Props to The Tishler from a faraway internet board for the idea and general inspiration – you're awesome dude.

_

Carthysis – Age of Heroes

Yo, how's it hanging? Oh? You didn't see me here? Heh, well, partly 'cause I didn't want you to, and partly 'cause no one ever sees me comin'. Who am I? Well, if I told you my real identity, someone might get a hold of you and beat the info out of you, thereby getting to me when I'm on the crapper or something. Being a Hero has that kinda risk y'know? You can call me Spectre. The getup? Well it's hardly a secret identity if I don't go around wearing this mask right? Anyway, how don't you know all this already? You been living under a rock for the past ten years or something? Oh... Amnesia, huh? Sorry... Well, want me to fill in the blanks for you? I ain't in no hurry or anything, I got plenty of time. Yes? No?

Yes?

Alright, where to start? Hm, well I suppose I should start with the man who started this whole business, one Josef Carthyl. Genius of a guy – he was digging through the roughest patch of dirt you ever did see, and the story goes that one of his diggers suddenly fell right through the ground, after getting the gear ready, ropes and all that shit; they went after it, and they come across a cave full of this glowing green crystallized substance, and their digger hand landed slap-bang in the middle of the stuff. After testing it for every sort of harmful substance – radiation and all that – can't be too careful y'know, especially seeing as this was only a few dozen kilometres from Chernobyl Two – Hm? Don't remember that either? Jeez, how big was that bump on your head? Easy! Easy, I'm kidding, a joke? You do remember what a joke is right? Hehehehe. Anyway, after confirming that the stuff was harmless, they just trudged on over to the digger and eventually brought it back up, bringing some of the crystals with 'em.

Now, about two days after, all the guys who went down with Carthyl who were exposed to the crystals began experiencing strange symptoms. One of 'em found he could melt walls just by touching them, another started literally smoking and eventually burst into flames, I heard one of them accidentally opened up the door to a parallel dimension – don't look at me like that! I'm just telling you what I heard. Anyway, after further analysing the crystals – which, by the way, don't stay solid in temperatures above 5⁰C – Yes it is that cold in most parts of Western Russia – hey, you wanted to know about this, not me, so you could at least stop interrupting me! Okay? Good. Now, after analysing that liquid that the crystals melted down into, they found, after checking out everyone exposed to the shit, that these crystals emit particles which are so small, and travel so quickly – well, quickly for a small-ass particle – that they can literally knock out parts of your DNA, then rearrange them just as fast, and this was of course, giving these guys powers – powers that they had no control over, but hell, would you be thinking of control when your arm suddenly turns to ice or bursts into flame right in front of your eyes one day? Didn't think so.

Moving on, after discovering the effects of the crystal, all sorts of shit started going for him, countries demanded that he sell the stuff to them, whether it was for military, scientific, hell, economic purposes, didn't matter –everyone wanted a piece of the stuff. Eventually, old man Carthyl, who, apparently, grew up with his family and teachers telling him he'd never amount to anything, found himself with the whole world grovelling at his feet for a piece of whatever it was he'd found. He became famous overnight. Sold the stuff to everyone who'd pay him a high price, figured he could get a cut from everyone, course he never told anyone just how much of the stuff there was – bad business plan, he wanted a back-up stock just in case it all went pear-shaped.

Anyway, cut forward a year: Carthyl's practically the richest man who ever lived, the crystal was confirmed to have given him psychic powers – not psychokinetic stuff like, 'move shit with your mind', but real choice stuff, like reading minds, casting up illusions, even influencing people around him, something to do with emotions or something like – and pretty much every major government on earth has their own team of 'Supers' at their beck and call, like special ops with laser eyes, y'know? Anyway, not long after, some people found ways of getting this stuff – they called it 'Carthysis' after the guy who found it, yeah, I know, inventive huh? Anyway, people found ways of getting their mits on it, and in the space of a few months; you went from a handful of 'Supers' per country, to hundreds! Granted, not everyone wanted to be a do-gooder, some used it to rob banks and shit like that, others just used it to make life go along easier for 'em. Anyway, the governments started recruiting from these new heroes, most of whom got more than just the one power that the ones who are now known as the 'First Generation Heroes' got. And these guys were literally just cast aside for the 'Second Generation Heroes', these newbies didn't know why they did what they did, but they lived in luxury for most of their lives as long as they did whatever the letter in that ominous black envelope told them to do.

Only, the First Generation guys didn't take that too well at all – these guys had been the most loyal of the loyal – ready to take a bullet to the head for their country, and the country they loved so much had turned on them. They became the first real 'Super Villians', these guys made the few Second Generation villains look like petty thugs, they were the real deal – continental-wide destruction plots, massacres, the works. And while nothing's really gotten too out of hand since then, people have started talking more and more: "What if the super-villains unite?" Oh, some will argue that the superheroes will just band together and take 'em out, but I don't think that's the case. See, since Carthysis was discovered, a new sort of Cold War started, an arms race for people. The country with the most Supers in their pocket would surely come out in the strongest position, all of a sudden, you have Russian, US, British, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, French, German – all sorts of foreign national spies coming over into other countries trying to tempt Supers from that country to defect.

Now it's gotten to a point where leaders have realised that these people they thought they could control so easily may be more volatile than they originally thought. There's talk of a plan to develop weapons against the Supers, not just the villains either, "A 'Super' Holocaust", is what some people in the underground are whispering. As a matter of fact, that's sorta related to what I'm doing at the moment: I've been informed by one of my – ahem – contacts, that one of those First Generation villains has already started on such weapons, and that they're nearly done. Which reminds me, I got something needs delivering. Don't worry now; it's no bomb or anything mean like that. I just need you to take it to an old friend of mine, hold on, I'll show you... Ah, got it. See this photo here? That guy in the dark getup with the skull-print balaclava and the glare-shades next to me right there? That, is an old buddy of mine, went by the alias 'Curse', think he still does work occasionally. What's with the name? Well, y'see, some of us Supers like naming ourselves in relation to our powers, like myself for instance. Oh, you'll find out before you get going, don't you worry. Anyway, yeah, some of us name ourselves after our powers – like Volcano, Shifter, Fireball, Soak, et cetera, while others name ourselves based on something we think is cool, or commands respect, fear, and the like. For example... Fear, or DJ Neckbreak. Now Curse, well, I heard it from someone else, but apparently, until five years ago, his alias was actually Vendetta – gangers fragged his father I think. After he took them all out, he decided that he might as well get into the Hero business, make sure no one else went through what he did.

Now, some of us 'Heroes', liked to team up with each other, after all, fighting crime's a whole lot easier with someone watching your back. Anyway, Curse, or Vendetta, was very much a team player, only thing is, every single Hero he ever partnered with ended up dead. Didn't matter whether it was a week or a month, they kicked the bucket, often in pretty painful ways – hey, fighting other Supers is bad enough, but if some random thug on the street with a grudge against you or Supers in general gets you – heaven help you and ensure your end comes quickly, because those guys will do everything to ensure you stay alive long enough for them to enjoy every second of your suffering. Eventually, people started calling him 'Curse', and after another year, he finally stopped trying to tell people different, hell, when I first came up with the proposition of a tag-team, he remained adamant that I refrain. I thought he was just one of those gung-ho types who thought they could do everything themselves, nah, he was just concerned that he'd lose another buddy. After I followed him around for a bit though, didn't end up dead, he finally agreed. We fought as a duo for two and a half years, until, out of the blue, he decided that he'd had enough, people were deterred by Supers, sure, but that just meant they tried harder to find the stuff that made them into something they believed would be unstoppable next time. Curse knew that, I didn't, not at that point anyway. Now look at me, I'm thirty-one, in the spring of my youth, I live in a run-down apartment with barely any cash, and I'm beating up guys in bright-yellow leotards in the middle of the night wearing this balaclava and contacts to stop people from getting an ID on me from my eyes. Yeah, I saw you looking, it's the contacts that are doing that – Yeah, a lot of people who first see me with these things on think I'm blind too, oh well, I rarely stick around those types for too long, that's for sure, always work to be done... What? Why are you chuckling? Ahhh forget it.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. The delivery! I need you to get this to Curse for me, I don't know his name – us Supers make a habit of never telling anyone their real identities, but I got a fix on where I think the guy lives. Don't worry; I'll give you something to help you find your way, ever seen one of these? Portable GPS system – the things those Carthysis-enhanced genius' are capable of is astounding; I've put the co-ordinates of the place into the thing already, all you need to do is go to it. Don't worry, the map'll tell you where you currently are too, as long as you keep a hold of it of course. When you get to the place, I need you to drop this off, don't drop it, it's kinda fragile. If you get there and no one's home, just drop it through his mail-box. Okay? Great, now, like I promised, I'll show you what my name's all about, oh, and have a nice day citizen, don't be too afraid to call for help if you get into any sort of trouble – you live in the Age of Heroes now.

_

The man – Spectre – walked right into, and through, a solid concrete wall. You stand on the sidewalk slack-jawed at his sudden disappearance. You soon recall that this man has given you a task, and it would likely be wise to carry it out, then try and resume your life before your accident. Taking a look at the GPS Spectre gave you, you begin heading east, to the centre of what looks like a very bustling city.

_

Spectre grinned to himself – he'd forgotten how satisfying it felt to have someone look completely awestruck at your abilities, but since there were so many like him flying around (quite literally too) and some with even stranger powers than himself – there was little room for surprise in the new world. He soared through several buildings, gave a few workers a scare when he appeared through their papers or computer screens. He shut his eyes, and just let himself float through reality, he knew he was heading in the right direction; good orientation was likely one of the gifts bestowed upon him when he took the injection of Cathysis all that time ago. He wondered briefly if he would have still taken the stuff if he'd known what it would all lead to, then a sly smirk crept over his face. 'Course I would've... The looks on all those faces was worth all that money spent – just a little too bad I'm probably not going to see anything like that in a couple years, if what I'm about to do doesn't kill me first that is.'

He emerged from a shed into someone's back yard, the place looked like a mess; either the occupant was a lazy slob when it came to gardening, or they just didn't have the time or know-how to look after it. 'Doesn't mean my mother wouldn't be rolling in her grave if she knew about this though.' He snickered a little at the thought, then turned his attention to the large building in front of him, it was easily almost eight-hundred metres in height, yet was one of the more moderately-sized skyscrapers inhabiting the mega-city of San Camilla – named after the modern-day Saint, Camilla Méndez, martyred on the eleventh of May, two-thousand and twenty-four, almost exactly twenty years ago. Spectre cocked his head, then checked his notes, then the spare GPS. All signs pointed to that building.

'Strange... This business is supposed to involve a First Generation Super, why would it be taking place in somewhere like this? Wouldn't it be more logical – not to mention better for his cover – if this were to take place in somewhere a little more... Discreet?' Frowning, Spectre ghosted through to the entrance, and entered the building. Here was where he would supposedly find his answers; he checked the Security booth, finding no one, or anything there. Considering it was almost midnight though, Spectre had somewhat anticipated the lack of people around.

'Only makes the place creepier if you ask me. Feel like I'm in a horror flick.' He thought to himself, his frown getting deeper as his mind involuntarily brought up the image of himself being attacked by slimy aliens, or mutants, or zombies, or a chainsaw-wielding madman. He shook his head, then ghosted up to the next floor, and began another sweep of the place, making sure to stay out of the view of security cameras, old-school stuff to be sure, but compared with newer methods like reactive nano-bots buzzing around in mid-air, they were much more reliable, and far less costly to repair if they broke down. He continued sweeping each floor meticulously from bottom to top for several minutes, and was almost onto the fifteenth when something caught his eye.

A note, pinned to a wall by a blood-red throwing knife. It seemed out of place, Spectre moved towards it and inspected it, the ink was still fresh, which meant someone had written it fairly soon.

From one ghost to another.

Regards

- Poltergeist

Spectre froze upon reading the name at the bottom of the letter, he realised that he had been duped, either by that 'reliable source', or by some other means, Spectre realised that he was now in very real danger, and was about to ghost out of the building when he heard a click, and something thin pressed against the back of his head.

"Hello old boy... Did you like my note? A personal gift, well, as far as notes go anyway."

Spectre didn't move, he was fully aware that there was now a cold-blooded murdered behind him with a gun pointed to his head, and, much as he would refuse to admit it, he couldn't phase out with reality as quickly as a bullet travelled, particularly at this sort of distance.

"Long time no see Poltergeist... And no, I loved it; in fact, I'm so touched, that I think I'll hang around a bit longer than I originally intended to." A chuckle.

"Good, I would hate to have my guest leave so unexpectedly." There was an edge to the humorous voice the British man used at the moment; he was just itching to pull the trigger there and then.

"How did you know I was coming?" Spectre asked, all humour gone.

"Straight to business I see. Very well; we knew you were coming from the very moment you were told to look deeper into the illicit development of anti-Super weapons." There was now no emotion in Poltergeist's voice at all, the assassin in him had come out now, he was now just going through the motions, as all great villains did, explaining his plans to the hero before intending to kill him, just like in those old comic books.

The only difference here was that he'd likely succeed.

"That long huh? I can't think of any other reason than there's a traitor inside the organisation... Isn't that funny... Not even officially announced by the new Coalition and it's already been compromised. How did you do it?" Spectre asked.

"I don't know" Poltergeist answered "And that's the truth; I'm just another hired killer for the top dog."

"So I don't suppose you'd know who this top dog is or what he's planning right?" Spectre asked, behind him, the barest hint of a smile graced Poltergeist's face, but he made no sound.

"I would, unfortunately for you, I have no intention of telling you, after all, in the extremely unlikely event that you escape from me. The whole country would be on lockdown." He answered, Spectre contemplated Poltergeist's answer.

"That infamous huh? I can only think of five people who ever shook up a country that badly before. Two of them are dead, I saw one of them go down myself not two years ago, as for the other three, I heard one of them was in an asylum for the extremely loopy and the other two appeared to have vanished off the face of the earth. Which still leaves me with a bit of a puzzle; sure you can't give me a hint?" He joked, the barrel pressed tighter into his head.

"Why did you come anyway? You must have realised there was every chance that you would never come out from this alive? My employer is curious as to why this is. Answer please, or death will come for you a little earlier than expected." Curiosity, Poltergeist wanted to know as well, try as he might, he couldn't block out his emotions as efficiently as he claimed he could, though that did almost slip Spectre by.

"Why not? Do some good, save the world, it certainly fit with the dream I had as a kid of saving the world... Also, I'm going to die anyway, time and place makes little difference now."

Poltergeist paused for a moment, then understood what his old partner was telling him.

"I'm sorry... It must be hard, knowing that the gifts that allow you to transcend the physically possible are also burning your body out from the inside... But, there is a way to halt it, why don't you take it?" Spectre was beginning to get bored of this game of 'question time', but realised that each second bought him time to think of a way to escape with his life and warn someone – anyone! – of what was going on in – 'Wait, did I not even look at the building's name when I came in here? Goddamnit... I'm getting far too sloppy for this.'

"Yeah, I heard of the 'miracle drug' that stops the effects of Carthysis Induced Cell Degradation, but how would someone who got his from the black market be able to fork over the cash for something like that? Besides, as far as the Organisation's concerned – even if it doesn't officially exist yet – I'm a loose asset, one that could go haywire or off-mission at any time. Typical officials – they don't trust anyone they can't manipulate completely." He heard a grunt of agreement come from Poltergeist, something then occurred to him.

"Why hasn't it affected you then? I know for a fact that you've had Carthysis for three times longer than I have. You should be coughing up your lungs and bleeding all over the place by now." Spectre asked.

"Do you really need to ask? My employer has his sources, that's all I think you need to know." The coldness returned to his voice, Spectre was starting to panic a little, though didn't allow his body to show it, his time was running out, Poltergeist enjoyed wordplay almost as much as he did, but even his former accomplice had limits as to his patience.

"It's a shame when I think about what happened... You and I... We used to be quite a team you know?" Spectre calmly blurted out, in a last ditch effort to secure some more time.

A pause in breath, and the barrel relaxed a little.

"Yes... We were." And then Poltergeist squeezed the trigger, blood coated the wall in front of him, and Spectre's body slumped to the ground. Not wasting a second, Poltergeist opened a window, then dragged Spectre's body over to it, he checked outside, making sure that it was the right side, then, satisfied that it was, threw his old friend's corpse out.

The splash didn't wake anyone up, the screams of a little seven-year old girl, who happened to be walking by the river in the San Camilla Park with her parents ten hours later however, drew some attention. In the middle of the crowd which gathered around to see the body of another Super, one of the members frowned, thumbed in a number on a keypad, then pressed his finger to an earpiece, and relayed the information to his superiors.

Spectre is dead.

_

How's that for the first chapter? With this, I now have three fictions on this site, one of which badly needs updating. For those of you who are waiting for an update to said fiction, I've hit a brick wall in terms of where to go with the story, I've tried several concepts and not one of them seems right. Anyway, exams are coming up, so don't expect an update from me any time soon, not that many of you probably expected one soon anyway :P