Spartan: Endgame

By: Thomas Waters

Prologue

My name is Jackson Crichton. I'm seventeen years old, a senior at Xavier City High, and one of four guardians of the greatest secret a teenager my age could have: my best friend, Kyle Wyatt, is also Spartan the world's best and only superhero. Kyle/Spartan has incredible abilities, and he uses them for the betterment of mankind, a fact I admire him immensely for.

It is because of Kyle that I walked out of Hartigan's Restaurant on November Twenty-First. I went there with Dr. Thomas Wyatt, father of Kyle and an overall decent guy, and Leon Allain, my other best friend. You see, Kyle left for some globe-trotting road trip five months ago. November Twenty-First was…is…his birthday. Unfortunately, he wasn't here to celebrate with us. I said as much to Leon, who agreed. "Briana, too," he added. I nodded. Leon referred to Briana Walker, the fourth and final member of our little group. She's also Kyle's girlfriend. Kinda. I dunno, they're relationship is complicated. Ever since Kyle left, she's been really reclusive, not leaving her house except for school. The same could also be said for Dr. Wyatt. It was only at our insistence that he same with Leon and me, and even then he barely spoke at all during dinner.

But I'm getting off topic. We were walking to Dr. Wyatt's car when I heard a rustling behind us. I stopped, turned, and looked around. "What is it?" Leon yawned. After a minute, I said, "Nothing." Leon sleepily nodded, turned around, and walked into a tall, stocky man wearing navy blue and gold garments. He grinned at us through yellow teeth.

"Deathfangs," Dr. Wyatt whispered. Upon hearing the name, Leon and I became instantly rigid. The Deathfangs were a powerful street gang that had risen through the ranks of street gang-hood while Kyle's been away. They had a reputation for being totally brutal and merciless, and this thug looked to be one of them. "There's three of us and one of him," Leon said out of the corner of his mouth. "I say we take him." His attempts at discretion evidently failed, as the thug emitted a hearty chuckle. He was white, bald, and his laugh was horrible.

"You think I'm alone, child? 'Cause if you do, you're flat outta luck. He spoke the truth. As if appearing outta thin air, the three of us were surrounded by an army. "Screw this," Dr. Wyatt said, throwing the literal first punch. And just like that, all hell broke loose. Dr. Wyatt apparently had a lot of anger, and was taken it out on the Deathfangs. He'd already knocked three out! Leon and I weren't so lucky. Frankly, our asses were being kicked. I wasn't sure how bad Leon was getting it, but I was very aware of my pain. Blood readily flowed from nose, and my right shoulder was dislocated. I heard a grunt, and turned to see Dr. Wyatt fall. Kicking my attacker in the groin, I ran to his side, still in pain. Leon limped beside me a second later, his ankle sprained.

It was here I knew it was over. The first Deathfang we'd met walked over to Dr. Wyatt and produced a snub nosed revolver. He snarled and pressed the muzzle of the gun to Dr. Wyatt's ear. As he was about to pull the trigger, and before neither myself nor Leon could react, a low, inhuman growl reverberated across the whole street. Unable to tell where it originated, the thugs and Kyle's Birthday Posse looked around.

As if on cue, a shadow leaped from a nearby rooftop. Before I could get a good look at it, the shadow moved with incredible speed and agility, and ability I'd seen used once before, but never with this skill. It couldn't be…

The shadow leaped from Deathfang to Deathfang, bouncing and leaping like no tomorrow, beating each with a single hit. A mere minute after it had appeared, the shadow had defeated the entire Deathfang army, and saved our lives.

The shadow, for all its skill, staggered and fell to the ground, coughing. Before any of us could do anything, a cab drove by, illuminating an embossed silver-on-black 'S' that had burn marks on it. The shadow looked at us, its steel blue eyes penetrating the night. We all stared in shock. "…Kyle…?" Dr. Wyatt whispered hopefully.

Kyle Wyatt, Spartan, crawled to the three of us and promptly collapsed, his costume ripped and torn.

One

My name is Kyle Wyatt, and I've got the biggest fucking headache of my unnatural life. My eyes were shut, but I could tell I was on a bed, a bed that felt oddly familiar. I slowly opened my eyes, and I found myself in my bedroom. I opened them all the way and found my father and best friends, Leon and Jackson, staring at me with interest. I said, "Well, this seems like a Déjà vu moment," referring to the first time I awoke and discovered my abilities.

My observers laughed none too convincingly. I sat up, my iron muscles objecting. I winced, and Dad was all over me like a bat. "You all right, Kyle?" "Fine," I lied. He could tell, too. Damnable fatherly intuition. "What happened, son? Where've you been?" Dad pressed. Flashes of memory raced across my mind, like a slideshow: a great battle between two armies, a victory celebration gone wrong when a fire broke out, and a noble man's sacrifice. "I'd…rather not talk about that right now," I finally said. My friends looked at me imploringly, but my father nodded, understanding. "Enough about me, though," I said, changing the subject. "What were you doing out that late?" Taking turns, the three told me how they were celebrating my birthday, something I'd even forgotten was today. The fact that I got no presents not withstanding, their kindness touched me. But the story brought a new thought into my mind, one I couldn't believe I'd forgotten. "What about Briana? Is she alright?"

Jackson and Leon exchanged nervous looks. "She wasn't with us, dude," Leon said. I was shocked. Last I'd seen Briana, we'd all but confessed that we loved each other. But now…

"Nothing against you, Kyle," Jackson quickly said. "She said the pain of you not being there was too much." Well, that explained a lot. "But there are bigger things than Briana," Jackson finished. I looked to Leon, who looked really uneasy, even as he said, "Well, since you've been gone, crime's gone up thirty-two percent." My eyes widened. "Um, specifics, people!" Jackson rattled them off easily, as though preparing for this moment; "Bank Robbers, Carjackers…Superhuman crimes."

I took a double take at that last one. "How the hell is that possible?" I demanded. "There are no more 'me' clones, and last time I checked, I'm the only super on the planet. Dad cleared his throat. "The explosion of the Adventus Mansion generated some sort of shock wave that affected some humans, granting them superhuman abilities. The majority of them turned to Crime, and Xavier City has been hell ever since."

I banged my head against the headrest. "I should have been here. I never should have left." Jackson was about to say something, but Leon shot him a look. "You're here now, son," Dad said gently, and for the first time in months, a father and son embraced. "Aww," Jackson and Leon simultaneously droned before I webbed their mouths shut.

After much needed and wanted sleep, I was completely healed. Physically, anyway. I sat on my bed, staring at my now ruined costume, when Dad walked in. "The costume's not as impressive without the hero in it," he joked, trying to lighten my mood. Didn't work. "Listen…Dad…I'm sorry I left. I was just something I needed to do. Don't hate my."

"Nah, don't apologize," Dad said, sitting at the edge of my bed. I smirked. It was as if no time had passed. "So, Dad, what'd you tell the school? I mean, I haven't been there for almost there for almost three months. Surely they're concerned." Dad let out a self-satisfied "Ha!" before saying, "Stroke of genius, actually. I said you were being home schooled by yours truly because your grandparents, whom you were very close to, had passed away at the end of the summer, and you weren't emotionally prepared for the rigors of public school."

I had to laugh at that. The relationship between my late mother's parents and me was non-existent, and Dad's parents were dead. I was about to ask if that worked, but then I remembered the school system. "So, what's up with Spartan?" Dad asked, interrupting my thoughts. Looking at my once iconic 'S' shield, I said innocently, "He'll be back. He just needs a new costume."

Two

The next day, after being medically cleared by Padre, I wore something not worn in years: a ski mask, faded blue jeans, and a classic Superman t-shirt. Since Dad was still working on the new costume, it was the best I could do.

I flew, and it was as smooth a flight as ever. To feel the air gently opposing your movement is a feeling I would do great injustice to by attempting to describe. After an hour of flying above the clouds I went to visit the one person I'd yet to see. I landed on Briana's balcony gently and tiptoed, all ninja-like, to her sliding glass door and peeked in. For the record, I am not a stalker. Briana Walker, the love of my life, moved furiously, practicing her tae-jitsu. As she punched and kicked, I could have sworn I saw tears on her face. I looked at her bed and saw a picture. It was one of her and me, taken in one of those photo booth things. I smiled to myself. I had the same pic.

I finally snapped out of my trance and tapped on the door. Briana turned around and, well, her reaction wasn't exactly how I pictured it.

"AAAHHH!" she screamed. Apparently she never made the connection that the school vigilante was Spartan. I looked to make sure her parents weren't home. Thankfully, they weren't. I opened the door and scurried in. Without hesitating, she roundhouse kicked me, which I caught with ease because, y'know, I didn't wanna get hit. "Easy, Her Shortness," I said, calling her a nickname only I used.

Her expression changed instantly. One second, she looked angry, the next, astonished. "Ky...Kyle?" I let her leg drop to the floor as I ripped my mask off. Again, she reacted unexpectedly by slapping me. "OW!" I yelled. "What the hell was that for? I come back to see you, and you thank me by slapping me? What a world…" She glared. "You said you'd be gone for a month. At most. Lo and behold, it's five months later, and just now you resurface. I think I have a right to be angry.

The two of us just stared at each other for a long while, and then we hugged. "I thought you were gone forever," she said sadly. "So did I…" I whispered. After a long while we finally let go of each other. "So," she began, "you know who you are now?" She was, of course, referring to the reason I left in the first place. "Yes," I said confidently. "I am Elmira, Queen of the Gypsies." I laughed, and so did she, albeit a bit forcefully. I looked at her closely and saw a tear drip down her nose, so I became serious.

"Yeah, I know who I am. The Kyle Wyatt the public sees and Spartan are both part of the same personality. Two sides of the same coin." Briana looked up at me. "It's about time you realized that," she said, grinning. We just smiled at each other before I broke the silence.

"Ya know Briana," I said coyly. "There's something I meant to do right before I left, but never got the chance to." "Really?" she asked me slyly. "And what would that be, Mr. Wyatt?" I brought her close to me and kissed her fully on the lips, and she kissed me back. We were locked together for what seemed like forever. Cheesy, I know, but accurate. We kept kissing until we heard her mother yell, "Briana, we're home honey!" We separated, but stared at each other longingly. Waving good-bye, I put my mask back on and flew away, perfectly happy for the first time in years.

A minute later, I landed at the park. Leon and Jackson were playing catch with a chewed tennis ball that I'm sure they found in the dirt. As Leon made a toss to Jackson, I leaped in the air and intercepted it. Jackson glared at me, so I winked innocently at him. "Well?" Leon asked, referring to Briana. I just smiled, and, taking that as something good, my two best friends congratulated me. "I'm happy for you, man, but I'd watch my back if I were you. The Disease ain't gonna be happy about this," Jackson said. The Disease was Sara Shinlye, my enemy outside the costume.

"Do I want to know?" I asked wearily. The two nodded gravely. "She's been asking us where you've been all year," Leon said. "Constantly," Jackson added, rolling his eyes. I groaned, my eyes glowing red as I did so.

Three

On Monday morning, I walked into school, my sudden reappearance relatively unnoticed by my peers, save for a few of my acquaintances, like Brett Felix and Mickey Enders. Some things never change, I thought. Someone tapped my shoulder as I finished loading my books into my locker. I thought it was Briana, right up until the point I heard the ragged breathing. I turned, horrified, to find the puckered, herpes covered lips of Sara Shinlye. I died a little on the inside.

"How are you, Kyle?" she wheezed. Another part of me died. I tried ignoring her by walking away, but she followed me. My mind raced with thoughts of creative murder, but I suppressed them. "You know, it'th rude not to anther me," she said. I subtly webbed her feet to the ground. "What the-?" she ejaculated. "Oh look," I said lazily. "You stepped in gum. How unfortunate for you. Toodles." With that, I ran away, her frustrated cries echoing in my head.

I made it to the usual spot, where, as always, Briana, Leon, and Jackson awaited me. I snuck up on Briana and squeezed her sides. She squealed with laughter, and when she was done, we kissed. When we were done (to the relief of Leon and Jackson), Briana told me I looked paler than usual. "It's nothing," I said quietly. "Whore Monkey just tried making out with me." At that, the three mimicked puking, to my displeasure. "Very funny," I remarked dryly.

At lunch, the four of us talked animatedly. It's amazing how quickly we settled into our old routine." "Say Shorty," I said to Briana, "You wanna go to the Chateau Diego with me tonight? It's on me." Briana's eyes widened. "Um…I would, Kyle, but the Chateau Diego is the most expensive restaurant in the tri-state area." "Money's not an issue," I said, a little boastfully. "During my travels, five thousand dollars came into my possession, for me to do whatever I pleased with it." The three gaped at me. Then, the spell was broken by the voice of my least favorite whore. "Oh my God," Sara screamed. "You're cheating on me with thith thort bitch!?"

Briana got up to attack Sara, but I held her down. "Calm down," I whispered. "I'll handle this." I stood up, towering over Sara. "Listen, "Thara," if you ever, ever, ness with my girlfriend or friends again, you'll be nothing more than another dead hooker. Got it?" I said hotly. She just smiled. Disgusted, I turned around, "Whatever you thay, Thpartan." I turned back to face her, but she was gone.

Four

That night, I put on my school uniform in preparation for my date with Briana. …What? It's my only suit. I ran downstairs, straightening my hair and yelling, "DAD! KEYS!" Dad walked sleepily out of the kitchen and tossed me the keys. "Pretty snazzy, Kyle," he quipped. "Bite me, Dad."

When I finally arrived at Briana's, I practically skipped to the door. I came this close to ringing the bell, but the door opened before I had the chance. Briana stood in the doorway, and she looked great in a periwinkle blue skirt and blouse combo. Needless to say, I was practically drooling at the mouth. "Ease up there, lover boy," she said, patting my arm. I led her to the car, and we drove to Chateau Diego.

We arrived about a half-hour later. It was a beautiful place, truly. As we were seated, Briana voiced my thoughts. "Seriously, it is," she finished. "I know, Bree. I-"

I was interrupted by five heavily armored men marching into the restaurant. "Everyone down!" they said in unison. We all complied. After all, in a room full of a hundred, only one was invincible. Who could hold it against them? Not me.

Briana and I exchanged worried looks. "Shouldn't you change?" she whispered hurriedly. "I would," I whispered in the same tone, "but the new costume my Dad's making me isn't finished yet. Briana rolled her eyes, exasperated, and as she turned away she faced the barrel of a rifle. That was the straw that broke the camels back. In my speed mode, I rapidly fired webbing over all the lights, making the room pitch black. Since I could all but see in the dark, that wasn't a handicap. It was one, however, for the armored goons, who were asking each other what had happened.

I leaped into action. I sped towards the first goon and punched him in the face. I kneed him in the balls and threw him into another armored man. I leaped onto the second man, and, using him as a jumping point, leaped onto the third. I elbowed him in the face, yanked the gun from his grip, and knocked him out with the butt of the rifle. I dropped the gun and felt bullets bounce off my back. The fourth man was shooting the room wildly. I webbed the attacker and threw him towards the leader, incapacitating the both of them. I breathed in deeply. Boy that felt good. And it had all happened in less than two minutes. I sped to my spot next to Briana and blasted the webbing that covered the lights with heat vision, dissolving it.

As light flooded the restaurant, the confused restaurant costumers looked around, observing the unconscious attackers. Briana looked at me, and I smirked.

After finally eating, I drove Briana home. When we got there, I let her out. "Life always this hectic for you?" she asked. "You kidding?" I chuckled. "This is like a vacation compared to the usual crap." When we reached the door, I stopped her from going in right away. "Hey…uh…I'm sorry for the way tonight turned out. Honestly." She slugged me in the arm. Hard. It tickled. "Don't be, ya dumb Ginger," she said. We kissed, and she went inside.

When I was sure she was gone, I laughed like a maniac and flew into the air.

Five

A week later, after Thanksgiving, I sat at my computer, IM'ing with Leon and Jackson. Almost simultaneously, they asked where Spartan was. I told them both that there was no need for him at the moment. And besides, the costume wasn't done yet.

Having nothing else to talk about, the three of us signed off. I sighed deeply and flopped onto my bed. Contrary to what Leon and Jackson had told, as well as police reports that just "happened" to come into my possession, there was barely any crime, and no sign of superhuman activity.

As I pondered what to do, Dad walked in. "Merry Christmas," he said, dropping a new black suit at my feet on the bed. "Oh joy," I said sarcastically. "It looks like the suit will be just the thing to show off my sexy curves." To get the point across, I ran my hands up and down my ass. Dad rolled his eyes and turned to leave. "Look inside the shirt," he said, shutting the door behind him.

Curious, I got up and walked and unbuttoned the shirt. Upon seeing its contents, I smirked slightly.

Friday night, at twilight, the four of us (Briana, Leon, Jackson, and I) sat on the stands, watching the football game. Word of advice, don't go in a suit. Our side of the stands cheered as The Ravens, our school team, scored a touchdown, when my Battle Sense, for the first time in a month, blazed. My hearing picked up a faint stomping sound, followed by a young woman's scream. At that moment, Mary O'Shea, a fellow senior and friend of Briana's, came flying onto the field. I was about to speed-leap to catch her, but a player caught her and saved me the trouble. The crowed murmured, the general question being: what was going on? I exchanged a dark look with my friends.

A large, muscular bald man leaped into the stadium, scattering the players. A woman with bright yellow hair appeared in a bolt of lightning. Finally, a scrawny, rat-like young man appeared in a blur. I immediately recognized the situation: these were superhumans. I assessed the powers. The muscular bald man appeared to have super strength; the woman had electrokinesis; and the scrawny man had super speed.

"Greetings Xavier City High and Guests!" Baldy boomed. "I am known as Brick. My companions are known as Shockra (he motioned to the woman) and Rat." (Boy did I call it.) "The three of us," Brick continued, "were shunned and expelled because of our unique…abilities." The crowd murmured in collective, ashamed agreement.

The Trio then demonstrated their abilities. My assumption was correct. Shockra was indeed an electrokinetic, as she demonstrated by causing her fingers to spark menacingly. Rat utilized super speed and ran off somewhere only to return with a hot dog. Brick, using his great strength, leaped into the parking lot and came back with a yellow SUV. "It's time, " Brick yelled, "for payback!" My eyes widened, and out of the corner of my eye I saw my friends turn to me, but I was already gone.

I sped off the stands and retreated behind the shed at the far edge of the field. I ran behind it and ripped open my shirt, revealing an embossed red-on-black Superman 'S'. My black suit jacket became a black denim jacket, with an angular red spider on the back and three red slashes on each forearm. My black suit pants turned into black jeans. I pulled up a facemask, and put black sunglasses on. I walked out of the shed just in time to see Brick throw the SUV at a panicking crowd, all of whom were struggling to escape. Time seemed to slow as I flew towards the field. I launched a large web net between the two opposite stands at each side of the field. It attached itself perfectly. I raced ahead, caught the SUV, and in one fluid motion, threw it at the web, suspending it in mid-air.

I hovered between the hushed crowd and the now-fearful looking Trio. "Touchdown," I, Spartan, said.

Six

The crowd in the stands cheered as the Trio looked at me with mingled fear, yet also a strange understanding. I gently landed on the field, observing my prey.

The Trio looked at me for one moment before Rat took the initiative. He sped away, becoming virtually invisible to the naked human eye. This is why Rat was surprised when I entered speed mode and elbowed him in the face as he came to attack me from the rear. Rat screamed in pain, clutching the point where my elbow had made contact with his nose. Blood flowed freely. "What?" I asked. "It's not like you'll get any uglier." Rat stared at me angrily and tried to speed attack me again. I was even more prepared this time. I attached a web-line to him and yanked him back to me. I punched him in his face, threw him to a light post, and attached him there in a web cocoon.

As I admired my handiwork, my Battle Sense went off, and I narrowly dodged a lightning bolt. I turned and saw Shockra, her eyes glowing yellow and her fingers, extended like talons, sparking. She launched another bolt, one which I dodged with ease. This little bout went on for another minute, a "rinse-wash-repeat" scenario, before Shockra apparently had enough. Her eyes glowed even more yellow, and my battle Sense blazed at once. I ripped off my sunglasses and countered her super lightning bolt with a blast of super heat vision. Normally, my heat vision just makes the air in its path go wavy, like a mirage, but super heat vision glows pure red. The red and the yellow beams opposed each other, neither giving in. For the record, I was just going easy on her. Shocked by the fact that she wasn't winning, she amped up the voltage, which pushed my red beam back. Calling upon a memory of intense frustration, I let it all out, and my heat vision engulfed her. As the smoke settled from the enormous blast, I saw Shockra on the ground, her body smoking and her hair all but burned away, but, after listening for her heartbeat, otherwise unharmed. I webbed her next to Rat, who looked from her to me fearfully. Under my mask, I smirked. Then a huge fist hit my head, without a warning from my battle sense. Then I realized I was being too cocky. I really need to work on that.

I focused on the large mass of muscle and stupidity that hit me and instantly my pain went away. Brick snarled at me and lunged. I jumped over him and punched the back of his head. He grunted in pain and turned around to ram me. I jumped over him again. Brick stopped in his tracks. "Scared of being hit, Spartan?" he asked me, grinning wickedly. At that comment, I sped away to the edge of the town. "Thought so!" I heard him yell.

After going far enough, I turned back and sped towards where he was. Not a minute had yet passed.

I don't even think he saw me coming. As my fist, powered by incredible momentum, hit his face, he flew in the air at a great speed. At that rate, he would go up into the atmosphere and burn. Not on my watch.

I flew into the air, and grabbed the screaming Brick. I webbed his mouth shut. "Do shut up," I said. We plummeted down to the earth, causing massive shockwave that shook everyone in the stands. I got off of Brick and turned away, thinking he was unconscious. I was wrong. My Battle Sense warned me of a charging Brick heading my way. In response, I turned around and blew. Brick halted mid-charge, but not of his own accord.

He was freezing.

You see, when I was away, I learned I had an incredible lung capacity, and I could either a) blow someone away or b) alter the air around me, making it colder, but not warmer. In essence, I had Superman's Arctic Breath.

Brick looked constipated. His teeth were clenched in frustration at his inability to move. His body was slowly becoming white-blue, and a few moments later, he was incased in ice, a shocked expression frozen on his sorry mug. The crowd looked at me in mixed gratitude and horror. Gratitude for saving them; Horrified for freezing a man alive. "Nothing to be alarmed about, folks. He'll live," I assured them. I hefted the frozen Brick over my left shoulder and walked to the same light post where I had Rat and Shockra tied up. Shockra was now awake, tears streaming down her face. "Look what you've done to me?" she sobbed. "Oh pipe down," I said to her, placing the Brick-sicle in front of her. "You weren't that pretty anyway." I turned my back on her and leaned against Brick's icy shell until the police showed up. Specifically, I was waiting for Sarge, my connection in the Police Department, to show up. He got out of his squad car and approached me.

"It's been a long time, Spartan," Sarge said indifferently while lighting a cigarette. For a moment, I thought I was going to be reprimanded, but then he surprised me. "Welcome back," he said, holding out his hand. I shook it. "Good to see you again, Sarge." The Officer laughed. "Oh, it's Captain now. Superhumans killed all of my superiors." Cap didn't say that at all accusingly, but I still felt guilty. "Listen…Cap…" I began, "I'm sorry I wasn't here to…" He cut me off. "Don't worry, Spartan. I trust you, and I know if you could have been here, you would have. It's not a problem."

I shook my head. "No, it is." I brought Cap aside and took off my shades and mask. "My name is Kyle Wyatt."

Seven

Cap merely looked at me in awe. "But…you're just a kid," he stammered. "Seventeen, actually," I protested. A moment of silence passed, which Cap broke by asking, "Why are you telling me this?" I looked into the starry night sky. "When I was away, I learned something incredibly important: I have to trust my friends." I held out my gloved hand. After a moment's hesitation, Cap shook it. "Thank you, Kyle," he said warmly. "But, um, there's something you have to tell me?" I looked at him in the eyes. "Go on," I said.

"How long will Brick be frozen?"

I looked from him to the Brick-sicle. "Whoops," I laughed. Cap and I walked to the light post. After putting my mask and glasses back on, I blasted the ice sculpture with heat vision at a moderate level, and a few minutes later the muscleman stood before us, drenched in ice cold water and looking very confused. "Wha…" he began to say before I punched him unconscious. I threw him up into the air and attached him to the light post with his two peers.

I turned to Cap. "Damn, I almost forgot: For my Password Journal entry tonight, what are these guys' real names?" I needed to know, don't ask me why. Cap took out a piece of paper and started rattling off the names. Brick here was actually Ricky Gordon. I knew he looked familiar to me, but the loss of his long, flowing blonde hair confused me. He used to be the drummer for a band at school. Never liked him much…Anyway, Shockra's birth name was Tyra Madison. Leon once had a thing for her. Why, I do not know. Her hair had also taken on a change. However, instead of losing it as Brick had, it merely changed from dark brown to shocking blonde. The last one, Rat, was in reality known as Jackson Steinback, a man who had annoyed my group during our freshman year. We didn't like him, as he was incredibly irritating. Jackson had a particular enmity for him, saying that Rat disgraced the good name of Jackson. Rat had undergone no physical changes; ergo, he really did look like a rodent.

After committing the names to memory, I thanked Cap and bid him farewell. As the police departed, my friends ran up to me, looking very impressed. I took off my facial disguise. "Well?" I asked, bemused. "Kyle," Jackson panted. "I've never seen anyone fight like that. It was amazing." "Indeed," Leon said. "There's something different about you, besides the new costume." ("Which is badass," Briana piped in.) "You're a different hero now, Kyle. For the better, I think," Leon finished.

Leon was right. I was different. "When I was away, I met a master who taught me to fight as I did." Briana hugged me, saying, "You could have just asked me to teach you, y'know?" I was about to respond when I saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye on the roof. I looked to examine it closer, but it was gone.

I shook off the thoughts about it, and after that I heard a very unpleasant sound. The four of us turned in combined Sara Shinlye (breathing the whory way she does) with a camera phone. Whore Monkey snapped a shot of me, which displayed me in my Spartan gear mask-less. "Ha!" she gasped. "Now then, Kyle, if you don't dump thorty for me, the thexy Thara Thinlye" (I gagged when I heard this), "then thethe imagethe are going all over Mythpathe! I rolled my eyes and strode to her wordlessly. She puckered her lips expectantly as I ripped her phone from her hands and snapped it cleanly in half. After that, I crushed the two halves into dust. She looked at me, eyes widened. "BITCH!" she cried.

"Where's your proof now?" Jackson quipped. Sara turned from me to Jackson and merely said, "I'll be watching you," before running away. I turned to my friends and smirked. Leon and Jackson laughed, but Briana looked serious. "You need to watch your back Kyle. She could mean trouble for you," she said solemnly. "She can't hurt me, I'm invincible," I said, a little too cockily. Before Briana could respond, I heard police sirens, and listened to the XCPD e-band. When I was done eavesdropping, I put the face stuff back on. "If you'll excuse me, City Hall's been taken hostage by a disgruntled ex-employee." As I began to fly away, I added, "Don't wait up."

After handling that crisis, which took longer than expected, I admit, I was crouched upon the cities tallest building, a place I like to go to think. My mask was off, and I just sat, breathing in the night air. All in all, it was good to be back.

Eight

The Monday after my return, Dad walked in the room and nudged me awake. "Kyle, wake up, it's time for school." "I'm sick," I moaned. "I've got a fever." Dad let out a humorless "HA!" before ripping my blanket off of me. "Your body has an incredible immune system. It is virtually impossible for you to get sick." I sat up wearily. "The school doesn't know that," I yawned.

As I walked into the school, I saw a miniscule freshman being bullied by Mickey Brock, a fellow senior almost as small as the freshman, save for his giant Jimmy Neutron head. I walked to them. "Come off it, Brock," I said calmly. Brock turned to me and started to object, but complied after I stared at him coldly. As Brock left (i.e. Ran away like a little girl) Jackson walked up to me. "I saw what just happened. Even though you didn't use your powers, you…radiated…this aura of power. It was awesome," he said breathlessly.

Before I could respond, he shoved a present into my hand. "For your birthday," he told me. "Sorry it's so late." I ripped open the wrapping paper. Inside was a collection of Spidey and Superman comics. "Thought they might come in handy," Jackson said, winking. I smirked. "Thanks, Jackson." Jackson's eyes widened and he gaped at me. "What?" I asked, bewildered. Jackson stared at me as if I were stupid. Which, to be fair, I can be sometimes. "You called me Jackson instead of Jackie Boy!" "By golly I did!" I said. "Guess I'm maturing….DAMN IT!"

As I left school that day, a mechanical buzzing reached my ears. In my head, the buzzing took on a voice. The voice said, "XCPD Rooftop" repeatedly. Curious, and a tad annoyed by the constant whispering in my head, I ran behind a pair of dumpsters as Kyle and flew towards the sky as Spartan.

Thirty seconds later I landed on the XCPD rooftop, where Cap stood holding a long cylindrical object. "Ooo…what's that?" I asked eagerly. Cap, startled by my sudden appearance, said, "Hypersonic Recorder. Uses the same frequencies as a Dog Whistle, but allows one to send actual messages, albeit short ones." "Sweet!" I exclaimed. "My own personal Bat-Signal. But that isn't why you called me here, is it Cap?"

"Unfortunately, no. Something's been bugging me." Without waiting for me to ask what, he continued. "When you disappeared, superhuman activity was rampant. We had a whole task force devoted to them. But, three weeks before you came back, it stopped, save for that school incident. I don't know. It may be just me, but it seems pretty weird.

"No, I agree," I agreed. "It is weird. Now, I hate to sound rude, but is that all? No offense, it's just I have a shit load of homework." "One more thing," Cap said. "A student at the school, Sara Shinlye, has gone missing." At this I stopped cold. "What?" I asked as indifferently as I could. Cap repeated the information. "I know her," I said. "She knows who I, I being Spartan, really am." Cap nodded, eyes wincing. "Could be why she's missing. Can you help out? The Department's got enough cases as is." Surprisingly, I found myself saying, "I'll do what I can," before flying away.

After an hour of thoughtful flying, I went home through my window and changed back into the uniform. "Dad!" I called. "I'm home!" I ran down the stairs and found my father sitting with a person I thought deceased. My mouth dropped and my eyes widened.

Nine

"Hello, Kyle," a bearded and dirty Dean Murdoch said mockingly. I couldn't believe my eyes: here, sitting with my father, in my house, was Dean Murdoch, a man who'd made my life hell not long after I began my career. Because of him, an evil organization bent on manipulating the world was after me. Because of him, I had once lost Briana…

My eyes glowed red. "You!" I snarled. I ripped open my shirt, and my uniform changed into my Spartan costume. I nearly lunged at Murdoch, if not for my father's interception. "Kyle, stop!" Dad yelled. I turned to him furiously. "Why should I!? You know what he's put me through! You know what his god damned organization has done to me! You know what I lost because of him! So tell me, why shouldn't I crush his throat?" I said that last part with a calm menace, and I saw the fear flicker across my father's face. He'd never seen Spartan angry. I never wanted him to.

"I see you have yet to rid yourself of that nasty temper," Murdoch said, smiling cruelly. "What you don't realize is that I'm here to help you. So why don't you calm down, you insipid cretin, and listen to me?" I remained battle-ready, but my eyes stopped glowing. "I'm listening," I hissed. Murdoch took a deep, theatrical breath before beginning his tale.

"Well," Murdoch said, "this story of mine takes place two years ago. You had beaten me, destroyed my mech (which cost me millions, might I add). Failure is not tolerated within the ranks of Adventus. I was taken away to the Adventus Base, where I was beaten daily, a constant reminder of my failure. I find it pertinent to add that I can no longer sire a child. My former consigliore, Niles Ferris, was put in charge of affairs that concerned you. Or rather, your heroic side. This greatly angered me, as I thought he was someone I could trust, but it was he who engineered my capture in the first place. But still, he worked with me, and was thus the second most knowledgeable on you. After a long time of preparation, Ferris enacted a plan that you know very well. A plan that was a success."

"What do you mean "succeeded", Murdoch?" I interjected. "The Mansion, and all of its data concerning me, blew up, and those powered up Adventi imploded. If that's a success, then I'd love to know what you consider failure."

"Hasn't your father ever told you it's rude to interrupt?" Murdoch said, casting a nasty look at Dad, who flipped him off. "Now, where was I? Ah yes. Ferris' plan was a success. Though he died, and Xavier City still stands, his plot to create a copy of you succeeded. The Adventus Overlord's had recordings of what happened at the mansion, they knew where his plan failed. Remember that sample of blood we took from the bank where you first showed your face? Well, in that sample was your prized "genetic anomaly". Combing that anomaly with Ferris' plot to create a clone, we were able to generate a flawless clone of you, complete with all your abilities, amplified ten-fold."

"Why do you say "we", Murdoch? I thought you were locked up, busy having your genitals mutilated?" I asked. Murdoch glared at me. "They reinstated me as head of Spartan Affairs after Ferris died, and I was head of creating this clone of you. Now let me finish."

"The Clone was…is…perfect. As I said, he has all your abilities, enhanced by genetic manipulation. He is far better looking than you could ever hope to be. He is also proficient in thousands of Martial Arts, with knowledge taken from the finest masters in the world. We called this clone Scion. Scion's purpose in Adventus was the same as it would have been had you complied with our offer, that purpose being manipulating the world to our liking. Unlike you, however, we didn't give Scion a choice. Our goal was hardwired into his brain; it is a part of his being. We thought this would keep him from becoming like you. We were right…and wrong. Though he is evil, Scion had somehow managed to gain a personality, a sense of individuality. He rebelled against us, and killed all the Adventi at Headquarters, including the Overlord's."

"Except you, I notice," I growled. Murdoch smiled at me, the same smile that once haunted my dreams. It no longer scared me. "I was away at the time. That is all you need to know. My tale is finished."

I took a deep breath; this was a lot to take in. I had a clone? "Why are you telling me this?" I whispered. The smile vanished off Murdoch's face, replaced by a look of…what? Pity? Sadness?…Regret? "I tell you this because Scion will seek to further our Adventus goals. And whether he means to or not, he will destroy the world in the process. Only someone with the same abilities as his can only hope to stand a chance and stop him."

I nodded and walked over to Murdoch. "Thanks, Dean," I said before punching his face, knocking him out cold. Dad jumped up from his seat. "What was that for?" he yelled, more out of confusion than anything else. I merely shrugged. "Fun."

Later that night, Dean Murdoch gained a new residence at the Xavier City Police Department.

Ten

After school the next day, I hung out with my friends at Mac's Burger Joint. I had just finished explaining Scion to them. Their jaws touched the floor. "Be careful, guys," I concluded. "He may attempt to hurt me through you." "But how do you know he'll even go after you? Murdoch didn't mention that, did he?" I shook my head no, but said, "Nope, but it's easy to see why he would go after me. I'm an obstacle in his path to controlling the world. It's obvious why he would go after me." Leon and Jackson nodded in understanding. Briana just stared into space, deep in thought.

I nudged her. "What's up?" I asked, acting as if nothing was wrong. Briana sniffled. "I just got you back. I don't want to see you get hurt…I don't want to lose you again." I grabbed and held her in my arms. I kissed her head. As I cradled her in my arms, I said, "You will never lose me…I'll always be around."

December and January passed by uneventfully. There was no Scion attack, nor any Superhuman ones. Until Valentine's Day.

I was walking to Briana's after school. She was sick, damn her. I mean, who gets sick on Valentine's Day? It was snowing hard. I saw people struggling to walk forward, against the snow. The same direction I was walking in. I had no problem with that. As I passed by the abandoned tenement house that I had to pass in order to get to her house, heat vision grazed my nose, a bright red laser beam. It burned me. Ow.

I looked around for the source of the attack, but I didn't need to. "Kyle Wyatt," a cold, calm, calculating voice said from above me. I looked up and saw a man in his early twenties. He wore a black sleeveless shirt, black leather pants, and a black leather trench coat. In fact, is outfit was rather plain, save for a demonic-looking "A" belt buckle. His face was pale, his nose pointed, and his blonde hair was slicked back.

"Scion," I snarled. Inclining his head in acknowledgment, he flew towards me. I dodged him, grabbed him by the collar, and threw him into the street. Recovering, Scion ran to me and punched me hard enough to send me flying into the tenement. The abandoned house collapsed on me. I heard Scion walk towards the rubble, not seeming to be in any hurry. I assume he wanted to see if I was alive or not.

The rubble shook, and Spartan flew out of it. "Let's do this," I said confidently.

Eleven

Without pausing to plan out my attacks, I fired a webline at Scion, who caught it and yanked it, pilling me to him. I flipped in the air and kicked my aggressor in the neck, which caused Scion to release the line and gag. When he was done, he spoke in little more than a whisper. "You're better than my preliminary observations indicated." My confusion must have been evident, because he said, "It was I who set the three superhumans on your little football game. Do you really think they had the brains to work that out themselves? I needed to lure you out of hiding, to see what you could do."

"You could have just asked," I said, throwing a right hook at his head. "But where's the fun in that?" Scion asked, blocking my punch and throwing one of his own. "Good point," I said, blocking his punch and head butting him, drawing blood from his nose and sending him flying back about ten feet. He wiped the blood off with a finger and licked it, all while smiling evilly. "I am glad my first, and last, assignment for Adventus was to kill all the other superhumans. You see, the fools who headed the organization didn't want anyone who had power to live, as they could become a threat to them. But I am glad that was my first mission. It would be a shame to share such a worthy opponent." "Thanks for the compliment," I snarled. I flew at my clone at full speed, grabbed him, flew high into the air, and then threw him into the surface.

Scion caught himself mid-fall and blasted me with heat vision, sending me flying into a nearby office building. I landed in a cubicle near the hole I'd made, smashing it. "Sorry," I said to the worker. After shaking off the pain, I yelled to the workers, "Get out of here!" I knew Scion would come after me, so I had to evacuate everyone. My scream accounted for that floor. But what about the others…I looked around, realizing the impact of the fall had knocked my glasses off. Finally, I found what I was looking for: a fire alarm. I fired a webline and attached it to the handle. I yanked down, causing the alarm to ring. I listened for the screams of scared people, and, hearing them, I smirked. But when I heard the light patter of feet on the same floor as I, I stopped.

I leaped to my feet, and Scion saw me. We flew at each other, but I had a slight head start, so we both flew out the hole that I came from. We stared into each others eyes with pure hatred, and it was here I saw that his irises were red, where the white parts of his eyes were black. Scion took advantage of my wonder at this and threw me towards the ground, as I had done to him before. But before I had a chance to recover, he landed on my stomach and rode me like a surfboard down to Earth!

When we landed, I cried out in pain, which involuntarily led me to launching full powered heat vision at Scion. It flung him into the air, but he caught himself. Despite smoking, he was physically unharmed. Scion regarded my broken body in the air, his eyes showing nothing but hate. "You have fought well, today. But know this: I leave you here, alive, with the knowledge that I could have killed you. When we next meet, I will kill you." And on that somber note, he flew away.

Lying in my humble crater, the crowd who had watched the fight from their buildings filed down into the street, all asking if I was okay. I slowly got up, my body objecting. "I'm fine, thanks," I lied to the crowd, before flying up to the building and to retrieve my shades. When I landed up there, I fired a web and brought them to me and put them on. Afterwards, I pulled out my cell phone and called Jackson and Leon. "My place. Now."

Twelve

I sat in my room, shirtless, my chiseled torso bruised. My father looked at worriedly. Leon and Jackson bickered about the fight. "What I want to know is," I interrupted, "why the hell my Battle Sense didn't go off at all during the fight." Dad looked at me sternly. "You get cocky at all during the fight, Kyle?" he asked. "No. I was one-hundred percent focused on saving my ass."

"Perhaps," Jackson piped in, "Scion's version of the Battle Sense cancels yours out, and vice versa. Somehow." We all turned to Dad, who shrugged and said it was a possibility. I turned to Leon and Jackson and asked, "Guys, can you not tell Briana about this? I don't want her to worry."

"That'll be a problem, dude," Jackson said, flipping on the news. The screen displayed what it could of the fight, which wasn't a lot, but it was enough. The footage began with me making the crater and ended with me flying out of my crater. I sighed and flopped down on my bed, hoping Briana saw nothing.

"I saw the whole thing, Kyle," Briana said reproachfully that night. "Kinda hard not to when the footage is on every channel." "I'm fine," I said as my back cracked. "Seriously."

After assuring her I was fine, I went to the City Jail to see Murdoch. Cap arranged it for me. As I was dressed as Spartan, other inmates glared at me angrily. This makes sense, seeing as I put them there. "You look good in orange, Dean," I mocked when he was brought out. He flipped me the bird. "What do you want, kid?"

Sighing in defeat, I said, " I need to know how to defeat Scion. You definitely saw the fight on T.V., I got my ass handed to me. I'm desperate. How do I defeat him?" Murdoch stared me in the eyes and said calmly, "Kill him." I didn't know what to say to this. I have a strict code against killing, but with someone like this…

As if reading my mind, Murdoch said. "Kyle, listen, it's the only way. You must kill Scion, though that may be difficult, seeing as he's invincible. Oh, and you need to abandon your father, girlfriend, and friends. You need to let them go." I moved back, as if shoved. He'd added that last part as an afterthought, but it hit me like one of Scion's punches. "He'll use them against you, to hurt you," he said, again almost sounding remorseful. He looked the part, too. "I…I can't do that," I said, getting up and leaving.

"Are they that important to you?" he called after my retreating back. I stopped and turned to face him. "…Yes," I said.

Thirteen

February changed to April, and Scion had yet to reappear. And, despite my best efforts, Sara Shinlye had yet to be found. Seriously, I was doing my best to find her. I wasted an entire weekend looking for her, and for nothing.

Cap walked into his office, and I descended on a web yo-yo, dressed as Spartan. "No luck on the Shinlye case yet, Cap," I said. "Unfortunate," Cap said, without looking at me. "But that isn't why I called you here today." Curious, I let go of the line and landed on my feet. "What's wrong?" I asked, sensing his apprehension. He looked at me for the first time, and I saw how tired he looked.

"Well, all basic materials to make up to three high powered explosives have been stolen from the cities weapon lab. Together, three explosives could at most level the city, and at least cause a massive earthquake. I considered his words. "I'll do what I can," I said, leaving his office and flying away.

After school the following Tuesday, me, Leon, Jackson, and Briana were walking around the track, wasting time. We were talking about what we were gonna do after graduation, which was fast approaching. I was accepted into Rockbrook University; Leon said he was going to Stoneland; Jackson was going to Kaenston University, for their VFX Department; and lastly, Briana was going to Scranford. I stopped short, realizing I was going to lose my best friends to the sands of time.

"What's up?" Briana said, noticing the red glow my eyes were taking on. Leon and Jackson, who had gone ahead, turned back. "What's up?" Leon asked. I shook my head, symbolizing nothing. Jackson stared at me knowingly, however, and I realized he saw my eyes glowing. Then he punched my arm. "Stop lying," he said. I grabbed him in a headlock, and yelled triumphantly, "NEVAH!"

I finally released Jackson, and we left for my house soon after. Leon and Briana laughed at Jackson's impression of Rat in my room, as I sat, thinking, and the buzzing that was my Battle Sense went off.

The ground shook, and the house rumble. I heard explosions and screams of various people, followed by Leon's. My bookcase had fallen on his leg. I heard it break. His leg, I mean. "Stay with him," I said, and before my friends could object, I was gone. Thank god my Dad was at work…

Fourteen

I hovered above my lookout post, observing the damage. It wasn't pretty. Once strong and fortified buildings began to crumble; fire was not rare, etc. Breathing deeply, I went down to do what could do to help.

A boulder-like object fell off a bank, and was headed for two, twin three-year old girls. I launched a web net at the rock, caught it, froze it with freeze breath, and then melted it with heat vision, all but atomizing the damned thing.

A crowd tried to bustle out of the city, but it was…too crowded. Over the screams and cries of the people, they couldn't hear shattering glass falling towards them. I sent a web tarp, capable of resisting my own heat vision. The glass shattered harmlessly over their heads.

I flew into a burning building, and emerged carrying five unconscious bodies. Fling at breakneck speed, I dropped them off at Xavier Medical Center and then returned to the building. I huffed, and I puffed, and I blew the god forsaken flames out.

My hearing picked up another explosion in the financial district. Almost immediately after, I heard a gunshot, followed by Briana's scream. Unsure of what to do, I hovered for a split-second and thought. Finally, I flew to the financial district. Arriving there, I saw a repeat of the devastation I just left. I raced to stop a large brick wall from falling on a pregnant woman, silently praying that I could stop this in time.

After saving the F.D., I raced to my house and flew into my room via the window. I removed my face disguise. What I saw shocked me. Sara Shinlye had a gun, pointed at Leon, who lay in a pool of his own blood, which dripped from a hole in his chest. Briana was pale, his eyes watering. Jackson looked a combination of sad and defiant.

Growling, I lunged at Sara and brought her to the hard surface of my wall. I began to beat her, punching her everywhere, ANYWHERE. Her nose broke; her body became bruised, and her blood flowed easily. "Kyle, stop!" Jackson yelled, sounding fearful. I knew why, he'd seen me like this once before, after I found a lifeless Briana…

I shot a look at him and Briana, eyes glowing. Briana, having never seen me like this before, looked terrified. "Please…" she whispered. Looking from her to Sara, I threw Sara onto the ground and pinned her there. "You gonna kith me?" the whore mocked, as if this was a joke, as if her injuries were nothing. "What happened here?" I asked, my voice dangerously calm. I half-hoped for her not to answer, just to give me an excuse to hit her again. Unfortunately, she answered. Here's a paraphrased version:

After I broke her phone, Scion approached her. He told her that I would never love her, and gave her an idea for revenge: Kill Briana. So Scion stole the tech needed for the bombs, as a distraction so that I would not be there when Sara struck. So that I couldn't save her.

His plan succeeded, though not as he intended.

Shaking with anger, I punched Sara in the face, knocking her out cold. But that merely served to anger me further. Unconsciousness was bliss compared to what I wanted to do to her. I was only semi-calmed by Briana's hand on my shoulder. I turned to her, but she wouldn't meet my gaze. I guess she was afraid of what she'd see. "Leon somehow managed to leap in front of the bullet meant for me," Briana said quietly.

"And people call me a hero," I said sadly, before flying at breakneck speed out the window.

I flew incredibly fast, a speed matched only by one time, two years ago. I was waiting for my body to ache, my blood to spill, any symptom that I was going to rip a hole in the space-time continuum.

No sign ever came.

I tried this for what was hours, cursing the heavens for my attempts failing. I'd done it before, why couldn't I do it again?

Finally, though, I gave up. Mostly from exhaustion, but a small part of me knew that nothing could bring Leon back. Nothing.

I flew into my room and flew myself onto my bed, eyes shut.

But I didn't cry. I didn't cry…

Fifteen: Briana

My name is Briana Walker, and I have just lost one of my best friends.

Leon Richard Allain's funeral was held the following Thursday. Kyle, Jackson, and I all went, obviously, and presented eulogies. Kyle's was especially moving, as it made clear that Leon was a good person above all. I think it was too much for him, though, because as soon as he was done he ran out of the Church at top human speed, looking upset. He wasn't crying though. He didn't cry at all, for some reason. It scared me. Leon and I looked at each other worriedly. Ever since Leon's death, Kyle had become reclusive. I hoped he wasn't doing anything stupid.

After the ceremony, Jackson and I walked outside and observed Leon's casket being loaded into a pitch-black limo. I felt tears start to well up, and apparently Jackson noticed, as he patted my back gently. Suddenly, I felt a drop of water touch my head, which is odd, because the weather was cruelly beautiful today. I looked up, and on a rooftop directly over me was Kyle, dressed as Spartan save for his mask and sunglasses, kneeling over the edge. I smiled and waved at him a little, but he didn't seem to notice. He stood up on the roof, and I was able to see a single tear rolling down his face. Putting his mask and glasses on, Spartan turned around and swung away.

Sixteen

After the Limo carrying Leon's casket drove away, I swung around the city. I needed to get my mind off of losing my best friend. It wasn't easy. Therefore, I flew to Cap's office and swung through the window. Without looking up from his paperwork, he asked, "What can I do for you, Kyle?" "Tell me you have something for me to do. Anything," I pleaded desperately. Cap quickly skimmed through his files. "Nope," he said, crushing my hopes. "Not since you brought Sara Shinlye in, actually. Taking note of my sad/angry expression, Cap added, "What's wrong, Kyle?" I looked out into the sunset, turning my back on him. "You hear about Leon Allain?" I asked. "Of course," Cap said. "His death was all over the news. It was tragic," he replied sincerely. "He was my best friend," I said, sounding astonishingly indifferent. I turned to Cap, who looked startled. "I…I'm sorry, son. Is there anything I can do?"

I walked to the window, and simply said "No" before flying away.

Six weeks later, I sat on my bed, brooding about the fun I'd had with Leon, when the doorbell rang. I heard Briana and Jackson's voices, followed by my father's as he answered. "Kyle" he called.

I debated on whether or not to go downstairs. On the one hand, I had not seen my two friends since the funeral. On the other, I didn't know if they blamed Leon's death on me, like I did. "Dude, you shouldn't blame yourself," Leon's voice said from beside me. I turned my head sharply, and Leon's body faded in, like a ghost. He looked entirely corporeal, however. "How can I not blame myself, when it's my fault you're dead?" I asked, sounding as if it were perfectly normal to be talking to a dead man. "For fuck's sake, man!" Leon's specter shouted, "How many times do I have to tell you?!" He placed his hands slightly above my shoulders. "It. Wasn't. Your. Fault. And besides, how could I blame you, when I respected all you stood for?"

"What did I stand for?" I snorted. "Hope," Leon said seriously before rising off of my bed. "Think about it," he said. "Kids cheer whenever you fly past. Everyone, save for the bad guys, thinks you're a hero." I shook my head, smirking slightly. "My God…you're…you're so annoying," I said. Smiling, Leon nodded. "Yeah." I looked at Leon. "I'm gonna miss you, y'know." Still smiling, Leon said, "Nah, not as much as you'd think, not with Briana and Jackson. Take care of them on my behalf, would you?"

Before I could answer, Leon turned to walk away, but stopped short. "On the subject of Briana, I strongly advise doing that thing you'd meant to do. Otherwise, you'll lose her forever. Good luck." And with a wink, Leon turned and walked to my door, and as he reached it her faded away. "Thank you," I whispered, before going downstairs.

Seventeen

The rest of the year went by pretty quickly. After my conversation with "Leon", I felt as if the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I hung out with Jackson and Briana regularly again, and before we knew it, it was time for us to graduate.

In the auditorium on the day of Graduation, I sat next to Briana, as we were, conveniently enough, the only two "W's" in the graduating class, which consisted of only seventy three. The ceremony went on forever; first, the entire school board made speeches, wishing us luck. Then the Principal made a speech, stating the same exact thing as the rest of the people. After an hour or so of this, there was a memorial to Leon, citing his academic achievements and good nature. I displayed no outward sign of emotion, save for a tightening of the jaw and a clenching of the fists. Taking notice, Briana comforted me by patting my back.

Finally, the diplomas were handed out. Briana and I cheered especially hard when Jackson's name was called. He made an elaborate bow before theatrically accepting his diploma, causing the entire auditorium to laugh hysterically.

When my name was at last called, another, colder voice said, "Good day," from above. The whole auditorium collectively looked up and saw Scion floating, his red eyes glowing.

Murmurs about Spartan and Scion broke out across the room. "Silence," Scion screamed icily. The crowd shut up and listened. "Your so-called hero, Spartan, is present amongst you today. If he values your lives, he will meet me at the football field in fifteen minutes, where this all began."

On that note, Scion blasted the stage and aisles with heat vision, setting them both aflame. Everyone, save for my father, Briana, Jackson, and me, quickly evacuated. Good for me, I thought as I blew the flames out, with only my confidantes watching. When I was done, I ripped off my graduation gown, under which was my Spartan uniform. Everyone around me gasped. "You carry that with you where ever you go, don't you?" Jackson asked.

Ignoring Jackson, I told my father and friends, "I have to go and finish this. If I don't, this whole planet's doomed. Jackson and Dad nodded, understanding. But Briana was another story. "You could die," Briana said worriedly. "There's a good chance," I said truthfully. I noticed Briana about to cry. "But, in case I do make it out of here…" I bent on me knee and produced a diamond ring, "Briana Walker, will you marry me?"

Dad blinked. Jackson's jaw dropped. Briana looked shocked, yet pleased at the same time. She said nothing, but merely nodded and smiled as I put the ring on her finger. I got up, and kissed warmly, embracing every last second together. When we separated, I whispered to her, "I'll never leave you." With that, I put my mask and shades on, and flew out through the roof.

I dashed out onto the field, where Scion hovered expectantly. I stopped, and mimicked his appearance. As I did so, a flicker of a smile flashed across his face. "I knew you'd come," he said. "It's why I didn't tell the room who you were. I tip my metaphorical hat to you." Scion nodded curtly. I crossed my arms. "Because of you, my best fried is now six feet under. I couldn't let that pass," I remarked coldly. Scion narrowed his eyes. "Leon Allain is a mere pawn in this game. One I used against you. The same as I used Sara Shinlye."

"That's all people are to you? Mere pawns?" I asked incredulously. This guy was a sociopath, at best. "Of course," was the villains reply. "When measured against us, Gods on Earth, that's all they are. Think of what we could do together. We could rule this world, as kings!" Scion's eyes shone manically. "I've taken the Adventus plan to the next level. Only fools want to manipulate the world. Real men want to rule it!"

"Um, yeah, about that?" I said. "Yeah, that's not going to work for me. Scion's expression changed from one of manic hunger to pure anger and hatred. "So that's the way it is, eh?" he asked. I nodded. "Yeah, that's exactly the way it is."

With that, the two of us flew at each other at top speed.

Yin against Yang.

Light against Dark.

Good against Evil.

Eighteen

The two of us, Scion and I, collided in mid-air, causing a massive shockwave that shook the trees around us. We grappled in mid-air, neither gaining an advantage. If I punched Scion in the face, he'd punch me back, in the exact same spot as I'd hit him. It was a never-ending cycle of violence.

But a never-ending cycle of violence that I'd stop.

I faked a punch to his stomach with my left hand, and with my right I clocked him in the jaw, sending him flying to the ground with a surprised look on his face. He landed with a loud thud. Without wasting a second, I raced to the ground to continue the fight, but Scion was ahead of me in that regard. He'd recovered from his fall to Earth and was prepared for my next assault, so when I flew to him he grabbed me by the neck and threw me towards the lamp post. I looked at where I was intended to be thrown, grabbed onto the pole and swung around towards Scion, kicking him in to the head, sending him flying to the opposite end of the field.

I allowed him to get up, a momentary courtesy. When he did, we just stared at each other for a long moment, like one of those old Western's where the two enemy cowboys stare at each other before drawing their handguns. Scion made the first move. He ran towards me, and before I could react he'd tackled me to the ground and started punching my face repeatedly, as he'd done in our last engagement. I felt my glasses break. Scion kindly ripped them off, threw them to the side, and then began to punch me again. Or, rather, he would have, had he not been blown off of me by my super- breath. He flew up thirteen feet into the air, and was brought down by a webline courtesy of me. All the while, I continued blowing, concentrating on making the air as cold as I could. When I stopped, Scion had become an ice sculpture. I breathed a sigh of relief, not bothering to think about how relatively easy the fight was.

I started to fly away, but out of my peripherals I saw Scion's ice block glowing. A moment later, the ice shattered, and Scion emerged, enraged. He let out an inhuman roar and blasted full powered heat vision at me. I countered with my own. The four respective beams pushed against each other, neither giving in. After minutes of this, both beams seemed to negate each other, and recessed into our eyes, causing them to sting, at least on my half. I assume the same happened to Scion, as my disorientation was not taken advantage of.

We both shook off the nasty aftereffects of that unpleasant attack at the same time. This time, the two of us ran at each other at the same time, and began engaging each other in hand-to-hand combat. Our fighting styles couldn't have been more different; Scion's was fluid, graceful, and demonstrated the skills of a Martial Arts master, whereas mine was more of a street fighting style; quick, rough, and unpredictable. I dodged one of his shots to my head and elbowed him in the face as a counter. From that, I twisted and backhanded him. However, my attacks didn't seem to faze him, though his face was reddening. Scion kicked, I knocked it down; I punched, he caught it with one hand and punched my chest with the other. I doubled over, and before I could recover my breath, Scion calmly walked over to me and kneed me in the head.

I ignored the pain and blasted Scion with heat vision, full force. Scion got sent to the center of the field, and I leaped onto him faster than the Titanic sank. I punched him in the face repeatedly, causing him to bleed. Just returning the favor, you understand. This time, his blood flowed. After the twentieth or so punch, Scion decided he'd had enough. He fired two dense weblines at the bleachers with opposite hands, i.e. He fired a webline at the left bleacher with his right hand, and vice-versa. With a yank, he pulled the two metal creations causing them to fly towards me. I back flipped off of him, far enough to see the bleachers crash into him.

As the dust cleared, Scion was no where to be found, but that wouldn't fool me. Not this time. I kept my ears open, and heard the slight rumble that told me the Earth was moving. I looked and saw a slight sure in the earth. Before I knew, Scion flew out and grabbed me tightly, hindering my breathing. I was flown high into the air, but soon after I regained enough breath to knee Scion in the crotch, from which he only gasped slightly. "Nice try," he murmured. "Heh," I smirked, "I succeeded, fool." With that, I broke free of the psycho's grasp and sped away, hoping to get away long enough to recover some of my strength. I looked back, and saw Scion chasing me eagerly, a hungry look in his eyes. We zipped in and out of the alleys in between buildings rapidly. This was meant to try and dizzy him, but it failed. A plan quickly formulated in my head, and I raced headlong for a building. Scion continued to follow me. At the last second, as I was about to collide with the wall, I flew upward, while Scion crashed into the building itself.

I flew down and looked in through the hole Scion had made. Employees of the building fled from the room in dread when Scion emerged, growling, from the rubble his damnable body had caused. I fired a webline at his coat, which stuck, and threw him down onto the street below us.

Before he could fly away, I flew towards him and grabbed him, leading him down. We looked each other in the eyes. "I hate you," Scion sneered. With that, he flipped me around and threw me to the ground, all while hovering mid-air. Before I could try to control my landing via flight, he pushed me even harder to the ground with his heat vision. I landed hard, though I had mentally prepared myself for the pain. It still hurt, though. I got up, ripped my mask off, spit out blood, then put the mask back on. A crowd had formed around me, as if this were a baseball game. "Go! Get outta here!" I yelled, but it was futile. The crowd was here to stay. Scion landed before me a minute later, two children under each of his armpits. The crowd gasped in horror.

With but a merciless grin, he threw the two children like baseballs, one north, the other south. They both flew the air incredibly fast. I looked from North to South, not sure where to go. Sighing deeply, I flew north, so fast that I caused a sonic boom. I caught the first child, a twelve-year old boy, fired a web net, and threw him onto it. "Thanks!" he called. I saluted smartly at him, and then flew towards the other. I caused another sonic boom, and but a second later caught the other child, a six-year old boy. I fired another web net and threw him onto it. He grinned at me, his front two teeth missing. Beneath my mask, I smiled.

I flew back to where Scion was, only to find him holding a bus, which he threw at me. I caught it, all to easily. Wondering why Scion had given me such an easy challenge, I set the bus down.

That's when I realized his challenge wasn't so easy; he was aiming heat vision at the fuel tanks! I leapt in front of his rays, absorbing the rays, saving the bus at the cost of my own energy. That's when I realized why Scion was doing this; to tire me. Sadly, it was working. I was feeling more drained than ever before. I leaned against the bus for support, my body aching. Scion flew and landed next to me. He too leaned against the bus, but he did so mockingly. "Why do you fight, Kyle?" he asked, sounding generally curious. "Love? Peace? Hope? Whatever it is, it's futile. Surely you realize you can't beat me, certainly not in this tired, pathetic state you're in?" I nodded resignedly. He was right…as much as it pained me to admit, Scion couldn't be beaten. He smiled coldly. "Good boy. At least you now realize I'm better than you. A fact that your Father, your Girlfriend, and your best friend will soon come to realize as well. Oh, I'm going to have fun with them." He was practically shaking at this point. "Oh yes, much fun, especially with your girl, old what's her name? Oh, it doesn't matter," he concluded. Then he laughed. It was cold, mirthless, and evil.

It was the worst sound I'd ever heard, and it angered me to my core. But with this anger came a newfound energy, one which enabled me to realize a plan to defeat Scion, a plan so simple and so obvious: If I could make Scion cocky, his invincibility would be overloaded, and he could be beaten. And, as much as I despise it, killed.

It was the only way to stop him, I realized. I couldn't send him to an Arkham Asylum, or put him in a Kryptonite containment cell. He'd escape. He was too dangerous to be kept alive. And as much as I hated it, I knew I had to do it.

I hung my head low, eyes shut, hoping I looked defeated. Scion grabbed me by my collar and flew me up high into the sky, all while whispering, "It'll all be over soon." I felt the heat of the sun on my back, and I realized we were close to outer space. I didn't know how close, so don't ask, but I know it was pretty damn close. Scion threw me to the ground again, but this time it was harder than before, and from so high up, it would have killed me, had I not been subtly using my flight to slow my fall. When I landed, I hit the ground gently, but discreetly punched the ground hard so it would make a sound similar to that of my body making impact. The crowd around me didn't see it, so they whispered to each other in dread, "Spartan's dead!"

I listened, and I heard Scion's laughter, laced with thoughts of victory. I waited for him to land, and when he did, I waited for him to walk over to me. I waited for the right moment…

"Here is your beloved Spartan!" he bellowed to the crowd that surrounded me, putting his boot on my chest. "DEAD!"

"Not yet," I snarled, snapping my eyes open. Scion's head jerked from the crowd to me, his eyes widened in horror. "No..." he whispered. I lifted his boot off me hard, causing him to stagger back. He tried to fly away, but flight wouldn't come. Apparently that too was connected to cockiness. I wouldn't know. "Wha…?" he wondered out loud. "How?" He looked at me wondrously. "What, your Adventus creators never told you of our one weakness?" "Weakness?" Scion asked incredulously. "Guess not," I said. "Well then, I won't either." With that I lunged for him. "You may be faster than me," I said, breaking his jaw; "You may be stronger than me," I continued, punching his gut, causing him to vomit; "Hell, you may even be better looking than me, but I very much doubt that," I said, head-butting him to ground "But you're not better than me," I concluded, grabbing him and breaking his back. I stood over my enemy's broken body, and leaned down and whispered in his ear, "You know why? It's because I have things to fight for: my friends, my family. And tomorrow."

Scion wheezed, and I knew the time had come. I ripped open the shirt on his chest and burned the 'S' symbol onto it, causing him to scream in agony. When I was done, I grabbed him and flew slowly toward where he had just thrown me, giving Scion time to appreciate his pain. Summoning all the strength I possessed, I spun around, faster and faster, until I'd gained enough momentum. When I did, I let go and threw Scion in the direction of the sun. He flew there uncontrollably, screaming for what seemed like an eternity. After eternity, the screaming stopped.

I hovered there a moment, before I began laughing in relief. The laughing stopped when my world became black, and I began to fall gracefully towards the Earth.

I never felt myself land.

Nineteen

I awoke in my bed, my whole body numb. I looked around my room, my neck cracking in response. My whole world was blurry. Confused, I sat up. I was still in my Spartan outfit, except my mask was off. I looked at my mirrored closet door, and could only make out a fuzzy outline of myself. Squinting, I saw my face was still bruised and scratched. A little surprised, I looked at my clock's date. It was July. Specifically, a week after my battle with Scion took place. Closing my eyes and shaking my head, I hoped to clear my world. It didn't. It was still as blurry as before. Confused, I got up slowly and walked downstairs, taking note of a hole in my ceiling that leaked in a beam of sunlight.

I walked down the stairs to find what looked like an outline of my father reading the day's newspaper. "Dad?" I whispered hoarsely? Dad looked up hopefully, and practically leaped out of his chair when he saw it was me. "Kyle!" he cried exuberantly. He embraced me tightly. "Ow," I said, wincing, wondering why this pain was here. Dad looked at me, a look of worry and apprehension on his face. "…Sorry," he finally said. Still wincing, I took a seat on the couch.

"Are you alright, son?" Dad asked tentatively. I started to nod, but then I shook my head no. "What's wrong, then?" Dad asked. I closed me eyes. "Well, my body hurts like hell, my good looks gone, and I can't see five feet in front of me." Dad's face darkened, that much I could see. "What's wrong?" I asked. "Okay, good, you're sitting. I'm afraid this news may come as a bit of a shock to you…"

What my father told me saddened me greatly.

Two weeks later, when I was fully healed, Dad was driving me to Briana's, where she and Jackson were waiting for me. I was wearing a classic Superman shirt, blue jeans, and a blue jeans jacket. Apparently, they'd visited me every day when I was unconscious, just to make sure I was still alive. A sudden thought hit me. "Hey Dad?" I asked. "Can we stop by the cemetery for a minute?" He looked at me, then nodded his head slowly.

At the cemetery, I walked over to my mother's tombstone. "Hey, Ma," I said as I approached. "A lot's happened since I've last been here."

And so I related my entire tale to her, and when I was done, I walked over to Leon's, all the way on the other side of the cemetery. There, I related my tale to him to. "And it was all for you," I said, tearing up. "For you…and your memory." Wiping my eyes and standing up, I said, "See you around, man," and walked away.

An hour later, I rung Briana's doorbell. It took her a minute for her and Jackson to open the door. When she did, she practically leaped into my arms, peckering me with kisses. When she was done, I said, "I take it we're still engaged, then?" She nodded excitedly. I smiled. "Good." After that, Jackson embraced me, something that shocked me. He wasn't one to show much signs of outward emotion. "Okay Jackie Boy, don't go all Brokeback on me now." He laughed and let go. Briana led me inside, into her room, and sat me down next to her. "So…tell us, what happened after the fight that put you in a coma for a week?"

I sighed. I told them, how after throwing Scion into deep space, I'd fallen unconscious and fallen towards Earth, but I subconsciously flew myself into my house, landing on my bedroom's floor and causing a giant hole in the roof. Their eyes were wide. "Wow," Jackson said. "Wow," Briana said. "Wow indeed," I agreed. "But that's not the half of it." I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out my glasses. Not my shades, mind, but my actual glasses, and put them on. I took a deep breath and said seriously, "My powers are…gone."

Briana and Jackson gaped at me. "…WHAT!?" Jackson yelled. Briana stared at me, looking as if she were in another world. I nodded solemnly. "Yeah, it seems that the fight with Scion burned out all my powers. The flight I used to get back to my room was my last ounce of superhuman in me. I'm…human, again."

The room was quiet as a tomb for a while, before Jackson asked, "Aren't you sad?" "A little bit," I said. "But not being Spartan gives me more time to spend with Briana. That is," I continued, looking at her now, "If she'll still have me, even though Spartan's gone." She squinted her eyes at me. "Are you insane?" she yelled. I looked at her in fear. Oh no, I thought. "Of course I'll still be with you," she finished. "I fell in love with the man behind the mask. And besides, as we made clear earlier this year, Spartan is you, and you're him." She got up and sat on my lap. I smiled down at her.

"You're right," I said. My smile dimmed a little. "My only regret is that I can't help people anymore. Like you said, that's a part of me. Even though Dad said there's a five percent chance of me getting my powers back, I'm not holding out hope." Jackson slapped me across the head. "You idiot! You can still help people, just in different ways. You could become a cop, or a private detective, or a shrink. There are plenty of ways to help people without being a superhero." Briana nodded in agreement. "You can still be a regular hero, Kyle."

I considered their words and nodded. "Yeah…you're right." I kissed Briana deeply, feeling incredibly content. If this was how the rest of my life would be…it wouldn't be so bad.

Twenty

Fifteen years later…

On Thanksgiving Day, I woke up at around 11:00. It had been a particularly busy week, and I was looking forward to spending the day with my family and friends. I yawned and went for the shower.

When I was done a half-hour later, I went downstairs to the living room/kitchen combo, where Briana was making the turkey. I grabbed her from behind, and she leaped thirty feet in the air, her wedding band glinting in the light. She turned to me, trying to fight the smirk on her face. "Don't do that!" she giggled, slapping my arm. "Can't resist, hon," I said, kissing her. "Ew!" a little voice behind us squeaked. We turned and saw our three year old son, Thomas, pointing at us with a disgusted expression on his face. He was still wearing his Superman pajamas. He was my son in every way; he had red hair, pale skin, and my incredibly badass steel-blue eyes. I turned to Briana. "He's not ready yet?" I asked her. "Dad'll be by in an hour, at most." She looked over my shoulder at our son, smirking. "He's stubborn," she said. "Just like his father!" She squeezed my sides, and I laughed. I hugged her. "I love you, you know." "And I love you."

An hour later, as if on cue, Dad arrived. Briana, Thomas, and I greeted him. His once dark hair had faded to gray, but he was still the man who'd raised me. "Grandpa!" Thomas yelled loudly. "Hey buddy!" Dad said enthusiastically. After spinning him around, Dad asked, "Where's Elizabeth?" Dad asked, referring to our five month old daughter. "In her crib," I said. "She's been napping constantly," Briana added in. As if on cue, Thomas raced for her room. Dad looked at me slyly. "Kyle was the same way. I remember one time…"

"Oh look, Jackson's here!" I interrupted loudly. I opened the door and greeted my best friend. Briana hugged him, and Dad shook his hand. "So," I said, "how's the writer of the best Spidey run since Lee?" Jackson stroked his beard. "Same as ever," he said. "You won't believe how many babes I get writing. This one time…" Briana slapped him before he could finish and shot him a look. "Ah….that's a story for nights at the bar, eh buddy?" Jackson said, nudging my ribs. It took all of my being to resist laughing, or else I would face the wrath of the wife.

"So, this everyone?" Dad asked. "No," I said "The Commissioner's coming." Despite all that had happened, Sarge/Cap/Commish and I still managed to remain good friends. Amazing, isn't it? As if on cue, the doorbell rang. I answered, and Commissioner Gary Russel came in. He'd gone gray around the temples, and he'd grown a beard. "Good to see you, Kyle," he said, shaking my hand. "Sorry about this week, I don't know why things are so hectic." I shook my head. "No worries. I'm working on finding out why things are the way they are right now, but so far no luck."

Commish nodded. "Now, where's Thomas? He's been around for three years and I only met him when he was first born. I'm insulted," he joked. I laughed. "He's with his sister, who you also have to meet. But a word of advice when you're around him: don't call him Thomas, he hates that name. And you know what happens when he gets angry."

"I don't see why he should hate his name," Dad said. "It's a strong, powerful name, worthy of the people's recognition." I turned to Dad, perplexed. "Um…a) He's only three, and b) You're just saying that because it's your name." Dad flushed. "Pwned," Jackson muttered. We all looked at him. "Um…I'm gonna go find my godson," Jackson said, heading towards the nursery. A minute later, he called for me. "Um….Kyle…Bree…you might wanna come in here. Looking at each other nervously, we walked to the nursery, where we saw Thomas lifting up his sister's crib with one hand as Elizabeth watched from her carrier. Briana and I looked at each other again, breathing a sigh of relief. "Oh, that," Briana laughed. "Yeah, we've known about that for a month." Jackson looked from Briana to me, shocked. "And you didn't TELL me?" he yelled. "Didn't think it needed to be said," I said, smirking. "He is, after all, my son. And what good looking boy he is," I added, grabbing him and tickling him. "No!" he giggled. "Stop! Mommy! HELP!"

I looked up at Briana and smiled warmly. She smiled back. She still had that same smile I fell in love with, all those years ago.

At 4:00, we were about to sit down for dinner before Commish's watch-phone rang. "Excuse me," he said. "Please, start without me, I insist." "You can use the nursery," I called after his retreating back. He raised a hand in acknowledgement. Elizabeth slept in her carrier next to Briana, who was trying to get Thomas to eat his greens. "NO!" he said, pouting fiercely. Briana looked stern. "Thomas Leon Wyatt, you eat your broccoli, or Daddy won't get you that Xbox 1024." I looked at her, startled. She mouthed, "I'm sorry," before continuing in her attempts to get Thomas to eat. I shook my head in wonder.

A minute later, Commish came back, looking worried. He went past the dinner table and went straight for the living room. We all looked at him, concerned. He put the T.V. on and switched to channel 5, where we saw the fifth Thanksgiving Day parade that day being attacked by a sixty-foot robot. The Army had called in helicopters and fighter jets, but they didn't even make a dent in the machine.

I looked from the screen to the dinner table to Commish, who looked at me with sad eyes. After a long minute, I closed my eyes and sighed.

"I can't ask you to do this, Kyle. Not today." I smirked and opened my eyes, which had fierceness to them. "You kidding? I'll be in and out of there in a half-hour. Less, if the army gets out of the way. Watch me on T.V."

I moved for the door, but Briana stopped me by touching my arm. "I'm sorry," I said to her. "But I have to go." She smiled and said, "Oh I know that. Just promise me you'll be careful." I turned form the door and looked at her directly in the eyes. "I always am," I said confidently. We kissed, and she said, "I'll hold you to it." She started the timer on her watch. "Half-hour." With that, I ran out my door and sped away, listening to the conversation at home. "You know, Briana," Jackson said thoughtfully, "any other woman would have given up on him by now. "Yeah," she said softly, "but I'm not any other woman."

I sped behind my house, ripping open my suit to reveal an embossed red-on-black Superman 'S'. A second later, I, Spartan, flew out from the backyard, a streak of black and red.

I charged into battle, as I have done so many times before. And as I will for the rest of my life. It's my destiny, you see; to fight the never-ending fight, not just for the sake of the world, but for Elizabeth; for Thomas; for Commish; For Jackson; For Dad; For Briana; For Leon…

And For Tomorrow.

The End is the Beginning.