Have you ever been in shock before, if you haven't let me elaborate it for you? You go around your normal life and then bam! You're completely petrified, utterly frozen, and unable even to fathom the event while the entire world moves the same as any other day. The only signal of you also being alive reduced to a shuddering breath or uncontrolled twitch. That is until someone brings you back to focus. My name is Sofia Mendez, and I think I killed someone in a world gone mad.
When Genesis first started, when helixes were first causing havoc and Purifiers surfaced I wasn't afraid. Or at least not in the way most people were. When my powers first came yes, there was some fear, but it didn't make me afraid of what was unknown, it left me intrigued over what startling transformation has occurred within my body. And that's how it was when I lived my life in this post-apocalyptic world of ours. I wasn't afraid of the transformations and the powers; it was more so the people that had used them to destroy rather than create. Sure some powers were uncontrollable, but they couldn't be held accountable to bad luck. And that worldview only strengthened after becoming a Champion we all came into this weird rhythm. Every week I would practice my powers, get accustomed to college and over time it became so casual that while conversing on how we stop our latest threat, I would be thinking of life's biggest questions. Like how if moonlight is reflected, sunlight do werewolves, and vampires exist?
But when that slimy man was going for the kill against Phil, when I touched him, and he contorted in petrification. All I could do was sit in horror and disgust over the transformation I had caused. Guilt trapped my throat while I searched in vain of how I could possibly transmute a human body. All I could do was sit pondering over my own two hands while the others discussed what had happened. I looked at the three people who could cripple a building if they wanted to. And that unnoticed gap suddenly widens into a deep crevasse. And all at once I decided what I needed to do. I walked straight up to my former teammates to discuss my newly made decision.
When I agreed to become a Champion, I knew that things would get messy eventually. When I signed on, I knew that it was going to be thankless, hard, brutal hell maybe even impossible. Which partially was fine by me, I never thought of myself fit for the grandiose type of role. But despite all of the incredibly stacked odds, somehow we made a miracle. I felt like we were finally making a difference in this world gone mad. After coming back from my tours, it was hard getting back to a normal life, and I felt like the Champions helped me into it. I got new hobbies, new friends and quickly got my old accounting job back to help support my sons. But I guess with so much good a little bit of bad had to come along the way. It's been a few weeks since Sofia's departure from the group, but it was a hard blow, but I felt like Maria, and I took it hardest. She was like a sibling in arms when it came to missions. We know both needed to be smarter and train harder if we were going to be of any help, and I felt like she was a great support when in the field.
Though if anyone knew the weight of taking a life, it was me. And in the end, I respected her decision. She still trained with me and visited the Trophy Case but she was more careful and wore gloves now. Between that and the fact that Derek left for some hard-earned time with his extended family in Louisiana I hoped that we wouldn't get any trouble with the city being quiet. Especially with our new guests about to make his way here. I quickly dropped Donald and Terry off at the house and kiss them goodbye apologizing that I couldn't take them to laser tag like usual.
In a few hours Sofia, Maria and Phil and I make it at the airport to give a warm welcome to a very cold guest. It took a while to search for the airport, but we finally were able to make a formal greeting to our newest member: Ivan Petrov. His half white hair mixed with his one light blue eye left a very striking appearance that clashed with a very down to earth personality. In our dialogue with one another, it was apparent we were feeling each other out. Each question from Ivan felt like an interrogation from a shifty prisoner prepared to run. But I kept my cool and answered each one carefully as I brought him to our desired destination.
We weaved through Philly's traffic as Ivan took the time to see the surroundings and talk with the others.
"So, um how did you guys become Champions?" Ivan said.
"Well, my sister and I were vigilantes that took on a gang that took money from our father," Maria said.
"Ditto," Sofia said while being completely covered in clothing.
"I met the boss during a run," I said.
We finally arrived at the Trophy Case and gazed upon a nervous Chelsea that quickly hid away a small stack of note cards. Ivan's visage crippled as his hands started to smoke from the sheer cold he gave off.
"So your the one that took my friends that night?" he said with bitter rage.
"Yes, I am, and I promise you that not only will I spend the rest of my life paying for those I've taken but as you can see I'm also making sure that I devote my life to protecting who is left as well. If you choose to stand with us, I will make your time here worthwhile."
The scene displayed a thick tension, but we stood aside concerning Chelsa's code.
Ivan's hand stopped to smoke, and he relented but still kept an icy glare.
" I do not like being tricked Chelsea, but I'll join your group on one condition. Levi, Peter, and Yuri, I know this is a very selfish thing to ask but remember their names."
"Um, sorry to interrupt Chels but I think I broke the reinforced Ipad you made me. Oh hi Ivan, welcome to the states," David said almost comically on point to break the tension.
To interrupt the exchange, even more, the sound of a phone dinged loud enough for all to hear, with Ivan the only one to understand it's meaning.
"Trouble," we all said as we prepared for a new mission.
Chelsea approached her phone, and in a few minutes, gave out a report. Gave out the report.
"Police officer Darren Beck was found killed at his apartment building a couple of hours ago. Reports are saying he physically got crushed to death like a pancake. This report does match two other reports of the same nature. Three weeks ago Perry Black was murdered the same way in Newmark and two weeks before that Monica Dial was also killed in Jersey City. All of them were cops in the same department until a couple of months ago."
"So what we might be looking at some revenge scheme by a helix criminal. Either way Champions it looks like we're going to have to show this criminal that they can't get away with murder."
All those action movies were helping with my banter.
"Okay, give me a little bit of time, and I will join you, keep me updated," said a ready to go Ivan.
Even after I was labeled as a hero by the public, I never saw myself as a harbinger.
Almost comically David came from his room explaining about how his 15th reinforced Ipad was broken we stopped Call me humble or down to earth but I just never saw myself in the grandiose type of role. I've been the type that would give someone a little bit of help walk away without any need for glory. So even I didn't know how I wound up as "co-leader" of a team of superpowered millennials. I always felt conflicted in the role, and I was more than willing to accept my limitations though I did have to draw the line at this assine plan.
Chelsea pulled three all-nighters (not that she sleeps much anyway) into police records and social media and we managed to track down one other potential targets. Nick Bendis was a former cop that recently has become an overnight party animal after Genesis. With Derek gone the only plan we had was a stakeout mixed with an uber account, unfortunately, using my car. I thought that this was a little bit of a looser idea, but it proved to be effective as in a couple of hours I get a hit and pick up the target.
The African American man was utterly exhausted as he came in, barely even able to say his destination. It was easy to hijack his ride and eventually introduce him to the rest of the team in an abandoned warehouse as he quickly took notice of the change in scenery while I put on a mask.
"What the hell is this?"
"An interrogation and if you want things to be easy for you then you'll answer the questions we have."
He got a little heated as I could almost smell the tension in the air.
"I'm a former cop buddy I got connections that you can only dream about asshole! What makes you think that I can't find out where you sleep?"
"Because I have connections of my own."
Out of the shadows Blackout, Gargoyle and Ivan in his prototype suit and new code name entered. Despite the blue tights, he made it work with a proper hood and chilling attitude.
"We are not killers Mr. Bendis; all we are doing is preventing more death. And we intend to go to great lengths to prevent more."
Nick relented though he still tried to show dominance through the next few lines.
"What do you want from me?"
"Right after the New Dark Ages Perry Black, Monica Dial all went out of Philadelphia police department at the same time on the same day."
"So? I'm pretty sure half the cops in Philly either are dead or quit during that time."
" Yeah, and suddenly right out of the blue 3 of you all get murdered in the same way in very fast times."
That threw him for a loop and then his composure breaks.
"Wait there dead?"
He reviled at the news and finally came clean as guilt finally set in.
"Okay, I'll talk. A couple of years back Darren had decided that police business wasn't becoming profitable enough, so he started making shady deals with some really bad people. He only kept his secret between a couple of close allies around the precinct, and eventually, Monica brought me on. About ten months ago, we were investigating a couple of bank robbers. I don't know how he did it, but Darren made a plan where about to steal the money from the robbers. But from my partner, Dawn found out about our dealings and was about to bring us all down so in a turn of events we panicked and knocked her out. We thought she was dead, so we buried her alive in a cemetery. We struggled to come up with a plausible backstory, but then Genesis happened. And before we knew it, we all had an alibi. We got the money from the now dead robbers, burned down their base, and made our separate ways. But I just couldn't associate myself with them and cut ties completely."
The tale disgusted me; my great uncle was a cop that did everything he could to bring people to justice. With the information now recorded, I was more than happy to leave him to the authorities. That was until a large portion of the wall behind us covered itself in a blue aura. Before I could even yell "Frack," the wall completely collapsed, revealing a speeding car heading straight for us! My neurons fired at light speed at oncoming danger with my mouth shooting off orders like bullets from a minigun!
"Gargoyle get Nick, Winter, and Blackout the car!"
Ivan and Maria followed the order to the letter as Gargoyle clumsily made his charge towards Nick and I. Meanwhile ice and lightning formed together to both blinds the car windows and destroyed the tires. However, the assistant simply drifted to the left and used her mysterious power to suddenly clad both Ivan and Maria in a blue aura that forces them down to the ground. They struggled in pain as the woman got out of the car. She was a person dressed in green pants and a blue jacket accompanied by a ski mask and revolver. She removed her mask, and with age that I swear burns brighter than any star, she makes her demand.
"I know who you are Champions, and unlike most of Philly, I'd rather not see you dead. Move aside and let me kill the bastard."
Nick recognized the voice and immediately started breaking all composure.
"Dawn, is that you?" he said, filled with emotion.
"Yes, it's me, you traitor! And I am here to finish what you started."
" Are you accusing me of that?! I told you, I warned you to stay away. It's not my fault you were too blind to see reason. Too blind to see how pointless it all was!"
"Oh, trust me I see the truth now, Nick. But I'm still going to make sure your sins sink you straight down to hell."
The same blue aura covered her body and in an instant gravity gets flipped off upon her weightless ascension. She rebounded off the walls like a bouncy ball all the while firing multiple shots from twin pistols. Gargoyle in haste used his size and wings to cover Nick and me, but soon enough he also got cloaked in the same blue light. Dawn took the advantage to pushed off the wall to physically knock him down! I didn't have the luxury of time to marvel at such a feat, so I simply deployed a smoke bomb off the ground to mess up her aim. I force Nick to get down to the earth. However, before I could even get a couple of warning shots, I was covered in the blue aura as well, but unlike before it levitated me straight to the air. Before I could even process what happened or also fight against the invisible force, I'm slammed into to Maria's side as she was just starting to get up somehow free from Dawn's powers.
The all powering weight crushed my body and my very spirit as I knew I was powerless. My head was dizzy, and I felt on the verge of passing out before relief finally takes hold. With every muscle in my body sore all I could do was watch in horror as Dawn focused all her power on the car and in one terrifying stroke the car plummeted back to earth, turning Nick into a fleshy paste! The sickening crunch of bone and guts would echo through my body forever.
Gargoyle in a rage finally adapted to Dawn's oppressive gravity as she started to inch closer and closer to her. Dawn stood her ground and even started to lift her spell on us and focus her strength on making Gargoyle fall, but he walked ever further like an unstoppable force as his charge stood unopposed. Until at the very end with both of them inches away from one another, at their uppermost limits. With David winning the power struggle, he ended the nightmare with a simple flick that throws her aside.
With the tempest of tension, we reflected our bittersweet victory. Philly P.D. was gifted with a tied up Dawn and a note explaining her powers. We were all shaken up by Nick's death but were too exhausted to talk much of it. Death, to me, was an all too familiar burden, and I always expected some possibility of failure, but this opened my eyes in a way. And while everyone went their separate ways, I was back at my apartment asking new questions that I never had the insight to ask. What's the future of this brave new world of ours? How many will more helixes come and go from our little group of ours? Hell, how much longer will we even be able to keep it all together? Will history remember us as Champions or a bandage for an ever bleeding Earth? And most of all, what the hell am I even doing?
I'm a has been a hero in an era long past leading a team of people with an entire future ahead of them? I'm hopelessly outmatched in a war that may never end, but even that was trivial to my greatest fear. The fear that war is the only thing keeping me going.
So with a bit of liquid courage, I unfurl my phone and text my kid's goodnight and happy tomorrow. I crash onto my bed soon after and close my eyes, hoping that in the days to come I can finally answer the most haunting of questions. Is there more for me in this new world gone mad or will this be all I'll ever have? I guess only time will tell in the end.