The following is a complete work of fiction.
This is my first City of Heroes Fan Fiction. If you are not a person who knows the City of Heroes MMPRPG, some of this story may not make sense. However, like my X-Universe Fan Fictions, I have written enough background into the story that I believe it is accessible to anyone who likes science fiction and comic book worlds.
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City of Heroes - Book 1
Awakenings - Chapter 6
"I'm not so sure about this," I commented as Patrick descended the steps of the Kings Row PYRC to greet me.
"I was nervous my first few meetings also, Jason, but you're doing a great service," he assured me as we shook hands.
"Yeah," I breathed, looking at the front doors like the gates of the Zig in Bricks.
"The Paragon Youth Recreation Center Outreach Programs are the last safe place our kids have before they end up on the streets." Patrick put his hand on my shoulder as we started up the steps.
"Yeah," I said again, with no more enthusiasm than before.
Patrick raised an eyebrow at me as we got to the doors.
I shrugged. "I don't know what kind of example I am, you know? I did time on the streets, I was in the gangs, I did shit I'm not proud of." I took a breath. "And I'm not so sure I'm any better a person now than I was then."
Patrick pulled open the doors. "That's because you weren't a 'bad person' then, Jason. We all make mistakes. We all do things we aren't proud of. Hell, I've done more than most -- probably a lot more than you." He grinned at my doubtful glance. "I was out there longer than you were."
I huffed, but didn't argue.
"This is like an AA meeting. Some people are here trying to get off the streets, and some are here because their loved ones are on the streets. What we all have in common, you, me, and everyone in that room, is that our lives have been touched by the gangs. Most are trying to get their lives back."
"So this is kind of a family vocation, huh?" I asked, "Helping lost souls?"
Patrick laughed. "I'm not so sure about people's souls; that's Amanda's shtick." He snapped his fingers, allowing blue-white flame to flicker above them. "If anything, I'm the gate keeper to someplace no one wants to visit."
"Yeah, yeah," I replied, unimpressed. I spent so much time working with Blaize that pyrokinesis didn't even surprise me any longer. "So, what do I say to them?"
"Just be honest, as open as you're comfortable being, and know that you don't have to be perfect." We got to the door beyond which I knew there was no return.
"I can't believe I'm doing this," I mumbled as Patrick put his hand on the knob.
"I can," Patrick affirmed, smiling at me as I looked at him. "Amanda believes in you, and though it took me years to admit it, she's hardly ever wrong."
"Let's hope I'm not the exception to the rule," I retorted, but there wasn't any conviction in it. Patrick was one of the most sincere people I'd met since gaining my abilities. He was who he claimed to be and believed everything he said.
"How'd it go yesterday?" Janet asked as she settled down on the stool beside me.
I nursed my latte and shrugged. "It went fine."
Jonathan chuckled as he finished drying a mug. "Don't mind him; he's just sulking."
I frowned at him. "No comments from the peanut gallery."
"Oh boy," Janet groaned as she rolled her eyes. "I'll need chocolate for this."
"For what?" I scowled.
"To fortify me to sit through your piss and vinegar bath," she retorted.
I mumbled a few choice words under my breath and sipped my coffee again.
She waited until she had one of Jonathan's magic mixtures of milk and chocolate before saying anything more. "You are the sulkiest guy I know," she observed between sips, "save for Lenny... though he's more just depressed than sulky."
"Hell, if I leaked darkness like other people perspire, I'd be depressed too," I replied. "Poor guy." I took another sip of my coffee. "And I don't sulk."
Jonathan snorted, but wandered away without acknowledging my baleful glare.
"Uh huh," Janet replied in a neutral tone, "Does Dr. Perrin buy that crap?"
"She's a telepath, what do you think?"
Janet shrugged. "I think you're feeling sorry for yourself. You've come face to face with someone who went a lot further down the rabbit hole than you did and has made something of his life. He's well adjusted, happy, and is making the world a better place without having to use his powers."
"He isn't allowed to use his powers," I corrected, "that's part of the terms of his probation."
"Regardless," Janet ignored me, "he's accepted who he was and knows who he is. He's turned his mistakes into tools to help others." She sipped her chocolate again. "What I think is that you're worried you don't measure up."
I glared at her, but didn't say anything. I was out of excuses and out of coffee too.
"I'll give you a hint," she said, before she leaned over and kissed my cheek, whispering, "You're just as much a man as Patrick, or Urioch, or Brawler. Stop trying to measure yourself to some bullshit, macho standards. Be you, Jason, and let yourself be the person the rest of us see."
I blushed, and grinned into my coffee cup. It was hard to sit there and know, really know, that people meant what they said - especially when it was something positive about me. I still wasn't used to thinking of myself that way.
Amanda was never late. She was probably the most time obsessed person I'd ever known. I looked back at the desk nurse, who gave me a sympathetic smile but said nothing about the delay. About ten minutes after our appointment was supposed to start, Amanda came rolling out of the elevators. "I'm sorry, Jason. I should have rescheduled our session." She looked exhausted and I could feel the worry that she was keeping from her features and voice.
"Sure, no problem."
She shook her head. "Come on into my office. I'm here now so we might as well have our weekly talk."
I shut the door as she wheeled to her desk and pulled off her gloves. "Are you okay?"
Amanda looked at me, and I felt her shields go up. We studied each other for a moment, and she sighed. "No, actually, I'm not."
"We can reschedule. I don't mind." I wasn't hedging out of my session. I liked my sessions with Amanda. I didn't like the feeling I was getting from her. She was really upset. I'd never felt her so wound up and out of sorts.
Taking a deep breath, Amanda nodded. "You're probably right. I should have canceled everything for today." Amanda's cell went off, and she answered it. The wave of emotion that hit me almost knocked me down. She gripped the phone, tears pooling in her eyes as she found her voice. "I'll be right there."
I looked at her, not knowing if I should leave or stay. Amanda wasn't just my shrink, she was a friend. "Anything I can do?"
Amanda looked at me, shutting off her phone. She shook her head. "No. Thanks. I have to get back over to Chiron Medical." She was holding it together by a thread. "I need to get to Patrick."
"Okay." I stepped back as she slid back on her gloves. Chiron was over in Atlas Park. It would take her a while to get there. Being a crip was a pain. "I could get you there faster."
Amanda looked at me for a moment. "You sure?"
I nodded. "Soon as we're outside, I'll just fly you and the chair over to the tram and then from the tram to Chiron once we get to Atlas."
"You aren't supposed to use your powers without supervision," she objected without conviction.
We got outside and I gripped her chair, lifting us into the air. My evening flights with Urioch were paying off. I could fly a hell of a lot faster than I used to. "You're my shrink; I'd say you have the authority to supervise the use of my powers."
She didn't try to object again. "Thanks Jason."
We got to Chiron in under a half hour, which was a miracle considering the trams were full with morning commuters. There was a hell of a lot of commotion as we landed. The emergency entrance doors looked scorched. There was some smoking rising from the foyer. Amanda flagged down one of the ER nurses trying to catch her breath. "Rebecca, what happened?"
"I'm sorry, Amanda," she explained between gasps of fresh air, " We tried to keep him calm, but he wouldn't wait for you to get here. He demanded to know what was going on."
"Oh no." Amanda looked from the nurse to the door. "What idiot told him?"
"Dr. Kensington." Rebecca shook her head. "We warned him that we had to keep Patrick in the dark and calm until you arrived, but he said that the man had a right to know." She cringed. "Dr. Kensington is lucky to be alive. It was horrible. Flames erupted everywhere."
"Was anyone else hurt?" Amanda kept hunting for clues as she talked. Her eyes were taking in everything, like some kind of detective.
She shook her head. "Only a few minor burns, some smoke inhalation. Nothing serious. The sprinklers came on almost instantly. More property damage than anything else."
"Where is Patrick?"
"I don't know. He ran from ER surrounded in flame, screaming he was going to kill them."
I blinked, looking at Amanda as she dropped her face in her hands. "Kill who?"
Amanda looked up at me, the tears finally falling. "The Vahzalok. They tried to harvest Kim along with a group of parents bringing their kids back from a play." Amanda looked like she was going to be sick. "Apparently children aren't good for body parts, maybe because they're too small. Jessica and Ken are with Kim's parents." I knew what happened to people who were caught by Vahzalok. Dissected alive for your body parts was a gruesome way to go. "She'd been in emergency surgery since last night. I didn't get many details, but according to the heroes who fought off the Mortificators and Reapers, the Vahz had all but cut her apart by the time they got there."
"Is Pat powerful enough to take on Vahzalok?" I knew he was more powerful than Blaize was. They'd had a good time tossing about fire balls the previous week during my birthday party.
"With a team, sure, but Kim was his world. He's out there, not thinking clearly, hunting alone."
And he was fucking up the conditions of his parole. His kids wouldn't lose one parent they'd lose both, because even if Patrick was stopped before the Vahz could take him down, he'd be sent back to the Zig for sure.
Shit! Shit. Shit. Shit. "Can you track him?" Amanda was a telepath. I had no idea what her range was.
Amanda's brows furrowed. "Maybe, but Patrick can move fast."
"So can I," I replied while hefting us into the air. "Which way?"
Closing her eyes, Amanda concentrated for a minute, and then pointed. "That way."
We soared into the street and up. I tried not to think about how much trouble I was going to get into for what I was doing. For once I wished I had a way to call for back up. The God Damn rules! I spent my time protecting playgrounds and work sites while there were people dying out there. As we soared toward the Argosy Industrial District, I saw a trail of smoke rising near the warehouses. "Smoke signals," I pointed as I changed our heading.
We slowed over the back fences, noting that there was a melted area about the size of a person. Near some smoldering crates were burnt corpses. The smell of roasted flesh left me gagging. Amanda groaned, "Patrick, what are you doing?" She closed her eyes and I could feel her sending. She must have been trying to reach Patrick, but she opened her eyes, frustrated. "That way."
It felt like we were chasing a rabid rat in a maze. We found other burnt areas, two corpses, and a place where it looked like an explosion had gone off. There were sirens in the distance, EMS, fire rescue and police. Maybe heroes had been called in as well. We followed Amanda's feeling and the occasional burnt trail, to the barrier walls. Where there should have been a solid grate to prevent access to the sewer system, there was only slagged metal. I set Amanda and chair down as we looked at the maw into the darkness. "God. I hate the sewers." I'd had my fill of climbing around the old sewer systems while in the Skulls.
"We can't go in there, Jason. No lights. No maps." Amanda stared helplessly at the melted grate.
"You have your cell?" I looked into the darkness beyond the grate as she fished in her purse.
"Yes." She held it up.
"Call for help. Tell them where you are, or maybe they can use the communication grid to locate you." I didn't trust that the metal wouldn't burn me. Though not glowing, I could feel the heat from the bars. He hadn't been through there very long ago. "I'll see if I can find him."
"Jason, that's insane."
I stared back at her, raked my hand like a claw at the grate, and ripped it from the cement with my thoughts. Yeah, I was a lot more powerful than I had been in the hospital. "I'll be careful. Just get someone here fast!"
Grabbing her at belt, she pulled off a little box and threw it to me. "Take my beeper. It has a GPS signal in it. All Emergency Services people had to have them when we were searching for survivors after the war. I'm still in the EMS system."
Snapping the thing onto the waist of my jeans, I turned to the entrance. "You're the best, Amanda."
"Jason?" I looked back at her. "Don't do anything stupid."
"Me?" I leapt into the darkness before she could give me what was certain to be a "yes you" look. I never did anything stupid. Thoughtless, impetuous, and arrogant maybe, but I was never stupid. Hah!
Dark. In addition to the smell, the dampness, the distracting sounds of dripping water and scurrying little things I probably didn't want to see, it was just too damn dark. I tacked another advantage or two to psycho kinesis as I floated slowly through the tunnels. I wasn't walking in shit filled water, and with my power pressing against the walls I didn't bump into anything. Though it was disgusting, I followed Patrick's trail by using my nose. I dropped to a lower level of the sewer system into a larger space. The room smelled of burnt hair, dung and piss. There were even some smoldering remains that gave off just enough light to cast ghoulish shadows on the walls. I was getting close. Even zombie flesh didn't burn very long. Of course, the explosion that echoed from a tunnel to my left was a much better clue. Soaring up and into the tunnel, I could see fire light and green luminance in the distance.
Patrick yelled curses which I could barely hear over the roar of flames, the explosions, and the unearthly sound of an Edilon's power. After one massive explosion of fire, the battle seemed to end. I paused at the opening to the next chamber and looked in. There were charred corpses everywhere. At the far side of the chamber was the slightly glowing, burnt body of an Edilon. This one had been a man. A bit further away, bone-butchers, most of them burnt, were hacking and cursing. Another small burst of flame erupted from the group, sending them tumbling back, some rolling in the waste water to douse the flames. I retched.
Patrick struggled to get to his feet as I gripped the wall, trying not to throw up again. He looked like a raw side of beef. Hacked up, his left arm cut to the bone at the shoulder and hanging limp, and his other arm was missing most of his hand; he looked like the living dead. The fire erupting from his eyes faded to flickers of light as he slumped against the wall. He wasn't going to make it.
The butchers, Urioch had called them Reapers, closed in again. I yelled as I grabbed as many as I could and threw them aside. I soared into the room, hoping not to hit anything in the limited and diminishing light. The fuckers had a few lanterns that had been scattered in the battle and the wavering shadows were hell on my depth perception. I landed beside Patrick, trying not to slip on the slime and blood that were all over the stones. His eyes turned up, dazed, and met mine. "I tried..."
The only warning I had was the sudden change in Patrick's expression. His eyes focused passed me, and I dropped to my knees as a massive fist smashed into the wall where my head had been. I threw my will back, grabbing anything behind me, and thrust as hard as I could. There was a groaned hiss of anger from the thing I sent tumbling away. I spun and held my breath. The thing looked kind of like the latest horror movie version of Frankenstein, but a hell of a lot bigger. If someone took a stitched up zombie, pumped it up on steroids and sent it to the gym for a year, that might have created the thing that was getting up and lumbering back toward me. I waved again, holding it back with my strength. The others were closing in as well. Maybe two normal zombies, if you could call any patchwork thing "normal", and four Reapers were still able to move. I extended my other hand, wrapped my will about the others, and held them all. It was all I could think to do. They weren't heavy. With all my training, I could hold them for a long time. At least, that was what I hoped.
"Jason..." Patrick pointed weakly with the remains of his hand at the huge zombie that was straining against my hold. "Abomination..."
I looked at the thing as it seemed to swell, taking in a deep breath, and then it vomited. The shit erupted from it as it exhaled; spraying us in a greenish, burning slime that felt like it was eating it's way through my flesh. I screamed, blocking most of the stuff with my power, but I couldn't stop it all. I'd never been able to figure out how to hold liquids. I rolled in the water, hoping it would dilute the acid, or whatever the shit was that it spit on me. It worked, kind of. The burning dulled, but didn't stop. I looked up, my vision blurred by pain, as the behemoth hefted me into the air and threw me against the wall. This time I was the one making the sickening crunching sounds. I couldn't even focus. I just whimpered as I slid down the wall and into the muck. I was going to die.
"More parts," the Reaper gloated as he raised a demented looking cleaver above me. I closed my eyes and counted out my last moments, wishing I'd done so many things differently. The blow never came.
The room resonated with a soft, humming tone that was like a bell or tuning fork being struck. I snapped open my eyes. Soft, silver white light sparkled in the air, swirling and dancing about the Reapers and Cadavers. I could barely make out a figure at the far end of the room, her hands extended, while another figure rose up behind her like a blue-white star. The Reaper that stood, enthralled by whatever had filled the room, blew apart as a blue white blast scattered his remains. I recognized the light and the sound of Urioch's energy bolts as he unleashed blue death upon the remaining Vahzalok. I just stared, unable to say anything, as Magdalene crossed the room, the silver light dissipating as she knelt beside me. "We're here, Jason. Hold on."
I wanted to hold on, I really did, but I just couldn't. I felt my heart hiccup. It didn't' hurt. It was just a little sensation before everything started to relax. I couldn't see Magdalene any longer. My vision went a kind of white and silver before going black.