The Burning
Chapter One
By: Ted Burfield

A light rain pattered down through Paragon City, it’s inhabitants hustling around with newspapers and umbrellas over their heads, trying to get to wherever they were going before night settled. Around the city, heroes gravitated to anywhere they were needed, some simply helping the little girl’s cat get down from a tree while others averted deadly attacks on the citizens from several of the villainous factions the scoured every facet of the city.

Thunder rumbled in the distance, eliciting cries from young children still afraid of the elements. The ears of those heroes whose sense of hearing were enhanced somehow twitched with the cries, filtering them through the various other sounds within the city. One hero in particular did his best to ignore the cries of the children.

This hero went by the name of Heat Flux; at least that’s the name people called him. No one really knew where he came from, or ultimately what all his powers were – that is if he had more than two. He lay in bed, his head smothered by a pillow while the rest of his body cooled off in the open air. The window of his small apartment sat open, allowing streamers of rain to occasionally slip in and sizzle into nothingness on his chest and abdomen.

He sighed, shoving his body onto its side while he pressed the pillow tighter against his head, trying to sleep. The task was a difficult one. He had only arrived in Paragon City less than eight months ago. It was when his ship crash-landed that he decided to make sure no one would find out too much about him. On his long journey, he had learned to be cautious in whom to trust. His powers had only been a part of his life for two years before he fled his planet, but those years were the most profound on his life.

It was those images that haunted him every night in his sleep. Right from the inception of his powers to when he left his world for a better place, every moment played themselves out nightly behind his eyelids, not allowing him any form of rest.

As he tossed onto his other side, the pillow slapped back against the bed after he let the end go. He looked out through the window, gazing across the rooftops of the buildings below. This was not exactly one of the best apartments in the city offered to him, but it was the one he wanted. The neighborhood was run down from the Rikti invasion not long ago, and the Freakshow was a continuing annoyance of his. His ears picked up the conversations of quite a few small groups of freaks. Apparently, there would be a small gathering of them; something the hero would have to look into.

He yawned quietly, stretching his bare arms straight above his body while he tilted his head from side to side, cracking the joints in his neck loudly. His fingers slid through the orange locks of his hair in a vain attempt to push the unruly strands back for a brief moment before they sprang back into their wild mess. His mind was restless, his body aching from the day’s exercises.

Cayo-Tay had managed to stop a bank robbery without violence, but an attack from several Rikti directly afterwards had kept him busy for several hours. It had taken the help of three other heroes to beat the Rikti back into their underground lairs. It was obvious that Tay would be kept well “entertained” while in this city.

His hand traveled to his temples where he rubbed quietly, but the restlessness was overtaking him. He took a deep breath, hoping to calm his nerves and keep the coldness at bay. The blanket sat crumpled at his feet, his body causing the air around him to waver slightly in the damp, cool air. Cayo-Tay stood while he pushed his wild hair back on his head again, snorting derisively at the uncooperative locks. His body was the same as it was before he went into the Tribunal building those few years ago. Even though he’d never been able to reenter the competitions after the procedure, he was kept well managed during the growing pains of learning to control his powers.

Reaching to his left, he dragged his outfit from the wall and dressed quickly. It was a simple costume, one made for him during his first days in the city by a grateful citizen that insisted that all heroes needed something to wear. So, the seamstress had put this together for him. The shirt was a durable material much like Kevlar, but not as heavy. It hugged his torso tightly, restricting movement slightly, but not enough to cause him any discomfort. The pants were the same, except loose around the legs. They were black and sleek whereas the shirt was a dark orange. The last bit of the costume was a black short-sleeved jacket. It was very simplistic, but Tay didn’t care either way.

The woman; however, did. She had hounded him for weeks, showing up to crime scenes where Tay had been, inquiring as to how to find him. Finally, the woman had gone so far as to put herself into mortal danger to get his attention. So, to keep this woman from harming herself further just to see him, Tay had promised to visit her once a week. She wanted to make him a costume no one would forget, but so far nothing has come from it other than a few extremely unlikely themes.

It was the very first costume that Tay had put on since coming to this world, and he enjoyed its simplicity. He didn’t care for anything flashy, just something that would get him around easily. Running his fingers through his wild hair one last time, he walked towards the window. Below him nearly 10 stories down was his motorcycle, parked next to the run down cars of the other people in the apartment building.

Opening and closing his door had always caused the other tenants to burst into an uproar due to the loud hinges, the loose floorboards, and the creaky stairways, so Tay had taken to jumping out his window to leave his apartment during the night. It was risky, but he didn’t mind. Fear wasn’t something the man had let stay in his body for long past his arrival.

After gazing out into the rainy neighborhood for several minutes, Tay pulled a pair of black gloves from his jacket pockets and tugged them on. Though the hero known as Heat Flux could heal faster than most people, he wasn’t invulnerable. Every cut and bruise lasted a few days -- the more dangerous lacerations and gunshot wounds lasted a week, two in some cases. He still wore a bandage over his right shoulder blade from where he was shot by one of The Lost.

He took a deep breath, soothing his nerves one last time before launching his body out his window into the night air.

Sailing downwards, he spread his arms at his sides like an eagle. He watched intently, guiding his body as best he could away from the brickwork on the outside of the building. At the right moment, his hand closed deftly around a flagpole. Swinging his body with the momentum back up into the air, he let go of the pole. On his descent from the slight lift, he pressed the tips of his feet against the bulbous end and sprung himself further away from the building.

His fall had seriously lost its speed due to the abrupt change in direction, but it wasn’t enough to land safely. He hadn’t cleared the pole entirely when he used it as a springboard, and his aim had been thrown slightly off course due to the rain. His feet slammed heavily into the ground, but instead of stopping his forward momentum he used it to drop into a speed-halting roll and spin. He came to a stop all of a sudden as his back slammed into the wheel of a beaten down station wagon.

Grunting loudly at the lack of finesse in the dive, Tay stood and brushed the dirt and pebbles from his jacket and pants.

“You should work on those landings, Heat Flux.”

Tay growled, continuing the rest of the distance to his motorcycle on foot. “Not all of us can fly like you, Electromagnet Man.” An exasperated sigh from behind him brought a smirk to his lips while he swung his leg over the seat of his bike.

“Will you stop calling me that? I’ve asked plenty of times.”

“Sure. You know, I don’t call you it every minute of the day.” Tay pulled his keys from his pocket and glanced up at the bright blue-clad hero.

“Oh wait. Let me guess. You don’t call me it when I’m not here, right?” The hero crossed his arms over his chest, floating down in front of the bike to keep Tay from driving off before they had their conversation.

“Is there any particular reason you’ve ‘graced’ me with your presence,” Tay said with slight irritation in the tone of his voice, “or are you here just to bother me? Again.” Tay sat back, mocking the other hero’s pose by crossing his arms over his chest as well. Rain continued to fall around them, but Tay’s body stayed bone dry from the searing heat around him.

“We need you to put your skills to the test. ‘We’ being my group of heros, the Trio of Justice. We would really like you to be part of the group, Flux.” The beefy hero placed his hands on the motorcycle’s handlebars, looking straight into Tay’s eyes. “Star Storm is still very grateful for you pulling her out of that Rikti death squad.”

“How many times do I have to say ‘no’ before you get off my back about it? I don’t like you. You annoy me. A lot.” Tay brushed off the hero’s hand and gunned the engine of his motorcycle.

“If you really want my help, talk to me tomorrow. I have business.” He stared coldly at the man, grunting as he just stood in the way. “I will run over you, Lightning Storm. Do not think I won’t.”

Storm shrugged, and then alighted into the air. His costume was soaked through completely and stuck against his body like a second skin from the rain. “Then I’ll see you tomorrow, Flux.”

“Right,” Tay said sarcastically as he gunned the engine of his motorcycle again before riding the bike out of the parking lot and down the street, away from the other hero. Tay would get hell from his landlord about the raucous noise, but he felt it was well worth it just to get away from Lightning Storm.

- -

The loud, primal roar of the bike cleared Tay’s head like he knew it would. The noise drowned out all of the voices, all of the conversations, and all of the other sounds he had to hear night in and night out. His hair swept back over his head, dancing in the damp wind. As his mind calmed, the perpetual aura of heat subsided around his body, allowing rain to saturate his skin and clothes.

The sound of his motorcycle filled his mind, allowing him to ignore the thoughts of his past and thoughts of his future. He let the rumble of his ride fill his very being, and serenity encompassed him. Inhaling and exhaling through his nose, the breaths created faint streams of vapor in the cool air. Wind swept past Tay’s face, caressing his skin like a long lost lover, tugging at his hair to send it flying every which way.

For a brief moment, his eyes closed as the serene mind-set washed over him. The wind was nice, the belching snarl of the engine nicer. It was a screeching of tires and a gunshot that snapped him out of his trance.

The noise had filtered through the sound of his engine, so he knew it was close. Something was happening.

Tay took note of his position, and then slid into a hard left, bringing him down a one-way street… the wrong way. His wrist pivoted downwards on the accelerator, pushing the bike faster down the street as a BMW sped towards him. Tay could see the face of the driver, as well as the gun in the passenger’s hand pointed at him from outside the passenger window.

He smirked, urging the cycle faster. In the moments that passed between seeing the car and the collision, Tay observed several things inside the car. Time slowed down for him, each inch gained seeming like miles.

Inside the car, the two men wore expensive suits, loose over muscular chests and bulging biceps. Despite the rain shower and the night, sunglasses sat over their faces. As if identical twins, the men wore their hair slicked back and stylish. As bullets whizzed past him, he continued to observe.

The car was a black, nondescript BMW. He doubted there would be plates, but that was for later. Taking in the facts of the thug-like driver and passenger, the untraceable car, and gun, Tay decided it was a hit-and-run from the Crey Industries crime syndicate. In the back seat, a flurry of hair caught his attention. A woman.

They were getting closer.

Tay jumped. He knelt with his feet on the seat and his hands still resting on the handlebars. The cycle wavered momentarily as the balance shifted, but the wheels stayed firm on the concrete.

There was something he was missing, a piece of the puzzle eluding his mental grasp. Just then the passenger pulled his arm inside the vehicle. He dropped the clip from his pistol only to slam another into place. And then, a sparkle from the back seat caught Tay’s attention. Just like a light catching metal. That’s what he’d been missing. That last little bit of observation was enough for Tay to conclude his assumptions were correct.

Heat Flux jumped from his cycle, forcing all heat from his body to allow him to sail high into the air. The heat scorched all air particles, not allowing anything to create friction against his body while he rose high above the collision. Arms and legs stretched outwards while he twisted his body into a slow flip.

Although there was no friction to slow him down, gravity remained a nuisance. Slowed by his posture, he began his decent to the ground. Below him, the glass-shattering collision took place. His bike was flung, mangled, over the hood and roof of the Crey Industries car. The windshield splintered into lethal shards, spraying the inside of the car dangerously.

As Heat Flux toppled to the ground heavily, he tucked into a roll. Glass shards dug into his jacket, tearing holes through the layers of cloth to be imbedded in his shirt. The crash caused the car to swerve out of control and slam headlong into a telephone pole.

Flux stood up, plucking glass from his gloves and hair as he turned around to face the wreckage. He shook his head from side to side and then walked towards the crimped car. The wreck wasn’t far, but as he closed the gap, the obviously human lackeys pulled themselves from the car. The driver’s sunglasses were busted; sitting askew on his face while blood ran down from his nose onto his black suit.

Flux walked up to him, noting the disorientation in the greens of his exposed eye. “You tried to run me over.”

The burly man reached into his suit jacket, groping for a pistol no doubt. Flux didn’t give him the chance. His foot kicked outwards, shoving the man back towards the inside of the car. His head bounced off the hood, creating a whole new pain in the back of his head.

Flux then grabbed the thug by the lapels of his jacket and yanked him back out of the car. The bulky man swooned on his feet, his head throbbing from the two injuries. That didn’t stop the hero. Flux slammed the man back against the car, and then spun him around dizzily.

On the other side of the car, the other Crey Industries crony was picking himself off the floor, his injuries slightly worse. Flux took notice of him before returning his attention to the driver. “You tried to run me over… You completely wrecked my bike… And you’re a bad guy. Right?” Flux’s hand went to the villain’s hair and gripped it harshly, nearly tearing strands out by the root.

A groan was all the reply Flux wanted, and it’s all he received. Using an unnecessary amount of force, Flux slammed the Crey’s head into the hood of the car, denting in the panel crudely while sending the man into unconsciousness. As he pulled the man back, he levered a hand at the crony’s waist and flipped him up onto the roof of the car. The resounding crunch of the panel was all it took for the gunner to regain his bearings.

Heat Flux pushed the goon on the roof forward, slamming him into his partner’s chest. The driver fell into a heap on the ground as the passenger stumbled back against a building. Flux leapt into the air, sailing directly into the second goon’s body.

The suit-clad man bounced off the brick wall, letting out a gust of breath from his lungs from the force of the impact. Flux grabbed the man’s shirt and rolled backwards, flipping him head over heels against the car.

A piece of glass buried itself into Flux’s side, but he took no notice. Immediately after flipping back to his feet, he sent a powerful kick backwards. Though the goon had landed on his head, the kick was merely a precaution. It sent the lackey bouncing back against the car, denting the passenger side rear door significantly. Flux walked to the man and picked him back up only to slam him against the car again. “And you shot at me.”

A solid punch to the man’s kidneys sent stars flying in front of his eyes. No words left his mouth as pain wracked his entire body. However, though the beating was severe, the pain that greeted him next was completely unexpected.

A sharp, searing bolt of electricity scoured through his lower abdomen, curling up through his spine and out the back of his body. Sparks of pain were all the goon could see before spitting out lava hot blood. Behind him, the hero gasped audibly, tensing his grip into the goon’s jacket. “My suit is ruined,” was the last thought that entered the goon’s mind before he slumped lifeless over the hood of the car.

The hero, however, managed to pull himself backwards, extracting the curved blade that had speared him and the Crey goon. From within the car, a sharp, menacing giggle filtered into Flux’s conscience. He grunted, hand pressed firmly against the bleeding wound in his gut.

From the other side of the car emerged a man, tall and lanky. His hair was an electric blue, long and unkempt around his too-thin face. It wasn’t a woman after all. Through his pain, Tay berated himself for the mistake. The Freak glanced back at Flux, his deathly-black eyes warning the hero away before running off down the street.

Flux watched, his bloodied hand pressed against the hood of the car. The man ran wildly from side to side, clearly unfettered by the weight of the large cybernetic sickle attached from his elbow past his hand on his right arm. Flux sank to his knees; grunting loudly, mind trying to force the pain away. But his body would have none of it. He slumped to the ground, hand pressed firmly against the wound as his mind slipped into darkness.

- -

The world swam around him, tossing him hither and yon. He spun in a whirlpool of thoughts, emotions, and sensations. It was a sensory overload that Tay could not handle. The helpless man could barely grasp the sanity within the vortex at all. His arms flailed for something to grab a hold of, something to dig his fingers into. The tidal forces spun his body like a child’s toy, while violent winds threw him into vicious flips.

Somewhere in the back of his mind a muted voice spoke to him. It was too far away, too far into the center of the primordial forces around him. Tay gripped at empty air, trying to drag himself closer to the voice to no avail. With the finding of something to center on, his body began to right itself. The tumbling madness no longer seemed as intense; however the whirlwind of images continued to barrage his every sense. Holding on to the voice took all of his strength, but Tay knew it wouldn’t last.

He tried to speak; tried to call out for help, but no sounds were released from his twisting lips. His eyes closed, his mouth following suit as he tried to calm himself. From every direction fire reached out with tendrils of heat trying to grab him and drag him into their heated maws. Each time an arm of flames licked across his skin, he twisted to avoid its deathly grasp.

As he spun further and further out of control, he grasped blindly at nothing. He opened his mouth in a silent scream while he dug his fingers into the air. Suddenly, his touch found purchase. He flailed with both hands attempting to grab on to whatever it was that had made contact with him. The jolt of electricity through his body was more than he expected. Up until then, the sensations around him were seemingly illusions made from his catatonic mind, but the electricity that coursed through his body while he held onto the solid mass was as real as he was.

Tay’s breath caught in his throat as he clawed upwards onto the mass. He felt miniscule traces of sweat roll down his body while he dropped onto his back. The electrical shock had ceased, and all that was left was a warm flowing feeling inside his body.

His eyes closed slowly, blocking out the swirling, twisting madness before him. He breathed slowly, but as serenity came unwanted memories surfaced. It all lay before him like a picture in a book. He stood in a cold, sterile hallway with shattered glass around him. His body was bleeding through the tattered shirt and pants that covered his skin, showing where errant shards of glass had cut through the cloth to mar his flesh. At his feet lay a curled up old man. The man wore a white lab jacket -- it was the professor that had altered him.

In front of him was his counterpart; a woman of a lithe athletic build. Held in her hand was the arm of a woman encased in ice. The woman herself had slumped to the floor, a look of pain across her attractive features while she tried to wrench her frozen arm from the grasp of the woman.

Between the two altered beings a mist had begun to form. Tay witnessed this all from his perch with his eyes closed. The memory was intolerable to him, but he was too exhausted to leave the platform. He gasped deeply as his lungs began to weigh heavily in his chest. He watched as the two rivals stood eye to eye with the thick vapor surrounding them. The woman, Sayli-May, dropped the female doctor to the ground as the altered beings approached each other.

Tay cried out silently, forcing the image from his mind as the hand of the woman rose and touched his cheek.

It was then that the images and sensations changed. The scenery changed around him, shifting from a sterile white to a soft darkness. All his eyes could discern were the faint outlines of two bodies moving in time with one another. Coldness, like that of death, filled him. He groaned inwardly, feeling every bit of warmth breaking free of his skin while his mind exploded with images, with thoughts, with emotions.

As the coldness receded, a hot and fiery craze filled his being. A passionate word whispered into his ear, causing his eyes to roll back into his head as the sensations filled him. He felt everything, and at the same time he felt nothing. Hot skin grazed across cold skin; warm breath brushed his ear as traces of steam licked across his damp features.

“Cayo-Tay!” The name was a whisper of passion, causing searing warmth to fill him just before his hands relaxed their grip on the memory.

The moment that thick passion filled his entire being, Tay saw her eyes. The eyes were beautiful, the color of the purest of oceans on a cloudless day. As with the ocean, the eyes were ebbing with emotion. They locked onto his, holding him in a trance for longer than Tay would ever admit.

And just as Tay began to give himself to the memory, the image vanished. He was left on the platform, screaming for the blissful return of those eyes and the person they belonged to.

- -


Tay tried to sit up, his eyes bolting open quickly. His body was soaked with sweat, but two strong arms held him down. At first, his eyes were unfocused. Everything around him was blurry, but slowly sight came back to him, as well as a strong sense of pain in his abdomen. The pain, however, was put into the back of his mind as he stared up into the face of the man that bothered him every night.

“I’ve died and I’m in hell.” Tay laid his head back, closing his eyes tightly as he attempted to bring back the peacefulness of the dream.

The man in front of him chuckled and stood up, releasing the pressure on Tay’s shoulders. “No, my friend. You’re not in hell. You’re in the Trio’s headquarters.”

Tay groaned audibly, letting his head fall to the side as two women walked into the room. “No, I’m in hell.”

The women giggled softly as they moved to either side of the bed. Both women were spectacular, however the age difference was noticeable. The one that stood to Tay’s left was an older woman, dressed in a plain dress that hung around her shapely knees. Her long black flowing hair swung languidly in the air, framing her olive-tanned face and neck. She smiled down to Tay and brushed a lock of orange hair from his damp forehead.

“Lie still, Flux. You were hurt pretty bad out there. You may heal fast, but not as fast as you need to. You’re lucky, you know? If I hadn’t found you when I did… you may be dead.” She leaned over and placed a light kiss on Tay’s forehead.

Tay smiled slightly, patting the woman’s hand. “Thanks, Barbara.” He couldn’t bring himself to look into her eyes. They were too much like Sayli-May’s. The color was the same deep blue, and Tay knew that if he looked into her eyes he would not be able to keep anything from her.

To his right, the younger woman spoke, but not to him, “He’s better. We should probably clean him up and put on new bandages.” Tay turned to glance at the brightly clad woman. Her body was encased in a skin-tight Lycra suit colored to match her name. The top of the suit over her shoulder was made to look much like a storm with rain, lightning, and dark clouds. Her pants were mainly a dark, deep blue like the night sky with stars gleaming all around. Her toned midriff was bare between the top and pants. Star Storm was the name given to her by the citizens of Paragon City for her powers of being able to fly and use telekinetic thought as well as telepathy to a minor extent. Her eyes matched those of Barbara’s, and Tay found himself looking away uneasily.

“Okay, Andrea. Let’s get what we need.”

“Okay, Mom.”

As the ladies walked out of the room, Tay blinked, not really surprised at their relationship. He simply muttered a single word before closing his eyes to sleep. “Figures.”

The other hero, Lightning Storm, sat on the wicker chair beside Tay’s bed. He glanced at the injured man, “You screamed out a name just before you woke up. Sayli-May. Who is that?”

Tay slowly opened his eyes to look at Lightning Storm, his eyes showing that he had no intention of revealing that information to him. “I’m in hell.”

“I’m not leaving until you tell me, Flux.”

“Cayo-Tay. That’s my name. Cayo-Tay.”

“Well, Cayo-Tay, I’m not leaving until you tell me who this Sayli-May is. We’re housing you until you heal; we’re taking care of you. Despite what my mother says if we’re going to take care of you, I want to know who you are.” The bulky hero crossed his arms over his chest, leveling Tay with a stubborn gaze.

As the two women walked back into the room with soap, shampoo and a bucket of water, Tay let out a deep sigh and laid his head back on the pillow resolutely. “Go away!”

Barbara took one look from her son to Tay and sighed with exasperation in her tone. “Andrea, will you please get your brother out of here?”

Andrea looked icily at her brother as she put down the soap and sponge on the bed. “Gladly.” She walked over to the glowering hero and grabbed his arms. “Let’s go, Rick. You heard mom.” She pulled him with only minimal fight on his part and dragged him out of the room.

As the door shut, Barbara sat down beside Tay and lightly brushed her hand over his cheek. “I really would like to know more about you, Cayo-Tay,” she explained softly, “if you want to tell me.”

Tay looked up at Barbara, his eyes locking onto hers. For a brief moment, his mind recaptured the image of Sayli-May. He broke the gaze and nodded slightly before croaking out, “Okay.” Swallowing deeply to clear his throat, Tay began his story.
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