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by Matthew Rossi
Because it is bitter: Because it is my heart
"It is bitter-bitter," he answered;
"But I like it,
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."
Stephen Crane, from The Black Riders and Other Lines
I've got nothing to do
But hang around
And get screwed up on you
Eric looked down the length of the alleyway at the thing that had been an old man a second before. Jimmy and he had been hassled by SIRECOM agents, including the cocky agent Carlinton, and Eric had been about to wipe the smirk off of the jerks face when the old man had entered the alleyway. Thinking to avoid witnesses, Carlinton tried to use his psychokinetic powers on him...and then he and his men had all withered into the mummified corpses surrounding Eric and Jimmy. Why the two of them hadn't been affected wasn't clear to either of them.
<<I can't sense your thoughts, boy...but your friend is an open book. The reason they all died is because they were linked to the arrogant one...and I used that link. But they were nothing compared to you, were they?>> The thing's voice sounded like a sandstorm in a can, and the long brown hair spilling down its back twitched and writhed as though alive. Its skin had become a red mask that shifted as if there were currents and eddies inside. <<I will drain you both...and then, with your power, gain revenge on he who trapped me inside that husk, powerless, for FIFTY YEARS!>>
"Hate to tell you this, but that's hardly an improvement." Eric looked at Jimmy and whispered. "Turn that force field on...now."
"Do it." Turning back as the glowing thing approached them, clad in the black uniform of an SS officer but without the Nazi accouterments, Eric steeled himself. He heard the hum of Jimmy's force field device. "Let's see how you like the stratosphere, smiley."
KRACKASHREEEEEEEEEWHOOM! The explosion of air slammed Jimmy, force field and all, down the length of the alley. The abandoned tailor shop to the left crumbled as the wall on the alley blew off. Jimmy looked at what had been an alley but was now urban renewal. Bricks covered his legs, but the force field kept them from crushing him. To either side of him were collapsed buildings from the sonic boom, which had been amplified by the narrow alley. Eric and the glowing freak were nowhere to be seen.
"Well...I guess I'd better come up with a GREAT story to tell Danny when he gets here." Jimmy began pulling the bricks off of his legs and hoping he got free before the cops or those SIRECOM jerks got there.
Danny drove the Camaro they had "Borrowed" from the Michigan State Police as fast as he could, but he knew Chicago was far away. He had managed to tap Jimmy's mind (He couldn't send that far yet, but he was developing the ability, and he could hear the thoughts of those he was familiar with no matter where they were) and unlike Jimmy, had heard rumors about a "Deathbringer" in certain circles.
"According to the EURONET server I tapped last week, the Vichy gov. kept some records on this guy...the Germans didn't dare." Through his link to Mirranda he told her why he was speeding and had the siren going. She had mined the mind of the cop who they had unconscious in the back with Jarod, teaching Danny instantly how to drive a stick shift. "He was Hitler's second favorite after Hess...eventually supplanted him, too...he was in on several operations against the French Resistance, and the ones he took died without fail. It was them who took to calling him 'Deathbringer.' He was last seen before the fall rallying troops on the Russian Front when he was called back to Berlin...and that was that."
"What's an old Nazi doing with that kind of power?"
"I think he always had it. That's why Hitler liked him so much." Danny banged into fifth and swerved around a bus. Think about it...Hitler might have been an Omega himself...think about his rapid ascension. But I doubt it. Hitler was big into Pseudo-Occult gobbledygook. Maybe that was because he'd seen something that he thought proof of it...like a living vampire."
"This is worse then you think." Mirry looked queasy as she processed the problem that had just occurred to her. "Danny, what will happen if this 'Deathbringer' gets his claws on the power that Eric's manifested? Eric doesn't even use most of it...but this guy will. We have to get there."
"I'm pushing this heap as fast as it'll go, but I don't think we'll get there in time. I hope Eric pulls a rabbit out of his hat." I-94 flew by, and Danny began a growl deep back in his throat. If Eric dies, so do you, you Kraut motherf&#ker.
Eric realized once he grabbed Deathbringer that it was a mistake. The thing couldn't drain him from a distance due to his mind shield...but was having no problem doing it up close and personal. At least I managed to get us up here before he got Jimmy. The pain and dizziness was getting worse, and despite his strength he couldnt shake the things grip. He was beginning to see black dots swirling around his face.
Meanwhile, Deathbringer itself was ecstatic. He had already drained more from this boy in twelve seconds then he had from his entire career as Hitler's hatchetman. With power like THIS, he had no need to be anyone's helper: He could seize the world himself! He had been bitter in the beginning when he discovered his draining that the only power he could take was biological...it had limited him so. This day had brought him much. It had brought him power, and the first draining of those like himself..so much better then normal people! So much more, and this one seemed practically a furnace. Perhaps I'll keep him...no, even now I cannot be so prudent. I must pull the power out of him, if I can. The red glow around his hands where they had grasped Eric's wrist's increased. Hauptmann must die, however. Revenge, yes, and also an example. And while it had been impossible to drain Hauptmann, I can, with the strength I steal from this one, crush him.
Eric couldn't keep them airborne anymore. The black dots had closed over his eyesight, and now the two fell towards Lake Michigan. The water looked like a tiny coin, then a vast silvery bowl, and then they slammed into it. The shock of impact was taken by Eric, and as water filled his lungs, the flow to Deathbringer suddenly stopped. The vampiric thing let him sink and easily ripped himself from the waters embrace, laughing as the blackness pulled Eric in.
Its kick was in fact so powerful that what had been a swimming motion flung Deathbringer out of the Lake and up a hundred yards in the air. The Power from that boy! He was too young to use this, but I...I will crush all who oppose me and batten myself upon the throat of the world like my inspirations, the Vyrolkia of legend, the Nosferatu who I patterned myself upon. And I will feed forever! Several strokes later, Deathbringer pulled himself out of the Lake, not in Chicago, but across the border in Indiana. Gary, to be exact. He walked for a while, not paying attention, and then decided what to do.
<<Killing everyone here, that should get Hauptmann's attention.>>He spoke to the air, his hair swirling around his head in waves of power, his skin blazing, throwing off more light then a bonfire. He began to walk again, using his limited but now vastly widened telepathy. When he found several children's minds congregated a half mile down the road, he smiled, and headed that way. <<What better way to outrage that fool then to slaughter innocents?>>
In the cold void of space between stars, a massive ship speeds. Thousands of scars, pits and scortchmarks line its hull. Its shape was meant to strike fear, sleek, pointed like a blade, and in fact once it did. The Wreaxakt had once been among the mightiest race in the galaxy, vain and foolish as it sounds to say. They had spread throughout space, harvesting primitive races for food or slaves, reaving where they would. There were other races that were equal to them, and even one or two that were superior, but these mighty beings had not been brought down by any of those, but by their own competence. And Hubris.
They had sought to make the Ultimate slaves. Slaves who would not die too soon, or tire, or need repairs as machines do, but who would endure and work endlessly. Serve gladly and even outlast their masters, so that they could be handed down and counted on as inheritance. And they did well, culling a planet for an adaptable species and shaping them, molding them. They succeeded in almost all their objectives, beyond even what they had hoped, their genetic science unlocking the key to the ape-things minds, discovering psionic ability that dwarfed the empathic Wrexakt hive/mind. They gave their slaves endurance and power through their minds, increased their health and lifespans, built up a super-immune system for them. They would have been the ultimate slaves, tools of war and toilers in peace, except that the Wrexakt made one mistake.
They did not break the will of the slaves. Once they were completed (The process took two generations of the apes to complete) a leader arose. Calling themselves after this being, the slaves found a culture, a voice. And infinite Rage.
They slaughtered the entire population of researchers on the abandoned radioactive ball where the Wrexakt had set up research labs. When a hundred years had passed and the hive/mind finally received the empathic sense of the slaughter, they were incensed. They sent a horde of ships to the distant system to crush their creations.
Imagine the hive's surprise when half of the armada came back thirty years later and destroyed the Wrexakt homeworld. Scoured the surface clean. The slaves were slaves no longer: They had taken the name HARRAKIN, or the family of Harra, he who had led them out of bondage. The stay on the radiation plagued planet had further mutated them, forced evolution to its highest degree. It had combined with their revised genes and advanced healing. At first there had been agony, but then there was power.
The Harrakin took the war to the Wrexakt, destroying them wherever they were to be found. They sought them, stealing Wrexakt technology and improving it, using their awesome minds and physical power to become the ultimate war machines. No matter how many Harrakin died, they took ten thousand Wrexakt for each death, and they bred like squuetien, a kind of blood drinking insect. Eventually, the Wrexakt had discovered that the had built their killers, and appealed to others for aid. The they learned another interesting fact: Nobody likes a bully. The other races and empires felt that the Wrexakt were getting what was coming to them, or that in the ensuing Power Vacuum they could prosper. Nobody came to their aid.
Now, finally, the war was almost over, It had raged for millions of years, but this one Warmaker was the last ship of the Wrexakt. Its crew of three thousand, all three Wrexakt sexes accounted for equally, was the last portion of Wrexakt left anywhere. Now it was heading back to where, so long ago, they had found the beings that they had made the Harrakin. They had left another experiment running: Perhaps it could save their race. If not, the world was far from the civilizations they were fleeing, and the Harrakin had never discovered it.
/Are we on course?/ came the inhuman grunt from inside the dented yellow battlearmor that all Wrexakt wore all the time since the war began. The Wrexakt had long sense lost their empathy: too painful to keep it, since the deaths of billions is hard to absorb.
\Yes, Gruu-Mett.\ Steernn, the navigator, answered from the console. He was the only other bridge crewman on duty other than Symoon-san, the gunner. The three of them were part of a skeleton crew that operated the ship in shifts, sleeping for years in stasis and coming out once every hundred years for a five year stint. They were half done with this one. \One month to planetfall.\
|There are signs of sapient life, Gruu-Mett.| Symoon-sans console was linked to the comm panel. |Radio transmissions.|
/Even better. Perhaps...I do not wish to deceive myself, but if we are very lucky...this could be what we seek./
\To the preservation of the Wrexakt!\
|The annihilation of our ancient foe|
/And the mastery of all we have lost!/ The three began to make odd grunting belches as they passed Voyager 1, bound for the Earth system.
Still in space, from the opposite direction, a fleet of large vessels heads on a counter course. Further away but moving faster, these massive ships, twenty or more sides and bristling with weapons, they make their gleaming way. "Course set and verified, Kyrion. We are two years ETA to the planet you discovered." His voice quavered, betraying the excitement he felt. The entire bridge crew shared it. They stood or sat, large shapes in humanoid armor, looking at the screens as they passed through space sheathed in a tachyon field.
"Good. I hope that my suspicions will be confirmed."
"Tell us, Kyrion, you were there, what was it like?"
"No. You will lose the thrill I gained when I first saw it if I tell you. Wait, and you will get to find out." He sat back in the chair, which bristled with things that barely resembled technology. The bridge fell silent, each man contemplating what they would find on the blue green world so far from the Empire.
As Danny drove up I-94, he remembered an old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. Then he felt an exultion hit his mind, and nearly lost control of the speeding Camaro. Finally, he got it under control. He pulled off and headed to an exit, yanking the car down the ramp and away from Chicago. He felt Mirry touch his mind.
"What is it, Danny?"
"I felt that Nazi bastard in my head. He's so hyped he's broadcasting wide, and the reason is..." He took in a shuddering breath and forced himself to focus. "He sucked Eric dry and left his corpse in the Lake. That's what he's thinking, and he's so much as boasting it to me!"
"All I felt was a cackling like black wind." Mirranda was often impressed by Danny's range and skill...what had been for her an alien horror she couldn't stand had been intelligible to him. But she didn't envy that: what must touching something that evil be like? Besides, her power was diverted toward healing, and Danny saw himself as a war chief.
"We have to get him."
"I know." Mirranda turned around and looked at Jarod, knowing that Danny was trying to get himself together. "Change in plan. We aren't going to Chicago: We're going to Gary."
"What's in Gary?"
"The thing that just killed Eric." Silence gripped the car the rest of the way, punctuated by Danny's labored breathing and Jarod cracking his knuckles.
They drove through the streets, Danny scanning for black thoughts, but having a hard time cutting through the combination of his own pain and the average banality of human minds. Finally, he felt something and turned the car down a side street. Mirranda looked at the rusted steel mills and the deserted buildings, and wondered where they were going. Finally, they pulled up in front of a school. It was the design that had popularized itself in the seventies: Squat, bunkerlike, ugly, yellowing bricks and chrome letters that declaimed that it was "Ernest F.Davidson Elementary."
"Christ...a SCHOOL!?" Jarod sent a surge of hate down into his arms and legs: His telekinetic strength worked best when he was angry or excited, and he had a soft spot for kids.
"He's in there." Danny's mind-voice was mechanical sounding, straining with itself. "Let's go." They walked in the front doors. At first they noticed nothing unusual, and then they began looking in the classrooms. Dozens of bodies, everywhere. Death had made itself a home in the school. They walked on, Danny numb as stone, Jarod on fire, just hoping to find someone he could smash, and Mirry nauseated and weak with the horror.
They found Deathbringer on the phone. He had just called the police, F.B.I., SIRECOM, and all three networks. To prove he was serious, he had killed a person during each call: The bodies were piled up at his feet. Deathbringer neither knew nor cared about these faculty members lives..he had killed them aimlessly. <<You've arrived just in time, Daniel Anderson...the police and media are already setting up outside, and I really wanted so to demonstrate my power to them.>>
"I'm going to KILL YOU!" Jarod charged the red skinned monster and slammed himself into him like a weapon. They both blasted through the wall and out into the playground. Sure enough, a police cordon was surrounding the school, and all sorts of camera trucks and live remotes. Deathbringer smiled as the two of them hit the ground. The two story fall had harmed neither of them, and Jarod pressed his attack, trying to crush Deathbringer's head. Before he could connect his fist, however, Deathbringer turned him into an emaciated husk. He barely had time to scream.
"JAROD!" Mirranda and Danny felt the agony wash back over them, and before Deathbringer could use their mind link to get all three of them, Danny severed it. They barely had levitated to the ground using Danny"s feeble TK before Jarod was dead. Deathbringer stood up, holding the large mummified body up above his head, and screamed a bestial cry of victory.
<< I am Deathbringer! I killed this one, I have killed the children inside, I will kill and keep killing! 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!>>
He flung Jarod aside like a doll, and his body slammed into a police car, smashing the windshield. Danny and Mirry linked minds, and using her strength to augment his, he grabbed a section of wall ripped out when Jarod made his flying tackle and threw it at Deathbringer, who was still looking at the cameramen and police and extending a TK field around the school to keep the police at bay. It slammed into him, dropping him from the air, but did not knock him out. Grinning, resembling nothing so much as a rabid animal, he slowly levitated, and swung himself around to face them.
<<You are doomed.>>
Lake Michigan. The water parted. A blur ripped itself from the hold and sped into the air. It swiveled in the air, hyper-acute senses boosted by psychometric power, seeking. It found what it sought, and pointed itself like an arrow.
In two seconds, the blur shot across twelve miles of air. The sonic boom was so loud that it was heard on both coasts. If any human could have seen it, that person would have been amazed to see a teenaged boy with glowing eyes, water shearing out of his hair and off his clothes, as it streaked down the length of the lake.
A wake the size of a small building built up behind him but dissipated by his will before hitting land. Deathbringer didn't even get a chance to look up before his shield was hit. It shattered like glass, and the feedback drove him to his knees. Before he could react any further, a fist rammed itself into his face, which was still protected by a shield of personal energy. That held, barely, and the monster whipped around like a snake in a tornado before plowing into the wall of the building.
"Eric?" Danny and Mirry ran up to him, but he turned.
"Look to Jarod. I have unfinished business, and I'm the only one here who can deal with this thing." They did as he said, never questioning the fact that they were doing the bidding of a teenager.
Eric walked to the hole he had sent Deathbringer through and walked in. The thing leapt at him, attempting to reattach, and he let it. Its howl of triumph faded quickly when nothing came out of Eric, who then drove his hand through the creature's chest. Blood showered the both of them. Eric tossed the bestial thing back out the hole and followed it out.
<<How...I had drained you...>>
"No. You had tapped only a fraction. The pain was my body as it adapted a defense...if I had been able to hold on and stay aloft, I'd have killed you there, but the fall knocked me out. So I guess this is on my head. But I can fix some of it, anyway."
<<What do you..no..stay away..>> Trying to stand and run, the thing pumped more blood out of its ruined chest, which was slowly healing, using up some of the last of the power it had stolen from Eric. He stood over it and looked at it, knowing he had to kill it before it used up the last of the energy it had stolen from him and consumed that of the children or the faculty...or Jarod. It was already too late for the SIRECOM agents.
"Tit for tat, freak. You drained power out of me...I gained knowledge out of you, knowledge of what happens if I kill you know. Goodbye." Deathbringer didn't get a chance to so much as scream as Eric's eyes flashed, and in a five yard space around the crawling thing the Green Fire burst free.
When it was possible to look that way again, the blacktop had been reduced to a bubbling, seething mass of tar. Nothing was left of the thing that had butchered thousands. Eric ran over to his brother as police streamed into the school. Mirranda cradled Jarod's body in her arms, and as her back was turned Eric couldn't see her face.
"Did it work?"
"Did what work?" She sobbed bitterly. Danny looked up, relief and horror mixed in his eyes.
"He should be alive...I killed Deathbringer in time. The power should have gone back to those he stole it from. If you get it back in time, they come out of the stasis, if not, they die. It should have worked!"
"Eric," Mirranda stood, and Eric saw why it didn't work. Jarod's head had come off when he was flung through the windshield. He had died instantly. Danny and Mirranda hugged each other, and Eric felt himself getting sick. The sounds of cheering erupted out of the school, and for a second the three of them thought it was cheering about Jarod. Then they looked up.
The children were alive, moving about, their parents streaming through the police barricades, the teachers and faculty, all of them were alive. Eric reached out with his mind and gently lifted Jarod, wrapping him in the sheet the paramedics had used. Then he lifted his unresisting brother and the weeping Mirranda, and flew all of them away before the camera crews which were heading their way could reach them.
Watching them as they receded were the assembled victims of Jurgen Hunyadi, looking up into the sky with relief. All except for Melissa Tanden, the little, sweet strawberry blond girl who had opened the door for him and let him into the school. Her eyes were black, and her thoughts were confused and jumbled. But she knew one thing.
She had someone else to kill now, besides Hauptmann.
Jarod's Funeral. Eric and Danny come to blows.
The Wrexakt get closer. Dynamax and Tazakles make preparations for war.
Written By Matt "Badger" Rossi Set in the OMEGA shared universe:
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