Captain Ember walked down the street, his eyes constantly searching left and right, his ears always open, his body always ready to respond to cries of help or to a crime that he is witnessing. His eyes lingered briefly on a missing persons poster with his former likeness on it. He had heard rumors around town that something had happened to Thaddeus, that he had been killed, or kidnapped, or something worse. He supposed they were right, that Thaddeus had died on that day when he had been mugged and beaten, and that providence had seen fit to have him be reborn as Captain Ember, defender of the innocent, enforcer of justice, a fiery beacon of hope for a community descending into darkness. Yes, he liked that last one, and would have to use it again later.
A woman’s scream sounded in the night and Captain Ember ran around the corner of the block, where the sound originated, and he froze. He saw a woman in a short red dress being held at knifepoint by a man in a brown sweatshirt, the hood up and covering his face. The man in the sweatshirt backed away from the woman, her stolen purse dangling from his hand, he turned and ran straight into Captain Ember’s chest.
A look of horror came over the man’s face, and he dropped the knife and the purse to the sidewalk, and he raised his hands into the air. Captain Ember’s face twisted up in a look of fury and he raised his hand up, and a small explosion errupted in front of the robber and knocked him to the ground. “At least your last moments of existence in this life was providing a warm light for mankind, you scum.” Captain Ember said. The robber exploded into a ball of fire. Captain Ember bent down, picked up the woman’s purse, smiled, and walked over to her. “Here you are ma’am, I hope he didn’t hurt you.”
The woman screamed. “No, get away from me! I haven’t done anything!” She turned and ran sobbing down the sidewalk, stumbling once in a while because of her heels.
“I don’t understand; I wouldn’t have hurt you! I’m here to help!” The woman disappeared around the corner and kept on running. Captain Ember stood dumbfounded, trying to understand why she had reacted the way that she had, when he was hit in the head with a tin can. He turned back down the street to see what had hit him, and was hit on his left cheek with a rock. He saw a group of people forming a semicircle around him armed with rocks, tin cans, and other garbage. “What is the meaning of this?”
One of the people in the crowd spoke up. “We saw what you did! You had no right to burn that man like that!” Cheers of agreement sounded out from the other people in the crowd, and they began to pelt him with the items they were holding.
Another of the people in the crowd spoke up. “We don’t know where you come from, but we believe in actual justice around here!”
Captain Ember raised up his hands to protect his face. “I don’t understand, that man was stealing from that woman; he would have hurt her if she had resisted! How can you possibly think that I am the bad one here?”
“You murdered him! Who asked you to come here? I’m afraid to let my kids play outside because they might do something that you decide needs punishment!” A rock managed to slip past Captain Ember’s defenses and hit him in the eye.
Captain Ember’s face contorted in fury again. “You ungrateful people! I have given up everything to protect you, and this is how you thank me?” He swung his arm in front of him and sent a wave of fire out at the crowd. The people in the crowd screamed and some turned to run away, but all of them took a few steps back. A look of horror crossed his face as he realized what he had done, and he caused the fire to dissipate before it hit the people. “How could I do that? I’m the good guy, I’m here to protect these people.” Captain Ember turned and ran down the street, followed by a hail of garbage and stones.
A blue line formed perpendicular to the ground in the air in the middle of an empty parking lot in downtown Malor, and it it rotated so that it was horizontal to the ground and split open to reveal a shimmering blue patch of sky that, if you looked into it, you saw a blue tunnel that seemed to stretch on forever, and from behind it looked like shimmering field of blue. Out of the tunnel stepped a creature that seemed to be made entirely of muck that was covered in vines and moss. With each step it took a puddle of sludge was left behind from which bubbles rose popped, and released a purple wisp of gas It took five steps forward before it stopped and took in a big breath of air.
A beam of light flashed across the parking lot at the monster. Right before it hit it was reflected and struck a car parked five feet away instead. The monster looked up at the top of one of the buildings and glared at a figure standing on the top of the building, clutching a golden bow. “We were informed about you, Milton of Malor, and preparations have been made for your destruction.”
Milton drew back his bow and fired a beam of light at the base of the wall of the building standing behind the monster. “You talk too much.” The car that Milton had shot before was covered in a light golden glow, and it lurched across the ground, slamming into the monster pushing it across the parking lot, leaving behind twin trails of ooze. The car pinned the monster to the wall of the building.
The monster bellowed, spraying a greyish green ooze from its mouth. It raised its hand up, and an icicle javelin formed over it. The monster made a throwing motion and the javelin sped toward Milton. Milton dove to his right, rolled, and shot two light arrows off, one at one of the concrete parking stops in the parking lot, and one at the wall behind the monsters head. The monster ducked his head down and the concrete block flew over his head, the magical shield that protected the monster shimmering faintly as the block scraped against it.
The monster made a swirling motion with its hand and the sky above Milton’s head darkened. Tor’jahd swooped down past Milton’s head and screeched, “Milton, move!” Milton took two steps forward and jumped off the building. Lightning rained down onto the rooftop where Milton had been standing moments before. Milton quickly turned his bow and shot himself with a beam of light as he fell toward the blacktopped parking lot, and drew back his bow and aimed at the top of the building he had been standing on, wisps of smoke rising up from it now and he released his second arrow. Once it struck the building he felt a strong pull toward the building, and felt his momentum switch to upward, instead of toward the ground. He quickly released the pull on him, and fell safely the last few feet to the ground.
The monster grabbed the car pinning him to the wall and with a grunt of exertion ripped it in two, throwing the back half of the car at Milton. Milton dodged out of the way, shooting the back half of the car as it flew past him, and firing his second arrow in between the legs of the monster. The car was instantly pulled back toward the monster and hit his shield head on. The air around the monster seemed to crack and explode with the sound of a pile of rubble falling down. The car passed through the monster’s body, and landed against the wall, covered in ooze.
The monster’s body oozed back together and it lifted the other half of the car above its head and charged across the parking lot at Milton. He bellowed out, “Tor’jahd, how can you give aid to these pathetic creatures? You are an Aureus’Aevum!”
Milton pulled back the string on his bow. “You may be an Aureus’aevum, but you lost this fight.” Milton fired a light arrow at the monster and then a second one into the portal. The monster continued run, but was slowly dragged backwards toward the portal, leaving slime trails along the ground.
The monster threw the front half of the car at Milton before being lifted up into the air and pulled back through the portal. Milton fired two light arrows in rapid succession, one hitting the car and one hitting the pavement underneath it. The dented and scratched body of the car was pulled down onto the pavement with a loud thud. Milton walked across the parking lot to where the portal was still sitting open, and he placed his bow inside the portal. The portal started to shrink down around the bow, until it was just a blue line again, and then it winked out in a burst of blue sparkles.
Milton lifted his hand up and pushed his glasses further up his nose with his ring finger. “You were right again, Tor’jahd. To think, Bar’bou was enough of a fool to only place a ward on himself that lets him know where portals are open, not where they will open. How no humans were taken through portals before I started fighting the Aureus’Aevum is a miracle.”
Tor’jahd swooped down and landed on Milton’s shoulder. “It is as you say Milton. The fact that King Dar’duo would choose those two is ridiculous. You and I are clearly the superior team.”
“Indeed we are. Well, you should take back to the skies, and I should return to campus.” Tor’jahd took off into the air and Milton turned and walked back to the sidewalk.
Captain Ember huddled against the wall of an alley, his arms clutched across his chest, rocking back and forth. What is going on? I almost burned all of those innocent people! That’s not how a great hero of justice does things. I have to just lay low for a while, get my emotions back under control. Yeah, that must be it, the stress of protecting all these people is starting to get to me. It has been almost a week since I got these powers, and I’ve been on patrol ever since. I’ll just take a little nap in this alley, and then I’ll be ready to go when I wake up. Captain Ember’s eyes flickered shut, and he started breathing heavily.
The sound of dirt crunching underfoot caused Captain Ember’s eyes to pop open, and he saw the man with the monkey sitting on his shoulder and a young woman standing behind him. He recognized him as the man that confronted him at the bank. What was his name again? Aaron? Andrew? Ah yes, he had introduced himself as Ahir.
Ahir cleared his throat. “You are a hard man to track down when you want to be, Captain Ember. May I have a word with you? It’s important, I assure you.”
Captain Ember turned his body so it was facing away from Ahir. “Leave me alone, I just want to sleep right now. Besides, I already know the nonsense you want to talk about.”
Ahir took off his pack and handed it to Trixie before he walked over and sat down next to Captain Ember. “I know that this isn’t something you want to hear, and I know you are trying to do the right thing, but I’m afraid that these powers you have been using are actually magic. The more you use it, the more it will corrupt you, and once you get to a certain point, there is no going back. I’ve seen what it does to people when they lose control, and I promise you that you won’t be protecting the people anymore, no matter how much you want to.”
“I don’t care what you say, I was given these powers for a reason, just like Captain Ember from the comics, and the Pioneer, and Tortoise Jack, and all the other heroes. This city needs me, and if you don’t leave me alone, I’ll be forced to make you leave me alone.”
Ahir sighed and stood up. “Forgive me, Bar’bou, but I have to do this.”
Bar’bou shook his head and grabbed onto Ahir’s shoulder. “Ahir, this course of action must be avoided! The danger to yourself and this city is incalculable if you proceed with your designs!”
Trixie walked up to Ahir and grabbed his arm. “If he does what? What are you going to do Ahir?”
“I have to do this, he has to be stopped before it’s too late.” Ahir held up his hand and concentrated for a second. A flame sprang to life above his hand, and he held it out to Captain Ember. “See? If it isn’t magic, how can I do what you are doing? Please, Captain, I’m just trying to help you.”
Captain Ember stared in wonder at Ahir for a few seconds, and then a look of anger crossed his face. “I see what you are doing, trying to defeat me without even attacking me? You must be my archnemesis, the Night Flare! You won’t fool me! I’ll destroy you and all these villains you have have gathered to try and stop me!” Captain Ember formed two balls of fire in his hands.
Bar’bou jumped up and down on Ahir’s shoulder “I must advise vacating our current location posthaste!”
Ahir turned and started running out of the alley, and he grabbed Trixie’s arm and pulled her along behind him. “I’m not sure what you said, Bar’bou, but I’m getting out of here before we all get barbecued!”
Bar’bou clung desperately to Ahir’s arm, his legs flailing behind him, a giant fireball forming behind him and turning into a flaming pillar that began to fly down the alley behind them. “I gave council to royalty! I exchanged that privilege for the cranial irritation of admonishing this buffoon! If there is a continuation of life following this event, abandoning mankind to fend for themselves is a real possibility!”
Ahir turned the corner of the alley and pulled Trixie around the corner with him seconds before the pillar of flame belched forth from the alley, across the street and into a building. The bricks in the building started melting and flowing into a big gooey mess on the sidewalk below. People on the street screamed and ran for cover, a car came screeching to a halt five feet from the fiery blast, and several of the cars behind that one crashed into the one that had stopped. Car doors flew open and people ran, abandoning their vehicles.
Trixie shook in fear and clutched her head. “We’re going to die! What can we do against someone with power like that? I’m going to die before Ahir and I even get to…”
Ahir grabbed Trixie by the shoulders and interrupted her. “Trixie, snap out of it! You and Bar’bou need to get out of here!”
Trixie blinked a few times and the panic left her face. “Yes, of course, we need to get out of here. Let’s go, Ahir, before he comes out here and finds us!” Trixie started running down the sidewalk. After she was halfway down the block, realized Ahir wasn’t running next to her. She turned and looked back at Ahir. “Ahir, hurry up, you have to come too!”
Ahir bent his knees and squared his shoulders, assuming a fighter’s stance. “No, I have to stay and talk some sense into him, but don’t worry. I have no intentions of dying here today. I’ll see you and Bar’bou back at my apartment. Now get out of here so I can focus on staying alive.”