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Captain Norm Smith toweled himself off as he stepped out of the shower at Station 15 of Paragon City's Fire Service in Steel Canyon. He had missed supper, the training he had planned for his crew had been cancelled and the station visit from Paragon City Elementary 22 had been cancelled because they weren't in station, having been dispatched to a particularly gruesome motor vehicle collision including two hospitalizations and one fatality.


Most recently he and his crew had returned from a high-rise fire at Paragon City University, Steel Canyon campus. He dressed quickly, dragging on his station wear. Despite his exhaustion he couldn't help but check his appearance in the mirror of the communal bathroom. The dark blue uniform was still sharp and crisp, despite the abuse it had suffered. The silver bars on his shoulders were a source of pride as he buttoned his shirt. He breathed, and then again and steeled himself before pushing open the door of the communal changing room, only to come face to face with Howard Marsden.


"Hey, Duck."


"Captain." Duck looked curiously at his commanding officer. "You okay, sir?"


"Yeah." Norm rubbed his face and smiled "Just tired. I have a lot of paperwork to do. Is there anything left over in the kitchen?"


"Yeah, Chief Grakist bought us pizza and sent it over, there should still be some on the table."


"Thanks, Duck." He paused "Have you all eaten?"


Marsden smiled. "Yessir, we're all well fed and taken care of, thank you, sir."


Captain Smith nodded and smiled "Get some sleep. That's an order. Please extend that order to both Gilchrist and Swayne. I want you in your bunks immediately. Phones down, do I make myself understood, firefighter?"


"Sir, yes sir."


There was a moment when both men made eye-contact. The love and care of brothers. Howard Marsden made his way towards the barracks.


Norm carried on through the tiled hallways of the fire station to the kitchen. A large space with an enormous wooden table upon which was several pizza boxes. He rifled through the cupboards for a clean plate and swiped a couple pieces from the most convenient box, thankfully there was no pineapple, and made his way to his office. It was a small affair, still made of the same large concrete bricks painted institutional white. A single bed with his bedding, a desk, a phone and a computer with limited access used only for filing reports on calls responded to and completed. He sat and tapped the space bar to wake the machine and double clicked the icon that would grant him access to the city's database wherein he would enter his reports on his calls that day.


And then he jumped at the scrabbling at his window. He fell back as he twisted in his chair, landing on his back as he beheld a three foot, blood red demonling scratching at his window. A horrifying visage, a thing made of nightmares all talons, fangs and wings, it mocked and jeered, snarling its hostility before it was swatted away and replaced by a familiar face.


The window only allowed a view from the shoulders up but what Norm Smith saw was unmistakable. The bespoke suit, fedora and burnt orange shades. The cigar burning brightly, the blue smoke coiled and capered playfully in the darkness outside the the captain's window.


The Man in Black grinned.


"You!" Norm scrambled to his feet. He glared at The Man through the window before pointing towards the main door of the station and stalked out of his office, but for some reason not before scooping up the plate of cold pizza. Captain Smith stalked through the halls of his station toward the man-door just to the left of the bay door. This was his station, his crew and he would be damned if some meta would intimidate him in his own home.


The angry Captain strode through the halls of the fire station and wrenched the door open to confront The Man in Black who leaned casually against the three foot half wall, upon which stalked that same little demonling, still all snarls and spittle, pounding its right fist into its left palm.


"Who the fuck are you and what do you want?!" Smith demanded, his breath forming clouds of steam in the cool autumn evening as he confronted The Man in Black. He calmed himself, but not before noting that not only was The Man was wearing shades in the dark, but that he was smoking. Not just the cigar. Of course, the cigar was a source of smoke but The Man in Black himself was smoking in the cool night air, a dark and distinct unnatural warping of heat and pressure. Captain Smith steeled himself against the chill and asked again.


"Who are you and what do you want?"


The Man in Black took the cigar from his mouth and pushed himself off the half-wall, the blue smoke from the cigar coiling around his arm like a serpent. "I beg yer pardon, Captain, an' I apologize fer Screwtape." He motioned to the little bastard stalking the wall, staring hungrily at the plate of pizza in Norm's hand.


"I jes' wanted tae express me appreciation fer the werk ye've done." The Man in Black shrugged.


"And you thought this was the best way to do it? At almost midnight after the day we've had?!"


The Man nodded. "I appreciate that ye'r in nae mood fer visitors, I'll nae take any more o'yer time, jes' take this." And with that he snapped his fingers, producing a puff of flame and smoke that lit up the block. Norm had no choice but to squeeze his eyes shut against the brilliance of the flame as it snapped open and shut. As his pupils contracted again he found himself blinking in the dark and as reality came into focus he found himself warm again, perhaps too warm, sweat beaded on his forehead. Screwtape snarled from his perch on the half-wall.


"Yer bravery was beyond anythin' I've witnessed from mortals in quite some time, Captain." Said The Man in Black as he held out a card in his right hand. "Yer a credit tae yer service an' tae yer species. Please take this card, if'n ye've e'er need o'aid jes' toss it intae the nearest open flame an' I'll hear yer call an' come tae yer aid."


Every instinct in the old firefighter screamed danger as he stared deeply past the shades and into the fires that burned behind them, and yet he still reached out with his left hand to take the card. The Man in Black nodded and stepped back, disappearing into the darkness. Screwtape snarled again, barking at Smith once more before flapping his wings and taking to the night. The cold, autumn air returned, sending a shiver down the station captain's back before he returned back inside the station.


Norm stared down at the card in his hand. It was a plain thing, the colour of ivory and upon which were scorched the words "The Legendary Living Hellfire". The pizza in his right hand was hot and sizzling on the plate.

Edited by Living_Hellfire
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-The Legendary Living Hellfire

"The newest person in the room is always the most important person in the room"

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