Ever Vigilant, Part One

“What is this,” Nathan asked, glaring at the computer monitor in front of him.  “Is this real?”

“I’m afraid it is Nathan,” Helena replied soberly.  “This is footage recorded off of someone’s cellphone two nights ago.  There are other videos like this on the internet as well, all of them just as violent and disturbing.”

“I don’t understand,” Nathan muttered, shaking his head in disbelief.  “I know I was away for a while, but I was barely gone for two months.  You are telling me that, in that amount of time, Kurt disappeared for, how long?”

“Three weeks,” Helena replied.  “He was gone for at least three weeks.  At first, we were all so busy with our own lives, that we didn’t even notice.  Plus, you know how secretive he is.  Sometimes he just disappears for days at a time.  After a week or so, I started to suspect that something was wrong, so I went looking for him.  I searched every inch of that damned city, but I couldn’t find a single clue to his whereabouts.”

“Not surprising,” Nathan scoffed.  “If Kurt doesn’t want to be found, then he is almost impossible to find.”

“Unless we have your powers,” Helena added.  “Unfortunately, you were off-world.  No need to apologize, I know you were taking care of something vitally important.  But, without your help, I could not find Kurt at any of his usual haunts, or anywhere else in the city.  None of his associates were able to find him either.  I was about to extend my search globally when Kurt suddenly reappeared, returning to his crime-fighting as if nothing had happened.  At first, I shrugged it off as typical behavior for Kurt, but then I began to see these videos popping up online.  They started slow at first, but then began to increase in frequency as Kurt continued his crime-fighting.”

“I’ve known Kurt a long time,” Nathan said grimly, “and I have never seen him act so violently.  Yes, he uses his fists to make his point, but this is going beyond street fighting.”

“Way beyond,” Helena agreed.  “Nathan, he’s killing people.”

“No,” Nathan exclaimed, shaking his head furiously.  “Kurt doe not kill.  Kurt has never killed to my knowledge.  Never!”

“Look closely,” Helena instructed, queuing up another video.  “This video is the most disturbing one I have seen yet.”

Nathan stared at the computer screen in disbelief as another video began to play.  In this new video, Nathan watched as his long-time friend, dressed in his full Vigilante gear, attacked a gang of common thugs who had been robbing a small jewelry store.  Nathan was horrified as he watched his friend, who had sworn to never kill anyone, began beating each thug into unconsciousness.  Within moments, Kurt was surrounded by a circle of thugs, and it was clear that the Vigilante was far outnumbered.  A moment later, Kurt pulled a gun out of his utility belt, and began shooting wildly at the criminals circling him.  Nathan gasped as he watched thug after thug drop as each one was hit with a killing shot from the gun in Kurt’s hand.  Kurt began to laugh as he shot each thug, a macabre  sound that brought chills to Nathan’s spine.   A moment later, the remaining hoodlums began to run away, and Kurt responded by pulling a large knife out of his belt and chasing down every thug he could catch, and stabbing them viciously.  Once the thieves had been dispersed, Kurt turned his attention towards the person recording the incident on their cellphone, and charged towards them.  As the cellphone fell to the ground, Nathan could no longer determine what was happening to the owner of the cellphone, but the blood-curdling screams echoing off the surrounding walls filled his heart with dread.

“I don’t,” Nathan whispered, pausing to gather his thoughts.  “I don’t understand this.  This is wrong.  This is not Kurt.  This is wrong.  I have to stop him.  I have to stop this.”

“I’ll help you Nathan,” Helena said.  “We can call the Coalition together and confront him.”

“You call them together,” Nathan said bluntly.  “I’m going after my friend.  I’m going stop him.”

“But, Nathan,” Helena began.

Before Helena could complete her thought, Nathan rushed out a nearby window, and took to the sky.  Flying as fast as he possibly could, it took only a few minutes for Nathan to reach the city his friend Kurt called home.  Overwhelmed with a mix of panic and confusion, Nathan frantically flew around the city, using his enhanced vision to search for the man known as the Vigilante.  Though it seemed like hours, Nathan’s search ended minutes later when he at last spotted the Vigilante running along a rooftop.

“Vigilante,” Nathan bellowed, his voice echoing across the cityscape.  “Hold up, it’s me, the Extraordinary Man.  I need to talk to you.”

The Vigilante looked up towards Nathan, cursed under his breath, then jumped off the roof he had been running on.  Nathan let out a gasp as he rushed down towards his friend.  As he reached the rooftop, Nathan spotted the Vigilante swinging on a grappling hook towards another building.  Nathan shook his head, and flew towards Kurt, grabbing his friend by his arms, and carrying him to a nearby rooftop.  Once he reached the roof, Nathan released the Vigilante, and landed near his friend.

“Kurt,” Nathan exclaimed, shocked at his friend’s behavior, “why are you running from me?  What is going on with you?  I know you have gone through something recently, and I just want to talk to you.”

“Leave me alone,” Kurt spat, turning his back towards Nathan.  “I don’t have anything to say to you.”

Nathan paused after hearing Kurt’s voice, his enhanced hearing immediately signaling him that something was wrong.  The sound of his friend’s voice had changed, now sounding foreign and unsettling.

“What’s wrong with your voice,” Nathan asked suspiciously.

“Nothing,” Kurt replied, clearing his throat.  “Got a cold.  Now, go away!  I’m busy!”

“No,” Nathan replied, staring at his friend skeptically.  “You’re not sick.  Your voice is different.  It’s like you are…”

Using his enhanced speed, Nathan rushed towards Kurt, grabbing his friend and tearing off his mask to reveal the identity of the man underneath.

“You’re not Kurt at all,” Nathan shouted, shocked by the unsettling face staring back at him.

“No,” the man who was not Kurt replied with a villainous grin.  “I guess I’m not.”

Nathan released his grip on the man who was not his friend, and retreated in horror as the man began to cackle wickedly.

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