"You're seriously kidding me if you expect to take you guys out to the bars tonight." Steve shook his head no, looking at his friends. Daryl looked flabbergasted and came back at the subject immediately.
"But c'mon man, it's our last night as a group, and after tomorrow, you won't ever have to do it again"
"Fine! Okay, one drink. But after that I'm going back to the house, I've got family coming in tomorrow. And Beckers is gonna be in as well." With the agreement made three guys walked into one of the better bars in the small college town. Steve remembered they did mix drinks well, and they were easy on the ID checks. More then onetime he'd had friends who tried to pass of a fake. It wasn't a lack of attention towards a 20 year-olds legal inability to drink; it was more the lack of wanting a bad reputation as being the stiff upper crust, and the loss of profits.
Finding a table, two of the guys and one of the gals ordered a beer. Steve had tasted it before; it wasn't great stuff, considering it had an aftertaste that he didn't feel like experiencing after the first time. Now a rum and coke on the other hand was more to his liking. That and the fact that there was little need to get a glass of wine in a watering hole like this. Sipping his drink the group talked of past histories, with more beer coming into play as the glasses were emptied.
"So, whenth ish Becky comin' over tooth tha barsh?" Mike blurted out after his fourth beer.
"Maybe when she turns 21, I don't know. Has it occurred to you that maybe some people like to wait till they're legal?" Steve retorted finishing his second drink.
Daryl walked out of the restrooms and picked up another pitcher when he turned around into the chest of a large man. The man looked down and took the pitcher with both hands, yanking it out of Daryl's hands.
"Well, look what this dude gave me, so nice of him." The brute put the pitcher to his lips and let the ale flow into his mouth, and down his shirt. Daryl balled a fist when he found himself a foot in the air, his shirt gripped by the large man.
"Hey Joe, looks like he wanted his drink back." Daryl heard from the gang behind Joe.
"No, that's okay, my treat, need another?" This got him thrown to the floor, with Joe finding a bar stool and ready to slam it down on the smaller man's head.
Steve stretched a little when he heard the bar go silent. Following the glances of other people, he saw the big man ready to beat his friend on the bar floor.
"Kimmy, get the girls and Daryl out, I'll get Mike, have the car ready." Grabbing his graduation present from Becky, a blue bomber jacket that was a little to warm for May, Steve made his way over to the fight.
"Steve! Bud, this guy's gonna trash me!" Joe looked up at the man about 5 inches shorter then him.
"I think ya need to leave the kid alone. I'll buy ya a round if you let him go."
The big man snorted. "No way shrimp, unless you take his place. He spilled beer on me, he's gonna pay with a few broken bones." Steve followed the trail of beer stains up from the man's torso to his neckline. Liar.
"Fine then, I'll take his place. But if you want a fight, not here, outside."
"STEVE! Do you know-"
"Yes Daryl," the young graduate said in a calm voice. "I'm saving your ass again. Let's go buddy." Steve picked Daryl up, but was shoved aside by Joe who bee-lined out of the tavern. His gang followed, while Daryl stood a little dumbfounded.
"You're not seriously considerin' this? Are you?"
"Like I said, someone's gotta save your ass. Time to see if that Kickboxing slash phy ed credit worked for me."
"You what!" Daryl yelled as the two walked out.
Rebecca Cardnallen sat in her room studying for her last final, the one taking place early in the morning. She'd opted not to go out with her friends and love interest, instead, studying for her Directing Class final. This was just extra work, as she didn't know what to expect on the professor's final. Her scenes had been marked with A's and B's. But her coursework was always downgraded to C's and D's. She was going to have to have a conference before she went to the grievance committee. Her notes were spread out in front of her when she jumped with fright from the knock at the door.
"HOLD ON!" She yelled through the wooden door as she got up from the floor and turned the doorknob.
Steve sized up Joe and thought he might have a chance. Joe smiled with a gap-toothed grin as he took the two-by-four he was holding and swung it at Steve. Ducking, Steve took a gamble and kicked Joe's right knee. Smashing into it with his foot, Steve recoiled back and dove out of the way of the wayward blow that came at him as Joe fell to the ground. Quickly, the gang was up in arms, with knives and other utensils of pain. The charged Steve, the first one being blocked and kicked away, but two more came in and at the same time, hit him with brass knuckles. Daryl tried to help, but was thrown to the side by Joe. Pulling his gang off the young man, Joe picked the bruised kid up and held him by his shirt.
"Ready to see your insides boy?" Steve heard him faintly, having put up a fight, but not enough to head off four to one odds. His head swam when he started feeling something build up in his hands. Shunting all the pain had started to claw up his hand with tension, but something else was happening. Daryl looked in awe as a green light formed in his friend's palm.
"C'MON! ANSWER ME!" Joe threw him down, than noticed the glowing in Steve's hand. "What the fuck is that?!" Steve stood up slowly, feeling all the rage and pain building into a conduit of power. He felt new, invigorated and ready to trash the brute.
"Why ." He asked. "Do you really have a death wish?" Feeling the anger at its breaking point, Steve held out his hand, and twisted his palm upward. The green energy formed into a ball, and one command, floated out three inches from his hand. The crowd stood dumbstruck, when with a primal yell Steve let it go. The green energy didn't travel too fast at first, but suddenly, it shot out at high speeds and hit Joe in the chest. At first, it looked like nothing happened, but Joe felt it burn through his shirt and scar his chest. The energy exploded after burning him, and Joe flew back further into the ally, landing 30 feet away from where he'd just been. Steve felt the rage again, building slowly. Not as fast as before, but enough to start a gathering of energy in his palm again.
"Three seconds, get the hell outta here." He aimed his next blast at the gang, who backed away slowly, then ran to their leader, picked him up and left. The malevolence and tension in Steve's face was now even more evident. Ready to shoot, he suddenly felt Daryl's hand hold the attacking arm down. Coming to his senses, Steve looked at his friend, and then struggled to stand.
"How'd you do that!?" That was like...outta a movie!"
"I I don't know Daryl I just felt all the injustice of the fight, and it kinda funneled to my hand and I wasn't in control anymore. It it wasn't much fun bud it wasn't me."
"Maybe you need a stronger dose of Prozac." Daryl joked, helping him to the car where Mike and his lady friends were sitting.
"I don't know but I'd like to find out."
Graduation was in the afternoon the next day. Getting up late, he'd slept through his parents' arrival, and found them sitting in the living room.
"Steve!" His sister Lindsey yelled.
"Hey buddy." His Dad said. His Mom gave him a hug and a kiss on the forehead.
"Morning. Sorry I'm up late."
"Late night huh? Mike told us about it. Better watch what you drink." His mom replied with a smile. So he didn't tell them about what else happened.He remembered clearly what happened this morning. The rage, the anger, all of it was in his head now. Excusing himself, he got dressed, and gave a quick call to Rebecca. Her answering machine came up, but he refrained from leaving a message. She'd worry about me, he thought to himself. He trusted Daryl, and they hadn't said much, but Daryl was gone, having already packed his car and gone home for the summer. Walking back down stairs, gown and cap in hand. Steve's mother beamed with happiness, tears about ready to fall. His father beamed with a pride for his son. Lindsey smiled then turned back to the TV, watching the latest video on a music network.
The residence hall was on fire. He would have called it a dorm if not for the many people who thought it an archaic term of the 1960's. The firefighters were battling a blaze that had risen upstairs, and Steve had snuck in. Keeping a wet rag he found in a bathroom over his face, he made it to Rebecca's room. Forcing the door open, he ducked the surging wave of heat. On the ground now, he crawled in, and gasped for more then just air. A body lie not five feet from him, in a puddle of liquid highlighted by the flames, but the smell alone wrenched at his cloth-covered nostrils. The burning iron smell wafted past, and he looked at the face. Rebecca stared at the ceiling, her face in a mock-up of happiness. Below her chin was a jagged line where the flesh covering the front of her throat had been ripped to shreds. He barely kept his stomach from flipping, and him losing his lunch.
She was dead, plain and simple. He stared at her for seconds, the let out a cry of agony and rage. The familiar power built up, he flung energy at the wall, blowing a hole the size of a baby grand piano into it. Taking her body, he looked out, judging the distance between him and her body and the ground to be about twenty feet. Oxygen was being sucked in now, feeding the fire to new heights.
In the basement, firefighters continued their work. One man stood next to the door leading to the furnace area. He opened the door slowly, spraying in water. All clear, he forced his way in, and looked for a gas cut off. What he didn't see was in the corner, a small device sensing his movements. Lights flickered on, causing a spark to go off in the light bulb. The gas leak the fireman was searching for exploded, rocking the building, and sending waves of flame through wooden and concrete walls.
Steve heard the explosion, and looked back. He felt the flames heat now more then ever. Looking at the body he held, he scanned for something to break his fall.
The wave hit the corridor to Rebecca's room, and traveled down, blowing doors off their hinges and breaking glass. Reaching the end of the hall it sought the fresh supply of oxygen, the same that fed its brothers.
Three months later
He'd not used his power much sense the day of the residence hall fire. At nights, after a long day of internship with the sound engineers at a nearby radio station, he'd go out and drive into the bluffs. The starry nights cleared his thought-ridden mind, leaving him with a cooling sense of peace, but a foreboding feeling always drifted in the background. Lying on the hood of his car, the old family car that was starting to lose its once great power, he reminisced about the past once more. Rebecca was buried in the mountains of the Black Hills, close to her home. She'd always loved it there, now she was with them for the rest of time. Steve had met her only recently, but the tie that bonded them was strong enough that he'd considered proposing something serious. Now, I'm about as empty as that hole in the wall.
He brought his fist down on the hood of Tuner hard. It left a large indentation. He slowly looked up at his hand, seeing no damage, and immediately scolded himself. I'm gettin' stronger too.
"I can teach you how to use that strength." Steve's body shivered and jumped; frightened by the voice but as all spooked individuals, relief and wonder replaced the fear. Steve looked around, and saw a man not much taller then he was leaning against the passenger-side door.
"Don't know what you're referring to there buddy, but I'm quite fine. Now get away from my car before I get mad." He said in a tone of voice he might of used with the gang leader a while back. The man turned his head to the side, seeing Steve out of the corner of his eye.
"That's the key to your powers boy. Channel it to the extreme, and you'll be a top notch warrior."
"Warrior?! What are you on? Hell, why am I even having this conversation with you?!"
"Because you seek answers no one else can give you. What if I told you all that you imagine, all that you've read in those science fiction books of yours, all that you've dreamed of becoming can be obtained, and are in fact real."
"I'd say you're on some kind of acid trip, and that you're really startin' to piss me off Mister-"
"Edward." He interrupted, "Raymond Edward."
"Whatever. Just go away." Raymond straightened up, then nodded.
"And just think, I coulda taught you things you'd never have known existed. And I could have revealed who your lady friend's killer was." Steve sat up quickly, ignoring the head rush.
"You've got five seconds. Use'em."
"Touchy? Come, show me what you got boy?" Steve rolled to the side of the car and got off. Hitting the ground, he immediately ducked one of Edward's moves. Tae Kwon Do had taught him long ago that he should never strike first, but wait until the attempt was made, then take them out. As the man finished his move, Steve went full force, moving a few feet forward and bringing his elbow down on Raymond Edward's back. It thundered into his back, but instead hurt Steve as it felt like concrete under his elbow. Reeling from the pain, he quickly ran forward, turning and getting into a fighting stance. Putting a spring into his position, waiting for anything, he set out with a fast roundhouse kick to the man's exposed side, but was grabbed and let go.
"You're weak. You're girl's killer filleted her neck nicely." Steve backed away, then saw the opening again and charged, letting out a burst of punches, and landing an uppercut that ended with his fist ready to bleed from the force of his strike hitting Raymond's rock-hard chin. Pulling back, the older man kept his grin, turning it into something similar to the Cheshire cat. "Tore through the skin like a hatchet through a field of reeds. Blood pouring out as she looked to the sky, praying to some unseen God or Goddess."
Steve didn't hear the last part, he felt the anger and rage flow through his arm, into his hand, forming into blazing energy.
"BASTARD!" He let the energy go, hurling it at Edward. The elder man watched the blast come forward, and swept it away with one hand. Steve was watching as well, breathing heavily and down on a knee. Huffing, his words came out in a jagged sentence. "Don't think this is through ." Raymond walked forward and offered his hand.
"Hardly. This was more a test. Now that we're done with it, would you like to know how I threw your petty excuse for an attack aside?"
"Yeah ." Steve seized the hand and stood up, having caught his breath.
"Training. The kind I'm going to give you. You work for Flash Industries now. You've got the skill to work in the radio business, and I'll give you any position that is in your field of expertise. Your salary, housing and other essentials are my concern. You train with me every day until you can beat me in a fair fight. After that, I let you decide where you want to go. Any questions?"
"How long do I have to consider?"
"Long enough before the agency that detects our kind traces your energy blast and hunts you down."
"And that is?"
"A day at least. There are no stations in this area. But there is about two hundred miles away. Procedure will be they find you in a little over twenty-four hours after clearing the information with their databases. That'll take about thirty minutes. Ready?"
"I guess, what do I tell my parents?"
"I've already sent word. They think you took a job with a highly regarded station out in California. You said you'd didn't have time to talk, but will when you get there and settled."
"And my belongings?"
"All being moved as we speak."
"You will be provided for. My offer is only open so long as they do not find us here. Twenty-nine minutes to decide, but it becomes more dangerous for us."
"I'll give it a try."
"That's all I ask Mr. Keltner."
I can't say I had a lot to leave. My family, my job, my life in general was left after crossing the doorway. Edwards didn't give me any chances. I was forced into training day one. I learned different styles of fighting, different approaches to strategy. I honed up on my electronics skills, and even started working more mechanical things. I always liked to put stuff together. I should have built a gun, one that I could kill Edwards with, and use to escape, but it never crossed my mind. It wouldn't have worked anyway. He gave me the chance every week to try and win my way out of this indentured service I was in. Each week I tried my damnedest to defeat the man. Each week he pulled out more and more tricks that were able to put me down faster the Doc Kavorkian with a syringe of acid and air.
In the beginning it was more a contest between friends. He pushed me as hard as I could go, raising my stamina and strength to new heights. I became a heavily armed warrior, preferring the spear to a sword. My philosophy was that with a spear, you'd be able to defend yourselves in more ways then one. But I took the sword training in stride as well. It's when my mechanical and electronic skills merged to make my first spear. But it also gave me the idea for a weapon I still am not able to make.
Next time on LegionQuest Apocalypse, All Hell breaks loose as Repike starts his invasion, and the LOF with the help of what is left of the IO is the only thing that stands in his way. World Battle, next time in LegionQuest: Apocalypse
Gasper S. Keltner's Fanfiction