The Watch Begins (feedback always appreciated)




They say Galaxy City is beautiful at night, The hum of the monorail as it speeds across the city, the shimmering pools of Freedom Court, the massive statue of the famed Galaxy Girl, her arms raised to heaven while backlighted by the glow of the force walls that separate this section of Paragon City from the rest.

But from where I sit on the rooftop of a former warehouse in Constellation Row things look a little different, the glow of the inner part of the city is replaced by the smell of the street, the stench of trash, and industrial by-products, and the streets decorated with trash blown by the spring winds, wafting the smell of the place to the nicer parts of the city.

There’s another smell here too, that of desperation, of fear, of the dog-eat-dog existence of the down and out, and frightened citizens hurrying back to their low-rent apartments before darkness takes the streets in it’s grasp.

Predators walk here, wielding fists, rocks, knives, crowbars, and bats. Some carry guns, the top of their particular food chain of gang hierarchy, especially where the Hellions are concerned. But even then, I know that worse things walk the streets, things not human, nor of this world, things that are a cruel mockery of life reanimated against it’s will.

I know because I hunt them.

I can smell them from even at this lofty perch, watching them through the light-enhancing red lenses I wear to protect my vision. They move from the cover of the warehouse, the Mortificator and his two Reapers moving side by side, a predator gleam in their eyes as they search the streets for victims. Behind them another figure shuffles out, getting my attention, the humanoid figure is stitched together, moving in a lurching gait and leaving decay and foul fluids in it’s wake.

“Cadaver” I murmur under my breath, the undead zombie creations and foot soldiers of the Vahzilok organization, their creators – the Mortificators – commanding their every move, the Cadavers were notoriously tough to kill, and there would be only one reason this group was out at night.

They were a hunting party, searching for new victims to murder and resurrect from the dead.

‘The Revenant will be difficult to slay, but the creator is the key.’ A low voice in my head resounded, echoing like a hollow cave. It was the voice of ‘Preacher’ Louis Bastone, the man who preceded me.

I look down at the ring on my finger again as he continues speaking to my mind, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of those I intend to face. The gold and silver alloyed band glowed slightly on my finger, the infinity symbol set in it’s signet shining briefly.

My mind takes me back.

It was a Friday, I had came home from teaching at Lincoln High School, big tests due the next week, and the students had more disagreeable than usual, more argumentative than usual. But I didn’t care, all I wanted was for the day to end and for me to get out of there, away from the insanity of the downtown school systems, and away from the potential danger that the students, half of which already junior members or ‘mascots’ of the local Hellion contingents, posed.

I locked my door, locking the three locks behind me and shutting the curtains. I sat down in front of my television to watch the local news, feeling the fear rising in my throat.
I had never known a time when I was not afraid, really, growing up in Paragon City can do that to a person at times, and even spent my days teaching the subject I loved – History – In equal parts frustration and fear.

Gunfire erupted on the streets below on a nightly basis, and this night was no exception. I remember my heart pounding as the gunfire, very close, died away.

Minutes crawled past like eternities as I waited, and composed myself. And then a knocking, faint and feeble, on my door. I hesitated, and then the knocking came again. Steeling my courage, what little of it I had, I peered through the peephole.

No one was there.

The knocking came again, then a faint moan. Gingerly I unlocked and opened the door, peeking out and expecting a trap of some sort. On the floor, in a pool of blood, was a man clad all in black, a black mask was on his face and a faintly glowing ring on his right hand.

I almost panicked and closed the door, but the man’s blue eyes met mine, and his look implored me, beseeched me, and was yet calm through all of the pain he must have been suffering. I found something inside myself, and silently helped him in, locking the door behind us as I helped him to the couch and laid him down. I was no doctor, having only had rudimentary training in first aid. His wounds were bad, real bad, and beyond what I could treat.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Your destiny, my time is at an end, my watch is done, yours is just beginning.”

I was confused, bamboozled at this man’s mad raving as I took his outstretched hand, to at least give him some small comfort in his passing.

“I don’t understand”

“You will.”

He took the ring off his finger, his eyes glowing briefly before fading to a lighter shade of blue, taking my hand, he put it on my finger.

Imagine the entire universe opening before you in it’s glory, basking you in the light and burning fire of creation, rendering you into ash and raising you like a phoenix. It’s a rebirth, I never felt so alive, the room impossibly bright, and in an instant my fears subsided, only to be renewed by the voices that sounded in my head.

Male, female, all talking at once, greeting me, explaining to me in a jumble as my mind tried to process it all. I thought I had gone mad, but the voices subsided to one clear voice, a low bass that resonated within me.

The man I had just reached out to, the man that I could see now lying dead upon my floor, his body misting as it left only his clothing in it’s wake.

“Hello, Peter Cavanaugh, my name is Louis Bastone, some called me ‘Preacher’ back in my boxing days, back when I worked the docks of Paragon City.”

“Wh-what do you want? Where are you? Who are you?” I could feel my voice quavering even as the power from the ring, which had fused itself now to my finger in a burning flash, coursed through me.

“I am a NightWatcher, as are you – now.”

“A what?”

“A NightWatcher, though we have been known by a thousand names for more than a thousand years, we stand against the darkness, the single candle burning in the night. With the passing of each Watcher the knowledge and wisdom of all who came before is passed to the next to bear our legacy. The ring we bear reminds us of our infinite vigil against evil, our eternal watch of the night, until the time for your passing comes and your watch is over, when the ring will guide you to the one fated to take up your watch. You, Peter Cavanaugh, are the latest.”

The other voices chimed in, each in turn, introducing themselves. Men and women, from this country and foreign lands, down through the ages, each in turn becoming empowered and passing that power down through the centuries to the next.

I sat alone that night, coming to grips as the ghosts of those who bore the ring, coming to grips with what I was now. Part of me rebelled against fate, but the rest of me knew the feeling that this was just right, like it had been the part of my life that I had been living in fear of.

And now that it was here there was no turning back, it was time to face that fear and accept it.

A scream brings me back from reverie, my eyes gaze and focus down the alleyway, a young couple had made the mistake of turning into the alley, no doubt wanting a shortcut. Unheedful of the danger of dark alleys in Paragon City, the young lovers had continued.

They had walked right into the Vahzilok.

I stand, the couple won’t have a chance if I don’t act, and act now. Steeling myself, letting the ghosts guide my path, I run along the top of the brick wall, somersaulting onto the top of a decrepit panel truck, executing another somersault as I land in a fighting crouch between the couple and the terrors that they stare in shock at.

My voice is a low snarl. “Run!”

In front of me, the Reapers and their Mortificator foreman pull their deadly crossbows from their holsters, the zombie Cadaver shambling behind them as they prepare to attack.

I feel the power flowing through me, magical energies as the ring on my finger glows the brightest white and the voice of Shinoku Hatoru, former ninja assassin of feudal Japan, sounds in my head, directing me to the vulnerable points of the foes as I coil myself to strike.

Time to get to work.