150 meters to the ground

There’s a quietness that happens when you fall for a long time, as if the world suddenly hushed itself, only the sound of the rushing wind to occupy the space you filled a moment before and above. I see the windows of the Centaur building rush by, floor by floor, most are shattered and broken by the explosion that sent me over the rooftop ledge. I see the falling debris, and the man I tried to save, following me as I plummet to the ground, slowly distancing themselves from me. All is so peaceful, so perfectly quiet, like a dream of a dream… My name is Akritar Bane, and today’s the day my life ends.

Myself, and the other recruits of Apocalypse were called upon to investigate the overtaking of the Centaur Towers in Skyway City by the Hellions. It is part of our daily routine as the newcomers into the Turbo Starr Academy of Heroism, to aid and assist the police force in minor to medium threats in the city. Our instructors were severe and demanding, and it was expected of us to face dangers, under supervision, of course. Cavalier, the legendary hero, and also chairman of the board to the Emergency Committee of Paragon City (ECPC), was accompanying us on this one. This wasn’t our first outing as a unit, but it would be my last…

When we reached the building, Pixy the controller, Deatheater and Kyoku Shinkai the scrappers along with Cypheria the defender and myself, were briefed by lieutenant Wincott of the Paragon Police, that Hellions had taken over the building, and were demanding the liberation of inmates from the Brickstown prison. They were hauled up on the last floor of the seventy story high building. We were to go in, flush them out, and assist in the arrest of the gang members, while limiting damage to property. All power to the building had been cut out upon the arrival of the police force.

The team proceeded to the floor in question, quietly sneaking from shadow to shadow, assessing the situation. The Hellions lookouts were taken out swiftly and quietly by Deatheater and Kyoku, assisted by Pixy. Most of them never knew what hit them. While me and Cypheria scouted ahead to find the core location of the opposing force. We found them holed up in an office, all twelve of them, pacing to and fro, in front of five office workers, hostages. The first thing Cypheria noticed, was the gang leader, holding on to some kind of remote control, which was identified as a detonator switch for an as of yet, unknown bomb. The second thing we noticed, was the presence of firearms, preventing us from rushing them. Moving back to our safe location, we decided to find the exploding device first, and dispose of it, if we could, if not, to call in the bomb squad for safe removal.

When Kyoku radioed in, on the Apocalypse frequency that the bomb was on the roof, right under the helicopter landing platform, the team moved up there. The device was a simple TNT assemblage, with a clock like timer which indicated two hours left before detonation. Our team leader, Pixy, informed Cavalier right away of the situation. A few minutes later, the perimeter of the building was cleared by the police, which removed itself to a safer distance, while the bomb squad was called in. Pixy then ordered the scrappers and Cypheria to move back down, and fashion a plan to subdue the Hellions without injuries to the hostages, putting in charge Deatheater. While me and her remained up on the roof. My powers being rooted in gravity, I could’ve easily lifted the bomb up and away, but the chance of a motion trigger couldn’t be ignored, so we simply kept a wary eye on the device. Minutes seemed to be on a stand still, while we were watching the timer on the bomb, while we were waiting for Deatheater to report back that they were ready to move in.

The sounds of the first gun shots, muffled and dry, broke the silence. Pixy and I exchanged worried looks, filled with unkown anticipation. What had happened, the team wasn’t supposed to move in yet. Then, on the Apocalypse frequency, we heard the voice of Kyoku screaming : “Code Red, Code Red”

Pixy yelled for me to remain in position, while she rushed to the rooftop door, running down the stairs. I looked about, not sure if I should hold position or help them. But my limited experience, had at least thought me to follow a direct order. Not doing so, usually resulted in more hazards than results. Guns were firing on the floor beneath me, I also heard the sound of a crashing window, sounds of a scuffle were making their way up to me. What was going on? My train of thoughts was broken up, when the rooftop access door crashed upon, to let in the Hellion leader and a male hostage, both of which looked terrified.

“Stay back, hero, or I blow us all to kingdom come” said the gang leader

“Let him go” said I, while slowly moving towards the hostage with an outstretched hand.

Our training included hostage crisis situation, and I was about to apply my manual to the letter, when a flurry of motion coming from behind distracted me. Deatheater came onto the scene, rushing the leader from behind. He kicked him in the ribs, sending him flying over the edge. Seeing the opportunity, I started a run towards the hostage, to tackle him down, for safety reasons. The hellion leader disappeared from sight, falling to the ground. That’s when the bomb exploded, that’s when I felt the searing heat in my back, when the force of the exploding device, sent me and the hostage over the edge. What happened to Deatheater after this moment, I do not know.

The silence broke in, the falling sensation took over. In my semi-consciousness, I flipped myself over, to look up. I could see the man, screaming as he fell, following my descent. I knew I was in a bad shape, the heat from that explosion, and the shrapnel must’ve injured me a great deal. The smell of charred skin filled my nostrils. More out of sensation than anything else, I knew the ground was coming to meet me, I knew I would crash onto the pavement, never to open my eyes again. But, what if, what if…

Cavalier looked in astonishment, helpless to do anything but be a bystander. It had all happened so fast, he didn’t even have time to bark an order to the recruits to fall back. The roof exploded, and he saw them falling, saw the recruit, what was his name, he couldn’t recall, and he saw the hostage, both plummeting to the ground. No one would reach them in time, no one. When he saw the recruit, Akritar Bane, he now recalled, outstretch his hand, a mere twenty feet from the ground, he knew a hero was born.

As if reaching towards the falling hostage, Akritar Bane did the last thing he would do for anyone. Using what strength he had left, he called upon his control of gravity to hold the man that was about to hit the ground a second after him, long enough to stop his descent, long enough to save his life. The man was stalled in his fall, as if tripping over himself, stopping for a second or two, fifteen feet above the ground, then fell once more. He landed without ceremony, face first on the pavement. He would suffer from a few minor injuries, but would live to go home.

The emergency units moved in, to surround them. The man was still screaming from fright, unable to contain himself, unable to comprehend that he was still amongst the living. Next to him, motionless, broken, eyes open in an empty look, laid Akritar Bane. All attempts to revive him would prove useless, but were still done by EMT present there.

Sudden Impact.

"Wake up traveller..."

Thomas Bane jerked up straight in his bed. Covered in sweat, heart pounding, breath ragged and teeth clenched. The black onyx that composed his skin and the tensed muscles of his body told of battle weariness. The fifty-four years old man, known to the public as Voyager, threw the bed sheets away from himself, as he stood up to walk to the wash basin of his prison cell. There was no other prisoner here, no other guests. Thomas Bane was the only human present in the fortress known as the Storm Palace.

In a truce negotiated during the Firebase Zulu war, Voyager had been left in the care of the Elementals, who referred to him as the "fire lord". They were afraid of him, but also had a tremendous, yet not quite understood reverence for the man. In their language, his name translated to the "Traveller", a creature of legend born eons ago, that sometimes fought for good, sometimes fought for evil, but always holding the balance between the two carefully. They saw in Voyager the incarnation of this "Traveller", and because of that, treated him as a guest who couldn't leave.

Splashing fresh water on his face, Voyager looked at himself in the mirror. Staring blankly into his fiery red eyes, Thomas Bane started to cry...

"My son....My son is dead..."

Falling to his knees on the ground, pounding a fist on the granite floor, he cried and screamed, undisturbed.

"It always begins this way, Traveller."

Bear Cat stood on the Liberty Bridge tower, looking over Independence Port, basking himself in the light of the fading sun. It was always a calming sensation to come here, and look at things from a vintage point. He wasn't a known hero to anyone, not even a rumour of one, and yet, he was the leader of the most ruthless hero organization of the city. The Hunters of Apocalypse.

The Hunters were the secret branch of the well known Riders of Apocalypse. They were, in themselves, a unit answering to no one, directing their own agenda, and most importantly, not held back by any laws or rules of conducts. They were a shadow organization, always moving in secret. They named themselves the Hunters, and were selected from the Turbo Star Academy of Heroism early on, to undergo the most gruesome training. The recruits simply vanished from the public eye. No one has ever proven the existence of the Hunters, and their actions have never been reported in the news, so far.

The Hunters, never arrested anyone, where they go, angels fear to thread. They are exactly what the name implies, predators, praying on the predators. They do not exact vengeance, extract justice or advocate for peace... They eliminate the selected targets. And Bear Cat was one of the few who decided what those targets were.

Letting his mind drift with the wind, Bear Cat thought about all the work accomplished so far, all that still lay ahead. The city truly needed the Hunters to act as cleaning agent. The other hero organizations were too restrained by the public eye. Funny how not being known, helped accomplished so much, how the Hunters walked a thin line between good and evil, but never crossed it long enough to be one or the other.

Looking below, he saw his target, the limousine of an influential yet corrupted city representative. Bracing himself, he jump from the bridge tower, his target was clear and in sight. He would land on that limousine rooftop, more than likely, crash through it, and kill all occupants. No witnesses allowed...

Something wicked this way comes.

Turbo Starr sat at his office, reviewing the latest reports from the various departments. The academy was now host to more than one hundred and fifty recruits, its reputation spanning around the world. To think that a year ago, this very same academy, only housed a chosen few. More than four hundred requests for admission had been received in the last two months, and this was troubling him. The super-power community was growing faster than anticipated. And if some of these applicants were not taken in, the ramifications could be disastrous. It took a good deal of training to turn an uncontrolled explosion that was a new hero, into a self contained reaction. Newspapers were filled with the horror stories of undisciplined heroes destroying city blocks while attempting to arrest a low ranking gang member. The academy had a purpose, and it was understood by all who came here to learn.

His reverie was broken by the ringing of his phone. His secretary knew full to screen his calls. Although he was annoyed, he answered promptly.

“Turbo Starr here.” He said in a decisive voice

“This Dr. Jenkins from the University.” Said a female voice

Dr. Jenkins was the head teacher of the archaeological department at PCU. Turbo had contacted her soon after the Firebase Zulu incident to hire her services as an historical expert. He had asked her to look into the “Traveller” legend the Rularuu host believed in so much, the very same tale that had kept them from killing Voyager when they had finally subdued him.

“What can I do for you, doctor?” Asked Starr

“The ancient Arameen text we deciphered recently contained some mistakes, which were just clarified. The part that mentioned the birth of a child, was actually translated wrong, it should read the death of a child.”

“Could you read to me the whole thing again, doctor?” Asked Turbo, this time trying not to sound bored by this mumbo-jumbo.

Before darkness falls to ground,
Before the spirits will be found,
The death of a child for the traveller,
Brings forth the war monger.”

“After the darkness falls to ground,
And the spirits follow it down,
The wind frees the traveller,
And the dogs of war will answer.”

The office door crashed open, to let in Cavalier. Turbo gestured with a hand for him to wait. He told Dr. Jenkins to fax a copy of the text to his secretary, and thanked her for the new information then hung up. Cavalier stood there, at attention.

“Bad news?” asked Turbo Starr to his most trusted captain.

“We lost a recruit today, boss. Akritar Bane died saving a civilian.” Said Cavalier, who never enjoyed reporting to his boss about such matter. Every time a recruit died, the newspaper started questioning the wisdom of using academy recruits in real life situations. But how else do you train crime fighters?

Turbo fell back on his chair, eyes lost in the distance. Only a chosen few knew that Akritar Bane was the son of Voyager. When the admission form was received, three months ago, Turbo had rushed his acceptance into the academy, afraid to let the child of one of the most powerful mutants he knew of, roam the city of Paragon without training or purpose.

“The death of a child for the traveller, brings forth the war monger.” Whispered Turbo Starr….

The Hunters are recruiting

Brickstown prison, 2 AM

Escorted by guards through D block, Shadow-Step was wondering what was going on. They had woken him a few minutes ago, put magnetic shackles on wrists and feet, and told him to come along. All he knew is that someone was here to meet him. He was being led to the exercise yard. What was going here, last time anyone came to see him, was a month ago, when his lawyer told him that his appeal had been turned down, due to his conduct in detention, which was less than pleasing. Numerous fights, refusal to submit to prison rules, various incitements to riot. All of these had gotten him thrown into solitary on a regular basis. But he didn't regret anything, this world was meant to be tamed, by any means necessary, and one day...One day, he would roam free again.

Entering the yard, basked in a half moon light, Shadow-Step saw a tall, hulking figure standing beneath the east sniper tower. The guards remained by the door, guns at the ready, while he trudged to meet this unknown visitor. There was nothing familiar about him.

"You got a funny schedule to wake me up for a conversation, man." Said Shadow, as he stood at least a head shorter in front the man.

"How's the prison life, Shadow-Step, food still tasteless?" Asked the soft, deep voice.

"Food is lousy, inmates are annoying, and I can't seem to get along with the warden, at all." Answered Shadow with irreverence.

"I am told your appeal has been turned down, so that means you're in for the long run, fourteen years to go right?"

"Yeah, so, what's it to you?" Shadow-Step didn't like to be caught by surprise, this guy wasn't a hero, or police related for sure, there was something edgy about him, something more of the wolf than the puppy.

"I am here to offer you a once in a lifetime proposition, turn it down, and it will never be offered again, accept it, and you will never know true peace again."

"Right, huh huh, and then what, you gonna fly me to Brazil and have my kidneys removed or something?" Shadow always was quick with a joke.

The hulking figure took a step forward, covering him with his shadow.

"Listen well, for I will not repeat. You are in jail because you were found guilty and charged with killing seventeen gang members, injuring five policemen, and destroying public property, throw in with that disorderly conduct while in prison with various misdemeanours. If you keep it up, you will die here." The voice was dead serious, and truly uncaring. A harsh man, a tough guy.

"So what, the Hellions deserved what they got, and the police should’ve stayed out of it, and as far as my less than pristine conduct here, it ain't none of your bizwacks." Answered Shadow, as he spit on the ground, next to the man, in a sign of challenge. Of course that guy could probably pound him into next week, shackled as he was, but who gives a flying fuck, Shadow-Step bows down to no one.

"I am here to offer you a job, a lifetime job. If you accept, you will work for me, answer to only me and a chosen few, and you will do my bidding. If you try and flee, I will kill you, if you fail, you will more than likely die, if you succeed, you will never be rewarded. What I am offering you is ticket out of jail, but if the authorities catch you, they will throw you back in, and we will not come to get you, but you will not be allowed to reveal our existence."

"Right, huh huh, got a dental plan that comes with this job, a union maybe?" Shadow was not impressed so far, this guy was either a joke or a criminal with good contacts in city hall.

"A union... Yes, we do have a union of sorts. Dental plan... Keep talking to me like that, and you won't be needing the "dental plan" anymore. This is a serious offer, you have what we seek, and we want you aboard. If you agree to this, you leave Brickstown tonight, and tomorrow, your new life starts." The voice was still soft, still uncaring.

"And what's in it for me, if I come?" Asked Shadow-Step, a bit more seriously.

"Freedom... To act, to make a difference."

"Well, let me think here... Shower time has gotten a bit more dangerous lately, they changed the soap and all. Also, I seem to be making less and less friends in there. Where do I sign up?" Shadow couldn't help it, he was a tad bit nervous about staying in D block much longer. And freedom, was such a good offer, at any conditions, that he wanted it.

The hulking figure took a key out of his pockets, and unshackled Shadow-Step. The magnetic restrains fell to the ground.

"Welcome Shadow-Step, to the Hunters of Apocalypse. You can call me Bear Cat" He then took a small portable cell phone from his belt, flipped it open and said: "TP us."

The two figures vanished from the yard.
Review this story
Stories # - L | M - Z | Authors
Review this story