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Trapped in Dark Astoria
Part Three – Forever Changed, Forever the Same
City of Heroes fiction

By Eli J. Litzelman

    RoboZon slowly regained consciousness.  He blinked several times before the dark surroundings became clear.  To his relief, he was still wearing his suit.  He figured either the shaman wanted it for his leaders and this was the easiest way to transport it or the mystic simply could not figure how to get it off. 

In front of the hero the shaman was sitting by a fire.  His white palms slowly rubbing against each other, he turned and imbedded his murky eyes into RoboZon.  After a second, the mystic turned back to his fire without saying a word.  Although the bound hero tried to get up with all his might, he was firmly held down.  He opened his mouth and tried to speak but all that came out were short gasps.  Without looking at the metal master, the Death Shaman irritably replied, “A man who is hopelessly doomed to death does not need to say or do anything.”  The hero then passed out once again.

    For the next two days RoboZon slipped in and out of consciousness.  Most of the time all he saw was the moving ground as he was being carried by a zombie.  Soon however, blood would fill his mind and he would pass back into nothingness.  Other times, he would awake while the mystic was sitting by his fire or setting up camp.  The trail began to vary from deserted Circle of Thorn lairs to simple hollowed-out caverns that had no light in them whatsoever.  The shaman guided through the latter without even creating light.  He seemed to feed off of the darkness as he descended ever downward.

    RoboZon awoke again.  He was almost back to his original strength, but being carried over someone’s shoulder day after day had made him very sore.  If he was certainly doomed to death – as was the world – nothing he could do would change that.  Even with that in mind, he could not just sit around and wait for his doom to come.  He would not be known as someone who died without putting up a fight.  A simple but ingenious plan began to assemble in the depths of his mind.  It presented many risks and even if he bypassed all of these, it would still come to nothing in the end.  But that did not matter; whatever fate or destiny lay before him, he would not wait for it to occur.  Gritting his teeth, he prepared himself.  Jamming his elbow upward, he hit the zombie on the back of his head.  The weak tendons gave way from rot and the undead’s head came loose.

    The Death Shaman heard a crash from behind and spun to his comrades just in time to see the hero crash to the ground.  Before the villain could fire his dark energy however, RoboZon disappeared, leaving the shaman to wonder if the superhero had even existed.  The living dead mumbled in confusion and the mystic called into the dark.  “You cannot hide forever, hero. You cannot escape your destiny.  Come and fight like a man.”

    A voice echoed through the caves in response, “I will not come to you like a dog begging for bread. You will come to me.”  Before any reply could be made, the mystic disappeared in a flash of light.  Before he was even completely solid again, RoboZon’s fist was arching toward the villain’s head.  Without blinking, the villain grabbed the hero’s wrist, thrust his free hand at the opponent’s face, and released a black pillar of energy.  RoboZon avoided the blast by leaning back and kicking both feet into the shaman’s torso.  He then executed a back-flip and landed on his feet.  The zombie controller flew back into a far wall and rolled to his feet just as RoboZon began to sprint forward.  Planting his feet in the dirt, the mystic concentrated on the space between himself and the hero.  He created two balls of negative energy – one in each hand – and threw one of them at his enemy.  The metal master leapt into the air and stretched his body out behind him so it was parallel to the ground.  The energy passed safely underneath him and he glided swiftly toward his target.  Unexpectedly, the Death Shaman threw the second sphere of energy.  It arced upward, slammed into RoboZon’s chest, and exploded.  The hero smashed into the ceiling before plummeting toward the ground.  Slamming his forearms into the ground to break his fall, he used the forward motion to push himself into a handstand and shot himself back at the shaman with his feet in front.  He then parted his legs and crashed them back together on the villain’s temples, instantly ending his rival’s existence.  “I love these things,” exclaimed RoboZon as he looked at the teleportation indents on his palms, another gift from his father.

    A deafening roar burst through the cavern and RoboZon glanced over his shoulder.  The living dead had found his location and were slowly converging on him.  Releasing his flames, the hero flooded the cavern with light.  “You want me? Come and get me!”  The lead zombie grunted in comprehension, pulled a rifle over his shoulder, and fired.  The metal master leaped in the air.  Arms spread wide and feet extended beneath him, he guided his fall.  As he approached his adversaries, he back-flipped and landed in a crouch.  Rising and punching twice, he then changed his stance and struck with the back part of his fist.  He then used the momentum of his changed footing and performed a roundhouse kick.  Lifting his other leg off the ground, he spun and kicked again.  The legendary hero then – without putting his leg down – kicked backwards to stay an attack from the rear.  With two more quick strikes to the front, the fight was over.

    RoboZon went down on one knee and rested.  He breathed heavily and smelled the overwhelming stench of sweat in his suit.  After awhile, he stood and scanned the camp for anything useful.  Finding nothing, he continued on his trek.


    The hostage, Katie Blackwell, awoke to sound of her own raspy breath.  She was nearing starvation and she barely had enough strength left to stay conscious.  Licking parched lips with a dry tongue, she heard the resounding rumble of her empty stomach.  She parted her eyelids to reveal two bloodshot blue eyes.  Her blurred vision could just make out a sleeping green heroine and an Egyptian archer.  The latter turned to the civilian as she woke.  He tried to comfort her.  “How was your sleep?”  As the hero had predicted beforehand, she did not respond.  Archer of Ramesses face then became grim.  “Do you still feel the dark energy inside of you?”

    Katie nodded slowly and croaked, “Yes…”

The archer suddenly turned his head to the side.  “Someone moves close by.”  Several quick steps echoed softly through the dark halls followed by utter silence.

RoboZon moved into view and spotted Archer of Ramesses first.  “There you are.”

A grin spread across the archers face.  “Good to see you, friend.”

“Good to see you too,” said the metallic hero as he undid his old mentor’s bonds.  He then noticed Katie.  Instinctively, he reached behind her and untied the ropes around her wrists.  As the twine came loose, she fell forward into his arms.  He positioned her back against the pole she had been tied to and reached into his belt for some rations.  Their eyes met for the first time when he offered the food to her.  Although red from bloodshot and darkened from the energy that pulsed inside of her, her eyes now glowed with hope; hope that he had given her.  They connected at that moment.  Linked together as one person - forever the same, yet forever different.  His heart seemed to accelerate and slow at the same time.  His muscles seemed to tighten furiously, but he still felt relaxed.  At that very instant he was changed for the rest of his life and he could feel the difference inside of himself.  His mind would no longer wander aimlessly through memories of no significance.  He would no longer feel concern over just himself.  He remembered why he was a hero; why he defended the innocent and protected the just. 

She accepted the provisions and began to eat as fast as she could.  She then looked up and almost silently whispered, “Thank you…”  RoboZon knew she was thanking him for more than just the food. 

“Hey! I'm hungry too!” Daughter of the Wood called from across the room.

RoboZon sighed and handed Archer of Ramesses some more rations.  “Here.  Untie her and give her these. I’ll help Mrs. Blackwell to her feet.”  He put his arm around the hostage and lifted her to a standing position.  “Can you walk?”

“I'm… not sure.”

He helped her take a few steps before she could walk on her own.  Just as everyone was preparing to leave, a loud boom echoed behind them.  The Adamastor roared to the sky.  The giant menace looked down at them with his glowing green eyes and appeared to smile.

RoboZon turned to his companions. “Run, I’ll hold him.”

“What!?!” exclaimed Daughter of the Wood.

Archer of Ramesses stared the daring hero in the face. “That is not wise…”

“Move, now!”

The Egyptian knew there was no point in arguing. His friend had chosen his doom and there was no way to change his mind.  Nodding to his old apprentice, he led the rescue party away.

RoboZon turned back to the giant zombie.  “I have found you.  Now it is your turn to suffer.”  He then jumped into the air and dove into the uncertain.            

TO PART 4 >          

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