Ever Vigilant, Part Four

RECAP:  After returning from a mission in the wilds of space, the superhero Extraordinary Man learns that something strange had happened to his friend and colleague The Vigilante.  After disappearing for three weeks, The Vigilante returned suddenly without an explanation.  On his return, The Vigilante had become a far more violent and vicious crime-fighter.  The Extraordinary Man, also known by his real name Nathan to those closest to him, rushed to find his friend to learn what had caused his transformation into a savage executioner.  Nathan quickly discovered that the man behind the mask of The Vigilante was not his friend Kurt, but was actually The Cad, murderous arch-nemesis of The Vigilante.  Nathan forced The Cad to explain what he had done to Kurt, and The Cad was elated to tell the tale of how he had defeated and killed his greatest nemesis.  Nathan, filled with rage at the news of his friend’s death, attacked The Cad and began tearing the armor of the Vigilante off of the villain.  The Cad released a cloud of toxic green gas that instantly weakened The Extraordinary Man, leaving him weakened on his knees with The Cad standing over him, his wicked laugh ringing in Nathan’s ears.

“What have you done to me,” Nathan asked, wheezing as he spoke.

“Oh, Nathan,” The Cad replied with mock sympathy.  “You will love this one.  Absolutely love it.  You see, when I took over the mantle of The Vigilante, I discovered all of his secrets.  And boy, did he have secrets.  For example, did you know that your good friend Kurt had studied each and every one of you heroes, and had created plans for defeating you all?  You know, just in case he needed to.  Isn’t that funny?  I thought it was pretty funny.  And his plan for defeating you revolved around a certain element that is your greatest weakness.  I had no idea that such a thing existed.  An element that strips you of your powers and turns you into a weak little shell of a man.  And so, your friend, your closest comrade, took that element and turned it into a gas which he then used to fill several vials with back at his HQ.  Those vials are locked away in his vault, ready to be used at a moments notice.  A moment like, let’s say, you decide to attack The Vigilante and begin ripping off his armor.  At that moment, said gas will deploy and incapacitate you.  I hate to admit it, but that is a pure stroke of genius on our old friend Kurt’s part.  Real genius.  And paranoia too I think.  It really shows that deep down, ol’ Kurt didn’t even trust you, his best friend.”

“I gave that element to Kurt,” Nathan said, coughing as he spoke.  “I told him to keep it in case something happened to me and I needed to be stopped.”

“Oh my,” The Cad responded, laughing again.  “That’s even better!  I bet that when you gave it to him, you had no idea that it would end up in my hands, did you?”

“Is that your game-plan then,” Nathan asked, wiping blood from his mouth.  “You lure me in by taking on the guise of The Vigilante, and then you kill me with a weapon that I gave him?”

The Cad let out long sigh, shaking his head in disappointment.  “Oh Nathan.  It looks like you have an extra ordinary ego if nothing else.  You know, the universe does not revolve around you, despite what you might think.  This isn’t about me killing you.  I don’t want to kill you.  Not any more at least.  Believe it or not, this does not actually have anything to do with you at all.  You just happened to interrupt me while I was out on patrol.  The gas was just me being prepared for any contingency, that’s all.  Just like Kurt would be prepared.”

“Then why,” Nathan asked desperately.  “What is this?  What are you planning?  What is your scheme?”

The Cad tilted his head in a gesture of pity towards Nathan, and let out another long sigh.  “No plan Nathan.  No scheme, no game, no evil plot.  That’s not me any more.  I’ve turned over a new leaf.  I’m a good guy now Nathan.  Just like you.  This city needs The Vigilante, and since Kurt has passed on to fight crime in the afterlife, the torch must be passed on to someone who can keep the legacy going.  This city needs me, and I am going to be there for her.  I am The Vigilante now, and I will keep this city safe from the dregs and psychos that plague her streets!”

“This is a sick joke,” Nathan hissed.  “And I will stop you!  I will not let you do this!”

The Cad leaned  closer to Nathan, and sprayed another cloud of toxic gas directly in Nathan’s face, causing The Extraordinary Man to slump over in pain, coughing violently.

“This is happening Nathan,” The Cad said coldly.  “I am The Vigilante now, and I will bring order and justice to this city.  I do not want to fight you, I want to work with you just as Kurt did.  We can be allies if you just accept me.  But, make no mistake, if you try to stand in my way, I will kill you.  I will kill any of you that try to stand in my way.  Just as I will kill any criminal that dares to sully my city with their presence.”

The Cad backed away from Nathan, leaving him writhing in agony, picked up the pieces of his Vigilante armor, and moved to the edge of the rooftop he and Nathan had been conversing on.

“Spread the word Nathan,” The Cad called out, turning to face The Extraordinary Man.  “Tell your friends, tell your colleagues, The Vigilante is back in town, refocused on his mission for justice.  Tell them all to stay out of my way Nathan.  Tell them all that I know all of their weaknesses.  When next we meet, let us hope it will be under more pleasant circumstances, shall we?  Say, do you guys some kind of monthly club meeting, or something like that?  I’m looking forward to that.  I will be waiting patiently for my invitation.”

Nathan could only let out a pathetic whimper as he watched The Cad fall backwards off of the rooftop, and then swing away on a grappling hook, laughing hysterically as he disappeared into the night.

Ever Vigilant, Part Two

RECAP:  Upon returning to Earth from a journey to outer space, Nathan, also known as the superhero Extraordinary Man, learned that his friend and colleague The Vigilante had gone through a disturbing change.  After mysteriously disappearing for a brief period of time, The Vigilante continued his crime-fighting duties in a far more violent and lethal manner.  Nathan, knowing that The Vigilante had sworn an oath to never kill, decided to confront his friend in order to discover what had changed in the heart of The Vigilante.  During the confrontation, Nathan removed The Vigilante’s mask only to find that the man standing before him was not who he had expected to find.

Nathan shook his head slowly in disbelief, his ears ringing with the sickening laughter of the villain standing before him.  The villain, a monster known as The Cad, glared at Nathan with demented eyes as his maniacal laughter dissolved to an repulsive chuckle.  Feeling a surge of anger overtake him, Nathan grabbed The Cad by his chest armor, and lifted him off the ground, holding the madman in front him.

“What have you done with the Vigilante,” Nathan shouted, shaking The Cad’s body like a doll.  “Where is he?”

The Cad let out another long, boisterous laugh before replying to Nathin’s query.

“He’s dead,” The Cad spat out.  “He’s dead!  He’s dead!  He is dead!”

“You’re lying,” Nathan shouted, fighting the urge to throw the villain off of the rooftop he stood on with The Cad in his grip.

The Cad began bobbing his head from side to side, coldly repeating the word dead over and over again in alternating tones.

“Stop that,” Nathan roared.  “He’s not dead!  That’s impossible!”

“Now see,” The Cad said, turning his head to stare off into the distance blankly.  “That’s what I used to think too.  You can’t kill The Vigilante.  That’s impossible.  He can’t die.  But, you know what, he can die.  He is not a god, or a monster, or a mythical creature.  He’s just a man.  Just a vulnerable, mortal man, and he can die.  It’s kind of disappointing, really.”

“How,” Nathan began, his voice barely above a whisper.  “How did…”

“How do I know that” The Cad interrupted, finishing Nathan’s question.  “Take a wild guess.  Give up?  That’s right genius, I killed him.  Little old me.  Little old crazy, some might say insane, homicidal maniac, me.  Wanna know how I killed him?  Of course you do!  You are going to absolutely love this one!”

“Tell me what you’ve done Cad,” Nathan growled, pulling the villain closer.  “Or, so help me, I will-“

“You’ll what,” The Cad scoffed, interrupting Nathan mid-sentence.  “Beat me up?  Torture me?  Kill me?  That’s not your style cowboy.  Don’t worry, if you want to know how I killed him, I’ll gladly tell you.  Not because I’m afraid of you, but because I want you to know.  I want to tell this story.  I want to scream it out to the world, but I can’t.  But I can tell you at least.”

“You’re mad,” Nathan cried.

“No I’m not,” The Cad said, his expression softening.  “What have I got to be mad about.  I have done what few other supervillains have ever been able to do.  I killed my rival!  I’m going to go down in history for that!  Except, no one can ever know about it.  But, that makes me sad, not mad.”

“What are you talking about?  You’re not making any sense at all!”

The Cad let out another deranged laugh, a sound that pierced Nathan’s mind like the cold steel of a knife.

“You don’t know me that well,” The Cad snickered, “do you?  The Vigilante would tell you that I never make any sense.  I never did to him anyway.  But, alas, the man we both called friend has moved on to the next plane of existence.  Which one do you think he went to?  Up, or down?”

“You were not his friend,” Nathan shouted.  “How dare you try to call yourself his friend?”

“Yes, I suppose you are right,” The Cad said, his demeanor turning dour.  “What we had was more than just a common friendship.  I loved him like a brother.  And I think, deep down, he felt the same way.”

“You are insane,” Nathan whispered, shaking his head somberly.

“Now you’re getting it,” The Cad exclaimed.  “You’re not the first one to figure that out my friend!”

“I’m not your,” Nathan began, but then stopped himself when he realized the futility of his statement.  “Tell me what you’ve done to The Vigilante.”

“I told you, I killed him.”

“I know that,” Nathan shouted, his voice echoing off nearby buildings.  “Tell me your damned story.”

“Finally,” The Cad sighed.  “I thought you’d never get around to that part, dancing around the subject the way you were.”

Nathan sucked in a deep breath, and held it in his chest as he closed his eyes, trying desperately to push down the ball of rage welling up inside him.  In that moment, Nathan realized why The Vigilante hated his rival with such passion.  Beside the fact that The Cad was an insane, maniacal killer with no regard for the lives of other, he seemed to genuinely enjoy tormenting The Vigilante with the nefarious games and pranks he would play.  The enormous amount of patience that The Vigilante had to employ to keep from losing his own mind while dealing with The Cad had always impressed Nathan, but never had he realized the true extent of that patience.

“Just tell me the story,” Nathan said slowly through gritted teeth.

“Ah yes,” The Cad said, his mouth twisting into an exuberant grin.  “The moment we have all been waiting for.  Let me tell you the grand tale of how, after years of constant struggle, I finally managed to kill my greatest enemy once and for all.”

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.

%d bloggers like this: