The only sound that could be heard across the vast,sandy expanse of the wasteland was the boisterous drone of the iron horse's engine and that only by the ears of its rider, for no one else was around within miles and that was how the motorcycle riding man loved it best. The engine died to an utter quiet as the rider stopped before a dilapidated shack crafted of wood and rusted sheets of scrap metal.
The lone rover dismounted his motorcycle and went through the complicated process of opening his door while disengaging the booby traps he'd rigged around it. After this he stepped inside the dimly dimly lit by sunlight that seeped through cracks and holes in the walls. He then plopped a sack of currency from his last job on the wooden table then he he removed his gloves with the spiked bracers and his neck gaiter and goggles then off came the leather jacket, it's shoulders adorned with studded spikes and one sleeve removed so his sword arm could be free. The man who was known across the apocalyptic deserts as the Sandslayer had returned home.
He lowered his bare body which bore many scars including criss-cross ones from many duels in the white hot sun into a tub meticulously collected and filtered water. It was a pleasure to feel months of grime and sand wash away. He has been born in the wasteland and after his father died in a battle over a supply drop from the scumbags that lived sheltered in their domed mega city he had been raised by the wasteland. He made his living as an armed escort and defended the innocent as best he could with his legendary swordsmanship.
He crawled into bed. The bed was a worn sleeping bag he scavenged years ago. Beside him his sword with the spiked handguard and a dagger that looked like a smaller version of that sword lay beside him and his sawed off shotgun with them. These weapons were lined up in a perfect row. It was always so. It was some sort of obsessive compulsive habit that some psychological expert could have explained to him but shrinks did not live in the wastes. They only resided in that putrid mega city that the wastelanders called the Dome of Decadence.
He closed eyes and fell asleep. How much time passed he didn't know, for timepieces didn't exist in the wasteland (except pocket watches used in trade)but he was aroused from his sleep by the dying of an engine. His hand gripped his gun and he crept towards the wall near the door and pressed himself against. He cooked the hammer and prepared to blow away the uninvited guest.
Nobody should know about this place. His mind raced. Had an enemy tracked him here? Was he being descended upon by bandits? Mutants didn't use motorcycles and he heard an engine shut off. He could hear footfalls approaching the door and he swore at himself for not re-engaging the booby traps.
The door slowly opened and a figure entered. The figure was female. Her attire was a leather vest with spiked shoulder pads and no sleeves, a gaiter, tattered leather pants & heeled boots with spiked plates of armor on the toes. A feminine counterpart to his own outfit.
He clicked the hammer back into place in recognition of his surprise guest. She with her hair braided and pulled back in a ponytail had been here before. In fact her and the sand slayer had made love in this very edifice. She was Alexia. She was the ex wife to the grim figure who stood mostly naked with his gun in hand.
She turned toward him and lowered her sunglasses. “Well, I see you're as warm and cuddly as ever.” She said bluntly.
“You thought I was cuddly when I was hauling your posterior out of that hell hole of a combat arena!”
“Oh yes, the posterior you thought was so beautiful on our wedding night, such as it was, until you discovered a slightly unstable mind on the other end! Well that was many years ago wasn't it?”
Yes there was a history between them. She unstrapped the pump action assault rifle from her back and set down.
Her former lover stared at her through his pale plus eyes, a frown forming on the scared lips. Like him her body bore many scares but they weren't confined to her bare arms or her temples. There were deep cut scars in her mind. She stared back at him. “We are not as opposite as you believe Alexia said, “Your eyes already had a haunted look to them. They look even more haunted with each new ghost that resides in your memory.”
“What brought you back here?” he finally asked.
“I was hoping something still existed between us. It does, a butt load of tension!”
“A job. I heard some mercs are giving fits to a warlord to the south of the Green River. I thought maybe you'd like to join me in aiding them.”
“I thought so. You don't approve of my methods.”
He moved closer to her and gestured passionately as he spoke, “Methods? Alexia I've battled Mutants, cultists, and warlords alike. I left their entrails putrifing in the heat of the sun! But not once did I ever purposely butcher them.”
“And that's why it never worked isn't it? You were much too devoted to your self appointed mission and didn't need a sadistic little sidekick screwing up your righteous reputation.
“Can at least stay the night?”
“Yes. Then be on your way, Alexia.”
That night she slept in the “kitchen.” The Sandslayer couldn't sleep. He was up, remembering. He remembered those years gone by when he wandered into Trinity, a little town in the remains of Arizona. It was hot outside of course and he decided to avail himself at a saloon. He overheard some of the patrons discussing the Death Dome. He thought they meant the mega city that overlooked the miserable landscape, that loathsome zit that dominated the distant horizon.
No, they were discussing a local battle arena. He decided to check it out. He faded into the crowd gathered for blood drenched carnage like Romans at the coliseum. A match was underway and the announcer a mockery of Elvis Presley was babbling on about the gladiators and the prize, a beautiful lady with a tanned complexion and sand hair almost like his. Something animal stirred within him. No human should be a prize in a combat arena!
He kept from his place in the stands and bloodied his sword slaying the announcer. A hush filled the arena then the hulking brute who was either not entirely human or horribly disfigured at birth from the toxicity bellowed, “Ahh to prizes for Big Boy this day. Pretty girl and chance to kill Sandslayer.”
Big Boy backhanded him and sent him sprawling. He knew he'd have to fight dirty to survive the goliath charging towards him. He slid under the brute and pointed the shotgun upward between his legs and herded the trigger. The behemoth screamed to the heavens as buckshot tore through his nether regions. He was on his knees bleeding out when a well sharpened blade sliced through cervical vertebrae, removing the head from the shoulders and ending the poor beast's misery!
The remaining gladiator didn't fare much better and went down slashed to oblivion by the Sandslayer. A riot broke out in the Death Dome and the wandering swordsman took flight with Alexia in tow.
During the two months they trekked across the irradiated sands they fell in love. Unfortunately it didn't last. Alexia became as good a fighter as her paramour thanks to his patient training. But he discovered she was too vengeful. Whatever horrors she'd endured prior to her rescue had left their mark!
She enjoyed inflicting pain on the people they fought. She would drag out their agony and death while the Sandslayer favored quick efficient kills. He'd tried to stop her one day and became the object of her fury. That was the beginning of the end of their bliss.
The sun rose the next day. Alexia departed. Neither said a word but they looked at each other and the looks said without words, “I wish things had worked out for us; I really do!”
The Sandslayer spent the rest of the day hitting the bottle which was rare. A few days later he began his wandering yet again.
Eclipse Apollo - Year One - Created an endless darkness, endless night, over the world. No sun. No moon. Receding oceans and the death to all crops.
Eclipse Cybele - Year Two - Earthquakes strike the Earth, one every three weeks and two days, at exactly 5:00am, ending at exactly 4:30am. One whole day, save a single hour to gain our composure.
Eclipse Caelus - Year Three - Endless storms. Thunder, rain, tornados. Very few days of normality. Very few days to recollect ourselves.
Eclipse Faunus - Year Four - Forest fires, every two weeks, beginning at 5:00am and ending at 10:00pm. They were unnatural fires, coming from nowhere and ending out of nowhere. Nothing could stop them until exactly when it was supposed to.
Eclipse Hades - Year Five - Deadly arial plague gets released (Hades Plague), turning the people of Earth into aggressive, flesh craving, rotting skin, mindless, soulless beings. They have heightened senses, stamina, strength, and speed, all over a hundred times better than a regular human.
Year Six, Month of Diana, 3rd Friday - 4:38am
I slink in between the aisles, trying to make as little noise as possible, looking for some food for the next two weeks. It is so quiet that all I can hear is the sound of my breath and my heart beating in my chest. It is almost too quiet.
Ever since the transformation, nothing has been the same, it isn't safe anywhere. The world is destroyed, nothing but barren wastelands, filled with Hades Zombies and Pirates. Everywhere is dangerous. So, you're probably wondering, what I am doing at 4:38am, in the aftermath of a Cybele event? Let me explain something first; there are three kinds of people left in this world:
1. The Immune - which are uncommon, but not rare.
2. Hades Zombies - which happens to be most of the population and be the primary reason why the population is depleting.
3. Lethe Zombies - are extremely, causes you to crave violence and you have all of the heightened senses, stamina, speed, and strength as one of Hades Zombies, only thing is you still have your own thoughts. You still belong to yourself. An Immune Zombie as I have heard them called.
So where do I fit into them all-
Something falls, sending my pulse racing. I snap my head in the direction only to find nothing there, nothing at all. I walk towards it, curious, lifting my gun up in protection, making sure the silencer is on. As I walk out the aisle, I see a H.Z. on the other side, of the - rotten - produce aisle. It hears me and looks up, its black, soulless eyes boring into mine. I glare back at it - rotting flesh and everything - it walks away unperturbed.
-I am a Lethe Zombie.
Parallel Lives cp.7
Nameless dregs, that’s what he needed for the next phase of his balance restoring mission. A gathering of Twin Earth’s champions was the best opportunity he had to succeed in his mission.
It was easier to study the superhumans individually and get a feel for their weakness. Like when he used sonic attacks on Virtue Paragon or discovering that Side Step relied too much on his speed. There was no way he could craft countermeasures for that many supers. Instead he would have to think outside the box.
He had several contacts among the super criminal underworld. He knew a man who was what the kids would call a mad scientist. He was a common foe of Virtue Paragon and the Incredible Quartet.
This man’s services came high and simple cash would not be enough to coax him into helping. It was too risky to use Trent Kurtly’s personal funds anyway. Robbery by logic was beneath someone like the Sinister Shield. Kurtley smiled. On his Earth he had a cute woman as a sidekick but on this world he would have henchmen.
Last Call Tavern was a bar & grill in the slums just beyond the ritzy Frederick Place. This area wasn’t called the dregg streets here; it was known as Decadence Row. The tavern was so seedy Trent Kurtly was surprised it didn’t look like a Chia Pet. He stared at the building with a scientist’s analytical eye.
The occupants within looked like any other bedraggled bar-goers. They sat smoking, drinking, laughing, or shooting billiards. Some flirted with blondes that looked like the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe. In a moment of tone deaf hypocrisy the scientist wondered how many of the men doing the flirting were married. This coming from the man who was dating two different women from two different worlds.
Pulling up the scarf around his neck so it concealed his face, He entered the tavern. It was noisy and sleazy. He was in the right place. The bartender stared at the gentleman who had just entered. He was clad in a long tailed, double- breasted coat that was dark gray in color and a scarf pulled up across his face. His visage was further obscured by the golfers’ style cap pulled down low. “What can I get ya, Norman Rockwell?” the bartender asked in a deep, gruff voice hardened by untold years of putting up with incorrigible customers.
“I’m looking for Frankie “the Swine” Bacon.”
“You got brass assets coming in here and blurting that name out. What’s your business with that cad?”
Kurtly motioned with his finger for the man to lean closer. He complied and Kurtly whispered something in his ear. The man’s eyes went wide then he composed himself. "In the back.”
Trent walked back out into the dying light. Having turned his back to the entrance to the tavern, he pulled down his scarf to catch some fresh air. The cold air was converted into ghosts of frigid breath. Pulling his scarf back over his face, he trudged down the shadowy alley way.
Reaching the back of the bar and grill, Trent Kurtly donned his purple and yellow mask and rapped on the thick steel door. A small window on the front slid to the side and a pair of shady eyes peeked out. “What is the password?"
“Here’s my password.” Said The Sinister Shield as he punched the guard out cold.
He forced the door open and strolled through the den of scum buckets like he owned the joint. No one made a move to stop him. They didn’t dare. They just saw what happened to the sentry. Some were in costumes, others were dressed plainly. “I’m looking for a few bad men.”
In moments the villain was sitting at the table talking to the Swine. He was a pudgy man who led a small group of two bit enhanced criminals who had joined the two men at the table. “Sorry, You’re the cock of the walk, Shield but my boys answer to me and me alone. It wouldn’t look right, I wouldn’t want people thinking I needed another villain’s help. Sides heists like you suggested are small time.”
“Yes, Frankie but taking down some of the most renowned do-gooders in one stroke is anything but small time.” Retorted The Sinister Shield.
“It’s a shame, a shame I wasted my time with someone small minded and spineless.”
The monster went livid. His face turned a deadly shade of red and he put his fat meaty hands on the villain. “You don’t dare insult me! I oughta have my boys take you for a ride to the nearest river so you can see just how spineless I can be”
“Tell me, something, do you have any powers?” asked the villain as calmly as if he asked about the scores of a football game.
“No I don’t, why do you think most of my boys are supers?”
“Two wrong answers in a row plus a threat on my life. Three strikes Swine. You’re out.” He removed the mobsters hands from his person and then gripped Bacon’s neck in both hands the mobster tore at the villains hands but it was futile. The strength enhancements prevailed and the once great mobster collapsed into a heap upon the floor never to rise again.
The Sinister Shield sat down in the chair the Swine had previously occupied. He stared at the men before him, rough characters, all five of them. “Anyone have any objections to my leadership?” The group shook their heads.
“What’s in for us?” One of the men asked nervously.
“Two hundred dollars upfront for each of you along with the satisfaction of knowing that Virtue Paragon, Blue Bomber, and all those others will no longer stand in your way.”
It was agreed upon by all & the five hoods were under new management. “Another thing, men” added their leader, “If you fail you’ll be joining Bacon as scrambled eggs.”
The meeting was adjourned. The group would reconvene at a mutual location agreed upon by all to discuss further plans. The body of Frankie Bacon was discreetly disposed of. As far as everyone was concerned he had simply disappeared. Perhaps he left the country or was laying low. His murder barely raised an eyebrow in the bar. It was a den of villains and no one cared that much for him anyway.
Three days later the five men met with their new head honcho. The meeting took place in the Wattsford dog food cannery, building Trent Kurtly had converted into his lair. The five men looked around in amazement at the sophisticated equipment around them.
The five men were a blonde with deep blue eyes and a hard face straight out of an old time gangster movie; a red headed fellow of Irish ancestry with a jagged scar on his left cheek; a man with jet black hair and deep set eyes; one brunette with a draconic nose and another who was almost the spitting image of his brother beside him. Their boss stood over them, his arms crossed. “You’ve arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule. That’s good; it means you’re efficient. Now sound off your names and abilities.
“Yancy after da street in New York, enhanced strength.” Said the blonde man.
“O, Reilly, I shoot laser beams from me finger tips.” The redhead said in the accent from his homeland.
“Marv, I can replicate myself. It’s pretty handy. “ This from the dark haired man.
“Wendell and Peter, pyrokinesis and cryokinesis.” Said one of the two brothers.
“You’ll all do just fine.” Complimented the villain.
Marv asked, ``Where’d you get all this cool stuff?” He gestured to the technology surrounding them in the lab.
“In my civilian life I’m a scientist and an engineer. I built everything you see before you.”
There was some talking among the group. Kurtly waited patiently. At last O’Reilly asked, “We were wondering, Boss, how do we fit into your plan for crashin’ that get together?”
“There is someone who shall be of great service to the cause but he doesn’t take cash. Your jobs will be thefts of gemstones such as diamonds and rubies as well as various high tech equipment and components. These will serve as his payment."
“Where do we start?” asked Yancy.
“I will supply that information as needed.”
He walked over to a table and picked something up that was obscured from the observers. He turned back to face his cronies. “If you are going to work for me you’ll be needing these.” He handed each man a mask similar in style to his own cowl. “Let’s get to work , gentlemen.”
Those latter winter days saw a crime wave sweep across Kirbyburg and beyond. On the lonely road between Kirbyburg and Luath, a truck carrying components for a government lab hit a patch of black ice and crashed into a tree. The drivers Jeffery Isaacs and Timothy Prince were hospitalized. The components were intended to be put to use in the construction of equipment to protect Twin Earth from extraterrestrial threats. Now they had fallen into the hands of unknown bad guys.
Elsewhere a man who created duplicates of himself entered an exhibition of rare diamonds and took an estimated two billion worth of the precious stones. For weeks this went on the only connection was the men wore masks resembling that of the Sinister Shield.
Janice Jackson couldn’t help herself. Her curiosity was stirred. She discussed the occurrences with Trent Kurtly over supper one night. “I just don’t get it? If they do work for that lunatic, why would they wear those masks? It’s like leaving fingerprints at a crime scene.” She pondered. The exasperation was evident in her voice. She hated running into a puzzle she couldn’t solve.
“Don’t worry, Janice. It’s probably just some small time hoods trying to cash in on the guy’s infamy.” Said Trent as he took a sip of soda from his glass.
“You’re probably right, she conceded, besides it keeps my newsroom busy.”
As quickly as the crime wave swept over the city, it just stopped one-day. Everyone was grateful, none more so than the motley band of enhanced villains gathered in a derelict cannery. “Great work everyone, you have done your jobs well.” Kurtly affirmed his team.
“What’s next for us boss?” asked Peter as he played with a small flame he conjured.
“Next,” explained the villain,”I will have Yancy and O’Reilly accompany me for the next phase of my master plan. The rest of you will wait until we return. After that you are to go about your day to day lives until I summon each of you again.”
The laboratory was located in an abandoned series of underground tunnels that over 50 years ago had been a swear system. If the people of Perez City---- which was a two hour trip from Kirbyburg ---- knew one of the most notorious super criminals ever was right beneath their feet they would have slept less soundly at night. As it was only the man’s occupants knew his whereabouts & that’s how he wanted to keep it.
The man looked to his right, taking his eyes off the large computer monitor on which he was running calculations for something or other. He heard the entrance to his sanctum open. An impressive one it was at that, far larger and more complex than even Trent Kurtly’s hideout. Blue prints and half completed pieces of all sorts of devious inventions lay everywhere. The most notable thing in the laboratory was the metallic humanoid forms line up against the walls.
The owner of this lab didn’t need to ask who had entered. Only one man was smart enough to crack the system that opened the entrance and bold enough to enter with an invitation. There in the shadows cast by the green glow of the large computer screens stood the Sinister Shield.”Good to see you, again, “Scatterbrain.” He said.
“Under normal circumstances I’d say the same. It’s not everyone like me who gets to shoot the bull with an intellectual contemporary from a different universe.”
Scatterbrain was a mad genius. He had once been a respected scientist. That was until he put forth his theories of life not just on other planets but dimensions as well.
He was mocked by his peers. He held up well but a man can only take so much. The cosmic tide affected him differently than many others. His thoughts came more rapidly. His already genius intelligence was enhanced ten fold. Still he remained his normal outgoing self.
His amiable personality and enhanced intellect earned a spot working beside Professor Gonzalez. They made leaps and bounds in the scientific community unmatched until Travis Kirkman had come through the warp.
Scatterbrain’s breaking point came on the day that aliens came through an interdimensional rift and wreaked havoc. In the ensuing battle between those invaders, the military, and a few enhanced heroes, his uncle who had raised him since he was five was killed by a blast that deflected off of Virtue Paragon. He drew up in himself. He was embittered that he had been right all along & no-one listened. As a result the only family he had ever known perished.
The genius disappeared from the public eye only to return and challenge Virtue Paragon as the mad genius Scatterbrain.
He was short and stocky. His salt & pepper colored hair was frizzled and unkempt. He preferred medical scrubs and a lab coat as attire. The green lensed goggles he wore completed the look of the mad scientist stereotype.
“Normal circumstances?” Kurtly echoed questioningly.
“You are as hot right now as if you’d taken the hope diamond. Every costumed freak is after you for whacking Side Step.”
“ That will not be a problem much longer,” the villain said as he crossed his arms, but I need your help. I plan to crash the little party they’re having soon.”
“That gathering has been the talk of the underworld.” Scatterbrain said, looking back at his computer screen and typing something. He stared at his fellow scientist, the silent figure in the loud costume. “What do you need me for anyway?” he asked.
“You, my rapidly thinking friend, posses the knowledge in one field of engineering I do not. As such you alone can provide me with the one tool I need to execute my plan efficiently.”
The mad scientist nodded his head. “You better have a good payment on hand. This is risky business you’re stepping in & my services are already quite expensive.”
The Sinister Shield motioned with his hand and the two henchmen stepped into the chamber pushing dollies loaded with crates. At a command from their boss they pried the lids off revealing the contents of gemstones and technological components.
“Parts for new machines and all the crystals for death lasers you could want.” Kurtly advertised.
With a smirk Scatterbrain asked, “What if I just take all these goodies and send you three packing?”
“Then every super gets an anonymous message concerning where to find you complete with directions on opening that door of yours.”
“Fair enough. I’ll get started on this right away. How many of my little toys do you need?”
“How ever many you can produce before March first.”
Then he and his men left as easily as they had arrived.
Looking back Travis Kirkman realizes that was the eve of the end. He also realizes a terrible truth. The day that heroes inspired by him rose up to challenge the enhanced criminals of the world and the moment the inhibitor collars rolled off the production line that balance was restored. His becoming the villain was never necessary. He weeps as a man does when he realizes he’s thrown his life away foolishly.
As a man of science he never believed in God or destiny or fate or higher powers of any sort. Now he turned his eyes toward heaven & silently begged for mercy. Silence was the only answer. there would be no escaping justice no matter how much he regretted his actions.
Parallel Lives the Final Chapter
The atmosphere inside the convention center was a mosaic of emotion. There was tension in the air. The fact that this shindig was an ideal target for any villain was not lost on anyone. Security was tighter than the spandex on a Vegas showgirl. The men and women, boys, and girls who had lined up to see their favorite crime fighters in person had to wait through the tedium of the security checks. Not even the media and press were exempt as Janice Jackson soon learned.
Coupled with the tension was that overwhelming feeling of disappointment that while everyone was having a good time here, miles away in a hospital Side Step was fighting a losing battle for his life. This however did not detract from the happiness that permeated the building. Like the Olympics this was a time for champions from other nations to come together and leave their countries’s geopolitical bull crap at the door.
This was best illustrated by four of the heroes. Crimson Cossack a burly bearded crime fighter from Russia and Striking Dragon from China were hanging out with Virtue Paragon and Lady Elastique. They had decided a while ago that the turmoil between their countries was no reason for them to not get along.
Of all the heroes across Twin Earth, sixty-three had arrived. Everyone was reveling in the camaraderie & having a splendid time. Janice snapped photos and conducted interviews, children stood in line to meet their heroes. Security watched every corner of the convention center like a hawk. Everyone was expecting an attack from within. Everyone was caught off guard when it came from above.
First came the deafening sound of a loud crash then the shower of dread as shards of the broken skylight rained down on the crowd below. There he was hovering over the attendees like a specter of death: The Sinister Shield. As he had hoped, the security guards hurriedly evacuated the civilians from the building.
Janice Jackson was on her hands and knees hiding behind one of the food tables. “Foolish woman!” the villain thought to himself. There was know way she was going to miss out the most heated battle the city had ever seen. Soon only security, the heroes and the misguided scientist were left in the room.
“You are very foolish to oppose gathered heroes, Mister Villain!” said Crimson Cossack, “You stand no chance alone.”
Kurtly’s mad laughter rang out in the suite like a swarm of hornets buzzing in anger. “I’m well aware of that, Russkie; that’s why I didn’t come alone.”
On cue the five superpowerd goons in winter coats and masks burst through the door dragging battered security guards with them.
“It will take more than them to help you defeat us, you daft goon!” That shout came from a superpowered Englishman named Wynd Tunnel.
“I am well aware. There is more where they came from!”
Outside the security force and the police were being overrun by a nightmare from a James Cameron movie. An army of one hundred and fifty heavily armed robots and a swarm of weaponized drones were assaulting the main entrance with additional units of each cutting off all exits. Among the screams and gunfire and the explosion of vehicles the clash of super humans began and all hell broke loose.
Marv replicated himself, lending additional muscle to Kurtly’s side of the battle. The security guards were useless and to complicate things even more laser beams shot from eyes or hands and pyro kinetic abilities had now lit fires in several portions of the cramped space. The results was the activation of the sprinkler systems. This provided ammo for any cryokinetics in the room. Three in total counting Kurtly’s henchman manipulated the water to suit their purposes.
The heroes knew no one would survive if they fought cleanly. Sixty-three of them against an army with innocents caught in the crossfire was overwhelming odds. The good guys didn’t hesitate to get brutal. Crimson Cossack charged toward O’Reilly who was trying to pick off combatants from a distance.
The Russian came on like a very angry bull and ignored the searing pain he felt coarse through his body. Finally he grabbed the villain by the hands and broke them like porcelain. Lusty, Irish oaths escaped the lips of the perp until he passed out from the pain.
It was a long, hard fought battle for the heroes and the robots didn’t help matters. Rock of Gibraltar, a density shifter and a few speedsters were sent to protect the civilians. Janice only moved from her hiding place long enough to snap pictures. Kurtly beat weaker heroes with his shield and even squeezed the life from a few. The security forces exited from the building and made themselves useful by aiding the supers in getting the bystanders out of harm’s way. Many of them went down fighting robots to the death.
Lady Elastique wanted to rip the Sinister Shield to pieces but her biggest concern was keeping her fellow crime fighters alive. A robot gunned down a young crime fighter and his dying scream filled the enhanced company with new resolve. Lady Elastique morphed her body into a rubbery sphere. “Wynd tunnel, do your thing!,” She yelled. The Brit stretched out his hand & a miniscule cyclone propelled the woman forwarded. She toppled henchmen and robots alike like a bowling ball.
Robots were crushed & the hoodlum called Wendell had both legs broken. He was too racked with pain to use his power. That took the cryokinetic out of play. Striking Dragon took Peter out with a nerve blow to the neck. It was down to Yancy and Marv with the few duplicates he still had in commission and one very formidable foe who was absolutely convinced he was doing the right thing for the cosmos. In the end it was ultimately Janice Jackson who helped turn the tide.
One of0 the drones buzzing around the scene of battle fired a barrage at a costumed crime fighter with a bird motif. The agile hero performed a dodge that would have made Keanu Reeves proud. Janice had risen to her feet to snap a picture. She let out a loud Yelp as the shots almost hit her. The exclamation brought her to the attention of the others in the room
Virtue Paragon flew toward her position. He grabbed the drone and crushed it in his hands. He scooped up the reporter & cradling her in his arms flew her out of the building by way of the sky light.
Looking down at the scene below he saw the smoldering ruins of cars and the police and security guards being overwhelmed by the robots. Depositing the woman safely across the street he became a blur.
Like a guided missile he decimated the mechanical horde. The drones and bots were reduced to mangled heaps of scrap. The crime fighter recognized the design as Scatterbrain’s, like the mastermind back inside the decimated convention center he was a marked man. A fire burned in the eyes of Virtue Paragon and he picked up one of the mechanical corpses. And flew back into the convention center.
His rage burned like an unquenchable fire. There was the Sinister Shield bringing allies to their knees. There he was a powerful man pushed to a breaking point. He let out a yell that almost deafened those within earshot. He flew toward Kurtly and used the robot like a club, delivering tremendous blows that proved even too much for the armored padding. The villain went down on his knees, the costume now in tatters. VP pinned him to the wall.
Trent Kurtly looked around the room littered with debris and blood and unmoving bodies. His remaining men had been subdued and the robot ranks were thinning. The blue and red clad crime fighter informed him of the decimated mechanical ranks of the robots outside. Which is why it is recorded in this account.
The villain knew he had been licked. His plan had been too ambitious. “Kill me and get it over with.” He said.
“No,” bellowed the hero, “You don’t get off that easy after everything you have wrought.”
“Your mistake.” The villain hissed. He activated the magnetic repulsion and staggered Virtue Paragon enough to escape. He had failed and it was time to fall back upon a contingency plan he had laid out in the days leading up to this assault.
The fight against the remaining robots is over in moments. By the time it is over the sun has set and the ambulances and firemen and even the national guard have arrived and are tending to the victims. The news crews have arrived to eat up the story like a dog eating kibble. Everyone is tired, angry and stymied. Already Trent Kurtly is on the run. He is public enemy number one. There is nowhere on Twin Earth he can hide except in plain sight as that friendly scientist on the magazine covers.
The Casualties stood at twenty-three enhanced heroes dead, Crimson Cossack among them. Eight civilians had been killed and three more wounded. Seventeen security guards and two police officers had given their lives protecting the innocent.
Back in uptown Kirbyburg Travis Kirkman took refuge in his apartment. He had shed the guise of Trent Kurtly. He stood maskless in the lamplight Just then the door to the penthouse flung open. “Trent are you in….”
Kirkman spun to face the speaker. It was Janice Jackson. She saw the tattered and dirty costume. She bespied the mask of the Sinister Shield & saw the handsome face of her lover draped over the back of the chair beside it like a shed snake skin. Now he had nowhere to go.
She found her voice at last “You’re Travis Kirkman! You’re the man who acted as a liaison between our world and your own! Why the deception! Why the villainy?”
“I will tell you everything; I have nothing left to lose.” He said sitting in his chair. She sat down on the sofa & tried to conceal the act of turning on her voice recorder in the pocket of her coat. Kirkman saw her do it and both their fates were sealed.
He told everything you read up to this point. She was overwhelmed by the information and was elated at having the story of the year. She pulled out her cell phone and made to call the police.
“No, don’t!” Exclaimed Kirkman in horror.
“I’m, sorry, Travis “I have a responsibility to the city. The authorities must know the truth and I won’t live a lie.”
“I love you dearly Janice but you’re a liability now! Trent Kurtly could have still walked in this world even if the Sinister Shield couldn’t.”
There was a scream from the sidewalk below as a woman plummeted to her doom. Seconds later the people who saw the horrifying sight looked up and saw the Sinister Shield fly from the penthouse of Trent Kurtly. It exploded in a mighty inferno and rained debris on the sidewalk below.
The man was following a course he had charted months before. In the event his charade was exposed he would destroy all traces of Trent Kurtly, his villainous identity. He would travel back to his universe and return in a new persona at a later time. Thus, he secretly planted explosives in the cannery and the penthouse.
He made it to his lab. He destroyed all his equipment and then he made his exit and set off the explosives. All traces of the cannery were engulfed in hellish flames.
Horror ran through Kirkman like a drunk through a stop sign. He looked down a his wrist and realized he left his teleportation device in the decimated penthouse. In a rush to escape his comeuppance. He was stranded with nowhere to go. Perhaps Travis Kirkman could integrate into Twin Earth. “Stop, Scum bucket don’t move!” came a voice behind him. It was Virtue Paragon who had caught up to the villain along with Lady Elastique, another enhanced in a streamlined turquoise costume, and several cops.
Side Step’s lover sprang forward and curled her body around Kirkman like a snake. The only reason she didn’t choke him to death was because Virtue Paragon stopped her.
The chiseled crime fighter walked up to Kirkman and tore off his mask
There was an audible gasp from everyone present. Everyone knew who Travis Kirkman was. The meeting between the two Earths had filled every social media sight and news outlet for days. Travis Kirkman hung his head and said nothing as the police rattled off his rights and cuffed him. He did not resist. The fight had gone out of him.
The next day from his cell he watched the funeral procession for Side Step. He passed away an hour after Travis Kirkman had been booked. Many heroes had turned out and leading them was Lady Elastique.
That is all. The account has been made and an hour later Travis Kirkman is escorted down the long hall that leads to the electric chair. Final rights are conducted by the Priest. He looks through the window to see the Mayor of Kirbyburg and her staff have come out to witness the execution as has the State Governor. Lady Elastique, Virtue Paragon and several other heroes who had been at the convention. Even Professor Gonzalez has put in an appearance. He is pained that a fellow scientist has wrought so much destruction. “Sir, do you have any final words?” asked the warden.
“Only that I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t adequately cover everything I’ve done but it’s true. I’ve wasted my genius and thrown away my life.”
What of the loose threads in this sordid story? Carl Vanheim always suspected that Kirkman had gone to the parallel universe he had discovered but never could figure out how he got there. This was answered when Gonzalez arrived on that Earth by similar means. He turned over the tattered costume of their greatest champion. He never told anyone during his periodic visits that Kirkman had been a scourge upon Twin Earth, only that he died upon that world from unforeseen circumstances.
Rosetta was heartbroken but eventually she found true love and married a banker. They had three children, one of whom was named Travis.
Vanheim dismantled the Warp Maker and put the parts in storage. Without Professor Kirkman to help them NASA never completed their own machine and the project was dismantled.
Back on Twin Earth the death of a Russian enhanced on American soil caused tensions to flare. Janice Jackson’s friends and family attended her funeral. She was sorely missed by all who lived in Kirbyburg. A foundation started in her name helped raise money to build a memorial to the heroes who had fallen in that final clash with The Sinister Shield. It now sits outside the United Nations building.
Virtue Paragon became the leader of a international team of heroes called the League of Multinational Enhanced Protectors
I know these things because I wander the multiverse observing the events that transpire on various worlds. I rarely appear to the inhabitants but the few I have allowed to see me call the Phantasmal Observer and that is what I am.
Like the subject you have read about, my ambition cost me dearly. Who knows, perhaps I was once a Travis Kirkman or a Trent Kurtly. You who read this may call me the Cosmic Traveler and my observation of this world is complete.
Parallel Lives chp. 3b & chp.4
To go into a day by day exposition at this juncture would cause this sordid tale to melt into utter tedium. Let us instead do what Kirkman did, jump ahead one year later. This marked the beginning of the end. Travis' days had been filled with aiding NASA in the construction of their own Warp Maker, pacifying enhanced criminals, romancing Rosetta, and juggling his life as the villainous Trent Kurtly. On Twin Earth he worked under that guise with Gonzalez on many government & private research ventures. This helped him fund Kurtman’s well- to-do lifestyle which was a stark contrast to Kirkman’s. He constantly hounded Twin Earth as Dr. Scale Tipper. If the name was ridiculous he proved to be anything but. He had proved as formidable to heroes across that world as he was to criminals on his own. Currently he was laying low in his apartment & the cannery he had converted into his villain lair. Juggling both civilian lives was becoming exhausting. He was in his own lab less and less and was running out of plausible excuses!
It was the night of December 31. The team of scientists had just finished ringing in the New Year when Kirkman made the announcement. “Everyone, listen up please. Carl, Rosetta, Vicki, Samuel, we’ve all worked together for a long time. You guys never gave up on me or the vision even when I had to fund the thing myself and we downsized to this private lab,” he paused then continued, “Here recently I’ve taken up other endeavors and they require a great deal of my time. So I’m turning the operations of this laboratory over to you. I will pop in from time to time but mostly at this point I will be focusing on my other interests.” A hush fell over the small crowd. Rosetta, the poor dear, thought he would be devoting more time to being The Shielded Sentry. (This is what the papers of his world called him).
After the party Rosetta walked over and kissed her man. Normally he would have returned it. This time he seemed to be elsewhere within his mind. "I'm going away for a while.” He said suddenly.
“But what about protecting the city? What about us?.” The woman asked. Her face betrayed her bemusement.
“The crime rate has dropped drastically. The prisons, not just here but across the world, have containment technology they didn’t possess a year ago. Other heroes have risen up inspired by my example. I fixed my mistake here as for us I’ll be back in time and we can start planning our future together.”
“That was a mouthful, Travis Kirkman. I’m holding you to that part of it.”
“I would hope so.”
He left for his ramshackle apartment. He would get some rest before he returned to Twin Earth. It was time for one of it’s most feared villains to make a comeback in a big way.
Trent Kurtly spent the entire evening of January First in the derelict cannery that served as his lair. In the time since he purchased the edifice he had used his smarts and wealth acquired from two Earths to fill it with all the high tech equipment he needed for his operations. He even created a duplicate of his suit.
Once he laid out his plan in meticulous detail, he began work on the equipment he would need to put it into action. Kirbyburg on both Earth’s was a small city but it relied as heavily upon it’s day to day technological functions as any other. It’s strength was its weakness. There was no point in acting today. It was New Year’s morning and most of the citizens were snuggled in their homes. Tomorrow it would be businesses as usual and Kurtly could do the most damage possible.
That evening Kurtly attended a gala that was being held as a charity benefit. The heavy hand of fate had just clutched around the misguided genius.
In the ambient jazzy atmosphere the well dressed scientist sipped champagne & mingled with the city’s denizens who had put on their Sunday best to raise money for orphans worldwide. He winced when he saw Virtue Paragon chatting with the mayor. He lightened back up when he remembered no one knew he was Dr. Scale Tipper. He frowned and looked into his glass goblet.
That name was ridiculous; in fact it had made him a laughing stock among the super powered people---that was before he fought the Incredible Quartet to a stand still. He would need to change it before tomorrow. He was still deciding on a moniker as he walked over to the drinks table to refill his glass, when suddenly, something caught his eye that would change the course of his life.
She was taller than average, though not extremely so, at a height of 5 feet & ten inches. She weighed a solid one hundred twenty-five pounds. Her fit frame which was the result of a daily workout was accentuated by a lovely black dress that matched her shoulder length hair. Instantly smitten Trent introduced himself ; he need not have bothered because she recognized him in a second. “I’m Janice Jackson, reporter, ‘’ she said in an upbeat tone that matched the smile on her almost flawless round face, “It’s a pleasure to meet the man who has brought our humble little planet leaps & bounds technology wise in such a short time.”
Travis Kirkman’s identity on this world may have been villainous but he still knew something of humility so he responded: “It was a group effort. I work with an excellent team, especially Professor Gonzalez.”
“Tell me, Mr. Kurtly, do you know Travis Kirkman the man who established interdimensional relations with his world and ours?”
“Well yes but we don’t associate with one another.”
It was a smooth answer and while it bore the stench of falsehoods it was actually true in part. He soon learned she was naturally inquisitive as all reporters are. “Do you think that fiend, Dr. Scale Tipper will ever show up again?” She asked as casually as if she was asking about the weather.
Kurtly was unprepared so he simply replied, “That nut job has been absent hasn’t he?”
“Yeah, my intuition tells me it’s the calm before the storm. “
“In that case I’m sure we are due to hear from him again soon.”
Changing the topic, Janice asked, “What brings you here tonight?” She sipped her champagne and looked inquisitively at the scientist.
“ I figured a good cause would be a good way to blow some of my Fifty thousand dollar paycheck.” He answered with a laugh, “What about you?”
“It’s a down home human interest story. It’s my final piece for the Observer before I go independent.”
“Why, go that route? The Kirbyburg Observer has a lot of prestige.”
“I want to report the facts, to give the people the real stories. It is getting harder to do at places like the Observer in a time when reigning political parties and the cultural zeitgeist taint the news with their agendas be it good or bad.”
Before the night was over the two were getting along swimmingly and phone numbers were exchanged. It had been a while since any man showed interest in anything except her body parts. Though her dress offered a decent view of her assets, Trent focused on her face not her cleavage.
There was something a little off about the handsome face but he seemed like a pretty upstanding guy.( Naturally she didn’t know he was wearing his Synth Face mask.) Indeed he was a stand up guy in his own world where he was Travis Kirkman. Here on Twin Earth it was a façade.
January second. Rush hour. Traffic was already thick as thieves as students and workers returned to the mundane grind that comes creeping around after the holidays. The inhabitants had no idea the day was about to become anything but mundane. In a long abandoned cannery equipment was activated that shot a signal into the stratosphere and from there to a series communication satellites.
Lots of trouble went into making the equipment needed for the devices being used to hijack the communications frequencies. Like Captain Nemo when he built the Nautilus, Trent Kurtly had the components assembled in different parts of the world and shipped to a fake address. This was the process he followed for most of his contraptions. The comparison was apt because Nemo’s process for the Nautilus’ construction was it’s inspiration.
Within minutes the purple and yellow visage of the villain appeared on every TV screen and smart device in Kirbyburg, his voice emanated from every radio. The maniacal laughter chilled the spines of everyone who wished to never hear it again.
“Happy New Year everyone,” he began, “The multiversal mad genius you all know and love has returned! First of all: that Scale Tipper crap is out! From now on you may refer to me as the Sinister Shield!" he held aloft the round disk that served as his primary weapon and means of transport for emphasis.
“Onto the business which necessitated my interruption of your morning time talk shows, gag. I’m holding the city hostage unless I’m paid $100,000 dollars before the clock strikes noon. It is to be delivered at Forma Park. What’s that? Do I hear snickering and doubt filled mumblings? Do I hear the mayor calling me unsavory names and saying something cliché like, you can’t do this? On the contrary, allow me to demonstrate just what will happen if you fail to take me seriously.”
He pressed a large red button on the control console next to him. Almost instantly the power went out all across Kirbyburg. The hospitals had to switch to backup generators, homes went dark, traffic accidents occurred one-after-another as the signal lights ceased to function. The worst of which was the collision of a snowplow and a tanker truck. That explosion rocked the block.
As quickly as it had been snuffed the power was restored. The Sinister Shield’s broadcast resumed. “Remember you have until noon or whatever unfortunate mishaps befell the city will do so again! And if your enhanced protectors know what’s good for them they will not interfere.” A split second later the normal communication signals returned.
The clock struck noon. A chill ran through the wintery air that came not from the weather. Everyone across Kirbyburg was on the edge of their seats. Above Forma Park, Trent hovered on his magno shield. He took no pleasure in the chaos he had caused. All indications otherwise were part of his masquerade. He must play the role of villain until balance was restored on this Earth like it had been on his own.
The park had been constructed in the 1930’s and it was frequented by the citizens even in the dead of winter. It’s biggest attraction was the ornate fountain in the center of the circular park. It gushed beautiful, frothy spouts of babbling H2O. Playful gold cherubs held up the topmost basin.
During lunchtime the park would have been bustling with picnickers and workers of all distinctions on break. Today it was empty, evacuated by the police. It was spookily silent, save for the frolicking of birds.
The Sinister Shield didn’t need to look at the gargantuan clock mounted to one of several local banks to tell him it was noon. From his lofty perch he could see the people warily entering the city’s various food venues.
No cash, no cops, nothing. The villain removed a small device from his utility belt. It was rectangular with an antenna jutting from it’s distal point and a big red button in the center. It looked like something a cartoon character would use to trap a fast running bird. It was the little baby of the device used to bring the city to its knees hours earlier.
The costumed figure caught something out the corner of his. It was a flash of movement. He turned and saw the leather clad, begoggled figure of Side Step. The hero was rushing towards him in a blue line of electricity & after images. He took a running leap and plowed into his target like an arrow into a bull’s-eye.
The villain hit the ground with the air knocked from his lungs. The magno-shield clattered to the ground. The enhanced crime fighter looked down at the Sinister Shield, looming over him like a buzzard over its meal. “Look, Dr. Changing Name, don’t bother trying to get up and fight,” Side Step advised,” The money you requested is not coming. We don’t negotiate with scum like you. You’re finally going to face justice for your crimes. He picked up the remote and rubbed it in his hands fast enough to melt it into oblivion.
The villain’s only reply was laughter. It wasn’t maniacal. It was more akin to the laugh that comes with knowing something someone else doesn’t. He activated the magnetic field around his suit and adjusted the polarity. It slammed against the speedster like a giant ocean wave against a row boat. Side Step was thrown backwards and landed a whole three feet from the Sinister Shield.
Side Step rose to his feet and charged the fiend who had stood back up also. He morphed into a black streak, his body indistinguishable in any way. He delivered superpowered punch after superpowered punch. Each one staggering Kurtly and causing him pain that was only lessened by the armored padding of his costume.
The villain put the magnetic field to use again. This time the crime fighter was knocked a whole fifteen feet away. He scraped himself up and tried to steady himself and get back in the fight. His body lamented its pain but the speedster ignored it.
The hesitation bought Trent Kurtly all the time he needed. He threw some weird capsules at the feet of the hero. They exploded with a strange puff sound. Side Step found his feet encased in something that looked like mashed potatoes from a school cafeteria mixed with wood glue. “You really think this gunk is gonna stop me from spreading your sorry hide all over the city?” he bellowed with a voice saturated in bravado and overconfidence.
He vibrated his body hoping to melt away the substance that held him fast. Instead the friction & heat served only to harden it. The crime fighter realized too late that the villain had started to develop counters to their powers.
“You fool, you got sloppy,” said the villain, “The balance of this world is so out of joint, you heroes have had no real challenges. The super criminals you stop are second rate thugs who think they’re hot stuff cause they fart light prisms out of their sphincter like a unicorn.
“ You relied too much upon your own powers & now they are becoming useless.” He picked up his shield and pointed his right finger at his foe. “It is a shame that we will never find out if you could have taken me in normal fight.”
He hurled the disk toward Side Step. It found its mark and the crime fighter carried out in pain as both his legs were broken. A small crowd had gathered to watch the clash. Now they stood in shock as one of their heroes fell. In the distance sirens could be heard. “This will be quick but not painless” Trent said to the now disabled speedster who lay on his back, the goop having broken free upon impact of the disk. Side Step was then unceremoniously stomped and kicked and ponded on by the shield until he was swollen and bloodied and gasping for air. He lost consciousness seconds later.
The Sinister Shield addressed the gawkers. “See how easily your defenders can be squashed? They are high and mighty until a superior foe comes along. At that point they’re nothing but insects! It’s the dawn of a new era for this world!”
The villain wiped the blood from his shield with a piece of Side Steps jacket. He switched it to its hover mode and soared off as the sirens got closer. Thirty minutes later he was at Innovation Labs working alongside Professor Gonzalez as Trent Kurtly. You would have never known he had just beaten a highly respected superhero within a very literal inch of his life.
He ceases writing for a brief moment. This moment was his point of no return he muses. He was brash. With the remote destroyed he should have retreated.
Your hindsight was twenty/ twenty wasn’t it Travis Kirkman? From that moment forward, every hero in Kirbyburg and beyond had you in their sights. He resumes writing as the clock ticks away to the penultimate moment in the life of Travis Kirkman.
Parallel Lives chp.6
Kirkman skipped ahead in his account to the fourteenth of February. It was Valentine’s day. Trent Kurtly had given himself the day off. He spent the morning buying a box of chocolates and groceries needed to make a nice Mexican dinner. It had been arranged the day before. He & Janice would share lunch together while she was on break.
Back at the penthouse Trent had just finished preparing the food when there was a knock at the door. He wiped grease from his hands on a dish cloth and scurried to the door. He turned the handle and opened the door. There stood Janice Jackson.
She was clothed in blue jeans, a simple gray sweater and a brown leather jacket with a fur collar. On her head she wore a sock boggin hat that matched the sweater. She removed her coat and hung it on the nearby rack. She sat down at the kitchen table while Trent brought over the pan of chimichangas and bowls of rice and refried beans. “You’ll never guess what happened to me today!” Janice said enthusiastically.
“What would that be?” asked Trent.
“I ran into Lady Elastique. We didn’t get to talk long. She was on her way to the hospital. She is very down to earth though.”
Trent took his seat at the table after setting the couple’s places. After that he started up the conversation again, “On her way to the hospital huh, was she visiting some of the children?”
“Heavens no. She was checking up on Side Step. He’s still out cold in the hospital.”
“What,” Kurtly nearly choked on his rice, “He’s still hospitalized?”
“Yeah, it bites. We were all hoping he’d be out in time for the Enhanced Heroes Gathering on March First.
This last statement set the cogs of Kurtly’s mind turning. A light bulb went off in his head. It was a light bulb that, if put in a fixture, would have cast shadows that would have made Castle Dracula look like the Four Seasons Hotel. “Tell me more about this gathering.” He coaxed.
“It’s the first of its kind since the Cosmic Tide. It’s being held in the convention center. It’s a coming together of superpowered heroes from around the world. Rumor has it they’ll be discussing forming some sort of international team.” Jackson paused and ate her food.
“How exciting,” said Kurtly with a smile that made that of a politician seem sincere, “Enhanced crime fighters from the world over gathered right here in Kirbyburg.”
“Yep and yours truly will be covering the event.”
That last bit of information complicated things. Nevertheless he congratulated his girlfriend and the two finished their meal. After the leftovers were put away and dishes washed the two love birds parted with a goodbye kiss. Jackson had to get back to her newsroom and Kurtly bundled up and headed to the hospital.
When Kurtly walked to the little window outside of Side Step’s room he found someone already standing there. She was lean and slightly muscular. She wore a dark brown motorcycle jacket. Beneath this was a form fitting one-piece spandex costume. The crotch and collar were navy blue to accent the crimson red of the costume. On the chest was an insignia. The letter E with the bottom arm longer than the rest. It was the symbol for Lady Elastique. She had dark green eyes and her light orange hair was cut short in the rocker girl style popular in the late nineties and early two-thousands.
Side Step was still in a full body cast. It was apparent that the IV feeds and other medical devices he was wired to were the only things keeping him alive. Kurtly didn’t realize how much damage he’d actually done and looked on at the comatose form with morbid fascination and guilt. Just because it had to be done didn’t mean he had to revel in it.
The heroine recognized Trent Kurtly at a glance but barely paid any attention. “They’re wrong,” you know, she said suddenly with conviction, “He will pull through I know it.”
“How can you be certain?’’ asked Trent, genuinely curious.
“I wouldn’t expect a man of science like you to understand about faith and miracles and divine intervention.”
“You’re religious then I take it.”
Her assessment was correct but he admired her hope but then again is that not the predominant trait of heroes, whether they shoot lasers from their eyes or break down a door with an axe to free an imperiled pchild from a burning building?. “He means a lot to the city doesn’t he? You especially.” Inquired the villain.
“More than you’ll ever possibly know, Mr. Kurtly.”
He saw a tear roll down her cheek. He left her to her grief. He cursed the task before him. Balance had to be restored, yet he hated the means by which he must do it. He was blind with obsession and a messiah complex.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Travis Kirkman a.k.a Trent Kurtly was the epitome of a house divided. That moment in the hospital had been his final chance. The foundations were beginning to crack and the collapse was coming.
As the sun began to set and twilight made itself known over Kirbyburg, Trent Kurtly dialed in a set of coordinates into the device on his wrist. In a brief flash he was back on his Earth. It was winter here as well. It was an odd thing. Travis Kirkman observed that both Earths seemed to run on the same time. It was February 14th on both.
Content for now to leave all the similarities in the mists of enigma, Travis Kirkman went to his apartment. The mail had accumulated with the exception of bills. He made time once a month to teleport from Twin Earth and pay his dues. It was part of leading his double life. He dropped off the large portfolio containing his costume and then called upon his old friends at the lab.
Everyone was happy to see him. Carl Vanheim was running operations now and the guys and gals were toiling away on several new government contracts and independent research ventures. The team all gathered around Kirkman in a group hug. The tightest of the affectionate squeezes came from Rosetta. “You all have done well in my absence!” Kirkman said, breaking free from their grip & looking around the laboratory.
“Where have you been, Travis?” asked Vicki.
“I traveled out of town for a while. I had important work elsewhere that must remain secret.”
“Sounds exciting, my dude!” Samuel stated with a wide smile.
“It’s been interesting to say the least,” replied Kirkman with a smile. “I’ve enjoyed the change of scenery.”
The scientist looked around the lab and saw a canvas tarp had been placed over the Warp Maker. “It hasn’t been turned on since you left.” Remarked Vanheim. Kirkman nodded and said it was for the best and expressed his concern about NASA’s use of the tech once they finished building theirs.
“What brought you back here?” inquired Rosetta as she walked over to the duo.
“You did,” Kirkman said before kissing her on her forehead, “did you forget today is Valentine’s day?”
“Yes, I guess I did.”
“I stopped by to see if you wanted to go out to eat and maybe stroll through the park.” The woman’s reply was grabbing him by the arm, uttering a brisk salutation to everyone else in the laboratory and heading out the door with her lover in tow.
The night sky was painted a hazy orange by the city lights. There was something peaceful about Kirbyburg at night now that the enhanced criminals were being contained. “Where is your costume?” Rosetta asked.
“It’s at my apartment here in town.”
“You still have your apartment?”
“I drop in from time to time.”
She slugged him lightly in the arm and took a sip of her hot chocolate. “You’ve been back here several times and didn’t bother to let us know?”
“It was just long enough to pay rent and bills,” he said as he squeezed her hand reassuringly, “Then it was back to my travels.”
“Have you at least put the costume to good use at all?”
“Yeah, I have.”
The couple walked on in silence for a little while. They passed shops that had already closed and passed people heading home for the evening. The sounds of laughter and music met their ears, escaping from the numerous restaurants in the historic downtown district. Travis and Rosetta sat down on a sidewalk bench to rest their feet. “Rosetta I hate to bring this up tonight of all nights but-“ he started.
“You’ve met another woman while you’ve been away?” She cut in.
“Yes. In truth I have. She’s a reporter who admired my work.”
“Do you love her, Travis?”
“Yes, but I love you too.”
An uncomfortable silence passed between the occupants of the bench. Each drank the hot chocolate in their possession. At last with a look of acceptance and understanding on her face, Rosetta broke the silence,” I guess you just have to decide which of us you love more. You can’t juggle us both.”
“Does this other woman know of your costumed identity?”
“That’s something to consider.”
“My work ends in March.”
“I will be waiting.”
With that Kirkman walked with her through the park and later escorted her home.
It was an agonizingly long trek back to his apartment. The silence was like a scream. The cold cut through him like a razor through a balloon. It was his conscience again. He passed the park. It was the spitting image of the one in Twin Earth. He walked past it as quickly as possible, practically breaking into a sprint!
Why do you run Travis Kirkman? Is it to escape the image of a mangled crime fighter branded into your mind with the hot irons of a moral compass? Could it be you still realize that Trent Kurtly is not the separate person you'd like him to be? Run, Kirkman you won’t escape justice for much longer. Your desire to play God will be your undoing.
He made it back to the apartment. He read one of the science journals he subscribed to. Then he attempted to sleep. The wind howled like an ancient lycanthrope making the task difficult. Something gnawed at him like termites in a lumber mill. A part of him realized fixing the so-called balance of two universes was not his job. Unfortunately he was becoming better at ignoring that part of himself. At last, sleep overtook him.
Travis Kirkman is engrossed in weaving this account. The voice of his guard breaks the silence to ask what he is writing.
“A memoir of a sort,” he replies without taking his eyes off the paper, “a record of my deeds upon this world and the one I left behind.”
“Why, Mac? You’ve already been tried. The evidence was presented. You’ve already given your confession. What’s the point of writing it all down?”
A little bit of the villain he had played for so long flared up within him like a gas fire. He cringed at the unintelligent question. Instead of complaining about it he simply replied, “So that those who read it won’t make the mistakes I did.”
“Like what, getting caught?”
Parallel Lives chap. 1
He sits inside the Plexiglas cell wondering: where did it all begin? Orange prison garb has replaced his special suit, a spandex material woven with Kevlar fibers to make it nigh indestructible. Where did it all begin? That question might never be answered, it’s explanation doomed to be forever vague. When did it begin? That had a far simpler answer.
It began three years ago In a private research lab. The occupants of that lab surrounded a strange machine. The hunk of hardware they hoped would allow them to access an alternate Earth in a parallel universe. If such things exist.
One of the scientists, Carl Vanheim, a man in his early 50’s turned on the machine. It crackled to life with spits and sputters of electricity before the goggle clad eyes of the other scientists. Then suddenly a large shockwave knocked the group off their feet and the device ceased to function.
One of the other scientists, a man named Travis Kirkman in his late forties, scraped himself off the floor and walked over to the instrument panel. The controls did not respond to any command. His fist slammed upon the metal hardware! “Blast!” he yelled, “We were this close and the machine blew out! This whole project is a wash.”
Travis was in his late forties but already his hair was silvery white. This was the cost of the stress it took for him to get this far in life. Now his most valuable project had been for nothing. He walked out of the lab without another word, leaving his colleagues to scratch their heads.
That’s right isn’t it, Travis Kirkman? The memories come back to you so you ask the guard of your cell for some paper and the implements to write with. After your request is granted you jot down your account in the limited time you have left, an account that started within months of that shockwave.
Four months after the initial failure of Project Beyond-Warp, Kirkman had poured his personal monetary resources into the revival of his vision since the government cut off their financial backing to his insane endeavor. He now lived in a ratty hovel of an apartment, having adopted a more frugal lifestyle to compensate for the expenses. The pressure to succeed weighed on him like the globe on the shoulders of Atlas. The project was now on the verge of the long awaited breakthrough though the cost was high. On this particular morning Travis Kirkman awoke to the ringing of his cell phone. It was good news.
And so it began on that day, for you, Travis Kirkman. Your efforts paid off in a big way. You made a breakthrough that led to you playing God and failing miserably. Yes you remember now as you weave your written account of these events.
He drove through the University District of the city. He felt stymied by the thick, heavy traffic. He looked down at his watch. “Come on, come on,” he said. He looked up as a shadow passed overhead. Outside his windshield a late model sedan flew side over side and landed on a taxi in front of him. It was a horrid sight of mangled & flaming wreckage.
People screamed & exited their vehicles. The throng looked like ants whose bed had been desecrated by mischievous boys.
From the chaos, a man stepped onto the top of an abandoned semi. He stooped down and ripped off one the doors and hurled it into the fleeing masses. He was dressed in blue jeans and a brown, leather jacket with a red t-shirt underneath. A ski mask covered his face. He was one of the many super powered crazies that had popped up over the last four months. The police were overwhelmed by this new breed of super criminal. They came out the woodwork and though many had been apprehended or slain most were still at large & normal prisons wouldn’t hold the captive ones forever.
This attack was now part of the day to day & not something Travis had time for. It was brought to an abrupt end by a policeman’s bullet. The unnamed perp died instantly with a bullet between his eyes. His motivation would perhaps never be known. It was something for the new Enhanced Human Crimes Division to solve.
Kirkman rushed into the privately owned lab. He stood in awe staring at the open portal which looked like something out of “Stargate”.
“It works?” Kirkman inquired of Carl Vanheim.
“Sure does, ‘’ Vanheim said grinning like a child with a lollipop, “We completed the design last night and fired her up this morning.”
“Have you sent anyone or anything through yet?”
“No siree. We were waiting for you. What took you so long anyway?”
Travis was silent and he walked toward the machine like a man in a trance. He stared at the portal which looked like churning water suspended in the air by some invisible force. ”I was delayed by an enhanced criminal’s rampage.” His reply came in a tone that indicated the detail was insignificant to him. The phenomenon in front of him had his full attention. “How long has the portal been open?”
“Since before we called you earlier.” Replied a lovely redhead scientist who stood with the others to Kirkman’s left.
“Intriguing. Most intriguing.” Said Travis Kirkman. He stepped closer & closer to the rift in cosmic fabric. “I’ve sacrificed so much to see this project through to fruition. I will now take the ultimate risk.”
He ignored the protests from his fellow scientists, his friends, his colleagues. He cared not that he risked his life; if he perished it would be knowing that his theories and time and sacrifice had paid off. In an instant he vanished into the unknown.
What you find on the other side changed your life didn’t it Travis Kirkman? You discovered something that ultimately led you here to this cubicle in which you’re imprisoned. Is that not correct, once mighty man?
Stepping through the warp, Kirkman found himself greeted by a crowd made up of soldiers in full gear. A few curious on-lookers, one man dressed in a polo shirt, slacks and a lab coat as well a fellow in black leather pants & matching jacket with dark tinted goggles and a gaiter concealing his face. This man ran past the soldiers leaving a trail of after images and white electric bolts in his wake. He grabbed Travis by the lapels of his coat. “Who are you? What is your business here?"
“Professor Travis Kirkman. I’m a man of science. My team & I opened an inter dimensional rift and I wanted to see what was on the other side.”
The other scientist walked up to the duo. He calmed the speedster and spoke with Kirkman. “You must forgive Side Step. The last visitors to come through a warp were hostile extraterrestrials. They left quite the mess." He gestured to the dilapidated buildings on the side of the street.
Kirkman recognized the surroundings. It was Kirbyburg,his own city but inhabited by people he had never seen before. Many of the buildings were still in a state of disrepair. This was a parallel universe. It was a world like his own but with key differences.
A shadow moved overhead. Everyone looked up to see a well built man with chiseled muscles and a square chin flying over head. He was clad in a red and blue costume. He looked down on them with a smile seeing that the situation was under control he waved and flew away.
“Who was that?” asked Kirkman over the din of the cheering crowd.
“His name is Virtue Paragon, ‘’ replied the scientist with respect in his voice. He was the first enhanced crime stopper to appear after the Cosmic Tide.”
He turned toward Kirkman and stretched out his hand for him to shake. “By the way, ProfessorKirkman, my name is Dr. Gonzalez, I’m the local expert on interdimensional phenomena. It is most extraordinary to meet a man of a like mind from a parallel earth.”
Kirkman inquired about the Cosmic Tide. Four months prior a rift appeared over Earth and a shock wave rippled across the planet. The energy surge resulted in super powered individuals popping up all across the globe. The only other warp to appear until Kirkman’s arrival brought forth alien conquerors. They were vanquished by Side Step, Virtue Paragon, and many others of various power sets. “Are all enhanced people on this world heroic?” Kirkman asked.
“Gosh no," replied Side Step, but I’m glad to say those of us who use their powers to aid law and order outweigh those who don’t.”
“My world has enhanced beings as well. Unfortunately most are criminals and our law enforcement doesn’t quite know how to contain them.” Kirkman explained.
PAfter a few more pleasantries he walked back through the portal and stood once again in his lab.
One of his fellow scientists asked to know what he had found on the other side of that rift. He smiled “Kirbyburg on a parallel Earth.”
“Was it exactly like this one?” Vanheim asked.
“No, ‘’ said Kirkman, his face turning serious,``not exactly like it.”
He asked one of the ladies, a brunette named Rosetta ( after the stone) , to make a note of the coordinates and other relevant information pertaining to the portal in case he wanted to return to that world and explore it. Something was brewing like a hurricane in the Southern Gulf of the USA.
Night had fallen like a blanket on Kirbyburg. Travis Kirkman poured a glass of scotch and paced around his ramshackle abode. Pieces of a puzzle were falling into place within his intellectual mind.
Four months ago Project Beyond-Warp was not as unsuccessful as it first appeared. It tore a whole between two Earths and the concussion of energy rippled throughout them. On one, super powered heroes outnumbered the villains. Vice versa for Kirkman’s world.
“If only those federal clowns who cut my funding could see us now. They’ll beg for my tech but they will have to buy it from me! I will make twice what I poured into the project privately.” His smile disappeared as another light bulb went off between his ears. “ The Cosmic Tide is my fault! I must begin to restore the cosmic balance that I upset with my experiments.”
So it began. Travis Kirkman from then on treads a path that leads to his current state. Maybe in those private moments his genius was touched by madness. It is more likely however that the old saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions applies here.
The professor sat down in his threadbare recliner and sipped the remaining scotch from the glass & formulated a course of action. The next morning he had his colleagues take an off day.
He drove to the storage facility were he kept under lock & key a set of rejected technological marvels he had crafted for the U.S. Military. He had put time and effort into making these wonders only for Uncle Sam to show little to no interest. Now, these dusty innovations would serve his plan to correct an error he blamed himself for!
There is no turning back at this point is there, Travis Kirkman? No, you do not give this convoluted plan a second thought as you retrieve the body armor made of spandex & kevlar and the magnetic shield that doubles as a hovering transport. You exit your storage building and take your inventions with you. You never look back.
Parallel Lives chp.3
The portal opens above that other Kirbyburg. The purple and yellow clad figure comes through. Even Professor Gonzalez who is walking home is shocked. Surely the man hovering on that silver disk above the startled throng is not Travis Kirkman. It is only logical that other worlds developed similar technology as evidenced by those nasty aliens. Who then is this newcomer?
He smiled an unseen smile beneath his cowl. Now the delicate balance would be restored. He was a hero in a world with too many villains. Here among an excess of heroes he would be the villain. He would now act accordingly. “Attention, citizens of Kirbyburg, I am Doctor Scale Tipper. From across a vast multiverse I have heard tale of mighty do gooders. I declare myself this world’s most powerful villain & I dare to prove it by battling Virtue Paragon!”
“Why should we heed your demands, you psycho?”, yelled one of the police officers. He drew his pistol and opened fire. The bullets seemed to be ineffective against the man in the sky. This was due to the Kevlar woven throughout the costume. They still hurt like crap though!
“Your puny weapons are no match against me!” the villain cried out.
The officer called for backup and within minutes half off the Kirbyburg PD was lined up and taking aim at the villain. A hail of bullets from Glocks, revolvers, & riot guns flew toward Kirkman. He activated the magnetic field around the hover disk and the bullets were stopped inches from him, raining down to the ground below.
A blue and red streak breezed past and now Kirkman faced his prey, Virtue Paragon. “You got here fast!” He said.
“Super-hearing, and Super-speed. And now you are super toast!” replied the hero snappily. He lunged toward Kirkman but was struck by some invisible force that sent him hurtling downward right into a parked car! “Fool, had you been here seconds ago you would have seen my magno-field repel a barrage of bullets.” This followed by a long evil laugh.
Professor Travis Kirkman was playing the part of Dr. Scale Tipper to perfection. The unfortunate thing was that he felt this was something he had to do. In his mind he was rectifying an error he had caused.
Virtue Paragon had risen to his feet. “Repel this!” he cried. Twin beams of heat shot from his eyes. Kirkman simply glided out of harm’s way. The laser vision bolts stuck the roof of a building behind him.
The street was a scene of bedlam. The police were evacuating the uptown area. Virtue Paragon soared into the sky and reared back his right arm to deliver a devastating punch to his foe. He did not expect it to be checked but it was.
Kirkman grabbed the hero’s fist with strength equal to his own. This was the result of the strength enhancement tech. If not for those modifications the scientist would have been no match for the superhuman.
It was seven full minutes of fisticuffs before Virtue Paragon got Dr. Scale Tipper into a headlock. He wrenched the villain’s arms behind his back. “Now you’ll face justice.” The hero stated in a voice filled with ice.
“Is that right? “
Virtue Paragon had made the mistake earlier of exposing a potential weakness. After the previous night’s encounter with the enhanced thugs, Kirkman had added ultrasonic weapons and protection from such to the suit. He didn’t think twice about activating them.
It was a shrill noise like a choir of banshees. The superhuman felt like someone was piercing his skull with daggers. He released Kirkman to shield his ears as he cried out in pain. Travis made a break for the portal seeing no reason to prolong this encounter. “I will return and your champions will all fall before me!” In an instant he was gone and the portal closed behind him.
Rosetta had made sure her dining room was cozy and ambient. The lights were dimmed to a cool yellow. She had placed candles in the center of the table with a vase of flowers in between them. She wore a navy blue sundress. Kirkman was dressed in his usual manner without the lab coat. They were enjoying homemade spaghetti and garlic bread. Travis spaced out momentarily as he scanned his food. “You seem somewhat distracted.” Rosetta observed.
“Sorry, I just feel like I should be on patrol,” apologized the Professor.
“The police can handle things for a little while. Rosetta said reassuringly. She put her hand on his & stared at him through her glasses.
Though the devotion to his interdimensional experiments had caused him to look older they were nearly the same age.
In that brief moment something passed between them that they had both fought against since a month after they met last year. “I’m not so sure. They are just now utilizing power dampening collars from heaven knows where. They’re still overwhelmed by the amount of criminals with enhanced powers.” He paused and took a bite of garlic bread. He sipped some wine from his goblet then continued, “All because my machine malfunctioned.” He saw the curious look pass over Rosetta’s face.
He explained how he had discovered the release of energy four months ago had for some inexplicable reason granted superpowers to men and women across the globe. “Is that why you do it?” she asked.
“Yes I’m making up for the wrong I’ve done.”
“You can’t go it alone forever,’’ she said smiling.”
“What are you getting at?”
“If you will have me, I’d like to be your behind the scenes sidekick, you know, like the butler from that one comic book series. I could help you with gadget upgrades and administer first aid, stuff like that.”
He said nothing for a moment. He was mulling it over. At last after swallowing a mouth full of pasta he said, “Why not you’re already in on my secret but we must keep it on the down low.”
Rosetta was ecstatic.
The duo talked more over the remainder of the supper. At the end of that conversation and well into the desert they knew this would not be the last meal they shared together.
If only you had held onto a good thing while you had it, Travis Kirkman.
Monday morning arrived and there was much gaiety (as much as there could be on a Monday). Everyone was in high spirits. They had received their checks and completely changed the face of cosmic exploration. Carl Vanheim and the rest noticed something had happened between Rosetta & Travis. The two of them were unusually flirty. Then at some point during the day, Kirkman’s mood changed into something more serious.
He excused himself to his private office and asked not to be disturbed. Once inside his personal sanctum he walked over to the big locker in the right rear corner of the room and opened it. He removed some old equipment from there in. It resembled a three-dee printer with a mannequin head in the center.
The device was Inspired by Mission Impossible. It was originally intended to create masks so life-like that they would be indistinguishable from real flesh. Kirkman had scrapped Synth Face in favor of Beyond-Warp. Now he plugged in the machine and booted up the software for the first time in two years.
The scientist realized he must create not just a separate costumed identity for himself on Twin Earth but a completely different civilian identity as well. Once the mask was completed he used the miniature transporter that Gonzalez had given him to travel to the other Kirbyburg. Once there he trekked to the local library. Since this version of Kirbyburg was set up exactly like his own he had no trouble in finding it. He logged into a computer using the guest account and searched up property for sale in the area. He found a listing for an old cannery in the downtown district. Odd, in his universe that cannery was still in operation. He met with the realtor and purchased the vacant building in full using his assumed name Trent Kurtly.
He now had a hideout for Dr. Scale Tipper. He must have never heard that old adage of deception and tangled webs. It was being woven and it would soon be wrapped around it’s weaver.
Class Zero Planetarium
It was the way the light bent, that worried him.
They were coming low into the atmosphere, slowing their descent enough that he could look out the double-reinforced window no longer enveloped in flames. But everything about the planet was wrong.
"The sensors are still reading all ocean," Dr. Hoffen stated with brief annoyance. He made a show of looking out his own window and grabbing his face in mock surprise "Land 'ho!" He exclaims sarcastically. Below is the face of a purple desert, as far as the sardonic eye can see.
"I don't know why they're doing that," Mechaster growls. Mechaster is a thin man with a sharp face and beady eyes. He is a hallmark example of growing up on a low gravity planet and one of the best mechanics N-Star has to offer. He crosses four disciplines as a mechanical, electrical, and software engineer with a PhD in AI analytics. This is a merest of overviews to his accolades. In short, he handles all the computers and machinery.
"SALEEM," Mechaster growls again to the shuttle's AI, "Have you come to a diagnosis yet?" The man himself is reading through the system report
"Negative Mechaster. Proposing a Class Zero Planetarium." The words are hard and frigid, robotic. It creeped Trank out when the AI spoke like a human. Bad memories from his soldiering days, he says. Mechaster scoffs.
"You just don't want to admit you're screwed in the head SALEEM." SALEEM does not reply.
Ever since the planet got "close" the crew has been extra snappy. This has bothered him too, though he's chocked it up to the home stretch jitters. "Close", of course, being the arbitrary point where one decides the trip is "almost finished". He hasn't felt like they've been "close" yet. He never feels like they're "close" until his feet touch the soil (or whatever passes for soil). And then he isn't "close", he's "here". They are not "here" yet.
"A Placa might be beaming us with something," Trank yells, getting a wave of curses thrown back in his direction.
"Pipe down Trank, some of us are trying to work here," Mechaster snaps.
"Sorry, my tinnitus must be kicking in," Trank mumbles quietly and distractedly. He's still thinking about the Placas. It's from his soldiering days.
"Or it's a Class zero," Sharon replies. She's a well-worn vaguely-plump semi-pleasant kind of woman. Sharon is the crew's astronomer, planetologist, and botanist. She's easily excitable and generally considered as boring as the stars she studies. The only reason she's on this particular mission is it brings her within fifteen light years of an understudied neutron star she believes is the key to a strange quasiwave pattern in the Quantum Foam that's been puzzling Tunneling Technicians for decades. She's doing her Peritius Doctorate (PeD) Thesis on this phenomena and hoping to bring neutron stars and their previously underutilized impact on the Quantum Foam to light. Ideally, the Tunneling Technicians take heed of her research and alter the routes they forge based on her discovery. This is her wet dream. She couldn't care less about the current object of the crew and the mention of a Class 0 planet is the first time she seems to have noticed there exists anything outside of her own research.
"Everybody shut up about the Class zero!" Mechaster snaps, violently clicking the refresh button; he's found nothing. "SALEEM has an error in the dirt and I'm going to find it. It's our data that's the problem."
He continues to watch out the window as the purple-sand-that-should-be-ocean grows ever closer, listening to his crew bicker. They're all wrong, he's sure. It's the way the light hits the atmosphere. It bends weird. But why?
Parallel Lives chap. 5
His winter coat wrapped around him like a Burmese Python, the man known as Travis Kirkman and also as Trent Kurtly debated whether to spend the night in his penthouse or teleport back to his own world and spend the night in his rundown apartment. There was more need here for the Sinister Shield than there was for the Shielded Sentry in his world, still it would be nice to see some familiar faces. A call from Janice settled the debate.
“Hello, Trent, It’s Janice. Could I come over to your place?”
“Sure,” Kurtly replied, “What’s going on?”
“It’s been a long day and I need someone to talk to.”
He gave the lass directions to his abode and hung up. He hailed a cab and rode in silence. “What was that all about?” he puzzled. Jackson didn’t sound like the confident reporter ready to stand against the opposition like a paladin of old, that he met last night. This time she sounded distraught and burdened.
The man was bathed in the yellow glow of his penthouse’s interior lighting. He sat in a plush reclining chair listening to sensuous jazz music. He studied the scotch glass like It was a urologist’s specimen. He sipped at the classy liquor slowly. Over his music he could hear bones snapping and the gurgle of a man with internal injuries. It was his conscience of course. He closed his eyes and concentrated on drowning out the phantom ruckus. He did what was necessary; it was that simple.
A knock at the door repelled the ghosts in his mind like a circle of holy salt. Trent rose from his chairs and walked briskly to the door. He spotted Janice through the peephole and ushered her inside. She looked strained. He invited her to sit down on the leather sofa. She made herself comfortable, crossing her legs together in an old school manner. “Can I get you something to drink?” asked Trent.
“Water, please.” She replied.
Kurtly disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a glass of water. She took a swig of the precious liquid. “Tell me what’s on your mind.” He urged gently.
“Oh ,Trent, it’s been such a long day!” She exclaimed, nearly bursting into tears, “Surely you know that awful villain showed up again, like my gut said he would. He calls himself the Sinister Shield now.”
Trent nodded and replied “I was late to work because of that nutcase.”
She continued, “It wasn’t enough to hold the city hostage! He killed people indirectly. 23 traffic fatalities and one person died because he fried the hospital's power!" Kurtly’s eyes grew to the size of saucers. He hadn’t set out to kill people. Even the heroes he fell, he only injured enough to put them out of commission.
“And then he hospitalized Side Step. He was one of our most powerful heroes and now he’s on death’s door! That goon beat him like he was nothing! It has us all feeling helpless.”
She began to weep. Kurtly moved to the couch beside her and she put her head on his shoulder. “We all feel helpless. I-I feel so helpless.” It took thirty minutes for Trent Kurtly to calm his companion. At last she steeled herself and the two parted company with a prolonged kiss. He loved her yet he was in love with Rosetta! No, not him. Travis Kirkman was in love with Rosetta Dunn. Trent Kurtly was in love with Janice Jackson.
Yes, by now the man who stood silently had convinced himself he was in fact two different people depending on which Earth he stood on. He was living parallel lives with the ease of an actor playing a part. All the while fate was tightening its grip.
If he had not become obsessed with his mission the scientist would have quit right then and there. He had killed people. He would have returned to his home Earth and given up the endeavor. As it was, he considered this morning’s actions his point of no return. He was all in now. There was no more heroic Shielded Sentry, only the dastardly Sinister Shield. That same maniacal laugh that filled his laboratory the day he fought Virtue Paragon now filled the empty penthouse blending in an almost otherworldly manner with the jazz music he had resumed listening to.
In the weeks that followed Trent Kurtly maintained his civilian identity. He busied himself in the lab by day and alternated between returning to his world at night & leading his life upon this one. He spotted the supers almost every day. They performed their heroics whether it was stopping returning super criminals or helping a young child safely cross the street. The task they most devoted themselves to was trying to find the Sinister Shield. No more so than Side Step’s lover Lady Elastique.