Every story has a beginning, and this one is no different…
A coffin is lowered down into the vacant hole as the burly funeral home attendants shovel dirt atop the vacant, wooden, box. Among the attendees are weeping friends and relatives, seated in white lawn chairs a few feet in front of the man made chasm. There is no priest, the only dirge for this departed soul is the tears of his loved ones and the brief speeches accompanying them. Finally, a tall man stands up and walks forward with a swagger that would make P. Diddy jealous. His hair is long and straight, expensive sunglasses cover his eyes and his fingers are emblazoned with tattoos, mostly letters and symbols, an outward facing bow imprinted in dark ink on his wrist. The man’s shoes brush against the grass audibly; the sobs of the crowd stop simultaneously the second he reaches the podium. He unbuttons his tux twice from the top, removes his sunglasses, and leans forward over the podium, collecting himself as he starts to speak, “Today we mourn the loss of a great man, a man who taught, or at least tried to teach me how to be a decent person. Michael Havok, was a man who believed in the good in others and that enlightenment through knowledge and discipline would unearth that good in us all. Each day he strived to make the world a better place, whether it was through putting an arrow through someone who deserved it or through passing on his knowledge to the next generation. My father was a great man…and I am not. But not even the greatest of men can be sent to correct the wrongs that I have made in my lifetime; his death was a testament to that as he died trying to clean up the mess that I have started, my late wife completed, and some accursed providence continued.”
He falls silent for a second as his piercing blue eyes stare viciously into those of a young man in the front row, a young man with long, shaggy, black hair, fire red eyes, and a horrible look that spells shame, regret, and disbelief as tears stream down his silent face.
The man continues, “Fifteen years earlier we have gathered here in this same place for the funeral of my beloved Melinda, who died in childbirth. And now…fifteen years later, we are gathered here again to mourn the death of a different loved one but one thing remains the same. I really regret the day our family, hell, our city, became exposed to this eventual and uncontrollable hazard.” The man falls silent but his eyes remain fixed on his son, the crowd slowly starts to clap, puzzled at the cryptic ending of the speech but touched by the man’s sadness. An older gentleman approaches the podium, the logo on his polo shirt reads Unity Pass Cemetery, and he produces an urn filled with black ash and gives it to the speaker. The speaker takes the urn and stares at it for a moment before stating, “As of now, I Eddie Jean Havok will be leaving Unity City. I will greatly miss all of you my dear friends but I am sure I’ll see you at Red Alert’s concerts when we tour through here in the summer. Take care…” Eddie ends, moving back down the aisle and taking a seat next to his son, the young man who caught the ire of his gaze, the same young man to whom he refused to speak or even look at for the remainder of the proceedings.
Time passes as the guests clear the hills and vacate the seats, only Matt Havok remains. His father left without a word and the rest of the crowd went with him on the way back to his big house, no doubt traveling by limo as usual. Matt stands up, he feels stiff, he hasn’t moved for what seems to have been hours. He wipes the tears from his face as he slowly walks over the patch of dirt under which his grandfather’s symbolic coffin lays. Kneeling down by the tombstone he examines the engraving, Here lies Michael Havok. Father, teacher, hero. a Sagittarius is carved under the letters, his bow pointed up towards the sky. “I’m sorry…” whispers Matt, “I couldn’t control it…I never could control it.” he brings a palm over his eyes as he leans over the tombstone, “You were the only one who tried to help, the only one who thought I could BE helped. Even I knew better…I knew and I still let this happen!” Matt yells, angrily shoving his fist into the earth, he stops for a few seconds, breathing heavily in between sobs, “I’m sorry gramps, dad’s right…it should’ve been me.” Matt’s mind flashes back to every time someone got too close to him, to every time his powers exploded out of his control, someone always suffered, and someone always will as long as they’re around him…
The next day Matt finds himself asleep in his bed, still in his funeral clothes until he is rudely awakened with a stack of papers being thrown, slapped on his face, “Wake up.” He heeds the voice with a groan and awakens to find his father standing over him, “What’s going on?” he asked confusedly as uniformed men outside his room move large pieces of furniture out of the house, and his father replies, “I said at the funeral that I was leaving, the movers are already taking my stuff out to the trucks and that just leaves you kid…” Matt sits up and picks up the papers, “Apartment complex? What’s this for?” He looks up at Eddie who glares down at him, his tattooed arms at his sides and hands sitting at his pockets hooked by the thumbs, his torso barely covered by a half zipped leather vest as he looks down at Matt sternly, “You’re staying. I bought out that shit hole of an apartment building last week. There will be no neighbors, no managers, just you. That’s where you’ll be staying.” Matt looks at Eddie with a mixture of confusion and surprise, “What the hell…?” he manages to say in an almost shocked voice before Eddie cuts him off and continues, “I can’t deal with you, I can’t control you and honestly I’m fucking sick of you. People die because of you, people I care about and you can’t control your shit. I don’t see it getting any better, ever. It’s just going to keep happening, you’re a fucking curse and danger to everyone around you and I’m not going to be responsible for that. I’m disowning you, whatever happens to you or to others because of you is not my problem.”
Matt interrupts, “At least that’s what you’ll be telling yourself every night huh? Cowardly piece of human garbage. Mom always did say you turn your back when shit gets too real-”
Something snapped inside Eddie as he heard those words, with a quick punch straight to the forehead he interrupted Matt, “Don’t you ever talk about your mother you fucking worm! Who the fuck are you to open your mouth and criticize me when you can’t even handle yourself! Murderer! That’s all you’ll ever be. You’re an accident in more ways than one!” Eddie raged, he is clearly rattled; Matt has never seen him lose it like this. His father is usually calm, collected, and expels his anger in snide, venomous comments rather than loud yells. Matt looks back at his father, rubbing the spot on his forehead where he was hit, “Whatever, you may be right. But it doesn’t change the fact that you’re afraid. You spineless piece of shit. I’m tired of living with your hate and criticism harping on me in the background; finally it’s all out in the open. Go fuck yourself; I’ll be just fine…” Matt walks out of the room, bashing his shoulder against his father’s side pugnaciously on the way out, Eddie growls after him. “That’s more that anyone can say for the people around you.” That day, Eddie Havok and his band Red Alert, played a farewell show in Madison Square Garden, attendance was through the roof and the crowd exploded into a frenzy more violent than any of their previous shows. People fought, people bled, Eddie raged furiously on stage, and the music did with him.
Days passed, Matt’s new home felt like a prison. He knew he could leave at any time but he didn’t, he was a recluse, a hermit living in the squalid apartment with nothing but his thoughts to keep him company. It was torture of the deepest kind, no will, no goal, just lethargy, depression, and constant mental reminders of how you are your own worst enemy. Matt’s mind kept flashing back to that day, he and his grandfather had finished their regular exercise routine and it was time to focus on his powers. Things were going well, bolts of fire flew off hitting their mark, his aim was improving and Sagittarius was proud…until suddenly Matt fell to his knees, slumped over as his blood began to boil, his eyes turned a deeper shade of red as an aura of flames engulfed him. It was bad, worse than any other time this had happened thus far; he thought this was the end as fire propelled from his mouth. Fire emanated from him setting tree after tree on fire, the grasslands burned and the area was set to become ground zero, but Sagittarius didn’t flee. He called out to Matt, “Fight it! This is what we’ve been preparing for! You can’t let it control you Matt, you can’t!” he hurried to his grandson’s side, ready to apply the cooling pentagram to his forehead when suddenly Matt let out a horrible yell. Vicious flames erupted from the boy, a loud explosion was heard and the entire hundred foot area around him was caught in its wake, swallowed in a gigantic mushroom cloud. When Matt came to, he looked for his grandfather, “Gramps? Gramps?! Where are you?” he called out but nobody was there to answer, he looked and looked for what felt like hours, unwilling to accept his grandfather’s fate, but in the end his teacher was gone and so was his last hope of ever reigning in his savage powers…he collapsed there in the field, in shock, wrapped in his own arms as he sat there wideeyed and lost.
Matt dwelled lifelessly in his apartment, replaying the events of that day in his mind over and over and over, “It was my fault…all my fault.” he said to himself. Gunshots were heard outside the building, nothing uncommon for such a neighborhood but the screams they produced were very close to home, “No! Leave him alone!” screeched a woman’s voice, the gunshots kept coming and a man’s dying screams were heard over their echo, the woman yelled, begged, and cried as the men outside desecrated her late husband’s corpse with a few more decorative bullet wounds. “Waste her.” said one of the men, and she ran, bolted towards the nearest door. Matt heard her footsteps, running, running, closer and closer causing him to stir from his own thoughts as he heard frantic knocks at his door followed by harsh pleas, “Help me! Please somebody! They’re going to kill me!” Matt opened the door to see a tall slender woman, in ragged office clothes, smeared makeup and a look of sheer terror on her face. He was confused, unsure of what to do…“Get inside…” he said, “They’re coming! They have guns you have to call the police!” she yelled as she ducked inside the dingy apartment building. Matt stepped outside as two men, armed with pistols came into the cul-de-sac from the one way street up the road, they wore ripped, baggy jeans and shirts with a curved symbol indicating their allegiance to the ITG gang, “Who this foo?” one of them said with a bandana over his mouth, “I dunno mang just get the bitch, smoke this foo too shit, they seent too much.” Matt looked inside for a moment and said to the woman, “The cops don’t come to this part of town, and neither should you…whatever happens don’t open this door.” the woman looked shocked as Matt closed the door and faced the two men.
Anger, unbridled anger is all that he felt in that moment, as he saw the bloodied corpse of a man behind the duo and thought back to the weeping woman. “Who does this? For what?! These people kill on purpose, not because they have no control, but because they can, they wreck lives and victimize those who can’t defend themselves. Cowards, I’m surrounded by cowards!” thought Matt as his right hand caught on fire, “Yo man what the fuck is this?!” yelled one of the thugs. Matt looked at them with disgust, his eyes alight and an anger that deepened his voice to an almost demonic tone as he raised his hand and brought his thumb to his middle finger, “Burn!” he growled snapping his fingers and unleashing an upwards pillar of flame from under the two gunmen. Their screams were loud but brief as their bodies turned to ash before his eyes and the guns reduced to puddles. Matt returned to the door and approached the distraught woman, leaning down to her, “They’re gone, now run, get out of here as fast as you can. Take 3rd all the way to Crescent then switch to Fallbrook until Washington, it’s the safest route out of this gang infested hell hole.” he said as he slumped down with his back resting on his bed, his palm over his face. The woman reached out a hand to him but was suddenly interrupted, “I said go!” barked Matt and the woman ran out the door only to pop her head back in seconds later, “You saved my life…” she said, thanking him and she burst into a sprint.
Matt laid there for a moment pondering what had just happened, he looked at his hands and it dawned on him that he had just saved a life by exterminating those who sought to end it. His hands were shaking, he was town between the feeling of guilt at having killed again and the feeling of having saved someone, he had never saved anyone before. He thought to himself “Maybe I am just dangerous, maybe people around me will continue to die. But if I can do some good, just some with the power I have, maybe I can make up for it before the death toll climbs to high.”
His resolve was shaky, he knew was no hero, and in fact held the supposed crusaders of justice in contempt, but either way, Matt decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. Upon searching some of the old boxes his father had shipped to the apartment building, he found old live sound equipment, costumes, pyrotechnic uniforms, face paint, and numerous stage clothes. “Nice” he said to himself as he pulled out an old black leather jacket, “Fireproof, heh. We’ll see.” chuckled Matt as he slipped on the vestment. Night had fallen and the moonlight shined brightly off the steel of Matt’s motorcycle as it zoomed with a roar into the deepest pits of Unity City’s slums…so not too far from his house. He parked around the corner, next to a small alley, taking the fire escape of the nearest building to the top of the roof to access a vantage point over the street. There he stood, looking down on the dark sidewalk a bit confused and hardly sure of what he was supposed to do, one doesn’t get into this overnight apparently. After a while Matt naturally began to feel rather stupid, standing on a roof now knowing what to look for, but it was then that he heard the sounds of metal on metal and a few voices chattering right in the alley.
“Man, we told you we was coming back for your snitchin’ ass. Can’t talk when you got no teeth left punk.” said the tallest among them, clad in a hoodie one size too large, a crowbar in his hand, and a frightened looking youth, no older than thirteen pressed to a wall in front of him. “Yo just get crackin’ with it already man” chimed in the cohort to his right, a short character with a bit of a stocky build, “We got time. Ain’t no cops be coming ‘round these streets anyway. Ey Pudge, go stand lookout just in case.” replied the first man, gesturing to the large, pudgy mess next to him, who of course, obeyed with a nod. Suddenly, the fat man let out a yell that was cut off by a large six foot frame landing on him, knocking him to the floor. It was hard to see him at first but as he stepped off of Pudge’s back he came into the light, “Thanks for the landing tubs.” and there stood Matt, a look of contempt on his face at the sight of the thugs ambushing the kid, “Theres a warm spot on the ground right next to your friend here. Give him some company, he looks lonely…and fat, really, really, fat.” The leader of the group looks angrily at the new arrived interloper, losing sight of the kid just long enough for him to pull away and run. He watched the kid flee and turned to Matt enraged “Yo you must be a special kinda stupid if you think you leavin’ here alive foo.” with that he charges at Matt, gripping the crowbar tightly and swinging it at him viciously overhead. Matt scoffs and steps to the side, dodging the swing and elbowing the cohort in the face before punching his attacker in the stomach, following with a swift grapple, and tossing him on top of the knocked out Pudge. The stocky short man reels from the pain in his now broken nose, he seems to walk backwards as Matt advanced on their leader, his fist aglow with fire, “Ready to feel the heat scrub?” Matt remarked arrogantly as he started to feel a lurch deep within his stomach, a sickening feeling took over him, and caused him to yell out, “Fuck! Not now!” he leaned forward and belched loudly as a stream of flames come billowing from his mouth onto the ground in front of the astonished gangster. “Da fuck? You one of those heroes huh. Watchu gonna do hero? Throw up on me?” the gangster pulled out his gun, “Yo waste this foo Rocko” he declared to the stocky figure slowly coming up behind Matt and slamming him over the head with a brick. Blood started to trickle down his forehead, the pain in his stomach grew and grew, and then he heard the click of the smug gangster’s gun as the barrel was pointed at him, “Say good night chump” boasted the gangster as he started to pull on the trigger. “So that’s it?” thought Matt, “This is my first day doing this shit and I’m already gonna get myself wasted? Fuck. That. Noise!” with a roar of explosive energy, Matt’s body unleashed a wild explosion of furious fire, consuming everyone in the alley. The three thugs were instantly replaced by loud, fading screams, and dark, smudged, outlines.
Matt stumbled forward out of the alley and made his way over to his bike, slumping over it as he realized there was an immense pain not only in his stomach but in his shoulder too, “Well son of a bitch” he said as he looked over to see a bullet wound in his left shoulder, “Guess he actually shot me.” He leaned back on his motorcycle, pressed his back against the wall of the building, and pulled out a cigarette, snapping his finger to give it a light only to burn away half the stick. He drew in the smoke and looked displeased, “Well, at least the kid got away…more than I can say for those guys.” he thought to himself pensively, looking at the smudged outlines in the alley out of the corner of his eye. Matt shook his head, “Damn…” he dropped what was left of the cigarette and stomped it out. He turns the key and heard his bike’s engine roar as he made his way back home.