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Chapter IV

04/04/10

Chapter IV

 

            Stephen used his blacklight energy to burn a hole in the fence.  He worked his medium frame through the hole and started running again.  The Hell Spawns were close on him.  He zigzagged as he ran down the alleys and around the decaying buildings of old downtown.  He could let them know which way he was going. 

            “Why ya runnin’, boy?” came a voice from behind him.  The sound echoed off the old brick and metal and made it hard for Stephen to tell how close they were to him.  Even still, he knew who had called out to him; Killzone, leader of the Hell Spawns. 

            The Hell Spawns carried themselves like a gang, but were more unruly and way more dangerous.  They were a collection of fifteen people age 13 to 25 that had powers.  The gang was comprised of four girls and eleven guys.  They gave themselves gang like names that were chosen for how cool they sounded, and rarely had anything to do with their abilities. 

            Stephen had been watching them, prior to running from them and didn’t realize how close he had gotten.  Among the many things they didn’t like, being watched was one of them.  The other things they didn’t like varied depending on the mood of the gang, more importantly Killzone, and how bored they were. 

            The Hell Spawns had declared old downtown their turf and ran roughshod over it.  City officials didn’t care.  The mayor referred to old downtown as “Yesterday Town,” and new downtown as “Future City.”  Letting the Hell Spawns control Yesterday Town gave them the excuse they needed to continue to grow Future City.  The officials let the gang destroy for free what they would pay millions to demolish and pave over. 

            The Hell Spawns antics, though disruptive and violent, didn’t enter the radar of the bigger superheroes.  Even the small heroes like Macedon IX, the ninth incarnation of Alexander the Great, had enough on their plates then to try and take on a gang of powered teenagers.  This left the police, which were ill equipped and understaffed to handle the group.  The only saving grace was that it was only the Hell Spawns.  Other powered gangs were beaten and broken before they could be fully formed.  The strongest of them were made offers to join the Hell Spawns by betraying their group.  It was how they got two of their female members, Napalm and Heartless. 

            With no outside support, the people that still lived or worked in Yesterday Town were left to their own devices.  Many were left paying protection to the gang, who might still destroy their homes or business just for kicks. 

            The Hell Spawns weren’t stupid.  They kept their activities low key and on their turf.  A year prior two of their members had tried to rob bank in Future City.  The Aggressor stopped them before they stepped outside the bank.  They were arrested and sent to The Locker. 

            The Locker, short for Davy Jones’ Locker, was the prison for powered criminals.  It was built on the ocean floor fifty miles offshore from Future City.  Any attempt to escape would, by all estimates, kill everyone inside. 

            Stephen stopped long enough to catch his breath.  He ducked inside the remains of an old apartment building and hid in the shadows.  He put his hand over his mouth and tried to force him self to breath through his nose; minimizing the amount of noise he would make. 

            Stephen thought maybe he had left them far enough behind he could hide in the dark corner and wait them out.  He hoped he had.  His heart was beating so hard in his chest he felt that he was going to pass out.  His hands shook, and despite his every attempt he couldn’t help but suck air in through his mouth.  Stephen’s legs shook, and he doubted that he could run again if he had to. 

            “Gotcha, bitch!” came a voice from behind Stephen.  Black shadow arms came out of the darkness behind him and wrapped themselves around Stephen’s chest. 

            Stephen screamed and broke free.  He ran for the busted opening in the wall only to come face to face with Killzone.  Stephen slammed in the modest build powerhouse and spiraled around him to the ground. 

            Negative Death stepped out of the shadows Stephen had been hiding in and reformed his body into human form.  Devilish tossed him his clothes.  Negative Death took his time getting dressed. 

            Stephen, for a brief moment, thought of how embarrassed he would be, and how modesty wasn’t luxury the Hell spawns could afford.  Either that, or they just didn’t give a damn. 

            The Hell Spawns surrounded Stephen.  They smiled while they made jokes and threats.  There were only five of them, which was more than enough for anyone to be scared. 

            Stephen knew them all.  Killzone.  Negative Death.  Napalm.  Devilish.  Mack the Ripper.  Mack the Ripper had super-speed and was constantly fidgeting.  He was always tapping his foot or wiggling his fingers.  The restlessness came from a combination of his super-speed and drug use.  The human body doesn’t adapt well to crystal meth and the ability to move at 200mph.  Mack considered himself a ladies man and bragged about the number of women he had been with and that he could get any woman he wanted. He was actually a suspect in over forty rape cases.  Lack of evidence or positive ID kept him on the streets of Yesterday Town.  

            Napalm could turn any liquid into fire.  Stephen believed her to be the most powerful of the group.  He had heard a news report once of a ton in the Midwest that rained fire for several minutes.  Over half the town was destroyed by the torrential onslaught of flames.  The entire town might have been lost had it not been for Colonel Courageous and Spartanicus.  Stephen had no doubt that she was responsible. 

            Stephen didn’t know anything about Devilish’s powers, but he was equally afraid of him.  Devilish’s face was tattooed from the bridge of his nose to his chin.  The tattoo made is look as though the lower half of his face had been shredded off revealing bone, blood, and muscle.  He had small black spiked studs pierced around his shaved eyebrows that ran to the top of his cheekbones.  His hair was shaved on the sides and spiked in the center.  His look alone would frighten most people without even knowing he was a member of the Hell Spawns. 

            Stephen raised his hand to protect himself with a black light energy blast.  The shimmering dark energy swirled around his hand.  He waived it towards the gang members, trying to decide which one to shoot first.  None of them looked impressed or scared.  Stephen powered down and lowered his hand. 

            Killzone grabbed grabbed Stephen by his ankle and yanked him into the air.  Stephen dangled upside down like a prize fish.  The other Hell Spawns laughed.  Napalm spit tiny fireballs at him while Killzone raised him up and down. 

            Killzone was the oldest and most ruthless, but not the powerful.  He had enhanced strength and was fairly invulnerable.  No one really knew to what extent Killzone couldn’t be hurt, and no one was too anxious to learn.  His physique was deceptively small considering his strength.  Standing at only five foot seven, the half Korean-half Puerto Rican Killzone could heft a midsize car with little exertion.  

            “What’re you doin’ followin’ us, boy?” Killzone asked, dangling Stephen. 

            “I-I wasn’t following you.” Stephen lied.  “I was j-just walking.” 

            “He was ‘j-just walking’.” Devilish mocked.  He pushed the pendulous Stephen towards Negative Death, who pushed him towards Ripper.  Ripper jabbed Stephen three times with the tips of his fingers in less than a second.  Stephen winced. 

            Devilish turned his attention the jittery addict.  His eyes narrowed as he stared at him. 

            “Cough it up, speed freak!” Devilish demanded.  Ripper looked at him innocently. 

            “What?” said Ripper. 

            “What ever you took off him!” 

            “I didn’t take nothing.  I just hit him a couple of times.” Ripper said defensively. 

            “Bullshit!  I know you!  Give it up, or I’ll take it from you!”  Devilish stepped towards Ripper. Stephen watched as Devilish’s eyes seemed to turn a different color.  His arms began to elongate and his torso shifted down and forward. 

            “Enough!” Killzone bellowed.  He swung Stephen up into the air and slammed him down on the ground.

            Stephen hit hard on his back.  What little air he had managed to get in his lungs and keep was suddenly forced out.  Killzone planted his foot in his chest and kept him from reclaiming what he had lost.  Stephen struggled to take a breath.  His cheeks hollowed in and out like a fish on dry land. 

            “Ripper!  We split what we take!  You know that, or do you need another reminder?”  Killzone held his stance.  Other than stepping on Stephen, he hadn’t moved any closer to Ripper.   

            Ripper pulled what he had stolen off Stephen out of his pockets and held them out for everyone to see. 

            “That’s it, I swear.” said Ripper. 

            Killzone put his focus back on Stephen.  Stephen’s eyes had started to roll into the back of his head and his skin had begun to turn a light shade of blue.  Killzone lifted his foot enough to allow the dying boy’s chest to expand. 

            Stephen choked on the air as he tried to drink it in.  He couldn’t get it fast enough, or enough of it. 

            “You ready to answer my question?” Killzone called down to Stephen. 

            ‘I was… I-I…” Stephen struggled to both breathe and talk.  “I was just watching you.  …Hell Spawns run Yesterday.” 

            “I think he wants to be a Hell Spawn.” Negative Death said. 

            Killzone laughed. 

            ‘You ain’t got what it takes.”  Killzone said with an uneasy grin.  “None of you little bitches over in the Factory do.”  

            Stephen’s eyes grew wide.  It wasn’t a secret that a lot of runaways lived over at the Factory, but no one knew they had powers.  Killzone laughed again at Stephen’s reaction. 

            “You thought we didn’t know about all you little bitches over there?  Oh, we know.”  Killzone took his foot completely off Stephen’s chest.  “Give him back his stuff.” 

            Ripper sneered, and dropped Stephen’s stuff on the ground.     

            “What’s your name?” asked Killzone. 

            “Stephen.”

            “No-” Killzone snorted.  “Your other name.” 

            “Black Sunshine.” Stephen replied. 

            Killzone and the other Hell Spawns laughed. 

            “Figures.” Killzone said.  “Run home, little bitch.” 

            Killzone turned and walked away.  The rest of the Hell Spawns followed suit. 

            Killzone called to Stephen from over his shoulder.  “Tell Guru Conquest said hi!” 

            Stephen lay on the ground unable to move.  Afraid to move.  After a few minutes, when he had convinced himself that they were gone and weren’t coming back, he rolled over and started to sit up.  The ache in his chest and ribs made him move slowly.  It took him over a minute to get up on his knees. 

            Stephen wrapped his right arm across his bruised chest and fished through the dirt, rocks, and debris with his left searching for his belongings.  He was only able to retrieve his pocket knife and four dollar bills.  He gave up on sifting through the dirt and broken glass for the loose change. 

            It took Stephen another three minutes to get up on his feet, and even then he was shaky.  His fists tightened into balls that made his knuckles white and his palms beet red.  Tears rolled down his cheek.  He felt beyond helpless. 

            Stephen screamed and fired a blast of blacklight energy from his left hand that tore a hole through a corner piece or building that was till standing.  He let loose with another blast, followed by another. 

            Stephen screamed again, louder than before; his voice cracking.  He fired a final blast with both hands obliterating what was left of brick and mortar corner section. 

            Exhausted, Stephen stumbled backwards until his back met against an old dumpster.  Why hadn’t he done that when they surrounded him?  He’d wanted to, but didn’t.  Why didn’t he fight back?  

All the time he had spent at the Factory with Guru showing him how to use his abilities and maintain control.  Breathe through your fear and pain.  Guru would tell him.  Why was he teaching them how to blend in with society and normal people?  Why wasn’t he teaching them how to fight?  How to stand up for themselves?  How to use their powers to get the things that they needed? 

Stephen wiped his eyes and began the slow painful task of walking home.  It wasn’t fair.  He felt powerless.  The same feeling he had seven months ago when he ran away from home.  Nothing had changed for him.  Until that day.  Stephen now knew what real power looked like, and he knew what was need of him to show that he had real power. 

            As Stephen walked away, a shadow along a far wall moved back like a snake’s silhouette.  Negative Death’s head melded from the shadow.  He took another long look at Stephen before he completely slunk back into his ebon form and drifted away.

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