Time Out of Mind
My Beloved Wife:
Do not try to call me back. Don’t waste your time sending me a message in return. I will not be available to answer or receive any word from you. I am not at the office, nor have I been all those times I left your side. I am not seeing another woman; there is no one I would rather be with than you Molly. Before we met, I spent most of my time in the streets of our city as Medik: a super hero. Go to our home, into my office, and move my desk. Underneath, you will find answers. I am sorry this is how you have to find out. If I never see you again, know I love you. I love you with all my heart.
The cold, glowing face of Molly’s phone flickered before her as she read the brief message from her husband. The sandwiches she carried fell to the ground, just out side Eric’s office building. Tears fell on the uncaring screen as she wept. How could he have deceived her? Why didn’t he tell her? The wife of a hero shook as she put the phone away and took uncertain steps towards her home. All at once, she had never been so angry with, or so proud of her husband. She prayed silently to God all the way home, hoping he would li ve long enough to come home, so she could kill him, and tell him one more time that she loved him also.
* * *
There were only a few Trolls left alive near the base of the building. They scavenged for tools and wealth from their fallen gang members. Dust was still settling from the recent battle, giving the twilight an eerie, golden glow. The day’s fighting was done and none of the present green skinned gang members were concerned about further attack. When the dust in the air began to coalesce into a form, larger and more fearsome than any imagined by the small minds of the drug abused brains of the Trolls, none had any thought of staying and fighting. The few who had survived the bloody fight and were still in any cond ition to do so, ran. Though each Troll ran in a different direction, the giant monster of shadow and blood seemed to chase each one.
“VENGEANCE!” The single word echoed off the cold skeleton of the demolished section of town. The terrible sight of retribution from mystic forces further scrambled the brains of the green skinned gang members. Each member ran for hours after the vision had cleared from their sight.
Bianca allowed took brief moment to be proud of herself, she rarely used her powers over the mind on several targets at once. Her smug feeling immediately disappeared when she beheld what had become of Fixit. He lay on the ground, bleeding from hundreds of wounds, broken. She tried, in vain, to gather the life force from any nearby Trolls and siphon it into the dying hero; but there was just not enough strong life left on the field of death. In a desperate act, she broke unheeded into Fixit’s mind and passed a small piece of herself into the father of her unborn child. She established a link with him that allowe d her to keep him from passing on, though it was tedious at best. She saw no sign of any other members that had been with Fixit when she left. Assuming that they had gone onward, she decided the best course of action would be to find Medik. His powers over healing could bring Fixit back from the brink of death.
The armored door proved to be strong enough to keep Psirene out, but she could make it to an upper window, though the going was always slow. As she headed upward, she cursed herself for having spent more time conquering the minds of men than learning the extent of her other powers.
* * *
David Hallsworth stopped in his tracks. What if he had been wrong? It had been a long time since had felt right, was it possible that most of his turbulent emotions had been only in his head? There was only one thing to do, he had to go back and find out once and for all, what was really happening to his team.
“You don’t want to go back there,” the voice interjected, “you saw what was happening when you left.”
The return of the voice gave Red Sniper cold chills and his palms started to sweat. Swallowing hard against the lump in his throat, he gathered his courage and what was left of his pride and headed back towards the battlefield that he had so dishonorably abandoned earlier.
Upon his return to the battle site, Red Sniper could se the results of his actions. John Fix, his friend lay dead on the field.
“He had it coming.” The voice broke back into his head.
“He was real,” David spoke out loud. “He wasn’t a robot, he wasn’t evil. Fixit died because he was betrayed,” tears welled in the hero’s eyes, “and I betrayed him.” Turbulent emotions built up in the gunman. He could not remember how long he had been hiding his problem. He had, for some time now, known something was wrong, but could never place what it was.
“Are you going to make sure he’s dead or what?” The hissing voice had returned.
“Leave me alone!” The hero known as the Remarkable Red Sniper shouted into the dusky sky. He could no longer breathe. It seemed he had spent far too much time behind his mask, both figuratively and literally. The gas mask he wore now only seemed to constrict his breathing; his helmet seemed to be getting hotter and hotter. He couldn’t shed his equipment fast enough. Slowly, his breathing returned, but he still felt feverish.
After several moments to himself, Red Sniper could no longer hear the voice in his head. Looking around, he found his rifle he had dropped earlier. Looking once more at the armored door blocking the entrance to the building in which the remainder of his friends had entered; David Hallsworth knew exactly what he had to do. He was going to redeem himself. He was going to kill Abbadon.
* * *
Medik had never resorted to hiding from his foes before. Neither had he ever been afraid of his quarry before this day. Darr had proven to be an exceptional infiltrator. What enemies could not be avoided, were taken out silently. With the death of his friend, Medik was beginning to care less and less what happened to those who followed Abbadon; he began to understand Darr’s killer instinct. Quickly, quietly, the two had made their way up several stories in the crumbling building. Finally, Darr located a ventilation shaft. C rawling through it meant less fighting before the final show down. Less fighting meant more strength.
Heading towards what he considered to be his doom, inch by inch, Medik could not help but wonder what his wife was doing that moment. Was she still at the park, enjoying the freedom that heroes like himself helped to defend, or had she received his message? After years of hiding his identity from her, he found it very important that she know the truth before he died. The thought of death frightened him. The more he tried to talk himself out of that idea, the more apparent it became. He did not want to die, even worse, he was afraid to do so. Following behind Darr, he could not help but wonder what drove him. Why was it that certain death held no apparent terror for him?
The two had been following the vent lines upward for some time. When they reached what they believed to be the top floor, they finally exited the dusty, cramped shaft. Unlike the rest of the building they had encountered, the top floor seemed clear of Troll defenders. Most likely, Darr surmised, because Abbadon preferred to be alone in his devices, he went on to explain quietly how Abbadon was not a being of his word. Whatever he had promised the Trolls, the destroyer was more likely to destroy them for their services than reward them. He was after all, the harbinger of chaos.
Medik and Darr had very little problem locating their quarry. He stood, with his back toward them, working on what seemed to be a small portal. The blue energy that had been Abbadon’s signature, as well as some of the dark energy that it seemed several heroes of the city also tapped, flooded the room. In the center of the maelstrom of power, the tear in space seemed to grow, ever so slowly at first, then more readily.
Just let me die well. Medik could taste the fear that welled up in his throat, but he did not hesitate. Taking his first step towards a confrontation that would hopefully buy enough time for other heroes to save the day; he was startled when Darr’s firm grip stopped him from progressing.
“Let us make a plan first. We may yet survive this day.” The Brinkman’s reassuring whisper was barely audible over the hum of power and energy that filled the room. Without warning, the room seemed to shake. A noise filled the air, a horrible banshee’s wail that tore at the soul. It lasted for several seconds; and it was horrible, both painful and pitiful.
Neither man could have told the other what the wail was, but whatever had created it, the destroyer was also affected by it, possibly more so than the two men. However, Abbadon was also now alerted to their presence. Any hope of starting this battle with surprise on their side had been slain.
* * *
Psirene’s psychic gifts were being put to the test. She had never used them in this way, and Fixit’s will was proving as strong as ever; if he had his way, he would be long dead already. Finally, I meet a man who is interested in more than just my nocturnal activities and it takes all my strength to keep him from letting himself die. And he’s a regenerator too! Of all the nerve. Bianca couldn’t help but be extremely frustrated with John Fix at the moment, which confused her even more. Two weeks ago, she w ould have admitted a passing interest in the man, but nothing more. Now here she was, trying every trick she could think of to save her man; a title she would not have placed on anyone even a few days ago.
Her turbulent, emotional thoughts were rudely interrupted when she literally ran into a Troll enforcer in the corridor. Surprised by the fact that there were still any gang members roaming the halls when she knew Medik and Darr had come this way, she reached out instinctively with her power. The result was as expected, the green skinned monstrosity before her stopped dead in his tracks, stunned beyond thought. But in that act, she had lost her hold on Fixit.
Letting out an audible gasp when she realized what she had done, she desperately pulled all her mental strength into one task, finding him again. Find him she did, and she grabbed hold of his soul one more time. She could almost see him in his own mind’s eye, standing in a field of tall grass.
Brilliant white light struck the scene from her mind. She was returned forcibly to this world, where more Trolls filled the corridor. She had been struck, hard. By the time she realized what had happened, she also found that she had lost Fixit, yet again. This time however, she could not locate him. She took a brutal beating at the hands of the Trolls, meaty fists and crude bludgeons beat down on her prone form. Ignoring them, she searched for his soul, but it was gone.
Her hope, her fears, joy, grief, love and hate; every emotion she had ever felt exploded outward from her mind. The psychic wail that she released in her grief flattened the Trolls nearby. Everything with any intelligence in the surrounding area felt the extent of Bianca’s grief. Nearby enemies had also heard it and went looking for the source. Temporarily exhausted of strength, All Psirene could do was ready herself for what was to come.
* * *
John Fix had not always been his name. In fact, only recently had he adopted that moniker. But of all the names he had acquired over the years, it was his favorite. For a brief moment, he found his surroundings bizarre and unfamiliar. It was not until he realized that where he was no longer existed did he recognize it.
The grass in
the filed at the foot of a hill was nearly waist deep; John reached out with his
hand to touch the tops of the seeded sprouts.
Upon the hill sat the academy, in which his illustrious career had
The halls of the academy were empty, as was standard in the wee hours before dawn. The giant pillars, open quads and simple, solid construction were all things John had not noticed how much he missed in what the world had become. He touched one pillar, just to ensure that he was not dreaming. The rough hewn stone felt cold, a swift breeze blew over his face; these were details he could never dream, no, he was really home. After so many lifetimes abroad, he had at last returned to his roots. Slowly, a relieved smile crossed his lips as he felt a world of weight lifted from his shoulders. Tears nearly formed in his eyes, but his habits of his lifetime w ere not so easily shed, and he held them back. So swiftly he had found his home again; then it was shattered.
The earth rumbled and the pillars of the ancient building tottered on their foundations. The air filed with an unearthly wail. Then the wave hit him. Emotions of every description and strength washed over him, knocking him on his back. Grief had been the foremost of the emotions to enter his soul, Bianca’s grief. In the grief of a lover did Fixit realize how he had come home, he was dead. But with this also came some hope. If he were completely dead, he wouldn’t have been affected by Psirene’s psychic wail.
“Focus, you can do this, you are a regenerator, healing is what you do.” John tried to convince himself, kneeling in the center of a vacant quad in the middle of his former home.
John Fix, a man without time, could feel himself pulling through the veil that separated this world from the next. Immediately he was racked with horrible pain, which broke his concentration. Apparently while in this world, he could not heal his body, but he could, it seemed, bring himself back into it. The pain was unbearable; his body was in terrible condition. Despair began to fill his mind, he was not sure he would be able to concentrate though the pain.
“If you’re going to fight, you’re going to get hurt. Pain has no power over you if you expect it.” The voice was familiar; he had heard that saying before. Looking up, across the open ground between structures, he could see two men, both phantom visions. One of them, a man of average height, stood over the other. Apparently they had been sparring with staves, the other man was much taller, with blonde hair which stood unnaturally on end.
“That’s me,” John could make himself out standing over the other man. “And I remember that conversation. I remember that student too.”
The vision slowly faded and the hero set back to work. He had considered trying to find the man, he could be useful in the battle back home, but John also knew he had very little time to spare. Using the strength of the moment from his lost past, Fixit set his mind back to the task of getting where he was needed.
* * *
Three large Trolls, powerful though they may be, were having a difficult time breaking the relatively small, blonde woman before them. Though it was true, she had been battered by their initial assault, it seemed she had been able to pull enough of herself together, from sheer desperation, to form a small, temporary defense. One Troll smashed his fist into the head of another, whose reaction was to retaliate. While the two fought, Psirene used her power to drain some strength from one foe and siphon it into her self. Rallying, her body and mind felt better prepared for the challenge before her. Quickly finishing one of the two fighting Trolls with a mental burst, convincing him he had suffered a major blow, she then turned her attention to the final green skinned addict before her.
Before thought could be turned into action, four more Trolls entered the room, following the sounds of conflict. The blonde heroine’s heart sank. She was too tired, both physically and mentally to continue fighting against such odds. Readying herself to go down fighting, she hoped against hope that her medi-porter would work despite the static field. She prayed her daughter would grow up strong, like her father; and she wished her unborn would have gotten the chance to do so.
Psirene’s wishes and prayers were answered, a flash of lightening and a report of thunder filled the small room and Trolls were flung against the far wall. Turning to see her salvation, she found a man she did not recognize had come to her rescue. He wore a black and red leather jacket, red camouflage fatigues and black combat boots. It had not been lightening and thunder, but the flash and report from his rifle that had thrown the gang members back. She headed towards her savior even as he switched his rifle to automatic and sprayed cover fire in rapid bursts. Despite the fact that there was a fellow hero between himself and his target, the gunman continued to volley indiscriminant justice, and within a matter of seconds, the fight was over.
“I’m sure that there are more uglies here,” the man offered a hand to help the heroine to her feet. “You can leave if you want, the way down is secure. I have to go onward.”
His features marked his as having Asian heritage; angled eyes and tinted skin covered by a thick, yet short black mane. Though she had never seen this man before, he was very familiar to her.
“Red? Is that you?” A quick mind scan surprised her, his mind was clearer that she had ever found it, but it was definitely the quiet sniper who stood before her now. “What happened to Fixit?”
Red Sniper said nothing in response, but his eyes filled with water and she felt his mind become turbulent again. Quickly it calmed, and he grabbed her hand and half lead, half dragged her through the building towards the upper floors.
“We have to go, the others need our help.”
* * *
Abbadon let out a feral, inhuman roar as a challenge to the intruders before him. Medik was momentarily caught off guard, but Brinkman had made a life of quick thinking and rash action.
“Do what you can!” Darr drew his sword and rushed the man-monster without a second thought.
His first attack surprised Abbadon; he had expected the intruders to back down, as most beings did in his presence. Darr’s sword struck the stone skinned monstrosity, and though the blow did mostly ricochet off its hide, he did manage to attract the attention of the demi-god. Easily, Darr dodged the incoming fist as large as his head and returned the attack. Remembering the fight in the caves of his homeland, Darr knew his sword would be of little use to defeat the monster; but perhaps he could force him into the rift. If the people here could find a way to close it, Abbadon might be trapped forever.
The battle between man and deity raged on before Medik. Watching the events unfold before his very eyes, the hero was astounded by the reflexes of the swordsman. It seemed Darr was dancing around each blow coming his way. He did take hits now and again, which was when Medik used his power to heal his new companion. Blasts of irradiated energy flew across the room towards the destroyer when Medik could get a clear shot, but mostly he reserved his energy to aid Brinkman when he became fatigued or wounded. Back and forth the fight raged. Neither side seemed to be gaining the upper hand; while Darr could not dish out the damage that the likes of Atta was capable of, neither was he so easily snared. But Darr was beginning to slow with exhaustion, despite Medik’s help.
Brinkman absorbed a blow thrown by Abbadon by gripping the handle of his sword and placing his other palm on the flat of his blade. The force of the attack forced him back, but left him unscathed. However, it also bought enough time for the man-monster to finally entangle the newly dubbed hero in a writing net of dark tentacles which sprung up from the very ground.
It was happening again, just as it had with the Troll leader. Medik was too weak to do anything to help. He had exhausted his power, never before had the healer been called on to do so much. He looked around desperately, searching for a rock, anything that he could throw to distract the destroyer long enough for Darr to escape. Once his foe was ensnared, Abbadon built up the cerulean energy with his fist and reared back to land the final blow. Right at the apex of his back swing, a loud crack pierced the air.
Deafening was the explosion from the collision of the projectile and the blue energy. When everyone had recovered from the blast, they could see Abbadon was missing his right hand. Pale blue energy leaked from the wound, glowing and pulsing like a living thing.
Standing behind the smoking rifle that had fired the high velocity projectile, stood the Remarkable Red Sniper. Immediately, Abbadon roared a feral challenge at the gunman and from his stump, fired a powerful blast of the cerulean energy towards his tormentor. It took little effort to dodge the blast, and when it exited the building, it left a huge, eight foot hole in the building’s exterior.
With the return of Red Sniper and Psirene, Darr and Medik found their hope bolstered. And though her control of the miasma of darkness was small in comparison to Abbadon’s; Psirene was able to use it to draw life from him and siphon it into her comrades; bolstering their strength much as her arrival had their hope. The trick with which she could not save Fixit earlier, worked all too well against the destroyer.
Darr charged back into the fray, fighting Abbadon toe to toe, closer than he had engaged him before. Red Sniper shouldered his rifle, taking aim at the villain. When Medik raised a hand to halt his companion from firing into a wild melee, Psirene assured him that not only was their friend capable in his aim, but the risk was necessary.
Red Sniper took his time aiming. When an open shot revealed its self, it was taken. There was no hesitation and no mercy in his blasts on their opponent. Between the swordsman’s proximity and the gunman’s deadly barrage, Abbadon found himself with little room to maneuver. It was Psirene who noticed that small pockets of the pale blue light would appear on the surface of the monstrosity’s hide as his energy surged and ebbed. To all appearances, it seemed his power was in a constant state of flux.
Tapping into the alien mind of Abbadon, Bianca attempted see where he was building up his energy. The surge of power within the demi-god was more instinctual than a conscious decision, and the heroine found herself wishing her brother was there, for his power was better suited to this task than hers. But she made do with what she had, and what she had was a gunman with unerringly accuracy and the ability to link his mind with hers.
The plan worked well. Psirene could, with only a small margin of error, predict where the surges would appear. Medik had never seen Red Sniper fire with such accuracy and efficiency. He found himself wondering how long his friend had been fighting whatever madness infected him. Though nowhere near as volatile as the explosion which had loosed the monster’s hand, the small blasts of his energy were slowly eating away his shell.
Abbadon stared directly at Psirene, hatred burning in his eyes.
“ENOUGH!” The roar echoed off the walls of the demolished room. Before anyone could react, Psirene went down, her line into his mind had been traced and the back flow of power he fed into it brought her to the floor, blood dripping from her ears and nose.
When Bianca fell, another feral howl reverberated through the room. A bloody mess, more dead than alive, entered the fray.
“Fixit?” Medik’s voice was hoarse and his knees felt weak. He had not actually seen his friend die, but was it possible that he was really alive?
Distracted momentarily by the appearance of the man he thought he had killed, Red Sniper did not see the two beans of cerulean energy flung from the very eyes of Abbadon. The concussive force hit David Hallsworth directly in the center of his chest. His sternum shattered and the Remarkable Red Sniper fell to the ground, his chest smoking.
“Do what you can for him,” Fixit’s voice was a croak, barely more than a whisper. “Darr and I will finish this.”
It didn’t seem possible that such a tattered shambling form of a man could move so quickly. The two men, both exhausted and battle weary fought for their lives and that of the world. Pain was evident on Fixit’s face with every move and twist, but he stood his ground and fought the monster as close as possible.
Medik did everything in his power to heal his friend. He mused that had it been fixit with this wound, he would already have him on his feet and fighting again. Their powers had always worked so well together. But red Sniper was only human; his body healed slower and resisted the mending touch of the healer. The broken bones of his friend mended, but the shock to his system was severe, the red clad hero needed proper medical attention.
The cause was losing hope once again. Medik had used all his remaining energy to keep Red Sniper alive and tending to Psirene, who was slowly regaining consciousness. Both the men fighting Abbadon were losing ground again, too wounded and tired to put up more than a token resistance. Weak as the monster had become, he was still more than a match for two men, wounded as they were.
A heavy wind built up in the room, wondering what horror Abbadon had in for them now, Medik was surprised to see the source of the gale. A woman in bright blue and red tights with a golden cape had flown in through the hole in the wall. She gazed at the stone skinned creature and as her eyes flared with power, he seemed to slow. A bolt of electricity blasted the monster, sourced from another man, this one in blue and white leather. Soon the brace of heroes became ten. Medik could feel his strength return with his hope.
The cavalry had arrived. Each blasted away with whatever power they possessed. Energy was rampant in the room and exploded from every angle of the exterior wall.
“Foolish young heroes, they’re gonna bring the place down on our heads!” Fixit had seen enough, and now he just wanted this fight over with. He figured if everyone fired at once, they could force Abbadon into his portal. It may not defeat him, but they could regroup, plan and then go after him. “On my mark,” he yelled over the din, “aim high!”
Psirene had regained her feet, and used her power one more time to link the minds of every hero present. For a brief moment, she was proud of all the bright and garish costumes of the heroes of this city. At times it truly seemed to be a city of heroes.
Darr crouched behind Abbadon and swiped his legs with his broadsword. Fixit took the front, hoping his healing powers would help against any stray blasts from the heroes behind him.
It worked, Abbadon lost his footing, and the discharge of so many different energies forced him back, tumbling towards the rift in time and space. Fixit fell forward, he could see the blue light of the portal before him, could feel the cold pulse of its force. A strong hand grabbed his wrist, just as he was about to plunge into the unknown. He whipped around and regained his balance, seeing Darr, the Brinkman, had saved him.
There was cheering from all across the room as the heroes celebrated their victory. Suddenly, the cheering grew distant. There was a pulling on Darr’s arm, where Fixit still held it. There was a flash of brilliant light and everything was gone. He was in darkness again, aware of nothing.
The room went suddenly silent. As the destroyer fell through the rift, he lashed out with his good hand and grabbed Fixit by what was left of his jacket. The grip the two men had on one another also dragged brinkman through. Immediately after the heroes disappeared, the rift flashed and closed behind them. Mouths hung open is disbelief, and in the silence, the sobs of a single woman who had fought so hard to keep the father of her unborn child alive echoed as she watched him taken from her for the second time.