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REIGN OF THE OVERMEN
by Marc Singer
Yesterday, Anne Benson was an average young woman, who worked in an average political lobbying group's office and just happened to be able to lift average cars. (This last fact, naturally, she concealed from everyone around her. Or she thought she did.) Today, Anne was on the run from a government agency called SIRECOM, waiting in her boyfriend's apartment while he got a motel room for her and her grandfather Otto.
Her grandpa Otto, whose real name was Harvey Hauptmann. Who was the inspiration for the comic-book hero Overman. Who spent most of World War II in a Georgia prison because a War Department official named Owen feared him. Who was genetically responsible for Anne's tremendous powers.
And Anne thought she had a big secret...
They were sitting in Rich's kitchen, drinking coffeeall the talking had made Otto/Harvey thirsty. Anne waited until he finished a long sip, and asked, "So why did they let you out? It isn't like you stopped being superhuman."
"No, I didn't. But my value as a prisoner became outweighed by my value as a killer and a guinea pig."
In 1944, somebodyEisenhower probably, but I'll never knowdecided that I could do a lot more for the war effort than sit around in the Georgia hills. Owen, apparently, was livid. Eisenhower told me that he protested all the way up to Roosevelt, but apparently by that time the generals had persuaded FDR to send me into combat. So one day, a couple generals came into the camp and told me that my "testing" was over, and asked if I wanted to go into action. I was eager to get out of Fort Deliverance and start saving some American boys, so naturally I said yes.
After some crash-course combat training (modified to suit my personal talents; why teach me to use a rifle when I'm ten times as deadly lobbing a rock?), I was flown out to Europe. Our boys had been there all summer, and Paris was liberated the week before I arrived. It was a grand old time to be making the world safe for democracy.
I was put in a very small, very elite unit that could be trusted to keep quiet about my powers. They were mostly around to provide support and cover for me, while I did my thing. We worked behind the Nazi lines, sabotaging convoys and destroying supplies.
I went there expecting to win the war in a day, but some problems are too big for one man to end, even an Overman. I helped out a bit, but ultimately I didn't make that much of a difference. Except for the Battle of the Bulge; the thick Ardennes Forest was ideal for hiding my actions, and I really cut a swath through the Nazis. I probably saved a lot of Allied lives.
But that was balanced by all the Nazis I killed. I was every bit as brutal as when I assaulted Butch. But this time the government said it was okay, and so "murder" became "heroism."
To be fair, I wasn't the only murderer; and the Nazis would have murdered me quite happily, if they could've. Still, the death really got to me... especially the machines. All the tanks, machine guns, mortars, all the clever ways men had thought up to kill other men. And I had probably helped build some of those machines, or ones like them.
I made a special effort to destroy the machines. The machines that ground up men and spat them out. Panzers got rolled over, their barrels twisted like pretzels. And I couldn't knock the Messerschmidts and Junkers out of the sky, but I sure trashed them when I caught them on the ground.
The war dragged on, and my unit pushed further and further into Nazi territory. And then I discovered the worst killing machine of them all.
I was the first one to see Buchenwald.
Don't believe all the other accounts of the camp's liberation. My unit's main duty was to keep my existence a secret. They made sure there were no official records of my existence, and they stonewalled any nosy journalists.
By April of 1945, we had pushed pretty far into Germany. I knew there was a major Nazi industrial base in the areathe Germans were sending trains into it like there was no tomorrowbut the top brass said that Washington didn't want us to go near it. Didn't have enough "strategic value," and it would've just slowed our march to Berlin.
Yet I was obsessed with that base. I had such a feeling of dread about it, and pain. Maybe I have a little bit of that thing you have, where you can read people's minds. Thank God I didn't have too much of it.
One night I couldn't resist my urges, and I pushed towards the base, leaping an eighth of a mile with each stride, leaving my unit scrambling to catch up. I smashed through every obstacle along the way, looking for the tracks that would lead me to the base.
I found them, all right. And I saw the bodies stacked up beside them. They were so many, piled so high. I thought the Nazis put them there because they were out of room, and out of time to bury them.
I thought they were all soldiers, you see. But as I ran along the tracks I began to notice the small, child-size bundles....
I gathered both speed and dread with each step. I grew very afraid of what I would find at the camp. At Buchenwald.
I found walking skeletons, packed much tighter and bled much thinner than the refugees at Butch's ever had been. I found the furnaces belching out smoke, and I saw what fueled them. And I saw the mounds of corpses, waiting to go to open graves, or incinerators. And on each and every one of them, a little six-pointed star or pink triangle telling me that these people were getting massacred just because they were different.
For one brief moment, I was filled with that killing rage again, with an intensity that I'd not felt since Butch's warehouse.
Then it passed. And I retched. There had been enough killing, more than I ever dreamed was possible. And I was sick of it.
I couldn't kill that day. Not even the Nazis who were running the concentration camp. Would their deaths bring back the thousands they killed?
Instead, I shut down the killing machine. When my unit caught up to me, we pinpointed the generators for the camp's lightsthey were the first things to go. Under the cover of night, no one could see me leaping around the camp, smashing every machine in sight.
The furnaces were the next to go, then the showers (and I barely pulled myself together and walked out of there). The Nazis had no idea what was happening, but they probably figured we were bombing them. (One of the guys in my unit, a clever guy whose name I can't recall, would often play a record of falling bombs while I destroyed stuff). I wrecked everything I could, and if some Nazis got in the waywell, I wasn't out to kill them, but I wouldn't shed any tears either.
Those creeps thought they were superior men. And what was the "logical" end of their superiority? Wiping out anybody who didn't fit their ideals. It made me sick to think they called themselves Overmen. But ultimately they weren't overmen. The Nazis' reign wasn't based on superiority at all, but on insecurity and fear and a love of death. They eagerly reduced themselvesand anybody they could drag down with themto little cogs in a great big killing machine.
In later years, I took great pride in being a monkey wrench in their works. But there was no pride that day.
In a few hours, more American troops arrived, and Buchenwald was officially liberated. Eisenhower was there, and he looked as revolted as I felt. He ordered the army cameramen to film the camp, and he made sure that everyone back home saw those films, no matter what his superiors said. That's why Ike was the only military type that I ever really trusted.
I told him that I wouldn't be killing any more. I would gladly clear roads and destroy machines, but I wouldn't kill if I could help it. Ike wasn't thrilled to hear that, but there was nothing he could doand I think he understood why I couldn't kill.
The next two weeks were a frenzied drive to Berlin. We didn't just want to subdue the city, we wanted to get there before the Russians did. They had already occupied most of Eastern Europe, and Stalinanother jerk who fancied himself a Man of Steeldidn't show any signs of moving out.
There was also the matter of Hitler. Our intelligence said he was going crazy, his mind falling to pieces even more rapidly than his "Thousand Year Reich." Ike said Washington wanted me to grab Hitler before he could take any more of Germany down with him. I told Ike that I wouldn't do any more killing, but he pointed out that Hitler was the man most responsible for the horrors I'd seen; capturing him would at least bring a little justice to the whole gruesome mess. When he put it that way, I couldn't hold back; in late April I and twelve commandos from my unit set out for the wreckage of Berlin.
It was like walking on the moon. After all the bombing, there was so little left of that city, it was frightening. Hardly any soldiers were left to defend it; those who remained were just little boys or old men in raggedy uniforms and World War I-vintage rifles. They had a hard enough time controlling the looting and anarchy, and we slipped right in.
The Reichs Chancellory was a little harder. Hitler kept some elite SS troops there to guard his own butt, and we had the devil of a time killing them without making any noise. I didn't do any killing myself; the other guys took care of that.
The Chancellory was virtually empty, and littered with huge piles of art plundered from the finest cities of Europe. We worked our way down to the bomb shelter, and I ripped the huge swastika-covered door right off its hinges.
A lot of SS guards were inside. No big deal: using the door as a shield, I simply charged into them, scattering them like tenpins. With my guys to cover me, I made short work of the guards. I probably did kill a few; I don't think the world missed them much.
I found Hitler's private quarters by knocking through every wall in sight. When I came crashing in, I found Hitler, his mistress, and some tall white-haired guy in an SS outfit waiting for me. The woman was scared, but Hitler calmly said "Todtschoepfer" something like that"Deathbringer," anyway. And the SS man raised his hands...
All around me, my fellow troops started aging. And dying. Within seconds, they fell to the floor, their bodies became withered husks. I wasn't in great shape either. I couldn't move a muscle, and my insides twisted in agony. Deathbringer smiled and said, in perfect English, that a German overman could best an American one any day.
Poor choice of words on his part. It reminded me of my OVERMAN comics, of Overman's epic battles against Leo Luxor and the Brain Doctor and the magic imp Qwertyuiop... and suddenly, I had a super-villain of my own. A genuine vampire, with real super powers. An adversary worthy of any superhero.
I should have been scared witless, considering what happened to my buddies. But the thought of a real comic-book foe... it thrilled me. I felt great to be alive.
Deathbringer suddenly looked surprised, and he couldn't drain me anymore. I seized the moment, and pounced on him. He was still strong, like he had the strength of the dozen guys he'd just slaughtered. It was one hell of a scrap. We hurtled each other through walls, did flying tacklesbut the tougher he fought, the more enjoyed it. It was just like OVERMAN, and that gave me the advantage. I wrestled Deathbringer to the floor and told him that the American-model overman was better, after all. And (a shameless touch of melodrama) that I was hauling him off to jail for killing twelve men.
"Fool," he whispered, "no prison can hold men like us."
"That's very true," I said, and I crushed his skull in my hands.
Meanwhile, Hitler and his woman had fled. They couldn't go far, though; I'd wedged the shelter door back in its place so tightly that no normal human could ever budge it. I caught them trying to get to a second exit.
"Adolf Hitler," I said in my deepest voice, "for crimes against humanity, you're under arrest."
Hitler drew a gun and fired. I must have been quite a spectacle, all muscular, sweaty, and bloody. Like one of Hitler's wet dreams. So it wasn't surprising that he didn't shoot me. But I was astonished that he'd kill his own mistress in cold blood.
In a flash, I disarmed the little crackpot. "Why the hell did you do that?" I asked him. And he told me that by killing her, he would absorb her power.
"You really believe that, don't you?" I told him. "You really think death is that powerful. Well you make me sick. I can't believe that so much pain was caused by one little lunatic."
Hitler just stared at me. Either his English wasn't so hot or he was totally around the bend, so I repeated my comments in slow, halting German.
Hitler heard me out, and then smiled. "How perfect," he said, "that you should be a German."
"Didn't you hear what I said?" I lifted the runt and shook him, as if his insanity would spill out, like the goons from Butch's car. "You're sick! You aren't an overman! Your followers aren't overmen!" I dropped him on the cold metal floor. "You're all just bullies. Who got the means to act out your sick fantasies." For some reason, I started to cry.
Hitler watched me cry, and said, "You're a faggot, aren't you? Or a Jew." He grabbed his gun again and pointed it at me.
Adolf Hitler was not a fast man. He wasn't an athlete. He wasn't a superior man.
I was, and I crushed the barrel of his pistol before he could pull the trigger. He pulled it anyway. The bullet, or some fragment of it, came flying out the back of the gun and sailed through his left eye. He died in seconds.
I had been hoping to put the bastard on trial for his crimes. But chance, or fate, had already rendered its verdict.
"Wait a minute," said Anne. "I thought Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide."
Her grandfather smiled. "That's what the Nazis wanted the world to think. Wouldn't do for the world to know that Hitler killed his own mistress or that he died through his own incompetence. Or that someone really did punish the bastard for his crimes. So the Nazis burned their bodies, and erased all evidence that I had been there."
Anne furrowed her brow with thought. "So how come you didn't set the record straight?"
"Because of Deathbringer." Grandpa paced around the small kitchen. "Washington somehow knew all about Hitler's bunker, but couldn't be bothered to warn us about Deathbringer. And my whole unit died because of that. And Deathbringer's own commentsit sounded like he was eager to test himself against a worthy adversary."
Grandpa frowned. "Of course, I was even more eager to fight a super-villain. But I didn't know in advance. To give Deathbringer some credit, he didn't either." He placed his hands on the rim of the sink. "But I think somebody in Washington did know. They didn't need to capture Hitler, they just sent me there as a test. To see who was tougher, their stooge or the Nazis'."
Anne jumped up. "Grandpa, stop!" She pointed to the sinkhis hands were deforming and kneading the metal.
"Oh, sorry, Annie." He relaxed his grip. "Anyway, I had no desire to go back to that kind of governmentespecially since they would just put me back in Fort Deliverance. And since my unit was gone, it was an ideal time to slip away."
I managed to find some local partisans, folks who had resisted Hitler's rule. They agreed to hide me from the Americans, and eventually they got me some fake papers and a fake name. I went back to America as Otto Blume, German refugee. One of the very kind of people I had 'freed' from Butch's warehouse years earlier.
After a little wanderingI quietly found my parents and told them I was alive, but then I had to leave Cleveland quickly for fear of recaptureI decided to settle down in Washington, D.C. The best place to hide from the government is right under its nose, eh? And I settled down.
That was when I met your grandmother. She was an amazing woman... for the first time in my life, I found real love. It was a nice thing to find, after all that death. Peg did a lot to help me get over the warwhen I woke up at night screaming, she was there...
I never told her who I really was, but I think she always knew I had some kind of secret past. I would have told her, eventually, if she hadn't died so suddenly. Well, maybe I would have told her.
I haven't been a very good person, Annie. The last fifty years of my life have been a lie, and I lied the most to my own family. I possess tremendous power, yet I've spent my life in fear and hiding. I have killed men without punishment, and I have been punished for committing no crimes. I swore to never kill again, and I broke that vow in less than two weeks. I told Hitler he was a pathetic excuse for an overman, but I haven't set such a great example either.
It's not much of a legacy to leave you, Annie, although it does make for a good lesson. Do not do as I have done.
"Do not do as I have done."
The old, weary man sat down in his chair. Anne came around the table and sat next to him. "So I have just one question: what do I call you?"
"Well," he said smiling, "you could call me grandpa. That, at least, is the truth."
Anne said nothing, but waited for a real answer.
Her grandfather said, "It would be nice... to be called Harvey again."
Miles away (but not too many miles), Dan Carter was being called on the carpet. Nice carpet, too. Persian rug.
His bossnot the current head of SIRECOM, his real bosswas seated in an armchair and making a point of not looking at Dan.
"We were caught by surprise, sir," Dan said for the eleventh time. "We figured we were dealing with one Omega who possessed enhanced strength and speed, maybe a little invulnerability. Nothing we couldn't have handled."
The old man hit PLAY, and the evening's previous newscasts appeared on the television screen. "Obviously, Daniel, it was something you couldn't handle. You should have been prepared."
"Okay, okay, the girl's sudden triggering did catch us a little off- guard. But there was no way we could have known about the geezer being an Omega, too!"
"You're not paid to make excuses, Daniel, you're paid to get results. Today's results have been less than satisfactory." The old man scowlednot at Dan, but at the newscasters poking around Otto Blume's house. "This kind of attention could hurt SIRECOM very badly. And it could also drive our Omegas so far underground that we may never find them again."
"I, uh, I'm sorry, sir. Believe me, I'll find that girl."
"The girl is now a secondary concern. I want you to find that old man. And bring him to me."
Dan didn't quite understand, but he said, "Whatever you say, Mister Owen."
But it was another old enemy who occupied Harvey Hauptmann's thoughts that night.
Rich had come back, with the key to their motel room, shortly after Harvey finished his tale. Anne had wanted to tell himabout her powers, about her grandfather, about his other lifebut Harvey insisted they leave immediately.
Harvey felt a lot more relieved when they finally reached the motel. Hopefully, it would give them a day or two to plan their next course of action. But it was only a slight reliefhe was still too nervous to sleep. Anne felt the same way, but both were too emotionally drained to talk any further. So they silently watched CNN on the hotel cable, hoping their faces weren't on it.
Theirs weren't. But another's was....
A man, glowing so brightly with stolen energy that his skin turned red, was fighting off two teenagersOmegas, apparentlyand scores of law enforcement agents. He waved the dried husk of a third, dead Omega above his head like a grisly trophy.
The old man was so powerful, he could afford to lecture the news cameras while swatting away his attackers. "I will kill those two foolish Kinder who are trying to stop me, and then I will kill the policemen who are helplessly firing only to see their bullets patter to the ground! i will do this, unless he who stopped me in the war for Lebensraum comes to stop me! You know who I am! You know I mean this, old one! COME TO ME!"
The tape ended, and Bernard Shaw said, "This mysterious murderer was killed by three other Omegas, but not before lives were lost. Who was this man? Whose attention was he trying to attract? We may never know...."
But Harvey Hauptmann knew. "That was Deathbringer. That had to be. I'd recognize that face anywhere." Harvey was pale, almost in shock.
Anne was more skeptical. "Grandpa, that's ridiculous. Your one super-villain comes back from the dead on the same day you tell me about him?"
"I know it sounds strange, but that was him. We've got to get out to Chicago at once."
"Even if that were Deathbringer, why go out there? He's dead now... again." At that moment, CNN was running another tape, showing yet another young Omega destroying Deathbringer in a blaze of green fire.
That young Omega fascinated Harvey, as much as Deathbringer horrified him. "This kid. We have to find him."
"Of course... he could help us, couldn't he? Omegas sticking together..." Of course, Deathbringer was also an Omega, which didn't say much for solidarity. But Anne didn't want to mention that to Harvey.
"There's more to it, Annie. If Deathbringer could survive my attack, he could survive this kid's. But the kid doesn't know that"
Anne reached for the telephone. "I'll have Rich get us some plane tickets."
END OF PART THREE
To be continued in the pages of Legacy and Pulse...
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