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Authors: Blake Northcott

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Superheroes, #Superhero

Vs Reality

BOOK: Vs Reality
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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” - Marianne Williamson

 

Chapter One – Illusions

New York City
August 7, 2011
11:28 pm, Eastern Daylight Time

 

I’m going to die. Right here, right now.
The words race through her mind like an involuntary spasm, flooding her consciousness, drowning out rational thought.

She scrambles through the darkness of the alley, desperately trying to maintain her balance while teetering in six-inch stilettos. She frantically wipes a handful of blond hair from her face, squinting against the inky darkness. She can only make out shapes; muted outlines in the middle-distance. A dumpster, some scattered debris, and deeper into the abyss what looks like a burnt-out car. And beyond that, nothing. But she can’t turn around. It’s too late.

The mugger stalks his victim with a hunting knife in-hand, casually waving the blade in her direction. He traces a figure-eight pattern in the air, whistling as he saunters. He’s savoring the moment. He’s done this a hundred times, but the tension is always electric; this much power, this much control over someone’s every emotion – it’s completely intoxicating.

She fumbles through her purse as she flees. It slips through sweaty fingers mid-stride, spilling the contents into a shallow puddle at her feet. She reaches down and gropes through her belongings, but jerks her hand back when the footsteps echo closer behind. There’s not enough time. She turns to look and wishes she hadn’t. Now afraid to avert her eyes, she backpedals through the narrow passage, lungs aching, calves burning, watching the hazy glow from a distant streetlight gradient off into the umbral chasm with each terrifying step.

Her back slams into a brick wall, cold and sudden. Eyes darting frantically from side to side, a grim realization sets in: there are no doors, no windows, and no chances for escape.

He approaches his prey with a twisted smile sliced across his grimy face. He drags the tip of his rusted blade down the length of her dress, from the base of her throat to the top of her navel. Cars pass, horns blare and electricity hums, but she can still hear the sound of metal scraping silk.

“This is usually when the screaming starts,” the mugger says, his voice like crushed glass on pavement. “Go ahead, I’m used to it.”

She turns away, squeezing her eyes shut, tears and mascara streaking her face. “Jesus,” she whispers, “
please
help me, Lord…”

“What
is it
with you religious nuts?” He grumbles. “You could shout for a cop, a fireman, maybe even catch the attention of a concerned citizen if you’re lucky. But instead you beg for an invisible man to show up and save your pathetic life.” He clutches her throat and leans in close as if he’s about to reveal something private. “I know what you’re thinking right now: ‘This is a nightmare. This can’t possibly be happening. Surely
someone
is going to save me’.” His lips brush her ear, voice lowering to a barely audible growl. “I’ve been doing this for a while sweetheart, so I’ll let you in on a little secret: prepare yourself for some
serious
fucking disappointment.”

She feels the blade pierce her skin. Shallow at first, then deeper, the serrated steel edge scraping along her ribcage. Her eyes snap open and her jaw falls slack, but she doesn’t scream. Her vision is just a blur now; ragged outlines and distorted images swimming in and out of her field of vision. Though she
swears,
through the waves of searing pain, she spots a pair of figures positioned at the mouth of the alley – velvet-black silhouettes stretching down the narrow corridor.

Two rapid blinks clear her watering eyes, and her vision drifts back into focus. She can see them. She’s sure of it. Her angels.

The more imposing of the two is a seven-foot powerhouse, nearly as thick as he is wide. She catches a glimpse of his bald head and thin goatee, thinking –
praying –
he might be a police officer, but then trails her eyes down to his wardrobe: cargo shorts, flip flops, and a flowered Hawaiian shirt that’s barely able to contain a thicket of chest hair.

Next to the giant stands a well-dressed Asian man half his size, with a wave of black hair and designer sunglasses.

Concerned citizens? Tourists? Maybe one of them has already called the peacekeepers…

The Asian clears his throat, loud and deliberate.

The mugger glances back and notices the looming figures who are now providing an unwanted audience. He tightens the grip on his weapon, leaving one hand on his victim’s throat. “What is this shit?”

Cocking his head, the well-dressed man offers a friendly reply in a proper British accent. “Divine intervention.” He makes a subtle gesture with an extended hand, slowly rotating his fingers in the air as if he’s adjusting an invisible valve.

From more than thirty feet away the mugger throws his head back, bellowing in pain. His knife clangs to the pavement. He drops to a knee and then collapses, rolling into the fetal position, writhing, convulsing, gurgling as if he’s choking on his own tongue. He claws at his temples as if he’s trying to scrape insects off the inside of his skull.

The Asian man makes his way through the alley and approaches his now-disabled opponent, crouching at his side. “
Ouch
,” he says with a tiny smirk, wedging his lips to one side. “I bet that feels like an ice pick twisting into your cerebral cortex....or so I’ve been told. I’m sorry Mister Miller, but this evening you’ve chosen the wrong alley, and, unfortunately, the wrong victim.”

The mugger rolls to his back. He props himself up on his elbows, thick streams of blood cascading from his ears and nose. “Y-you can’t do this to me,” he stammers. “Cops can’t just
attack
people. I’m a goddamned American!”

The Asian cocks his head once again, ever so slightly, and replies as if he’s addressing a small child. “We are not the police,” he says in a soft, even tone. “Far from it. But we
do
tend to show up when laws are being broken.” He stands upright, dusts off his overcoat and adjusts his scarf before turning to his casually-dressed partner. “Since our patriotic friend here feels that he’s being treated unfairly, would you be kind enough to read him his rights, Mister Heinreich?”

The towering wall of muscle reacts without saying a word. He reaches down and grabs the mugger by the back of his head as if he’s palming a basketball. He yanks him upright. With a swift, violent motion he drives Miller face-first into the nearest brick wall, embedding him into the mortar. The sound travels down the alley like a powerful shotgun blast, startling a pair of pigeons near a dumpster. The mugger dangles from the wall suspended by his pulverized skull, his quivering feet inches off the ground.

The woman opens her mouth to scream but once again she’s unable to produce a sound.

“Thank you, Mister Heinreich,” The well-dressed man replies with a broad, satisfied smile. “That was very articulate.”

Sobbing and disheveled, the victim throws herself towards Heinreich, wrapping her tiny arms around his massive torso. She buries her tear-stained face into his chest, gasping for a breath; she’s too relieved to feel the burning pain twisting in her gut.

He remains expressionless, but cradles her loosely.

“Thank you,” she says weakly, her voice thick with emotion. “You saved my life. What can I ever do to repay you?”

“You can start by remaining still,” she hears from behind her.

She has no time to respond.

The sensation is a pinch at the base of her neck. A bee sting, cold and sudden, followed by a swarm of darkness. The syringe that the Asian man plunges into her neck is filled with a bubbling amber liquid, and it courses into her bloodstream before she can make a third attempt at a scream. The effect is instantaneous. She falls like a marionette being cut from its strings; muscles turning to Jell-O, her head bouncing off the pavement with a dull thud.

“Mister Heinreich, please pick up this mess and prepare her for processing.” The Asian reaches into his jacket and extracts a lighter and cigarette. He suddenly appears bored, as if this chaotic situation is routine – even mundane. “And remember that we’re going to need blood samples
before
we get back to The Basement this time.”

Scanning the alley, Mister Heinreich notices the victim’s purse and its numerous contents which have spilled into the street. Among the discarded items is a small transparent plastic bag filled with bright blue pills, sitting in a shallow puddle. He stoops to retrieve the bag and tosses it to his colleague.

The Asian man angles the bag towards the dim light from the mouth of the alley, carefully inspecting the pills. He cocks an eyebrow, intrigued by the discovery. “It looks like we’re on to something, Mister Heinreich. Excellent work. If you would be so kind, could you please send these to the lab upon our return?”

Heinreich scoops the woman into his arms, her head tilted back, arms dangling by her sides. Ambling back towards the street he finally breaks his silence. “Mister Goto,” he says in a thick German accent, and with just the faintest hint of a smile, “score one more for the good guys.”

Chapter Two – Prajña

New York City
August 25, 2011
11:28 pm, Eastern Daylight Time

 

A massive sports arena vibrates from the explosive sound of forty thousand fans. It’s deafening; chants, screams and calls for violence rise from the mob. Their patience is wearing thin. It always does around this time of night.

Bright spotlights illuminate a hexagon-shaped cage in the center of the building. The structure is surrounded by a six-foot chain-linked fence, and measures twenty feet across; the gray canvas is emblazoned with several corporate logos, but large portions have been stained a deep shade of crimson from an evening of hand-to-hand combat.

The show is drawing to a close, and this is the main event; the moment that everyone in attendance, and the millions watching at home, have been impatiently waiting for. This is the fight to determine the number-one ranked mixed martial arts fighter in the world. Two men enter the cage, but only one will emerge with the World Heavyweight Championship belt secured around his waist.

Marcus Mitchell, a stocky, barrel-chested savage with a wild beard and even wilder eyes, paces back and forth like a caged lion. Every few steps he swivels on the balls of his feet to retrace his steps, but his gaze never leaves his opponent. His fists are clenched, teeth grinding, veins protruding like cords from his sizable neck. This is
his
opportunity.
His
time. This is Mitchell’s chance to dethrone a living legend. Thousands of hours of training, gallons of sweat, and pints of blood have been spilled leading to this very moment, and his six-foot, two hundred and eighty pound frame is primed for battle like never before.

Across the cage stands Donovan Cole. He’s motionless. The announcer lists his stats at six-foot-four and two hundred and forty-three pounds. His physique could have been chiseled from a slab of granite. A tattoo of a snake coils around his left arm, circling his bicep and part of his forearm, fangs bared and poised to strike.

Cole remains locked in Mitchell’s gaze, his crystal blue eyes staring back with laser-sharp focus. There is no intensity to his stare, or even to his posture; his muscles are relaxed, his breathing steady and even. If you didn’t know he was about to enter a bone-crushing, skull-smashing mixed martial arts competition, you’d almost think he was meditating. Cole brushes the dark hair from his face with both hands, and his lips turn up at the corners with just the faintest indication of a smile. He’s already won this fight in his mind a thousand times, and he wants Mitchell to know it.

Seconds pass.

Each feels like an eternity.

The roar of the crowd is pulsating and electric.

The referee looks to each of the combatants and asks if they’re ready, his voice straining to be heard over the powerful roar that surrounds him.

They each nod.

“Let’s get it on!” The referee claps his hands to signal the fight has begun, and the crowd explodes in unison.

Mitchell sprints across the cage, stopping just an arm’s length from Cole, letting his fists flail in wide, arcing loops. More emotion than technique, Cole thinks. He’s already panicking.

Cole effortlessly slips each punch as if he already knows where they’re going to land. A duck. A wave. He sways as a right hook sails harmlessly past his jaw line. He returns fire with two quick jabs and a crushing knee to the midsection.

Mitchell steps back, wincing. In a heartbeat the ferocity fades from his eyes, like a raging wildfire being extinguished, snuffed out with a single blast of water. He keeps his hands high and his chin tucked, but his confidence has clearly been rattled.

Stepping to the side and faking a quick hand movement, Cole throws a vicious leg kick. His shin bone slams into the muscle of his opponent’s outer thigh. A dry thud echoes through the stadium, eliciting ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the spectators in the front row.

Before Mitchell can recover a second kick lands in the same location, buckling his knees. A deep purple welt becomes evident as he hobbles backwards.

There’s blood in the water, and Cole can smell it.

Covering up to avoid further punishment, Mitchell puts his back against the cold chain-linked fence. He absorbs several punches and knees to his body before he’s tripped to the canvas. As he regains his footing, Mitchell is swarmed with a series of punches to his temple, cheekbone and jaw. Dazed, he stumbles on rubber legs, bravely trying to avoid the inevitable.

Cole steps away and time seems to slow. He fires a snapping roundhouse kick to the side of his opponent’s head; shin bone collides with cranium, and Mitchell crumbles into a blood-soaked heap.

The referee leaps between Cole and his latest victim, frenetically waving his hands overhead.

The bell rings. The fight is over.

Fists raised in victory, Cole walks back towards his corner while flashbulbs illuminate the building. The roar reaches a fever pitch as his trainers dive in to the cage to celebrate.

The commentators at cage-side can barely hear themselves speak. “What a knockout!” Joe Garelli screams in his thick Boston accent, unable to contain his excitement amidst the post-fight chaos. “That was a beautiful combination of knees and uppercuts from Donovan Cole, and then out of nowhere,
ba-bam!
A devastating high kick sends Mitchell to the canvas, and that’s a wrap. No one gets up from that, and it is game over, folks. Add one more knockout to Donovan Cole’s already impressive highlight reel, and his record now improves to a staggering thirty-two wins with zero losses. This man is the present
and
the future, ladies and gentlemen. At only twenty-seven years of age he still has his entire career ahead of him, and this is just the beginning.” Taking a moment to wipe the sweat from his forehead, Joe exhales and continues. “Let's go to Dick Emerson who’s in the cage with the champion right now.”

A tall, distinguished gentleman wearing an out-of-date and undersized tuxedo stands center-cage, microphone in-hand, prepared to interview the champion. Though he’ll have to wait until the crowd disperses.

Cole is surrounded by trainers, agents and scantily-clad ring girls, all vying for a moment of his time. Just a glimmer of his attention. A man in a suit wades through the crowd and drapes a shimmering gold title belt over his shoulder, and one of his trainers hands him a blue energy drink. Yet again, Cole has gone through a title defense without suffering even the tiniest scratch – as always, his photogenic face remains flawless.

“I’m here with Donovan ‘The Cannon’ Cole,” Dick Emerson says breathlessly, “the number one ranked MMA fighter on the planet, and the undisputed, undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the world. Tell me, champ: what is it like being the best of the best?”

“Well Dick, it
does
feel pretty incredible,” Cole replies, “But not as incredible as the taste of Lightning Liquid: the only energy drink powerful enough to fuel a champion.” He holds up the translucent bottle with a smile and a wink, endorsing the product as if he were selling it on a late-night infomercial.

Dick can’t help but chuckle at the shameless plug, and he responds with a smirk of his own. “Donovan Cole, you
are
something else. Why don’t you walk us through the replay on the big screen, champ?”

“Speaking of the big screen, Dick, I’ll be appearing in the new Matrix remake that’s slated to hit theatres worldwide next summer. I wrote, directed, performed my own stunts, and I even helped design some of the special effects. But before I tell you any more, I’d like to dedicate tonight’s victory to a couple of people.”

“Go ahead, champ!”

“First I’d like to thank my girlfriend Scarlett Johansson, and my other girlfriend Jennifer Lawrence.” Cole snatches the microphone from Dick’s hand and steps away before continuing. “A
big
shout-out to the guy who cleans my pool, mad props to the dude who washes my Ferrari collection – Pedro, you’re doing a bang-up job – our one true Lord and savior Jesus Christ, my team of personal shoppers…”

A look of confusion washes over Dick’s face. His eyes grow wide and he steps away as if he’s seen a ghost. “Champ,” he says with a tremble in his voice. “Y-you…you’re
bleeding
.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Dick?” Cole reaches up to dab his nose and glances down at his fingertips. They’re dripping with blood.

The crowd falls silent.

“What the…what’s going on?” The blood pours freely from his nostrils, his mouth, and suddenly, from a fresh cut the stretches across his forehead.

Dick now looks gravely concerned, the bubbling enthusiasm stripped from his voice. “You’re bleeding a
lot
champ. You should really go to the hospital.”

Cole is frantic; his cool, cocky demeanor evaporating in front of the world. He searches the faces of everyone surrounding him, but they begin to vanish. Like apparitions they fade, swirling into mist. “Dick, I have no idea what the…holy crap Dick, how did this happen?”

He stumbles in circles before tumbling to the canvas, eyes rolling to whites. The ground beneath him turns to icy black liquid, drawing him into the void.

BOOK: Vs Reality
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