There was no true hell.
That's what some people would say when asked about the afterlife. At least it's what David Lupton would say, there were things far beyond human perception, many frightening, dangerous things that were better off staying hidden. It was beyond a man like Dave to imagine a place of true pain and wrath, where the guilty and innocent alike were forced to suffer for all eternity. He was from Sweden, a place far different from the location he was heading to, leaving behind a past he'd rather forget. If asked about hell, David would have laughed and said that there was no such place.
That was until the man arrived in the little UK locale known as Arch City, mostly against his better judgement. He'd heard the horror stories about the place, how it had turned into the absolute pigsty it had become, and as soon as he got a good look at the distant eyesore he began to feel uneasy, driving over a green hilltop in his expensive convertible, he couldn't help but think that the tall, unfinished skyscrapers that dotted the sky seemed to resemble sharp, deadly fangs, hardly a relaxing image, and even as the young man drove under the giant, metal archway from which the city got its name, he began to wonder whether or not he was making a terrible, terrible mistake. To make matters worse it was boiling, the city seemed to be filled with humid air that seemed to dangle from the sky like it was being controlled by some kind of ghostly weather puppeteer, stepping out of his car into the filthy, rat infested streets, David took a look at the locals, the drug dealers that scowled at him didn't seem particularly impressed, and as he moved forward towards his destination he tried in vain to avoid the gaze of the many homeless people lying by his feet. After walking quickly for what seemed like hours, he stumbled into a somewhat clean apartment building, a far cry from the other similar structures in the area. In all honesty he didn't know whether it was the building he wanted, part of him hoped it wasn't, and that would be excuse enough for him to turn tail and return back to his home country.
Unfortunately it was the right place, and by this point in his adventure, poor Mister Lupton was well past the point of no return.
"Do you want a cigar, Mister Lupton?" A thick, heavy Irish accent asked in a freezing, dark room.
If Arch City was hell, than Jackie Fink was the Devil. Honestly, if a person was caught unaware by the Irish gangster, they'd probably end up thinking they were looking into the eyes of Lucifer himself. There was something about the man's pupils, something terrible that only corroborated the feeling that had filled David since he'd entered Fink's office. There was a reason people called him 'the Devil in green', it was largely due to the green tuxedo he always seemed to wear, and the somewhat green, clammy skin that seemed to be trying to rip itself free from the man's body.
Sat squirming in his wooden chair, trying not to vomit from the smell of mold drifting through the floorboards, David couldn't help but lament over the evil presence he felt flowing into his nose. This man was sinister, more irredeemable than Hitler, Darth Vader and the Priest from Footloose if they were all mixed into a blender for several hours. From the constant smirk on his face, David could tell that this man had ended lives with his bare hands, had broken the hearts of a million whores, and had probably never had to work for anything in his life, and this monster had just offered Dave a cigar,
"No thanks." The young man replied, eyes following the white smoke trail seen in the otherwise dark room. Somehow he missed the outdoor heat, as this room seemed to be below freezing temperature. "I don't really smoke." He said, slurring the words in his heavy accent. "Well, I used to. But I stopped. The wife wasn't a fan. Well I guess she's my ex wife now. But I carried it on for some weird reason." Getting tongue twisted as he spoke quickly, David decided to shut up.
"An admirable quality." Fink said, voice sounding like something out of a 1940s radio broadcast. "Yet stupid." Jackie seemed to turn around (David wasn't too sure from the lighting) and peer through the drawn blinds that covered the closest window. "You're going to want to start smoking, pal. It relieves stress."
"Is... is that why you do it?"
With a twist of his fingers, Fink let the darkness return to the room, the white of his teeth appeared in the shadow as he smiled, before soon placing his cigar down on top of a nearby desk, before beginning to step towards the young man who wished he was anywhere else.
"No." He said as if speaking facts. "I do it 'cause I wanna die quickly." David wasn't sure if the man was joking or not, and as his new boss stood, staring down at his new employee, a moment of silence began to pass, and rather than say anything to interrupt the flow, the middle aged gangster just continued.
"Is there a reason I'm not speaking with the Swedish gang?" David asked, trying to assert some authority in the conversation.
"There are four gangs in this cesspool, Dave." Fink said, moving away once again like he was following a patrol route. "Four that matter anyway. There's the Iatalians." He said, mispronouncing the name. "The Irish, that's me. Those ba$tards in the Russians, and your boys, the Swedes. We're all part of the same class. We all work together and make money together. I get the Trafficking, Russians handle drugs, Italians handle money and politics-" He rolled his eyes. "-then your gang provides the bodies."
The Irishman popped the cigar back into his mouth and grinned, biting down hard as he outstretched a gloved hand towards his newest associate.
"Welcome to the Syndicate." Jackie said, before David had even made his decision about joining the organization or not.
Days went by in what felt like years. Settling into his new role, David provided protection for the factions that helped to make up his new occupation. On Tuesday he provided guard duty for the Russians, watching over their manufactured poisons that they produced and sold to the dying inhabitants of an already dead city. This didn't really bother David, he'd done much worse over his life, and in all honesty the idiots buying the drugs were doing so out of their own free will. Wednesday was mostly nothing, he waited in his new apartment to see if the Italians had any work available for him. They didn't, so after a few hours of waiting he'd decided to hit up the town, only to realize he was better off staying in the safety of his home. These two days were far from ideal, they were mostly mundane work that he could have found in any city around the world, yet they paid well and David found himself constantly distracted from the pieces of his past that he was better off forgetting.
Thursday was the day that broke him, seeing the women brought in by the Irish Mob made David feel sick to his stomach, the dead eyes of the innocent women brought in filled him with grief, and what made it worse was the way that the cops reacted as they went by. They let it all happen with a smile, even helping move along any nosy civilians that weren't smart enough to mind their own business.
Just a week into his life in hell and David already wanted to leave, he wouldn't be able to last for an eternity. Something needed to change about this place, and one night, a few weeks after his arrival, something did.
Dave found himself guarding Fink, late one warm night, along with a minimal amount of security. After all, nobody was stupid to actually go after the man. He didn't know what was actually happening, but it didn't really matter, he was just a man standing on the sidelines, keeping an eye out for trouble, and that night, trouble did indeed occur.
Gunfire could be heard from downstairs, and as David moved into a defensive position, nervously gripping an assault rifle, he began to wonder why he was risking his own life for the worst man who had ever existed.
"Keep an eye out." David's partner said as they moved to cover the elevator door. A few seconds passed, growing even more tense once the gunfire and screams finally stopped. The ding of the elevator doors opening sent a chill down David's spine, and it led to him clutching his rifle even tighter. Instinctively, David opened fire, yet somehow all of his bullets seemed to miss the large, hulking masked man that emerged from the steel contraption. It was probably the bright red, flaming cape that threw him off his game, drawing his fire like a swirling vortex, and before Dave could even react he found himself knocked to the ground by the large, metal lance the masked man was wielding in his hands.
Screams flew from his partner, accompanied by the sounds of breaking bones, yet as David got back up to his feet, he found himself with the perfect opportunity to blow the freak's brains out, yet, for some strange reason, he didn't. The masked man stared at David once he'd finished and narrowed his eyes.
"You." He finally said upon determining that Dave wasn't going to shoot him, as he spoke the purple mask on his face shifted unevenly. "Drop your weapon and stay here." He ordered in a deep, booming voice.
Without any objection, David let his rifle drop to the ground, and with a small nod, the man with the lance moved towards Fink's office, ready to carry out whatever dark task he had in mind. Listening carefully, the sounds from the room bounced into David's ears.
"Who the hell are you?!" Jackie Fink yelled.
"Your judgement." The Lance answered, a second before the screams started. Once again a moment passed, and the masked man returned to David, this time carrying the unconscious Irishman over his shoulder.
"What's going on?" David asked.
The vigilante stepped forward out of the shadows and looked at the man across from him. When David tried to look away from the steel gaze emanating from beneath the mask, the masked man stopped him.
"Let me look at your eyes." He ordered, with David quickly complying. "Yes. I see. You're a criminal, like all the rest." The Lance finally said. "But I've seen far worse." Without another word, the man began to turn away, seemingly complacent in letting Dave go free. Yet, a mere inch before the elevator, he stopped and turned back. "Do you have a cell phone?" He asked.
"Record this." The Lance said before patiently waiting for David to get the device ready. He made no movement to get ready, he simply stood there, confident in his own ability to speak. "Citizens of Arch City. For too long have you suffered. After years of oppression from scum like this-" He raised Fink's unconscious face towards the camera. "-I would have hoped it had finally ended, but it seems that not only was I mistaken, but things have gotten worse since I last visited this place in my youth. There is a saying, that evil only truly wins when good people do nothing to stop it. Well, I aim to do something about it. I may not be a good man, but I believe that others, brave men and women will soon join me in this fight. Not because it's the right thing to do, but because we're brave. We are resilient, and none of us shall stand for any of this injustice." Taking a moment to breathe, the man continued to glare at the camera. "My name is the Burning Lance, and I'm not going to stop until Arch City is safe again."
Hitting the stop button, David looked at the Burning Lance, confused and somewhat amazed.
"What... what am I supposed to do with this?" He asked.
The elevator doors began to close in front of Arch City's first vigilante.
"I'll leave that up to you."
Glaring down at the video footage, David knew exactly what he was going to do, and soon, once the Burning Lance's message found its way online, the masked man found that he was no longer alone in his fight against crime.
Standing on a rusted fire escape, Mister Lupton felt a tinge of excitement.
"Alright." He muttered while pulling a metal helmet down over his head. "It's time to save the city."