August 2, 1977 11:40 p.m.
The nation sat in silent anticipation, in their living rooms, their workplaces, even in the streets, staring anxiously at their televisions or huddled by radios, waiting for Washington D.C. to make an announcement that would change the war against injustice forever.
Citizens of New York City were perhaps the most anxious of all. Time Square was filled that night with more people than it is during New Year's Eve, looking up at the screens waiting for Senator Keene to approach the empty podium to finally give the final verdict made by Congress for the already infamous Keene Act, banning vigilantism for good.
What first began as a rift in the relationship between police officers and masked "heroes" erupted into riots, picket lines, boycotts, and violence that pushed for the removal of masks entirely. Many were at first torn over the idea, being familiar with the noble actions of masks since the late 1930s, but when said actions stopped ending in an arrest and began ending with blood on the city sidewalks, spilling into the sewers and filling the gutters, something had to be done.
What will become of the masks, no one knew. Would they hit rock bottom and meet a grisly end like the now late members of the Minutemen? Would they be able to avoid such horror and live in peace like Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl, or Sally Jupiter, the first Silk Spectre? Perhaps they can work for the government like Edward Blake, the Comedian, or Doctor Manhattan but that seems unlikely when the regarding the currently active vigilantes.
Two years prior to this night, the mask known as Ozymandias revealed himself as a man named Adrian Veidt and immediately began his new career as an entrepreneur, leaving the rest of his fellow masks to control the then budding riots on their own until now.
With all of that being said, there only leaves two masks in question. The pair have been around since the early 1960s, first working separately before becoming a team to control the gangs of the inner-city. They were welcomed, respected, their photos decorating almost every newspaper in the city, given honors for their efforts that, in a way, put them along the ranks of Doctor Manhattan as the terrors of the underworld. It was until two years ago that something changed between the two masks, something dark, violent. It seemed that one of them had experienced a change of heart and, consequently, mind, which led to blood and mangled corpses rather than a criminal in handcuffs being found by police officers. Such violence and terror are perhaps the cause that led for the act being created in the first place.
But will it be passed? For now, America waits in the bounds for the clock to strike midnight, marking the start of August 3, for what could either be a blessing or a curse.
August 2, 1977 11:45 p.m.
In a brownstone, away from the crowd in Time Square, the second Nite Owl, Daniel Dreiberg, steals a few glances at the television as he attempts to keep his mind occupied with other things around his home. He still can't believe it has all led to this, a full-fledged banning. "Don't worry about it, Danny boy," Hollis had told him on the phone an hour earlier, "you know how the government works. All talk, no real action. You rest tonight and I'll see ya on Friday a'right?" But Dan couldn't rest; the anxiety was too much for him.
He hasn't slept properly for three days, waking up in a cold sweat from dreams he could no longer recall only seconds after he opened his eyes. He would never be able to sleep afterwards so he'd make his way down to his basement, don his Owlsuit, rev up Archie and take to the skies until the sun started to rise. He didn't see a point in doing such things; it hurt him because he knew it would all be over soon. As he flew, he would look to his right, at the empty co-pilot's chair, and his heart would throb in his chest, throat would clench, eyes would fill with bitter tears. Dan can't remember the last time that chair had been occupied, it feels like it has been years. It's not your fault, he'd think to himself, he changed and there's nothing you can do. Hell, if anything it's his fault this damn act exists!
Still, no matter how much Dan tried to blame the other man for what happened to them and their city, he knew it wasn't true and he'd sob and curse himself for thinking so badly of his partner, Rorschach. Yes, he was no longer the way he was when they first met, friendlier, joking, overall enjoyable to be around, but he was still Dan's best friend and Nite Owl II's partner despite the fact they do not patrol together as consistently as before.
Since the night Rorschach appeared in the basement, sitting on the stairs with his head bowed and his trench splashed with dried blood, things have never been the same. He was brutal, continuously beating a person long after they lost consciousness, had violent fits of rage that would cause Dan to have to run up and manually separate his partner from the, by then, limp body and drag him back to Archie. Regardless of the change in behavior, Dan stood by Rorschach against the multiple protests of his fellow masks and his own mentor.
"He's mad," Ozymandias remarked once, "He's going down a path I do not want you do go down as well, Dan. Avert yourself if you know what's good for you."
"Danny, did you see the news the other day?" Hollis said on the phone one night, "He gutted those kids. KIDS, Daniel. I get they were in a gang but that is not the heroic way of dealing with that sort of thing. Just-just be careful. I understand he's your friend and you care 'bout him but be watchful."
"How can you stand being around him? I mean he's always been a creep but this really takes the cake," the second Silk Spectre, Laurie, had scoffed, "if he keeps this up and you keep being around him, one day he'll turn on you."
He'll turn on you.
The words echoed in Dan's mind even hours they were muttered. Rorschach would never ever do anything to harm him, Dan recalls saying. When asked why he's so sure, he gave her the same answer he had told everyone who questioned why he was around the man in the first place: personal reasons.
Said personal reasons are why he leaves a fresh pot of coffee, sugar cubes, a can of beans, or a box of cereal on the kitchen table before going to bed. Despite not patrolling together, Rorschach still made his way to the brownstone before sunrise to rest a moment, eat and drink before leaving once more to wherever he lived. Every once in a rare while, Dan would walk down the stairs from his room to use the bathroom or get a glass of water and find the man in the shifting mask fast asleep on the sofa in the living room, trench and boots off, mask rolled to the bridge of his nose, snoring softly. Dan could never help but smile as he made his way back up the stairs silently to not disturb his noticeably exhausted friend.
The personal reasons themselves, no one knows and Dan doesn't think it's necessary for anyone to know. Some made jabs about it over the years but Dan would always shake his head and tell them that what they are assuming is false, despite them being true. Yes, he loved Rorschach but he would never admit it to anyone. He had never even openly said the three words to the person in question but he had never felt the need because actions always spoke louder than words.