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Time Out of Mind

Epilogue

 

 

           

            James Bartlett had just begun his patrol as an official hero of Paragon fifteen days ago.  His eyes glowed white with power, one of the effects of his star research gone awry.  Since his identity as a hero would not be hidden, and his background made him a perfect fit, he enlisted himself in the new, Longbow run branch of Portal Corp.  S.T.R., Space/ time research dealt more with existing anomalies and effects and less with discovering new worlds.

            A little less than two months ago, several “anomalies” had occurred, endangering citizens, nearly destroying the city, and taking with it the lives of heroes.  Though the source of the anomalies was proven to be tampering of the Portal Corp. technology, the remains left behind, or pinholes as the new director called them, needed a new faction to research their lasting effects.  Run by the city’s heroes, or at least a select few, the S.T.R. branch opened up under the direction of well known researcher Eric Bell.

            “Let’s call it a night Quantum, it’s getting late.”  James turned at the use of his hero name or part of it at least.  Quantum Sun was the name he had chosen when his former life ended, but everyone had shortened it to Quantum.

            “Not for me Medik,” came the reply, “my night’s just beginning after we close up here.”  He looked at his friend and co-worker for a moment.  The man had made headlines with his involvement in the portal fiasco some time ago, but according to rumor in the lab, he had retired from hero work and now spent tireless days in the lab.  “You should join us sometime.  A small group like mine could always use an experienced man, especially one of your talents.”

            “Those days are behind me now, I’m needed here.”

            “Are you needed so badly that you have to spend twelve hour days at it?”  The director became quiet for a moment.

            “I am,” he started slowly.  “If we can find a way to expand the pinholes without tearing the fabric of time and space, we would be able to follows that monster we pushed through it.  We have seen what happens when space/time gets damaged; people died, my friend is lost to us.”  As the two men stepped out of the building and locked the door behind them, Medik ended his train of thought.

            Eyes from the shadows watched two men exit the non-descript red brick building.  The men split up, each going their separate way.  After a while, the men were far enough apart; with a flash of violet, the eyes followed the director of the project S.T.R., they followed Medik.  The scientist turned hero, returned to scientist did not notice his follower.  His thoughts were too drawn into where he was headed.  While he walked, he produced a cell phone, not a standard issue hero communicator, and dialed a familiar number.

            “Are you coming home?”  The woman on the other end sounded tired.

            “I’m just leaving the lab, I’ll be home in a little bit.”

            “Do you have to go tonight?  It’s not as though he’ll remember.”  Eric Sighed at his wife’s response.

            “I go every Tuesday.  Red Sniper is a close friend, the only friend I really have left from being a hero.  Whether or not he remembers, our visits mean a lot to me.  So, yes I have to go and support an old friend.  I’ll be home before long.”  Molly did not pretend to understand her husband on this issue, but she it was important to him.  And at least now she knew where he was.

            Though Eric was still technically a hero by the name of Medik, he no longer wore the uniform.  Nor did he carry the apparatuses of an official hero.  He had kept his registration purely for the fact that with it he could run his lab and someday, hopefully, find his lost friend.  He no longer used his powers, not even to get home faster.  He walked, leisurely, to the train station and headed for the hospital where his old ally rested.  So caught up in his thoughts was he, as he was every Tuesday, that he failed to notice the beautiful woman that boarded the train and sat at the far end of the car, watching him.

            “Saving the world one test tube at a time eh?”  Medik could hear Fixit’s voice in his head.  He knew the tough scrapper would never approve the new direction his life had taken.  In many ways, Fixit had always been exactly what Eric wanted to be in a hero.  He was tough, took no lip and got results.  He was a hell of a tactician as well.  Medik always figured there was some military training in there somewhere.  “Come back, and I’ll re-consider.”  He told himself, appeasing the gruff ima gined hero in his mind. 

            When Medik entered the hospital, he again failed to notice his follower.  She entered only moments behind him, flaunting her beautiful blond hair.  The rest of her was hidden behind a long, dark coat.

            Eric knew that flowers would drive his once gun toting friend up the wall.  Instead, he brought with him a single bullet, thirty-aught-six shell.  The Remarkable Red Sniper had always been partial to that caliber.  Today was the eighth casing placed beside his bed.  The heart monitor beeped out a steady rhythm.  Cords and wires ran here and there in his room, monitering every aspect of his recovery.  As he sat down in the chair beside his friend, Eric Bell shook his head.

            “Not yet buddy, but we’ll find him.”  Red Sniper did not respond.  He never responded.  Whatever happened to him that day in Boomtown had put him in a coma from which he had not yet awoken.  “This was never supposed to happen.”

            The all but retired hero hung his head, overwhelmed by emotion.  Silently, he wept.  Just a short while ago everything was so wonderful, adventures were had, battles were won and people were saved.  Now he was alone.  The sleeping man before him was a symbol for all that had happened to them that day.  Nothing was the same, nor would it ever be again.

            A gentile hand on his shoulder shook Medik from his thoughts.  When he turned, he expected, hoped, to see his wife behind him.  Instead he found a beautiful blonde British woman with deep, violet eyes.

            “It’s been a while Medik.”  She looked down at the mourning man as he composed himself.

            “Bianca,” Medik smiled lightly.  “Please call me Eric, the only people who call me Medik are the scientists and that bore, Manticore, who pops in on us every now and again.”

            “Eric then, please come with me.  I need your help.”

            The two left the hospital together.  They walked down vacant streets, passing the time with small talk and pleasantries.  Eric could not fathom what it might be that she wanted him for, so he let her get to it in her own time.  Their conversation ran out and both were silent for a short while, walking beside one another.  Eventually, she broke the silence.

            “What was he like?”

            Medik stopped and stared back at her, a puzzled look on his face.  She blushed.

            “I didn’t really know him all that well.”  When Eric had stopped, he realized where they were.  They stood in front of Atlas Plaza.  He had intentionally avoided the area since his re-assignment.

            “Here,” Bianca grabbed him with her power, “let’s go somewhere more private.”  Medik felt his body rising off the ground; again he looked at her puzzled.

            “I’ve been expanding my powers.  Our little adventure taught me that I had been neglecting my training for far too long.”

            “I see.”  Was all he could respond.

            Psirene flew them up to the top of the statue of Atlas.  In the dark city, only the lights were visible so far below.  Eric sat on the top of the world and reflected on his old friend.

            “You know, he’s not dead; at least I don’t think so.”

            “Then tell me what he is still like.  I have hidden the identity of my daughter’s father from her.  I would like this child to at least have a dream whom their father was.”

            “I will find him.”  Medik stared into the defiant, violet eyes of the woman before him.  “But just in case…”  His voice became more cheerful as he talked about his friend.

            “Behind that tough exterior and those horrible smelly cigars, was a thoughtful and very funny man.”  His enthusiasm rose as he spoke.  “Did you ever hear what our official super group name was?”  Bianca, sitting beside Eric, shook her head, no.  “We named ourselves after what he used to shout in the faces of the Fifth Column.  It seemed he really hated Nazis.  He’d find a group and leap, I don’t know, fifteen feet maybe into the air.  He land right, smack in the middle of ‘em, man you should have seen the look on their faces, pric eless.  Then, right before he’d kick the crap out of the poor sucker he landed directly in front of, he’d shout at the top of his lungs.  WAH-KICKEY!”  The shouted words echoed off the walls of the city in the still night.  Medik closed his eyes a moment and let the words echo in his ear.  When he started again, he was more introspective, less excited.

            “He used to talk about starting a do-jo, just for laughs, to see if anybody would join a school of martial arts named Way of the Wah-Kickey.”  Medik chuckled to himself for a moment.  “I’ll never forget the look on the registrar’s face when we handed the registration form back to him with that scrawled across the top in his handwriting.”

            “So I guess the name’s up for grabs?”

            “Yeah, a group can only be on hiatus for forty-five days.  It’s a technicality I couldn’t find a way around.  Wah-Kickey is officially disbanded.”

            “What a shame.”

 

            Eric tried his best to not enjoy the feeling of flight on the way back down, at times like that he missed being a hero; he missed using his powers.  When the two split up, he walked, slowly, towards the train station.  Eric Bell had the power still, but he chose not to use it, not now, not ever again. 

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