Chapter 10

Jackhammer burst into headquarters ready for war. Caution abandoned, his aim was to enter full speed, taking everyone by surprise.  If he was to be overpowered, he would go down fighting, taking as many of them down as possible.

He didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t what he found. His entire team had been taken by the infamous Seduction. He was the last man standing. God only knew how many other Leagues out there had also succumbed to Seduction’s control. How had he not heard of it?

In the control room, he’d expected a battalion of resistance; an astronomical fight to the finish.  What he got, was a war zone already abandoned.

Headquarters had fallen, both metaphorically and physically. The concrete floor was ruptured with deep, jagged crevices ripping haphazardly across the length of the room and up into the walls.  Overturned furniture lay broken or dishevelled. A thick layer of dust covered everything.  There was no doubt that the final stand had taken place here for at least one of his comrades.

He desperately wanted to know what had happened. He wanted to see how his friends had fallen, partly from curiosity, but more from a need to know his enemy.  But he knew time was not on his side. If Seduction had taken down the League, then all their secrets would be revealed. The Omega protocol had to be enacted. It may already have been too late.

Jackhammer crossed to the control panel and began punching in the Omega Code. It was a short alpha-numeric code that could be entered quickly with one hand in an emergency. There was no alarm or melodramatic countdown; just a quiet, anti-climatic beep to let him know the code had been accepted.

He backed away from the panel and fought back the tremor of sadness that threatened to engulf him. Already the computer was quietly erasing its memory.  Decades of history were vanishing. Databases of super villains and criminals, politicians, business operations, passwords, operatus memorandi, weaknesses, and every other complex association from across the globe were disappearing as he stared numbly at flickering displays.

Somewhere, in another part of the world, a more dramatic alarm had begun sounding. The secret Central, whose location and personnel were unknown to everyone, was being notified of the disaster.  The entire region would be declared an exclusion zone until the scope of the catastrophe could be ascertained. That meant Jackhammer was on his own. By protecting the League’s secrets, he had cut himself off from his colleagues around the world. It would only be a matter of minutes before international wires would be running hot to declare this entire region a no-go.

A bead of sweat slithered down Jackhammer’s chest and, as he wiped it away with his palm, he realised just how damp he was. He was sweating profusely from the realisation of what he’d just done. Never, in the history of the League, had the Omega Protocol been engaged. In fact, worldwide, he could only ever recall one time that a League had enacted it, long, long ago.

He needed clothes and food to take on the road. He slipped into the change rooms, regretting that he didn’t have time for a shower. He opened his locker and jumped back in surprise. A figured crouched inside, leaping out with a terrified scream.

Jackhammer braced himself to attack, but the assailant threw himself back against the row of lockers whimpering.

“Don’t hurt me!” he cried, in a light Irish lilt. He covered his face with his arms and cowered into a foetal position.

“Who are you?!” Jackhammer demanded.

“I’m no one!” the man squeaked. “Please don’t hurt me. I won’t say anything. I promise!”

Jackhammer relaxed and looked upon the redhead with a mixture of sympathy and disgust. What a wuss!

“Tell me what happened here,” Jackhammer insisted.

The figure peeked out at him like a mouse through a mouse hole, then tentatively rose to his feet, using the lockers for support. He was dressed in nothing more than damp checker shorts and a pair of thongs on his feet. The bearded face was relatively handsome and the light coat of fur on his chest was appealing, although the stranger was nowhere near man enough to meet Jackhammer’s preference.

“I-I don’t know w-what happened,” the man stammered pleadingly.  “He was on a rampage, so I tried to hide, but he followed me inside. Then this man tried to fight him and everything started to cave in so I hid.” He broke into a whimper, his whole body trembling.  His eyes filled with tears. “What the fuck is going on?!” he cried. “What is this place? Who were they?!!!”

“Take it easy,” Jackhammer said in a soothing voice. “Whatever happened is over now. You’re safe. But you have to leave now. They may be back.”

“I was at the beach, for fuck’s sake!” the man exclaimed. “I was on my way home. What the fuck happened?!”

“Listen to me,” Jackhammer said, forcing himself to be patient. “If you leave now, you can go home and everything will be fine. You have nothing to be worried about.”

“Bullshit!” the man snapped. “I know you. I’ve seen you on the TV. You’re one of them supermen, aren’t you?!”

“My name is Jackhammer,” he replied diplomatically. “What’s your’s?”

“O’Shay. Braeden O’Shay.”

“Well, O’Shay, you need to leave now…”

“No fuckin’ way! I’m sticking with you!”  O’Shay stepped forward, suddenly filled with determination. “I’ve seen what’s out there.  I won’t let you leave me behind. Those freaks are unstoppable and you’re my best chance of staying alive!”

Jackhammer sighed, perhaps more dramatically than he would have hoped for.  “Listen, you’re safe as long as you go home and say nothing.”

“No one’s safe,” O’Shay insisted. “Those freaks are going to take over everything. I’m staying with you. And before you argue, I’m Irish, so I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer!”

Jackhammer groaned inwardly. Right now it was more important to get out of here than to deal with some frightened geek. He could dump the dude later.

“Fine,” Jack said, reaching into his locker again to extract a jacket for himself and his scantily clad companion. “Put this on. It’s going to be cold night.”

“You’ll take me with you?” O’Shay asked.

“For now,” came the reply.

O’Shay took the jacket as Jackhammer led him out through the destroyed control room and back into the sunlight. 

The normality of the world outside seemed decidedly deceptive. Jackhammer knew that there was only one course of action left for him to do.  Well, two, actually. The first was to rid himself of O’Shay. Then came the reality that there was no League in the world that would come to his aid right now. He was alone in an impossible battle against his entire brethren.  Against everything he believed in, Jackhammer knew he was going to have to find The Brotherhood. 

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