Hello everybody. Its been about...a year i think since I've been here, but I promised a third instalment to my series and whether you like it or not I'm writing it. It takes place about 15 years after Fracture of Time, give or take a few. Adamantium93 02:42, October 7, 2010 (UTC)
The camera flashes nearly blinded him. He thought he’d be used to it by now, but no such luck. “Mr. Young, what exactly is happening with the situation in France?” Eyes still blurry, he responded, “None of us know the exact details of the talks but we have heard they are going well. We expect the French Prime Minister to agree with us and make peace.”
More cameras flashed. It reminded him of that day, that day they had revealed themselves to the world… “What about the delegation from Uganda?” said another reporter, “How do you expect those talks to go?”
“We have a very good relationship with Uganda’s president.” He continued, “We expect the negotiations to be very brief. In fact, I like to think of this as more of a visit from a friend.” More flashing lights. More muddled voices. He was getting tired of this. “Last question.” He announced, pointing to a reporter in front of him.
“Sir, what is the president’s official position on the matter of the rebels?” This question stopped the entire room. Every reporter sat, pencil’s ready. No camera man dared take a picture, lest he miss the answer. Michael Young leaned into the podium.
“There are no rebels. These so called freedom fighters are nothing more than bigots and racists. They are using political reasons to hide their true goal: the extermination of Homo Superior. They say we have ruined this country. But look at the numbers. Crime has dropped eighty percent since the president took office. Our status as a world power has never been stronger. The economy is booming. We are once more the America of opportunity. Even mere Homo Sapiens can become one of us, through our groundbreaking advances in bio-chemistry.
"This is America as it was meant to be. And these ‘rebels’ want to take this away from us. They would endanger the security of this great nation to carry out their genocidal agenda. Well, I tell you now, I will not give in to bigots. I will not allow this country, that I fought for, that my loved ones died for, to fall into the hands of racists. This is America! Let freedom ring!”
“Quite the rabble rouser, isn’t he?” said Sean Grayson as he watched the live coverage of Michael Young’s press release. His hand ran through his dusty brown hair as he raised the bottle of Irish whiskey to his mouth. “Makin’ our outfit sound like ano’er kind of Ku Klux Klan. Tryin’ to turn th’ people against us. What’ya think sweetheart?” He addressed the young woman standing in the corner. She wasn’t very large, and the shadows concealed her well.
“I think he’s afraid.” She said, “He knows we’re after him, and his entire group. And he wants to make us look like villains. He needs to be seen as a hero.” She stepped into the light of the small desk lamp near the TV. She brushed her dark, curly hair out of her face. “What’s the plan?”
“The plan is we lay low for awhile,” Sean said, “We pull th’ small jobs, we make ourselves seem small, insignificant. Then, we hit them where it hurts. We cripple their operation and bring them too their knees. Then we make things th’ way they should be.”
Mike reclined in the car seat. “What’s next?” he askedNicholas Devane. His assistant sat opposite him in the car. He was still a young man, his early twenties, but he was very smart and he never missed anything. Michael saw him as a protégé of sorts. He flipped through his binder. “The President has called a cabinet meeting in twenty minutes. We’re to pick up the Secretary of Surveillance as well. Afterwards, he would like you to accompany him to the meeting with the Ugandan President. Once that’s over, you’re clear for the day.” Michael sighed.
It would be nice to have some time alone for awhile. Not that he wouldn’t be busy. He always had work to do. As the president’s chief adviser and the chief of staff, it was his job to make sure that everything worked smoothly. Sometimes he wondered if he didn’t spread himself too thin.
“Ok,” said Michael, “Let’s go fetch him.”
The Bureau of Surveillance
“What do you mean it’s gone?” The voice screamed across the building.
One of the techs cringed back into his metal chair, “Camera number ABG245 has gone off the grid, followed by many other cameras and sound systems in the area.”
“Raaaaaargh!” Large booms echoed through the large room as electricity flew between the conduits, causing lights to flicker. “Get someone down there, NOW!” The Secretary shouted. The room was covered in television screens. At least thirty techs sat at kiosks around it, each monitoring a different grid of the city. The blinking screens and lights tinted the metallic room a sickly green. The Secretary sent a bolt of electricity towards a group of techs, scrambling them.
“Don’t kill the messenger, dear friend.” Michael stepped into the room. The Secretary of Surveillance turned to him. He was floating about three inches off the ground, blue electricity crackling from his hands, feet and body. His eyes were pale, glazed over and tinted blue. They too discharged electrical energy, causing his gaze to illuminate Michael like a flashlight. His brown hair stood straight, though it was short. He slowly powered down, touching the ground again. His eyes retained their glazed, light-blueish look, and still occasionally crackled with electricity. Samuel Teslar closed them and counted to ten, calming himself.
“I’m sorry,” He said, “I get…tense.” Michael nodded. Sam had been affected the most by their rise to power. Once, he had struggled to power a light bulb. Now he was a veritable battery of energy, constantly expending limitless power. Whenever he ate, went in the sun, or stepped too close to an outlet, he recharged. Even if he were cut off from everything, the amount of energy inside of him would last years. However, holding all that electricity in one being was taxing on the mind, and Sam was prone to bouts of anger and depression. Fortunately, he did his job well and efficiently, making him on of the President’s most trusted cabinet members.
They sat in a large, round table; each of them assigned a seat. In one spot was a television. Mike sat on the right side of the president, Sam on the left. They all stood as the door swung open. “Mr. President,” Michael announced. Alexander Constantine walked towards his seat, large, feathery wings at rest on his back, blonde hair combed neatly into place. He wore a suit and tie, and he looked very…American. He sat down. “Status reports.” He said. Every member shuffled in their folders. Samuel started, as was customary.
“A few of our cameras have gone offline. We’ve dispatched some techs to investigate.”
“When did this happen?” Asked Alex.
“Earlier today, not long before I came here.” He responded.
“When will they be repaired?”
“Two days, maybe three.”
Next up was the Secretary of Internal Affairs, Hailey Constantine, Alex’s wife and Michael’s cousin, though they hadn’t spoken in years. He had never forgiven her, not after…but he didn’t want to think about it. She adjusted her glasses and fixed her long, red hair.
“We’ve been monitoring the situation with the rebels. So far no leads, but it’s only a matter of time until we find them.” She met Michael’s gaze for a minute, then pulled away. “We’re using the sleeper agents for this one. Best not to show our involvement.” Alex nodded in agreement.
All eyes focused on the television screen, which showed the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Shannon Johnson, who was currently in France in negotiations with the Prime Minister.
“The negotiations are going well. We anticipate a peaceful agreement will be reached by the end of the week. However, I doubt it will be a true alliance.”
“What do you mean?” Alex asked.
“I feel as if he’s allying with us merely to stay safe.” Shannon explained, “When the cards are down, I suspect he’ll betray us for our enemies.”
“It matters little, so long as we can secure a relationship,” Alex reasoned, “No matter how flimsy. The people need a victory.”
The final member wasn’t one of the original heroes. He had long, black hair and a handsome face with a scar across his jaw. He was slim and fit, and absentmindedly flipped a knife in his hands. He was the Secretary of Defense, better known by his nickname, the Witch Hunter. He was Alex’s personal judge, jury, and executioner. He worked with the Secretary of Internal Affairs, but only distantly. He helped her in difficult investigations, but his specialty was more focused: he found people, and they died. If you wanted to stop some drug runners or a few street brawls, you sent the police. If you wanted to capture a political or super powered dissident, you sent Witch Hunter.
Also, unlike Hailey’s police, he often found himself on foreign soil, doing the government’s dirty work wherever it needed to be done. He ran a small operation, once the CIA, which took only the best, and trained them to be ruthless, infallible killers like himself. The outfit was cryptically called “Project 9”, because there were only nine operatives in it, counting Witch Hunter himself. Project 9 was the government’s best secret, and many people “disappeared” to keep it that way.
“We have all operatives on stand by. If you need some damage control, some espionage, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Especially with this trouble in China. If you need someone gone…”
“That won’t be necessary.” Michael interjected, “We sent a gift to the Chinese government: Mr. Zhai’s private library. Priceless Chinese texts perfectly preserved. They are more than pleased.”
“Hmm, that’s no fun.” Witch Hunter scoffed. “But what about these rebels? I could take care of them.”
“No, not yet. They aren’t a threat.” Alex dismissed the idea.
It was Michael’s turn to speak. As the Chief of Staff, he held power above the other members. He also dealt with propaganda and public relations.
“The Ugandan delegation will arrive in an hour. I expect the conversation to be quite civil. We have good relations with the Ugandans. Especially after what we did for them.”
“Yes,” Alex said, “They’re the most powerful country in Africa thanks to us. Anything else?”
“The people are concerned,” Michael continued, “This new rebel faction has created much…unease. Some people think it’s serious. The humans in the ghettos have become unruly.”
“I saw your speech today,” Alex said, “Very skillful. Well ladies and gentlemen, I believe that is all for today. If you will excuse us, Mr. Young and I have to prepare for our meeting with the Ugandans.” Everyone rose at once and saluted Alex. They then all filed out, except for Hailey who gave Alex a peck on the cheek before leaving. She still wouldn’t meet Mike’s eyes.
Mike and Alex walked out of the room and down the white, blank hallways. Mike couldn’t focus his thoughts. He tried to think about the upcoming delegation, but it was difficult.
“Hmm,” Asked Alex, “I’ve known you long enough to recognize that look; what is it?”
Michael shook his head, “It’s nothing, just that thing with Mr. Zhai’s library…it brings back memories.”
“Of the fight?” Alex asked.
“Yeah. I keep thinking, how were we so lucky, you know? I’m surprised none of us were killed. I mean, William was in the hospital for a while and there were injuries on both sides. Heck, James lost an eye in the fight and as far as I know Jenny never walked without a limp again, but all in all we came out all right. In the end, only Mr. Zhai was dead, and that was his own fault.
“He attempted that spell, the one he ‘perfected’, to steal our powers, and it backfired. Abraham took the Fracture of Time and disappeared. The mess was cleaned up and attributed to a malfunction. Mr. Zhai was found in the wreckage of a crashed passenger plane. James took over Glamis, nobody had to know…so simple, so clean.”
“What do you mean?” Alex pondered.
“I mean, why did we have to change it? Why did we have to undo all that work?”
“Hahaha,” Alex laughed, a full, hearty chuckle, “You would prefer living in the shadows to prospering in the sunlight?”
“I don’t know, just…it’d be so much easier.” Mike shook his head. “When I was young, my life was planned out. I was going to go to college; I was going to become a lawyer, then a judge. Find a nice wife, settle down and retire with kids and grandchildren…I had it all planned out. Now…I’m not so sure. I can’t see the future. I can’t even predict it.”
“You afraid the situation in France will escalate?”
“I’m afraid it already has. We may not know it, but these rebels may be more than we think. Perhaps they’re more important than we realize.”
They eventually arrived at the Oval Office of the White House. Alex took his position in the chair behind the desk and Michael found his way to one of the chairs in the middle of the room. The intercom buzzed, “Mr. President, the delegation is here to see you.”
“Excellent,” said Alex, “show them in.”
The doors swung open and four large, dark men entered. Two were obviously body guards. They checked every possible point of entry, they communicated with each other through looks, and they kept close to their assigned delegate. Michael didn’t recognize the first one; he was tall and thin and kept a regal air about him. He extended his long, bony arm, “You must be the chief of staff. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Michael extended his own hand, speaking in French. “And I am pleased to meet you as well.”
“Ah,” said the delegate, “I am happy to find someone who speaks my own language.” He smiled a wide smile that extended across his slim face. He sat down in one chair
Mike turned to the second delegate and laughed. “Well, I wasn’t expecting to see you again.”
The other delegate laughed. “And you as well old friend. But disappearing after you win a civil war is rather tricky.” Isaiah Tafari wrapped Michael in a giant bear hug. “It is good to see you.” His deep voice echoed off the walls.
They sat down and got to business. Alex discussed the state of both countries, Michael interjected where needed. The first delegate, who turned out to be the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, spoke primarily while Isaiah seemed more interested in listening. Michael was correct: the meeting was a mere pleasantry, a cover. Isaiah was here for something important.
As the meeting ended, Alex walked with the tall man. “Please excuse us,” said Isaiah, “but I wish to speak to Mr. Young alone.” Alex and the tall man nodded and they left to continue discussions. The two body guards exited as well, keeping a close eye on every gardener and tree. Isaiah turned around and faced the wall.
“How’ve you been holding up?” He asked.
Mike shook his head, “Fine, it’s been busy. So much to do.”
“I know it’s been years…but I feel like there’s a part of us all that died there, on that day. How about your cousin, Hailey? You two still not talking?”
“I haven’t said a word to her in months. The way she talks about it…like its fine, like I should understand…” The pen on the desk quivered and shook.
“You’ve lost more loved ones than any of the others. She cannot understand.”
“But it was her fault. She planned it. She used us…” A low rumbling sound echoed through the room as the quaking became stronger and stronger, causing furniture to shake and pictures to fall off their pegs.
“And he’s no better,” Michael continued, “He takes her side. He agrees with her. They don’t know what it’s like…I told her it was going to be ok…I told her the weren’t going to hurt us…I told her I wouldn’t let them. I lied to her. I FAILED HER.” Plaster fell from the ceiling, the walls began to crack. Isaiah grabbed the desk to steady himself.
“Michael,” he bellowed, “Stop.”
The room stopped shaking. Michael sank to the floor, tears streaming down his face.
“This is it, isn’t it?” He asked Isaiah. “This is the future you wanted to stop.”
“Yes,” said Isaiah. “We all failed.” He helped Mike to his feet.
“I’m flying back home tomorrow.” He said, “Tie up loose ends, maybe track down some old acquaintances. I…I’m dying. Brain tumor. Nothing the doctors can do. They can’t even break my skin for treatment.”
“You aren’t seeking alternate solutions?” Mike asked.
“When you’ve lived the life I’ve lived…when you’ve done the things I’ve done…it makes you see things differently. I think it’s my time Michael.” He paced towards the window. “I’ve been rethinking my past. I decided this was one loose end I wanted to tie. This may be the last time I see you, or anyone in the US for that matter. I’m also going to see if I can track down Abraham. I’d like to speak with him one last time, even if it’s the last thing I do. He never told me the answer.”
“The answer to what?”
Isaiah smiled. “‘How does one tell if his life has been worth it?’? Perhaps he’ll grant a dying man his final wish.” Isaiah left the Oval Office and walked away down the path.
Mike stood for awhile, contemplating their exchange. “How does one tell if his life has been worth it?” He mused. He turned out the door and into the hallway. “Was it all worth it?” he asked himself, “In the end, did we do right?” He walked, contemplating, into the dark of the empty building.
End of Chapter 1
“Long Live the Mutants” Bar on the Border of the Human Ghetto
The air was thick with smoke from quite a few cigarettes, the kind that weren’t legal anymore. The room smelled of heavy liquor, and a few men were sprawled across tables and benches. In the middle of the room was a circular bar, where the bartender sat, tired and obviously wanting the people to go home. The TV’s in the corner were playing the usual: the recent political events, sports games, and talk shows. The drunks and gamblers whistled happily.
This bar was famous for its publicly non-human rules. Humans who tried to enter were thrown out. The more persistent ones often found themselves leaving with a few broken ribs. The most unfortunate, however, may end up hospitalized or even dead. The government did nothing to stop it; there were few laws about human safety.
Two figures appeared in the doorway. For a minute, all eyes turned to them. The taller one wore red and black clothing, including a bright red hood. The other wore all black, and obscured her face with a hood as well. Few people gave them a second glance. They walked in and sat down at a small table.
The red hooded one spoke to the other in a whisper, “Here we are darlin’, the largest hive o’ anti-humanists this side o’ the business district. And so close to th’ ghetto. Love th’ irony.” A waitress walked over to their table. “What’ll it be guys?” she asked, staring off at the mob of dancers on the other side of the room. “Irish whiskey for meself.” Said the red hooded man, “And a little club soda for th’ lady.” The waitress turned back to the bar. “She didn’t sweep us,” said the black hooded girl, “why do you think not?” “Obvious darlin’,” said the red man, “She has better things to do th’n test for humans in a well known anti-human bar. I doubt she bothers most o’ the time.” The waitress brought back the whiskey and club soda, setting them down on the table. The red man placed the payment on the corner and a small tip. She took it and walked off.
“Cheers,” said the red man, raising the whiskey to his lips. He carefully stood on the table. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced, “In lieu o’ this establishment’s normal cheer, I offer a new one.” All eyes turned to him, some with interest, some with irritation. “It’s true that th’ old cheer has served well, and what better way to got th’ drink flowin’, than a hearty chorus of ‘Long live the Mutants’?” A few people shouted, “Long live the Mutants”, causing a cheer to swell from the crowd. “But tonight,” said the man, pulling back his hood, “I say a new cheer is in order.” Sean Grayson took a swig of the whiskey, “Long live Humanity” He pressed a button and the door exploded, showering the crowd with splinters and debris. He pocketed the bottle and drew a semi-automatic rifle out of his coat, firing at the barflies. The girl in black knocked over another table to use as cover before withdrawing two pistols from her coat. She threw a small disk into the crowd which exploded as well, lighting the spilled alcohol on fire. She fired into the frantic mutants, shooting any who avoided Sean’s barrage.
Suddenly, the table used as a barrier splintered and disintegrated. A beam of light missed the girl in black by mere inches, causing the glass of club soda to fracture into shards of crystal. “Not in my bar!” shouted a man. As the smoke cleared, they could see the bar’s owner standing in the floor. He had only one arm, but besides that he seemed fit enough to kill an ox with his bare hands. His hair was in a strict army crew cut and he held his hand towards the two humans. “Not in my bar!” he shouted, sending another beam at them. They dodged to either side and ran. He fired at both as best he could; causing glasses, tables, and stools to explode in showers of razor sharp fragments. Sean took cover in the bar, shooting the waitress twice in the stomach when she tried to smash his head with a bottle. He carefully reloaded, waiting for the owner to show himself again. “I fought in the war,” shouted the owner, though Sean couldn’t place his voice. The waitress moaned in pain. “I fought legions of soldiers. I tore apart tanks.” ‘Come on…” thought Sean, “A little closer…” He heard the crunch of glass on the outside of the bar. He quickly jumped up and shot at the noise, but it was only a bar-goer crawling for shelter.
Sean’s gun fragmented in his hands, spraying his body with metallic shards. It felt like a hundred tiny bullets embedded in his skin. He fell on the bar, his red shirt hiding the blood from his wounds. He looked up to see the owner pacing towards him. “Cupcake,” he said, “I’ve killed stronger men than you.” He put his hand on Sean’s head.
There was a sound of two gunshots, and the hand tightened, then loosened, the owner slumping to the floor. Sean could see the back of his head was open, and his blood was on the ground. The girl in black had removed her hood to aim, letting her curly black hair fall around her shoulders. “Don’t worry Cardinal,” she said, looking at him with hard, but beautiful brown eyes. “I got him.” “A thousand thanks Blackbird,” said Sean as sirens in the distance started to draw closer. “Now let’s get out o’ here.”
It took mere minutes to escape to the alleyways and into the human ghetto where they would never be found by the police. Lying against a building, Sean poured some whiskey over his wounds from the fragmented gun as he carefully pulled out the shards of metal. Blackbird stood aloof, shaking from the adrenaline as she carefully put the guns back in her pockets. Sean steeled himself, and pulled out another shard.
Hailey walked across the threshold to the bar. Paramedics pulled out dying patrons and firemen hosed the building, though it was too late; most bodies were burned completely, and those that weren’t were obviously dead. She kicked a piece of charred stool across the room. Her second in command walked up to her. He was a large man, with broad shoulders and muscles like tree trunks. He had developed a reputation while he lived in Mexico City, working to take down the mob boss known as El Toro Negro, the Black Bull. Persistent, unmerciful, and efficient, his true name was Diego Mercado, better known as Torero, the Bull Fighter. He bowed his head and doffed his beloved black cowboy hat as he approached. “Buenas noches señora.” He said.
“What do you think?” asked Hailey, “Our cameras in the area went out earlier today. That can’t be a coincidence.”
The man looked around. “Si,” he said, “This was well planned. The bar is famous for its pro-mutant clientele. It would be like walking into a hornet’s nest for any human. The fact that they got away…” he stopped short, seeing the dead owner on the floor. “Madre de Dios! Do you know who this was?
Hailey examined him for only a minute. “No, it can’t be…Joe Romanoff?” She staggered back. Joe had been an enemy once upon a time, back when Mr. Zhai was in charge of Glamis. Eventually, he joined them as a hero, then as a comrade, a soldier in the war. “Take away the body,” said Hailey. “He was a soldier. He shall be buried as such.” A couple of medics zipped him into a body bag and carried him off.
Torero was examining the carnage. “There weren’t many,” he said, “I’d say, two, four tops. Look at this area where they hid. No room for more than four. That means they were well trained or well supplied, maybe both.” He moved to the wall.
“You sure?” asked Hailey.
“Si. I didn’t spend years in the Mexico City underworld without picking up a few tricks.”
He walked to the bar and examined it. “Blood on the bar. Dead waitress, shot in the stomach.” He turned to the other cops, “Collect a sample of this blood, and examine the bullet. Also, swipe any money in her pocket for prints. Any glasses too. Look for non-mutant matches.” He walked to the wall again. He lit a match and threw it on the wall.
“I think our problem is bigger than your cousin realizes.” He said. A line of alcohol ignited, spelling out a message: “Viva la Resistance"
Hailey glared at the message. With a wave of her hand, the wood layer incinerated, erasing the message completely.
Department of Surveillance
The next day.
“Easy right?” asked Hailey as she watched Sam at the controls. He scoffed, his eyes crackling with electricity.
“Easy?” he said, “No. Possible, yes.” He typed away at the computer, inputting the data Hailey had given him.
“It won’t be perfect,” he said, “There will likely be a five to ten percent margin of error. And we can’t detect humans from afar. You may end up chasing false positives around the city just while the real one sneaks off. There are just too many variables.
“And there are ten possible suspects. Ten! Only two or four may have actually been there. And what if none are the perpetrators? What if there are others who were never in contact with the money?” He slammed his hands on the keyboard, causing sparks to fly out of his fingers. “Damn! I need the DNA from the glass and the blood to even narrow it down. With this data, half the city will spring the alarm.”
“It’ll take a couple days for that,” said Hailey. “I figured you could use a head start on writing the program.”
Sam shook his head. “It’s like chasing a needle in a hay stack. You’d have better luck just searching the streets. I need that DNA Hailey.”
“And you’ll have it. How about those cameras? Are they fixed?”
“They’ll be online by noon.”
“Good.” She quietly turned and left.
Office of the Chief of Staff
Michael sat at the computer, reading paper work. Every bill, every law, every petition, every work order that circulated around Washington came through him. And he had to read every letter of it. Nick helped him with most of it, but every once in a while, it would pile up. “More anti-human legislation.” He mused, “What happened to this country? When I was a boy, this was the land of equality. Heck, I feel like I’m still a boy.” He flung the paper aside. His intercom buzzed, indicating that someone was here to see him. “Come in.” he shouted.
In a minute, he wished he hadn’t. Witch Hunter walked into the office, staring at the walls, the paperwork. His very presence seemed to sour the atmosphere and every inch he touched Michael made a mental note to wash afterwards.
“Figured you could help me with something.” He said. Mike watched him carefully. “What is it?”
“The files on the shooting at the bar. I’d like to see them.”
Mike leveled his eyes at Witch Hunter. “Last I checked Hailey had that under control.”
“I could get this done faster.” The agent paced around the room.
“I don’t want twenty injured innocents and five destroyed apartments just for a lead on the rebels. I’m going to be frank with you. I don’t like the way you do business.”
“Would you rather have another shootout at another bar?”
Mike glared at him. “Hailey has it covered.”
“Give me those files,” said Witch Hunter.
The door opened. “No,” said Michael, “I suggest you leave.”
Witch Hunter stood for a moment, anger in his eyes, but he collected himself and walked off. “It’ll fall out of control.” He said, “And when the dust settles, I’ll be in charge. Then I’ll remember who helped me and who didn’t.”
Mike turned back to his work. “When that day comes,” said Mike, “I’ll be waiting.” And, using his telekinesis, he slammed the door behind the agent.
Sean Grayson sat in the chair, shirt off, examining the wounds on his stomach and chest. Blackbird sat across from him, along with another member of the rebels, codenamed Falcon.
“It hurts to breath,” said Sean. “Like knives in my—Auugh!” He cringed in pan and coughed some blood from his throat.
“Don’t move,” said Falcon. He had a deep voice, one that echoed around the silent room. “We’ll make a run on one of the gov’s medical warehouses. We’ll getcha some stuff to fix ya up.”
Blackbird nodded, “We can do it tonight. It’ll take an hour tops.”
Sean squirmed, “No,” he gasped, “Too risky. We have to disable th’ cameras first. There’s too much security around those places.” He coughed again. The small shards inched deeper in with each move he made. “Don’t go. I ain’t any more important than th’ rest o’ you,” he broke into another fit of coughing. “Don’t do it.” He coughed some more. He grabbed the bottle of whiskey and sipped it a bit, hoping to dull out the pain. “Damn bastard’s been dead almost a day and he still may kill me…”
Bureau of Surveillance
“Happy Birthday,” Hailey said dryly, giving Sam a CD.
“The DNA?” he asked.
“Great, let me input the new matches.” He typed the information into the computer. “Two of them. This one, the blood, he’s a big shot. Sean Grayson. Human. Irish immigrant shortly before the start of the war. Likely fled because of his supposed connections to the IRA. Served in the war, but didn’t see any action. Well known for anti-mutant speeches and the leader of quite a few political rallies. Incarcerated for treason. Escaped from prison three months ago. Sounds like a match to me.” He input the data and moved to the second one, “This one, from the table, no matches. I’m generating a simulation based on her genetic makeup. We should be able to find her from that, but if she changes her hair or body dimensions…well, it’s better than nothing. All cameras will recognize them on sight.
“If they pass by one, we’ll get an alert. There’s still a possibility of a false reading, but it’s slimmer now. Once it’s triggered, the coordinates will be sent directly to you. It’ll be in your hands then. I suggest keeping everybody on standby at least for the next couple of days.”
“Duly noted,” said Hailey, “Who else, hmm? Who else is part of this group? I guess we’ll have to apprehend one of them.” She turned to leave.
“Hailey,” Sam said, “Have you talked to your cousin?”
She stopped. She turned to him for a moment, as if she was struggling with something. Her hands briefly flashed a white, pale light. “I…,” she stuttered, “I don’t have anything to say to him. He knows where I stand. What’s it to you?”
“You’re the only family I have,” said Sam, “no matter how distant. Are you going to take this feud to your grave?”
“If I have to, yes.”
“For god’s sake, you used to be best friends! If only to break the silence, talk to him.”
“I have nothing to say to him,” she turned, “nor do I have anything to say to you.” She briskly left Sam staring after her. He shook his head and turned back to the terminal, electricity arcing all around him.
Blackbird examined the various equipment in the armory. Guns, grenades, light armor, supplies of all varieties. She carefully picked out an assault rifle and two side arms. She grabbed a handful of explosives and filled her belt with a variety of useful gadgets. Her plan was simple. Sneak to the medical warehouse, get inside, steal some medicine, sneak out. She considered tying her hair back, but decided it was too short and curly to make a difference. She chose a stealth suit, designed to help the wearer blend in with shadows. It was formfitting and pitch-black. She would be all but invisible if she remained in dark corners. Everything was ready. It was time to go.
The Department of Internal Affairs
Hailey’s phone buzzed in her pocket. She opened it and read the incoming message: “Target Sighted, Unit AK836.” She jumped to her console and input the coordinates, at the same time putting out an APB: Any enforcers not currently occupied were to respond to the location of the alert. She quietly walked to the elevator in her office and pushed up. During the ride, she changed into her uniform: formfitting but flexible, padded for best protection from shrapnel, impact, and bullets. Her long red hair fell behind her. She carefully collected it into a disciplined group. She didn’t bother with weapons. As she exited the lift, she made her way straight to a helicopter where Diego waited for her.
“You ready señora?” he asked. Hailey turned her attention to a can sitting on the edge of the building. She pointed at it, and a beam of bright light shot from her finger and melted the can into a molten metal.
“More than ready,” she said.
From the deck, Michael Young watched from the shadows as the helicopter took off into the night.
End Chapter 2
New Amsterdam-The top of the Glamis Building
Fifteen Years Ago A Helicopter slowly descended towards the roof. A man waited near the landing pad, dressed in simple work attire. He had short, black hair and an eye patch over his left eye. His name was Jacob Roberts; newly appointed Director of Recruitment for Glamis. He followed the aircraft with his head to keep his one remaining eye fixed upon it. The craft touched down and shut off. Michael Young stepped from the vehicle and walked over.
“You couldn’t even wait until I’d finished high school?” he asked.
Jake responded, “We wanted to get you started as soon as possible. Don’t worry; you’ll have time for it later.” They walked inside.
“Because Abraham erased your journey through time,” Jake said, “you did not have five hundred years to perfect your power. You’re back where you started, square one. That means, the more time we have the better. You need to learn as much as you can in a very short time.” They walked to an elevator and got in. Jacob pushed a few buttons and the machine started up. “Besides, seeing as how you’re number one on the recruitment list, Matthias figured it would be good to get you acquainted with the facility.”
The doors opened into a large atrium. Many strong, clear plastic windows allowed them to view various training rooms and obstacle courses. In one, a woman was practicing her climbing skills on the bare wall. In another, a man slipped through bars, under wheels and around pillars.
“Impressive” Michael said, “Especially since it hasn’t been more than a few months since we nearly destroyed the place.”
“We’ve been busy.” Jake explained, “We haven’t really gone out and began recruiting yet, but it seems as though there are many more of us out there than we realized. I’ll cut to the chase: you’re young, charming, and smart. If we have you helping us, it’ll be much easier to get younger mutants to come to us.”
“Sounds good to me.” Mike said.
“Excellent,” Jacob smiled, “We’ll start your training tomorrow. Hopefully you’ll be ready to run missions by the time summer rolls around. Oh, and by the way, how have your cousins been?”
“We’re doing well. Why, you have your last eye on any of them?”
“I was considering Hailey for a more…disciplinary, department. A mutant police force if you will. How about your girlfriend? Molly, was it?”
“She…she wouldn’t. In fact, she may not even be too happy with me joining you.”
“Oh well,” Jake said, a tad disappointed, “say hello to all of them for me.”
The two heroes walked back towards the elevator, disappearing once more behind the large metal doors.
A Medical Cache not far from Human Territory
Blackbird stood still with her back to the wall. A small group was clustered behind her, mostly new recruits but also a few hardened fighters. All in all, there was probably about twelve of them. Falcon had dropped them off about a block north. Hopefully, they had slipped past any defenses. Hopefully. Blackbird inched forward onto the loading dock. She pulled out a lock pick and carefully coaxed the lock open. The small group slipped inside. They carefully made their way around boxes, searching for the supplies they needed. “So much…” Blackbird whispered, “If only we could take all we need…”
She carefully scaled the wall up to the second tier, staying out of the camera’s sight. She used a blue light to examine each box and its contents. “Drugs,” whispered a rebel, “you know how much even a handful of this stuff would go for?” Blackbird continued. They didn’t need drugs, they needed surgical equipment. A sound made her stop. It was a low beeping, slowly getting louder… “Get down!” she screamed, diving behind a container.
There was a loud bang and the entire space was filled with blinding light. The warehouse lights came on, illuminating the room. A few of the rebels screamed, blinded by the sudden brightness. Blackbird readied her weapon.
“We have the place surrounded,” echoed a loud voice from outside. Blackbird recognized it as that of Hailey Constantine, “surrender at once, or we will use force.” She looked over the railing to see a few rebels motionless on the floor. She waited silently, watching, her gun ready. On trooper rounded the corner and carefully walked towards the unconscious rebels. After reaching them safely, he motioned to the others to follow. Blackbird waited until five of them had moved out of cover.
She opened fire on the soldiers, dropping three instantly, wounding the fourth, and causing the fifth to scramble behind the boxes. More gunfire erupted from another section, and a couple troopers fell from the rafters. Silence. Blackbird waited. She heard footsteps and quickly spun around, finding a small group which was sneaking up on her. She ducked behind boxes and fired at them. She caught one, but a wall of flame forced her to retreat.
She realized that she was surrounded. One mutant tried ghosting through a box, but as soon as he became tangible she shot him. She pulled out her knife and stabbed into the metal of the floor, tearing around her until she fell through it to the lower floor of the warehouse. She through a grenade up through the hole and ran. In a few seconds, and explosion destroyed the area where she had been, killing her would-be captors and causing the platform to collapse. She heard fighting from throughout the building. One mutant had survived her grenade and leaped to the floor.
“Where ya goin’ shugah,” he smiled, “Things are jus’tartin ta heat up.”
He threw flame towards her, which she narrowly dodged by dropping to the ground. She tried to get a shot off at him, but he was too fast, sending another line of flame towards her. She rolled out of the way and pulled the trigger, but the shots missed. Her gun clicked, out of ammo. She ran from box to box as her opponent incinerated her former hiding spots. Another mutant tried to get the drop on her, but she stabbed him in the gut, crippling him. Blackbird moved just in time to avoid another fireball. She couldn’t keep this up much longer.
Hailey watched from the street. She could see flashes from guns and powers. “How many?” she asked.
“We think maybe ten, perhaps a few more.” Said an officer, “We have five rebels unconscious we can’t reach, another in custody. Two deaths we couldn’t avoid. As for our own numbers, five signals have gone out, three confirmed dead.” He wiped sweat from his brow. “It’s like that damned war all over again.”
“Send in a few for reinforcement.” Hailey said, “Keep the perimeter tight. No one gets out.”
From the building across the street, a figure stood and watched. One might’ve mistaken him for an old statue. His tight fitted robe seemed to shine as if it was made of metal. His cape drooped motionless behind him, remaining set in the windless night. He stood absolutely still, not moving even a muscle. He adorned his head with a top hat, held stiffly in place by bands which wrapped around his head and neck. But it was his mask, pale white, beaked like a bird, and with two large, empty looking lenses for the eyes, which made him look truly inhuman.
Torero charged into the makeshift barricade erected by the rebels, breaking through the metal and trampling a rebel beneath his feet. The remaining two opened fire. The bullets merely bounced off him, falling to the ground around him. They stung a bit, and blood leaked from a few spots, but he knew he could withstand it. He grabbed a piece of metal and threw it like a discus, lodging it into the throat of one rebel. He walked towards the other, who had just run out of ammo. The insurgent pulled out a revolver and emptied the clip at Torero’s face. He drew a little blood, but not enough to stop the Bullfighter. The man pulled out a knife and tried to stab the advancing mutant, but Torero grabbed the blade and head butted the human, knocking him to the ground.
“Buenos noches señor” He said, preparing to knock out his target.
In a blur, Torero felt himself pulled backwards and thrown. He slammed into the wall, puncturing through the thin metal. He looked up to see a man in a tight robe with a cape, top hat, and emotionless pale, beaked mask. The bullfighter leaped to his feet and circled his new opponent. The masked man moved as well, checking every step Torero made.
“Hola Señor,” Torero said, “You look tough. Perhaps you will offer some semblance of a challenge.” Torero faked a move, but the masked man didn’t respond. The masked man feinted, but Torero didn’t take the bait. They stared at each other. Torero leaped at his opponent and they began to fight.
At first Torero was pushing him back as his opponent could only block the rain of blows Torero was throwing at him. He expected to wear down this masked maniac, but the newcomer showed no signs of faltering. Finally, the man moved, grabbing Torero’s arm mid-punch and pulling him into a grapple. He flipped Torero over his head and slammed him on the ground. He began his own offensive, pounding away at the trapped bullfighter. Torero kicked the man off, but he flipped and landed on his feet, executing a flying spin kick to Torero’s chest. Slightly winded, the mutant was left exposed for a kick to the face. Blood dripped from his nose.
Torero howled with rage and swept the man’s legs. The man leaped into the air, only to realize that the move was a feint. Torero caught him with an uppercut, knocking him to the ground. The bullfighter pounced. Now he was the one using gravity to his advantage. But the mask was more durable than it seemed, and Torero couldn’t break through. The man head butted him in the face, the sharp beak slashing him on the right side.
His hands free, the masked man boxed Torero’s ears, than slid out from under him and chopped the bullfighter’s back, causing him to collapse on the floor. He lifted the defeated mutant’s head and spoke in a voice garbled by a machine, “Viva la Revolution” He slammed Torero’s head into the ground and the world went black.
Blackbird was exhausted. Flames burned all around her, and the smoke was making it hard to breathe. Grenades didn’t hurt him; her guns were out of ammo, and she couldn’t get close enough to use her knife. Another line of fire burned directly next to her, and she only barely avoided it. Through a clearing of smoke, she saw her opponent. In a desperate attempt, she threw her knife at him. Though the smoke obscured the impact, she heard a yell of pain. She cautiously crawled towards the sound, hoping to find him wounded and finish him off. Within seconds she found him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite wounded.
“Nice try shugah.” He said, lifting her into the air, “but you’re too darn predictable.” He laughed at her, and he didn’t see the silhouette behind him. Two hands grabbed his head, and before her enemy could even register this new threat, the hands twisted his head until his neck gave a sickening snap.
Her savior spoke in a voice garbled by a machine, “Blackbird, I presume.” He said, “My name is of now unimportant. You may call me Storm Crow if you truly need a moniker to attach to my figure. I am here to rescue you.”
“Diego…” said Hailey into the radio, “Diego, respond.” No answer. One side of the building was aflame. Holes from gunfire and explosions had been torn in other places. The fighting had stopped, for now. They had captured three rebels, but the others must have either awoken or been dragged to safety. She turned to her acting lieutenant. “You are in charge until I return.” She said.
She leaped from the ground and in an explosion of energy rocketed onto the roof of the building. She put out her hands, and they glowed for a minute as she charged energy. She released it into the steel, melting a hole in the metal. She dropped through and landed solidly on the ground. In front of her was Diego’s unconscious body. She checked his pulse. Still alive. She scanned for her targets. In a small corner, she saw a flash of movement. She began charging energy.
“Why should I trust you?” asked Blackbird.
“Because I’m your only option,” said Storm Crow, “I know your leader, Cardinal, is injured. That is why you are here. This isn’t my first rodeo. I know where the surgical supplies are, and I have the surgical know-how to use them. I can save Cardinal’s life. And I can get you out of this mess.”
“Thanks,” Said Blackbird dryly, “But I can handle myself.”
“Don’t be a fool;” retorted Storm Crow, “Hailey Constantine herself is here. If you run into her, you’re just another target. She’s spent the greater part of her life hunting mutants, bringing down mobs, and fighting in the war. You cannot defeat her with five wounded and exhausted humans who don’t have enough ammo between them to harm a deer.”
“And how would you be any different?” Asked the rebel.
“I’ve extensively trained in many forms of hand-to-hand combat. This suit is designed to withstand temperatures equivalent to that of her radiation beams. And further more, I’m an unknown. She’s expecting scared humans with guns, not someone who’s taking the fight to her up close. I may just be the factor that tips the scale.”
“I think we can avoid her,” Said Blackbird, “We have few enough that we can still escape.”
Suddenly there was a bright flash and a scream of pain. They turned to see a rebel caught in a beam of energy slowly being burned away. Blackbird leaped for him but Storm Crow held her back. “She’s here.” He said as the man’s skeleton fell to the ground.
The scream was like music to Hailey’s ears. She relished in the pain she inflicted. She watched in pleasure as the skeleton clattered on the floor of the warehouse. She could see the rebels. There were four of them, all huddled together. She laughed.
“Come out and play little humans.” She taunted them. One raised his gun and fired, but the bullets melted before her power. She fired at him, burning his right side and causing him to fall to the floor screaming. The other three ran, but she had them cornered. She fired a few blasts to keep them corralled in the enclosed space. She targeted the one with the short, curly hair.
“You, bitch.” She said, “You’re next.”
However, from behind her she heard someone shout, “Hailey!” she turned to see Storm Crow standing there, fists up and ready to fight.
“Well,” she said, “You look fun.” ……………….
Storm Crow charged at her. She fired at him, but he dodged the blasts. He punched her in the stomach, sending her back. He attempted to follow through, but she was skilled, pulling him into a knee to the chest. She caught him on the side of his head with a hook, right where his mask stopped protecting him. He staggered, slightly dazed, but did not fall. He kicked at her, but pulled back and instead kicked with his other leg, catching her in her side. She tried to blast him, but he forced her hand up and the shot missed. He tried to flip her around and slam her on the ground, but she shifted weight and brought him down too.
She stood up and began kicking him while he was on the ground. He tried to roll away but she instead picked him up and threw him into a steel support. The column bent, and supplies fell off of the upper shelf and towards the masked man. He barely avoided them and picked up a container. He threw it at Hailey who simply melted it into nothing. However, it was merely a distraction. He kicked her in the gut and slammed both hands on her head, knocking her face first on the floor. However, she was far from defeated. She flipped up, kicking him in the chin and causing his mask to shift, obscuring his vision. As he tried to fix it, she opened fire on his chest. Though he had some protection, he felt a searing pain in his chest, as if his lungs were burning. He crumpled to the floor.
She began beating on him, stomping, kicking, and punching. He heard cracks as bones snapped and he could feel warm wetness where blood was beginning to leak out of his body. He could barely remain conscious, the pain was too great.
“Not bad,” Said Hailey as she beat him into a pulp, “but you’re not quite up to my standards.” She readied a final blast to kill him.
In a last burst of adrenaline, Storm Crow grabbed a broken piece of metal and jabbed it into her leg. She screamed and kneeled to the floor, holding her wounded leg. He slashed at her face, causing her to rear up. Seizing his opportunity, he stabbed at her chest, going straight for her heart. She gasped as the metal impaled her, breathing quickly in pain and disbelief. Storm Crow pushed her off of him and pulled the shard out of her, causing her blood to drain. He tossed her over, and she lay for a minute as she slowly bled out. And Hailey Constantine, skilled mutant hunter, powerful superhero, veteran warrior, first lady of the United States, head of the police, and cousin to Michael Young finally died.
End Chapter 3
Blackbird considered leaving Storm Crow, but he had just saved her life. One of the rebels picked him up; the other carried their wounded ally. They wanted to take the remains of the other rebel, but Blackbird convinced them that they couldn’t take him along. Storm Crow moved, getting to his feet.
“Can walk…on my own” he said, his voice barely audible through the machine.
“Are you alright?” Blackbird asked.
They walked to the exit and slipped out. On the other side of the warehouse, more troops were coming in. They half walked, half ran for a block to where Falcon was waiting.
“Jeeze,” he said, “What happened?”
“No time to explain,” said Blackbird, “We need to get out of here, now!”
Storm Crow lay down in the back of the truck. The other rebel was laid next to him. The others stood, holding on to bars and handles. Falcon drove off.
“Damn,” Blackbird said, “We didn’t get the supplies.”
Storm Crow laughed, and pulled scalpels, tweezers, and anti-septic from him robe.
“I said…” he laughed, “Not my first rodeo.” As the car sped off into the night.
Arlington' Cemetery', The Next Morning
It was cold. Michael stood overlooking the grave where his dead cousin was to be interred permanently. Despite their recent state, he still remembered when she was a dear friend. She was the last direct family he had left, except maybe for Hailey’s brother, but he hadn’t been heard from in years. The wind seemed to pierce his suit. Alex stood to his left, Sam on the other side of the president. All three of them, widowers. Michael took out a small, child’s hockey stick, broken in half. It was the first thing he broke when he first discovered his power. He had blamed it on Hailey. For some reason, it seemed fitting that she have it back. He tossed it into the grave.
He turned from the coffin, blocking out the words of the pastor. Tears fell from his eyes, though he tried to hold them back. He had always wondered why. Why were they given the gifts they had? So many in the same family, very rare. He had always assumed it was their destiny, their fate to become heroes, to help people and find a higher calling.
Alex was speaking. “Heroes, it’s been said, never fail. Good triumphs evil, heroes defeat villains, and the day is always saved. Unfortunately, heroes do not always win. I first met my wife sixteen years ago, when we first joined together to protect the innocent and vanquish evil. And the moment I saw her, I knew she was special. She had a very rare trait: the ability to love someone simply because they existed. If you were kind and you had a pulse, she was your friend, and she would never leave you behind. And though the sixteen years since have been difficult for all of us, perhaps it affected her the most. She lost her parents, her cousins, and her sister. Her brother has disappeared. And yet despite all that has befallen us, she has always kept that part inside of her, that loyalty, and that unconditional love…” he paused, unsuccessfully choking back tears.
Finally, Michael stepped up and helped him from the podium. He waved off the cameras and press. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said, “An integral member of my family and our government died last night. A successor will be named, but please, give the president and his cabinet time to grieve. That is all.” He walked down. The press asked questions, but he ignored them. The pastor gave his final reading, and the funeral procession began. Michael searched around for Sam. He eventually found him by a small grave. The tombstone had faded over the years, but it nonetheless was still legible.
“Hey” Mike said.
“Hey,” said Sam.
“How long’s it been?” Michael asked.
“Almost six years. You know, sometimes, in my dreams, she’s still alive. And get this, you know what I miss the most? When she couldn’t sleep. We would just sit there, lying in bed, and we’d talk. Just talk. Anything, from dogs to planes to movie stars to philosophy. It didn’t matter what we talked about, it was the fact that we talked. And she had this running gag, that my eyes were her own personal nightlight. I used to hate it when she called me that. In my dreams, we’re laying somewhere, and we talk. And she still says my eyes are her nightlight.
“And when I awaken, I turn around and reach for her, to kiss her good morning, to let her know every day she is loved. But, she isn’t there. And then it hits me, and I…I just…”
Mike put his hand on his old friend’s shoulder.
“And it’s my fault,” he sobbed, “it’s my fault she’s dead. Mine. Not even indirectly. I killed her. With my own power. All I did was get angry, all I did was snap, just once. And before I knew what I was doing, she was dead.” He burst full out into tears. “You know what I would give to go back in time, like you did? To change it, to stop myself, to kill myself if I have to. If only…” He stopped talking, unable to finish his sentence.
“To tell you the truth,” Michael said, “I didn’t want her to be with you. I knew you could snap just once and kill her. But she refused. She said she knew how dangerous, how unstable you were. And she didn’t care. She said she’d rather die early by your hand than spend an agonizing life without you. She knew what she was getting into, and she loved you anyways.”
They looked at the grave.
“Come,” said Sam, “I need to be rid of this place.”
He turned around and walked off. Michael spent one more minute looking at the tombstone, than he too followed his friend, leaving the grave of Maddie Teslar behind.
Glamis Headquarters, President’s Suite. Thirteen Years Ago.
The pop of champagne, the clinking of glasses. “A toast,” said Matthias, current President of Glamis, “Two excellent years. This new Glamis has been a huge success. Promotions all around. Everyone, congratulations, we made it happen.” Everyone cheered as Matthias tipped his glass to his lips. The Christmas Party was a new tradition they had started the previous year to celebrate their successful rebuilding of the institution. Just over two years had passed since that fateful day on the roof of the building, where Michael and Isaiah fought Mr. Zhai for the Fracture of Time. Michael’s shattered sword hung over the fireplace, the only memory of his adventures in the past.
Michael leaned against the wall, watching the party. Alex was entertaining a group at a table in the center of the room, Hailey hung on his every word. Jenny, limping, was making her way back to the snack bar. Matthias and Jake talked politics by the fire. Michael sighed. It all seemed so…peaceful. A familiar arm wrapped around him.
“Hey,” he laughed, turning to hug Molly Collins, giving her a quick kiss.
“Hey,” she said, “You look bored.”
He laughed, “Nah, just don’t really have anything to talk about with these folks. I’ve been wondering, the suits we wear…I bet there’s a way I can improve upon them. Make them more resistant to heat, more flexible. I’m really close to a breakthrough in the technology. I just wish I had more time. At this rate, Project Raven will never see the light of day.”
“Relax,” said Molly, “It’s Christmas.”
Mike looked around until he spotted Sam and Maddie. They were talking over by the window, looking out over the snow-covered city. Michael caught a glint of something in Sam’s hand. He laughed to himself. Maddie was about to get a big surprise. Sam turned to her and held out his hand and in his outstretched palm lay a shimmering necklace of diamonds. Maddie gave a squeal of delight and leapt into his arms.
“They make a cute couple,” said Molly.
Mike nodded. He still hadn’t quite grown to accept the fact that his cousins were in steady relationships.
“I’m worried,” he said. “Sam’s prone to mood swings.”
“So is everyone,” said Molly, “You’re really quite over protective. Maddie’s a big girl. She can make her own decisions.”
Mike nodded. “True, and Sam would never hurt her. I wonder if they’ll ever end up getting serious.”
“I wonder if we’ll ever end up getting serious.” Molly muttered, though Michael couldn’t hear.
Jake walked over to Mike. “I have a new case for you,” he said, handing Michael a file. “It doesn’t need to be taken care of immediately, but I think you’ll find it interesting. Apparently, Miami has a resident super hero, a vigilante known only as the Witch Hunter. Word is he’s good. Really good. We think he may be a mutant, and if that’s the case, we want him with us.” Jake walked away. Michael opened the file.
“Hmm,” he thought as he read. “I could use a vacation. And Miami is warm this time of year.”
“Its all in the papers,” said Nick reading a few headlines, “President Pulled from Stage; Death of First Lady Shakes the Presidency; Constantine’s ‘Perfect Family’ Falling Apart.” He set down the papers, “Some of the more radical publications say he’s emotionally unfit to lead the country.”
“And what about me?” asked Michael Young.
“They say you’re emotionally detached,” read Nick, “that you didn’t even feel sadness over her death.”
“Clear my schedule for today.” Said Mike. “I need some time alone. To mourn.”
“Yes Sir,” said Nick. He went back to reading the papers. Mike continued driving.
“Sir,” said Nick, “Are you emotionally dethatched?”
Mike sighed, “No. Right now, I’m not even sure if I can keep it together. I watched a tape of my cousin, someone who used to be one of my best friends, get beaten and impaled before she finally bled out. I’ll tell you, even though we haven’t spoken in a while, it was not an easy thing to do.”
Nick turned to the Chief of Staff, “But I thought that you said to separate your emotions.”
“Yes,” said Mike, “Emotion is a weakness in politics. Show any emotion, any at all, and you’re dead in the water. You must separate your emotion from yourself, allow yourself to do what must be done without emotion. But that doesn’t mean get rid of it altogether.
“Emotion is a powerful weapon, and an important quality of being human. By separating your emotion, how can you be sure you’re doing the right thing?”
“But,” said Nick, “Aren’t there some things that are the right thing, even if they are morally wrong?”
Mike sighed again, “Sometimes. But you must weigh the consequences. Is it worth sacrificing your true self to do what you think is logical? Is it worth to make the wrong decision because of moral qualms? I don’t know.”
Michael stopped outside of a small apartment complex. Nick hopped out of the car. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said, turning away from the vehicle and going inside. Michael drove off.
“Now,” he said, as he sped off, “It’s time to get to work.”
The Rebel Hideout
“Where have you been?” asked Blackbird as Storm Crow slipped through the door.
“I have a life outside of your little club,” he said, “I need to keep up appearances, or else people will start to wonder.” He made his way into the room where Sean Grayson lay on the table. The wounded rebel leader looked up at him.
“Storm Crow I pr’sume?” he asked, barely able to move.
“Don’t try and get up,” said Storm Crow, “You’ll do more harm than good. Now, let’s get started. Cardinal, is it? If you would kindly count to ten for me…”
With steady hands, the masked figure administered the sedative and got to work. He pulled out a large kit of scalpels and tweezers. He moved slowly but steadily. His mask had built in magnifiers, allowing him a better look at the wounds. He was completely silent, his breathing was barely present. He stayed at work for hours, carefully extracting the small shards of metal. When Sean began to stir, he re-administered the sedative.
Three hours later, he left the makeshift operating room and went into the bathroom. He washed his hands in the sink, and briefly, in the privacy of the stall, removed his mask. After a few minutes, he put it back on and left the stall. Blackbird was outside.
“How is it?” She asked.
“Bad,” said Storm Crow, “but fortunately, fixable. It will be a long time. I will have to do an x-ray to ensure that I remove all of the shards. Cardinal is surprisingly resilient. Most normal humans would’ve passed out by now.”
“I need to know why,” said Black Bird, “Why are you doing this?”
“You mean,” said Storm Crow, “Why am I joining your little club? Is it not enough that I don’t like the current state of things?”
“Yes,” said Blackbird, “everyone has an angle. Everyone has an agenda. What’s your story?”
Storm Crow sighed. “Before the war, I was just another kid in medical school. After I graduated, I worked volunteer just before the war broke out. I served as a medic for a few units, rarely saw any action. Afterwards, I snuck back to the human ghetto so I could open up a clinic. These people needed help; they needed someone to take care of them. For a time, I was that someone.”
“And what turned you from a doctor to a militant?” Blackbird asked
“My father…” said Storm Crow, “He always told me that one day, things would be right again. He was an old man now of course, but he used to reminisce about the old days. He was killed in a robbery. The perpetrators were mutants. The case was dismissed. It made me realize that I could help more people this way.
I made this costume from various materials I had. It took me years. At first, I was going to be a vigilante. When I heard about your rebellion, I started tracking you down. I knew sooner or later the police would find you…so I followed them.”
Blackbird stared for a moment. “That’s all a lie.” She said.
“Of course it is,” Storm Crow laughed, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a patient to attend to.” He walked past her and into the room where Sean was passed out.
Blackbird stared after him in disbelief. “I-I-I still don’t trust you.” She muttered to him, but he was already gone by then. “Who is he?” She wondered, “And why doesn’t he want us to know?”
The President’s Office
The President paced back and forth around the room. The dark skies seemed to mirror his dark countenance. He stopped to stare at the pen on his desk.
“You think you could find them?” He asked the man on the couch.
“Give me a week and I can flush out every last one of them and make them pay.” Hissed Witch Hunter. “Project 9 has ways to find them. Give me the authority and we’ll get the job done.”
The President paced back across the room, his head in his hands. “Michael warned me, he said that you could cause political damage if you used your usual methods. He says you’re too reckless in your work…”
“And you think you can trust him?” Witch Hunter snapped. “I’ve come through for you. China. India. Germany. Where would this country be without me? I’ve done the dirty work that kept your little regime afloat, and I’ve always done it well. You can trust me. As for Mr. Young’s loyalties, I think you need to consider these,”
He threw a folder full of pictures on the desk. “Look through these, what do you see?”
The President picked them up. “Project Raven?” he read aloud. He leafed through the pages, each one bringing trembling to his figure. “Wh-wh-where’d you find these?” he asked.
“In the personal files on Mr. Young’s computer,” sneered Witch Hunter, “Apparently he’s been working on a “super suit” of sorts for years. Constantly tweaking it and upgrading it. Highly resistant to intense heat, protective face mask complete with respiratory system, insulated design to protect against electricity. Of course, there are a few differences, but the resemblance is uncanny. We even found a working prototype in his laboratory. Oh, I’m sorry,” he glibbed in mock concern, “you didn’t know about that? Well, it seems our friend has been carrying out his own little experiments right beneath our very noses. I wonder, what is he trying to hide, hmm?”
“If,” whispered Alex, “If it’s as you say, and Michael is the one…what do you plan to do?”
“Simple,” said Witch Hunter, “We arrest him. Meanwhile, we find the rebels, and without their pet mutant to protect them, we take them out.”
“This man fought through wars,” said Alex, “He’s torn apart entire squads with his mind. He might just be the most powerful mutant alive. What if he resists arrest?”
“Simple,” said Witch Hunter, “We kill him.”
The president looked mournfully at the picture of his deceased wife on his desk. Tears welled in his eyes.
“And all along…” he whispered, “I thought he was a good guy.”
“A good guy?” Laughed Witch Hunter, “There is no good, there is no evil.” He laughed harder, a laugh shrill and high that he hadn’t laughed in so long. “No good, no evil,” he muttered, automatically, “only Glamis.”
End Chapter 4
Glamis Building'''''', Twelve Years Ago.
“He still won’t talk?” Asked Mike skeptically.
“Nope,” said Hailey in her clear, sweet voice as she brushed her fire red hair from her face. She was staring at the mutant through the glass. The subject was a child, just barely in his late teens. His greasy black hair lay flat against his skull. His handsome face looked into the one-way mirror with penetrating eyes, as if he could see straight through it and right at them. He smirked a little, as if the entire process was a game, one which he was thoroughly enjoying.
“Ever since you brought him in, he’s been silent. We’ve been trying to get something out of him, but nothing. Not even his real name. He insists on being called Witch Hunter. Past that, he hasn’t said a word. We haven’t even been able to see his power.”
Michael looked at the teenager. He heaved a great sigh. He opened the door and walked into the room.
“Witch Hunter,” he said, staring at the boy. The teenager watched him.
“I know you,” said the prisoner, “you’re the one that brought me here. You’re the one that kidnapped me. You’re the one trying to ruin my fun.”
“And what fun is that?” asked Michael.
“You wanna see?” said Witch Hunter, a greasy grin spreading across his face, as if he knew where the conversation was going, and liked it. It made Michael apprehensive. He had a bad feeling he would regret his question. “Oh, I’ll show ya alright.” A fly was buzzing in the room. Witch Hunter watched it, held out his hand, and sat perfectly still. Inevitably, the fly landed upon the outstretched palm. The teenager spoke, “Everyone has an energy inside of them, you see.” The fly carefully plodded along the hand. “A binding force that keeps them moving. This energy can be harnessed in many ways by the body, whether it be running across a field, lifting a weight, or indeed, buzzing. Criminals are no exception. But they use their energy to hurt others, to So what I do…” the hand glowed a faint green.
The fly began buzzing, flailing uncontrollably. It rolled off the hand and onto the desk. Michael could see a small, green light connecting the fly and the hand. The fly’s buzzing became more frantic until it finally couldn’t keep it up. It’s flailing slowed until it lay still, only twitching from the spasms of death. A look of relief spread across the teenager’s face, like an addict who’s just taken their favorite drug. “What I do,” he reiterated, slightly quicker, “is take the energy from the criminals, and let them taste the bitterness of having their soul torn to pieces. In the end, they die, and I take their energy for myself.”
He suddenly burst into laughter, as if he just discovered the punch line to a joke known only to him. His laugh became shrill and high. Michael recoiled from him, and quickly left the room. This seemed to further amuse Witch Hunter, who laughed with renewed zeal while Michael uneasily stormed out of the hall.”
The Present, Night.
Michael awoke with a start, sweat beating down his forehead. He felt something. A movement, a creak in the floor boards. He leaped to his feet and grabbed some clothing. His modest apartment was small enough that he could feel it all with his telekinesis, every vibration, every surface. And he had some unwanted visitors.
He felt eighteen foot falls, that meant nine people. Nine people, moving very slowly through his apartment in the dead of night, closing off all points of entry. They were coming for him. Project 9 was coming for him. Mike could feel one outside his door. He moved to the side of it, and waited. The door burst open with a gust of wind and one of the nine ran into the room. He had blades on his arms and he leaped at the bed impaling an occupant who was not there. Mike leaped on him with telekinetic force, throwing the mutant across the room. He responded with gale winds buffeting Michael back towards the wall. He charged, blades extended, but Mike caught him mid charge with a telekinetic blast, knocking him off his feat and into the wind which sent him sailing headfirst into the wall. One down. Two members entered, one a former body builder with a rifle, the other a mountain of a man who stuck his hand on the wall. The wall began to ice up and the man was soon covered in an armor of rock solid ice. The hunter took aim and Glacier moved towards him.
“Surrender, in the name of the President!” commanded Tracker, his gun fixed upon Michael’s skull. Michael shook his head.
“If he wants to take me, he better come himself, not send a bunch of benchwarmers.”
Tracker fired, but Michael deflected each bullet. Glacier charged but Michael threw him into Tracker, knocking out the marksman. Two down. He ran at Glacier and hit him with all his telekinetic might, launching him through the window and across the street where he attempted to rise, and then collapsed. Three down.
Michael leaped through the door way, telekinesis knocking back the agents waiting there. A metallic blade carved through the air, but he ducked in time to dodge it. Another sailed after his legs, but he leaped sideways.
“Alloy, move” shouted a feminine voice, “you’re in my way, I can take him down.”
“No way,” shouted the metallic assassin, “I got him right where I-*” his chirp ended as Michael pulled him apart and scattered him across the room. Four down. The woman took her shot with her power.
Michael was thrown in the air as the room’s gravity was distorted. He crashed against walls, tableware, and chairs as she flung him in every direction.
“How’s this feel honey?” she asked as he was slammed into another wall. Or perhaps a ceiling. “That one hurt?”
Mike growled, “Not as much as this will” and sent the ceiling crashing down upon her. Five down.
A man leapt from the shadows, claws stretched towards Mike, but he threw him into the wall where he disappeared back into the shadow. He leapt at Michael again, this time from a different angle. Mike again blocked him. Again he leapt from a new shadow, each time wearing Michael down. Meanwhile, two other agents had made their way into the room and had their guns at the ready. Michael leaped towards them, out of the grasp of the shadow. They fired their weapons and he redirected the bullets into his pursuer, sending him to the floor. Six down.
He punched away one of the men, the other dodged and withdrew a rapier. Quickly, both rapier and wielder were covered in flame.
“I wu’ told ta be discrate, mon homme.” He said in a cajun accent,, “Mais trop mal, I’ll turn u’ tha heat.” The sword slashed at the floor, setting it aflame. The other man returned, moving faster, and attacked Michael. Michael punched the new attacker, but he only punched back.
“Lemme tell you somethin’,” said the new opponent, “Fo’ each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Well,” said the man, punching Mike again, “I’m that reaction.”
“React to this,” said Mike, upper cutting the man through the ceiling and into the sky.
The man with the sword swiped again, burning Mike’s shoulder. With a cry Mike recoiled and sent a wave of telekinesis at his pursuer, throwing him back, but he did a flip and landed on his feet. Mike dodged slash after slash as the fire spread, and he was loosing energy fast.
“Yo!” a cry split the air, “I ain’t done witchu yet!” The sword wielder went for the kill, but Mike pushed him back, right into the path of the incoming agent from above. The force sent them tumbling through the floor, and subsequent ones. The swordsman down, Mike grabbed the rapier and bound the other agent with it. Eight down.
He bolted for the door and ran into the hall, finding the staircase. He was halfway down when he felt it. He moved just in time for a bullet to whiz past his right ear. At the bottom of the stairs, Witch Hunter was waiting.
“I knew you’d get through them no problem,” said Witch Hunter, firing again, “But they wore you down. And now I’m gonna take what little you have left.” Mike could feel himself weakening, his telekinesis waning. He had to get out of there before Witch Hunter drained him. With a grunt, he tore down the wall next to the agent, sending mortar and brick cascading down on him. Michael leaped over him and to the door, which he opened and…
Lights. Red, blue, red, blue. The lights on the cars. Flashing, red, blue, red, blue, red, blue. He couldn’t break away from the red, blue, red, blue. He felt himself on the ground, his head hurt, he was trying to cover his eyes, but all he saw was the red, blue, red, blue, red, blue against the dark night sky. Then, he felt a blunt hit to the back of his head, and all faded, even the lights.
A blinding light shown from the ceiling, piercing Michael’s gaze. He tried to shield his eyes, but found his hands bound to the metal chair he was sitting on. He tried to focus his power, his telekinetic might, and snap the cuffs like aluminum foil. But he could not.
“A strange feeling, aint it?” Gloated a greasy, cocky voice. Witch Hunter. “We had the inhibitors added last year. Based on your research, ironically. Funny, that’s why I’m here. To discuss your research.”
“What do you mean?” said Mike, squinting at the agent.
“Project Raven,” continued Witch Hunter, “In a war against mutants, how do you give yourself an edge?”
“You render powers moot. The ultimate combat gear, able to resist extreme temperatures and electricity. Outfitted with an internal breathing system and water-tight seams. Able to augment the strength of anyone inside and scan a battlefield, using an AI system to identify the highest threats and prioritize actions. A mutant killing machine.”
“Is war all you believe in?” asked Mike. “I didn’t build it to kill. It was designed to protect superheroes. Being a superhero isn’t easy. When you wake up with power, you don’t get a manual on how to use them. But you know that.
“Your power helps you regenerate. But not all of us are that sturdy. Project Raven would change that. We could be true heroes, heroes that did not die, heroes that did not fail. It was a side project, a hobby I worked on between missions.”
“And when,” said Witch Hunter, “did this side project become your pet mutant hunter?”
“Eleven years ago.”
“The beginning of the war.”
“No. Six or seven months before that. Back when we were on top. Back when super heroes were in, when mutants were just starting to show themselves. Back when nobody hated us, at least nobody mainstream. Back when there were heroes, and there were villains. Back when heroes didn’t die. Back when all it would take is one spark to blow the world to hell.”
Eleven Years and Six or Seven Months Ago
“This’ll be easy,” Alex said, “We’ll go in with two teams, I’ll lead one and Mike will lead the other. My team will draw their fire to the front entrance and keep them occupied. Meanwhile, Mike’s team will infiltrate the building and take them down.”
The building in question looked like any other New York City apartment. Were it not for their intell, they would have never found the terrorist hideout. These guys had been making threats against mutant hate groups, and a few even suggested killing humans. A lot of people went missing in the area, and the public looked to their heroes for help.
“Does William really need to be on this team?” Mike asked.
“What?” said William, “I’m ready for it, I’m not a kid anymore.”
“Quiet,” said Alex, “He’s well trained, and he has useful abilities. And furthermore, I decide who’s on my team.”
“By the way,” said Sam, “Where’s weirdo and his squad? They’re all pretty tough.”
“They have another assignment they’re taking care of,” said Alex, motioning Hailey into place.
“I’d feel better if they were here,” said Shannon.
“Don’t worry about it;” said Maddie as she moved to Sam’s position, “There are enough of us. We’ll be fine.”
The truth was, they didn’t know how many they were fighting, or what powers they had. William would normally have sat this one out in favor of Witch Hunter or one of his eight lackeys, but he was all they had. It unnerved Mike to realize that all of their heavy hitters were being used here. No second stringers. Except William. Maybe.
By full count, there were eight of them, the largest force they had gathered yet, and consisted of members not just from their New York Division, but also the New Amsterdam, Baltimore, and Chicago chapters. Michael eyed Alex warily. There was something he wasn’t telling them.
Alex gave the signal, and Michael’s team moved up the back stairs. He heard a crash from the front entrance, and then screams and activity inside. After a quick count to three, the moved. The door fell as Maddie smashed her way inside, followed by the rest of Mike’s team: Sam, Mike, and Molly. Molly immediately went invisible. Mike heard fighting from the foyer, and so they moved in that direction. They caught the main group of terrorists by surprise. Alex’s team burst from their cover, capitalizing on the moment of shock.
In seconds, the room was pure chaos. Mike grabbed one with telekinesis and threw him into the wall. Alex slashed with his claws at one, his wings keeping another off of him. Shannon’s time-manipulation allowed her to teleport around, beating on a group of confused enemies. Molly snuck through pillars and junk, catching enemies off guard. Even William contributed his share, throwing pieces of wood and turning them into shards of diamond or boards of lead in mid air. For their credit, the terrorists put up a fight with their own powers; including shock waves which sent Hailey reeling and one with stone skin that met Maddie blow for blow.
However, the battle quickly fell to the heroes, with a few terrorists fleeing up the building. They ran upstairs, checking every room and dealing with anyone they found. A routine mission by anyone’s standards.
One quickly leapt from a window and landed in the alley, running.
“I got him,” said Sam, leaping from the window and using his electricity to stop himself from hitting the ground too hard. He dashed after the thug, who was quickly blending into the crowd.
“Sam!” Michael radioed, “Forget about him, you’re too close to civilians.”
“I can get him,” said Sam, “I think he’s headed to Times Square.”
“Hey,” shouted William, “Wait for me!” he grabbed a motorcycle outside and used his power to start the engine. He zipped down the street towards Sam who ran along the buildings.
“William!” Radioed Michael.
“Maintain your course,” said Alex, “Apprehend him in Times Square.”
“Alex, don’t fight me on this,” said Mike, “Its too dangerous.” Mike heard nothing. Alex had cut him off the channel. “Dammit!” Mike yelled, leaping into the skyline and using his power to propel him across the rooftop.
“Oh no you don’t” said Alex, as he flew off to catch up.
Michael leaped from rooftop to rooftop, keeping sight of Sam on the streets below. Just a little closer… He heard a loud ‘swoosh’ and felt force against his back knocking him down. Alex stood over him and grabbed him by the throat.
“Michael,” said Alex, staring into his eyes, “Listen to me. This is for us. We need this.”
“What?” croaked Mike.
“Mutants. We have to show how powerful we are. These terrorists…they had the right idea.”
“Oh, you will soon enough. Trust me, this is for the best. This will be the spark that triggers a revolution.”
Michael croaked out something else, almost inaudible. Alex leaned in, “What was that?”
“I said get your hands OFF ME” In a blur, Alex was sent backwards in a wave of telekinesis. He staggered to his feet and leapt at Mike, brandishing his claws. Mike dodged the claws but Alex’s wings bashed him to the side. He rolled and came up with a blast of telekinesis that smacked Alex across the teeth. Alex flapped his wings, sending forces of wind at Michael who used his power just to keep himself stationary. Alex slashed at Mike, cutting him across the chest and causing him to fall to his knees.
Mustering all of his might, he sent out the largest blast he could, catching Alex off guard and sending him over the edge of the building. Immediately, Michael took off towards Time Square, as Alex recovered and chased after him.
Sam stood in Times Square, watching the lights play on the screens and the people rush past. So beautiful. He scanned the crowd, but he could not find his target. William was next to him, also searching. He had to be here. This was where they were planning it, this is where he would run, attempting to carry out his mission even though the rest of his team was in custody. But where?
William cried out and Sam spun to see his target over Sam’s unconscious partner. Sam immediately powered up, sparks flying from his hands and his hair standing up straight.
“Bad move buddy,” said Sam, “now I’ve found you.”
The man laughed, “Samuel Teslar, able to absorb and discharge large amounts of electricity. Requires power sources to recharge. What if, Mr. Teslar,” the man moved closer, then leaped and grabbed onto Sam, “you could absorb electricity from anywhere nearby. Like, say…an electronic billboard in Times Square?”
Sam attempted to fight back, but found that he was unable to move.
“My power,” the man said, “is to supercharge the powers of others around me. And right now, I’m super charging yours. I wonder,” the man grinned as Sam felt electricity from nearby cell phones spill into him. “How much can you hold?”
“Run,” shouted Sam, “Everybody run!” The people around him looked at him as if he was crazy. A few backed away, but by now electricity was flowing into him from every where. Suddenly, he felt it. When he connected to a nearby sign, he was connected to the entire square. All the billboards, all the lights. All the energy. Too much.
“Aaaargh!” he screamed as it surged into him. He could feel it inside of him, on fire. So much energy, too much. His hair bleached white and sparks flew from his eyes as they overflowed with power. “Get out of here!” he shouted, and people started to scream. The pushed and shoved each other in a hurry to get away from the man who had lifted off the ground from the static. Stray voltage discharged from him into nearby civilians, paralyzing them in place and frying their clothing.
“NOOO!” shouted Sam as he felt his limit exceeded and still the power kept coming.
“How does it feel,” whispered the man, blood running from his nose and electricity across his body, “To know you’ll be our trigger for a new world?”
“AAAAAAARGH!” Sam violently thrashed about, throwing his captor away. For a moment he sat there, trying to control it, trying to give it back or turn it upon himself. But he was unable to. He screamed a scream of pain, of desperation, and of defeat. Defeat of himself, of his values, and of his duty to protect. For he knew that today, Samuel Teslar was the bomb that would change the world forever. With one final cry, he could no longer hold it in, and he let it go.
As the electricity exploded across Times Square, he could hear only the cries of the innocents, and the cries of his soul.