Stories

Revitalizing


The military base was strangely quiet. There should have been some activity. Something at all. But there was none. Even though Holy Evil knew why it had gone silent, it was still an eerie feeling. Every man and woman who had been stationed here had evacuated in a manner of hours.

Empty vehicles crowded the streets, abandoned so that helicopters and transports could more efficiently remove the soldiers. In a way, it was admirable that everyone had so quickly escaped. It was a testament to their training and discipline. As he sped by windows, he glanced in. Televisions had been left on, meals were half-eaten, paperwork was scattered over desks.

Of course, the emptiness of the base did nothing to reduce his urgency. Even with the soldiers gone, there was still the surrounding area. A large community had sprung up around the base. It wasn't quite a major city, but there were easily a hundred thousand inhabitants. They could not be evacuated nearly as quickly or as orderly.

Every second that ticked by was another second that they might all be killed in one blinding flash of light. It was the reason Holy Evil had been called in. He had to save them all, but it would not be an easy task.

The Revitalizing Man was trying to detonate a tactical nuke. Holy Evil was the only hero that could stop him.

He'd gotten the call about a half hour ago. Holy was part of an organization of superheroes known as the Justice Division. In truth, they were a subsidiary of AoD Corp, a multi-national megacorporation that had its fingers in dozens of different pies. They weren't a for-profit subsidiary per se, but the Justice Division acted more as a talent agency for superheroes than anything, and AoD Corp leveraged their popularity for every dime.

Holy was their big star. He was the most well known and powerful hero in their ranks. He could run as fast as a Formula One racer, shrug off gunfire like it was nothing, and rip a tank in half with his bare hands. Whenever there was an unstoppable force coming, Holy was ready to be the immovable object.




“Holy, we have a problem,” the official who had phoned him said.

“Tell me something I don't know, General,” Holy had answered. He usually got calls from generals and other high-ranking officials. Anyone lower on the totem pole got sent a similarly lower-ranked hero. Holy only had time for the big stories. “What, is Max Monster trying to steal another arms shipment?”

“I'm not a general,” the official had said. “But please, just listen. The Revitalizing Man just attacked an army base about a hundred miles outside the city.”

“So?” Holy had asked and gave a big yawn that would be audible even over the phone. “Blast him down with your tanks and bazookas and stuff.” The Revitalizing Man was no big deal. He was small time, a former wanna-be hero who'd turned to the dark side. He was barely on Holy's radar.

“Please, listen!” the official had pleaded. The desperation in his voice got Holy to pause. “We tried that already. He's... unstoppable! Nothing we threw at him held him down. He got to the control room of our missile silo... A missile silo that houses a LGM-30 Minuteman missile.”

Holy had hesitated for a moment. He hadn't known that the weapon was a nuclear missile, but the way the official spoke, he was sure it was. He'd had run ins with nukes before... Small, low-yield nuclear devices. He'd taken a direct hit from a 50 kt nuke and survived... But just barely.

“What's the yield on that weapon?” Holy had asked. His voice hadn't quivered. It hadn't betrayed any fear. It had been confident and even and even a little cocky.

“It has a maximum yield of 475 kt,” the official had replied. Unlike Holy, his voice cracked in the middle of the statement. “I don't think I need to tell you what will happen if he gets that launched.”

“Of course not.” He could imagine the destruction it would cause. An entire city might be wiped off the map.

“You're the only hero in the area who can get there in time. You have to go there and stop him.”




There was a click. Holy looked up just in time to see a missile heading right at him. He gritted his teeth and braced, but didn't stop running. The missile slammed into him and exploded. For a normal man, this would have been a messy end to life. But for Holy it was little more than an uncomfortable sting, feeling no worse than opening a hot oven and sticking his hand in. It didn't even slow him down.

Moments later, more of the silo's automated defenses popped up. More missiles were sent flying his way, while minigun turrets opened fire. The barrage was beyond uncomfortable and Holy had to start dodging, weaving his way back and forth as he headed for the entrance to the silo. As he got closer and exited their firing arcs, the weapons ceased their assault.

The door was thick steel, designed to keep all intruders out, even those using explosives. Holy pulled back his arm and sent his fist flying into the steel. It left a noticeable dent. He gave it another blow, then another, until finally a crack formed in the metal. He reached his fingers in and grunted, ripping the steel door apart.

A long corridor greeted him. According to the official, at the end of the corridor was the control room where the Revitalizing Man now waited. The floor was covered in mines. Holy raced forward, moving so quickly that the mines only exploded after he had already moved out of their explosion radius.

He burst into the control room at full speed. Several technicians lay unconscious around the room. The only person still standing was the Revitalizing Man. He was hunched over a terminal, the glow of the monitor giving his face a sickly pallor.

Holy recognized him from the few press clips he'd seen. He'd been a hero once. He was never a big name, always stuck foiling convenience store hold-ups and helping grannies cross the street. The Justice Division had scouted him out, but eventually decided he was too boring to bring on board. He had no potential.

But somewhere along the line, he'd fallen. Maybe something inside him just snapped, maybe he was lured down the wrong path by a charismatic mentor, or maybe he was never that heroic to begin with. He robbed a bank and killed three police officers and seriously injured the heroine Brightest Dawn in his escape.

Then he attacked a chemical plant and started a fire that burned it to the ground. Toxic fumes were released into the air. Hundreds got sick and dozens died. It was only the quick work of the Oonawieh Unggi, a Cherokee hero who controlled the wind that kept it from devastating an entire town.

Most recently, he'd derailed an entire train by standing on the tracks. The train had slammed right into him. The Revitalizing Man had survived. He could regenerate from anything, that was his power. The train operator, in his efforts to stop the train and keep it from hitting him, had caused it to derail. Twenty-three people were killed in the crash, including three children, and hundreds more were seriously injured.

Now he was trying to arm a nuclear missile. Holy gritted his teeth. Someone should have stopped this madman sooner. Now it was up to him to bring the Revitalizing Man down.

“Stop right there,” Holy announced in his loudest, most heroic voice.

The Revitalizing Man stiffened just slightly. He turned his head only a bit, just enough to see Holy out of the corner of his eyes. The man had deep bags and a haggard look. He hadn't shaved in days, it seemed, and his hair was scraggly and uncombed. Holy tried to think what the man had looked like when he was a hero, but no image came to mind.

“So, you made it through,” the Revitalizing Man muttered. “I shouldn't be surprised. When I saw they'd sent you, I knew you'd get through eventually.” He grinned slightly. It was a grin that was without reason. “So I guess you're going to try to stop me, huh?”

Holy grinned back at him. It was a cocky, mocking grin. “There is no trying. I'm gonna stop you, even if it means beating your brains into mush.”

The Revitalizing Man laughed. It held no mockery in it, just self-deprecation. “Can you really do that? Well, come on and try. I dare you - ”

Holy was across the floor in an instant. His fist slammed into the side of the Revitalizing Man's head. There was an audible crack as the Revitalizing Man's skull was fractured. He went flying several feet through the air and landed with a thud on top of some of the control equipment.

He lay there for a moment, unmoving. For a moment, Holy thought that was it. He'd won. But then the Revitalizing Man sat up. The side of his head was caved in, but the flesh was undulating like something was moving beneath. It almost seemed like his head was reinflating, then the huge gash Holy's punch had left began to close shut.

“See?” the Revitalizing Man said. “You can't kill me. No matter how hard you punch me, there's no way you can kill me.”

“I'm not letting you launch that nuke,” Holy declared.

The Revitalizing Man laughed again, a mad cackle. “Launch it?” he asked incredulously. “I don't want to launch it. I just want to detonate it!”

“What?” Holy asked. The statement stunned him. The military had prepared for a disaster, where the Revitalizing Man managed to arm the weapon but not launch it. They hadn't thought that he never intended to launch it at all.

That moment of confusion was enough for the Revitalizing Man to strike. He swung and connected with Holy's jaw. The blow wasn't enough to cause real damage, but it did cause Holy to take a step backward.

The next strike was seen and anticipated. Holy caught the Revitalizing Man's arm and twisted it. The ulna snapped and the Revitalizing Man went to one knee, moaning in pain. Holy let go and let loose another punch, laying the Revitalizing Man out on the floor.

He turned to the control terminal the Revitalizing Man had been working on. Several of the safeties had already been overridden. He'd arrived just in time. A few more minutes, perhaps, and the nuke would have been armed. He started tapping the controls to reactivate the safeties.

His face was slammed forward, crushing the panel. “No!” the Revitalizing Man yelled as he pulled Holy back by his hair and slammed him down again. “You won't stop me! You won't!”

He tossed Holy across the room. Holy landed in a heap, more stunned than injured. He slowly stood and shook off the minor cobwebs, just in time for the Revitalizing Man to be on him. Holy's face absorbed several strong punches, much more powerful than the one he'd taken before.

Each shot sent him rocking backward. Finally, he managed to duck one and land a blow of his own, right to the Revitalizing Man's ribs. There was a crunch and the Revitalizing Man sunk to one knee, sucking in ragged breath. Holy's inflicted enough injuries in his career to know he'd punctured the Revitalizing Man's lung.

But he'd also seen the Revitalizing Man's powers in action and did not stop pressing his advantage. He lifted his knee right into the Revitalizing Man's chin, shattering his jaw. He pounced on him and slammed a fist into his face, crushing his nose and orbital bones. Another punch further rendered the Revitalizing Man's face into unidentifiable meat.

Soon, the Revitalizing Man's head was little more than a slurry of bone chunks and brain matter. Holy's fists were covered in gore. There was a slight sick feeling in his stomach, but he'd witnessed worse in his career. He turned and walked toward the control terminals.

The one he'd been using before had been destroyed, but there were others. Before he could even get to them, something heavy slammed into his back. It was one of the terminal chairs. He whirled around and the Revitalizing Man had already stood back up.

His head had not yet fully healed, but it had regained most of its shape. Bloody, broken teeth smiled at him. “Not good enough,” the Revitalizing Man said.

“What does it take to keep you down?” Holy growled. He was starting to get angry. He could feel heat rising up from the pit of his stomach.

“Good question,” the Revitalizing Man mocked. “We'll find out sooner or later.”

He dug his fingers into a piece of equipment and ripped it from its housing. Holy was surprised; he'd never known that the Revitalizing Man was so strong. The equipment was sent flying right at him and Holy barely had time to dodge out of the way. It went flying right past the missile, very nearly striking it.

“You idiot!” Holy shouted. “You almost hit the missile! You could have killed us all!”

The Revitalizing Man chuckled. “You're the idiot. That wouldn't have detonated it; nuclear missiles aren't so fragile. If I could have caused it to explode like that, it would have already!”

The Revitalizing Man charged at him. Holy gritted his teeth and thrust his hand forward. The heat that had built up inside him flowed out into the air, igniting it and sending a blast of fire flying. It caught the Revitalizing Man right in the face. The Revitalizing Man screamed and stopped his charge.

Holy rushed him, swinging furious blows. They struck him in the head over and over, staggering the Revitalizing Man backward. After the fifth shot, the Revitalizing Man got an arm up and blocked a punch. He countered, rocking Holy with a mighty hook.

Now it was Holy's turn to be staggered. He got his arms up to ward off the shots, but the Revitalizing Man continued his assault. The blows shuddered his rock hard skin. Each left bloody prints behind where the Revitalizing Man's skin and knuckles had broken. But the punches kept coming.

“Do you know how muscles work?” the Revitalizing Man was asking him even as he attacked. “When you exercise, they develop tiny tears in them. It's when these tears are repaired that muscles get bigger, more powerful, and able to work longer! For most people, they need an entire day or more for those tears to heal! But not me!” The Revitalizing Man cackled. “What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, and nothing can kill me!”

Holy ducked under a punch and slammed his fist into the Revitalizing Man's stomach. The wind was knocked out of him, silencing his annoying monologue for the moment. Holy followed it up with a fiery blow to the Revitalizing Man's jaw. He held his flaming fist on the Revitalizing Man's face. Skin and flesh sizzled and baked, filling the air with a sickening aroma.

Even as the Revitalizing Man flailed, trying to escape, Holy held tight. Soon the Revitalizing Man's struggles ceased, but Holy knew they wouldn't remain that way. He looked around for something to restrain him. Anything.

Finally, he decided on the steel shielding on the bunker walls. He found a fault and sunk his fingers in, peeling sheets of it off. Once he had a big enough piece yanked off, he turned back to the Revitalizing Man, who had already returned to his feet. He was standing over a terminal.

“No you don't!” Holy shouted. He flung the sheet of metal at him, but the Revitalizing Man ducked out of the way at the last moment.

Holy charged, but the Revitalizing Man was ready for him. The two traded blows for a moment before locking hands, each trying to overpower the other. Holy was still stronger and managed to force the Revitalizing Man down to a knee. “It's useless,” Holy said. “Give up!”

“You're the one who's useless!” the Revitalizing Man said. He gritted his teeth and pushed back. “You can't even kill me! I thought you were supposed to be so strong!” Holy tried to push even harder, but it did no good. The Revitalizing Man's muscles were growing stronger with each passing second. Soon he was back to even footing with Holy.

“Why?” Holy asked. “Why are you doing this?”

“I... want... to die!” the Revitalizing Man said between grunts of exertion.

“You used to be a hero!” Holy said. He was being forced down to one knee now. He couldn't stand up to the Revitalizing Man much longer, he knew.

“And what good did it get me?” the Revitalizing Man asked. “I'm immortal and no one else is! You have super strength, so you must know! How can you hug your wife when you're strong enough to crush her bones with a flick of your wrist? How can you get your son to stop crying when the smallest touch can break his neck? And when everything you've done to atone for your mistakes are worthless, how can you end it all? No one can stop me! No one can kill me! I've tried EVERYTHING! This is my last chance!”

“You'll kill thousands!” Holy grunted between gritted teeth. He didn't have much more of a chance. He let the Revitalizing Man overpower him and he fell to the ground. The Revitalizing Man fell onto him and wrapped his hands around Holy's throat. Holy could survive a lot of things, but he still needed to breathe.

“Hundreds of thousands,” the Revitalizing Man said. “You don't think I know?” His eyes were wild. Flecks of spittle flew from his mouth as he talked. “I've weighed my sins on the scale of judgment and I am already damned! What's more lives on the balance? I have no peace! I just want to die and this nuke is the only way! It will atomize me. I'll be utterly vaporized by its blast. Nothing will be left behind but atomic ash! I can't regenerate from that, can I? Nature couldn't be so cruel! It's impossible. I don't care if I have to take you and an entire city with me!”

Holy had one last ace up his sleeve. He closed his eyes and tried to suck in what little breath he could. He imagined all the lives that the Revitalizing Man would sacrifice. Then he put faces on those lives. The faces of his friends. The face of Kate, the woman who should have been his wife. The faces of every kid who'd ever come up for him and asked for an autograph.

Fiery rage swirled through him. The Revitalizing Man let out a gasp of pain, then a scream. He fell backward, off Holy Evil. Holy leveled him with a single blow. Even for as strong as the Revitalizing Man had become, he was nowhere near as strong as an angry Holy Evil. It took a lot to get Holy angry these days, but the Revitalizing Man had managed it.

Holy grabbed him and twisted his neck. There was a snap. The Revitalizing Man went limp. Holy kept the pressure up, even as he felt the Revitalizing Man's healing factor kick in. It was trying to straighten the bones and knit them into a proper fashion.

Holy dragged him over to the steel sheet and placed him in the middle. He rolled the Revitalizing Man up like a cigar, encasing him in the steel. After a few moments, the Revitalizing Man woke up. He strained and raged against the cocoon, but for as strong as he was, even he couldn't break out through a foot of solid steel wrapped around him.

His thrashings grew weaker and weaker. Finally, he struggled no more. He simply wept. “I just wanted to die. I want to die. Can't a man be given his death?”

Holy did his best to ignore him. He dragged him out of the base. When he got out, there was a helicopter waiting for him, complete with an AoD Corp escort.

Dr. Arsenic, the mysterious head scientist for AoD Corp's more top-secret research, was waiting for him. “You subdued him,” Dr. Arsenic said from behind his gasmask. “AoD Corp's received the government's permission to take him into our custody.”

“We're a prison now?” Holy asked. He glanced back at the Revitalizing Man, having no pity for the man who would kill so many just to free himself.

“Of course not,” Dr. Arsenic said. “But they can't keep him, can they? I think you'd know that from your fight. But that regeneration of his could have many practical applications, couldn't it?”

“How are you going to keep him from escaping?”

“Cryogenics,” Arsenic explained. “Freeze him nice and solid. He won't be going anywhere.”

Holy Evil sighed and turned away. “Do whatever you want with him,” he said. “I just don't want to see him ever again.”

“I knew you'd see it our way!” Arsenic said with mock joy. “You need a lift back?”

“No,” Holy said. “I'll walk.” With a blur, he was gone.


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