Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Outcasts, Part 3

The year was 2002. Hugh Scott had killed quite a few people during his time with the Outcasts. But this time, they’d gone too far. The bitch had gone too far.

Anne, leaning heavily on her cane, looked at Scott, “I know you don’t have a problem with murder.”

Scott stared back at her, loathing everything about her: her grayish, speckled hair, her wrinkling skin, her look of superiority. “Not murder. Killing people for the cause. But this, this is--”

“The woman you love,” Anne said, with a smirk that reeked of contempt.

“The woman I love,” Scott said, “She hasn’t done anything wrong. I’m not--”

“You’re not fully committed to the cause,” Anne said, looking down on him. That was another thing he hated about her, the fact that she never let anyone finish a sentence. Apparently, being a telepath made you impatient for people to finish a thought. “What you don’t understand is that she has done something wrong. A lot of things, in fact. She only joined this group for ‘kicks,’ as I’ve heard her think many times. That, and she makes you distracted, unfocused. She’s a pawn who thinks herself a queen, a thrill seeker who--when we’ve run out of thrills--will abandon us without mercy. Is this what you want, Hugh? A revolution filled with half-hearted revolutionaries?”

He felt Anne drilling into his head, going deeper than she’d ever tried to before, attempting to warp his mind, make him think things that were anathema to him. But she could never change his core beliefs, nor could she change his loyalty to Kecho. Perhaps that was Anne’s greatest weakness. She was so focused on changing things, she was sometimes unable to interpret the reality confronting her.

“Who’s side are you on, Hugh?”

“The side that doesn’t kill people on a whim.” As he said this, he grabbed Anne’s cane from her. The old lady fell towards the ground, and he saw her expression contort into one of pain. Using all the telekinesis she could muster, she floated off the ground and straightened her spine.

He was running away from her as fast as he could. He knew that soon the others would be coming.

It was a simple matter to find Kecho. He pounded at her door. She opened it.

“What are you--”

“No time. Run,” Scott said, grabbing her hand and racing through the metallic corridor. It didn’t last long, as a short man appeared in front of them in a cloud of smoke, accompanied by a tall man holding a samurai sword. Kecho had always been enraptured with the sword that Tatsumi--the samurai--wielded. Tatsumi had the power to bend metal, which was obvious when you looked at his sword, that sword which was constantly morphing, changing shapes, often warped and wavey, sometimes harder than steel.

Before anyone had a chance to speak, Scott pounced onto the samurai. Kecho, taking the cue, attempted to roundhouse kick the shorter man--Herbert--in the face, only to have him teleport behind her.

“You tread the path of betrayal with a great deal of lightness, Hugh,” Tatsumi said, manipulating his sword as he was falling to the ground, “Before I kill you, will you at least express your regret?”

Scott felt Tatsumi’s sword creating a single, long streak of blood on his back. He saw Tatsumi’s hand holding that warped sword, which winded from his hand to Scott’s back.

“My only regret,” Scott said, “Is that you don’t use bullets.”

With that, Scott threw his right hand behind him, grabbing the sword as he spun off of Tatsumi. Taking the sword from Tatsumi, Scott threw it down the corridor as he kicked Tatsumi in the face. Jumping up, he thrust his elbow into Tatsumi’s chest.

He looked around and saw Kecho with her arm wrapped around Herbert’s neck.

“His power works by touch,” Kecho said, “Wherever he goes, I go.”

Scott grabbed Herbert’s hand. For a moment, he thought the teleporter’s hand was bleeding. Then he realized it was his own. Choosing to ignore it, he said, “You know what I’ve done. You know what I’m willing to do. Get us out of here. Now.”

Seeing no other option, Herbert obliged.

The year was 2011. Hugh was watching television on the sofa, caressing Kecho’s soft white hair. On at that particular moment was The Jimmy Ferguson Hour, a talk show.

“It seems the man without a face struck again today, folks. A 35 year old man reports being on his way to work in the morning when suddenly he woke up in an alleyway at midnight. A man of his height and build was reportedly behind the taking down 15 of Godfrey’s men.”

“Now, there are a lot of folks out there who claim these super heroes--these vigilantes--are the next step of human evolution. But if that’s true, does that mean humanity’s future belongs to schizophrenics? If so, I guess Glenn Beck was ahead of the curve.”

Snowbird gave a weak chuckle to the television, as Hugh continued to gaze into the TV set, unfazed. Neither noticed Alex Gryzlov--perhaps more appropriately referred to in this moment as The Hunter--crouched in their lawn, hiding in a bush. He felt his heart pounding, each beat feeling like a boxer trying to punch his way out of the rib cage. Gryzlov could hear the television Snowbird and Hugh were watching. He could smell the trash that their neighbor three doors down had forgotten to take out today. He could feel the bird’s wings above him, shifting the currents of the air.

Rubbing his hands together, he couldn’t help but notice that they lacked wrinkles. He felt younger, stronger.

In leaps and bounds he darted towards one of the home’s windows. He burst through it, not even noticing the shards of glass that pierced his skin, disregarding the shards that pierced his feet. Instead, he turned towards Snowbird and Hugh.

Hugh, not getting up from his couch, said, “I haven’t killed someone in a long time. But let me tell you something. It’s like getting back on a bike: you never really forget how to do it. Either you’re a confused junky, in which case you should leave now. Otherwise, I’m going to kill you. Are you ready to die?”

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Outcasts, Part 2

Snowbird giggled, stretching out across the floor.

“What?” Scott asked, taking his eyes off the paper.

“I was just thinking back on old times.”

“I don’t see how that would make you giggle,” Scott said, with a greater gravity than he had intended.

Not heeding her husband’s mood, Snowbird continued, “You were starting out, just a kid who had no idea what he was doing. But you knew you wanted to change the world for the better. And you were striking out against hate crimes, while at the same time trying the help the poor. And that news reporter--he was just a kid too--and he tried calling you that name--” Scott remembered exactly what she was talking about, and it made him laugh.

The year was 1995. Hugh Scott had on his leather jacket. He was jumping from building to building, his eyes perusing the area, confirming that nothing was amiss. He had been satisfied for a while now. Unlike most so-called ‘super heroes’ he’d known, he preferred the quiet days. It meant his neighborhood was taking care of itself. It meant he was doing his job right, and he’d taken some punks off the street for good, while discouraging others from even trying.

All was going well, until he heard the gunshot.

Realizing the sound came from a nearby gas station, he leaped onto the fire escape, weaving his way through the ladders and platforms--climbing where it was necessary, jumping where expedient. He landed on the floor and bounded across the street, hopping over a car that was doing nothing more productive than getting in his way. Reaching the gas station, he didn’t take the time to survey the situation. As a bulletproof man, he’d found it more useful to draw attention to himself, than wait for someone else to get shot.

As was to be expected, the two robbers swung around to meet their assailant. The bullets bounced off his skin, leading to a rather impressive display (the bullets hurt like hell, Scott later admitted to Snowbird, but he figured it was best not to let his enemies know that.) Scott grabbed the first robber’s wrist and swung it back, leading to a resounding crack. The robber let go of his gun and Scott kicked the man’s feet out from under him. Turning to the second robber, he headbutted the man, pushing him into the candy aisle of the gas station. He proceeded to punch the man in the stomach. Ripping the gun from his hands, he gun whipped the second robber, who also fell to the floor.

The police sirens wailed and Scott knew it was time for his exit. Making eye contact with the gas station attendant, he tossed the gun towards the man, who caught it. Once again he burst through the doors.

The police, their guns levelled at Scott, yelled, “Stop, in the name of the law.”

Scott shook his head as he fled the scene. He never understood why they thought they could stop him. What were they going to do, shoot him? He made his way to his ramshackle apartment and without another thought plopped into his bed, weary, but feeling triumphant.

That sense of triumph lasted until the morning, when he opened the paper. He’d always felt it was important to keep up with the news. That way, he could read about what was going on in the world, and more specifically what was going on in the area he was sworn to protect. He could gain a better understanding of where the crime was happening and therefore where he was needed most.

Of course, the first thing he saw when he opened up to the local section was that a mugging had taken place an hour before the gas station robbery. It had been three blocks away from where he was patrolling at the time. Thus the night was a failure. Because it didn’t matter how much dirt he took off the streets. If they weren’t clean they weren’t clean, and he just wasn’t doing his job well enough. Thinking of various ways to improve his patrolling route, he came across the article that explicated his previous night’s adventures. He noticed that the newspapers had given him the name, “Black Panther.”


Hell no.

Poor old Corey was sitting at his desk at the Daily Word, the city’s premier newspaper. His fingers were like machine guns, shooting a never-ending stream of words onto the page. Suddenly, he felt a cool draft of wind hit his face and wake him up from the trance of writing. He noticed that his window was open, and in that window stood a man.

“My name is Ricochet,” Scott said.

“And what seems to be your problem, Mr. Ric--” Corey said, scratching his temple with the eraser of his pencil, “Oh, you’re Black Panther.”

Several hours later, Corey was found in a closet tied to a chair, with a gag in his mouth, a simple message laying on his lap. It read, “Your Friend, Ricochet”

The newspapers never called him ‘Black Panther’ again.

Back in the present day, Gryzlov’s head spun wild with thoughts. Laying before him was the dossier of Hugh Scott, better known as Ricochet, the man who was impervious to bullets. Gryzlov took another swig of rum, flipping through the pages.

Scott had been a member of the Outcasts, a paramilitary group that had sponsored civil unrest ever since the Cuban Revolution in the Sixties. It was a group whose name could only be whispered near the ears of the sensitive and at the same time a group whose logo was spread across many a college student’s t-shirt. It was a name that simultaneously inspired hope and fear, pain and tranquility, order and chaos. To put it in simple terms, it was a controversial group, one the government was not fond of.

However, Scott had fallen in love with Snowbird, another member of the revolutionaries, a Japanese adventuress with the power to manipulate wind. The two of them had defected to the American government, but had lost their usefulness in years. And there was still the fact that the United States had forgiven terrorists, one of whom was a mass-murderer. Not exactly the best P.R. move.

Gryzlov, with a degree of difficulty, got out of his chair. He walked over to the painting he was so fond of, the one of a slain lion. Lifting it up--he noted how heavy the frame was--he placed it gently on his desk. He caressed the safe’s lock with his hands, turning to all the right numbers. With a click, the safe opened and he took out one of the many bottles of serum he’d manufactured over the years.

He closed the safe and put everything back in its place, excluding that one vial he held in his hands. Those hands trembled. The bottle’s cap was opened. Looking out into the black night of the city, Gryzlov kicked his head back and allowed the serum to pour down his throat.

Tonight, the Hunter would come out and play. Tonight, Hugh Scott must die.