…VICTORYMAN FALLEN… THE DESPICABLE VOID SLAYS LAST LIVING SUPERHERO…
Alan didn’t hear so well anymore, but he read the words ticking along the bottom of the screen with squinted eyes. “Last living superhero,” he grumbled, tipping the bartender. He gingerly eased off the stool, and made his way to the door, leaning heavily on his cane. He stepped onto a stoop overlooking the street he had grown up on, and stopped. A drunken bum vomited loudly in the alley across the way, and a line of whores sold their wares not twenty feet down.
“When did it all get so damned ugly?” He groaned with the ache and effort of descending the stairs, and turned down the sidewalk. They didn’t let him drive anymore, and he didn’t have the cash for a taxi, so it was the old heel-toe express, as they’d said back in the day.
He hadn’t made it a block before his pocket started vibrating. He ignored the old flip-phone through seven separate calls before he heard the chime of a text. Curiosity got the better, and he squinted at the screen.
AL DONT DO SUMTHIN STUPID - BOB
He snorted and put the phone back in his pocket. The grandkids may have donated the phone, but of course it was only the old partners that ever made it ring. Once upon a time, he’d had a red phone that the Mayor called at least twice a day. Now he couldn’t even get his son to drop a line.
OK, he clumsily typed back, with a rueful grin. Bob had been the best Crimson Carnage the city had ever seen, and Alan missed working with him almost as much as he missed fighting against him. Bob was the only one left from those days, and he didn’t come out bowling or drinking ever since Nancy’s Gamma Cancer took her down.
The news report had shown the Void forming a black hole in the center of Midtown Park, and by the time Alan got there, it was almost as big as the park itself. Cars, people, and sidewalk vendors floated upwards, devoured by the tear in the sky. The Despicable Void hovered just above the trees, a rippling miasma of black energy cascading around his form.
One step at a time, leaning on his cane, Alan made his way towards the villain. Tired of the ache in his knees, he stopped and gathered energy. Electricity crackled over his skin for the first time and years, and he used the excess power to boost his voice: “VOID! THIS IS DONE!” he boomed. His throat ached immediately, but he straightened his back, brow set sternly.
The lithe, black-clad form in the sky turned and dove towards him, swooping to a halt just feet in front above the ground. “Who the hell are you?” he hissed behind his black hood.
“Captain Reactor,” Alan growled. “Formerly. You can call me Alan.”
“Really?” The man snatched his hood back to get a closer look. “I thought you were dead or something. This is remarkable. In my world, I was a huge fan of your books. Please, call me Vlad.”
“Can’t say I know what you’re blathering about, champ, but it’s time to cut this shit out.” Alan rolled up his sleeves, folded his glasses.
The villain’s face grew stony and cold, his eyes narrowed. “Oh, you actually think you can stop me?” He started the villain cackling, and Alan swung a haymaker that caught him right on the jaw. The nuclear-powered super-strength hadn’t faded at all over the years, it just made his arthritis hurt like hell.
Vlad’s head snapped to the side, and he glided backwards to a hovering halt. “That was beautiful,” he laughed. “But you’re going to need more than that. We’ve all seen what you’ve got, and believe me, old man: it’s not enough.”
Alan lunged forward with the speed of a flash, and locked his arms around The Void’s shoulders. Energy lashed and crackled off the surface of his skin, which was steadily beginning to glow white. His arms locked on as tight as they could, and he gave Vlad one last hard grin.
“You’ve never seen me meltdown.”