Arc 2: Red Sol Hero
Issue 36: Deluge
February 14, 2014 – 5:03 AM
Hermila Laster watched Louisa Pepep sleep. In the two weeks that the superhuman had been at the Santa Cruz Psychiatric Hospital, Louisa had constructed an erratic sleep pattern for herself. Hermila, who had been assigned as the night nurse, had to remain vigilant in case Louisa attempted another disappearing act.
"You look tired," said Louisa.
Hermila straightened herself. It was unlike her to speak, especially in the dead of night. "I'm surprised you don't."
"I'm waiting," said Louisa.
Hermila was almost afraid to ask. "For what?"
The patient quieted, unmoving. It scared Hermila, who was wondering if Louisa was concocting a plan, or had one in play. She didn't consider that Louisa might try using her powers on the staff. The Administration had quarantined her to a remote section of the hospital and distributed protective charms.
Louisa leapt up from her bed having anticipated the brick that broke through the barred windows. Hermila jumped up from her seat and went to restrain Louisa, who let out an earsplitting screech.
She banged wildly on the door. Hermila rushed at her in an attempt to take her down in a tackle. Louisa whipped around and beat Hermila over the head with her fists, knocking her down to hard flooring.
The orderlies outside were too far away to respond as Hermila pulled down the emergency response cord. Louisa was animated for once, energetic and her face flaring with emotion. The rage had amounted inside and she was going erupt.
"I won't kill you," Louisa informed her. The flashing lights in the hallway became obscured by a small mob that tore at the door. They were patients from the other wing. One was steady enough to unlock the door, and they stormed in. They passed Louisa and headed towards Hermila. Louisa gave a look back and said, "But they might."
Hermila screamed as the patients, all consumed by fury, charged at her.
February 14, 2014 – 10:11 AM
Rain poured in abundance onto Arcman's outfit, thoroughly drenching him. He panted heavily, pushing a massive cruise ship to maintain its balance in the ocean. The bizarre weather had set in early in the morning and persisted into the afternoon. The captain had made the call to settle in one of Red Sol's ports, but the storm had picked up by the time he was nearing land.
Lighting had struck, crippling the ship's major systems, leaving it idle in the ocean. The waves were forceful and tall. The seawater flooded the uppermost decks and forced the vacationers inside the protective hull of the ship.
"ARCMAN! YOU NEED TO MOVE THEM CLOSE TO SHORE!" a voice bellowed at him through a megaphone.
The police and the coast guard had both shown up to help in the evacuation of the cruise ship, but their vessels were equally at a disadvantage against the weather.
Thunder boomed overhead in the gray clouds, illuminating Arcman. The civilians inside pressed up against the glass windows to get a better view of the hero at work. His strength was overwhelming, but the cruise liner weighed at least forty tons! He was just barely keeping the vessel from being overturned by Mother Nature and everyone was expecting him to haul the ship to shore.
He was panicking. WOOOSH!
A wave the size of a skyscraper loomed overhead, laughing cruelly at Arcman. And then it came down like a hammer. Arcman launched himself into the air, spinning his body with as much speed his body could muster. He pierced the wave, weakening it considerably. It fell down on the cruise liner. The ship rocked and screaming ensued, but it stayed upright.
Arcman looked out into the distance and spotted another wave undulating towards the coastline. He calculated the time and then zoomed off away from the ship. The RSPD had its own ship among the ranks of the sturdy, fearsome coast guard ships. Arcman touched down on the deck and burst into the bridge.
"What in Mother Margaret Mary's name are you doing?" the chief shouted at him. Arcman had rarely dealt with Police Chief Corbin Demski, but knew he had a reputation for getting results.
"I can't move the ship in by myself, you need to send in backup!"
"Our ships can't handle this type of weather. If we send them out, the ocean will eat them alive!"
"Chief, I'm not trying to complain. I'm trying to tell you that I don't have enough strength to hold off the waves, secure the ship and move it to shore! I'm already spread thin just dealing with keeping that hunk of metal from sinking!"
Arcman breathed deeply, still exhausted from the struggle. He looked around for Vann and Izumi, but they weren't on the ship. He couldn't get any support from them…
The chief thought about the options he had–there weren't a lot of cards on the table. "Okay, can you at least move some of the people off the ship? Get them to safety?"
"I can try…but if they get hit by a wave en route, I don't know if they can survive the water. I'm impervious, they're not," said Arcman, pointing at the ship.
The chief shook his head. "If the ship won't budge, it's a lost cause. We still have a chance of saving the people. I need you to fly fast for me, son."
Arcman grit his teeth. He had a thought stuck in his head that told him from the get-go that he wasn't ready for something of this caliber. He needed more power, more speed. His fears that he wasn't strong enough were being realized. But the thought had urged him to try something radical.
"Get ready," he warned the chief.
"God be with you," the chief murmured.
Arcman walked out of the bridge back out into the storm. Giant drops of rain mixed with the brine and splashed all over him. He placed his hand on a hook on his belt.
The voice in his head spoke, 'Use the ring, see its power, feel it, become the power.'
It echoed in his mind, and he obeyed. He unhooked the silver ring and held it in between his gloved fingers. The ocean rocked the ship, and he hovered up to steady himself. He breathed in and prayed that the ring's power didn't kill him. Time was running out. The wave was coming in closer. He pulled off his right glove and pushed the studded silver onto his ring finger.
For a moment, there was just silence. There was darkness. Arcman realized that he had been anxious to the point he'd shut out his sensory intake. He opened his eyes and regained focus. He stretched out his hands, wondering if the ring took. The gems hadn't changed or lit up. He didn't have time to wait. There was a ship full of innocent lives that he had to go save.
He re-gloved himself and then flew as fast as he could, racing against the oncoming storm. The sea brought its wrath and sent another tide at the ship. Arcman rammed through, his body spinning like a drill once more.
His strength wavered, no stronger than it was before.
'Allow yourself to be more,' the voice said.
"I'm trying!" muttered Arcman.
He crashed down onto the ship and began superspeeding. Within a second he came the main hall where the civilians had clustered. The hull was holding, but the sea shook the ship back and forth. Seeing Arcman gave relief to most of the people. The pandemonium settled and Arcman was able to find the captain at the mezzanine looking over the passengers.
"Captain, I'm going to start evacuating these people. I need you to organize them and lead them towards the safest exit point," said Arcman.
The captain, who was yelling orders at his crew, turned and yelled at Arcman. "Are you crazy? Including the passengers, crew and staff, we have over three thousand people! It'll take you forever! Wait, who the hell are you?"
Arcman realized that the majority of the people on the ship weren't local and hadn't heard about him. "I'm Arcman, Red Sol city's local hero. Now, are you going to help me?"
The captain didn't have much time to decide. He leaned his head to a nearby crewmember. "Salcido! Show him with the muster station is! Tiller! I need the passengers to quiet down! Intercom!"
The man named Salcido started running and gestured for Arcman to follow. Before he zipped off, the captain grabbed his shoulder. "Arcman was it?" He wasn't shouting. "Thank you."
Arcman nodded and then jogged after Salcido. Through a series of damp hallways, Arcman and Salcido finally came upon an extensive room lined with lifeboats. He charged at the door leading to the outside and tore a hole.
"Salcido, make sure to keep the path here clear!"
The man ran back in, leaving Arcman on his own. He hovered in the air, staring at the ring on his finger. His strength was revitalized, it wasn't increasing in any way. He doubted he could move any faster either. It was supposed to work, right?
A weaker wave made its way towards the ship. Arcman caught sight of it from the side of his eye and he shot out like a bullet. From afar, the law enforcement officers could see the golden streak against the contrast of the dark ocean water. He was a spear that pierced the shield. The wave broke, and Arcman came out unscathed.
The larger wave surged towards the ship, and Arcman immediately made a beeline for it. His muscles burned as he tore through the midsection of the wave. He howled belligerently at the sea, expecting it to challenge him.
A small crowd of people had gathered at the hole that he'd created on the ship. He took them two at a time, holding them around the waist with his giant arms. He flew to the nearest ship and dropped them off with the crew which had been awaiting their arrival.
He repeated the process, superspeeding the entire time. He didn't want to move too fast in case he injured the people he was rescuing. The rain seemed to stop when he moved, and with each interval, he checked the position of the next wave. After about a third of the passengers had been extricated, Arcman was forced to confront the sea once again.
'Please let this end,' begged Arcman silently. Like a spiraling golden rocket, he soared at the wave, his fists ready to punch the intense upheaval of water.
He felt himself slipping on the inside. The mental strain taxed him, and he couldn't keep up with his body. The fists connected with the wall of water, sending a concentrated pulse across the length of it, bringing it cascading into the ocean.
Arcman inhaled deeply, trying to stay airborne. Then he shivered midair, and he plunged into the ocean. He heard the screams from above water, and he broke the surface just in time to see another wave crash against the side of cruise liner. Bodies fell from the side, and then Arcman saw what he dreaded. The storm had picked up, the winds pounded against the side of the ship, with nowhere to pass through.
The crash was muffled by lighting overhead. The grand ship tipped, and it began to submerge. Arcman pulled his torso out of the water and flew. The civilians were suspended in air, no, they began falling in slow motion–he was slowing down.
He pulled them out from freefall and sped out to the rescue ships. It was impossible to reach them all, and the cruise liner was on its side, slowly sinking into the ocean. There must have been hundreds more inside.
He couldn't save them all! There were too many!
Why wasn't the ring working?
He went to combat another wave. The gray clouds, the lighting overhead, the screams of terror, the cold ocean. As Arcman collided with the wave, all his senses went out, and he fell.
February 14, 2014 – 5:30 PM
Agent Reggie ambled pompously over to Izumi, who was clearing out her desk drawers at the precinct. "We need to call in Arcman."
"For what?" asked Izumi.
The agent placed a faxed report from the Santa Cruz Psychiatric Hospital. "Uproar escaped this morning. She stole a car and is headed our way. We've got an APB out for her and road blocks set up, but nothing is going to stop. We need to prepare ourselves."
Izumi glanced at Vann, who was assisting an officer with a report. The entire force assisted the rescue effort in the morning and when the storm settled, the police had to contact the families of the deceased and fill out paperwork.
"Vann can help us contact him," said Izumi. "Are you sure that we need Arcman? He sunk in the storm. We're not sure if he's even alive."
Agent Reggie's face darkened. "He's alive."
February 16, 2014 – 11:34 AM
Nathan was cooped up in his room again. He couldn't save everyone. The media had covered the storm–there were eighty-three casualties and countless more in the hospital. He had failed.
Vann knocked on his door. He had the day off, but he wanted to keep an eye on his friend. They hadn't spoken much since he told her about Ruth. It seemed they were both going through a rough patch.
"Nate, I'm going out to the gym. You want to come with?"
He didn't respond. Vann tested the doorknob. It was unlocked.
"Nate, I'm coming in."
Vann pushed the door open and saw Nathan facing the window, looking out at the cloudy sky. "Man, I don't know what's been bugging you lately. If it's me, or something else. But we're best buds, you and I. You can tell me. We'll work through all of this together."
Nathan didn't say anything. Vann stayed by the doorway and looked out the window with his friend.
"Come on Nathan," said Vann. He rarely called him by his full first name. He was really concerned. "Was it the storm? Did something happen?"
They just stayed quietly in the room for a good long while before Nathan sighed. "When innocents die on your hands, how do you deal with it?"
Vann cocked his head. "I tell myself that I'm only human." He thought for a moment and asked, "Is this about your mother? Her anniversary is coming up…"
"It's…not her. I just wonder if I can do anything about everyone who's gone."
Vann was confused. "It's not your responsibility to preside over the dead–Nate, what's going on?"
There was a knock at the door, and Vann was forced to leave Nathan alone. He looked through the peephole and then panicked, wondering what he should do.
He grabbed the door and swung it open. There was a black-haired woman standing outside the apartment. She had a dangerously thin figure, complete with a defined face. She gave Vann a smile.
"Good morning sergeant."
"Good morning, Julianne."