It's a hopeless world sometimes.
There have been times, in my relatively long career, where I've been up against a wall of despair, outnumbered and outclassed on every level. It's not been too often I'm thankful to say, but it's occurred often enough that I've grown used to the feeling of dread that slumbers in my belly whenever it occurs. Off the top of my head there's been about four instances where I've been so beaten and down that I lost all hope. There was the time I met Icarus and September, Father Cross was at that one. That time I realised just how big and scary the universe is... and the time I promised to return a family's child... but he never came home.
That last one was Cross too, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let something like that happen again. The Father and his jackals have me cornered, they stand in front of my exit, gripping pistols ready to give me a warm death that'll end with me in a hot Hell. There's a bullet in my shoulder, but the arm still works if I ignore the pain, and the kid I'm here to save, Josh, is bawling in my arms, scared of terrors he doesn't understand.
"Out of hope, Ghoul?" Cross, the blind zealot asks before laughing, hands tightly gripping the arm of his assistant, a slave to the Nazi regime that seems to be looming over this event like an unspoken tragedy. "Don't worry, my friend. It will all be over soon."
That's when I notice I'm still alive, it's like a lightbulb sparks in my brain. They're worrying about the boy I'm holding and not risking a shot, so I beg forgiveness for my next action and wrap my arm around Baby Josh's neck in a choke hold.
"Back off!" I shout, getting up to my feet in a somewhat confused haze, one hand moving to support my makeshift shield's weight and the other keeping Baby Josh in front of my face. "Get back or I swear I'll wring his little neck!"
I see the looks of confusion on all their faces, they don't understand my ploy, all except Cross anyway, who's smile has devolved into that of a frown, an expression that causes me great concern because I know what the man is capable of when he gets angry.
"He's lying." Cross says, slow and calm in a sadistic manner as I slowly begin to edge towards the group before me. "He's got no backbone! The freak! He-"
That's when I strike.
They're distracted, not thinking clearly because of the excitement, so when I get within distance of one of Cross' guards I give him a swift kick to the torso and send the man stumbling over the cramped walkway we're all standing on. He lets out a scream and then time seems to stop. There's a couple of seconds of shock as everyone realises what happened, the air seems to get pulled inward as we all take a deep breath, and then the whole goddamn place lights up.
"Alarm!" Someone screams from below as I ignore their cries and lunge at Cross' other guard before slamming the man's skull against the wall like I'm cracking a coconut.
Sure enough, not a second after, the building bursts with noise and shouting, accompanied by baby Josh's constant crying, I kiss his brown hair before turning to the foulest piece of slime I've ever met.
"What is this?!" Cross snaps, head turning quickly out of a mix of fear and unwanted confusion. His assistant is babbling at me in German, so I've no idea what he's saying, but based off the kid's tone I get the feeling he's calling me some very rude names.
"End of days, Cross." I say, pulling off my belt and fastening it around my chest to carry my little sidekick. Something tells me I'm gonna need both my hands for whatever comes next. "End of days but not like you wanted. Just for you."
Then I hear what sounds like engines sputtering for a brief second before they give way to a consistent hum of pure power, Father Cross hears it too and begins to laugh. Looking to my left I understand why,
Colonel Twilight hovers over the walkway of his own power, suspended in air like a dark angel of death, gaunt in his black armour yet unspeakably powerful. He looks at me with the coldest of eyes and a brief smirk appears on his face as if he's almost impressed by me. Not being stupid, I instantly grab the revolver hidden in my pants and I thank God it's loaded because I'm gonna need it.
"The boy." Twilight says, arm extending forward as it begins to shake with some sort of controlled ability that I can't even begin to imagine. "Give him to me." There's nothing in his voice except the crackle of his suit's translator, accompanied only by the accent his country granted him, there's no emotion, not even anger, which makes him all the more terrifying as I realise just how important the Colonel must be to the grand scheme of things.
If I had a third hand it would be reaching for a cigarette right about now, my nerves feel like they're on fire and based on what I've heard about my opponent I'm probably about to join them.
"I'll give you Hell." I tell him in a gruff, tired voice before firing my revolver.
The bullet works perfectly, fired from its chamber like a cannon. The problem is in the thing's landing, as rather then strike the Colonel's skull as intended, it's instead stopped an inch from the man's face by some sort of invisible shield and sent shooting back into the wall just above my head.
It's some sorta magic. Gotta be.
Instantly the Colonel zips towards me, hand having turned into a fist rather then whatever mechanical trick he was originally about to pull. Having seen the thing coming, the punch misses me by an inch and instead smashes through the bricks behind me in a flurry of smoke and debris. Whatever stories and legends I've heard about this guy, I now believe.
Feeling lucky, if even the briefest of seconds, I smack my revolver into the back of Twilight's skull, hoping it'll do some damage at a closer angle. Unfortunately the only damage done seems to be to my weapon, which is bent completely out shape upon coming into contact with the barrier the Colonel seems to have projected around his body.
Understandably, the Colonel begins to get angry at the attack.
Instantly his free hand shoots out towards my chest, and for a second I think he's going to rip my heart out. Luckily he's holding back, since all he does is grab me by the shirt and fling me through the air across the warehouse.
Luck. That's the only reason I'm still alive.
All I know is I land unharmed on one of the warehouse's shipping containers, bearings lost by my sudden relocation and nothing but confusion and blood running through my head. I can't hear Josh, but that's probably thanks to the chaos erupting all around me. Then I look to the walkway above and see Twilight staring down at me with his black eyes, arm extended once again, this time he's intending to use it.
Stupidity pulls me to my feet, I should just lie down and die, curiosity keeps my gaze skyward, and I see five bright red flares shoot from the Colonel's fingers and redirect themselves straight towards me. Terror gets me moving, and not a second after I get to the ground, the crate that I landed on explodes, violently shaking the whole building.
My vision goes black, my hearing vanishes, and a theory pops into my head that maybe this warehouse wasn't storing Tuna. When I wake back up the place is on fire, corpses lie all over, burned to a crisp making me feel sick, yet somehow I'm completely unharmed, Josh is fine too, asleep on my chest with a good deal of snot coming from his nose.
Then the smoke begins to shift, and Colonel Twilight reappears, blue glass on his helmet casting a light through the dust and smoke. He catches sight of me and begins to stride forward, but I'm feeling too tired to do anything other then just try and crawl away. He easily catches up to me and just stares downward, cold and merciless like a shark. He seems distracted, lips saying words that I can't hear, until he finally takes a look at the destruction he just caused so casually.
"This is beneath me." He finally says before activating a hidden feature in his suit and vanishing in a flash of light as cold as the man who summoned it.
I stay still for what feels like an hour, but in reality is probably only a few minutes, since, when I get back up to my feet, I see Father Cross making his way across the warehouse towards his submarine transport, now visible and accessible thanks to a massive hole in the building's wall.
Then I see the smoke coming from the vehicle and know it's on it's last legs thanks to a piece of rubble sticking out the side of the hull, and against my better judgement I decide to try and do the right thing for once in my life.
"Cross! Don't!" The words escape my lips just as the man reaches the vehicle's entrance. He stops, smiles one last time and turns towards me, empty eye sockets still somehow containing a hint of life within.
"Ghoul. This isn't over!" Father Cross says before beginning to move back towards the submarine, guided by the safety rail. "There will be another day."
I begin to limp towards the man, far too late as he closes the door behind him and sets the thing in motion. Laughter bounces from the hull, courtesy of the vessel's pilot, and all I can do is watch in silence as the submarine begins to move silently across the wate.
It explodes a few seconds later, illuminating my mask with a bright orange glow, instinctively I turn my back to shield Josh from the blast before taking one last look at the ocean, now black with oil and metal debris. Finished for the day, I begin to walk, trying to find a nice quiet corner of the building to sit down in.
Josh is asleep. I'm still alive somehow, and thankfully I didn't kill anyone, contrary to how I thought the night was gonna go. So overall I'd say it's been a pretty decent evening.
I light a cigarette and take a long, deep smoke, my reward for a job well done. Josh lets out a little yawn and I stroke his fat face.
Maybe there's hope for this world after all.