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From the Ashes

D Heikes

 

Chapter 14

            Pale light filtered through the window of the apartment.  Beyond the glass the blue glow of the war walls lit the night, masking the stars above, the few clouds rolling over the city.  Construction crews had been working for the last few years to remove the shield walls, the city council deciding they were no longer needed.  What had gone up in record time was taking record time to come down.

            Behind the man, in a small bed slept a young girl, a stuffed monkey wrapped tightly in her arms.  Black hair topped her head, red skin beneath showed in her face and the arm that reached from under the covers, around the monkey, to the thumb stuck in her mouth.

            Looking at his daughter, Tropic smiled.  The city he had died to protect was changing, though too slowly for him.  There was still danger to the tiny miracle that slept behind him, but nothing would harm her.  He would see to that.

            He sipped from a small tumbler of scotch, his torso corded with muscle that rippled easily with each movement.  He felt a new presence enter the room behind him, could feel the heat from her lithe body. 

            Hecate slipped up behind him, leaning her head on his shoulder in a very un-assassin-like manner.  She started to speak quietly, but Tropic held a finger to his lips.  His gaze swept over Talos Island, spread out below him like a map.  To his left was the massive statue of the hero Talos, barely visible around the corner of the building.  His living room overlooked that statue.  From the windows of his daughter’s room he could see across office buildings that gave way to spread out homes, waterfront property owned by the ultra-rich.

            “How far can you see?” Tropic whispered to Hecate.

            “I can see all the way to the war walls,” She replied.

            “I mean in detail, how far?  Can you make out that small sailboat anchored at the base of the wall just to the right of the sewer grate?”

            Hecate stared at him.  The fire in his eyes was contained, the flames not reaching out of the orbs, but visible within.  “Could you see like that before?”

            “Before….” He started.  “Before I died, you mean?  No, I could not.”

            “So what’s changed?” she asked.

            A slightly odd tone crept into Tropic’s voice.  “A great deal.”

            Across the city, a mansion that he had been acquainted with in his previous life caught his eye.  Several people exited the house to the street wearing the black and gold uniforms he was so familiar with.  Looking closer, bringing the figures closer in his mind he watched the heroes depart the home of David Odysseus Hill.

            “What are you up to, Willow?” Tropic asked himself in a barely audible tone.

            “Hmmm?”

            Turning to Hecate he ran his hand down the side of her face.  “I have something I need to check out.  Would you mind watching out for Annie while I’m gone?”

            “Of course not,” Hecate replied.

            Tropic kissed her lightly on the lips.  “There are few I would trust with her life as I do you.”

            “You honor me,” she replied.  “Again.”

* *

            The Top Ten members had moved off towards their base when Tropic left his apartment, streaking through the night sky.  His senses were so heightened he had been able to hear the two quick cracks of gunfire from Odysseus’s home as he approached.  Hovering above, the fires that raged inside him contained, he watched as two men carried a burlap bag from the house and threw it in the back of a luxury SUV sitting in the driveway.

            The car pulled away onto the quiet streets.  Tropic followed from above, watching as the vehicle exited the road at a construction entrance, the headlights winking out.  The site was destined to be a hotel set near the beach and Atlantic ocean.  Ground had been broken, the foundation set in rebar, concrete yet to be poured.

            “We own the construction company building here,” one of the Warriors from the car said to the other as they exited.  “If we move some of the steel supports we can  dig out a hole and bury him then put the dirt and rebar back, and they’ll pour the concrete right over top of him.  Nobody will ever find him.”

            “Pretty smart,” the other said.

            A white blazing ray of fire struck the hood of the SUV, spearing through, melting the hood, and engine underneath.  The two thugs reacted in surprise, semi-automatics materializing in their hands, looking for the source of the attack.

            Twin beams of flame speared out from Tropic’s eyes, scoring through the barrel of one of the pistols.  The other Warrior fired off two quick shots at the hero, the bullets evaporating in the air as they entered the inferno surrounding Tropic.  The twin beams reached out again, burning the hand that held the weapon from the arm to which it had been attached.

            Pointing a finger at the ruined car, a beam of flame licked out, cutting along the roof of the big car, opening it up like a can opener.  Tropic reached down with one powerful hand, ripping the top of the SUV off and tossing it aside.

            The two who had come in the vehicle began to loudly scramble away, but their escape was short lived, as were they.  A massive fireball from Tropic’s right hand exploded over them, silencing them forever.

            Reaching into the car with one hand, Tropic pulled the still warm body bag from the vehicle and set it on the ground.  Inside he found the body of Hyde, the Warrior who had helped him save several children from a burning building years ago.  Tropic did not know what path the villain’s life had taken since his demise, but the voice in his head raged against an action taken against one he had placed faith in.

            The building had been a death trap, but this Warrior, Hyde, had risked his life to save the children trapped within.  Children.  Just like his Annie.

            “They have struck at those who would trust you!” the voice in his head screamed.

            Tropic felt the waves of heat flowing within him surge.  The sea of emotion filled his head, he felt his control slipping. 

            His eyes told him the body was still warm.  Something remained.  He had not been shot long ago.  A faint pulse met Tropic’s fingertips at the side of Hyde’s neck.

            The power within him surged.  The voice rang out through his head, speaking through his body.

            “For our past, the deeds which thou helped me accomplish, I grant you the gift of your life.”

            Placing his palm flat on the Warrior’s chest, his energy poured into the gunshot wounds.

            “I am fire!”

            The flames filled Hyde’s body, his back arching in spasm. 

            “Fire is life!”

            Pulling his hand away, flames streaked out of the two small holes in the man’s chest, disappearing into Tropic’s outstretched palm.  When the stream ended, the wounds closed, leaving no mark to show their passage.

            Hyde’s eyes opened, looking around in disorientation until they settled on Tropic.  Panic set in and he tried to crawl backwards away from the fiery hero.

            “Why would thou fear me, who just gave thee back thine life?”  

            “What…?” Hyde stammered.  Looking around almost frantically, his eyes went to his chest, his hand pressing into the space where he had been shot.   “How…?  Why..?    You saved me.  Why would you do that?”

            “Because thou did prove to me that thine heart was not entirely evil.  For the lives of those you helped save, I repay their debt.   And, I would know how this came to be, and what foolishness mine friends accomplish.”

            “What foolish… They found out…” sweat poured down Hyde’s face.  His eyes darted around looking for any bolt-hole or escape route.   

            “Found out what?” Tropic asked.

            “The note…the one I gave you.  It wasn’t true.  The Freakshow weren’t going to kidnap your daughter.  Crey hasn’t set a price on her head.  They did, a while back, but word is out that contract was dropped.”

            A sneer twisted Tropic’s face into a menacing mask.  “Lies and treachery!  Know not that thine actions would have consequence?”

            “It wasn’t me!  It wasn’t me!  Dreck forced me to pass the note to you.  He used you to kill his men, not me!  It was all him!”

            Tropic leaned down so that his face was inches from Hyde’s.

            “I have given thee thine life.  Take that gift and squander it not!  The debt of our past is paid.  Shouldst our paths cross again, thou shall cease to exist.”

            Tropic rocketed skyward, a trail of flame following him like a comet into the night sky.  First he would test the truth of Hyde’s words, then he would deal with Dreck and his crew.

* * *

            “The price is high,” Evisceral Shadow said.  “Crey already failed an attempt to gain the bodies of the heroes.  Since they cannot gain them on their own, they will pay over one million dollars per body.”

            “And we split the money equally,” The Outsourcer agreed.  “Eight million dollars is a good night’s work.”

            “There is only one condition I have,” Armorbound said.  The eerie aura surrounding the ancient gold armored being made several of the Outsourcer’s thugs nervous.  None of the rooms occupants could even tell if anyone was actually inside of the armor.  “The one called Spectreblade is mine.”

            “How do you know he will be there?”

            “He is already there.  I can feel his presence.  He has not left the site since the night Crey attacked.”

            “How many more are there?” The Outsourcer asked.

            “More than my people alone can handle,” Evisceral Shadow said.  “Otherwise I wouldn’t have brought you into this.”

            “There have been many attempts over the last two days,” Armorbound said.  “Many from the group are there, along with a number of others from the Archangels of the Apocalypse.  Perhaps twenty.”

            The Outsourcer picked up his desk phone.  “Load up everyone you can find into the trucks, and be ready for a fight.  We have a big heist tonight.”

TO CHAPTER 15 >

           

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