Casey sat on the edge of a failing structure. Perched atop the remnants of the bus terminal at 14 East Randolph he looked across the vast landscape of what used to be Chicago. The city had burned for six months after the storm. All that remained of the skyline were jagged black fingers reaching up to a poisoned green sky. His stomach turned and he clenched his jaw as he fought against the emotions boiling within. This devastation was his fault. The Death Storm of 1938 fell squarely on his shoulders.
In the distance, beyond the blackened city, pillars of purple steam vented into the damaged sky. The snake-like plumes twisted up from what used to be the Chicago Stadium. Now, it was an iron riveted nightmare, an artificial volcano made of steel and concrete. Borne upon this steel mound were the wind-tossed, never-decaying corpses of the Chicago police force. The last-ditch heroes that made their play when Casey failed to stop Dr. Death two years ago.
Back then he was just a kid. By day his thoughts were filled with hopes of blazing the ice for the Blackhawks hockey team. At night he lived a secret life of adventure. Leaping from rooftop to rooftop and fighting crime as the sidekick of Chicago’s home-grown vigilante hero, “The Great Crusader”.
The Blackhawks had a horrible season in ’38, and literally had the lowest point score in the entire league. He wanted to watch the playoffs with Toronto, but he couldn’t be there to see it. He was out trying to save the city.
One bad night and the world ended, the Death Storm came, and everything changed. It was only the fact that he had received an experimental polio vaccine that kept him from dying, or worse: rising.
He had come to see the color of the exhaust from the remade stadium. Purple steam meant the reactor ports were open. His mission was almost over. Only a few things left to do.
He ran and leapt from the bus terminal to a burnt-out Laundromat, a jump no ordinary human could have made. His feet slid across the burnt rooftop; his momentum greater than the friction of his boots. The roof groaned under the impact, but he wasn’t on it long enough to fear. Like a flash, he was already in the air and on his way to the next stop. In his old costume, he could feel the wind on his skin and taste the air, but the armor he wore denied him that joy.
Chicago was now too dangerous for silk tights and colorful capes. These days, he was armor-clad in Tesla weave, and transistor-assisted Marconi bolts, all powered by the Farnsworth fusion battery on his back. He looked less like a vigilante-hero and more like an electric-powered knight. That’s what it took to cross the city safely after the Death Storm.
Casey paused atop a tenement building, long-empty, lonely, and scorched. He looked down to the street where he saw a Buick Model 47. That was his dream car, back when the world made sense. The sleek beauty was turned on its side like the carcass of a fallen horse. Casey tensed as his ears heard shuffling footsteps with his Bell Labs crystal audio enhancers.
There were things moving below.
From his perch, he watched a few unlucky survivors run out of an alleyway. They were armed with axes, knives, and moved quickly, quietly, and concisely. Three men, two women, and a child risking a resource run. The group moved towards the Model 47, and just as they arrived the child tripped over a discarded tire. She squealed in pain. The party stopped dead in their tracks. Not for the concern of injury, but for the fear of what the sound would bring. The quieting of the child did in this moment, come too late for death would be a comin’.
Bursting forth from an old nearby shoe store, a murder of zombies flowed. Rotting corpses jigged and stuttered quickly towards the survivors, moaning, and growling with unintelligible sounds. Their intent was not lost; they were hungry for living flesh. These were the children of the Death Storm.
The party of the living ran from the undead mass, the best practice when confronted with a flesh hungry horde, but the child could not get up. Her fall had sprained her tiny ankle. The group dashed and didn’t look back, but for one woman. She stayed and picked the girl up in her arms.
Casey didn’t hesitate. He dropped from the sky like the fist of God just as the the woman and child were swarmed. He attacked with electrified gauntlets and Tesla Shock-Knuckles, electricity arcing chaotically around him. His fist hit like hammers, exploding dead putrid meat as it super-heated it with electricity.
Strike and splatter, smash and burn, rage and hate, pouring from him. As the undead bodies seared and ripped, they spewed desiccated black blood across the Electric Knight.
The woman and child cowered fearing the whirlwind tempest as much as the flesh-eating creatures. They were caught between the storm and the monsters and unsure if they could flee. When the last undead thing fell and the snap of electricity faded, the woman pulled the child up and looked to Casey as if to ask permission to leave.
With heavy breath and a guttural roar he screamed at them and they ran. He was alone for several minutes before he could think again. He kicked around the writhing chunks of meat trying to sift out any bits that might still be lethal. He picked up a head by its greasy hair. It was a woman’s with glossy grey eyes, skin rotted, maggot-infested and still moving. Around its face was a leather and brass muzzle. This wasn’t the first time he’d seen this.
“Master Casey,” squawked a box on his side.
Casey pulled the Tesla wireless from his leather belt, the only remnant of his original costume.
The box repeated the call. Casey shoved up his goggles and let his sweat-soaked face breathe.
“Sigil. You’re still supposed to call me Sigil,” Casey said.
“As you wish,” said a British accented voice, “The vents: have they changed color?”
“Yep, just like you said Crowley. It looks like you were right on the button. “
“Indeed. We only have hours now. That, however, is not why I am corresponding. I have another wireless signal.”
“Someone else has a Tesla wireless?”
“No, it’s Master Morgan’s.”
There was a pause filled with the crackle of static.
“He died that night.”
“Death seems to be a matter of opinion these days, Master Casey. You know what he wanted you to do.”
“Of course, I just thought you’d like to know.”