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Chapter Two: The Culling
By Myths n’ Wraiths
Edited by Vindea
Opting to disable the villain rather than kill him, Anarchy aimed his knee for the man’s abdomen. Before the Thorn cultist could even double over in pain from the powerful blow, Anarchy was making his next move. His hands grasped the cultist by the back of the neck. Placing his leg in front of the man’s ankles, Anarchy thrust forward, sending the disoriented robed figure crashing to the ground and sliding across the pavement.
With a speed beyond the human eye’s ability to capture, Anarchy dashed to the villain’s side and thrust his boot into the prostrate man’s side, knocking him over onto his back. Dropping one knee onto the cultist’s throat, Anarchy effectively pinned him to the ground.
“You picked the wrong man to mess with, pal,” Anarchy said in a low grumble, but the cultist did not respond. Even after Anarchy flicked the glowing cherry from his cigarette tip and let it fall onto the subdued man’s face, there was still no sign of consciousness.
An acrid smell of burnt skin hit Anarchy’s nose and he instantly knew it wasn’t from the cigarette ash. Glancing down over the man’s cloaked body, his eyes found a gaping whole of charred flesh in the Thorn member’s chest.
“I’ll be,” Anarchy muttered, coming to his feet. He didn’t even bother hitting the man with a police teleport transponder. This one needed a morgue, not a prison.
A blood-curdling scream snatched Anarchy’s attention away from the dead figure in the street and back to the dim alley that the Circle of Thorn had fled from. Deep within its concealing shadows Anarchy could make out a faint crimson glow.
“So much for happy hour,” the former soldier mumbled before speeding into the alley and making for the ruby red glow. Anarchy leapt over scattered parcels of garbage and half-crushed metal cans with ease and grace, all the while moving fast enough to turn the alley into a gusting wind tunnel.
When he came close enough to the light to make out its source, what met Anarchy’s eyes was appalling enough to make the battle-hardened man blanch. The scream had faded, caught now in the burnt throat of yet another Circle of Thorn minion. A charred skull was twisted into deadly agony. Burnt out eye sockets stared up in hollow horror.
Bent over the burning figure was a middle-aged man dressed in nondescript clothes. His hands were outstretched around the villain’s head. Searing crimson energy radiated from his open palms, turning the cultist’s head into a mass of blistered flesh and charred cartilage.
Anarchy charged forward, planting a booted foot in the attacker’s side and sending him sprawling into a stack of mildewing garbage bags. He wasn’t quite sure why he had decided to attack. He was in no position to judge another hero for using excessive force or even reaching over the line of reasonable defense to dabble in excusable murder. Something about this man’s face, however, told Anarchy that force was the only method of reasoning he would understand.
Shuffling furiously with the old garbage, the lean, disheveled man came to his feet. Rage was etched on his crazed face.
“Look, I don’t doubt that those bastards had it comin’ to ‘um,” Anarchy began, holding his hand out in a sign of non-confrontation. “But execution ain’t in a hero’s job description.”
Baring his teeth in a show of fury, the man’s hands began to glow with blood red energy. “I… am not a hero,” he spat through clenched teeth. With that the man lunged, fists raised over his head for a crushing blow.
Anarchy easily side stepped the sloppy blow but chose not to retaliate, yet. With a few quick steps to increase the distance between him and the crazed man, he waited and watched the effect of the attack. With a deafening crash the glowing fists crushed the pavement where Anarchy had been standing only an instant before. A small crater formed under his adversary’s hands and cracks lanced out through the crumbling concrete for several yards. It was an impressive display considering the man’s meager appearances.
He looked to be in his early forties if he was a day. His gaunt face sported a set of oval glasses that sat askew on his beak of a nose. His tussled brown hair was thinning at the top and in the breast pocket of his button down shirt Anarchy could see a gold pen. Dressed in a fashion that one would expect to see a broker or small time lawyer, this man bore neither the telltale signs of a villain nor a hero. Still, his power was undeniable.
Mental note, don’t let this punk land a blow on you. It might be the last mistake you ever make.
“If it’s a beating you want, then I’m your man. Me personally though, I would rather throw down a few shots of Jack and talk it over.”
The man’s eyes flashed crimson and his features contorted into a barbaric leer. The flow of energy never faded from his hands and he readied himself for another lunge.
Who am I kidding? This guy is begging for an ass kicking.
Had this been a few years prior Anarchy would have never bothered offering an ultimatum. The thrill of the fight had always held a strong sway over the trained killer. Years of constant training and countless real world missions as a special operations soldier had honed his bloodlust in the early years of his life. Now at the “tender” age of thirty-eight, he found himself less desperate for a fight then he had often been in the past. Maybe it was the fact that his step was one one-thousandth of a second slower then it had been last year. Maybe it was the fact that he had seen enough death already to last him a dozen lifetimes.
Must be gettin’ soft in my old age. Not soft enough to let this guy get a free pass though.
With insanity in his eyes, the unorthodox assailant raised his arms over his head for another blow. Anarchy’s lead foot slid ever so slightly forward, his arms hung low at his sides. The man lunged forward; Anarchy burst into motion.
With a speed beyond perception, Anarchy closed the distance between himself and the assailant. Slowing at the last possible moment, to prevent a fatal connection, he caught the older man by the throat and, after placing his foot behind his adversary’s calves, thrust forward. The man went sailing into the weathered brick wall that blocked the back of the alley from the set of convenience stores on the far end.
Disoriented and choking, the man slumped to the ground, cradling his bruised throat. A slim trail of blood smeared the wall from the point of impact to his head, which lay limp on his shoulders.
“You want it easy, I can give it to you easy. You want it hard, well, I’m good for that too,” Anarchy said, dancing lightly on his booted feet.
A look of madness from glowing crimson eyes came by way of response. The man’s mouth moved in unspoken words and with all the suddenness and intensity of a lightning bolt, the alley was filled with a radiant crimson light.
Anarchy threw up his arms in an attempt to guard his eyes from the blinding glare, but it was too late. Anticipating his adversary’s next move, he tried to move back down the alley, but without being able to see his enemy’s advance, he was only delaying the inevitable. A crushing pain landed in his abdomen and Anarchy felt himself being lifted off the ground and sailing through the air. His brain had just enough time to register a set of broken ribs before the grinding pain of quick moving pavement met his back. It was all Anarchy could do to stifle an injured yell.
Instinct and muscle memory took over and his body used the forward momentum to roll over onto his shoulder and come to his feet. With a grunt of exertion, he straightened his body; a quick shake of his head clearing his vision. Stinging pain covered his back and shoulders and he felt a warm trickle of blood working its way down to his waist.
When Anarchy’s eyes cleared and met with his assailant’s yet again, the crazed man was not the only one to display an insane stare. Anarchy’s thoughts melted away, as they had in so many previous battles, until all that was left was instinct and training.
He no longer saw a man, he saw an enemy. He no longer recognized the slighter man’s strengths, only analyzed his weaknesses.
Anarchy bolted forward. The seconds that followed were a blinding fog of near misses, counter blows and pure martial release.
He noted with a sense of indifference that his fist broke when he hit the man’s jaw and sent the already battered pair of glasses crashing against the wall. Ducking a powerful counter swing, Anarchy reverted to using his elbows and landed another strike to the kidneys.
A glancing blow and a slight cracking noise told Anarchy that his left shoulder had just been fractured, but the adrenaline of the fight blocked all pain.
With a primal scream, Anarchy launched a devastating kick that landed squarely in his targets solar plexus and sent him careening into the alley wall yet again. Before the energy wielding murderer could even slump to the ground, Anarchy’s knee collided with his abdomen with enough force to rupture internal organs and snap ribs. After a follow-up elbow blow to the nose, the crimson glow faded from the crazed man’s eyes.
Allowing his now unconscious adversary to fall limply to the ground, Anarchy paced the narrow alley. For a brief but glorious moment, he basked in the adrenaline that was coursing through his body. Like a drug fiend feeding on a fix, he savored the slight tremor in his limbs, the heightened sense of existence and the reprieve from his usual limited tolerance from pain.
Pain, he realized. It will be on me soon.
Recalling the numerous broken bones that now inhabited his body, Anarchy snatched his cell phone out of his pocket and raised it to his lips.
“Base,” he commanded in an even tone, despite his ordeal.
“Myth here,” came the familiar response.
“Priority one med port. One security critical, one resident non-critical.” He spoke the medical evacuation request.
“Incoming,” was Myth’s only response.
Taking a half broken cigarette out of his pocket, Anarchy bent low and pressed its tip against one of his adversary’s still steaming fists. The familiar, calming, cancer-causing smoke filled his lungs and he let out a long sigh.
* * *
“Jeremy Welsh,” Vindea announced after sifting through the prisoner’s wallet and personal affects. She glanced up, through the blue tinted force field that separated the cell from the rest of the detention area. Inside, the middle-aged man lay motionless on a firm cot. A medical smock had replaced his disheveled clothes and Myth had treated his injuries. In order to keep the man from injuring himself, Lusion had induced a state of deep sleep.
“Doesn’t look much like your typical hero, or villain for that matter,” she added, tossing the wallet back into the storage bin where Jeremy’s personal effects were being kept.
“That’s because he’s not one,” Myth replied without looking up from the computer console he was poring over.
“Then what is he?” Haven persisted. “Civilians don’t send Anarchy to the infirmary.”
“But that is what he is. A banker no less.” Myth shrugged. Looking up from the plasma screen monitor, he spun it around for the two women to see. “He resides at one-zero-nine Atlas Road. No history of supernatural abilities; no police record. He is a widow; his wife died at the age of thirty-six. She was murdered during a ritual summoning by the Circle of Thorns.”
“So we have a forty-one year old widowed banker turned homicidal super-being,” Vindea said, cocking her blonde topped head and looking at the man curiously. “Anywhere else in the world this might seem a little odd. If you ask me, we are wasting energy keeping him locked up here. It’s not like he was attacking innocent civilians. ”
“Surely we are not just going to let him go, though,” Haven countered and gave Myth a controlling stare. Myth shot a wry smile back.
“Well, I am certainly not going to keep him locked up here for killing a few Circle of Thorns,” Myth replied.
“Myth, the man is out of control,” Haven protested. Myth held up a defensive hand.
“We won’t just let him go, Haven. Run a full genetic test on him and see if you can’t figure out where he got these powers from,” he said, slowly turning to leave. “Emerald Queen owes us a favor after chasing down that dead lead last night. Once we have a few more answers, we’ll turn him over to the Paragon Patriots. They can figure out what to do with him.”
Both women seemed satisfied with that answer. In the back of their minds, however, they knew Myth was not overly concerned with their approval when it came to running the Dogs of War, even if he was in love with one of them.
“Well,” Vindea said with a long sigh. “I guess we have our work cut out for us.”
* * *
Myth entered the communications room and quickly scooped his notes for the morning mission brief up off the counter. With only five minutes to spare until the six o’clock briefing he was cutting it close. Considering all that had happened this morning though, he was surprised that he would be having one at all.
Just when he was turning to leave the Comm room, however, the news channel that he had been running since his conversation with Lusion earlier that morning caught his eye. Snatching up the remote Myth turned the volume up and listened intently.
“… acts of mass violence are not so uncommon here in Paragon, but rarely do we see it focused on the many gangs that run rampant in our city,” the news anchorman said. Despite the stern look that the well-groomed news reporter was displaying, Myth could see the faintest smile etched into his Botox-firmed lips.
“Myth to conference room,” he said keying the intercom terminal on the desk.
“Lusion here,” came the quick response.
“Lusion, turn the screen on to channel twelve and start recording,” Myth ordered, unwilling to loose a single second of the broadcast. “I’ll be there in a moment.”
“Already do-.” Myth did not even wait to hear the rest of Lusion’s response before turning off the intercom and focusing once again on the news broadcast.
“Police are still searching the city streets for more bodies. The current count is one hundred and twenty-two killed. Some estimates project that number rising by at least another hundred before the search is done. Again, all those found dead are believed to have strong ties to at least one of the many major gangs that are located here in Paragon.”
The view shifted from the tall dark anchorman to his female counterpart who looked like a walking billboard for permanent makeovers.
“When questioned as to any possible involvement by the hero community, Freedom Phalanx leader, Statesman, had this to say.” Again the screen changed and the all-too-common figure of a hero clad in blue and red and sporting a silver facemask filled the screen.
“…such depraved acts of violence would never be condoned by the hero community…”
“Myth, report to the detention cell.” The sound of Haven’s voice being broadcast over the intercom interrupted the report.
A reflexive search with his mind told Myth that waves of excited emotion were emanating from detention area; since none of them felt familiar to his mind, he could only assume that their prisoner had regained consciousness.
Breaking into a sprint, Myth crossed the hundred yards to the detention cells in mere seconds.
“What’s up?” he asked, bursting into the room. Haven and Vindea were standing away from the force field that separated the detention area from the prisoner’s cell. Haven simply waved toward the man, gesturing for Myth to look for himself.
Shifting his mind and vision on the man in the cell, Myth saw, as he had expected, that he was no longer dreaming peacefully. Jeremy now sat in the middle of the floor, legs crossed and hands resting on his knees. His gaunt face was turned up to the ceiling, a wild expression of jubilee etched into his features. Pale lips moved in a constant unheard monologue.
Hearing the detention doors hiss open behind him, Myth sensed Lusion’s formidable psychic presence enter the room.
“Shall I subdue him?” Lusion asked, readying his mind to force Jeremy back into a peaceful slumber.
“No,” Myth said, holding out a hand to keep Lusion behind him. “What is he saying?”
The psychic’s eyes slid half shut, his visual senses becoming useless, a mere distraction compared to his mental perception. Reaching into Jeremy’s mind, careful to avoid areas of memory and emotion, Lusion grasped hold of the area responsible for physical action.
Slowly the volume of Jeremy’s ranting grew until the words could barely be heard over the slight hum of the detention field.“Through great empowerment, for Marcus and his son, with Reyeto’s gift, the Culling has begun.”