Quick Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Any use of names of real persons, organizations or ideas are not intended to represent the persons, organizations or ideas themselves.
Arcman: The Golden Knight
Arc 1: The White Knight
Issue 1: Fight and Flight
July 18, 1999 – 8:02 PM
Nathan Thorn kept his head down while sirens rang in the distance. He was only a few blocks away from the train station, but every street in between was still dangerous to him. He passed by a chilly alleyway and heard a soft crying. He halted momentarily and when he realized it wasn't his imagination, he cautiously treaded into the alley.
The young teen followed the sounds of the high-pitched cry, a baby's. Nathan opened the lid of a rancid dumpster and found the innocent infant, a boy, wrapped in blankets with a name scribbled on a stickered paper slip. He reached down and carefully lifted the baby from the receptacle.
"You poor thing," murmured Nathan. He idled in place, not knowing what action to take. The hospital was far out of the way and he didn't have any change for a payphone. The baby continued wailing, and Nathan swung the boy in his arms. "Don't worry. Everything will be okay. My mother works for the hospital. We'll go see her and she'll make sure you're all okay."
The baby seemed to understand him because the cries faded. Nathan smiled and pulled the baby close before heading out to the train station. The silence was broken once more by a different cry. A young woman's voice called out from a parallel street. Nathan hesitated to involve himself in a fight, especially while he held the petite toddler in his arms. He began walking away, resolving in his head that there was nothing he could do anyway.
He almost reached the main streets when he turned one eighty and bolted toward the sounds of the woman. His heart beat quickly when he saw the four teens hovered around the woman. She was attempting to fight them off, but the boys were too strong for her.
Nathan took a deep breath and held the baby close to his chest. "HEY! LEAVE HER ALONE!"
The teenagers turned around and saw him, a scrawny young boy just like them.
"Why don't you mind your own business, tough guy? Or do you want to end up like her?" said the leader. He turned around and prepared to continue his assault.
Nathan took a step back, letting the intimidation set it. He caught a glance of the woman who whispered out to him, "Please help me."
"Coward!" yelled Nathan, shaking off his fears.
The leader groaned and turned around. "Boys, I'm going to show you today how to deal with punks like this who think they're badass."
He shed his leather jacket and advanced toward Nathan.
"You guys won't hurt me. I've got a baby with me!" shouted Nathan.
"Good, I get to make minced meat out of two babies today," snarled the teen. He slammed his fist at Nathan who instantly turned around and let the attack hit his back. He felt an incredible pain surge across his back, but he held the baby close, making sure that no harm came to the child.
"Duncan, come on man, let the little idiot go. He's got a baby with him," said one of the leader's goons.
"I ain't making you watch, Dave," sneered the leader. He grabbed Nathan by the head and turned him around. Nathan swung to face his opponent and then launched an uppercut.
"Somebody needs to teach you a lesson, you heartless bastard," growled Nathan. He made sure that the tot in his arms was secure and began expertly kicking at his target. He had spent a few lessons in self-defense class. Now was the time to put the skills to use.
The rest of the little gang headed toward him but Nathan ran past them. He dropped the infant in the woman's arms and instructed her to take care of the child. He diverted his attention back to the gang.
"Back off," said Nathan with a fierce determination spread across his face.
"Or what? You think you can really take on all three of us?" growled Duncan, standing up strong. "We're going to mess you up, all three of you."
"Duncan, let's just get out of here," said Dave nervously.
The leader ignored him and threw a fist out at Nathan. Nathan felt a rush of energy rise in him, and he flung the arm away with one hand while jabbing with the other. He followed the punches with a series of kicks that the aggressive teen fended off. Two of the other boys surrounded Nathan. He attempted to fight off all three of them, but they held him by the arms. Duncan moved forward and started beating away at Nathan's chest.
"RUN!" yelled Nathan to the woman. She stood up and ran off unsteadily.
"Dave, go after them!" ordered Duncan, still furiously punching Nathan. The boys holding him let go of his arms, allowing Duncan to kick him to the ground, spitting blood onto him.
"No," said Dave, watching the woman and the baby run off.
"What?" asked Duncan, kicking Nathan aside.
"I said, no," repeated Dave, glaring at Duncan.
"Are you forgetting your place, maggot?"
"No, but I think you are," said Nathan, standing up. The two teens behind him prepared to attack, but adrenaline flooded Nathan and he swung his arms up, knocking both out at the same time. "I said somebody's going to teach you a lesson, and that person's gonna be me."
He landed a solid hit on Duncan's gut, sending the gang leader flying into a hard wall. Duncan sputtered up more blood but rose again, throwing his fists at Nathan, who flung them aside and head-butted him.
Nathan pressed on and threw the teen to the ground. "You're never going to hurt anyone again!"
He raised a fist to attack but suddenly felt an arm clasp him. Dave was standing behind him shaking his head. "You hit him and you won't be any better."
"How would you know? You were beating the living daylights out of a helpless woman just a minute ago," retorted Nathan, breathing heavily from anger.
"Then what about the baby and the woman? Don't you want to go make sure they're okay?"
Nathan was still fuming but knew Dave was right. He looked him in the eye and saw his own reflection. He merely nodded at Dave and then put his arms down, walking away. Dave watched him with a confused, grim expression on his face.
August 26, 2013 – 6:47 PM
Nathan felt an urge to slam the gas pedal and plow through the rush hour traffic on the Aurora City Bridge. He'd been sitting in his tiny Prius listening to the evening news report comment on a police chase in the city, the same chase which kept him in gridlock.
Beethoven's Fifth rang out from Nathan's cell, and he saw his intern's face pop up to replace his wallpaper. Nathan swapped the news report for the call.
"Houston, what's up?" asked Nathan monotonously.
A disgruntled voice answered, "I just received an email from the institute saying that the Monday shipment arrived. You know, the one that was supposed to come yesterday?"
Nathan was an archaeologist at the Western Archaeology Institute and had recently completely an excavation. The artifacts had been delayed in transit. But the workday had already ended and Nathan felt too exhausted to deal with any work-related issues.
"Did anyone sign off on it?" asked Nathan.
"Okay, then let's put this off until tomorrow."
A horn blared at Nathan from behind, startling him and bringing his attention back to the sea of cars. He shouldn't have taken his eyes off the road.
"Sounds like you're stuck in traffic," murmured Houston on the other end of the line.
"Yeah, there's some chase going on downtown. Roads are blocked off," noted Nathan. "I'll probably be stuck here for another half-hour or so."
He sighed dejectedly at the thought of moving an inch an hour. He could have been home in a few minutes if he wanted. Unlike the cars on his side that were moving in snail-time, Nathan was fast. Very, very fast. He was a superhuman who could run alongside racecars.
"Rough," commented Houston. "Guess you'll just have to tough it out."
Unfortunately, the rest of society was still apprehensive about the population of superhumans steadily popping up across the globe, and Nathan kept his abilities under the radar.
"Guess I will," said Nathan. "Thanks for the heads up, Houston. See you in the morning."
"No problem. Good night!"
The call disconnected, and the weather report turned on, presenting Nathan with more bad news. Another storm was tempting to hit the coastal city, the third one in two weeks.
The driver behind Nathan honked again, this time more forcefully, as if it would make the traffic clear up. Nathan breathed out heavily to calm himself. He could easily stepped out and smashed the driver's car to bits if he wanted. Not only was Nathan fast, he was also strong. Enough so to smash down a sturdy oak tree with a swift punch and to lift bulky men who irked him.
But Nathan wasn't the type of man to abuse his strength. He had never been bullied but he had encountered enough tragedy in his lifetime to know better than to cause suffering to someone else just because he was in a bad mood.
The chain of vehicles came to a halt once more, and Nathan distracted himself by turning on the music. In the car on the right side of his, a teenager struggled with her literature homework. With his enhanced senses, he heard her asking her father about Lord of the Rings.
"I just don't get why Frodo is characterized as the hero. He doesn't actually do any fighting," argued the teenager.
"He doesn't need to bear arms to be a hero," countered the father.
Nathan knew the trilogy of books well. The protagonist, Frodo, journeyed across a fantastical land to destroy a magical ring that brought nothing but despair, destruction, and death. A simple, humble man, he encountered monsters and magicians and crossed treacherous terrains.
"He's not a hero because he fights evil. He's a hero because he protects the peace," continued the father. He started to solidify his stance but was cut short by the angry driver behind Nathan, who blasted his car horn repeatedly.
Nathan just had about enough. He whipped his head around to yell at the driver, and saw flashes of red and blue: the police. He made a move to maneuver his car out of the way, but it was a tight squeeze.
The honking behind him intensified, no longer just the lone blare of the driver behind him, but a unified echo. The frenzied commuters screamed at one another to steer clear.
Nathan had half a mind to join in, but he dismissed his annoyance and inched his vehicle forward as calmly as possible.
The sirens in the distance grew louder, and Nathan saw the police's target: a transport van hijacked by a prisoner in orange overalls. He was a young man with a reckless fire burning in his eyes.
The speed that the van was moving it, there were two possibilities: if the rogue wasn't desperate enough, he would stop once he saw the blockade of sedans, minivans, and sports cars. The other possibility was that he needed to escape the police at all costs, even if it meant attempting to bust through dozens of cars filled with innocents.
The van sped quickly down the streets, scraping against the smaller vehicles in its path.
"Dad, you have to move the car!" cried the teenager in terror. Her head jerked from her dad to the hijacked prison van. "Come on!"
The two of them were in the direct path of the deranged criminal, who had no intention of stopping. He expected the roads to empty for him. And they would have had it not been the busiest time of day.
"Dad he's right behind us!"
"I see him, don't worry," said the father, trying to remain as calm as possible. There was no space for him to move, but he didn't want to panic his daughter.
The sirens burst through the traffic lanes. Sparks flew, followed by screaming as civilians abandoned their cars, scurrying to the sides to avoid the pursuit.
Nathan ripped the seatbelt off himself and uncomfortably pushed his way out toward the passenger side. Even though he could zip across the city in a blink, he was bound by the awkward structure of a car's interior.
"Dad! We have to get out of here!"
The prisoner didn't stop. Nathan forced himself through the door, jettisoning it off his car completely.
The vibration rattled Nathan's ears. There wasn't a giant fireball explosion, or cars flipping into the air. The van simply rammed into the family's car, forcing it off to the side. The van shook and spiraled outward, impacting both Nathan and the angry driver's truck. Nathan just narrowly escaped his vehicle, but the angry driver was less fortunate.
The sheer volume of the transport vehicle allowed it to steamroll past two more cars, contemporaneously sending them off the road. The prison truck came to a stop as the inertia of the crash took ahold.
All four vehicles were pushed to the edge of the bridge. The metal hulls struck the bridge's guardrails and tore them off their foundation. Four cars, six civilians, plummeted into the water.
Nathan had been too slow. Once he'd pried himself free of his Prius, he made a hold to grab the dad's car, but he missed his mark. He stood out at the ledge and saw the hunks of metal falling.
The police drove right past, their focus completely trained on the prisoner.
Nathan towered over the cars sinking into the water. He inhaled forcefully, his nerves creating an empty pit in his stomach. He hesitated a moment. There always a moment of hesitation before he used his powers. He didn't want to be discovered. But now there was no other option. He had to do it. He was the only one who could save the drivers.
His mind made up, Nathan pulled his white hoodie over his head, masking as much of his gruff face as possible in an effort to conceal his identity should anyone opt to take pictures of him.
He leapt into the water.
On the way down, Nathan evaluated himself. He wouldn't drop dead like a fly. He was too strong for that; if he had plummeted from a hundred stories high, the worst he could expect would've been a couple of bruises on his back.
The problem was that he wasn't an expert swimmer, much less a lifeguard. And there he was, with six lives on the line.
Nathan was a blur, a streak of white that was plunging into the river below.
PLOOSH! Nathan's limbs flailed wildly in the murky river water. He could faintly see the outlines of the fellow sunken civilians. Overhead, a series of lights blinked and pierced the surface of the water.
Nathan held his breath as tightly as he could and lunged out at the figure closet to him. It was a young woman who was knocked out. He grabbed her around the waist and then kicked off. His super strength provided the power of a propeller and the two burst out through the top of the surface.
Several officers overhead pushed through the crowd in an attempt to control the situation while bystanders gasped, screamed, and flashed their camera-phones. Nathan lay the woman on the water, letting her buoyancy take over until she could be rescued.
He didn't waste any more time. He took a gulp of air and went back into the water. Immediately, he noticed a trail of blood that lead to a man whose leg had been lacerated across the length. Floating below the man was a skinny woman who struggled to maintain consciousness.
Nathan dove down and wrapped an arm around the woman. He kicked up and pulled the her hand as he resurfaced. He fought against the pressure of the water and hoped that he wasn't causing them any long-term damages in his rescue attempts.
When he broke through the surface, he heard a policeman yelling at him with a megaphone. "There are several officers in the water! They're headed toward you!"
Sure enough, two silhouettes from the shore were already swimming toward him and the fainted woman he had left floating.
Nathan held afloat the man with the bleeding leg. "There are more people down there, can you-"
The man nodded quickly, grinding his teeth to keep from screaming in pain.
Nathan took in another mouthful of cold evening air and submerged himself to search for the last three victims.
Adrenaline raced through his veins as his eyes peered into the dark depths of the water, but he found nothing. With a stroke of serendipity, a beam of light illuminated the river, and Nathan realized that the police were aiding him. Through the glowing waters, Nathan quickly spotted all three figures at once: the father, the teenager, and the angry driver.
The daughter clung onto her father while the driver slowly sank. Nathan power swam to the driver first, and gave him a quick jab in the back, sending him surging up past a small school of fish. Nathan stretched out his hand to the teen, who was on the precipice of passing out.
He wrapped one strong hand around her arm and then began kicking up. He dragged her up and pushed the driver from behind.
A daunting cloud cast over them, and suddenly, the enormous transport van shot down into the river. Nathan gave one final push and sent Mr. Angry Driver up to the surface.
The prison van was burning hot, and it cut through the water like a burning knife. This time, there was an explosion. The energy emanating outward the vehicle, diffusing in every direction. Nathan felt the searing heat burn through hoodie, and he grunted in pain, swallowing a mouthful of black water. Nathan's grip on the girl's arm weakened and he felt her float away.
A secondary explosion rocked the water, further separating Nathan from the teen and her dad. He'd lost track of time; the longer the family had been submerged, the greater the risk they would die from oxygen starvation.
Nathan weaved through the metal strips, his arms grabbing out in vain at the pair, unable to reach them. A piece of metal hit Nathan's chest and he cried out in pain, swallowing more water. He wasn't perfectly invulnerable, and he felt the serrated metal as it dug a small incision near his sternum.
His water-filled lungs burned for air, but he was determined to save the girl and her father. He had seen everything that had happened and he could've prevented it. He had been initially afraid to use his powers. He had a moment of hesitation that he might be discovered. But now if he didn't use his superpowers, he was going to lose two lives. The pain in his chest would only serve as a reminder of the night, of his failure.
He finally caught the girl and her dad. But he'd been underwater for too long. His resolve remained strong, but his body refused to cooperate.
Nathan felt desperation set in and he mentally ordered himself to put out one final burst of energy. He kicked at the water, pulling the daughter, who was now unconscious, and the dad, up. He felt himself accelerate, and a sense of hope set in.
He pierced the water's surface, but he felt himself continuing to ascend. The night air enveloped him, and at that moment, Nathan realized that he was flying for the first time.
The wind whirled around Nathan's face and he pulled the family through the air. He soared into the sky and landed awkwardly on the bridge, in the middle of a crowd that had cleared. His hold on the victims faltered, and he collapsed to his knees. Blood pooled out from his chest from where the metal shard had incised him.
"Move out of the way, move out of the way!" roared a familiar voice. Nathan saw a built, tall man with combed blond hair moving through the crowd. He donned a suit that flattered his handsome face. Nathan groaned, recognizing his best friend, detective Vann Strong. There was no way he'd escape the police now. Vann was front and center, staring at him with a face of awe.
Nathan pulled the hood of his hoodie down over face.
'Secret's out,' thought Nathan.
"Who are you?" asked Vann. Nathan peered up into his friend's eyes and realized that the detective hadn't recognized him yet. He was still just the mysterious stranger who had rescued half a dozen civilians from their watery deaths.
Not receiving an answered, Vann asked another, "What are you?"
Nathan shook his head vehemently and then stood up. Medics had arrived on scene, rushing to attend to the two victims.
"Why don't you come with me? We'll talk," said Vann.
Nathan deepened his voice. "Maybe another time. Right now, it's time to fly."
Vann's eyes widened as Nathan leaped and shot into the air like a rocket.