The clock tower stood proudly in the center of town, rising above all the other buildings. Each side had a face and in the dark night they were all lit up like beacons of hope. The heavy machinery whirred and at every minute the hands shunted across to mark the steady march of time. Felicio perched atop the tower watching over his domain. Even in the death of night lights shined brightly, making the city seem like a glittering blanket cast over the Earth, stretching all the way out to sea.
He looked down and marvelled at how many lives were buzzing around the city. Then he tried to imagine what it had been like in the past, before all the shining lights. It was hard to imagine how many people must have walked and lived over the same area throughout the ages. So many lives that were silent and had never screamed ‘I am part of this world, hear me!’ They weren’t even a forgotten memory, they were just forgotten. All the souls that had lived and breathed and walked the Earth had passed away with barely a whisper and Felicio was determined not to be one of them. He would be remembered. He would make a difference. Just before the bell rang out to mark the hour he heard the shattering of glass and scrambled down the wall to fulfill his sacred duty.
He leapt off the roof of the civic center and raced through the park to the seedier side of town. The cold night air was bracing and felt as cold as ice as he sprinted through it. Rows of shops gave way to abandoned buildings with graffiti-covered boards covering up broken windows. Shady groups of people clustered in alleyways and street corners but none of them noticed Felicio, who was once again jumping from roof to roof.
Eventually he came to the scene of the disturbance. One on side of the street a man was lying unconscious. Shards of glass were scattered around him and the splintered fractures framed the window behind. He was face down and his arms were sprawled in an unnatural manner, spots of blood stained the ground around him. Felicio leaped down and checked on the frail body. The man’s fingers twitched and his pulse was still steady, but weak. Across the road loud cheers greeted Felicio’s ears. The building appeared to be as deserted as the rest of the street, but upon closer examination there were a set of stairs, and it was from those depths that the cheers emanated.
Felicio walked through the door and descended the stairs, his soft footsteps making no noise. There was barely any light but that didn’t impair his enhanced vision. The grimy walls were plastered with posters, most of which were ripped and he dared not touch the handrail which was covered in some unknown sticky substance. At the bottom of the stairs to the left was a door left ajar. A crack of light escaped along with gruff voices cursing and cackling. Felicio was disgusted by some of the depraved obscenities he heard, especially from one in particular who took great glee in recounting the tale of how he tossed the man through the window. Felicio tentatively put his hand against the door, hesitating to open it. it was an unknown situation and it was unusual for him to be in enemy territory. Usually when he foiled a crime it was while it was taking place, but this was an enclosed space and escape wouldn’t be easy. With a deep breath he pushed the door and entered.
As he stepped into the room the laughter stopped. The ceiling was low. In one corner a barmen rested his heavyset frame against the bar. The stench of alcohol and cheap aftershave weighed heavily in the air. Hazy, bloodshot eyes turned towards him. Yellow teeth sneered and the deathly silence was only interrupted by a chair creaking under the weight of one of the patrons. Then the laughter rang out again.
“Who ordered a gimp? I bet it was you Andre you dirty prick.”
Felicio didn’t know what to make of the scenario. Ordinarily his suit was intimidating but here he was just a joke.
“I’m here to talk about the man outside,” he shouted, trying to be heard over the raucous laughter but nobody took any notice of him.
“Who attacked him?” he growled through gritted teeth. Still nobody responded.
“WHO ATTACKED HIM?!” he yelled, and finally the laughter died down. Behind him Felicio sensed movement. He turned to see a giant rise from a stool. He must have approached 7ft in height and his body was thick with muscle. Tattoos covered his biceps and for all his bravado Felicio was intimidated. The man approached Felicio and excitement rose through the crowd.
“I did. Problem?” The alcohol-stained breath made Felicio gag.
“Fuck him over Ash,” someone shouted. Ash glared at Felicio, cocking an eyebrow and rubbing his hand across the bristling stubble that covered his weathered face. Felicio gulped. The young hero began to wish he hadn’t heard the glass shatter, but he wasn’t about to turn tail so with a flash of speed he threw a punch into Ash’s abdomen. The big man doubled over and breath whooshed out. Behind his mask Felicio smirked and a surprised hush came over the crowd.
But just as Felicio was about to chastise the crowd he was rocked back by a powerful uppercut which made his jaw rattle. He was thrown back and saw that Ash was on the rampage. Anger blazed in his eyes and his muscles were rippling with rage. He stormed up and just as Felicio was rising Ash planted a steel-toed boot in the masked man’s chest. His nerves were on fire with pain. Then Ash rained blows against the side of his head and the crowd cheered their champion. Felicio was groggy but his senses were still enhanced and he was glad he had them to rely on. Instinctively he raised his left arm and blocked a punch, then countered with swift blows to Ash’s body, following it up with a forearm to the throat. This stunned Ash for a moment but it didn’t take long for the hulking brute to recover. Again he was upon Felicio, and the arena suited the brawler far more than the agile youngster. They were stuck in close quarters trading blows. Ash was impressed and surprised, nobody had ever put up as much of a fight. He grew more enraged as the fight drew on but the manic yells of his friends spurred him on. Eventually Felicio unsheathed his claws and grabbed at Ash’s torso. He yelled out in pain, a sound none in that bar had ever heard before.
A look of shock adorned Ash’s face as he watched blood seep onto his shirt. He looked at Felicio, puzzled, but he didn’t have much time to react because the costumed crusader ran up and bent his knee while leaping through the air, connecting to Ash’s chin. It made a sickening crunch and the two of them fell to the floor, but only one got up immediately.
Felicio stood defiantly in the middle of the bar. The crowd were dumbfounded. Felicio turned to walk away but then he heard a mighty groan as Ash pulled himself up off the floor.
“Get him!” he roared. Before Felicio knew it everyone had rushed up to him. Fists and feet were flying in all directions. Felicio valiantly tried to fight them off but there were simply too many and one by one they were holding all his limbs to the floor. He wrestled and writhed trying to break free but he was helpless. Ash stood over him and spat blood onto the mask.
“Nobody gets away with this.”
He stomped on Felicio’s stomach and the young man cried out in pain. Ash walked around in a regal manner, arguing with himself whether he should tear Felicio apart all at once or take his time and make him suffer. He crouched down and looked Felicio in the eye. The bottom half of his jaw hung limply and his face was bruised and ugly, and the smug malicious grin had given way to a surly snarl. He shot out a grubby hand and squeezed Felicio’s skull. Ash couldn’t see it, but Felicio’s eyes widened in terror, so afraid that his mask would be torn off but instead Ash pushed his head down. His skull crashed into the floor and pain seared through his head. His arms went limp and then he felt the grip on one of his legs loosen. Summoning all his willpower he ignored all the parts of his body that were screaming with pain and swung the leg out of his oppressor’s grasp, kicking one of the other people and thus freeing his other leg. From there they began to panic and he was able to wrestle free while Ash tried to reach Felicio through the conglomeration of bodies. However, Felicio made sure to avoid the monster’s reach and he fought his way through the crowd. Fortunately for him none of them were as fearsome as Ash and their soft-bellies couldn’t withstand his weakened blows.
He swelled with relief as his fingers wrapped around the edge of the door. He stumbled up the stairs with the crowd getting in each other’s way. He felt the cool air while they were stuck in the doorway and once they reached the top of the stairs the costumed man had disappeared.
Felicio managed to drag himself across town. He clambered over roofs and eventually made it to Stephanie’s window. It took a while for her to answer but eventually she dragged him in. After he tore off his mask she rushed out to get him some water and a cloth to wash his wounds. After she wiped the blood away and he had regained a bit of strength he was able to talk.
“What happened?” she asked, the anguish plain in her voice.
“Bar. A man. Not a man. Big man, so tough. Lots of them, pinned me down. Barely made it out.”
“We have to get you to hospital!” Peter shook his head.
“No. Just clean me. I need to get back.”
“What?! You can’t go back out like this. You need to rest you need help.”
“You are my help. And I’m going back. Felicio doesn’t lose.” Stephanie was shaken by his tone and the sharp determination in his eyes. In their years of friendship she had never seen him express such a steely resolve and she wasn’t entirely sure how to handle it. Neurotic, brooding Peter she knew but this intense Peter was unknown to her. She patched him up and he crawled out of the window, but she was afraid her friend was disappearing behind the mask.
Felicio made his way as quickly as he could back to the scene of his defeat. He had been arrogant before and he wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Ash wasn’t an ordinary man but he didn’t have any powers, and yet he was still able to hurt Felicio. The masked adventurer had to remind himself that just because he had enhanced abilities didn’t make him invincible, and he couldn’t take anything for granted. His plan was to lure the men out. In the open he could use his agility and speed. However, when he arrived he saw the blue flash of sirens. The area was filled with police officers and he noticed that the shady characters populating the alleyways had disappeared.
“We’ve got you this time Ash,” Detective Lang said.
“What happened to your stomach?” Alan asked, noticing the dots of blood staining the shirt.
“Nothing but a cat scratch,” Ash replied while grinning. Detective Lang roughly pushed Ash’s head down into the car and watched it speed off back to the station. His partner, Lauren, came up to him.
“We taking all these back?” she asked, gesturing to the crowd that had been found in the bar.
“At the moment they’re all either suspects or witnesses. Take them back, we’ll find out more when the victim wakes up.”
“Do you think he will?”
“Better hope so, I’ve been wanting to put Ash away for ages.” He looked far off into the distance.
“Are you okay?”
“There’s just something…” and then, mid-thought, he swore he saw some movement on a rooftop but he focused his eyes and couldn’t see anything.
“What is it?”
“I just thought I saw something, never mind. Let’s get back.”
Felicio took the long walk home. He should have been glad that the police got there and took Ash and the others away but he hated the idea that he was defeated. He would keep watch over that place, and the moment Ash came back Felicio would return and prove himself. Felicio always wins in the end.