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Future Tense

 

By: Bob Frendt

 

Part 1

 

 

“Heroes Given a New Rule Book”

            A letter from the editor

 

The Heroes of our city have been shown the ingratitude of the citizens.  Good Samaritans, risking life and limb to ensure our safety have been ordered to stand down.  There are few, if any, residents here in Paragon who have no reason to thank the heroes in our midst; this editor included.  So, why the sudden change of heart?

            What was once referred to as heroism is now being dubbed as vigilantism and, according to police, will no longer be tolerated.  Any person using extraordinary powers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Our chief of police was recorded saying:

            “People who want to fight crime need to go through training and don the blue uniform of an officer and wear the badge.  This society can no longer tolerate these self proclaimed ‘heroes’, many of whom cause more damage than the criminal element they seek to apprehend.  We are putting into motion a sanction that will allow the use of approved, ‘non-violent’ powers, providing that the power wielder has registered and has a sponsor for that power; such as nuclear waste and management companies.  There is still good that people with extraordinary abilities can do, but it is time to let the police force do our job.”

           

Sanctions and registrations on natural abilities; prosecution; even in the event of self defense of anyone who uses their powers.  We have fallen into dark times indeed my friends.  And we have forgotten our saviors.

            The first people who stood up for innocent civilians in the face of evildoers were renowned as heroes by us, the common men and women for whom they stood.  The title of honor was not, as our chief of police puts it, “self proclaimed”.  We gave it to them, and with good reason.  Unfortunately, many of us seem to have forgotten why we need heroes in our midst.

            Molly Darrow-Bell, spokeswoman for the organization C.A.V.E.A.T. (Citizens Against Vigilante Execution Action Teams) was thrilled to see the fruition of her organization’s long time goal.  When asked for a comment, she replied:

            “There has been far more suffering at the hands of these ‘heroes’ than is acceptable by any standards.  The recent detonation and near total destruction of the Rogue Isles eight months ago is a perfect example of this.  One man decided the fate of a large population, guilty and innocent, and took matters into this own hands.

            How many more innocents have to lose their lives, how many families torn asunder before we correct our mistake of making the powered powerful?”

           

            I realize the stand I am taking on this issue is an unpopular one.  I strongly believe however, it is important to remember why we gave these brave soldiers of freedom the name we did.  Is it possible that in the everyday occurrence of the extraordinary, we have hardened our hearts?  Is it possible that we, as a nation, have forgotten the meaning of the word Hero?

Lindsay Featherstone

Editor-in-Chief, Paragon Times

 

            “Look at this!”  A tall young man with a shock of white hair slapped the newspaper on the table decisively.  “And to top it off, Kirk is tossing us out!”  Corey Bascombe’s outrage was, like all his emotions, completely unveiled.  He looked around the ready room of the founders falls mansion that had served as headquarters for two generations of heroes.  Godsend, the team’s empath sat in a large chair rubbing his temples.  Beside him stood his bea utiful, blonde half sister Delilah, Powerhouse to the thugs on the street.  It was sometimes hard to believe such a shapely form contained such strength.  Both brother and sister had violet eyes, a Harlowe family trait.  Mindwarp, tall and lean, kept to his usual character as he silently sipped fine scotch in the corner of the room, far replaced from the others.  It was Carlito, known to heroes and villains alike as Fireprince, who stood and faced the livid Echoblast.

            “It’s Kirk’s place.”  Tall and strong, Fireprince was everything you would expect a hero to be.  Not a man of many words after he nearly died protecting the city, Carlito’s words always carried strength.  Even loudmouthed banshees listened when he spoke.  “Besides, the government has obligated him to remove any vigilante presence from his property.”

            “How does it not make you furious?  We are the only five who even showed!”

            “Keep it down will ya?  Yer givin’ me a headache.”  Sam continued rubbing his temples.

            “Come on now,” Delilah interjected, “you know as well as we all do that of the nine members in our group we are the most tightly knight.  Our parents were in the founding group, The Nameless, and we were the five who took up the mantle as The Next when they disbanded.  Our ranks have dipped and swelled in the past.  It is we five who are always constant.  We’re more family members than team members.”

            “We’ve had a dip in our numbers today alright.”  Echoblast’s voice rose as he spoke.  “We’ve had a dip in the hero population as well.  And this time there’s no fixin’ it.  We’ve been fired!”  The final crescendo of Corey’s words hung in the air for a moment.  It was Tristan, in the corner, who finally broke the silence.

            “Word on the street says some heroes are going underground.  We could do the same, operate in secret.”  He barely had time to finish his words before Echoblast jumped on the proposal.

            “I’m in, where do I sign?” 

It had always seemed odd to Sam that the loudest, most transparent person in the group and the shadiest, most quiet member had formed such a strong bond; where one went, the other would always follow.  As Samuel Harlowe, Tristan was a cousin, family; as Godsend, Mindwarp was difficult to read at best and more often than not, difficult to trust.  Echoblast on the other hand was an open book.  He was rowdy and cock-sure, but he was a man you could trust with your life.  The notion of leaving the country and heading to see his mother in Great Britain had been weighing heavily on his mind, or maybe even getting that old junk heap of a motorcycle running again and crossing the country on it.  But he knew what his big sister was going to do even before she did.

“I think there is still some good left to do around here,” Delilah looked to her half brother as she spoke “don’t you agree?”  Sam let out a sigh and nodded his head in return.  He wanted nothing more than to leave Paragon and all its bureaucracy behind, but he would never abandon his family.

“I need a cigarette.”  He added softly, standing and heading for the door.

“If we are going to seriously consider this, we need to work it all out.”  Carlito spoke up.  “Can we meet up at your place for now Tristan?  I don’t want to talk any further here.  Kirk may be a good person, but he is government.”  Tristan looked surprised at the notion of hosting.

“Why mine?”

Tristan never got his answer.  At that moment, the double doors to the ready room burst open to reveal a young woman with auburn hair shaking with the effort of holding a body.

“He needs help.”  She practically begged. “Where’s Godsend?”

“Jesus Biohazard!”  Fireprince was the first to reach her; he took the prone man from her arms.  “Is he even still alive?”

Biohazard was only recently new to the group.  The past few weeks had been devastating, her heroic career crushed before it ever truly begun.

“Glad you could make it Zannah, it’s never dull when you’re around.”  Sam rushed to attend the man his teammate had brought in, cigarette still dangling from his lips.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know where else to go.  I found him just around the corner and he looked so bad.  I couldn’t get him to a hospital by my self.”

“You did well.”  Delilah assured her, then turned her attention on her half brother.  “Put that out, Kirk hates smoke in his house.  And I hate that you smoke”

“This guy is bleeding all over the floor and you’re worried about what Kirk thinks about smoke in his house?  Gimme room to work here.”  Quietly, Godsend concentrated on the new man on the floor.  He was in terrible shape.  One eye was completely gone, both legs were broken in multiple places, one arm was shattered, half his ribs collapsed.  It was a miracle that he was alive at all.

“I’m with you Sam.  I could give a shit about what Kirk thinks.”  Echoblast muttered in the silent room.

 

 

*           *           *

 

 

The room was mostly dark.  A large desk was framed by an even larger, floor to ceiling window.  Mysteriously, despite the full moon shining in the distance and the war walls that illuminated the night; only the palest of light passed through the opening, silhouetting the oversized chair behind the desk.  Discord was not a large man.  He was accustomed to using guile and stealth to take out a mark.  In a room where each sight was bigger than the last, he felt very small.  He adjusted the familiar weight of the katana slung over his back and fidgeted with the zipper on his form fitting patent leather shirt.

“I am upset Discord.”  The voice seemed to come from everywhere in this room.  He knew full well his employer sat in the chair behind the desk, but he couldn’t help but shudder at the thought of being surrounded.

“You have been in our employ for nearly two years, and yet the Gamester continues to elude us.”

“Please…”  Discord struggled with all his might not to tremble.  He failed.  “The man has been missing for so long.  His former cohorts are long gone.  There is no…”

“I did not bring you here to assault my ears with excuses, nor did I bring you here to soil my priceless carpet.  You have been replaced.”

Discord’s eyes widened at the sound of those words.  He felt his body rise, freed from the Earth’s gravity.  Cold sweat covered his skin, and suddenly no amount of money was worth the job he had taken two years ago.  A strange, inexplicable sensation took hold of his body.  The condemned man convulsed in the air, his body twitching uncontrollably. Discord’s heart pounded so fast it made his chest hurt.  He felt heavy, dense and dizzy.  Feeling as if all matter was being drawn towards him he screamed as he struggled against his invisible assailant.  Inexorably, his fingers and toes collapsed, cries of pain issued forth from the villain until his throat was raw, at which point they became simply grotesque whimpers.  Discord’s digits were followed by his hands and feet.  Hoarse moans and tears escaped from the victim, but his excruciating end continued.  The bedlam was maddening, but brief.  In less than a minute, Discord was no more.  His body had collapsed in on its self, imploding.

A voice like a metal rake in gravel soon broke the silence.

“I find that is the best way to deal with a problematic person.  No loose ends, no evidence.”  A seven foot tall man, dressed all in black leather with a long trench coat and a blonde topknot streaked with silver stepped from the darkest corner of the room.  He wore a mask with an open face, his right eye was gone and a mottled scar ran from his forehead to his cheek.

“You can expect a similarly painful reward should you not make good on your advertisement.”  The voice from behind the desk taunted.

“I am as good as my word.  I already know where to start.  I have an old… acquaintance who has become something of an expert on time/ space research.”

“I said nothing about research.”

“You said Gamester.  We both know the only thing a man like that could offer you which you do not already have.”

“I must admit, you have already exceeded the resourcefulness of your predecessor.  Continue to please me, and your rewards will be beyond measure.”

A haunting sound filled the empty halls of the large building as the man left his new employer’s office.  A rasping, screeching laugh echoed off the walls.

“Oh, it has been so long since we last met.  I wonder if you will remember me.”






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