Time Out of Mind
The line for the registrar was long that day. Fortunate for him, the man he had met in the queue was entertaining. Gung ho and ready to kick ass, he called himself Red Sniper. He wore a steel M1 helmet, goggles and a gas mask. His Kevlar armor was red with black accents, and over his shoulder he slung a rather large firearm. Medik wore similar armor, white with a red cross on it, symbolizing his powers to aide another. He also wore a simple tech helm that allowed hands free communication. Goggles and a white bandana tied ov er his chin concealed his identity.
For over an hour the two had stood
in line, joking with one another. Topics
from what would they do with millions of dollars, to how much the wait reminded
“I’ve run into a caper with which I could use some help.” Everyone in line turned their attention to him. “I don’t know many people here in town, but I figure a new hero on the street could use the help of a more experienced one. I, in turn could use some damage at a range.” Half the people in line turned away, but Red Sniper continued to listen. “The Fifth Column has set up a small base of operations here in Atlas; the city asked me to take care of it.”
“We’ll do it,” Red Sniper offered. To Medik’s surprise, the gunman grabbed his arm and stepped them both forward. “We could use a meat shield.” With that simple act, all of their lives had been changed forever.
The last minutes of waiting were full of jokes about Nazi hunting and grand schemes against the communist group.
The newcomer, Fixit, turned out to be a rather skilled strategist; and under his tutelage both Red Sniper and Medik quickly gained notoriety amongst the 5th Column. There were gangs and thugs a plenty for three intrepid adventurers to knock around. Though the three never made headlines, they all took comfort in the fact that they had all made a difference.
Within very little time, the three became fast friends. Red Sniper had never actually shown his face, and the other two men had never seen his home, they did not even know where it was. Fixit and Medik became especially close, John Fix was the best man at Eric’s wedding. Eric and Molly had dinner with John on a regular basis.
Somehow though, she still was not aware of his dual life.
This isn’t what it used to be.
Medik’s thoughts flashed quickly through his mind, but he did not have time to delve into them any further.
“Get back in the sewer!” Fixit watched as the troll’s attention turned from the destruction of their former leader to the five humans. The group hesitated for a moment, human curiosity getting the better of them. A moment was all it took for the first wave of trolls to be upon them.
The troll’s weapons had been discarded while watching the battle between Atta and Abbadon. None the less, the fist of a troll could prove deadly. Five people, card carrying heroes according to the city, against what seemed to be a hundred trolls; less than favoring odds. Despite the order from a seasoned fighter, the group stood their ground against the advancing horde.
At the mental command of Psirene, one troll slowed his advance, dazed. His cohorts did not even seem to notice as he was trampled underfoot. Red Sniper, with his older fire arm, no longer had concussive grenades at his disposal; but the web grenade he tossed into the crowd did halt two more green skinned terrors from reaching them. A spray of bullets also seemed to help narrow the odds. A green blast of irradiated energy pounded another in the chest, bringing one more troll to the ground.
Despite the group’s best efforts, there was no delaying the speed at which the trolls closed with them. Swarmed with foes, it was everything Fixit could do to get close enough to Psirene to help her against their tusked foes. The cigar puffing fighter had been trained by experts in Hapkido and Karate, two styles that make exceptional use of his extraordinary muscles. There are few people that could stand toe to toe in a ring with him, but his martial training he had learned went largely unused; lost to rage as he punched, kicked, elbowed and bit his way to her side.
“Get outta’ here,” Fixit barked at the woman, between strikes.
“I can...” Psirene’s rebuke was cut off by Fixit pushing her head down and punching out a troll behind her.
The fight was desperate. Red Sniper fired bursts of ammunition into the growing crowd. Soon they realized that the trolls were coming in from all directions. There were more around them now than when Atta had fallen. It seemed their numbers were bolstering.
“Get back to the sewers!” This time it was Medik who yelled the command. He had no wish to die here.
It was Darr, the Brinkman, who managed to cut a clear path back to the hole punched through the ground, leading back to the sewers. Heoroes were not supposed to kill in the pursuit of justice, but Darr did not hesitate to dispatch foes that were so eager to end his own life.
Once the last of the five dropped into the hole, Red Sniper turned and filled it, detonating several web-grenades in the opening.
“That should hold ‘em for a while,” The gun man admired his handiwork for a short moment.
“Let’s get back to the shop,” Medik commented.
“Ugh!” Psirene climbed to a walkway, skirting the waste that everyone else was waist deep in. “I really hate these sewers.”
Several times during the trip back, Red Sniper stopped in his tracks and looked around, as if he had heard something. Each time, he shrugged and caught up to the team. More out of instinct and habit than concern, Psirene tried again to see his thoughts, maybe she could listen for what he was hearing. Each time she tried, there was a thick, blue fog surrounding his thoughts and she could make nothing of it. Knowing this man had always proven to be a mystery to her, no small feat, she thought little else of it.
The trip to the hidden rooms beneath Fixit Autobody was short. Soon the group was in the dojo style room relaxing on the couch. Fixit and Medik had a spare change of clothing there, Red Sniper refused to change, Bianca and Darr were both clothed in spare cover-alls that John had in the shop. After setting the dingy clothes to wash in a machine in the back room, the group relaxed for a moment.
“You named that thing Darr, what is it?” Medik asked.
“Abaddon is the destroyer of all life,” Darr started, “I’m sure there are many names for him.”
“This is gonna be uplifting.” John rose from his seat and headed for the small bar across the room. “Who else needs a scotch?” At the mention of scotch, Bianca’s eyes lit up.
“What have you got?”
“Laphroaig.” At the mention of the name, everyone had a
puzzled look on their face; except Bianca, she looked directly at Fixit, her
eyebrows raised with interest and surprise.
John went on to explain “It’s Scottish,
The Brinkman continued his description of Abaddon as Fixit poured several glasses of the fine scotch.
“Nearly as long as man has lived, he was sealed beneath the land, bound to the earth. The power that held him there was a reflection of his own, known only as the greystone. Ancient mystics found Abaddon’s power to great to be destroyed, so imprisonment was their best option. Legends say the stone was shattered. So no man could free the Destroyer from his prison, the shards of the stone were scattered into the four winds.”
John, I’m sorry, I can’t drink this. A feminine voice broke gently into Fixit’s head. Without interrupting Darr’s narrative, and without alerting anyone else to his doings, the bandana clad hero downed his drink quickly and set it down directly next to Psirene’s. No one noticed a little while later when Fixit picked up her glass as if it had been his own. None the wiser, Darr continued.
“There were legends of a cult, calling themselves the Greysone Council, who had searched for these pieces of the stone; seeking fortune and glory at the hands of Abbadon. Aybas, a high ranking member of this cult, had actually completed their thousand year search and sought to raise the Destroyer himself, for his own ends.” At the mention of Aybas, Darr seemed to become agitated; Psirene could tell there was a deep hatred for the man, as well as a conflict, within their new friend’s heart. “I tried and failed to slay this fiend before his plans could reach fruition. I failed. I said before, Abaddon can not be sl ain by mortal means. I do not know a way to defeat him except for the Greystone; and even if I had it, I would not know how to use it.”
“So, we are supposed to defeat an undefeatable enemy; sure, sounds easy.” Medik’s sarcasm was not lost n anyone present.
“He’s not undefeatable, only invincible, there is a difference,” Darr offered.
“Obviously, we can’t arrest him,” Fixit interjected, “so how do we deal with him? Red? Any ideas?”
Hearing the conversation had shifted in his direction, Red Sniper started to attention.
“I don’t know,” he simply nodded behind his mask.
There is something very wrong with our friend here. His thoughts have always been difficult for me to scry, but his mind is cloaked in utter chaos now. I can’t describe it.
“Tell me about it.” Fixit snorted in response to Bianca’s voice in his head. He was unaccustomed to communicating without talking, and by the time he realized what he had done, all eyes were on him. He opened his mouth to explain himself, but the ringing of his phone cut him off.
“Fixit, it’s Lindsay. Have you heard about what’s happened in Boomtown?”
“I’ve heard some of it.”
“Abba’s been killed. The Trolls are following a new king and they are as volatile as ever. Any non-Troll in that sector is being taken out. Heroes, gangs, homeless… it doesn’t seem to matter.”
“That I haven’t heard. Is anyone on it?” Fixit was glad to have a little action. Even with his years of experience, he was far better at conflict than he was at talking.
“Not that I know of; can you help?” It was music to his ears. Already a plan was forming. They could use any encounter with the Trolls to learn more about their ultimate foe. Without hesitation, he gave his answer.
“Consider it fixed.”
Quickly Fixit informed the group about what had happened, and what he planned to do about it. Soon, they were out the door and making their way to Boomtown once again.
Red Sniper held little trust with psychics, given his recent troubles. He had felt, for lack of a better term, Psirene attempting to enter his thoughts several times. Had she been the one toying with him earlier that day? It seemed he had been fine until he ran into her earlier today. He could barely think straight he had himself on such a crippling regimen of alcohol.
Thank god Fixit busted out the scotch. I only managed three glasses, but it should help keep me straight for a while longer. If I can get away from the group for a few minutes, I can make sure I won’t lose it again any time soon. But at the same time, I don’t want to leave them hanging…
“You ok Red?” Medik’s voice broke his thoughts.
“Yeah,” the gunman answered simply.
“You just seem, a little distracted.”
“Yeah, you ever think about how this all started?” Medik noted the change in subject, but couldn’t help but go along with it. After all, he though about how different things had become all too often these days.
“More than you know man,” he put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and shook his fried gently, “more than you know.”
As the group neared their destination, Medik pulled out his phone and called his wife. He told her he was sorry for being gone so long, and that he would come home as soon as possible. Hiding his sadness and fear of not returning to her, he told her he would call her later and let her know how everything was going. When he hung up, a heavy hand fell on his shoulder.
“You really need to tell her.” Fixit’s gruff voice was soft, almost soothing.
“I know. Every day that I don’t only makes it harder. It’s not so much the hero bit that bothers me at this point; it’s all the lies I’ve told her.”
“If you don’t tell her soon, she’ll find out on her own. That’d be even worse. What other option do you have?”
“I do have one other option,” Medik suggested as he swiped his identification, and they entered the remains of Baumtown.