Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Desperate Phoenix

He was dressed in a trenchcoat. He felt like a stalker. And all he wanted was to find an open store. Any open store.

The hardware shop was closed. Of course it was closed. It was 3:00 in the morning. The only things liable to still be doing business at this hour were bars (not a good idea right now) and fast food places. Unfortunately he really couldn't handle anything he would have to put in his mouth.

He really needed to spend this twenty dollar bill. Now.

In the distance, past a row of buildings on fire, there was the dim glow of a Stop n' Shop. The locals called them Gun n' Runs because of how often the little convenience store/gas stations got robbed in the Rogue Isles. The places had taken to hiring highly resistant superhumans as clerks at obscene rates of pay. It wasn't glamorous but it was work.

That would do perfectly!

He started running, surprised at how quickly he could move out of his armor. For a moment, he lamented his old suit, wondering if any of it was salvageable or if Lethane had ruined it all.

Lethane... That freak was the reason he was here right now. He blamed him for the drinking binge. He blamed him for skipping out on the check. He definitely blamed him for having to work these two very odd jobs. And he sure as Hell blamed him for why he had to get rid of this twenty dollar bill as fast as inhumanly possible.

The world, however, had other plans.

"Hey there, gaucho! Laundry day?"

Ravyn looked down. No. No no no... Not street punks. Not here. Not now.

Two leather jacketed men with baseball bats jumped down from the fire escape on the apartment building across the street. Two more, these with shotguns, joined them from the shadow of the alley below.

Yes. Street punks. From the white skulls in greasepaint on their faces, Gravediggers. Ravyn didn't have his armor; that meant no powers. This wasn't going to end well.

Then it occurred to him. Getting robbed was a good way to ditch the twenty! He slowly held it up as the quartet of miscreants approached. "Here," he said calmly. "This is all I have. Take it." Quietly, he hoped that was all they were after tonight.

"Oh we will, cooloh, but you got lots more than money. You got blood, homes."

Damn. Well, powers or not, he wasn't going to let these punks take him without a fight. He wilted visibly, letting them see fear. It wasn't entirely fake; he'd faced veritable titans in his career as a hero but now, without his armor to awaken his abilities, he was in real trouble here. He didn't have the power to help anyone in these torched tenements and he definitely wouldn't survive getting shot by one of those sawed-offs.

The punk in the lead lowered his sawed-off, grinned a rictus smile and shot him.

The impact tore open his coat, slammed into his chest and sent him hurtling back against the burning bricks behind him. A howl of cheering sent up through the punks as they charged his crumpled form, pounding him with gun butts and pale hardwood bats with kill marks carved into them.

All the while, Ravyn was in shock. Not from the gunshot...

...but because it didn't really hurt. None of it hurt. The shotgun had stung, certainly, but his coat was the only casualty. The buckshot hadn't penetrated his flesh. Far from it. Aside from a slight tingle, the kind one might feel after being slapped, there was nothing. And the bats were like the pummelling of children. He knew what that felt like now. Damn day care.

Once he got over the surprise, the rage set in. He rose up amid the flailing gangers, hands balled into fists that, quite on their own, were surrounded now in jagged obsidian and a wreath of furious fire. "You really should have taken the twenty."

His voice sounded hellish, almost otherworldly. Right now, he didn't care. Only one thing mattered. These punks? They had blood too.

And he wanted it. All.

By the time it was done, four bodies littered the street. Not all of them were intact and all four were unrecognizable. Between fire and seismic force, the Rogue Island Police would be identifying these unfortunates by their dental records. Assuming they could find all their teeth... and assuming they cared enough to bother.

Ravyn seethed, looking around in his anger for something else to kill. There was nothing. Nearby people were dying, surrounded by flames as infernos started by these now-dead bastards claimed their homes and their lives. t wasn't the same It wasn't as satisfying and ending someone with his bare, rocky hands. He could feel the fires, every one of them all around him, as they feasted on flesh and stone and wood and bone...

...and in a roar of denial, he called them all to him. The conflagrations leaped from the buildings nearby, soaring through the air as fire spouts to arch down and slam into his body. He screamed in half pain, half bliss as they entered him and became a brighter part of his burning soul.


He was lifted into the air by the force of the backdrafts, hovering several fiery feet off the ground before crashing back down to earth. He crouched there, one fist planted into the ground, his knees both touching the broken asphalt below. He was in a pool of smouldering tar and melted stone, completely unharmed by its boiling embrace. He... he...

He still had the GOD DAMN TWENTY.

As the volcanic glass and fires receded from his now completely naked form, he looked down into his left hand and saw the crumpled bill, perfectly intact despite everything that had just happened. There was a small streak of red on it, but that blood wasn't his.

"Son... of a... bitch."

A few minutes later, Ravyn walked quietly into the Stop and Shop wearing only a pair of leather jackets tied around his waist like some kind of Hell's Angel loincloth. He grabbed the first random item he could find, a teddy bear with a little doctor's smock and a plush "Get Well Soon" heart in its paws, and headed toward the rather surprised-looking cashier.

He never made it.

"That was quite a show out there, Duck!"

Slowly he turned, praying he wasn't about to see Lethane behind him. God, apparently, wasn't taking any calls right now.

The long-eared madman laughed and clapped him on the bare shoulder. "Quite brutal! But you still owe me a lap dance, sweetcheeks." Flippantly, Leth pointed at the twenty Ravyn was holding. "I did pay for it, after all."

Try as he might, and he tried a lot, Ravyn was incapable of braining himself into unconsciousness with a stuffed bear...

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