((Currently trying to further flesh out an original alternate universe for this classic. Feel free to join, and all you need to do is decide whether you are going in as a human or as a Conduit.))
Bio-Terrorists strike after a long silence, as a bank in downtown Boston is robbed and left covered in ice, scorch marks and a mysterious message written in dark purple aura!
The headline flashed across every TV screen tuned in to the national news like an eternal bolt of lightning, viewed by millions upon millions of Americans who were staring in absolute awe at this sudden new streak of media. Unlike most news reports, just causing small little bolts here and there and then leaving for another time, this one struck suddenly, embedding itself in the memories of those who watched for decades to come, leaving behind only the scar tissue of that moment as a reminder. Of what? That shit-storm of a day…
“We start it with a bang,” said an enthused Australian man, looking to be in his mid-thirties, as an edgy grin crossed his eternally young face, cold dark eyes gleaming at a small group of three other men. A self-proclaimed leader of this job, the man tirelessly worked on every detail he could scour, envisioned ever scenario in his head and how each and every one would end, and planned in accordance with each and every one, all for the sake of having an effective Plan B, Plan C…all the way through a Plan Z. Approach A was going to be their final choice in the matter, and he was going to make sure everything went accordingly.
He appeared intimidating with his clean shaven head, black tattoos nipping all around his neck and hidden under his off-white short sleeve shirt only to twist and turn into one another on his forearms in inked sleeves, piercings riddling the upper ridges of his ears. Gauges stretched his lobes to massive proportions, blood red rocks like large gouges gleaming in the limited light the small lamp in the basement provided. Didn’t help that there were clouds of dust and cigarette smoke, really, dampening the lamp.
Behind the man was a whiteboard, a black outlined map of the floors of the bank they were about to visit that afternoon. Red marked security measures like cameras and alarms, green marked security guard positions, and yellow marked emergency escapes should the plan flop. With the bank being multi-storied, there were four maps to study through one last time before the team would leave for their big job.
“We blow up the front entrance, we head inside, and you,” the man nodded and pointed to one of the men in the back, still wearing his excited smile, “Jack, will keep the customers and tellers hostage.”
“Yeah!” came an enthusiastic exclamation from Jack, a man in his early twenties with a shoulder-length mullet and neatly trimmed stubble, his fist raised in dedication. He looked like he came from a garage band, still wearing a plaid button-down shirt, his sleeves rolled up, and his faded jeans torn at the knees and ankles. The leader up front chuckled, adding a quick, “Calm down there, mate, you’ll just be standing guard,” before continuing with the plan.
“The rest of us will head in and disable…er, dispose, rather, of the security. To ensure they’re thoroughly disposed of, I want Mikey to get ahead of me and take out all guards and alarms as quickly as possible,” he explained. “Your fire abilities are key to this operation. I think I picked the right guy to make sure there are no survivors on our way to the vault?”
“You did,” a gruff voice acknowledged, an older man of military background. Mike was dishonorably discharged soon after he became a Conduit, and was forced into hiding, although the army life stayed true with him, as reflected by his crew-cut and mannerisms. “You’ll just have to be sneaking by ash.”
“That’s a good answer!” the leader congratulated with enthusiasm. He further continued.
“That just leaves me and Derek to grab the goods. All the cash that we can grab. That is not to say we won’t be having any additional company,” the leader warned. His grin and enthusiasm was gone, his expression now replaced with a grave grimace, his tone cold. “SWAT’s going to arrive regardless of the alarms being disabled or not. I want all of yous—not just Jack and Mikey—to be well-prepared for an all-out war on our way back out of the bank. Kill or subdue, doesn’t matter, as long as we all get out alive.”
The enthusiasm and grin returned.
“And then we’ll be laughing all the way to clean the money and go our separate ways, mates!” he concluded, about ready to laugh happily at the likely end result. He took note of the uneasy expressions at his break from excitement not even two seconds earlier, before waving it off as nothing.
“Don’t worry, if Jigglypuff hits the fan,” he reassured, “I got it covered.”
The small black van sped through the maze-like streets of downtown Boston to the large two-story bank, short compared against the larger-than-life constructs that it sat nestled in between, but what made it stand out was the extravagant concrete staircase that led up to the castle-like doors, forever seeing use by day. Lines upon lines of busy bankers and customers going in and out of the building sped fluidly before depositing into the busy ocean of businessmen, lawyers and the occasional commoner. It certainly was no Empire City in contrast, but Boston was still a very busy city regardless.
Inside the van, as it pulled up a good distance down the street from the bank in the warm mid-afternoon, the four Conduits, dressed in professional dark blue suits, wired tiny ear sets into their ears before all giving each other a silent thumbs-up. The leader spoke up again as the four huddled their heads together, “First initials from here on out. We go in, we stick to the plan, we leave, we kill or subdue any pigs, and then we count the bills in the quiet woods of Quincy.” He looked around at every single pair of eyes staring back at him, some filled with hope and optimism, others still skeptical. He understood, but nodded. He was here for his own thing, and they were here for theirs.
“M, J, D,” he said, “let’s get it.”
“Roger, A,” they all said, and at once, all four flooded out through the back of the vehicle, making their way through the busy sidewalks of sauntering “normals” to the staircase long cement staircase of the bank. Some people gave them odd looks, and others simply assumed they were part of the government, here on an investigation. Exactly what A wanted. Americans—no, non-Conduits—were so easy to deceive, especially with their own homeland turmoil boiling over. This score was going to be entirely too easy…
The four Conduits climbed up the stairs with such purpose in their stride, one glancing at them would think they were going in for a large withdrawal, or deposit, or again, a Federal investigation. J was about ready to blast forth a few shards of ice at the feet of the two security men standing guard on either side of the door, but he had better self control than that for something as huge as this to screw up. Any smaller jobs, like convenient stores or Coney islands, something small like that, he would, but not this day. D held a folded up duffle bag, only made to look like a casual cloth briefcase. The job may have been shoddy, but it was enough to fool the normals. They approached the doors and in a heartbeat’s time, M shot a ball of volatile flame at the doors, exploding instantly and leaving a smoking three-person’s size hole where the doors once were. This opened up the opportunity for A to bellow his order once inside the bank, “DOWN ON THE GROUND, THE LOT OF YOUS, NOW! DO IT, OR WE WILL NOT HESITATE TO KILL YOU!”
Start it with a bang indeed. A chorus of screams ensued, confused banter filling the lobby as some normals made an attempt to run away, and others complied. Those who ran were suddenly frozen in place at the feet or against walls by J’s ice power. A could only chuckle silently as a barely visible grin creased his face, the enthusiasm radiating off his very Conduit being. Even with the chaos and panic suddenly setting in, everything was falling quickly into place. M went ahead of A and D, burning out alarm panels and reducing the attacking security guards to smoldering ash. All A and D had to do now was just follow behind in a serene walk. No doubt there were escapees already contacting the law officials, but A knew for a while that that was going to happen.
They made their calm pace down the hall where the former security guards stood, hearing pained cries of agony down the hall. M was doing his thing, it sounded like. He was doing it well—take no prisoners, clear the way, and bust the vault open if he could. Scorched holes marked parts of the reinforced walls where alarm panels once were, further indicating M’s skill. The two gentlemen looked at each other, exchanging wide smirks as they delved further and deeper into the bank’s basement floors now.
M’s white-hot flame easily welded through the reinforced steel vault that would otherwise need to be opened with a combination. Conduits really didn’t need the conventional tools normal bank robbers used in order to open vaults, or even keep bank-goers in check. Stethoscopes, code scramblers, tools like that were child’s play, once someone could get a hold of some extraordinary powers. The ability to manipulate matter was far more practical than getting together a group of potentially unreliable people who could backstab you once you had the score put in. As he welded around the large round, heavy door of the vault, M was grateful for the team he was recruited onto. He and A were extremely close these last few weeks, he felt, ever since the dishonorable discharge from the services. All because M was different, and the heist leader accepted those rejected by the “normals” in society, he felt like he belonged in this group. This big job, his part in this job, felt like he was being appreciated, and doing his part…well, M was thanking A for all he had done!
He let out a small smile for just a moment, before concentration took over the welling feeling of happiness as M finished welding around the door, and began welding through the large metal bars that kept it locked. Those took significantly less time than the vault door itself, and as soon as M was finished, the stepped out of the way to watch the door fall with a loud, heavy thud! He radioed A.
“Vault door’s down,” he announced gleefully.
“Roger,” A replied, “we’re just down the hall from ya. Don’t start without us, and get a cut for J in the bag.”
“Roger,” came M’s response.
In what was just a millisecond, A and D approached, the three greeting each other with a grin and acknowledging nod.
“Shall we do this?” A inquired, looking between M and D.
“Easiest job yet,” came a bored reply from D. “May as well be worth it if we cleaned everything out.”
“That’s the spirit!” A answered, a tinge of optimism present. “Let’s get it, boys!”
The three Conduits entered the vault, with D unfolding his duffle bag from a suitcase appearance to its actual flexible and spacious purpose. The vault was neatly lined with small safe drawers on either side, with larger safe doors on the far end of the roomy containment. Nothing M’s explosive fire abilities couldn’t handle. With a flex of his wrist and a channeling of whatever fire powers were left in his being, he extended his arm, sauntering down the room and blowing open multiple safe drawers. Out of each and every one rained coins of all years, bills fluttering about like leaves in a harsh autumn wind, and personal savings bonds floating gently to the floor like cherry blossom leaves. At once, D and A collected the large sums, and before they could finish cleaning up the floor, M blew open the larger doors. More of the same, except bills and coins were stacked professionally. There was obviously more care taken in storing this money than there was in the personal funds. It made M laugh, really, how much this bank did for larger companies, and how little it did for its every day customers. No wonder they were doing this job.
He rejoined the other Conduits in collecting the cash from the floor and safes, and there was nothing going wrong, until…
“D! M! A! SWATs are here!” cried J. The three men stopped and took a listen; there was gunfire rattling in the background, and J’s headset sounded like it was being jammed by radar scrambling equipment. Those pigs came prepared, then, didn’t they? “The SWATs are here, and they…heavy gunfire, I’m….quickly! I need you guys now!”
A grimaced and M knew that face. His heart sank, his stomach churned, and his limbs began shaking as adrenaline started flooding his bloodstream.
“Jack needs our help,” M explained, “and I don’t care what you say against it, A, but I am helping him!”
“Fine, then,” A dismissed, a little too eagerly, “go help him. Derek and I got this, anyway.”
M found that odd, with an arch of his eyebrow, as he sauntered out of the vault, eyes still on the two gentlemen before turning and running off back to the first floor from the second floor basement. What was it Jack was saying as his headset cut out? That didn’t matter, Mike needed to help him!
A loud crash could be heard from where Mike was at, followed by a hail of gunfire and a bellowing of orders. No doubt, the SWAT was already here. His eyes wandered frantically over the scene that spread before him as he entered the warzone of a lobby, falling upon the source of the crash sound—Jack had just finished unleashing his most powerful hailstorm of ice, snow and cold wind. White-cold ice stuck to the ceiling, formed to the walls in odd twists, turns and patterns, as if Mike had just stepped into an Antarctic cavern. Now the ice Conduit just stayed ducked behind a sheet of thick permafrost, peering up every now and again to shoot back sharp needles of ice at the SWAT members, dressed in heavily padded body armor, protective combat helmets and simple black masks over just their faces, revealing only their eyes.
“That’s it,” Mike seethed as he rushed in, hands ablaze with fire like a demon leaping from the gates of Hell, “you’re getting my help, man.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Jack called back, hiding behind the ice barricade he set up, watching now as his buddy was being fired upon. Mike’s eyes flashed a deadly blood red, his hands reaching out to unleash a large wave of flaming missiles that hit around the SWATs, exploding on contact with the permafrost that heavily coated the lobby walls and ceilings. At once, the ice melted in a flood of clear, clean water and pure white steam, blinding the opponents as Mike made a dive for the barricade, rolling to his knees next to Jack.
“A and Derek are on their way up once they’re done collecting the rest of the score,” Mike reassured Jack silently, blind-firing from behind cover to keep the SWATs at bay. Jack nodded, acknowledging the statement before turning around to peer over the top of their cover.
“Jigglypuff, the fog’s clearing up, bro,” he cursed worriedly, “let’s get the hell out of here while we still can!”
The two Conduits prepared to leap over the barrier when suddenly, the ground shook beneath them, sending the two flailing back to their original spots behind the barricade, and the SWAT team that just regained vision and accuracy to tumble on top of one another. Just whose power was that going wild underneath the ground floor?? It couldn’t have been Derek’s, could it have??
A shatter of glass followed by a bark of insane laughter filled the first basement floor. Derek lay there on the floor, groaning in intense pain as pieces of the basement window were jammed into his shoulders, elbows, knees and thighs, purple and red neon energy dissipating from his body. Blood was flowing freely from the glass-induced wounds, the leader of the score A standing before him with a defiant pose, many a scorch mark burning up the walls behind and around him. It seemed Derek had managed to burn through the walls deep enough to even melt away some of the support beams. A extended his hand and opened his palm, retracting all the shards of glass from the bleeding man’s body before absorbing them completely into his system.
“I gotta hand it to ya,” A said tauntingly, “you three lesser Conduits did a mighty fine job helping me make one of the biggest scores Boston has ever seen.”
Derek could not believe what he was hearing, his purple eyes widening in shock and rage.
“We…we trusted you, you piece of--!” he bellowed, before he shouted in pain as A blasted a larger piece of glass right through his stomach. The heist leader laughed louder, more haughtily, than before.
“You’re going to die here, and your two buddies on the first floor are gonna get arrested and turned in,” he explained, picking up the duffel bag that was dropped by his feet, a few hundreds fluttering out. As he turned to climb out the small basement floor window, the evening sunlight shining through onto his malicious face, the man turned back to Derek. “And I’m going to be laughing all the way back to my place to start the next phase in my plan,” A finished with a twisted smirk. Plan? What plan?? What the hell was the jackass planning?!
Derek grasped at the jagged edges of the sword-like piece of glass that pierced through his organs, removing it with a sickening squelch! before tossing it aside shamelessly.
“No, you Jerkface,” he cursed as he struggled to rise to his feet, his hands flashing with a deep pink and purple aurora, “you’re going to keep your word like you did every other time. We’re splitting the take four ways!”
Even with blood pouring from his stomach, A had to admire Derek’s persistence. But he had no time left; he simply gave the neon-wielding Conduit the bird before slipping seamlessly through the tiny window, laughing darkly as he did so. Derek was late in firing a few rounds of neon after the man, groaning in pure rage as he kicked the wall beside him, leaving a deep dent in the sheetrock. He had to get the wound that went through him cauterized, and Mike was the only person who could do it. Derek took note of the five hundreds that A was foolish enough to leave behind.
I’m taking some of the share, you prick, he thought defiantly as he quickly picked them up before struggling to sprint to the first floor.
He rejoined his two allies in the slowly flooding lobby as the firefight continued. Gunfire was soon concentrated on Derek as well, and he did not tolerate the attention. At once, Derek blasted a few more beams of neon in their direction, effectively disintegrating one SWAT and subduing two others, before poorly baseball sliding behind the barrier with Mike and Jack. Mike immediately took note of the big red splotch that was slowly spreading over the once perfectly white undershirt Derek wore.
“The hell happened to you?!” he asked as he took a moment to undo the buttons of the shirt. He soon regretted that decision, as he was greeted by a deep slit in Derek’s stomach, bleeding profusely. “Jigglypuff, I’m fixing that and getting you to a hospital!” he cursed suddenly as he ran a single finger of white flame over the wound, trying to close it as best as he could. Even through Jack’s sudden cry of, “Goddamn, grenade!” Mike kept his undivided attention on the wound. The metallic clank of the grenade hit nearby, and Jack let out a frantic breath as he threw it back, the thing exploding in a rain of shrapnel that showered either side. Before long, Mike welded the wound shut as best as he could, the once open wound now replaced with a raised black, red and blue scab. He pat Derek on the back and asked, “What happened down there?? Where’s the score??”
Derek shrugged and revealed only the few hundreds A left behind, making Mike gawk in surprise.
“That’s it?!” he asked in outrage. Derek was about to explain himself, but Jack chimed in with his loud mouth.
“Yeah, just let the ice guy fight the SWATs on his own!” Jack cried over the continuous rain of gunfire. He managed to land a face shot on one more SWAT member, effectively leaving the three Conduits with only a handful that they could breeze through.
“C’mon, Der, we’re gonna get through this,” Mike reassured as he helped the neon Conduit up. “You stay behind here and give me and Jack covering fire. We’re going in and…well…cleaning up the rest.”
“Gotcha,” Derek wheezed.
Mike and Jack sprinted ahead, their bodies flaring with their respective powers in cyan and crimson as they absorbed the shots fired at their flesh. If it were any other circumstance, they would soon be dead if they simply stood there taking fire. But with the rising fear in the eyes of the SWAT members who were slowing their rate of fire, one or two backing away and even fleeing in terror, the two men knew they had the situation handled. At once, Jack mustered enough energy to unleash one more, significantly weaker nor’easter. A rain of hail shards, sharp snow and harsh Arctic winds radiated with such deliberate speed from his body, super cooling the lobby and further building up the snow and permafrost. It caught the remaining SWAT as though they were in a real blizzard, forcing them to flounder and feel their way about, and within a split second of militaristic precision, Mike thrust out both hands and unleashed a bright burst of white-hot energy in a wide beam. Aimed straight for the SWATs, the fire energy blazed through the snow and ice like a superheated saw blade through stacked sheets of aluminum, before finally hitting the struggling combatants and vaporizing them completely, weapons and all.
Jack fell to his knees immediately after the two let loose their greatest abilities, hands to his head, out of breath and ready to pass out. In a heartbeat’s time, Mike was there to pick Jack up before turning to the ice barrier and nodding in the direction of the blown-out door.
“Derek!” he cried. “We’re getting the hell out of here!”
The military Conduit sprinted for the door, and Derek slipped out around the barrier, following behind with his hands on his newly cauterized wound. He was still in dire pain deep inside, and his vision was tunneling. Was it from the blood loss? Was it just fatigue from the shock? He had no doubt in his mind that the fast healing trait practically saved him, but he still needed medical attention.
Once outside the bank, with crowds of pedestrians observing the icy destruction from a safe distance, gawking in absolute horror at the act of high degree crime conducted by Bio-terrorists, Derek spoke into his headset, “I just have one more thing to do.”
“Roger that,” Mike replied, “but make it quick, you’re dying!”
A nod of acknowledgement later, Derek turned and raised his hand, palm open, and fired a stream of purple neon light at the highest part of the bank wall. He moved his hand about in bobs and weaves, as though he were tagging the wall with a very large marker, his face stoic and unchanging like a statue’s. The wrinkles on his face suggested the deliberation of his feat, the purpose behind his actions, and once he was finished, he could hear the gasps of the growing crowds scattered about behind him. The sharp nausea-like pain shot through his stomach again, and Derek knew right away he needed to run back to their van. He paid no mind to the three or four SWAT vehicles that now lay parked in the middle of the road as a blockade, with no one to ever drive them again until a tow company came along to pick them up, their lights still flaring, sirens still wailing.
Derek only hoped that he was beginning his path of redemption by leaving behind the name of the true mastermind of this heist gone wrong. He hoped the media would not forget that name etched in dark purple neon on the walls…
He must have been running for what seemed like hours, holding the duffel bag carefully to ensure no money trail led right to him. He had everything he needed as far as cash was concerned, but that was not the only thing he was after in that bank.
See, Aiden White put away something very precious to him when he first absorbed his powers from that fateful explosion in New Jersey. The explosion was strong enough to level the glass factory he used to work at, leaving nothing left but a few dead, many more injured, and Aiden lying there beside a sharp glowing object. He was scared about the events that just transpired, and as he forced himself off the ground, streams of glass shards funneled out of his fingertips, propelling him the rest of the way up to his feet. Those who were still alive and able to move quickly fled from Aiden, unable to understand as much as he what had just happened to his body. Decision made, Aiden picked up the glowing little piece of rock and placed it in his pocket, understanding now that he became one of them. A Bio-terrorist. He fled to Boston, storing away the luminescent shard in a bank…but he needed to make a living somehow…he had to go against his moral grain…it was the only way…
With his newfound powers, Aiden only did petty stuff. He robbed convenient stores, grocery store cash registers, and innocents on the streets. He was arrested a few times, sent to jail for a few months at a time, and then…he began learning the game. Solo crime sprees were hard to conduct, and Aiden had to lay low. That was when he met Jack, the garage band reject who recently absorbed the ability to control ice. The two paired, beginning larger crimes together, robbing credit unions and local banks. They made off with huge scores for their time, and soon, they wanted more, aimed higher…and Aiden had just the connections. Mike, a dishonorable discharge from the United States Army due to a Bio-terrorist related incident overseas, and a mysterious man named Derek who had quite the skill with neon. Now as a group of four powerful Conduits, they were virtually unstoppable. They robbed across the nation, going into hiding to plan their next huge score in some other part of some other state, accruing money to live off of. They dined on the finest of meals together, drank the highest quality liquors, visited the best gentlemen’s clubs, and crashed at the fanciest hotels. Little did they realize, though, that they were just a small part of Aiden’s larger plan.
When they did their recent raid on the bank in Boston not even an hour ago, Aiden disguised the retrieval of his little shard as a Big One, a way to end their careers as heist masters on the right foot. Give them one last feeling of accomplishment before he had to get rid of them, stop them from impeding his efforts, through any means necessary. Everything went off without a hitch, exactly the way Aiden planned it. He loved it when everyone listened to him so intently that they invested their full trust in him. That was their biggest mistake. Aiden expected the military man to at least catch on, but even he hung on like a cat would hang onto an old necktie, claws dug so deep into it that he refused to let go, refused to let himself believe it was anything but a necktie.
Aiden sat down once he ran deep enough into a wooded area, resting in a clearing as he dug deliberately trough the score, making sure no bills fell from the bag. Buried beneath all that green, paychecks and savings bonds of various colors was his bright blue shard, blast shard he recently learned, glowing with a soft ambience. What did it do, he wondered? It was such a small piece of rock, and he heard rumors that it helped Conduits expand their abilities. But Aiden’s abilities were strong enough as of right now; what use would this blast shard hold to him? Perhaps it was a different kind of blast shard? He reached down and grabbed the little piece, observing it. He could feel it pulsating as if it were alive, speaking to him.
“Let’s see what you do, now,” Aiden mumbled as he enclosed his entire hand around the shard, absorbing the vast energy stored inside. The energy rushed through his system like adrenaline would, suddenly lifting his entire body into the air…unlike an adrenaline rush. He could not hold it in, Aiden let out a loud scream of pain as he could feel every inch of his body tingle, and his eyes squeezed shut, teeth gritted to silent himself suddenly. His entire body illuminated a bright blue before the energy suddenly dispersed into the air, away from him, and almost immediately, Aiden fell to the ground, panting heavily. Sweat drenched his brow from the few seconds of his body reacting with the shard, and when he checked his palm, the shard was no longer there. What was that thing if not a piece of rock, then? Pure energy?
He let out another silent laugh as he got back up, zipping his duffel bag after he diligently packed the score money back in, tossing the strap over his shoulder. With new, more powerful eyes, Aiden scanned the clearing for a way out. There were sirens blaring not even a mile away, and he needed to be away from here as soon as possible. By sundown, no less, and it was already a mild late spring afternoon, the orange sunlight pouring through the full, green branches, illuminating the clearing.
“You can’t catch what ain’t there,” Aiden reminded himself with a smirk before dashing off into the dense wood, never to be seen or heard from again…
Come for the action, stay for the story!