Darkness is my shield. Even now, poised in the midst of the city around me, the shadows protect me. Those whom I might hunt, pass me unaware. For this is my city, and the night is mine.
I am the Wraith.
I feel the energy of an active city moving around me. Gazing down at the street, from my perch, I watch a myriad of nameless citizens swept along in the tide of their own making. Always separated from the herd, I am yet drawn to it. My desire to be as one of them visceral but unconsummated. I want to be part of that energy.
But my mission demands otherwise. For this is my city, and the night is mine.
I fall back into my chair, reflecting on the night’s activities. I am frustrated- I did not anticipate Harbinger’s new weaponry. I remain faster and stronger but was unable to press those advantages into a decisive victory. As I was stunned by some strobe-based device, Harbinger slipped away.
Tomorrow I will begin sweeping my databases for any references to diverted shipments of exotic weaponry. I suspect that Omni Corp’s research laboratories may be the source of this new device. It is possible that Harbinger discovered the research and made plans to intercept the technology. I’ve long suspected that Omni may be the source of his equipment. Perhaps tracing the trail of this device back may lead me to Harbinger’s lair. A defeat tonight may ultimately bring me to final victory over my foe.
For this is my city, and the night is mine.
Morning. I begin the day as I do each day now. I assume the role of a city beat reporter for The Herald, New York’s oldest and largest paper. I ride the subway, invisible and nameless amongst the press of humanity. We stand docile- paper, coffee, or device in hand, as the train slows in the station. As I exit the train, I look to the left, then to the right. Passing eye contact with the woman on my left causes her to quickly look away. Standing shoulder to shoulder we cannot connect face to face. I smile to myself as I move quickly up the stairs.
I move amongst the mob. I am invisible and nameless. Day has begun.
I sit in our morning meeting, my body still as my mind is restless. Jane sits to my left, turned away from me, focused on our boss as he directs the news staff. I nod as everyone else does. I sit among them but I am not as they are. Mine is a lonely path. I want to share my secret with Jane, but I know that is impossible.
Jane is every bit the powerful woman to match the strength of my other- The Wraith. I feel that she could understand what drives me- the mission, the hunt. But she knows me only as her hapless colleague, Clint.
Our meeting ends and we wait docilely to exit the room; she looks over her shoulder at me and smiles. I smile and mumble a greeting. Her smile softens as she leans closer.
“Clint- I wonder how you ever get anyone to talk to you? The first thing you say in any conversation is so quiet that you might as well not even speak. You’re such a great writer- you should have more confidence.”
I begin to speak, stop, and clear my throat. There is no point. She will never see me in my strength. She cannot, as I can never be my true self…
Yes! My suspicions regarding Harbinger’s weapons seem to have merit. Methodically, tracing documents from my sources- both public and protected- I seem to have found a link between Harbinger’s particularly effective strobe weapon and Omni Corp’s most recent government weapons program. My enemy is cunning but I will bring him to ground. I am on the hunt. And although the sun burns brightly overhead, this is still my city.
Sleep, first elusive, is now impossible. My wounds ache. The battle with Harbinger plays out in my mind time and again. Something about the encounter…
Ignoring the pain from my back, I sit down on the floor, pulling my mind inwards. Memories, thoughts, perceptions- all are turned in as I place myself into a trance. I begin to access my racial memories- a legacy of my people’s unique heritage. The night’s events- my battle with Harbinger- now play against these genetic memories.
There! A connection! Harbinger’s scent triggers a memory. This is mine- not an ancestor’s. It is the night, 10 years ago, that my parents were killed…
Shocked, my trance breaks. I slump to the floor. Anger rushes through me, driving the physical aches away. It was him- that night- when my parents were killed, leaving me alone in this world and the last of my race- Harbinger. His blasts turned my father to ashes as my mother pushed me deeper into the shadows. Seeing my passage through the barrier into the shadow realm- now safe from our attacker- she turns towards the smoking remains of my father. She leaps forward, hands reaching for the neck of their hunter-
-and she, too is gone. I press against the barrier, to join them, to fight! But my powers are not yet mature. I cannot break the wall between realms again so soon after just doing so. I sit, crying, powerless, as my parents’ murderer inspects the dust that is all that remains of them. I am alone in a featureless realm, peering through the barrier but unable to return. I am alone, the last of my race, the sole remaining member of a people all but hunted to extinction. All but me.
I am alone.
My breath comes in ragged, harsh bursts. I am present in my skin. Here, now,in this world, the racial powers of my people now mine to command. I am alone- but I have the strength to bring my family’s killer to justice.
For this is my city, and the night is mine.
For 3 days I have rested. As Clint, I have called my employer to explain my absence. A passing illness, no doubt. Certainly- I am resting, I am taking care of myself. No- I do not need anyone to come look in on me. I will return to work as soon as I am able.
I am able after my recuperation. By staying inactive, cloaked in the shadows of my stronghold, my racial heritage comes to the fore. Although largely powerless in my healing trance, my body swiftly recovers. I feel my gathering strength.
Moving slowly, the last vestiges of the trance dissipating, I cautiously channel my power. Interesting- a new aspect of my powers appears to have developed in my rejuvenatory inactivity. Harbinger’s weapon hurt me gravely during our last encounter. Now, with complete recall of the events both mere days and also 10 years ago, I see that Harbinger’s strobe weapon is new yet based upon the same energy signature that he used to deadly effect upon my parents a decade past. The underlying energy signature appears to nullify my powers at a cellular level. Beyond my superhuman strength, this nullification extends to my body’s basic functions. Exposed to his energy weapon, my natural advantages disappear. Proplonged exposure- or a brief blast of sufficient intensity- breaks down my cells, disrupting the basic biologic activity. This energy can disintegrate my people.
But- Harbinger’s weapon blasted me only momentarily. Wounded and in pain- but I was not killed. In response, my body appears to be adapting to the energy signature. Over the 3 days of my healing trance, my body has developed an insulation of sorts. As a human exposed to a dead microorganism in a vaccine will develop an immunity, my own body has now developed a resistence to Harbinger’s weapon. I am confident that, although the blasts may weaken me momentarily, they can no longer deal serious injury to me. Our next encounter will be different than our last.
As night falls over my city, I make my way up through the vast underground infrastructure that sits beneath the bustling humanity above. Upwards I continue to move, through viaducts and access tunnels, until I reach the aboveground mechanical building for the city’s water supply. I slip between worlds for a few moments, returning to the defined realm as I exit the building. I feel the cool air of the evening wash over me. Gathering my strength, I push against the earth. I smile as I begin my hunt. Harbinger cannot remain hidden from me.
For this is my city, and the night is mine.
I feel the energy of the city beneath me. Riding the currents of the wind, I extend my senses to their limits. Sight, smell, sound, psychic emanations- I scan all of them continuously as the streets sweep past me. I have Harbinger’s mark. Finding him is an inevitability. Turning, seeking- my night’s patrol quickly passes, my hunt as yet unfulfilled- there! I lean into a smooth sweeping bank. For a moment, I caught a passing scent- again, there. Harbinger’s scent! I have his trail!
I pull up and perch on the lip of a skyscraper. Making contact with the concrete, I slide back, pressing into the shadow of the building’s recesses. I slip between realms as I scan the area.
I’ve come to light on the last skyscraper approaching the city’s waterfront. Immobile in the shadow realm, I focus my senses further. I cast my presence across the docks, ignoring the mundane humans as they work, unaware of my presence. I ignore them- my quarry is down there among them, hidden as I am.
I locate Harbinger’s spoor! He sits, immobile as I am, atop a tall light fixture. Above the harsh light, he is as invisible as I am here in my shadow world. I watch him, as he in turn watches his own prey. I tremble with the anticipation of the battle. I will have justice for my parents, for my people- for myself.
I begin moving through the current of shadowstuff, down, down, a parallel track in this realm that will bring me next to my foe. In moments, I am next to him- mere paces and an entire world separate us. Until-
-I shift back into the defined realm, hovering in the air behind Harbinger. “Revenge!” I hiss as I launch myself towards him.
Amazing- Harbinger reacts as quickly as one of my own people could and spins nimbly on his perch. He has nowhere to go but manages to square himself towards my attack as I grab him. Down we fall, my hands pushing in for his throat. His combat prowess is clearly evident. Every move that I make he counters- even as we plummet towards the docks.
A momentary sun bursts in my eyes! Harbinger has triggered his strobe weapon. The intensity of the flash stuns me. Twisting, falling- I feel Harbinger rolling to position me to break our fall. My cells have adapted to the energy signature- but I am not immune.
Pain blossoms across my back as we hit- HARD!- on the docks. An oddly detached portion of my awareness notes Harbinger rolling away from me. I took the brunt of our impact as we landed- crashed- to the unyielding dock. My enemy pushed away from me as we struck. The impact of a fifty foot drop combined with the searing light of the strobe has pushed me to my limit. My strength and natural resiliency have been measured and surpassed. I lay- helpless and vulnerable- sprawed at the feet of my nemesis.
Again, that odd slice of my awareness notes that Harbinger has not pressed his advantage. Unmoving, he watches me as I slowly regain my strength. I roll onto my stomach and feebly pull my feet underneath me. Through these tortured efforts, Harbinger crouches yards away. I speak to break this awkward silence.
“Why- why aren’t you…” I force out, each breath accompanied by a thousand knives in my chest.
“Destroying you?” my opponent says. “You present an interesting puzzle. Your abilities seem strangely familiar. This is our third meeting but your powers seem- familiar. What are you?”
“I am the last of my kind. All these years, hiding my talents, cloaked amongst your people… I have survived. I have grown- and waited. Waited for this moment. Waited- for revenge!”
I spring forward as I spit the last words at him, hatred palpable in my voice. “Revenge”- the very word my curse hurled at my enemy, the killer of my family.
Harbinger-again!- is prepared for my attack. Incredibly smooth, he slides away from my grasp. I twist, tracking him but unable to close with him as he-
PAIN! Again, the searing light, this time from all around me, not simply from Harbinger’s gear but the very air around me burns- relentlessly. I writhe and kick, ineffective, as Harbinger stands up and walk over towards me. Just out of my reach…
“After our last encounter, I realized you were too powerful to remain at large. I saw how effective the strobe was in paralyzing you and adapted it to a… larger scale.”
Mentally, I curse my oafish desire. Eager for my vengeance, I never stopped to consider the surroundings. Now, paralyzed by the unique energy of the strobes, enfeebled on the dock, I see the auxiliary lighting units and power cables leading up the mundane lighting poles. Harbinger set a brilliant trap- and I walked into it.
Except- the energy’s hold on me is gradually waning. I am in- BRILLIANT!- pain, but I am not dying. My body’s adaptation to the energy is complete. I can function although my powers are severely restricted. Harbinger and I have each made grave mistakes tonight. I focus through the pain, preparing for the moment he brings himself too close to me. He is unaware of my resistence to his weapon.
“…it was apparent that I needed to understand the source of your power. I will study you, and, in doing so, decipher the key to your strength. A strength that I will use to-”
Arrogant in his “victory”, Harbinger has stepped just close enough for me to channel my slim reserve of power into a single strike. My arm shoots out and snares his ankle. Flush with my pending victory, I push the burning pain down, down, beneath the rising tide of my anger.
Harbinger shrieks- impotent!- as I crush his ankle. I feel bones shatter and grind to powder as my grip tightens. Drawing vitality from his struggles, I push myself up off the dock. I feel his life energy surging into me as it pushes the last wisps of pain from my awareness.
Now we are reversed- our positions on the docks beneath the brilliant light. I lean over my helpless enemy. I look down at him, hungry and sated all at once, as I taste the moments. Harbinger squirms, as a child, as I watch with quiet poise. I release his ruined ankle as I lean over him. I peer into his eyes and see the horror within. He knows how this ends.
“You are everything that has brought my people to the edge of extinction. Your SCIENCE! Your arrogance. I will have my vengeance upon YOUR people. You are nothing beneath me- you are insects- in fact…”
Gently, I reach underneath his head and pull him towards me. My other hand teases across his chest, playfully, as I savor the moment.
“…you are nothing but food,” I whisper as my talons pierces his chest. I feel his heart spasm as I rip it from his chest. All patience gone, I stuff it into my mouth, sucking the life energy from the meat. My leer drips red satisfaction into the face of my dying foe. He sees this. He watches the pleasure I take in consuming his vitality. Good.
I quickly pull him closer as I watch the light fading in his eyes. “You see, your kind has never been anything but food to me and mine. And now, there is no one that can oppose me!”
I drop the now-rotting flesh at my feet. The lights still blaze around me, silent witnesses to my triumph. I gather my strength and push up off the docks…
I soar high above the lights. I smile at their ineffective glow. I will find a way to bring my people back. I have beaten my foe. I have tasted his life. No more must I hide amongst the sheep. No more must I pretend to be less than I am. None can stand against me.
For this is my city,and the night is mine.