County General Hospital
New Hebron, California
The past called to them a distant whisper carried across the winds of their minds. At first there was nothing save the voice, blackness stretched out as far as either could see. The only confirmation they were not alone was a general awareness of the other’s presence. Neither Amelia nor Everett spoke, they didn’t yet know how to communicate.
Neither knew it yet, but they had entered a realm of pure thought. Even if they knew, they would have never understood the implications and how it would mold the rest of their lives. Time passed. One moment it was dark and the next bright.
As both watched, a scene resolved itself before them. It was one familiar to Everett. He was looking upon recent happenings through his own eyes. For the agent, it was a look at events the import of which she had only just guessed at and in which she wouldn’t understand until much later in her investigation. It did, however, offer an important glimpse into Everett’s character and personality.
“Get a room,” Everett voice echoed through both of their minds as the faint ‘thump’ of a pair of elevator doors proceeded it.
‘Dammit every damn time with those two. Did either of them ever think that maybe the rest of the world doesn’t want to see them slobbering all over each other? It’s disgusting!’
At first Amelia thought she was listening to Everett’s thoughts as he expressed them, but as his voice rattled around inside her mind she realized that they were musings that had already passed from his mind.
She’d never been fond of public displays of affection, but the more she heard the less she agreed with the old man. It became obvious he had a strong bias against these women and Amelia as she witnessed these events, her ire grew from irritation to anger.
‘It’s about time they each find husbands and nip this same sex relationship nonsense in the bud.’
Under other circumstances, that would have been the final straw, but the agent had no control of what she was seeing. A sense of resignation settled over her and she watched her anger bubbling under the surface. She became less and less aware of her own thoughts and feelings until there was nothing but the vision for either herself or Everett.
Everett, winced and leaned on his cane, every day it got harder and harder to move about, but that night was of particular importance to him. The old man didn’t need to go far. He gripped the bouquet in his free hand and limped forward. When he reached the end of the hall, he paused, checking to make sure he had his keys on him, before proceeding to the exit.
The sidewalk was littered with the usual trash. Not actual garbage, but people. “This neighborhood’s gone to hell,” he muttered under his breath then joined with the throngs of people. His pace was slow and arduous and he had as little patience for it as the ill-mannered youth that passed him. It was the quickest pace he could manage, but for someone who had once prided himself on his physical prowess it grated on his nerves to move so slow.
Several blocks away from where he had started, he knelt down on the sidewalk, his knees popped and threatened to give in, but he leveraged himself with his cane and kept himself from toppling over. He gritted his teeth, then set the bouquet down, on an innocuous portion of sidewalk. It was that spot, almost twenty years ago that he’d lost her, his daughter the only person in his life who’d meant anything to him after the death of his wife.
He closed his eyes, letting tears cascade down his face before he shook his head and opening his eyelids again. He wiped the tears free and climbed back to his feet.
“Sir are you okay?” A hand touched his shoulder and he looked up to see a man staring down at him.
“Don’t touch me you damn—” he cut himself short before uttering that last word. Slurs like that, the one that started with an ‘n’ could get a man killed in the wrong part of town.
“Whatever man, I just checkin’ to see if you were alright.” The stranger stepped back holding both his hands up. For just a moment when he’d seen the stranger’s chocolate skin he believed he was looking on his daughter’s murderer, but no he was too short and barely out of his teens, far too young to be the one responsible.
Everett groaned, but with considerable effort climbed to his feet. He scowled at the stranger than watched him disappear into the crowd. For a moment, he lingered, staring down at the flowers, fighting back more tears, then he stumbled back toward the apartment building. Only halfway there when the ground started to quake, he lost his balance and fell down on one knee.
An earthquake? No, that wasn’t it, the tremors continued, one large shake after the other almost like… something very large had been running through the city. The thudding became stronger, and Everett struggled to his feet.
His gut told him he needed to get out of there, but before he’d taken a dozen steps a great hulking mass appeared from around a corner. It was a thing of nightmares, a giant with dozens of blood-red eyes, and skin as dark as the night. It had a massive cube in its arms and it appeared to be fending off attacks from a much smaller opponent.
Everett froze in place and watched the monster spin around to face the other fighter. Every fiber of his being told Everett to get out of there, but it was almost as if something were calling to him. Exemplars were nothing new although it was only in the last few decades they had come into the public eye. Some calling themselves heroes, wore outlandish costumes and ran around in a cape wreaking all sorts of havoc. Many of them were well meaning and Everett would say they were fools. They were not the ones who concerned him, however, it was the ones who used their powers to do terrible things.
A statuesque woman, dwarfed by the massive hulk, stood in direct opposition to it. She had flowing teal hair that whipped and whirled in the air even though there was no wind. One arm, and part of her chest sparkled as if made from ice or perhaps some form of crystal and was, from the looks of it, was inert. She held her other hand out and a shimmering bubble of blue energy appeared around her just before the giant’s fist came crashing down.
Her barrier held, but as soon as the creature’s fist smashed into, it flexed like it was ready to burst. Its fist came down again, and against her bubble held, but this time she staggered back as if it had done her actual physical harm. The whole thing entranced Everett, and he knew without being told what the outcome of the duel would be.
“No!” Everett screamed out as the massive beast’s fist came down a third and final time. The woman’s shield popped, and the fist crashed into her with devastating force. Everett dropped his cane and before he even knew what he was doing he ran. Not away from the chaos, but toward it. He wasn’t sure where he found the strength to dash, or to stay on his feet unsupported, but it was as if all the pain and weakness in his knees had evaporated.
The hulk mass lifted its fist then stared down at the woman inert form before turning away. A short man in a stark white lab coat, the same man Amelia had seen in her previous vision, knelt down next to the indentation left by the giant’s fist and Everett was just close enough to hear him speak.
“Ashtar, I must admit I’m impressed that you’ve lasted this long, but now as you lay bleeding there on the ground and your body slowly turns to ice I can not help feel that there was something more I might have done to make your death even more unpleasant. Farewell Ashtar, I’d love to stick around and watch you die, but well… I have more important things to do.”
He grinned then spun away, his face contorted into a hideous and unnatural grin. His massive companion stopped just long enough to scoop him up then the two sped away at a pace Everett would have thought impossible for such a huge creature.
He collapsed at edge of the hole and looked down at the woman. At first, Everett believed she was dead, but then she turned her head and looked at him. Her body was bent and broken, and there was blood everywhere. Bones, jutted out in several places, and he turned his head and loosed his lunch all over the side of the road.
“Everett. T-Take my hand.”
He didn’t stop to question her, somehow he knew she intended him no harm. Everett never thought to question how she knew his name. He reached out and touched her hand, and gasped, pulling his arm away. Though made of ice, it didn’t seem to be melting.
She gasped and gritted her teeth. “The other one. H-hurry, there isn’t much time.”
He complied, but nearly dropped it when he clasped hold of her hand. It was pulsing, and its warmth extended into his arm and into his chest.
“So much anger! Hatred courses through you and threatens to blot out a once gentle spirit. You blame many for the acts of one. Let that go… for the sake of humanity. Put your bigotry aside. There is still hope for you. Your hatred is so very small compared to the terrible acts I once committed. If I can find redemptions so can you. Forgive me for what I am about to do.”
Her grip on his hand tightened, and the pulsing grew more intense. He tried to break free, but despite being so close to death her grip was like iron. Her body glowed and became so bright it blinded him. He tried to bring his hand up to guard his eyes, but it had no effect nor did closing his eyelids. Something stirred inside him, coupled with a brilliant stabbing pain.
“Don’t forsake them you are their only hope. You. must. stop. Chemosh.” A series of coughs interrupted her last words, but when the final utterances escaped her lips, the world descended into darkness and Everett a blissful warmth overtake him.