Author Topic: The Past is Prologue - Chapter 1  (Read 119 times)

Dead Woman

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The Past is Prologue - Chapter 1
« on: January 13, 2020, 03:33:33 AM »

   In Paragon City, all anyone had to do was to look around and know they were living in a city of heroes.  Superheroes soared the skies, swam the oceans, and walked the streets.  They were there morning, noon, and night.  Some people actually thought that Paragon City was the safest place to be, but that was far from actually being true.  Some of the greatest villains called Paragon City their home, and it was there they showcased their latest plans for world domination.  It was easy to be afraid when that happened.  People died.  Lives were ruined.  But that constant Hell on Earth wasn’t enough to break them.  Their champions had taught them that surrendering to despair was evil.  This was because it betrayed everyone including the one who surrendered.  Statesman, the greatest of Paragon City’s heroes, was the living embodiment of this ideal as he never stopped fighting even though everything looked grim. 

   At the same time, they were taught that defeat couldn’t always be avoided.  It was just a fact of life.  Everyone and everything falls given enough time and circumstance.  Getting back up and pressing on was the difference between enjoying life and surviving it.  Sometimes you just couldn’t because the defeat was absolute; much like Statesman’s death.   

   You couldn’t always see that as it was completely unpredictable, but there were moments when it was visible on the horizon, and it would leave you with a choice: move out of the way or wait for it to come.  Some chose the latter as fear could be a sweet talker at times.  It would whisper that enough was enough and that it was time for rest.   

   The fog that came through Paragon City was one of those moments.


   The fog had rolled in quietly just as the sun was about to rise.  The city workers who were out at the time really didn’t think much about it.  Paragon City was at Rhode Island’s southern most tip and was kissing the Atlantic Ocean, and fogs were pretty much commonplace.  There wasn’t any worry about the fog once everyone was up and doing their morning rituals, but there was some irritation over it as people knew it would prolong their getting to work on time angst.  As time went on, people started to take notice of it because it wasn’t going away, but the damage had already started by then.

   It started off as an annoyance slash inconvenience.  Electricity flickered unpredictably and cellphone reception was spotty. As time passed, the damage turned into constant jump scares with windows shattering and tires blowing out for no reason.  Panic settled in when car engines exploded, and roads split in half with gaping jagged cracks.  Electricity was completely gone by then, and cellphones, laptops, and computers along with other mobile devices had shorted out and caught on fire.  By then the city council had decided to evacuate the city.   

   Every hero was moving evacuees to Providence as the fog did not reach that far.  Everything was going well until they heard the first scream.  They turned to see red and nothing but red vein its way through the fog.  More screams followed.  There was metal cutting flesh.  An unearthly war cry that came from Hell got closer and closer as it ravaged the air.   A few heroes had formed a defensive line while the rest rushed through the evacuation.  There was confusion.  There was anger.  There was panic.  All of that was the music of war and everyone was drowning in it.  When the last were evacuated a call of retreat was sounded and everyone did.


   A few years after World War 1, a young man had returned to his home in Paragon City, but he came home changed.  People took notice of his abilities that he claimed came from his inner will but being impervious to bullets and knives as well as having the strength to lift a thousand or more pounds with no effort was beyond natural.  It was the power of gods.  Some fell to their knees in worship while others feared that the devil walked among them.

   His name was Marcus Cole, but he called himself – The Statesman.  He did not want to be feared or worshiped.  He did not want to be seen as a god or as a devil.  He proclaimed that he was a man who only wanted to inspire, and he did just that with every gangster and villain he put away.  If a man could have god like powers and make the world because of it, then he could do much more.  So, people began to explore this brave new world eager.  Great advancements in science and technology were made that conquered the world, but it also opened up the final frontier of space, and not long after that they learned that there was another final frontier: parallel worlds and alternate realities.  This great discovery showed that there was more than just science.  There was also magic, so people delved into that with the same hunger they had years back.  They unlocked its secrets and learned that magic and science could be merged together.  New technologies were unveiled that made everyone’s lives better.

   One such technology was a hero’s best friend – bases.  A pocket reality could be made and accessible to the ones who made them.  From there, great compounds could be built where heroes could store their secrets and tools.  What’s more was that they could link their bases with others creating large networks of heroes.

   All heroes retreated to these bases and were thankful that the fog’s destructive effect couldn’t reach them.  All heroes began networking with one another so that they could organize and communicate on the crisis.  Hours would go by and all of Paragon City’s heroes were finally on the same page.  All agreed that no one was going to give up, and that they should work out an offensive.  This meant going back to Paragon City and doing reconnaissance.  That was beyond dangerous given the fact that they never got a clear look at their enemy, and that meant that they didn’t know what to look for.  More importantly, there was the chance that there were people still in Paragon City, and they needed to be rescued. Volunteers had stepped up, and one of them led a group who called themselves The Union.  His name was Carlos Gallardo, but the world knew him as The Gunslinger. 


   A day ago, Paragon City was a thriving metropolis that was a city of tomorrow as well as a city of heroes, but now, The Gunslinger looked out amongst the dead and decaying city scape as best he could through that god forsaken fog.  He told himself that this wasn’t real, but denial didn’t make anything better.  What he saw was real and it might be the start of the end.  That was what worried everyone.  They didn’t say it, but those thoughts were carved so far deep into them that you couldn’t help but notice.  The fear was understandable as no one wants to die; especially from a slow death that strips away your dignity that leaves you powerless and helpless as well as vulnerable.

   It reminded him of his time in Malta.  The Gunslinger had killed his fair share of bad guys back then, and some of them had the proverbial God complex.  He remembered those men more because of the terror they felt when they realized they were going to die.  These powerful and influential men had spent their lives changing the world through sheer will, and most felt that was evidence of being more human than human.  A gun gets put to their head and they promise money and power if they’re let go.  Its only when that gets ignored that they realize they’re going to die, and in that moment, they realize that they weren’t more human than human after all. 

   Illusion, that’s all it came down to really.  You live so long in a fantasy world that you tend to forget the absolutes, and the biggest of them all was that everything came to an end.  Facing this isn’t a walk in the park.  You wind up grabbing hold of that illusion and never letting go even though you’re being dragged away.  He could see that in the faces of the heroes he talked with.  They all wondered why they had any powers if they can’t use them to save everyone’s life.  The Gunslinger said nothing about that.  If the world ended tomorrow, then he would accept it.  After all, he had a lot of blood on his hands, and it was on so thick that he couldn’t see his fingers or the gloves he wore.  He only hoped that when the end came, he had done enough to walk through the pearly gates.

   He stopped at the hospital and got off his bike.  He squinted and stared through the fog and saw that it was there, and it was standing.  This amazed him as most other buildings were ready to topple over if sneezed on.  He tapped a button on his goggles and watched the world turn into a thermal readout and with its arrival came the fog’s departure.  He could see and that eased away some of the tension he felt. Not being able to see clearly had him unnerved.  No one was near him but within the hospital was a heat signature on the ground level.  He paid close attention to every move and action it made, and his gut was telling him that it wasn’t a survivor.  The signature was standing and moving rather slowly almost as if it were swaying.  No one who was trying to survive would do something like that.  He looked up and was about to turn off thermal imaging when he saw something on the top level, and it was enough to make him risk communication.

   He spoke softly, “You reading me Tinker?”

   The response was quick, “I am boss. What do you have?”

   “I’m transmitting visuals,” The Gunslinger said and tapped another button on his goggles.

   Tinker took a second or so to see what The Gunslinger was seeing.  He was a bit surprised which came out sounding like a low murmured woah.  Finally, he said, “Looks like the hospital admins made a mistake.”

   Thank you for stating the obvious was what The Gunslinger was really saying when he replied back, “You think so Tinker?”

   He could hear Tinker clear his throat and murmur quickly, “I’ll go ahead and get a medical bed set up, and I’ll let The Dead Woman know that you found a survivor.”

   “Tell her that I might have found one of those things that came out of the fog.”


   The Gunslinger headed towards the hospital.  It was clear that what he saw was a survivor.  The heat signature showed it laying down like any patient would on a hospital bed. The only problem he now faced was – how to get past that thing.   


   He switched off thermals and turned on his cloaking device when he got close to the hospital.  Stealth technology had been around for awhile, but it had its share of problems like digital distortions.  You had to bend light in order to be invisible, but early cloaking technology caused digital like distortions that surrounded the individual and could be seen if close enough.  Light bending caused everyone to go blind as eyes need light to see and light cant reach the eyes if its bent.  Some improvements were made that gave it some technological value, but then came the Rikti invasion.  These aliens from another world had technology that was taken from them and reversed engineered after they were defeated.  Their technology improved cloaking technology considerably.  Those who used it could stand in front of anyone and not be seen whatsoever.  What’s more, the technology allowed those who were cloaked to see perfectly.  This was perfect technology, yet The Gunslinger felt cautious as he stepped inside the hospital. 

   There was a moment where he had to slow his approach as the fog, and he couldn’t see much. Smacking into a wall or something worse was something he didn’t want to do, but that changed when he found the entrance that he walked through casually.  It was still there; still standing in place and swaying rather slowly.  The fog didn’t follow him inside so he could see everything clearly – including the creature.  To him, it looked like a mummified corpse that was clad in some sword and sorcery armor that was as red as blood, and he was taken by how bright that red looked as it had a cigarette in a dark room glow.  He turned to continue but stopped when his foot hit something metallic.  The clang was enough to awaken this zombie warrior.  It jerked around and made a pig like squeal that melted into a guttural and liquid sound growl.  It shuffled towards The Gunslinger with quickness.  He didn’t know if the creature could see him or not, so he stepped back and unholstered his gun as he did. 

   The creature didn’t show any sign that it had seen anything, but that wasn’t enough for him to lower his gun.  The creature stood in place and seemed dead for a second or so before erupting into loud pig like squealing that showed frustration and rage, and as it did this, The Gunslinger cocked back the hammer.  He was about to pull the trigger when debris had fallen from the opposite end of the lobby and that grabbed the creature’s attention away.  It shuffled off with that unusual quickness.  The Gunslinger didn’t waste any time and moved quickly towards the stairs.


   In the stairwell, he moved swiftly while keeping his eyes for any holes or lose steps.  A few of them had decayed very badly, so he leapt them whenever he encountered them.  At the top floor, he stopped and opened the door to peer inside.  The survivor was here on this floor, but he wasn’t sure if any of those things were there either.  He stepped inside and immediately fell.  Instinct took over and he bit his lip to prevent himself from screaming out in surprise.  For a second, he wondered if he had fallen through a hole but realized that this didn’t happen.  He turned and saw that his foot had slipped into a dent in the floor made by the fog’s decay.  He moved his foot out of it and pushed himself up.  He turned to face the stairwell and aimed his gun directly at it.  He waited and held his breath as he did and wondered if the thing below was rushing up the stairs or would cry out in rage.  When he heard nothing, he stepped towards where the survivor was, but he stopped dead when he got close.

   The door that lead to where the survivor was a perfectly normal looking hospital door that was untouched by the rampant decay.  He looked down and saw light just coming from underneath.  He was quiet, so quiet in fact that he could hear an electric hum from an overhead light and a beep, beep, beep from medical equipment.  This didn’t make any sense to him whatsoever.  He approached the door with his gun ready.  He pushed it open just a whisper so he could peer inside.  He saw no one except for the survivor on a hospital bed, but his eyes were focused on how normal everything looked.  A single hospital room that was perfectly preserved.  He realized the longer he stood outside the more he exposed himself to the enemy.  He pushed in and gave the room a quick look and saw no one else was there.  He was safe even though he didn’t feel it. 

   Everything about this hospital room was normal and untouched by everything that was going on.  There was a table with a couple of chairs so that family could get comfy while visiting their loved one.  On the table was a little brochure about health coverage.  The metal rails on the bed were polished and clean.  The bed linen looked clean and smelled fresh.  Then there was the girl.  She looked maybe twenty or twenty-one with soft red hair and pale skin with a dusting of freckles.  He looked down towards her hand and picked it up.  It was dead weight to him, but he could see that she had been to Pocket D by the stamp on her hand.  She was intubated and wired to a heart monitor along with a few other devices.  Her chest rose up in rhythm with the air she was getting. 
   Tapping his communicator, The Gunslinger asked, “You seeing this Tinker?”

   There was silence.  The Gunslinger wondered if there was a problem with the communication, but Tinker’s reply only told him that he was at a loss for words.  Tinker said, “Yes I am.  The Dead Woman is here with me as well.”

        “What are you both seeing?”

         Tinker spoke for both himself and The Dead Woman, “Young woman in a comfortable hospital room after going through some Hell in the ER.  The room looks,” he struggled for a word and then blurted out, “normal.”

         That was good enough for The Gunslinger, but it wasn’t enough to lower his guard.  He asked, “What happened to her?”

         A moment of silence and then, “Everything I’m seeing says she’s in a coma.  Check to see if there is a chart.”

         In any other time that would have been one of the first things The Gunslinger did, but this moment threw a great big monkey wrench in his thinking.  He looked at the foot of the bed and saw a chart.  He picked it up and went through its pages slowly so that Tinker could read through it.  After a few pages he said, “She’s in a medically induced coma.”

        “You say that like its a bad thing.”

        His tone was matter of fact when he said, “Its a risky move because you’re using a hell of a lot of barbiturates and that can play havoc with your body.”

        “Then why do it?”
        “Its to preserve brain function, but you do that in more severe cases like intercranial pressure.”

         The Gunslinger asked just to make sure he understood, “Brain swelling?”

         “Yes, but the chart you showed me doesn’t show a cause.”

        He frowned as he looked around the room and said, “Tinker, can we teleport her and the equipment she’s hooked up to safely?”

        There was no hesitation when he said, “Yes we can.  All the equipment she’s hooked up to has internal batteries that kick in if unplugged, but I’ll need a few moments to configure the teleport pad.”

        It was then that The Gunslinger heard the pig like whine of rage from down the hall.  He moved quickly towards the door and saw the creature shuffling towards it quickly.  He closed the door and placed his back up to it and shouted, “Work fast!”

       The Dead Woman spoke up, “He’s on it.”
       The creature walloped the door with enough strength that nearly toppled The Gunslinger.  He let out a cry and adjusted his back and position so he could add more resistance.  The creature responded with another attack that was more powerful than the last, and for the Gunslinger it nearly broke him.  Again, he readjusted and held himself stronger.  The final blow was powerful enough to break his hold on the door and The Gunslinger rolled and got himself repositioned with his gun aimed.

       The bright light he saw told him that he was in mid transport, and he was thankful for that.  He just hoped that the bullet he fired didn’t get transported as well.