Summary: The Golden Age was the age that birthed heroes and villains. Men and women walked tall upon the Earth, scouring legends that would be remembered for all time. Ages came and went afterward—Silver, Bronze…Dark. The Dark Age ended it all, in one apocalyptic war that nearly ruined civilization. The modern era as we know it has grown out of that time; rebuilt itself even. However, the memory of the Dark Age remains, and heroes are to be as feared as any villain. No matter who they may be. This is…
An original story by Crazyeight
A small blue flag with a shining sun emblazoned in its center hung loosely in the hand of the statue. For a moment, Adam Norman wondered how it got there, but soon decided that he didn't care. It fit anyway. Through some bizarre twist of fate, the hand that belonged to the statue, nicknamed 'the Rock of Gibraltar', had formed in just the right shape to allow for a tiny flag's thin, fragile staff to be fitted in.
Adam shuddered a little thinking about it. I really wish she'd pick a better meeting place. His gaze traveled the length of the Rock's arm before finally settling on its face—a man whose expression was caught in what appeared to be in eternal suffering and horror. They say that he's still alive…
A finger poked hard into his leg, causing Adam to return his attention to the matter at hand.
"What? I'm listening!" he complained to the brown-haired girl sitting next to him. The girl, Ashley Walter, retracted her hand, but did not lose the glowering expression she had.
"I wouldn't know it with your grades, Ad. You're the one who said that you needed to ace the next test. At least try to look like you're interested in passing."
Adam laced his hands behind his head and leaned back, bumping his knuckles against the Rock. For the sake of his friend, he kept his attention on her laptop's screen, though his attention was rapidly fading from it.
Another hard jab into his leg jerked him back to reality.
"Hey! I said…!"
"I heard what you said," Ashley rebutted, again retracting her hand. "But your brain went somewhere else. Now come on. Pay attention." Folding her arms beneath her breasts, she cleared her throat. "Okay. Ready?"
"Yeah, yeah," Adam grumbled.
"Would you just hit the play button?"
A playful smile touched the corners of her lips and she tapped on the computer's touchpad.
"Welcome to Titan History Month," came a soft-spoken voice from the computer. "This program is brought to you by the David Michael Foundation; the Titan Remembrance Organization; and the continued financial support from viewers like you. Thank you."
Adam chuckled. At age fourteen, neither of them were providing any financial support. Feels like we're being thanked for nothing.
Adam shifted in his spot as the screen began to display an image of a sprawling metropolis not entirely dissimilar to their own save for the presence of a thick haze being turned a deep, heavy orange by the rising of the morning sun.
"In 1943, it is the pre-Golden Age," a more masculine voice intoned. It was a deep voice, speaking of heavy matters that had life-altering effects that would echo down the years to come. "The world is caught in the middle of World War II." The scene shifts, this time to a series of black and white images showing men with rifles storming over beaches and towards cliffs, explosions ripping up the ground beneath them, sending dark clots of dirt and rock flying in every direction. The scene shifts again, showing planes flying over countryside, dropping bomb after bomb after bomb upon it. More scenes, shattered and broken buildings, mere skeletons of the behemoths and households that they once were remaining, standing like amputees amidst the sea of broken rubble. Everyone knew the story. The world's last great 'original evil' that threatened to conquer the world and bring all peoples under its iron heel…at least before the Ages that came followed the war.
"History stood at the edge of a new world, one of dominion and oppression by an evil empire, and one of freedom and liberty. At the time, no one could be certain who would win, and the Allied Powers fought desperately—looking for any advantage that could shift the tide into their favor.
"It was on the conspicuous day of July 3rd, one day before the United States 'Independence Day', that the advantage came."
The image changed again, this time showing a black and white rock, jagged and pocketed with glowing crystals.
As he and Ashley continued to watch the program, something tickled Adam's arm, and he absently scratched at it. The tickling, unfortunately, refused to be dismissed so easily, and he scratched at it again, this time with a bit more force.
The source reacted by biting him. Hard.
"Yow!" Adam jumped in his spot as he finally looked down.
"What? What?" exclaimed Ashley over the program's continued droning, her eyes becoming great surprised balls of white and gray over her friend's unexpected yelp.
"Jesu-!" he gasped, seeing a red-colored ant on his arm, its jaws snapping angrily. He swatted it off and surged to his feet, quickly patting himself down. "Ants!" he growled. "I just got bit by an ant!"
Ashley laughed, hitting the pause button on her computer and getting to her feet. "Is that all? You had me worried for a second there."
"Easy for you to say," Adam grumbled. "I'm the one that got bit." He drew in a sharp breath as a burning sensation began to spread like wildfire up his arm. "Nasty little freak. That hurt!"
"News flash to me, Ad," Ashley laughed again. "They must have set up a nest nearby." She pointed at the statue, finding a whole line of ants marching down its leg where Adam had been sitting. A mischievous glint appeared in her eye and she turned toward him. "Or maybe that one just thought you looked tasty."
"Not funny." Adam frowned. The burning sensation was dying down a bit, becoming more tolerable. He remembered hearing once that some species of ants carried venom. What kind was this? He glanced at the ants on the statue. They could have been any ant for all the good their presence did him.
Another thing that Ash would get on my case about for not knowing, he grumbled mentally.
"So now that our case of drama is done and over with, how about we continue with our studies," Ashley said, breaking him out of his thoughts. Adam sighed, setting himself down, this time away from the crawling line of ants. He glanced up at the statue again for a brief moment and grimaced again.
If he is still alive, it must be hell having things crawl on you and shit on you all day.
Atop a tall building, a freckled young man with wild, carrot-red hair bristling in all directions, brought a pair of goggles down over his eyes. He grinned crazily and lifted up a heavy, metallic pack, and shrugged it onto his shoulders. Buckling it around his chest, he checked everything to make sure that they were safe and tight.
"Okay," he said quietly to himself. Clicking a button on a bracelet around his wrist, a pair of rocket engines folded outward, jerking him slightly. Taking a deep breath, he stepped out to the ledge, paused, and then jumped.
"Whooo!" He let out a loud whoop as he plummeted to the streets below. Before he even reached critical velocity, he hit another button on the bracelet and the rocket engines flared to life, all but halting his drop. He grunted, but his grin remained plastered on his face.
"Yes!" he whispered as he started to rise. "It works. It works! Just like I knew it would! I…"
A loud alarm blared over the roar of his engines, and he fumbled a small pad from his pocket. A word was painted on it in large, glaring red letters.
"Shit!" Tapping on his bracelet again he swerved to the side and took off at a rapid pace. No sooner did he do so a group of flying black spheres descended upon him. As they approached him, they began to flash blue and red lights and emit a loud claxon cry.
"Citizen Thomas Bradley," came a flat, robotic voice from the closest flying sphere. "You are in violation of restricted air space. You are ordered to land and surrender yourself to the authorities."
"Screw you!" the youth laughed, taking a sharp laugh between buildings. The spheres quickly followed suit. There is a click and a whir, and a small tube emerged from the center of one of them.
"This is your final warning Citizen Thomas Bradley," the sphere said. "Land and surrender yourself to the authorities."
Thomas responded by tapping his bracelet again, and his rocket pack's engines kicked out as flames spat from their nozzles with increased force.
"We shall take that as a negative response," the sphere acknowledged, and at once all of them increased their pace, tubes emerging from their hidden compartments. Bright light flashed at their tips, and lanced out towards Thomas' engines. Sparks flew as metal was sheared off, sending him spiraling out of control. Thomas howled a number of curses, frantically tapping the controls on his bracelet, trying to stabilize himself.
"Shit! Shit! Shitshitshitshitshitshitshit!" The pack blew apart via a series of carefully placed explosive bolts, and the fragments went crashing into the streets below. A large parachute billowed outward behind him and caught the wind. Slowly, almost carefully, it deposited him back down to the ground, where it deflated and collapsed. His boots scraped the ground upon landing, and he peeled back his goggles. The spheres, still flashing red and blue surrounded him. With a goofy grin, Thomas pushed his hair back and bent his head slightly to get a better look at them. He licked his lips and raised his hands.
"Sorry for the commotion," he chuckled, glancing around at the wide-eyed bystanders watching the spectacle.
Adam rubbed at the spot where he had been bitten while Ashley packed up her computer, the online program he and Ashley had been watching now over.
"Okay," she said, handing him a sheet of paper. "This has all the questions that you'll be expected to answer for tomorrow's test."
"All?" Adam asked, raising an eyebrow. "So this is a cheat sheet?"
Ashley rolled her eyes. "Do I really need to answer tha-?" she began before being cut off by the sound of her cell phone ringing. Groaning, she pulled it out from her pocket and flipped it open.
"Hey Mom," she said, turning her dark eyes up to the sky. She blinked and pointed up to it, giving Adam a meaningful look. Adam's eyes followed her finger, and together they watched what appeared to be a man flying around on a jetpack, being pursued by a fleet of spheroids.
"Who the heck pissed off the cops this time?" Adam asked, more to himself than to anyone else as he looked back over to Ashley.
"I'll give you one guess," Ashley whispered before returning her attention to her phone. "Yeah, Mom. I'll pick up my brother from the game shop. Yeah. Yes, I'll remember to tell him that. Okay. G'bye." With a beeping sound, Ashley hung up her phone, staring at it silently for a moment before looking over at Adam.
"Sorry, Ad," she apologized. "Mom's going to be running a little late, so I've got to go pick up Devin. I'll touch base with you later tonight. Think you'll be all right until then?"
Adam grinned. "You know me…"
"Yeah. I know you, that's why I'm saying it." She pursed her lips together. "No computer. No notes… I want to see what you've learned from the program."
Adam opened his mouth to protest, paused, and then shrugged.
"All right," he promised, huffing a little. "You've got my word. I won't use anything but my brain."
Ashley gave him a cocked eyebrow, and Adam rolled his eyes.
"Don't look at me like that, I won't touch anything but this assignment and a pen. Jeez…"
"Okay," Ashley nodded solemnly. "I'll talk to you later." Touching his shoulder, a promise of her own, she finished packing, picked up her bag and started off. Adam watched her go for a moment before sighing disparagingly, lifting the assignment paper and going over it.
"Got to make it difficult, huh?"
A sharp sting lanced through his arm again, and he dropped the paper in surprise, clamping one hand on the swollen flesh that marked where the ant had bitten him earlier. He glared at it and then back at the statue from which the ant's hive-mates continued to march down. Grumbling, he stood and picked up his own things.
"I'd better vacate from here." He turned up toward the face of the statue, still frozen in its horrified, eternally silent, and horribly lifelike scream. "Catch you later, Rock."
He left the Rock of Gibraltar, shuddering again.
Shouldering his bag, Adam made his way out of the park and down into the streets. Above him, a balloon clove its way through the sky, flashing an advertisement for a soft drink called Solaris. "Pops like the sun!" it beamed. Adam felt the back of his throat tingle, and he hurried his pace. His throat felt a little parched, now that he thought about it. Here and there, the odd horn honked and someone yelled at someone else. Another typical day in the typical city known as Metapolis, nicknamed the silver city of progress.
Adam glanced over at a commotion on the other side of the street where the rocket man had been run to ground. Human authorities had arrived on the scene and were now in the process of quartering the place off with yellow tape; cleaning up fragments of the remains of rocket pack and shooing away anyone too nosy to continue on with their day somewhere else. The spheres stood at the ready, a silent message to the citizenry that the order to move on would be enforced. Adam took their advice and ducked his head, disappearing into the crowd, but not before he caught sight of the red-haired youth sitting in the back of a police patroller.
Adam sighed despondently, recognizing him.
Ash was right, as usual.
This too was another typical day in the typical city known as Metapolis. Typical in a lot of places as well, not just Metapolis. In small towns, countryside's, foreign lands, big cities like New York—there more than most other places especially—this sort of thing was common, albeit with varying degrees of order and chaos, that never-ending battle that was defined years ago in a time loosely referred to in the program Adam watched as 'the Golden Age'. Adam paused to think about that, remembering Thomas.
Most people don't see it as that anymore, he thought, passing beneath blue flag with a sun-symbol emblazoned on it. Except maybe Ashley. She's obsessed with that kind of stuff.
Briefly, he wondered what Thomas thought, but quickly discarded it. He didn't know the guy all that well. Not as well as he knew Ashley. They've been friends since they were nine, and she saw herself as something akin to his 'protector', a fact that left him more than a little embarrassed when they were kids, and even more so as they began to grow up. He was taller than she was, for goodness sake! Why did she have to act like she was his…well…
…his 'super hero'.
Adam didn't like the term. Few people did nowadays. It was a description first used to describe the soldiers that brought down the Third Reich and fought against the later enemy, the Soviet Union and the thousands more that existed in the world beside it.
But they weren't heroes. The Dark Age proved that.
Damn, that bite hurts. Adam raised his arm to take a good look at the swollen flesh. It stood out prominently against his thin, pale arm, looking more like muscle than he actually had ("You need to exercise more," he could hear Ashley telling him in his mind); dark red and angry.
That little bastard hated my poking at it so much that it's like it transferred that hate into its bite. Adam scowled at the bite. It was itching something fierce now, and he couldn't help but wonder if he should go and see a doctor about it. He didn't think that it could be that bad. It was an ant after all, he reasoned. At the very least, this far north of the equator, fire ants were nonexistent, and he hadn't heard anything about the kind of nasties that grew up in Australia crossing the ocean and the entire continent just to get to one specific statue of a man from a bygone era. The only statue, but that was beside the point.
Not that the point mattered much. Ashley may not have been there to bring up the point, but Adam would freely admit that he knew about as much about taxonomy as a preschooler did—which was to say, nothing. Ants were ants to him.
I'm worrying about it too much, he thought, wiping an arm over his brow before shuddering—no, shivering—again. He rubbed a hand against his arm, trying to warm himself up.
Since when did the weather get so cold? he wondered, looking around him. When he woke up, the weather was cool, but it warmed to a comfortable seventy degrees. A perfect spring day, with only a small cluster of puffy clouds in the sky to bother the sun. So why did it feel a good ten degrees colder?
Something's not right, he thought, his mind feeling strangely muffled. He thought that he should go to the hospital, but by the time the thought finished its train trip, he found the sidewalk eclipsing his vision, eager to greet him.
Shit, he commiserated as he blacked out.
A/N: Sometimes, the best ideas come at the most inconvenient times, such as a statistics class. Either way, it gave me some time to think on it for a spell. The seed for this came from an article I was reading on Spiderman, separating his history into the various ages of comic book history (gold, silver, bronze, dark, etc…), and I had a thought: why not write a superhero genre story where time is currently being kept track of in a Tolkienish fashion via the comic book ages, starting with gold and working up to the modern era (or 'modern' in terms of the story, which has its own separate timeline, more accurately the future, but still closely familiar world). I went from there, thinking about what would cause such a drastic change in timekeeping. The emergence of heroes would help cause it, but not be the direct result. The answer?
The Dark Age. And from there I started to plot out the idea. I'll be running this alongside my current work, All Hallows World, to see where it goes, if I get bored with it or not. So far it looks like I've got a decent yarn to spin, but I'll leave the final judgment up to those that read this story. Good? Bad? Comments on style and grammar? As an aspiring writer, I'd like to improve, so I encourage that any mistakes I make be pointed out so they can be corrected post haste.
Until I deliver the next chapter.