Catalyst, prt. 1

From the Story Arc: Phoenyx Rising

Previous Story in the Arc: In The Beginning by Seraphic Flame (Tuesday, May 17, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Requiem by John Murdock (Tuesday, June 14, 2005)

(posted Wednesday, June 01, 2005)

In Egyptian mythology, there is a symbolic figure, representing immortality, renewal, and life after death. The Egyptian word for this figure was Benu, which meant Ascending One, and was considered the soul of the sun god Re.

This is the story of a Benu, a Phoenix, lost in the world around him. This Phoenix' destiny has not yet been set, his actions still able to tip him over the razor's edge that he's walking.

This is the story of John Murdock's death.

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John stumbled through the open door of his one-room apartment in King's Row, a patrol's worth of sweat and grime covering him from head to toe. He shut the door behind him, latching it shut, securing deadbolts; there were more security devices on that door than there are on most peoples' cars.

Feeling a modicum of safety, John stripped out of his "work clothes". A Nomex cape, a kevlar assault vest, a pair of tactical boots, and two armored shoulder pads lay in a messy pile when he had finished. All of them were well worn, with various disfigurements marring their once new exteriors. An acid burn here, there a tear from a set of claws, a rip caused through sheer bludgeoning; these wounded garments were well suited for their owner.

Still soaked through with sweat, John stood panting with his back to the door, surveying his apartment. This inspection wasn't to make sure that everything was real, but rather to make sure that everything was how it had been left. Not there was much that could have been tampered with; some trash leaking out of a shredded garbage bag, a ratty mattress against the wall, a battered hot plate for warming meals. The floor was concrete slab, with the dirt caked on so thick you would have thought it was old wood. And a television, switched off.

John, having decided that his sanctum, if you could call it that, was still inviolate, walked over to the mattress. He flopped down on it hard, sighing heavily as he did. He figured he still had some time to steel himself for the shakes that always came after a day of "work". He sat up straight, then pulled his knees to his chest. His teeth clenched, he tried to regulate his breathing a little. Then the shakes started.

Every day, John Murdock would wake up, put on his "civvies", and go out into the Paragon City to fight against the worst elements of society. The corruptors, the tormentors. And he'd fight himself. It was an uphill battle, getting steeper each day. And at the end of every day, he'd come home, clean up, and swear he'd never do it again.

Never run down an alley, only to meet a chorus of shotgun blasts. Never plod through a dank cave, wondering which shadow wouldn't really be just a shadow. Never have to listen to the cries of some innocent schmoe, waiting to die or worse, some innocent person screaming for help. Save me. Please. Help.

But then he'd think about what he'd done. Before he became a hero. What he'd done, and what had been done to him. And her.

Then he'd slowly stop shaking, and turn on the television. Pick up a book as he absorbed the yammering of some bright smile gibbering about the latest "news". He'd maybe eat, and then he would sleep. And repeat it all the next day.

That night, John was reading Kierkegaard's Purity of Heart, when he actually bothered to pay attention to the television. A group of heroes, wearing red and black, were displayed in a video clip, fighting against a group of what appeared to be Council soldiers. The news caster, offering his sardonic commentary about a group of radically leftist heroes, calling themselves the Coalition of Communist Crusaders for the Proletariat.

"While the name would imply a closed membership of Ruskie hard-liners," the bright-smile and empty eyes blathered, "the group welcomes all heroes willing to fight for the greater good of the working class. And I'd thought that we didn't allow criminals to form Super Groups." The bleached and teased newscaster smiled and laughed with his bleached and teased co-anchoress. Disgusted, John shut the television off. His interest had been piqued, though.

Well, why not? Have you somethin' better to do?Reckoning to himself that he didn't, John visited City Hall in Atlas Park the next day, where he looked up information on how to contact and join the CCCP.