began.

"He was a metahuman freak!" Agent Schroder protested.

"Don't interrupt me!" The Mastermind snapped, and then he continued "…was guilty of the sewer cover mutilations, which cost the lives of 43 innocent people when the beast responsible surfaced. I figured you might have exaggerated the truth to your bosses, as liars like you usually do. Then, you allowed a terrorist organization to operate under your nose from within the city. That was what really tipped me off. Everyone knows about FEIND, even the FBI after the second civil war. There was actually talk in Washington and SLEET that FEIND might have been working on something in one of the east coast cities. You should have known that. If you knew that, why didn't you act to search for them in Lunar City just in case? Was your obsession with Shadow Knight that strong that you willingly ignored it? It was an intriguing mystery, and I eventually solved it."

Agent Schroder tried to open the doors of the limousine to try and jump to safety, he'd rather take his chance with an asphalt burn rolling down the road than stay in this limousine.

He soon realized to his horror that that was not an option; the doors were locked and rigged to stay that way!

"So to find out and to not be traced by the FBI as I searched for the truth… I simply wrote a data retrieval worm which I then slipped into the FBI's database disguised as a system update to their wireless network and found the information I needed. Covering my digital tracks in the process…I reviewed what I found in the FBI database about you Agent Schroder. First…your name isn't Agent Schroder. It's Agent Thomas White. Schroder is an alias you made up for the people and government of Lunar City. You weren't assigned here to capture the Shadow Knight; your superiors don't even know you're here. 'So what are you doing here?' I asked myself. I figured it out…" The Mastermind said on the limousine's TV screen "you're here on your own volition and agenda… you are working behind the scenes, using your status as an FBI agent to help you get another star pinned on your chest by capturing the vigilante that saved the city when everyone else failed…the vigilante, that embarrassed you and the agency you work for. It's all rather disappointing really. I was hoping for a bigger conspiracy, but no, you're just a guy with a badge and too much power out to abuse that power to get what you want. You are just like the corrupt citizens of Lunar City. You liked to flaunt and dodge around the law to get what you wanted, never caring about the consequences because you were a member of a US government agency and could avoid the consequences with your skills and connections. As long as no one knew the truth, you were safe. You thought you could weasel away from judgment for your crimes? Let's see if you can do it again when the only casualty to your choices…is your own life. Time to play the game…"

"What do you mean? What game?" Agent Schroder asked, terrified to be in the grip of a madman.

One that had figured out his dark secret, the reason for his fleeing the city and abandoning his MCU project in the first place…did he even stand a chance at winning whatever game this bastard wanted him to play to decide his fate?

"Hangman... a child's game, so it should be Childs play for a grown man." The Mastermind said, and the image of the usual hangman's noose that accompanied the titular game appeared on the screen, the voice of the supervillain continued to speak "Here is how the game works. You choose a letter to try and solve the phrase. Every wrong word spoke out, and the speed of the limousine increases. You have ten minutes to solve the phrase, and you get only one hint. By then you will have arrived at the curve in the road that runs parallel with the Cliffside tourist photo opportunity area and rest stop. At this or any higher speed, this limousine will go flying off the edge of the meridian and down into the shallow rocks below. Get the hangman, and your fate is sealed. Win the game, and I'll let you go free…but every outcome, every choice has a consequence, Agent White. If you win, you will indeed get to live…but your superiors will find out what you've been doing here outside of their knowledge. So what is it going to be?" The Mastermind said, "Let the games begin!"

Agent Schroder…Agent White then saw beneath the hangman noose scribble was the phrase he had to solve.

"_ _ _- _ _ _ _ _"

A ten-minute countdown began to count down on the TV screen as well.

Realizing he had no other choice but to play the madman's twisted game if he wanted to live. Agent White looked at the phrase…and chose a letter.

"A" he called out.

"_ _ A- _ _ _ _ A" the TV screen displayed.

"Nice" The Mastermind's voice congratulated.

"E" Agent White called out.

"_ E A- _ _ _ _ A" the TV Screen displayed.

"Choosing the vowels first, just to fill in the holes, nice and basic strategy to win the game, Agent White. But will it hold up?" The Mastermind said, and Agent White wasn't sure he was mocking him or actually praising his choice of letter.

Seeing he had eight minutes left, Agent White picked another word…another vowel "I".

The image of the head of the hangman appeared on the end of the hangman noose, and the runaway limo suddenly increased in speed.

"Wrong." Mastermind's voice answered.

"L?" Agent White asked.

"_ E A - _ _ L _ A" the TV Screen displayed.

"T?" Agent White asked.

The body of the Hangman appeared on the screen, and the Limousine increased in speed.

Agent White examined the phrase, it didn't make any sense… what was it?

"Uh…M?" Agent White asked.

"MEA -_ _ L_ A "the TV Screen displayed the letter.

"Mea- La?" Agent White asked himself, "What the hell is Mea- La?"

"Such a shame you are an atheist. Then it'd be easy for you to solve." The Mastermind's voice mocked, "You want a hint?"

"Yes dammit, I'd like a hint!" Agent White shouted.

"It's something that you share with the citizens of Lunar City when it comes to their sins against each other. Something you both lack. Something you would never admit." The Mastermind answered, his hint was characteristically cryptic.

Agent White thought about the Mastermind's profile as he tried to solve to puzzle and use the hint as a way to figure out the answer.

He had glanced at it here and there in the past when he first arrived in the city to try and arrest the Shadow Knight.

He was a machinist and former college professor who was framed for the rapping and murder of his only sister. He blamed the city and its people for what had happened to him, he saw the city as a place of vice and moral decay that needed to be exposed for the wretched hive that it was and then burned down like an overgrown wildwood to start anew.

He set up these games not just to punish the corrupt, but to also expose the true nature, the darkest secrets of the people playing them.

He said that the problem that both he and the city shared something that they lacked, something of a flaw that both of them would never admit to.

Never admit?

Was that a clue?

What was it when someone never admitted to anything wrong that they had done?

They said, it wasn't their fault but someone else's.

The Mastermind's mocking him for not believing in God caused the wheels in his head to turn; sure he didn't believe and found those who did to be stupid fools and hypocrites.

What was it that those damn hypocritical Roman Catholics who did that confession crap say all the time?

That was it!

It was about taking responsibility for what one did wrong, that was what The Mastermind was obsessed about, punishing those who did bad things, evil things, and refused to accept their own hand in such deeds.

Claiming they were not to blame, not at fault.

No remorse, no apology…no consequences.

Never my fault…the word he was looking for was "My Fault.

My Fault…and in the catholic religion, the phrase "my fault" was never said in English…but in a phrase that sounded just like…the half-finished words of the hangman puzzle!

That was the answer!

"Mea Culpa!" Agent White declared, "My fault! The answer is the Latin words for 'My Fault'!"

The hangman disappeared from the screen…and Agent White figured he had won The Mastermind's little game.

Then he realized that the limousine he was trapped in was still speeding down the road, and he could see to his horror that up ahead was the curve in the road where the deadly drop that The Mastermind had mentioned was located.

"Nice work Agent, you solved it…" The Mastermind's voice said to him, "But…you should have kept an eye on the timer. You took to long to think it over in your head. Your time expired fifteen seconds before you declared the answer. Game Over, you lose."

"You…you monster!" Agent White felt himself turning white as he realized that he was going to die, "you cheated, and you know you cheated!"

"WRONG!" The Mastermind snapped, "I play by the rules of my games to the letter; I wouldn't be the master of mind games and puzzles if I didn't play fairly and follow the rules. A game has no merit if there isn't a fair chance for any player to win now is there. I always give my players a chance to win. To choose their fate of being judged, saved or punished. You lost, and it was no one else's fault but your own. 'vestrum erit flagitium'… 'You're Fault'. If you had admitted that, I truthfully would have let you go. But you didn't, because you won't admit your fault at failing the game…or at anything you have done wrong. This is a lesson I learned and by god, everyone in lunar City is going to learn it too. There are always consequences to bad decisions. Goodbye."

Agent White let out a scream as the Limousine jumped the curve, and fell into the abyss into the shallow rocks below.

The last thing he would see in this life would be the rapidly approaching ground through the windshield…and a big ball of fire.