In the near future, a teenaged boy with teleportation powers battles the forces of evil
In an attempt to honor the memory of his friend, the late Dr. Rheingold, sixteen year old Michael Pryce, with the help of entrepreneur, Anthony Fitch, endeavored to complete the doctor's last, unfinished invention, a teleportation device called Traveler. The experiment ended in disaster as an explosion destroyed the machine and hurled Michael into a hellish dimension where the demonic inhabitants granted him super human abilities and named him the herald of their assault on the Earth. In order to survive the coming months, Michael must now learn to control his new powers, come to grips with what he has seen, and search for a way to avert the coming invasion which draws nearer each day...
When Mike's best friend, Karen, discovers his secret, she convinces him to use his powers to fight crime in Kestrel City as the mysterious vigilante Specter. In a matter of weeks Specter begins gaining renown among the populace. His peculiar style and mysterious manner endear him to the citizens in a way Stallion, with his glad-handing and his broad, mass-produced smiles, seems unable. Having just apprehended several members of a terrorist cell, Specter feels that perhaps his life as a super hero is really starting to look up. That is, until the Stallion arrives on the scene, drunk and jealous of Specter's sudden popularity.
"So, Mordierre," says Ku, "I suppose you thought I would not know of this treachery." The two of them are standing at the edge of a fire pit. In the middle of the inferno, the flames have turned purple and swirl in a circular frame. Inside the ring of violet fire there is displayed a moving image, as clear as any television screen. The god and his High General watch with interest as the boy, who is to be the herald of his Realm's doom, feels fury take hold of him in the face of his closest friend's cruelty and, for just a moment allows the bruised, putrid heart of his soul shine through in his eyes.
"I admit," says Mordierre, smoothly, "I gave the child the suit without your knowledge, but you are not always available for consultation and my time was short. Do you deny it's been useful? I know it's not easy to see beyond your borders. Clothed in shadow silk, the boy can be watched at any time with no effort on your part. It also makes the herald more powerful, which can only increase your chances at success." Ku is silent for a moment, his deadpan face betraying nothing of his mind. Finally, he turns his mad gaze on Mordierre.
"You've served me well, Mordierre, as always. I forgive this transgression, but you would do well not to repeat such foolhardiness without my permission."
"Yes," says Mordierre, sneering beneath his veil, "Of course... 'Master.'"
"There was something else you wished to speak to me about?" Ku prompts.
"I am concerned about the boy's progress."
"Yes?" Ku seems to know where Mordierre is going with this, but is content to let him get there on his own.
"As you've seen for yourself over the past weeks, the boy seems inclined toward a certain heroic element."
"Mmm," Ku grunts noncommittally
"Aren't you in the least bit concerned? Any other boy gifted with these abilities would use them for himself. In my experience, if a kid like him doesn't have responsibility thrust upon him, there's no reason he should reach out and take it." Ku's awful face twists into something that might have passed for a grin by his standards.
"Memories from another life, my general?" he asks. Mordierre does not reply. "Regardless, you need not worry about our young herald." Ku gestures at the flaming image, in which Specter is now struggling out from under a bench. "Look closely. I know you have always had an eye for this sort of thing. Tell me what you observe." Mordierre looks deep into the fire, his senses attuned to the scene. He seems almost to be smelling. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slow.
"Ahhhhh... yes. Guilt, a great deal of guilt, grief, betrayal, hatred and loneliness. He seems the perfect vessel. But then how can you explain this whole 'Specter' persona."
"His attraction to heroism is no concern. In fact, it may be for the best that he is so inclined. Humans are ever ungrateful, ever eager to see the downfall of their greatest champions. In time, his pursuit of justice will bear him bitter fruit, and when he tastes it, the time will be ripe to make my move. Watch, General Mordierre. Watch as our valiant hero bears witness to the failure of another of his city's guardians." In the fire, Specter and the Stallion square off in the ruined mall.
"I won't tell you again, Stallion," Specter warns as the two circle each other like a pair of rival wolves "Walk away. Your reputation is already going to be shot after today, the least you can do is avoid a beating."
"Grraaah!" Stallion bellows and charges, his fist pulled back in preparation for a massive haymaker. As he follows through, Specter skips back, astonished at the ease with which he dodges. He puts his hands on the Stallion's large bicep and vaults forward over his shoulder, landing a kick on the back of Stallion's head for good measure. The force of the kick and his own uncontrolled momentum make Stallion fall flat on his face. Specter lands somewhat more gracefully, crouched with his arms flung back behind him for balance.
Despite his inebriated state and his surprise at Specter's counterattack, Stallion regains his feet not much later than his opponent. He wastes no time in making another foolhardy charge attack. Ready this time, Specter dodges right, shooting off a tendril, low and horizontal, across Stallion's path. With his great speed and weight, Stallion actually drags the younger, lighter hero down onto his side before managing to tangle his ankles in the shadowy, silk thread. This time, Specter rises much sooner. Aware that Stallion's heavy build will make a direct assault futile, Specter no longer even considers an offensive, but merely waits for his ever more infuriated opponent to come at him.
This time, instead of charging, Stallion runs away toward a blank wall and for a moment, Specter is possessed by the lunatic conviction that he will run right through like a cartoon character, leaving a man-shaped hole in the concrete. What Stallion actually does is jump into the wall, and use it like a swimmer to push off right at Specter. He flies at him like a huge, red-and-white bullet. Specter, taken aback by his tactics, barely has time to register his surprise, let alone formulate and execute a dodge or counter. He is tackled to the ground. His already bruised ribs and back moan in pain. His hands are pinned to the ground by Stallion's shins. There is no way of dislodging him.
"You took it away from me!" Stallion cries shrilly, "I was everyone's favorite! They all loved me and then you come along and steal what's mine! I'll KILL you!!!" He lifts both fists above his head, preparing for a strike that will certainly crush Specter's head. Fortunately, Specter remembers his teleportation abilities just in time and all Stallion punches is smoke. Specter reappears in front of Stallion, who does not rise this time. The big man is crouched on the dirty tile. Tears run down his face. Specter's triumph at besting Stallion is short lived. This is not the cocky, muscle-bound glory hound he had come to despise in and out of the mask. This is the unhappy, bumbling buffoon whose hand Specter had had to hold most of the way through that bank robbery. Specter's aggression drains out of him at such a wretched sight. He bends down to help Stallion to his feet, but the larger man takes the opportunity to elbow him in the stomach. Winded, Specter can only watch from the floor as Stallion runs out the doors and into the mall parking lot.
Moments later, Specter bursts out the door. The crowd of people and police applaud his appearance, but he has no time for that. He singles out the security guard who had been helpful before and teleports over to him.
"Which way did Stallion go?" Specter asks. The guard steps back in surprise, but points back toward the center of the city. "Got it."
Specter teleports up to the top of a high building and pinpoints Stallion's position with his spatial sense. In a few jumps, Specter manages to get ahead of his quarry. He lands on the ground, affixes a tendril to an overhanging street lamp, and waits.
"Gotta time this perfectly," he says to himself, then jumps and swings forward feet first, launching a flying kick into Stallion's side as he runs along an intersecting street. Stallion's momentum grinds him into the asphalt. It takes him a few seconds to recover his feet, but in that time, Specter's costume twitches. A tiny scrap of silk seems to leap off the back of his hand and onto the sole of Stallion's boot.
"Well," Specter says, "That's never happened before." Before he can wonder about this too much, Stallion regains his feet. "What d'you say, big guy," Specter asks, "You gonna tell me what paw you got a thorn in?"
Stallion shoves past him and continues running.
"Oookay," says Specter, "rude, but not entirely unexpected." Suddenly, his spatial sense picks up on something. Amid the criss-crossing orange lines, there is a single, ultra-bright pinpoint of white light. It is moving somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 miles per hour in the direction Stallion took. Specter glances down at his hand. There is no sign of the missing patch. The glove is smooth and flawless, yet he can feel the absence of the cloth scrap on Stallion's foot. Specter begins moving in the direction of his home-made homing beacon.
"...eyewitness reports from many of the victims of the Kestrel Mall bombing concerning Stallion's drunken rampage. Now, this is only an initial report, but it would seem that a man who at least appeared to be the celebrated super hero arrived on the scene of the bombings, highly intoxicated. He then proceeded to attack a fellow vigilante, disregarding the safety of the many bystanders. According to one source--" Anne Goldman clicks off the television. She turns to face a shamefaced Stallion, who is sitting in a small, plastic chair.
"Well?" she says, "What do you have to say for yourself, Benjamin?"
Stallion says nothing.
"They're saying you threw a bench that could have injured or killed a dozen people. A BENCH, Benjamin! What were you thinking? Do you have any idea the nightmare our public relations department is going through right now? Do you know how hard I have worked to get this company off the ground? Well? Do you?"
"This has been a catastrophe. I can't even look at you right now."
"I'm so sorry, Aunt Anne."
"Sorry? No. Sorry is what happens when you come home with a torn cape. Sorry is what happens when you don't manage to make the media coverage quotas the company sets for you. This? This is a failure on a massive level. You've cost the company money, you endangered the public and you have besmirched your name and mine." Anne Goldman snatches a Stallion ® action figure from a nearby shelf and thrusts it in Stallion's face. "Do you see this? Do you? I'm a little boy, Ben. Do I want to buy this shitty thing? Do I want to buy this beshitted Stallion action figure with goddam binge drinking action?"
"Of course not, you idiot!" Anne flings the toy at her hulking nephew. It clacks off his skull and he flinches, although such a light tap can hardly have been painful for a man who can punch through concrete without grazing his knuckles. "I can't tell you how ashamed your father would be if he was alive today. Now get to your room while I figure out how to clean up this mess you've landed us in."
Stallion slouches toward the door, but before he can leave, one of the grates from the ventilation ducts clatters to the floor and dark grey smoke pours out of the open hole. Unlike normal smoke, this strange mist hugs the ground and vanishes quickly like a puddle of rubbing alcohol. As the smoke melts into nothingness, a black-clad figure rises. Its yellow eyes seem to glow even in the fluorescent lights of the office.
"Touching," says Specter, "It just tugs at the old heartstrings to watch such a tender family moment."
"Get out of my office!" Anne demands.
"Don't think so, lady. I got a bruised rib, a torn-up back, and a pair of skinned hands telling me Pony-Boy over there oughtta be heading up the river for public drunkenness, assault with intent to kill, and reckless endangerment."
"Why won't you leave me alone?" Stallion whines.
"Why won't I...? How stupid are you? Did I forget to explain the bruised ribs and everything? Now, get against the wall and put your hands behind your back."
"Impressive," says Anne, putting a hand on Specter's shoulder. Specter turns around. Anne Goldman is a good-looking, forty-ish woman whose features, while fair, look as though they have been carved from stone. "I must admit, I was skeptical when you first showed up on the scene. I mean, let's face it," she pinches Specter's bicep, "you're not exactly Mr. Muscles, are you? But I was wrong. I'll be the first to admit it. You're the real deal, Mr. Specter."
Specter isn't sure how to respond to this. "Uh... thanks. I guess. I'm still hauling your boy in, though."
"Listen. I've got a proposition for you. You can take Stallion to jail if you want. The company has plenty of money to bail him out, and after his services to the city no judge would convict him. I mean, how do you give community service to someone whose whole life is community service? The only thing arresting him is going to do is cast his name in a bad light and cost us some revenue this quarter.
"So sure, haul him away if that's what you want. It won't do you any good and it won't hurt him. Let him off instead. The company will pay for damages and medical bills, Stallion will make a public apology, and you can come onto the payroll as Stallion's partner."
"What?" says Specter.
"Of course. You're perfect. You're smart, tough, you've already got your costume, and I just love that rough, bad boy persona you put on. You'll be a huge hit. You'll have to change your name of course but..."
"Okay. Hold it," Specter interrupts. "I don't know what kind of psychotic Wall Street world you live in, but, unlike some people, I'm not willing to sell my integrity for a paltry royalty check and second billing to that meat slab in spandex." A strong, silken coil slips from between Specter's fingers and he binds Stallion's hands behind him. "Come on, Slick, we're going downtown." He grabs Stallion by the back of the neck and teleports away.
to be concluded...