Demon Hero — Part Two — The First Defeat
While Tommy threw down with the new Rodney, Marty was stuffing a suitcase with the essentials — a couple changes of clothes, deodorant. He had thirteen dollars in his pocket. He’d worry about money when he got wherever he was going. He didn’t know what his co-workers were doing and he didn’t care. All he knew was that the cave was bad news and opening it was even worse.
He had to leave town.
Sure, he’d probably get fired, but it wouldn’t be the first time. But at least he’d be safe. He clasped the suitcase shut. Something wasn’t right with that cave. Like we freed something toxic. I’m in deep trouble.
Marty worried that he was infected with poison and he’d start vomiting and bleeding from his eyes and ears any second now. Then he would die. Painfully.
“Oh crap,” he kept repeating as he made for his truck. Parked haphazardly across his lawn, the vehicle was a glimmering chance for survival that greeted Marty with open arms. It was a symbol that ensured the man that he would make it.
He briefly wondered where he’d go, but all he wanted was to get out of town. His mother’s was off-limits — they probably had the place under surveillance. He’d worry about that later; that and explaining to his mom what happened. That wouldn’t be fun, but there was no sense in dwelling on it now. He had to leave.
Marty suddenly felt eyes on him. He looked around. His neighborhood was a ghost town. It was still a work day so he had the area to himself. Why couldn’t he shake the feeling he was being watched?
He shoved his suitcase on the passenger seat, then rounded the truck.
His chest exploded in scalding agony as if melted with lava from the inside out.
The last human thought he had was that he forgot to pack a toothbrush.
The armed men from Shurr’s Parascience Division thought they were experiencing deja vu.
Marty’s transformation into a seven-foot tall reptilian wolf was nearly identical to Rodney’s. Differences included Marty’s dirt gray scales and fur, his lack of fangs, and his paunchier torso.
He was just as violent as Rodney though.
When the men arrived on the scene, Marty’s truck was on its side and the front of the house, drywall, frame, windows, all was a smashed mess as if a bomb went off.
The men switched to live ammunition. They knew the order was to bring in all irradiated persons for quarantine alive and unharmed if possible. They learned their lesson trying to play nice with Rodney. Luckily, the newcomer, whoever he was, was there to save their butts. This time, they might not be so fortunate.
Marty wasted no time turning his rage on the P.D. agents.
And the agents wasted no time in shooting the beast.
High velocity rounds made Marty’s fur fly, but only served to stagger him, not put him down as intended. The bullets didn’t even draw blood from the monster.
Some of the men realized they were in trouble. Those who didn’t reloaded and tried again.
Marty — the new Marty — bowled through them, punching a few through their protective visors, clawing their protective suits into shreds, inflicting grievous bodily harm.
There was nothing for the agents to do but fall. Their lives were in the monster’s gore-soaked claws.
Marty’s nose twitched. He slowly turned to the source of distraction.
Tommy Rider, in his new guise, stood a few yards away. A jeep behind him, Rider looked back to make sure Shurr and Cassandra were far enough away from the battleground. He turned back to the frothing Marty.
Tommy wondered if he could do this again, this fighting under bizarre circumstances. He saw the fallen men, those who moaned as they tried to get to their feet, the few who didn’t move.
He raised his gray fists, which now shone silver. His red chestplate glimmered in the dying sunlight as Marty came at him.
Tommy took the initiative and threw the first punch –
– that Marty ducked under!
Not wasting an opportunity, Marty latched onto Tommy. His thick, scaly arms squeezed Tommy’s midsection, robbing the red and silver warrior of precious oxygen.
Even a freak needs to breathe, Tommy momentarily thought. Enough jokes. I have to take this seriously or I’m dead.
Tommy elbowed Marty in his foamy stout, but the reptile-wolf kept the pressure on the hero.
“Doctor,” Cassandra said within the safety of the jeep. “Can we do anything to help?” Please let there be something.
Shurr gravely watched the fight. “This is a battle between titans. You and I –” He turned to Cassandra for effect. “– are just human.”
Human or not, their attention was supernaturally drawn to the tableau of violence before them.
Tommy willed himself to hang onto consciousness. He elbowed Marty again, but the blow was half-hearted. The strength was nearly gone from his body.
He willed a second wind to help the flame within to catch.
“Doctor,” Cassandra gasped. “He’s doing it again! He’s growing!”
“Just as I suspected,” Shurr replied. “The radiation stored within each cell can gift the subject with additional strength and size. Interesting.”
As the gears rolled in Doctor Shurr’s head, Tommy grew several inches taller and wider.
Marty couldn’t hold on anymore. He let go, but left a bonecrushing blow to the back of Tommy’s head.
Luckily for Tommy, his exoskeleton helmet absorbed most of the impact. But not all. He stumbled forward, biding time until his spotty vision cleared.
Marty didn’t wait.
The beast closed a claw around Tommy’s neck and lifted him off the ground. With his other hand he lifted Tommy’s legs up.
With the Demon Hero above his head, Marty roared.
Those neighbors who were home viewed the scene through slightly parted curtains. Some called 911. A few called local news stations. None ventured outside to gain a better view. Inside their homes, they felt the ground shake when Marty slammed Tommy onto the street — a loud thud, as if a star fell from the heavens.
Cassandra turned away. “No,” she whimpered.
In the short time she knew the man, she found him to be personable and intelligent. He dealt with his twist of fate stoically, albeit with sarcasm. Cassandra didn’t want to believe that this was the end.
Marty howled to the sky. This is victory, his addled mind blared.
Then he looked over at the jeep.
Shurr put the jeep in reverse, but both he and Cassandra knew they couldn’t outrun this towering terror.
“I’m not finished yet.”
Marty was slow to turn around.
Tommy waited until he did before blasting him with an open-handed palm strike to the chest.
Beneath Marty’s solid chest, his ribcage shattered like glass. He was launched off his taloned feet and landed several feet away. His fight, his bloodlust, was gone.
Tommy made sure the beast was down for the count before easing his guard.
He realized that if he wanted to be stronger all he had to do was concentrate. But was it that simple?
As Shurr, Cassandra, and the unscathed P.D. agents approached him, Tommy never felt more exhausted. This was new to him, these powers, this way of life. He didn’t know all the rules. Out of breath and hurting, he realized that there had to be a limit to the strength he could dredge up.
“And I think I just hit it,” he said.
The area three blocks around the hellgate was cordoned off by armed soldiers. Trailers filled the south side while long, domed buildings lined the north. These buildings housed those who were irradiated, twenty-one who were found so far.
Those businesses unfortunately within Camp Hellgate were closed. Their owners complained and wanted answers, like the thousands of commuters who now had to detour around the quarantine zone. The lid covering the pot of secrets quivered as tension boiled. Shurr knew it was only a matter of time before someone released pictures or video of the beasts from the first day of this new era. He felt secure knowing that there was a plan in place once the pot boiled over — reveal everything.
Give the human race credit when it comes to the fantastic, he ruminated as the caravan pulled into Hellgate. Sure, there will be some initial panic and controversy, but people will get used to the new world, even if they don’t care for such a change.
Shurr’s jeep led the caravan of military transport trucks. Inside the third of six was a confined Marty. He laid unconscious and alone in the rear, encased in unbreakable nylon polymer glass. His body was strapped down to a titanium slab with equally strong bands. He wasn’t going anywhere but to a confinement cell where he, like the fallen Rodney and the yet-to-turn Burt, would be subjected to tests much like the ones Tommy was enduring.
Shurr knew it was gruesome work. Gruesome, but necessary.
As he made his way through the camp to the central command trailer, Cassandra walked with a reverted Tommy. As the caravan passed them, she ran a device over his chest as they walked.
“The total demonic rads are slightly lower,” she told him. “We’ll definitely keep an eye on it.”
“Lower? So I’m getting rid of this junk?” His heart skipped a beat.
This lifted his spirits. He didn’t want to be a monster. He didn’t want Cassandra to look at him like a specimen. He was beginning to like her.
He caught her staring at him before she sheepishly went back to her device.
She didn’t catch his grin.
“Maybe the more you use your power, the more radiation you use up,” she said, trying to keep it professional. But he’s so close to me, she thought.
“What happens when it’s all used up?” Please tell me what I want to hear.
“I don’t know. Maybe nothing.”
She saw defeat cast its awful pall on his face. She stopped him and touched his hand. “I’m doing all I can to study this so you can go back to a normal life.”
“‘I’m?’” He smiled.
He had her.
“Well, um, the Division. This isn’t a one-woman show, you know.”
Burt paced in his twelve-by-twelve quarantine cell. The last he saw one of the scientists was well over an hour ago. He thought. They took his clothes and possessions — watch included — when they first brought him into custody. All they would tell him was that he’d have to treated for radiation exposure. They scrubbed him and gave him a black cotton jumpsuit and slip-on shoes. Then they occasionally checked in on him, drawing blood each time.
He knew radiation didn’t turn Rodney into an animal. They, the government, had to be the government, was hiding something.
Burt quickened his pacing. This waiting was driving him crazy. He needed to get out of here and get some answers. But most importantly, he had to get out! He didn’t trust the men who held him captive.
He couldn’t stop his memory from returning to Rodney, or what took Rodney’s place. That furry, scaly thing. He never saw anything like it. Was it real? Did the past six hours really happen?
He went to the locked door when he heard a bevy of trucks pass by. Through the slit of window at the top of the door he made out a line of army trucks. Inside one, he felt the presence of something familiar, but yet didn’t belong.
Marty didn’t move. He couldn’t. Didn’t open his eyes. Didn’t feel the bands securing him to the slab.
But he did have one thought, just one occupation of his altered state:
There are two here. Two. Now, three. Three to one. Destruction.
In one cell at the corner of the camp, Rodney lay motionless on a slab like Marty, secured with steel bands. He was aware, awake, but motionless. He was waiting, thinking about his capture by the men in masks.
And the pain the red and silver one caused him. He denied him of destroying, of killing, of fulfilling his nature.
But now, Rodney felt something new. A presence approaching. Rage.
Rodney’s black lips snarled up at the corners.
One of three. Then one. Destruction.
“Get up on the table,” Cassandra told Tommy.
He cocked his head to the side. Something wasn’t right. In fact, he felt that something was going to go completely wrong.
Cassandra saw his confusion. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know.” He went to the door, opened it, looked outside. The caravan carrying Marty stopped a few buildings away. “One of three. Two of three.”
“What are you saying?”
Tommy looked at Cassandra, shook his head. The look on his face was of pure resignation. It gave Cassandra the chills more than his words. “Destruction.”
Exactly seven seconds later, Burt squeezed the sides of his head with his hands — hands that had doubled in size. His brain felt ripped apart like a losing lottery ticket.
His shoulders clicked out of their sockets.
The pain was so absolute he couldn’t think.
He held his breath as his head whipped back in evolutionary agony.
His mind cleared itself of the savage chaos that wracked it ever since his transformation.
Now, he told himself.
The alarm exploded throughout the camp. Armed agents dashed to the caravan with their automatics drawn.
Tommy and Cassandra watched as the truck containing Marty rocked back and forth. It would take a minor earthquake to shake the vehicle.
“Cassandra,” Tommy breathed.
A figure burst through a nearby building’s facade, crumpling steel and concrete beneath its massive paws.
“The third one,” Cassandra said. “The one who hasn’t changed yet. What is going on?”
“Cassandra,” Tommy said louder. He pointed at what stood amid the wreckage of the truck.
“I see it,” she said.
Marty, the reptilian wolf, was a full ten feet tall with the girth to match.
Burt was just a few inches taller, but with unbridled anger fueling him, no one bothered to count.
“I’m not ready for this,” Tommy said.
Cassandra wished he hadn’t said that.
Sabrina, the troublemaker.
Jillian, the loud one .
Desiree, the pretty one.
Megan, the quiet one.
All are on the verge of womanhood.
All are about to die!
A juvenile prank gone horribly wrong leads each of these young women down a path of supernatural terror . . . and pity those who weren’t even involved as the terror envelops ALL!
The men opened fire on the loose monsters. They hit their marks, but couldn’t topple the giants.
Burt roared in defiance.
Marty kicked a few agents away, shattering their bodies beyond repair.
Tommy walked out into the road, Cassandra close beside him.
Tommy was in no way ready for another fight. Not against one and definitely not against two. And they were bigger, stronger, more savage. Besides he didn’t know if he even had the energy to transform.
For now, the two beasts stood in place, howling and batting away any errant soldier.
Two of three.
Rodney stirred in his cell.
His ears perked up at the sound of screams outside.
Blood swelled his head at the mere thought of joining in on the carnage.
“I know you’re exhausted,” Cassandra told a weak Tommy. He could barely stand. “But they need to be stopped.”
Tommy looked in her eyes and nodded. “I know I have to stop them. I don’t know if I can will that much strength.”
“Well, you kind of have to,” she replied. “You’re the hero.”
Her smile sparked him into action. It was a mild spark, but enough to make him transform. The flow of power felt great, but Tommy couldn’t ignore an underlying malaise. Three transformations in less than a few hours. Two fights that took a toll on his mental and physical states. This wasn’t human. Plus there was something else nagging him. Something he couldn’t put his finger on.
“Demons!” he shouted.
Marty and Burt turned to him. They both shared a memory. The newcomer. The intruder. Destroy.
Tommy rushed to Marty and realized he couldn’t fight him like this. The beast was ten feet tall and who knew how many hundreds of pounds. Tommy in his new state was, at best, seven feet tall.
Undeterred, Tommy willed himself taller. It was the most difficult thing he ever did.
And he failed.
Marty underhand swiped Tommy, nailing the hero with a thunderous fist to the chest.
Tommy flipped 360 degrees backward and landed on his head. His helmet protected his face, exoskeleton, and neck.
Burt stepped in and raised a massive green foot above Tommy –
– and brought it down as if stomping an ant.
Tommy caught the foot and shoved upward.
Burt fell back into the wreckage of his cell and scrambled to get up.
Marty moved into Tommy’s blind spot and kicked him in the unprotected side, sending the hero sprawling.
For the first time since gaining his powers, Tommy felt undeniable pain. There was a limit to the pain he could withstand. A limit to his exoskeleton’s strength.
“Don’t fail now,” he told his body and himself.
Burt was up now and converging with Marty in, judging by the ravenous snarls on their grotesque faces, the final approach.
Tommy got up and put his fists up.
They came upon him with kicks, stomps, and low blows.
Tommy couldn’t hold out against the assault. He tried to will himself to grow bigger, taller, but his body refused to change.
Nearby, Cassandra looked on. Tears welled in her eyes. She never felt so helpless in her life.
To Tommy’s relief, the demonic duo stopped hitting him. He got a chance to catch a breath, a breath that didn’t come easy. He saw the beasts slowly turn away and turn in the same direction. They didn’t move and neither did Tommy.
Then the roof of a containment cell erupted into the air, fell back down, sending people scattering out of its path.
Taller than Marty and Burt, Rodney.
Marty and Burt howled in recognition of their friend. Rodney padded over to them.
What followed was just another new sight no witness would ever forget:
The three drew close to each other. Their slimy fur mingled as their scales locked into one another.
More pain for the three. They whipped their heads as their torsos joined in one braid of wet green. Burt broke his neck in the turmoil, but didn’t die. He was fully aware as their arms and legs shrank up into their conjoined body.
Three of three.
Before any of the human’s brains could comprehend the new transformation, the thing that was Marty, Burt, and Rodney was complete. Defying physics and logic, stood a new fifty-foot tall creature. It was a jumbo version of the individual pieces.
The Parascience agents knew they’d need bigger guns.
Tommy knew he couldn’t beat this triple threat. The will to continue was absent from every fiber of his being, powered or not. He was completely drained.
The creature stood and surveyed its surroundings, the camp, and city beyond.
To be continued tomorrow . . . .