Peace or power...
"Not so hot. I may have found a band, though. They were warming up in the back lounge of the last restaurant I applied at. I talked to the drummer and the singer. They may be looking for a new guitarist, the old one just got married, and..."
"Mm-hm. And you wonder why the restaurant didn't hire the kid who spent his whole time there chatting with the entertainment." He clipped the last thread. "There. Take a look at yourself."
The young man swallowed hard and walked over to the big mirror on the shower door in the apartment's tiny bathroom. Captain America gazed back at him.
Bethany scowls down at Tony Stark who is making last minute adjustments to her Aegis armor, "I know Tony!"
Stark growls, "why don't I ever believe you Beth: you say you understand the cybernetic emergency override circuit but it's a complicated piece of hardware."
Bethany starts to squirm as Stark continues to work. "Damn it Beth," Stark shouts, "hold still, I'm almost finished... all right, power up."
Bethany engages cybernetic links with her facemask and activates the armor's power grid. Stark stands back with a smile, "how is the anti-grav unit working now?"
Bethany smiles, "I guess we'll have to test it."
Before Stark can stop her she activates the suit's anti-gravity propulsion system and rockets towards the ceiling. She uses her cybernetic controls to open a skylight just barely in time as she hits full speed.
Tony Stark screams into his comlink, "get your butt back here Bethany, I didn't authorize a field test!"
"Tony... my dear, don't be such a drag," Bethany replies over the link, "it's such a beautiful day." Bethany zooms over Stark Labs performing aerial stunts that would cause fighter pilots to lose consciousness due to the stresses of g-forces but the anti-grav field frees her from such worries. She calls back to Stark over the com, "Tony, its still too slow."
Stark shakes his head, "just how fast do you want to go?"
Bethany laughs, "Mach 1 would be a start," she replies as she buzzes the lab and flies off in the direction of the city.
Stark takes off his comlink and throws it to the ground, as she moves out of range. Stark sits down thinking it would be a good idea to add a built in communication package into the armor instead of relying on the flimsy add-ons they've been using.
Bethany continues her flight towards the city, enjoying the thrill of flying like a bird. Poor Tony, she thinks, unable to experience the power of the Aegis armor he's built.
Samuel stood alone in the stark white hallway. His vision was clouded, but there appeared to be a light somewhere up ahead, beckoning to him. He shook his head once to clear it. Where was he? How did he get here?
The answers came to him all at once, like a sledge hammer striking stone. "The canisters...", he whispered to himself as the memory came flooding back, the clarity of it causing a shiver to run through his robust frame. He remembered lifting the pallet of black steel drums with his forklift. He remembered watching one tilt to the side, then fall. He saw the flash before he felt the heat from the explosion...then...nothing.
Now here he was. Was he dead? Maybe.. hell... he didn't know. Maybe the light held the answer. He slowly began to move he feet forward, they felt very heavy. With every step, his goal appeared to grow further and further away. He tried running, but his feet failed to answer him. He slumped back against the wall and slid to the floor. Why was he being tortured like this? His feet felt like lead. If he was dead why play with him like this?
"Because we enjoy it..."
Sam lifted his head and looked around. He was still alone, alone but for the darkness of the corridor. Taking a deep breath to brace himself he called out, "Who said that? Stop playing games and show yourself dammit!!!"
A soft laughter drifted to him. "Is that reeeaaly what you want Sam?" The strange voice intoned.
Sam's back arched convulsively as he let the breath out between his teeth. He had almost come to grips with the fact that he was dead, but this scared the bejesus out of him. Still, if he was dead, what did he have to be afraid of? Steeling his nerve he called back. "Yeah... Show me where you are. After all what have I got to lose?"
Again came the laughter, louder this time. "Oooohhhhhh.... you have much more to lose than you think my friend. And so much to gain." The voice replied. It seemed at once to be coming from everywhere and nowhere. "Let me ask you a question my friend..."
"Yeah ... whatever.." Sam replied quickly, he was getting tired of this.
All at once the shadows began to move, to flow in Sam's direction. A tendril of darkness reached out and caught his leg. Sam tried to move but couldn't. The inky tentacle appeared to be holding him fast, and worse, the shadows were flowing upward, over his body.
Sam opened his mouth to try to scream, but his scream was cut short as the shadow-thing that held him forced it's way into his mouth, pushing itself further into Sam's body, smothering him. Sam's eyes rolled back into his head as the thing overwhelmed him. He had a sensation of falling as the darkness swelled over him, enveloping him in a great, black cocoon. Then, from inside his head, so loud it made his temples pound, came the question.....
"Peace or power Sam... Peace or power..."
Stern sat bolt upright in bed, his brown hair was soaked in sweat. He was vaguely aware that someone was screaming, then he realized, it was him.
Slowly, he calmed himself as he realized it was just the dream again. The same dream he had had since the accident. With trembling hands, Sam snatched the crumpled pack of cigarettes from the nightstand and lit one. The action alone seemed to reassure him somewhat, and slowly he regained his composure.
His bloodshot green eyes traveled around the spartan room. The white paint had begun to yellow, and it was chipped in places. With a sigh Sam dragged himself from his bed and into the tiny bathroom, where he splashed cool water on his face." What day is it?" , he thought to himself. He moved on to the sun-yellow kitchen and looked at the small gas-station calendar hung on the wall. "Ahhh... Sunday. Good...no work," he said to himself.
Sam thumbed on the radio that he kept on the kitchen counter and set about brewing some coffee. He half listened to the radio reports as his mind traveled back to the dream. The damned dream, he had been having it off and on since the accident back in Arizona, and it still creeped him out. Sam had hoped that his promotion and the change of scenery to the Big Apple would drive the dream away, but so far... nothing.
His eyes took in the rest of his tiny little one-bedroom apartment as he sipped his coffee. The lime green couch with the burns on it stood out in the living room, set across from an old black and white television with tinfoil for an antenna. Sam forced out a small chuckle. "Certainly ain't much is it Sammy m'boy?" he said to himself.
"But it's the best we can afford right now, least till the raise goes through."
He gulped the rest of his coffee and prepared to take a shower. Looking out the window as he passed, it appeared to be nice day. Maybe some air would improve his mood. He dressed quickly and made his way down the hall and up the back stairs that led to the roof. He had found shortly after he had moved in that not many people came up here anymore, and that suited him just fine.
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© 1999 Mark L. Chance et al