Enter:Martin Thorne




Well, the old Origin threads appear to have been disposed of. To that end, if anyone is still around that was following Martin's tale, I will start re-posting it one section at a time as soon as I get home from work this evening. Thanks once again to everyone that was keeping up with it.

On a related note, if NightRunner, Major Speed, or American DreamGirl are still around, please consider re-posting your stories. Pretty please?



Martin Thorne stomped into the alleyway with a murderous look in his eyes. The young girl was still screaming from the tender ministrations of the trio of thugs. With a harsh 'crick-crack', Martin readied his MAC-10 to rock and roll. The cybered-out freak amongst the trio stepped forward with a menacing grin. Martin was a good 6 feet or more tall, and looked to weigh a good 300 pounds, all of it muscle. Under his weatherworn, black leather trench coat, he was wearing a pair of hiking boots, a set of night-camo fatigues, and some patchwork Kevlar body armor. Otherwise clean-shaven, he wore his brown hair in a severe military-style haircut.

As with every time he encountered the “Super-Powered Elite”, Thorne's mind drifted back to that day so long ago when he started school at Paragon High. Martin had been bullied most of his life, so he had turned to weights and martial arts to survive. He had bulked up nicely, and the bullying stopped at his old school. Martin thought it was all behind him until his dad got transferred to his company's Paragon City branch. He had heard of "The Crew" long before his first meeting; they were a group of four little punks with extraordinary abilities. They used these abilities to torment all the "norms" they could find. Martin hated the idea of "super powers", since that was something that he, for all of his skill, was powerless to fight against. He couldn't stand for things to be out of his control. It was bad enough that everyone that came around him seemed to immediately develop a slight headache that only went away when he left. Some jerk at his old elementary school had made that observation, and soon it spread all over the campus. That stigma followed him all the way through junior high. He couldn't argue with the facts though, and the name “headache boy” soon pursued him like a determined bloodhound. As a result, he had to fight nearly every day, and he got very good at it. Soon everyone except his closest friends just avoided him. Now he stood on the threshold of his first meeting with a group of kids that he suspected would be his new nemeses. He knew their nicknames and a little about their powers, so he wasn't to be entirely surprised. There was "Zapp", the guy with electric hands, "Dawg", who was really strong and tough, even though he wasn’t physically large, and "Darla", who did something to the mind. Typically, she would charm the victim to come to where the rest of "the Crew" could show the hapless victim who was “boss”. The last guy just called himself "Duke". He evidently could fly, and was also kind of strong. Martin and “The Crew” saw each other at the same time. They were dressed in typical "homie-dewd" style, with big, ugly, fake gold chains, low-slung pants, sideways baseball caps and stocking hats pulled down close to the eyes. "Sup, noob," one of them called to him. Dawg whispered something to Darla, and she sauntered forward, obviously trying to look as sexy as possible. "Hey, handsome," she cooed, "why don't you come out behind the football building and we'll have some fun." Martin saw that the other three had vanished, so he knew what kind of "fun" Darla had in mind.

Martin replied, "No thanks, Darla. I don't feel like getting the snot beat out of me today," and stood his ground. Darla had an odd look on her face, like Martin had said something regarding chocolate-covered lug nuts and moose antlers.

Darla tried again, "oh come on. It'll be fun."

Martin crossed his arms. "No," he replied.

Darla had a puzzled look on her face as she walked away. Martin thought he had won some kind of battle here, at least until lunchtime. After he ate his lunch, he walked outside for his free period. The other students parted, and there three of them stood. Darla, Zapp, and Duke regarded him contemptuously. Zapp called out "I don't know how you tricked Darla, but there's four of us now.” Darla looked subdued, and Martin noticed a fresh shiner over her left eye. Evidently, she had paid for her earlier failure to get Martin alone. Martin didn't have time to wonder where Dawg was before he found himself held in a painful arm-hold from behind. He tried some of his aikido moves, but Dawg was far too strong. Zapp strode forward, electricity crackling from his fists. Zapp drew back and punched Martin hard in the stomach several times. Shocks rippled through Martin, causing him to clench his teeth painfully. Zapp stepped aside, and Martin looked up, coughing, just in time to see Duke soaring in, fist outstretched. Duke’s fist connected with Martin’s nose, splaying it wetly across his right cheekbone. With Martin dazed and reeling, Dawg shifted his grip and flung Martin skyward to be caught by Duke.

“Wow. He’s kinda heavy,” remarked Dawg and Duke dove to catch Martin by the ankle.

“Oof. You’re right, Dawg,” said Duke, tugging hard to slow his descent, “he seems to almost be getting heavier. Are you sure he’s a norm, Darla?”

“That’s what the school secretary said. If he has any powers, it’s only giving people little headaches,” shrugged Darla.

Martin was barely conscious. He was bleeding badly, and hanging upside down was making things worse. He was quite dizzy, and was having trouble breathing as Duke stopped his descent, and began drifting upward, presumably to drop him. Martin was not about to let that happen, so he reached up to grab the wrist that Duke was holding him aloft with. “Oh, look! He’s got some fight left in him yet!” he laughed to his cohorts below.



Duke tried to punch Martin in the head, but the angle was off, and Martin was able to absorb what little of the blow was not deflected. Martin climbed Duke like some bizarre jungle gym, his fury building with each heartbeat. As Martin hauled himself into a grapple hold with Duke, Duke punched him in the sides. Martin felt his ribs break, but he held on. Wrapping his legs tightly around Duke’s midsection, Martin quickly grabbed Duke’s head, and despite Duke’s greater strength, was able to headbutt Duke repeatedly in the nose. Every strike took some of the fight out of Duke, and they began to drop. Martin managed to flip Duke under him as they hit the pavement, so Duke took the brunt of the fall. Dawg grabbed Martin from behind again and snarled “I’m gonna tear your freakin’ arms off, monkeyboy!” Martin, a black belt in both Aikido and Kenpo, was ready for him this time. He threw his head back quickly twice, shattering Dawg’s nose. Dawg dropped his hold, and Martin shot a snapkick to Dawg’s knee, dropping him like a sack of potatoes. Martin spun and drove the toe of his heavy boot into the now prone Dawg’s throat in an arcing axekick, and reversed into a vicious stomp to his groin. The stomp snapped Dawg to a sitting position just in time to catch a mule kick to the face, putting him out of the fight completely as Martin advanced toward Zapp and Darla.

“I don’t care how strong or tough you are, there are just certain places where no one can handle being struck,” snarled Martin, glaring at Zapp.

“All right, meat,” hissed Zapp, blue-white lightnings dancing over his fists, “let’s go!” He drew back to hit Martin, but lowered his fist. Martin was still in a fighting stance when the principal and two teachers walked up, demanding to know what happened. Darla told them that Martin had attacked her friends unprovoked. The three men listened skeptically, and in the end, didn’t believe a word of what she said. Darla looked like someone had physically struck her. “What do you mean, you don’t believe me?!? EVERYONE believes ME!!!” Zapp looked flabbergasted as well, and they were both told that they were all four to be suspended for one week. Martin, Duke, and Dawg were rushed to the hospital. Duke was placed in traction for two months, and Martin was treated and released. Dawg got the worst end of everything. He was placed in intensive care, and had to undergo surgery. Three days after the incident, Zapp found Martin alone near a convenience store and said, “When my friends get out of the hospital, we are going to have a talk, you and I.”

The ember of rage began to heat up once more within Martin, and before either boy knew what he was doing, he had slammed Zapp against the concrete wall by the throat. “Touch me again you little creep, and I swear I’ll send you to the morgue,” Martin hissed through clenched teeth. Zapp recovered his wits and with an evil grin on his face, reached up to deliver a shock to Martin by grabbing Martin’s wrist.

Nothing happened.

The color drained from Zapp’s face as he realized his powers had failed him. Martin glared at Zapp for a long moment. Zapp was a skinny little runt, and would probably blow away in a stiff breeze. Without his powers, Zapp was paralyzed with fear of the short, stocky boy that was now holding him aloft by the neck. Martin dropped Zapp, who fell to his knees, shaking. Not understanding what happened to Zapp’s powers, Martin began to walk away. “I guess super powers aren’t all they are cracked up to be, are they, Zapp?” he thought to himself. He had just rounded the corner, when his world went all red, and he pitched forward into the dust. Something big and metal had hit him in the back of the head. He turned over groggily to see a large man with a metal arm ending in some type of energy weapon standing over him.

“You okay beating up my little boy. Let’s see how you do against a man, punk,” said the man. The behemoth’s t-shirt had the words “Big Dawg” in crude, red lettering across the chest.



Martin looked weakly at the hulking slob standing over him. “I don’t suppose it would do any good to explain that Dawg and his punk friends started it”

“Like I care! You almost killed my boy!”

Martin got to his feet and faced off against Dawg’s father. He was a fat elephant of a man. He seemed to have only the one cybernetic arm, attached to a walking mass of blubber. He had about two days’ beard growth, and the stench of him and the drool on his chin implied that he was probably a bottle or two into a case of whiskey.

“You like my arm, boy?” he slurred, “I lost my arm to an accident at the power plant, and the company paid to replace it with one o’ dem brand, new alien-tech cybo-arm things. Worker’s compensation in Paragon is pretty good, ain’t it? A buddy of mine showed me where I could get a gun put on it.”

“Charming. Look, your son and his buddies tried to kill me. I was just defending myself. Now back off.”

“I’ll give you the back of my hand!” snapped Dawg’s father, clumsily swinging his metal arm at Martin’s head. Martin easily ducked under the wild swing and planted a foot in the tub of lard’s backside, sending him sprawling face-first in the dirt. The hulk got up surprisingly fast, and swung again with his cybernetic arm. He managed to clip Martin on the side of the head, opening a gash on his temple. Now Martin was growing angry. Turning a full circle, Martin feinted a spectacular spinning kick, fooling his assailant into thrusting his metal limb upward to block. At the last instant, Martin arced his foot downward to plow into the side of the man’s torso. With a satisfying ‘smack’, Martin’s foot sent vibrations through the rolls of fat. The kick obviously stung, but the blubber served as a kind of armor, cushioning the blow. If Martin couldn’t calm the man down, he would have to start trying for more damaging blows. The man kicked out with a meaty foot, and missed wildly.

“Look, sir. I don’t want to hurt you. As long as your son and his buddies don’t mess with me, I won’t mess with them.”

‘Big Dawg’, his face reddened with exertion and rage, bulled into Martin, bearing him down under sheer bulk. Martin could feel his ribs cracking again, as 300-plus pounds of flesh crushed him to the ground. Martin tried to squirm out from under Big Dawg’s flab, while the fat slob beat him relentlessly with his human hand. Fortunately for Martin, the metallic limb was just not maneuverable enough to get at him while he was pinned. Just as he managed to break free, Big Dawg snagged the back of his shirt with his organic hand, and shoved the barrel of his cybernetic arm into Martin’s face. “Now, boy. This fight is over.”

Martin heard a barely audible ‘click’, then a tiny hissing sound. He closed his eyes tightly, preparing for the end. All he heard was the click and the hiss again. He opened his eyes to see Big Dawg staring at his arm in anger, shaking it. Then the arm stopped moving all together, and fell lifeless to the big man’s side. Not one to question good fortune, Martin shot a knife-hand strike to the bridge of Big Dawg’s nose, causing him to roll over and hold his shattered septum. Seizing the lifeless cybernetic arm in a joint-hold, Martin shifted into a classic board-breaking stance. “They don’t make cyberware like they used to do they, tubby?” Martin sneered. Striking the arm right at the shoulder joint, he shattered the bones that anchored it to the flesh and blood moorings.

“Freeze! Drop the gun, release the girl, lie face down on the ground, and put your hands behind your head!” was all he heard behind him. Turning, a baffled Martin saw a police officer with his service revolver pointed right at him. Darla was standing at the officer’s elbow, whispering to him. The officer had a glazed look in his eyes, so Martin quickly guessed what was going on. Martin released Big Dawg’s arm, raised his hands, and proceeded to lay face down on the ground. The officer began cautiously walking toward Martin, unsnapping handcuffs from his belt.



Martin lay on the ground as he was told, not taking his eyes off Darla. Darla shivered visibly as the hatred emanating from Martin washed over her like a winter storm. The approaching officer slowed, and shook his head as if trying to clear it. Darla again whispered to him, a worried look on her face. The officer steeled himself and began his approach again. A dozen feet from Martin, a disbelieving look crossed his face. “Where is the girl?” he barked.

“There was no girl, sir. That man with the metal arm attacked me, and I defended myself.” replied Martin.

“That’s not true!” yelled Darla. “He had a young girl and was going to kill her.”

“You told me this was the young girl,” said the officer irritably, indicating the hulking slob, who had passed out from pain.

“It is!” insisted Darla. “Arrest him!” Darla’s forehead was visibly sweating. The officer noticed this. He reached out, and wiped some of the sweat from Darla’s forehead.

“You seem nervous, miss. You wouldn’t be trying to use some power or other on the nice officer now, would you?” the policeman began threateningly.

“Why, no.. I… I” squeaked Darla weakly. Darla’s gaze darted back and forth like a trapped rabbit. Without another word, Darla sprinted down a nearby alleyway.

“STOP!” shouted the policeman. He turned to Martin, looked after Darla, and decided against pursuit. With a sigh, the officer walked over to Martin, who was still lying on the ground. Without moving, Martin recounted the entire incident, adding what little he knew of Darla’s powers. The officer called an ambulance for Dawg’s father, and bade Martin stand up, and tell him why ‘Big Dawg’ should want to hurt him. Martin told him the tale of how Dawg and his buddies had assaulted him, and further volunteered that the principal of his school would verify the story. The officer told Martin that he would do well to avoid the whole bunch. Martin assured the officer he would if he could as the paramedics attended Martin’s head wound.

Weeks later, on Martin’s eighteenth birthday, Dawg was release from the hospital. The next day at school, “The Crew” was back together, less one member. Martin had heard that Dawg had been furious that Darla’s power had failed, and had beaten her so badly that he had hospitalized her. Evidently, her power required an ability to talk, and every time she had tried to say something he had backhanded her. Darla was in intensive care, and thanks to a crushed larynx, would have trouble speaking for the rest of her life, rendering her power useless. Zapp and Duke looked unusually subdued as Dawg stalked toward Martin. He had come to Paragon High hoping to leave all his old problems behind him at his old high school. Now he was a senior and still fighting these juvenile battles.

“Look, Dawg. We are all eighteen now. At this point, things get serious. From now on, it’s not just a bunch of kids fighting. Now it’s assault and battery.”

“You tried to kill my dad, and you put me in the hospital! You think I am just going to let that GO?!?”

“Listen, you knuckle-dragging, brain-dead mouth-breather! I don’t suppose that the thought has crossed that dormant hunk of meat you keep locked away in that granite-like skull of yours that a) YOU four idiots started all this by attacking ME, and b) your dad jumped ME outside the Stop’N’Go with the thought of killing me, and I was just defending myself?”

The logic was lost on Dawg. He charged Martin, screaming “GET HIM!” to his two cohorts. Duke hovered reluctantly into the air, and Zapp looked nervously from his hands to Martin. Martin snapped into a defensive stance to meet Dawg’s charge. Trusting whatever luck was with him, he fired a palm strike to Dawg’s nose, hoping to drop him and end the fight.

It was like smacking a granite wall.

Dawg bulled through the strike, and bore Martin to the ground, pinning him. Dawg hammered punch after super powered punch into Martin. Duke got brave and flew down to pick up Martin. He flew up to about 20 feet and dropped him. Martin landed heavily and felt his left ankle break. Zapp started forward timidly, and shocked Martin, causing him to spasm painfully. Martin tried to fend off Dawg, but he received a snapped arm for his trouble. Dawg was on him again, pounding his face and chest relentlessly. Martin felt bone after bone breaking under Dawg’s merciless onslaught. Zapp moved to Martin’s head and began to gleefully deliver brutal shocks to his temple. Martin bit down reflexively, and nearly bit through his own tongue. Dawg grabbed Martin’s wrists and jerked them out straight, shooting lances of pain from his broken arm through him. Dawg held Martin prone in this manner while Duke dropped from above, driving his knee into Martin’s stomach. The last thing Martin remembered was Dawg punching his head over and over.



Martin awoke in a hospital bed, his mother standing over him worriedly. She called for the doctors, who came in to check him. He had been unconscious for 2 days. His wounds were on the mend, but there were dozens of injuries, and he would be in the hospital for months.

“Mom, I am so sorry to worry you like this.”

“Honey, it’s not your fault. I understand that those thugs did the same to a young girl. The police haven’t found them yet.”

“But how are we going to pay these hospital bills?”

“Your father’s insurance from the company will cover you for a little while. We’ll be okay.”

“What do you mean ‘for a little while’?”

“I didn’t want to worry you Marty. Your dad got laid off.”

“What? Why?”

“They hired this new guy. He can apparently do the jobs of the whole department and then some, and the almighty dollar speaks louder than anything.”

“But dad is a creative genius!”

“Yes he is, but evidently, this new guy is really smart, and just knows everyone’s jobs. He can’t come near your father’s quality of work, but your father can’t match his quantity. He missed some work when I had my heart trouble. He stayed by my bed when they put in that high-tech heart.”

“I remember. We almost lost you there,” said Martin, taking his mother’s hand. “They held that against him?”

“No, but he was never able to catch up to the new guy. The board of directors just decided that they would rather have quantity than quality. They were kind enough to maintain the insurance for another few weeks. Your father starts to work for the city next week.”

“Doing what? Emptying trash?” barked Martin joked sarcastically. Martin’s mother looked away, choking on a sob. “No. Mom, please. Dad is brilliant! He’s got a doctorate from Harvard in theoretical artificial intelligence!. Please tell me he’s not dumping someone else’s garbage for a living because some freak of nature got his department fired.”

“It’s honest work, and it’s only temporary until your dad finds something else.” Martin felt the ember of fury welling up within him, but he surpressed it and buried it deep, not wanting to disturb his mother.

In the months to come, Martin healed quickly, and soon began to go to therapy for his atrophied muscles. His mother had taken a job cleaning houses to make ends meet, so his family would be fine. Things began to look better, and the doctors told him he would be out in time to graduate. He had been getting his assignments from school, so he was pretty caught up on his schoolwork. One day, he went back to his room to find a small box. Opening it, he found a simple note card upon which was scribbled, “An eye for an eye”.



David Thorne sighed at his lot in life. His mind had designed some of the most elaborate and innovative pieces of software yet imagined. He took to coding like a duck to water and it just seemed to flow from him. Now here he was in a back alley, dumping a fetid sludge of leftovers into a garbage truck behind a Chinese food joint.

“Well, at least it can’t get any worse,” he lamented to no one in particular.

“Huh? Whutchoo mean?” his large, not-overly-bright partner asked.

“Oh nothing, Moose. Just complaining,”

“Aw, Dave. Dis job ain’ so bad. Sure joo go home smelly an’ such, but de hours aren’t all dat bad, an’ de city ben’fits is real good.”

“Yeah, it’s just that I had a really good job once, and I really enjoyed it.”

“Yeah, you were a ‘puter programmer ‘r sumptin’, weren’t cha?”

“Yes, I was. No matter. A job is a job.”

“True dat. Now let’s get this crap loaded and go get sumthin’ ta eat. I’m starved.”

David chuckled and wondered how anyone could get a whiff of day-old food that had been marinating in the sun and rat feces and still have an appetite, but Moose, although somewhat simple-minded, was a kind soul, honest, and, in his own special way, wise. David was so engrossed in his own thoughts that he almost ran right into the young man that had stepped around the truck to block his path.

“Hello, Mr. Thorne,” the youth said with a menacing smile.

“Um, hello.”

“Hey! Yous kids can’t be here around da truck. It’s too danger’s”

A second boy stepped up behind Moose, and with a sickening popping sound, snapped his neck, dropping him to the ground heavily.

“Oh, my God!!” screamed David, “Moose…GAK!”

The first boy had punched David in the stomach, causing David to spit blood. The second boy, and now a third were on him in an instant. Martin’s father, to his credit, managed to stay alive for almost five minutes before death guided his soul to a better place.



Martin was up and around now, and walking about the hospital for exercise. He wandered aimlessly, exploring where he could, looking for something to occupy his time. As luck would have it, he happened upon Darla’s room. She was sleeping and had an oxygen tube in her nose. Dawg, Duke, and Zapp had been quite thorough with her, although her only lasting scar appeared to be an electrical burn on one temple. He stood in the doorway and stared at her with a grimace for a long moment. She was really quite an attractive girl, with long, raven hair, and an almost elfin bone structure. Small and slight of build, he thought to himself that she was supremely lucky that the “three stooges” didn’t kill her. Even covered in the yellow-blue of fading bruises, she was still very pretty. It was a pity that her outer appearance hid a very cold heart. As he turned to leave, he heard a timid voice, an almost frightened whisper behind him.


Martin turned to find Darla’s clear, green eyes staring at him. He hadn’t even realized that she was no longer in a coma.


“I.. I wanted to say.. That is..” Darla stammered weakly.

“Spit it out, Darla. If you’re going to threaten me, be done with it. I’m busy.”

“I.. I wanted to say how sorry I was,” Darla sobbed, “I was so wrong. I wanted to be powerful, and popular.”

“Well, you picked a poor method of attaining that status.”

“I know. When they were,“ Darla choked, “beating me, I was so scared. When I came to, I realized how much hurt I had caused. I wanted to die. I felt so ugly.” Darla was crying in earnest now.

“So what you are saying is, when you woke up and realized that your power was gone, you realized that you were essentially just like everyone else and you couldn’t handle that.”

“No. That’s not it at all. I got what I deserved. I know that.”

“You sure did,” Martin snapped, folding his arms over his chest, regretting the words almost immediately. No one deserved that kind of beating, least of all this petite little girl, no matter how black her heart was.

“Martin, I really am truly sorry. When they began berating me for failing to dominate you, I told them that I wanted no more part of their crap. That is when they started hitting me. They were never my friends. They were just using me.”

“Big shock, there.”

“I begged them to stop, but it just seemed to encourage them. I never realized how mean they really were.”

“You know, that’s the problem with all you super-powered FREAKS,” Martin’s emphasis on the word “freaks” caused Darla to wince feebly, as if he had physically struck her. “None of you ever think about the consequences of your bizarre abilities. You all use them, and abuse them as you see fit, never caring one whit about who gets hurt or suffers.” Darla was sobbing uncontrollably, Martin’s rage was rising, and he had been steadily moving toward Darla with every syllable. Suddenly, a frightened nurse burst into the room with a crash cart. She was white as a sheet.

“What is going on here?” the nurse demanded, and angry urgency in her voice.

Martin was suddenly very ashamed of himself. “Darla, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” He looked at the nurse who was now fiddling with the high-tech vitals scanner that Darla was connected to. It was utterly dark and silent.

“Her monitor shut down. We thought she had gone into arrest. What did you do?”

“Nothing! Honest! I didn’t even touch it!” Martin insisted desperately.

“He’s telling the truth, Nurse Grey. I didn’t notice it was off myself. Look. None of the other equipment is off. Just that thing.”

“Well, you still need to go,” the nurse said curtly.

“Martin, please come and see me again, so we can talk,” Darla rasped, her eyes fixed firmly on the hem of her bedsheet.

“I’ll think about it,” Martin said, and walked out.

As Martin left, Darla’s vitals scanner leapt back to life, and the nurse’s sudden headache vanished as if it had never been. The nurse looked quizzically after Martin and made a mental note to check Martin’s charts thoroughly.



When Martin returned to his room, he was met with a somber sight. His mother was in the arms of a police officer, sobbing uncontrollably. A second officer approached Martin gravely. “Son,” the officer began, “let’s step out in the hall and talk.” The officer gently told Martin of the discovery of his father’s battered body. Martin, being 18, was the only other possible candidate to come to the morgue to do a corpse identification, since his mother was an absolute basket case.

“Son, did your father have any enemies?”

“None. Everyone liked my dad. He was kind to everyone he met,” Martin said, numb with grief.

“So you don’t know of anyone that would have wanted him dead?”

“No. Why do you ask?” Martin was growing suspicious of this line of questioning. Something was out of place, and he was missing it.

“Well, son,” the officer began, “you see, your father was beaten pretty badly. The guy that was with him, the big one, “Moose” I think he was called, just had his neck broke. That’s it. But your dad, well.. They messed him up good. Even burned him some.”

Martin was beginning to put it together, and he had his suspicions as to who it might have been. The first twinges of anger began to grip his heart. “Do you have any leads?”

“None, at the moment. I mean, it was obviously super-powered thugs. The internal injuries are too extensive.”

Now Martin was all but positive. “Officer, I really need to see to my mother. She needs me.”

“Of course, son. If you think of anything we should know, call me at this number,” the policeman said quietly, handing Martin his business card.

Martin took the card and thanked the officer. Moving to his mother, Martin was barely controlling the rage welling up inside him, as he held the broken-hearted woman.

“Oh, Marty! Why? Why would anyone want to hurt David? Why?”

“Mom, there doesn’t have to be a reason. Some people are just sadistic is all. Dad probably didn’t.. Mom? What’s wrong??”

Martin’s mother had started convulsing, and her face was feather-white. As she went limp in Martin’s arms, he started screaming for help. Two nurses and a passing doctor rushed in and lifted her to Martin’s hospital bed.

“Okay, son. Move aside. Let us see to her,” the nurse Martin recognized as the one he had encountered in Darla’s room said and the doctor started taking Martin’s mother’s vitals. The nurse moved Martin to one side, and the doctor started yelling for a crash cart.

“Get me a defibrillator, STAT! Her heart isn’t beating!”

Martin spoke up, “doc, she has one of those new artificial hearts. They are supposed to last forever!”

“Okay, son. Now let us do our job, and we’ll see if we can save her.”

The nurse from Darla’s room looked from Martin’s mom, to Martin, and back again, as if she was doing some sort of math problem. She suddenly jumped up and grabbed Martin by the back of the neck and started shoving Martin out the door. “Martin, come with me, quickly!”

Martin resisted half-heartedly. “Where are we going? MOM!”

“Trust me son. We need to get you away from here. NOW.”

No sooner had the nurse managed to get Martin a few feet down the hall, than they heard the doctor in Martin’s room say, “it’s beating again. We don’t need to defib any more, but leave it here, just in case. Mrs. Thorne, can you hear me?”

“Mom!” Martin cried, moving to rush to her side. The nurse intervened and stopped him. “What are you doing?” Martin demanded. “Get out of my way!”

“Martin, trust me. You NEED to stay out here for a moment or two. Let me get the doctor and we’ll see what is wrong, okay? You stay right here.”

The nurse walked over the Martin’s room and he could see her talking to the doctor. Martin’s mom was already coming around, and every now and again, the doctor and nurse would both glance his way, and Martin noticed that they both wore a dark look. Soon, the doctor and nurse walked out to Martin, troubled looks on both of their faces.

“Martin, have you ever exhibited any extraordinary abilities? Unexplained happenings around the house? Stuff like that?” the doctor asked.

“NO!. I am not some kind of mutated freakshow.” Martin retorted, his mind secretly drifting back to his days of being called “headache boy”.

“Nurse, hand me that cellular re-secter” the doctor beckoned.

The nurse placed a high-tech looking instrument in the doctor’s hand. The doctor switched it on and it began to hum, and lights on it began to wink on and off. “Now this might sting a trifle,” the doctor said as he brought it close to Martin’s cheek. As the tool approached Martin’s flesh, however, the hum began to stutter, and when it came into contact with his skin, it died all together. The doctor moved it away from Martin, and it came back on. “Nurse, you said that while he was in that young lady’s room, her monitor went off, and then came back on again after he left?”

“Yes, Doctor. That is when I first began to suspect something.”

“What is it? What do you suspect? What is going on?” Martin demanded, panic in his voice. As he backed against the wall, the device in the doctor’s hand emitted sparks, and wisps of smoke. At the nearby nurse’s station, a monitor also sparked and fizzled.

“Martin, it is imperative that you calm down. It appears that you might have a latent power of some sort that has begun to manifest itself.”

“What are you saying? That I am one of those..those..”

“Martin, in this day and age, it is not uncommon. If you will allow us to run some tests, we can find out what is going on.”

“No.. No.. NOOO!!” Martin screamed. Medical equipment all around him began to smoke, and a trickle of blood ran down Martin’s nose. The stress and strain was finally too much for him, and he collapsed, unconscious, to the floor.



When Martin regained consciousness, he appeared to be in a private room in intensive care. His mother could be seen looking at him through glass across the room. Her eyes were puffy and red, and she waved to him weakly, a smile on her face. The doctor walked in about that time, and checked the readings on what appeared to be positively archaic monitoring equipment.

“Hello Martin.”

Martin remained silent, and turned to stare at the wall.

The doctor pressed on. “We have moved you to this observation area, and we would still like to run some tests on you to find out what is going on. You appear to be in fine health and on the mend. You have actually gained a few pounds, which although unexpected, is a good thing.”

“I’ll tell you what, doc. You run whatever tests you like, as long as it points to a CURE.”

“Martin, the powers that have begun showing up in this world are hardly a disease. They are a boon to mankind.”

“Oh, then why isn’t my mother here next to me? She NEEDS me right now.”

“Martin, it appears that your body emits some sort of field that dampens the specific energy patterns used in more advanced technological devices. Your mother runs a risk of her heart ceasing to function if she gets too close to you. The field appears dormant when you are unconscious, but judging by the display downstairs, it triggers off of stress.

“No kidding,” snorted Martin. In truth, he was mildly intrigued. The incident with Big Dawg was beginning to make sense. Perhaps it went even deeper. “Okay, doc. I’ll be your guinea pig, but I have to go downtown to the morgue first.”

“Martin, I am afraid that you cannot leave just yet. The danger to the public is too great. Do you realize how dangerous your…uh.. ‘field’ is, left uncontrolled? Do you realize how much damage you could cause? How much havoc you could wreak if you got too close to, say, someone with an artificial organ?” the doctor said, looking pointedly at Martin’s mother.

“Okay, doc. I get your point. What happens now?”

“Well, we see if you can’t learn to control it, and where it comes from.”

“Fair enough. If it’s keyed to my stress reaction, that should be fairly easy to control. That’s what Prozac is for, right?”

“I can’t be sure. We need to do some tests on you first.”

“Fine. I got nothing else to do.”

“Excellent,” the doctor said, “shall we begin?”



Over the next few days, Martin would be subjected to tests and scans of every description, in addition to his normal physical therapy. His physical therapy was progressing so well, that he had even begun to provide his physical therapist some limited lessons in Akido, thus benefiting both himself and his therapist. Martin actually seemed to be in better shape than when he went into the hospital. The therapist informed Martin that he was down to about 1% body fat, which should not be possible under normal circumstances. Things became even more bizarre during his next doctor’s consultation:

“Okay, doc. Give it to me straight. What kind of weirdo am I?” Martin said sarcastically.

“You are hardly a weirdo. Martin, you are already in the peak of physical condition, something that should have taken another month at least. Even without your “dampening aura”, that in itself would be cause for further investigation. You see, your muscular system has doubled in size.”

“What’s so strange about that? I work out a lot.”

“Martin, you don’t understand. You have an entirely new set of muscles growing in tandem with, and in some cases, OVER your existing ones. Essentially, you have two complete sets of muscles. Every muscle in your body has a duplicate, including your heart, although in that case, it appears that the cardiac muscle has merely augmented itself twofold.”

“What, so they are replacing my existing ones?”

“Not exactly. It’s like when you see two engines at the front of a train. Both engines perform the same function, with increased efficiency and power. The new muscles respond to the same stimuli, and react in the same manner. Your enlarged heart has ramped up your blood pressure to what should be a fatal level, but with your extra set of muscles reinforcing your major arteries, what it amounts to is greater circulatory efficiency. I can only assume that your blood vessels are double-thickness as well, since we haven’t seen any capillary breakage.”

“Oh, swell. No more high-salt foods for me, I guess.”

“Well, there’s more. Theoretically, this condition should mean that any wound you suffer should be potentially fatal due to bleeding. However, in your case, the bonding capability of the platelets in your bloodstream.. Do you know what “platelets” are?”


“Well, the bonding capability of your platelets seems to have increased several times over. We had to fill a needle with an anti-clotting agent just to take a sample. The upshot of this is that your circulatory system seals over minor wounds almost as soon as they occur. The only thing keeping all of your blood from clotting right now is the extreme pressure of your heart. Additionally, your white blood cell count is elevated, and the cells themselves are aggressive in the extreme. We are sending our findings to a disease research facility, their reactions to pathogens are so impressive. Your blood could be the catalyst for developing a cure to some of the world’s deadliest diseases.”

“I am no med student, doc, but I thought an elevated white count was bad.”

“Normally it is. But there is nothing wrong with you. Quite the opposite. Martin, on a hunch, we introduced a live sample of virally-infected blood to your sample. Your white cells attacked and destroyed the viral packets without incurring a single loss.”

“So, I’m basically really really healthy, is that it?”

“Martin, you could very well be one of the single healthiest people on the planet.”

“Okay, so what does all this have to do with my “aura”? That IS the reason I am still here, right?”

“We puzzled over that for some time. Then we consulted an endocrine specialist. Your lymphatic system also has some redundancy, but it also has dozens of additional organs roughly the size of an almond. Our assumption is that puberty, combined with your exposure to Paragon City and it’s meta-human inhabitants, triggered their awakening from a dormant state. As to how they got there in the first place, and why they are doing what they are doing, I must admit that we are utterly dumbfounded. Many different mutations in human beings have been showing up ever since the Rikti incursion, so we are leaning in that direction for an explanation. You know the human body takes minute amounts of vitamin K from sunlight, right?”

“Yeah, we covered that in Bio 1.”

“Well, these organs absorb specific radiations generated by the energy signatures given off by higher tech equipment, such as some of our more advanced devices, or…”

“My mother’s artificial heart. Great. If I get near my mother, I’ll kill her?”

“Well, unless we find a way to control it, yes. But there’s more.”


“Yes. The endocrinologist we consulted is also a meta-human. Among his other abilities, he can see far outside the normal human spectrum including x-rays, infrared, etc. He uses this abilities to diagnose patients and perform what amounts to exploratory surgery without having to actually incise the patient. He could not see through you. Upon further testing, we determined that these ‘Thorne glands’, as we have elected to call them,” Martin rolled his eyes, “also absorb the energy patterns present in all meta-humans. Essentially, you act like a ‘lodestone’ of sorts, dampening these patterns as your body absorbs the energies.”

Now, Martin was intrigued. Several things were beginning to fall into place.

“These organs are spaced all over your body, and stress sends them into overdrive. As they absorb the energy, they send specifically-keyed hormones throughout your body. These hormones have been instructing your body to reinforce all of its defensive systems, as well as your musculature. The second set of muscles, I think, is only the beginning. There is evidence of the beginnings of a third set. Via ultrasound, we have found that the ‘Thorne glands”..”

“Look.. Find something ELSE to call them. Use YOUR name. I don’t care. Just don’t use mine.”

“Fair enough. ‘Stromberg gland’ does have a nice ring to it.”

“Call it that, then.”

“At any rate, these glands seem to have their own muscle groups. Judging by the cellular structure, they are voluntary muscles, but these cells contain a kind of crystalline lattice that we have never encountered before. It seems to insulate the organs, effectively acting like a lead shield around a reactor.”

“Doc, are you saying that I can turn these things on and off?”

“Theoretically, once you learn to control the muscles associated, yes. You may even be able to focus the absorption. The muscle groups bear a striking resemblance to ocular muscle, only on a much smaller scale.”

“So why don’t I absorb my own powers, like everyone else’s?”

“Think of a flashlight. It’s the same principle. The crystalline structure within the muscles seems to focus the absorption outward as well as insulating you from it, preventing it from reaching the core of your body. It acts like the focusing mirror of a typical flashlight. The muscles open like a clamshell when they contract, similar to your eyelids. There is only the single opening in each organ, and they all appear to be pointed outward.”

“So how many of them are there?”

“Dozens. They are mostly in your extremities, and are more densely concentrated around your various hormonal glands.”

The doctor went on to explain more, talking about possible exercises, plans, and whatnot, but Martin was lost in thought, trying to digest all this. It was then that he remembered a small detail. “Why do normal people get headaches around me?”

“Martin, all of us, regardless of whether normal or meta-human, have some of this energy in our bodies. The difference is that the average person has it in such trace amounts that, when you absorb it, it’s akin to someone dry-heaving. You’re pulling really hard at something that there isn’t any more of. There are no lasting effects, just pain.”

“So, what do we do now? When can I get out of here?”

“Well, we’ve got to get you where you can actively control the absorption. When the muscles are at rest, their natural state is to close over the glands. It’s when you are awake that they tense and open. I suppose to first course of action is to teach you to relax.”

“Gotcha covered, doc. I learned that in first-year Akido.”

“Let’s try it then.”

Martin began to go through the breathing exercises his Master taught him, seeking the serenity within that all creatures possess. The doctor placed a laser-scalpel in Martin’s palm and waited for the power-indicator to stop flickering. Martin was truly centered for the first time in many months. He had forgotten how calming the effect was. After a moment or two, the laser scalpel’s power light settled into a normal steady glow.

“Very good. Now, if we could just get you to where you could do that on demand,” the doctor said as he moved to take the device from Martin.

“Hang on a sec, doc. Let me try something,” said Martin. Now that Martin was calm and at peace, he sensed something new. An entirely new sensation was hovering just on the edge of his awareness. He tried to grab at it mentally, but it was like trying to capture smoke with a net. His mind finally latched onto this sensation, and Martin felt a something similar to having goosebumps. The scalpel’s power indicator winked out for a split second, and then came back on. Doctor Stromberg looked at Martin questioningly.

“Did you do that?”

“I think so. Let me try again,” Martin said, closing his eyes. After a few seconds, the power light flickered once again, and then went out. This time, it stayed out for a full second before coming back to life. Martin sighed loudly, “lost it.”

“That was promising. So it appears that you may yet be able to control the absorption. This will take some work.”

“Like I told you before doc, until I am safe to be around my Mom, I got nothing else to do.”



Martin would try these exercises for hours on end, developing the ability as best he could. It was like working atrophied muscles, which technically he was, but they were muscles that do not normally exist, so he had to learn how to use them before he could develop them.

Martin’s mom had identified his father’s body. The burns were electrical burns, so Martin no longer wondered who was responsible for his father’s murder. He now had a sizable score to settle.

Since he was no longer technically injured, and had developed reasonable control over his “Stromberg Organs” as they called them, he was allowed free reign to wander the hospital. The nurses took to shooing him away from their stations, since Martin had discorvered a penchant for playing pranks on them by randomly switching off their equipment. It was great fun, and served to help him hone the ability to control his power. He hadn’t really come to grips with being a meta, but the fact that his unique power enabled him to be on some sort of even ground was some small comfort. Martin even visited Darla from time to time, and reconciled with her. They became very close, and Martin was disappointed to find that Darla had no family, other than foster parents that wanted nothing more to do with her, due to her troublemaking past. Martin elected not to tell Darla about his power, since he didn’t wholly trust her yet, but did talk with her at length about her former friends.

“So I assume that your ex-buddies haven’t come to visit you lately?” Martin asked her with a chuckle.

“No. I don’t want to hear from them, anyway.”

“Don’t blame you. So, where do they hang out nowadays, do you know?”

“No. We USED to go to the warehouse district. We.. That is.. They would get a kick out of Zapp sending shocks though puddles of standing water when someone would walk through it. We used to steal stuff from there, also. My power came in handy for that. No one ever really got hurt, though. I think even then I was having second thoughts about the whole thing.”

“Steal stuff, huh?”

“I know. I felt bad then, and now I feel positively ugly inside.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“Just whatever we came across. I don’t think anyone ever cared what it was, as long as it was sellable.”

“Think they might still hang out there?”

“I don’t know. Martin, stay away from them. They have become truly dangerous. They’ll hurt you or worse, given the chance,” Darla rasped, wincing at her own voice.

“I wouldn’t worry about that. I’d worry about you. You get out of here in a couple of days. The state paid your hospital bills, but once out, what will you do? Will your foster parents take you back in?”

“I doubt it. They won’t even return my calls. I don’t know what I am going to do.”

“We’ll work something out.”

“I hate my voice. It’s so ugly now. I would give up my power completely if I could just have my old voice back.”

“I kind of like it. It’s kind of sultry and mysterious,” Martin said. Darla blushed deep crimson at this. “I’ll talk with my mom. Maybe she’ll let you stay with her, since I will be headed off to college after graduation. I’ve been saving for it for a long time.”

“You’d really do that for me? Why?”

“Well, you seem genuinely sorry, and interested in changing for the better. Plus, I have always been a sucker for lost causes.”

“Thanks a lot.”

Martin grinned widely.

“What are you going to study?”

“I haven’t decided, but here lately, I have been giving serious thought to medicine. Perhaps even mutant physiology, to better understand some things.”


“Hey, I have to do SOMETHING with my life. I can’t lie around here being the doctors’ punching dummy my whole life.”

Nurse Grey poked her head into the room and told Martin that it was getting late and he needed to get back to his own room. On an impulse, Martin reached over and gave Darla a thorough hug. After all, everyone needed someone, and if he could help her feel better, so be it.

“Thanks, Martin”

“It’ll all be okay. You’ll see.”

“I really am sorry about when we met,” she whispered, staring at her bed again.

“I know.”

With that, Martin left. Once back to his room, he drifted off to sleep, and had the most amazing dream involving a certain pretty brunette with green eyes, and a breathy whisper.



Martin awoke to a commotion in the hall. The shouting had reached a fever pitch when he stepped groggily through his room door. The noise led him past the nurse’s station to the medication storage area, where the sight that met him there chilled him to the bone. A teenager wearing Freakshow colors, and sporting a couple of cybernetic enhancements was at the medicine locker, holding off a dozen nurses, orderlies, and doctors with an arm that had a wicked-looking jagged blade where his hand should be. His other arm was locked around the throat of a terrified woman.

Martin’s mother.

“Put all the drugs in the bag! NOW!” the thug screamed, indicating the duffle bag on the floor.

Martin never felt so helpless in his life. He knew he might be able to do something to stop this, but he didn’t dare approach for fear of shutting down his mother’s heart again. The gangbanger had the ragged edge of the blade against Martin’s mother’s throat, and was digging gouges into her skin because he was twitching and shaking so wildly. It was obvious that he was either on something, coming down off of something, or both.

“I mean it! I’ll do her! Right here! Fill that bag, now!!”

“Look, don’t hurt her. She didn’t do anything to you,” it was nurse Grey. “If you’ll just calm down, we’ll give you what you want.”

Martin fought to control his anger. It bubbled threateningly, just beneath the surface of his psyche. Since he started using his martial arts training to control it, he had become aware of his temper, crouched just behind his consciousness. Martin had begun using visualization to enhance his calm, and imagined his mind as a still serene lake, with a constantly brewing storm on the horizon. Nurse Grey had described his countenance at times as “eerily calm”. Now here he was, bending all of his will to keep ripples out of the water, but the thunder was already sounding in his head. Across the scene, Nurse Grey looked pointedly at him. She knew what was going on behind his eyes.

“Which drugs do you want? We’ll get them,” Nurse Grey offered, trying to defuse the situation.

“The blue ones. And the yellow ones. And give me some bottles of the clear stuff.”

“You’re going to have to be more specific,” said Nurse Grey, an unmistakable air of desperation in her voice.

“ARE YOU MESSING WITH ME?!?” the thug screamed.

“No, no! It’s just that there are hundreds of medications in there, and many of them are yellow or blue, and most of the bottles have clear liquid. Maybe if you could tell me what they do, I could narrow it down.”

Martin had his anger under control, and was trying to determine if he was willing to chance some fine control over his power. He hadn’t tried anything so exacting yet, and the creep’s mechanical arm was positioned in such a way as to be dangerously close to Martin’s mother’s heart. Martin would have a margin for error of only a couple of inches.

“The blue ones, they waste you real good, and the yellow ones make you fly. The clear stuff you shoot. It takes the edge off.”

“I need more. Please. I want to help, but I have to know what you need.”

“Just put it ALL in the bag! NOW!”

“I can’t do that. This bag is far too small. It’s only a duffle, and this storage locker is full of medications.”

At this, the thug’s eyes gleamed with avarice. He began trembling in frustration and confusion. “You’re messing with me, aren’t you? I TOLD you not to mess with me!!”

“I’m not! Please, I..”

“DON’T! MESS! WITH! ME!!” the thug spat, and drew the rusted edge of his blade across Mrs. Thorne’s throat. So deep was the cut that she was dead almost instantly. He dropped her body, and lunged at Nurse Grey.

“NO, MOM!!!!!!” Martin screamed, as he dove towards his mother’s side. He cradled her lifeless head in his lap, and sobbed.

With Nurse Grey under his arm now, the thug yelled, “You see what happens when you mess with me? You just cost this feeb his mommy! Now you give me what I need NOW!!”

Martin had been sitting on his knees at the feet of the thug, and caught the back of the thug’s arm aross the temple, sending Martin sprawling eight feet away, but he was back on his feet in a half-heartbeat. Nurse Grey trembled, and the thug foolishly assumed in his drug-addled delusion that the shivering was out of fear of him. Martin had snapped a glare onto the thug like a pronouncement of doom, and Nurse Grey had met that gaze. Inside Martin’s mind, the serene lake was riddled with whitecaps. Shearing winds blew the once-peaceful waters into a frenzy. A blinding flash of lightning split the skies of his mind’s eye. The storm had come.



Martin’s rage welled up like a geyser, and high-tech equipment started failing all around him as he began advancing on the thug. Nurse Grey, fearing what was about to occur, whispered to the thug, "for God's sake, run." A lust for vengeance slithered up from Martin's gut, and curled up around Martin's psyche like a mother bear protecting her cub. It was vile, cold, desolate, and unfeeling. To Martin, it felt like a warm blanket, protecting him from the pain.

"I ain't a-scared of nobody. Back off, feeb. One more step, and this chick gets her throat cut just like your mommy over there."

The thug was within Martin's field of influence now, and the thug's arm dropped lifeless to his side. His opposite hand was also mechanical from the forearm down, and it too ceased functioning. "Run. If you value your life, run! While you still can!" Nurse Grey urged, even as the thug's inert limbs slid away from her. Foolishly, the thug used his body and shoulder to dead-swing his arm at Martin. There was no power in the swing, since the thug was essentially just jerking his shoulder to get the motion. Martin easily caught the arm with an inside block. To the amazement of both Martin and the thug, the metal of the arm started to collapse under Martin's white-knuckled grip. Nurse Grey was not at all surprised, since she had been monitoring Martin's measurements for some time, and knew what Martin's strength could potentially be, given his current muscle-mass. The fact that Martin looked as if he weighed in at 250 pounds was strictly a misconception, one that this thug was buying into to his dire peril. Keeping the arm in one hand, Martin reached down, and grabbed a handful of the would-be thief's abdominal muscle. The thug began screaming in pain as he was lifted bodily over Martin's head.

With an animalistic scream, Martin hurled the thug 20 feet down the hall. He hit the tile floor, and slid an additional 20 feet, skidding into the wall at the end of the corridor. About the time the creep came to rest, a dynamic feminine figure dressed in red hovered through a nearby window. She had been summoned to the scene, and had witnessed the hapless crook's flight. She touched down lightly on the floor, and looked first at the creep, then at Martin. Martin was striding purposely forward. The woman, known to Paragon City as the Scarlet Sentinel, interposed herself between Martin and his quarry. "Okay, sir. I can take it from here. The police will be here in a few moments."

"You don't need the cops," Martin growled.

"They will take him in, once I get him subdued."

"You should have brought the Coroner."

"Whoa, now pal. We can't have that. He needs to get a fair trial just like everyone else."

Martin snapped his gaze onto the Scarlet Sentinel for the first time. Statuesque at 6 feet, she had a short-cropped shock of auburn hair, and clear, blue eyes. Trim and athletic, she surely turned heads wherever she went. Not Martin's. Not now. The Sentinel took an involuntary step back. She had seen gazes filled with everything from adoration and admiration to hatred and avarice, but she had never seen this particular look. She was being regarded as nothing more than an obstacle, an obstruction, a barrier to be removed, and she cared not one bit for it. It's not that she was afraid of Martin. Far from it. She was invulnerable to just about everything, and her strength was matched by few in the city, but this young man's gaze unnerved her. "Move," Martin said menacingly.

"Okay. None of that. You need to back off and let me and the police do our jobs," she said as three of Paragon's finest entered the hallway, and began advancing on the motionless form of the thug with their guns drawn.

"I said move. Now. That piece of filth butchered my mother right here in front of me and everyone you see."

"No. Now back down."

Martin, done with her, placed a hand on her shoulder. The Scarlet Sentinel snapped a hand on Martin's wrist with the intention of putting him in a controlling armbar lock by twisting his wrist up and down. Martin's wrist did not budge. The Scarlet Sentinel however, did. Martin shoved her aside as if she were any other normal person. Her mouth agape, she stared at Martin in disbelief.

40 feet. That's all Martin had to cover to get to his goal. Then things began to happen in slow motion. Martin, Nurse Grey, and the Scarlet Sentinel all saw it at once. The thug had regained consciousness, and had snatched one of the policemen's revolvers. He aimed it directly at Martin. Martin began to duck. A red flash darted in front of him. The Scarlet Sentinel stood in front of Martin, prepared to block the bullets with her impenetrable body as she had done for countless others.

The thug fired three times.

All three officers tackled him, wrestling the gun from his fingers.

The Sentinel's eyes widened as she felt pain for the first time in her life. Three icy-cold lances of agony blossomed in her chest and stomach. She looked down in disbelief as blood, her blood, began to make a trio of ugly, darkening stains on her crimson tights.

Martin watched as she fell, turning to look at him as she passed out.



At the end of the hall, the cyber-thug had untangled himself from the policemen, scrambled to his feet, and darted down the intersecting hallway towards the exit. Martin sprang to his feet as the emergency staff descended on the fallen heroine, lifing her to a nearby gurney. As Martin dashed back to his room for a pair of sneakers, he could hear the staff shouting.

“Nurse, get me 50cc’s of Demoral and Phenergan, and start an IV of Lactacted Ringers, STAT!” someone shouted.

“Doctor! The needle won’t go in!” the a female voice retorted.

The medical technician monitoring the Sentinel’s vitals shouted, “We’re losing her! Pulse is fading! SHE’S ABOUT TO FLATLINE!”


Martin had on a pair of sneakers now, and was at a dead run towards the exit, the shouts of the desperately working hospital personnel fading fast. Two nurses pushing a defibrillator ran past him as he neared the exit door. He burst through it and began looking left and right desperately for the fleeing thug. He felt a hand on one arm trying to turn him around, and he looked back to see Nurse grey regarding him coldly.

“You’re just going to let her die?

“What are you talking about” Martin returned, looking desperately for the murdering thug.

“The Scarlet Sentinel. She jumped in front of you to save your life.

“What am I going to do for her? I’m no doctor,” Martin returned. He spotted the fleeing cybercreep, and started to bolt for him, but Nurse Grey was still holding his arm.

“YOU are the reason she got hurt in the first place.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The Scarlet Sentinel is invulnerable. She has taken tank shells to the chest without so much as twitching an eyelash, but she was in your power’s area of effect when that thug fired.”


“So, you turned off that invulnerability. She’s been shot in the shoulder, stomach, and chest. She’s dying.”

“And I can help, how?”

“Did you not hear the conversations in there? We can’t save her. With you gone, her powers are back on. Needles won’t penetrate her skin. We can’t extract the bullets, we can’t suture the wounds, we can’t give her anything for the pain, and even if we could, her invulnerability would keep the drugs from having any effect. She’s bleeding to death, and we can do nothing to stop it. Even now, her heart has stopped, and no one has the strength to give her CPR. It’s like trying to give a heart-massage to a Sherman tank. Even the defibrillator isn’t having any effect on her. You need to come back in there NOW, so we can save her life.”

Martin looked desperately after the thug. He could still catch him, but if he left, he would be directly responsible, through irresponsible use of his powers, for the death of someone that had worked her whole life to help others.

“If you leave, you kill her, as surely as if you’d pulled the trigger yourself,” Nurse Grey said pointedly.

There was no choice to make. Martin looked into Nurse Grey’s eyes, nodded grimly, and ran back into the hospital as fast as his legs would carry him. They burst into the emergency room to find the technicians standing around looking helpless, some crying. Several bent syringes lay scattered on the floor. One persistent young man was pounding on the Sentinel’s chest with all his strength.

“Try the defib again, but set it back to normal range first.”

“Nurse, nothing works.”

“Just try it. Trust me.”

The medical technician adjusted the settings on the machine, and applied the paddles.


A jolt went through the Sentinel. Her body jumped this time, but her heart still remained silent.

“Again. CLEAR!”

A second jolt shot through her body, and this time, her heart flickered back to life.

“Okay, people, we’ve got a pulse! We have a chance! Let’s work this thing!”

The staff sprang to life, working as one unit to save the Scarlet Sentinel’s rapidly-fading life. It was slow going, because they had to keep giving Martin a few seconds to readjust his dampening field to allow for some of their more advanced medical equipment. Martin’s ability to exert fine control over his power was about to be tested to its limit. For hours, they worked. The three bullets proved difficult to extract, as they had fragmented, and piecing the Sentinel’s ravaged flesh back together was a feat unto itself. Martin had to focus his power into several different shapes to get around some of the doctors’ instruments, from tight beams, to arcing bands. His ability to control his field was getting quite a workout. He was feeling the strain, but was at the same time amazed at the stamina of these people, working as one group, with seemingly limitless endurance. There were several times when Martin’s strength gave out, and his dampening field filled the room, shutting most of the equipment down. After a few seconds, he was able to get it back under control, but Martin was succumbing to what could only be described as full-body eyestrain. At long last, one of the doctor’s said, “okay, everyone. That’s all we can do. Let’s close her up. She’s in God’s hands now.”

After they wheeled the Sentinel into a room, Martin got wearily to his feet. He followed the gurney and watched as they laid her gently into a hospital bed. Nurse Grey walked up to Martin’s side. “You did a good thing, Martin.”

“Thanks. Why did they put her in a semi-private room?”

“The other bed is for you.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, you can’t leave now, hero. You have to stay nearby in case we need to administer some type of medication. She is going to be in a LOT of pain when she wakes up. She could need a sedative, a painkiller, who knows?”

“I can’t stay here until she recovers. I have things I need to get done.” Martin looked grimly at Nurse Grey. “I have to bury both of my parents, remember?”

“I’m not saying you can’t leave for an hour or two here and there, but we need you close by just in case.”

Martin sighed heavily. “Fine. But once she’s healed up enough, I am gone.”

“We can’t stop you. You’ll even have Darla to talk to for a bit longer. She’s almost healed, but she still needs to stay here a bit longer,” Nurse Grey said with a knowing wink.

Although Martin had revenge foremost in his mind, the prospect of spending more time around his new friend was not at all unpleasant. However, when the time came, there were four murdering punks that he had every intention of dealing with using extreme predjudice.



Miles away, in a darkened room within a bunker hidden deep beneath a hillside, members of Vanguard speak in grim tones regarding the matter at hand.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you have the young man’s dossier in front of you. Inside you’ll find all of his medical records, family history, and a detailed report on what is known about his powers. His abilities are unique among metas. They have never been seen before. I think you all know what kind of potential threat he represents. He has already caused the injury of one registered invulnerable through reckless use of his powers,” says a male voice.

“What are we to do? The young man has done nothing wrong. He did the right thing regarding the Scarlet Sentinel. Even now he stays by her side so that she may be made whole,” a second male voice intones.

“He did the right thing, THIS time. What happens next time? His parents were both murdered by metas. His psych profile clearly shows that he holds a grudge,” the first voice continues.

“Wouldn’t you? This young man has shown himself to be exemplary in character. He was in high school ROTC, and plans to pursue a career in the military,” a female voice chimes in.

“This young man holds the ability to shut down all of our powers. All of our most advanced technology is vulnerable to it. What happens if he falls into the wrong hands? Even worse, what if he decides to turn to crime?” the second voice says.

“I, for one, am not willing to take that chance,” the first voice says.

“Dear God, what are we? A lynch mob? Have we suddenly become a bunch of witch-hunters? This is still a free country, and we have dealt with super-powered threats before. Unless I woke up in Nazi Germany this morning, this man is still free to choose his own way in life, and if that path is a dark one, then we will deal with it accordingly. We are heroes, not assassins,” another male voice says darkly.

“People, this is getting us nowhere. We have discussed this into the very ground. It is time for a vote. All in favor of my proposal say ‘Aye’. All right, all opposed? Very well, then. Motion carried. I will notify Shadow Ops immediately to assemble a squad. Conventional equipment only. No metas. Subdue and capture only.”

“I wish to go on record as saying that I am vehemently opposed to this,” a male voice says.

“Hear hear. Me, as well,” the female voice says.

“Your objections have been noted.”

“And if he will not submit to becoming one of us?”

“Then I fear he will leave us with very little choice.”

< = = = >

Deep beneath the sewers, in a chamber filled with utterly alien equipment, three monstrous figures study a monitor intently. Pictured within the monitor is a heavily-muscled, stocky young man, talking animatedly with a pretty brunette. They are standing over an attractive redheaded woman who is unconscious in a hospital bed. The brunette is holding the redhead’s hand. Spindly fingers dance over bizarre controls, and the picture tightens up on the young man.

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<tHE eFfEcT is DorManT wHeN tHE sUbJecT iSS uNConCioUS>

<wHEn dO wE PrOcEEd?>


< = = = >

High above the city streets, the Crey Industries headquarters towers above all around it. A well manicured finger presses an intercom button. “Send him in.”

A door clearly designed to give the observer the impression that more was spent to create this single portal than most third-world countries’ GNP opens, and a shifty-looking man dressed in coveralls steps meekly inside, his grimy baseball cap in his hand.

“You have something for me, Mr. Johansen?”

“Yes, ma’am.. uh..Countess..your highness..”

“Countess will do. Well..? I am quite busy.”

“Oh, yes. Of course,” the man says, stepping briskly forward, dropping a baggie onto a desk that screams “obscenely expensive” from every hand-carved whorl of its exotic-wood surface. Inside the baggie are several pieces of bloodstained gauze, along with a couple of fragments of bullets, also stained dark red.

“And I am to be certain that this..sample..is from the hero in question how?

The man hands the Countess a newspaper with the headline “Scarlet Sentinel Critically Injured – Saved By Emergency Room Staff” circled.

“Hmm. We will test it. If the tests return positive, I will make you a rich man. We have tried for years to isolate the invulnerability gene. Getting viable DNA samples are made nearly impossible by its very nature. If I get what I want, you will be the wealthiest hospital janitor in Paragon City.”

The man grins widely.

“However, if it turns out that you are wasting my time, you will be your hospital’s latest customer. How are things in the ICU ward, by the way?” the Countess says, the unmistakable steel of a threat dripping from her voice.


“I am curious. You were there. How was she injured? What weapon was used?”

“It looked like a regular police service revolver to me. That is where the thug got it, anyhow. From a policeman I mean..”

The Countess’ face darkens. She presses a button, and two large men in expensive suits stalk inside and regard the timid man with glares that suggests he couldn’t be more in the wrong place at the wrong time. “You take me for a fool, Johansen?”

“No, ma’am. That’s the way it happened. She stepped in front of some big guy, and I mean big like a pro football player, to stop the thug’s bullets, I assume. Then the thug shot her, and she fell. Everyone looked pretty shocked, too. Strange things have been happening around that guy. Equipment failing, shutting down, that sort of thing. He’s been there for a while. He was in the operating room with the Sentinel the whole time. I looked in from time to time. He never touched her, but was always standing nearby.”

The Countess looks genuinely interested now. She gestures to the two walking mountains to leave, and presses an intercom button. “Sherisse, cancel all of my appointments for the rest of the morning.” She turns a smile to the man that makes a good attempt at faking warmth, but really only oozes avarice. “Mr. Johansen, my good man. Are you free for lunch? I want to hear all about your fascinating job.”



Martin and Darla sat near the Scarlet Sentinel, talking in hushed tones. Darla reached up and took the Sentinel’s hand gently.

“She is so beautiful. I wonder what she’s like,” Darla said, her voice now closer to normal. She had undergone reconstructive surgery on her mangled larynx, and although her power was history, her voice was now very close to her old one. This didn’t stop Martin from calling her ‘Whisper’, though. She kind of liked that.

“I guess so. I hadn’t noticed,” returned Martin, staring at Darla. Darla noticed, and blushed. Clearing his throat, Martin began again. “I wonder how long they’ll need me to stay by her.”

Darla looked at him quizzically. “That’s something I meant to ask you. Why do they have you staying here in the room with her?”

Martin realized that he hadn’t yet told Darla the whole story regarding his unique power. Taking a deep breath, he related the whole thing to Darla. After all, he had to trust someone sometime.

“Hm. Well, a lot of things make a lot more sense now. What do you intend to do with it?” Darla asked.

“Do? I don’t know. I don’t even want it. I mean, my life as I knew it is pretty much over. My father was murdered by Dawg and his buddies, and my mother’s body is still warm downstairs in the morgue,” Martin said bitterly.

Darla put her other hand on Martin’s knee. “Martin, I am so sorry about all of this.”

“You’ve got nothing to feel sorry for. You made the right decision when you left those three. Count your lucky stars.”

Nurse Grey interrupted them by poking her head into the room. “Martin, may I speak to you for a moment?” She turned to regard Darla warmly, “will you excuse us a moment, sweetie?”

“Nurse, she knows all about my power.”

“It’s all right, Martin. I am sorta tired. I am going to go lie down a while. I’ll come back later,” Darla said, patting his hand.

As Darla left the room, Nurse Grey checked the Sentinel’s I.V. bag carefully. “Martin, I have some medication I want you to take.”

“What is it?” he said, taking the pill bottle Nurse Grey offered.

“Well, as you know, your power goes dormant when you are sleeping. We can’t have that. All sorts of things could happen to the Sentinel during the night with your power off. These pills should, emphasis on ‘should’, dilate the muscles surrounding those glands of yours, allowing your dampening effect to work while you sleep. You’ll need to move your bed over as close to her as you can get it, though. I won’t ask you to actually sleep in the same be as her. Necessity or not, there are way too many problems associated with that.”

Martin chuckled. “Not that I am adverse to snuggling up to someone like her, I’d rather not have her wake up after being shot asking why there’s some strange man in her hospital bed.”

“Actually, I was thinking that a certain brunette would be less than approving.” Nurse Grey winked, and now it was Martin’s turn to blush.

“Uh, yeah.. So anyway..” Martin stammered.

“So anyway, these pills should allow your power to work while you sleep.”

“I’ll take one right now. It’ll have time to get into my system before bed.”

“You do that,” said Nurse Grey, turning to leave, “…hero.”

Darla returned a couple of hours later, and they talked for some time, until a nurse came by and shooed her off to bed. Martin pushed his bed over next to the Sentinel’s, and drifted off to sleep. He slept fitfully. His slumber was disturbed by dreams of monsters slicing him to pieces with surgical instruments. In another dream, a monster stood over his bed about to stab him. He awoke with a start to find a nurse standing a few feet away from him, a syringe in her hand. She drew back with a start. “Hey, there,” he said groggily, “what’s this for?”

“This is so that you are able to maintain sleep.” the nurse replied stiffly.

“Oh. Okay then,” said Martin, presenting his arm.

“The pain associated with this shall be minimal,” the nurse said, approaching slowly.

As her outstretched arm penetrated Martin’s dampening field, the illusion dissolved, and her arm resolved itself into the monstrous limb holding an alien injection device that Martin had seen in his subconscious. It hadn’t been a dream.



Martin glided from his bed to his feet with a catlike grace that belied his large size. Never taking his eyes off of the "nurse", or whatever it was, he circled warily. The nurse, still holding the injector in her hand, did not move. Her face remained expressionless, almost like a manakin.

"Who are you?" Martin demanded.

Without a word, the "nurse" sprang at him with an inhuman speed and agility. Martin caught the outstretched hand that held the injector, and got his first glimpse of his assailant while it was fully inside his dampening field, recognizing the grotesque form from the news. It was a Rikti. It struggled mightily with Martin, and he was amazed at the strength in such a slender creature. However, Martin was far stronger, and soon, he had the hand(or whatever it was) holding the injection device in a white-knuckled, iron grip, and began to squeeze. A sound not unlike someone twisting a bundle of celery filled the room and the creature let out a guttural howl unlike anything Martin had ever heard even in his worst nightmares. Martin release his hold, and the mangled device clattered to the floor. The creature, cradling its ruined arm, skittered away from Martin like some kind of insane parody of a crab. Martin sprang upon it, and soon had it lifted over his head. It was jerking and struggling wildly as Martin moved toward the door. With all his strength, Martin heaved it down the hallway. Airborne for the entire length of the corridor, the thing thudded into the opposite wall, 60 feet away, and slid to the floor. The illusion had flickered back to life as soon as it got out of range, so it looked for all the world like Martin had hurled a pretty young nurse out of his room. The only thing betraying its inhuman nature was the discolored stain on the cracked concrete wall where it hit. Doctors and nurses ran out in the hall, and started yelling. Nurse Grey stared at Martin in disbelief as he broke into a dead run toward the thing.

"Martin!! What on earth are you doing?!?" she screamed above the growing din.

Martin did not answer, so angrily focused on his goal was he. As he approached the limp form of the pseudo-nurse, two burly orderlies intercepted him. He bulled right through them, and grabbed the Rikti invader. Once inside Martin's field of influence the thing was revealed for what it truly was. The voices that had been yells of anger and astonishment quickly turned to screams of horror as Martin pounded on the body of the alien relentlessly.

After many moments, a man's voice was calling Martin's name back to sanity. A gentle hand touched his shoulder, and he whirled to face the new assailant. Doctor Stromberg regarded him kindly. "Martin. It's dead. Calm down, my boy."

Martin's breathing gradually slowed, and his pulse settled down to a low rushing roar in his ears, as a crowd began forming to get a better look at what was left of the thing.

"What did it want?" asked one nurse, tenatively toeing the thing's mis-shapen foot.

"Who knows?" said another, "those...THINGS tried to kill us all once. Who knows how their twisted minds work?"

Doctor Stromberg guided Martin back to his room, as several hospital personnel tried to decide what to do about the body of the thing. "Martin, are you all right?"

Martin, shaken, answered the doctor quietly, "yes. I'm fine."

"What happened in there?"

"I woke up and this nurse was standing there with a syringe. She said it was to help me sleep. It's still in the room."

"Hmm.. I'll have to take a look at it."

"When she got too close, her arm turned into the alien's arm. It was some sort of illusion or something."

"Probably some form of holographic technology. The Rikti are nothing if not advanced."

They reached Martin's room, and the broken device still lay on the floor. "There it is, doc."

"Okay. I'll get something to collect it. You go ahead and climb back into bed, my boy. Would you like a sedative? Something to help you sleep?"

Martin glared at Doctor Stromberg as if he'd made a very rude noise in church.

"Oh, yes. The nurse's needle. Of course. How silly of me," the doctor chuckled nervously. "You just do the best you can to get some rest, Martin.

Martin was still awake when Doctor Stromberg came back in and gingerly picked up the bent injector with heavy chemical gloves, and transferred it to a hazmat container.

"Uh.. Doc? Shouldn't we all be in some protective suits or something?"

"I think not, Martin. The Rikti do not have a history of using biological agents. I suspect because they would be as susceptible as we are, and besides. It doesn't appear to have lost any of the vile-looking liquid within. It will be fine. You get some rest."

Martin rolled over and gazed at the Scarlet Sentinel, who appeared to be sleeping peacefully.

"Get well soon," he muttered, "I want OUT of here."


Miles away, in a protected installation, a figure picks up a ringing telephone;


A pause.

"Are you sure? When?"

Another pause.

"All right. I understand."

The figure hangs up the phone, and presses a communicator button.

"The situation has escalated. The Rikti are involved. Scramble the team. I want them on site tomorrow afternoon."



Early the next morning, Martin began making phone calls to make arrangements for his parents. His father was already at a local funeral home, so it wasn't too much trouble to assign the same establishment to take care of his mother. There would be a double funeral in two days' time. He phoned his mother's attorney, and worked out all the details for his parents' estate. The lawyer arranged not only for Martin to receive the entirety of his parents' estates, but also both insurance checks. The attorney was quite helpful, and asked only for a modest fee. Darla came to visit Martin about the time the last phone call ended.

"What are you going to do when you get out of here, Martin?" she asked, sitting on the side of his bed.

"I am not sure. I had planned to go on to college, maybe join the Marines, but now I don't know."

"Well, at least you have a place to live."

"I wanted to talk to you about that. The offer to stay there still stands. I know you have no place to go."

"You want me to move in with you? That's kind of...sudden, isn't it?"

"It's just until you get on your feet. I know you are being dismissed from the hospital today, and I don't want you having to live on the street. It looks as if I am going to be here for some time yet anyway."

"I suppose it would make things easier. I can use the time to find a job, and maybe get into a college someplace."

"It's settled then. Besides, I need someone to watch the house while I am stuck here, since it is standing empty now. There is a key underneath the front doormat."

"Thank you, Martin. I really don't deserve this."

Martin winked at her. "Sure, you do."

A large man in a severe business suit appeared at the door to Martin's room, "of course she does."

Martin looked at the man suspiciously, "and who might you be?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Thorne. I didn't mean to eavesdrop." The man stepped forward, extending a hand. Martin took it and shook hands tenatively. "I am Leo Morgan. I represent the Countess Crey and Crey Industries. We have a propgram set up to benefit the families of those poor souls injured or killed as a result of the misuse of super-powers. I am here to offer you a substantial check, as well as a lucrative job with our firm for as long as you want it."

"Oh, really? What kind of job?"

"We can decide that when the time comes. Judging by your skill, and what we have learned of your educational background, a career in our Security department would likely suit you just fine."

"My educational background? Those records are sealed," Martin said warily.

"Mr. Thorne, at the risk of being blunt, don't be naive. You don't really think that Crey Industries got to where it is today by not knowing everything possible about who it was dealing with, do you? We even know a great deal about your rather.. unique power. We have many ways of obtaining information." Martin's eyebrows went up. "All perfectly legal, I assure you." Martin wasn't buying that, but let it go. "At any rate, I am here to offer you compensation for your loss in the form of a cashier's check," he opened his obviously-expensive briefcase, and retrieved a small slip of paper from it, "in the amount of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars."

The look of shock on Martin's face was obvious, but he quickly regained his composure, "and what's the catch?"

"No catch, Martin. May I call you 'Martin'?"

Darla's jaw was still in her lap as Martin pressed on, "there's ALWAYS a catch, especially when there is a quarter of a million dollars involved. What does Crey get out of it?"



"Yes. Make no mistake, Martin. We're going to plaster your face all over every ad slick we can possibly justify. You see, Crey has gotten a rather.. unfortunate reputation, and this is a perfect opportunity to rectify that unpleasant situation. You get a substantial cash reward to help ease your life, and we get publicity that you cannot buy, no matter HOW much money you throw at it. Crey gets to be known as 'the company that cares; looking out for the innocent bystander'. The positive PR would be worth every cent of this check."

"Okay, that sounds more believable. I'll tell you what, let me think about it. I wasn't really considering a job or career. I wanted to go to college."

"Oh, that's perfect! We'll get you into the college of your choice, that way we will be 'helping an orphan realize his dream of a higher education'", Leo said as he pantomimed putting up signs with his hands.

"I'll consider it."

"Fair enough," Leo said, placing the check back inside his briefcase. He stuck out his hand again. Martin shook it, and sudden drew back in pain.

"OUCH!" Martin exclaimed, the back of his hand sporting a fresh cut.

"Oh, dear," said Leo, jerking several tissues from a nearby box, and moving to tend Martin's wound. "I am so dreadfully sorry. This ring of mine has a jagged edge on it that I have been meaning to get fixed. Please forgive me."

Martin took the tissues and began attending his injury. "It's no big deal. Don't worry about it."

"Thank you for your time, Martin. We'll be in touch," Leo quipped moving to leave.


Leo exited Martin's room and walked to the elevator. Once inside, he pulled out his cell, and hit speed-dial. "Yeah, this is Leo. No, he's resisting the offer. Thought he might. Yeah." He looked at the palm where his ring was, and considered the few drops of dark liquid in the tiny glass reservior carefully. "Nah, it went off without a hitch. He is hesitant, but I think we got a viable sample, despite the crudeness of the device."



Arrrrrgh! Martin's right back where he was on the old boards!



Sorry, everyone. I've had neither the time, nor the strength to write on Martin's story of late. Serious family illness has taken its toll. I'll pick it back up soon. I promise.

- Mord



Shortly after lunchtime, Darla was released from the hospital, promising to come and visit Martin often. They hugged for a long time, and Martin watched her walk to the exit. Martin walked back inside to find Nurse Grey and Dr. Stromberg waiting for him.

“She’s a fine girl, my boy. She’s come a long way,” Dr. Stromberg commented.

“Yeah,” Martin said, “if you had told me a year ago that I would be sweet on one of the people that would be harassing me at school, I sure would have looked at you funny.”

“Indeed,” Dr. Stromberg said with a smile. He was a grandfatherly man, with smiling eyes, and a lined face that suggested that he laughed easily and often. Martin had grown quite fond of him since they had first met.

Nurse Grey took Martin’s arm in hers. “Let’s go, hero. I have to give the Sentinel some meds.”

“That reminds me. I have been reading up on heroes. Why is it that you can’t just get one of the heroes whose power is healing to take care of her?”

“I was wondering when you’d ask that. The reason is, as powerful as some of the healers are out there, they are still quite rare, and the damage to the Sentinel is far too extensive. Once her body heals enough to let her come out of the coma we may be able to have someone with healing powers come in here and accelerate the process substantially. We are helping it along with some of the technologies we have, but in the end, the human body, even a meta-human one, has to do the lion’s share of the work when it suffers massive trauma.”

“I’ll buy that. I don’t understand it, but I’ll buy it. I guess that explains why you guys didn't just 'super-heal' me, or Darla.. Or my mom.”

Nurse Grey smiled sympathetically. The smile faded from view as the trio rounded a corner in the hallway near the administration desk. Standing at the desk were two uniformed men. Emblazoned on their shoulders was the familiar logo of Vanguard. As one of the men approached them, a second pair of Vanguard operatives came around the corner at the far end of the hall, pushing a gurney that had the Scarlet Sentinel’s unconscious form on it. All four were heavily armed.

Nurse Grey stepped forward, “You gentlemen mind telling me just what you think you’re doing?”

The man that approached them ignored her, and addressed Martin directly, “Martin Thorne?”

“Yes,” Martin answered uncertainly.

“This is an OUTRAGE!” Dr. Stromberg exploded, his face reddening. “How DARE you come into MY hospital and interfere with one of my patients!!”

“You gentlemen better have an AWFULLY good reason for this,” Nurse Grey added.

“Easy folks,” the man said, “my name is Major Drake Davis. My apologies for not going through proper channels, but with the Rikti involvement here, there wasn’t time. We are moving the Sentinel to a secured facility where we can better guard her. We don’t know what their interest was in the Sentinel, but we need to make sure that whatever it was, they don’t get a second chance to complete their plans.”

There were lies behind his easy smile and Martin knew it. “They weren’t after her. They were after me.”

“Oh really,” the Major chuckled, “hear that, boys? He thinks the Rikti were after him.” The Major laughed. The other three looked at each other uncertainly, and soon began laughing as well. It was forced laughter, and wasn’t fooling Martin one whit. “Look Martin. May I call you Martin? They were obviously after a known invulnerable, Martin. We are just taking her to our facility where our medical staff of healing metas can better care for her. We’ll need you to come with her until she’s up and around of course, since you need to be there to dampen her power.”

“How did you..” Martin began, but Nurse Grey had gripped his elbow tightly. He looked at her face, and she was shaking her head ‘no’ nervously. She cocked her head toward the Vanguard agent that was standing by himself. Martin noticed that, despite his feigned laughter, he was easing his hand toward his conspicuous submachinegun.

“Get your things, Mr. Thorne. I think we’ve cause the nice folks at this hospital enough trouble, don’t you?” Davis’ emphasis on ‘folks’ and ‘trouble’ was unmistakable.

“You aren't going anywhere with my patient!” Dr. Stromberg shouted, stepping forward. To Martin’s surprise, Davis took a step back.

“Easy, now Doctor Stromberg. You know we can protect her much better at our facility than you can here.”

“I will allow it,” Dr. Stromberg said after appearing to consider Davis' words for some time, "but under protest. And I insist that Nurse Grey be allowed to accompany them at all times.”

“Your protest is noted. Nurse Grey can come, but strictly in an observational capacity.” He turned to Martin. “Martin? Get your stuff and let’s go, before the Rikti decide to try again.”

Reluctantly, Martin gathered his few belongings and made to accompany Vanguard to their “secure facility”. Dr. Stromberg stopped him at the door before they left, and hugged him like a father to son. “Trust no one, my boy. Not a single soul.” Martin nodded and left to climb into the waiting Vanguard van. If he had any doubts before, they were dispelled when he began scanning his surroundings, and noticed at least three men in similar uniforms on separate rooftops with what appeared to be high-powered rifles.


Across town, Darla had almost finished her walk to Martin’s house. Her optimism had been rising since leaving, and she could not help but think that things were looking up. She had just passed an alleyway ten yards from Martin’s home, when a hand snaked around her waist, pinning her arms under an iron grip. Another hand clamped over her mouth, stifling her welling scream with bruising intensity.

“Been shadowing you since the hospital, Darla. You and Thorny getting’ awfully sweet on each other, arn’tcha?”

Darla tried again to scream, but only a squealing “MmmMmmff” sound came out. She was rewarded with an increase in the pressure of the crushing hold over her mouth.

“We have a bunch o’ stuff to talk about, you and I. Then you gonna lead ol’ Thorny straight to me, and then he and I can settle up proper.”

Tears began streaming from Darla’s face as Dawg dragged her into the darkness.



Hey everyone, I re-wrote a few insignificant details in some parts of Martin's story. There were some chronilogical and exposition problems, but I think I fixed them. Enjoy.

I'll see about posting another part to it soon.



Martin was impressed with Vanguard’s massive “secured facility”. The best way to describe it was ‘a fortress’. Three concentric barriers of high, concrete walls with layers of razor wire atop them ringed the facility on all sides. On each corner of each wall was what can only have been a force field generator. Spaced about every twenty feet on each wall were turrets, and each turret had three very dangerous-looking weapon barrels sticking out. As they passed through the third wall, Martin could see what looked to be huge battle-robots bristling with weapons stomping around, patrolling the grounds. Anyone or anything trying to get into this facility would be in for one costly fight.

“Pretty intense hardware, isn’t it, Martin?” Major Davis said jovially.

“Mmm hmm.” Martin murmured quietly.

“We have gone to great lengths to make sure nothing gets into or out of this place. The Sentinel will be quite well-protected during her stay.”

At this, Martin looked at Major Davis. There was a hidden meaning in his words, but Martin couldn’t puzzle it out. He was pretty sure he should be bothered that Davis had added “or out of” to his previous sentence. Once inside, huge doors slowly swung shut, and the place exploded with activity. People descended on the group, grilling Nurse Grey about the Sentinel’s condition, checking the Sentinel’s vitals, quizzing Davis about Martin and Nurse Grey, the works. Facility personnel buzzed around them like a cloud of flies around a day-old hunk of meat.

Once they were all settled in, Major Davis took them on a tour of the facility being careful to point out all the areas that were off-limits as well as the facilities that would be at Martin and Nurse Grey’s disposal. The fortress was essentially a self-contained city, with all manner of amenities, from stores to swimming pools. If Martin was impressed before, he was dumbfounded now. Major Davis even invited Martin to the base’s self-defense classes on alternating nights. The Scarlet Sentinel’s condition improved somewhat, but she still hadn’t awakened, a point which caused Nurse Grey some concern. She hadn’t been allowed to perform any kind of physical examination on the Sentinel since arriving, and had to take the base physician’s word on everything.

“She’s still suffering from severe shock, Ms. Grey,” the doctor explained, “this is an individual that has never known injury. Not so much as a scraped knee. Ever. For her very first trauma to be three near-lethal gunshot wounds was catastrophic both to her psyche, and her physical body. We are doing everything we can. Trust our staff. They are the best there is.”

“Whatever you say, doctor,” Nurse Grey replied, “I am just worried about my patient.”

“Of course you are. She’ll be fine. Relax. Think of this as a short vacation. We’ll have the Sentinel up and around in no time flat.”

Their first night at the facility was a restless one for Martin. He couldn’t help being excited at the prospect of spending time on the base. It was a truly amazing place, and Major Davis had expressed desire for Martin to consider joining Vanguard permanently. Martin was thrilled with the offer. Nurse Grey however, was less than pleased at the prospect.

“Martin, don’t forget Dr. Stromberg’s advice to you. Trust no one,” she told him ominously.

“Nurse Grey, listen to yourself. These are the same people that guard us against the Rikti threat on a daily basis. It is their research that allow for all kinds of incredible advances in just about anything you can imagine.”

“Martin, I’m telling you. Don’t trust them. Not completely, anyway.”

“Well, I’d be lying if I told you I trusted them completely. They’ve not been straight with us since we got here. Did you catch that crap that Davis was running about the Rikti wanting the Sentinel? And were the snipers on the rooftops REALLY necessary?”

“Good. Keep those things in mind.”

The day passed quickly for the two of them, and the following morning was going to be hard for Martin, as he had to prepare for his parents’ funeral. At three o’clock, he would be burying the only family he had in the world. He knocked on Major Davis’ door to tell him of his plans for the day.

“Come in.”

“Hello, Major.”

“Martin! What can I do for you, today?”

Martin couldn’t help but distrust that smile. It reminded him so much of a stereotypical slimy used car salesman. “I just wanted to tell you that my parents’ funeral is today, so I’ll be out for a couple of hours.”

Major Davis tented his fingers in front of his face and breathed a sigh. “Martin. I am afraid that simply isn’t possible.”

“Excuse me?”

“What I mean is, that we might need you here for something regarding the Sentinel.”

“I’ve spoken to Nurse Grey about it. The Sentinel will be fine for the short time I will be out.”

“Martin, no offense. But Nurse Grey is just a nurse. Our doctors have a differing opinion of the matter. You wouldn’t want to be the cause of any suffering on the part of someone as selfless as the Scarlet Sentinel, now would you?”

“Of course I wouldn’t, but this is my parents’ funeral,” Martin continued.

“I know, Martin. And I couldn’t sympathize with you more. It’s just too dangerous.”

“So you’re saying I cannot leave.”

“Martin, please. My hands are tied here. I can no more allow you to be removed from the vicinity of the Sentinel than I could allow her anti-biotics to be removed.”

“I see.”

“Cheer up, Martin. If it will make you feel any better, I will have someone digitally record it for you.”

Martin turned and left. Nurse Grey was waiting for him at the door to his room.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Davis isn’t going to let me attend my parents’ funeral.”

“You’re kidding. Why on earth is that?”

“He says I can’t be away from the Sentinel that long.”

“That is ludicrous.”

“You’re telling me? It’s an hour. Two, tops.”

“Martin, something doesn’t add up. The Sentinel should have awakened by now. I want you to try something for me. Don’t take your pill tonight.”

“But my power will shut off as soon as I go to sleep.”

“I know. I have a suspicion, and I want to test it. If my theory is correct, we’ve got a problem.”

“Okay, but what if the Sentinel ends up getting hurt, or something?”

“I don’t think she will.”

“Okay, but I am going to feel even worse if I cause her any pain.” Martin punched the door, cracking it slightly. “I want to go to Mom and Dad’s funeral.”

“I know you do, and I wish I could arrange it, but I can’t.”

“I know you would if you could.”

“Dr. Stromberg will be there, as will I.”

“Thanks. Let everyone know what is going on, huh?”

“I will.”

That evening, a courier brought Martin a DVD of the funeral. Nurse Grey didn’t come back, and Major Davis said she said that she had many other pressing matters to attend to, but that she left a message for Martin to keep his chin up and that she had seen an old friend of his at the funeral who sent his condolences and an envelope. Martin opened it, and turned white as a sheet at its contents. Inside was one of those store-bought condolence cards with a sappy verse on it. Scrawled in a messy hand were the words;


So sorry to hear about your mommy and daddy. Me and Darla are having a wonderful time together. Why don’t you come join us, and we’ll talk all about old times? We’re at the docks, watching the ships roll in.

- Dawg

P.S. Darla sends you her love. She would have come herself, but she’s a bit tied up at the moment. LOL”

Taped to the inside of the card was a lock of raven-black hair.


Dawg opened the battered door in the abandoned warehouse and was already jerking off his messily-knotted tie. “Well, whadya know Darla? Marty didn’t show up for his parents’ funeral. The nurse he hangs out with was there though, so I gave her our little greeting card to give to him. Turns out, he’s in some kind of military base or somethin’. Ain’t that a kick in the head.”

Dawg walked over to the frightened girl on the filthy concrete floor. She was dirty, and her cheeks were streaked with tears. A fresh bruise was blossoming under her left eye. Her wrists were bound behind her with duct tape, and her ankles as well. More tape was wrapped around her torso, securing her to a post. The lower part of her face was swathed in the same silvery tape, sealing her mouth shut. Dawg grabbed her hair and put his mouth a scant half-inch from her ear eliciting a sqeual from her. “Looks like you and I have at least another day or so to enjoy each other’s company.”

Darla squeezed her eyes shut tightly as the tears began to come again.



Sorry it took so long between updates everyone. Real life issues that I shan't bore you all with...

Martin pleaded with Major Davis to do something, and Major Davis said that he would send the police to check on Darla. Martin told the Major that Dawg likely had Darla at the docks, and that he would hurt, or possibly even kill Darla, but Davis was unmoved.

“If you won’t do anything, then I will go myself,” Martin declared.

“Martin, I can’t allow that.”

“Excuse me? Since when am I a prisoner here?”

“Martin, the Sentinel needs you here. I’ll take care of this. I promise.”

Martin let it pass, because Darla’s best chance at rescue was if Vanguard brought their resources to bear on the situation. He shuffled back to his room, worried sick about what horrors Dawg might be subjecting Darla to. He glanced at the Scarlet Sentinel. Following Nurse Grey’s advice, he had been dampening his power for the past 12 hours. If something was going to happen, it was going to happen soon. He turned on the television to get his mind off things. Several hours later, while he was watching the local news, Martin’s attention was caught by news of three sets of murders. According to the report, the bodies were horribly disfigured. If the details of the grisly crimes disturbed Martin, the names of the three households horrified him; Dawg’s father, Zapp’s parents, and Duke’s mother, father, and younger sister.

Martin made up his mind. If the remaining members of “The Crew” had graduated to murdering their own families, Darla was in grave danger. Martin was leaving. Now. Martin turned to get his stuff, and saw the Scarlet Sentinel’s sparkling blue eyes regarding him curiously.

“You’re awake!”

“Yes, I’m awake. Who are you?”

“Hang on! I’ll go get help!”

“Whoa! Hold on! Where am I? Hey! I know you! You’re that kid at the hospital!”

“Look, hold on. I’ll go get the doctor,” Martin said as he dashed out the door. He returned a moment later with a very flustered-looking doctor. “See? I told you. She’s awake.”

“Yes, I see that,” the young doctor said, obviously very confused.

“Look. Someone mind telling me what’s going on?”

Martin stumbled all over himself to give the Sentinel all the facts he knew, while the base surgeon examined her thoroughly. All the while, the Sentinel watched them both with guarded suspicion. The doctor finally turned to Martin. “Martin, do you have your dampening power active right now?”


“And why not? You were told to keep it active at all times.”

“Nurse Grey told me to shut it off for a day, and to watch the Sentinel closely.”

“Nurse Grey told you. Well, Nurse Grey isn’t the physician here. I am. Reactivate your ability immediately.”

Martin stared at him quizzically, and did as he was asked. “Okay, doc. It’s active.”

“Thank you.” With that, the doctor prepared a syringe, and moved to inject the Sentinel with it.

“Whoa, what’s that?” she said alarmingly.

“It’s just a sedative. We don’t want you re-opening your wounds.”

“Doc, I’m invulnerable. My wounds are not going to reopen unless Mr. Rain-On-My-Parade, here shuts down my power, so put the needle away.”

Martin dampened his power. The doctor attempted to stick the needle into the Sentinel’s arm, and the syringe bent. “Martin!” the doctor snapped.

“She says she doesn’t need it.”

“Yes, and I’m the doctor. She could aggravate her injuries, and..”

“…and I know more about my powers than you do, champ,” the Sentinel insisted. “Other than being sore and a bit queasy, I feel fine.”

“Have you ever been injured before?”


“Then how do you know you’re fine? There could be any number of problems.”

“How long have I been out?”

“A while, but that makes no difference. I…”

“Nothing. I am NOT getting put under again, and that’s that. So take your needles, and…well.. Ditch them.”

The doctor backed out of the room, obviously perturbed, and perhaps a little nervous. After he was gone, Martin proceeded to give the Sentinel a detailed rundown of all that had occurred, including his suspicions on why they were REALLY there. The Sentinel was looking irritably at Martin, holding her bright red leotard in one hand.

“Do you mind, kiddo?”

“Oh!” Martin blushed as he turned around quickly so the Sentinel could get dressed. “Sorry.”

“It’s all right. So, you think that they may have been keeping me under as a means of keeping you here?”

“I suspect so, thought I can’t figure out why. They didn’t even let me go to my parents’ funeral, and now a close friend of mine is in very real danger.”

“I bet I know why. They are scared of you. I’ve been a Paragon hero for a dozen years, and a meta for many more, and I’ve never heard of a power anything like yours. I suppose that certain people could consider it very dangerous.”

“I never thought of that.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter. I’m leaving, and if you like, you are welcome to come with me. Okay. I’m dressed.”

Martin turned around and moved toward the door. Looking through the window, Martin could see Major Davis walking down the corridor towards the room along with the doctor and a couple of other men. “We’ve got company,” he said to the Sentinel.