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- - Golden Gate National Park, San Francisco, California - -

There stands a solitary man. This is a man who will drastically change the lives of seven people. His name is the Pilgrim. He is a man forever voyaging. His mission is to destroy the Strangers. Today is the beginning of his plans. But before he begins, he is out there to test his powers one more time.

First, he shoots blasts of energy from his hands, one red and the other blue, that transform a tree into a stop sign, then a rock, and finally a bag of apples. He then turns to another three and blasts it with shrapnel from his hands. The shrapnel completely strips the bark off the tree. A deer passes by out of curiosity and surprises the Pilgrim, who turns and electrocutes it with a large jolt of electricity. The Pilgrim removes his cape and whips it at the branches of another tree, breaking them off. As the branches fall to the ground, Pilgrim uses ultra speed to catch them and put them all into a neat pile. Finally he walks into a small clearing. He shoots a green flame at the center, which makes a large tree grow out of the ground. Then he shoots an orange flame at it and watches it burn into a small pile of ashes on the ground.

The Pilgrim smiles.

Today is the beginning of the end of the Strangers.

Strangers: A New Twist #8
February, 1999

The Man Forever Voyaging

Written by Lex
Edited by James Pedrick
Created by Steve Englehart
Property of Malibu Comics

- - 3Com Park - -

"This was a great idea for us to come to a '9er's game." Dave (Spectral) Castiglione is sitting in the bleachers with (Atom) Bob Harden, Hugh (Grenade) Fox, and Leon (Zip-Zap) Balford.

[Note to readers: I know there isn't a 49er's game going on at this time of year but I intended this issue to come out in November so just think of it as that time of year just for this issue.]

"You bet Dave," says Hugh. "It's good to get away from being a Stranger for an afternoon. Plus we get to watch the best team in the NFL play."

"I think you're gonna to have to wait another month before you can say that, Hugh," comments Leon.

"Well let's just look at their competition. They might have trouble against Denver, Miami, Green Bay, or Dallas but other then those teams I'm sure the '9er's with shut out all competition."

"What about Atlanta and Minnesota?" asks Bob. "I hear those two are doing pretty well this year."

"Oh, this oughta be good," whispers Dave to himself.

"Well the Falcons might actually have a chance but definitely not the Vikings. They've sucked for a while and I doubt they'll even make it to the play-offs. In fact if either Atlanta or Minnesota makes it to the Play-offs I'll eat my own shrapnel. I pick San Fran going up against Green Bay in the Conference Championships."

"I still think the Falcons and Vikings will do good, in fact I bet you 50 bucks that they'll be in the play-offs."

"You're on," says Hugh think it's a sure thing. "And make it 100!"

[Note to readers: You readers who are big football fans probably either laughed or got upset at reading that but don't get too upset. I just wanted to have some fun giving a perspective on this year's football season from the outlook that was back in November. So please don't send me flame mail because of it. :)]

"Alright guys, stop yackin' and start cheerin' cuz the game's startin'," says Leon.

They spend the next two quarters cheering and having a great time. The Strangers are no longer strangers to each other. They are teammates. They are friends. They are family.

"Wow," comments Bob. "Good first half."

"No kidding," says Hugh. "What did I tell ya? The '9er's are doing outstanding this year. That bet is a sure thing for me." He throws a victorious look over to Bob who just smiles back.

None of them are aware of the invisible specter that hovers over their heads. The Pilgrim, invisible, floats above where the three of them sit. He has been observing them for a couple of hours now. Watching their behavior patterns, when they are not being the Strangers, for any signs of weakness. Studying, calculating, plotting. He is figuring out how to take each one down individually.

"Well," says Dave, "I think I'll hit the rest rooms."

"Good idea," says Leon.

All four of them get up from their seats and walk with all the other people headed in the same direction. The Pilgrim decides that he's done enough research on them today and flies off.

Dave stops for a second and looks back towards where they were sitting. 'That's weird,' he thinks. 'I thought I felt something. Huh, must be my imagination.'

***

- - Downtown San Francisco - -

Walking along Market Street are Candy (Electrocute) and Elena (Lady Killer) LaBrava. While the boys are at the game, they've been spending the day at the shops and department stores all along Market Street.

"What a wonderful idea this was," says Candy dressed in casual jeans and a T-shirt that says "I love San Fran" on it. "I've never known how much fun it was to shop. But I've never had emotions before so it makes it all the better."

"Carpe diem, Candy," says Elena dressed in an elegant, and at the same time casual, outfit. "It means 'seize the day.' And that's exactly what we're going to do."

They both laugh and start to browse through some of the dress stands that are out on the sidewalk. Elena suddenly looks across the street to an alleyway as if she were sensing danger from there. Then she just shakes her head and returns to her browsing. 'Huh, must've been my imagination.'

The Pilgrim snickers from his hiding place in the dark alleyway. It's just dark enough so he doesn't have to be invisible. It puts a bit of strain on his system to be invisible for long periods of time. He quietly observes Candy and Elena shop. Observing, studying, plotting. He believes that taking out Electrocute would be easy but Lady Killer might pose a larger problem for him. She is much smarter than the rest. From her experience running a company, she is a strategist. She is also the most flexible with her power, being able to use almost anything as a weapon. She is the only one of the Strangers that worries him.

"Hey Elena, do you think Bob would like this dress on me?" Candy holds up a short blue dress.

"Oh, I'm sure he'd like anything, as long as you're wearing it. So how are things going between you two."

"They were going wonderful until that incident with Deathwish. I kept screaming to that beast about how I hate the fact that I can't die and how being around the Strangers reminds me of it."

"Yeah, I remember that part of the fight."

"Well it disturbed him and we had a talk about it. He tried to convince me not to worry about it. He's so sweet. But it still bothers me some."

"Candy, I'd love to try and help you with this problem, but I can't because I have no idea what you're going through."

"I know, and I appreciate the thought, but I'll just have to work through it on my own."

"Well I hope you do, Candy, and soon."

"Thanks, Elena." They give each other a friendly hug. "Now how about we finish buying out these stores."

"Sounds like a plan to me."

***

- - Strangers Headquarters - -

Yrial chose not to join the Strangers today. She just wanted to stay back at HQ and relax. She has been in their trophy room for a while, just living in the memories. That is why she wanted to have control of it. She loves to collect mementos from her adventures so she can relive them. Even though she won't admit it, she has become fond of the Strangers and she loves going on adventures with them. Fighting crime, battling ultra villains, this is exactly what she has always wanted. Looking down from the clouds all those years, watching people go on expeditions to dig up artifacts. Oh how she's always wished she could be with them. But now she is having her own adventures.

Yrial looks around the room at the various objects they've collected. There is an ice gun that the police let them keep from their trouble with The Chill. Hanging on the wall is the wrecking ball owned by one of the Demolition Squad. Next to that is the most curious item: 'A black and white circular object that Bob said was a yin-yang, a Chinese symbol for balance and harmony. The white represents good and the black represents evil. We all felt that it correctly portrayed our adventure with Deathwish and the Lady of Light.' The most important object in this room must be the statue they had made of TNTNT. They were the first ultras The Strangers fought. It was a great victory for them.

Yrial catches a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye and turns to find nothing. "All right," she begins to yell, "who's in here? I know there is someone in here. You can't hide from me."

She looks around the room and sees a glimmering object in the corner. She walks over to it and uses her magick to bring it into full view. The object turns out to be a man in a blue and gold costume with a large red cape. He has a golden mask surrounding his face.

"How did you find me?"

"I've always been fascinated by people who hide themselves. I can find anyone hiding in shadows or plain sight."

"Well…you have done something that most cannot. You have impressed me."

"I remember you. You were the man in the shadows that night we fought TNTNT. You shot Zip-Zap with a tranquilizer and then ran off. We've been on the look out for you to return. Now, before I use my magick to send you to the other side of the planet, tell me just what it is you're doing here."

"My name is the Pilgrim. It would be wise for you to remember that name, because I will one day destroy you and the rest of Strangers."

"Oh? And why do you want to destroy us so bad?"

"That is for me to know, and you to find out. Now I must go, I was not counting on being…discovered so soon."

"I'm not letting you go anywhere except to Alcatraz." Yrial steps in front of the Pilgrim. He is a little surprised at her courage but then it quickly turns to annoyance.

"Fine. If you are to be that way then I propose we have a duel."

"A Duel?"

"Yes. A magick duel. I have magick powers and you have magick powers so we shall use those to fight. If you win I suppose I shall go to prison, if you wish. But if I win, I am going to kill you and the rest of the Strangers...which I shall be doing anyway."

"I'm not agreeing to that!"

"Too bad, now let us begin!" Pilgrim disappears in a poof of smoke and materializes right behind Yrial. Before she can turn he blasts her with a jolt of his green magick.

"AAHH!" screams Yrial. 'I can't possibly defeat this Pilgrim. Even if the StarFoam was calm and I had my full power, my magick could never beat his. He is using the blackest magick I've ever encountered.'

"You're a tricky one," she says displaying confidence she doesn't have. "But I can fix that." She casts a quick spell that puts a small cloud over Pilgrim's head, blinding him.

"Clever girl." Pilgrim takes his arm and points it at his head as he spins it at ultra speed, creating a mini tornado to rid himself of the cloud. "Though, you'll have to do better than that."

Yrial stops for a second, wondering about the speed the Pilgrim just used. She then takes to the air, dodging another magick jolt. She blasts him with waves of her ice magick to freeze him. Pilgrim creates a large magick shield to protect himself, snickering as he does so.

Yrial is incredibly frustrated. Nothing she does has any effect. As a last resort, she grabs an orange from a fruit basket on a nearby table. She takes out some of its seeds and starts to cast a spell. 'If my regular magick won't work then I'll have to resort to voodoo.' With the power she gets from the seeds, she calls up a hurricane inside Strangers Headquarters, hoping to throw the Pilgrim off balance.

It doesn't work. The Pilgrim just keeps on coming at her.

'That was my last hope! I need to rest from that spell but something tells me he won't be letting me do that anytime soon. I sure hope the Strangers got that distress I sent on my pager while the Pilgrim wasn't looking.'

"My turn?" asks Pilgrim as he blasts her with more bolts of magick, sending her to the floor in pain. "How the mighty fall. You put up a valiant effort…too bad you will have to die now."

"LEAVE HER ALONE!!!" shouts Lady Killer, bursting into the room with the other Strangers in costume.

"What?!" says the Pilgrim in surprise as he turns to see the room is more crowded then he would like it to be. "You're appearance is…unexpected…how odd. I am not quite ready to face all of you…yet."

"Who are you and what did you do to Yrial!?" shouts Atom Bob demanding answers.

"I am the Pilgrim. A man forever voyaging. My only goal in life is the destruction of the Strangers."

"Why are you doing this, you scumbag?" asks Grenade.

"My motives will be revealed to you…at another time of my choosing. For now I will go."

"Not so fast!" shouts Zip-Zap as he races towards the Pilgrim. He is swatted away like a fly as the Pilgrim uses the same speed to backhand him.

"He's taken down Zip and Yrial," says Lady Killer in a commanding voice. "Now let's take HIM down. SLAM 'IM STRANGERS!" Grenade, Atom Bob, Electrocute, Lady Killer, and Spectral charge at the Pilgrim. He retaliates by shooting a blast of electricity at Spectral with one of his hands. With his other hand, shooting a blast of energy at the floor, creating a cage around Electrocute. He quickly removes his cape and uses it to tie up Grenade at ultra speed. Atom Bob is almost upon him with an attack but he shoots a blast of shrapnel at his head, knocking Bob to the floor.

"Oh please," says Pilgrim sarcastically as he gets up and sees Lady Killer ready with her scarf as a whip. He shoots an orange flame at her that burns her scarf. She drops it and reaches for another article of clothing to use as a weapon when the Pilgrim uses a green flame to make vines burst through the floor and attack her.

The Pilgrim looks around the room and sees that they are all starting to get up, probably hoping for a second try at him. He just chuckles a little and simply vanishes, to everyone's surprise.

"How is everyone?" asks Lady Killer, untangling herself from the vines.

"Bruised but more or less all right," says Atom Bob as he transforms Electrocute's cage into harmless bubbles.

"Why do you think he wants to destroy us, Elena?" wonders Spectral as he helps Yrial to her feet.

"I'm not sure, but I'm afraid our lives just became a lot more complicated."

THE END

I hope everyone enjoyed this issue. The Strangers' problems with the Pilgrim will only escalate from here. Read next issue (coming in 4 weeks) as we find out what J. D. Hunt has been up to these last few issues. And don't forget to read The Pilgrim One-Shot (coming in two weeks) which will add many more mysteries to the man forever voyaging.

 

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