Prometheus Thy Name is Captain
Author's note: I'm an avid reader of comic books and I've always wanted to do a superhero story. I wanted it to... Show full author's note »
It's Great to Comeback to Where We BeganIt was finished.
At long last, he’d slaved over the small device for over three years. It was more complex than a Swiss watch, more irresistible than a nuclear warhead, and was more important than anything he’d ever done so far in his entire existence.
“I told you I wasn’t God, Annette,” he spoke aloud in the empty cabin, rubbing the heart locket, “but it’s strange how often I have to play him.” He picked the small silver coin sized device off the crudely thrown together
“What should I name you?” after years alone in the cabin in Texas he’d grown the unattractive habit of talking to himself or inanimate objects. He knew he wasn’t crazy; he was just lonely. However, since he’d let his facial hair grow out into a full grown Neanderthal like beard he could understand how someone might mistake him for a loon.
“I think I’ll name it the Key,” he smiled at the tiny object and put it in his pocket. He heard Cosmo barking from the front yard, a visitor. Wiping his hands on his jeans, he turned his attentions away from the device to move towards the door.
The cabin had once been filled with chairs and tables but now the only furniture was a bed. Wires, generators, tools, and pieces of machinery filled the rest of the room. It was his mad science lab. A place he was rather proud of.
“Mr. Eric?!” he stepped into the light to see his neighbor Violeta wandering down the dirt path towards his cabin. Cosmo ran up to her and wagged his long tail playfully, prancing in circles around her. She moved towards him slowly due to her large pregnant belly. For just an instant, with Cosmo running beside her with her hands held to the side to balance her steps, she became his daughter. She was wearing a flower covered dress and sandals. Her raven hair flowed behind her like a long gown. Just like his daughter in her Easter dress.
Then it was gone.
Realizing he had been staring, he raised his hand in greeting the Hispanic teenager. “Violeta! I was actually just about to come over and see you.”
“I decided to take the incentive and take a final walk down this lovely strip,” she patted Cosmo on the head. He barked happily. “Remember when his fur looked gold?”
“Everything looks red these days,” he squinted upwards to stare at the sky.
From his porch he could see the sky was still filled with the dark crimson hue of the approaching meteorite shower. At this time of day the sky would’ve been a beautiful cool light blue, flawless as the color of a calm lagoon. Now, it twisted and rolled ablaze with the fires that brought doom toward his world.
“I just wanted to let you know how the assault on the meteor went,” she walked up to him panting. He offered her a seat on the porch which she took gratefully.
“From the looks of things it failed,” he stared up at the still existing meteors.
“The President sent all the flyers into the sky, “ she squinted at the brightness of the approaching apocalypse. “They planned to push it away but they were burned to cinders before they touched it.”
“Invulnerability has varying degrees,” Eric shrugged while he took a seat across from her. “I thought some people would’ve learned that by now.”
“Last time I checked, the clock said we had two hours left before our planet was ripped apart by the gravity field of that,” she pointed at the meteor. “After I walked here we probably have one hour.”
“You seem okay with that,” Eric said.
“Best to spend the last hour with a friend,” she smiled at him, “Besides, I already spent a month in denial, a month in panic, a month in depression, and now I fully accept it. Also, everyone at the shelter has already abandoned it. Though I enjoy eating as much pudding as I want it is not the same without company.”
She reached into her jacket and pulled a small pudding pack from her pocket.
“I planned to eat one with you but the walk made me very hungry,” she tossed him the cup and he caught it easily. “Actually, I wanted you to have two and I would have two but alas, we ended with one.”
“Any pudding is good pudding,” he scratched his thick beard with a long yawn. “So have your parents contacted you yet?”
“Turns out that even at the end days they will not talk to the daughter who went and got pregnant without graduating, going to Harvard, finding a successful job, dating a prosperous man, and then marrying him when I reach my thirties. Nineteen was to soon for them and they still hold the grudge.”
“That’s sad,” he patted her hand gently.
“This coming from the crazy hermit who lives in the woods,” Violeta scratched Cosmo behind the ear after he had sat down beside them. “You are lucky to have even one friend.”
“I’ve got Cosmo,” he said and rubbed the dogs back with his foot.
“It is strange how he is the only animal that is not acting crazy,” she said rocking in the chair. “All the other animals are stampeding through cities one way in the morning and then the other way at night.”
“They’re trying to run away from the meteor but since the Earth is rotating they just end up going in circles. But for some reason Cosmo is okay with it.”
“Mr. Eric,” her voice now took on a business tone. She attempted to put her hands over her lap but only succeeded placing them on her knees. “I have a proposition for you.”
Enjoying how the nineteen year old was being so lighthearted in light of the oncoming doom, he nodded for her to continue.
“Because the end of the world is upon us and we are going to die in a fiery explosion, I would like to know your last name and your history. You know everything about mine, but I know nothing of yours.”
“Isn’t saving your life payment enough?” he asked, remembering when he found her pregnant, alone, and malnourished sleeping in the shed behind the cabin seven months ago.
“No,” she smiled.
“Alright then,” he put the pudding pocket on the floor and rocked alongside her. “How about this, I get to ask you one question. Then I’ll tell you everything.”
“Fair enough, but make it quick, we are kind of short on time.”
“Here it is: You’ve told me your family had a lot of money, but you never chose to get powers. Why?”
She scratched her chin thoughtfully in a comical way; he smiled. “Well my mother and father forbade it, but that means nothing. I would have done it anyway. I suppose the real reason is their title.”
“Yes. I do not believe them to be gods. Maybe not even heroes. If you see them on the news they are selfish and ignorant. I suppose anyone who calls themself a god is ignorant.
“I was always raised to believe there was only one God. That god does not fly or shoot lasers out of his nose. He can create and destroy like those people, but he does so with people’s best interest in mind. These heroes do not.”
“So what do you think makes a hero?” he asked stroking his beard thoughtfully.
“I suppose the quality of a hero is more of what the gods lack. Humanity. A god cannot be human and a human cannot be a god. But even the belief that you are no longer human is enough to lose your humanity.” She looked up at the sky, “I had a friend who became a god. She said she felt powerful enough that she could do whatever she wanted.
“But if you have no one to answer to, no one to stop you, then you only worship yourself. That is what I am afraid of. If I am given power, would I be responsible enough to know how to use it? Would I still follow the rules? Or would I do whatever I wanted and lose touch with who I was? That is why I never got them. I do not trust myself because I am human. And even if I thought otherwise, I would still be human.”
Eric smiled, “You’re a very smart girl, Violeta. I’m glad to have known you.”
“I only wish I could know my baby,” she rubbed her stomach thoughtfully. “But maybe it is better this way. To be raised without all the confusing ideas of gods and meteors.” She then snapped her fingers, “Now hurry up and tell me your name before we become ashes.”
“My name is…” he stopped when he picked up the sound. The familiar screeching sound, like a jet roaring by. It was faint, small, but growing louder with every passing moment. Eric stood up, his seat still rocking on the wooden porch. Cosmo sensed it next; he snarled at the sky. His ears curled back with teeth bared.
“What is it?” she looked in the sky as well.
“The President,” Eric turned to her, “Violeta. I need you to do something very important for me, okay?” He pulled the Key from his pocket and placed it in the palm of her hand. “This is a gift for you. A key. Alright? Don’t ever lose this, it will open a door for you.”
“What door?” she asked, looking from him to the quarter sized device in her hands.
“To a better place,” he smiled just as the ground erupted before them. A shower of dirt sprayed the cabin porch, bits flew into his eyes but he made sure to shield Violeta from the spray.
“So this is where the elusive Captain has been hiding,” Ray said brushing off dirt from his expensive tuxedo, “Nice beard and flannel, Eric. Giving up on Captain to try out Paul Bunyan instead?”
“You’re filling in that hole Mr. President,” Eric stepped off the porch, looking at the crater. “This may be your country, but that’s my lawn.”
“Funny!” Ray clapped his hands together, “much better than any of the other gods I sent at the meteor.”
“All the flyers, right? Funny how you’re still here.”
“Earth needs a President when all is said and done,” Ray waved at Cosmo who bared his teeth and snapped his fangs at the brother. “It took years but we finally tracked you down. Less than an hour ago the lab boys sensed a spike in ultraviolet ruby radiation here. Just like back at Site 23C.”
Ray took a step forward, “Before anything else I’d just like to thank you for not going on a vendetta against the meteor sites. Even though I wouldn’t have preferred it, it’d make you a fugitive to destroy government property. The last thing we needed was all our meteor rock becoming ash.”
“How’d your plan work out?” Eric asked looking up at the sky, “I don’t mean to criticize, but won’t it be hard to mine tifarium when it’s sticking out of your chest? That is if we don’t melt first.”
“So it didn’t work out exactly the way I wanted it to,” Ray shrugged dismissively, “But we made more advances in three years than the entire world has done in two centuries. Such as what happened to that meteor back at Site 23C.” Ray picked at his fingernails, “It’s incredible that you discovered a whole other world. Not to mention how you probably found a way to get there safely, am I right?”
“How did you…”
“Know? Jeez Eric, I keep telling you. We’re living in tomorrow and technology is always changing. Wasn’t that hard to find out you sent the rock to a different dimension. Just like a radio. Our world is FM and the new world is AM. Both existing in the same place but unaffected by the other. Which means the other world will survive when ours dies. Problem is, my lab boys can build the gateway across but we can’t unlock it. But you can.” His features changed to that of a statue, stony. “Were you really going to leave me behind? Run off and let me die while you’re in paradise with that girl over there?”
“No. You and I are both staying here. She’s going.”
“Oh my God,” Ray rolled his eyes, “Will you give the hero thing a rest? Honestly! Is this like your swan song? The final great act of the heroic Captain? I’d hate to tell you, bro, but we don’t need you anymore. I didn’t become President with your help. We didn’t make all these advancements with your help. We’ve gotten along just fine without you. You’re a relic now. Nothing more than a paragraph in the history books.”
“Funny,” Eric clenched his jaw, “seems like you need The Key to get to the other world.”
“That’s just because we didn’t have enough time to fix all the bugs. If we had an extra month we could’ve figured it out.” He smiled, “Remember back when I invited you to that fast food place? When I told you about my discovery? About how I always believed in you, that you were like some god? I was freakin’ pathetic. I worshipped you. You! Of all people! It’s hilarious.
“It isn’t until I became a god that I saw what you really are. You’re not a hero, or a god, or even human. You’re a ghost. You spend all your time thinking about Annette or who you used to be or ‘the good old days’. I guess the real reason I liked you is the same reason people still like The Beatles. You and your ideals are vintage. Sold on eBay or craigslist.”
“You think of that yourself?” Eric asked.
“Power puts things in perspective,” his brother clenched his fist and opened it again. “I made sure I gave myself the most. Like you said, I’m God. You can’t reach me and I don’t even hear the crunch when you’re under my heel.”
“That’s why we’re staying here,” Eric looked back at Violeta with a soft smile. “She’s going to a world where there aren’t people like us. Where gods don’t walk the Earth. Back to simpler times.” Eric turned to look at his brother, the man’s shoulder’s falling and rising as he simmered in rage. “I miss you, Ray. I was always afraid I’d turn into you, that’s what kept me grounded. Not wanting to lose my family. But I lost them anyway. Please just forget about the power.”
“So that’s it? You’re sparing the other world from us and our power.” Ray snorted with a sarcastic smile. Then it was gone, replaced by a glare, “You aren’t going to let me leave, are you?”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Tell me one thing then. How did you find a way to cross over?”
“Once I knew where the world was I used emeralds and diamonds doused with ultraviolet ruby radiation to create refraction, bending reality to point the way to the other side. I then charged enough electricity into a small coin sized piece of the mineral hybrid that it’ll be able to change the vibration of a person and reflect them into the other world.”
“Old school. I technically reinvented the mirror. I told you to look at the past.” He pointed up at the approaching meteor, “It’s all been about that rock. A rock gave you power, and when we were in trouble you turned to the rock again. Well now you’ve realized we’re just on another rock, aren’t we? And that huge rock above us is set to wipe us out. What’s your solution now?”
“Get a bigger rock,” a sinister smiled crossed over his face as he stalked towards his brother. “I’m not dying here, not that you seem to care. Just get out of my way.” Ray grabbed his brother’s shoulder and shoved him aside. Eric stumbled backwards. No one had pushed him away in a decade.
He saw Violeta cower as Ray strode towards her. His movements made him appear as a tiger, hunting the small timid prey.
“Ray, don’t make me do this.” Eric clenched his fists and tensed his muscles.
“Do what, Eric?” Ray stopped in his tracks. He turned around and looked back at Eric a grin like ice. “A fight? Right now?”
“I don’t want to.”
“But you will won’t you? You’d fight your brother? Jealous that I have more power than you?”
“You don’t have any qualities I’d ever want.”
“Then let’s see if The Captain can take down the President of the United States,” he turned to Violeta, still sitting in the chair. “Pay attention honey, you won’t see anything like this ever again.”
Ray rolled his shoulder one moment, the next he was holding Eric by the neck. With a spin he slammed his brother into the dirt. Eric struggled beneath him, trying to push his brother off.
“I keep telling you Eric, technology is always advancing.” Ray whispered in his ear.
Eric struggled for breath, first attempting to punch Ray in the face. His hands had once bent steel and crumbled diamonds, but Ray’s flesh was impervious.
Then from the left the angry yapping of a dog erupted from the side. Ray fell backwards as Cosmo tackled him, catching the President off balance. Eric gasped for breath, watching as Ray struggled with the dog in his arms.
With a crack the struggle was over.
“Cosmo!” Eric shouted. The creature that fell at Ray’s feet was no longer a dog. It was a sad sack of bone and flesh covered with fur; a snack for vermin.
As much as he tried to forget, the memories of the dog as a puppy danced as playfully as the dog had once done in his mind. A small pup, no older than one bounding beside his daughter, nuzzling its’ nose against her as they slept. She loved that dog, that puppy. Now he to was gone.
“Well my grand unveiling in the new world won’t be with style,” Ray muttered, pulling on the ripped sleeve of his tuxedo. “I hope they have Armani there.”
Anger wasn’t even what he felt when he lunged at Ray. He never even felt rage during his brutal assault on his brother’s smug features. All that was there was instinct. Pure natural instinct. The urge to attack, to fight, to defend. It wasn’t until now that it became clear to him. Not until now that he felt what he lacked during the days of capes and villains. It had never been so black and white. Not because of Cosmo, though he did love him, but because deep down he’d knew this would happen eventually. Everything had built to this and now it had finally come. The end times.
Ray was right. This was his swan song. His final act.
He was going to make it legendary.
“Armani’s going to be the least of your problems, Mr. President!” His voice booming, he slammed his fist into his brother’s stomach. With the wind knocked out of Ray, the man was helpless when the hero took to the skies. The cacti vanished below them as they rocketed towards the meteor. “You were right! I have lived in the past, but it isn’t until now that I know what all those ideals meant! Not until now that I’m ready to take the title!” With a sudden flip they dove downwards in a spiral. His beard billowed about his face but his voice was strong as he shouted, “I’m ready to be the hero!”
The President’s body hit the ground first allowing The Captain’s fall to be cushioned. Standing tall, a giant among men, he placed his foot against his brother’s head pressing his face downwards into the sand and grit.
“I wasn’t wearing my bifocals, but that looked like it hurt,” The Captain flashed his grin.
“Get off me you lunatic!” The President rammed his fists into the leg that held him captive. “You’re out of you mind! The world’s going to hell and you’re joking?!”
“The world’s been going to hell for over a decade,” The Captain said. “Of course I don’t expect someone who looks towards the future remembering breakfast.”
“A dog, really?!” The President’s head tilted. A blast of red energy flew from his eyes into The Captain’s face. Stumbling backwards, the hero rubbed the burn marks from his skin. When his eyes opened again a well-manicured hand collided with his jaw.
“After all these years all it takes to motivate you is the death of a dog?!” another swift jab to the gut and The Captain dropped to one knee. “The apartment building was destroyed and you ran away. I created new gods and you ran away. Your family died and you ran away. Your experiment failed and you ran away. Why don’t you run now?!”
“Because right now I’m not fighting for government, the people, or even my family. I’m fighting because I’m staring evil right in the face, and this is the only thing I can think of to do.” He snickered, “That, and there’s nowhere left to run.” As The President was about to bring his fists down upon his brother’s head, The Captain used the optic blasts to send his brother stumbling backwards. The chest of his tuxedo now burned through to the skin, The President opened his palm and an explosion of blue fire flew from his hands.
The Captain shielded his face as the flames ignited his clothes.
“You’re saying I’m evil!” The President screamed continuing his assault with an ongoing inferno. “I did all this to help you and you’re calling me evil?! I was trying to be like you! To save the world! It’s not my fault the only way to do that is through power!”
Like the fires of Hades the weapon used against the hero consisted of a soul. Unlike Hell, which was made of many, this inferno had only one. One angry tormented twisted soul. It fizzled and screamed, frothing at the mouth with rage. Yet even though the flames were meant to kill him, even though every inch forward was a tremendous effort, The Captain still attempted to reach The President. Not only physically but in heart. Because despite everything that happened, all the mistakes committed, the man was still his little brother.
“It was never about me!” The Captain roared, eyes watering from the blaze. “Even back then I saw how your eyes lit up at power! You only wanted to be God!”
“So what if I did?!” the President shouted, forcing the heat to intensify. “You were my hero! I wanted to be you! To be a god that everyone could look up to!”
“I’m only human! Not God!” The Captain reached forward and grabbed The President by the scruff of his suit. He looked upon his brother, eyes filled with sorrow. Yet the eyes that looked back were filled with only hate and the fires that fueled them.
“You are a God!” The President spat, “We’re both gods! You’re more than human, dammit! You’re The Captain!”
“Not Captain,” Eric said before punching his brother across the face. Limp in his arms, he cradled his family, his friend, and let his brother sink into unconsciousness. The adrenaline wore off, not from exhaustion but from Rays face. The calm almost smiling features he had when he slept. At this moment he was no longer The Captain and his brother was no longer The President.
“I’m just Eric and your Ray. I’m sorry I couldn’t be everything you expected me to be.” He placed his brother on the ground and let him sleep. Finally after over a decade of being The Captain or Eric or whomever he was he let the years catch up to him. Because even when he was still in his forties he felt like he lived a hundred lifetimes. He’d seen so much, done so much; but one job was left to do.
“Mr. Eric! Please, are you alright?”” Violeta’s sweaty hands touched his face. But then came the realization that it was he who was sweating. It felt good. He felt human.
For a moment he rested his head against her hand. Remembering the touch of Annette. But there wasn’t enough time for that. No time to reminisce or enjoy the last moments of his life.
“Hurry Violeta,” he reached for the locket hanging around his neck, “Where is the Key? Please tell me you have it.”
She produced the coin sized object from her pocket. With shaking hands she placed it in his large hand, an obvious curiosity behind her green eyes. Pulling the necklace off he kissed the locket, the metal cool to his lips. His whispered a silent prayer to his family before he tenderly draped it around Violeta’s neck.
“What is this?” she asked, holding the locket in her delicate hand.
“Inside is the ashes of my wife and daughter,” he put the small coin sized key to the front of the locket. With a small click it connected together. A crude welding of a circle with a heart. “It takes a few minutes for the current to flow, but when it happens you’ll be gone.”
“Where?” she asked, eyes wide with fear.
“To a pure world, a better world full of cities and people. So similar to our own but without people like me.”
“But I want one with people like you,” she held onto his hand.
“In that necklace there are two people, two people who are even better than I was,” with every blink tears slid down his dirt stained face. “But it’s up to you, Violeta, to make sure that both their good, your good, and your child’s good survive in the other world.”
“Why me?” she asked through sobs. “Why did you choose me?”
“Because you’re wisdom, honor, kindness, perseverance, joy, laughter, beauty, but most importantly humanity. You’re all the good that our world has to offer. You’re the one who is truly special.”
“I can’t represent the whole world,” she wiped at her cheeks. Her eyes were wide with terror at the prospect of the legacy she would have to fulfill.
“Violeta,” he gently stroked her night black hair, “there are almost 500 different types of violets. They grow all over the world. Even your name is everything our world is.” He let out a long exhale. Finally at long last his job was done.
“What was her name?” Violeta asked.
“Your daughter. Every time I see you looking at me it’s the way my own father watched me. What was her name?”
“Her name was Alison,” Eric said with a sad smile, “It means exalted in German. I practically worshipped that little girl.”
“Alison,” Violeta repeated smiling through a face of tears, “I’ll always-”
There was a single flash of light and she was gone.
Eric was alone.
For the first time in years he felt heat. Around him the cactuses burned and the very sand beneath him turned to glass. His clothes were ablaze as his body turned bright red.
Above him he could see only see the boiling surface of the meteor. He knew he was about to die. So he decided to fall asleep. Not as The Captain. But as the man he had always been. Eric Falkman.
“It started in Texas, it ends in Texas,” he whispered as he dozed off. In a little giggle he whispered, “I saved the world, Annette. Get it? I saved the-”
He drifted into oblivion, never to wake again.