The Toronto West Detention Centre was normally bustling with activity, containing the dregs of society that the city had to offer. Despite wardens and guards attempts to keep the prisoners under control, there would always be some unruly faction making noise when they shouldn't have. To those that did so, they either earned the respect or the eternal enmity of everyone in the prison, inmate and guard alike. However, the warden did try to promote social behavior, as it was well-known that being within a group of social people would lessen the chances of a criminal committing a crime again. Being that it was almost New Year's Eve, the prisoners were planning a massive choreographed dance for their families to enjoy, not only for entertainment but because it required a huge amount of social interaction and coordination.
However, when one particular bald-headed man walked through Cell Block C, everyone fell silent. There was no shortage of muscular men in the cell block, and some of them dwarfed even the ripped physique of the man. However, the man's reputation and invisible aura made him stand out like a shining beacon through fog. Whether or not people respected him or not made little difference, because it was obvious that with his history and his aura, he was most certainly not one to mess with. "Welcome to your new home, Mr. Conrad," one of the policemen escorting him whispered maliciously. "If it were up to me I'd strap you to the chair here and now, but we have orders to keep you here until your trial."
"Don't let something as stupid as orders bother you," Conrad replied casually, as if he was talking the matter over beer. "If you got a problem with me, go ahead and try and solve it. The drugs you've got me on keep me from making your head explode, and you already checked to see if I had anything on me that would give me an unfair edge." Motioning towards one of the jail cells that happened to be empty, Conrad gave a very tempting suggestion to the offer. "How about you just drive my face through those bars and get out your frustrations. I'll give you the first three smashes for free…"
"Don't let him get to your head, Nigel," one of the other officers interjected. "I want to pay this sucker back for attacking my city just as much as you do, but we can't stoop to their level anymore. Now that things are back to normal, we handle scumbags like him by the book." Shoving Conrad in the back, the officer suddenly raised his voice. "We don't have all day, Conrad: hurry up!"
Even though the heart of the city was under attack by a giant monster, the sight of fire and smoke at the Raptor Campgrounds didn't escape the attention of the police and fire department. Amongst the flaming wreckage that had once been the Toronto headquarters of the Black Sun, the authorities found Conrad's unconscious body wearing the uniform of the Black Sun, and deduced that he was most likely a member of the "terrorists" that had been attacking their city.
By the time Conrad woke up, he was already in handcuffs and at the police station. He was initially confused as the distinct lack of panic within the station, given that when he was last conscious, the Black Sun's brainchild and idol Amartia had re-awakened and made a beeline for the city. However, when he asked the police officer if anything noteworthy happened while he was "asleep," he was informed that a giant monster had attacked the city only to be vanquished by the city's defender BRIDE. "Son of a bitch," Conrad responded, completely beside himself with surprise. "That kid actually did it…"Against insurmountable odds with no one but herself to rely on, Toronto's resident superhero that had been "borrowing" Amartia's power managed to defeat the deity of destruction and save her home.
Three days had passed since then, and they have gone poorly for Anderson Conrad. After spending several hours in the police station, Conrad's identity as the leader of the Black Sun and former member of the United States Black Ops unit was exposed by the police, and suddenly the criminal charges on him multiplied one hundred fold. Terrorism, murder, conspiracy to commit murder, assault & battery, extortion, weapons dealing: the list went on and on as the hours went by. Conrad never left the police station, and remained in one of their cells until there came a time when his psychic powers that were mentioned when the police found his file could be held and check and he could be moved to a proper incarceration facility.
Conrad could have easily escaped his captors in those three days, being it took two days for his "medicine" to come in that would inhabit his psychic powers enough so that he would no longer be considered "dangerous." He was a battle-hardened soldier with years of experience trained in the art of war: it would have been no different from escaping from an enemy prison camp, which he had spent a couple of days in during his time in the Black Ops. Fortunately for the policemen, the general of the Black Sun knew when to accept defeat: even if he never ran into BRIDE again, Conrad had spent every last resource of the Black Sun on Amartia's resurrection. Now that the deity was destroyed, the organization was sure to collapse with or without him.
The most he could do now is repent for his sins in prison, where he would probably spend the rest of his life.
Finally reaching his empty cell, Conrad stared into its void calmly, like a potential home owner would inspect a prospective house he would wish to by. Watching the door open by itself, the Texan scoffed at the technology being used in the prison. "Not much of a prison," he commented just loud enough for his escorts to hear. "I would have made all the cells lockable by keys that I'd put on the toughest guard around. That way, any sorry SOB who wanted to get out of here would have to get past him: give him something to train for to kill some time in this big house."
"Thankfully, things don't work like that," the escort named Nigel replied before giving Conrad another shove so that the Texan could enter his cell. Watching the cell door close automatically, Conrad and Nigel eyed each other through black prison bars before the escort spoke again. "We do things here the right way…the humane way. Of course, I doubt a monster like you would know anything about doing things humane."
"No…I guess I don't," Conrad grumbled back while the escorts turned around and headed for the exit. Once they were gone, the man nicknamed "the Texas Cobra" flopped down onto his stiff bed and looked up at the gray ceiling. For a prison, his cell was remarkably clean: there wasn't a spider web or gaping crack in the wall to speak of. It wasn't anything like the prison he was expecting to be shipped to. Even though he knew the escorts were gone, Conrad felt like putting in some final words, anyway. "If I'm such a goddamn monster, why did you do such a fancy job in my cell, dumb-asses…?"
Hearing a familiar voice, Conrad sat back up and walked over to his cell bars. Scanning the area to see where the voice was coming from, Conrad saw a familiar face at the cell directly across from him: his former Captain Leon Hart, with his fingers entangled in blue yarn. "I thought you would have had the sense to evade the constables and rebuild our illustrious syndicate. It would appear that I was mistaken: it never occurred to me that our near-omnipresent leader would be locked up like a common thug…"
"What the hell are you doing over there, Hart?" Conrad asked, unamused as always by Leon's large and colorful vocabulary. "Don't tell me that didn't take away your weapons just because you don't have any powers of your own. That would just make me plum jealous of you…"
"No, they got rid of everything the Black Sun bestowed upon me," Leon replied before lowering his head to look at the unique entanglement his fingers were entwined in. "I managed to get a ball of yarn smuggled in when I beat one of the guards in a crossword puzzle race. This is a little something called 'Cat's Cradle:' it's quite intricate, but it's not like I have much else to do in order to kill the time here…"
"That's pretty pathetic, man," the Texas Cobra said with a sigh before moving his head from right to left to scan the other cells. "So, are the other boys in here? I wouldn't mind seeing their faces again: it was pretty dang dull at headquarters without having them around."
"They're not in this cell block, but yeah: they're around," Leon nodded his head before lifting his head back up to where Conrad was standing in his cell. "So, my lawyer tells me that I'll be getting thirty years at the most: while I admit that could have gone much worse, it would be just dandy for me to live out the rest of the fertile years as a free man and not the be the envy of all of these other sycophants and hooligans with my boyish good looks. Do we have any plans to escape this rehabilitation facility so that we may rehabilitate ourselves in our own unique manner?"
"Nope," Conrad answered bluntly, causing the blonde man to raise an eyebrow. "We got ourselves into this mess, so we might as well slug it out until we're off the radar. I spent all of the Black Sun's resources on Amartia, and now that he's gone, we're left with nothing. I played a game of poker, put everything I had on the line, and I was the jackass who wound up with the Dead Man's Hand."
"That is unfortunate," Leon said with a frown before sitting on his floor and going back to his game of Cat's Cradle. "Sergeant Anoa'i and Major Mann will not be pleased with this development. They were counting on you to formulate a new master plan that would break us free so that we may wreak vengeance upon she who has foiled our machinations. I should warn you, general: unless you give us reason to follow you, none of us will show any fealty towards you here…"
"Hold your horses there, captain," Conrad interjected, causing Leon to look back up in curiosity. "I said I didn't have a plan at the moment, but that doesn't mean I can't cook something up. The problem is that we don't have a place to go back to now: the Black Sun is pretty much screwed, the feds have figured out who we are and what powers we've got, and the moment we break out, they'll hunt us down and bring us back here like a bunch of cattle. Besides, even if that lady lost her powers like I've been hearing, there's no way we could touch her."
"How do you figure that?"
A smirk appeared on Conrad's face as he shook his head, amused by how he didn't see it coming when he first crossed paths with the woman. "That lady…she downright outsmarted me. Even if she didn't fight, she could probably figure out what our new plan was and just point her cops in our direction and we'd all be up shit creek all over again. In the end, we're just some soldiers who can only follow orders…but that lady, she walks alone now."
Relieve Corporation Headquarters
With a very strange Christmas behind them, the employees of Relieve Corporation resumed work like every other post-Christmas before it, bringing their absolute best efforts to their respective departments. At first, there were some worries that the company would be overrun by the thousands of requests for medical supplies by the city in the wake of the Black Sun's final mission, but everyone did their job efficiently so that there was very little, if any, strain on the company.
However, there was no one more pleased with the employees than their president Lauren Hickenbottom, who had personally stopped the Black Sun's god Amartia in his tracks as the vigilante BRIDE. After that long and tiring battle, the BRIDE System healed all of the injuries Lauren had suffered during the confrontation, and then returned to its original, spherical form that it had been in when it was first activated. As a direct result of this, Lauren's identity as BRIDE officially became public knowledge, and the following morning issued a press release saying so.
To Lauren's good fortune, however, this brought nothing to fortune her way. Having already earned the approval of the Toronto Police Department as well as the civilian populace as a whole, the former acting and now official mayor of Toronto made a public announcement declaring that Lauren be awarded with the key of the city for uncommon valor and steady devotion to justice. When news of this honor reached the young woman's ears, however, Lauren politely declined this honor, explaining that she was already the President of Relieve Corporation, and the verbal thanks of the people more than compensated for any material gift they could have given her.
All this did, however, was make the people fall in love with her even more. Thank you notes of admiration, both written and electronic, were sent to Relieve Corporation and forwarded in Lauren's direction. Her secretary suggested that she invest in an electronic ghost writer to respond to all of the letters, but the Canadian was very specific in her orders: she would respond to all of the letters, one by one, until there were none left. Lauren dodged a very nasty bullet in that no one decided to press charges against her and her reckless method of vigilantism, and the least she could do is respond to the populace that was so lenient with her.
I did not become BRIDE for fame and fortune: Mr. Levesque gave me more than I deserved when it comes to those, Lauren thought as she continued going through some of the letters she had received, with many more of them waiting for her at her secretary's desk. I became BRIDE to protect this city from harm, and that is exactly what I have done. Now that the Black Sun is defeated, I can work towards exploring other means of using the BRIDE System's power for something other than being a glorified strongwoman.
During the raid of the Black Sun complex, Lauren slew or crippled so many people that she couldn't even begin to estimate the overall casualty total. However, during that same raid, she also managed to safe the life of one of their ilk: a young man who had suffered shrapnel wound. Using a previously-unknown ability that the BRIDE System possessed, Lauren dissolved the shrapnel and almost completely healed the wound in question, allowing that young man and his lover to escape the complex before she razed it to the ground in an all-consuming inferno.
Now that the BRIDE System had detached itself from her body, Lauren had her best scientists and technicians working on a way to unlock its secrets. However, rather than mass-producing it for military or police use, Lauren's research was strictly medical. The ultimate goal of Relieve Corporation was to help people, and with such a potent healing program within its spherical form, the BRIDE System was a gold mine that could revolutionize modern medicine. If Relieve Corporation could figure out a way to make it practical for ambulances and hospitals, Lauren had no doubt that she would have made a very positive impression on the world.
I do not expect all of this to happen overnight: I realize that this will take time, Lauren thought before putting her pen down and turning her chair around to look at the snow-covered city. My war with the Black Sun left some deep wounds in my home. These next few weeks will mark the start of the healing process...until we can say that things are back to normal, or more preferably, better than what it was before all of this started.
"Mrs. Hickenbottom, someone is calling you on the private line. It's Lance Levesque."
"Yes, I've been expecting his call," Lauren answered without breaking her gaze to her beloved Toronto. "Please, patch him through."
The truth of the matter was that Lauren had wanted to get in touch with Lance for some time now. At first she only wanted to speak to him about the BRIDE System and its origins, but eventually she figured it out through her many experiences and battles. She even expected Lance to call on his own volition in order to give his own unique brand of wisdom that others would find eccentric. However, it was only now that Lance was getting in touch with her again: perhaps it was because the battle was over and Lance wanted to see how Lauren would fare on her own without his "guidance."
"Hello there, hero," Lance's voice said over the intercom in Lauren's office. "I see you've been kicking ass and taking names as usual…only this time you did it in the arena and not in the office. I have to admit: you've given this middle-aged man quite a surprise…"
"It is good to hear your voice again, Mr. Levesque," Lauren replied politely before getting right to the point. "However, I would have preferred to have heard it during this ordeal as opposed to after it. Being that you created the BRIDE System, there were so many questions you could have answered for me. If you have, perhaps I could have stopped the Black Sun and their scheme before it came into fruition like it did. Many lives could have been spared."
Lance let out his trademark boisterous laugh, amused by Lauren's stern demeanor. "Gah-hahahaha…getting right to the point, I see. Yes, I could have called you these past two weeks: I probably should have called you the moment I heard about the bank incident. Unfortunately, I don't have a valid reason as to why I didn't. The BRIDE System never reacted to someone like it did with you: I guess I just wanted to see the fruits of labor in action. Besides, I doubt I could have answered too many of your questions that you couldn't have figured out on your own: I know the thrill you get when you solve problems that no one else can figure out."
"This was one problem that I would have much rather preferred having assistance with," Lauren retorted before turning away from the city and back to her desk. "As you know, people died because of the Black Sun, and maybe if I had your help, I could have defeated them much quicker…and maybe Trish's life would been have spared…"
"I heard about that," her former employer said tragically, his voice suddenly becoming solemn. "I remember the day I hired her: real funny girl who always knew how to make me laugh. She slept around a little bit, but it wasn't my place to judge her since nothing ever came of it in the workplace. Igor was all choked up at her funeral, from what my informants tell me: that just goes to show how much of an impact she had on everyone, even someone as stuck-up as he is."
"I watched her die, Mr. Levesque," Lauren replied with her voice just as solemn as her former employer. "She could have been spared if I had just surrendered myself, but I was paralyzed with fear so Trish selflessly sacrificed herself to buy me some time. In the end, that didn't matter because the Black Sun wound up capturing me anyway. Even now I wonder what could have happened if I had just surrendered…"
"That's loser talk, Lauren," Lance spat back, with his voice sounding almost offended. "You've never given up on anything since I have known you, and I respect that. You knew what was at stake, and in the end you made sure Trish's sacrifice wasn't in vain. Her killers were all of the Black Sun, and you brought all of them to justice. Don't go sulking like you've failed…because you have won! You should be celebrating, goddamnit!"
"…yes," Lauren said after a bit of pause, soaking in her former employer's words. "You are absolutely right, sir: forgive me for showing weakness during one of these rare conversations we have. If you were here right now, you would no doubt scold me." Looking up to the see elevator lights go bright to indicate someone was coming, the young woman made an attempt to conclude the call. "Thank you for calling, Mr. Levesque, but I have work to do now. I will continue to observe the progress of your trial…"
"In the quite likely case I get jail time, I'm going to see of my lawyers can get me situated in the prison that Anderson Conrad guy is in," Lance replied with his voice filled with mischievous intent. "I heard that guy could used to be former Black Ops and could lift tanks with his mind: this Fist God wouldn't mind trying his hands against someone like that!" With another boisterous laugh, Lance said his farewells and hung up with a click. "Do what you have to do, kid: I left my company in very capable hands and I have complete faith in your abilities!"
Almost immediately after the receiver clicked, the elevator door opened to reveal Lauren's husband Bradley, bundled up in a brown jacket with a box of pizza and a bouquet of flowers in his hands. "G'day, pet," the big Australian said with a big smile as he walked over to Lauren's desk and placed the pizza box down on its flat surface. After doing so, he picked up the flowers that were sitting on top of them and formally offered them to his wife. "I just thought I would drop on by and give you these flowers. Nice, aren't they?"
After looking at the mixed floral assortment of violet, red, and yellow, Lauren gently accepted the flowers and placed them on the side of her desk before she went back to her thank you notes. "It is good to see you, Bradley," Lauren said with a smile as she picked up her pen. "However, you could have given me these when I came home tonight. You really didn't need to surprise me here at the office."
"Well, you know me, love," Bradley replied with his big smile widening, "I'm a real loose cannon, I am: I just do the wildest things!" Walking past the desk and to the large windows that looked over the city, the goalie-turned-street fighter let out a sigh as he looked out to the place that had become his home. "I have to admit, Lauren: when I went to that Christmas party in the city with some of my mates, the last thing I expected was some big purple meanie stomping across the city like it was Tokyo or some rubbish like that. To be honest, I pissed my pants because I was downright scared out of my wits…but I realize that was silly of me to do."
"He was an ancient god of evil and despair: the harbinger of ultimate doom," Lauren explained without turning away from her work. "You had every reason to be afraid: no one will hold it against you that you-"
"That's not what I'm talking about," Bradley interrupted before turning away form the city and to where Lauren was sitting in her chair. "It was silly of me to be afraid because I should have known, right from the start, that my guardian angel would come down and rescue me…and it's not just me you rescued this time. Every single bloke in this town owes their existence to you."
Grabbing onto the back of Lauren's chair, the big man spun his wife around and lifted her right out of her seat and placed her tush on top of his left shoulder. "B-Bradley, what are you doing?"
"Taking a good look at the work you've done, Lauren," Bradley responded before carefully turning around back towards the window so both he and his wife could look at Toronto. "You may talk like you didn't do much and it was that gizmo that did all the work, but a few days ago I got a call from my old dealer Keiichi Kobashi. He and his girl had been keeping tabs on your adventures, and he called me up and asked if this BRIDE was anyone he knew…and I told him who you were, and he just said that he should have expected as much."
"That is very flattering, coming from him," Lauren replied with a smile before placing her hand on Bradley's head and running her fingers through his hair. "I am happy to hear that he is doing so well."
"He and his girl are thinking about officially tying the knot, now that they've settled down in Tokyo," Bradley continued. "With the new year coming up, tt would be nice to see them again: I've told you all about that girl of his, I bet she would just love to meet you, the big-time superhero of Toronto!"
"Yes…that would be good," the woman nodded her head before turning back towards the city that had been her home: the city that had been entrusted to her, and the city that she had succeeded in protecting from harm, if only for the moment. "But for now, I just want to stay here for what little days remain of the year…and watch as my Toronto enters a new year just like it always has…"
Author's Note: So, where do I begin with this? It's never easy to say goodbye to a labor of love, even one that was as brief as BRIDE (brief meaning that I finished it pretty quickly considering how long it was). I am not sure how many people read this from start to finish, but I really enjoyed what I wrote and I think it's a real shame that not too many people got to read this thing as it was coming out. I can only hope that now it is complete, those who did read it will spread the word so that others can read and enjoy this labor of love.
I am still stunned at how much my writing has improved this past year. Look at the first chapter of my previous story Sheol, and compare it to pretty much any chapter in this story: I suppose I could say that practice makes perfect, but the progress I have made almost scares me. Someone told me that my writing is on par or even better than some published stories out there, and maybe one day I will muster up the courage to send my story to a publisher and see what they think. Until that time, I'll just let you find readers enjoy it free of charge.
I would like to thank:
Sorcha, for giving me so much inspiration and encouragement throughout this story.
Disturbed, Lordi, Collective Soul, Sevendust, and Metallica for providing me with a soundtrack to work with as I write. I think it really paid off in the end.
InFamous, for inspiring me to write this story that I had rattling around in my head for so long. I haven't played you in quite some time because I've been working on this story, but I'll change that soon!
WWE, for providing me with some healthy distractions that kept me from having this story consume my life even more than it did.
Toei, for creating Kamen Rider and Super Sentai which both had a huge influence on this story.
And you, the reader, for taking time out of your busy lives to read this story and appreciate something that I have worked incredibly hard on.
Until the next time we meet…farewell, true believers!