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            Dan Montgomery ushered his wife and two small children into the back bedroom of their cramped and dilapidated apartment in Yesterday Town.  He paid too much for the tiny rundown space, devoting three of his weekly paychecks to pay the rent, but it was all he could afford.  The same size place in Future City would cost twice as much, and his job at the factory couldn’t support that.  As it was, what he brought in left him two hundred dollars in debt every month once all the bills came in.  His wife, Linda, did various home based jobs to make up the difference. 

            Living was lean and rough, but it was all they had.  The chaos and calamity that roared outside and echoed off the walls of the cheaply made apartment threatened to tear it all down. 

 

            Killzone stood triumphant atop a pile of wrecked cars.  Two of the three cars were abandoned vehicles that had sat on the streets for months.  The top car wasn’t new, but had been in working condition prior to being pounded into submission and stacked on top of the other heaps. 

            “This is out night, Hell Spawns!” he bellowed into the night air.  Around him the other Hell Spawns terrorized the residents of Yesterday Town.  Still bodies peppered the weathered streets.  The Hell Spawns attacked anyone who stepped outside, even those trying to escape the mayhem.  The gang tormented the residents, attacking their homes and forcing them into the streets. 

            KIllzone leapt off his automobile mountain and down to the sidewalk below.  He wrenched a postal mailbox from its cement housing and tossed it through an apartment window.  The mailbox ripped through the window, tearing down a large section of the brick wall that framed it.  The mailbox was nothing short of a small missile, and obliterated everything in its path. 

            The apartment was still, save for the sound of its demolished contents settling into their open graves.  Minutes went by before the owner of the apartment believed it was safe enough to make a break for freedom.  The frightened man cautiously emerged from the hole in the wall where a window and air conditioning unit had previously been.  His head snapped left and right as he checked to see if a member of the Hell Spawns was nearby. 

            The older man, his blonde hair streaked with sweeps of grey hair, climbed out of the wreckage of his home and scampered for the train tracks three blocks away.  The tracks were the dividing line that separated Yesterday Town from Future City.  If he could make it there, he’d be safe.  If he could make it there. 

            Once the now homeless man was out in the open, Devilish made his move.  He sprinted along the street; his freakishly long arms dangling behind him.  The talons that protruded from his fingertips drug the asphalt as he ran.  There was no escape.  The old man was butchered before the watching eyes of the other discarded residents.  They cowered behind drawn curtains and cheap wooden doors, wondering how long they had before they would meet a similar fate.

 

            The remaining Hell Spawns paraded up and down the streets like a third world death squad, looking for any reason to kill.  Each member had their job. 

            What seemed like random chaos and terror was actually a well orchestrated plan of destruction.  Killzone and his crew followed the directions, as laid down by the Big Man, via Number Five, to the letter; with one addition.  Killzone’s goodbye present to Yesterday Town. 

            The target of their destructive rampage had been chosen for its proximity to Future City.  Their terror tactics were designed to draw the Aggressor to them.  The plan was to bring the vigilante into a public forum so that his death would be witnessed by people in both Yesterday Town and Future City.  And once he was dead, Killzone and his gang were going to blow town… literally. 

 

*****

            Diamond Dog listened to the stared out at the irresistible glow of Future City.  The city was like a beacon of brilliance and technology, lit by over two million artificial stars.  The city nights were just as bright as its days, but with a little more radiance.  At night everything seemed to glow and pulse with a life that called to its residents like an electronic sirens call. 

            The elder teenager listened to the police band radio while he lost himself in the visual pleasure of the world outside his window.  He couldn’t help it.  Even the police cars that raced down the still crowded streets were intoxicating to the eyes.  The city was magical in its own right.  Like a real life OZ. 

            The radio white noise static helped Diamond Dog to temporarily forget his troubles.  In his mind he floated out over the city and was awash its unnatural glow.  He swooped under street lights and glided above the flashing LED signs.  He saw the smiling faces of the people below as they moved about from one happy place to another. 

            He had never seen Future City at night, save for his first day there.  That instance had him filled with fear and worry.  A stranger in an even stranger land.  He was too scared to enjoy its beauty and magnificence. 

 

            The radio squeaked, and rapid fire directions poured out. 

            “All westbound units respond!”  the box cried.  “Reports of gang violence at the Argo City train station.  Repeat. Gang violence at the AC train station.  Approach with caution.” 

            The words ripped Diamond Dog out of daydreaming and grounded him back in reality.  The words echoed in his head.  Argo City train station.  The train station was on the edge of Yesterday Town.  The now defunct Argo City railway tracks were on the west side of the city and divided Future City from Yesterday Town. 

            Gang violence in Yesterday Town. 

            The answer hit him like a punch in the stomach, and his knees waivered.  Diamond Dog’s head snapped over at the others who had been sitting around the living room watching TV.  Their eyes locked and their hearts collectively skipped a beat. 

            The words came out in a whisper but had the intensity of an atomic bomb. 

            “The Hell Spawns.”

 

******

 

            Sirens cried a charge into the air, signaling the approach of the cavalry.  The valiant knights coming to the rescue of the peasants of Yesterday Town.  Or so it would seem.  The residents knew otherwise.  Argo city police rarely patrolled the streets of Yesterday Town at night.  Though the mayor had divided the city in half, it was still officially called Argo city, and the public officials had a responsibility to take care of all its citizens.  Some they left to the law enforcement’s discretion. 

            As expected, the Argo city police drew the line on the opposite side of the train tracks.  The officers got out of their cars and watched.  None of them were brave or stupid enough to cross the threshold.  Just like none of the Hell Spawn would dare leave their protected area. 

            Some of the veteran cops compared it to the Vietnam War, soldiers being attacked from over the Cambodian border, and unable to retaliate.  Their public disapproval and outspoken comments did nothing to solidify their backbones, and they too refused to cross the tracks. 

 

            The Hell Spawns didn’t care.  The police’s sole purpose was to bear witness and spread the word of the Aggressor’s death.  They had to be there to give credence to the story of the vigilante’s fall.  The story would pass like a virus throughout the city, from the cops, to the people, to the other heroes.  They would all know that the Hell Spawns were major players in the heroes and villains game, and when they made their presence known in Future City, all would fear them. 

 

            “Car Two Fifty Seven  to dispatch.” called the Roger Westerman, senior on the scene.  “We’re at the AC train station on the Future City side.  The Hell Spawns are on the scene.  We have positive ID on Killzone and Devilish.  The suspects have attacked several civilians.  There appear to be multiple casualties.” 

            “Acknowledged           , Two Fifty Seven.  Observe and Report.  Do not engage.  Repeat.  Don not engage.” 

            “Roger, dispatch.” 

 

            Killzone marched across the street to the block corner closest to the railroad tracks.  He put his foot atop the fire hydrant rooted in the curb, threw back his head, and laughed at everyone watching.  He took a step back, his foot sliding from the top of the hydrant and lined himself up.  Killzone drew back his leg and punted the fire hydrant into the air and across the train tracks.  The metal football flew over the police officer’s heads and disappeared somewhere several blocks inside Future City. 

            The gang leader laughed again, even louder this time, as water erupted from the ground, soaking him and flooding the streets.  The escaping water ran everywhere at once, fleeing from its cylindrical prison. 

            The Argo city cops exchanged glances with one another.  The actions of the young gang left them confused.  There seemed to be no purpose for their rampage.  The Hell Spawns weren’t moving towards Future City and endangering the citizens there.  It didn’t make any sense to them. 

            The officer Westerman called out to Killzone from the speaker in his car. 

 

            “Be advised, if you step foot in Future City you will be fired upon and arrested!” 

            Killzone scoffed at the cowardly officers as he strode across the street to another fire hydrant, diagonal from the first.  He ran a hand through his wet short cut hair slicking it back. 

            “Please desist in terrorizing these people!” 

            “No!” Killzone screamed back at them with a smile so wicked he could have been mistaken for the Grinch.  He stood several feet behind the second fire hydrant and stared into Future City. 

            “Tell us what you want!”  the officer called to him. 

            “To be a member of the Argo City Titans!” Killzone punctuated the statement with another kick and hydrant field goal. 

            “What do you think?  Think they’ll take me?” 

            The entire teen gang erupted in laughter.  The cacophony of their delight echoed off the stone walls of the surrounding buildings.  Though only Killzone and Devilish could be seen from the cops vantage point, they assumed that the others were nearby.  The riotous laughter confirmed their suspicions.  Several of the officers were suddenly relieved that they hadn’t broken rank and entered Yesterday Town after all.  It would have been a massacre.   

 

            The squad car radio squawked and blurted out commands to the senior officer and the others. 

            “Car Two Fifty Seven, what’s your status?” 

            “Two Fifty Seven to dispatch.  We are still at the city line.  Objects have been thrown in our direction.  No injuries to report.  The Hell Spawns are still on their territory.” 

            “Acknowledged, Two Fifty Seven.  Orders remain observe and report.  Do not engage suspects unless they cross the city line.  Repeat.  Do not engage unless they step into Future City.  Over.”

            “Roger that.  Two Fifty Seven out.” 

 

            Officer Westerman’s eyes glanced over the faces of his fellow police officers.  A knot formed in the center of his stomach that felt as if his entire intestinal track had tried to retreat inside itself.  He could tell from the expressions on the other men’s faces that they felt the same way.  Their job was to serve and protect.  He felt as though he were betraying everything that he stood for.  Not because he followed orders that told him to watch good hard working people be terrorized and killed, but because he was happy that the orders told him not act.  Because the orders helped to mask his cowardice. 

            The city and all its officials had turned its back on the industrial area of Argo city.  They had dubbed it Yesterday Town, and cut off all support that it could.  Gentrification overlooked by cowardice and greed.  Westerman tried to blame it on the governor, the mayor, and everyone with a pay grade above his, but the truth was, he was just as responsible.  He turned his back on everyone that lived west of the train tracks.  He suddenly felt the pain of every rape, robbery, and murder that had taken place in Yesterday Town since he became a police officer. 

            The emotional backlash was too much for him, and officer Westerman stepped inside his car, closed the door, and cried. 

 

 

            Killzone batted at the water that sprayed from the hole in the ground; his clothes were beyond drenched.   He watched as the water pooled and flowed down the street.  The streets were flooding, but it wasn’t enough.  He wanted more.  More water.  He wanted all of Yesterday Town to drown.  The demented powerhouse pushed against the water spout and tried to angle it at the nearby buildings.  He even turned his hand towards the police and tried to spray water their way. 

            He wanted to bust open more hydrants, but couldn’t.  The closest ones were at least two blocks away.  He couldn’t leave the area next to the train tracks.  Now that the police were there, it was only a matter of time before the Aggressor arrived. 

            Killzone spat, and hoped that what was flowing would be enough for his dramatic ending. 

 

            “Hey!  What the hell?!” cried one of the officers across the tracks.  The Argo city cop was shoved aside as a mysterious figured slid into his car and slammed the door. 

            The car tires squelched and choking black smoke rolled along the group of police officers.  The patrol car busted through the line and across the train tracks, lifting into the air as it bounded over the raised metal lines.  The vehicle’s high beams and driver side searchlight ripped through the dim light of the Yesterday Town street, exposing Heartless and Napalm in their hiding places.  The siren roared like an angry beast announcing its intent to attack. 

            The barreled down the cracked street and homed in on Killzone.  The Hell Spawn leader stood his ground as the squad car raced towards. 

 

            Westerman threw open the door and hopped back out into the tense air.  The moonless night hid his red puffy eyes and tear streaked cheeks. 

            “Hold your positions!” the commanding officer cried over the loud speaker.  He didn’t know which of his men had broken formation, but knew he didn’t want things to escalate.  As much as he hated to do it, whoever it was that broke the line was on their own.  Neither he, nor any of the other cops would cross the tracks to save him.  In his heart, he praised the brave soul that did what he could not. 

 

            Killzone crouched into a tackling position and dug his feet into the ground.  He squinted against the blinding light that trained on him and curled his upper lip. 

            “Come on.” He said with a grin. 

            The powered twenty year old sprang forward just as the squad car was about to hit him.  He forced his shoulder into the front bumper, forcing it through the grill and into the engine.  He continued to move forward and the car split around him like a banana peel.  The engine was shoved back into the car and tore through the dash panel and lodged itself between the backseat and the trunk. 

            Killzone found himself trapped in the wreckage of the demolished squad car and tried to extract himself from the twisted metal.  His right foot was caught in the remains of the front seat, while his left arm and leg were tangled in the various wires and hoses that had ripped free. 

            Neither the gang leader, nor his followers, had noticed the man that had flung himself from the driver’s seat just before impact.  None of them even gave the driver a second thought until the remnants of the police car burst into flames. 

            Devilish saw him first and tried to issue a warning to the others.  His inability to speak in his monstrous form gave the attacker the time he needed to make his second strike. 

            “Harggkhl!” Devilish gargled. 

            His unintelligible sounds were suddenly drowned out by the sound of the police car exploding.  The sound was near deafening as the explosion reverberated in the perfectly acoustic open area.  Killzone’s flaming body could barely be seen amidst the burning carnage.  Flaming piece of plastic and metal arced through the air like fiery arrows.  It would have been beautiful to watch had it not been so destructive. 

            Cowering inside homes, the residents of Yesterday Town wondered if things were getting any better, or worse.  None of them dared to leave their homes. 

 

            The Aggressor had ignited a flare prior to exiting the car, and was hoping the crash would rupture the gas tank.  He used the explosion to distract the pang of powered teens and gain the upper hand.  He dashed across the street and moved straight towards Devilish.  The demonic looking teen had tried calling out to his friends, but none of them heard him.  The Aggressor had taken an extendable baton and a side-handle baton from the police car prior to his departure.  He used both to subdue the alarmed gang member. 

            Devilish swung a razor clawed hand at the Aggressor, who blocked it with the side-handle baton and countered with a downward strike with the other baton.  The blow dazed the teen for a few seconds, but it was all the vigilante needed to drop him to the ground.  The Aggressor held the side-handle baton by the short handle with the longer end flush against his forearm.   As the Hell Spawn member’s head dropped from the first hit, he followed the strike with a second, cracking him across his elongated jaw the side of the baton.  The final blow was a skull cracking blow to the top of Devilish’s head, knocking him unconscious. 

            The Aggressor scanned the area for his next victim.  He had to move quickly, and try to subdue as many as he could before Killzone freed himself from the demolished police car.  There were two more he could take out with relative ease, leaving the most dangerous for last.  He couldn’t allow all of them to converge on him at once.  His invulnerability had limits, and he had no intentions of finding out what they were. 

            If he could take down Heartless and Napalm, the all he’d have to concern himself with was Negative Death and Killzone.  The Aggressor had a plan for the shadow teen.  All he had to do was wait until the right time.  He had to be careful, though, if he used his special weapon too soon, then it wouldn’t work, and he wouldn’t get a second chance. 

            With the gang leader, he simply had to tire him out.  The Hell Spawns had no formal training and relied solely on their powers to fight.  The Aggressor counted on Killzone having very little endurance and stamina.  He was certain that if the fight went for longer than fifteen minutes, then the leader would run out of energy and he’d be able to take him down. 

            Take him down.  The Aggressor hadn’t decided how he was going to handle the Hell Spawns.  He wasn’t against killing, and in some cases saw it as the only recourse.  The gang was a menace, but he wasn’t sure they deserved to die.  For them, life in the Locker could be just as bad.  Plus, with the police watching, would they allow him to continue to operate in Future City if they watched him murder a group of teenagers before their eyes? 

            True, he had killed before, and many of them rightly attributed the deaths to him, but it wasn’t a certainty.  They hadn’t witnessed it with their own eyes.  Did he really want to take the chance? 

            No.  Not against them.  The Hell Spawns weren’t worth the risk.  The Big Man, that was another story.  He’d strangle him to death before the Supreme Court. 

 

            The Aggressor’s eyes darted around the streets, peering into every dark corner and doorway.  He had seen the two girl members as he drove the squad car across the tracks, but lost them when he jumped free. 

            “Damn!” he spat through gritted teeth.  He didn’t have much time before Killzone would be free, and it would be him versus the four of them. 

            The Aggressor knew better than to go into a battle, especially one such as this, with only one plan of attack.  It was reckless and stupid.  Unfortunately, it was also the only way he could think of.  Divide and conquer, but on a faster scale.  He had sent an alert to the Justice Squad as soon as he heard the call over the police radio.  He put little stock in any of them showing up.  He envisioned them off fighting some alien menace, or just too self involved to care. 

            This was a street crime; meaning it was his beat.  He was alone on this one, and losing was not an option. 

            The hair raising sound of twisting metal, like fingernails on a chalkboard, grabbed the Aggressor’s attention.  He snapped to the rear and watched in semi-awe as Killzone pried himself from the burning car and walked nonchalantly over to the fountain of water.  The human inferno moved like a fiery ghost, almost drifting across the street. 

            A hissing sound, like a thousand snakes, floated on the light breeze across the train station courtyard as the fires were extinguished by the eruption of water.  Killzone stepped out of the reverse waterfall, his clothes barely intact and covering very little of short stocky frame, and wiped the water from his face. 

            “’Bout time you showed up.” said the Hell Spawn leader.   “Get him!” 

            Fingerless gloved hands reached from the darkness at the Aggressor’s feet and clutched his ankles.  The darkness pulled away, dragging the hands with it, and with them, the Aggressor’s legs and balance.  The vigilante tipped forward, bringing his head into perfect alignment with the charging Killzone. 

            The gang leader planted his shoulder into the top of the hero’s head, jarring his neck and shoulders.  The Aggressor’s eyes crossed, and he was stunned for several seconds.  His arms and legs went limp, and his vision blurred. 

            The hero’s body bounced and rolled across the street like human tumbleweed.  He tried to get to his feet, but couldn’t immediately get his legs to respond to commands. 

            Killzone bopped towards him with his cocky swagger.  His gate was over exaggerated and obnoxious.  Napalm and Heartless emerged from their hiding spaces.  Heartless held her hand out at him, and Aggressor knew she was using her telekinetic abilities to keep his legs from moving.  From over his shoulder, Negative Death’s flesh body peeled out of its shadow form.  He put his hands on the vigilante’s shoulders and looked down at him from over the top of his head. 

            “Looks like we got ‘em, boss.” 

            Killzone cracked his knuckles.  “Goodbye Yesterday Town.  Hello Future City.”     

 

            Westerman snatched the radio from the console and screamed at the faceless dispatcher on the other end. 

            “Dispatch we have an incident!  The Aggressor is on the scene and has engaged the Hell Spawns!” 

            “Two Fifty Seven, please repeat.  The Aggressor is on scene?”

            “Roger, dispatch!  The Aggressor is on the scene and has engaged the Hell Spawns!  He needs assistance!” 

            “Roger Two Fifty Seven.  Orders are to hold your positions and continue to observe.  Out.” 

 

******

 

            “Car Two Fifty Seven  to dispatch.  We’re at the AC train station on the Future City side.  The Hell Spawns are on the scene.  We have positive ID on Killzone and Devilish.  The suspects have attacked several civilians.  There appear to be multiple casualties.” 

 

            Diamond Dog threw his feet into the new shoes that Guru had bought for him and raced for the elevator. 

            Blue rose from the couch and called to him. 

            “Where are you going?” 

            Diamond Dog’s eyes looked at her with anger and hate greater than anything she could ever imagine.  

            “To get revenge!”

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