Casey had been spotted. He surged from his hiding place to face the son of Dr. Death.
The two collided with electricity and necro-lightning. Bolts exploded out but did little to the well-insulated structure. A quick electric kick to the gut and a solid shocking uppercut sent Sparky to the floor, less for the electricity and more for the brute force. The Sigil of Justice easily outmatched his untrained and unskilled opponent. He then tore the command helmet from Sparky’s head as Crowley had told him to do. The two undead guards waddled forward, but Casey made quick work of them; two were nothing against his armor and gauntlets.
“The Sigil of Justice! We have been waiting for you,” said Dr. Death.
Casey turned to engage his nemesis and he saw the lights on Death’s helmet flicker and glow. Dozens of dead began to lumber into the room. Dr. Death smirked from the control console high above.
“It ends tonight!” Casey declared.
“I suspect you didn’t come here thinking you could end me with your fists,” said Doctor Death.
“That’s the plan!” replied Casey and sparked his gauntlets.
The undead circled around but stayed out of reach.
“The army is diminished, but there are more than enough to keep you busy, while I complete my work. There’s no need to die yet, put down your Crowley crafted fists, and watch me make the world right.”
Dr. Death waited for Sigil’s reply, but the young warrior did not drop his guard.
“I see you aren’t much of a spectator. You’re the type that will go down fighting. I like that, I like that a lot,” Dr. Death said as he pulled levers and dials.
“Stop!” shouted Casey.
“Or what? You’re out of time, boy.”
Before Casey could move to fight more dead flowed in the room. There would be too many to stop in time. Casey pulled his wireless and pressed the emergency signal button. The bombs would now go off and Casey would die as he was supposed to.
There was a pause, even the horde held its breathless breath, but nothing happened. No explosions and no more death other than what was walking before him.
“Oh no little Sigil, what is this? No explosion, no heroic sacrifice?” he asked and pulled a lever with joy.
The four Egyptian sarcophagi snapped open with powerful electric hinges and several of Casey’s bombs rolled out of each.
“I have been listening to all your pedantic babel for the last year. I knew about the bombs, your plan, your little hiding place in the Tribune building. I could have stopped it at any time. You’re not fighting mentally ill morons anymore. You’re fighting a genius intellect and you are both simply outmatched.”
Casey’s stance faltered, and dropped the Marconi, but dug in and readied to fight. He saw a slight smile flicker from Dr. Death.
“Not enough yet to break you? Such will, such hope. Crowley knows what I’m doing, and he knows it’s the right thing. There were no explosives in the bombs, just wireless transmitters. At best he was collecting data, but they were not bombs. He lied to you to give me time, and to keep you safe. He let you think you were doing something, keeping his little boy busy.”
The time for words and worry was past. Casey burst forward with all his might and hatred to break the wall of dead before him. He pushed aside all thoughts and fears, rending dead flesh and bone like a saw to wood. As Zeus himself, bearing bolts of lightning, Casey’s armor electrified the undead mass.
Dr. Death, giggling, returned to his control panel, twisting dials and throttles as he unleashed the final leg of his plan.
The roof of the Chicago Stadium exploded open. Debris rained down on the Necro-tron as huge dull balloons began to fill with an angry hiss. Four insulated spheres expanded with hydrogen, popped into the air, and began to tug on the Necro-Sanctum. Another series of levers and iron clamps released the inner workings and the top of the Necro-tron began to rise away from the tower.
Casey bashed the head clean off the last of the horde. His gallant armor, covered in guts and sinew, no longer electric, now weighed him down. Sparky, having gotten his command helmet and himself back up, hissed as his dead minions fell. His helmet lit up as he called for any that were left to come. Using a broken iron rail, he took an opportunistic moment to strike Sigil in the back.
The armor was out of power but strong enough to take the hit. Casey turned to crack the petulant child and stumbled back in horror. The living corpse of the Great Crusader clawed into the room. Sparky took a second swing and this one was not stopped so well by the armor. The corpse shoved Sparky aside, rushed forward, and pinned Casey to the wall. The dead Crusader exhaled putrid blood across his young apprentice’s face.
“He was just wandering around out front. Although I could have, I did not plan this. You are trapped, dear boy, by the chains of fate,” Death laughed and giggled.
Malachi Morgan only knew hunger, and he knew that there was food before him. His hearing however was not yet so dulled as the rest of his body. He heard that laugh and knew it well. When he had died, that laugh had been the last sound to chase him into the dark. The laugh of Dr. Death. His head turned away from the food to fight, but the hunger was too great, and he turned back to feed. He could hear its screams, yet they too were something he knew.
Casey was here; he was screaming. Was he…the food?
Thoughts were slow, the hunger was great, and there was a will pushing him that was not his own. Kill, kill, kill, it screamed. And though his empty husk moved, it only moved through hunger. His will was little if none. That voice, that voice; it screamed so loud. His body could not hear his thoughts only the shouting. It obeyed whatever was loudest, hunger, rage, but his will was just a whisper in a storm of death.
Casey soul-screamed from the deepest point within him, his body and mind struggling to keep the Great Crusader and Sparky at bay. Will alone raging out of him to fight. He kicked the Crusader back as Sparky leaped to strike with a Necro-infused fist. The three battled as the sanctum began to rise over the shattered body of Chicago. The Death storm, which had held the world away began to spiral in and tighten around the rising conflict.
Casey’s will was being hammered. The weight of the armor, the weight of the world, and the broken heart that was trying to support them all would soon fail. Why did Crowley lie about the bombs?
The Crusader-corpse began to rip Casey’s armor away, exposing unprotective fabrics and skin, while Sparky jabbed the metal rod into the gaps. Casey thought this was the worst way to die. To be killed by his mentor and ‘Sparky’. It was over, he couldn’t win, and fear of failing before the Crusader rose within him. His mentors’ eyes cried blood and Sparky’s face was hideously lit by the lights of his stupid helmet.
“…being brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid, giving hope gives you hope…”
Casey’s fears were holding him back. He was afraid of hurting his friend, of killing him twice. But those fears could not rule him, or he would die here.
Casey reeled back and slammed his head as hard as he could into the Crusaders. Dead or not, they didn’t do well without their brains. He then spun around and ripped the helmet from Sparky then kicked him solidly in the gut. Hardhead still intact, slightly stunned, but no longer compelled, the corpse of Malachi turned toward Sparky.
Without his helmet or any of his horde, he was just a helpless lazy teen. Sparky screamed out to his father as the crusader grabbed him and drew him in to bite, but Dr. Death again returned to his work and could not or would not hear.
Casey grabbed his former mentor by the head and neck, then spun him around severing the spine with a loud crack. He would rise again, but not for now.
“Don’t kill me!”, said Sparky crawling away on the ground.
“You don’t have to let him treat you that way. Help me stop him,” said Casey offering his hand.
“Kill him or make him your best friend, it doesn’t matter,” said Dr. Death from above.
“Dad, save me. Please,” pleaded Sparky.
There was a flicker of lights from Dr. Deaths’ command helmet and a wry smile drew across his face as he descended back to the floor of the Necro-tron’s inner sanctum.
“My consciousness will change reality. It doesn’t matter what you do, it will be undone, and I will become like God. So, kill the dolt, kill yourself, I don’t need to care anymore. This world is done, and the next is overdue to begin”
“You destroyed the city, you killed millions,” Casey said turning from Sparky to face Dr. Death.
Truman LaCroix, Dr. Death, now as mighty as he ever would be, unleashed the full might of the Necro-tron’s energy. Casey was thrown back, his armor ripped from his body as the green lighting wiggled through him like maggots in a corpse.
Then unseen steel traps clasped as the machine engaged. A pillar of light ignited in the center of the platform as the maelstrom howled. Dr. Death stood up to take his place in the beam and then…it turned off.
The Sanctum grew quiet with only the roar of the storm filling their ears.
“Master Casey,” Crowley’s voice echoed from the discarded Marconi Box.
Broken and burnt but wide eye with amazement Sigil looked to his Marconi box on the ground where he dropped it.
“I don’t know if you can hear me, I had to wait till he left the Faraday cage. The bombs you planted are frequency jammers. They will prevent his device from working as long as they are close to it. He was listening in and I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you. If you died, all the thoughts you had would be his. I can’t do much from here, but I can give you time, and a little hope.”
Casey crawled towards the Marconi box, but death swooped it up.
“You haven’t stopped me you old fool,” shouted Dr. Death into the box, then turned and began kicking the bombs off the platform.
Hand over hand, his legs no longer working, Casey crawled. This was not the first time he had been here, beaten down, without his legs. Polio was tougher than any green light show.
“Truman, what you’ve done—” said Crowley.
“Don’t lecture me, you’ve killed just as many in war. Like you, I am fighting for a just cause. If you would have helped me in the beginning none of this would happen. This is all on your shoulders,” He said kicking the ‘bombs’ away.
Casey crawled closer still.
“Her heart was weak, we knew it was going to be difficult,” said Crowley.
There was a long pause and death conceded, “Perhaps, but I will undo the mistake, I will fix the world and make it right.”
Dr. Death kicked the last of the ‘bombs’ off the platform and Casey watched it fall back to the dead city. The grand column of light flickered back to life as the machine turned on. Heavy metal sounds and deep electric rumbles returned to fill their ears. Dr. Death, focused, and ready, adjusted his rubber suit, then walked toward the light. Casey, with all his strength, stabbed out and grabbed Dr. Death’s ankle. With his other hand, he brought down a superhuman strike shattering all the bones in Dr. Death’s foot.
LaCroix screamed in pain and struggled to get away, kicking Casey in the face and tearing off his mask. Casey pulled harder and brought a second fist down on Death’s leg, not breaking it but wounding it badly. Jolts of green lighting replied as LaCroix screamed, but he hit himself as much as Casey.
Casey was not dead, but there was no fight left. Dr. Death, also wounded, was still moving and crawled towards the light, but they both saw it was already filled.
“Sparky, Charles, what are you doing?” Dr. Death shouted.
Sparky stood bathed in the bluish light, electric tendrils reaching from the sarcophagi to his damaged but working command helmet.
“Momma died giving birth to me, and you always say I am such a waste. You hate me so much you’re going to wish I was never born? You did all this because you hated me so much! Well, I hate you too, I wish, I wish—”
“No, you fool, don’t do it!” LaCroix shouted!
“I wish… I wish YOU were never born!” said Sparky.
The light responded with a red flicker and then it surged into the sky. Then, reality began to change.
“No, no, no I wasn’t going to wish you away, I was going to stop myself from ruining it. Sparky, I was going to wish I never gave her the serum. I just wanted my family, the way it was supposed to be… I just wanted—”.
The storm became a deafening roar as the light began to sustain itself. The balloons exploded and the Necro-sanctum fell from the sky. Casey held tight to his memories. He held Mal and Crowley close in them. He couldn’t win, he couldn’t save the world, but he realized he had something neither LaCroix would ever have. He had loving memories of his family.