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The two men walked the crowded Manhattan streets with guarded care. One led, his dull brown eyes remained averted, darting, but sliding away before another's gaze could capture him. Beneath a torn and crusted flannel jacket--one that had long ago ceased to be useful--his shoulders hunched and tensed. His careworn face was haunted as he clutched his companion's hand. Suddenly, as if nirvana were in site, he dashed for a night-shrouded alley, dragging the other man behind. As they scurried away, billowing steam rose from out of nowhere to cut the alley off from view of the street.
Dropping into a crouch in the shadow of a dumpster at the far end, the vagrant ran trembling hands through his lank hair, the color indeterminate beneath years of grime. "They're following us, they are ... hurts, the burning hurts, the eyes sting ... they can't help it you know ... nope, they can't help it, in their nature ... no one sees them but Angus and Angus says to run, he says 'Gerry'--that's me, buddy--'Gerry, just run, because they're right behind you.' They have to do it, but we can't let them see us ... have to hide, buddy, have to hide." Gerry continued to babble, forgetting for a moment, he was trying to avoid attention. He punctuated his words by wildly slashing his hands through the air. One clanged against the battered and rusted side of the trash bin. Beside him, his friend sat placidly, unmoving save for the occasional sluggish blink, until finally the vacant-eyed unfortunate rolled his head to stare with vague interest at the sound. Gerry just kept muttering.
"Come on, can't stay here, he'll sniff us out ... yeah regular bloodhound, gotta move, buddy,can't let them get us ... Sell our body parts to the voodoo guy down on Christopher Street he will ... I betcha he will ... or something like that."
Gerry had to haul his friend up, grunting and cursing as the simpleton slowly came to his feet, his watery blue eyes showing nothing as he moved through the world in a dream state. Nothing Gerry tried could draw him into a more hurried pace. They went up the fire escape and then in, climbing through a gap offered by a once-boarded window three stories up. Looking back only once, Gerry trembled as the alley continued to fill with an unnatural fog.
"...Long time ago, this used to be a brothel, you know, doesn't look like much now, but the best five bucks I ever spent ... ain't no more 'birds' here ... hehehe ... but maybe we can find a pigeon ... pigeon would go real nice right now.... Naw, gotta keep moving, can't let him see us ... no, that wouldn't be good, no way. Come on, buddy, have to hide, for Chrissake!" Gerry ended his fractured diatribe and began to sing to himself. Song had always been a comfort to him, no matter what his situation. He sang softly all the way up twenty-five flights of stairs. His companion only hummed, very low and disjointed, as he rubbed the empty ring finger on his left hand. He did not even look up when they burst through the door leading to the rooftop.
Dark, ominous clouds hung low on the horizon, thrown into stark relief by the glow of distant lightning. In the immediate area, the static built to an uncomfortable charge, making the air crackle like an angry swarm. Gasping and jerking his hand out of Gerry's grip, the silent one huddled in a crumbling corner of the rooftop, transfixed by the flashes. Frantically, he continued to stroke his finger, bobbing back and forth with growing agitation. His battered soul had climbed out of limbo only to perch on the edge of insanity, unaware of the tingle across his scalp and the way every unhindered hair on his body rose. A shock of matted black hair set off his pale, stark face like a mask and faded blue eyes glowed like a beacon in the darkness. His shackled potential was more than tempting. What it drew down upon him was beyond anything his fractured mind could take. Insanity claimed the man completely.
Beside him, Gerry yipped like a startled dog, ending with a gurgle and a gaping mouth. His eyes grew wild and his blue-tinged tongue swelled until it protruded from his lips. Slowly, as if lifted at the end of an invisible and powerful arm, Gerry rose in the air until he dangled, suspended above a large pile of rubble. His brown eyes darkened with despair and tried to plead eloquently with the thin air, for his arrested voice could not.
In moments it was over. A sharp shake, like a rat in a terrier's jaws, and Gerry's neck snapped. His body fell from the air, his lifeblood streaming over the pile of masonry as if it were an ancient altar and he the sacrifice; the only thing missing was the chanting.
Drifting from above the corpse to hover instead over the supine form of the now-mad man was a cold, dark shadow--a density that made the patch of night around it darker than could be accounted for by the clouds, a swath of blackness that was not lightened by the periodic flickers in the sky. A menacing presence added to the weight of the humidity and a feeling of waiting filled the night.
Heralded by an explosive clap of thunder, a truly amazing display of lightning crackled across the evening sky, lighting up everything below it with a cold, harsh glare. In that energized flash a homeless man whose name had long ago been forgotten completed an act of slow death that had begun with his life on the streets--and Lucien Blank was born. Both wore the same face.
Unnoticed by the world, a gaunt figure rose, as if compelled, from the corner of a crumbling roof and raised its eyes to the universe. With slow trance-like motions, it ripped away the filthy, tattered clothes it wore, dropping them carelessly from numb fingers. A startling transformation took place when it closed its eyes and raised its arms to the sky. The pure electrical power dancing through the heavens rushed toward the naked embrace, sending streams of raw current through the emaciated form, scorching the very air as the man twitched and screamed with the awesome energy. Ruthlessly, he was remolded by the pure, burning power, held upright as his very shape was sculpted by the demanding, brutal force.
As if this were a signal, the clouds let loose a flood of freezing rain to drench the skyline. The new creation merely stood beneath the violent downpour and shed the final remnants of its former self as completely as it had discarded its clothing just moments before. The thunderstorm rinsed away the thick, encrusted dirt from twitching limbs that grew less skeletal with each passing second. Black, matted hair fell away in clumps, leaving only smooth, silvery stubble. When the last strands floated away toward the gutter, the transformed creature collapsed with the same abruptness as a marionette whose strings had been cut, banging the back of its head on the broken masonry.
The hovering Power swelled with malevolent anticipation, a growing darkness against the clouds of the city sky. All was in order; now to complete the picture. Materializing in the corner where earlier the man had huddled, positioned as if it had been franticly hidden beneath the rubble, was a monogrammed wallet filled with identification. Quickly, more items appeared, setting the stage with appropriate props. In the stairwell, expensive but commonplace clothes were artfully scattered, as if dropped in a panic by startled thieves. In the alley, a briefcase full of documents waited to be found. Among the contents was a newly signed lease for a building in Chinatown. The name on the lease was Lucien Blank.
The victim's memories--what was left of them--were wiped clean, disrupted by the emmense force that had been released this night, leaving its mind ready for the Power to shape. Enough clues and identification had been scattered to ensure that even without a memory, this new creation would be positioned well enough to be effective.
The timing was perfect; just as the last dregs of energy were used, a helicopter passed overhead. In a flash of lightning, an illusion of movement fluttered by the door to the stairwell, drawing the pilot's eye. The plan was well begun as the police helicopter engaged its spotlight, discovering the "crime scene."
The Power known as Olcas faded into the background to bide its time. While it rebuilt its strength, it would use its leisure to sculpt this new tool, as well as to gather its resources. As Lucien Blank was taken away on a stretcher, one last burst of lightning lit the scene brilliantly. There was time--plenty of time.