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DO NOT GO GENTLY
INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT
by Marc Singer
Body and Soul part 1
"I'd like to hire you and your granddaughter to find out who killed me," said the detective Thomas Morgan. "I'd like to know who did it before I die."
Morgan didn't seem to be particularly dead or dying when he said that. Apparently, that was because he was just an astral projectionand his physical body had been killed yesterday. Now Morgan had twelve hours to track down his killer, and he wanted Anne Benson and Harvey Hauptmann to help him do it.
Anne and Harvey, who had been accosted by Morgan just as they were leaving the new "Omega House" they had established to legally shelter young Omegas, were understandably a little suspicious. "How can you even be here if your body is dead, Morgan?" Anne asked.
"Because I'm a very powerful astral projector, Ms. Benson. I've remained out of my body for a day or two before, with no ill effects. Only now I have no body to return to. And without thatwell, as you can see, I won't be here much longer." Sure enough, Anne and Harvey could now see that Morgan was slightly translucent. If they stared hard enough, they could make out the doors behind him. "I'd at least like to find the bastard or bastards who killed me before I go."
"For what?" Harvey asked. "Revenge? I'm not so sure we'd want to help you do that."
Morgan sighed and lowered his head. "Let me put it this way," he said wearily, "whoever killed me is probably also in some way linked to the psychic disturbance in Detroit. The one that's draining people every night. Pretty soon, it'll start killing people while they sleep, sucking the last bit of life out of them. You want to put a stop to that, don't you?"
Harvey looked to his granddaughter. "He's got a point."
"Maybe," Anne said, "but he still hasn't told us who hired him to poke around Detroit in the first place. I'd like to know exactly what we're getting into."
Morgan groaned, and said, "For Christ's sake, I promised them confidentiality! Do you have any idea how pissed they'd be? What it would do to my reputation?"
"Morgan," Anne pointed out, "in twelve hours, neither of those things should scare you much. In fact, they shouldn't now. So 'fess up."
The statement hit him like a cold slap in the facenot that any real slap could hit him anymore. "You know, you're right. Okay, I was hired by the city of Detroit. They didn't want word getting out that they were using Omegas, or even that there was a psychic disturbance. Satisfied?"
I don't know, Harvey beamed at his granddaughter, trusting her to pick up the thought. Are we?
It's hard to say, grandpa Anne replied. You'd think that somebody composed of pure thought would be easier to scan, not harder... unless astral selves are more than just thought-projections... in any case, I can't fully read him. He does seem to be telling the truth, but.... "I'd still like a little more proof," Anne found herself saying.
"Proof?" Morgan was on the verge of hysterics. "What proof can I give you? I'm dead! And the scum who killed me are" Morgan collected himself. He seemed to be sighing for breath, even though he no longer had any body in which to breathe; it was a lingering vestige of his discarded physical body. "Watch the news," Morgan said, "look for all the stories about mass anxieties or possible malaria outbreaks in Detroit. The threat is real, and if you won't help me, help everyone else this thing is killing."
Harvey shuffled his feet and stared at the ground before lifting his eyes to meet Anne's. "We don't have a choice, do we?"
"We never do," Anne said.
Anne and Harvey were ready to hop in a car, rush to the airport, and catch a red-eye, since they didn't want to use Jimmy DeLeon's transmat and expose their links with the Colony to Morgan. But Morgan himself stopped them. "A plane might not leave for hours," he said, "and each hour is precious."
"Maybe you should have contacted that Rapidfire guy, then," Harvey countered, "because we don't have any quicker way of traveling."
"Actually," Morgan said, "I was planning on going back the way I came hereastrally. If you're experienced enough, you can take certain... shortcuts."
"Through space?" Anne asked.
"Through the laws of physics. Trust me, astral travel is much quicker. And saferif your body is in a safe place, of course." There was no need for Morgan to elaborate.
Harvey was skeptical. "That might work for you, but how could we go along? Neither of us has an 'astral self.'"
"Neither of you can access your astral selves," Morgan explained. Then he glanced nervously around the lobby, with its drawings done by young Omegas. "Can we discuss this someplace a little more secure?" Anne and Harvey led him to an empty roomthey took the door in while he stepped through the wall. It had a few cots in it, which served Morgan's purposes just fine; he asked Anne and Harvey to lie down on them.
"As I was saying, you just can't access your astral selves. That doesn't mean you don't have them; I can see them bright as day, in fact. We Omegas tend to really shine out there. And you seem to have some kind of telepathic aura, Ms. Benson, which is partly why I picked you. Even if I could have found them, Covenant or 'that Rapidfire guy' wouldn't have been as adaptable."
"You know about Covenant?" Harvey blurted. Then he regretted it, since that showed that he knew about Allen Covenant, too.
But Morgan just chuckled. "It's my business to know about the spiritual side of things. Now, if you'll both lie down and relax, I'll try to help you access the astral plane..."
Harvey bolted upright; he hadn't felt this nervous since he was an untriggered kid on a doctor's examination table. "What if somebody attacks us here? Shouldn't one of us stay awake?"
Morgan sighed impatiently. "I doubt they would know to come here, Mr. Hauptmann, but if you insist on a guard, then you just volunteered. I doubt the projection would work as well on you, anyway." He turned his attention to Anne, establishing a mental link with her and leading her onto his plane of existence.
Harvey clasped Anne's hand and asked her to come back soon. He didn't know why, but he had a bad feeling about this. Maybe they should have taken the plane, or the transmat. Maybe they shouldn't be so damn trusting.
"He's really worried, isn't he?" Morgan observed. "You can tell by the way the blue keeps washing over him."
Sure enough, Harvey was a glowing, seething mass of emotions, mostly this color that seemed bluer than blue. Harvey was also a mass of light that seemed about fifty feet tall, compared to Anne. Anne took a look around, and saw that her own body looked colorless and blandpresumably because her psyche had just left it.
Anne herself was just a little white flicker, a Tinkerbell in the astral sky. "Is this my soul?" Anne asked, in something that was not speech. "I had sort of hoped it would be bigger..."
"No," said Morgan. He, unlike either of the other two, seemed to be more of a void than anything else. But his control was great enough that he still looked like a private eye, trenchcoat and all, here on the astral plane. And he, too, towered above her. Beyond him, through now- transparent walls, Anne could see other giant forms, sleeping children who shone like hibernating titans.
"It's not your soul," Morgan continued, "it's your spirit. A psychic extension. You just seem small because the connection is very tenuous. But you're connected by your own telepathy, so if you just increase the power like this" Morgan did something invisible, and all the other spirits began to shrink around her. No, she was getting larger. She was also growing more defined, looking more like she did in the real world. "You have quite a powerful presence," Morgan said. "Now, let's be on our way. But first, a goodbye." Morgan took Anne's 'hand,' and suddenly the room clicked back into focus. Except Anne was now staring down at her own sleeping body, and a startled Harvey. She had just manifested visually in the real world, the way Morgan could.
"We're leaving now, Hauptmann," Morgan explained. Then he laughed, and said, "Don't worry, your granddaughter will be back by noon. Either that, or very, very lost."
That last comment notwithstanding, Anne said, "Don't worry, Harvey. With my body here, and you guarding it, I'll be okay."
"Don't make promises you can't keep," Morgan said, so only Anne could hear it.
And then they were off. First they rose up through the Omega House, past all the sleeping spirits. Each one glowed his or her own unique color, far more than the seven that were left to earthly rainbows.
"The spirits are always so much more vibrant when they're asleep," Morgan marvelled. "Especially with children. I think they're more attuned to the plane. That raw id, you know. That immediate unconscious." Morgan glanced over at one dimly flickering, gray form. "Except that guy. What's he doing here?"
"That must be Franz," Anne muttered.
Then they rose out of the building and up in the sky, and Anne was even more astonished. The residual glow in the area was astonishing, and the network of spirits that slept in suburban Maryland formed a twinking cityscape that would put Paris to shame. But then again, Anne thought, imagine what Paris must look like...
Morgan pointed her in the right direction, and they started walking on thin air, gravity being of little consideration to them now. Anne stared straight ahead, amazed. They were headed right for some giant white structures in the middle of Washington; they looked like the monuments, only hundreds of times larger. "How did they get here?" Anne asked. "They don't have spirits, do they?"
"Nope," Morgan answered. "They just have tiny little pieces of everybody else's spirits. You'd better be careful around them, those things have iconic fields that could suck a novice like you right in. But if you know how to ride them, they'll take you right where you want to go." Morgan grinned, reminding Anne not so much of a p.i. as a surfer.
"Now make sure you don't lose contact with me," Morgan said, symbolically cementing their telepathic contact by grabbing her hand. "I'm the only thing that lets you even access this place, let alone move around. So hold on tight, sister..." They walked past a colossal dome, around a giant obelisk, past a huge black V that reflected the ghosts of thousands of dead soldiers, and right up the steps and into the maw of a huge Greek temple where a god sat on his throne....
Morgan could barely restrain his joy. "We're going in."
Anne's body began to squirm and shift uncomfortably. It was almost like she was having a bad dream, especially when she mumbled something about falling. Only if Morgan were any indication, there might really be dire consequences if she forgot to wake up before she hit the ground.
Harvey held Anne's hand even more tightly. As noble and unavoidable as the goal of saving lives had seemed, Harvey now wondered if it had been wise for Anne to place her lifeor her soul, that isin the hands of a dead man.
Assuming Morgan was even dead. Assuming he was even Morgan. Why hadn't Harvey raised these objections before? Why hadn't he even thought of them?
Harvey sat by his granddaughter, all his strength and power useless. As usual.
For one brief moment, Anne could see the tall, slain ruler on his chair, lit in gold. Then the darkness of the temple, the astral analog to the Lincoln Memorial, engulfed them. It was a blackness more absolute than anything Anne had ever experienced, and the ethereal presence of Morgan's slowly-fading hand was the only thing tethering her to reality. Or sanity.
Voices wailed in the darkness, and for a moment Anne wondered if they were other astral travelers, lost in the "iconic field" Morgan had warned about. But they seemed to be wailing about something elsean ominous crackling noise that grew louder and louder until Anne realized it was the sound of gunfire.
Morgan's hand tugged at Anne, and she heard him say "Come on," but it sounded like he was miles away. She started whirling around in a wide circle, falling sideways, hoping it was Morgan that was pulling her and not something else.
The gunfire and the wailing grew louder and louder, and Anne thought she felt something warm and wet and solid splatter across her. The absence of any one place here meant the presence of all places, and Anne was in Dallas and Memphis, a hotel kitchen in Los Angeles and a balcony in Ford's Theatre right here in town. Bullets were whistling by her now. For a moment she thought she saw the god's face again, up close and immense and frozen in a marble death-mask, only now blood was running down the head. It asked her for the question, and Anne knew that she should not be here. She did not know the question. She did not know the question. And the king pushed her back out, into the barren wasteland of America.
Anne gasped for breath for what seemed like an eternity, until she realized she didn't need air anymore. She needed something, though, so gasping seemed like as good an action as any. "Where... are we?", she panted.
"Look around you." Morgan let go of her, and swept his arms around to encompass the panoramic vista. It was a city of lights, far more massive than Washington. There were giant structures here, too, but instead of monuments they were factories, huge smoke-belching conglomerations of angles and shapes that would put both Piranesi and Escher to shame. Around them, the black sky turned red with heat, and the whole city cranked to their automaton rhythms.
"Detroit, eh?" said Anne. "Wonder what this place looks like during the day."
"It's always night here," said Morgan. "It's always night in the soul." Then he surveyed his own body, which had become even more transparent than before. "Let's hurry up, Ms. Benson. Dragging you through that took a lot more out of me than I expected. And much as I wish it were otherwise, there is no longer more to me than meets the eye." He started striding through Detroit's astralscape, beckoning for her to follow.
"Was that the... only way here?" Anne said, stumbling along to keep up. "Weren't there any... easier ways... for you and me both?"
"Maybe, but I like that one better. I guess I just sympathize with dead guys." He stared at Anne. "And I wanted you to know what it was like, too."
They were picking their way across astral Detroit, being careful not to accidentally collide with any spirits as they walked. Morgan grew more insubstantial as they went along, and every now and then he would stop and manifest his left hand in the 'real world' so he could read his watch, numbers and time apparently having little meaning in pure astral space. Each time he checked, Morgan cursed and said that even with the shortcut, he was losing time and substance fast.
"How exactly did we get from Washington to Detroit, anyway?" Anne asked. "One minute, we were in the Lincoln Memorial spirit, I guess, and the next...?"
"The Lincoln Icon, not spirit," Morgan said testily. "Remember, I said it was composed of pieces of everyone's spirits? We just latched onto a piece from a rather patriotic old lady here in Detroit, and followed the connection back. Her own spirit, and the force of the Lincoln Icon, did the work for us."
"But wouldn't that put a strain on the old woman?" Anne asked. "Say, maybe that's what's causing this malady. Somebody using people as sources, or batteries."
"Congratulations, Ms. Benson, you've just reached the deduction I made a few weeks ago." As if his tone weren't bad enough, Morgan sarcastically raised an eyebrow, pissing Anne off even more because she hadn't figured out how to make eyebrows on her own self-image. "As a matter of fact," Morgan lectured, "I went back to the very first man who was afflicted with the weakness, and discovered that he was the primary source of a big astral leak. The focus for whatever was leeching off everyone else." Morgan led Anne up in the air and through the wall of a cheap tenement that was all too close to the ruins of Dynamax Detroit, saying, "Anne Benson, meet Peter Valdikoff."
Stepping into Valdikoff's bedroom was very disorienting, because its inside was larger than its outside. In fact, its inside was an outside, a large compound that was sickeningly familiar to Anne. She was looking at Dynamax Detroit before it was destroyed, complete with workers running between buildings.
"Impressive, isn't it?" Morgan said, with more than a trace of bitterness. "There are actually several other people in this apartment, but Valdikoff's focusing so much astral energy, that we can't even pick them out of the background noise."
"And from here the energy goes to this... disturbance?"
"To whomever's causing it, yes." Then Morgan had to step to one side as a station wagon careened past him. In fact, there seemed to be a steady exodus of workers from the compound, and alarm klaxons were wailing. Morgan glanced at his astral image of a watch, and said, "We made it just in time for the 2:15 show."
Then Dynamax exploded. Every single building flew apart and burst into flames. The force and the heat ripped at Annecould an astral bomb kill an astral spirit? Then Anne was blown off her feet, and when she hit the ground, blackness washed over her.
For an instant, Anne was besieged by the faces and voices of those who had died in the explosion. She tried to shut them out with a telepathic shield, but Morgan grabbed her and said it would be a bad idea. "Your telepathy is what keeps you in contact with me and my power," he said. "Shut me out, and your spirit would be stranded a thousand miles from your body. Here, let me take care of this."
The darkness slowly lifted, revealing Dynamax Detroit as it stood now. Broken, burnt, abandoned. Even the sky above it was cold and gray and showed no signs of life. Now that it was light, Anne noticed that Morgan had been unaffected by the explosion; in fact, he seemed more substantial than before. "Did you just take some of the energy for yourself?" Anne asked.
A guilty look flashed across Morgan's face. "Hey, it's just so I can catch the bastard who's doing this. And help you get home."
Anne tried to collect herself, which was a very 'physical' action in astral spacelittle pieces of her light flew back to her. "Morgan, I think I've just decided on the fee for my services." She looked the detective in his eyes. "When this is all done, you have to let it go. You can't prolong your existence by feeding on others."
Morgan started to shout something back at her, but choked and said, "Of course. You're absolutely right. Shall we move along?"
"Yeah," Anne said. "Can we follow the energy back to the, uh, absorber?"
"More or less," answered Morgan. "But I have a feeling it's going to take us right back to the spot where I died."
Dynamax Detroit. The place was even uglier in astral space than in real life. A black bile coated everything, for the place was tainted with all the horrible deaths that had happened there. It was only a small comfort that Anne had caused none of them, and Tazakles nearly all.
Briefly, Anne worried that Tazakles might still be around herebut he'd committed suicide, so why would his spirit want to linger? Then again, something was draining the people of Detroit of their very life essence, and the trail led here....
"Shouldn't we look at where your physical body died?" Anne asked. "Wouldn't there be clues or something?"
"Nothing we could find that the cops couldn't. And I don't think there's anything to find there. I was here when my body died. I was here when I found the lair of the disturbance."
Anne knelt down and examined a piece of rubble. It was coated in an all-absorbing black, like a tiny black hole, as though the ash itself were tainted. Tainted with the crimes of all the people whose bodies now were that ash, for killer and victim were finally mingled together as one. She picked up the rubble, held it to her face, and whispered, "Alas, poor Jarvin."
"What's that?" said Morgan, whirling around suddenly.
"I knew him, Morgan: a fellow of infinite evil." She dropped the debris and tried to wipe the ash off her hands. "Listen, Morgan, I understand that some powerful Omegas died here." She had to be careful not to reveal that she'd been here before, particularly since they were in a sort of mental contact. "Could one of them be using the drain to prolong his or her life?"
"What powerful Omegas?" Morgan asked quietly.
How could Anne say this without revealing too much? "Well, I heard about the Havoc Squadsay, Morgan, do you have the funny feeling we're being watched?"
The Benson girl turned and stared so that her eyes were gazing right out of the scrying pool. The old man cursed and rippled the water with his walking stick; he didn't think she could trace the spell back, but better safe than sorry.
"Anti," he called, pronouncing it 'auntie.' "The girl is beginning to suspect. Her telepathy even picked up on the scrying spell." The old man didn't worry about anybody else eavesdropping on him, as he'd done on Benson; not only was nobody else in the office building at two-thirty in the morning, but no outsiders knew the language he spoke. There were only a dozen scholars who even knew it had ever existed.
"Is our agent ready?" a female voice responded, in the same tongue.
"Ready, yes, and I think eagerly waiting."
"Then send the instruction to attack," the woman called. She didn't even bother to emerge from her hot tub, so confident was she in her plan. "And continue to scry, I want to be certain nothing goes wrong."
The old man grumbled and returned to his pool. No matter how many times he'd done this, he never liked it. He unbuttoned his shirt, and reached a wiry hand inside to clutch a wrinkled patch of skin that might once have been a female breast. He dug his nails in, squeezed, and let the blood trickle into the pool. Stirring the pool with his stick, he mouthed the proper chants that would open channels of power.
The pool settled, and the old man sent the attack command. Then he sat down and watched the pretty young girl appear in his mind's eye. The picture's resolution was quite clear, even though he was tapping into the astral plane; all in all, not bad for a blind man.
"There it is again," Anne said. "Somebody, or something, is watching us. Morgan, we'd better pick up the trail and get out of here."
"But the trail ends here, Ms. Benson." Morgan smiled. "For you, anyway." He ran towards her with a blinding speed that came from his astral mastery, and pounded his fists into her. On some level it was a mental, spiritual attack, but to Anne it felt like she'd just taken two hard punches to the head.
Anne swung back at him wildly, but Morgan easily dodged out of her reach. "What the hell is going on here?" she asked.
"Isn't it obvious?" Morgan dashed in, punched her, and dashed out before she could block or counterattack. "It's a trap, Benson. All just for you."
"But why?" Anne was stalling for time. She surveyed her powers: strength, speed, invulnerability all no good here. Even telekinesis didn't seem to be working. But her telepathy did, it fueled her and kept her connected... "What's your grudge against me, Morgan?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" He sprinted in again, landing a blow and retreating before Anne could react. "I died here, Benson. Thanks to you and the others. But I've been given a new lease on life. Soon, I won't have to feed on these Detroit saps anymore." Another blow. "My new employers said that once I kill a few people for them, I'll get all the revenge I want. And a brand new body. Yours." Another crushing blow. "They're letting me have my revenge on you even before I serve them, you see." He laughed. "Sort of like a free sample." He rushed in for another blowonly to be surprised when Anne disappeared.
Morgan stood motionless for a minute, then was knocked off his feet as Anne appeared, kicked him squarely in the groin, and disappeared again. Morgan fell flat on his rear from the impact, but instead of crying out in pain he just laughed more. "That's very good, Benson," he called. "Cutting off our telepathic contact so I can't find you. Too bad you forgot that a kick to the groin doesn't affect a spirit much... especially a dead one who was never prone to groin kicks in the first place." Morgan got up and started poking around the Dynamax compound, as if he were sniffing her out. "You can come out now, Anne," he shouted. "I have other ways of finding you, and without me you'll never get home."
Anne appeared behind him. Because thought-impulses could deliver a speech as quickly as they could a single word here in astral space, Anne said "You don't want me to get home anyway, Morgan, so I might as well kick your ass while I can." And she delivered a ferocious rabbit-punch to the back of his neck, fueled by all the telepathic anger she could muster. It sent Morgan flying, and she disappeared again.
But Morgan disappeared before he hit the ground. "Two can play at this game," he called from nowhere and everywhere. Anne silently cursed. She'd seen that Morgan could control the appearance of his astral form, and now he'd altered it to look like nothing.
The two combatants stalked each other invisibly. But if Anne used her telepathy to find Morgan, she'd stand out like a lighthouse... maybe she should just try to get home. She could leave the compound, get back to her body...
And leave all those people in Detroit to die. To say nothing of these other people Morgan was supposed to kill. Anne cursed Harvey and her parents for bringing her up right, and resumed the search for Morgan.
Except he found her first. His feet slammed into her back, knocking her to the ground and disrupting her telepathic shield, so she became visible to him again. He was still invisible, though, and raining blows down on her.
Anne tried resizing her spirit-form as she'd done before, only in reverse; she became a tiny flickering of light once again. Now she was actually harder to hit, and Morgan's swings started missing her. Oddly, Anne could now see Morgan as a large distortion against the astral background; either his 'invisibility' didn't work on such a small scale, or he just no longer cared to adjust it. It wasn't like he needed to, for Anne wasn't as maneuverable as she'd hopedstupid me, she thought, maneuverability here depends on mental ability, not actual size.
And Morgan had mental ability in spades. The chameleoned, distorted killer soon pinned the flitting, flickering Anne to one little section of space. Then, when her tiny form had no other avenue of escape, he snapped forward and engulfed her in his gaping black mouth.
When Anne's body began thrashing wildly and screaming, Harvey reached over and cradled her in one massive arm. With his other arm, he reached for the telephone. Things were out of his control, but he had to do something.
Harvey dialed, messing up the number several times. When he finally got it right, and a voice answered, Harvey said, "Rich? You'd better get over here quick."
Richard Cage might not have had any Omega powers, but he deserved to be there as much as Harvey did. Especially if Anne wasn't coming back.
Anne wasn't even completely in Morgan's mouth when she panicked. By the time his jaws closed shut around her, she had lost it completely and she reacted purely by animal instinct.
Fortunately, Anne's instincts were good. Before Morgan could ingest her any further, Anne re-enlarged herself. For one second, Morgan screamed, in a high-pitched voice like a woman's, as his head bulged and swelledand then Anne burst out of it, like Athena made manifest. A not altogether inappropriate image for a plane of pure mind.
Anne gasped for breath, another leftover reaction from spending her life inside a phsyical body, and rolled around on the dirt, wiping off Morgan's astral ichor. Then she looked over and saw Morgan, headless and dripping, charging right at her. He wasn't dripping from his head, but dripping to itall the ichor was reforming a new head.
Anne dodged out of the way, cursing herself for thinking that the lack of a body part made any difference here. She was able to land a few punches on Morgan before his head totally reformed, but they didn't seem to slow him in the least.
But Anne didn't worry until she saw that Morgan's head had regrown completely, and little drops were still flying into him and joining him. With each drop, Morgan grew larger... and larger... and larger...
"NOW YOU SEE WHAT YOU'RE UP AGAINST?" Morgan bellowed. "NOW YOU SEE THAT YOUR DEATH IS INEVITABLE? I'LL DRAIN EVERY ONE OF THOSE COWS DRY IF THAT'S WHAT IT TAKES TO KILL YOU!"
He's absorbing the astral energy from all his prey, Anne realized. He fed off them to keep himself alive, and now he's killing them so he can kill me. Anne ducked underneath a mighty foot, seconds before it slammed into the ground. I have to stop him now, she thought, before he can actually drain them all the way. Because he won't stop until I'm finished.
Anne concentrated, and started to enlarge herself again. It was hard, and there was the danger of spreading herself too thin, but Anne knew she had vast reserves of power. And it all sprung from her mind. Anne grew larger, too, until she nearly rivalled Morgan's height. The two began to wrestle, towering over Detroit's astralscape. And that night, every dreamer in Detroit briefly saw two giants battling over the city, dwarfing even its mighty factories.
Anne's combat skills were a little better than Morgan's; less refined, perhaps, but with a rough-and-tumble edge that came from learning by hard experience. She tossed Morgan into the Dynamax wastes, kicking up a cloud of ash. Ignoring every Queensbury rule of boxing, she pummeled and kicked him while he was down, knowing he'd do far worse to her.
"LEARNING ALL MY TRICKS QUICKLY, ARE YOU?" Morgan called. "WELL, LEARN THIS." He grew even larger, sucking his victims' energy in at an ever-faster rate. Anne could now see the astral 'food' surrounding him in a vortex, hear the moans of tormented sleepers as he bled them for power. And Anne knew that if she kept up the fight much longer, Morgan's victims would start dying.
That wasn't much of a concern right now, though, because Morgan had become three times as tall as she was.
And Morgan knew he had her. Not just in terms of power, but morals. "GIVE UP AND DIE, BENSON," he raged as his fists pounded her through whole factories. Their iconic fields were meaningless now, and the tops of some of the structures even bent towards Morgan as he walked past themhe was so massive, he was starting to suck in free- flowing astral energy. "GIVE UP AND DIE," he repeated, "BEFORE MY HOSTS DO. DIE, BEFORE ALL DETROIT DIES." Fists like mountains battered Anne, bringing her strange pain-induced visions of the Lincoln Icon, gunfire mowing down America's gods.
"DIE, BENSON. DIE FOR MY SINS."
Anne's thrashing stopped.
She was still alive, she was breathing, her pulse was normal... but there was no more movement. Whatever the battle, it was over... but for good or ill? Harvey just cradled her, holding back the tears until he knew for sure. Rich arrived a few minutes later, and could only do the same.
For one long, tense hour, they waited. The noise had awakened little Clara White, too, and she brought her grandfather Franz down to the room. The four kept up their little vigil, hoping against hope for some sign that Anne's mind was as alive as her body.
And at the end of that hour, Anne coughed, and stirred, and flickered her eyes open. She was terribly disoriented by the new arrivals in the room, and the chorus of cheers and hugs which awaited her return. Harvey could feel the brushes of a clumsy telepathic probe as Anne regained her footing.
"Am I...?" Anne met her grandfather's gaze. "Is everything okay, Harvey? Why are you all here?"
"We were just worried about you. You must have been in one hell of a fight. Did you get the thing? And what happened to Morgan?"
"Morgan?" Anne's eyes wandered as she placed the name. "Oh, Morgan. He was the thing. He was draining the people to stay alive, and he set some kind of trap for me."
Harvey's eyes bulged. "Why on earth would he do that?"
"Beats the hell out of me. I think he said somebody put him up to it." Anne rubbed her head. "That's something I'll ponder after I get a good night's sleep." She started sliding off the cot, towards Rich.
"How did you get out of it?" Franz asked. When Anne didn't understand the question, he repeated, "How did you get out of the trap?"
"Oh, that." Anne smiled. She quickly skimmed over the details of their fight, then said "Well, he had me in a bind as long as he was just draining innocent people. But he got greedy, and started sucking in free astral energy from Detroit. The more energy he took in, the more massive he got, and the more he took inhe ended up trapping himself."
"That didn't just make him more powerful?" Harvey asked.
"It did at first," Anne replied, "and he almost killed me. But I hung in there, until the city swamped him. Morgan became the center of a massive icon of his own making, one he couldn't escape from. And with him buried alivewell, deada simple telepathic shot from me finished him off."
"But if his spirit went somewhere else" Harvey blurted.
"It didn't. He really did seem to be dead, and with no body to go back to, we don't need to worry about Thomas Morgan again."
"What about the people who hired him?" Harvey asked.
Anne groaned. "That's a mystery for a mind with a lot of rest. Tonight, I want to thank my poor neglected body. I'm never leaving her again. In fact, I promise to treat her right." If she sent any telepathic messages after that, Harvey didn't receive them, although he did notice Rich blushing.
Franz and Clara went back to sleep, and Anne and Rich left very quickly after that. Harvey could have said something to tease or admonish them, but he didn't, for he remembered what it was like to be young and vital. Even if his aching body made it hard to recall those days at this moment...
Harvey didn't feel up to the drive home. He just stretched out on a cot and slept the sleep of the just, the victorious, and the bodied.
Somewhere in Detroit, a lazy intern on a graveyard shift was dozing, trying to shake off his nightmares of clashing titans. He didn't see the EEG monitor next to him start spiking, after a long period of almost no activity. Nor did he hear the bandaged, IV'd, life-supported man behind him start to move and moan.
The chart on the end of the bed said, MORGAN, T.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Is the danger past? Not by a long shot, as the plot thickens,
and some more members of our recurring cast pop upmuch to their regret.
Thomas Morgan created by Matt Rossi, appears courtesy of Matt Dempster. Everything else created by, written by, and c. Marc Singer.
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