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“Anything dead coming back to life hurts” -Toni Morrison
A cold September breeze trailed through Union City, carrying the stench of dread and despair with it. The smog in the sky blocked the stars, draining their hope from the city. The echo of despair drowned the voice of the hopeful, leaving an atmosphere of suffering. Purgatory.
Audrey Steven lay bound and gagged in the back of a dirty van, her legs and hands bound, and her mind floating in emptiness. The haze clouding her vision and the paralysis in her muscles left her helpless. She thrashed around in the van at every bump and dip, her muscles helpless to lift her back up. Her eyes were stained with tears, but no wails of sorrow escaped her mouth. She didn’t have the strength.
After an eternity, the van screeched to a halt, thrusting Audrey’s body to the front of the van. Faintly, she could hear the sound of boots thudding on concrete. The boots made their way to the back of the van. Light flooded the back of the van, intensifying the haze surrounding Audrey. Two beams of light focused themselves on Audrey. Two distinct but faint voices bantered as two silhouettes climbed into the van and dragged Audrey out.
The air of the outside only cleared her head slightly. Audrey could make out the shape of a warehouse in front of her. The bigger of the two silhouettes picked up Audrey and draped her over his shoulder. His low and raspy echoed in Audrey’s head. The only words she could make out were “boss” and “merchandise.” The silhouettes and Audrey sauntered forward into the warehouse. Audrey’s gut dropped. It took her forever, but she discovered what was going to happen to her. The silhouette saying “merchandise” finally made sense.
The dim lights of the warehouse obscured Audrey’s vision even further. She could only barely make out the shapes of several people standing around and one man sitting in a chair. The man carrying her and the one in the chair talked for a minute, with every sentence escaping Audrey’s perception until the man in the chair said: “let me have a look at her.” The man carrying her stepped forward and released Audrey, her body plummeting to the ground like a mockingbird that had just been shot. She heard faint shuffling next to her head, then she felt the cold grip of a cold man grabbed her head and pull her up. The brown eyes of the man burned the image of dread in Audrey’s brain. If there was ever a time to act, this was it.
“We drugged her, she won’t say much.” The raspy voice informed, with a spiteful chuckle at the end.
“P-plea-please…” Audrey muttered, with all the strength left in her body. The brown-eyed man smirked with a cold fire in his eye.
“She’ll do nicely.”
Audrey felt her body being elevating off the ground, and once again felt the solid, rock-like shoulder of the man piercing into her stomach. With all her energy spent, Audrey’s eyes began to slide shut, until all she could see was the empty abyss of her own mind. The world fell silent. All she could feel was the occasional sway of her legs and arms over the man’s shoulder. Hope was a long lost dream.
Just before Audrey truly fell, a single sound burst through her perception. The startling sound of shattering glass from above. Her heart sprang into overdrive, pumping adrenaline through her system. Audrey’s eyes snapped open just to still a still blurry world. Despite that, she could clearly make out the form of a new man, surrounded by the shattered glass. He was dressed in dark colors, with a grey cape draping over his shoulders, broad and intimidating, and a hood blacking out his face, except for his eyes, which glowed white with a burning intensity. His hand was reared back with a silver object gripped between his index, middle finger, and thumb.
The man in the cape’s hand and arm snapped forward. The silver glided through the air, revealing it’s sharp points orienting around the center of the object, and then split into two objects. They spun and hit the man carrying Audrey in the chest, sending him to the ground in pain, dropping Audrey who rolled into the nearby wall.
Looking up, Audrey saw the blurred motions of the man in the cape taking down all her abductors and the occasional flashes of light followed by deafening booms that echoed through the space. The gunshots never slowed the man in the cape, who gracefully and with thunderous force gilded between attackers, and leaving them limp on the floor. His form was deliberate and precise. His sidekicks landed perfectly into the jaws of his enemies, and his punches landed in their guts with pinpoint accuracy.
After what could only be seconds, the room fell still. Audrey’s senses had almost reached their normal levels when she heard the man in the chair cry out.
“No! No, please!” The man who was in the chair pleaded.
“Keith Kyler” a low voice boomed through the warehouse. “You are guilty.”
“Just-just tell me what you want!” Without hesitation, the man in the cape rushed forward, grabbed Kyler by the collar and hoisted him into the air with one arm. After a second, the man in the cape twisted his body, launching Kyler over his head and into the ground with a bone-crunching crack as Kyler hit the floor.
Did that just happen? The thought raced through Audrey’s head over and over again. At this point in the night, she wouldn't be surprised if her mind had lied to her. While looking up at the man, his head slowly turned his head, until his glowing white eyes met hers. Despite him having appeared to save her, fear still flooded her body at the sight of his menacing figure.
The two locked eyes for only a moment before the man in the cape reached to his belt and removed a small grey object from one of the many pouches orbiting his waist. Holding the device in his hand, he clicked the top of it and a purple LED began blinking. He then tossed the device to the ground and reached back down to his belt. This time he removed what could only be a gun. Audrey recoiled slightly, assuming the worst, but the man pointed the gun in the air and pulled the trigger. Audrey braced for the boom, but it never came. All she heard was a hiss as steam emitted from the barrel and a black cable shot up and out the shattered window. After a moment, the man’s body was yanked up, with his cape rippling behind him as he flew through the window.
Audrey watched for a moment, in awe at what just happened. A million questions raced through her mind at once. Who was he? Why’d he save me? Where’d he come from? How’d he know? Audrey’s mind couldn’t process all the questions. The world began to grow quiet again, and her muscles failed, bringing her back to the ground. Now everything began growing dark until finally, her eyes shut, and the world turned black.
She woke up 14 hours later in the Union City hospital.
The squeak of metal hinges and the flood of light slightly startled Arvis Thatcher, whose eyes had been glued to the computer for the past 3 and a half hours. Arvis was a lean man with a clean-shaven face and combed hair. He wore glasses with thick black frames. Arvis spun around in his chair and looked up the stairs at the figure in the doorway. His cape dragged a little behind him as he sauntered down the stairs.
“The police just arrived at the warehouse. Keith Kyler is in cuffs and the girl is in the ICU. She’s gonna be fine.” Arvis told the man in the hood, with a smile on his face.
“Good” The man responded, his voice sounding slightly robotic.
“Henry, you can turn the modulator off, I know who you are,” Arvis said, turning back to the monitors.
The man in the head reached up to his head, grabbing his hood and pulling it down, revealing a black helmet, shaped to follow similar contours of a human head, excluding the mouth and nose. He pushed a small button just behind the disk in the place where the ear would be on a human head and the backplate on the helmet separated itself from the rest of the helmet, allowing him to slip it off easily, and the glowing eyes turned off. He grabbed the helmet by the disks and lifted it off his head and placed it on the table in front of him. His face was a box-shaped with unkempt, yet not messy hair and a full beard. A deep scar ran across his left eye and onto his cheek. Creases formed in between his eyebrows from his constant furrowing. The face belonged to Henry Church.
“How’d the helmet’s UI work?” Arvis inquired.
“It worked fine,” Henry responded blandly.
“Fine? Can you give me details? Was the infrared helpful at all?” Arvis continued.
“It’s fine,” Henry responded with annoyance seemingly radiating from his body. Arvis stopped and looked over at Henry and sighed.
“Look. I’m just trying to help Henry.”
“I know. It works fine.” Arvis sighed again and looked back at the computer. Henry looked up at the TV above the monitors playing the local news. The current story showed a Mongolian man with goatee speaking at a podium.
“Mayoral race?” Henry indirectly asked Arvis. He looked up from the monitors, at the TV.
“Yep. That there is Victor Lynx. He joined late, but so far he’s doing pretty good.”
“Hmm,” Henry grunted before looking away from the TV.
Henry walked around the table and toward the cot in the corner. He removed his cape and hung it on a hook on the wall, and sat down on the cot. Henry reached over toward his bedside table, grabbed the drawer and pulled it out. He pushed aside The Art of War and grabbed a small wooden box, took it out, and brought it back to him. Opening up the box, he saw his dog tags and an amulet. He took out the amulet and put the box down on the cot. The amulet was made of a silver chain that connected to an amethyst.
Henry, come sit down!
I’m coming, Hannah, I’m coming. Henry sat down on a park bench next to Hannah Fisher, a beautiful woman with large, almond-shaped eyes and a soft jawline. Her brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She wore a blue jacket that covered up the badge pinned onto her black button-up shirt.
Henry and Hannah looked out into the park watching people walk by with their dogs, the college students playing frisbee in the grass, and kids running around blowing bubbles.
This is my favorite place in the city. I can just watch people being happy, letting go of their problems for a little while, Hannah told Henry.
It’s nice, Henry commented, just happy that she was happy. Hannah’s hand moved over and grabbed Henry’s hand. The two sat in the park for a while, watching the world go by.
Henry put the necklace back in the box, his heart heavy with regret. He tucked the box away in the drawer and took out The Art of War, flipped to chapter 6: Weak Points and Strong and began reading.
A red alert blurted from the monitor on the left side of the desk. Arvis’ head snapped to the screen, reading the alert
Alert: Explosion Downtown!
Henry put the book down on the cot and darted toward Arvis.
“What is it?” Henry questioned.
“Explosion downtown. Looks like it was at the Atlas Theater.”
Henry raced over to his cape on the hook, grabbed it and slipped it back on, then he grabbed his helmet and slid it back onto his head, pushing the backplate back to the helmet, and flipping the eyes back on.
“Henry, you may wanna hang back. This seems like more of a job for the authorities.” Arvis advised Henry.
“Doesn’t matter. The people in the building need as much help as they can get.” Henry reminded Arvis, his voice modulator back on. He turned around and darted up and out the door, closing it behind him. Arvis turned back around in his chair and pushed his glasses back onto his nose, with a small smile growing on his face. That man...