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 #1:  ORIGIN

By Jochem Vandersteen (jvdsteen@hotmail.com)

 

 

After 9-11 the fear had gotten worse and worse. We feared for our lives from the terrorists that were prepared to die to inflict their damage on our society. I felt so powerless against it all. To top it off, my own city had fallen into the hands of strangely powered villains. Nobody knew where they came from, they just suddenly were there. They were armed with futuristic blaster weapons, some could control heat or cold or fire energy blasts with their fists. And where was I? Teaching mythology at the University of New Troy City. I was too weak to fight. But every time I opened one of my books about the Greek gods I kept thinking: what if the old gods still lived. What if we had heroes like Heracles and Achilles at our side? What if we were able to wield the power of Zeus to strike at the enemies threatening our city?

                And then came the day I got my chance….

 

                I was walking across the campus grounds with professor Monica Sawyer when out of nowhere five leather-clad men appeared. On the backs of their jackets they wore a logo that said ‘Speed Demon Gang.’ I knew them. They’d been plaguing the city for weeks now. They’d been looting stores, beating up people at random, stealing purses; they’d even been raping women. They acted like a street gang permanently on amphetamines with an extra edge – super speed. They seemed to be able to move faster than sound, which made the police helpless against them. How do you stop a criminal who you can’t hit, can’t shoot, just because he’s so fast you hardly see him? The fact that they now were on campus grounds spelled big trouble for everyone present.

One of them walked over to Monica. I immediately felt all my protective instincts rise to the surface. I’d been in love with Monica since the first time I laid eyes on her. A pity she’s engaged to a tough cop and not interested in a bookish nerdy professor like me.

The Speed Demon grabbed her arm. “How about a little kiss, hottie?”

“L-leave her alone,” I told him. I wish I hadn’t stuttered. Maybe then I would’ve made more impact.

The Speed Demon laughed and shoved me to the ground. “How romantic. You like being a hero? Well, maybe you can save a cat from a tree?”

He grabbed me and pulled me along with him. I couldn’t resist against him, everything just happened too fast. When he let me go I found myself hanging in a tree. From there I could see the Speed Demons throw rocks through the University windows, steal student’s money and jewelry.

After a few minutes they got bored. Maybe being able to do everything at super speed does that to you pretty quickly. Anyway, the just left. Kicking up dust, they were gone in the blink of an eye.

Monica stood at the base of the tree, looking up. “Need any help getting down?”

 

Later that day, after the damage had been assessed by the insurance company and the cops had been by to take their statements I went for a walk on the campus grounds again. Monica had invited me for dinner with her and her fiancée, Wade Hudson, but I didn’t feel like it. She said she wanted to thank me for stepping in there for her. That made me feel even more stupid. The only thing I’d managed to do was getting my ass kicked. The only reason she was left alone was that the Speed Demon liked making a fool of me more than hurting Monica. Wade would’ve at least gotten one good punch in.

I really wished I could do something against these Speed Demon guys. If they’d continue on their rampage across the city there won’t be much left of it in a couple of weeks.

Then, from a tree appeared one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. “Professor Alexander?” she said.

                “Yes? Do I know you?” I asked, surprised. She was so beautiful and exotic, wearing a thin jade gown and bedecked by sparkling jewelry.

                “From name, yes,” she said. “Or maybe I should say by legend. My name is Circe.”

                I blinked. “Circe? Like the sorceress from Greek myth?”

                “Yes, I am she.”

                “You shouldn’t drink that much.”

                She sighed. “So you want proof? Fine. Watch that handsome boy.” She pointed at one of the students walking the grounds. I knew him. He was a good football player.

                Her hand started to glow with a purple light. The boy started to… change. He became smaller, his ears started to change, his nose…. And finally there was no football player anymore. Not even a human being. No, where there had been a student now stood a… pig!

                “I’m dreaming!” I said.

                “No dream,” she said. “I’m really here. And I’m here to take you to Olympus.”

                “Olympus? But….”

                She moved her hands in a strange pattern. We became enveloped by purple light and suddenly…. I wasn’t on the campus grounds anymore. Where I was it took me a while to believe.

They had to be gods. The man with the white beard holding the shaft of lighting had to be Zeus, the woman with the large shield Athena. It was like they’d stepped right out of the ancient Greek vases I’d studied for years. There were dozen more like them… I glanced at Circe with big eyes. “Are they really…?”

“Gods? Yes. Welcome on Olympus.”

I couldn’t help but kneel, overwhelmed as I was by the presence of godhood.

“Stand, son!” the one who had to be Zeus bellowed. “We have no need for your worship. Instead we have need of you as our messenger.”

I got up, a bit embarrassed by my actions. I thought it against my principles to bow for anyone. And it felt very wrong to bow for these beings. I’d been raised a Catholic, and although my faith had lapsed through the years I still felt like I’d sinned. The things you feel when facing godhood. “Messenger? What do you mean?”

“When you look at us closely you will notice we sometimes turn less tangible…” Zeus was right. Sometimes I could see right through them, and even for a blink of an eye they seemed to shimmer out of existence. “That is because the faith of the people on Earth has dwindled to a bare minimum. And without faith we cannot exist, for it is that same faith that has created us, centuries ago. We need people to believe in us again, and we want to use you to help us achieve this goal.”

“What? You want me to act as your prophet? Or priest or something? I don’t know if I’m right for that. I mean giving a lecture is a whole lot different from preaching the gospel of the Olympic gods. Besides, won’t I go to Hell for that?”

Zeus smiled. “Not even Hades. But no, we don’t need you as a standard prophet or cleric. We want to give the world a hero to remember us by.  It is obvious the time is very right for a new hero to appear. With the terrorist actions across the world, the super powered villains showing up, with the dangers yet to come… A hero will make the greatest impact on the people. And you will be that hero. The biggest hero the world has ever known.”

“Hey!” a huge guy covered in a wolves’ skin protested.

“Quiet, Heracles!” Zeus ordered. The guy obeyed. With the kind of voice Zeus had everyone would have. “Please, son. Get in the basin.” He pointed at a large, stone basin. Its edge was surrounded by impressive looking, ornate, bejeweled knives, all placed with their points down in the stones. Thirteen steps led to its bottom. Without thinking I did what he said. “Undress,” he told me. So I did. It was if I had no mind of my own. Heracles guffawed at the sight of my naked self. “Ha! Is that the body of a hero?” Zeus silenced him with but a gaze.

“All right,” Circe said. “Let the bloodletting begin.”

“The what?” I asked.

Then all the mythical beings gathered around the basis and plucked the knives from the basin’s edge. They started to cut themselves. I yelled them to stop, not sure what they were doing but it looked like suicide.

“Don’t worry, they have a lot of blood to bleed. They’re not human like you, remember,” Circe said.

The basin filled with their blood and I found myself bathing in it. And the more the basin filled, the stranger I started to feel. It was if the blood rushed into every pore of my body. I started to feel more alive, more invigorated than ever.

“W-what is happening to me?” I uttered.

“Just relax,” Circe said. “It’s just part of the ritual.”

Suddenly all of the Olympians’ wounds started to close and the blood disappeared from the basin.

“Get out of the basin, son,” Zeus said. I climbed the steps out of it.

“What did just happen?” I asked Circe.

“We just granted you the ability to channel the powers of all Olympians gathered here,” the sorceress told me.

“What do you mean?”

“Just think about Heracles’ strength,” she said.

I did, and noticed how Heracles’ body started to shimmer again, like he was going to disappear. But at the same time I felt the blood rush through my arteries like a speeding train. I felt… stronger somehow.

“Hit that stone column,” Circe said and pointed at an impressive looking stone column that had once held up an Olympian structure but now stood there as a reminder of a once majestic place.

“Hit it? Are you crazy? I don’t want to break my hand!”

“Trust me.”

“Do it,” Zeus said.

“Okay, I must be crazy, but here goes.” I drew back my fist and hit the column. My fist shattered it like it was nothing. Amazed I saw it crumble to dust. I went numb.

Circe smiled a mischievous smile. “Incredible isn’t it. Now think about Hermes’ power of flight.”

I shrugged and did. Heracles seemed to become more solid, but now the helmeted form of Hermes started to fade. I felt my blood rush trough my body again. Suddenly I was in the air. I was flying. Like in a dream, I was flying. It felt incredible, free, wonderful.

“He still doesn’t look like a hero to me,” Heracles mentioned.

“Allow Poseidon to rectify that,” a bearded figure with a trident said. I knew who he was without hearing him say his name. He walked over to me, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Remember the myth of how Poseidon, at her request transformed the the maiden Caenis into the invulnerable, male warrior Caeneus?”

“Of course I do. I teach about myths for a living.”

Poseidon walked forward and gently put his trident against my forehead. I felt my bones move inside my body, my muscles grow.

“Look,” Poseidon said and created a lake out of nothing. I peered into it and found myself staring back at a longhaired, muscular warrior. My clothes had changed as well. Instead of my usual suit and tie I wore yellow boots, a gold belt with a studded red ruby in the middle, wristbands, dark blue leather britches and a blue jerkin, all with gold stitched linings. I cut a very impressive figure.

“Now that is the way a hero’s supposed to look,” Zeus said, quite satisfied. “Now get back to earth and show you can act like one as well. I think there are some heinous villains you would like to test your new power on.”

Before I could say anything Circe stepped over to me and took my hand. We were enveloped in the same strange light again that brought me to Olympus and suddenly we were gone again.

I was standing in the middle of a dark alley. I was looking at the leather clad backs of the Speed Demons. They were arguing.

“I get 30% ! I was the one who tried all the combinations on the safe in record time. I earned the most!” one said.

“Bull! I was the one who took out the guards. I’ve earned it the most!” another one said.

This was it. Time to be a hero. It was everything I’d wished for, right. Time to show some courage. “Don’t fight. I’ve got another idea. You give all the money back from whoever you stole it from. How’s that?”

They turned around. “Who’re you supposed to be, clown?”

I crossed my arms over my chest, trying to look as impressive as possible. “I’m Godling, and I’m the one who’s giving the city back to the decent people.”

One of them unsheathed a knife. “You’re the one who’s going to bleed to death in this alley, clown! That’s who you are!”

He came at me with lightning speed, but I had the fighting reflexes of Ares. I punched him in the face just before he could cut me. He went down. I picked him up, using the strength of Heracles and threw him into a pile of trash cans.

Another one came at me, moving so fast I couldn’t really see him. He started to punch me. Then, I channeled the speed of Hermes and managed to match evade his blows and match him punch for punch. He went down just as nicely as the first Speed Demon had. Three left to go.

The started to run around me with such speed I got caught into a twister. I felt my feet leave the ground. I got trouble breathing. I had to think of something. I couldn’t run away with Hermes’ speed or use the fighting skills of Ares in this predicament.

“Gonna kill you! Gonna kill you!” I heard their voices buzzing around me. They thought they’d defeated me. Time to prove them wrong.

I clapped my hands together with the strength of Heracles, as hard as I could. The resulting shockwave threw the Speed Demons to the ground. I fell down to the ground, using the athletics of Achilles to break my fall, roll and get up.

Still a bit disoriented the Speed Demons tried to get up. I kicked one down while I took another one out with a chop to the throat. The last one I picked up and held him high above my head. I recognized him. He was the one who left me in the tree.

“I’m the one doing the shoving around now, buddy,” I told him and using the powers of Perseus flew up. Then I dropped him. With a loud thud he fell into a dumpster.

In the distance I could hear sirens. Good, they could take these guys with them.

Two police cars stopped and four cops got out, guns at the ready. I recognized one of them. It was Wade Hudson. This was the first time I looked more muscled than him.  “Freeze,” he said.

I got up my hands. “Don’t panic. I’m on your side. I just took care of the Speed Demons for you. They’re all ready to be taken down to jail. You’ll find some stolen goods in their possession I think.”

“Who are you?” Hudson wanted to know.

“The name is Godling. I’m here to help you get things under control in this city.”

“I’m not sure we need a vigilante running around. Catching the bad guys is our job.”

“We’ll see,” I said. Before he could go on I was gone, using the speed of Hermes. It felt good being a hero.

 

Somewhere, in a secret location, filled with computers and ancient artifacts a tall man stood, watching a monitor. In his hand was a large bejeweled spear. He wasn’t happy. The monitor showed the image of four cops arresting the Speed Demons.

                A scantily clad woman walked over to him and touched his chest. “Why are you so angry?”

                “There’s some kind of costumed do-gooder in the city, taking out my men. I invested in that gang. I’ll need to invest some more. This city will be mine, whatever the cost! And if that Godling character wants to interfere… He’ll die!”

 

NEXT ISSUE:

More about the mysterious man with the spear!

Godling’s secret headquarters!

A few new supervillains!

 

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