Previous Chapter | Combination | Next Chapterby Mark Oldfield Milo Olmstead found himself sobbing after his first big fight. A grown man sniveling is never a pleasant sight to see. His weeping incident was nearly two weeks ago.
At first, Shadow Master took over Milo’s body. It gave him no control over his abilities. As the last fortnight progressed, Milo found himself slowly gaining more control over the thing that invaded him.
A few days after the change, subtle movements became apparent. One of the first things Milo noticed is that he could move his fingers. About a week later, he could control larger movements, like walking. About twelve days after the change, he could control the motorcycle. However, the urging will seemingly controls him the most. He still could not shift in and out of his egos. It is the ultimate change for someone who does not solely own their own body anymore.
Milo’s abilities seemingly improved with each passing day. As they passed, he felt like he connected more and more with the being taking him as host.
Two weeks after the invasion, Milo started seeing some odd occurrences to his body. Just before going to bed on the morning of the fourteenth day, Milo notices a strange black spot on the back of his hand. Milo touches the spot. He realizes that the blotch is similar to that of Shadow Master.
His concerns grow quickly. Milo remembers the time just after the invasion when the Shadow Master’s persona came into play during the middle of the day. Energy draining from his body is not something Milo wants, especially now.
Sleep also took an interesting twist during the last two weeks. Every time he dreamed, he could hear the same voice in his head from the night of his transformation. The voice continued to tell him different things. Everything ran through his head from anticipating certain strategies to general encouragement for his upcoming battles. On this night, Milo plays out something different. Instead of hearing the same ominous voice, his mind gives off an eerie silence.
Waking up at his usual time toward the evening, Milo grabs his paper off the front porch. He checks his usual line of hard news stories. It is something he did little of prior to the change in his life. He used to check the news only when something major came up.
While passing through the top news stories of the day, he spots a recurring story. Over the past several days, a number of different people went missing. Local news agencies called the incidents freak. Milo suspects otherwise. The kidnapped come from different backgrounds. Victims are male and female, even different ages. This is not what strikes Milo odd.
The oddest thing he sees with the paper is the story that immediately follows. For each of the last three days is the same story. The story is hype of an upcoming movie filming in the Rocky City area. With Milo’s new abilities, some things just do not add up.
Moving over to the television, he tunes to the local news. Passing the repetitive role that advertisements play in the daily life, Milo gains the information that he seeks. The news program states yet another person went missing. This makes the fifth this week.
“RCPD officers and investigators are baffled at the disappearance of yet another individual. All the victims come from varying backgrounds. This makes the fifth person abducted this week,” carries on the reporter.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” he grunts.
“That is a real tragedy… The movie “Rockmen,” is a new horror film presently being filmed outside of Rockrest. After the break, we’ll talk with the director, Carl Thigpen.”
“There it is again. What’s the deal with this?”
Sitting through the pointless commercials programmed for the impulse buyers, Milo finally receives the information he is looking for. The news reporter speaks again:
“Welcome back, I’m here with Carl Thigpen.”
“Hello,” says Carl.
“Your new movie is presently being filmed outside of Rockrest. Can you tell us a little about it?”
“Of course, we’re currently filming scenes where an army of rock creatures invade a small city in the mountains. When I first picked up the script, I knew Rockrest had to be involved.”
“So scenes like this would require a lot people. Are you looking for extras around the metro area?”
“You know, we did not require that many extras. The few that we are using are from Hollywood. With computers, it is easier for us to simply create exponentially more creatures.”
Milo strikes the source: “Wait, you wouldn’t pay for a meaningless part like an extra. Perhaps I should go talk to Mr. Thigpen.”
The town of Rockrest is about twenty-five miles outside Rocky City. Its main claim to fame is the state university. The rocky terrain leading into the mountains provides great challenges to climbers, hikers, and any one trying to escape the morbid repetitiveness of everyday city life. The terrain is also one of the main attractions for Mr. Thigpen and his Hollywood filmmakers.
Milo takes the forty-five minute drive from his place to the shooting location near the mountain town. The actual shooting location is just outside of town. It is in front of a beautiful mountain range, the perfect place to shoot a horror film.
Weeding his way through the crowds of grips, assistants, and actors, Milo finds his target. The director Carl Thigpen is a medium sized man. He is a man who would give a scary reputation to almost no one.
“Excuse me, Mr. Thigpen,” shouts Milo.
“What are you doing on my set? How did you get past security?”
“It helps when you know the area. Michael Odenbrook, Rock City Tribune.”
“You’re lucky we aren’t in the middle of shot.”
“I apologize. I only have a couple questions to ask you. Do you have some time?”
“We’re scheduled to shoot in a bit. But, I never say no to interviews. Why don’t you head into town with me?”
“I’d rather interview you here, where all the action is.”
“Nonsense, I give better interviews in private. I’m set up down at the school.”
Milo finds it odd that Carl would not want an interview in his field of work. However, he figures this would get more information out him. This will give Milo the best chance to figure out whether or not he is hiding something.
The two go back to Mesa Bluff Elementary School. The students are out for the summer. It is the base of Thigpen’s directorial headquarters. It serves as a place where Thigpen can regroup and plan the next day of shooting.
“So why wouldn’t you let me interview you out in the trenches?”
“Too noisy out there, much easier to get away from it all in here. Tell me, why did you come all the way from the Rocky to visit my set?”
“Oh, a good set of questions to ask the man-of-the-hour around these parts.”
“I’m sure they’ve been answered before. Just check another news report.”
“That would defeat the purpose of me trying to find some unique information, wouldn’t it?”
“A persistent man, I love that quality, ask away.”
“I’m sure you’ve had these questions before but, why did you choose Rockrest?”
“I like the scenery around these parts. It works well for the plot in this movie.”
“I was noticing that you had paid extras on set. Wouldn’t be simpler and more promoting to ask for extras locally, instead of flying them out from Hollywood?”
“In this case, I’d rather have extras that are experienced. In a movie as elaborate as this, it’s important to have extras that know what they’re doing. I’d rather pay to have the talent instead of losing good shots on inexperienced extras.”
“But it seems silly to do that. Extras aren’t needed for something as—”
“Are you doubting my directing abilities, Michael?”
“Not at all, I just figured that the studio—“
“The studio allows me to use what I want! Any more questions?”
“No, I think I’ve get everything I need.”
Milo leaves the room, feeling the slip in Carl’s judgment. “He’s hiding something.”
As soon as Milo is out of earshot, Carl calls over one of his associates.
“Did you get the scan,” Carl asks.
“Good, go find the one he cares about the most. We could always use more extras.”
Little does Milo know that as he passed through the metal detectors at the entrance of the school. They are common placement after the many tragedies with shootings at schools and universities. His head was scanned for the people he knows. A device that Carl put there, forcing his guests to pass by when they came to interview him. Oddly enough, Carl is searching for a person that matches the perfect description of someone Milo knows.
Milo returns home, wondering about what he picked up from Carl. He knows something does not feel right. An extra usually is not paid to come on location. Carl is hiding something with his extras. Milo ponders on the possibilities.
The sun gently sets itself down as it normally does in the summer time over the panorama to the west. Milo sits on his bed awaiting the change to take him as it did for the last fortnight. Of the things that happened over the last two weeks, he gained some control over his situations. The only thing that Milo cannot control was the initial change into Shadow Master.
Once the final rays of the sun peer over the horizon, the shift over into the double identity begins. The shift takes a very short time. It is much quicker than when he experienced the first one two weeks before hand.
Shadow Master sits on the bed for a few moments. A feeling overcomes his body. Something is wrong. His instincts kick in. He turns his attention to the situation at hand. He heads for the garage and to his motorcycle. Hopping on the bike, he heads out.
Shadow Master cruises over to the Charcoal Mountain neighborhood on the west end of town. He locates the distress from the feeling he received before leaving the house.
Screaming comes over on the otherwise quiet side streets normally found in the suburbs of a major city. Before getting to the spot of the disturbance, the hero cuts the engine and parks about a block away. He is careful not to let himself come into play.
He is off his bike and running. As he comes around the corner, Shadow Master finds the area of trouble. Looking up at the street sign, he is on Holt Street. Over in an apartment complex, a black van sits with two men leaning on the side. Off in the endless labyrinths of hallways, he hears a clear struggle. The sound of two men wrestling around with somebody fighting back comes into play.
Shadow Master waits in his natural place, the shadows. He hides out of the clear line-of-sight of the lookouts. The hero would normally jump in and stop a situation. However, that boldness deteriorated as Milo took more control over the mysterious figure.
The struggle continues in the echoing hallways of the apartment. Noises made by the victim make it apparent that the struggle is waning in their favor. The clamor the sufferer makes also gives evidence to their identity. There are high-pitched squeals offered from a woman’s voice, maybe in her twenties.
Finally, the sounds of silence grasp the surrounding atmosphere. The woman gives up whatever fight she has left in her. Something tells the shadowy figure that she did not give up willfully. Something silenced her excessively quickly. Shadow Master waits in the bushes. He waits for his opportunity to make a strike.
Now the victim and her captors exit the hallway. They come out into visual exposure on the street. The two lookouts at the van open up the rear doors. The people involved in the fight come into from their natural cover, the darkness. Streetlights reveal two men, similar to those by the van. The victim catches both Milo and Shadow Master off guard.
The sweet, angelic face of the unconscious Katie McGinnis gives Milo a shudder. He makes a move out to leave the bushes, but his newfound instincts hold him from making a bone-headed move.
“What could they do to her,” he thinks.
Suddenly, the right thing comes to his mind. He needs to stop her from falling into ill hands, but an attack now will not help the rest of the kidnapped. He has a connection that comes so easily for his detective mind now. Shadow Master picks himself up and rushes back to his bike.
Milo’s mind cannot keep focus on the task of hunting down Katie’s captors. The only thing he can think about is just Katie. He must keep his mind on the crime, not her.
Shadow Master powers up his bike and heads off in pursuit of his opposition.
Catching up with the truck and maintaining a safe viewing distance is no simple task. The person with the noisy bike tends to stick out better than most people trying to remain inconspicuous.
It only takes a few minutes for Shadow Master to catch sight of the van. It heads east toward the downtown area of Rocky City. The many various roads and bridges eventually lead across the North Adams River and into downtown. Shadow Master keeps a watchful glowing-green eye.
Winding its way through the side streets, the black van turns away from busy metropolis of skyscrapers and nightclubs. Instead, it heads for the warehouse district. Once the active pride of Rocky City’s bustling economy in early twentieth century now lies mostly abandoned. Only the occasional cage match occurs within its center outside the normal shipping of any businesses that remain.
After a long and trying half-hour for Milo, the black van stops inside a secluded warehouse. Little light illuminates the area, a good situation on the outside. The men from the van take Katie, put her on a stretcher, and roll her inside the warehouse. Now the easy part is over for the Shadow Master.
The jet-black man stays outside the visible spectrum where the light shines. He looks for a more discreet way inside the warehouse. The front remains too heavily defended for a secretive entrance. Perhaps somewhere else is more to his liking.
Walking around the west side of the building, he finds a small alley. Light is minimal, but the space is too narrow. Shadow Master cannot find an entry that suits him. The only thing that would serve as an entrance is the windows. However, they are too high for someone like him to access. Maybe around the back would suit better.
The hero creeps his way around the back. He finds himself more astonished by what he sees than the chance for an entrance into the building. Outside the back is a field of large white tractor-trailers. Most of the trucks backed up against the factory are loading some sort of cargo. The shadowy figure creeps in for closer look.
Multitudes of men move the items between the warehouse and the trucks. Each group of men moves large boxes. Under the strength and effort the men put into them, they appear very heavy. Shadow Master ponders upon the contents of the box, but the way into the epicenter of activity is still a mystery to the super.
Finally, the advantage comes to a head for the man made of shadows. At the very corner of the building, he sees one guard with his shadow running in the direction to the superhero. The only problem is the mere few feet that stand between them. It is an alerting measure that could be devastating in a rescue attempt. The fortunate thing for the hero that guard keeps watch over the door.
With all the workers busy at the docking stations, the door might be the best way into the building. Taking matters into his own hands, Shadow Master slips into the shadow of the unsuspecting guard, taking over its form. With free ability to manipulate the shadow, the hero waits for his turn to act. That time comes much sooner than hoped. Not but a minute later, a guard comes out of the door.
“Hey, I’m here to replace you.”
Shadow Master follows the relieved guard into the warehouse. Once inside, he plays up to his old tricks. He takes his hand and places it over the mouth of the unsuspecting guard, silencing him for long enough. What he sees next astonishes him.
In the middle of the vast warehouse are three giant, bright-blue tubes. On either side of the tubes are doors. Three groups of men and women stand in front of the tubes, hoards of them resist what the workers at the entrances are trying to do to them.
They force a person from each group into one of the three tubes. Once inside, the doors shut behind them. Bright-blue electrical beams shoot through the tubes. The shrieks and screams of the victims fade away as they become the sound of rocks clanking together. The Shadow Master glints with both interest and fear.
Once the process is complete, the doors on the other side of the tubes open. Walking out of the tubes are three new rock-people. They hold a similar shape as a human, but their bodies are entirely made of rock. The mindless rock-people walk into the boxes similar to those the workers were loading into the truck. Their feet make a thud on the ground as they move along. The hero ponders upon his next move.
Suddenly, the voice of Carl Thigpen comes across Shadow Master’s way. Standing on a balcony, Carl speaks with one of his assistants. The hero keeps close tabs on the conversation.
“Did you get the reporter’s girl?”
“Yes sir. She’s being prepared right now for transformation.”
“No, bring her to me first. I have a feeling that we may use her as a classic ‘damsel in distress.’ Then, we can turn her into a rock creature.”
“Yes sir. I will have her brought to you immediately,” the assistant says as he walks to fetch Katie from the men at the van.
A few minutes pass as he waits for the newest victim in his spree to find more extras in his film. The door to the balcony opens abruptly as Katie, fully conscious, comes in. Two brawny men manhandle her.
“Let me go!”
“Oh yes! She’s feisty, perfect for the role. The reporter keeps some wild friends.”
“What are talking about? I don’t know any reporter!”
“The reporter knows you. How do you think we found you?”
“What are you going to do to me?”
“Prepare you for your acting career. Sadly, it’s only one appearance.”
Once again, a syringe and its sedative silence her. The men hold her in position as Carl continues to stare her down. With almost no warning, a loud noise comes crashing into the ears of the movie people. They look around, trying to find the source of the noise.
“Probably something small, you know how these old warehouses-”
Carl finds himself cut off by the appearance of the Shadow Master. He is poised on the opposite side of the balcony. Carl stands fearless against this mysterious figure’s appearance, much less intimidated than his cronies.
“Well, we seem to have a late-comer to the auditions.”
Shadow Master waits eagerly for who will strike first. Carl makes his plans known.
“Boys, take care of this creature. You can never have too many extras.”
“Welcome to the Director’s chamber,” one of the cronies taunts.
Even with the taunting, the two men reluctantly rush the hero. The first man engages with an attempt of jab. The hero makes a counterpunch of the jab. The second follows suit, easy prey for the predatory shadow. This leaves “The Director” all by himself in front of the shadowy figure.
“You think that this is the best I have? I have a few tricks up my sleeve!”
The Director pushes his right hand toward the Shadow Master, sending a bolt of lightning to the dark figure. For the first time in his short career of hero work, Milo finds himself surprised by a punch. Milo’s slow gain of Shadow Master’s power is not enough to figure out the expectations of the enemy at hand. The jet-black figure falls to the ground.
The hero collects himself on the ground. The electric shock takes surprises the superhero. He tries to get back to his feet. As he does, another jolt of electricity comes from The Director. He falls back to the ground.
“That’s not too inspired,” quips The Director.
The man made of the shadows climbs back to his feet and quickly finds his target. He charges after him. Before he can get to him, he disappears in a cloud of red smoke.
Searching around, the hero falls on the ground again by yet another jolt of electricity. The figure looks around for his foe, finally sighting him standing on a rafter.
“Come on, you have to have more passion!”
The Director jumps back down to the balcony. Shadow Master remains cautious to approach him. Instead, he backs away from his enemy. Carl fires his electric jolt. The bolt comes, but the hero dodges one. He jumps clear in time. The director fires two more jolts. Yet, the hero jumps clear just in time of both shocks.
Shadow Master backs up until he runs out of the room. He finds his back against the wall. The Director gives a taunting smirk. Aiming out his hand, The Director fires one more jolt of electricity. The jolt comes out at lightning speed, but the Shadow Master ducks just in time.
The shadowy figure takes a chance and charges after The Director. He tackles him as the two make a connection and knocks him to the ground. Before Carl can disappear, Shadow Master discovers the electric system that shoots the jolts attached to Carl’s arm, ripping it off him.
Finally, the Shadow Master gains a few punches of his own. The hits take their toll on The Director. The hero of the hour kicks the electric shocker out of reach, making sure that it never jolts again.
The Master picks up his once powerful opponent. He takes him down the stairs to the transformation floor. On the way down the stairs, The Director nails a punch to the back of the head. The Shadow Master stumbles over to the edge of one of the tubes.
The Director takes an advantage and pulls out an electrical gun. The Shadow Master looks up in horror as Carl begins to squeeze the trigger. The charge of electricity leaves the gun, but mysterious figure ducks out of the way. The beam hits the glass and bounces back to The Director.
The Director shouts in pain as he falls to the ground. Shadow Master gives him one final punch to knock him out. Quickly, Shadow Master turns his attention away from his foe and onto his crush. Kneeling by Katie, he checks her pulse and her temperature of her.
The Master takes her away from the scene, setting her outside the warehouse. Moving quickly to the bike, he calls for law enforcements and paramedics with his signaling device. Before he long, he makes himself scarce.
The first glints of sunlight pass over the eastern horizon. Shadow Master arrives at home. He goes to the bed and comes to rest. Shadow Master shifts back into the form of Milo Olmstead.
His relaxation only lasts for a few moments when he experiences the same paralysis when he first came to know Shadow Master. He tries to move around, but nothing occurs. Even his speech is impaired as it had been a fortnight ago.
No matter what Milo does, he cannot move. A strong pulling sensation runs through his entire body. In a few moments, Milo involuntarily shifts back into Shadow Master. The pulling sensations throughout his body become more extreme. The pulling becomes so intense that Milo feels like Shadow Master is trying to leave him. Shadow Master wants out of Milo’s body. His head pulls off Milo, but he cannot get away.
Shadow Master gains the advantage on the situation. He pulls his whole body off Milo, everything but his feet. The shadowy figure tries his best to pull free, but cannot move any farther. Then, it starts to pull back into Milo. The battle begins to wane greatly for the hero. His efforts slowly give way into Milo’s body.
The whole reabsorbing process continues, as the jet-black figure’s will seem to fade away. By the time the absorption reaches their necks, the man of shadows almost gives up. Whatever fight he has in his body, the Shadow Master cannot use to escape anymore. As the eyes of the two finally merge back into one, the whole fight ends.
Almost instantaneously, the Shadow Master transfers back into Milo. He immediately regains his mobility, checking over his entire body as quickly as he can. He lifts his left hand in front of his face. He simply tries to change his hand through his will. Lo and behold, his hand and only his hand transfer over to that of the Shadow Master.
Milo shifts his hand back to his that of his own. His eyes light up with excitement. His mind becomes speechless as he thinks about the power. All that he can think about is the word: “What?”
Invasion and all characters contained within ™ and © 2009 Mark Oldfield.