The heavy pounding of the guitar shook the asphalt of the abandoned parking lot. Ben joined the screaming voices with a grin. Something burning sailed over the crowd. Always fun when the band has powers. Small crowd, too, maybe one hundred people.
Two halves of the crowd separated, Ben included, and jumped to the sound of the heavy metal band. Hate sitting still. The beat picked up. Ben threw his half empty beer bottle into the face of a skinhead across from him, then joined in as the opposing sides charged. He ducked under a punch from somewhere, then came up in a shoulder check. The mass of people on the other side knocked him back.
The press of bodies on all sides barely kept him on his feet. Ben laughed and sang along to the unintelligible lyrics, fist raised in the air. Fun! Someone screamed in pain off to the side. If the singer has the power to lower your violent inhibitions, you better damn well come prepared. Ben pressed forward, twisting out of the way of a switchblade. Fucking skinhead.
The next stab the skinhead took, Ben grabbed his wrist and pulled back as far as the crowd would let him. This turned out to be about five inches, but the skinhead followed. Ben pushed the knife hand aside and jabbed a thumb in his eye for his trouble. The skinhead’s pain shock allowed Ben to twist his knife hand until he released the knife to the sound of bones cracking. Ben brought the elbow of his free arm down on the skinhead’s nose. Easy day. People behind Ben cheered.
The drums reached a frantic pace. The mob eased off, then slammed into each other again. And again. And again. Ben lost track of the skinhead, and exactly where Ben was in relation to the stage, but no one else tried stabbing him again. Then the mob shifted.
Police sirens sounded, barely audible over what could loosely be described as music at that point. Shots fired. It just isn’t a good underground fight mosh pit without the cops showing up. Screaming. The mob began to disperse away from the gunshot, the band cut off. Ben sprinted past the fleeing mob members towards a tall length of chain link fence. Shit, too tall. He grinned again. Eight feet away, he reached, jumped, and teleported.
The teleport put him close to the top of the fence, still in the same position as when he’d jumped on the ground. His extended hand grabbed the top of the fence, and his momentum carried him fully over. He fell and rolled as he hit the ground. Hate how I can only go forward. He sprinted into the night as others began to climb the fence behind him. Others surged towards the police, who responded with rubber bullets.
Soon, with a couple more teleports, Ben left the sirens and screaming behind him. Damn that was fun. Gotta remember that band. He slowed to a walk as he approached his car, an old forest green jeep with the back bumper rusted off. Scanning the abandoned parking lot, he unzipped his pant pocket and fished out his keys.
The engine rattled as he attempted to start it. The check engine light lit up for the millionth time. Damn thing’s been having ignition problems for the last month. The engine started properly on the second try.
Time? He turned on the headlights, then tapped the clock on the jeep’s radio. Three AM. Got some time before work starts. The engine didn’t protest when he put it in reverse, so Ben drove back to his apartment building. No cops around over here, thankfully. Don’t want to get pulled over, I don’t think the grenades in the back are legal.
Ben slipped back to his apartment complex. His hands drummed against his legs from residual adrenaline. No one saw him as he entered his apartment. He jumped up a couple times. Need to do that more often. Should patrol tomorrow night, though.
Got maybe an hour before I got to leave for work. Damn bakeries and their early hours. Ben grabbed the rifle off his bed and leaned it in the corner. The knives he threw on his desk. Uniform clean? Yes, good. He checked himself over as he changed. Some scuffs on my shins, didn’t even feel those. That’s a nice bruise on my chest, but no big deal, I don’t plan on stripping for my manager.
He held up the shirt with the happy, smiling donut on the right shoulder, his grinning mask glinting in the corner of his eye on the nightstand next to his bed. Gotta pay the bills. Not much else if you don’t have a high school diploma. Besides, donuts are fucking awesome. There’s about a billion worse jobs, and I’m not missing out on much sleep anyways.
He put on the shirt, then crashed on the office chair in front of his computer. Any other bands like that? Ones with powers?
Supers had been popping up since the dawn of time, but they had become more prevalent in the last century, with the population explosion and all. Prevalent, not necessarily stronger. In fact, the likes of the Mother or Cuauhtémoc were centuries old, immortal, and very powerful. Of the modern capes only Cyrus, Overlord/Slave Driver (guess who’s a super villain!), or a couple others could match them one on one, power to power.
There were always religious fanatics who considered supers as abominations, and in recent times pointed to the Mother as proof as exactly what she did became widely known. They mostly stuck to their compounds however, and everyone was fine with that.
After wasting time online (pirate metal is a thing?), he tore himself from his computer. Time to make donuts, motherfucker!
The next night, Ben grabbed his grinning mask, his sniper rifle, a grenade bandolier, and about seven various knives and carried them to his car. A fifteen minute drive later, he parked in an empty parking garage near the roof. He slipped his mask on. Skulker time.
Skulker ran to the edge of the garage, jumped up the wall, and teleported to the next building. He moved from one building to another, never staying for more than a minute to observe the area. He didn’t expect to find anyone, but trying never hurt, and it got him active.
The city’s super criminals had been quiet since Christmas, even though standard crime skyrocketed since the economy crashed a couple years ago. The only thing to happen was that lunatic attacking an orphanage. Skulker hadn’t even gotten the opportunity to stab that fucker. By the time the police band broadcast the situation, Cyrus had already pummeled the pyro. Cyrus gets all the fun. Skulker needed a better way to get information, as a vigilante he was technically a criminal as well.
The government was willing to turn a blind eye towards vigilantes, provided that they didn’t do anything overt to attract attention. Most non-government teams reached some sort of understanding with the government to keep their organizations and activities legal, but lone vigilantes had no such protection. Of course he’d broken the knees of a wannabe hero in Baltimore that had tried to arrest him for it with a two by four, but that was an anomaly.
He smiled under his mask at the memory. A couple local supers in the MHU tracked him down for that knee breaking incident, which resulted in a long protracted fight ending in an impasse and an impressive throat injury for Ben. With no other option (besides death) available to him, they made him swear to target only criminals and leave Baltimore.
It was well known that Skulker would rather throw himself into a volcano than be a liar, so they assumed themselves safe. He therefore discovered that one of them was corrupt, beat the ever-loving shit out of him, revealed his crimes to the general populace, beat the ever-loving shit out of him again, and then left Baltimore for Westward City. He despised liars who thought they could take advantage of his honesty. Cyrus was somewhat understanding of the situation, and was not actively hunting Skulker.
He eventually stopped and sat on the edge of a building overlooking the Rocky Mountain Shopping Center, deciding to relax for a bit. It was a quiet Monday, the air was refreshingly cool. It probably wouldn’t warm up until sometime in May. The donut shop where he worked at was below him. Abruptly shouts came from the direction he’d been heading. Well what do you know? Grinning in anticipation of something to do, he hoped back to his feet and set off to the source of the noises.
Before he reached what he had judged to be where the people were, he saw three men running hard away from the street, blocked from Ben’s view by the building he was standing on. Excellent, someone scared them off. Time to make sure they don’t get away.
He drew a switchblade, one of seven knives on him at the time. Mowing them down with a firearm wouldn’t be taken very well by the public. Wanton murder brought the attention of the authorities.
Just as they were about to run under his position, he jumped off the building, then shifted to the ground level. I am the goddamn Batman! Fear me! Ah man, I could totally pull that off, I just need a cape or something. The building he was on wasn’t very tall, so his teleport put his feet on the ground.
As he landed in a crouch, he drove the blade into the foot of the first man, the one with an impressive black eye. Skulker took advantage of the man’s forward momentum to flip him over his shoulder, tearing out the knife in the process. The other two barely had time to react before Skulker righted himself and drove a kick into the stomach of the second man. The third man had a knife, and swung it wildly at Ben.
Skulker teleported a couple feet through the gap between the two men, to just behind and to the side of the knife man, then spun and slashed at the armed man, leaving a shallow cut across his back. The second had recovered and swung a punch at Ben. Ben ducked his head, saw that the man had overextended himself, then turned and brought his elbow into the man’s throat as hard as he could. He went down gurgling.
It was just Skulker and the knife man now. The man tried a desperate stab at Skulker, but Skulker dodged out of the way, then stabbed. There’s the temple. Didn’t feel like disarming him. Besides, the man was armed. Self defense! Self defense!
Then Skulker noticed someone about five feet away to his side, and felt his smile evaporate. It was a big girl in ratty old clothes, with a massive pair of wings, claws for hands, and a tail, all dark green scales. She might have been six and a half to seven feet tall if she stood up straight, but the wings extending above her head made it hard to tell.
Oh fuck me, that’s a feral.
“Shit” he muttered to himself.
He reached for the pistol he had holstered at his side with his free hand, and ran through what he knew of ferals, though that wasn’t much. Half human, half animal after trigger. This one looks to be a lizard, maybe? Unintelligent, animalistic. Kills people or runs away. Strangely, this one did neither.
He froze as the feral dropped into an aggressive stance, claws uncurled and ready. He hoped that it would run. He didn’t like the looks of those claws. They stared at each other, and it started some fairly ominous hissing. Yep. Feral. Probably feels threatened. He prepared to freeze time the moment it made a move towards him.
Ben didn’t bother trying to speak, so far as he knew almost all ferals couldn’t talk or understand human speech anyways. The hissing thankfully stopped, and the feral slowly started to back away. Skulker remained unmoving until she disappeared down the corner she came from, their eyes never leaving each other.
Skulker took a deep breath and relaxed slightly. Fuck. Just fuck. I’m gonna have to call animal control and the meta-human department, on top of the standard police for the bastards at my feet. The animal control and meta-humans would work together to capture it. She’d probably spend the rest of her life cared for in captivity, but better that than killing and being killed by everyone else.
Now Skulker had to talk to a bunch of people he didn’t like, and fill out a bunch of forms that were both frustrating and necessary if Skulker wanted anything productive to happen on the government’s end. God damn it. Statements for the courts for the criminals, an interview/ interrogation about the feral, what it did, what it looked like, etc.
In hindsight, he probably should have just shot the feral, but he rather enjoyed his organs being intact and in their proper places, and didn’t want to run the risk of upsetting that status quo.
Wait a minute, she was wearing clothes. What kind of feral does that? He briefly reconsidered. Murder and disappearance rates had risen in the past year, however he hadn’t hear of any murders chalked up to animal attacks, a telltale sign of a loose feral. This one was more intelligent than most. He’d heard stories of the occasional intelligent feral popping up, but intelligence in this respect was relative.
Whatever, animal control will assess that once they catch her. If she’s self-aware they’ll help her out. If she turned out to be murderous, and remained loose in the city, the blame would fall on Skulker for not reporting it immediately. He whipped out a cell phone and dialed the number he’d been issued by the USMHD, aka the United States Meta-Human Department. Just because they didn’t like vigilantes didn’t mean they wouldn’t take super powered help where they could get it. Let’s get this over with. I’ve got work in the morning.