Notes: Please read Weird Texas and Weird Texas: Vacation for this to make any sense!
Okay okay, I already know full well that Hellboy was 'lost at sea' in his own timeline when Katrina hit... This is AU, all your canon are belong to us. I suppose it could fit in the movie timeline, but the Hellboy I write is a little more introspective than movie version. This Hellboy floats somewhere between the two. So remember that every time I do this, it is with the mind relaxed and attentive to that fact.
Rating: Uh, T and/or PG-13? There will probably be language and mature themes... As is my way.
Disclaimer: I am poor. All you will get from suing me is some debts and my bad attitude... No copyright infringement intended. Characters you recognize are either property of Mike Mignola or World Wrestling Entertainment.
NOTE: In the previous chapter, Hellboy's trippy memory from 1965 is taken from the Hellboy/Goon crossover published by Darkhorse Comics. It is friggin' hilarious, and you should READ IT NOW. Also thanks to my dedicated readers for poking/guilting me into getting my ass in gear on this. You are few, but you are treasured, I assure you.
The column of light they walked in didn't diminish at all. And when they reached the closest tower and began to climb it, the whole thing lit up like Christmas. Hellboy's communication devices all crackled to life. The Bureau, Army, and all the usual suspects were trying to get a hold of him. He radioed back every time and told them all to leave him the hell alone for a bit.
"It's a wonder you get anything done at all, Red." Mark said, climbing the ladder as naturally as he had walked on water.
Once they were high enough, Mark got himself steady and stable and took a long slow breath. Hellboy did the same, but kept his left hand grazing the butt of the Samaritan. "This isn't gonna hurt me at all is it?" Hellboy asked.
"It's never hurt me... Well, not directly anyway."
"Very reassuring, Mark." Hellboy said. "Mind if I smoke?"
"Go ahead, but those things will kill ya." Mark said. He was already gazing off into the distance. For effect he licked his finger and checked the wind direction.
"Some days I wish my death will be that mundane." Hellboy replied. "Not that I have a death wish of course. I'll be happy enough to go on like this. I like to think it helps people."
"Probably more than you'll ever know." Mark said. He took one last look around himself. "Okay, here goes." He raised a hand, which became a beacon so bright that Hellboy had to squint his eyes. He was positioned below Mark, but could still see his face, which was as open and compassionate as it had been with every individual soul prior. "Come on, folks. Time to let go. I can get you there." He said it so quietly that it was almost lost to Hellboy's ears.
Looking down he saw the bottom of the column start to widen out and points of soft light started to appear in the distance. The points of light got closer very fast, and Hellboy realized he was looking at ghosts numbering in the hundreds. "That's it, don't be scared. I can show you where to go." Mark reassured. The lights came past them and upward at different speeds. Some were more than ready to get out of there, and others moved slowly enough for Hellboy to make out individual features. Many seemed fully aware of him, and gave he and Mark a nod or wave on their way past them.
Hellboy was on to his second cigarette when one of them stopped to chat with him. "Hey there big fella." Said the transparent form of a wiry man. He was holding an equally transparent brown bottle and had a cut noose around his neck. "Not thinking a jumping there are ya?"
"Nope. I'm just watching out for my buddy up there. He's orchestrating this mass migration." Hellboy said. He tried to affect Mark's casual attitude with the dead.
"Ah, good thing... He's doing a good thing for us. Lot more lost people down there than drowned in the past few days." The ghost said.
"When did you die?" Hellboy asked.
"1931... This is the first I knew that I could go somewhere else."
"I hope it's a good place." Hellboy said, wondering about the noose.
"I hope so too. It would be a shame if it weren't as I was wrongfully convicted."
"Well then, I definitely hope it's a better place." Hellboy said. The ghost gave him a smile and then went in the direction of the others.
A helicopter circled the tower and Hellboy and the pilot used hand signals to work out a radio frequency to share. "Just go about your business. We're fine and there are no other survivors here. We're taking care of the ones who didn't make it... Go! Get outta here!" Hellboy bellowed into the radio. "You've got lives to save!" The pilot gave him a 10-4 and took off reluctantly. Most likely another it was yet another crew who had loved ones they hadn't heard from.
The lights started to thin out and they appeared now to be mostly spirits who'd either lingered in time, or died while attending a costume party if one judged by all the hoop skirts and waist coats. What looked to be an aging prostitute from the late 1700's gave him a wink and then a rude gesture as she went by. Hellboy grinned and took a drag from cigarette number three. He turned his attention to the distance now, looking for what Mark had described.
The last souls were just making it to them when Hellboy heard it. It was the deep rumble of a Brachiosaurus bellowing across a primeval swamp. "Hey Mark" Hellboy called.
"I hear it, Red... Just a few more..." Mark replied.
"Fine, but how capable are you of handling it?" Hellboy asked. He pulled out the Samaritan and wished for backup, knowing full well that anybody coming in as backup would probably just get killed. Mark didn't reply as he was completely focused on getting everyone to safety, beyond the clutches of whatever the hell it was that was bellowing from the depths.
The water around the base of the communications tower churned and peaked to whitecaps, which became steadily larger. Hellboy waited, but he sure as hell was getting antsy by the time the last ghost had passed him by and gone up and on to glory... Or wherever.
Mark then took a gasping breath and the pillar of light receded back towards his body from the ground up. Mark looked completely exhausted and wired at the same time. His pupils looked like Sailor Moon's... Definitely stoned. Damn.
Meanwhile, the bellowing stopped and the tower was starting to shake. "Mark, can you at least tell me where it's coming from?" Hellboy asked. Mark roused himself like a marionette, forcing tension back into his limbs. He rubbed his face in his hands and groaned.
"Okay... okay..." Mark murmured. He looked up and saw that at last everyone had moved on and smiled, and then looked down to Hellboy. "I am stoned off my ass... But I think I can handle it. They were talking to one another as they went. This, whatever it is that's coming, was dredged up from the ocean floor and feeds on souls. It's happened before and a wayward soul had to be careful to avoid it. If we can beat this thing and I can still send it's victims on, I may need your help to not go actually crazy. You gotta keep me in reality, ya know?" Mark asked. Hellboy furrowed his brow.
"You sound like you picked up a lot more in their conversation than you're letting on." He said.
"It's all pure conjecture, Red. No need to worry about what might not be true." Mark said.
"Should we bail from this location?" Hellboy asked.
"I don't think it's going to matter." Mark replied. "If we stay up here, we'll avoid getting wet a little longer." He offered.
"I'll take that." Hellboy said and peered down to the churning black water beneath them. They held tight when the tower started to shake more violently. "Come get us!" Hellboy challenged.
"Okay, I am okay. I am not actually seeing miniscule ponies dancing on my belt buckle." Mark muttered to himself. "And my hair is not actually talking to me."
"Mark!" Hellboy shouted. Mark snapped to attention. "I'll handle the monster if you can concentrate on setting those souls free, okay?" In Hellboy's peripheral vision, he saw a huge black tentacle rise out of the water, searching. Mark nodded at Hellboy blankly, as if he were trying to force himself to sober up.
Hellboy still had his doubts as he removed his side arm from its holster, and judged the distance he was about to willingly plunge. Another tentacle snaked up the struts of the tower. The rumbling started up again, and became distinct to their attuned ears. It was thousands of individual anguished sighs, all crying together for some kind of relief. "Mark, I'll take care of this, if you take care of them. Got it?" Hellboy repeated. Mark nodded hastily, holding his small spell book to his chest. "Please let that have gotten through to you." Hellboy said quietly and then jumped from the tower, gun firing off carefully aimed shots at the tentacle he was looking to land on.
When the first bullet hit, six more tentacles rose up out of the water and the rumbling sighs became horrified screams. The creature's voice and perhaps its very being were composed of the tortured souls it held captive.
Which probably meant that every bullet fired was causing all those souls pain. Hellboy tried not to think about that as he made contact with the creature, grabbed on, and blasted two more rounds into the next closest tentacle. And Hellboy discovered that while the suckers on the tentacles were good at holding things, they were much harder to hold on to.
He was falling through the air very quickly thereafter again, and started an up and down trip as he was flung, hot potato style from appendage to appendage. He fired the Samaritan again, emptying it, and miraculously reloading mid air. He was aiming as best he could to cause maximum damage.
What gave him hope though, was at the points where the creature was wounded, points of light were starting to escape its inky black skin. He was too disoriented to tell where the escaping lights were going specifically, but he hoped that Mark had pulled it together enough to get the job done.
Hellboy was tossed downward and finally caught sight of a beak, then a wave of fetid water, and then an eye. It was his shot, and he'd been careful enough about ammo this time to take it. He steadied his pistol in front of him in one instant, and had squeezed the trigger the next.
In the next moment, Hellboy saw a gaping hole where the creature's eye had been and the screaming was deafening. Then he hit water level and found that the tentacles were not nearly so soft to land on as he might have hoped. He found himself sliding towards a snapping beak. "Crap!" He shouted and raised his right hand. If this thing wanted to eat him, it was going to have to gum him to death. His stone fist met up with the razor sharp beak at just the right moment to pulverize it entirely.
The creature shuddered and the wound collapsed in on itself, making way for thousands of small points of light to escape. The screams became a collective gasp of realization, and they started clamouring for the exit Hellboy had created.
Hellboy wanted no part of that many ghosts and bailed from the creature and started swimming. The communications tower was still standing and he followed the flow of lights toward it, but well off to the side. Swimming had never been a favourite activity for him and he was already wondering what exotic bacteria he might be encountering against his abraded skin. He was exhausted and vaguely nauseated from getting tossed around, so he made for the far side of the tower to rest and watch the light show. The creature deflated and withered as the lights filled the surrounding area.
Looking up, he made out what he had to assume was Mark. He was encased in light again. Hellboy then remembered what Mark had said to him about trying to keep him sane. "Damn" He murmured and then swam towards the ladder to get back up to him.
The souls that floated past him on the way had no corporeal form. They were just points of light that might have wandered aimlessly had Mark not been there to direct them. The night was eerily calm again and Hellboy could hear Mark speaking softly in the language he'd learned from Paul, which Hellboy could still only grasp bits and pieces of despite his gift for language.
Hellboy climbed up and managed to sit beside Mark on an uncomfortable strut. The lights were moving up and away from them like dandelion seeds caught in an updraft. Hellboy knew that each one of them was leaving a piece of itself with Mark and a chunk of power with him as well. Hellboy wasn't the praying sort, and never had been, but this one time, he asked the universe for everything to turn out okay. He was too shell-shocked to do anything else.
Hellboy was able to catch glimpses of Mark. Not enough to assess his mental state, but enough to know he was there and corporeal. And when the last light floated by them, the light surrounding Mark floated off after it. Mark was trembling and pale. His eyes met Hellboy's for a moment before his lids fluttered and his body collapsed and fell from the tower.
"Fuck!" Hellboy shouted as he jumped after him, only to realize too late that Mark had puked as he'd fallen and it had more air resistance. "Son of a bitch." Hellboy grumbled and tried to ignore the smell of bile settling into his coat. He streamlined as much as possible and caught up to Mark's unconscious body. He grabbed on to Mark, held him on top of himself, and got situated for impact with his back to the water, expecting a nasty back flop.
He was right about the back flop. The water stung and he immediately started fighting to get them back to the surface, because unconscious Mark wouldn't know to hold his breath. Hellboy kicked himself and Mark in the direction his instinct told him was up. Luckily his instinct told him right and they broke the surface.
...To be continued!