Modern Mythology Part 4by John Coleman
MARCH 21, 1941 6:47 PM
Diving into the cloud of smoke, the Fade reached up and activated his infrared goggles. The silhouette of his opponent appeared as a cluster of reds and yellows. He was accustomed to viewing things through the goggles and saw that the smoke had caught his foe off guard. Fade rolled to a stop, delivering a sweeping low kick to the back of the man’s legs. He tumbled over onto his back, but rolled away before the Fade could deliver a follow up attack.
Reaching to his belt as he rose to his feet, the masked man drew forth an object that showed up as a solid cool blue through the Fade’s goggles. Nearly a foot long, the man held the object out threateningly. The knife, Fade recognized. I’m gonna make him eat that thing.
Fade moved a few steps to the left, hoping to take the masked man by surprise from another angle. He was surprised to see that his opponent shifted to face his new position. Of course, Fade realized. He can still hear me…makes sense that his ability to make things silent wouldn’t affect him.
Even though his opponent could still hear him, he knew he had to press the advantage he had amidst the smoke; he knew exactly where his opponent was, but the masked killer only had an idea of where he was. The Urge pushed him to action.
He lunged forward, hoping to strike before his foe could react. Fade rammed his shoulder into his midsection, tackling him to the ground.
The Fade cried out as the knife cut across his left shoulder blade, working its way up his back. He struggled to get a hold of his enemy’s arm while still pinning him to the ground. The killer thrashed beneath him, trying to escape. He’s stronger than me, Fade realized. But I’ll be damned if I let that matter.
He managed to get a grip around the man’s wrist and he drove it into the cement floor. When the knife didn’t come free, he raised and slammed the man’s arm down again and again. Finally, the knife fell to the floor, skidding to a stop a few feet away.
A punch to the side of the face caught the Fade by surprise, but he maintained his position atop his foe. The Urge was pushing him harder and harder…it wasn’t going to let him fail.
He delivered a backhand punch to his pinned foe, then followed it up with a left hook. Those dazed the masked man and the Fade took advantage, pressing his assault. Not so much fun, is it? he thought as he rained punches down on his foe, remembering only a week before when their situations had been reversed. Through his goggles, Fade watched as hot red splotches sprayed across the cold blue of the concrete floor. He smiled.
Fade grabbed the man by the throat with his right hand while reaching out with his left. His fingers closed around the handle of the knife, and he raised it above his head. He brought the blade down with all his strength, slamming it into the man’s shoulder.
The masked man’s scream broke the silence.
“Can’t keep up that quiet trick when you’re in pain, huh?” the Fade asked him, twisting the knife.
“Pirscher…,” the killer managed to say through the pain, “Jemand…helfen sie mir!” He still struggled beneath the Fade…as injured as he was, he still had plenty of fight left in him.
The Fade wasn’t going to let him recover. He started punching again…left then right…again and again.
He lost count after a few moments, but kept going anyway.
Sara cried out as her opponent slashed at her with one of his swords. She couldn’t even hear herself scream, let alone the shriek of metal on metal as her bladed hand deflected the attack. Sparks flew from the clash, further surprising her. I can’t do this, she realized. I don’t have it in me…I can’t.
The bundle of feelings in her mind that she had come to think of as The Gold tried to calm her. Together, they could do almost anything, it seemed to say. She almost felt as if it was promising to keep her safe.
The masked man lunged low, slashing with both his weapons for her midsection. She moved to deflect these attacks as well, but one made it past her hands. She felt the Gold move around her midsection, shifting into a shape that would counter the attack. His blade struck her in the abdomen, but slid harmlessly away.
Reassured, Sara steeled herself. It seemed like she could actually trust this voice in her head. After containing the explosion of the grenade, she had realized that whatever the Gold was, it seemed to have benevolent intentions. But still, she had been through a lot this past week and was finding it hard to believe what she had seen and done. It was all happening, though, and she had to deal with it. Especially if she ever wanted to see her Uncle again. Okay, then, she thought to the Gold. We do this together.
She launched an attack of her own, slashing at the man’s head. He easily avoided it, but took a step back. Her sudden offensive had surprised him, at least. He was obviously a trained fighter, so she had to press any advantage she could. She slashed again.
He easily countered every attack she made. But none of his own maneuvers could break through her defenses, either. It became fairly obvious that, for the moment, at least, they were in a stalemate.
A movement from behind the man caught her eye. Patrick Malone had circled around and was moving up behind him. He winked and raised a finger to his lips, telling her to be quiet. Sara almost laughed at that. She focused on her opponent, trying not to draw any attention to Malone. She must not have succeeded, however…or perhaps the masked man could still hear…because as soon as Malone got in close enough, the man whirled and stabbed, driving his sword into Malone’s abdomen.
Malone clenched his teeth in pain. The masked man slid his sword in to the hilt. He then used his other hand to shove Malone from the blade. The private eye fell to the floor, blood pouring from his gut.
Sara sprang into action at her opponent’s distraction. She was afraid of Malone… whatever he had become the night before had nearly killed them all…but he seemed to be normal again. She didn’t want to see anyone hurt, that much she knew.
Her left hand clipped the man’s back and she was both pleased and shocked to see blood spray from the wound. He whirled back around, and she heard a cry of pain.
Sound came crashing in on her all at once. She heard sounds of fighting all around her. It was nearly as disorienting as not being able to hear. The momentary confusion prevented her from following through with another attack, and her opponent whirled away.
“Weibchen! Ich werde Sie für das töten!” the man grunted at her through his mask. He stayed on his feet…she had hurt him, but not enough to put him down. “I’ll kill you for that!”
The two rushed at each other and resumed their battle.
Champion was amazed as he watched Paradox jump up, plant his feet on the wall, and run toward their enemies along its surface. Lordy, he thought. I reckon I’ll never get used to this stuff.
His attention was quickly brought back to his own situation as he felt a sharp pain in his throat. The man with the whip had managed to lash the end of his weapon around Champion’s neck. With a strong tug, he pulled Champion to his knees. He wrapped the end of his whip around his free arm, pulling it tight and cutting off Champion’s air supply.
Coughing and gasping for air, Champion grasped at the whip, trying to pull it toward himself in order to create some slack. He managed to get a small breath before the whip tightened again. He scanned for Paradox, hoping the kid could somehow help him.
Paradox was occupied with his own trouble, though. He was caught in a fistfight with the smaller man while struggling to avoid the grasp of the giant. Champion watched it like a silent movie. Paradox and the gloveless man parried and blocked, spun and dived all around the legs of the larger man. The giant slammed his fist down at Paradox, but the young man spun away. Champion actually felt the floor shook as the huge fist slammed into it.
Spots began swimming across his vision. His fate was in his own hands, it seemed. He had one chance…but it meant taking his hands from the whip, and he was reluctant to do so. Ain’t got any other choice, Joey, he told himself.
He took his right hand from the whip and held it out before him, buckler up. The whip seemed to get even tighter around his throat, if that was possible. Then he took his left hand from the whip and raised it to the buckler’s harness on his right forearm. He took careful aim and then hit the small button that was on the underside of the harness.
There was normally a magnetic thrum that accompanied the firing of one of the bucklers, but he heard nothing. The small disc shot from the back of his hand and hurtled forth with blinding speed. Even with his enhanced vision, it wasn’t easy to see.
The buckler caught his foe under the chin directly in the neck. The man immediately dropped the whip in order to raise his hands to his crushed throat. He grasped at his neck, eyes bulging. He fell forward to his knees, facing the kneeling Champion only a few yards away.
Air burned it’s way back into Champion’s lungs. He coughed, and was surprised to find that he could hear his struggles for air. “I can hear,” he rasped just to confirm that he could in fact hear once again. He reached up and pulled the whip from his throat, tossing it aside with disgust.
His foe fell forward, face first onto the floor. His arms twitched violently a few times, and then the man was still.
Good riddance, Champion thought. Although he had never killed a man before, he had been trained for war. He didn’t like the idea, but knew it would be necessary to get the job done. Of course, this wasn’t exactly what he had in mind when he had pictured combat…but it wasn’t really that different. His eyes locked onto the body laying on the ground before him. He felt surge of panic rise up within him, but he fought it down.
Turning, he saw that Paradox was in desperate need of help. Deal with it later, Joey, he told himself. Right now you need to be Champion.
He shakily rose to his feet and ran to Paradox’s aid.
With effort, Fade stopped his assault. His opponent lay on the concrete floor, his face a bloody mess. Whatever resistance to injury the Fade had, it seemed to be pretty standard for most Mystery Men; if this guy had been a normal man, he would have been long dead. As much as the Urge told him to keep going until the man was dead, the Fade stood and took one step away. I’m no killer, he thought. Not unless I have to be.
The smoke from his capsule was dissipating so he reached up and deactivated the infrared lenses of his goggles. The world shifted from blotches of reds and yellows and blues back to its normal look.
All around him there was fighting. Paradox and Champion were facing off against two more masked men….one of whom was unbelievably large. Across the room, Sara….or Goldrush as she wanted to be called…was dueling with another. She seemed to be holding her own, so he turned back to the others.
Making his way toward the fight, he realized that using his smoke capsules would leave his friends as helpless as his enemies. He would have to take another approach. Concentrating for a moment, he activated his special gift. His body and his clothes shimmered for a moment, changing color so that they matched that of whatever was behind them. His blending ability was effective, but not nearly as much as when he used the smoke capsules. Hopefully, it would be enough.
He crept up behind them as quietly as possible. Now that the sound had returned, every noise seemed to echo throughout the room.
The smaller of the two masked men had a grip on Paradox’s shoulders. His hands seemed to be burning into the young man’s flesh. Paradox’s teeth were gritted in pain as he struggled to free himself from the man’s grasp.
Fade came up behind the man with the burning hands undetected. He wound up and delivered a punch to the back of his head. His enemy lost his grip on Paradox, who didn’t even hesitate before following through with a punch that put their foe down.
“Thanks, Fade,” Paradox said breathlessly. The material of his uniform had burned away from his shoulders. The thing hung from him in tatters. “I thought I saw you coming up behind him…but the way his hands made the air shimmer, I wasn’t sure.”
“Don’t mention it,” Fade replied.
The floor shook as the behemoth delivered another downward punch at Champion. The concrete cracked in a radial pattern and shards sprayed about. Fade turned to the big man and circled around, hoping to flank him. Paradox followed his lead and circled around the other way.
Champion saw them making their move and stopped dodging about. “C’mon, then, you goon,” he shouted up at his enemy. “Let’s see what you got!”
Just as the big man raised both hands over his head to deliver a double handed smash at Champion, Fade leaped up and grabbed his arms. He wrapped his legs around the man’s huge barrel chest as best he could, trying to tie him up.
Paradox struck from the other side, delivering a sidekick to the giant’s knee. It buckled and the big man fell forward to his knees. Champion lunged forth, dealing a wild haymaker to the behemoth’s jaw.
The guy wouldn’t go down, though. He shook the Fade loose and tossed him aside with one arm. The breath was knocked form his lungs as his back struck the wall. He slid to the floor and struggled to catch his breath. He watched as Paradox and Champion continued fighting the giant.
Sara parried another thrust and spun away, avoiding the follow up attack. She was amazed to find that she wasn’t tired at all. It was as if the Gold was the one that was exerting itself. She may as well have been lounging on the couch for the amount of effort she felt. Maybe I can tire him out, she thought. He’s got to get tired sooner or later, right? Nothing else she did seemed able to break the stalemate. Maybe that would.
The Gold spoke to her, giving her another idea. She hoped it would work.
The next time their weapons met, Sara kept the edge of her bladed hand against the man’s sword. She slid her blade down to the sword’s hilt. The Gold shifted, flowing around the sword and trapping it. She pulled her arm back, snapping his sword off at the hilt. The blade flew from her hand and skittered along the floor. The masked man looked at the useless hilt he held and then tossed it aside.
“How do you like, you bastard?” she said as the Gold shifted back into a blade at the end of her hand.
Undaunted, her foe lunged in for another attack, but a low growl stopped him short. Sara watched as a large dark form rose behind her attacker. Large leathery wings spread out to either side.
“Oh my God,” she whispered.
The creature that Malone had become the night before loomed over the masked man. The beast wiped dark blood from its stomach, flicking it aside with a twitch of its clawed hands. Its red eyes flared angrily as it eyed its prey.
“Mein Gott!” cried the masked man as he slashed at the creature. His sword bit into its chest, drawing more dark blood.
The wound did nothing to stop the creature as it advanced on the man. Its clawed hands swept upward , wrapping around the man’s neck. Sara could only stand and watch as the thing…Blackwing, she remembered, Paradox called it Blackwing…dug its claws into the flesh of the man’s throat and then slashed outward.
Blood splashed into Sara’s face as the man’s head was nearly torn from his body. She stepped back, allowing the Gold to shift back from a blade onto her hand, and wiped the blood from her eyes.
Blackwing held the lifeless body in one hand and roared triumphantly to the sky, its wings beating at the air behind it. It lowered its gaze back down to her as it cast the body aside. Its eyes narrowed menacingly.
She raised her hands defensively. “Malone,” she said, struggling against her fear. “Don’t…”
The thing’s brows furrowed in confusion. Its black lips spread about its fangs as it struggled to speak. “Sa-ra,” it managed to get out with effort. “Sa-ra.” Its voice was like the sound a car made on gravel.
It took one step toward her, no longer menacing, but now almost pleading with her. It was confused…Maybe Malone is still in there somewhere, she thought.
A moment later, it stopped. It sniffed at the air, its head twitching from side to side. Finally, it’s eyes narrowed once more and its lips peeled back from its fangs in a snarl. “Left!” it cried. “Kill you!”
With one powerful thrust of its wings, it launched itself up and over Sara. It smashed through the window high up in the wall behind her, taking huge chunks of the wall along with it. “LEFT!” she heard the beast growl once more.
“Holy shit,” she said staring up at the crumbling wall.
Just as this happened, the front door blew inward. Four more masked men came into the building. She turned to see that Fade, Champion, and Paradox were all still struggling with the giant. No rest for the weary, she thought, readying to slide into action against the newcomers.
A rhythmic humming sound stopped her in her tracks. The first two men through the door went down, blood spraying all about.
She looked back to see Dave up on one knee, taking aim with his rail gun. He gave her a quick nod. “I’ll handle them,” he shouted. “Help the others!”
She flashed him a quick smile. Then, with one kick of her foot, she slid along the floor into the melee.
Mr. Left smiled as he watched Northwind’s group burst through the front door of the building. This shouldn’t take much longer, he thought.
“Herr Left…look!” Messenger said beside him.
Left turned to see a large dark form come crashing through one of the windows. The large wings left no doubt as to what he was looking at. The Blackwing! he realized. The fact that he could no longer see through its eyes made him sure that it had broken his spell and was free willed. He knew better than to waste his time trying to reassert control; success was far from sure and the thing would be on him in moments. It would be far better to flee and then decide how to deal with this situation.
“LEFT!” his dark creation cried. “YOU DIE NOW!” It quickly closed the gap between them and was mere yards away.
Left grabbed Messenger by the shoulder and thrust the man toward the creature. “Vas?” the confused halfblood managed before the Blackwing tore into him. It dug its claws into his shoulders and then its head darted forward. Its fangs found Messenger’s throat and ripped it away in one bite.
Left smiled. He raised his tattooed hand, the pentagram glowing with a vile light, and harnessed the energy released by Messenger’s death. He quickly used it to cast the spell he would use to escape. A portal shimmered to life in the air before him. Through it, he could see Hilles’ office.
The Blackwing growled at him, blood and spittle flying from its maw. Left only smiled at the beast and then stepped through the portal. He quickly ended the spell so that it couldn’t follow him through.
“Well,” he said aloud. “That didn’t go quite as planned.” He shuddered to think about what he would tell Hilles. Hopefully, the half bloods would still manage to kill the fledgling Pantheon. As long as they managed to do that, he could deal with the Blackwing given time. The night was not necessarily a failure yet.
He readied a scrying spell that would allow him to watch the events within the warehouse from afar. A voice interrupted him.
“You have returned,” Hilles said. Left turned to see the man standing before the windows that overlooked Century. Only a few feet away stood his bodyguard, Errikos. “I hope with good news…for your sake.”
Left swallowed. He grew tired of Hilles’ threats…yes, the man was a Trueblood, and probably one of the most powerful beings in the world. However, since the defeat of the halfbloods was not yet certain, and because this plan of open attack had been Hilles’ idea, Left decided to answer honestly. He explained what had happened so far, and then finished his spell so that they could watch the battle conclude.
Dave had managed to take out the first two newcomers, but the other two proved more troublesome. One of them sped past his shots at blinding speed making his way toward Paradox and the others. That must be the speedster that Paradox mentioned. The other dived behind some supply crates. Dave took aim, knowing that his rail gun could easily penetrate the crates and hit the man behind, but he hesitated. Shit, he thought. That’s where Rainey and Hogan took cover.
Grunting with pain, he rose to his feet. His wounded shoulder throbbed with pain worse than anything he had felt in his life, but he managed to get to his feet. Slowly, he made his way toward the stacked crates. He heard a struggle from behind the crates.
Making his way around he found Rainey unconscious on the floor and Hogan struggling with the masked man. The cop was not doing well, though…his revolver lay on the ground at his feet and the man held him by the throat. Hogan was much bigger than him, but that didn’t seem to count for much. Hogan seemed unable to free himself despite his greater size.
Seeing Dave, the man pulled Hogan close, holding the cop before him like a human shield. “Drop the weapon,” he screamed in a German accent. “Drop it or he dies!”
Hogan struggled to say something, but it came out as an unintelligible garble. His eyes spoke volumes though…he didn’t want Dave to drop the gun.
Not knowing what else to do, Dave let his rail gun drop to the floor. It dangled from his harness by its thick power cord. Hopefully, the man wouldn’t kill Hogan and would instead focus on him. That would give him one chance.
The man laughed. “Fool!” he shouted. He threw Hogan to his side, sending the big cop crashing through the stacked crates. It’s now or never, Dave thought.
He reached down to his belt and grabbed a small cylindrical object that hung there. He raised it and took quick aim and fired.
The masked man tried to dodge, but it was no use. The cylinder fired out a ball of metallic netting that quickly spread out to several feet. It struck the masked man, entangling him and bringing him to the floor. Dave quickly scooped up his rail gun, reversed his grip, and smashed the butt of the gun into his opponent’s jaw. When he saw that the man was still struggling, Dave raised the gun and drove it down again. It took three shots until the man ceased his struggles.
Dave slid the rail gun back into its holder beside his jetpack, and then checked on Rainey and Hogan. Thankfully, they both seemed all right. Hogan was already trying to get to his feet.
“Thanks for the save,” the cop said. “I thought we were done for when you dropped that crazy gun of yours…Steelhawk, was it?”
Dave laughed. “Yeah,” he said. “Steelhawk it is.” With that, he ran toward the others, where they were still facing off against the giant and the speedster.
Fade slowly rose to his feet. Nearby, he saw Paradox pinned to the ground by yet another enemy. Four more had come through the front, but Steelhawk had made short work of two of them. The other had run at Paradox with a speed that made Goldrush look slow. He had managed to take the young man by surprise and now had him pinned to the ground, hands wrapped around his throat. “You got lucky in our first encounter, Amerikaner,” the man hissed into Paradox’s face. “But now you will pay for killing Talon.”
Fade moved toward them as Paradox struggled to free himself. The speedster’s head snapped up at Fade’s approach. In a blur, he sprang from atop Paradox and struck Fade in the stomach. Again, all of the Fade’s air was knocked right out of him. He tumbled back a few feet, but the speedster was right there with him, punching him again and again across the jaw.
Fade tried to block, but the speedster avoided his attempts with ease. His punches connected one after the other, to Fade’s jaw, to his ribs, to his head. The lens in his right goggle cracked, blinding him in that eye. It didn’t stop. Fade felt himself losing consciousness. He fought the blackness that was creeping in around his vision.
Suddenly, Paradox grabbed the man from behind, his arms wrapping around the speedster’s shoulders. This brought the masked man to a stop for a moment as he tried to shake Paradox loose.
Fade focused for the one brief moment he knew he would have. He put everything he had into the haymaker he leveled at the speedster. His gloved fist caught the man on the side of the head. It seemed to daze the man long enough for Paradox to slip his arms up around the man’s neck. With a quick jerk, Paradox brought his arms downward. There was an audible snap and the speedster’s body went limp in Paradox’s arms.
Fade fell to his knees, shaking his head to try to keep from passing out. The body fell from Paradox’s arms, its face looking up at the Fade with sightless eyes. He reached up and pulled the goggles from his face so that he could see. He looked from the dead man up to Paradox.
Paradox read his expression. “I had no choice,” he said. “He would have killed both of us. He was too fast.”
Fade nodded. “I know,” he said. “But it doesn’t make me feel any better about it.”
Paradox held his hand out and pulled him to his feet. “True,” the young man said. “But we have to do what must be done. There is far too much at stake.”
This guy definitely knows more than he is telling us. Fade ignored the thought, realizing he would have to deal with that later. Instead he turned his attention to the only remaining combatants. Several yards away, the giant was smashing through all kinds of equipment in an attempt to shake both Champion and Goldrush off. Champion had the big man’s legs wrapped up and was holding on for dear life. Goldrush was perched atop the giant’s shoulders, her hands clawing at his face.
As Fade watched, the gold substance that covered Sara Klein flowed off her hands and down over her opponent’s head. It didn’t leave her arms bare; whatever the stuff was, there was enough of it to keep her protected as it slid down over the behemoth’s face. It flowed into his mouth and up his nostrils. The big man’s screams were muffled and he lashed out blindly, destroying everything in his path. He punched up at her, but his blows seemed to slide right off her golden skin. Champion finally managed to trip him up and the three tumbled to the floor. Goldrush managed to keep her position and maintained her hold on him. Champion got up and delivered several brutal shots to his kidneys, trying to knock the wind out of him.
Finally, after a few more moments, the giant’s thrashing slowed and then stopped. “He’s out,” Goldrush announced. Her golden skin flowed back out of his mouth and nose, sliding right back up onto her arms. It was eerie to watch.
Champion stepped over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Nice job,” he said in his southern drawl. “We make a good team.”
She smiled at him. “I guess we do.”
Dave came over at that point, pulling his helmet from his head. “Are you all right, Sara?” His gaze went from her to Champion and back again. His brows were furrowed with concern.
She nodded, and stepped away from Champion. His hand slid from her shoulder. “I think I’m fine, Dave,” she said. “Although he managed to land a few shots on me. They hurt, but not nearly as much as they should have.”
Paradox nodded. “The symbiote keeps you safe,” he said.
Dave turned to him. “What did you say? Symbiote?”
Paradox looked surprised, almost as if he hadn’t realized he had spoken. “Nothing,” he said. “We need to get out of here.” He scanned the ravaged workshop. “Are Mr. Rainey and Officer Hogan all right?”
Dave nodded and pointed. “Yeah, they’re right over there.”
“Okay. Good.” He looked around the room again. “What about Mr. Malone?”
Sara spoke up, her voice quiet and slightly fearful. “He turned back into that monster. He killed one of them and then flew through the window. He must be outside somewhere. I don’t know.”
“All right,“ Paradox said, running a hand through his hair. “We’ll find him. He can’t retain that form for more than a few minutes at a time.“
This caught the Fade by surprise. “How do you know that?”
Paradox didn’t answer. Instead, he moved toward the enemy that Fade had taken down, the one who made things go quiet. “We take this one with us and we make him tell us where they are hiding Sara’s uncle.”
Champion shrugged. “And then what?”
Paradox turned to look at them all. “Then we end this.”
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