Puma Character in Tales of Justice | World Anvil


David John Ironhorse (a.k.a. Puma | DJ Irons | Nine Iron | John David | Johnny Horse | JD Irons | 003a)

Physical Description

General Physical Condition

  • In his human-seeming "resting form", David Ironhorse looks like a broad-shouldered Native American martial artist who does a little bit of additional weightlifting for pleasing aesthetics.
  • In his catman "combat form", Puma's muscular development is more pronounced under the golden fur that covers him.

Special abilities

One of the last experiment steps overseen by the original Hybrid Minion Project's Lead Designer was to add a genetic modification and surgical implant of materials from the Infinity Inc sample vault into the two feline Hybrid Alpha Series Minion prototypes. The Project Lead's time on the project terminated without either of the prototypes displaying any sign that the modification had activated.
It ought not to have worked.
Even Mr. Arkangel did not express disappointment when no change in behavior appeared. That sample had been from a specimen of dubious, possibly inhuman origins. He had authorized the trial in order to gain as much valuable information from these prototypes before moving on to the next phase of the Hybrid Series projects.
Prototypes 003a and 004a each possess one half of the original subject's powerful "empath" psionic ability. Because it is a neurological sensory experience much like sight, pressure, et cetera, it was overwhelmed by the pain and distress of recent genetic surgery for long enough that no evidence of it showed while either prototype was under corporate observation. However, once sufficient recovery happened, the prototypes' brains did begin to process sensory data that they could not have received through more typical human senses: they experience echoes of emotional states which did not originate in themselves.
While both prototypes had the same genetic graft applied to their overall genetic code, the original tissue implanted into the top of each spinal columns was slightly less than half of the total material harvested from the original subject. (The remaining fragment had been extracted for testing and for a failed cloning attempt.) Since the large male feline prototype had inspired this project upgrade, he was fitted with more of the material that measures signal strength and calculated range, making him better at intuitive determination of angle and distance to source. The smaller, more skittish female feline prototype by default received more of the material that measures subtle frequency variations.
Both prototypes had to learn by solo experimentation that they had a psionic ability at all, what it could and could not do, how to use it, how to not use it, and what happened when they overused or neglected it. They had escaped from Infinity Inc before they achieved enough physical stability to realize any of their experiences were not an overtaxed imagination.
No human sensory organ behaves quite as these two separated components behave.
If a piece of donated skin is implanted into one metahuman subject, and a formerly adjacent piece of the same skin is implanted into another, they do not pass information to one another across intervening space. They do not function at a greater power level, higher sensitivity, or more impressive range, merely because their new hosts happen to be aware of one another.
The original psionicist was neither human nor metahuman ... which is precisely why Mr. Arkangel expected only negative results.
When Feral and Puma are within a certain range of one another, awake and aware of the world, and not overwhelmed by other sensory information, their Empathy can combine to the original source's capabilities:
  • Their maximum possible sensory range may increase to approximately four hundred yards in an otherwise low-content environment, provided the two prototypes are less than ten feet apart.
  • Each prototype's inherent ability to refine trilateration and triangulation analysis becomes significantly swifter and more precise because two psionicists are jointly processing the sensation in question. Puma is still more accurate than Feral at determining exact locations of sources, but in this scenario he is exponentially faster and more accurate than normal.
  • Each prototype's inherent ability to refine details and nuances of signal becomes significantly swifter and more complex because two psionicists are jointly processing the chaotic sensation in question. Feral is still more accurate than Puma at analyzing convoluted or entangled sources, but in this scenario she is exponentially faster and able to detect more minute details than normal.
Six years went by before the two former prototypes learned that neither one of them was the lone psionicist with this seemingly pointless implanted ability. They have had a few encounters since 2003 in which to cautiously experiment. They do not know if they have discovered all the facts about this shared ability.
They do not know if they want to know any more facts, either!

Mental characteristics

Personal history

David was born to Sara Kimi Ironhorse in a rural part of Oklahoma. His father had been in the U.S. military, and Sara had followed her boyfriend to his posting in the hope that they might get married when he returned from his current mission. Unfortunately, he died overseas without ever knowing that Sara was pregnant.
Left without family support, Sara worked several minimum-wage jobs, often as a waitress, while trying to give David a sense of pride in his Shoshone heritage. She persuaded some of the older people in the local church to serve as David's "grandparents", even managed to have some of David's relatives through his father host the boy for the summer that Sara secretly spent in jail for a minor shoplifting offense, but she never could manage to get ahead of the poverty line.
By the time he was fifteen, David called himself "Nine Iron" and lived the life of a thug in a motorcycle gang. He was a smart guy, often the strategist for smuggling work, on his way to becoming a professional thief or maybe a hitter. Sara demanded that her teenage son quit the gang. In response, David moved out of his mother's apartment so that he could live fulltime at the gang's current hangout spot. He knew his mom loved him, he hoped she knew he loved her, but he saw himself as a man doing a man's work which his mother would never understand.
So he turned sixteen in a ramshackle hideout, sorting good deals from suspicious ones and reusable motorcycle parts from junk.
In the summer of 1991, David met a strange, soft-spoken, elderly man in a white suit.
He said he was a doctor, specifically Dr. Simon Arkangel, and could use some help: a good, strong right arm to help him with a very important project. He told David that of all the candidates, only he was right for this job. The young man would get to travel, experience the world, and could leave all of this behind.
David, who quietly did dream of a better life and seeing the world, agreed to the man’s terms. He also needed the money, his gang of gun smugglers was pulling down some money from their operations, but the jobs were getting tougher, and they were poorly equipped. It was a job, even if it sounded like he would be just another thug. He was ok with that.
In the United States, that very day, the rest of his smuggling gang was caught in a crossfire. The authorities said it was two rival cartels and the smugglers were in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, which two cartels were never proven.
Meanwhile, David woke up strapped to a medical gurney in a very weird looking combination of a high-tech operating theatre and a Hollywood-fancy laboratory. This was NOT what he had signed up for! But no one cared. No one even acted like he could talk.
David was the first subject to survive not only the initial genetic redesign and surgeries into a Hybrid Alpha Series Minion, but also the initial braintaping system. With one successful prototype ready for training, the Minion Project at Infinity Inc was finally off to a solid start! Nine months later, a second subject also survived enough of the process to let the training program advance to team actions. Their trainer designated these two subjects as "hunting partners", then slowly introduced two more subjects into their exercises as a "unit".
When the full, four-person Hybrid Prototype Team vanished in 1997, David had mixed feelings about his supposed peers. In the negative column: they kept making up rules of behavior which made survival more difficult. Don't kill for the Company if you can figure a way around it, don't bring in prisoners either, it's better to be "willfully stupid" than to tell a straight lie to an Employee, these were all topics over which David sometimes swatted the person next to him.
On the other hand, sometimes they were okay. The catgirl had a talent for figuring out what opportunities to eat or rest were really bait. David got into the habit of calling her "molly" as an insult meant to denigrate her shy attitude, but kept it as a term of acceptance if not affection. The wolfguy knew how to disable every camera and microphone, and make it look like an accident or an environmental hazard, even if he did talk unintelligible nonsense half the time. The kid whose skin was shinier every day, he sometimes looked at David with a full dose of hero worship -- never did realize that David has not started out to protect the kid so much as he just happened to have a really bad day and take it out on their Trainer right at that moment. And the kid sometimes snuck them food.
So, yeah, they were a mixed bag, but leaning toward real friendship in the middle of a hellscape. They kept each other's secrets. They kept each other alive and moving. They tolerated each other's bad habits.
Then the Trainer went out of his way to break the catgirl's will. It was a trap, David knew it was a trap, meant to make David comply with his next involuntary "physical improvement". The company had decided to test how strong the team's alliance was, how much pain they were willing to face for each other. But, hell, he was the "tank", he was the one designed to withstand more punishment anyway! So David paid the price he had to pay to get his team off the table.
And then, in the wake of that, the hellcat betrayed him.
She must have found the chance that they had all been waiting for, a real chance to use all the things I.I. had built them to do right on the facility itself, while she was piecing herself together after the Trainer's work. All David knew for sure was that he woke up slowly, groggy and in agony, struggling to breathe. Because the hellcat was crouched on his chest? Because of the heat and smoke in the air? No, because he was strapped to an iron lung but she had cut the tube feeding oxygen into his face!
She was crying when she did it. So it was probably something the Trainer had told her to do. But what happened to flatly refusing orders when they crossed that one line? Why was she trying to murder him while he was helpless?!
A few minutes later, she came back into the burning recovery room. She had one shoulder under the arm of the kid. Murmuring soft nonsense words, the kid bent the metal lock apart so David could wrench himself out of the medical device. They went off to fetch the wolfguy, finished off any Employees they could find, and dragged each other out of the facility.
The hellcat was clearly out of her tree, mentally speaking. The kid had to steer her back toward the exit six or eight times. At one point she looked straight into David's eyes and pleaded to know where Puma was. When he demanded to know why she was asking, her eyes slid away and she muttered something about how she had mucked up, which told David that she knew damned well what she did.
Wolfguy was under a heavy tranquilizer load. He pointed out that the enemy would be looking for the team, that they were best off if they split up. Four trails are harder to detect than one. And if whoever gets caught does not know where the others might have gone, that will slow the enemy down more.
So David struck off on his own. He did not settle up with Feral then. If she got caught, if she wound up buying him time the expensive way, he would call it even.
By June of 1999, David Ironhorse had established a few good things in his life. He spied on his mom just enough to make sure she was okay, the guy she was dating did not throw any major red flags, and someone would drop an email to "John David" if anything tangentially supervillain-related showed up in her life. He had a new motorcycle gang, one that roved around long stretches of North America without forming strong ties. He had enough of a reputation as a freelance villain to turn down certain jobs, though he kept hustling to build his finances.
One of his gang members brought him a copy of a third-string New York City newspaper, particularly the classified ads. "You want to kill the catgirl," one ad said, "but you're wasting both our time. Let's get it over with." It specified a time, late at night on the 12th, and a specific alley in the city.
That's refreshingly direct, Puma thought as he geared up for a ride straight into revenge.
(Only it turned out that the ad was not aimed at him. It was aimed at some jerk hypnotist named Kadaver. It turned out that the wide-eyed, meek, frantic hellcat did not remember Puma. At all!)
The next time Puma had a shot at Feral, it was November and Puma's gang were trying to make a pickup in New York City for a smuggling job. He wound up late to the pickup because their path crossed that of a leopard-spotted cat who, when Puma shifted up into his combat form as he turned his bike, finally finally gasped in recognition and stuttered his name. Too late: he was in no mood to listen!
Feral killed three members of his gang in the process of escaping from them all. To cover their tracks, after the smuggling job was complete they divvied up their current assets and split the gang up. David sold his bike in Chicago to a Freak whose warrant list was longer than his own, after which David checked himself into a rehab program in Europe.
Rehab did not take very well.
Summer of 2000 saw Puma earn a sponsorship into the black market contact network known as the Thieves Society. Suddenly he had access to a better class of private finance broker, which meant he could set up a proper trust for his mom, plus separate accounts for his different false identities. He had access to better job contacts, some of which came through an actual Thieves Society "fixer" or even a "handler" who worked for him instead of being on the side of the employer -- Neat! he decided. Eliminates some of the impulse to set me up!
In February 2001, one of those contacts introduced him to a Hammer Empire consultant named Stirge who specifically wanted to hire enemies of "the Metropolis cat" also known as Feral. The job may have started out as just another enforcer gig, but Puma and Stirge got to trading anecdotes while they waited around for a delivery. Stirge readily admitted that he hated Feral for damaging his spinal column. "If I hadn't been on a rich man's payroll when it went down," Stirge complained, "I would have been wheelchair-bound for life. Or worse."
In trade, Puma allowed that the leopard woman had caught him unawares when he expected she would have his back, although he substituted one of their simple training spats for the moment that truly ended their partnership. Puma said that he had spent a couple of years trying to forget it, but nothing worked for very long on his metabolism.
"I used to be a pharmaceutical researcher," Stirge said. "Switched to the black mask industry when I realized how much stuff gets held back by red tape. Between this stop and the next, let's detour to my workshop, huh? I think I have something from Lex Labs that you might like."
By the time they got settled on the cruise ship which was their target, David knew two things: First, Dr. Stirge was an all right guy by him. Second, a smidgen of fresh-from-the-laboratory Silent Dreams soaked for half an hour in agave nectar, mixed in with other drugs, made the drugs work just fine to disable the genetic manipulations to his metabolism by Infinity Inc.
What he did not know was that, under the influence of Stirge's concoctions, Puma became extremely obedient. He docilely complied with medical tests, with wardrobe changes, with orders to shift his form up or down, with instructions to perform for a camera or an audience, and finally with a command to pose for visual effect when Wyldfire arrived to rescue the crew and passengers. Stirge had Puma loom at his left, impassive on the outside, until Feral made her way to the private lounge where Stirge had lain his trap.
Stirge enjoyed the mounting distress in Feral's body language as Puma watched the pretty lights in his imagination rather than react to her in any way. He delighted in having Puma fetch a refill for Stirge's drink, then ordering Puma to lock a door and activate the countdown on a bomb.
When she finally, flatly informed Stirge that leaving him alive had been a mistake on her part, Stirge even let Feral take a few steps in his direction before he ordered Puma to kill her.
Something about a no-holds-barred combat against his old hunting partner was too much of a call back to the past for Puma to stay in the drugged stupor. He had to pay attention, for one thing. Feral knew so many of his favorite moves; old reflexes of his own brought him back as he responded to her moves in turn. They were tangled together halfway under a table, Feral pinning him with one rear paw braced on his gut, when David finally looked into those sepia brown cat eyes and knew them.
"David?" she said so very quietly, like a secret in the middle of enemy territory.
"Yeah?" David snarled.
"I've been looking for you everywhere," Rissa said. She sounded relieved to have him there, blood flowing from both her arms, his slickened claws straining a few inches from her throat.
Stirge bellowed something at Puma about finishing the job, but Puma's attention was fixed on the hellcat. She was weird sometimes for no reason, but this bit -- the we're past the really tricky spot thing -- it always meant they could unclench a little. Used to mean. Might still ... "What for?"
"Simon's dead."
He felt the twitch run through his entire body. Once. Twice. "Dead?"
Her claws retracted. Her ears still pointed at him, but they loosened up a little. "Confirmed. I saw it. Tracked the remains."
David thought about that for a second.
Rissa eased off just enough to give him some breathing room. She still watched him, though, wary. She still acknowledged that he was dangerous. He would have been furious if she had done anything else.
Stirge bellowed something else. The hellcat turned enough to snarl back at him: "Fuck off! We'll finish this fight because we choose, not for your jollies!"
Heh! Hellcat temper. David had let himself forget how much that amused him.
Furious, Stirge stormed out of the lounge, locking the door behind him. He missed the rest of the combat, but then, Puma was not fighting for someone else's amusement, was he? He was a man, not a dancing bear!
And if he kept the rest of the fight at "bar brawl" level, not really lethal, well. He was on a cruise ship full of explosives, and he did not have any disarm codes. Better to let the molly's team handle those while they still had most of their body parts working.
Later on, Stirge and Puma met up to finish the payoff for the job. "Why the hell didn't you kill her?" Stirge said.
David snickered, remembering. "Now why in the hell would I end her suffering quick?"
Caught flatfooted, Stirge calmed down before David could take offense. He threw in a small supply of the chemical concoction that made David's metabolism slow down. They parted as friends, or at least as friendly acquaintances.
When that batch ran out, though, David had some real problems. He had an addiction with no relief. When a 2002 job in Argentina had him staring longingly at a supervillain's chemistry set, David took himself off the job market while he checked himself into another rehabilitation clinic.
This time, by great luck, David met a couple of program graduates who had a more useful viewpoint to share: a Jerimiah Bruin had experience with artificially imposed death wishes. He compared notes with David on how to root out the basis completely, how to twist whatever was left into more useful tendencies. Another, who almost certainly was not actually named "Anthony Creswell", must have had some kind of empathy-like psionic ability that made him want to drown other people out similar to how David sometimes did: he pointed out how close worry about something got to fear of the same thing, and how much worried associates tended to get on one's last nerve as if they were constantly afraid.
It helped.
It helped David a lot more than he would have expected. This time when he finished out the program, David felt like he had closed the doors that made chemical relief an intriguing option in the first place. He connected up with an old flame for a sort of vacation, and when they both got bored with that, David told his Thieves Society contacts that he was available to work again ... but that from here out, he would be more fussy about what job offers he was willing to consider.
To his mild surprise, the Thieves World fixers thought he was well within his rights to reject the kind of job that came with too little intel.
With one thing and another, Puma decided that he needed to clear some of his legal slate: too many warrants were out on too many of his false identities. He did not need so much mask-related trouble in his typical jobs. One of the brokers helped him arrange a deal with some kind of international government network: they would wipe clean the major complaints, make evidence disappear or priorities diminish as necessary, if he would take an assignment to spy on the latest new member of the United Nations.
That being the high tech micro-nation of "Latveria", ruled by one Victor von Doom.
A large Shoshone man with blond hair and feline eyes is not going to go completely unnoticed in New York City even if he was not designed to be a work of art. Puma needed cover for his frequent presence in and around the United Nations complex. He found a security company for one of the nearby skyscrapers, advertising for a single person to provide late-hours security for the top third of the building. The leasing companies had concerns about corporate espionage, to the point where they pushed back on having multiple security personnel travel their hallways without supervision, but they also wanted protection against metahuman intruders. Puma's contract rates made a good compromise while the building owners shopped around for more permanent digital solutions.
From his point of view, the job was a perfect subterfuge: "Johnny Horse" would have some boring nights and work most of the weekends, but he could wander around a several block radius at quirky times in the name of "security checkups", even be blatant about it, maybe even ask one of the Latverian consulate staff a couple of "have you seen this delivery van parked around here" questions, all without any of his real targets growing concerned.
Unfortunately for him, the entire job was actually a setup by a corporate raider. Cross Technology Enterprises, owned by William Cross, crafted an intricate betrayal-within-a-betrayal scenario to pose one man (the metahuman security mercenary) as the supposed "Inside Man" for a burglary team. In Cross's employ, arranging the personnel and equipment to set the stage according to Cross's directions, a mastermind named Carlton Sanders hired the individuals for this team deliberately so that they would do well halfway into the job, but their personalities would be clashing by the time they wrapped up and prepared for their exit. His intention was that they would never question certain details until it was too late, until they were either dead at one another's hand or else captured by the police. Sanders alone would walk away from the job with a payout high enough to change his identity and retire. The burglary team would have killed the "Inside Man" and completed the frame, in the process putting the finishing touches on the frame-up of themselves. They might kill each other off, they might sacrifice one another to eventual arrest, but Sanders made certain that any survivors of the "botched theft" would have only incorrect information about who had hired them or why. In the process, the burglary team's schedule of actions would keep them far away from the Cross Tech servers secretly downloading all of the intellectual property of every other leaseholder in the entire skyscraper.
The plan probably would have collapsed under its own weight at some point. Sanders had a career-long tendency to make his plots carry too many options at once. He hired external hackers to disable the skyscraper's intranet and prevent law enforcement from accessing it, he hired a psychological analyst to help him pick out the mercenaries most likely to turn on one another at the most damaging moment, he sent his own minions into the building eight hours before the "burglary" would begin to plant bait, he suborned the head of security for the building management company. He did too much to be sure of keeping himself anonymous.
But what actually destroyed it was that, on the Friday afternoon of the burglary, Feral came looking for her old hunting partner with a flag of truce. She needed to pass him some personal information that should not affect his current work: their late Trainer had left a cache of notes behind. Someone else picked them up. That someone else might pop up, trying to make use of them.
The presence of someone from the Prototype days had a major impact on how Puma reacted to everything in his environment, from the busy signal on a cell phone call to the hint of a late worker in an office normally vacated. The presence of that particular someone took David from "suddenly suspicious of everything" to "look for the smoke and the mirrors", which meant that with Feral to back him up, Puma turned the tables on his would-be assassin and then on the entire team of patsies.
In the process
  • Feral and Puma worked out between them, if not peace, then a ceasefire. It started that afternoon with Jarissa confessing -- unprompted -- that she had wronged David and owed him amends, which she was willing to pay whenever he wanted to call it in. The rest of the night served to remind them both of the traits each had which almost led them to be friends, back when, all while giving each a glimpse into how much the other had grown from those days.
  • Tar Pit added a special hatred for all things feline to the saga of his life.
  • Pistolera may have been hired to take "Johnny Horse" out near the start of the burglary, but Bernetta "Bunny" Hanna wound up having a three week fling with "JD Irons" right around the time that Gunhawk next visited Gotham City. She probably would not have bothered if Puma had not gone to such lengths to be extra adorable as he wrecked the burglary team.
  • Vicious would joyfully hang Puma up by the body part of any client's choice and leave him to be pecked by pigeons. The feeling is not mutual because Puma was not impressed enough by anything Vesna DeCastro did over the course of the entire night, so he barely spared her a thought after they finished setting Gunhawk and Whirlwind up for most of the crimes committed by the entire burglary team.
  • CTE's servers were forcibly disconnected before they could download even half of the targeted data. William Cross had a lot of scrambling to do in the aftermath.
  • David met Blackjack for the first time in several years, now as Feral's husband (she's married?!) and the father of her child (someone trusted the hellcat with a CHILD?!?). David decided that their status as current members of the Thieves Society retroactively defined their past acquaintance as "nebulously friendly", which means David treats "Blackie" with all the casual geniality that he balks at directing toward Jarissa.
  • With his official reason for being in the Big Apple blown, David sauntered over to the Latverian consulate and asked if they might be hiring. He explained that he was looking for work that would take him out of town for a few months. While this step made his maybe-an-NSA-flunky handler cry actual tears of despair, it got David innocuous access to the last piece of intelligence that he had been told to acquire in the first place. Since he had completed the letter of the agreement and rendered himself useless for further purposes, the entire spying-for-legal-favors deal was resolved quietly.
Six years later, Puma had a steady system to his life. He worked two to five jobs in a given season, depending on what kind of work they were and whether they exhausted his patience. He had enough time for cruising around on a motorcycle, or taking a "vacation" trip to familiarize himself with part of the world where he might someday do future work. He took short stretches of time to recuperate, indulge in a fling with a friendly colleague, take a class on any topic that had drawn his recent interest or reconnect with old business acquaintances.
It occurred to him that he had everything Simon Arkangel had once promised to teenager David "Nine Iron" Ironhorse.
So when the Golden Lotus asked around for a mercenary who could do a discreet international job over the course of three to four months, David hired his favorite Thieves Society fixer to check on the risks involved. He took all the reasonable steps to make sure that he would not be trapped or worse in distant lands. By June of 2008, Puma was up to his cheekbones in the kind of theft-and-smuggling work he never could have imagined as a boy.
Stumbling over Feral was a shock.
Her exhausted, muddled tale of her whole family murdered, an entire North American city wiped off the map, an evil mastermind using technology to enslave metahumans, not to mention the death of the kid they used to defend ... David found himself suddenly antsy to get back to civilization. This was nine kinds of awful.
He saw some of the enemy's troops in action when they split Puma and Feral up, recapturing her. Puma's fury had to simmer for five weeks while he snuck halfway around the world. He made and discarded so many plans for what allies he could gather, how he would tackle the problem of locating the enemy's stronghold, who would have the information he was going to need . . .
. . . and he had made himself sick of the entire topic for no reason: Blackjack himself was not dead. He sat in the first place Puma went after slipping past the Boston Port Authority. Whoever this "Red Diamond" would turn out to be, he was an inventive enough supervillain to fake a major assault.
For the next three months, Puma officially left the matter in Blackjack's hands. But he stayed in touch with Silverwing (also not even a little bit dead). Occasionally he looked into this rumor or that business trade, when Blackjack needed some intelligent muscle to descend on a clue.
On the afternoon of November 24th, Puma left a meeting with a business contact. He had a job offer to serve as a visually impressive enforcer, a bodyguard job really, for one side of a complicated black market deal. David was inclined to take the job: the pay was decent. The client's reputation did not include a history of starting any fights he could not finish nor of treating his employees like action figures. The series of meetings would last through the first half of December, giving David plenty of time to wrap up some loose threads for "JD Irons" before he cruised out of the city and into his "John David" identity.
David hated all the holiday hoopla in NYC in December. It was not the music, it was the odors. Too many exaggerated drunk people, desperately trying to pretend that they were having the time of their lives. Too many theme criminals trying to do their own furious little live action "holiday special". Pass!
He was halfway to his bike when he heard a leopard's roar: not the rhythmic sawing sound of "here I am/where are you?" but the furious snarl of rage.
Puma shifted up into combat form while he ran toward the sound. His thoughts caught up with him two seconds after the wall of fog filled the alley. The little molly roars when a regular person would scream for backup, he thought, and here I am running right to it like a dumbass!
At which point he realized he was no longer in New York.
Or alone.
Or the only "David Ironhorse" who had reacted to that call.
When the massive combat was over, before everyone's realities detangled again, he found himself in conversation with some of his alternate selves. "Hellcats," he complained as he stared at the version of Feral which moved with a dancer's grace.
"Every damned one of 'em," agreed the alternate with the Red Sox jacket and the tail. "I always thought there had to be a universe where she was nice."
"'Nice' wouldn't have survived," objected the alternate who still had his natural-born black hair, "but 'easy to get along with' would have been hot for a change."
"You're all idiots." The guy with the battle scars dug a flask out of his pocket.
They all glanced at him.
"We like the hellcat," scarred alt said firmly. "Don't lie to yourself that you rather she was fragile!"
After exchanging awkward looks, they split up to find the paths back to where they each belonged.
David found his way back to the real world with a nagging headache. When it faded off enough to use a computer screen, he emailed Thomas for an explanation of the whole event. He did not understand most of the answer, but it at least assured him that he had returned to his own reality.
Even so, he made his way to the middle of Pennsylvania over the next couple of days. Careful not to be spotted by any of the Metropolis Rogues, he scouted wide around the perimeter of the Gironde School until he could see for himself that Rissa had made it back home to her husband.
Okay, then, molly, David thought quietly.
And then, disturbed at his own fit of sentimentality, he confirmed the bodyguard job for Phil Reynolds before he headed back to New York.
That should have been the end of it.
It should have been "business as usual" from then until David got thoroughly bored.
So when his protected number rang, the one he paid extra to keep off every widespread list, Puma was understandably pissed.
He was not expecting it to be the hellcat, whose business was done, this had been clearly proven, hiring him to go save her family from an Infinity Inc Retrieval raid.
He was not expecting to finally meet Thomas's girlfriend ShadowStar, but maybe he should have.
He was not expecting to work with Blackjack, but that had been a possibility for more than nine years now, so that was okay. More than okay, really: turned out that Blackie made a fun damage-dealer partner in a fight while Thomas literally ran defense.
He was spectacularly not prepared to meet nephews. Two of them! Who had been waiting their whole lives for "Uncle David" to visit!
Who in even their completely wrong minds would designate a professional villain like Puma as the mythical uncle for two hero-minded little boys?!?
Uhh ... well ... parents who knew exactly how dangerous he was, apparently. Who wanted their kids to grow up knowing that the world was dangerous, and the smart thing is to start with allies who are a force of nature.
Maybe ... if the word had been widespread that these kids had lethal relatives ... this earnest, admiring, blue-spotted catboy would not be telling a self-described villain how Deathstroke the freaking Terminator was a "pervert" who had laid aggressive hands on two eight-year-old kids.
And, sure, when the assassin himself wandered into Noonan's on a bright winter day in February, the universal rule of the Thieves Society Speakeasies was that no fighting should happen inside the establishment. But, c'mon, everyone agrees on exceptions for this kind of thing. A man does not let pervert incidents go by undiscussed. Especially not on his own nephews.
Puma is a man. He is not an animal. He is not pond scum.
He said calmly, in a clear voice, that the Thieves Society does not hold with perverts putting their hands on little kids.
And then, in deference to the "no fighting" rule, he deliberately held back the power of his attacks.
In fact, his first demonstration of his position came via an empty-handed slam.
Tommy Monaghan was the one who followed up via smashing chair. Good ol' Tommy. Man understands how to conduct business vis a vis "smacking down a pervert in denial".


Hetero. Very Hetero. Extremely hetero. David knows he's a great-looking guy, he don't mind other people admiring him as suits their own sexuality, but let's keep the flirting to (1) outside business situations only, (2) polite passes that shut down if there's any lack of reciprocation, and (3) Women. Over the age of twenty-five. Who are not in a hurry.


Contacts & Relations

Puma has friendly relations with most of his former partners, whether those were working partnerships or romantic flings. Black Vixen in particular trades access to local apartments or townhouses in various cities, sometimes making use of a place in New York City or Perth owned under one of Puma's false identities, while he uses a place belonging to her when he is in Gotham City or Rio de Janeiro.
Puma also has friendly business relationships with Shumai of the Golden Lotus, Dr. Stirge who often freelances for Hammer Empire, Tony "T33-V33" Vashers of the Freakshow, and Phil "Freon" Reynolds of Intergang.
He has worked in the past with Karla Sofen, member of the Secret Six (a semi-retired villain crew that operated mostly in the northeastern US and southeastern Canada). Their relationship is not "friendly" but one of them owes the other a debt. There is some dispute as to who owes whom.

Family Ties

  • Silverwing says we're "family" like any idiot would know that already, so ... okay, maybe.
  • And Blackjack calls me "beau-frère" so often that Shadowstar has started doing it too. Which seems to mean "brother-in-law" but with more of a "we're in the same gang together" mentality to it?
  • Anyway. I guess that means John DeSalle is some kind of "family" too, more than just a crusty older guy I sometimes drop in to visit and check up on.
  • Thomas and Tina have a kid named "Bubba", and Blackie and the hellcat have a son named "Grayson" and a daughter named "Savannah", all of whom call me "Uncle David". And write me emails sometimes. Not as long or as weird as Thomas's emails get. But it's all weird, if I think about it, which I mostly don't.
  • My family of origin is NOBODY'S business but mine!
  • And that leaves ... does Feral go on this list? I guess she does because of all of the above. On the Brussels job in August 2009, she told Blackie's crew that I'm her "ex", which might have earned her a thumping if I did not know the old "pretend you're my scary ex to throw off this other person" fanfic trope. She always acts relieved to see me, like she thinks I'll vanish off of reality and no one will tell her. She asks me if something I want is paying back the debt she owes me, and then I say "no", and then she looks out for my interests anyway. Maybe it's a cape thing. I don't think so. I think it's a "Hellcat's idea of family" thing.

Social Aptitude

When his mood suits, Puma can be charming and gregarious. It never lasts long, however. His ego is in supremely good health these days: he knows he is gorgeous, powerful, and expensive to hire. His two biggest flaws in social situations are that he is unable to read emotional cues short of "hostile" or "terrified" in most people's body language, and he dislikes formal situations so much that he will start a brief physical fight simply to disrupt the "rules" of a formal interaction.
gray mask / antihero
Year of Birth
1975 35 Years old
Oklahoma, USA
amber, catslit eyes (not as round as a mountain lion's should be)
Blond. Straight and smooth in his human "resting" form, wispy and wiry in his catman "combat" form
Skin Tone/Pigmentation
dark olive
250 lbs
Quotes & Catchphrases
Some women are cute when they’re mad. Then there’s this one.
— Puma considering Feral, who is starting to annoy him again already; around sundown, April 11th, 2003
Aligned Organization
Known Languages
  • English (which he calls "American" because he doesn't speak "British" or "Aussie" or "Indian English" or so forth, and he is tired of everyone treating them as the same thing.)
  • Shoshoni, mostly for complaining about life and its components, learned haphazardly from his mother
  • gesture code
  • Spanish, very conversant, especially when watching one of the telenovelas he loves
  • Mandarin Chinese, enough to conduct business deals
  • barely enough Russian to get into trouble and hopefully back out again


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