Gordon Anyen sat on his moth-eaten bed. He was staring down at the small piece of fabric that hung limply from his outstretched fingers. It was such a tiny thing, but it made all the difference in the world to him. He was facing a colossal decision that he would have never seen coming mere months ago. Now, he made it nightly.
The object that had attracted so much of his attention was a slim blue mask. It would hide his identity and protect him from those who would do him harm. It was the first line of defence in the battle that raged around the world.
He wished he didn’t need it. He wished with all his might that he could fling it out the single window which allowed a fleeting glimpse of the outside from the dusty apartment. He longed to watch it disappear into the wet night air.
But, he could not take that action any more than he could stop the rain from pounding upon his windowsill. He was powerless to do anything to change his way of life. He cursed himself for his weakness. Perhaps if he had done things differently then he would never have found himself like this; a pathetic excuse for who he once was.
I’ve given up so much for nothing. But, I can’t just sit around moping all night. I have no choice in the matter.
He steeled himself and lifted the mask to his face. The fabric clung to his contours in all the wrong ways, he wanted to rip it off and tear it to pieces, but he could not. He pulled out the rest of his nightly outfit; a pair of gaudy yellow boots and a skin tight orange uniform. He struggled into the protesting clothing; it didn’t want to go out into the rainy night anymore than he did.
When he finally managed to get the damn outfit over his shoulders, he walked over to his room’s faded mirror to examine himself. He looked like a buffoon. His outfit contrasted horribly with everything around him, it would stick out like a sore thumb in the blackness of night. Maybe that was the point, he didn’t know or care.
Once he was finished he would be MONOMAN, the self proclaimed hero of the city. After six months of patrolling the city’s streets in the dead of night nothing had been accomplished. He was done dressing, those thoughts disappeared.
His transformation was complete.
Allen huddled in his coat to protect himself from the torrent of rain that fell from the awning of the bar he rested against. He wished he could go inside and relax with those who sat in its sheltered interior, but he had a job to do. He could not abandon his post because of a little water.
He was paid to watch for undesirables and prevent them from making their way into the shady establishment behind him. He supposed in a place like this it would be more apt to call those he turned away desirables or undesired undesirables.
Despite his feeble precautions, the unrelenting rain found its way into his coat; it snuck in his collar and ran down his back, sending shivers across his body. He hunched up until if he retreated any further he would be curled into a ball. I only have to wait a few more hours, then my shift is done and I can go inside where my clothing won’t have to be waterproof.
He shivered in his sodden garb and gave himself the grim little smile he always used to try to cheer himself up when he knew he had no hope of succeeding. At least I’m not in some dingy little office somewhere, wasting my hours away making my parents proud. I’d probably been dead within the month at a job like that.
Just then the awning let down a deluge of water upon his head. He cursed and jumped out of the way, leaping from one puddle to another. He promised himself he would never trust the weather forecaster again. The damn man had told everyone they would be going through a heat streak, no rain for anyone the bastard had stated firmly. Who would presume to predict Mother Nature’s mood in this blasted state?
Allen whiled away the time imaging all the things he would like to do to the filthy liar.
MONOMAN stood in his stronghold of justice, or his apartment, but he preferred the former description. He beamed at himself in the mirror that showed his majestic awesomeness. He was the best hero in the entire city, also the only one, but again, former description.
This town was filled with scum, and he was the only one who would make it a better place; after he spent a few minutes looking himself over. He looked damn good.
After he finished admiring himself, MONOMAN leaped out of his apartment window into the wet night air. He fell three stories down into a rather sad looking bush. Damn. I have to remember that I can’t fly!
It took MONOMAN a few minutes to extract himself from his tangled prison. He was picking underbrush out of places that he would have thought it was impossible to get.
“I must thank you again this night, bush.” said MONOMAN to his saviour, “Without your aid I might have faced a grisly fate.”
The bush did not reply.
MONOMAN sighed, he wished he could talk to someone with a voice of their own, “I know you’re a little shy, but why don’t you find something to talk about?” he asked pathetically, “Or, you could just remain a bush...”
The bush kept its vow of silence.
MONOMAN grabbed onto a handful of the bush’s foliage and fell to his knees, “Look, you’re the only friend I have! I need someone to talk to!” he begged desperately, he really did need someone else to talk to, he was starting to worry he was going crazy, “Please! How about this- I’ll name you my official sidekick, BushBoy! Think about it, it’s a once in a life time opportunity.”
This did not seem to impress the bush, unless rustling in the wind and rain was its way of showing agreement.
MONOMAN pulled himself upright and brushed himself off after he realized what a fool he was making of himself. It’s a good thing no one was watching me do that, I’ve got to control myself. It doesn’t matter if that bush is the closest thing to a friend I’ve ever had, I must not get all weird. He checked around to make sure no one was around to see him make a mockery of himself, he didn’t see anyone.
MONOMAN gripped his hands together around the bushes upper reaches, “I’m sorry about that, bush. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.” MONOMAN took some time to think of a way to do that, then he had an idea, “I know! I’ll find someone to face, then I can prove I’m a true hero!”
If the bush was going to say something, MONOMAN didn’t hear it. He was rushing off into the downpour of the night, looking for someone who needed to face justice.
What the hell is that kid’s problem? Wondered enForcer, one of the Union of Superhero’s top members. He had come here to scout out a new hero that the Union had taken notice of, it was an exile for the last mission he had participated in. The Union’s leader, The Captain, had blamed him for what had happened. He really didn’t think that was fair, but he wasn’t going to complain.
He just jumped out of a window! If that bush wasn’t there, he might have broken his neck against the pavement and saved me the trouble of evaluating him. I think he’s a solid fail, but I’m supposed to give him more of a chance than that. Stupid regulations.
enForcer crept along the rooftop he now inhabited, keeping a view on the young super hero. I’m sure he was talking to that bush. Who does that!? In my day, heroes had some measure of dignity; this guy doesn’t have a scrap of it.
enForcer was mentally ticking off every check box that would prevent this man from ever amounting to anything. He was supposed to actually confront the man and give him a chance to do something-anything to prove himself, he was dreading that.
There’s no way they actually thought this guy was Union material. The Captain found the first person he could and sent me out to investigate him. I don’t get why! Phantasm’s escape was not my fault-even if I did start the fight! The Captain should have been more careful!
enForcer was going to jump down and give the phony hero a piece of his mind when a distant scream caught his attention. A distraction from this all? Perfect!
enForcer darted towards the location of the outcry, the other hero hadn’t even noticed it. Idiot. He found a young woman backed into a corner by three armed thugs. enForcer leapt off his rooftop and landed behind the brutes.
“You picked the wrong night for this, buddies.” he growled, cracking his knuckles. “I’m in a real bad mood.”
The criminals spun around, knives and bats raised, but they never had a chance. I’ll catch up with that foolish hero after I’m finished dealing with these punks. He’ll just have to wait a little while.
Things never turned out to be a clear cut out as they were in MONOMAN’s head. He had set out to prove his greatness, but that wasn’t easy. There were no evil scientists claiming they were going to invade the world in plain view or giant monsters rampaging through the streets. There wasn’t even an alien invasion.
How’s a hero supposed to prove himself when there’s nothing to prove himself against? Is there anyone here that I can deal with?
The streets weren’t providing him with any clear targets, although the buildings he passed were getting constantly shabbier. He was moving on the basis that if he went to the scummiest area he could find then there would surely be someone who deserved a pounding present. It was the only idea he had so far and he was sticking with it.
There must be someone somewhere who deserves a fist to the face. You run into those kind of people every day and when you actually look for one, they’re nowhere to be found.
MONOMAN wasn’t going to give up, he refused to do that. Ever. Life was about seeing how much you could put up with before you quit, he wasn’t a quitter. He kept on moving down through the streets regardless of its failure to turn up anyone punch worthy.
By the time he had reached an area that made even himself nervous, the rain had truly soaked into his clothing. It clung to his body as he walked down the dark streets. I should get a waterproof outfit, that’ll be next on my list after a jet pack.
MONOMAN stalked up and down the streets, looking for anyone shady. It was hard to see with all the rain crashing down around him, but, after an hour of wandering, he thought he could make out a shape standing in front of a noisy bar. A lone man outside a rundown establishment? Either that’s suspicious or I’m not a super hero.
MONOMAN stormed towards the shape that clarified as he neared. It was a man in a sodden trench coat leaning up against the wall of the building. Even if he’s not doing something illegal, he’s loitering and that’s a crime, or at least not socially acceptable.
The man had messy black hair and eyes that stared out blankly into the gloom. He looked like a man who hadn’t had much reason to smile in his life; there were no laughter lines anywhere on his face. He noticed MONOMAN coming at him and perked up a little bit. But, his eyes didn’t really seem to give the hero a lot of attention. This bugged MONOMAN. What kind of guy ignores a brightly garbed man approaching him?
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?!” demanded MONOMAN as he reached the man, he jabbed his finger towards him in a way that he hoped would be intimidating.
The man looked left and right before replying, “I think I’m leaning against a wall. Why?”
MONOMAN stumbled over this question. He hadn’t anticipated such a response from the thug. They were supposed to be more brutish and less sarcastic.
“Because... I think you shouldn’t be doing that?”
“Do you have something against walls?” asked the shady man, “I’m just standing here, I’m not bothering anyone.”
“You’re bothering me.”
“I apologise for that.”
MONOMAN gagged, this was going all wrong. He was supposed to confront the thug, maybe throw a few insults back and forth and then fight him; emerging triumphant and reaping the rewards. Instead he found himself in... whatever the hell this was.
“Are you mocking me!?” he demanded angrily, shaking his fist at the intolerable man, “If you keep giving me such lip, I’m going to have to teach you a lesson!”
“Are you just going to keep threatening me?” asked the man, “I haven’t done anything, have I?”
MONOMAN paused, “I guess you haven’t. At least, not anything I’ve seen...”
“Then why don’t you just leave? If you’re supposed to be a hero or something, then you shouldn’t be harassing random citizens. Should you?” drawled the man without much emphasis. He seemed to be running through the motions of this conversation. “I was fine by myself, if something happens, it’s because of you.”
MONOMAN growled and spun around shaking his hands. “Seriously, what’s with you, man?” he demanded angrily, “Aren’t you supposed to be scared, or act all tough, or anything!?”
The man raised an eyebrow, “You haven’t been doing this for very long, have you?”
MONOMAN turned away from the thug who seemed far more human than he had expected. He didn’t want to admit anything embarrassing to this man, but he was actually talking to someone. Even if it was a criminal, it was something.
“Only six months.” he muttered sheepishly, letting go of one little secret but holding back as many others as he could.
The other man didn’t reply for a moment and MONOMAN hoped he might not have heard him over the crashing rain, but then the man nodded his head knowingly and replied.
“I thought so.” he said, “Look-no offence, but perhaps you should think of something else to do with your life. This isn’t a city for heroes; I know that far too well. Why don’t you do something else, like... accounting?”
“I’m not an accountant, I’m a hero.” stated MONOMAN firmly, “Don’t give me such stupid advice.”
He whirled on his feet and started to stalk away from the man. He had hoped that he had finally found someone who was supportive for once. I guess it was a foolish hope, but it won’t stop me from following my dreams. No one is ever going to stop me.
“Wait! I didn’t mean to offend you!” called out the thug from behind him. He ignored the man and sprung off into the rain covered streets. He wanted to be alone for a little while.
MONOMAN was several blocks away when he heard the strange sound. It was as if something metallic was trying to head off into the skies, he had no idea what could cause it. He headed towards the source of the noise, perhaps there would be something interesting tonight after all.
He rounded a corner and was met with a strange sight. A man in a thick black robe was standing behind another, hunched over a small mechanical device. The other man, in a sodden white lab coat was tinkering furiously with the machine; he shook his head as he moved parts around. The machine itself was the source of the sound; it hummed out into the night. now that he was close to it, the sound was overpowering.
Shortly after he saw the figures, the robed man bolted upright. He glared behind him at where MONOMAN stood in the middle of the street.
“I told you we should have found somewhere far more secluded before you paused to work on the thing.” he hissed to his companion. “This was bound to happen.”
“Don’t blame me!” shot back the man in the lab coat, “You were the one who busted my beauty! You don’t understand how important this is! I have to fix it right now before anything else can go wrong.”
“What is it?” asked MONOMAN innocently.
I have a feeling that proving myself is going to be a lot harder than I first planned. I may be in a little bit of trouble here, but just a little bit. MONOMAN backed up as the robed man approached him. The man’s face was hidden behind a cowl inside a thick black hood.
The man informed him, “You really don’t need to know that.”
Allen leaned back further against the wall in his ongoing battle to escape from the rain’s harsh battering. That was an interesting conversation. He’s a rather odd superhero, not that they are usually very ordinary. Thoughts of the hero’s strangeness weren’t the only ones running through Allen’s head. Something else was giving him far more trouble.
He was so young; he couldn’t have been much more than twenty and he was so naive. Allen spent some time pondering this; what would happen to a hero starting out in this rundown city and the chances of that man living to regret the decision. I can’t let that happen. He’s so full of hope; I won’t see him lose everything he’s ever dreamed of. I’m not the kind of person who can look on uncaring anymore. Not after what happened.
These thoughts raged through Allen’s head. He wished he could just ignore the man, but he couldn’t. He was going to have to do something about this new hero. But, first he was going to have to figure out who he was.
Allen was pulled out of his contemplation by a voice behind him. “There you are Allen; I’ve been looking for you.”
A man made his way through the downpour, sliding along the wall in order to give himself some stability. Even through the rain Allen recognized this individual. Whatever he wanted, it did not bode well for Allen’s simple lifestyle. Great, it looks like things are going to get “interesting”.
“Hello Danny.” he replied to the man, “What is one of Don, the Don, Johnson’s top enforcers doing slumming it with a lowly peon such as myself?”
Danny laughed to himself softly, “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Allen.” he explained, “You might not believe it, but we have taken notice of some of your abilities. That’s why I need your help.”
Oh, I noticed. Despite everything I tried, you figured it out. The Don is the crime lord of this city for a reason, he knows what his employees are capable of.
Danny didn’t notice the expression on Allen’s face, or if he did, he really didn’t care. “You see, I have this little project I’m running, and I might need a little help on It.” he stated, “You’re the help I might need.”
“Do I have a say in this?”
Allen sighed as quietly as he could. I guess it’s better to do what he says than to make a scene by refusing.
“What do you want me to do?”
Danny held up his hand, “Don’t rush Allen.” he whispered, “You’ll find out soon enough. I’ll contact you.”
Danny left Allen alone with those words. He disappeared off into the darkness with Allen silently cursing his vanishing silhouette. Damn, why does trouble always find me no matter how hard I try to avoid it? This night just keeps getting better and better.
MONOMAN took another step backwards, not that it really mattered, it was about the principal of the action. This might be a chance to prove myself, but this also might be really dangerous. Perhaps I shouldn’t rush in gung-ho like before.
“Look, I’m sorry I barged in on whatever you were doing, but can’t we leave that behind us?” he asked, “I can just pretend I didn’t see anything.”
“You’re a hero. You’re probably lying.” said the robed man.
“Aren’t heroes supposed to be upholders of the truth?” demanded MONOMAN, “You should trust me more than the average person!”
“Yeah, but you’re kind don’t exactly have the best record with mine.” stated the man, “I’m not taking any chances, you have to be dealt with.”
“I haven’t done anything!”
The man raised his hand and waved it around, glowering at MONOMAN. He began walking towards him menacingly; his mouth twisted into a sneer that showed a clear intent to commit some unsavoury deeds. Around the robed man’s body a dark mist began to gather, swirling around his outstretched appendage, it did not fill MONOMAN with hope.
“It’s not about what you have done.” he said, “It’s about what you could do.”
MONOMAN prepared for a fight. He didn’t exactly know how one was supposed to stand, but he tried his best. He gave the impression of an enraged hen instead of the seasoned fighter he had hoped to emulate.
“I’m going to enjoy this.” sighed the man.
“That’s evil!” hissed MONOMAN. He knew the speech of a super villain when he was exposed to it for long enough.
From where he knelt with his machine the man with the trench coat called out, “Good and evil are nothing but arbitrary boundaries, begging to be crossed.” he waved a screwdriver around as he spoke, “Like the skin.”
MONOMAN shivered, “That’s... pleasant.”
The men stood, or crouched, at an impasse for some time. Despite what the villain had said he didn’t seem incredibly eager to make the first move. Perhaps he’s waiting to see what I am capable of. That should buy me time if nothing else.
“Enough waiting.” snarled the robed man. He thrust his hand forward, but hesitated when another voice echoed through the stormy streets.
“There you are! I’ve been searching through this entire city looking for your sorry behind!”
A large brute was stomping angrily towards MONOMAN; the hero’s back obscured the villain’s from the man’s view. Not another one, who the hell is this guy? The man wore a black leather jacket and sunglasses that covered the entire top half of his face. He looked pretty silly, unlike MONOMAN himself. He checked to see the reactions of the other men.
They were gone.
“It’s nice to know that someone has taken an interest in me.” said MONOMAN to the stranger, “But, who are you?”
The man snorted loudly as he stopped a few feet from where MONOMAN stood on the cold wet asphalt.
“Someone who’s tired of running through the rain in order to find an idiot.”
MONOMAN kept his thoughts about what the man had said to himself. He would rather not upset this hulking brute anymore than he absolutely had to. He didn’t look like a very “fun” person.
“Why are you looking for that idiot?” he asked instead.
“Because I have to evaluate him for my boss.” snarled the man, “If I don’t then I will be in a lot of trouble. That’s why I want to finish my dealings with the idiot as soon as possible.”
“And how is that idiot doing in your evaluations?”
“He’s an idiot.”
MONOMAN nodded, that made a lot of sense. “Okay, let’s stop talking about me in third person. If you’re not happy with me, can’t you just leave?” he asked without much hope that the answer would be yes. If it was, the man would already be gone. Probably. “I mean, I’m failing right?”
“Unfortunately, I can’t.” stated the man, as expected. “If I could, I would. I need to give you one last test to see if you can prove yourself worthy.”
“What’s the test?”
The man cracked his knuckles and grinned maliciously.
“I have a brilliant idea.”
MONOMAN gulped in a shallow breath of moist air. He’d had a feeling that this was not going to end well from the start, but he wasn’t going to run away. He readied himself for whatever this man was going to do, falling into his angry hen stance.
The stranger smacked his feeble guard aside and rammed his meaty fist into the side of MONOMAN’s fragile head. The hero was knocked completely off his already shaky balance; he skidded across the ground and came to lie several feet from where he had stood.
I’ve changed my mind.
MONOMAN leapt to his feet and ran like hell.
“Damn you! Stand still!” demanded the stranger. MONOMAN could hear heavy footfalls following him through the twisting streets of this city district.
He had no idea how to get back onto familiar streets. This was the drawback of randomly heading towards the slummiest spot he could find. He’d never set foot here before and thus he was utterly lost in these foreign streets. He was going to need every advantage he could get if he was going to escape from his relentless pursuer.
“Why can’t you just fail me and call it a night?” MONOMAN called over his shoulder, “I’m obviously not going to be able to complete this final test of yours!”
“Are you kidding? I’ve been looking forward to this!”
MONOMAN slid across the slick pavement into a granite wall as he tried to turn through the mazelike streets. He pushed himself from it and took off down a random street. He had no idea where he was going. The other man didn’t seem to be having the difficulties he was. He must do this a lot.
The adrenaline that pumped through MONOMAN’s body like a raging waterfall kept him moving one step ahead of the stranger. The dark streets gave way to the soft glow of city lights reflecting off the cascading rain drops. At least I’m heading into less scary neighbourhoods. I still have no idea where I am.
MONOMAN pushed himself hard as he moved through the city, every muscle in his body was screaming at him to give up, but he wouldn’t listen. He was going to escape. MONOMAN realized that he could no longer hear the sound of feet crashing through the damp streets behind him.
Then his exhaustion hit him and he collapsed to the cool pavement of the nearest alleyway. He just needed a moment to catch his breath, then he would figure out where he was and make his way back home.
A dark silhouette fell from the rooftop above him to land at his feet. The stranger stood strong and unrelenting. MOMOMAN pushed himself to his shaky feet, but he couldn’t find the will to force his protesting muscles to move.
“I’m impressed. That took longer than I expected.” growled the stranger, “But, it looks like in the end you still failed.”
MONOMAN held up his hand to the man, “Before you put the beat down on me, can you at least answer my first question and tell me who you are?”
The other man smiled, “I’m enForcer, I represent the Union of Superheroes. Your trial is over, your career is finished.”
Then he slugged MONOMAN in the face. MONOMAN slid down the wall, his body had finally had enough. enForcer leaned down and picked the young hero up by the scruff of his neck, holding him as easily as if he was nothing but a mewling kitten.
The Union? They’re the biggest, longest running team of superheroes out there. They think I’m nothing but a failure?
MONOMAN stared up into the mocking face of enForcer. A face that thought he was nothing but an inconvenience to the world. A face that thought he would never amount to anything except failure and regarded destroying him as a preventative measure.
No. I’ll never let people like him decide my fate. I AM STRONGER THAN THAT!
Then it happened, the one thing he had going for him. enForcer paused as his upright fist poised to pound MONOMAN into a pile of bruised flesh. Instead of bringing it down with a vengeful fury he dropped the hero to the ground.
“You’re so pathetic.” hissed enForcer, “In my day, we’d never have let a deadbeat like you even get a mask. Who do you think you are? Could you fight Drumroll or Obliteraxe? Could you withstand the might of Metric or Hazard? I don’t think so, you’re nothing.”
MONOMAN pushed himself to his feet as enForcer spoke. He had to use the wall to support himself, but despite his battered body, he succeeded.
“You have no talent, no pride and no chance of success.” growled enForcer, “I’m going to enjoy every last second as I turn your flimsy excuse for a superhero’s body into a punching bag.”
MONOMAN slammed his fist into the superhero’s mocking face. enForcer took a step back.
“You think that’s going to stop me? I’ve taken blows from Growler!”
MONOMAN slammed his knee into enForcer’s private region and kept pushing until the man kneeled over in pain.
“I’ve felt worse a thousand times over!”
MONOMAN grabbed the top of enForcer’s head and slammed it down into the soaking asphalt.
“I’ll never be beaten-,”
MONOMAN stomped with all his weight upon enForcer’s skull.
MONOMAN slammed his palm on the man’s neck.
This continued until enForcer lay passed out in the stormy night. The rain cradled his limp body in a puddle of blood and sweat.
Great. Now I just have to find my way home