Just when I thought I was out...

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This isn’t how I wanted things. I never had any desire for something so heinous to come from my role. I understood the responsibility I was undertaking and the legacy I was appointed to uphold.

I recognized the risks and accepted my duties of the mantle without question.

Hundreds, maybe even thousands of people that didn’t deserve pain would feel untold agony from the effects of my actions. All for the greater good…. This…. This is too much however. Even for me.

“Dar-Dark….”

One week ago

The damp cave howled in a low deep tone. The combination of below normal air pressure and multi-tunnel system made the wind sound like an old man exhaling his final breath. The cool breeze from the Blüdhaven Bay brushed against the stubble of a weary figure. His trained and battle hardened physique stood against a glass vault as his azure eyes washed over its contents. His subtle reflection had nearly obscured the ebony armored apparatus that had been propped on the opposite side of the glass while dust had concealed the etched emblem, overemphasizing its stagnation.

“Grrrr….”

“Easy, Duke.”

The man leaned down to the lengthy Doberman sitting at his knees. A small smile crept on his face as he brushed behind the canine’s ears, calming him down. Duke did well to distract the hermit from his own thoughts that often plagued his psyche. Although they couldn’t talk to each other through spoken word, they held a bond that eased his troubled mind.

“Everyone is gone, Duke. The men and women we knew are either passed or lost. All we have is each other, Boy. The world doesn’t need him anymore. Not in this world of metahumans and gods.”

He walked back to the center of his dim cavern, leaving behind the clear glass tomb that held the legend he once was, while Duke had trailed closely behind him. His paws pattered against the concrete floor while the solitarian grasped the shoulder of his leather seat and placed himself down. He wasn’t elderly, but his mind knew things far beyond his age and his eyes were weary of the things he had seen…. But his heart was still burning for the times that had gone by.

“17 year old Caucasian female with jet black hair reported missing in your area.”

The computer had been voicing crimes and incidents that he would normally respond to, but he either lacked the desire to intervene, or someone with much more biological capabilities and fame would offer their help before he could. He was only 38, but he was archaic when compared to others.

“Someone else will investigate.”

He murmured to Duke in false assurance. The Doberman’s ears laxed in what seemed like disappointment. The careless man paid no attention, but instead stood up and walked towards an old green army cot that had been set up nearby.

His home above ground was in ruins as his identity of a politician and philanthropist was just as dead. Reported missing and even deceased, no one would come looking for him. The remains of his public residence were more like a mausoleum and his possessions were artifacts for treasure hunters to collect and say,

“Look here! Look at what I’ve stolen! A piece from the millennial man’s home! I wonder how much I can get for it?”

He groaned wistfully as he rolled over to his side, closing his lids and letting his fatigue take over.

The next day

“Loud screams have been recorded from the security cameras in your area."

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The man was once again seated in front of the same computer; going through the motions he had been so accustomed to. Everyday was exactly the same. The report from yesterday however, kept tugging at the back of his mind. Pulling his attention in it’s own direction.

“Someone else will get it, Duke.”

The Doberman, sitting in his same spot as usual, growled louder this time. Standing on all fours and utilizing his teeth to tug at the hermit’s pant leg.

“No, Duke.”

He replied without acknowledging the dog any further or even offering a gesture, but the dog refused to relent. He kept gnawing at the cloth and pulling harder. He would no longer let the man lay in his own depression. The man isolated from society wanted to fight him off or push him away, but he couldn’t. His consciousness was finally ensnaring him.

“Fine!”

Present

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

The man adorned in the once dusty apparel of the night, had gritted his teeth in harsh regret. Clenching his hands into fists he hunched over the gurney, tears falling from his face and onto the blood stained sheets.

“Dar-Dark….”

The lifeless whisper came once again from the hospital bed. The 17 year old that had lain there and sluggishly rolled her head to the man sobbing above her. The sheets soaked with her own sanguine fluid covered almost everything from her neck down. Almost everything, except for the surgically cut square in your chest that once held a heart. Knives and torture tools used by the now escaped assailant were tossed carelessly along the floor.

If only I had answered the call. If only I wasn’t wrapped up within my depression.

“Dark…Vengeance.”

She whispered it once more before her eyes closed for the final time. Leaving the Man, the myth, alone once more.

“Never again.”

He replied to the girl. He removed the kevlar woven glove and held her lifeless hands in his. He squeezed his eyes hard, gathering his composure…. but he couldn’t. He howled in mixed anger and sadness. He failed her as he had failed many people, but not anymore. He could no longer run from what he was and had always destined to be. Alexander would remain dead....

But Vengeance never dies.
But Vengeance never dies.

9 Comments

Vexed beyond belief.

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A static of fire like electricity shoots through my skull, blinding me for a few moments but the unbearable pain that sears within my cranium decides to make it feel noticeably longer. Within that second of an instance, I forget everything, my name, who I am, or what it is that happens to be occurring around me even. It feels like some astronomical force had decided to turn up the gravity of the world when my body comes crashing down onto the ground and my torso gives way to some misshapen object. I bring my gloved hands to my ribs, clutching onto my side hoping to quell the agony that demands to be acknowledged.

I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of thick ink, but blinking my eyes in rapid succession, my vision comes back to me and the sight that I see before me isn’t as welcoming as one would imagine. My left pectoral muscles are failing to move in unison with my right. Unilateral rise and fall of the chest is what doctors call it. Paradoxical breathing. Shit. I punctured a lung. I won’t die, not yet at least. The ebony and sapphire suit detects the change in life signs and begins working as it was designed to. Internally and behind the scenes, applying an occlusive dressing to patch any possible holes and prodding me with a needle for chest decompression. Much like the classic movie, Three Kings. Marky Mark is a hero in my eyes.

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A loud groan escapes my lips as I sit in an upright position, craning my neck to see what it was that I had landed on. A trash can. A god damn trash can almost killed me. I shake my head in disbelief while rising to my feet, feeling an oddly cold sensation with….what is that? Rain? My eyes move to the overcast skies, the sun isn’t visible, but blanketed with gray instead. An ominous tune to a disturbing arrival. Police sirens wail in the distance as the pattering of water drops slapping against the concrete floor of the alley rival for my attention. The drawback of superhuman hearing I suppose.

“Hey! You’re suppose to be dead! Years dead!

A loud voice pulls from in front of me. A man with an umbrella and worn trench coat gazes at me in astonishment and I return his look with a puzzled expression myself. He couldn't have seen me fall, but for some strange reason, he’s still amazed to see me and shoots glances around the street as if they can offer confirmation to his illusion. I’m in a narrow alley and he’s blocking the only entrance other than a fenced gate behind me, so I doubt that someone will come running to a man yelling at nothing.

“Dead? Where am I?”

The man takes a step further, bringing out a rather vintage camera phone and snaps a few pictures.

“Are you messing with me? You’re not him. You can’t be him. Kid vanished a long time ago.”

“Who?!

I say it a little harsher than I had wanted to, but it does the job.

“Vex, Man. The Kid Acrobat. The Sapphire Eagle. Don’t tell me you just picked up a discounted costume from a closing halloween store and didn’t realize who you were trick or treating as did you? Man…you suck. Had me going there for a second.”

He’s disappointed, but it isn’t my concern. It does however, make me feel a bit guilty to have shouted at him before, but I push the remorse away. His claims do cause me to grab the garbage lid and look at my reflection. Despite being utterly grimy and covered with filth, I’m able to make out the most important features. A domino mask adorns and contours flawlessly to my face as ivory emptiness covers the eyes. A dimly, but obviously azure bird is distinctly splayed across my torso.

I can’t remember why I’m wearing this. I have no recollection of putting either of these things on…I only remember who they belonged to. My father in his more youthful days.

“You never answered my question! Where am I?” I shoot back promptly, thirsty for the answer.

“Gothic City, Kid. Get your head out of your ass. It’s 2016, that costume died years ago. Be careful just parading around after halloween!”

He flips me the bird and throws his umbrella back over his shoulder. I can’t respond even if I wanted to. It’s not possible that this is Gothic. Gothic City was finally leveled years ago…2016….This isn’t right….One question has been answered, but so many more come to mind. Like, 'why did I time travel', being a big one.

9 Comments

"Donn's Sins in the Light"

Something to just get back into things. Not 100% comfortable with it

The low hum and vibrations of large curved rotors had reverberated throughout the steel plated hull beneath my kneeled body. The only one of my basic instincts I had left to be felt momentarily. While a black shroud had blinded my vision, noise dampeners enclosed my ears. My body felt strange. Alien even. There was a number of things running through my mind, but it was strange that despite the countless bombardment of thoughts, I could comprehend every single one and file it somewhere in my brain after accurately disseminating it. I felt more intelligent and enlightened than I have ever been.

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Or at least from what I remembered. These, memories almost, keep tugging at the tailcoats of my consciousness, but whenever I felt like it was within my grasp, it vanished just as soon as it had appeared. Whenever I had tried to tear away blanket of mystery to recollect a piece of the past, it seemed like the more it was left an enigma. Not too long ago, I made the decision to leave previous experiences to the grave and focus on the here and now. My desires and aspirations becoming my drive.

"5 minutes!"

I didn’t hear the firm shout within my ear canal, but once again felt the echo of words against the drum. For some reason that I couldn’t quite describe, his infection aggravated me beyond belief. As if his voice wasn’t worthy to be spoken in the same air as mine. This aggravation gave me a sense of power.

I could clamp down upon his windpipe with my thumb and index finger with barely a movement of muscles and feel the his final breaths leave his lungs if I so desired. Punching a straight palm through the lower abdomen and clutching his liver, simply allowing the blood filled sack to leak upon my arm was another possibility. All this was feasible and even desirable. It wasn’t my task, however. Soon though. Perhaps on my next assignment where their value is considerably less.

“30 Seconds!”

Without another moment going by, I smelt the aroma of a nervous sweat with hints of adrenaline and glutamate waft to the contraption wrapping around my mandible and eventually flowing into my sinuses. The warmth behind the scent hovering above the ebony veil and eventually the blinding light of the aircraft interior crossing my ocean hazed eyes as the cloth was draped away.

“Get ready!”

As the words rushed from his lips once again, the tailgate of the plane unhinged and began to slowly lower into a wide mouth, opening over a mountainous desert with rural villages scattered among the depressions and lowlands. The blacked out military grade C-17 began making a higher and higher descent into the sky, drawing the tail more and more inverted. No more words were spoken from the exceedingly armed and weaponized guards. Their fingers apprehensively tapping against the safety switch of their M4 Carbine rifles as they awaited my first move.

I shifted my attention back to the lowered door and stood upon my heavily booted feet. The weight of my figure causing a subtle thud against the floor. Only now was my physical stature truly realized when compared to the normal frames of the soldiers. With a single nod, I signaled the release of a forest green army duffel bag to be thrown down to the earth below. I furrowed my brow in neither excitement nor thrill, but only lost in thought.

Continuing forward I leaped with my full weight thrown into a flawless dive similar to that of professional skydivers. Olympians would envy my articulation of the maneuver if they were able to scrutinize it. My mass propelled me forward as I reached towards the bag still making it’s own plummet. Snagging a side strap and securing it alongside my waste just in time before my heels made contact to the sand of the terrain. The dust rising above me from the crash.

No parachute and no equipment contraptions to have slowed my descent, the hyper durability of my body being able to absorb any sense of shock and blunt trauma, I walk forward without so much as I stain on my fatigues.

A long breath escapes my oral apparatus as I take in the soil rich air. A feeling of serenity washes over me before I reach my palms into the duffel bag to retrieve the tools of my trade that would ensure the prosperity of my mission. The cold steel of dual K-BAR blades feel perfect as I cinch them both to the medial sides of my ankles. A few grenades and gas canisters before I make my trek to the target location. A place where I will reveal the face of evil in it’s truest and coldest form. A designated point that will be the first mark of my blood reign. A village here in Yemen.

Back within the aircraft;

"We have just released a plague upon this place. I have no greater crime than this."

"No. We've done much worse than that. We've released The Brahma Bull upon the world. Lord forgive us."

10 Comments

Campaign Announcement

*Flash*
*Flash*

The bright lights beam down upon the slightly scarred face of Alexander, still devilishly handsome with a hint of rogue. The sharpness of the fixture causes the American flag pin upon his lapel to glimmer despite it being a tad worn and rusted at the edges. No backing holds the emblem, but an old style clasp is what fixes the patriotic symbol into place. His suit is the same charcoal 3 piece with an onyx tie that he always wears. The oxford shoes that adorn his feet are neither expensive nor cheap, only modest. All in all, Alexander Rook remains as he always had for press conferences and political meetings. This however, would be different.

“This last minute press conference may come as a bit of a shock to many. It’s not in the norm of things here in Gothic to do things a little unplanned.”

The crowd chuckled at his humor, everyone knowing full well that it was exactly ‘in the norm of things’ and especially so when it came to the Mayor’s realm of things. The reporters glanced back down to their paper pads, eager to jot down every single word that fell from the Gothic representative’s lips while the photographers finger’s were primed like a soldier’s hand on a trigger.

“I will not be vague nor will I be politically correct. Gothic is a family, and family holds no secrets from one another. I am angry and disappointed. I am angry at what has become of our nation. I am angry that since Gothic had been abandoned as a no man’s land we were hardly ever given a look twice by the federal government, but instead cast out to the wolves with no support. In spite of what others may have thought, we survived. We are here and we have always fought back whenever the call to arms hollered for our names.”

Heads dropped from shoulders as eyes fell to the ground in remembrance of the fallen citizens who’s lives were wasted as bystanders in gang wars, territory feuds and even terrorist attacks. No one was safe from these acts of horror. In the forefront of the trenches was Dark Vengeance, and leading the prosecution and supplying defenses was the mayor. One in the same, but two different men.

“I am disappointed. Disappointed in myself that I should have done more. I should have not only petitioned supplies from the capital, but demanded. Disappointed that I could not convince nor sway funding for our own broken legal system and law enforcement. I have pumped as much revenue from Press Industries as I could to revive this city, only to watch that company near bankruptcy."

"I am disappointed that it took me until now to say this. I, Alexander Rook of Gothic City, will run for President of the United States and work towards the rebuilding of our city and see that it never happens again to any city or state on the soil of my nation. I say this to you with hope in my eyes, scars on my hands, and sweat on my collar. Never again!"

4 Comments

Mark. A friend honored.

A Friend Honored, The Only Way I Know How.

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The gym is empty, just the way I like it. A few lights are turned on, but I left the majority of them off. Despite being the center of Gothic's newspapers, I hated the spotlight. Always have. It was just never my thing. Besides, this gym was in the ghetto and always gave me something to do when being in the Press industries building caused me to feel clustered. Even my old warehouse was just a reminder of things that once were. In here it was just me alone with my thoughts. I forgot how that could backfire sometimes.

-You should have been there for him, Dark Vengeance. He needed you, even if you think he didn’t. Even if he never said he did.

-No…No he didn’t. Mark never needed protection or even guidance. That kid knew what it was that he wanted. Even if destiny had made other plans.

-That’s not the point, Vengeance. It doesn’t matter that you weren’t there to throw a few punches along side him. Even if you were there, I doubt his demise would have been avoided. What matters is that you failed to prove your commitment to your friendship. He could have killed you long ago in that church, but no. He faked your death at the risk of his own life. Yet, you just couldn’t do the same could you?

-That’s not it. You know that’s not it. Gothic was in peril. Satar and Curve….

-Placing your problems at the feet of others? Just like your father, Black Paw. Gothic had her heroes defending her. Mark didn’t. He had always limited himself on allies and you just happened to be among the few…

-That’s not true! I had other obligations!

-Hmph. Other obligations….Sound familiar, Black Paw?

-I’m not my father. I’m not!

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My last angered statement goes unresponded to as I punch the heavy bag clear across the room. Inner conversations were an indication of insanity or serial killers sure, but then again, you needed to be a little crazy to be me.

“I…I need some air.”

Internal arguments were always the worse. I can shrug off the insults of others and ignore the false claims of the media, but my inner self is something I could never escape. The looming anger of my character had always hung over my shoulder, waiting, eager for me to make a mistake and berate me for it. From my first steps into the domino mask of Vex and even now under the ebony cowl of Dark Vengeance.

I could always grow as a person, learning and understanding at the feet of my heroes…But for some reason, this self doubt personified was always near. The death of Mark has left a detrimental blow to my psyche that will take some time to recover from, but I can place my thoughts elsewhere and honor him like he would have wanted. Into the night and into a fray.

So here is where my depression and thoughts of regret had lead me. Stalking the allies of Gothic city in civilian attire. Dark Vengeance wasn’t needed right now. He wasn’t wanted. Vengeance and Mr. Rook was a servant of Gothic and her people. The man who’s black Vietnam era Army boots stomped against the rain filled potholes of alley ways and ghettos belonged to only Alexander. A gray jacket covered his shoulders and a mixture of dirt and grime concealed any facial features that would alert others of any recognizable traits.

Solar and Lunahawk would likely not be proud of this. Master Ishin would likely be ashamed as well for the next few hours to come. Hell, the old me would scold me for the lengths I am about to go just to get a little rise from the belly of the underworld. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. It only matters for one reason.

“Hey, Buddy? Where you headed?”

Bingo.

“Hey! I’m talking to you! Little while away from the suburbs em I right?”

Ignore him. It’ll anger him a little more. The rage will blind him and give him a little more adrenaline, hopefully making it more of a fair fight for the thug. He’s continuing to follow me. I only caught a glance of his physical appearance, but was already tracking him little less than a mile upon crossing his field of vision. His footsteps are heavy, indication of a large build. His breaths are shallow and rapid. Likely derived from drug abuse. His voice is haggard and cocky, probably from overindulgence in alcohol.

“My friends don’t like it when I’m being ignored!”

At the last statement the sounds of metal knocking rhythmically against more metal echoes around me. A few more footsteps are reverberating from behind. Looks like his ‘friends have arrived.The smell of cheap gun oil wafts through the air. Whoever it belongs to thinks he knows guns, but would be willing to spend the more cash if he really was.

“Empty your pockets!”

I flip them the bird and continue walking unfazed. It works. The initial thug makes his move.

“That’s it!”

The ‘woosh’ noise of the metal pipe within his grasp surprisingly cuts well through the cold air. If it was anyone else, he would have landed his strike and broken a few bones without a second thought….But I wasn’t anyone else. I was Dark Vengeance, heir to the cowl. I lift the targeted leg and my knee is brought up to my chest, as I feel the close brush of the pipe, I drop the same leg. The boot crashing down to the gripped fists and slamming them against the concrete. The snapping of his wrist bones rivals the loudness of his screams. I smile and revel in the pain. Mark would have loved this.

His friends hesitate for a moment, but seemingly brush off the doubt. They must believe their numbers are greater than my willingness to cripple them. Idiots. My back is still turned to them and I remain on my path of serenity. A masculine grunt fills my ears as a knife is unsheathed and it’s blade glimmers from the light of the street lamp catching the attention of my cybernetic eye. I try not to abuse the augmentation, but instinct takes over. The blade is brought down and aimed at my shoulder, the superior tapezious to be more specific.

Not a moment wasted before I reach my arm backwards and snap my fingers shut around his forearm, cracking the radius and ulna bones. He opens his mouth to let out a shriek, but I swiftly pull my own arm down, bringing the entirety of his body slamming against the ground and breathless. The fire is growing inside of me. A part of everything that is about to occur should be justified. I should be telling myself that if I were an elderly man, a woman or even a child, my life would be at risk and so I was cleaning up the streets just like I use to so many years ago in my young age….But I don’t make any excuses.

I don’t cringe in regret. I smile in ecstasy. These men had literally nothing to do with Nox’s death, but I feel better in the passing moments. Like…Like I truly was honoring his memory. Like a part of him was watching over my shoulder in the sky like a child watching Saturday morning cartoons. The though of him being a hovering angel causes me to giggle a little as I continue to make hamburger meat of the rest of the gang. My knuckles grow numb, and my vision goes red.

This is for you Mark. You always said I was soft after all. Hell, if it wasn’t me doing this, it probably be you.

Besides, your funeral is coming up.
Besides, your funeral is coming up.

20 Comments

No more justice. Only vengeance.

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Alexander was filled with mixed feelings as he rested his back against his simply designed office desk. His eyes gazed over the setting sun as it's rays slowly fell beneath Gothic's city line and the shroud of the night were sluggishly blanketing over what had once been brightness. Gothic Mayor, just like his predecessor. It would be an achievement that any crusader of justice could hope for, but where there should have been a sense of accomplishment, there was only the void of fear and dismay.

Was he becoming a carbon copy of Malcolm? Was his methods simply too similar to the original Vengeance of the Night? Was he too, doomed to a short life complete with night escapades fighting for people that refused to fend for themselves against criminals that seemingly multiplied as the years dragged on?

He furrowed his brow and gritted his teeth at the moral dilemma before him. Granted, mayor was only a stepping stone in the grand scheme of things that he had planned since raising himself from the grave. The memory of the betrayal was still fresh even though the scarred laceration in his abdomen had healed over. Alexander's face had been printed on dozens of newspapers and magazines with valiant tales of, "The Orphan turned Revolutionary" or "From adoption to office".

The newly achieved fame did faze him as there were many more important things that needed tending too. He hadn't spoken to Mark Antony in months even though they had been working on a classified project together. Even the Hawks had yet to be seen despite the three of them sharing a romantic relationship. The days to come would be arduous and daunting, but he was up for the task. Gothic was falling into a perpetual black hole of self destruction and poison. Maybe Alexander was approaching things wrong. Perhaps the whole, 'pure and noble hero' were just traits that didn't serve as strong of qualities that he needed to exemplify.

His mind focused on that one thought. Pure and noble….

Finally the sun had set and the last employee under the mayor's office had been making their way out of the political building, likely heading to their home where a loving family was awaiting them. Maybe even a home cooked meal and children with ecstatic smiles adorning their faces.

Alexander would be lying if he said he weren't jealous. Every shred and fiber of his being desired to live a simple life somewhere else, but that envy was only outweighed for his hunger of justice. He could not live a happy life, free of fear and oppression while others lived in terror.

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With a rekindled fire in his heart, he strutted towards his steel bolted doors to ensure they had properly been sealed. Content with the security, he made his way back to the desk and pulled a single drawer. The carvings of the old brass sliding along his callused hands as he yanked at it, revealing a single glowing button.

He pressed the electronic stud, allowing the complex technology to scan his DNA and fingerprint. A muffled whoosh hissed it's way from under the desk, revealing a steel barren staircase leading into what could best be describes as an abyss. A few steps later and a couple minutes pass as Alexander reaches the bottom of the darkness while the static of industrial lights clear through.

The newly brightened room reveals a single titanium cage rising from the center of the room. It's ebony powder coated metal obscures the contents while a symbol adorns the front exterior. Finally reaching the top of the lift, Alexander steps forward. Slowly and silently, his cold demeanor never changing. A smile would normally ease across his face in eagerness at this point, but things were different. He was different. Gothic has yet to change, and in response. He would have to change himself.

"Vengeance is a monster of appetite, forever bloodthirsty and never filled."

-Richelle E. Goodrich

He whispered to himself, allowing the words to fall from his mouth like venom. The deadly annunciation shrouding his psyche and soaking into his thoughts while reaching forward with a single hand to the cage.

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Fast forward an hour later and Gothic is completely raveled in the trademark shadows that ate away at it's own soul. A rotting carcass would be too good of an adjective to describe the degredation and villainy that had devoured the once great city. No. Gothic City was a former shell of it's glorious self. Perpetually frozen in violence, corruption, and depravity.

Standing above a rooftop, Dark Vengeance was speechless and thoughtless. No emotion emanated from his face.

HIs broad shoulders were motionless as slow breaths escaped his lungs and his eyes remained fixed on what he once loved. There was no hope. There was no room to make dreams come true.. There was only what was real. The here and the now. The truth. And the only truth that remained was that Gothic could not be saved through peaceful means. Through instilling home in her people. It finally dawned on Alexander. He had fully embraced the mantle and lived through the eyes of the ebony cowl, but maybe Dark Vengeance was never meant to be a figure for hope….But one of dread.

The epiphany slammed against Dark Vengeance as if he were a drywall being punched by Thee Champ. He leapt from the building into a single, olympic like dive, torpeding downward to the spoiled streets below. The wind caressed his cheeks and chin, the only revealing skin from the charcoal armor. His cape flowed miraculously behind him like a demon chasing his own figure.

The latches at his shoulders from the aerodynamic cloth had been like claws, gripping at his figure to return from the depths of hell from which he had came even though he refused to relent. Especially now, at the time of his true rebirth. Crashing downward and landing flawless onto his feet, he stood centered around a gathered gang that had been notorious for crimes that had ranged from larceny and shoplifting, to murder and prostitution. The norm for a group of thugs in Gothic.

"The Bat!? We….we aint….done nothing!"

One of them had stammered out in astonishment. Confused and bewildered at the sudden arrival of the vigilante. Granted, they had been doing nothing wrong. Not at the moment. Yet, it did not abstain them from their past crimes nor would it excuse them from the violations to come. None of them made ay suddens movements, frozen in terror. Just as Dark Vengeance had intended. The silent and motionless moment felt like an eternity for the young criminals, but had only lasted for a second as the acrobatic assailant calculated his moves.

Swiftly, he moved like fluid, holding nothing back as he cocked his fists and let loose without restraint or mercy. Utilizing the training from the Hawk Lords and principle of 'pure fury', he tore through the crowd without hesitation. The shattering of bones echoed through the alleys and the gushing of lacerated flesh poured onto the grimy streets beneath them. They screamed and wailed for mercy, begging for him to let off. Yet, vengeance never spoke. No break in his disposition.

There was only one left at this point. A young boy who couldn't have been a day over 15. He was unharmed and cowering behind a dumpster, his sniffles and heat from his sweat revealing his location to the Night Avenger.

"I didn't do anything, Man!"

Dark Vengeance halted a few meters away, gauging the young thug.

"Then what's this?"

The Crusader bellowed while pulling up the sleeve of his prey, revealing a tattoo with a single symbol that represented his dedication to the gang. The proof that he had killed to earn his place. The boy attempted to crawl away, realizing that he stood no chance with words against his predator and fighting was futile, so fleeing was his only option. He wasn't going to escape, however. Dark Vengance wouldn't allow it. He gripped the young man by the windpipe and brought his back to the nearest brick wall, slamming his shoulder blades against the solid brick while his other hand reached into his waistband and retrieving a scalpel like Knight-a-rang.

"WhhhaAaAAt….waaaAnt."

His choked words were barely audible as he was losing air and simultaneously losing consciousness. Vengeance wouldn't grant him that gift. No, no matter how old he was, he was still a murderer and didn't deserve to sleep through the agony that was to come.

"I am Vengeance. Vengeance is a monster of appetite, forever bloodthirsty and never filled."

His growls permeated into the ears of the thug as he brought the weapon closer and closer to his target. Dragging the razor's edge from one side of the brow and slowly across to the bottom of his jaw.

The cut was deep and agonizing, just like he had desired. Blood flowed from the wound, but he didn't stop. He brought the blade to the opposite side, repeating the movements. Dark Vengeance wasn't going to kill him. No. He was at least better than that and falling into that pit. But the world will know, Vengeace isn't about justice, but revenge.

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25 Comments

He's back, with{out} Vengeance.

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Gothic City; Present

The stage set before Alexander was the complete opposite from his last public appearance, which happened to have also been the afternoon that he took public office as the Gothic District Attorney. Instead of the heavy drizzle raining down into the cool air and dark clouds that had loomed overhead, the sky was bright and the sun was shining down upon the smiling crowd. Unlike before where the people had stood with solid faces and had patiently been awaiting the result of their election, they now cheered with smiles and hope awaiting to hear the annual speech given by the official member of the judicial system.

The district attorney sat comfortably and calmly with his rough hands clasped together along the modest grey suede of his pants not unlike the one he wore during his inauguration. His ebony hair combed to the side and was showing signs of greying despite only being in his late 20's. His broad shoulders spoke of a man more built than what his age should allow, but the confidence radiating off his features garnered the most attention as it spoke of a refined, yet humbled young man from less than a privileged life.

"…And without further ado, the man who has significantly lowered the crime rate of our beloved city, District Attorney, Alexander Rook!"

The applauds of the crowd were deafening as Lea, Alexander's personal assistant, friend and today's master of ceremonies introduced him. His smile gleamed along the flashes of the cameras as he stood and strutted to the mahogany podium while bashfully waving simultaneously. He reached Lea and gave her a friendly, but professional hug.

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He couldn't have achieved any of his accomplishments without her assistance. After his supposed 'death' as Dark Vengeance, she had completely taken over duties as the District Attorney and devised an elaborate plan that implied Alex was still alive let alone working, but only too ill to do so personally. She single handedly compiled the investigations and the prosecutions of over 200 mobsters, thieves, and murderers with the assistance of the GCPD all under the name of Mr. Rook. He could not have hand chosen a more diligent assistant, nor a better friend.

"Thank you. For everything."

He whispered lowly with a small smirk while turning towards the pulpit and placing a duo of fine printed paper upon its surface. An amazing public speaker with charisma that rivaled national leaders, he beamed at his fellow Gothic-mites and a optimistic sparkle in his eyes. He nodded while pursing his lips in pride before speaking, without so much as a glance to the parchment before him.

"Gothic City. My friends, my neighbors, my family. We had endured a great deal, as well as sacrificed just as much. We have stood the test of time and have held together while a nation not only ignored us, but abandoned us. We were left in the rain like a family of stray kittens, discarded by those we once called our leaders….But like a family, we worked together and have demonstrated time and time again that we are not these timid cats, but a pride of roaring lions! With fire in our spirits and desire in our hearts, we not only survived, but we persevered!"

His voice boomed throughout the audience without the assistance of the microphone as he slammed his hands against the wooden podium for added effect. This was no rehearsed act, but words spoken from his experience and from his heart. He had only just returned to Gothic a few days prior and had alerted his sister @dragonfang_, but the world still believed Dark Vengeance to be dead, and so it would stay that way. At least until the identity of Alexander Rook was solidified enough for the ebony knight to make his return.

He had trained under the stern tutelage of Ishin at the Reisho Monastery. Amongst the powerful and swift Atlanteans. With the brutal and exhausting Hawk Lords of Thanagar where he also happened to develop a romantic relationship. There were only a few more steps he had to take for his true persona, Dark Vengeance to emerge from the world of the dead, but until then, Gothic needed help from outside the darkness, not within it.

"I stand before you now with reports of over 200 criminals put behind bars. A number we thought unreachable before you voted me into office. Together we watched the streets slowly, but effectively becoming cleaner day after day. Together and without the help of these crazed vigilantes! We witnessed the decrease of youth in juvenile detention facilities and a swift rise in attendance at our great city's most prominent academy's for higher learning!"

He paused from his exclamation with another proud nod and pleased smile. He began to slowly relax as the crowd praised his words and cheered in agreement. Just as he had promised himself, he never faltered nor did he ever stray from the path he set himself upon with the assistance and guidance of Malcolm Press. Appreciative of his mentor, but still humble.

"That is why I would like to make a special announcement."

The crowd's joyous and boisterous voices dropped and they all listened intently, slightly worried at the speaker's quick change in demeanor and words.

"I would like to announce that I will soon be resigning from my office as District Attorney when someone of better moral standing and righteous intent is voted by you, the people, to take my place. I will transition from this office to do what I have always wanted to do. I will be taking over as Headmaster at the Gothic City Academy!"

The congregation was puzzled beyond belief. The passage from law to education was something to be commended of sure, but if they were to lose him as such a unattainable figure in the justice system, who would they be left to turn to? Were they being deserted as a city just as they have been before? Thrown out to the ravenous wolves awaiting at their doorstep?

"Some of you may be wondering if that's it for me. If this is the end for me playing a hand in this amazing city's court system. I will respond to that inquiry with a vague, but direct answer. Not at all. If you find me worthy, and only if, I will throw my name into the campaign for City Mayor. Until then, let us enjoy this time of peace and prosperity, but never forget, that we are family ready to defend each other from the world that has shunned us so quickly!"

The announcement was rather short compared to many of his acknowledgements in the past, but Alexander had so much work that needed to be done. Finishing his term as the District Attorney was only the tip of the iceberg on his to do list. Completely consumed with bettering the lives around him, the next position was overseeing the education of the youth in the same place he learned to be compassionate.

During this time, he would take the decrease in workload to begin his campaign for mayor and unbeknowst to all those around him….Eventually, when all of Gothic was in safe and capable hands of those that were selfless and righteous. He would see to the nation's Capital. The White House. All while supporting his real destiny. The destiny of Dark Vengeance who had only a few more lessons to master.

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Vengeance now. Tomorrow. Forever! (Comeback)

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Darkness. Nothing, but darkness and loneliness. It's appropriate that the scenery of my death matches the amphitheater that my life had played upon. A charade with no meaning or point. A joke without a punchline or a story with a cliché and predictable end. An acrobat masquerading as a hero without a safety net, blind to his own demise while the world watched in anticipation. Even though I paraded around Gothic city with a white toothed smile and light humor, I was always wrought with dismay. I never truly felt welcomed or like I had belonged with my surroundings. I had lived alone for the better portion of my short life so it comes to no surprise that I die alone. Poetic justice some call the events that had unfolded and brought me to my present state. If this was the afterlife, then it was a fitting end. Or so I thought. The numbness and frigid temperature began to subside and warm my skin as I regained slight feeling in a body I thought had been cast away.

Eventually, I felt my eyes twitch and the struggle for my lungs to fully inhale. My soul's Memory of my bodies' actions? No! Bewilderment starts to set in my mind as I begin to conceive that death may have held off it's final strokes. My torso heaves and gasps, hungry for the oxygen it had been deprived of and my eyes spasm, searching for any hint of light and proof of my survival. I pause, slowing my breath as not to hyperventilate and to better calm myself and comprehend the tragic experience that befell me. Trying to split my concentration on recollecting the events and to my bodily functions.

April 15th, 2015 at 2030 I had recieved information from a local snitch on the whereabouts and location of a possible heist that targeted a nearby cathedral within the darker part of Gothic's inner city. I arrived earlier than the suspect and tactically planted explosives and traps that would ensnare my opponent before they had a chance to even predict my presence. I was wrong. Regretfully so. We began a long and arduous scuffle that took a toll on both our bodies and intellects. Why can't their face or name come to my mind? What about them is being hidden from me and why? They had drawn a sword as I responded hastily with the Knightarangs Malcolm had personally designed and I learned to master. It threw off the assassin, but only briefly. He, or she, was trying to prove their merit and potential to the League of Shadows from what I recall….Yet, they were more than adept and skilled to simply be any sort of common prospect.

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They were more important to the League than that, but I still held them close to me. Why? They were a protégé and proficient in the art of deadly striking. I had been rushed to a pew, and the cracking of my spine reverberated throughout the hall of worship. I would have normally considered such a maneuver wild and reckless, but he moved with such finesse, he rivaled my own if not surpassed it in terms of agility and acrobatic ability. It was a boy. No, a young man. A Knightfall. God, there were so many, I can't place a single face to memory. He retrieved his sword and I began to grow lethargic and disoriented despite only receiving only a laceration from it's blade and a few heavy contusions. It was poisoned with venom. Snake venom. The Cardinal Mamba. Nox!

Finally being aware of the one who dealt the final blow stirred more than just a storm inside the avenger of the night. He gritted his teeth and shut his eyes in fury. Spastically thrashing about in his prison as he howled obscenities without hesitation or filter. Everything had finally came back to him in a flood of blood soaked images wrapped in betrayed emotions. The identities of Alexander Rook, Vex, and also Dark Vengeance held no meaning to him at this moment. He was simply, and purely a man that had been abandoned, deceived, and sold like a piece of cattle. Still resting in his ebony cowl, cape and kevlar armor, he continued his rage for countless minutes, Still blind and bounded in darkness. Finally, he relented and his temper subsided long enough for him to focus on the situation at hand., but Nox would be dealt with. Severely and without sympathy.

Alexander took in deep breaths, serenading his own madness, giving way to his signature intellect. He was alive, but barely. His entire body ached and the smell of dried blood fused with dirt and grime permeated in the cramped air. The space was moist, almost humid. His arms were bound and tied along his torso, restricting what he could do….For now.

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Snaking his right arm, Alexander reached down to the side of his utility built, unlatching a small clasp and revealing a button. A secondary safety in case he couldn't reach his cowl or the voice activation had been inconceivable for the situation. He pressed firmly, but the cowl failed to perform the desired purpose. Everything on his person and imbued into the suit had been damaged and destroyed far beyond use. He sighed in disappointment. There were other courses of action he could take for illumination, but none were as convenient and whatever box he was being confided to was rather snug and tightly conformed to his body. He began a rocking motion side to side, easing the restraints until the tore apart. Strange. They were already worn down and loosely tied truth be told. Things weren't adding up. He kept his suspicions at bay, but didn't ignore them. He refused to, especially now.

With his hands free, he guided them to gauge and feel for his prison. He ran the lacerated and bruised fingers along, and took in every detail that he could perceive. It was already clear, but now it was confirmed. He had been buried in a coffin and the fact that he was still breathing meant two things. He had been unconscious for a relatively short time, and knowing this, his mortician buried him close enough to the surface to receive a pre-designated amount of oxygen. There was no telling how much of the precious air was left so it was time to begin getting to work. He squeezed and balled his hands into fists and slammed them against the wood across his body. The awkward position he was placed left only a few inches of distance from his arm to the lid of the coffin, not being able to put as much power behind his jabs.

A surge of agony rose through his knuckles and radiated all the way to his deltoid, reinforcing his will to survive. He endured and carried on with his efforts, shutting out the firing nerves in his brain that screamed for him to stop. The kevlar gloves were torn and lacked the protection they normally would and his gauntlets were missing the cherished and rare vibranium that reenforced its design. He continued to bash the timber case without hesitation or slowing down, cracking through as soil fell through the crevice and onto his recently scarred face. After countless blows and getting through, he began to dig. Clawing his way out of the cheaply put together sarcophagus, leaving behind all doubts he had of himself and lifting his heavy figure up and onto the ground above his own tomb.

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It was night time, but the bright stars in the sky felt like a newly risen sun that had been hidden away from him for ages. He laid motionless with all his limbs spread, his muscles enjoying the stretch while rain began to pour upon his grimed cheeks and into the newly earned scabs that adorned his face. Shrugging off the moment of bliss, he sat up and inspected his new surroundings while occasionally glancing down at his attire. He was in a rather old and forgotten graveyard while his own tombstone was left unmarked for whatever reason.

Gothic city was miles away but the lights emanating from the skyscrapers could be seen from across the bay that washed along the coast of the cemetery. His eyes went back to his garments. His sleeves were torn completely off from both of his arms and his cowl had been cracked and faded, losing most sense of protection that it would have provided. His boots were still completely put together, but not unscathed. The gloves were worn down and too thin to have any real purpose on keeping on. His gauntlets were missing their critical virbranium components like earlier assessed, but were in better condition than expected. He rotated his joints to get the blood flowing and create some warmth to swim through his body. An odd item rubbed against the interior of his right gauntlet against his skin, causing a slight irritation. Intrigued, he looked inside. A small note had been folded on a strange piece of parchment. Retrieving it, he was apprehensive to it's author and purpose.

"Alexander,

By now you may have deduced (or not), that the capsule you had ingested was to counteract the effects of the snake poison that had sliced you in critical regions. Masterfully, I may add. I don't expect you to understand the reasoning behind my treachery nor do I care to explain. I don't need your blessing nor do I intend on seeking it either. I have plans set in motion that demanded you, as Dark Vengeance, be put away from the known world. I was the one that buried you with 24 hours worth of oxygen in what you had left wearing because most of it had been destroyed in our fight. I ask one, and only one thing from you. Stay dead, and stay away. Above all else, trust me on this. It's bigger than you. In return, I have enclosed a map with directions leading to The Reisho Monastery. Yes. THAT Monastery. You can either thank me later or seek revenge after this is all over. Until then.

-Nox

The handwriting was a little distorted and a tad difficult to make out. It's a challenge to tell whether it was written sloppy or so neatly that it just looked like it was written without a care in the world. That perfectly described the young Knightfall, however. He was a chameleon that was hard to decipher or get a read on. They say you can accurately determine a person's personality through their name. I disagree. It's through their writing. Every single stroke dripped with his personality. Unapologetic. Head held high. No regrets and even condescending. It only did more to piss me off.

It answered a reoccurring question though. It was April 16 around midnight by the letter's indication. Still...He was the fool. The hypocrite. The deserter. Through all this, he expects my trust. Without letting me in on any of his plans or failing to warn me in any way, he expects my trust? And for my city to mourn me? No. I will go to The Monastery to hone my skills and not only better myself, but Surpass not only that spoiled child, but also my predecessor. This isn't my city. It might never have been. It might have always belonged to the night, but I will not abandon her. I may return, but for now I needed to improve myself before I can improve anything else. Things were dire, but at least I was alive. The future was no longer bright. I no longer held hope. Vex was left inside that coffin with the knife of Nox still penetrating his spine. Only Dark Vengeance had clawed his way out of that cradle of hate. Vengeance never dies. Let the world know my anger, and let my enemies feel my retribution. Now. Tomorrow. Forever.

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Flashback (Part 1)

(Nothing too extravagant or detailed, but something I enjoyed writing and elaborating on. Comments and feedback welcomed!)

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I can still remember the first time I adopted the moniker Vex and dressed myself in the cheap prototype cloth outfit that would eventually evolve into a perfect representation of who I would become. Ridiculous it may have seemed at first, but necessary nonetheless. I was 16 at the time and had looked like any young adolescent at the time period would. My hair was a lightly colored shade of onyx that highlighted the ocean blue of my eyes while my body was a tad more lean compared to my classmates. Then again, being the high school varsity team running back and a prominent member of Gothic Orphanage's acrobats class, it was expected. However, there had been a subtle, but vital characteristic that set me apart from friends and other children around me.

The sapphire hue in my eyes hid a insatiable hunger for retribution and thirst for justice. The disappearance of my only family member a few years before had left me hollow and bitter. Her kidnapping made me want to hunt and kill her offenders in the most painful ways that a person can possibly imagine. So instead of waiting for Gothic's finest to hang wanted posters of silhouettes that they had no clue or lead on identifying, I went to work. I trained in the local gyms to strengthen my body and studied in the city's less than dazzling library, molding my mind.

Being young, I was far too impatient. Especially now that I look back upon the night that changed my destiny forever and carved a new path of who I was to become. Who I was always meant to be. I had studied the detective work of Dark Vengeance, the mantel I would eventually inherit, with a keen eye whenever his cases were shed into the public media. Rare, given the level of mystery surrounding him. I even went as far as to staring out my room window in the orphanage some nights in hopes of seeing the Emerald Archer and examining his unique and fluid fighting styles.

I never told anyone of my endeavors though. I was sure that my schoolmates would laugh and point their hypocritical fingers at me. The thought of bringing down the evil men that tore my life away from me would have been a ludicrous notion. A victim's pipe dream. My teachers and other adults would have probably sent me to a counselor or therapist with the justification that I would be endangering myself. They might have even diagnosed me with schizophrenia now that I think about it. So I kept my ambition for vengeance to myself. That life changing 24 hours had began like any other day.

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0600: I woke up to the sounds of my roommate creeping along the wooden floor just a few minutes before my watch was set to go off. My senses were slightly more sensitive once I began to learn how to train them. It was far from impressive, but the slow change came in handy. Already dressed in shorts and a tank top, I climbed the cathedral stairs of the orphanage and went to work in the run down gymnasium. Thanks to a few donations from some well to do Gothicmites, I had enough equipment to develop myself.

0715 The cool water from the shower head washes the salty sweat off my tense body as I take in deep breaths, controlling my lungs and trying my best to regulate my heart rate. A few minutes, but their pointless as the change never comes. The lactic acid from the workout starts to build up and I can already feel the burn pump through my muscles. I jot down a mental note, my endurance is obviously going to need some targeted work. A few minutes go by and I rapidly change into my school uniform before sprinting to the bus and arriving 10 minutes prior to the school bell for first period.

0800-1515 School passes by just as quickly as it started. Below standard education gives me plenty of time to catch up on some personal reading and further investigation into past crimes thwarted by Gothic's local heroes. The research had reminded me of an important detail that I had overlooked while preparing for my first night into the investigation. I have no alias. No protection. No way to conceal my identity or true name. I dwell on it a little more than I should for the rest of the day, but nothing comes to mind.

1600 Gun stores and tactical vendors aren't too uncommon in Gothic city, Land of Destitute. I had decided to skip the school bus and walk myself home. The market in question was bound to be located somewhere on the way. It's not like any of the caretakers or nuns at home would notice my absence. After all, it took my screaming and panicked breathes years ago for them to realize Jessica's disappearance. The neon lights glowed dimly and read, 'Protect yourself!' and 'By ammunition now!' 'Hollow tip rounds 1/2 off!'.

Yea, real protection that is. The bell string tied to the swinging door rings as I give it a firm push, alerting the teller to my arrival. He's a gritty man in a sweat stained and dirty flannel, but it's the crudely shaven facial hair that really captures my eye.

"What are you looking for, Kid?"

I hesitate, unsure of what it is that I really am in the market for.

"Pr-protection" I manage to stammer out a few words of my request, but the broad generalization doesn't really help out the situation.

"I can't sell you a gun if that's what your looking for. If you want one, just tell me and I'll give it to you outback. Damn cameras record everything except audio."

His suggestion leaves be flabbergasted. I shouldn't be shocked, but I still manage to tilt my head in confusion. I heard stories of how kids managed to get their hands on the steel weapons, but I thought that's what they were. Simply stories. To this day, I had never used a pistol against another human being, but if you had rewinded to that day and he would have given me one free of charge. I have no doubt in my mind that I would have accepted it.

I shrug off the offer and manage to escape the conversation to look at his wares, scanning over the weapons and exploring the body armor section. The list of things I can afford is considerably shorter than the list of things I can't, but I manage to leave the store with a bag that held something I thought would give me an edge that night.

1730: My roommate is out on the basketball courts with other orphans, allotting me enough time and privacy to get to work on not only my 'armor', but also my disguise so no one would go in search looking for Little Alexander Rook. The finished product almost seemed to gleam in the rays of the sunset that pierced my dirty window and bounced off the mirror I had been staring into. The orange hues contrasted the black cloth and made the center symbol look elegant, yet simple. The blue bird dyed into the fabric stuck out perfectly to draw attention away from my domino covered eyes and facial features. Jessica had often called me her little eagle growing up. A watchful protector in the sky always looking out for her. I had failed her on that day, but tonight I plan to make amends. No matter the lives, or the cost.

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Sins of the Father (Part 1)

Gothic City 2014

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"Mr. Rook?"

"Yes?" My response is inquisitive, but uninterested at the same time as I pause from reading the tattered book in my hands.

"Ms. Mycin has sent you a bouquet of flowers among other things in appreciation for your help in putting away the man that murdered her husband."

I hear her words, but they don't really resonate with me or have so much of an impact as they would have had earlier that day. I'm distressed and it's plainly obvious to my secretary as she walks closer to me while I sit on my leather chair that leans against the office wall.

"It's not like you to brush off gratitude."

Her words cause me to look up and my eyes to shoot piercing daggers at her. She's unfazed by my facial threats as per usual. Well, ever since our time at Harvard she has been an expert on how to handle my emotions really.

"Normally, you would have a modest smile and a more humble, 'anything to help' attitude, but that's not you today. Why?"

I don't respond. I couldn't even if I wanted to. How can I tell her that I don't feel like Alexander Rook anymore. I have completely succumbed to being both Vex and Dark Vengeance. That cape and cowl has devoured me and the scariest part is that I love it. In my own sub conscious, I refer to myself as such instead of Alex, like I use to be. The power that I feel when those that prey on the innocent are filled with fear, is a power that compels me to distance myself from my life as the District Attorney. Is this how Dark Vengeance felt? Would he abandon his position as the mayor because he felt being Dark Vengeance was the real him? Or have I become drunk with the mantle that he built? Either way, I know I haven't gone over the edge. I never would. It's the lifestyle that I love and thats what scares me. A man with a death wish is a man that can't be stopped.

I draw my attention back to lea and dismiss her with a small heartfelt whisper, "I'm sorry. Take the rest of the day off. Don't argue because I'll be clocking out early as well."

She reaches out to touch my shoulder, but pulls back instead and hesitates before leaving my office. I'll make it up to her somehow, but not today. Staring once again to the book I was reading before I was interrupted, it's words speak just as loud as they did earlier.

Enter Launcelot and Jessica
Laun. Yes, truly; for, look you, the sins of the father are to be laid upon the childre; therfore, I promise you, I fear you. I was always plain with you, and so now I speak my agitation of the amtter: therefore be of good cheer; for, truly, I think you are damned. There is but one hope in it that can do you any good, and that is but a kind of bastard hope neither.

The sins of the father….I blame him. I blame my father more than anyone. I blame him for the loneliness that my mother suffered when she was alone in that hospital bed, dying from the pain of labor that brought my beautiful sister in this world. I blame his obsession with his own mask that had himself murdered and caused a void in my life. I blame my faults as a man and as an adult with his absentee as a guardian. But most of all, his fault is for leaving me to care for a young girl and left me holding the burden of heartache upon her kidnapping.

When I had first took upon my mask and branded myself as Vex, I was simply searching for answers, not to save the people of Gothic in any sense. He would be so proud that I followed in his footsteps and that makes me such more furious. If he could look at me now, I wish he could feel nothing, but shame and remorse.

"I hate him!!"

I yell while kicking myself off the chair and onto the wooden floor. Tearing at the work of Shakespearean masterpiece in my grip and throwing its paper contents around the office and flailing at every piece of furniture in a blind rage. Nothing is safe from my destruction as I bash, smack and pummel literally everything in the office without any sort of disciplined striking. Kneeling to the floor, I take a deep breath blood spilling from my hands onto my pants.

"I don't want to be you, Father….but I find myself in your shoes, facing the same damnation."

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Gothic Docks; 1990

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The thick fog from the Gothic City harbor blankets over the docks making the hand in front of your own face a tad difficult to see clearly. Armed guards walk back and forth patrolling the area from anyone that gets lost or maybe even too little curious about the activities going on this late evening.

Atop a rusted shipping crate is a man laying down peeking over its sides, surveying the pier. His brown trench coat covers the majority of his figure but leaves his dirty blonde hair unconcealed.

"Black Paw, where are you?" the murmur is drowned out by the sounds of the waves crashing along the cement wharf as the man who whispered it looks around in a panicked frenzy. A single ebony hand reaches around the man's neck and seals his mouth shut from making any further noise.

"Shut up. Ever heard of mission silence? Or better yet, just hand signals?"

The charcoal colored gloved palm belonged to none other than Black Paw. One of the original vigilantes of Gothic City. Known to his friends and caped comrades as Adrian Rook and Black Paw. To those that sought to do harm in the cover of the night, he was the scourge of the underworld. The malevolent marauder. The devastating feline fighter. The ferocious and uncontrollable midnight boxer. The only restraint was his stand against killing, but nothing withheld him from beating his opponents to an inch of death. He was the fear in the night that loomed over gangsters, drug dealers and rapists.

"Whats the purpose of hand signals if I didn't know you were there? And besides, not all of us are green beret veterans."

Black Paw paused before responding in a slightly ashamed tone, "Good point. But still, you're lucky we're far enough that no one can hear us. So what do you have, Officer Dosa?"

He let out a long sigh as he reached into the trench coat pocket and brought out a pair of GCPD standard issue binoculars.

"A handful of guys. A little too many to count one hand truth be told, but it's pretty obvious that they belong to Pink Panther."

Humph. Pink Panther. What an original name. It's odd and a little stupid that as soon as we put on masks to fight the criminals, they put on masks. By the time we operated outside the law and changed our names into something that would scare the superstitious, so did they. A stupid, but viscous cycle that is stuck on repeat.

"She just doesn't get it. No matter how many times we square off, she doesn't seem to understand that I'll never let her smuggle weapons into the City."

"Well maybe you can arrest her this time instead of being seduced."

I shoot an angered look at him, but he isn't wrong. She has been known to be a little flirtatious, and especially so towards me. Must be the feline connection we share.

"By the way....aren't you having a son soon, Adrian?"

I crouch down and peek over just as he did earlier, squinting my eyes through the binoculars and try to count as many as I can that are guarding the warehouse without bringing too much attention to myself. Their all carrying 1911 pistols and no body armor. Old, but reliable.

"She's in labor right now matter of fact."

Black Paw's words come out as if it was everyday that he was having a child. His nonchalant pitch and lack of emphasis shocks officer Dosa.

"Before you say anything, this is more important."

Tightening his ceramic reinforced gloves and stretching his neck he stands and shifts his gaze back to the prone officer, "Whats the point of having a son if you can't keep him safe in the city you live in?"

He didn't wait for a smartass response and instead jumps off the crate, landing over the barbed wire fence. Crouching over he sprints towards one of the thugs. Leading with his right leg he kicks the man behind the patella of his leg while simultaneously grabbing the gun from his outstretched hand. The movement was quick and especially so given the size of Black Paw. He finishes the unarmed man with a head butt to the back of his cranium and lays down the unconscious man silently.

The tapping feet of another thug walking from around the corner alerts the midnight boxer of his presence. His costume does well to camouflage him in the dark fog and he smiles, proud that the ridiculous attire is useful after all. Running forward, a short leap to the sternum is all it takes to bring the man down as Black Paw's large figure goes crashing on top of the guard. The tumble causes him to lose grip of the weapon as it falls down the gravel and into the ocean.

"A little unfortunate don't you think little fella?"

An even wider smile creeps along his face before he unloads a barrage of punches onto the mans already bleeding face

"Ground and pound baby, ground and pound!"

These small scuffles and skirmishes go on only for a few more minutes and soon all the exterior guards have been eliminated and apprehended by Officer Dosa. Climbing onto an emergency escape ladder and staring through widest roof window, a woman clad in violet and pink leather suit is seen supervising the unloading of wooden boxes and guarded by only a few more men.

Seems she wasn't expecting me to be here tonight. Either that or she wasn't planning on me making it past the outside. Rookie mistake lady.

Jumping into the warehouse, he crashes through the window and into the center of the room directly in front of the pink and feminine woman holding twin katanas. Miss me?

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