Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Cost of His Mission

He hobbled through the dank shadows of his cave, the steady "tok tok tok" of his cane keeping time with his shuffling steps. He passed by the old gymnasium, rusted and cobwebbed and covered in droppings. No reason to keep it clean any more, not for many years now. He looked down on his shriveled twisted frame and remembered when he had the body of a god, when he could cross the entire city on foot in the space of an hour and never touch the ground. He sighed and continued on.

The cars were long gone, as were most of the vehicles. He'd sold them to his old teammates years ago. Most of the trophies were in storage, except for one. Adrian's old costume. He looked up at it, hanging in its glass case and began to cry. They were bitter angry tears that brought no solace. Adrian was just a boy, no more than 10, when he'd taken him in as his ward. The boy's parents had been killed by gangsters, and it had touched a chord in him. He shook his head at the memory. A child! His friends had thought him mad for bringing a child into his grim crusade, but he wouldn't listen. He thought with enough training, the boy would make a decent protege. Someone to carry on the fight when he'd grown too old for it.

The first case he'd brought Adrian on was against Boss Alligator, a massive reptilian crimelord who dominated the east side. Within minutes, Alligator had torn Adrian in two. The boy hadn't had the chance to even fight back. After a brutal fight, he defeated Boss Alligator, and the old reptile spent the rest of his years in the asylum.

Wiping his eyes on his sleeve, he turned away from the old costume and made his way to the giant computer that dominated one whole section of the cave. He sat down slowly in front of the computer, mindful of the droppings and powered up the machine. The asylum. That was why he'd come down here. After 20 years, the Laughing Bastard had managed to escape again, and had gone on a city-wide killing spree. 20 years ago, his course would have been clear. Suit up and head out to battle. Today, that course of action was beyond impossible. It was laughable.

But he was still resourceful. He still always needed to have a plan. So, 10 years ago, using all the influence of his civilian identity, he persuaded a surgeon to implant a small device in his old arch-foe's brain. It served as a homing beacon, but also something else. He punched up a particular program on the computer, entered the appropriate code and keyed the activation sequence. Across the city, as he was preparing to slaughter a husband and wife in front of their children, the Laughing Bastard's head suddenly vaporized, leaving nothing but a charred stump atop his shoulders.

In the cave, an old man sat slumped in his chair. It was done. No more death.

But there would be plenty of death to come, he chided himself. This solves nothing. Tomorrow, there will be a hundred more doing the same. He pulled the gun from a drawer built in to the computer. It was the gun that had killed his parents. The gun that started him on the road that brought him here.

He pondered where that road had led him. Dead friends, dead lovers, dead... children. All killed in service to his mission. His quest for justice. He shook his head. But there was no justice in his city. Crime was more rampant than when he was a child. Far from making things better, he had in fact made things much worse. And now, he was just a broken old man who had sacrificed much of his fortune and the best years of his life on a fool's errand that gained him nothing but misery and an empty mansion.

He put the gun in his mouth, closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.

And a boy who'd been killed over 60 years ago finally died.


Lisa said...

Such a dark feeing, to see the other side, the aftermath of super heroism.

Chris said...

It seems to be another theme of mine, aside from the robots and psychopaths and lighthearted versions of Christian mythology.

I've spent more time than any 10 people ever should thinking about superheroes, so I figure I should probably do something with all that "insight".

Lisa said...

Yeah, you definitely should--and you do it so well. :)