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by Craig H. Rettig
Groveling sniveling driveling horde
To worship scaly overlord
As if the event of Tempest merging with the rampaging Raven weren't enough to surprise the group, Harvey's response to it was.
"Harvey?" Allen commented, an eyebrow raised.
Harvey Hauptmann, the model for Overman, looked at his friends sheepishly. "Sorry."
"You know, you'd think there was something more important than O-Man's language to worry about right now."
The heads of the friends spun around in the direction of the voice. A tall, muscular black man stood before them wearing a House of Pain T-shirt, jeans, and a shotgun slung over his back.
"Who the hell are you?" Allen asked, not in the mood for any new surprises.
"Call me O.G. I'm the closest thing Alex 's got to a bud."
Anne regained her composure and walked up to O.G. "Okay, so how are you supposed to help us?"
"Well, in this 'Age of Information', I suppose I'm the best you got for how the boy thinks. See, based on what I overheard you and that ghost Danny-boy talking about, as well as a little 'investigating' of my own, I think Alex's woman got waxed, she turned out to be this Omega, they merged, and now they got a serious mad-on. At least, that's what I think," O.G. replied, crossing his arms smugly.
Harvey jumped in. "Wait just a minute here! How do we know we can trust you?"
O.G. turned to Harvey. "Well 'scuse me, O-Man! I didn't realize I was interfering with your Master Plan. Please enlighten me with your big scheme to take this thing down! Lemme guess, this whole gettin' your asses whupped was just a way of determining Raven's abilities. Brilliant, if ya ask me. Y'all just continue on with what you was doin' and I'll just move on to a safer location...like downtown Detroit."
Harvey stepped forward. "Now listen here, you..."
Allen stepped up in between Harvey and O.G. "Hold on, you two, the last thing we need is another fight breaking out. Sheesh, I know we've got problems when I'm the voice of reason around here." Allen turned to O.G. "Okay...We need everything you know about Alex and his girlfriend here, as well as any ideas you've got, 'cause quite frankly, your 'bud' is really starting to piss me off."
Charlotte Gillian trembled for the first time in years as she watched the happenings from the top floor of Wizard's Music. Raven had just absorbed Tempest. Death was coming for her, and it was here. Her retaliation was questionable even against Raven, but this...Dragon...Oh God...
Eric felt like he was drowning. He couldn't feel his body anymore. The psychic tide holding him under pulled at him, trying to smother and asphyxiate him. He tried to pull himself up, but the pressure was pushing down on his head. Suddenly, something reached down and pulled him to the surface. Eric cleared his head slightly and looked around. He was being held aloft by a young man slightly older than him with long brown hair and a pained expression on his face. Eric thought he recognized him, but his mind was still fuzzy.
The other man looked at him for a second, then finally spoke. "Hey, Tempest, you okay, man? Name's Alex. I think you and I just majorly fucked up."
"Wait a minute! You're saying you teamed up once with this guy and you're saying you two are 'buds'? Shit, I invited him to my wedding for Christ's sake, and right now I hate his freaking guts! Forget this voice of reason crap, I think I'll kick your ass myself!"
O.G. stared angrily at Allen. "You want my help or not? I got half a mind to just sit back and watch y'all get yourselves killed."
Anne grabbed both of them by their respective collars and lifted them up and away from each other. "Look! Compare penis sizes later!" She dropped Allen and O.G., shaking her head. "Let's look at what we've got here--We've got a Blue Beacon wannabe vigilante, his pissed-off dead girlfriend, and Tempest all together in one being. Now, how do we go about getting them apart?"
O.G. readjusted his shirt. "If I may continue without any further interruptions, I was going to explain my own powers. See, I can absorb the emotions of others and then turn around, and using this here shotgun as a channel, manipulate that energy for a variety of effects. I was thinking that if a few of you could distract Raven for a bit, then I could absorb all the bad vibes coming out of it. This shouldn't take too long, since Raven's just pure Whup-Ass. Then, I'd take that energy and create a blast that would seperate the two of them at least long enough for one of you brainiacs to either trap or kill her."
<Sounds like it might work.> The group spun back to see the staticy image of Danny Anderson standing beside them.
"Danny!" shouted Anne. "Thank God you're back!"
<Yeah, I needed to readjust after that...whatever...Eric did. My only concern is that while O.G. here might be powerful enough to split up Raven, but he's nowhere near the level to take on this new thing.>
Harvey's face fell. "So you're saying we don't have a chance?"
<Not unless Eric manages to break free somehow, no. Raven was powerful enough by itself, but this Dragon...It's putting out so much psychic interference, it's all I can do to remain mostly coherent. We need Eric working from the inside to break it apart before you can even think about raising a finger against it.>
Allen looked up at the Dragon. "Well, I think the best bet is to pick a diety and pray to it. On your knees, people."
"So you're the Alex," Eric said, the fog slowly lifting from his brain.
"I suppose that'll teach you to underestimate a woman," Alex said, a worried expression covering his face. "Looks like she shoved us men out of the way and took over for both of us. Last time I date a dominant woman..."
"How did she..?"
"Beats the hell out of me," Alex shrugged. "We felt you trying to come in and turned your powers back on you. All the sudden, a bomb went off, and I found myself afloat, no longer a part of Raven. I saw you down below, yanked you up, and voila--here we are."
"Figures I'd be the one to defeat myself...It wasn't the first time."
"Never mind--it's a long story. I need to get out of here."
Alex slunched down into a sitting position. "I tried, man, but Rachel, she's got us down here with no escape."
"Bullshit," exclaimed Eric, "I've fought aliens, twisted versions of myself, and even ventured into an antimatter universe. I'm not letting some psychic bitch with PMS keep me down."
"Hey, don't talk that way about my girlfriend. Besides, what's that they say about Hell having no fury?"
Eric looked sternly at Alex. "You know, I see entirely too much of myself in you. Do you realize I can tear stars in half, and I was working as a short order cook up until you and your girlfriend went on this rampage? Do you have any idea how pathetic that is? I can make a difference, and by God, I'm gonna do it. Now you can sit here and wallow in your own impotence all you want, just stay out of my way!"
And like that, Eric vanished, leaving Alex to ponder his next move.
The Dragon hovered above the quickly dispersing crowd roaring in defiance.
"WHICH OF YOU IS GOING TO STOP ME KNOW? MY KILLER WILL MEET HER DEATH, AND HER NAME FOR DEATH WILL BE 'DRAGON!'"
Suddenly, the Dragon convulsed, screaming as if in agony. The group of Omegas looked up, an inkling of hope in their eyes.
Danny's wraith spoke. <Well, looks like my brother is finally deciding to make a stand for himself. I say get into positions.>
Anne took over regulating authority. "Isaac, help Allen get the COED within the Dragon's range, then come over and help Grandpa and me prepare for a physical assault. O.G., I'm going to trust you to do whatever you need to do. Danny, are you up for this?"
<No can do, Anne. If those two split apart, there will probably be another psychic backlash causing me to disperse again. You might try closing your mind the best you can, also.>
Anne looked dutifully at Danny. "Thanks a lot...for everything."
<Good luck,> replied Danny as his form began to fade. <You'll need it.>
Anne turned to her team. "Let's go."
"Okay, bee-otch," yelled Eric, "you want my body so bad, you can have everything that comes with it, including the memories. Let's see how well you handle being in a universe composed entirely of antimatter!" Eric brought back the painful memory of an entire universe eating away at his body.
"And you thought menstrual cramps were bad, huh? Come on!"
Rachel's image lunged at Eric in a blind rage, the painful memories still filling her mind.
Eric dodged easily, tripping Rachel and sending her headfirst to the ground. "Is that the best you can do?" He walked over in front of her. He looked down at the whimpering form at his feet. "You're pathetic."
Rachel whined for a moment, then looked up. "Think so?" she raved, leaping up and placing a fist right between Eric's legs.
Eric dropped, fighting the urge to throw up. Rachel planted a boot to his jaw, spinning him around. "Pathetic, huh! One thing you haven't done yet is die! Let's see if we can let you experience that sensation!"
Eric rolled out of the way of her next kick. Okay, she could fight, but Eric knew how a mind-meld worked. They were of the same mind, therefore he knew what she was going to do next. Technically, so did she, but her inexperience and blind rage wouldn't let her think of that. He stood up and looked at his opponent. "Wanna play dirty, huh? Good...I like it that way..."
Anne pointed up. "Grandpa, look! I think Eric's winning!"
Harvey looked up. Sure enough, the Dragon was starting to get hazy and beginning to look double-exposed. A glimmer of hope filled his head for the first time since he confronted Raven for the first time.
"Come on, son. Don't give up. Fight it."
Eric stood over the beaten form of Rachel. She laid there, barely conscious, but ever defiant.
"Come on...finish it," she seethed.
Eric looked at her, knowing what his next move needed to be. "I didn't want to have to do this, but I can't risk you killing any more innocent people." He raised his foot, preparing a strike to her throat.
Suddenly, Eric was decked from behind. "NO!" screamed Alex, rushing in between Eric and Rachel. "I'm not going to lose her again!"
Eric stood up, slightly dazed. "It has to be this way! I'm not going to let her use my body to destroy the lives of others!"
"There is one more way," grinned Alex evilly, "you just don't want to accept it."
Suddenly, Eric's grip on the meld began to fade. He roared at Alex.
Alex shouted back. "You want free, fine! I may be a pathetic loser, but I learn quick! Now GET OUT OF OUR HEADS!"
Anne screamed as another wave of psionic disruption drove into her brain. She looked up into an explosion and then saw two forms flying out. One was Eric, flying backwards and then crashing through the wall of a nightclub. The other was a black incoherent blob of energy--Raven apparently still as one. Raven quickly reformed into its bird-shape, and hovered over a used music store.
O.G. smiled from his vantage point across the street. "Sorry about this, kid," he said, pulling the trigger.
A ball of energy struck Raven, blowing it into two parts--one a female-shaped energy pool which hung in the air, the other that of a twenty year-old male covered in orange energy who crashed down through the roof of the music store.
Anne shouted to Harvey. "It worked!" She sent a mental message to Allen, who then aimed the COED at Rachel's image. The COED's energy bathed Rachel in anti-psionic radiation, throwing her into agony. Anne could feel her screams of pain in her mind, but she pushed them out.
Anne turned to Harvey. "I'm going to see if Cox is okay! Go check on Eric!"
Harvey nodded, and then took off running towards the spot where Eric crashed. Anne, using her telekinesis, took off towards the music store.
"Well, isn't this a pisser?" Charlotte stood over the Alex's barely conscious form, a shark-like grin on her face. "And 'ere I was all worried about 'ow you were going t'kill me." She pulled out her Desert Eagle and aimed it at Alex's chest.
Alex, hardly able to think, instinctively put a shield over his body.
Charlotte, still grinning, flicked the switch on her modified laser sight. As the beam struck Alex's shield, a hole began forming in it, growing larger by the second. "Tut, tut, Omega-boy, no prolonging the inevitable. Any last words?"
"No..." was all Alex managed to croak out.
"Good. I despise long good-byes. Tell my friends in hell who sent ya."
Suddenly, Anne burst through the ceiling. Seeing Gillian triggered the memories Danny had given her of Rachel's. "You!" she exclaimed.
Charlotte looked up...and pulled the trigger at the same time.
Anne tried to grab the bullet, but her telekinesis dissolved around it.
"NOOO!!" she screamed, slamming into Charlotte as the bullet shattered the lower part of Alex's sternum, puncturing both ventricles of his heart.
Charlotte struck a wall and was immediately knocked unconscious.
Anne rushed over to Alex who was fading quickly.
"Sorry...about all of this," Alex sputtered. "Guess I really...cough...fucked up this time."
Anne cradled Alex in her arms. "Hold on! I can get you to a hospital! You're going to be all right!"
"Don't lie to me...I've been lying enough to myself these...cough...past couple of days. Hey...gotta cigarette?"
Anne's mind raced at what to do, but all she could do was answer. "No...I don't."
"That's all good...cough...those things'd probably kill me someday."
Alex flashed Anne his trademark shit-eating grin and then stopped breathing. Anne laid him down on the floor and shut his eyes.
She heard a sound to her left and turned. O.G. was racing up the stairs. As he reached the top, he looked at Anne. "So how's the punk? A bit shaken up?" Anne just shook her head and looked down. O.G. followed her gaze and saw Alex's body. "Shit..."
O.G. looked up and over at Charlotte. Then he started walking towards her. Anne looked up. "What are you doing?"
O.G. knelt down beside Charlotte and grabbed his shotgun, finger on the trigger. "Bitch's gotta pay..."
Anne stood up. "You can't just kill her!"
"Nah...got somethin' better in mind," O.G. said, pulling the trigger. He and Charlotte vanished in a ball of light, leaving a confused and bewildered Anne Benson with the body of someone she never knew.
Anne glared at Allen and Isaac. "Now what exactly did you say happened?"
Allen shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea! Isaac and I are waiting for the girl to disperse, when all of the sudden, O.G. teleports in out of nowhere, blows the modified COED to shreds, fires it again at the girl, she disappears, then he fires again and he disappears! Before Isaac and I realized what was happening, he was gone!"
"Leaving us to clean up the mess..." Anne sighed, exhausted after the events of the past few days. "So...how's Eric?"
"Harvey said he was a little dazed at first, but I guess he's fine now," Isaac replied. "He took the kid's death kind of hard, though. Harvey's over talking to the police and paramedics right now."
The group stood silent, trying to piece together what had happened and why. After a while, Harvey walked up to them.
"Just finished talking to the police. It seems the boy has some family up in the northern part of the state. I asked if there was anything we could do, but they said they'd take care of it. I guess they're not very enthusiastic about working with Omegas right now."
"So what now?" asked Isaac.
Anne thought for a second. "I guess if we're not wanted, we just clean things up on this end, and get back with our lives. If we're not wanted, there's no point in sticking around any longer than we have to."
"It's still too bad about the boy," muttered Harvey. "When he and I were talking during that one wrestling match we had, through all the anger and bitterness that he showed, I could detect the soul of a hero underneath. Unfortunately, even the greatest of heroes are mortal."
Anne walked over and put her arm around Harvey. "Come on, Grandpa. Let's go. Allen, Isaac, I guess we'll see you later. If you happen to run into Rene, thank her for her help for me, will you?"
Allen shook his head slowly. "Will do. Stay out of trouble."
Anne smiled back. "Take some of your own advice for a change."
Eric sat alone at the top of the WLW tower with his thoughts. His brief encounter with Alex had shown him exactly what sort of thing might drive him over the edge someday. It was this realization that scared him. He just wished there was something he could have done to have spared Alex's death.
Well, at least where Alex was now, there was no more pain and loss.
As I die
Stare as eyes uphold me
And wait to see right through
And curse me... The love has crippled you
Shadows haunt the night
Burning my disguise
As I die
Reaping through the truth
Life becomes untrue
Sin the last diversion
My fate will be untouched
Dismissed now, the anger of a fool
Shadows haunt the night
Forgive me as I die
Taking a chance
And take what you gain
My soul it has no price
Total release is out of harm's way
Until I can decide
You punish me, can't you see, I'm not real
Tears are flowing free, passing by, as I die
Paradise Lost, As I Die
Mark Twain once said, "All say, 'How hard it is that we have to die'--a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live."
Similarly, William Mitford stated, "Men fear death, as if unquestionably the greatest evil, and yet no man knows that it may not be the greatest good."
Some of you are probably asking why Alex was killed. Truth to be told, were Raven to be defeated, Alex's life would have been over. Would Anne, Harvey, Allen, Isaac, and Eric have let Alex escape justice? I don't think so. Even if they were to offer him sanctuary, would Alex accept it? Again, I don't think so. In fact, one one might wonder if Alex wouldn't end his own life after this affair as his own self- imposed punishment. Even if his despair hadn't sunk to that level, what kind of life would being imprisoned or forced to wear a psi-supressor for at the very least several years be like? Imagine having one of your arms tied behind your back twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Now you see. No matter what the outcome, Alex's life was over.
Yes, Alex left some unfinished business behind. There was Dvorak and the watching of his father. Will the revelation of Alex's involvement in the Raven affair as well as his own demise drive his father back to the bottle? For that matter, will it drive his mother into despair also?
Will these ever be resolved? Who knows? In any case, thanks for reading Loner. Thanks also to those patient enough to put up with the long delays that occurred between usually significant chapters. Thanks to all of the other Omega writers for their inspiration, cooperation, patience, and whatever else they did for me.
Sometime in the near future, there will be an Elsewhirl Loner Annual coming out. I hope you'll read it--there'll be some definite shockers in there.
Again, thanks a lot for being here in the closing chapter of Alexander Cox's life.
Craig H. Rettig
December 6, 1996
Harvey Hauptmann/Overman, and Anne Benson Copyright Marc Singer
Allen Covenant, Isaac Warner, and Rene Johnson Copyright Chad Imbrogno
Tempest/Eric Anderson and Danny Anderson Copyright Matt Rossi
O.G. Copyright D.J. Harris
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