"How much further Dad?" Charlie impatiently asked for the dozenth time.
John was a patient man though, he never seemed to lose his temper in any situation. "Not too much farther there, son. The dig site is right up over those two peaks off ahead." He motioned with his hand before resting it comfortably back on the shift stick. "See em?" Charlie had gone with his father on a number of archeological digs, but this one was supposed to be a surprise.
"Yep..." Charlie lied never taking his drowsy eyes off the melting horizon. The horizon danced and flickered in and out of existence behind the rising fumes of heat in the distance with Charlies eyes following the waves. It was only a few seconds later when he heard his dad's voice so far away that it was barely audible becoming louder and louder until John's calls were so loud that Charlie felt like he was being ripped out of his world by the sheer volume of his father's voice when his eyes opened abruptly and met John's as he shook his son's shoulder. "We're here buddy, time to wake up." He said retracted his hand from across Charlie's armrest.
"I must have dozed off..." Charlie murmured more to himself than anyone as he peeled his cheek from the sweat soaked weatherstripping. The sea of white seemed somehow even brighter here. It seemed to bleach the color out of the sky itself with it's hot reflective surface. The sky was a pale yellow grey instead of blue and it cast your shadow upon the ground so thick with darkness that Charlie fell as if her could fall in.
Charlie yawned and stretched his way through the car door shielding my eyes from the reflection of the sun off the robins egg blue paint job on Dad's prised Lincoln. The roof obscured his view for a moment but once he stepped past the windshield he saw the dig site.
The desert seemed to go on forever in every direction with a sun that sucks the life out of you by the minute. He immediately became overwhelmed on an almost instinctual level with a sense of impending doom. The mere thought of traversing such a desert renders a feeling of hopelessness and death that is literally crippling. The sun is relentless, the sand is blisteringly hot, the air feels like a furnace is burning in your face, but for a moment Charlie forgot about all of those feelings of dread and saw only the dig site.
It was beautiful, the sea of sand had but one island protruding up out of it. Before Charlie lied a mound no higher than three feet rolling out of the sand with flickers of shiny veins running through it. "How did you find this Dad?"
"That's a long story actually, but to sum up... I ran across it racing a friend long, long ago."
"Why didn't you come back for it earlier?"
"I did, it's not easy to find again once you lose it so I kind of gave up on it.... but now it's ours!"
"How much gold do you think is in there?" Charlie started toward the mound but was stopped by a sudden sound like a rustling of bushes. Except that there aren't any bushes in Death Valley. A tearing noise began to grow louder around me and I heard my father calling to me.
Charlie turned and saw his father lunging toward him with his hand outreached. Charlie reached for his hand but missed when his father rose several feet into the air. Again Charlie reached as the situation he was in began to dawn on him but missed again as he slipped through the cave in into darkness. The noise of rock and dirt crumbling around him was deafening and then suddenly Charlie felt something strike his head and it was quiet. Charlie felt strange like he was losing consciousness as he watched a pinhole of light appear in his peripheral vision but is seemed to float in the darkness further and further away and then Charlie felt a pain shoot throughout my entire body so blinding that he couldn't maintain consciousness and felt the sweet sweet grip of darkness take him.
Only throbbing pain greeted Charlie when he awoke, 'Who knows how long I've had been unconscious,' he thought. He opened his eyes and saw a light shinning right at him. It was the cave opening he had just fallen though. He began asking himself questions. "How far up is that?" "Is anything broken?" "Do I have a concussion?" "How do I get out?" "Where was Dad?"
An echo reverberated multiple times then faded.
"DAD!!!" He yelled again.
Nothing replied except for another echo and a small shuffle of sand which fell at his feet. He began to pull himself slowly up into a sitting position to survey the cave he had fallen into. The light from the opening above was enough to tell that the cave was vast. There were two walls he could see clearly which were mere feet away running off to the right and the left into pure darkness. His ankles were dangling over the edge of a ledge that also seemed to drop down into nothing but darkness.
Then Charlie noticed his right ankle hanging upside down. He leaned forward and began feeling his leg as gently as he could with his hands and was rewarded by a shot of excruciating pain which ran up his back caused him to shudder and yelp with pain. Yep, it's broken.
Charlie knew his Dad wasn't going to abandon him down there, he must have gone to get help. He could be down here for some time. The darkness was so cold, the earth seemed to suck the life right out of him as it's chill spread slowly through to the bones. Charlie worried that he might be in shock.
Then a noise.
Charlie's eyes had adjusted well enough to see that the cave was actually more of a crack in the earth with seemingly infinitely long tunnels in either direction extending infinitely deep into the earth. Charlie realized that he was only alive because he just happened to land on a chunk of earth protruding out of one of the cave walls. Charlie could see nothing moving in the cave with him but could hear an occasional noise like a mouse was near by that gave him an uneasy feeling.
He listened carefully, motionless and held his breath.
Another noise, it sounded like a shoelace being tied. Then another sound much the same.
Charlie listened to the noises nervously for what seemed like several agonizingly long weeks as the light above began to dim and then another noise caught his attention. This was like the other noises but louder and more drawn out, and yet somehow more distant. He looked up and could barely make out the sound of footsteps rushing toward the hole.
"Dad!" He yelled up.
"Charlie! Oh God, are you okay?!" A head appeared wearing my Dad's familiar cowboy hat in the hole of light above him.
"My leg is broken, but I'm alive."
"Here, I'm lowerin' down a rope now, just loop it around yer self an I'll haul yuh up!" Dad always spoke with thicker accent when he was worried. "Hang in there boy!"
Then the noises grew louder, as if they were growing closer.
"Hurry, Dad. I don't feel so good." Charlie was starting to feel like something was really wrong, the need to get out of the hole was never stronger.
"It's commin!" The rope was being lowered quickly, but it seemed to take an eternity. Charlie quickly slipped the loop around his torso under the armpits and shouted up, "I'm secure, pull me up!" Charlie watched below as the rock he was on started to drop away beneath me. Tug by tug Charlie began to feel slightly less weary as he ascended one pull at a time up toward the opening of the chasm.
That's when he felt something grab his ankle. Charlie began kicking right away forgetting about my injury as shear panicking permeated every ounce of my being forcing him to wiggle and writhe in an effort to escape the strange grip around his pant leg. Charlie heard screaming noises and realized they were coming from him and could hear his father calling down to him in the darkness. "Son!"
The sensation around his ankle began to feel cold and wet almost immediately, then Charlie felt the thing wrapped around his ankle pierce the skin and begin to slither up Charlie's calf muscle within his leg. He screamed louder and flailed every inch of his body. He reached down and tried to grab the thing and felt it but could not see it in the darkness. It was slick and wet like an eel and narrow and flat like a tape worm and it was stronger than Charlie was.
Charlie tried to pull at it but it was useless. The slimy thing was invading his body through the skin and he could feel the cold of it spread through his leg as it passed my knee and continued up his inner thigh. The pain was unimaginable and the coldness of it penetrated Charlie like death itself. Charlie was in such a panic that he didn't realize he was being pulled down until he kicked the rock he had spent the last few hours on and sudden terror came over him as he looked and saw the landing he was sitting on moving and slithering in the darkness. There were many, many more of these things and he was face to face with them this time.
Almost simultaneously Charlie felt a dozen or more of the things grab him in numerous places on his body and as they began to pierce his flesh and slither under my skin like parasites from some other world, Charlie felt the first one reach his genitals. Charlie was able to scream one more time before he felt something gag him and realized he could no longer breathe or speak. Charlie could feel only tearing and ripping pain as the creatures penetrated and invaded his body until the line holding me up give. Suddenly Charlie was aware of the feeling weightless and his arm pits were no longer in pain. But this offered no solace from the agony of the invaders. Charlie fell and fell in the darkness but never experienced the abrupt landing that came followed. He grabbed at the slithering thing which blocked his air passages trying desperately to pull it out of his mouth. He struggled until he felt something inside him at the base of his skull press forward and suddenly he felt nothing.
V I G I L A N T E
The City of Chrystalle was a pristine monument to the truest form of freedom the world has ever known. The city dwarfed most other metropolises and yet never lost self perseverance. When humanity evolved sociologically beyond the need for money or jobs, Chrystalle continued to function as it always had. This was a main reason Chrystalle had never been recycled to be used for materials in construction of modern cities. Humanity had come to love many of the old cities and continued to preserve them for historical value. Las Vegas continues to be a shining pillar of capitalism at it's best and worst and functions entirely within the resource based economy that provides so much abundance to all of humanity.
Chrystalle on the other hand holds a more unique value for humanity. She is the worlds only official super hero city. Of course there are no real super heroes, but the citizens of Chrystalle continue to live in the buildings, work their nine to five jobs and pay their ridiculous rent just for the opportunity to live in Chrystalle. I mean how often do you get to watch the forces of good and evil battle on the roof tops like in some 20th century comic book?
Evil scientists and heroes with gizmo's and gadgets battle it out on a monthly basis in this city and often battles can become so stupendous that people actually die! Death is the last thing that you think about when you're having fun like this though.
Nails snickers as he remembers his latest brawl with the Dr. Mechanic. He pauses to bend over and tighten the laces on his military boots. "Hmph" he mutters as he adjusts the straps laced across his black spandex covered body. He rises to his feet and then drops back down into a sprint ready position. His leather straps almost shimmer under the sunlight against his non reflective skin tight spandex suit. Perhaps spandex is a little Cliché, but hey it worked for so many before him, who was he to argue with success.
Nails bursts into a sprint. Running at full speed across the roof, he leaps into the air and kicks off the ledge and thrusts himself into the air leaping across to the fire escape across the alley and lands with a loud slam on the metal landing. Four years of practice has made particularly good at acrobatic leaps and jumps. He rushes up to the brick wall of the warehouse building next door and vaults himself up the one story to the next roof. Nails pulls himself up and is greeted by the sun peeking at him just before disappearing behind the giant saucer that tops the building referred to as Chrystalle tower. Almost immediately he lets out a sigh, shakes his head and mutters "...capes..."
At Chrystally tower the entrances are being used at every point. Nails watches as fools in caped costumes swing from roofs to the balcony ledges that surround the saucer. He shakes his head in disgust before he swings a belt over a power line and slides down to the roof in front of him. He's got to cover the last three blocks between him and Chrystalle Tower in record time if he doesn't want to miss out on all the appetizers. Those lowlife bounty hunters will pick the tables clean before he can get his hands on even one pig in a blanket.
Nails has never been a fan of large gatherings of people but then nobody in his line of work ever seems to either. Here though, in this room with five dozen other vigilantes from every walk of life. It's hard not to feel at home here even among the villains. Nails finds himself wishing that these little get-togethers would happen more often than once a year but then dismisses his thought almost immediately. Nails wades through the crowd of vigilantes dressed in every imaginable form of attire from the complete practicality of solid military grade to the flashy designer styles that can only come from the homemade costume breed. The flashy ones don't usually last as long though and it's always funny when you see a newcomer cry about his costume getting ripped in tiff with a bank robber. Nails snickers under his mask.
He wades his way thought the sea of glares coming from all the newbies trying to seem intimidating. Routine as usual, but today there seems to be many, many more new recruits than in previous years. Nails was just about to grab the last pig in a blanket but it was snatched from underneath his hand.
In a flutter of black movement the hand of the Piggy thief is gripped and twisted until the caper across the table drops to his knee and releases the small treat. "Thank you." Nails smiles under his mask as he lifts it and the dog simultaneously and pops the reward in his mouth. "Mmmm... *smack* ... Thank's friend, sorry about the thumb."
The green spandex and bandit mask did not suit the man in his knees well. The 300lb truck driver in a ballerina costume raises to his feet rubbing his hand. "Jeez man..." he complains as he reluctantly turns and wonders away. Nails may not be the largest boy in the room but everyone knows his reputation as a wolverine in a fight. He was still lost in contemplation over the situation when he heard the elevator door ding. Suddenly everyone in the room stopped talking as a scream let out across the room. It came from the elevator.
Nails stepped between the two vigilantes that blocked his view to see a hostess tumbled backward on the floor with her platter at her feet in front of her. In the elevator doors stood what appeared to be a freshly charred burn victim. A dark man with leathery skin stretched so tight over his face that you could visibly see his skull through his skin stepped forward pulling the collar of his trench coat up high around his neck. and ducking his head down in embarrassment. He must be new. Everyone knows that if you take the elevator up you're a villain. All the heroes like to show off their skills while the villains try to seem more average.
The blackened man continued through a part in the group and out of sight and Nails went back to scanning the crowd. He came up to a group of three familiar vigilantes with whom he had worked with before on numerous occasion. "Nails!" A balding man in painter's clothes greeted him.
"Hey guys." Nails replied glancing at his colleagues and their new friend. Next to 'The Painter' stood stood someone in a brown robe and his old friend Psycho. She wore her usual out fit of black raver's pants and skin tight turtleneck. "Hi Nails" she added.
"So who's the newb?" Nails motioned toward the man in the robe who responded by immediately breaking from his quiet peaceful stance and threw one hand up in the air bent down at Nail's head and shaking.
"I'm da Monk, Beoch!" He thrust his hand at Nail's head as if he were "OG" and stepped back into his peaceful stance, hands clasped in front of him. The three of them stared at Monk for a few seconds.
"...You are such an idiot!" Psycho announced chuckling gleefully at him. They began pushing each other in the shoulder like siblings do when the lights flickered on and off three times. The room shooshed again like it had when the elevator had chimed it's ominous 'ping'. The silence from the crowd came so abruptly and in such unison that Nails could not help but feel a small swell of pride for his kind.
The room turned it's focus in almost perfect unison to the man in the devilishly stylish white double-breasted suit. He had dark red hair which was combed like a game game show host's, a dark red goatee and a black and red striped silk tie. His shoes were also red with black heels, toes and soles. He stood up at full attention like a butler from a cliche movie resting his left forearm on the curve of his lower back. His voice was deep and powerful but soothing, when he spoke his words could move people.
"Ladies and Gentilemen, Welcome!" His voice boomed throughout the room and Nails felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as he listened. "You have the privilege of being members of the largest and most extraordinary sociological experiment in the history of science. Our contributions will be staggering! So! Once again; Welcome to Chrystalle City!"
"I am your host, my name is Alister Means. Now I know about half of you have all the usual million and one questions to ask me but if you'll just bare with me here..." Alister reached into his pocket with his right hand never moving the left and produced a small remote control. "Ah, yes. For those of you who weren't here last year, we have instated some new changes on the rule book. Firstly, the bounty for dead villain has gone from ten percent to half that, you'll be getting five percent now and of course three deaths and you will be officially ejected.
"Second note; Villains get a little extra cash this year as a result of the influx of players. Feel free to turn in your villain points for additions or extensions on your lairs. We also have some new equipment that both parties may be interested to help you up your arsenal.
"Okay, now there are a few more details but you can take a copy of the rules from the trays next to each entrance as a reference." Alister clicked a button on the remote and immediately a projector screen descended behind him spanning from ceiling to door. He clicked again and the lights dimmed, another click and a projector on the middle appetizer table displays an image of a small neighborhood near a river.
"Chrystalle was founded in 1849 during the great gold rush and was primarily used as a trading post for travelers on their way to California. The town remained rural until 1959 at which point a military base known as Fort Shatterberry was erected which caused the town to explode overnight when Forts Knox, Worth and Hood were evacuated due to terrorist threat. After the population explosion Chrystalle grew by two hundred percent every ten years becoming a major metropolis in the United States. Then Shock arrived." Click
"The first known sighting of Shock officially happened in 1998 but there are reports of sightings going back as far as 1978. The general consensus is that Shock is a non villain who took it upon himself to defend the city. He is a cybernetic robot that has unmeasured physical strength, armor and agility. In all the years that he has guarded Chrystalle, only footage and pictures have ever been taken of him." Click
"The police, the national guard, the marines, the army and the federal bureau of investigation spent an estimated seven trillion dollars attempting to capture Shock but only succeeded in costing everyone massive losses in property damage. Eventually Shock was declared a national treasure in a case made by the citizens of Chrystalle that went all the way to the supreme court. When the case was won, Shock became the world's first official super hero." Click
"Shock's conduct in Chrystalle is what put her on the map. This is why I called all of you here today. Chrystalle flourished due to the hand of Shock for all these years allowing us all to enjoy some of the greatest freedoms this world has to offer and now he's under attack. Not only is Shock under attack, so too is the city in which he resides! The public wish to recycle this city due to its promotion of violent nature.
A murmur came over the crowd and Nails felt a very cold shutter run down his spine. Nails had a life out in the real world, he couldn't take it. He had always been a violent and competitive person by nature and there simply wasn't any room left for such violent tendencies in civilization anymore. Click.
"This is why I invited you here today. We are poised for the single largest vigilante spectacle in history and it will all be posted on TubeView for the world to witness. They've given us only seven more months and then the city will be disassembled and recycled. When these doors open back up, I want you to go out there and make a scene for me! Can you do that?!"
The crowd roared and hooted with excitement but there were two faces that were not smiling. Nails was watching the leathery man and Leatherman wasn't showing any emotion either.
"We'll make a scene so big in this town the voters won't know what hit them!" Alister finally dropped his left arm and raised it to meet his right above his head and shake them profusely at the crowd.
Nails took a step toward his new interest who immediately turned to face him. "Yeah?" said the leather man from over scarf he was tugging off his face. Nails was about to reply but there was a loud bang which deafened and slammed him from behind. Nails was thrown into the air and slammed to the ground. As he struggled to find the strength to push himself off the ground, her heard the screams of people around him piercing through the constant high pitch ringing of his ears. He dragged his forearm across the ground to his face and pushed the ground away with all his strength.
There was a throbbing pain shooting around the inside of his scull and he felt dizzy as he pushed himself into a crawling position. He raised his hand and pressed it against his head then tried to shake off some of the dizziness. Suddenly his other hand felt the floor underneath it give way and crumble.
Nails dropped his hand from his face and saw that the vast majority of the floor that he had just been walking on was now crashing into the ground at the bottom of the tower. The massive chunks of concrete slammed into the street with such force that he felt the building shake below him. Nails backed away from the edge of the floor and realized the the walls and roof were also missing and large chunks of concrete were falling down in front of his view.
He turned away from the hole and called to his friends. "..huh guhs... yuh uh-kuh...?" Nails felt the strength fade from his numb limbs and he fell to the ground and felt the dizziness overtake his mind.