Shadows of a Flame
With Sage in the lead, the two desperate parents
made their way to an access tunnel that served as an entrance to Paragonís
sewer network. The entrance was covered with large, rusted, bar grate
and Victor quickly noticed that it looked as if it had been forced
open recently. There were scratch marks on the bars and the rust had
been broken off around the edges of the grate.
Victor ripped the bar
grate from the entrance with a single hand and tossed it away before
braving the darkness and stench that permeated the air of Paragonís
Sewers. Sage floated after him without a momentís hesitation, her
telekinetic powers burning around her like a glowing gown that flowed
in an unfelt wind. She had not opened her eyes since she and her husband
had left their apartment or spoken a word. She was not blind or mute
however; she saw the world through her husbandís eyes and felt the
thoughts of every creature around her. She spoke to her husband constantly,
feeding him directions and impressing on his mind a constant need
for haste and a looming sense of confrontation.
The sewers were anything
but welcoming, Victor discovered when he landed knee deep in sewage
water, but above the usual repulsive nature of the his surroundings
he also felt a growing sense of apprehension coming form Sage. Along
with the premonition Victor could hear the sound of heavy feet shuffling
through thick water coming from deeper in the pipeline.
Sage had sensed
the faint thoughts of less-than-living creatures in the pipes ahead.
Their minds were simple yet twisted, weak yet determined; they were
faint echoes of baser desires and irrational thought. She struggled
to grasp them in her will for a moment. The simplicity of their thoughts
made it hard for Sage to take hold of the minds of these strange creatures
but easy to manipulate once she had.
A sudden burst of anger flared
up in her as she realized that these were the same type of creatures
that had taken her boys. These were the monsters that she had seen
in the horrible nightmares that her sons had had before they were
taken from their home. Reaching out with her mind she solidified her
hold on the faint remnants of conscious that the monsters still possessed
and once she grasped them she beckoned them to come closer.
the shadows a group of three despicable looking creatures came shuffling
forward. Their bodies where a hodgepodge of various parts that were
stitched together in a seemingly haphazard way. Vomit leaked from
their mouths and puss oozed from their seems. To Victorís eyes they
were begging to be put out of their misery and he instantly became
a blazing inferno as he prepared to leap on the monsters. Just as
readied himself to spring however; his wife stopped him with a thought.
No, She spoke into his mind as she unintentionally imposed her will
over his. I just wanted to see what we were hunting with my own eyes.
With that she opened her eyes for the first time since she had left
the apartment and fixed her gaze and the full weight of her mental
powers on the monsters. The sudden psychic assault snuffed out the
mental activity of the creatures like candles in a hurricane. Victor
watched as the creatures convulsed then suddenly went limp, falling
on their knees in the filth of the sewers and toppling over. The weight
of what he had just seen slowly sunk into Victorís mind. His wife
had, with a mere thought, turned those creatures into vegetables right
before his eyes. But at what cost to herself, he wondered.
pushed the concerns out of his mind, deciding this was no time to
be timid, and at Sageís urging he moved on into the darkness of the
sewers, following the unseen mental trail that led to his boys.
only a matter of minutes Victor was completely lost and blindly following
the directions his wife was feeding him as he passed from pipe to
pipe. The maze of tunnels seemed impossibly complex and on more than
one occasion he was positive that they had gone in a complete circle
and were about to end up back where they had started just to round
one more corner and see that they had passed into a completely new
network of pipes. He pressed on at a quick and steady pace that would
have quickly left Sage far behind were she not skimming along the
surface of the water, barely touching the foul liquid with the tip
of her shoe as she kept herself aloft with her telekinetic abilities.
Victor could feel the strength of her barely contained psychic powers
washing over the back of his mind. The presence she was exuding was
so predatory and intense that if Victor had not known it was his wife
behind him he would have swore that he was being followed by every
nightmarish creature he had ever imagined. Then a chilling thought
flashed through his mind; perhaps that was what was following him.
A sudden mental warning pulled Victor from his thoughts and brought
his senses to bear on the sound of feet shuffling through the water
in the pipeline ahead. This time however; it was not the noise of
a few wandering creatures, it sounded more like a small army moving
in their direction.
"How many?" Victor asked in a whisper, even though
words were useless to his wife at this point.
Not enough. She spoke
into his mind. But on the life of our children, don't hold back. And
with that she reached into Victorís mind and found his morals, convictions,
good judgment and everything that made him the dedicated and principled
person he was. We can not afford these things now.
"I don't understand."
Victor said as he felt Sage touching everything that he thought made
him a good person and separated him from the people he locked up on
a daily basis.
What stands between us and our children is too terrible
to be beaten if you have your morals restraining you. Sage said as
she reached out with her thoughts and connected her husbands mind
with one of the creatures that was moving down the tunnel toward them.
Victor gasped and grabbed his head as his thoughts were linked with
the monster's. The thoughts that echoed in his mind were completely
given over to pain and hunger, completely void of any sense of righteousness
that even the basest humans had. It was despicable, deplorable and
a desecration of life that wanted to drag every other form of life
down to its level.
"Do what it takes." Victor said when Sage had severed
the mental link between his mind and the creature's. He shook his
head as if it would help remove the horrible memories of the connection
and then a thought came to him and he asked, "You have already done
it to yourself?"
Yes. She said simply. Victor looked up at his wife
and it dawned on him that something was missing from her face. An
aspect of her was gone and it both made her less than what she had
been and yet so much more and for a moment he forgot about his boys;
he forgot about the army of monsters moving closer; he forgot about
Victor reached up and gently touched his wife's face. "I
don't want to lose you Sage." He said softly.
Sage's eyes shot open
at his touch and she stared into his gaze. The weight of her mental
focus sent Victor's mind reeling for a brief moment and he had to
struggle to regain his thoughts. Then, quite suddenly, her focus softened
and a faint smile passed over her lips. You won't my love. I can return
us to what we were.
"Then do it." With his approval Sage reached out
and touched Victorís temple with one hand. He felt her moving through
his mind with the precision of a scalpel and the strength of a broadsword
and when he was finally able to stumble away from her touch he felt
a horrible hollowness in his mind where his decency once had been.
All his emotions were still intact and still as vivid as ever but
he no longer needed reasons, as he once had. All he needed was desire.
Victor looked up at his wife and he knew he still loved her just as
much as ever he had but it was a love without principle. It no longer
mattered whether she loved him back; she was his and he would have
her whether she wanted him or not. He looked down the tunnel towards
the sound of the oncoming monster and he knew that they were pure
evil but it no longer mattered that they were evil; he would kill
them just because he hated them, because they had given him reason
to hate them. He would kill them all... very soon.
As the rumor of
the creatures approach grew and the shadows in the tunnel began to
shift with their movement Victor sat down in the filthy sewage and
after taking a deep breath sunk beneath the surface of the waste.
Behind him Sage began to slip backward, the glow of her telekinetic
power dimming as she sunk into the shadows.
In a matter of seconds
a mass of monsters hade waded forward from the shadows and approached
the place where Victor sat hidden beneath the waters surface. They
fumbled around each other as they moved in a disorganized pack and
added their filth to the already foul sewer water.
4 shouted to his horde and as one the zombies obeyed so quickly that
they all nearly toppled over as the came to an abrupt halt. "I could
have sworn I saw them." The darkly wrapped figure mumbled to himself
as he pushed his way to the front of the crowd. He stood still for
a moment as his eyes scanned the darkness of the pipes and pondered.Perhaps we missed them. He thought. They might have heard us coming
and doubled back; if they took a different pipeline they might be
able to get around us.
"We are falling back." He ordered his mob.
"Go back that way!" He reiterated, pointing back down the tunnel,
after his first command was met with blank and uncertain stares. Yes,
they will try and get around us but we will be waiting for them. He
thought to himself as the army of Zombies slowly and gracelessly attempted
to turn around. Patient 4 would die believing that those had been
his own thoughts. He would go to his grave without suspecting that
his own mind had been used as a weapon against him, a tool used to
confuse his own minions. Patient 4 would die now.
Victor's body rose
slowly and silently from the murk behind the spindly leader of the
creatures. His head was lowered, his eyes were closed, his mind was
vacant and his limbs were limp. Then, in one terrific instant, he
turned that foul tunnel into a literal Hell. His body erupted into
an inferno so intense that Patient 4's body was nearly incinerated
in the blast. The water around Victor was instantly vaporized into
a scalding steam that washed over the backs of the monsters ahead
of him. Their decaying skin was seared by the burning vapor and a
horrible scream of pain erupted in chorus from their throats and echoed
so loudly down the tunnels that the walls shook.
With his initial
burst of energy spent Victor hurled himself into the back of the mob
like a flaming god of destruction. He had no reservations about ripping
their bodies apart at their mismatched seems before they even had
a chance to turn and face him.
Behind him Sage flew in and her very
presence invoked a panic in the dozens of monsters she faced. Their
minds knew only anger, hunger and hate but she taught them fear and
confusion. She did not bother focusing on their minds one at a time
but let her telekinesis burst out from her slamming their massive
bodies into the metal walls of the pipeline.
Together the two mutants
unleashed a destruction that shook the world around them. Victor had
waded deeper into the throng of flailing zombies, allowing them to
throw themselves on his flames from every direction. With one hand
he crushed the skull of one zombie while he used the other one to
yank the arm off another zombie and beat him with his own limb. The
stench of burnt flesh filled his nostrils and the pain of dozens of
blows registered all over his body as the monsters pounded away at
him but he did not falter, did not back away. He ate the pain, knowing
that every zombie that dared to come close enough to attack him would
perish in his flames.
Victor spun around and with one powerful blow
broke the neck of a monster that had just decked him in the back.
"Come on!" He yelled as he jumped on another creature and boxed its
ears so hard that its skull collapsed. Then he took a sudden blow
to the face and was knocked onto his back in the water. Instantly
a dozen hands grabbed him, pinning him down and a dozen fists began
to pummel him. "Come on!" He yelled again and his flames burst out
searing the hands and arms that dared attack him.
Once his flames
had pressed back his attackers Victor was back on his feet and pressing
his assault. He had worked his way to the front of the mob by now
and there he held his ground, shrugging off the attacks of the zombies
like a blazing colossus. Sage stayed to the rear of the mob, driving
the monsters into Victor, who dispatched them with extreme prejudice.
It was not until they had broken the mobs numbers down to barely a
dozen that Sage noticed one zombie had a large box fused to his back.
The square metal instrument looked rather out of place on the back
of such a creature, with all its dials and intricate design. Then
a frightening realization came to her as she remembered a diagram
she had once seen while working with the Kings Row bomb squad. The
creature was pressing its way toward Victor and had nearly reached
him before Sage had the chance to shout a warning to her husband.
"Victor, itís got a bomb!" She screamed as she passed her realization
on to him through their mental connection. A look of both fear and
rage passed over Victor's face as his focus settled on the suicidal
zombie. The monster had made it to within arms reach of Victor and
stopped suddenly as its whole body began to tremble with anticipation.
Victor snatched the monster up by the throat, breaking its concentration
for a second. "Nice try, you filthy little gutter rat." With that
he picked the creature up off its feet and hurled it with all of his
strength down the tunnel. Before the zombie even hit the ground Victor
had turned and leapt toward his wife, snatching her out of mid air
and landing several yards away from what was left of the zombie mob,
holding Sage in his silhouette. No sooner had his feet hit the ground
than a deafening explosion erupted behind him and a scalding wave
of heat swept over his back. His knees nearly buckled form the blast
of the explosion and he could feel his already seared skin crack under
the force of the blow. But he stood his ground for that brief and
As abruptly as the blast came it disappeared, leaving
the world in a surreal silence. Victor slowly opened his eyes and
tried to focus through the blur of pain as he looked down at his wife.
Her cloths had been tattered and torn from the explosion and a slight
trail of blood was trickling from her ears but other than that she
Sage looked up at him and nodded. Well done, but there
is more to do. There are more dangers ahead.
"Bring it on." Victor
growled in a low raspy voice and then promptly collapsed to the ground
from exhaustion and pain. His vision went black and he began to slip
into unconsciousness but his wifeís voice held him to his painful
Not yet! She commanded him firmly. Now is not the time
for rest! With that Sage knelt next to her husband and let the glow
of her psychic aura surrounded his battered and scorched body.
seconds seemed interminable to Victor as he struggled to suppress
his pain and utter fatigue but slowly, very slowly it all began to
become more bearable as Sage's power washed away his injuries. After
what seemed like hours, but had actually only been a few minutes,
Victor had the strength to open his eyes and begin to stand.
it on." He muttered again.
The blast reached the Doctor's lair with
enough strength to knock the dust form the cavernous walls and rattle
the many beakers and vials that he had arranged in his "operating
room", which was nothing more than a quartered off portion of a connecting
tunnel. A grin slid across the wiry mans face once the blast had subsided
and he strolled out into the cavernous room where Bloodlust was standing,
still staring down the tunnel where the blast had come from.
did I tell you my esteemed colleague?" The Doctor said as he approached
the larger man. "My creatures may not be the brightest things but
they know how to kill. That blast marks the end of our troubles from
those parents." The Doctor was looking very pleased with himself as
he spoke so surely of his victory.
Bloodlust slowly turned to face
the suddenly chipper doctor, a look as cold as death etched on his
face as he did so. "My good Doctor, if you value your life than you
had best amass what forces you can and do it quickly. You do not have
"What do you mean?" The Doctor spat defiantly. "There
is no way they could have survived that explosion."
"Doctor I tell
you your minions are dead and those responsible will be here within
minutes. Do with that knowledge what you will but rest assured I will
live to see another day, you on the other hand may not be so lucky."
"We shall see about that." The Doctor said in an unshaken tone and
then stormed back off to his operating room. After he had entered
the tunnel and was out of Bloodlust's sight a mild look of concern
spread across his pail face. He looked tentatively over at the forms
of two young boys that were lying unconscious on two battered operating
tables. Dozens of tubes were attached to their bodies pumping a dark
green fluid into their young veins.
"These brats will not be the ruin
of me." He muttered to himself, and then moved quickly to the back
of the operating area where the tunnel continued deeper into the sewer
system. There past the white curtains that quartered off his make
shift laboratory were well over twenty more zombies. "There are intruders
that will be coming into the next room!" He shouted to the mob. "Kill
The gang of dysfunctional entities jumped at their masterís
command and began meandering toward the conjunction room, knocking
over medical equipment and crashing vials as they went. The Doctor
grimaced as he heard them unwittingly destroying thousands of dollars
worth of equipment in their attempt to move less than twenty feet.
"Not you." The Doctor said to a particularly huge zombie. The beast
was nearly twelve feet tall and while he was still made in the general
shape of a person there was nothing human about its look. It had no
fingers, just a set of massive metal claws grafted into the nubs that
should have been his hands. "I have a special purpose for you."
and Sage burst into the conjunction room and flew full force into
the horde of zombies that were waiting for them. Victor knocked three
of the brutes over as he slammed into their ranks and once he had
fought his way to the center of the horde let loose his flames in
full force, scorching the beasts as they threw themselves recklessly
on him. Sage stayed focused on keeping her husband's strength up and
healing any wounds he sustained with her abilities rather than actually
fighting. This mob was much smaller than the one that they had fought
back in the tunnels and something told her that they would both need
there strength up when this fight was over.
Despite the relative ease
with which they were winning this fight, Victor still fought like
a mad man. The sound of his fists hitting the bodies of the monsters
was almost deafening; his powerful blows sent bodies, or at least
parts of them, flying around the cavernous room and smashing into
the walls and ceiling. The heat of his flames could be felt in every
corner of the room but to those foolish enough to come within arms
reach the temperature was so intense that there skin would instantly
blister and seer. Even the brutish zombies could not withstand his
flames for long before their limbs were burnt beyond use or repair.
The twenty zombies could have been a hundred; none of the horrible
creatures could get close to the blazing mutant long enough to land
a blow strong enough to do any serious harm to him and with his wife
channeling her psychic powers through him, filling his body with almost
unlimited stamina, there was no stopping Victor.
Finally, when the
gut turning smell of scorched flesh permeated the air and a murky
haze of smoke was rising off of the burnt corpses that littered the
room, the zombie horde was completely crushed and Victor and Sage
heard the most unexpected noise of all. Someone was clapping.
smoke began to settle the form of a man could be seen standing in
front of the entrance to yet another tunnel. Sage focused her mind
on the man, disturbed that she had not noticed him before; what she
found was even more disturbing. The man was like a black hole to her,
a void in the fabric of the psychic plane and the trail that led to
her boys vanished when it reached him.
"Well done." The man said in
a melancholy tone when he was done applauding. "Allow me to introduce
myself. You may call me Bloodlust."
"I'll call you a sizzling puss
stain on the floor if you don't get out of my way." Victor growled.
Be careful, He is more than he seems. Sage warned her husband.
true." Bloodlust replied to Sage and both of the mutants looked in
shock at the man that had violated their mental link. "Yes, I can
hear your thoughts." Bloodlust said coldly. "Considering the list
of my sins, to invade the privacy of ones mind is hardly something
worth apologizing for. However; for the theft of your children I do
apologize. It is unfortunately necessary that I keep them for a while
longer." He spoke as evenly as if he were giving a math lesson.
hell." Victor said as he erupted into flames. "My children or your
"That Mr. Essans is the dilemma. I need your children in order
to live or more specifically I need their blood in order to live,
so I must choose your children."
Victor felt like a bomb shell had
hit him as doubts leapt into his mind. Who was this man that knew
everything from his name to his sons' blood? Only one question truly
mattered and Sage voiced it before he could speak. "What have you
done to our boys?" She screamed.
"Unfortunately I can not explain
my motives to you Mrs. Essans. If I did I would then be compelled
to kill you rather than allow my plans to become common knowledge
and I was hoping to avoid both." Bloodlust said as he turned his gaze
"You sonofa bitch, give me back my boys!" Victor roared
as he leapt at Bloodlust and struck out at the man with all of his
strength. Bloodlust moved with inhuman speed as he pulled a short
but broad black sword from his jacket and turned the blade flat against
Victor's blow, using it like a shield. The sound of Victor's fist
connecting with the unnatural steel blade was deafening; the ground
beneath Bloodlust's feet cracked and cratered but the he did not even
flinch at the blow.
With blinding speed and incredible strength Bloodlust
turned his sword and thrust the blade into Victorís abdomen. The mutantís
protective energy was powerful enough to keep the blade from piercing
him but the blow was still powerful enough to knock Victor back several
yards. He landed on his feet and slid a little further but recovered
quickly and hurled himself at his opponent once again.
the boys!" Victor yelled as threw blow after blow at Bloodlust, who
either deftly dodged the attacks or blocked them with his broad sword.
Sage stared at her husband with concern for a moment and then obeyed,
passing out of the room and into the tunnel that Bloodlust had been
blocking, in search of her sons.
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