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Dangerous or crazy, both or not…

 

“Twenty feet underground, and I’ve never gotten a better signal.”  Spoke with some derision Moon Psyche, as he answered yet another call.  Listening for the other person talking, his eyebrows creased. 

 

“Yes Pacem, I’m well, how are you?”

 

I’m fine thank you.  I don’t have much time, I’m still in my lab.  I will be joining the efforts at the University shortly don’t worry.   Hope you guys are doing ok, the news reports say it’s pretty bad.”  Pacem was talking quickly, Moon could hear his footsteps, then the bell signalling the opening of elevator doors.

 

“What can I do for you Pacem?”  There was no point explaining to Pacem that he was not where he was supposed to be, alongside the other Leaders of Apocalypse, directing operations and battling this new city wide emergency.

 

“Nothing.  I just wanted to report something I found out a few minutes ago.  The tissue sample from Voyager, I analyzed them.”  Moon’s eyes squinted and they riveted themselves on the back of the head of the old controller, walking ahead with Jade Rade and Cavalier.  Metal Core was also looking at the controller that way, but for different reasons.  “I see, anything I should know?”

 

“Using the sample we kept stored from last year, the one I used to determine the extent of damage Crey Industries had done on him, I compared them together this morning.  That super-serum they injected him with works Moon.  My first analysis had shown a major chemical imbalance throughout his system, and now a year later, everything is stable and in check.”  Pacem’s voice had started to rise towards the end of his explanation, he had reached the rooftop and the wind blowing there made it difficult to hear well.

 

“Pacem, I’m loosing you, can you repeat please?”  Moon had stopped to let the group get ahead of him, so he could listen alone to what Pacem was saying.

 

“The Crey Super Serum works, Moon.  The incubation period must have been longer than they anticipated.  Voyager is not, I repeat is not crazy.  He’s a walking time bomb.  My analysis will show that he needs, no not need, that in order to survive he has to use his powers to the full extent of its multiplied capacities, like a pressure valve.  My best advice, get him out of this building, out of the city.  Firebase Zulu is best suited for this problem, they can keep him away from us.  All my data will…”

 

The communication ended abruptly, the phone emitting two small beeps before shutting itself off, the battery was dead.  Moon looked at the phone, wanting to smash the thing against a close by sewer pipe.  Icy Heart could call in and complain about her breasts, he could talk money with his banker with no issues.  But, the one conversation he needs to truly listen to, and it dies.  Up ahead, from around the bend of the tunnel, two fiery eyes appeared from the darkness.

 

“Are you coming?”  Asked Voyager to Moon Psyche, who looked once more at his phone before thinking to himself:  “What were you about to tell me Pacem?”

 

 

“Hello, this is Frank.”  Spoke softly the man standing in line at Burgers’n Fries in Atlas Park.  Well dressed, well groomed, he didn’t look like the average Joe waiting to order his trio from the teenage cashier, dressed in gaudy olive green and ochre yellow uniform, smiling to all customers with so much effort, it was painful to understand the philosophy behind this.  He knew well enough that company policies had to be upheld, and that running a fast food restaurant chain involved customer service from the front line troops.  But he felt for these young adults here trying to earn a living at minimum wages, while profits were measured monthly by the million, and quarterly by the tens of million. 

 

“Chromium, this is Icy, I’m sorry to call on your private line, but it seems your office wasn’t answering and neither was WinterTech.  I really need your help.”  The woman’s voice was apologetic over the line, and although Frank Winter should’ve given the third degree than hung up, he decided otherwise.  He liked Icy Heart, well more like desired her enough to allow the conversation to continue. 

 

“I need to borrow fifteen million credits from you, today.”  She spoke, hope resounding in her voice, over the phone.

 

“Only fifteen?”  Frank spoke the words with some amusement, everybody thought he carried money to solve all of the world’s problems in one check account.  But the truth was and remained that all of it came from WinterTech, the family business.  He had to bring back receipt for everything, and was sometimes scolded by his father for spending too much on frivolous things and his lack of control when it came down to showing women a good time was well known in the city.  Frank Winter was rich beyond belief, but he was also accountable for it.  “I’ll have the number three, no pickles, a cola and some hot salsa for the fries please.”  Then talking again on the phone.  “What makes you think I can get that amount this fast.  You are aware that I have to justify everything I do right?” 

 

“That’ll be twelve credits, sir, would you like a dessert with that?”

 

“No dessert, thank you.”  He replied to the cashier, who spoke more like an automaton that a human being.  Probably the effect of having that smile stapled in place, since she began her shift this morning, and having said the exact same phrase for the thousandth time so far.  Frank Winter pulled out his bank card and handed it over to the cashier, who slid it into the cash register.

 

“Moon Psyche had promised to cover the fee for my plastic surgery today, and at the last possible moment, he backed out.  I need the money Chromium, and you’re the only one I can think of that has that much.  Please, I will pay you back as soon as I can.”  Famous last words, there was no way Icy Heart could ever pay back that much money.  She was asking for a donation, and Frank Winter had been asked often enough about personal loans and free donations to know this.

 

“Transaction refused Sir.”  Spoke the cashier, but Frank Winter did not listen to her.  He grabbed his tray and started to walk towards a table, to sit down and eat.  The cashier spoke to him again from behind the counter, and this time he heard what she said.  He stopped and turned, aware that everyone was looking at him.

 

“Hold on Icy.”  He then put the phone on his chest, to muffle the sounds.  “Refused?”

 

Frank walked back to the counter, putting the tray back onto it and handed his plastic over to the cashier.  “Try again dear, maybe there’s a problem with your machine.”  The cashier smiled uncertainly, and slid the card once more.  Winter put the phone back on his ear and started to talk to Icy Heart again, explaining to her the situation, quite amused by it.

 

“Refused.”  Spoke the cashier once more.  “Icy, let me call you back, it looks like I’m the one that needs to borrow money.”  And with that Frank Winter hung up his cell phone.  Over the next few minutes, he would attempt payment with all the cards he was carrying, until it dawn on him, that somehow, all his money had been frozen at the source.  He left Burgers’n Fries embarrassed by the event, knowing people were looking at him as he walked away.  Some knew who he was, and whispers and chuckles were heard.  Outside, he speed dialled his father’s number several times, never getting an answer.  A few attempts later, he dialled Robert Ferrara’s number, the Head of Public Relations for WinterTech Industries and personal friend.

 

“Robert, any reasons why my accounts are frozen this morning?”

 

“Frank, I was just trying to reach you.  You have to come to the office right away.  There’s a board meeting going on, your father is there right now, the company has been bought out in a hostile takeover an hour ago.”  Ferrara spoke quietly, as if afraid of being heard by someone.

 

“Hostile takeover?  Who?”  Frank Winter swallowed hard as he looked around himself, to passing cars and people walking by, indifferent to what was going on.

 

“Crey Industries bought sixty percent of the shares, every minor share holder we had has sold it to them.”  Ferrara’s voice sounded shocked, stunned by the event.

 

“What?  My father would have never allowed that, he would have doubled whatever amount Crey had put up.  This can’t be.”  Frank passed a hand through his hair, unable to fathom how the company has suddenly become the property of Crey Industries.

 

“Hold on Frank, your father’s walking out of the board room.”  Silence followed for a few seconds, and Frank heard Robert Ferrara speak to his father, in the background he heard his old man say:

 

“I have been fired.”

 

 

Frank Winter felt the world spin around him, his step faltered and he had to sit down on the sidewalk, where his shallow breaths seemed to be all he could hear. Atlas Park was moving around him, careless of his plight or distress, people went on walking passed him, uncaring to inquire if he needed help. How did his father not see this, this calamity come about? How could he not prevent it? What would happen to him now?

“Frank?” Chromium Man then realized that his cell phone was still in operation.

“Yes?” He couldn’t find anything else to reply, words and sentences were spinning around in his skull, and his eyes were wide opened. From the sheltered life he had always known, from which nothing was out of reach or impossible, he was now faced with the same harsh reality that ninety-eight percent of the human population was faced with every day, he would have to survive. Basic economics thought you that most things were measured so that a person could live from check to check, saving very little money in the long run, North American fact.

“Frank, what do you want me to do? Crey security personnel are inside the building and probably the labs and factories, your father is being escorted out. Frank, what do I do?” Robert’s voice was tensed, and he hissed that last sentence.

“Is the Mark IV still in the armoured transport truck?” Secure his future, that’s what he had to do. All the other battle armours, the Chromium Men, were in that building and were probably locked down by Crey as they were talking, he was hoping that the latest model had not been unloaded since the media display.

“I think so, why?”

“Robert, I want you to steal that truck and meet me at the Apocalypse HQ in an hour. We can’t let Crey Industries get their hands on it, do you hear me?” His voice was cold steel, his purpose in life had just been clarified, he would not surrender that easily, not without a fight.

“I will try Frank, but they are searching for you, better be careful man.” Ferrara sounded more certain of himself, now that his friend and employer had given him a task to concentrate upon. Aside from being head of public relations for WinterTech, Robert Ferrara had an extensive military background, he could handle this task.

“Don’t worry about me, just get the Mark IV out of there and meet me in Steel Canyon. I’ll check in with you in forty-five minutes from now.” With that, Frank Winter pressed the end button of his cell phone, and placed it back inside his suit pocket. He stood up and brushed himself free of the dust and dirt that might have dirtied his Armani suit. He looked around once more at Atlas Park, got his bearing and was about to walk towards the train station, when a light reflection from a rooftop across the street, caught his attention. He looked at it, at first it didn’t register, but then he thought:

“Sniper”

Without a thought, he threw himself on the ground, and felt the wind displacement of the projectile hit the pavement behind him. There had been no sharp sound accompanied by the shot, the gunman was using a silencer. Had it not been for the sun reflecting off the lens, Frank Winter would be dead. He looked at the shooter quickly, and saw that the woman was cocking the firearm again for another shot, she took aim. He stood up and began to run down the street, towards the train station, fear propelling his legs to run, teeth clenched and fists tight.

He counted the seconds, one, two, three had passed, she would fire soon. He frantically dove and rolled behind a bus stop shelter, at the same time that the window of it broke in thousands of piece. The glass shards scrapped his hands, and tore through his suits, and one of his knees bumped hard against the pavement as he rolled back up. But Frank Winter kept running for his life, looking over his shoulder at the sharpshooter, he saw her rearm the weapon once more. He tackled a woman walking towards him to the ground, and kept going while she vociferated curses at him, he had to get off the streets. Counting to three again, he knew the next bullet was coming, and couldn’t find another shelter.

So he dove through a store window, he didn’t have time to notice what store it was, but he felt the burn of the bullet going through his right arm, ripping apart some flesh and muscle. He also felt a piece of glass tear through his cheek as he rolled onto the store floor, it went deep enough that he bit down and broke it with his teeth. He stood up and pulled it out of his face running towards the back store. He heard a woman scream from behind the counter, but didn’t care for it. He reached a door and slammed it open, to find an old lady in her underwear. She had entered the dressing booth a few minutes earlier to try on a nightgown, and she was now screaming for mercy for him not to hurt her. Frank stopped and screamed at anyone to tell him where the back door was, but didn’t wait for an answer, he ran straight for another door which he tackled opened.

He landed outside, in the back alley washed by sunlight, and rolled himself to an upward position. Behind him, from inside the store, he heard screams again and someone in there used the word “gun”. He was followed by his assailants. Instead of running again, he went to stand next to the exit and waited a few seconds, breath heavy he could feel warm blood flowing down his injured arm, the bitter taste of it in his mouth. A man in a suit came running out, and Frank Winter jumped him from behind, with one hand he grabbed the wrist holding the pistol, while his other grabbed the man by the back hair. They fell to the ground, with Frank on top of him. Twice, he smashed the man’s head against the pavement with all the strength he could find, the seond impact brought about a wet noise from the skull. His follower was dressed in a brown suit, white shirt and tie, and went limp from the assault he had just sustained. Chromium Man grabbed the pistol from the man’s hand and stood up. His eyes immediately centered on the sniper, she was standing fifty yards away in the back alley, aiming straight for him. He raised his weapon and fire loudly in her direction, she fired silently at him at the same time. The sniper’s head snapped back and a red mist exploded from the back of her head, her sunglasses flew straight up in the air before hitting the ground.

Frank Winter felt an impact also, and was sent flying through the air backwards, he landed a few feet away with the air knocked out of him. A numbing pain made its way across his chest. His vision blurred, he started to crawl away from the fight scene. With a last ditch effort, as he felt consciousness was about to fail him, he raised a sewer grate and let his body fall limply into the murky waters below. His body landed in a splash under Atlas Park, where a slow current began to move it away. All was quiet but for the sound of the water dripping from the pipes, he faded out thinking that this was no the way he wanted to die.


At the Paragon University, Control was confident that in time, they would contain the situation, and left the fighting outside in the capable hands of Pacem, who had just arrived a few minutes ago. As he walked through the deserted halls of the university, lights from the ceiling flickering on and off, he looked more a villain than a hero in the gloom. When he reached area where the Academy of Arcane Magic and Studies was located, his senses were on alert and he was surprised by an emotion he had not felt in a long time, fear. With careful steps he walked towards the door leading into the laboratory, and wasn’t surprised to find it trashed and vandalized. A small fire had blackened the concrete wall in a corner, neon lights were broken and some were still trying to light room while hanging by the electrical cord from the ceiling. Control looked around silently, detailing the room with piercing eyes, trying to understand what had taken place here.

A hole in the wall big enough for a human to go through, the telltale sign that a sharp object had sliced through some of the furniture, blood spattered on the floor. His eyes searched for the Ghost Sword, then stopped at the corner of a work table, where on the ground, two boots bearing the colors of Apocalypse could be seen. Walking swiftly, he circled the table and knelt beside the body there, and his cape and uniform were soaking in blood. Using two fingers, he felt for a pulse, there was none.

“Nether.” He spoke softly, resting the man’s head in his left hand. A great sadness came over Control then, a friend had died alone, without help or assistance. Judging from the scene, he had put up quite a fight before the end. Where was the justice in this? Where was the greater glory? A hero’s life rarely granted rewards per say, recognition at times, a medal on occasion. Would Nether Spirit be remembered in a year from now, when more heroes would still be out there, fighting crime and defending the city? Control felt the absolute hypocrisy of it all, the laughable futility of hoping for a better end for himself or others. For the city, heroes were almost nothing more than cannon fodder against a threat they dared not face. To be thrown at the lions, for public pleasure and instant gratification.

“Nether.” He spoke again, a tremor in his voice.

Control reached for the hand of the man lying dead, and freed a piece of crumbled paper from it. It must’ve been important, since Nether had been holding it. Clearing his blurred vision, he unwrinkled the thing, to reveal an old picture taken maybe twenty years ago.

“Bane? Jenkins?” He whispered aloud, looking down on a picture of a younger Voyager and Mary Jenkins along with a baby in her arms. They were both smiling to the camera, the perfect image of the happy family. But it was the background of the picture that caught his attention, a place he had been to only once, but that he would never forget. Orebanga.

Reaching for his belt communicator, he called central dispatch, requesting the coroner’s presence at the University. After which, on the Apocalypse channel, Control relayed the news to everyone.

“Hero down.”

TO PART 13 >

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