30
Oct
08

The Restless Dead of Siegel City Part Five

Copycat to the rescue? Or will he just get in over his head?

NINE

Without thinking, I jumped into the transport tube and hit the launch button. The floor lurched upwards and I shot to the surface, racing up the tube like I was in a drive-up bank window. The manhole cover slid open above my head and I flew into the air. Thanking Nightshadow for the training he’d given me, I executed a flip in midair and came down hard on the backs of two of the mummies. These undead were dried up, dessicated, and broke easily if you hit them hard enough – but each limb, each clawing hand, each chattering jaw, kept moving on its own.

“Who are you?” the girl shouted.

“Always nice to meet an admirer,” I replied, spinning around and knocking the head off another mummy with a roundhouse kick. The girl was small, and about the same age as Tom, wearing dark blue jeans and a blue hoodie. On her head was a red baseball cap, and a long, blond ponytail dangled from the back. “Are you okay?” I asked her.

“I don’t know yet,” she said. She looked at me then, and I mean looked. It was like she was peeling back layers of my soul, an invasive glare that made me shudder and want to confess all sorts of indiscretions whether I was guilty of them or not. But after a few moments, she blinked and said, “Okay, you’re all right. What do we do?”

“Oh, about the mummies?” I asked, punching another in the chest. It fell backwards, but it seemed to be a bit more ambulatory than its zombie cousins. The thing kept coming.

“Cu-ca-MONGA!” A thick pair of green feet kicked off the mummy’s head and knocked it to the ground. “I’m trying a new battle cry. What do you think?”

“Needs work,” I said.

The girl blinked again. “Is that a giant turtle?”

“Tortoise,” Animan corrected her. “Dude, what were you thinking? There’s no one up here for you to glom powers from.”

“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to spare a totem?” Animan’s only inherent power, the one I could borrow, was to activate his various identities via the animal totems. I’d done it once or twice, but he got touchy about it. He just patted the pocketless gi Tae Kwon Do Tortoise was wearing.

“Left ‘em in my other pants,” he said.

“Do either of you guys have any plans to – I dunno – get out of here?” the girl asked.

I have an idea, Josh. It was Tom again.

“Not now, Tom!” Suddenly the pain in my head got much more intense and I heard Tom’s voice boom like a cannon.

Darn it, Josh…

My head split open and Tom hurtled through the air. He kicked one mummy, then hopped out and into the head of the next. He cut through them like a domino chain, causing one mummy’s head to explode as he burst through (without healing up like the living did after Tom used his power) and knocking the blocks off the others. Within 30 seconds, the entire crown of mummies were wandering around headless, crashing into each other, into cars, into lampposts… basically, roaming with no guidance. It was how I liked them.

“Will you trust me, Josh?” Tom asked. Then, seeing the girl, he struck a pose. He was still wearing his Halloween costume. The girl looked up at me, puzzled.

“Do you guys all come with pint-sized back-up copies?” she asked.

“Hey! I’m as tall as you are,” Tom shouted.

“Look, Mini Sam and Diane, can we worry about this later?”

The kids looked at me, puzzled. “Who?” they both asked.

I rolled my eyes. “Never mind. Geez, do they teach you nothing in public schools these days? Come on.”

The four of us made for the nearest secure-looking building – a movie theater, as it turned out, showing a marathon of slasher flicks. How seasonally appropriate. The lobby was full of unconscious customers and employees. One girl was slumped over, lying in a waterfall of orange soda that just kept flowing into the cup she was still pressing into the soda fountain.

“At least no one is moving in here,” Animan said, again resuming his human shape. I looked at the girl.

“What’s your name, kid?”

“Linda,” she said. “Who are you guys?”

I was taken aback. “Really? You don’t recognize the uniform?”

“I’m from out of town.”

“Ah. I’m Jo—you can call me Copycat.”

“Animan.”

Tom struck his pose again. “I’m Mindwalker!”

“Mindwalker?” I asked.

“I’ve been thinking about this.”

“And you’re all superheroes? Like… really real superheroes?”

This was strange. Sure, most people outside of Siegel may not be accustomed to seeing superheroes on a daily basis, but she was looking at us like we’d rolled out of a cartoon or something. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Where I’m from, superheroes are usually made-up.”

Animan shrugged. “You came to the right place.”

“What’s going on?” she asked. Animan and I exchanged a look. If our theory about why we were still up and about was right, we could trust this girl. She was one of us. And what’s more, I trusted her. That was another sign in her favor. If one of the Lion’s Children saves the life of another, like we did for the girl, it forged a sort of unspoken fealty. Even if we didn’t know who she was.

“It’s a monster,” I said. “A monster that’s feeding on people’s fears.”

“Or don’t you have monsters where you come from either?” Animan asked. We were loyal to each other. That didn’t mean we couldn’t be sarcastic.

She shook her head. “No. Monsters are real enough.”

As we talked, I felt another Rush, and it wasn’t a good one. There was that rage, that raw hatred boiling in my blood again, and although I was trying to keep my wits about me, at that moment I wanted nothing more than to rip the Soul Wraith apart with my bare hands.

“Hey, did you guys notice what movies this place was showing?” Animan asked.

“A horror marathon,” I said. “Why?”

“Because this is the best-looking Frankie Ferris mannequin I’ve ever seen.” He pointed at the thing standing against the wall, eight feet tall with green, rubbery skin and heavy, rusted metal bolts in the side of its neck. The stitches lacing its flesh looked not only authentic, but very poorly applied. And the carving knife in its hand looked very, very sharp.

“Oh no,” I said, realizing the direction of the Rush I was feeling. “Animan–”

He turned to look at me. “What?”

The turning was the mistake. When he looked at us, that’s when Frankie Ferris raised his carving knife and buried it in Animan’s back.

 

TEN

Linda screamed as Animan tumbled forward. A small totem spilled out of his hand and I grabbed it. Animan’s hand reached down to his pocket, flailing, and I shouted to Tom to help him. I concentrated on the totem I’d grabbed. I felt my limbs become more flexible and agile, even as a hard outer shell wrapped itself around my torso: Tae Kwon Do Tortoise reborn.

As Tom wrapped Animan’s fingers around the totem he’d been scrabbling for, I leapt over him and kicked Frankie in the face. That anger and hate I’d been feeling was intensifying again, and it was a relief to have someone there to focus it on. Frankie slashed out at me with his carving knife, and I ducked down, kicking out at one of the poles used to set up the divider ropes in the ticket queue. The base of the pole was weighted, and I swung it around like a mace, smashing Frankie’s skull. The monster staggered, then roared, waving again. As he did so, I felt an upswing in the strange anger inside me. This one was more intense, more focused – anger at teenagers, at those little teasing cheerleaders, at those stupid jocks they dated, a desire to butcher my mother, my father, my sister, my—

I didn’t have a sister.

“Dude,” I said to Frankie, “That’s your big power? Hatred? Must suck to be you.”

He charged me again, but this time I went down, flipping him through the air. He crashed through the glass candy counter, crumpling to the floor in a big pile of broken glass and Reece’s Pieces. I was about to leap again when a voice boomed, “Allow me!”

A rain of silver stars zipped through the air, embedding in Frankie’s face, neck, and torso. I grabbed my pole again, aiming this time for the stars. I hit hard and drove them in further. Frankie shouted in pain, but I’d seen the movies. I knew it would take more than that.

“Distract him!” I yelled to the man who assaulted him with the throwing stars – a tall man in blue and purple with a starfish-shaped mask. He nodded and let loose another volley of the stars. As he enraged Frankie, I opened up with Tom’s power. In my mind, I could see through Frankie’s eyes – everything was blood-red, and the man in the star-mask looked like a demon with long tusks, razor-sharp teeth, and blood pouring from his jaws. Suddenly, I understood Frankie a little better – through his eyes, the world looked like Hell.

I tried to push out like Tom did. Sometimes the strain of having someone use your head to teleport could be too much for people – that’s what happened to the mummies outside – but Frank’s skull was too solid. I couldn’t budge him. Stymied, I turned to plan B. I’d learned, through the course of exploring, my own power, that most people with abilities never learned to use them to their full potential.  A little experimentation often revealed new uses or angles for their powers they hadn’t considered. So using Tom’s power to sit in Frankie’s head, I decided to try something new.

I turned it around.

I felt like I was in the cockpit of an airplane, looking out the windows, then I looked away at the controls. Behind Frankie’s eyes were weird organic-looking globs of nerves and synapses, crackling with electricity. Most of them featured faces, voices, images of people being ripped apart and brutally murdered. I was looking into his memory, and on the edges were more abstract images and waves of energy.

“Damn, Tom,” I said. “You’ve got no idea how interesting your power is, do you?”

I touched one of the sparkling memory clusters and got hit with a reminiscence. I was Frankie, holding a hockey stick with the blade broken off, leaving a jagged wooden edge. I was in a locker room, littered with pads, ice skates, and masks, and around the corner I could hear the unmistakable sounds of romance. A peek showed me a hockey player pressed up against a locker, wrapped in a liplock with a girl wearing part of a cheerleader uniform. They were engrossed in each other. So engrossed, in fact, that neither of them saw as I/Frankie raised the stick, aimed for her bare back…

And thrust.

I broke the connection, snapping out of Frank’s memory and into his mind. I glanced out of his eyes again, seeing him chop at the starfish-man, only to roar in frustration as each wound healed before his eyes. The starfish-wielder could hold his own a little longer.

I touched another memory. This one wasn’t much better – a girl in a shower getting her throat cut with a broken shard of mirror. Then a man in a postal uniform being impaled on a picket fence. A dog – a dog – stuffed in a pillowcase and smashed against a brick wall. This was one sick son of a bitch.

I was about to give up when I caught a glimpse of a small memory in the middle of the cluster. It was faded, yellowed around the edges. Was I looking at this thing’s first memory?

I touched it.

This memory began with a flash, like I was being struck with lightning. There was a man standing over me… thin, spindly, a wild look in his eyes. “Hello, child,” he said. “Do you know me? Do you know who I am, Franklin?”

A dead moan rumbled from my throat and the man smiled. “I am your father, Franklin. You are my son.” He laughed. “Son of a dozen maniacs. There’s a promise in that concept, don’t you think? Now rise, Franklin.”

I sat up. “And now, Franklin, listen to me. Listen… and obey.”

I broke the contact, finally having an idea. Looking around his skull, I lowered my voice. “Franklin,” I moaned. From all around, I could hear Frankie moaning.

“Franklin,” I repeated. “Listen to me and obey.”

For a moment I was as afraid he would rebel, lash out against his false father. But instead, the moan came back. Yes, Daddy.

Outside, the starfish-demon looked puzzled. “Daddy?” he asked.

I whispered instructions to Frankie and pulled out, back into the solid world. Frankie looked around, then began to walk in my direction.

“Look out, Copycat!” Tom shouted.

I shut down the tortoise-totem and stepped aside. “It’s okay,” I said. “Let him go.” He lumbered past me, out of the door, and into the streets, moaning the whole time. “I told him the real demons are outside. Let him deal with the Legion of the Damned while we figure out how to stop the Soul Wraith.”

“Soul Wraith?” Linda said. “What’s happening here?”

The starfish-man’s body shimmered and Animan took his place, hale and hearty, except for the bloody gash in his coat and shirt. The human back underneath, though, was fine. “The Starfish was wicked regenerative powers,” he said. “I always carry him around for just such an occasion.”

“No, I’m talking about the Soul Wraith,” Linda said. “Do you know where it is?”

The rest of us exchanged confused looked. “Do you know what it is?” I asked.

“It’s why I’m here,” she said. “I was sent to find it… and kill it.”

To be continued…


2 Responses to “The Restless Dead of Siegel City Part Five”


  1. October 30, 2008 at 11:48 am

    more more more.

    and typo 🙂
    “The Starfish was wicked regenerative powers,” he said. “I always carry him around for just such an occasion

    was=has?

    I love you.

  2. October 30, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Yeah, that should be “has.” Thanks, dear. Love you back. 🙂

    As for “more”… you’ll get it. But remember, tomorrow is the exciting conclusion.


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