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by Craig Rettig

Sometimes these things they are so easy.
Sometimes these things they are so cold.
Sometimes these things just seem to rip you right in two.
Oh no, man, don't let 'em get ta you.
Guns N' Roses Dust'n'Bones


Alex woke to the familiar sound of rap music played through high-performance speakers. He opened his eyes only to shut them quickly, due to the sunlight pouring into his face--not something anyone enjoys right after waking. Alex rolled over quickly, banging his head on the wall next to his bed.

Uttering several four-letter words, Alex pulled himself to his feet. "Gotta lay off the whiskey," he told himself, rubbing his head from the aftereffects of last night's binge. Alex looked over at the clock. It read 2:30 p.m. "$#|+! I'm late! Rob's gonna kill me!"

Alex quickly jumped in the shower, not even waiting for the water to heat up. Washing in record time, he ran the towel over his meager frame, barely drying any part of his body. Hurredly, he threw on his uniform, and ran out of his apartment up Jefferson Avenue to Angelino's Pizza.

As he zipped through the door, he was stopped by an abrupt "COX, YOU'RE AN HOUR AND A HALF LATE!" His manager, Rob, was looking at him like he had just slept with Rob's twelve year-old sister. Alex wondered what had crawled up his rectum this morning. You could always tell when Rob was ticked off when he called you by your last name. Rob walked up to Alex, trying to intimidate him.

Rob was taller and skinnier than Alex even was. He had slicked-back hair that reminded him of a bad fifties movie, and had been "growing" a moustache for the month Alex had been working there. All Rob had gotten, though, was a few scattered hairs across the top of his lip, mostly looking like he hadn't washed that part of his face in a few weeks. Rob always thought he had a demanding presence, but in fact, it was all Alex could do to keep from laughing when he tried playing drill sergeant.

"So? What's you're excuse this time?" Rob bellowed.

"Umm...I overslept."

Rob suddenly winced, and Alex realized he hadn't taken the time to brush his teeth or eat anything this morning.

"Jesus Christ! You're giving off fumes that could fuel a small jet! If you ever come in late and hungover again, I'll have your butt in a sling! Now, get to work! We're running behind!"

Alex strutted back to the kitchen, mumbling various obsceneties under his breath. Throwing on an apron, he glanced over the pizza orders which seem to always pick up after the various meal hours. Alex figured out long ago that people order either late or early, because they wanted to avoid the mealtime rush. Unfortunately, so did everyone else.

Samantha slammed the door as she walked in, chipper as could be.

"Hi, Alex! A bit late aren't we? Oh well, I'm in a good mood, the Delta Iota Kappas just gave me a twenty-dollar tip on four pizzas! Isn't that great?"

"That's wonderful," Alex said, as he tried to smile without making it obvious how much he disliked her. Samantha was VERY good-looking. Unfortunately, she had the stereotypical mentality of always looking for something better in a man. Christ, the last guy she went out with bought her a small Nissan.

Alex wished he could afford a car, then at least he could make some extra money on the side as tips. However, since he was living completely on his own, having run away from home here to Cincinnati six months ago with all his money and everything he could carry, it was all he could do to make rent and bills on his crappy apartment.

Oh great, now where'd the pizza cutter go to? Nice. Alex looked around. Rob was up in his office, Samantha was up at the cash register entering her checks, Ralph was on the phone, and Frank had gone in the back for supplies. Alex looked down at his hand, watching as the orange aura generated around his index finger, then taking the shape of a long blade.

Alex quickly cut the pizza into the usual ten slices and watched as the energy blade dissipated. Alex had found out about his ability about two months ago, when he was watching a Saturday morning cartoon called Z-Men. One of the heroes, called Clawster, had these two titanium claws that popped out through his hand. Alex had thought that was kind of cool, and was wishing he could do that when all of the sudden, the claws appeared, only bright orange and made of energy. Alex had freaked out, and the claws vanished. Wondering if he was hallucinating, Alex tried again with the same result--two orange energy claws sticking out of the backs of his hands.

After the initial shock, Alex gathered some money and ran down to a local comic book store on Calhoun Street, Fantasy Emporium, and picked up a copy of Z-Men. Another book caught his eye, Blue Beacon. The hero on the cover was holding a spaceship with an blue clamp emitting from a bracelet he was wearing. Alex bought them both and hurried back to his apartment. He opened Z-Men first, but was disappointed when he came to the end, and Clawster wasn't in it. All it was was the leader, Cyclon, crying over how he never got to raise his daughter, Cord, giving her to someone else to raise in the future.

Dropping Z-Men, he began reading Blue Beacon. In it, the hero, Blue Beacon, was fighting a villain called Corrupto, who had a similar bracelet, only with orange energy. Apparently, Blue Beacon couldn't use his bracelet against anything orange. However, Blue Beacon used his head and beat Corrupto by toppling some wreckage on top of him. Alex tried opening his fridge by making a hand appear from his own, and it worked. He wanted to show this little trick to some of his friends, but he began seeing all the news reports on the so-called "Omegas" that portrayed this new development in humanity as negative, so he decided to keep it hidden from others, just using his powers to help him out around his apartment and special cases like this.

Work went pretty slow, especially when Rob made him work overtime to make up for the time he missed this morning. Alex walked back to his Correyville apartment, narrowly avoiding the rain that was beginning to fall. Great, Alex thought, it's getting dark and crappy out, what a perfect ending to a perfect day. He changed into some jeans and his faded Dead Kennedys T-shirt, and sat down to read one of his old ragged, water-stained copies of ROLLING STONE.

Halfway into the article about the new Guns N' Roses albums, USE YOUR ILLUSION I & II, he heard a scream. Granted, this wasn't the first time he heard screams at night, but this one sounded so familiar. He ran to the window and looked out. Nothing. Grabbing his keys, and taking only enough time to lock the door behind him, ran out in the rain, following the sound of the screams.

He ran around a corner, took a glimpse, and ducked back around. It was Samantha, all right. From the way she was dressed, she had just come out of one of the local dance clubs and got assaulted by some hoods when she got to her car. Alex suddenly heard a "Shut up, bitch!" followed by a sharp slap. He heard Samantha moan then hit the ground.

Enough was enough, he thought and stepped around the corner.

"Hey boys," he said, "why don't you leave the lady alone and get back to whatever it is you punks do for fun?"

All five of the hoods turned around and looked at him. One of them sized him up and said, "Man, you got a death wish or something? Get outta here."

Checking to make sure Samantha was unconscious, Alex made a fist out of energy, smacking the punk square in the jaw. The punk hit the ground, holding his jaw and screaming. The other four looked at their friend and they reached in their pockets and pulled out some wicked- looking knives.

"Okay, boy," one of them said, "you're gonna die slowly now."

Can't take a hint, can they? Alex thought. He then held out his hands in front of himself. Then he formed ten two-foot-long blades, one off of each finger. "Oh, really?" he said, smiling wickedly.

His trick apparently worked, as he watched the four guys' eyes spring wide open before they turned tail and ran. Alex relaxed, letting the blades fade away, and walked over to the still-unconscious Samantha. He searched through her purse, finding her keys. He then opened her car and picked up Samantha, placing her inside. He set the keys on her lap, locked the door, and shut it. Then he formed another hand, grabbed the punk, and walked around the corner.

Alex slammed the punk up against a wall, holding him by his neck. "Okay, @$$#o|&, give me one good reason why I shouldn't shatter your spine right here!"

"Don' kill me, man! Don' kill me!" He was obviously talking through a fractured jaw.

"Who said anything about killing? I'm talking permanent paralyzation."

"I go' munney, man, jus' don' hurd me!"

Alex stopped when he realized he was just offered money. This might work out after all, he thought. "How much?"

"I dunno, fifdy bucks or so..."

Alex reached around the punk's pants and pulled out a wallet. Sure enough, there were two twenties, a five, and several ones inside. Looking at the punk, Alex saw he was wearing a nice motorcycle leather jacket. "Mind if I take the jacket, too?"

"Whadevah, man, jus' lemme go!" The punk was almost in tears.

Alex dropped the punk, grabbed the jacket. The punk slid out and took off running. Alex put on the jacket, admiring how well it fit. Feeling a slight bulge in one of the pockets, he reached in and pulled out a pack of Camels and a lighter. I guess it wasn't such a bad day after all, he thought as he took a cigarette out and lit it.

"You boys mean to tell me you couldn't get one car tonight?" the large man asked the five youths as they stood in front of him, obviously too scared out of their minds to say anything. "Answer me when I talk to you, dammit!"

The punk with the broken jaw stood forward. "Man, id wasn' our fauld! Diz guy had lige pow'rs 'n' sduff!"

The leader grabbed the punk by the shirt and hoisted him in the air. "First of all, never refer to me as 'man.' It is either 'Mr. Dvorak' or 'Sir.' Do we have an understanding?"

The punk nodded his head hurredly, "Yessir! Yessir!"

"Good, you learn quickly." He smiled sadistically as he threw the punk at the feet of his friends. "Now, am I right in assuming that this was just one scrawny kid that stopped you from your appointed task?"

One of the other four stepped forward, "Yes, Mr. Dvorak, but like Rabid said, he had these energy-manipulating powers that manifested blades and other stuff. We thought you'd want to hear about that first, since he might be trouble in the future."

"Hmmm, perhaps you're right. He appeared to be acting on his own, correct?"

"Yes, sir."

"Yes, go find me this 'loner' and see if you can't convince him to come by and talk to me. He could be useful to my cause. You are dismissed. Oh, Rabid?"


"When you get that jaw taken care of, come back and make sure to get every drop of blood you spilled off of my carpet as soon as possible."


As the hoods walked out, Mr. Dvorak swiveled around in his chair. "Hmm...possibly another Omega to add to my organization. This could be very profitable."

Whatever happens, happens.

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