“I was useless!” Blacktide paced in the break room, clenching his fists. “I’ve never been so useless in a fight. I can’t believe it!”
“The Hearse is indestructible, my friend,” Nyhtwulf said. “Nothing we can do could ever damage it.” The Twilie Demon was munching on cream cheese cubes, complete in their foil wrappers. This didn’t faze him when it came to talking and created a ‘nom nom’ sound with the words.
“Could have been worse, couldn’t it?” Atomizer said, “After all, I tried my power on an alien weapon and nearly blew a whole city street away.” Atomizer popped open a soda and took a long drink.
“I’ve never come across anything like that before. I’ve always had to worry about accidently killing people around me. If it weren’t for Nyhtwulf being my partner now, I doubt I would still be here.” Blacktide stared out a window. He instinctively wanted to punch a wall in his frustration, but knew better.
“You saved innocent people,” Nyhtwulf said. “I saw through your eyes.”
Blacktide remembered the fallen ceiling beams and trapped civilians. His power was instrumental in freeing them. His power literally erased key points in debris, allowing Dr. Vampire and Lonestar to use their strength freely and safely for several rescues.
“Yeah, I did.”
“So you weren’t useless, Man!” Atomizer said. “You did good. I’d pat you on the back, but I know you’d hate it so I’m doing it verbally, okay?”
Blacktide couldn’t help but smirk at the idea, “I hate that too.”
In another room, Dr. Vampire lay on a table unconscious. Dreamseer had her fingertips at the Doctor’s temples. She was completely silent. Electrode stood outside the room with Lonestar, watching the ordeal.
“You want to tell me what happened out there?” Electrode asked.
“Since he was turned into a vampire by Lord Dracula himself, our leader has had to contain a great darkness. There is always the chance of it coming out and it makes him very powerful. It’s a curse that none of us have found a way to break.”
“So he could become a monster at literally anytime?”
“No. He’s only at risk under certain forms of great stress or in places of great evil.”
“Inside The Hearse had to be pretty evil, I imagine.” Electrode nodded. It reminded him of the struggle he saw in Blacktide.
Up on the roof, Nightfall sat on the edge of the building with Anubis, gazing over the city lights of New York.
“I’m telling you, I never thought it was possible to feel such pain,” Anubis said. “I think that thing could have actually killed me. And I understand Doctor Vampire’s problem, but that was quite a surprise as well.”
“Dreamseer is taking care of him. You know, this is an important lesson for you. You have these new and wonderful powers, but you don’t know any of your own limits. Now you know that you have to be careful out there.”
“I know. I knew I could be hurt when I got shot by one of those alien weapons. I just didn’t know I could be hurt that bad or hit that hard. I’ll sure remember next time.”
“Sounds like you want revenge on The Hearse.” Nightfall cocked and eyebrow in disbelief.
“Well, yeah, wouldn’t you? I want a rematch.”
Nightfall laughed, “Oh you are such a rookie! That’s not what I meant by learning your limits. You can’t kill The Hearse.”
“You’re only supposed to laugh when I actually tell a joke you know,” Anubis tried to show an expression of fake pouting on his jackal’s face, but it just looked like a weird snarl.
“You’re just funnier than you realize!” Nightfall smacked him on the shoulder.
“Careful, you’ll knock me off the roof,” Anubis teased, so she hit him some more.
“You can fly!”
Far across the country, a new mission unfolded. The gangs of south Seattle are well known for their violent crimes. A lot of young lives have been wasted over territorial disputes, drugs, and women. All it really takes for a gang member to get shot is the wrong color clothing, an odd hand signal, or just a bad attitude. Two small groups met over a dispute in a rundown area of buildings awaiting the wrecking ball. Posturing became words. Words became anger and shoving. Shoving turned to weapons. One brought out a knife and his opponent, a gun. A hail of gunfire took down all but one thug who dodged between the buildings on the run. He lost his way through the decrepit buildings and lost his way to the exit. High fences and barbed wire thwarted his escape attempts. His pursuers were catching up to him as he dodged behind a dumpster. He clutched the edge of the trash container while he fought to catch his breath. The other gangsters passed him by, but it wouldn’t be for long.
“You’re in a fix,” the smooth voice startled the young thug so he spun with his knife ready. A quick strike to the wrist from a black cane topped with a silver skull, knocked the knife away. The man in the top hat smiled at him.
“Relax, I’m here as your friend. I can help you,” Stormy said.
“Yeah? Well you gonna help us both get killed if you don’t shut up.” He looked worriedly over the dumpster. The other thugs weren’t in sight yet.
“How would you like to teach them a lesson?”
“What? You got an uzi?” The thug wondered if he could dive for his knife.
“No, I have this,” suddenly a 20 foot tall suit of mechanized armor was standing behind Stormy. It was rounded and smooth with a pair of massive metal hands. Its feet were as wide as the hood of a mid-size car. Portions of the armor played a trick on the eyes as they seemed like portals to view the universe. Stars, planets and deep space could be seen in the reflection of the arms and legs. The massive head section split open and lowered in a way that would allow a person to climb into the cockpit.
“You should climb in and take it for a spin. It’s much better than waiting to get shot.” Stormy faded away with a cruel chuckle.
The thug could hear them getting closer. Surely they heard some of the noise that guy made. What else could he do? He climbed up into the big suit of armor and the panels closed over him. A metal halo dropped down around the top of his head and he could feel control of the whole machine. Screens appeared and he could see outside. He moved his arm, and its arm did the same. He turned to face the opening the other thugs would come through. The shooter came around first and stopped cold with a shocked expression. The thug willed the machine to step forward. It put a great metal foot on the dumpster, and crushed it flat. The other gangsters fired their guns, but bullets were useless against the mystical TANK armor.
The thug laughed, “You still wanna shoot me?”
The first shooter met his grisly end in the compacting grasp of a metal hand. The thug pilot laughed, delirious with power. The others turned to run but energy beam weapons fired from the armor’s shoulders. Both men were turned to charred skeletal remains.
“Yeah!” the thug yelled. But then something felt odd. He couldn’t move his arms and legs anymore, and the TANK started moving without his commands. Scanners located the nearest populated area as the thug watched and it started walking. As his mind went blank he heard the metallic voice coming from the machine.
“I am TANK.”
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