After healing Joe and the final farewell, Matthew meets a villain bent on his destruction
When Matthew arrived at Joe's place around eleven the next day, he landed on the deck and softly knocked on the patio door. When no one answered, he opened it and went in. It was not like Joe to sleep this late. He has always been an early morning riser.
Matthew quietly called for Joe, "Hey, Joe, you awake yet? I can come back later if it works better for you."
"I will be with you in a minute Matt. Just dressing now."
Matthew thought to himself: So, he did sleep late. Not sure if that is a good sign about his healing or not. Joe has been stressed lately. Maybe it is taking its toll on his health. By the looks of the boxes, he hasn't packed any more of his belongings. Maybe I should offer to help. Give us a chance to talk some more.
Out from the bedroom walked a young man of twenty-five or so with blonde, curly hair, lite blue eyes, muscular build.
"I'm sorry, I must have the wrong house." After a double take, Matthew exclaimed in disbelief, "Joe? Is that you?"
"Hi, Matt. Recognize me?"
"No, I don't. How come you look so young? Hey, you got your leg back. Great for you."
"I owe both to you and your healing. After you left last night, I did go to bed as I said. I fell right to sleep and slept better than I have in years. If I had any dreams, I don't remember. I woke up at about five this morning. I must have been very sleepy because I was not even fully awake when I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom. About halfway there, I suddenly realized I was walking. I looked down and saw two legs. Two. Legs. Well, I about lost my balance and fell. I went to the closet's full-length mirror and stared for about ten minutes."
"I jumped, hopped, did squats, tickled the bottom of my foot, and ran in place. All the while looking at myself. This is what I looked like before we enlisted. I changed last night. I am no longer old. You healed me and gave me back my youth, my leg, my health, and my hope." As he said this, he outstretched his arms and turned a complete circle. "I feel I could run for miles," he laughed, "and I just might for the sheer joy of moving without the scooter."
"Um, where did you get the clothes?' Matthew inquired, remembering all Joe's old pants had the left pant leg material removed.
"I had some pants and new shoes delivered this morning as soon as the stores were open. They fit perfectly. I think I am in better health than I was at this age originally."
"How else do you feel? I know we would probably need medical tests to determine if your cancer is gone and if your gall bladder grew back."
"I feel great. It is like being cured of all ailments or having your life changed for the best or both. I feel I could do anything."
"You sound like you could. Are you still planning on leaving?" He knew the answer but wanted to hear it from Joe.
"Yeah, I am. I am selling the condominium as furnished so I don't have to move anything except what I can get in the van. I will trade that in once I get to Alaska,"
Joe paused for a couple of minutes then began again, "Matt, I want to thank you for doing this to me and for me. It is much more than I thought would happen. I literally can make a new start in my life. There are things I am going to do differently and things I just will never do again. Don't worry. I will come and visit Misty and the girls from time to time. You are only a five-minute run from me. We never tested your flying time. Before you say anything, I am leaving how I feel about Erin's death here. I couldn't move on because everything reminded me of her and our life together. That shadow was too much to step out of."
"I think I understand, Joe. Becoming a hero has changed me. I see the worst of people over and over again. I left that behind when we left the Service. I know I am doing good, but is it enough? I don't know. I feel I am in a giant chess match and only one move away from having a checkmate against me."
"You got to do what is best for you, Joe, and it sounds like you are. Yes, you will be missed by me and the girls. With your new youth, you will easily be able to make a fresh start. No one will think of you as an elderly man with one leg. even if you would have stayed here I believe no one would think you are the same man."
"I appreciate your thoughts, Matt."
After a small silence, Joe advised he needed to get going. Matt left his friend for the last time. He knew Joe would never come back.
Before Matthew had time to leave, the police phone vibrated in his pocket. He didn't want to answer it right then. It rang again and again then stopped. Within a minute it rang again.
Very reluctantly, "This is Defender."
"Defender? Change your name? That can wait. We need you over at Happy Dale Mall, now. There is a hostage situation. The leader is asking for you specifically. Most likely it's a trap."
"I'll be careful. Anything else you can tell me?
"Plenty. Remember the Windor Park Duo, Jessup Hinder and Mike Tetterson, and the bank robbers with the bomb? We discovered they are all part of a larger gang that operates within the city. Their boss' name is Vik 'The One' Sinister. I am not making that name up. He is on the Federal Bureau of Investigations' ("FBI") Ten Most Wanted List for anything you could probably think of. This guy thinks he is a criminal genius because he has never been caught. With this, we have more than enough to put him away for several lifetimes without parole. This is most likely a trap."
"I will be extra careful, then. On my way."
Before showing up, while being invisible, the Defender flew around and assessed the situation. He saw snipers on the rooftops of the five adjacent buildings. However, after a closer look, he determined they were not from the Police department or FBI. Before taking them out, he wanted to see what else he could discover.
As he flew near the hostages, he discovered something alarming. Wrapped around the hostages was yellow Primacord, a highly explosive material with a detonator attached. Matthew knew how to disable this without the Primacord exploding. What he didn't know how to do was bypass the yellow color of the Primacord.
Before showing up in front of Vik Sinister, the Defender had a few things to do first.
As the Defender floats down on the opposite side of the hostages, Vik Sinister states, "I was wondering when you would show up Defender. By the way, cutting the 'In Green' was a bad choice. It gave you a dimension that you otherwise lack."
"You asked for me by name. What did you want? Money in exchange for the hostages? A free ride out of here? Someone released?"
"How common. Did you think of those yourself or is there a hero book you use? No, I wanted you because I wanted to make the deaths of these people your responsibility."
"As you can see, the hostages are wrapped in Primacord. If the connection were to be cut or disturbed in any manner, it will explode."
The Defender glances at the hostages and inspects the Primacord and detonator.
"I see you are familiar with the little present I have left for you. If you even try to remove the cord, it blows up. If you try to diffuse the detonator, it blows up. If you stop me from leaving, it blows up. The control switch is held in my fist. If I loosen my grip, they blow up. You can either try and save them or let us go. You may be fast, but you aren't that fast to be in two places at once."
"What guarantee do we have that once you leave, you won't kill them?"
"I have seen this before. I know the detonator needs to be near the control switch to activate or connected to the trigger switch. I also know the explosion would be big enough to take you out if you are within twenty-five feet of it. The control switch has a range of approximately twenty-five to fifty feet. What is stopping me from taking you past that distance?"
"Because, hero, if you do and I haven't deactivated the control switch, the detonator will self-activate and then your clever idea goes up with a big bang,"
"Don't get any half-bright ideas. If you release us and we go out of range with the switch deactivated, the bomb could still go off. You see, I have five sharpshooters aimed at my little party. If we are stopped, defeated, or even looked at wrong, they will shoot the Primacord and set off the explosion. Go ahead, and look around at the buildings surrounding us. Better use your super sight to see them."
The Defender did look at the tops of the surrounding buildings. He saw all five high-powered rifles with telescopic scopes.
He was puzzled. How did he know his powers? He needed time to think.
"Don't strain the smallest muscle in your body. Your intellect is far inferior to mine. I have thought of all contingencies. I know what you are capable of and planned this with you in mind. You see, I had help from a friend of yours. Remember Mr. Brown? He would be here to see you, but he is at the bottom of the lake with his pregnant wife."
"So, Defender in Green, what is your choice?"
Matthew thought, Checkmate.
"Well hero, we are all waiting for your move."
He walked away.
"Stop right there", ordered Vik Sinister, "where do you think you are going? We are not finished here. You need to save the people or admit defeat. Which is it? Stop walking away."
The Defender kept moving in the opposite direction. He heard the crying and pleading of the hostages but did not stop. When he reached the street, he turned around and addressed Vik.
"I will not play your game. There is no scenario where I don't win."
"What? Are you kidding me? Were you listening? I can blow the hostages up right now and still get away.
"No, destroying the hostages frees me up to take you out. You flee, I am free to take you out. You have your
sharpshooters kill the hostages; I am free to take you out.
"Your scenarios benefit me. When I go to prison, get out, and then start over."
"Wrong. I am not a Police Officer. I am not part of any local or Federal Police, or FBI. I am my own identity."
"So, what exactly does that mean?"
"When I take you out, you will be taken out and there is no tomorrow for you."
With that, the Defender uses super speed to get near the hostages.
"Your sharpshooters have been disabled. Your move."
"Impossible." The lead terrorist calls one of the sharpshooters via telephone. A ringing is heard, and the Defender removes a phone from his cost and tosses it on the ground. He tosses four more phones on the ground in front of him.
"I still have this," Vik waves the remote detonator in his hand and makes a show of lifting the cap and pushing the button.
Nothing happened. He pushes the button again and again. No explosion. In frustration, he tosses the remote down while drawing his weapon.
"I don't know what you did, but you still will not stop us from shooting them." With that, the remaining five terrorists begin shooting at the hostages.
The Defender was ready for that. He began running toward all bullets, using his hands and body for deflection. However, two bullets found their way to a hostage.
After all bullets were spent and the criminals were re-loading, the Defender grabbed the yellow Primacord, unwound it from the hostages, ran to where the terrorists stood, and circled them with the Primacord. The Defender then stopped in front of them.
"Even in the end, you failed to save them and capture us. Using the useless cord to tie us up was, at the most. a joke. As soon as we untie, we are leaving with your dying breath you could not save them or yourself.
The Defender held up his hand with the detonating switch and his finger on the button.
The terrorist leader laughed. "Were you not paying attention? It didn't work. It's faulty. A waste of energy on your part."
"I moved you further from the Primacord. You were out of range. I'm not." Time to test his healing powers.
The explosion was massive. It knocked over the hostages, but none were seriously hurt. A crater was made on the site the Primacord was located. There were no discernable pieces of the six terrorists left.
After the smoke dissipated, the Defender was gone. Only tatters of his outfit remained.