“–the executioner!” I laugh loudly. I open my eyes to see I am no longer being held by my enemy or heading for impact, but am, instead, suspended in water. It is dark, impossibly dark. Yet, I can see my immediate surroundings by the light emanating from my still flaming body. However, there is nothing there for me to see. I taste salt water.
Is this merely a dream? Had I only dreamed I was about to complete the purging I had been tasked with? I look around, hoping to find a sign of which direction will lead me back to land. The pressure of the water against my body threatens to pull me deeper and promises to crush my skull. I close my eyes and ask for assistance, knowing my prayer will be answered.
Thousands of dark creatures appear and surround me. They look to me, awaiting my command. I gesture to them to rescue me from my watery prison.
As I rest in the arms of my tiny, featureless servants, I give thanks for the attack on my pride, knowing the humility I am facing will only serve to assist me in completing my task.
I know I have been tested, and I know I have come through the test judged righteous.
Buddy awoke to find himself once again in the small room he had been placed in for recovery from the the chair device. He got out of bed and went to the gray door. As he placed his hand on the doorknob, a voice rang out through the room. Buddy jumped.
“Buddy! Thank God you’re awake!” D.A.W.N. spoke excitedly.
“Jeez, D.A.W.N., you’ve got to quit doing that, seriously.”
“Sorry, Buddy. I’m glad to see you’re up and about already. You had me pretty scared there.”
“What happened? Is everyone okay?”
“Yes, everyone came out fine. Jeff is a little banged up, but he should recover, even without his eyebrows.” D.A.W.N. chuckled.
“And Damon?” Buddy asked, feeling he already knew the answer.
“He’s been detained for the time being.” Buddy shivered as he remembered the cold darkness.
“I feel there’s a lot of stuff no one’s telling me about my history with Damon. There must be some reason he hates me as much as he does, right?”
“Don’t worry yourself about it Buddy. He’s not entirely sane. It’s nothing you should take personally.”
“It’s already beyond that, D.A.W.N. The guy’s trying to kill me, and destroy the world for whatever he thinks I’ve done. The least I can do is try to understand why.”
“Oh, Buddy, are you really certain you want to re-live that part of your life? You struggled to deal with the events that led to Damon’s break-down. You’re much better off not remembering it.”
“So, he does have a reason to hate me so much, an actual, legitimate reason?”
D.A.W.N. was silent.
“Come on D.A.W.N., I deserve to know.”
“You’re right, you do deserve to know. I just can’t help but wish you didn’t.” A screen slid down from the ceiling, flickering to life. “Just remember, this only tells you how Damon saw things, not how they really played out. You were a really good guy, Buddy, even though–”
“D.A.W.N., I get it. Just play the video.”
Images on the screen came into focus and Buddy saw Damon Memphis standing in a church, speaking from behind a pulpit. This was not the over-confident destroyer he had been face-to-face with earlier in the day. This was a defeated man, a sad man. This miniature minister looked as though the burdens of the entire world had been placed upon his shoulders. Seated within the seats of the church were only a handful of people. The sound slowly filled the room as D.A.W.N. raised the volume.
“–tragedy. Although these so-called defenders may have saved that bank from getting robbed, at what cost were we forced to pay for the salvation of our finances?”
“As many of you all know, my wife was among those on the bus destroyed by our city’s protectors. Her death was not quick, as many who have suffered a similar fate. The bus became submerged beneath the lake slowly. Our saviors did not come to her aid as she no doubt screamed out for them with her fellow passengers. They were too busy saving our money to hear her pleas for help.”
“Her death, although mourned by those responsible, is being considered nothing more than collateral damage in the war against crime. We are told that we are safe, that we are saved, yet we find ourselves needing to watch the skies for danger. Danger caused by these self-appointed gods, who could, at any moment, be in the heat of battle overhead. Are they not responsible for the debris that rains down upon us? And can we truly consider ourselves saved if we must live in such fear?”
“Would God bless such men with extra-ordinary abilities if he knew they would destroy the innocent with the wicked? Of course not. Would God allow those he has blessed with such amazing power to be worshiped in His place? They consider themselves our saviors, yet salvation comes only through one path. The path of the one true God. The one true God, who is now considered by the masses to be second rate, as he does not come to earth performing the miracles that those such as Buddy Hero will perform for you.”
“Look around you. Our church is empty. It is not empty due to a lack of people, but due to the false idols these super-powered humans have become. It is our duty to remind our fellow man that there is another path, a righteous path, that we must all follow. This path does not involve spandex clothing or catchy names, but that of true concern for our fellow man.”
The image cut out and the screen went blank.
“I’m just loading up a new clip. That sermon kinda goes on for a while, figured I’d just get you the basic info.”
As D.A.W.N. finished speaking, the video and sound returned. Damon was once again standing behind the pulpit. This time, however, he was a man with purpose glinting in his eyes. He looked empowered. He looked angry. And the people seemed to have noticed, as the room was now filled. The room was so full, people were forced to stand in the aisles due to a lack of seating.
“Buddy Hero and his ilk have refused to hear our words. No longer shall we allow these men and women to prance around in their garish costumes, parading as prostitutes in the town square. They have placed themselves above reproach, above God, and they shall be punished.”
“Just as God spoke against the Philistines in Ezekiel 25:17, he will,” Damon held up his Bible in front of his face as though he were reading from it, although obviously speaking from memory, “’execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know I am the LORD.’ The time is now, good people, to strike out. We must make it known we will not accept this blasphemy any longer. We must do the work of our LORD.” The congregation erupted into cheers and the screen went blank once again.
“Just one more clip, Buddy,” D.A.W.N. said.
The screen came back to life, showing Damon on the steps of the court house. He was standing behind a podium covered in microphones. He was dressed in a black uniform with a giant red D placed across the chest.
“–that’s why I have called this press conference today. Our politicians have continued to refuse to hear the words of the people. There are now over 500,000 souls dedicated to the cause of stopping these so-called heroes from their continued destruction. Yet people like Mayor Stephens continue to express their love and appreciation for their atrocious activities.”
“We shall no longer allow our protest to be passive. God has commanded me to be his sword and has given me the power to destroy the evil Buddy Hero once and for all.” Damon burst into flames and rose above the steps. He called out, “Buddy Hero, come and face your judgment!”
The screen once again went blank and raised into the ceiling.
“Wait, so you’re saying this whole destruction of the world thing started because I accidentally killed his wife?”
“I’m sorry Buddy, you have to understand, this caused him to–.”
“You’re sorry? I’m sorry. That’s horrible. Back when I met Agent Parker, he showed me images, frightening images, of people dying, and in intense pain. Did I do all of that?”
“Not directly, I mean, it wasn’t like–”
“Don’t beat around the bush D.A.W.N., was I responsible for all those people?”
“It was a different time, Buddy, you were a younger, more reckless man. You had more than made up for it before–“
“I can’t believe it. All those people. . . “ Buddy sat on the bed and put his face in his hands.
“Buddy, you don’t understand–”
“I understand perfectly, D.A.W.N. I know it wasn’t me. I’m not that guy he’s talking about. But still, there’s nothing that can excuse it.”
“I’m sorry, Buddy.”
“Don’t be. I’m sorry enough already.”
“I hate to do this, Buddy, but Arthur said he would like to see you as soon as you are awake. Can I tell him you’re ready?”
Buddy sighed and regained his composure. “Yeah, sure,” he said. He got off the bed to open the door.
“Perfect.” The room glowed with a faint blue light, melted away, and morphed into Arthur’s office. The image of the room sharpened and he saw Arthur, Alexa, Carl, and Ryan. They all turned to look at him. He rubbed his eyes, assuming they were playing a trick on him.
“Mr. Jackson, I’m glad to see you are finally back with the living,” Arthur said.
“What the hell just happened?”
“Well,” Carl began, sounding rather excited, “apparently D.A.W.N. figured out how to utilize the teleporter for transportation between two places other than the entrance and exit point of the compound. We thought we’d go ahead and test it on you.”
“Yeah, man, she told us just in the nick of time too. You were on the verge of becoming a nice crispy piece of bacon before we teleported Damon away.” Ryan seemed equally as excited. “That’s one amazing piece of technology my dad put together. And you’ll never guess where she sent him.”
“The ocean? Somewhere dark and cold?” Buddy offered.
“Yeah, the bottom of the Mariana Trench. That’s a pretty good guess.”
“Well, it wasn’t exactly a guess. I kinda dreamed it.”
“You dreamed it?” Ryan asked.
“Are you saying you actually saw Damon in your dream?” Carl asked.
“Well, no, I didn’t see him. It was more like I was him. I’m pretty sure I was seeing things through his eyes. I’m also pretty sure I could hear his thoughts.”
“What?” Carl asked. “Really? Have you ever had such an out of body experience before?”
“Umm. . . well, yeah. I’ve been having them off and on since the night of the earthquake.” The room looked at Buddy in shock. There was a moment of silence, broken, finally, by Arthur.
“How often have you been seeing such visions?”
“I dunno, I guess it’s been happening every time I’ve been knocked unconscious lately. Which, oddly enough, has been pretty often.”
“Have you seen only through Damon’s eyes, or has this been occurring with different people?” Carl asked.
“All the same guy, the same crazy guy.”
“Well now that’s quite the bit of information.”
“What does it mean, Carl?” Alexa asked.
“Well, are any of you familiar with the idea of the special bond between identical twins?”
“Sure, but I’m pretty sure that me and Damon aren’t twins.” Buddy stated. “We aren’t twins, are we?”
“Although it is definitely possible, Mr. Jackson,” Arthur responded, ”that such information was lost during the Mind Wipe, we have no record of Damon and yourself sharing parents. Which leads me to question where my son is going with this.”
“Well, I was just asking if you’re familiar with the concept. You see, I remember at one point there was some research being done on those with telepathic abilities to determine where they came from. One focus of the research was with a pair of twins who both exhibited telepathic powers. Now, if I remember correctly, their abilities when reading the thoughts of others was incredibly limited, but when the researchers studied them with regards to each other, the results were amazing. It was almost as if the two twins shared the same mind.”
“Yeah, but what does this have to do with me?” Buddy asked.
“Your dreams reminded me of this because I remember one part of that study was that they would separate the children for weeks at a time. During the time one was sleeping, they would keep the other awake. They would then give the child who was awake a series of toys to play with. After the child who was sleeping woke up, they would ask her questions about her dreams. She would then explain in great detail the toys the other child had played with, including colors, textures, and even smells. If what you are saying is true, Buddy, then it would appear you share a similar bond with Damon.”
“Mr. Jackson, it seems incredibly inappropriate you did not tell us this before.” Arthur looked angry.
“Look, pal. I didn’t even know it was Memphis until just now. It all seemed so weird at first, the guy was scared, stuck in the bottom of some cave or something. Then there was a dream where light suddenly filled the cave and he was being lifted out of a hole in the ground.”
“Oh, yeah, those miners,” Alexa added. “Didn’t Agent Parker say that’s where they found him before he was in the hospital?”
“Yeah and that was one of the other dreams I had. He was in the hospital and being bothered by Parker and Kent. He ran from them, jumped out the window, and burst into flames.”
“Just like on the news report!” Ryan added.
“Yeah, I probably should have said something back then. Anyways, if I’m really seeing into Damon’s brain, we’ve got more trouble ahead.”
“What would that be, Mr. Jackson?”
“Well, he had some sort of, I don’t know what you’d call them, minions? These little shadowy looking creatures. They were pushing him up to the surface.”
“What?” Alexa asked.
“I pray you are somehow mistaken, Mr. Jackson, as that would be quite the unfortunate news. We have long feared the possibility of Damon’s connection to the creatures of the dark. And if he has indeed found a way to call them to his aid, matters have just gotten a whole lot worse.”
“Wait, so, you’re saying Damon’s got some sort of little demons working for him?” Ryan asked incredulously.
“In a matter of speaking, yes,” Carl explained. “You see, quite some time ago, back before the Mind Wipe, your father Oscar, while working on his device for teleportation, discovered another dimension. This dimension operates within the same space as ours, but on a completely different plane of existence. Although his research was limited, Oscar believed there was good reason to believe these creatures had been interacting with our dimension for quite some time. He even believed the legendary gremlins World War II pilots blamed for sabotaging planes may have, in fact, been these creatures. Unfortunately, once your father realized what he had found, he immediately ended his research, fearing the danger that could come from such a discovery.”
“Alright, so what you folks are saying now is there’s some sort of little green creatures that will obey Damon’s every command?” Alexa debated. “How come I’ve never heard about these guys before?”
“The possibility of how much danger could be caused by interacting with the other side caused Oscar to remove all notes about his discovery from everything except his personal computer.”
“And, of course,” Ryan laughed, “you are in possession of his computer now that you’ve taken over the old Bunker.”
“Perfect, so now I’ve got not only some crazy all-powerful being wanting to deep fry me, but he’s got an army of extra-dimensional monsters to send along ahead of him? Sounds wonderful,” Buddy said sarcastically. “So, since I’m on the verge of heading off to my final resting place, where’s my sister?”
“She and Zero are in the Buddy Hero lounge,” Alexa said.
“It would probably be best for you to go and visit your sister, Mr. Jackson and let her know you are alright. Meanwhile, the rest of us will need to discuss what to do with this new information and determine how we can best utilize it in the upcoming battle. Ms. Rose, would you be so kind as to escort Mr. Jackson to the lounge?”
“But, Artie, I want–”
“Ms. Rose, please do as you are told.”
Alexa grabbed Buddy’s arm and stormed out of the room.
Go to Chapter Twenty-One