The elevator stopped and the doors opened. Behind the elevator doors was a set of bright green metallic doors. Etched across them were the letters BH, looking exactly like the emblem Buddy had seen on the altered photo of himself.
“D.A.W.N.,” Arthur said. “Open the door to the Buddy Hero Lounge.”
“Yes Mr. Flores,” D.A.W.N.’s voice rang through the elevator, “Are you certain he’s ready?”
“There’s no time to waste thinking about that any longer, D.A.W.N. The time to act is now.”
There was a loud hissing noise and the green doors split in the middle at the space between the B and the H in the emblem. A dense fog entered the elevator.
“You were always a fan of the dramatics, Mr. Jackson.”
As the fog cleared, Buddy was greeted by a flood of green. The room beyond the doors was a mess of couches, a bar, and several oversized televisions. Before long, Buddy took notice to the smaller objects littering the area.
The room was decorated with merchandise. Posters, action figures, plush dolls, lunch boxes, and many other items all bearing Buddy’s likeness. He walked into the room in shock. He reached down to pick up an action figure from a nearby end table. He held it close to his face to inspect the likeness. He stared at it as though he could will it out of existence if he focused on it for long enough.
He then became aware of the mural covering the walls, bearing several different versions of his likeness. And everywhere he looked, he saw the words “Buddy Hero”.
“Are you impressed, Mr. Jackson?”
“Impressed still isn’t the word I would use to describe it. What is all this stuff? You planning on making some sort of cartoon about me or something?”
“This is your life, Mr. Jackson. All of these items are a part your personal collection, kept in the exact way you left them before the history of the world was re-written.”
“You realize this is outrageous, right? How can you truly expect me to believe there’s a world-wide conspiracy to keep me from being remembered?”
“Not just you, Mr. Jackson, but all of those like you. Both those who fought for justice, as well as those who battled in chaos.”
“Look, pal, it’s awesome you’ve made some sweet action figures of me and this one,” Buddy said as he held up a figurine, “is definitely coming home with me, but what you’re talking about isn’t possible.”
“Ah, well, perhaps this collection of items bearing your likeness is not as much proof as it is a fun step in your journey to understanding what I have to show you next. It also happens to be on the way to the screening room, which is where we are now headed. If you would be so kind as to follow me, I’m sure the film strip I have prepared for you will explain a great deal more than I could with words.”
Arthur walked across the room and entered the only door on the right side. Buddy grabbed one of the plush dolls and followed. He walked into the next room and found a full size theater screen, complete with stadium-style seating. Arthur gestured for Buddy to take a seat. Buddy complied.
“No popcorn?” Buddy asked.
“D.A.W.N.?” Arthur yelled.
“Yes Mr. Flores,” came D.A.W.N.’s voice from the speakers in the seats. Buddy jumped at the sudden voice behind him.
“Roll film strip 68B for Mr. Jackson.”
“Yes sir.” Buddy heard D.A.W.N.’s voice continue quietly through the speaker on the right side of his chair. “I think you’re really going to like this one, Buddy. And did I tell you how excited I am to have you back?”
“D.A.W.N.! Quit talking and roll the film!”
“Fine, but you don’t have to yell. You know I can hear you perfectly.”
The screen flickered to life and a countdown began, counting from five to one. Once the countdown finished, the screen showed the image of a person behind a desk. Buddy recognized the person on the screen as local television anchorman Tad Wilkington. He looked younger than the last time Buddy had seen the show.
“There is all out pandemonium occurring downtown today as Buddy Hero and his Defenders battle the menace who calls himself Dominion.” Tad sounded much less comfortable in front of a camera than Buddy thought he normally did. The image switched from Tad to aerial footage of downtown Sun City. There was smoke and flames coming from the wreckage of buildings. The camera zoomed in on a group of people at ground level.
“As you can see, the collateral damage from the fight is astounding. Buildings have been flattened and there is so much smoke in the air our helicopter pilot has had a difficult time staying on the scene. There have been no official reports so far, but preliminary numbers would cause us to believe the death toll is already easily in the thousands. Several members of the Defenders themselves have also gone unaccounted for. Out of the seven members, the only ones we have been able to locate are Buddy Hero and Kid Zero, as you can see now in the live footage coming from our Channel 1 News Chopper.”
On the screen Buddy could very clearly be seen with the man from the hospital at his side. They were yelling at a man standing in the middle of what used to be a skyscraper. The man raised his hands to the air and they lit up in flames. The ground began to take fire from flaming rocks falling from the sky.
The one they called Kid Zero stood still, a look of extreme concentration fell across his face. A glimmer of something flashed around his body and the rocks began bouncing off him. Buddy’s doppelganger merely punched the meteors as they came at him.
“What the–” Tad’s voice cracked as he spoke. His microphone must have been turned off, as he never finished his sentence.
Buddy watched in amazement as his doppelganger turned his back to the one causing it to rain fire from the sky. He ran to a nearby tanker truck and lifted it above his head as though it were nothing. Giant meteors crashed around his impressive frame, exploding in a shower of sparks. He heaved the truck at Dominion.
Dominion didn’t notice what was happening before the truck was already in the air heading toward him. He held his hands out and they lit up brightly just as the truck rammed into him. It exploded, creating a fireball which filled the screen. The camera shook with the intensity of the blast. The images on the screen blurred as though the camera were spinning at high speed. The screen reverted back to the image of Tad behind his desk, who looked terrified..
“Oh my. . . “ Tad said looking down. He looked at the camera, realized he was back on, and quickly sat up, tightening his tie as he spoke. “Um. . . Ladies and gentlemen. What you have just witnessed is currently occurring in downtown Sun City. Uh. . . We can’t be completely certain of anything at this point. It looks like the Channel 1 News Team helicopter is experiencing technical difficulties. Local officials are declaring a state of– “
Arthur stood and looked to the projection booth. “That’s enough, D.A.W.N., I don’t think he’s ready for the rest of that strip yet.”
The lights turned on and the screen went dark. Buddy stared.
“I understand this is a lot to take in, Mr. Jackson–”
“So, is this supposed to be some movie you’re making or something? Hasn’t the whole superhero thing been done to death already?”
“Mr. Jackson, this is not a movie, this is–”
“I definitely have to give you kudos for finding such a great look-alike. I’m not really sure why you would want someone who looks like me though. I’d have to imagine you could find someone much more attractive and famous.”
“Mr. Jackson, surely you must understand what you have just seen on the screen is not fiction, but fact.”
“Fact? You’re putting me in the middle of a comic book and you want me to believe it actually happened? Don’t you think I would remember throwing a truck fifty feet?”
“But don’t you remember, Mr. Jackson?” Arthur asked, raising an eyebrow. “Some people dream of flying, or of walking through walls, or of falling from a great height and surviving without a scratch. Have you not, Mr. Jackson, had dreams in which you have exhibited similar feats of super-human strength?”
“Dreams? Do you realize you’re the second person today who wanted to talk about my dreams? I feel like I’m back in therapy.”
“Such dreams are not merely a fictional reality created by your subconscious, they are your mind remembering a past that has been taken from you. It is your soul trying to bring itself back from the void it was placed in.”
“Now you’ve lost me, Arthur.”
“Perhaps I could be able to simplify it. The images you just viewed on the screen were indeed real. The man you saw raining fire from the sky was a man you have battled many times in your life. His name is Damon Memphis. The man at your side in the film is the same man you visited in the hospital earlier today. His name, Zero Hamilton. And the destruction caused by those battles, as well as countless similar battles, resulted in the deaths of several hundreds of thousands of individuals over the years. As you can imagine, people were very grateful for your assistance in taking down threats such as Damon Memphis, but the death toll from your battles brought the governments of the world to a drastic conclusion.”
“Right, the conspiracy stuff again.”
“You are correct, Mr. Jackson. All of the world’s major governments concluded in unison to conspire for a mutual purpose. They held a series of summits regarding how to react to the super-hero menace. What resulted from those meetings of the world’s leaders was a device capable of removing and re-creating memories on a world-wide scale. The memory loss you experienced at the hospital earlier today was a similar process. With this device, they were able to effectively erase people with superhuman abilities from the world’s consciousness, thereby relegating their existence to the fictional literature still around today.”
“Okay, so, let’s say I buy in to this whole concept. Even if they did somehow erase my memory, shouldn’t I still be really strong or whatever? I mean, I’m not exactly a weakling, but there’s no chance I’d be able to toss a truck up in the air like that.”
“That was the most devious requirement of the device utilized to rewrite the annals of mankind. In erasing the memories of your history and writing over them with those fables of boxing, they found a way to rewire your brain and effectively remove its connection to the functions necessary for performing such feats of excellence. My knowledge of the science behind the effect is lacking, however it has been explained to me that they infected you with a manufactured form of Alzheimer’s Disease which, through its changing of your memories, actually causes you to forget how to perform simple physical functions, much like how some people who suffer from Alzheimer’s can actually forget how to walk.”
“You realize how ridiculous this all sounds, don’t you?”
“Perhaps. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, as they say.”
“Yeah, whatever. So, you still haven’t explained why you are able to remember all this stuff.”
“Ah, Mr. Jackson, now you’ve approached the appropriate question.” Arthur spoke with a twinkle in his eye. “You see, Sal Credenza was a man who had the power to foresee the future. He had seen the government’s plans and jumped into action. He came to me and we utilized my network of resources to create something brilliant. We called it the Mind Shield.”
“Tin foil hats, or aluminum?”
“Well, the concept was not all that different from the foil hats of conspiracy theory fame, but this device was a tad more complicated. It created an opposing wavelength to the device the government was using. In order to be protected from the mind-wiping device, all one would have to do was to be in the vicinity of the Mind Shield device.”
“Are you listening to yourself?”
“And, Mr. Jackson, to be completely honest, it is fairly irrelevant at the moment. You see, although we could protect ourselves from the actions of the device, we have yet to be able to develop a cure for those who were affected.”
“What about the drug you shot me up with after I got back from the hospital? That seemed to do a pretty good job.”
“Yes and it works well with someone who has only recently been reformed by a memory alteration, but not at all if that short window of time has passed.”
“So, you mean you can’t give me back these memories you’re saying I should have?”
“That is correct.”
“Then why in the hell are you telling me all of this?”
“Because, Mr. Jackson, there have been events set in motion that may require your specific talents to reverse. Our planet is quite possibly on the verge of catastrophic disaster. The return of your friend Zero Hamilton is yet another sign in that direction.”
“You mean that dude at the hospital? Wait a second, I remember now, that guy tossed a plate of food across the room without touching it!”
“Yes, he exhibits an ability known as telekinesis. It is the ability to create kinetic energy through thought. A rather amazing feat I must admit, not to say your abilities are any less amazing, of course. Now, if you would be so kind as to follow me, I would love to help you return to your previous strength. Since time is of the essence, I hope you don’t mind if we cease these pleasantries and immediately start moving toward getting you back in working order.”
“Wait, are you trying to tell me that you can make me super-strong?”
“That is what I’m trying to relay, yes.”
“So, like, leaping tall buildings?”
“That is one of the many things you were known for, Mr. Jackson.”
“I still think you’re an entire can of nuts, but if you actually think you can give me super-powers, I’m not sure how I can turn you down.”
“Well then, why don’t we go downstairs and see what we can do about that.” Arthur led Buddy out of the theater and into the lounge area. They walked to the elevator, entered, and Arthur pressed the black button.
Go to Chapter Eleven