The day is overcast with a cool light mist in the air. In the distance, an occasional rumble of thunder breaks the silence. The evening rush hour sees only a few brave souls on the road or the sidewalks. This scene, in a major metropolitan, is unusual and a bit unsettling. Should someone choose to take a stroll, one would see cars abandoned in the middle of the streets and some even overturned. Buildings are marked with large gouges in their facades, broken windows, and entire walls missing on the upper floors.
Steven Jorge observes the initial aftermath while peering out the window of a small diner and realizes there is more to come. He also knows that the thunder in the distance is definitely not thunder, a fact shared by others hiding inside the diner with him. Some try to get a glimpse of the action, while the rest stay far away from the windows as possible.
A frazzled young lady behind Steven nervously asks him, “Ar… Are they l.. leaving?”
“I seriously doubt it,” he replies, trying to mask the quiver in his own voice.
A look of dread replaces her worried expression. Steven lifts his camera and points the powerful zoom lens in the direction of the pink and bluish lightning. The flashes appear within and below the clouds, followed by deep rumbles. As he zooms in closer, he can see the tiny figures darting in and out of the clouds, sometimes crashing into each other. He thinks about the scenes in movies where people stand in the streets watching deadly battles between superheroes and supervillains. To witness it in real life is nothing like the movies. It’s downright terrifying. Almost as if to challenge that thought, Steven stands up, opens the door, and steps onto the sidewalk.
There are many others outside but mostly looking from behind walls or cars. A few of them have taken out their phones, trying to capture some of the action. Most of the commuters had already left their vehicles and ran many blocks away from the scene. There are a few bodies in the streets, possibly trampled by the fleeing crowd. Some are being checked by paramedics and firemen, while others are not touched. Many of the nearby emergency vehicles were abandoned earlier because they ended up too close to the epicenter of the battle. A few news crews can be seen on the ground trying to keep their distance while also getting exclusive footage. If there are any helicopters in the air, they aren’t visible. Maybe they were smart enough to observe from afar.
A crashing sound resounds from above as bricks and chunks of reinforced concrete fall from the top of one of the skyscrapers. Steven notices the entangled figures falling to the ground as they bounce from one building to the next in a pinball fashion. They hit the street with so much force that it caves in, producing a shock wave that shakes walls and hits Steven with a jolt. Less than two blocks away, the gladiators emerge from the hole, still fighting as if nothing had happened. Watching them interact is almost like trying to capture the motion of a bee’s wings with one’s eyes. Their arms and legs are a blur as they strike and attempt to strike each other. Since they both are wearing dark colors, they’re difficult to tell apart at times. Steven notices that both of them slow down significantly when either one emits a burst of energy. Their “slow” is still much faster than any human, but they are more observable with the naked eye at that speed.
Steven raises his camera and tries to capture the fight on high-speed video. For some reason, his camera is drawn to the one in the dull black outfit. The skin of this one has a purplish tint to it, and he, at least it appears to be a he, has no hair. The way he looks seems almost as if he sprang directly from the pages of a comic book. He has clearly made himself out to be the perfect villain. Steven knows, at this point, that this creature wouldn’t give a second thought about grabbing a random pedestrian and hurling her directly at his opponent.
The other being looks almost entirely like any average human, although he is slightly larger and taller than average. His look resembles that of a typical comic book hero, with the square jaw and all. His uniform is mostly dark blue with hints of red here and there. The red markings look like glyphs and don’t always appear in the same place for very long. The dark-haired hero doesn’t seem to be constantly in motion like the other one. Maybe the villain, who is clearly smaller, knows he needs more speed to match the force delivered by the larger one.
Suddenly, there is a bright blue and pink flash with a loud crackle. Debris and a couple of vehicles go flying. One SUV is flying directly toward Steven and the cafe he was just in. He still films a second longer before he realizes what’s about to happen. He quickly lowers his camera with the intention of running but accepts that there is no way he can avoid being hit. Instead of running, he just crouches there with an arm across his face. It’s possible that the people in the diner are screaming, but the only thing he can hear is the sound of the blood flow in his ears.
He feels a shock wave similar to the one he felt when the beings slammed into the street. The large SUV crashes to the ground a few feet in front of him. Glass shatters all over him, delivering cuts here and there, but that is nothing compared to what should have happened. It was almost as if the massive truck hit an invisible wall before crashing to the ground. For a second, he thinks that maybe he misjudged its trajectory. No, the SUV was definitely speeding toward him as if it had been fired from a canon.
The chatter in the diner is louder because all of the windows are now broken. People have minor cuts from the glass but otherwise appear OK. Some are angry, while others are clearly rattled with looks of grave concern. Steven quickly remembers that he needs to go around crumpled vehicle, which is now blocking his view.
The beings are moving “slow” again. The villain appears to be trying to get away, but the hero keeps tackling him, causing them to crash into buildings and anything else in their way. He must be angry that his opponent nearly killed and injured more people. Eventually, the supervillain finds an opening. The villain catches the hero during one of his stationary moments and sends multiple objects flying toward him at high speeds. One of the objects happens to be the villain himself. He manages to attract everything, including chunks of the building, toward the hero, who appears to be unaffected by what is happening. He clearly can absorb the damage and much more. What the villain does next is a bit surprising. Instead of hitting the hero, the villain curves around him from below and increases his speed considerably. Steven is still capturing the action at a high frame rate and plans to watch it later. The villain shoots off skyward at a slight angle with such a high speed that it causes a sonic boom and shatters what few windows remain. Steven’s ears are ringing. The hero manages to repel the cars and debris but has to be careful not to turn them into deadly projectiles. He floats straight up and surveys the damage. Steven can’t see the hero’s face from that distance, but he can only assume that the great warrior is bothered by it. The hero then flies off in the opposite direction from the villain.
Couldn’t he have stayed to help fix things up a bit?
Some people are still reluctant to come out from their hiding places because there had been multiple lulls in the action before fighting resumed again. Steven can only assume the beings were talking to each other during the pauses, but no one will ever know what they were saying. People who claim to have heard them speak in the past say that it is some unknown language with many syllables running together.
Choking dust fills the air, and Steven is pretty sure everyone’s ears are ringing much like his. After about twenty minutes, a few of the familiar sounds start coming back. The muffled murmur of people talking, sirens in the background, and a few cars starting are added to this metropolitan symphony. People are helping the wounded get to the ambulances. Steven has blood on his shirt, but his injuries are nothing compared to some of the others with broken legs and arms. Steven begins capturing more footage before he feels like someone is staring at him. A man carrying another injured man glares at Steven in disgust. Steven knows the reason for the look, but he knows he needs to capture as much footage as he can at the battle scene.
Steven runs across a few more of the injured as he nears the hole in the street made by the impact. He helps them up and hands them over to the paramedics and EMTs. When he reaches the hole, he doesn’t immediately notice anything, but he does get footage from every possible angle. Firefighters are rushing by him to put out fires that ignited nearby. Steven remembers that the beings bounced between two skyscrapers before hitting the ground, so he captures more video and photos of the buildings.
He then notices his phone lighting up on his belt. It isn’t ringing or vibrating as it was likely damaged during the rumble. There are twenty-six missed calls from his wife and various people from his lab. He calls his wife first with hesitation.
Cyann Jorge is a lady who keeps her composure through almost anything, except when it comes to her family. Steven recalls a time when their youngest son had wandered off in a theme park. He was lost for over two hours, and she was frantic. The park attendants bore much of her wrath as they appeared less than concerned about finding him. They were simply trying to ward off more panic by keeping their composure, but she didn’t see it that way. In the end, someone found their son in a photo booth. Although he was four, he always followed instructions. They had taught him to never talk to strangers so he wouldn’t go with anyone who tried to take him to Guest Relations. They radioed and passed along the word for Steven and his wife to come get him. She hugged him for what seemed like an eternity.
Steven slowly dials his home number on the pad instead of using the contact list or voice dial.
Cyann answers the phone almost immediately. “Steven? Steven. Is that you? They said you went to downtown Halston. Is that you?”
“Yes. It’s me,” he replies.
“Are you OK?”
“Yeah, I’m good.”
She can tell from his voice that he’s fine. Once she established this, she chides him. “What were you thinking going there? Why the hell didn’t you answer your phone?”
“Well, it was…”
“You had us worried to death. The disaster there is all over the news. People are dead in the streets and everything. You’re an engineer, for God’s sake, not a soldier or paramedic.”
“I know. I know. Steven assured her. Baby, I’m fine. There’s nothing to worry about. I have to go soon. Let me speak to the boys.”
“You can’t right now. I left them with Alessa.”
“Why did you do that?” Steven asks.
“Because I’m in the car driving somewhere,” she reluctantly responds.
Although he already knows the answer, he asks, “Headed where?”
“To Halston to find you.”
Halston is three and a half hours from their house. Steven fusses at her about how dangerous it is here without thinking about his own disregard. He convinces her to head back home and lets her know he will probably get home pretty late. The next call is to his boss, telling her to pass the word to their coworkers that he’s alive and well.
Steven had predicted that both creatures would end up in Halston based on satellite data that can trace the unique energy signatures produced and sometimes left behind by the beings. The satellites were originally designed to record the intensity of neutrino activity in order to better predict deadly solar flares. He and a friend of his figured out that they might be used to also track the movement of the strange new visitors. This was the first time he was able to accurately locate both of them before a battle. Of course, these beings are so powerful that most people won’t be able to get far enough away without causing mass chaos.
The beings have only been here for a few months, and their fighting has caused considerable damage. While their origins are unknown, it’s highly likely that they are not from earth. If they are earthly and were once human, they definitely aren’t any longer. Steven is a mechanical engineer working for a major defense contractor. He is part of a team tasked with finding out how to contain or destroy these creatures before things get out of hand.
Steven walks about nine blocks to his car. He learned from watching prior battles that they don’t seem to like cars, or they absolutely love throwing them around and crushing them. When he gets to his vehicle, he encrypts and uploads the photos and videos to his cloud account. He remembers almost losing crucial footage thanks to the curiosity of his two little angels at home.
The road is desolate, so he manages to shave about forty-five minutes off his trip without getting a ticket. When he arrives home, Cyann meets him at the door with a hug and a long kiss. She notices his cuts and dried blood on his shirt but is just glad that he’s home. The boys are already in the bed, so he goes up to tuck them in and kiss them goodnight.
Before getting ready for bed, he spends some time watching the footage of the battle. Nothing really stands out until he reaches the point where they crash through the street. With his new camera, he can slow the action down to a crawl. First, he notices that the impact was not made by the beings hitting the ground. There appears to be some kind of energy field about ten or fifteen feet ahead of them that causes the damage and shock wave.
The other thing he notices is the final escape of the villain. Either the hero creates one of these fields around himself, or the villain creates it, causing many objects to converge on the hero. It doesn’t appear magnetic because cars, garbage, glass, and chunks of rock all fly toward him. The villain is also drawn in, but Steven notices that his trajectory doesn’t follow that of the other objects. After rewinding and forwarding a few times, he realizes what he’s seeing. The creature seems to have created some kind of artificial gravitation around the hero and then flew in under him. He used this force to slingshot himself at a 45-degree angle behind the hero, who is now encased in debris and crushed vehicles. This is the same slingshot method used to accelerate deep space probes when they approach planets.
He notices a similar field when they send the overturned truck flying his way. There’s the bright flash that seems to originate around them instead of from one of them. The truck isn’t thrown because he notices many other small objects ejected in different directions. The hero has his back turned to the camera, but the villain looks directly at Steven as the vehicle begins its flight. He freezes the frame as a chill runs through him. A few frames later, the truck obscures the view of the fight, and that’s when Steven lowered the camera to protect himself. The footage that follows clearly shows that something blocks the vehicle. It is even crushed in a manner that indicates a frontal impact. He is troubled by that look from the villain and wonders if the creature deliberately targeted him. Or maybe he was almost a random casualty like many others who lay in the streets.
Copyright 2015-2021 Darrell Winfrey