[AC] Bush43 #63
jasonkenney at gmail.com
Tue Jan 2 15:12:35 PST 2007
Artifice Comics - http://www.artificecomics.com
NOTE: Bush43 #63 takes place during Millennium Man #21-24
I brushed past Isiah Rowe as he answered the door.
"Damn, Jeffery, where have you been?" he asked as I stalked about the
living room looking for a spare mask.
"Do I have a mask around here?"
"Yeah," Isiah said, stepping to a sidetable and opening the drawer
underneath, pulling out a latex George W. Bush mask.
"Awesome," I said, snatching it and then noticing that he was nicely
dressed. "What are you all dressed up for?"
"I've got a date."
"With a girl?"
"I do like girls."
"No, dude, you need to get out of town. Christ, the Imperial
Magistrate's coming back!"
"Tonight, tomorrow, I don't know when. Soon. And you have got to get
out of here or they'll kill you."
"Not just you. Everyone. Isiah, this city isn't safe."
"It hasn't been for a long time, Jeffery. What's so urgent now?"
"The Magistrate, Isiah. They're coming back. Everything's coming to a
head and it's not going to be pretty and you really need to be out of
here. Take her with you. Go to Lorrington, get a hotel for the week, I
"Jeffery, calm down," Isiah said and I threw up my hands and turned
from him, my eyes wandering and settling on the television, some inane
sitcom rerun on KGPC, some nonsense that fed the masses, preoccupied
them, kept them oblivious.
"Jeffery, what do you know?"
"I know that this city's as good as dead and not a single person wants
to do a single goddamn thing to save themselves!" I shouted as I spun
on him. "Damn it, Isiah, I just want one person to take me seriously,
one person to actually realize the danger this city is in and actually
"Maybe if you took a few seconds to calm the fuck down and explain a
few things people would listen to you!" Isiah shouted back and I was
caught off-guard. I'd never heard him yell before. "Christ, Jeffery,
you can't just pop in and out and expect everyone to know what the fuck
is going on. You can't expect people to fucking save themselves if
you're going to take it all on yourself!"
"This isn't about me," was all I could stammer.
"Then quit keeping everything so goddamn close and let people know what
the hell is going on!"
"Isiah..." I started to say but I stopped when I heard a voice cut
through the television, shaky, hesitant, completely different than the
sitcom it interrupted.
I turned to watch as a disheveled man looked into the camera, bloodshot
eyes, a five o'clock shadow on his face which looked lost, scared,
"I was told since I was young to look away from the streets and the
filth that crowd them and to look up at the heavens," the man said,
pausing to begin crying.
"What the hell..." said Isiah, voicing my thoughts as the man on the
television went on.
"But I can't do that, ladies and gentlemen. I can't look to the heavens
because the sky is filled with murderers and tyrants."
"Oh shit," I said softly as I could practically read on the man's face
what was coming as he spoke of James Finnegan, as he spoke of the well
known and tainted history of Millennium Man.
He held up a small stack of papers in his clenched hand, tears running
down his cheeks, his eyes, his face becoming sharper, angrier, a bout
of courage filling him.
"I can no longer be an accessory of such an abhorrent and corrupt lie.
Ladies and gentlemen, a few months ago certain files and reports came
into my possession. We have confirmed our sources and the evidence
these documents with authorities independent of this city's corrupt
leadership and have found them to be true.
"These files confirm the real name and identity of Pacific City's most
"Ladies and gentlemen," the man whispered as the weight of his news
collapsed upon him. "Millennium Man is Michael Manly."
And the earth shook.
Something was happening near where Pacific Tower used to be, downtown,
flashes of light dancing in the air as fire, smoke and dust reached up
This wasn't the Magistrate, I told myself as I glanced to the sky, held
my breath as I looked for ships, for lights from the heavens, for the
I headed toward the fight after leaving Isiah's, trying my best to
put that television address out of my head while focusing on whatever
was happening ahead of me.
But I couldn't.
What did it mean, that man revealing Millennium Man's identity? What
impact would it have? Would the city care? If it did, how would it
care? Would it hate Manly? Would it hate all of its heroes?
Or would they rally to them?
I was quickly able to rule that last option out as I approached the
mess downtown, a flash of light silhouetting one of the fighting
figures, raven wings spread wide in the sky.
The Mayor was destroying the city on her very own.
I ran harder, holding back a scream of rage as I went.
All my work.
All my efforts.
All for this?
Suddenly I stopped, like something tugged at my chest and held me,
turned me, begged for my attention elsewhere.
I looked north and saw a figure kneeling on the rooftop of a building a
block away, cape and shoulder length hair blowing in the wind.
I looked back to the fight, the destruction, clenched my fists and
turned back north, leaping across the street and crossing the roofs,
heading toward Victoria Burke when I felt that we weren't alone.
Another person was crossing the rooftops from the side, gliding through
the air, picking up speed, sword in hand and back, ready to swing.
I hit Victoria's roof and dove at her just as the other person passed
close by, the sword cutting through the air where Victoria had been
I scrambled to my feet, looking from Victoria to the flying woman as
she went out and then turned around for another approach.
"'Toria," I said as I tried to get her to her feet. "C'mon, we have
"Leave me," she said, trying to push me away as she got to her feet and
staggered slightly, her domino mask hanging half off, her costume torn,
covered in dirt.
"What the hell..."
"Oh, this is perfect," I heard from across the roof and I looked to see
the flying woman now standing there, sword on her shoulder.
Emma Randolph smiled wide.
"Good to see you again, Jeffery."
"Emma, we don't have the time for this," I said, putting myself
between her and Victoria. "We've got to help the city..."
"You heroes have done enough already, don't you think?" Emma said.
"Victoria," I whispered, turning my head slightly to try and catch a
glimpse of her behind me, "can you transform into Yehovah Vehayah?"
"She won't let me," Victoria said weakly, her hand wrapped around the
scarab at her neck.
"No," Victoria said. "She won't."
Son of a...
I caught Emma moving out of the corner of my eye and shoved Victoria
one way as I dove the other, Emma stopping on a dime and spinning to
face me, her sword cutting down. I rolled out of the way as it tore
into the roof and back up as she was ready to go again.
"Damn it," I said as I moved again and got to my feet, bringing a punch
around that Emma stepped back from.
She danced back a bit to put some distance between her and myself, her
eyes moving from me to Victoria and back.
"You shouldn't interfere, Carter. Your time will come later."
"Bullshit," I said.
"The angel told me to come here," Emma said with a wicked smirk. "Told
me that Victoria needed to die. Told me how each of you were to die."
This was crazy.
"No, this is about you wanting whatever the fuck it is you wanted the
first time out."
"Do you think you will fare any better this time around?" Emma asked,
bringing the sword up and ready.
I planted my feet and hesitated, tried to figure out the best approach.
That sword was dangerous.
That sword could cut me.
That sword could kill me.
"Look at her, Jeffery," Emma said, nodding toward Victoria. "She wants
this, don't you, Vicky? She knows she's done. She knows she's
weak, she's fake. She wants to die."
I glanced over to see Victoria collapsed on the rooftop, bracing
herself up with one hand, the other around her scarab, her bodying
shaking as she cried.
"Fuck that," I said, turning back to Emma. "She's coming with me and
"You want to kill her, get through me first."
I shouldn't have said that.
"Oh, ho, Mister Carter," said Emma with a laugh and large grin, "you
asked for it."
She was faster than I expected, the tip of her sword biting at my shirt
as I stepped aside, grazing my arm, a burning cut opening up bright and
red. She spun and came again, this one easy enough to dodge, low and to
the side, a jab, a slash, and I shifted back and away.
I took a couple steps back and we started to circle each other, my
right arm throbbing from the cut but still functional, my eyes drifting
over Emma's shoulder at times to the flames lighting the sky
Too goddamn much chaos.
Emma moved again, lunging, bringing in a low jab for my gut that I
stepped aside from and slapped away with the back of my arm, thankfully
against the flat.
Unfortunately she seemed to anticipate that, twisting her wrist as she
looped her arm down and then up and back, catching me just under my
right arm on the pull back.
I screamed and leapt back, my arm suddenly numb, pain tearing through
my side, my chest, and I clutched at the fresh wound.
"Do you think we can get to a thousand cuts before you die, Jeffery?"
Emma asked as a smile spread across her blood splattered face.
"Please what, Carter? Please end this for you now? Please kill you
before this city crumbles around you and you see the damage you and
Vicky have truly caused?
"I know how you die, Jeffery Carter, and it's alone and a failure. It's
watching all that you've worked so hard to save go up in smoke. It's
knowing that you've failed.
"Or it's up here, on the rooftop next to the slut daughter of a whore
who stole what was rightfully mine."
I breathed heavily, trying to ignore the pain that raced through my
chest, my shoulder, my arm dangling useless.
"Bring it," was all I could muster but it was enough.
She came again, a scream of her own, a scream of bloodlust.
There was a blur and suddenly Victoria was between us, Emma's sword
catching her in the chest, following through and into my shoulder,
pinning us together momentarily.
Victoria's gasp mixed with my own as Emma pulled her sword back and
we collapsed, Victoria rolling off of me as we hit the roof.
I tried to move, tried to scramble around, rolling over onto my now
useless arm, ignoring the pain as I reached across Victoria and grabbed
her chin, turned her face to mine, Emma Randolph's wicked laugher
filling the air.
"'Toria," I said, my handing moving down to her neck, my fingers
groping for a pulse, my teeth clenching as pain wracked my torso, my
shoulder and armpit bleeding onto the rooftop.
"Get up, Carter," I heard as the laughter ended. "You're not dead
I locked eyes with Emma as I kept feeling for a pulse, my fingers
pushing aside the chain that held the scarab, finally finding a beat,
faint but there.
Victoria wasn't dead yet either.
"Get up," Emma said, pointing at me with her sword.
I pulled my hand from near Victoria's neck, clenched in a fist, and
grunted as I tried to get to my feet, having to compensate for the
deadweight that was my right arm whose only purpose now was to bleed me
"Red looks good on you," I said as Emma smiled, covered in blood that
was not her own, the tip of her sword still pointed at me, pointed at
my head. Her eyes followed down the edge of the sword into my own.
"It's unfortunate that it has come to this, Carter. You seem like a
nice guy otherwise."
"You sound like you've been rehearsing this."
"I've been anticipating it."
"I'm not a big fan of either," I said, staggering slightly as my head
went light for a second. I shook it off and held my footing. "So are we
going to do this?"
"I'll make it quick," she said, whipping the sword back and coming
around at me, bringing the blade toward my neck.
It hit and held, forcing me to tilt my head a bit but little more.
Emma's eyes widened as a smile crept across my face, my left hand
held up, showing her what I clutched inside my fist.
"Consider this my second wind," I said and I swung around with a kick
she tried to step back from but didn't step back far enough, my heel
catching her in the side.
I continued around and moved forward, letting momentum carry my right
arm around like a club upside her head, trying to press my advantage,
trying to keep at her while she was stunned.
She staggered back, ducked a punch and moved back more, getting some
distance between us before planting her feet and screaming as she
pointed her sword at me, the blade beginning to glow, the light growing
and then exploding out the tip and tearing at me.
To no effect.
"NO!" Emma shouted, lunging at me. I bat her sword away with my good
arm, my other arm suddenly working, my hand finding its way around her
neck and lifting her off the ground.
I heard her sword clatter onto the rooftop as she clutched at my hand.
I narrowed my eyes as she gasped for air, tightening my grip around her
neck as she struggled, my fingers digging into the sides of her neck.
"And how do you die, Emma?" I asked through clenched teeth as she tried
to dig her fingers under mine, tried to free her throat from my grip.
"Have you seen that? Did the angel tell you that?"
The voice in my head was loud, strong, nearly overpowering, light
flashing in my mind, fire burning as angelic fury tried to push me.
She is a true warrior! shouted Yehovah Vehayah in my head. Give her the
With a scream of rage I swung my arm down, putting all my weight and
strength into the movement, slamming Emma headfirst into the rooftop,
embedding her head in it.
I felt her body twitch once, twice, and then go limp.
"Stay down," I said through clenched teeth and I pulled my hand away.
I turned and ran to Victoria, pulling my mask off as I fell to my knees
beside her, cradling her head in my arm as I felt again for a pulse.
I didn't need to, her hand coming up to mine.
"Jeffery," she whispered, followed by a cough.
As bad as the wound to her chest was it was far from the only cut Emma
had given her.
I looked up as another explosion roared in the distance, the fight
downtown still raging.
"Go," I heard softly beneath me and I looked down to see Victoria's
eyes fluttering, her hand gently squeezing mind before letting go,
going limp, drifting away.
"No," I said, blinking back the tears, taking a deep breath and making
up my mind.
"No," I said again, shifting my arm from under her head to under her
shoulders, my other arm going under her legs and I lifted her off the
roof and turned east, turned to face out of town, toward Burke Manor,
and I started running.
Alfonse will know what to do, I told myself for the countless time as I
ran toward Burke Manor, wincing with every jolt that shook Victoria's
body cradled in my arms.
"Jeffery..." she said faintly.
"We're almost there, Victoria," I said, running harder, trying to
ignore the jolts, ignore the pain that still raced through my body, the
burning sensation in my hand where I still held the scarab that hadn't
stopped screaming in my head since I'd left Emma Randolph's face
planted in the roof.
The angel inside tore at me, pulled at me, tried to stop me, tried to
turn me around, but I pushed, Victoria Burke bleeding to death in my
LET HER DIE!
The sky ahead was ablaze and my chest tightened.
A touch on my cheek, Victoria's hand, her fingertips gentle as they
"Victoria," I said, pausing, panting, looking from the red sky ahead
and to her.
She was pale, blood trickling from her lips, her eyes glazed.
"I have to get you to Alfonse," I said. "He'll know what to do."
"It's too late."
"Don't say that."
"I'm sorry, Jeffery..."
"You can't..." She coughed. More blood. She tried to speak, stopped and
let a weak grin spread across her face. "Let me go, Jeffery. Let me see
I started running again.
"We're going to get you help, Victoria."
The red sky above opened up to fire raging ahead, fire where Burke
This wasn't right.
This wasn't happening.
"Shit," I muttered, trying to run harder, run faster, my feet tangling
with one another, sending Victoria and I tumbling across the ground.
I scrambled to my feet and went to Victoria, apologizing the whole way,
getting her on her back, checking her.
She coughed and opened her eyes slightly, tears falling down the sides
of her face.
"I'm sorry," she said again, her hand slowly rising, resting on my
"You're home, Victoria," I said, blinking back tears. "I'm going to go
"No," she said, gently trying to grab my shirt to stop me from getting
"I'll be right back," I said, taking her hand for a moment before
setting it on her chest and pushing the hair out of her eyes. "Just
I turned toward the manor and ran, saying a silent prayer that Alfonse
wasn't inside, that he was safe and sound, standing somewhere,
watching, being British.
A figure was in the front lawn on its hands and knees, silhouetted by
the flames. But it was female.
"Eldritch!" I shouted as I reached her, leaning down to face her.
"The butler?" she coughed, spitting blood onto the lawn, letting it
join the pool that had already formed. She looked up to me, crying with
bloodshot eyes, swollen lips, bruises across her face. "Jeffery..."
"Where is he?!!" I shouted, grabbing Eldritch's shoulders, watching her
wince in pain.
"Inside," she said and I let her go, hearing her mumble something else
but missing exactly what, already running toward Burke Manor.
The front door was gone and I charged on in, the fire already biting at
me, tearing at my clothes, the sting and the burn telling me to hurry
"Alfonse!" I shouted into the smoke and soot, shoving a fallen beam out
of my way, squinting to try and see, coughing as my lungs ached for
Something by the steps caught my eye and I ran for it, weaving past
parts of the second floor now lying in the lobby, burning.
"Alfonse," I said, kneeling beside him, turning him over, looking for a
pulse, trying to ignore the bloodsoaked front of his shirt, trying to
hope that he was alright.
My fingers searched and found nothing.
Groaning and cracking beams told me I didn't have time for this and I
picked Alfonse up in my arms and ran back outside, hacking for air once
I was out stumbling and stopping by an unconscious Eldritch who now had
"Help him," I said to Lilith Cadduceus as she looked up from whatever
she was doing to Eldritch.
She looked at Alfonse as I set him down and she shook her head.
"I can't," she said, turning back to Eldritch as I set Alfonse down.
I wrapped my hand around her throat to get her attention back.
"Help him," I hissed through clenched teeth.
"I can't," she rasped again, glaring at me. "He's already dead."
I let her go and looked to Alfonse, clenched my fists as I looked away
from him and away from the manor, toward Victoria.
"Then help Victoria."
"I tried," Cadduceus said as she worked on Eldritch. "Her wounds won't
"She doesn't want them to," Caddeceus said, not even looking at me as
her fingers moved across Eldritch's chest. "And unless you want this
one to die too I suggest you leave me alone."
I looked at Alfonse again and closed my eyes, took a couple steps back
and then ran toward Victoria.
"Victoria," I said as I knelt beside her and got no response. Shit.
"Victoria!" I shouted, my hand on her cheek, gently slapping, trying to
make her come to.
Her eyes flickered open.
"Jeffery..." she whispered. "Is Alfonse..."
"He's okay," I lied. "Victoria, you have to get better," I said as I
pressed one hand on her chest wound, thought about the other side and
realized how useless this was. "You have to want this."
"I don't," she said, followed by a cough. "I've failed, Jeffery..."
"No you didn't, 'Toria," I said. "You're just human like the rest of
"We needed to be better than that, Jeffery. You knew it."
"Damn it, Victoria, don't quit on this."
She coughed again, her face crumpling in pain as her body shook. I put
a hand on her cheek as her face eased slightly, a weak smirk crossing
"I'm..." she whispered, trailing off.
"You're what?" I asked, leaning close, trying to listen.
I groaped for her neck, for a pulse, for any sign of life.
I closed my eyes and clenched my jaw as I lowered my head, my forehead
onto hers, my hands shaking on the sides of her face now, tears welling
I took a deep breath, resisted the urge to scream that was building up
inside, sat up quick and looked over my shoulder to the burning Burke
Manor, looked up to the sky covered in smoke.
This wasn't supposed to be happening.
I stood up and stormed toward Eldritch and Caddeceus.
"Who did this?!" I demanded.
"I don't know," Caddeceus said without looking up.
"She does," I said, pushing Caddecus aside and bringing my hand across
She gasped and her eyes shot open.
"Eldritch," I said sternly as I grabbed her chin and made her face me,
"who did this? Who killed Alfonse?"
Her mouth started to move, tried to speak, her voice croaking, her eyes
screaming in pain.
"Mi... mi..." she stuttered softly, over and over, trying to form the
"Michael?" I finished for her and she swallowed hard, nodded once.
"Manly?" Another nod.
"SON OF A BITCH!" I shouted as I let her go and stood up, turning
toward Pacific City and running as hard as I fucking could.
Son of a bitch.
I ran, the city before me, smoke in the distance, through the lights, a
fight in the sky.
I ignored it.
I wanted Millennium Man.
I wanted Michael Manly.
I leapt to the rooftops, avoiding traffic, avoiding distractions,
hoping, praying the son of a bitch was where I was heading.
The sky began to open up, rain pouring down, ominous, a stereotype I
did not want as the sounds of a city in panic reached my ears.
This was insane.
Alfonse was dead.
Victoria was dead.
Eldritch was nearly dead.
The city was dying and no one was left to save it.
Because of Michael Manly.
I leapt from one building to the next with a roar, hit the opposite
roof and ran, closer, closer.
Be there, damn it. Be there...
I was in the air again, gritting my teeth, holding my breath as I hoped
my timing was right, as I hoped my angle was right, as I hoped
everything was just right.
I hit the balcony hard, my hands up and on the frames of the open
doorway, bracing me from tumbling into the room below as rain lashed at
my back, water dripped from my hair and into my face.
And there he was.
"Murderer," I growled and I threw myself into Regina Darling's
apartment, into Michael Manly before he could react.
I brought my fist into his face, feeling his jaw shift under my
knuckles, throwing my weight into the movement, shifting, hitting him
with my shoulder and tackling him to the ground, tumbling over him and
coming back to my feet, spinning, ready. I kicked at him as he started
to push himself up, catching him in the face, jaw, throat, tossing his
body back with the force of my kick.
He went into the air and then stopped, hovered, stayed there for a
moment before leveling off and glaring at me. His bloodied lips parted
and he screamed as he pointed an open hand at me, his palm exploding
with energy that tossed me across the room and into the far wall.
I landed on something soft, something awkward. It only took me a second
to realize it was a body. Another second to recognize the face.
"Son of a..." I was cut off by a table striking the wall just above my
I turned and leapt at Manly with another shout only to be blasted back
"I didn't want this!" Manly shouted as I pushed myself to my feet.
"So you killed Alfosne?"
"He was in the way."
"He was on your side!"
"He really brainwashed you, didn't he?"
"Damn it, Michael, you're a goddamn hero!"
"There are no heroes anymore!" shouted Manly as I started to edge
toward him, fists tight, trying to gauge the area, gauge my options, my
"You're Millennium Man!"
"I didn't ask for this!"
"None of us did. Christ, get over yourself for one fucking minute."
"What do you know?!!" Manly yelled and another blast cut the air, went
for my feet and I jumped to avoid it, cleared the hole it created and
came down on one foot and knee, braced myself with one hand while my
other remained balled up, ready. "They've taken everything from me! My
job! My family..."
"Your family?! You think you're the only one who's lost family in all
of this, Michael? It's practically a requirement in our origin
"I wasn't supposed to have this," Manly said, lowering his head as he
came back to the floor, looking into his hands. "This wasn't supposed
to be my burden."
I stepped toward Manly and rested a hand on his shoulder.
"Whether you wanted it or not," I said as he looked up, "it was your
I tightened my grip on his shoulder.
"And you fucked that up."
I slammed my fist into his gut as hard as I could, lifting him off the
floor with the impact. I pulled his head into my shoulder and stuck a
leg behind his, shoving him back and onto the floor.
"You were supposed to be a hero!"
I kicked him to emphasize the point.
"You were supposed to be better than the rest of them!"
I kicked him again, hard, sending him through the far wall of Regina's
apartment and into the sky. I ran, leaping out after him and colliding
with him in midair as he seemed to hover for a second. The two of us
crashed into the building across the street and bounced off, tumbled
through the air and hit the pavement below, me on top, and ready to
punch again but cut off by a blast from somewhere on his body, sending
me back and off of him.
I hit the ground and skid a few feet before getting up and going at him
again but he was now up, off his feet and hovering in the air. He
easily dodged my charge, my momentum knocking me off balance and
tumbling into the street.
"I have to be just like the rest of them, Jeffery," Manly said as I got
to my feet, grabbing a chunk of rock as I stood. "And then some."
I threw the rock for his head and he dodged but he couldn't avoid my
fist coming upside his head. The next swing caught him in the chest as
my other hand grabbed his arm and flung him aside and into a building,
leaving on hell of a dent in the wall and hopefully putting him in a
world of hurt. I leapt at him with a growl as he was shaking his head
to clear it but he moved just in time to avoid me, his body shifting
out of the way.
I spun to come face first with him as his hands found my throat,
burning, tearing at my skin.
"This city is dying, Jeffery. They have to be made to see it."
I nearly laughed at him but instead thrust my knee into his groin. He
held onto my neck.
Narrowing his eyes we were suddely airborne.
"This isn't a game, Jeffery," Manly said, his grip around my neck
tightening as we rose higher, through the rain, past the clouds and to
the clear sky above, the moon bright, the stars brilliant.
We suddenly stopped, Manly looking me in the eyes and smirking
Then he kneed me in the crotch and let go.
I started to fall, trying to maneuver a bit, trying to figure how high
I was, what chance I'd have of hitting something soft and whether or
not it mattered. But Manly wasn't going to give me time for that.
A blast of energy caught me from above, threw me down faster than
gravity alone would have, and I tore into the pavement hard, screaming
as the ground shook from my impact, as rock and stone and dirt was
thrown in all directions.
I laid there for what felt like a lifetime, on my back, my eyes wide,
my mouth agape as I tried to take a breath, as I tried to force my body
to do the bare minimum to function, and then it came, a cough, a
convulsion, and I balled up and rolled onto my side, into a growing
puddle of water and muck, the pain running through me unimaginable.
Get up, Jeffery.
"This city's dying, Jeffery. Can't you feel it?"
I felt something dying but it wasn't the city.
Get up, Jeffery.
I tried to look for him, saw him cutting through the dust and the
debris, his body glowing.
"It's inevitable. It has been for a long time. All this fighting we've
been doing, all of these struggles..." He paused and sighed. "You can't
I screamed as I planted my feet in the ground and jumped at him,
grabbing him at the waist and tackling him, cramming his head into the
ground, holding my hand over his face, pushing as hard as I could,
pinning him, crushing him.
"Fuck your fate!" I shouted.
And he exploded again, sending me back through the debris and smoke.
I ended up on my back, my body tense, the pain starting to overrun me,
and I tried to push through, tried to move, tried to get at Manly,
tried to get revenge for Alfonse, for Eldritch, for Victoria, for an
entire city I was helping destroy.
I felt a kick in my side, sending me over onto my face, then a stomp in
my back before a hand grabbed the back of my neck and hoisted me into
Manly spun me around to face him, his hand around my neck, his eyes
glowing with power and anger, and there was the burning again, the
"You can't change destiny, Jeffery."
"Then why are you Millennium Man?" I croaked.
"If it wasn't meant to be yours," I rasped as best I could, "if it was
someone else's fate or destiny, how did you get it?"
Manly looked at me as if I were speaking gibberish.
"Fate's only a threat, Michael. We control our own destiny."
He narrowed his eyes, seemed to consider saying something but
hesitated, his eyes catching something.
"Where did you get that?" he asked, and I followed his eyes to the
chain dangling from around my neck.
To Victoria's scarab.
"She's dead," I said, my hand wrapping around it. "You said so
yourself, there are no heroes anymore. We're a dying breed."
He let me go and took a step back as I staggered but held, rubbing my
neck and gasping for air.
"The Magistrate's coming back, Michael. She's coming back and she's
going to destroy this city and there's not a damn thing any of us can
do about it. You were it, damn it, you were Pacific City's last hope
and look at you."
He looked away from me for a moment and then back to me, taking a deep
breath and glaring at me before looking upward and lifting into the
He disappeared into the rain and smoke and debris that reached through
the sky above me.
"Coward!" I shouted into the sky. "You fucking coward!"
The only response was the echo of my voice.
I felt a strange calmness overtake me as I stumbled down the street. My
sense of panic eased, my restlessness, the chaos lifted slightly and I
was filled with such clarity.
There was something going on in my head.
In the heads of those around me as I noticed people ignoring my
appearance, ignoring my state, simply going out their business calmly,
They were packing cars, they were carrying baggage, they were moving.
I stopped in front of my destination and it dawned on me what was going
And that sense of urgency was back.
I went through the lobby and into the stairwell, moving faster than I
really should have giving how sore I was, but a third, fourth, fifth
wind kicking in.
I reached the floor and ran down the hall way, kicked in the door to
Isiah Rowe's apartment and called out his name. I searched every room
and found nothing.
I tore through the door to the roof and looked around real quick,
nearly falling as I spun. I stumbled and held and saw him sitting
crosslegged in the middle of the roof, eyes crammed shut, head leaning
back, his body tense.
Son of a bitch.
"Isiah?" I said as I walked toward him.
He didn't move. He didn't acknowledge me.
He simply concentrated.
I knew what he was doing. That feeling. That calmness. He was there.
He'd gotten involved in a way I never thought he could.
My hand wrapped around the scarab as I stopped next to him, the rain
pattering on the roof around us, bouncing off his face, soaking him.
"Isiah," I said as I took the scarab off, "I'm putting Victoria's
scarab on you. It seems to boost my powers, make me stronger, heal
faster and such. Maybe it'll help you. You don't have to move, you
don't have to do anything. Just keep doing what you're doing."
I brought the chain around his head and rested the scarab on his
breast, his mouth moving for a moment, a small gasp, and then nothing
as he remained motionless.
"Good luck, buddy," I said, patting him on the leg as I stood up and
looked into the sky.
I let the rain run over my face, closing my eyes, enjoying the cool it
provided, finding calm here despite the thunder in the distance, the
roll of a fight I should have been heading toward, should have been
involving myself in, but couldn't bring myself to do.
I sat down behind Isiah, leaning my back against his, taking a deep
breath before looking up into the sky.
"We used to do this when we were younger," I heard Isiah say and I
turned my head to see his eyes open as he looked to the sky, squinting
slightly from the rain. "Just sit up on the roof and look at the sky."
"The stars," I said, looking back up to the clouds, the rain, wishing
it were a clear night. "It was all about the stars."
"You still want to be an astronaut?"
I laughed slightly and then remembered.
"Holy shit," I said with a sigh. "I've been on the fucking Moon."
"What good is having such fantastic powers if you can't sit back and
enjoy them sometimes? I mean, Christ, Jeffery, the Moon..."
"I know," I said. "I'm disappointed in myself."
We both sat in silence, staring at the sky, feeling fifteen years
"Are you in my head, Isiah?"
"Are you making me stay here?"
"No," he said. "Just helping you rest."
"I'll rest when I'm dead."
"You'll rest now too. By the way, the angel says it's too late."
"From the scarab."
"Oh. She always says that."
"Also, she's not an angel."
"She looks like one."
"Well, think about it, aren't angels supposed to be above things like
vanity and pride and the like?"
"Well vanity and pride are the core of every one of these so called
angels I've dealt with. No, these are demons."
"So what do angels look like?"
"I dunno," I said. "Probably hideous, like your mom first thing in the
"That's me, Mister Maturity." We shared a brief laugh. "But, really,
every time one pops up in the Bible what's the first thing they say?
'Be not afraid,' or something like that."
"Yeah, but a heavenly creature with wings and a halo and a sword
appearing out of nowhere could be a bit frightening."
"So could something eleven feet tall, shaped like a slug and with
tentacles coming out of its mouth."
"Damn right," I said, enjoying a tiny victory.
"The demon's asking if we're ready to die."
"Tell her I love her, too."
"I think you're right about her not being an angel."
"She just flipped you the bird."
"Damn. Sorry I missed seeing that."
The rain stopped and we kept our eyes to the sky, to the clouds, as if
"I love ya, buddy."
"That's nice, but I like girls."
I elbowed him in the back as he laughed.
"Fucker," I said, laughing a bit myself.
"I'm sorry, Isiah," I said after a sigh.
I sat there for a moment longer before pushing myself to my feet with a
"What are you going to do?" Isiah asked as I walked toward the edge of
the roof and surveyed the city.
"I don't know," I said as I reached into my pocket and pulled out my
mask, studied it and then looked back to the city that lay before me.
"But I have to do something."
"Jeff," Isiah said and I looked at him over my shoulder, him still
sitting there, Victoria's scarab dangling around his neck, the scarab I
prayed would keep him safe, "be careful, man."
I felt strong.
I felt confident.
I felt like someone was making me feel these things.
I pulled the mask over my face and leapt off the rooftop.
A cry for help caught my ear, my attention and I felt compelled to
I looked around, back to where fighting had been happening, Romanov and
whatever she was up against. It was calm there now. Something had
happened. Flashes of light, explosions, and then nothing.
Were they dead?
The cry came again, to my left by a few blocks and I ran toward it,
wondering why I was even bothering, wondering if it was even worth it.
I hit the edge of the roof and looked down, saw a familiar scene of a
man holding out a gun toward a woman clutching her purse.
I leapt down behind the would-be robber, my landing getting his
attention and he spun around, brought his firearm into my face and I
grabbed his hand, twisted and felt his wrist give as he screamed and
I gave the man an obligatory knee in the groin.
I looked from the fallen man to the woman, the look on her face a mix
of relief and fright at coming face to face with someone she'd probably
only read about in the paper, seen on the television, but never seen
face to face.
Such a familiar look.
A sense of deja vu hit me.
It was the stereotype of the situation. The common nature of an
everyday attempted mugging.
It felt like I'd stopped hundreds of these.
I'd started by stopping one of these.
I'd end by stopping one of these.
"Th... thank you," the lady finally stammered, her voice shaking with
the same fright that shook her body.
"I'm sorry it wasn't more," I said.
I looked up to the sky as the rain suddenly stopped, as the clouds
seemed to part, as light tore from the heavens.
"Was it even worth it?" I asked the sky as light tore into the
buildings, down into the ground, and began to engulf everything in an
indiscriminate wave of destruction as it spread from the city's center.
With a deep breath I closed my eyes.
"I'm sorry," I muttered aloud and then it was done.
Finally I could rest.
By Jason S. Kenney
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