Three Days Later
Three days pass and even though he has no reason to, Marcus still had trouble accepting that what his uncle told him as the truth. He did not think his uncle lied to him but there was so much he was being forced to digest. So much that he developed a pattern of waking up in the morning and visiting his new ‘superhero lair’ after his workout just to stare at the ring for hours. For the past two days in a row, Sly personally delivered Marcus’ meals to the shack rather than sending the staff into a panic looking for him like they did on the first day he disappeared.
Marcus could not deny the desire he felt deep in his stomach. The desire to slip the ring on to get more of that ‘more’ that obeyed laws of nature unknown to man. Yet, he found himself unable to get the ring over the nail of any finger. This desire and subsequent inability was an odd sensation for Marcus. This odd sense of fear permeated his body but this was not the terror-inducing fear that unnerved people. He was not afraid of the ring but the feeling in his muscles…excitement was not nearly a good enough word but only fear encompassed the manner of the strength of what he felt.
That heart-thudding moment before one jump off a high diving board. Feeling muscle-twitching terror at being so high in the air but excited at the prospect of what was to come. The stark realities of the consequences in mind but a knowledge of safety…a safety that is shaky if too thoroughly dissected. For the previous three days, Marcus had been watching shimmering blue waters as he sat in that dusty old shack in some forgotten section of his uncle’s estate. Need just one final push to satisfy his anticipation.
Late that afternoon, Marcus was once again caught up staring at the ring as Sly cleaned up the remnants of the rice and chicken dinner he delivered an hour ago. Marcus knew Sly was going to give him the same information about the ring as his uncle but there was something only Sly could answer.
“Why did you ask him to try it on?” Marcus asked as Sly picked up the tray.
Sly paused and looked down at Marcus.
“I’m sorry, sir?” He asked, his forever wooden face as blank as any child of the Spyros.
“This ring.” Marcus said raising the jeweled piece slightly. “Why did you ask my uncle to try it on?
“Something whispered in my ear that he needed to wear that ring.” Sly said simply.
Marcus waited for more.
“Something?” He asked when Sly remained silent.
Sly shrugged with raised eyebrows and walked out of the shack.
Looking back down at the ring, Marcus caught on Sly’s words. Something, huh? Something was all that Cato needed to be convinced? Did Marcus have that kind of faith in Sly? No. But his uncle did and Marcus had that kind of faith in his uncle so he finally took the leap he had been waiting to make.
As the gold settled at the base of his finger, that odd sensation of heat leaving him redoubled slightly before a vibrating sensation began. A tingling warmth spread from the ring up Marcus’ arm and over his shoulder before the tingling spread to his back and across his chest. Once the tingling touched his heart, the tingling became a throbbing all over his body and the more he had been looking for earlier found him and grabbed him by the small hairs on his neck.
Whatever this ring did to Marcus made the muscles on his back clench as he gasped deeply, eyes wide open. There was no possible word to describe the heights of the ecstasy he was feeling but the depths of his pleasure made his head spin. He would do whatever he had to do in order to keep this feeling and his uncle’s justification made sense. This was a high that the rich and famous died to achieve.
Marcus’ heart thudded in his chest so hard he felt like the rhythm of his heart was shaking him, making him look like a man getting punched in the chest repeatedly. His veins began getting warmer and warmer, nearly to the point of pain and Marcus felt like his skin was being shredded as his muscles were torn apart underneath. Even his bones felt like they were cracking and Marcus swore he heard a few of his joints pop but there was no pain.
Only the ecstasy.
Once the initial hit passed and he was in control of himself once more, Marcus look around the room curious. He gripped table and squeezed, pulling away in shock when he felt the metal table slightly give way under his grip. Intense curiosity replaced his shock and Marcus ran outside. He looked around the tranquil green pond in the dying sun and spotted a lone tree across the clearing. He ran and was shocked to be across the thirty foot clearing in half a second but not nearly as amazed as he was as he lifted a tree out of the ground with a single pull using one arm.
The tree was not large or heavy but was most definitely healthy and Marcus just tore the fauna out to the root as though pulling a dandelion. He looked into the purpling sky and threw the thin tree into the distance like the ten foot tree weighed nothing and Marcus smiled when he realized he was not even breathing hard from the effort. Marcus considered throwing more heavy things but an idea popped in his head and he knew of the perfect way to test this newfound strength of his.
And get a little payback.
Around midnight, Marcus was walking into a particular bar on the outer fringe of south Old Town. This bar was a dive bar. An incredibly infamous dive bar known for being the place where the Angels of Damnation were founded sixty years ago. The Iotan Constitution forbade discrimination of any kind but the men who populated this bar were not amenable to unintroduced strangers…like Marcus who strode into the Fiery Feather like a man without a care in the world.
The smoke-filled bar was dark with an unattended cash register by the door next to a hallway likely leading to the back of the bar. The wall of the hallway made the back wall of two bartender stations where rock music blared and there were four pool tables behind the stools at the bar top. Not one of the pool tables had less than six rough looking men. Every man had the black leather vests motorcycle enthusiasts, of levels of legality, were fond of wearing. Those men not playing pool were occupying themselves by making the already sticky floor stickier by spilling their drinks as the stood around smoking and laughing with the others who watched and waited.
Marcus saw the angels with wings of fire everywhere around the bar but more importantly, he saw the fire-winged angel patch stitched on the back of every black vest in the bar. Feeling the strength of the ring in his veins, Marcus scanned the occupants of the bar, all of whom were already staring at him or turning to stare at him. That made his search easier but still fruitless. He did not see the punks who tried turn a good old-fashioned Damokles mugging into a regular Damokles mugging. But he was already here so Marcus figured he might as well perform his test anyways and he sat down at the bar. Almost immediately, the bartender, frowning in confusion, walked over to him.
“Beer, please.” Marcus ordered.
“Talk to Jeffery, guy.” The bartender said. “We already paid for the month.”
“I’m sorry?” Marcus asked.
“We already paid Inspector Morrow the tribute to keep you Rye Hounds away from here.” The bartender explained but then he frowned when he saw the look on Marcus’ face. “You’re IAC, aren’t you, guy?”
“I’m not here for anybody but myself, friend.” Marcus said smiling.
The bartender deliberately looked around the bar for a long while before lowering the volume of the music a bit. He looked back at Marcus with a concerned frown.
“Are you sure you want a drink here, guy?” The bartender asked. “Do you know where you are?”
“Why not?” Marcus asked. “I just happened to be in the area and I got a little thirsty.”
“Look, from your accent, you sound like you are from around these parts so I don’t know if you’re dumb or suicidal but either way you should really consider quenching your thirst elsewhere.” The bartender said, eyes darting around the room behind Marcus.
“This bar belongs to the AD, the Angels of Damnation, guy.” The bartender continued. “They run this whole block of Old Town with the blessing of Spider Gidon.”
Marcus’ frown was genuine.
“Who?” He asked.
“What? You don’t-“
The bartender cut himself off sighed as though to collect himself.
“Spider Gidon is the Captain of the Silver Lion district here in Old Town.” He said in a too calm voice. “One of the Four Old Men? The right hand man of Boss Chucky?”
“Who exactly is Boss Chucky?” Marcus asked.
“Almighty above, guy.” The bartender said looking up to the sky and clasping his hands together. “Boss Chucky is the head of the Silverbacks Association. You know, one of the Eight. The Eight, guy. Even if you were born halfway across the world in Xi, you know the Eight.”
“These guys can and will kill you without hesitation.” The bartender said. “The AD in Damokles have all the backing they need to kill anyone, even a detective. You will be short work for them, guy. Get out while you still can.”
Marcus’ smile broadened. He appreciated the bartender trying to save the life of a possibly ignorant person but before he could reply, the bartender abruptly turned. He walked away, turning off the music before vanishing in the hallway behind the bartender stations.
All the women and hangers-on began running for the door as soon as the music was cut off, familiar with what was happening. The thick wooden door of the bar’s entrance was still swinging when Marcus heard footsteps come to a stop behind him. He did not turn and instead sat like he was simply waiting for the bartender to return. A chubby hand slammed down on Marcus’ left shoulder and gripped him tightly, a hard voice speaking as he turned Marcus around on the swiveling stool.
“Old Freddy was trying to be nice about it.” A hard voice said.
The chubby hand belonged to a squat ugly man with thick forearms and crooked teeth. His belly cast a shadow over his feet, forcing Marcus to wonder how this man could balance on a motorcycle. There was a patch on the right side of his vest that read ‘ROAD CAPTAIN.’
“I’m not Freddy.” The Road Captain said. “Now get out or things are going to happen that will make Inspector Morrow very upset.”
Marcus chuckled, swiping the ugly man’s hand off his shoulder, causing him fall forward before catching himself. The sudden movement got the attention of the entire bar and anyone who was not standing before, was on their feet, bottles, pool sticks and knives in their hands. More than a few of the bikers got closer but the other man with the ugly Road Captain caught Marcus’ attention.
He was a middle aged man of average height who had slightly tanned skin with lanky light brown hair that reached his shoulders. A bushy goatee threaded with gray hair framed the bottom of his face and ended halfway down his chest. His arms were heavily tattooed, the fire-winged angel a repeating theme and there were more than a few scars obscured by the tattoos. The patch on the front of the right side of his vest said ‘SGT. AT ARMS.’
“I’m not going to repeat my offer, guy.” The ugly Road Captain said, holding out a thick forearm to keep the Sergeant-At-Arms at bay. “If you aren’t gone in the next five seconds, your body may be getting tossed into a dumpster but your soul won’t be leaving this place.”
Marcus flicked his eyebrows up with a smirk as he reached over the bar and got himself a beer in response. He managed to pop the cap off the glass bottle before the whole bar erupted.
The Sergeant jumped at Marcus, beer spilling as he raised the bottle in his hand but Marcus planted his foot in the Sergeant’s chest while Marcus finished placing his self-served beer on the bar top. The Sergeant’s eyes bulged as he flew clear across the room, smacking against a steel framed AD vest on the back wall of the bar. The whole bar shook as the Sergeant bounced off the wall to crash onto the sticky floor face first, not moving but breathing in a worryingly erratic fashion.
The Road Captain moved to pull out a knife but Marcus moved faster than he ever had and was in front of the Road Captain before the man’s knife was halfway out. Marcus reached down and grabbed his wrist, feeling the man’s bones snap, and yanked him. A loud meaty pop announced the dislocation of the Road Captain’s shoulder as the incredibly strong pull lifted the Road Captain off his feet. The chubby man became nothing more than a rag doll as he sailed through the air with dangerous speed on a direct course for Marcus’ uplifted knee.
Marcus most definitely felt the man’s chest collapse when his kneecap made contact and the crunch that accompanied the hit reinforced what he felt. The Road Captain slowly slid off Marcus’ still lifted knee, eventually smacking the sticky floor. The chubby man’s body rolled onto his back on the gummy floor and blood trickled from the corners of his lips, his nose and from the corners of his blood filled eyes.
Marcus turned away from the Road Captain to face the charging bikers from the pool tables. To Marcus, these men moved in slow motion and he was unable to stop the smirk forming on his lips. This ring was incredible, beyond incredible. How could he ever have thought to deny himself this ring?
A muscle bound man with no shirt under his vest swung a fist with large rings on every finger. Marcus met the punch of the oversized biker with a punch of his own and the man’s hand crumpled in a cloud of red mist. As the biker turned to stare at the blood gushing from the muscles and bones hanging out of the newly formed splits between his fingers, Marcus took a step forward. He threw his shoulder forward, bending his extended arm and a loud crunch echoed in the bar as Marcus crushed the man’s throat with the point of his elbow. The man’s body collapsed in a boneless heap like a puppet with the strings cut.
Before the juiced biker reached the ground, Marcus spun and smashed his other elbow up into the face of another biker behind him who had a bottle high over his head. Blood squirted from every orifice of the man’s face, dark red streams and thick nearly black globs arching in the air as he soared backwards nine feet to land on one of the pool tables. He tried to get up but all he succeeded in doing was making a mess of the blood pooling in his hair and around his head.
The man was forgotten before he landed as Marcus ducked under a swing from a pool stick, catching the stick when the man attempted a return swing. Marcus spun, yanking the wooden stick away from the man’s grip and throwing the stick with the same motion. The momentum of the spin and his strength combined to make a dark yellow blur out of the pool stick as the wood streaked through the air.
The pool stick impaled the leg of another biker, gliding through the man’s leg until the rope hand-holds caught on the man’s flesh. He was carried by the still soaring pool stick until the bloody end of the stick was imbedded in the back wall above the still unmoving Sergeant-At-Arms. His head smacked against the wall, knocking him unconscious. A merciful occurrence since the sound of his femur grinding on the wood immediately followed his collision with the wall as the biker began sliding, rotating on the quivering pool stick until he was hanging upside down on the wall, pinned.
Marcus stopped his spin after tripping the now weaponless biker with a leg sweep. The biker scrambled to get back to his feet as soon as he touched the sticky floor but Marcus was dropping a knee into the biker’s chest before the man made two moves. His eyes bulged with the blow, the sound of his snapping bones mimicking a fireworks display as Marcus drove his knee deep enough to brush against the biker’s spine.
The last two takedowns happened nearly simultaneously and the other bikers paused for a second, staring at Marcus. He just took down six of their guys in less than five seconds. They were coming to understand that this was not going to be as easy a toss out as these men were used to.
Marcus got to his feet still breathing easily. When he turned and recognized the hesitation from the other bikers he smiled and rolled his shoulders as he took a deep breath. He stretched his back as he walked back over to the bar and picked up the drink he placed on the bar top, downing the disgusting beer in one go. He burped as he dropped the bottle and tapped his chin as if thinking.
“I wonder if I could put out your angel’s wings if I pissed on them enough.” He said.
The words worked and the remaining bikers charged Marcus. He made as short a work of the remaining bikers as he did with the first six. The three minute skirmish left the floor of the bar littered with the broken bodies of men wearing AD patches. Most of the men on the ground groaned or had hands on their source of pain but there were a few that did not move at all. Marcus could not see any of his carnage.
He was consumed with staring down at himself, lost in the exhilaration of the ring’s power. He still wasn’t breathing heavily even after dismantling over thirty men and Marcus still felt the urge to see where his limits would leave him. He walked out of the bar, still staring at his body in wonder. He managed to break away from himself long enough to hail a cab and return to the villa, hoping his uncle was still awake.
Marcus found his uncle asleep in his study, laptop on his desk playing clips of reports from various news channels. He crept into the room as quietly as he could with so much adrenaline pumping through his veins. He found an old jacket on the hat stand behind the door and walked over to place the jacket on his snoring uncle. As Marcus bent over to drape the jacket over his sleeping uncle, something on the laptop caught his ear.
On the screen, a woman in a gray suit held a microphone in an area that had not seen better days in generations. Over her right shoulder, yellow tape sectioned off a familiar looking building.
Thank you Christine. We are here live in south Old Town where tonight, less than an hour ago, an incident occurred that left fifteen dead and eighteen critically injured.
The bar I’m standing outside of is known by locals to be frequented by members of the Angels of Damnation Motorcycle Club. The police are currently investigating this event as a gang-land incident due to the numbers involved. However, the details are few due to the lack of cooper-
Marcus just managed to not destroy his uncle’s laptop in his haste to stop what he was hearing. He felt his stomach turn and bile began to rise in the back of his throat when he thought back to the unmoving bodies. He had to rush from the room or he was going to throw up all over himself and his uncle. As he fled, he never noticed Cato’s eyes watching him go.