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 8
I sat in Kevin's office, waiting for my appointment with Mrs. Patterson. She was the only person I knew who was more anal about appointment times than Amanda. It was half past ten and she hadn't opened the door demanding to know where I was. Of course, I'd never actually been in her office before. I'd always come to Kevin's, which was the gateway to hers, and then was directed to a conference room. Kevin wasn't there. What was there was a phone that didn't stop ringing more than a minute or two at a time and a million post-it notes stuck on Patterson's door. The whole place seemed to be in overdrive. Another office worker scurried in, looked at Kevin's empty desk in a panic, found a post-it, scribbled something and put it up on Patterson's door before dashing off with an armload of papers from the desk.
Curiosity pulled me from the chair and I started reading the notes. Most were requests to return calls, but there were a couple that looked important. I stopped at one half buried note. "Kevin, auto accident, Chiron medical, Room 417." I wondered if Patterson even knew he wasn't there. I could hear her, talking emphatically and clicking at her computer. I knocked before pushing open the door.
Covering the mouth piece of her phone, Patterson issued me directions. "Kevin, just put the reports on the desk, anywhere." She didn't even look up.
"Uhm, Kevin isn't here."
Patterson looked up at me, blinking. "Jason, your appointment was rescheduled. Didn't Kevin call you?"
I pulled the note from her door. "Kevin isn't here. Really." Handing her the note, I looked around the office. I'd never actually been beyond Kevin's office into hers. There were photos of heroes everywhere. Some were action shots, some were candid, and some were of them out of costume with friends or family; hundreds of photos, each grouped by subject. Patterson's attention was pulled back her argument on the phone, so I just wandered the walls. I stopped at the photos of Urioch. There were four. One was a magazine clipping, one was a typical head shot, one was a shot of him with a hero team in action, and the last was him with several other heroes, kicked back and relaxing out of costume. I recognized Magdalene and SM in the shot. Further along, I found a couple photos of me. One was a picture from high school, and the other was the mug shot taken of me when I entered the parole program. Neither were particularly good photos. I certainly didn't look very happy in them. I continued around the wall until I got to the back. The area seemed sectioned off, though there was no formal designation for the change. Inside the space were photos and clippings. The clippings were obituaries. I stepped back and looked at the wall. There were dozens of obituaries, dead heroes, on that wall.
"I don't want to see you there, Jason. Do me the favor of living longer than I do." I turned around as she up the phone. "As Kevin isn't here, I will need to get the paperwork distributed myself. I will note that you made your appointment, Jason. You can go."
From the urgency of everything going on in the department, I knew shit had hit the fan. "What's going on?"
"Too many crises, too few of me," she grumbled, pulling out files. "I have an idiot doctor wanting to do surgery on a hero who's skin is the only thing containing a thermal nuclear reaction. Four heroes with Vahzalok disease and the vaccine isn't ready. This morning a drug bust went wrong and there are nearly a dozen heroes in the ER with special medical needs."
"Can I do anything to help?"
Patterson looked at me. "There are hundreds of experienced heroes out there, Jason. Just go home."
I frowned. "I meant help here, you bossy old bitch."
Patterson stopped, glared at me, and then huffed. "There should be a stack of special need reports on Kevin's desk; I need to get them over to Chiron Medical. I have the situation report on the heroes in my care who were in the drug bust; I need to get that report to Brawler over in Galaxy."
"I can do both of those. I can get the files to Chiron and then head over to Galaxy." I followed her out as she hunted for the reports on Kevin's desk. "Can I fly?"
Patterson handed me the box of files and tossed the report for Brawler on top. "Teleport for all I care. Yes, yes. Power use restriction is lifted while you're doing department business. Get out of here."
I grabbed the box and backed out of the office, shooting Patterson a triumphant smile. "Get yourself some more coffee, you're going soft you old crone!"
I left at a run.
Getting the paperwork into the ER was a fucking pain. I, of course, wasn't an actual department member so I had no clearance. Then when they finally got a hold of Patterson, and she reamed them four new holes for delaying me, I got my clearance and got in. Flying made the deliveries a hell of a lot easier. I got from the Tram to Freedom Plaza in less than a minute. Brawler was no where to be seen. Stopping by one of the corps trainers, I asked, "Where can I find Brawler? I have to deliver him some reports from Patterson about the drug bust."
"I'm not sure, give me a moment." She tapped her headset and called in for information. Talk about a confused fiasco. Patterson's department wasn't the only place in an uproar today "He's on site, in Constellation Row." She pulled out a call box. "Set it for channel 239 and hit track. Brawler's team signal is on that frequency."
"Thanks." I took the box and launched. At least Constellation Row was in Galaxy.
I soared over the warehouses, following the signal, until I got to what looked like a war zone. Cops were ringed around the manufacturing plant trying to contain the chaos. Inside the grounds there were more than a few heroes flying about, blasting away at Clockwork. I'd only seen Clockwork in real life once, while in the Skulls, and they creeped me out almost as much as the Vahz. Living, thinking, mechanical robots with a drive to propagate themselves, only the undead were more unnerving. When you broke the bigger ones apart, their components would come to life independently and keep fighting.
I swooped over the roof toward Brawler's signal. As I got to the back lot, I spotted him. Someone his size was hard to miss. He was taller than Urioch and at least three times as wide. The thing he was going toe to toe with was even bigger. They called those things Assembler Princes. Huge, lumbering, lightning tossing, wall smashing metal monsters were what they were. Fortunately, the prince looked a lot worse for wear than Brawler did. With a roar, Brawler punched fist right through the thing's chest cavity, hefted it up and slammed it to the ground. If it had been on TV it would made a great wrestling move.
I was about to land when the robot's components began separating, morphing into smaller, vicious little robots that began unleashing blasts of electricity at Brawler. Watching him try to take them down was like watching a gorilla trying to swat ants. They would tear him apart inch by inch. I landed, waving, and grabbing the area with my thoughts. It was easy to let Brawler slide through my hold as I lifted anything lighter than two hundred pounds into the air. The little menaces floated, sparking and arcing with electricity, but were basically ineffectual as I held them.
"I hate God-damn Gears!" Brawler smashed, swatted, squashed and raged his way through the little things as I held them immobile. After about five minutes, he had all of them disabled. He turned, glaring at me. "What the fuck are you doing here, Death's Head. You don't have security clearance."
I held up the envelope from Patterson. "I'm just a delivery boy, really. I'm not breaking parole."
Snatching the envelope, he ripped it open and looked over the report. "Fucking bastards," he snarled, crushing the report.
He glared at me. "Bad information happened, kid. The whole thing was a setup. The few skulls we did arrest had TEEP pills at the ready. They're so drugged up at this point that it will be days before the telepaths can get anything from them. By then, the Bone Daddies will have moved the whole fucking operation." Pulling open the sheets, he read off some of it in disgust. "The only cognoscente information we received was from one of the lieutenants. Before the TEEP took full effect he chided us, saying that we had to 'know the past to see the future'." Wadding up the paperwork and throwing it into the smoldering heap that had once been the Assembler Prince, he snarled, "What the hell does that mean?"
Like I knew? "Sounds like something Urioch would say."
Brawler spit. "Great. Now I have street gang, drug dealers reciting alien riddles." He eyed me, noting I hadn't left yet. "You delivered your message, Death's Head. Get out of the combat zone."
I took to the air, puzzling what the skull had said while I flew back to the Tram. Killer said something like that once. He used it as a code to let us know when we were to return to an old base. I stopped, hovering above the tram station. "An old base..." It couldn't have been that simple. I landed at the Tram and hopped the line over to King's Row. There was a warehouse, up in the North East corner of Kings Row, where the Capes had busted up one of the biggest Superadyne labs the Skulls had. The failed bust was supposed to have been even bigger. I landed in the water towers near the warehouse and waited. It was still daylight and it was impossible to get close without being seen. Trying to get as comfortable as possible while sitting up on a water tower in the October rain, I waited for dark.
The warehouse looked deserted, but that didn't mean anything. The Skulls weren't all bone heads. They knew how to keep a place looking vacant while pumping out a million dollars of drugs a day. You just had to know what to look for. I soared across the street, hoping the rain and darkness would cover me, and hovered near the roof line. There had to be an open or broken window somewhere. It took me about a quarter hour, but I found one, removed the broken glass pieces, and squeezed my way in. I didn't need to go very far. Superadyne had a very distinct smell when it was being cooked. I got a whiff of it before I made it out of the abandoned office area. It may not have been "the" lab, but it was definitely a lab. Squeezing my way back out of the window, I flew to some cover and pulled out the squawk box. "Death's Head to Brawler!"
There was a moment's delay before I got a beep back; it reminded me of push to talk phones. I thought the things used the same technology. "Why do you still have the communicator, Jason!"
"I think I found your lab!"
"I don't give a fuck what you think you found. You get that thing back to FC before I kick your ass to the moon, Jason. This isn't a game."
I snarled. "I know this isn't a fucking game! You think I'd be getting soaked to death, at night, during the Vahz plague, for fun?"
"You have ten minutes to be back to Galaxy and to your place, Jason. I'll deal with this tomorrow!" I heard the tweedle sound of being cut off.
"Bastard," I grumbled, tucking away the box. I was going to get my ass kicked for trying to help... again.
They could track me with the box. Hell, they could track me even without it because of the damn medicom chip. I flew fast and furious through the rain, while trying to protect my face, and made it to the Tram and back into Galaxy with under a minute to spare. I didn't get to the apartment in the allotted time, but I was cooked anyway. I had just thrown the squawk box on the couch and was peeling off my jacket and shirt, when Urioch came in from the balcony. He looked like hell. Beaten, bruised, cut up, dripping wet, and like he was ready to collapse. He eyed me cautiously. "Jason, why are you soaked?"
Why the fuck bother lying? He would hear about it eventually. "Because I've been flying around in the rain, trying to convince Bad Attitude Brawler that I figured out where the real Superadyne lab is. He says he'll deal with it tomorrow... no, that he'll deal with 'me' tomorrow. It's such bullshit! I was a Skull, I know how they think, and no one will listen to me."
Urioch looked at me, studying my eyes. I wasn't lying. I'd promised I wouldn't lie any more. Grunting, he stalked past me towards the bathroom. "Get into dry clothes and give me a few minutes, Jason. We will see if your hunch is correct."
Blinking, I watched him close the door before I started moving. We were going to see if I was right? I slid on my program uniform and then pulled on a rain coat over that. Urioch came out of the bathroom, looked at me, and nodded. "We will investigate your suspicions, Jason, but you will do as you are told."
"Then let us go."
There was no way Urioch was going to fit through the window I'd squeezed through before. There was also the problem of his energy trail. When he flew, he glowed. That didn't work well for sneaking anyplace. I dropped him off at the roof entrance nearest to the office I got into before. Yeah, he could have blown his way in, but getting into a full blown gang war in a drug-lab wasn't the smartest thing to do. I got up to the roof and opened the door without anyone being the wiser.
Urioch sniffed the air as we got into the offices. "Superadyne."
"Told you," I mumbled, floating my way to the plant door. We got out on to the upper catwalks before seeing any actual activity. The skulls had done a good job camouflaging the main warehouse area. No light was going to get out. A group of four gang members walked under us on their way deeper into the warehouse.
"Marrow Snap wants everything broken down by midnight. We're moving before the capes catch a clue."
I looked at Urioch and whispered, "That isn't much time."
"These are only Skulls, Jason. I will handle this. You keep out of danger and set you communicator for emergency team call. Regardless of what Brawler may think, an emergency call must be answered."
"What about you?"
"Bullets cannot penetrate my armor, Jason. I will be fine." With that, his armor flowed upward, like mercury, until it covered his head and face. I hadn't seen him do that often. It was freaky.
Urioch flew off the catwalk and soared down into the maze of shipping boxes and old machinery. I pulled out my call box and keyed in the emergency signal. Brawler was going to kill me, but at least there would be a lot less Superadyne hitting the streets. My attention was yanked from the signal by the first barrage of machine gun fire. It was followed quickly by the sound of energy explosions. Urioch was on the case. I sat there, like a good boy, and waited. Urioch said his armor could stop bullets. He'd be fine. I wasn't so sure about armor piercing rounds, or exploding bullets, or flame throwers. Could his armor stop all that too?
"Fuck it," I muttered, swooping over the railing and down into the main plant area. If he didn't need me, I could keep far enough back that I wouldn't get in the way.
Alien armor or not, thousands of rounds of ammo would wear anyone down. Also, Urioch hadn't been in top form when we got here. He was tired, just off a task force, and nearly dead on his feet. Why the fuck had I mentioned anything? Urioch had cleared out the whole lower level, and was trading blows with a Bone Daddy up on a catwalk. That was Marrow Snap. I'd heard of him, but I'd never met him. He was one of the more powerful Bone Daddies. He and Urioch traded blasts of darkness and light like some titanic battle you would expect from Hollywood. Ultimate expressions of good and evil were raging at the end of the building while gang members fled from the fury being unleashed.
I soared closer, staying near the rafters and out of sight. Urioch's armor was dented, marred and torn in places. Marrow Snap's black leather jacket was smoldering and his black jeans were torn and burnt. There was blood streaking his skull-tattooed face, and he wasn't giving in.
"You're a fucking idiot, Cape," he yelled, dodging under Urioch's blast as he closed the distance. "I'm going to crush every bone in your body." Darkness and red light swirled about his fists and he rained a dozen or more blows into Urioch's torso. I could see the armor flexing, denting, yielding under the assault. With a resonance that filled the plant, Marrow Snap slammed his fist into Urioch's chest and sent him over the railing and to the concrete. Urioch didn't get up. Marrow Snap laughed, though it was punctuated by some coughing and maybe more than a little spit-up blood, before he leapt over the railing, landed on the crates below, and then jumped down to Urioch's body. Urioch started to move, lifting his head to face his enemy. Marrow Snap raised his hands and I saw the darkness coalesce between them. I'd seen that attack before. He was going to suck out the remaining life from Urioch, like a vampire, and heal himself. Only the older bones could do that. "Say goodbye, asshole."
Urioch screamed as the darkness wrapped about them. I couldn't get down there fast enough, but I didn't need to get there. My thoughts slammed into Marrow Snap, throwing him into and through the crates as I dropped to the floor and ran for Urioch. I rolled as gunfire sprayed over my head. There were still gang members about. I caught sight of the guy with the gun and waved. He flew off the crates he'd been standing on and smashed against the ceiling before I dropped him. I didn't wait around for the thud.
Urioch groaned as I got to him. He wasn't dead. I practically cried in relief. "I set the emergency call. Help's coming."
"Jason..." I could see the reflection in his armor, I rolled. The dark power lashed into the crates behind where I'd been kneeling.
Marrow Snap was on me before I could think. Wrapped in darkness, the way he hobbled and limped only made his blurred movements more horrifying. He grabbed my throat, lifting me off the ground as if I was nothing but air. "I'm going to suck you dry, Cape-lite, and then I'm going to finish my canned meal." His power flared again, and I felt the darkness rip into me, trying to take away everything that mattered.
I could feel them. I'd been too close to death too many times not to feel them. Mom and Dad were there, holding onto me, trying to help. Who knew angels could be desperate? I'd promised I'd take care of myself. I said they didn't need to do it anymore. I hadn't meant to lie. I didn't want it to be a lie. I wanted to live. I wanted to keep my promises for once. Something in me snapped open, like a lock that had kept me out or something in, and I felt like I was exploding. I opened my eyes, sucking in a full breath against the strangle hold of Marrow Snap's grip, and my life held fast. I met the darkness of his eyes and saw my own eyes reflected there. They were glowing. It was a green-white light that was blazing behind my eyes, burning away the darkness that held me. "Think again," I managed to spit around his grip, and thrust my will at his head. He let go, dropping me as he flew back.
I hit the ground, and scrambled back over to Urioch. His breathing was so shallow. The pain was fading, slowly, but it was more like all sensation was fading instead of pain. I felt Marrow Snap's rage as he charged back towards us. He'd managed to heal himself, at least partially, and he was ready for another round. I wished Urioch was.
"I'm going to break you too, black boy."
I waved, clawing at him as I thrust him into the air. "The name's Death's Head, moron."
Marrow Snap snorted, but he couldn't move. "The guy who bitch-slapped Jaw Breaker over in Galaxy?"
"One and the same," I snarled, trying to tighten my grip. I could feel him flexing against me.
"You're one of us, Jasey-boy. We made you. What are you fucking around with the Capes for?"
I glared at him, squeezing tighter. I wanted him to shut up. "The Skulls killed me, Marrow Snap. Urioch and a whole bunch of others saved me." I squeezed again. He was having a hard time breathing. "I'm going to be a cape some day, and I'm not going to stop until I've swept every last one of you bastards off the street."
"Shame," Marrow Snap gasped, determined to talk me down, "Big-blue ain't going to be there to see it..."
"Neither are you." I clenched my fist shut and put every ounce of hate I could muster into it. Marrow Snap gasped, and then there was a multitude of snapping as I watched his chest cave in. I felt the backlash of hate and darkness from him as I snuffed him out. It wasn't like when the workers had died. With them, it was like a small point of light being blown out and some little part of my own went with them. His was like an opening to a void, and all I had done was plug the hole.
There was a flicker of life fading out. It was like a blue-white candle flame struggling in the wind. There just wasn't enough fuel left to keep it burning. I pulled Urioch's head into my lap and tried to figure out what to do. Magdalene wasn't here. There wasn't any ancient goddess magic to save the day. Demonicalle wasn't here. No injection of bio-boosting radiation was available. It was just us. His eyes were glazing over, and I tried to keep him focused on me. "You can't die. It's against the rules."
Urioch smiled weakly before he slipped unconscious. I couldn't stop my tears as his light faded. "I'm not letting you off that easy, you pointy-eared freak." He didn't respond, just kept sinking into my lap. Bending over him, I brought my face to his, yelling. "You promised to see my potential fulfilled. I haven't gotten there yet!" The bastard. He wasn't allowed to die. I'd done what I promised. I'd been good. I'd stopped lying. It wasn't fair. My tears dripped down his partially armored face as I held him, praying so quietly I wasn't sure God could hear me. "God, don't leave me alone again. Please... I can't do it again."
That lock inside snapped with so much force I thought my heart would break. It felt like I was pouring myself out, trying to refill a container that was nearly empty. The blaze in my mind kept the flicker in Urioch rekindling, like when a bowtorch was put near a dying ember. If I kept burning bright enough, maybe he'd last until help arrived.