Hard Underbelly  

The official news spot for Hard Underbelly.

Music: Leechwife; by Rasputina

Okay, Ryan wanted to know where the story was going, so here’s a synopsis of what the rest of Hard Underbelly would have looked like.

In the next chapter we would have learned who the man who tried to shoot Saul in chapter 3 was. His name is Dee Smith, and he’s a former SAS man. In the mid 90’s he was involved in covert action in South America, where the rest of his team was wiped out by vampires. Saul was there killing the vamps, but Dee mistakenly thought he was there with the other vamps. With the help of Franklin Crisp, CEO of Zaibatsu, Smith was trying to kill Saul, whom Crisp was slowly feeding him information on.

After this, Saul and Casey were to travel to the realm of fae with the help of Luna to track down the only faerie to ever kill another faeire, Acherontia, and return her to her iron prison. Saul was asked to do this by the king and queen of fae, as he is sort of a hero of the realm for having destroyed Athanasius.

This would’ve segued into a flashback to the mid twelfth century, when the faeries where in the process of abandoning the everyday world and hiding in magical islands, underground citadels, and the like. It starts with an unknown faerie being attacked and captured by a pair of brigands, and Saul coming to her rescue. The faerie is Cobweb, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Luna’s sister. In the attack her wings were torn off, and in her weakened state, Saul protects her while trying to return her to the faerie realms. During their travels, they fall in love, though it doesn’t work out well, since this is before Athanasius was killed, and Cobweb is banished by the other faeries for consorting with a vamp. Rather than stay and try to make a life with Saul, she chooses to spend her thousand-year banishment in hibernation. Saul is broken about this, and it is in that fury that he attacks Athanasius, shoving a stake through his heart and hurling him off a cliff, though never actually seeing him turn to powder. However, by the time he returns to fae and is dubbed a hero, Cobweb has already left to begin her hibernation.

After this flashback, We see the lake in the New World where Cobweb went to hid and hibernate, and that a giant chemical plant has been built there in the interveening centuries. The chemicals being dumped into it’s waters wake Cobweb up, and in her weakened state she calls out to her sister Luna for aid. Luna contacts Saul, and together they find Cobweb. After she regains her strength, they take her to fae, but discover that all the secret paths and portals into the realm have been sealed, and Luna and Cobweb are trapped on the outside. They return to the city and Saul sets them up in a nice abandoned arboretum that Lenny No-Arms got for them. Saul and Cobweb are not really able to reconcile their feelings for one another, as Cobweb still blames him for her banishment, and Saul resents her choice to hibernate rather than stay with him.

In the next section Saul and Casey are traveling to Europe to try and see if they can get into the Citadel in the Black Forest in Germany to find out why Fae is shut, but they find the citadel abandoned. While inside they are attacked by Mei Li, again, and then by a group of trolls that have escaped from the prisons the elves put them in until the surface was safe for faeire kind again. Sort of an underground Ark, dig? Anyway, Mei Li is forced to fight with Saul and Casey to survive, doing which Casey is talking to Saul and mentions how cute he thinks Mei Li is, and is embarressed when Mei Li tells him that she can speak english. They escape from the Citadel, caving in the entrance and trapping the trolls inside, then pasrt ways.

When they return home, Casey and Saul go vamp hunting, and run into Lucy while she’s on duty, and meet Lucy’s partner, Henry Ekholm. Saul is attacked by Dee again, but he manages to convince him, with Casey’s help, that he isn’t evil. Dee storms the Zaibatsu tower on his own, and violently tenders his resignation to a miffed Franklin Crisp. After Dee leaves, Crisp flies out of the city in a helicopter and lands on a private island. Sneaking through a series of tunnels, he finally comes to the underground realm of Athanasius, his lord and master. Athanasius is, to say the least, pissed off at Crisp. He thinks that Crisp is tipping his hand, and is annoyed at Crisp’s unathorized attempts on Saul’s life. When Crisp asks him why he doesn’t want his greatest enemy killed, Athanasius tells him that it wouldn’t be slow enough, and that he wants Saul to suffer.

In the next chapter, Saul, Casey, and Dee are attacked by the last Wendigo, Red Xyster, which Saul had thought he killed in an avalanche in the 1600’s. If you don’t know what a Wendigo is, rent the excellent movie ‘Ravenous’. It’s sort of a Native American Cannibal/Vampire thing, except they don’t really have any weaknesses like sunlight or garlic. The only real way to kill one is to cut off it’s food supply, so they eventually dismember the thing and bury it in seperate boxes. Dee promises to help Saul and Casey to make up for his past attempts on Saul’s life and working for Crisp.

Moving on, Mei Li would soon attack Saul again, coinciding with an attack from some of Crisp’s men. Saul can smell Athanasius on them, and so he goes to confront Crisp. While he’s heading to the Zaibatsu building, Mei Li is being held captive by Dee and Casey with the help of Hunter. Casey talks with Mei Li, and asks her how she appeared in his dream, and how it was she was in a dream of his he had years and years ago, the dream from his childhood he was reading in his journal in chapter four. Mei Li tells him that she is a dreamwalker, and uses it to home in on her prey. He asks her why she is trying to kill Saul, and she tells him that years ago he killed her family in cold blood. Hunter and Casey argue with her, and urge her to use her dreamwalking abilities to find the truth. She then walks into both Casey’s and Hunter’s minds, seeing that Saul is good, and, most importantly that he was with Hunter and Angela in the German Citadel at the time her family was killed. Saul confronts Crisp and tells him to Athanasius that he doesn’t know how he’s alive, but that he’ll kill him again anyway. When he returns to Hunter’s, he let’s Mei Li dreamwalk into him and discover the truth about her family. In the 1800’s, Saul was in China studying martial arts with a shaolin master. The Dark Light Temple to the north of the shaolin temple was run by an evil demon and his disciples. Late one night they snuck into the temple and killed the shaolin master. Saul swore he would have revenge for his sifu’s murder, and so he travelled to the dark light temple and killed the master demon. His disciples, which were all chape-changers, waited until the day when a special child would be born that could hold their vengeance. Thus, almost two hundred years later, when Mei Li was a small girl, they assumed the shape of Saul, killed her family, and then poured the hate, power, and lust for vengeance into her, and unleashed her at Saul. After learning this, Mei Li leaves, and returns to China where she opens up a can of whoop ass on the Dark Light demons.

Crisp receives a phone call here, and it is Athanasius. Athanasius tells him how dissppointed he is in him, since now Saul knows he’s alive. He also says he won’t be needing Crisp’s services anymore, at which point his cell phone explodes, nicely killing Crisp in the blast. Athanasius makes one more call to an unknown person, to whom he says, “Kill all of his friends. Make him alone again.”

At the end of what would have been a giantly long chapter, Casey is heading to Lucy’s who is cooking dinner for everyone. When he arrives he sees that she has killed Dee and just shot Ekholm, and is in the employ of Athanasius. There is a brief, intense struggle, and in the end, Lucy is dead. Ekholm, severely bleeding and near death, urges Casey to go, and tells him that there’s no way he can be here when the cops arrive. Casey, emotionally distraught at the betrayel and loss of his grielfrienc, doesn’t want to go, but Saul arrives just then and pulls him away.

In the next chapter, Casey is seriously depressed. Ekholm is doing okay at the hospital, and as far as the authorities are concerned, Lucy was in the pay of some criminal organization, as the huge stacks of money they found in her house indicate. They don’t know why she would choose to kill a former SAS soldier and attempt to kill her partner, or who was employing her, but Ekholm is coming out looking like a hero. As far as anyone is concerned, he fought her off even after having been shot in the gut. Casey feels like a fool for not having seen that she was evil, and is launching into a deep research of vampirism and Athanasius to try and be better prepared. In his research, he discovers that you can’t be involuntarily turned into a vampire. He confronts Saul about this, telling him that he’d always thought he was turned involuntarily. Saul and Casey argue, an argument which finally ends with Saul telling Casey that he was willing to damn his soul for revenge, and that he’s the one who’s got to live with it, not Casey, so Casey should just butt out. Casey is kind of hurt by this.

In the next chapter, Saul, Hunter, Angela, Cobweb and Luna go globetrotting, trying to find anyone who can get them into Fae. However, the chapter is not about this, it’s really about a series of grisly murders. People have been showing up dead with two holes in their necks, but not exanguinated. The third body found has the message “Hi Casey” scrawled next to it, so Ekholm, who is the detective working the case, brings Casey in to talk. He knows he didn’t do it, and knowing that this sort of stuff is right up Casey’s alley, he has Casey consult on it. They work through what look like a series of fake vampire killings. Casey starts receiving phone calls from a rough voice asking him about vampires, and it takes a while before he starts to recognize the voice. Casey ends up visiting a mental institution that he voluntarily went to some years back when he thought he was crazy. He never actually was institutionalized though, so it’s not on any kind of record. But while he was there talking to a doctor years ago, an inmate, or whatever you call people in the booby hatch, overheard him talking about vampires, and now that he’s out, he’s been using it as the inspiration for some brutal killings. That night Casey goes home and the nutter attacks him. He knocks Casey out and ties him to a chair in his attic. As he’s coming up the stairs with an ice pick to make Casey into his next victim, Casey regains his senses and hurls himself down the stairs. The chair is splintered, freeing him, and the killer is incapacitated. Casey, feeling responsible for giving the man an excuse to kill, attack him in a white-hot fury, killing him. When Saul returns, Casey, now burdened with the knowledge of the evil that’s in him as well, apologizes to him for judging his choices of the past. Saul brings the news that faerun has been closed off by the faeries to hide from Athanasius, and will not be reopened until he is dead.

The final chapter would have been a biggy. Lots of stuff would have to happen. One, Mei Li returns. There’s an awkward kind of attraction between her and Casey. Awkward because she hasn’t related to anyone on a personal level since she was a child, and because Casey is feeling kinda out of sorts since having killed a man. Angela is getting much, much worse, and Hunter has made no headway on a cure for her lycanthropy. They all sit down and have a round table discussion, trying to figure out how Athanasius survived being staked. Hunter and Saul would push the theory that it’s because he’s so old. Since a vampire’s power only grows with age, they firgured that he’d somehow developed an immunity to the stake. Angela has a different theory though, a more mundane one. She is a nursing student, and supposes that Athanasius may have heterotaxy syndrome, a real life condition wherein the organs are reversed, left to right. They decide to go with this theory, as the alternative is that they’re boned.

Athanasius has now taken over Zaibatsu, and is entrenched with a buttload of demons guarding him at the Zaibatsu tower. Casey is wandering through the city in all his mopiness when he’s attacked by a bunch of Athanasius’ vamps. There is a drawn out battle which Casey survives, making it the first time he’s ever fought off a pank of vamps single-handed. This accomplishment snaps him out of his funk, and he gos to find Saul and the others. Just after he arrives at Saul’s, where the other’s are still in conference. They are attacked by a bunch of demons who kill Luna with an iron sword and carry off her body. Saul and Cobweb are distraught, to say the least. Angela, seeing that something needs to be done to get them into the tower, goes to Hunter’s workshop and takes a concentrated dose of werewolfism. She takes it to Zaibatsu, stands in the lobby as the demons surround her, and downs the potion, going giant and feral. The others arrive just in time to see her being overrun, and Hunter runs in, rescue or vengeance on his mind. Cobweb and Mei Li do their best to fight, but Cobweb has never been a real fighter, and Mei Li’s powers are diminished since she killed her demon masters. Saul and Casey get seperated as they search the tower. Saul is attacked by Athanasius, and through a losing battle learns why Athanasius allowed him to think he was dead: Athanasius could never win when everyone knew he was out there trying to take over the world, so he let them all think he as a goner, building his army in secret, recruitting the other demons while everyone else got complacent. Athanasius now sees killing Saul as the last thing to do before launching a full, global takeover. Casey, meanwhile, has been attacked by... Lucy. Athanasius used the healing properties of Luna’s fae blood to bring her back to a semblence of life. Lucy starts smacking Casey around. Saul isn’t having much luck against Ath, but he does have a slight advantage in that Athanasius never really bothered to train. However, he’s still pretty screwed since Ath is much older, and much, much more powerful. This would be a knock-down, drag-out kinda battle. I had a plan for them to punch and pummel each other through several floors, finally falling through into a subway. Also, Casey is getting his ass handed to him, but he eventually manages to get ahold of a gun and shoot Lucy in the chest. Unfortunately, as a zombie-thing, chestwounds aren’t really hurting her to much, and she gets the gun and shoots Casey in the stomach. She turn away from him, and Casey, coughing up a lot of blood, shoots her in the back of the head. Like any good zombie, Lucy dies with the destruction of brain matter. Casey collapses. Ath is wailing on Saul, and it’s not looking good. Casey coughs again and begins to stand, and finally stumbles down a corridor, leaving a trail of blood behind him.

Ath is holding Saul in the air by his throat, the fight has left him. The room is shattered from the rampage. Sonic booms still echo from their slipping in and out of vampire speed so much.

“How,” Athanasius asks, “Did you expect to beat me?”

Saul smiles a little. Blood is trickling out of his mouth. It’s slipping out from scalp, covering and stinging his eyes. “I didn’t. I just wanted to tire you out.”

Casey is standing behind Athanasius, and now shoots him in the right side of his back, hitting his reversed heart with a silver vamp-killing bullet. Saul slumps down, and Casey collapses. Athanasius becomes dust.

Mei Li and Cobweb find them. Cobweb uses her faerie abilities to heal Casey, and Mei Li finds some blood for Saul.

That’s pretty much how it would have ended. You know, I’ve got a few sketches of key scenes I did a while back. I think I’ll upload those,a nd a few new ones of other pivotal parts in the next few weeks, and end the whole thing with a giant good-bye sketch when I’ve purged all the good parts from my system, okay?

This is not spellchecked, because I haven’t got the energy. Looking at the length of this, I don;t even know how I thought it would be possible for me to finish this off in just a year and a half.

Ending Music: Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?; by the Beatles

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  posted by Tristan @ 1:19 AM

Saturday, February 05, 2005  

Mood: Introspective
Music: Heart Cooks Brain; by Modest Mouse

Well, here’s the haps: Hard Underbelly is over. This is something that’s been building since last year, when I took the comic to five days a week. It continued when I started doing partial color midway through chapter 6. These things were done for one specific reason: Hard Underbelly had become work. I started updating it more so I could move it along and get it done sooner. I changed the artistic style to try and keep my interest in it. But it’s all been in vain. The fact of the matter is, Hard Underbelly drains my energy like a gaping hole in the warp core’s dilithium matrix. It keeps me from being able to work on the projects that actually generate cash flow (Not All There, which I’ve been phoning in for far too long) and projects that I give me some modicum of personal satisfaction (The Wrong Band, which I would really like to devote more time to). The truth kinda hit home for me this week. I knew that I’d been trying to get HU over with, but looking at it, I realized it would take at least another year and a half to sew up all the plots I’d planted, and that’s even with all the streamlining and corners I’d been planning to cut. And I realized, as I was preparing to try and get some advertising for The Wrong Band, and looking for the papers that are printing Not All There and The Wrong Band, I just don’t have another year and a half of HU in me.

Another part of the problem is the content. Hard Underbelly is a story I started writing in High School, oh five or six years ago. I actually started doing the online comic almost two years ago. The problem is, even then, this was not a story that really interested me. Not to rag on people who like my comic, but writing on an ongoing series about vampires seems kinda stupid to me now. It just doesn’t hold my interest. To be perfectly honest, I’m embarrassed to tell people about it. And that’s not good, because if I really had faith in the project, I would shout it’s name from the rooftops, like Opera Batman.

I want to thank all the people who read my comic regularly and supported me in one way or another, the few I can remember off the top of my head are Ryan, Sarah, Stark, Jon, Flinch, Crescent, and Shadow Stalker. The Wrong Band will probably not ever have a tagboard, as the pop-ups and frame issues it presented were always debilitating HU’s index, and I don’t really want to infect the Wrong Band with that. Maybe someday I’ll have a forum, and I hope you all show up for that.

Hard Underbelly’s index and archives will be available for as long as it takes Keenspace to realize that I have stopped updating and decide to remove it. Sometime mid next week there will be a big farewell drawing with as much of the cast as I can squeeze in. The Wrong Band will continue, and will get the effort it deserves. This blog will also end, and when I get around to it, I’ll launch a new news space for the Wrong Band, maybe even one in the index page, if I can figure out the way to get that feed set up.

It seems kind silly to stop the comic just a few installments short of 300, but the writing is on the wall, and since this chapter has wrapped up, now’s as good a time as any. Again, thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to follow my other projects.

Ending Music: Stay With Me; by Spiritualized

-----------------Over, Out--------------------

  posted by Tristan @ 1:29 PM

Friday, February 04, 2005  

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